Title: Behind the Doors
Author: Lindsay Carpenter
Written: 1998 Rating: PG for some language
Category: X,R,MSR
Spoilers: none
Keywords: Mulder/Scully Romance
Disclaimer: Fox Mulder, Dana Scully, Skinner, and all locations revolving around the show do not in anyway belong to me, but to Chris Carter, 1013 Productions, and Fox Entertainment. I am borrowing them for the duration of the story and promise to return them unless I am given permission to keep them for a little while longer. :) The minor characters are mine and from my creation but you may borrow them as long as you bring them no harm. I would like those back though so that I may use them in the future.

Summary: Mulder and Scully are called on a case to Chicago over Christmas involving a kidnapping. . . or so it seems.

J. Edgar Hoover Building
Basement: X-Files Division
December 21, 1998
8:12 am

It had been a hectic morning, and all Dana Scully wanted was a hot cup of coffee and to answer her e-mail in peace. But the moment she opened the door to the basement office her hopes fell. There, sitting under his 'I Want to Believe' poster, was her excited partner, Fox Mulder.

"Where've ya been Scully? You're never late on Monday mornings." She noted that Mulder had a sly grin on his face. The same face that he got when they were usually going on a new case. She also took note that the projector was set up near the far wall; never a good sign.

"Traffic accident on the avenue. What's with that look?" She took the seat across from him and prepared herself for yet another UFO case. And, as always, he did not disappoint her suspicions.

Mulder handed her a plane ticket and as she looked it over he explained. "Skinner wants us to go to Chicago. Says that it looks like it's right up our alley." His grin got wide at this.

"Chicago. Never been there, now have we? Isn't that like the worst place, next to New York, to be during the holidays?"

"Yeah, great shopping though. But actually we're going to a town about forty five minutes from there called Elgin." She shook her head to tell him she'd never heard of it. "You've never heard of the Elgin watch company? Come on Scully, you love watches. Well anyway," he got up from his chair and dug through his files until he pulled out the one of choice. He handed it to Scully and then turned off the lights.

The projector came on with a slide of a girl's picture. "This is Kathryn Lindsay Karson. She's 16 and goes by the name Kate. About two days ago she and a group of five other teenagers went to the local mall to shop. About three hours after they'd arrived all of them, but Kate, disappeared. No note or trace of them."

Scully looked over the file in her lap and glanced at pictures of the teenagers. "Why are we being called in. This just looks like a random kidnapping. I mean. . ." She looked Mulder in the eyes and even in the mostly dark room saw IT.

"You don't think they were abducted, do you now? Mulder we've been through this."

She put the file down on the desk and turned the lights back on. Mulder turned off the machine, grabbed his jacket from the back of the chair, and went to the door. "There's only one way to find out. I'm going home to pack." On his way down the hall to the elevator Scully heard him say, "Pack a warm coat, Scully. They don't call it the 'Windy City' for nothing! I'll meet you at your apartment in two hours."

Scully groaned and grabbed the file. The young girl looked so happy in the picture. The thought of seeing her now made Scully shudder slightly. She grabbed her coat and brief case and headed for the elevator. Her cell phone rang on the way. "Scully." she answered.

"Agent Scully, it's AD Skinner. Please come to my office before you leave." he hung up without waiting for a response.

"Great," she said aloud, "Mulder leaves me to the boss when it's his goddamned file!" The elevator wheeled shut.

AD Skinner's Office
8:36 am

AD Skinner was waiting at his door and told her to take a seat. Scully preferred to stand. "Agent Mulder seems anxious to get on this case. Any reason why?" he asked as he took a seat.

"Mulder is beginning to believe that this was no random kidnapping. All but one gone and they were all there at the time. I'm beginning to agree but not to the extent of his belief."

"Which is. . .?"

Scully straightened and responded. "Mulder believes there may be an abduction of some kind involved. He's not sure whether it was alien or government."

Skinner groaned and looked up at her. "I want a full report on this the day you get back. You know that I trust you both in finding the truth, Scully, but don't let Mulder get into serious trouble over this one. I don't think it's going to be worth it. Dismissed."

She turned to leave. "Oh," called out the AD, "and have a merry Christmas. Tell Mulder the same, I'm sorry, but I'm sure you probably won't be back in time."

"Thank you sir, and the same to you." With that Scully left and headed home to pack for her 'Christmas Break'.

Scully's Apartment
Georgetown, Virginia
10:16 am

A couple of suitcases and small vanity case later, Scully was as ready as ever for her trip to Chicago. She was sitting on her couch drinking iced tea when a knock came from the door. She yelled that it was open and in came Mulder clad in khakis, a Chicago White Sox jersey, Nike sneakers, and a pair of dark sunglasses. He had a deadpan look on his face but broke into a smile when he saw all the luggage his partner had ready to go.

"You packed all this for what is probably going to be a three to four day trip? When we went to Minnesota for seven days you packed less stuff then this." He proceeded to pick up the suitcases while Scully grabbed the vanity case and her brief case.

"Well, it's cold in Chicago, you said so yourself." Mulder started down the hall as Scully locked up her apartment. She reached down again to get the case, and when she looked up at Mulder she felt an unfamiliar chill down her spine. He looked so handsome in that outfit, she couldn't help but look.

Scully felt herself turn red and kept her eyes on the floor all the way to the elevator where she met her partner. As Mulder leaned one arm up against the elevator and slid his sunglasses off, her thoughts intensified and Scully felt her face blush. Mulder looked curiously at her as they entered the elevator.

"You okay? You look flushed." He put a hand on her forehead and said, "No fever. What's up?"

"Nothing," Scully responded snapping out of her daydream. "I just hate confined spaces that's all. "The elevator reached the ground floor and they walked to his car.

Just as Mulder was about to close Scully's passenger door, he looked down and said, "By the way. I really like those shoes."

She stumbled for a response. "I wore them so I could at least look taller when I stand next to you."

Mulder smiled. "That's my Scully, always thinking with her feet." He gave her a side wards glance.

"Gee thanks, Mulder." Scully turned back to the window as he let out a stifled laugh.

Dulles international Airport
Flight 1013
12:05 pm

They checked their baggage and proceeded to the plane where they sat down and pulled out their files. Scully began by going over the list of teenagers who disappeared.

"Their names were Kevin, Andrew, Julia, Sue, and Jeffrey. All 16 years of age and very close friends of Kathryn's at the time of the. . . kidnapping."

"Or abduction. You never know Scully." He proceeded to go over the plan of action and told her where they would be staying. "Looks like a real nice place for a change." He handed her a brochure for the Elgin Days Inn.

He then gave her an apologetic look. "Sorry Scully, but there was only one room available with two queens. It'll have to do."

Next, she handed him some photos of the crime scene "The mall is called Spring Hill and we're to meet the local PD there at 11:00 tomorrow. We'll be on our own for interrogating, but the local police said they'd help us get around and that sort of usual stuff."

"Well is that about it? I'm gonna get some shut eye." Mulder closed the file and turned on his side facing Scully. "See ya in Chicago, partner." He closed his eyes and in a few minutes she knew he was out for the count.

Scully did the same, only she faced the window. 'Two hours; might as well get some sleep. Probably won't get any while were there.' But before she could fall asleep she relived the scene in her apartment hallway and elevator.

Had it meant something more then it should have? This was Mulder she was having these thoughts about! Her partner and refuge, friend and trust. Not anything more. Satisfied with that, she closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep, putting those thoughts in the far reaches of her mind.

Chicago O'Hare Airport
1:22 pm CST

When they arrived in Chicago the airport was calm. Scully headed over to the rental car desk, while Mulder went to get a cart for their baggage. They met at the east exit, and he peeked out from behind the luggage.

"Mulder? Are you actually there?" He popped up from a squatting position.

"Not funny, I didn't pack that much." He gave her a look that said 'oh yes you did!' Scully noticed it and changed the subject. "Here's our car. Another Taurus." She pointed to a deep green Ford Taurus about two rows over.

"I'm driving, Scully, since you drove last time. Believe it or not, I actually know where the hotel is, so give me the keys." He stuffed the luggage into the trunk and the back seats then climbed into the driver seat and started the engine.

"Sounds nice," he said. "Hope it can get us through the city. I hear that it's bad this time of the day."

"It's 1:30 Mulder. Everyone's at work." However, Scully could have put her foot in her mouth when she got a look at Chicago's Kennedy expressway. The traffic was horrendous. "Isn't there another way to go?"

"Unfortunately, no." He turned on the radio and told her to get comfortable as this was going to be a very long ride. Scully groaned and sat back. She was fast asleep in less then ten minutes.

They were just beyond the city limits when Mulder looked over at his sleeping friend. She was sitting with her head on the head rest and her arms laid across her stomach. He smiled to himself. 'She looks so peaceful,' he thought. The traffic was at a standstill. so he put the car in park. Mulder noticed a strand of hair over her eyes and reached over to pull it back. He saw her smile softly in her sleep. 'She's so. . .' he stopped himself from finishing the thought.

This was his partner. This was Scully.

He had to admit it wasn't the first time he had thought about her beyond normal, professional thoughts. She was the only person who understood him and his work. She was willing to sacrifice her reputation to help him in his quest. 'Mrs. Spooky' is what they called her. He wished he could deck half of the guys that said that. She was like an. . .

The traffic moved again and Mulder shook himself. The map told him the Elgin exit was dead ahead, so he pulled off and headed down the road. Ten minutes later, Mulder pulled into the new Elgin Days Inn parking lot. With Scully still asleep, he went to the front desk and got the keys to the room.

Mulder unloaded the car and decided to let Scully have a few more minutes of shuteye while he dropped the bags in their room. He opened the door with the two bags slung over each arm, entered the room, and immediately dropped the bags to the floor.

There had to be a mistake.

Back in the lobby Mulder found the manager. "There were supposed to be two queen beds in this room," he informed somewhat frantically as he held up the key, "not one king. We need to be moved or something."

The manager looked at him like he was crazy. "Agent Mulder, this is a new hotel and many people are coming here. We're all booked up. I'm sorry. We can get a cot for you if you wish. That is the best that I can do at this point."

"Fine. That will have to do." Mulder was not too happy.

"I could let you know if a room opens up in the next 24 hours if that would be acceptable," the manager looked desperate to keep his customer.

"Yes, please do." Mulder left and headed back to the car to get Scully, who was still sleeping. He opened the door and she turned away from him. "Scully, we're here, come on. Get up." He patted her shoulder gently with one hand while he unbuckled her seat belt with the other.

She opened her eyes and managed to get out of the car, still half asleep. When she looked up at the hotel before her, Scully's mouth was agape at the size of the hotel. "This is so big. Where's our room?" She hoped they were up high.

"1086, tenth floor." He hesitated for a moment and then began to break the news to her about their accommodations. "Listen Scully, they got the instructions mixed up." She was headed up the front stairs as he continued to speak. "There's only one king size in the room." She groaned and headed up the stairs. "The manager said that he__," Mulder was stopped in mid sentence by a bellhop.

"Agent Mulder?" Mulder nodded. "I was told you were interested in a cot, but I am sorry to inform you we currently are out. I'm very sorry." Scully looked pleadingly at Mulder, and he hustled her to the elevator.

"Well look at it this way. It's a king sized bed, so we'll be alright. Won't we Scully?"

"Mulder we can't. It goes against everything in the bureau. The red lights will be blaring when we get home." The elevator opened and she headed to the room with Mulder at her heels.

"I'll sleep on my side of the bed like a good boy." Mulder gave her one of his lopsided grins and pleading looks.

Scully nodded and went into the room. "Skinner's gonna love this," Scully mumbled as she went over to her bags and started unpacking. "When did we say that we were meeting with the officers? Tomorrow at 11:00?" she asked.

He nodded. "Well I'm not really hungry, so what so you want to do? Shop, drive around, do some paper work?" Mulder asked with a gleam in his eyes. They both walked over to the window where they saw a huge indoor pool below them.

"Or, we could go swimming," Mulder said as he looked at Scully with puppy dog eyes.

"No, I want to go over the case files. But feel free to go ahead," she replied.

He pulled his bathing suit out of his case and happily went into the bathroom to change. When he came out Scully was sitting on the bed surrounded by notes and papers. She was looking at pictures of the teenagers. "They look so happy, don't they?"

Mulder looked over her shoulder and breathed on her neck. It felt like electricity going straight down her spine, and she moved forward as if to straighten the files.

"Well, Mulder now we have to find them. Go have fun in the pool. Maybe I'll join you later." He smiled and bolted out the door. A few minutes passed and she watched him from the window. She saw him look up towards their room, and watched him grin and wave to her like a kid in a candy store. She smiled as she shook her head and went back to work.

The local paper's headline from two days ago read 'TEENAGERS DISAPPEAR FROM MALL' The story went on to explain how all but one girl in a group of five disappeared mysteriously. The article also said that the FBI were going to be involved. 'Great,' Scully thought. 'Tons of reporters at our feet.' She cleaned up the papers and laid back on the bed.

Scully flipped on the television and decided to order pay-per-view. She called down and not five minutes later it came on. Twenty minutes into the film she was sleeping again.

Mulder came up and found the television on and a sleeping Scully on the bed. He checked her for a fever but decided she must just have been worn out from the drive. He covered her with a blanket and touched her cheek gently. He noticed she had the softest skin, and he wanted to hold her for some reason.

Of course he knew she'd kill him if she knew his thoughts, wouldn't she? He lightly kissed her on the top the head and went to shower and change for dinner.

Olive Garden Restaurant
7:18 pm

Later that evening, Scully looked rested as she and Mulder were seated at the restaurant. "Sleep well?" he inquired.

"Yes, actually I did. I guess I was more tired then I thought. Did you have fun in the pool?" She sipped her water, but he took it from her.

"Yes I had fun, but don't drink too much. I ordered the house special. We're on Christmas vacation, so I thought this could be our little party." The waiter came back, took their orders, and gave Mulder the wine. He poured a glass for Scully, then one for himself.

She took a sip and smiled. "Very good. So, what did you ask Santa for this year?"

Mulder almost spit the wine out but swallowed it and laughed. "Interesting topic, let me see. I asked for a break, but it looks like I won't be getting my wish. You?"

"Same here. But there was this one thing I wanted. . ." she hesitated and then took another swig of the wine.

"Come on Scully, tell me."

"There was this necklace I saw at the jewelry store on the avenue back in DC. Remember? The one with the cross and emerald on it?"

"Right, we went there a few months ago. Yeah, that was lovely. Well, maybe Santa will surprise you and you'll get it."

"Well, maybe, but I won't hold my breath. On the other hand, Agent Mulder, you know what I really want for the office don't you?"

"Yes, I know," he replied quickly with a laugh. "And I will make room for a desk of your own as soon as we get back to Washington. You've waited five years, Scully. Another week won't kill ya, will it?"

He smiled and took another drink of the wine as Scully gave him one of her famous looks.

The waiter came back with their meals, and as they tried each others dishes, they chatted quietly about the case. When they finished, Mulder signed off on the check, and they headed back towards their room. The manager was there and stopped them in the hall.

"I feel terrible for what has happened regarding the mix up in your accommodations, Agent Mulder. We have a wonderful lounge and I have a table saved there for the two of you with complimentary drinks if you wish. Think of it as a peace offering."

Scully looked to her partner and nodded. The manager lead the way and Mulder offered his arm to Scully. They were seated in a quiet corner near the small band. Scully ordered a strawberry daiquiri while Mulder had a whiskey, straight up.

By his third drink, Mulder was getting a little drunk. "A toast," Mulder said raising his drink. Scully raised hers. "To us and many more screw ups at hotels so we get free drinks."

"To us," Scully said on her second drink. "Come on, let's get out of here. It's almost midnight, and we have to get up early tomorrow." They left a tip and headed up to the room.

Scully took a quick shower, and when she came out of the bathroom, she found Mulder under the covers, asleep. Or so she thought. She climbed into the bed and sunk into the covers. Not thirty seconds after she'd turned off the light, Mulder's cold feet touched her leg. She yelped.

"That's not funny! Get over there mister or you're on the floor." He laughed and rolled back over. They were both sound asleep in no time.

1:53 am

Mulder awoke with a start. He was shaking and sweating. When he sat up, Scully woke up too. "What is it Mulder. Did you have another nightmare?"

He nodded. "I saw the girl in the mall all alone, and she was scared at what she saw. I asked her what it was, and she said they were gone, just gone. Then I was back in my childhood room, and well, you know the rest." He was still trembling.

Scully moved closer to him and laid him back on the pillows. She grabbed a nearby tissue and wiped the sweat from his forehead. She laid down close to him. At first he felt very tense with her so close, but when she put her around him, he knew she was okay with this and relaxed.

"It was a dream," she comforted, "it's OK." She began to drift back to sleep as she laid her head on his chest.

Mulder looked down at her hair and thought how natural it felt to have her in his arms. He put his arms gently around her and kissed the top of her head. Then he fell asleep, content in her embrace.

Spring Hill Mall
Elgin, IL
December 22, 1998
9:05 am

The next morning Mulder pulled the car into the parking lot in front of Sears. The mall was crowded and Christmas music played for all to hear. They walked down the main corridor until they came to a music store that was, and the surrounding area, roped off. A few police officers were scattered around.

A man in an over coat approached them with a tape recorder. "Sir, Ma'am, are you with the FBI? Can either of you comment on the current situation?"

"No comment at this time."

"Please, Agent, anything that you can tell the paper would be appreciated. We don't see fibbies around here that often."

"Look," Mulder said with annoyance, "the FBI will release an official report when the case is closed." He next took Scully by the arm and walked up to a police officer who was looking at a bullet hole in the wall.

They took out their ID badges. "Morning officer," Mulder said as he flashed his badge. "I'm Special Agent Fox Mulder and this is my partner, Special Agent Dana Scully." They all shook hands.

"I'm Officer Andrew Robins, with the EPD. Glad you could get here so soon. AD Skinner recommended you because he said you work in a department of the Bureau called the 'X Files?' What does that mean?"

"We mostly deal with the paranormal and strange disappearances. Looks like this is right up our alley," Mulder explained to the confused officer.

"Right, paranormal. Well, I'll tell you this is awfully strange, but paranormal? I don't know. The young witness is coming by today and thinks she is ready to be questioned," Robins reported as he led the agents into the hall to the right of the store.

"This is where it all happened. Once you're done speaking with the girl, we can do some more thorough investigating. When will you begin the interrogation?" The officer seemed anxious to get this over with.

"Well, I don't believe we'll really need to interrogate her," Scully said, "We just want to interview her on what she saw, and if she can back it up. It's not our desire to scare her. Officer Robbins, do you have somewhere private where I can talk with her?"

"Just you, Agent Scully? Why not you and your partner?" Robins sounded confused and even a little irritated.

"Robins," Mulder interjected, "see, Scully likes to talk to the females without me first, so they'll feel more comfortable before I come in. I can be a mean sonofabitch, if I want to be." Mulder grinned and elbowed the officer knowingly.

"Oh, you mean like good cop, bad cop?" Robbins asked brightly, as if he was just made privy to some FBI classified secret.

"Exactly," Mulder said, knowing full well what this particular officer would find impressive.

"Besides," Scully clarified, "Mulder likes to look into the crime scene more in order to work up a profile. Then we switch places. After, we meet again and compare notes. Wonderful relationship we have."

Robins did not seem nearly as impressed with this information as he was with the good cop/bad cop scenario. Suddenly, the trill of a phone was heard, and Robins picked it up.

"Right." Robins turned back to the agents. "She's here."

Sears Manager's Office
9:45 am

Scully looked at Mulder when she saw the young girl through the window. "She seems content and unaffected. I'll go in and make nice. Then you come back in, say, a half an hour?" Mulder nodded. "Are you going to go back to our new friend, Robins?"

"Yeah," Mulder smirked. "I want to take a look at that hall to find out if I can have the doors opened. I'll be back in 30 minutes." He began to walk out when he turned around and said, "Scully, try to keep an open mind. Remember, six teenagers and only one survives. Keep that in mind." With that he left to return to the crime scene.

Scully took a deep breath and opened the door. When she saw the girl look up, Scully smiled and received a warm smile back. The young witness seemed relieved.

"Hi, you must be Kathryn Lindsay. I'm Special Agent Dana Scully with the FBI." Scully shook her hand and sat down across the table from her.

"Yes, that's me, but you can call me Kate. That's what all my friends call me. I'll have to tell you I'm glad they sent a woman and not a man. I don't feel really comfortable talking to men."

Scully smiled at the girl. "You can call me Dana. I hate to tell you this, Kate, but I don't work alone. My partner's name is Fox Mulder, and he'll be here in about a half hour."

Kate looked uncomfortable, so Scully quickly added, "Don't worry, you'll like him. He's very nice, and I put up with him all day."

Scully smiled at that, and hoped Kate recognized the good natured humor in the remark. Finally, Scully continued her interview.

"So tell me about yourself, Kate."

"Well, I'm sixteen, and I just got my license. It took me forever! Mind if I ask how long it took you to get yours?"

Dana blushed. "Six tries."

"Six! Dang, took me four, and I thought that was a lot. Oh, sorry," Kate said apologetically. "I didn't mean to be rude." Scully nodded to indicate no offense was taken and encouraged her to go on. "Well, at least I can drive. Um, I live with my parents, David and Rebecca Karson, and my younger brother Billy. He's three and a pain in my__"

"__I get the picture. What about school? Where do you go to school?"

"Elgin High. I'm a sophomore. I'm enrolled in the Academy of Performing Arts. I want to be a professional singer, and this is a wonderful program." Kate talked like an adult. She wasn't shy and appeared to be comfortable with Dana. "Did you want to be an FBI agent in high school?" the teen asked.

"Actually no, I decided that while I was in medical school." Kate's jaw dropped. Dana noticed the reaction and went on to explain. "I'm not only an FBI Agent, but a pathologist as well. You'd think it would make my partner jealous, but he's also a psychologist, and a very good listener too."

Dana hated to break the flow of the good conversation they were having, but she knew Mulder would be there in about ten minutes. And knowing him, he would be prompt, so she began asking questions about the disappearances.

"Kate, I need to know what you were doing the day," Scully glanced over the names, "Kevin, Andrew, Jeffrey, Sue, and Julia disappeared."

Kate took a breath and began to explain how they were shopping for gifts in the music store when Julia had to use the ladies room. They saw a corridor next to the store and a door at the end. They walked down there laughing and having a good time. When they got there the door was locked, but there was a window up high. Kevin lifted up Sue, while Andrew did the same to Julia. Jeffrey stood on a stool and looked in.

"While I waited for them to tell me what they saw, I had bent down to tie my shoe, but the next thing I knew they were screaming. I stood up, and there they were turning a bright blue color, and they were gone, just gone."

Scully shuddered when she said that. 'Gone, just gone.' Just like in Mulder's dream. "Did you scream?"

"Yes, I cried for help and a security officer came over. I started crying they had disappeared. The next thing I knew I was in my mom's arms surrounded by officers. They wanted to know where they were, but I couldn't help them. I dried my eyes and asked go home. I didn't think about it again until my mom said the FBI wanted to talk to me, and here I am." She seemed calm, and Dana noticed there were no tears in her retelling. A knock came at the door.

'Mulder,' Scully thought. "Wait right here, Kate." She opened the door to find Mulder standing right in front of the door as she predicted. She asked him to give her another minute. When Scully turned around she smiled at Kate.

"Who was that?" Kate asked dreamily. Dana knew exactly what the youngster was thinking and did NOT want to have to deal with a teenager's crush on her partner.

"That's Agent Mulder. You'll get the chance to speak with him in a moment. Just one more question, Kate. Did you ever see what was behind that door?"

"No, I never got chance. I just assumed that it was a bathroom. Why what do you think it was?"

"I'm not sure yet. Let's see what Agent Mulder came up with."

Dana invited her partner to enter the room. He came in slowly, but immediately took a seat next to Scully. "Kate, this is my partner Agent Fox Mulder." He shook her hand and Kate smiled.

"Hi Fox."

"Um, I'd prefer it if you just called me Mulder. Okay?"

"Okay," the teen replied demurely. Scully rolled her eyes slightly. Teenagers!

"Hi Kate, it's nice to finally meet you. Would you tell me something? Is this town bigger then I think it is, or wasn't it just a hick town at some point?"

"Actually, we just racked up a population of 120,000 in the last six months. It's the casino."

Mulder glanced over to Scully. Though he was surprised the youngster would have such information on the tip of her tongue, it did explain why he never remembered Elgin as being the metropolis it had turned into. "Looks like we have plans for this evening. Hope you brought chump change, Scully," he said with a wink and a nudge.

Scully gave him a look that said it all. 'Let's get this over with.'

"I really only have one question. Did the door to the place where you thought was a bathroom ever open? I don't mean just that day, but did anyone ever go in there?"

Kate shook her head. "I come here a lot, Agent Mulder, and as far as I know no one has ever gone there. My mother says it's probably office space for the mall and there's another way in for employees. I've never seen anyone come out of there either."

Mulder began writing on one of his business cards. "Here's the number of the hotel we'll be at. I want to speak with your mom in the near future, so have her call me," he added a new number, "or Agent Scully." Mulder passed the card over to her and Kate opened her mouth in amazement.

"The Elgin Days Inn? Lucky you! That place is always full. I'll have Mom get in touch with you. I hope to see you again. It's kind of neat getting to meet FBI agents." Then she left.

"So, Mulder," Scully said, a little relieved the teenybopper was no longer projecting hormones all over the room in her partner's direction, "What did you find out back there?"

"That Robins is even more of a jerk than I'd suspected. He moves too fast, and I think he's missing some important evidence. We'll have to come back again. I also don't think he likes the idea of a woman working the case."

"Oh, I see. Well, tough. It's a male dominated world I work in. Why is it you and Skinner seem to be the only men who understand? Are you sure you weren't women in another lifetime?"

"Yes, Scully, we were. During the womens' rights movement." Scully smiled at his remark.

Suddenly the sounds of Christmas music filled the hallways of the mall, and Mulder's eyes lit up. "C'mon, Scully. There's nothing more we can do for now, so let's do some shopping." And with a twinkle in his eyes, he added, "Then we can go gambling."

"Shopping, yes. Gambling, maybe; if we can find the place."

"No need to worry. I already knew about the place from the hotel, and Robins gave me directions."

"Why am I not surprised?"

Days Inn
10:28 pm

Scully was sitting at the small desk in the corner of the hotel room listening to the tape she'd made of the conversation with Kate. Mulder was in the shower, and she could hear him humming.

Mulder had been sulking all evening. 'So, I won money, and he didn't. Get over it!' Mulder had risked fifty dollars on one hand of poker, and that was that. Scully on the other hand played slots and won seventy five dollars. She at least bought him dinner with the winnings.

Scully pulled out her laptop and opened up the report she had begun writing, so she could add the new information she had received that day. There was a knock at the door. Scully opened the door to find two bellhops carrying a cot. She indicated where to set it up as Mulder came walking out in a towel with soaking wet hair.

"What's this? Awwww, didn't we do okay last night? Now I have to sleep on this lousy cot!"

The bellhops looked with curiosity at each other and quickly left. "Sorry, Mulder. You get the cot or the floor. You can have the bed tomorrow if you like."

She closed her laptop and climbed into bed. "Oh, by the way, I got a call from Mrs. Karson, and she wants to meet us tomorrow around 1:00. So that gives us time to go back to the scene. Robins also left a message we'd be on our own, but we can call for back up if needed."

"Gee, how generous of him. But it sounds good, since we work better on our own." He flopped down on the big bed. Scully was about to protest, but he held up the remote indicating that he only wanted to catch some TV for a little while. Scully curled up on the other side of the bed and fell fast asleep.

At midnight Mulder went over to the cot, and as he got up his partner rolled over to the center of the bed. She sighed and her hair fell over her face. He laughed as she tossed for a moment then finally settled on laying flat on her back under the blanket. He curled under the covers of the cot when he heard a voice.

"You shouldn't be laughing about me tossing and turning. I know how much sleep YOU get at night." With that Scully turned away from him and they both drifted into a deep sleep.

December 23, 1998
Karson Residence
12:48 pm

A green Ford Taurus pulled into the drive and Rebecca Karson turned to her husband. "I don't want to talk to these people. They know too much already. Please, make them leave."

David turned to his wife and placed his hands on her shoulders. "I know you're frightened, but just tell them what we've already said to the police, and everything will be all right. Okay?" The doorbell rang as she nodded her head.

Kate came running down the stairs at full speed. "I got it!" She was stopped at the bottom of the stairs by her father.

"I will answer the door. You are to remain in the kitchen until I tell you otherwise, Kathryn." She silently went the kitchen and began rummaging through the fridge.

David opened the door and stood close to his wife.

"Mr. and Mrs. Karson?" They nodded. "I'm Special Agent Fox Mulder and this is my partner Special Agent Dana Scully." Badges were flashed and David let them in and offered them drinks. The pair politely declined.

"Is your daughter here?" Scully asked.

"Yes, she is in the kitchen catching up on her singing lessons." As Rebecca spoke, Scully could hear a beautiful voice singing.

"Mrs. Karson," Mulder started. "Kate tells us that you came the day of the accident. Did you happen to see anything?"

Rebecca was about to answer when a small boy came running into the living room. "Mommy, Mommy! The dog tried to jump out the window again!"

"I'll take care of it in a moment. Billy, meet Agents Mulder and Scully. They're from the FBI. You saw people like that on TV last night." The agents smiled.

Billy's eyes lit up. "Wow, who ya gonna arrest. Please, tell me it's Kate."

"We're just here to talk to your mommy and daddy. It was nice meeting you Billy." Scully watched as he ran from the room, yelling at the dog.

"To answer your question Agent Mulder, no, unfortunately the police had me keep my distance and care for Kathryn. Not much happens at that mall, so this was a big deal."

"Do you have any new leads on the investigation?" David was concerned and Mulder could see that.

"Um, no. All we do know is your daughter may or may not have seen something. The five teenagers' parents refuse to see us, for some unknown reason, so that leaves us in a bind. You wouldn't by any chance know why they're reluctant to talk with us, would you?

Rebecca looked at David anxiously. David replied quickly, "No, we don't. No idea at all."

Mulder looked at Scully and wondered if she picked up on the parent's anxiety. He then said, "We are heading to the mall now and are on our own, so __."

Scully finished his thought before he could. "__We were hoping to take Kate with us to perhaps be of some help. She was there after-"

"No." That was all Rebecca said.

"Mrs. Karson," Mulder began through clenched teeth, "your daughter may be the key to this, and we need her help. Either you let us take her with us, or we'll go through official channels which will allow us to take her."

Mulder was angry, so Scully put a hand on his forearm to calm him. When he spoke again, it was in a much gentler tone.

"Will you at least allow us to speak with her. She may want to come to help clear things up. I don't want to have to, but, if it's necessary, my partner and I will have to take her into custody for the duration of the search. We need her, and we will not leave here without her."

"I want to go. Let me help." Kate was standing in the doorway to the kitchen pleading. "I need to know where they are, Mom. Dana said she would find them, and if I can help her and Agent Mulder, then I'm going."

They couple exchanged looks and silently nodded their consent. Mulder and Scully stood and turned to leave. Kate had her jacket on and went over to her mother and father. "I won't do or say anything. This will keep things quiet. I promise not to let them know."

She quickly kissed each of them and followed the agents to the car.

Spring Hill Mall
2:21 pm

"This is where I was bent over when they just disappeared. The only face I saw was Jeff's. He seemed to be melting- or disintegrating. It was so strange. All I could do was scream for help."

Scully had knelt next to Kate as the teenager explained the events, and Mulder was standing next to the boarded up doors. Scully looked to Mulder, and he continued to ask her questions.

"Where would you say that the light was emanating from? I mean did you notice a beam or just a circle of light?"

"I can't remember. It was there; then it wasn't. Sorry." She smiled slightly at Scully.

Scully returned the smile. "Kate, this is important. We need to know what the light looked like."

Though it was a reasonable question, Kate got upset at this point and defensive. She suddenly stood up and shouted, "I told you! This is harder then you think. My best friends are gone and all you two can think about is government conspiracies! I'm going home!"

Scully was going to stop her, but then it hit her. Mulder made the move while Scully thought back to their conversation yesterday. He grabbed Kate by the wrists and brought her back. Kate was trembling. Mulder turned her to face him. "What do you mean conspiracies? We said nothing of the sort. What the hell are you talking about?! Tell us what you or your parents are hiding!"

Scully laid a hand on his arm, and he released Kate. She fell to the floor and was on the defense again. "Mulder," Scully pulled him to the side, "we need to think about this. I don't remember bringing the government into this at any point either. Do you think that she knows something or perhaps her parents know something?"

"Well she must have some information, Scully. Look how she's trembling. There's more to this-"

"__I know. I know what happened." Kate looked up at them. Mulder and Scully returned her gaze.

"And I'm ready to tell."

Food Court
12:46 pm

Kate was cradling a coke, while Scully feverishly took notes, and Mulder sipped his iced tea. "They saw too much and that was that. I knew they shouldn't look in there, but I said nothing. Then the light came from the far corner, and they were gone. There was nothing I could do. Grandfather said that it would only be a matter of time. The bullet hole you were inspecting, Agent Mulder, with Detective Robins, was put there as a decoy. Grandfather and my parents are part of this, and I need it to stop. You have to help my friends!"

"So you're saying your grandfather took them somewhere. Are your parents involved?"

"Yes, my mother is his daughter and has known for a while about the kidnappings and tests. They erase the memories of what the victims see and then send them on their way. It's been that way for years. My father is involved for my mother's sake and mine. I know about it, because I saw it by accident when I was ten. At that time, I had no where to turn, so I ignored it. Now my friends are paying for my decision."

"Who is your grandfather?" Mulder leaned over the table, but Kate shook her head.

"I'll tell you whatever else you want, but not that. He is a powerful and evil man working with a global consortium. I'm sorry."

Scully gave Mulder a look that said it all. "I want to go back to the site." Mulder leapt up and headed down the hall.

"Mulder! We should call for backup! Mulder!" He ignored her, and she saw him standing by the door staring at the boards.

"Think about it, Scully. Small Town, USA; five teens disappear in local mall. Who's gonna think of it as more then a kidnapping? Not the cops, or the parents. They all go on with their lives, because they were TOLD to. He's here. I can feel him."

"Who? The guy with the cigarettes, or that other guy that we keep meeting in strange situations?" Scully stopped in the hall near the music store and collected her thoughts. "Oh Mulder, come on!" Kate was standing near Dana and looked confused. She looked at the board that kept the mysterious hall off limits and noticed a hole. She moved to look in when she heard a dull roar.

Mulder look to the far corner of the hallway and saw something. There was a blue light emanating from what appeared to be a surveillance camera. His heart leapt into his throat. In a matter of seconds he pushed Dana and Kate to the floor and pulled out his gun. Mulder aimed and fired, knocking out the source. As the devise exploded, he heard a scream from Scully. He looked towards her and then back into the mall.

A man in black raised a gun and fired. He hit Mulder in the shoulder, and then he aimed for Kate. Scully heard a gun shot as she moved in front of the young woman and thought she was done for. No bullet hit her, but she heard a thump. The man in the hall was down, and so was Mulder. Mulder had managed to get the shot off, hitting him in the head, and killing the man instantly.

"Mulder, oh my God! Can you hear me?" Scully frantically pulled out her phone and called for paramedics. She put pressure on Mulder's shoulder and talked to him softly. He mumbled and groaned but stayed awake. The paramedics came, and as they put him on a stretcher, Mulder lost consciousness.

Scully turned to see if Kate was all right but. . . she was gone. Just gone. 'No surprise here,' Scully thought silently to herself.

Officer Robins asked her what had happened. "We were investigating the scene. Kate made a wrong move, and the whole thing went to hell in a hand basket. I'd have to say that this case is closed. I doubt any of you will be seeing Kate or her family for a long time, if ever again. That is my statement, and you can quote the whole thing for all I care. I have to get the hospital."

Scully walked off leaving the dumbfounded officer to deal with the many curious reporters.

Sherman Hospital- rm 1027
Elgin, IL
December 24, 1998
10:34 am

The doctor told Scully her partner had suffered a wound to the right shoulder. It went through clean. 'Now he'll have a scar to match the one that I gave him.' she thought.

Scully walked into Mulder's room to find him awake and sitting up. He looked miserable. "Hey," she called. Dana pulled up a chair with a file in hand.

"Hey, yourself." He lifted up the shirt to show her the bandage, "Look, now the one you gave me has a twin!" He seem amused.

Scully rolled her eyes. It was so typical of Mulder to find an injury amusing, while she worried about him.

"How long will I be here?"

"You'll be released in about an hour, but only because it's the holidays, and they feel sorry for me." He gave her his famous lop sided grin, and it sent chills down her spine.

"What do you have there?" Mulder pointed to the file.

"The report for Skinner. Pretty thin considering all the fun we had here. Kate and her parents are gone, Mulder. No trace. The door in the mall has been reopened, and there are bathrooms there now. The scanner you shot has been cleaned up, and the parents of the missing children have left town as well. Does that about sum up our Christmas vacation?"

Mulder grimaced as he sat up more. "Yeah. That just goes to show you what a joy the holidays are. Did you happen to find out who her grandfather was?"

"No, I checked, and the file on her family said that he had been dead for years, so we'll never know. Sorry, Mulder. Just another X-File. Come on, partner, get dressed. I want to go home." She threw his clothes at him so he could dress and be on their way.

At the mall, a man dressed in his best suit, and looking very well manicured, looked at the doors to the bathrooms. "Such a waste of good work space." He turned and walked out.

J. Edgar Hoover Building
Basement: X-Files Division
December 29, 1998
11:30 am

Scully exited the elevator with her partner. The meeting with AD Skinner had been long, and they got what they deserved. Nothing. He neither yelled at them nor congratulated the agents. He simply asked for their report and file, then dismissed them.

All Scully wanted now was a bath and some soft music. Mulder raced off the elevator and blocked the door. "I have a surprise for you, but you have to let me go in first."

"All right, but hurry. I'm tired." Scully watched as he snaked into the office and made a lot of noise in the process of readying her surprise. She wondered if this had anything to do with the gift he promised her for Christmas. She had given him two new decent looking ties and his favorite (and hers) cologne for Christmas. Mulder had told her she had to wait until Monday to get hers. It was Tuesday.

He emerged and moved behind her putting his hands over her eyes. "Mulder," she began to protest.

He put his mouth to her ear whispering "Surprise." He led her into their office and uncovered her eyes. There in her 'area' was a brand new cherry oak desk, complete with her favorite high back chair, and her computer.

"Oh, Mulder, it's lovely! Thank you so much. How did you ever guess?" she said with a hint of sarcasm. The joy in her voice was unmistakable though.

"Gee let me think." She playfully slapped his arm and went over to sit in the chair at her new desk. "The name plates for both the desk and door come in on Friday. This is *our* office, Scully, so here's your space and your plate will be on the door on Friday morning."

She gave him a bright smile as she spun around in the chair and then rested her feet on the desk. "Very comfy. I can see why you like this position." She gave him a sly look. The computer bega n to beep, telling her she had mail.

It read:
To: DScully@FBI.com
From: FMulder@FBI.com

Look in my right jacket pocket.

She closed the mail and got out of the seat walking over to Mulder with a suspicious look on her face. She reached into his right pocket and produced a black velvet jewelry box. Scully carefully opened the box and inside was the silver and emerald cross from the store they passed.

"Mulder," she breathed. He took it from the box and moved around her to place it around her neck. "How did you get this?"

"I've had it for months. The same night you saw it in the window of the jewelry store I went back and bought it." He fastened it and turned her around. Dana thought the temperature went up a little as he looked in her eyes. "Merry Christmas, Scully."

She pulled away and went over to the full length mirror near the closet. "It's beautiful, Mulder." She turned to him as he came over to her. "Thank you so much." She put her arms around his waist and hugged him to her.

"Um, Scully."

"Yeah?" She pulled back from him.

"Look up."

She glanced up at the ceiling and saw a branch of mistletoe. She gave him a 'look.' "How long has that been there?" She put her hands on his shoulders as he moved closer to her.

"Oh, about ten minutes."

She gave him one of her priceless smiles. He cupped her face and dipped his head bringing his lips to hers. Their mouths grazed each other, and they broke contact. Mulder looked deep into her eyes.

"You know Dana, this is against protocol."

"Well, this is 'our' office, but you are still the senior officer in charge."

"Oh, well then screw protocol!" Mulder put his arms around her waist and kissed her deeply. Dana responded by placing her right hand on his neck as she brought him closer. She moaned softly and explored Mulder's mouth with her tongue.

This went on for about five minutes when the phone on Mulder's desk rang. Scully stepped back startled. Mulder went for the phone, while Scully straightened her hair.

"I'll be right up, Sir." He hung up the phone and looked at his partner. "That was Skinner. He's got another case. This one's in Vermont. I hear it's cold there."

"Yeah, I agree. Maybe you should get just one room this time." She gave him a sly grin as he moved to the door where she was standing.

"Why Agent Scully, are you seducing me?" He rested one hand on the door frame as she leaned her back on it.

"No, I'm teasing you, Agent Mulder. Now shut up and kiss me before you leave me." He obeyed and lightly kissed her lips.

"That's to keep you coming back." Mulder went to the elevator as she walked back to her desk.

'My desk,' Scully thought. 'There's nothing better to do. Might as well catch up on some work.' Instead she touched her cross and grabbed her book. Scully kicked up her feet and read.

Mulder came back to the office about twenty minutes later to find Scully reading a novel with her feet on her new desk. "Now don't go scratching that up. I polished it myself. Oh, and don't go getting too comfortable. This is still mostly my office."

"That's only because your mess takes up three quarters of the room." She smiled, and he moved over to her forcing her feet to the ground. He knelt down and kissed her full on the lips.

"As your boss, I'm telling you to go home and get changed. Your boss is taking you out for a night on the town tonight."

"Yes, Sir." Scully said saluting, and got out of her chair, leaving Mulder dumbfounded on the floor.

"Well, how about a good-bye kiss."

She strode back over and kissed him on the cheek. "That's to keep you coming back." As Scully walked out the door she heard him groan. She smiled as she thought about how nicely this new office arrangement was going to work.

The End

"Cherish the past;
Enjoy the present;
because the truth is coming."
X-Files: Fight the Future Promo

"Life is like Christmas morning,
you open up everything and think
'what the HELL?! This is NOT what I asked for!'"
Star 104.5 radio, Philadelphia
Livin' It Up!


Author's End Notes: I created this story from my hometown. Elgin, the mall, hospital, casino, high school, and restaurant all exist in Illinois. The hotel is entirely mine.

I came up with the idea of the mall corridor from a paranoid suspicion while shopping one time. . . I was wrong! This is my first attempt at fanfic so if it's bad let me know and I'll quit while I'm ahead. Yes, feedback is always accepted. Let me know what was good, bad, absolutely terrible and I can fix it. If you like it I can do more!

Oh, and this goes out to my dear friend in Elgin, Emily. She's had to live in that Hellhole for all her life and I finally got away! The character of Kate was created from her image and life. Em, I told you I was crazy and here is the proof in black and white, on the internet for that matter!! I'm a hopeless romantic and I truly think that M&S belong together. Though I do like the way they act around each other on the show. So Cute!!

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