Title: What I Want 6: Dance with Devils

Author: LaurieAF

RATING: mild NC-17 for language and some sexual content



KEYWORDS: Scully/Other

DISCLAIMERS: Scully, Skinner, Kersh, Mulder and Ma Scully belong to CC and 1013 productions. No infringement is intended as this is for fun. The characters of Michael Anzotti etc are mine, however. And Scully most certainly belongs to GA in my mind as both of them are amazing to me.

ARCHIVE: Anywhere as I'd be honored but please let me know first. I will post this to Gossamer myself.

FEEDBACK: You don't know how much I'd LOVE it.

AUTHOR'S NOTES: This is a continuation of my "What I Want" universe in which Scully's happily married to a fellow FBI agent although he's an ex-agent by this story.

This story can basically stand on its own but there are numerous references to the previous five stories which are all archived at Gossamer. The first story will be reposted to Ephemeral in four parts and then if you're interested in the others, you can check out Gossamer or e-mail me and I'll gladly send them to you. The stories so far are:

The stories so far:
What I Want

What I Want 2: Coming Together

What I Want 3: Up, Up and Away from Me

What I Want 4: Our Weakness

What I Want 5: In the Blood

What occurred in the last story, "WIW 5: In the Blood," as well as Michael's family history (covered in the first part as well as WIW: 5) have an effect on why Scully is finding herself in the situation she's in. Also, Joseph is Michael's son from a previous relationship (covered in WIW2), Mike is an orphaned boy Scully and Michael are attempting to adopt (WIW4), Donna Leiter is a doctor friend of Scully's (WIW3), and Nicholas is a teenager who regards Michael as his older brother. These characters aren't necessarily in THIS story but they are mentioned.

All lyrics are reprinted without permission.

Special thanks to Kate. As a Scullyist herself, she had written me some wonderfully encouraging feedback last year when I was ready to chuck this all in. If it wasn't for her, this story would probably never have been finished or posted to Ephemeral or Gossamer and subsequently, I wouldn't be planning a final story. Thanks again, Kate.

And to Amy. It's amazing to me that because of some, really, frivolous stories I concocted that you have become my best, most cherished friend in the world. So even if one sole person does not read these stories or get an ounce of enjoyment from them, all the time I've spent writing them has been one of the most worthwhile things I've ever done because it has given me the privilege of knowing you and becoming a part of your life. As we both go through the hard times ahead (and though you know), I want to remind you that I will always be there for you and I thank you for everything you have given me. And if this is too sentimental for you, "Bite me." :) Love, L

I end up pulling a CC here but if he can do it, I can, too.

SUMMARY: There's fallout from Michael's missteps with the FBI and Scully is thrust smack dab in the middle of it.

I think Deputy Director Kersh is at it again.

Meaning, he's up to something.

I can't say for sure, of course, but he's such a spiteful little prick that I won't grant him the benefit of the doubt. When he summoned me to a meeting for no apparent reason I could discern, my stomach automatically sank preparing for the worst. In anticipation, I downed half a bottle of Pepto Bismol before reporting to my superior.

As soon as I arrive at his office, his executive assistant shows me in right away. Kersh looks up from his work with his typical stony face. "Have a seat, Mr. Skinner."

I hesitate and fall heavily into the expensive leather chair, the material creaking. There's an undeniable feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach.

"I don't know what you know about Alexander Beckinsdale," he says without further ado.

I recite what I do know. "That's the double agent who once worked for the CIA. Suspected of selling intelligence and weaponry secrets to the highest bidder. Secrets that have eventually ended up in the hands of the United State's greatest enemies. He's been at large for some time."

"Right. We'd been unable to locate his whereabouts in the last couple of years but he's surfaced again in NY. The Hamptons to be exact. We think he's got one last deal to make and this is our last chance to take him."

My patience is thin, wishing he'd just get on with it already. "What do you need from me?"

"One of your agents. We've chosen one for the undercover assignment."

"And who would that be?" I ask quizzically, not sure who he means.

"Dana Scully."

Oh, good Lord. Can't he just let Mulder and Scully be after all this time? "Deputy Director, I respectfully request that you reconsider your choice."

"This operation is of extreme importance. For national security as you can well imagine. She's the best agent for the job."

"She may very well be but she's been through enough in the last couple of years . . . Her priorities are different now . . . You're talking about a married woman who's attempting to adopt a child."

"That doesn't matter. It is to be made clear to her that she doesn't have a choice and that she isn't to let her partner or husband know what she's doing or where she's going."

"I can tell you right now that isn't going to sit well with her. To say the very least."

"And again, it doesn't matter."

"And I guess I'm the one that's supposed to make this clear to her?"

"That's correct."

"Why me? She's not exactly one of my biggest fans of late." Once again, my recent actions have caused her to doubt my trustworthiness.

"Still far better to hear it from you than from me."

"What about her husband?"

"What about him?"

"He should be told something . . . You can at least give her that much, can't you?"

"Fine--tell him that she's gone but leave out the specifics."

"And Mulder? This isn't going to sit well with him either."

"I'll take care of Mulder."

"Yeah, you always do," I mutter more loudly than I intend.

"Did you say something, Mr. Skinner?"

I remain silent but hold his gaze.

"I didn't think so," he says with smug self-satisfaction. "Now, here's her cover and all pertinent details. Go over it with her and if she has any qualms, I'll have a talk with her. I expect you'll do your best to turn her to our way of thinking. I'll be here if you need me."

Yeah, leave me to do all of your dirty work, you cowardly son-of- a-bitch.


Thanks to Kersh I've got a massive tension headache rattling around in my head as I sit and wait for Scully to arrive in my office. Hoping to ease the pain, I remove my glasses and rub at the temples of my head. I push aside the reports lying before me here, there and everywhere, my desk seeming more cluttered than ever.

Then, she pops her head into the half open door. "You wanted to see me, sir?"

"Scully--come in and have a seat. Close the door behind you."

"Sounds serious," she remarks correctly.

"It is," I reply somberly.

Scully sits and I notice how absolutely wonderful she looks. Even with her husband's recent troubles, she's glowing. Marriage obviously agrees with her as I've never seen her looking this happy and content in all her years at the FBI.

My somberness causes that crease of concern at her brow. "Is something wrong with the report I handed in yesterday? I know you weren't happy--"

"No, it's not that. Everything's in order."

She's afraid to ask but the question comes anyhow. "Is it Mulder?"

"No. . . That's kind of a first, huh?" I crack halfheartedly with nervousness.

She doesn't even blink. Or grin. "You're stalling, sir. Why?"

Jeez, she's way too smart for her own good which I'm surely aware of already. "Scully . . . believe me when I say, I tried to get you out of this."

"Out of . . . what?" she asks slowly, worry starting to paint her face.

"Kersh has an assignment for you," I explain, handing over the file.

She takes it from my hand with apparent reservation. "What kind of assignment?"

"It's all in there," I say, gesturing to the file.

She skims through the papers quickly and efficiently without so much as a cock of her eyebrow, her reaction carefully controlled. "No," she finally says, looking up and shaking her head. "No way. I can't do this. . . Why does he want me?"

"He says you're the best agent for the job."

"And you believe that crock?"

"Yes, you're one of the best I've ever worked with. You know that."

"But that's not what this is about with Kersh. He wants . . . to punish us."

"Punish who? Mulder?"

"Mulder. Me. Michael. Any of us will do."

"Regardless, Scully . . . you have to accept this assignment."

"No, sir," she tells me immediately, shaking her head again. "Maybe before when I needed a break from the X-Files . . . from Mulder. But not now. . . Not when I have so much to lose."

She won't specify that it's Mike and the little boy she's trying to adopt to which she's referring; she's too private, too much of a professional but I know exactly what she means. I had tried to explain as much to Kersh. "Scully, Kersh made it clear to me that you have no options here."

Her face is a mask of control, but her eyes are alight with anger. "Sir, I can't do this. I =won't= do this."

"If I'm not able to convince you, he wants to see you in his office."

"Then let him know I'm on my way," she sighs with resignation, rising quickly. And then just as quickly she sits right back down.

I join her side wondering if she's okay. "What is it? Are you all right?"

"I'm fine. I think I just got up a little too fast," she explains away, her hand at her mouth. I think she's lying; that aformentioned glow is gone and she looks quite pale all of a sudden.

"If you're sure," I mutter and retreat back to my chair after her blue laser beam eyes shoot me a look of warning.

"I'm sure. Thank you."

Still, I can't seem to help myself. "Can I get you a cup of water or something?"

"No--I said I'm fine," she insists again with irritation, sitting a few moments longer. When she rises to leave this time, she looks more like her old self. "Tell Kersh," she starts to say and then stops, thinking better of it. "You know what, on second thought don't tell Kersh a damn thing."

And out she goes, a determination of steel set in her eyes and face like I've never seen.

With Scully, that's saying a whole hell of a lot.

Barging into Kersh's office without knocking on the closed door or checking with his secretary is not a problem for me. The man has no decency, no courtesy, no respect for anyone so I can't be bothered returning such. I stomp over to his desk standing directly in front of it, waiting for some acknowledgement.

"Is there a problem, Agent Scully?"

"Yes," I sigh, "a problem of yours that seems to have become mine."

"Exactly to what are you referring, agent?"

"This undercover assignment in NY," I explain, tossing the file in front of him onto his desk. "I don't want it. Find yourself another agent."

He regards me with disdain. Either that or he's constipated. "Sit down, Agent Scully."

I resist, crossing my arms. I have no intention of changing my mind.

He persists with his order. "Please." Finally, I take a seat, feeling as if my head were on the proverbial chopping block. Then when we're all "comfy," he forges ahead. "I need to explain something to you . . .The fact of the matter is that I want you on this. There can be no more screw ups, and I know you won't muck it up like everyone else has in the past. You're the best person for the job."

"With all due respect, sir, I don't for one minute believe a word you have to say."

"Believe what you want but you'll do the damn job," he grunts with sickening confidence.

"And if I refuse?" I question, chin up defiantly, trying to keep my show of strength impenetrable when, in reality, it's crumbling down all around me as I know this fucker knows my weakness. Or weaknesses, I should say and he won't hesitate in the slightest to exploit them. Once upon a time, I had only one Achilles heel at the FBI and though I didn't need to give Kersh more ammunition to use against me, there was another just the same. I didn't like it nor was there a damn thing I could do about it.

Unflinchingly, his black eyes bore into me. Even though I stare right back, I'm extremely uncomfortable under his penetrating gaze, knowing he's enjoying this immensely.

C'mon, Kersh, you prick. I'm waiting.

Go ahead.

Pick one.





Either one will work just fine for you, thank you very much.

And I wait some more.

Damn you, Kersh, come on.

Come on and do it already!

When he finally does speak, he draws out each word more slowly than usual, purposely I think, to prolong my agony.

"If you refuse, . . . then Michael J. Anzotti will never see another day as an agent in the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Is that what you want? . . . Certain choices have consequences. It's all about making the right choice. You do want to make the =right= choice, don't you, Agent Scully?"

I get weak-kneed with his words, truly not expecting Michael to be his weapon of choice. "You smug son-of-a--"

"What's it going to be?"


"Immediately. You'll find everything you need--accommodations, tickets, access to money for clothes, food, etc, etc in that file. You'll be on a plane in less than four hours."

"No, sir," I vehemently disagree, shaking my head. "I need to go home first and talk to my husband. Tell him--"

"Agent Scully, part of the deal is you go without a word to him or anyone else. No talks, no notes, no cards, no e-mail, no nothing. Otherwise, he's finished. Do you get me?"

God, forgive me, but I want to scratch his eyes out. And that would be =after= I wring that thick neck of his with my bare hands. "Oh, I get you, Deputy Director," I snarl with barely concealed hatred, bolting up from my chair. "And one of these days you're going to get yours. That much I'm sure of."

"I take that as a yes," he says, his voice rising.

"Take it, stick it, shove it. I don't care what you do," I snarl again with my hand poised on the doorknob. I bolt out of his office and pull the door shut hard behind me.

Even so, I can still hear his voice call out a moment later. "That's a yes!"

And I shudder.

The sound of that voice, the very thought of him makes my skin crawl.


God, I am so angry and upset. You know I only curse when I am really, truly angry so I'm putting it in writing that Deputy Director Kersh is a fucking scum-sucking bastard. There, I've said it and you can quote me on it. But I don't feel much better even hours and hours later.

It's even all the more cruel that besides not being able to discuss with you, we haven't seen each other in a number of days. You were not out in the field, of course, because you no longer work for the FBI. Ironically, you were in NY where I was heading.

Though you've only been gone a couple of days, I've missed you terribly. Hoping to a bring a smile to that face of yours when you returned, I left a drawing that Joseph had made out on the kitchen table, not to mention a little something for you on our bed.

After Kersh told me what I was to do, I picked up a few of my personal belongings from my office and Mulder's but my mind was still in a major fog. I wondered if I could really do this, get through it now that I actually had a life I desperately wanted and people whom I depended on and whom depended on me.

While waiting for the plane that would take me away from you, away from my life to West Hampton Beach, I wandered around the airport trying to keep it together. With just the clothes on my back-- no luggage, no prior preparation--I felt like a gnome.

In a stationery store, I saw this journal I'm writing in next to the racks of magazines and newspapers. The cover depicted a nondescript man, woman and child but it reminded me of us and Joseph or Mike. So I bought it and began writing in it.

I didn't plan on keeping a journal though, again, nothing concerning this excursion has been planned. I'm hoping it will help me see through this, help me make some sense of this insanity. Being plucked from your life without warning is horribly . . . indescribable. But I know you're feeling much of the same. For that, I apologize with all my heart.

I'm trying to convince myself that you're going to be fine. Just like I am. We have to be because we have no choice. =I= had no choice, I swear to you, though I know you would never agree; you would not want me to do this for the sake of your job but I know how much you love what we do.

After the plane landed at Republic Airport in Suffolk, Long Island, there was a car waiting to take me out to the Hamptons. The drive was pleasant enough as were the sights, the leaves of the trees just starting to turn. Though nearing fall, there were quaint farmer's stands at the sides of the roads still packed with fresh grown fruits and vegetables.

Truth be told, most of it passed me by in a blur; I couldn't have been more uninterested. But the farther we went, the closer we got to the water, the smell of it stirring vivid memories of you and I at sea together especially our weekend right here on Long Island last summer.

What an exciting and exhilarating time that had been, catching up with your old friend in Montauk and joining the local researchers on a mission to tag and release some Great White sharks. Your lifelong fascination with the most notorious shark in the sea, the "man-eating" Great White, had become my fascination as well. Even with the chumming of the water with fish blood and innards that had left you a bit nauseous and me, snickering at you slightly, we weren't sure we'd even encounter any Great Whites; they're much rarer than people think.

But encounter we had as we got up close and personal with three-- 14, 10, and 16 foot--white sharks that afternoon. Just their ominous dorsal fins cutting through the water had provided a thrill but witnessing those giant, amazingly sleek creatures swimming alongside the boat, nearly dwarfing us, had been astounding.

Then when the researchers tagged and held that 14 footer still enough that you brought my hand and yours to the top of its head to feel the hard, leather-like skin, my heart was nearly pounding out of my chest in nervous excitement. Of course when I forgot and almost made the mistake of moving my hand against the grain of the shark's skin, you knowingly pulled my hand away, saving it from a nasty gash. That was typically you, knowing instinctively what I need and giving it without a moment's hesitation.

And then to watch them feed, their saw-edged teeth slicing through chunks of meat like mere sheets of paper. Extraordinary. Totally thrilled, I never imagined having such reverence and compassion for such an awesome predator. But leave it to you.

Leave it to you to make me feel that way.

From the very beginning, you had made me feel things I never would have imagined possible in all my 38 years.

As I write this now, hours and hours after first arriving in my apartment and staring at the four walls for what seems like forever, I feel helplessly lost and alone and wonder what the hell I am doing.

Admittedly, I don't think I have a clue.


With a content sigh, I drop my luggage down.

Home sweet home.

Though my visit with my sister, Gina, had been nice, I was eager to get home; Dana always had that effect on me. If she had been able to join me on my trip, Gina, her daughter, Rebecca, and I would have been thrilled but she had been adamant about not taking any time off, not stirring things up with Uncle Sam after my recent problems.

After grabbing a cold bottle of water from the refrigerator, I dug through the mail for anything important. Finding a picture Joseph had made left out on the kitchen table by Dana usurped anything of import in the pile of mail and brought a big smile to my face. We collected Joseph and Mike's drawings with fervor, the refrigerator literally covered in their artwork.

An even bigger smile appeared when I found what Dana had left arranged on our bed. There was a bottle of red wine, two wine glasses, a rose from the bouquet I had recently given her, scattered rose petals, and a note with the imprint of her perfect red lips pressed onto the paper that simply read:


Can't wait to see you tonight. I've missed you so.


That absolutely goes both ways.

With not much time to spare to meet Dana at the restaurant for dinner due to my delayed flight from Kennedy, I showered and dressed quickly. I managed to beat her to the restaurant where I waited for over an hour but she never showed. When I insisted to the maitre de that there must be some message for me that she was running late or had to cancel, he kindly but firmly told me I was mistaken.

Worried, I left in a huff, dialing her cell, her office, Mulder's office and the answering machine at the house. No dice.

Okay, maybe she needed to stop home first so I headed back there. No need to panic. Panic I did though when there was no sign of her there either.

Immediately, I got on the horn to friends and family: Mrs. Scully's answering machine clicked on but I left no message, fearing she'd hear the concern in my voice. Mulder had already left work for the night and when I tried his cell this time, he either wasn't picking up or had turned the damn phone off. The two next door neighbors hadn't seen her. Donna Leiter hadn't spoken to her since this past weekend while I was away and Nicholas told me she hadn't been into Starbuck's today or yesterday. As a last resort, I tried a few of her acquaintances from work and got through to one who hadn't seen her since early morning.

After the last call, I slammed the phone down hard and bolted out of the house, headed for Mrs. Scully's. I didn't know what else to do or where else to go. With any luck, she was there, safe and sound, chatting with her mother over a cup of tea, oblivious to the time or our date for dinner.

Yeah, that's it. It wasn't like her at all but I had to be going mad with worry for nothing, right?


As I'm coming up the walk of Mike and Dana's house in Annapolis, I spot Mike locking the front door. I wait at the foot of the steps until he's done with his task and turns around as I'd rather not surprise him; he's getting a doozy of a surprise tonight and I think it's more than enough for one person to take.

Finally, he turns, his eyes meeting mine. There's a moment of confusion at my presence here at his home and then his voice goes anxious. Scared even when he realizes why I'm probably here. "Skinner . . . What is it? What's happened? I've been trying to reach her for the last few hours."

"It's not what you're thinking but we need to talk. Why don't we go inside," I suggest, ascending the stairs and coming before him.

He doesn't move or flinch in the slightest, just stares me down, his voice urgent. Impatient. "Just tell me what's happened to Dana--I don't have time to fuck around."

"Let's go inside. Please," I urge, trying to sound forceful. With most men, I can look down on them, intimidate them with the size of my body. But not with Mike. He's as big as I am and will =not= be intimidated.

As he eyes me with distrust, his jaw works furiously. Then he relents without a word, opening up the door he'd just locked only moments before and re-entering his home. The storm door slams closed in my face before I can reach it and I'm not surprised he hasn't held it open for me.

Slowly, I enter, trying to quickly acquaint myself with the unfamiliar surroundings. While I make my way to the sofa, Mike is pacing the floor like a caged animal about ready to attack. "Why don't you sit down and relax," I tell him, removing my trench coat and taking a seat. Though he's no longer working for the FBI, he's dressed nicely in black dress pants and a crisp white dress shirt. Shit, I realize he and Scully were probably going out somewhere. For some reason, it just makes what I've got to tell him that much worse.

More pacing and a voice that is both anxious and angry. "I don't want to sit down--Just tell me what the hell is going on with my wife."

My throat is dry, anticipating this uncomfortable conversation. "Could I maybe get a glass of water or something?"

"You know, I'd offer you something but--"

"I know--you don't have time to fuck around."


"And you don't like me very much," I guess, though it's not hard to fathom. In front of an FBI panel (including the Director himself) regarding Mike's connection to a reputed mobster, I practically told Scully to screw over her husband and just worry about herself and her own career. Not a very nice thing to do to a married couple, a married couple who were obviously very much in love.

"No--not very much. Now, can we get on with it?" he asks with pissiness. Again, I don't blame him. I'm stalling and he's right- fully worried.

I clear my throat and ease the knotted tie there before speaking. "Agent Scully was assigned to a classified undercover assignment this morning and she's already left to begin that assignment."

Shock and disbelief cross his features. "She's gone? Just like that? Without talking to me first?"

"Yes . . . though she wasn't given much of a choice."

"What do you mean she wasn't given a choice?" he asks slowly, contemplating.

"Just what I said . . . Agent Scully was told she had to take this assignment." I stop just short of completing my thought.

Mike finishes it for me. "Or else what?" he grumbles sourly.

"I don't know."

He doesn't say anything for a moment, staring into nothingness in quiet disbelief. "What did they threaten her with? What are they holding over her head?"

"I have no idea."

"C'mon, Skinner, don't screw with me. Is it because of what I've done?"

I shrug. "Kersh is involved. Draw your own conclusions."

Next to me, he finally takes a seat or falls into it, I'm not sure which. "Tell me how I can contact her."

"It's classified," I relate even though he knows and I dare a glance at him. Devastated might not even cover his reaction, the weight of all I've told him sinking in.

"You know, she's got a family now. Two little boys count and depend on her."

I know about the one but am not sure of to whom else he's referring and will not pry. "It's out of my hands," I tell him truthfully.

Long moments of quiet pass as he stares straight ahead, eyes seemingly unseeing. When he speaks again, I'm almost startled. "How dangerous is it?"

"Like everything we--" I stop short, remembering he's not one of us anymore. "Like everything the FBI does, it's not without risk."

"How long will she be gone?"

"As long as it takes to get the job done."

"Does Mulder know where she is?" he growls.

I knew that question was coming. "Agent Mulder knows even less than you. I've told you much more than I should have." That comment seems to set him off.

"And am I supposed to be grateful? You tell me that my wife is gone on some dangerous assignment without discussing it with me and I'm supposed to just sit here and take it like a good little boy, not asking any questions?"

"Mike, you know you're not owed any explanations. You just have to accept it. I'm here out of courtesy."

"I'd like to tell you where you can stick your courtesy."

On that note, I gather my coat, figuring that it's just better to go. No matter what I say, he's inconsolable. As I would be if I were in his shoes.

He's incensed as I rise to leave and grabs hold of my arm. "Where do you think you're going? I'm not through with you yet . . . Are you her contact?"

"No," I answer simply, not offering anything more.

"Who is?" he demands.


"Jesus, Skinner, cut me a fucking break here."

He sounds so miserable I end up doing just that, albeit reluctantly. "Special Agent John Hart; he's good. If anything should happen-- he'll pull her out if things get out of hand . . . I'll be in contact with Scully at some point--"

"Her name's Dana, damnit! When you talk about her to me, use her first name like you know her. Like you care. Like you give a damn what happens to her."

"I do," I admit gruffly and wrench my arm free of his vice-like grasp.

"I'll believe it when you start giving me some straight answers," he growls.

I shrug off his words and high tail it out of his house and down the walk to my car. "I'll be in touch," I call out, striding around the front of the car for the driver's side.

Mike barrels around the back, heading me off. "When?" he yells, his large hand flat against the driver's side door, impeding my escape.

"When there's something you need to know. Now, step aside." When he doesn't budge, I repeat myself with a warning plainly in my voice. "Step. Aside."

Ever so slowly, he eases away, a condescending mock mixed with a raging anger in his voice when he speaks again. "Fine, Walt, but you haven't heard the last of me. Not by a long shot. I'm going to be all over you. I promise you that."

Swallowing down further comment for a man I actually sympathize with, I just slide into the seat and drive off slowly. Checking my rearview mirror, Mike is still there in the street exactly where I left him. Watching me. And probably wishing an unfortunate circumstance happen upon me.

Lord, I have my hands full, full of Dana Scully's husband. There's no two ways about it. And it always seems to be the case with the men in Scully's life--Mulder. Mike. Even me to an extent.

She's that rare, one-of-a-kind woman who inspires that kind of love, that kind of tenacity and relentlessness to protect her. I should know about wanting to protect her, my crazy deal with that Cigarette Smoking bastard a prime example. But I thought no one could love Scully as much as Fox Mulder seemed to even if he hadn't always realized it or wanted to acknowledge it.

Somehow, I think I had badly miscalculated on that count as Mike Anzotti had more than filled the bill.




I wonder where you are at this very moment, what you're doing, what you're thinking about.

Surely not for the first time or the last since I arrived, I consider going to Kinko's, some computer coffee bar, or even the local library here to e-mail you. To let you know that I'm all right, not to worry and that this had not been my choice; I would never have chosen to leave you, our children, or the life we've built together. You must know that. But to get through this, I had to put you out of my head and my heart and really start concentrating on the task before me.

I was allotted about five days to get situated in the digs the government splurged on, to get my act together as well as perform the more mundane tasks such as shopping for clothes and groceries. I studied everything they had on Alexander Beckinsdale now known as Alex Becker. His likes, his dislikes, his habits--none of it amounting to much. Even the picture they provided me with was fuzzy and unclear. The fact is, he'd been able to allude the authorities all these years precisely because no one knew too much about him.

Just like another Alex I know. And hate. Must be the going name for scummy traitors to our country.

Dutiful agent that I was, I digested it all to go in and start pretending I was Dana Molloy. Not Dana Scully or Dana Anzotti even. I was to start pretending I was Dana Molloy, lover and purveyor, you could say, of fine art. One of Beckinsdale's suspected interests.

My instructions had been to wait until he came to me, until he appeared in the gallery I would be working in no matter how long it might take. To seek him out myself might be obvious or suspicious. So they thought. And I would follow my instructions to the letter because of Kersh's threats.

At the last possible moment the morning I was to meet Kay Sternberg and her daughter, Jackie, and start my job at Kay's gallery, I finally removed my wedding ring. I hadn't been able to bring myself to do so any earlier and then I realized my little predicament.

The tattoo.

Your name etched into the skin of my left ring finger posed an obvious problem. I stared at each of the bands of gold and color for a good, long time until reluctantly tucking the gold one safely away and covering the permanent one with makeup. That would have to do and hopefully no one would be the wiser.

No one but me, of course, what with the lies I was forced to perpetuate and that ever growing hole in my heart.

Scully's only been gone a week and already it feels like forever. I don't know why or where she's gone but I pray that I haven't finally pissed her off enough by butting into her personal life that she's left me for good. She may be another man's wife but I will always regard her as my trusted partner and dearest friend. I will always care, probably way too much for my own good and I want to know where the hell she is.

That's why as unpleasant as it may be I'm knocking urgently on the door of her house on a Saturday morning.

To talk to her husband. Of all people.

When he pokes his head out the door, I'm a little taken aback by the haunted look on his face, eyes dark. Dangerous. With Scully gone, it looks like anything and everything might set him off.

The bastard loves my Scully.

I swallow down that pill, one I was well made aware of a long time ago, a little less bitterly these days and then speak. "Mike, I need to talk to you."

"Mulder--I'm on my way out--now's not a good time," he growls hurriedly, attempting to shut the door in my face.

I put out my hand just in time, forcing the door back open just a bit, irritated by his little stunt. My voice displays as much. "I've been trying to reach you all week. Where the hell have you been?"

If possible, his eyes narrow and darken even further. I better watch my step or I think I may push him over the edge.

"Look, Mulder, I sure as hell don't have to answer to you. What do you want?"

"Can I come in at least?"

"I have a plane to catch--I don't have time for this shit," he barks, ready to push the door closed on me once again.

"It's about your wife so make time," I tell him frankly and he's like a deer caught in headlights. Then I easily push past him into his house without further resistance. With him catching a plane and his packed duffel bag lying plainly in my line of vision, I then jump to an obvious conclusion, my voice urgent. Desperate. "Are you going to see Scully? Where is she?" I roar.

"Mulder, I can't help you. Now, get. Out," he seethes, turning his back on me.

Angered by his attitude and his walking away when I'm asking him something of such vital importance, I have a good mind to knock some sense into him but, again, he may lose it all together. That said, I still can't contain the anger in my voice. "Are you going to see her or not?"

"No--I don't even know where the hell she is!" he yells back.

"Scully didn't tell you?"

"No, she never got the chance--Skinner did," he grumbles before shoving a brightly wrapped kiddie birthday gift into a bag with some others. No, he isn't going to see Scully; that much is clear.

"Well, Kersh didn't deem me worthy either if it makes you feel better."

"Kersh told you? What exactly did he say?"

"That she would be gone for awhile and that if I knew what was good for my X-Files-oriented ass, I wouldn't ask any questions. What did Skinner say?" I propose gently.

"Just that she was working undercover on something . . . something big the way ol' Walt was acting. . . Kersh is holding something over her head. I'm sure of it . . . What were you and Dana working on?" His voice goes accusing.

I chew my lip, considering. "Nothing of consequence. All I know is that Kersh's involvement is fucking trouble with a capital F . . . If you find anything else out, I need to know. Can I count on you?"

To Mike's credit, he doesn't tell me to fuck off which is kind of what I'm expecting from someone in his mood and frame of mind. Not to mention from someone who is aware I undermined him where his own wife, my partner, was concerned. "Only if you promise to do the same," he offers.

"I think I can manage that. For Scully's sake, of course."

"For Dana's sake," he nods and agrees then attempts to usher me out. "Listen, Mulder, I don't want to make a habit of throwing you out, but I have somewhere important to be."

"I'm going but I need to say something first." I had mistakenly meddled in his and Scully's personal life and now I had to make my peace. He may not have always been a saint but neither was I and I could certainly relate to his family problems.

"No, you don't. I realize you're important to Dana--I'm important to Dana. We both need to respect that and get along as much as possible. As sickeningly politically correct as that sounds."

"Right, but I can admit that I misjudged you. I saw only what I wanted to see . . . Look, Mike, you obviously care about Scully and make her happy. That's all I want. That's the only thing that matters to me."

"Then that's the only thing that matters to us both," he proclaims, light and life finally returning, however briefly, to his eyes when he speaks of her.


The bastard truly loves Scully.

"I want to feel you I need to hear you You are the light that is leading me to the place where I find peace again You are the strength that keeps me walking You are the hope that keeps me trusting You are the life to my soul You are my purpose You are everything"

With a start, I awaken reaching for her. Always reaching for her.

Not there.





Since she had been taken away, I had tried to sleep in our bed but found that damn near impossible. Sleeping was impossible period; I don't think I'd slept more than a few hours here and there in all the time she'd been gone. Except for last night. Last night I wandered to our bedroom, needing to feel her presence or be close to her in some way. I looked around at all the things that reminded me of her.

Which was everything.

Exhausted, I collapsed onto her side of the bed, relishing the smell of her still faintly gracing the pillows and sheets. Somehow, that was both a painful reminder and a comfort to me and I ultimately slipped into a prolonged state of unconsciousness.

A nightmare of her being "called" to an abduction site or chased by some faceless, unknown assailant that I couldn't save her from woke me with a start. Worse was that she couldn't save herself.

Sweating and breathing heavily, I stared up into the thick blackness of the room for a long time, recovering from my scare. Which was short-lived. This scare, this nightmare was not only in my dreams; it was in my life.

It =was= my life.

If I could quantify, I loved Dana more than a person should love another. I always had even in the beginning. I had been going through the motions of living for a long time until she came along and caught my undivided attention. And when she did, I was forever gone. It was something I hadn't seen coming or intended and, therefore, had been beyond my control. I mean, I had wanted her from the get-go, had pursued her but I never thought I'd fall this hard. Basically, she had become my reason for living in this fucked up world.

Thoughts of her and the kids were like a constant onslaught that I couldn't deal with so I would force myself out of bed in the wee hours of the morning to ready for work. Like every other Joe Schmo, I didn't have to be in until 9 but it would take me awhile anyway. Everything seemed to be a chore now, even basic little things like showering, brushing my teeth, and combing my hair. I had already forgone shaving, not wanting to have a razor at my throat at a time I found impossibly trying.

It probably is a good thing I'm not FBI anymore, meaning I no longer had access to a weapon because I might be forced to shoot someone. Starting with Skinner, of course, though he had only been the messenger. That fuck Kersh is the real culprit; sick bastard that he is, he enjoyed fucking around with Dana and Mulder like they were his own personal playthings.

There isn't much I can do about the Teflon-esque deputy director but Skinner is another matter; there is no doubt the two of us will again clash over Dana.

This I know with certainty just as I know my father and brother are the scourges of the earth.

An unexpectedly chilly fall night on the park side bench is the site of our latest meeting. Scully's usually prompt but I've beat her to the punch this time.

While I wait pretending to be interested in a two-day old newspaper, a couple of joggers and a man walking his dog attract my attention as they pass until I catch sight of her slowly approaching. As of last week, Beckinsdale still hadn't made an appearance. That may be why she's lost any sense of purpose in her step but if anyone can get this job done, it's Scully; she's a seasoned pro who commands my utmost respect.

She wearily sits down on the opposite end of the bench, careful not to regard me in any way. In the harsh lamplight, I notice a light sheen on her pale face but ignore it, pressing on to the important matter at hand. "He still hasn't shown yet?" I ask with my own frustration beginning to mount.

"No, not yet. I've got nothing," Scully sighs tiredly and blindly stares straight ahead. She pulls the collar of her jacket up against her neck as I had done only moments before to ward off the night chill.

"Are you sure?" I ask, not wanting to believe it.

"As sure as one can be with that pathetic excuse for a photograph the FBI provided."

"The amount of plastic surgery he's probably had renders him nearly unrecognizable, which is what I think the problem is here. But I'm beginning to wonder if they were even trailing the right man."

"That's encouraging, Hart, thanks. So I guess an actual clear picture of who the hell I'm supposed to be cavorting with is out of the question then?"

"Yeah, you're screwed on that one," I admit with lightheartedness. Unfortunately, it's the truth but I feel bad for her and worse even acknowledging it.

"Oh, I've been screwed on more than just that one, believe me. Any ideas on how to get things moving forward?"

"In regard to Beckinsdale, no, but I'll work on it." Knowing better than to make this personal, I make the mistake or lapse in judgement anyway; I'm a little concerned about her, least of all because my partner is friends with her husband. "In regard to you, Scully, get some decent rest . . . Not feeling great, are you?"

"I'm feeling just peachy," she quips, skirting the issue.

"Well, you don't look peachy. Clammy and pale--that just about describes you."

"Don't you know that's just the curse of the Irish?" she chortles.

"No, I can't say as I do. Looks to me like the curse of an agent who's dog tired and ill."

"Hart, concern for my well being is a waste of time and heaven knows we've wasted enough of it already. Let's not do it anymore," she sighs again tiredly and rises to leave. "See you next week."

Tonight, she barely looks like she has the energy to cross the street ahead let alone walk the long block to her car.

What seem like endless days and endless nights pass, another slow day at the gallery creeping into night. Kay and Jackie have been warm and welcoming but I'm anxious to get this show on the road. Nearly a month has passed since I arrived here and I still have nothing to show for it.

And it's really starting to get to me. And I mean physically get to me. My stomach has been a mess of nerves almost everyday and I've been fighting a lingering headache all morning and afternoon.

This night, twenty-something Jackie takes it upon herself to try and drag me out to the local hotspots with her friends after deeming my personal life "boring as all hell." I politely decline, disappointing her, and she promises not to let me off the hook so easily next time. I sincerely hope I don't look like some fish that needs a man to harpoon me.

Apparently, I must because later on her mother is thinking along the same lines. "Dana, why don't you get out of here early and go out with Jackie and her friends? She invited you along, didn't she?"

"She did, Kay, but I hardly think she or her friends need an old fart tagging along."

"Old fart? Dana, you're a beautiful young woman. You've been here for a month and I haven't seen you go out with any friends or boyfriends. . . You do like men, don't you? I mean if you don't, that's okay, too," she admits sheepishly. "I understand more than--"

I interrupt Kay's rambling. "Kay, rest assured that I love men." The one I'm married to and missing terribly in particular. "It's just that I'm new in town and I don't make friends easily."

"Yes, but the way to make friends is to get out and meet people. Or is there already someone special in your life that I haven't had the pleasure of meeting?"

"No, there's no one special and you sound just like my mother," I sigh.

"I take that as a compliment--a mother only wants what's best for her girls. And though we've only known each other a short time, I consider you one of my girls. I hope that's all right."

"Uh, yeah," I say with surprise. "It's . . . flattering. Thank you."

"You're welcome. Now go on and get out of here. Take the rest of the night off."

"You're sure it's all right?"


"I'm not joining Jackie though."

"Suit yourself."

I smile lightly, bid her a 'good night' and head the opposite way of my apartment. I'm so fucking fed up with the complete inertia of this case that I attempt to find Beckinsdale's residence after having jotted down some makeshift directions one late, lonely night.

If that traitorous bastard is meeting someone by chance tonight, I want to know about it.

I want to see it.

I want to hear it.

I want to obtain one little piece--one scrap--one minute shred of evidence that this man exists at all. Is that too much to ask?

No more of this sitting on my hands and waiting for him to magically appear while my life is slipping away before my eyes.

The dark, inadequately lit streets make it difficult to navigate but what's worse is my full blown headache now and a lingering wave of nausea I keep thinking will abate. I don't know if I'm coming down with something or if it's just the continual pressure I'm exacting on myself for progress. Mistaken about the queasiness passing, I'm forced to suddenly pull the car over to empty the meager contents of my stomach.

Afterward, my head falls back against the headrest as I take in some deep, calming breaths, trying to recover. I do so, more or less, but slowly turn the car back around the way I had come, my plan to stakeout Beckinsdale aborted in the wake of my latest bout of nausea and vomiting.


I'm restless.


So very tired but unable to sleep.

Sick--both literally and figuratively.

Day 28 and I still have yet to see hide nor hair of Beckinsdale. Maybe this is all a farce, another ploy of Kersh's to punish every one of us for God knows what.

Writing to you like this in the late, late evening is my only refuge. I'm wide awake, rain teeming down against the windowpanes of my apartment. It's the first time it's rained here and maybe it's a good sign. Rain is good luck--at least, that's what they say when you get married. It rained like this when we got married, didn't it?

Didn't it?

That wonderful time seems so long ago.

Forever and a day.

As time continues to tick away, I can't help fretting over you and the kids. I wonder if you kept our promise to be with Joseph in Chicago for his sixth birthday. Though I couldn't be with you, I hope you did; he wanted you there so badly that's all he could think and talk about when I last spoke to him. I can just see him blowing out the candles with your help and then managing to get chocolate cake and icing on anything and everything including himself. What a wonderful sight that would be.

God, six-years-old. He's getting so big.

So is Mike and thinking of what we've been going through to give that child a real home is disconcerting; I never imagined that it would be so difficult for two good people like us to adopt a child. Everything that could go wrong has and I'm afraid of what's to come. That they used the misfortune that befell you at the hands of your partner as a way to keep you from him was despicable even though our lawyer had warned us. And I'm guessing they'll label my sudden "absenteeism" due to my assignment as neglect and we'll be right back where we started. I pray that I'm wrong but somehow I doubt it. Whatever happens though, we'll deal with it together.

The rain's let up a bit but that doesn't ease the emptiness inside of me. As more time passes away from you, I'm beginning to feel like a shell of myself. The only thing I =do= feel at this very moment is the throbbing of my left shoulder from Cristofaro's gunshot as well as a dull ache in my stomach from Ritter's. Physical ails such as these are the only reasons why the rain is unpleasant to me these days but at least it makes me realize I'm still alive.

Mercifully, my eyes have grown heavy as has the pen in my hand as I write this and sleep is not far off. I will not fight it as it's mostly eluded me again for a number of days.

Love, I pray that it's different for you, that you've been able to obtain some peace.

Maybe the rain =had= been a sign.

As luck would have it, I notice a man who I think to be Beckinsdale stroll into the gallery the very next morning. Without being too obvious, I watch him for a long while, studying him. Just to be sure.

Upon realizing it's most likely him, an Ed Harris look-alike, a mixture of relief and dread war within--who knew what was in store for me but we could finally get this charade started and I would be that much closer to getting back to my husband.

That thought was the only thing that had kept me going.

I let Beckinsdale wander around unmolested as he checked out some new paintings and sculptures that had just arrived. Again, I watched him, noticing his way, his mannerisms for some time before nearing his personal space on the pretense of work.

I check off a few items on my inventory clipboard in hand and approach him. "May I help you with something, sir?"

He fails to even turn to address me when I speak to him and from the tone of his voice, I think I've annoyed him. "No, just having a look if you don't mind."

"Of course not. . . If you need anything at all though, please don't hesitate to ask. My name's Dana Molloy and I run this gallery." When I put out my hand in introduction, the man finally turns my way but just stares at my outstretched hand.

"You're new here, aren't you?"

I pull my hand back, trying not to let my displeasure show. "Uh, yeah. I started about a month ago."

"I thought so. I come in every now and then and don't remember seeing you. Is Kay still here?"

"Yes, both Kay and Jackie. Kay was a little overwhelmed with the work and needed some help. So here I am."

"Lucky you."

"Lucky me? How so?"

"You're lucky to work here; this is a happening little place. Kay always comes up with some great finds and she's got a great bunch of clients."

"Oh? . . . Such as?" I scoff, hoping he gets my meaning. Though I think being contrary is actually helpful at this point, this guy has already peeved me.

"Me, of course," he replies smugly.

"Is that right?" I scoff again. "Well, it certainly couldn't be because of your charm." Of which he has none.

"Ouch," Beckinsdale remarks, an amused grin curling his lips.

"Now you know how I felt when you left my hand hanging. The polite thing to do when a woman offers her hand in introduction is to shake it and introduce yourself."

"Double ouch." That annoying grin of his is still firmly in place.

"Hey, I call 'em like I see 'em," I shrug and walk away, continuing with my work.

He trails after me and stops me by latching onto my elbow gently and pulling me around. "Then let me make it up to you. How about having dinner with me some time?"

I protest mildly, not making it too easy for him. "I don't even know you."

"How can you get to know me if you don't sit down and talk with me?"

"Look, I appreciate the offer but I'm not interested in a relationship right now."

"Who said anything about a relationship? Dinner does not a relationship make."

"Well, we'll see. I'll let you know."

"Let me know soon, Dana. Let me know soon," he urges with a toothy smile.

I smile mildly in return, a strange feeling coming over me.

Dance with Devils 2/3

To my complete and utter dismay, Beckinsdale doesn't come around again for close to another week. Again, this has become so much of a burden that I don't know how much longer I can go on like this. For this reason, I pounce on him the moment he finally does arrive in the gallery.

"Hi, Mr.--" I start to say and stop, realizing he's not yet told me his name. Uttering it now would be a dead giveaway. "You know, you never did introduce yourself."

"Alex Becker and the pleasure is all mine I'm sure," he replies, putting out his hand.

I take it though I have a good mind to return his rudeness of the other day. "Mr. Becker, I wanted to make you aware of a showing we're having next week; I thought you might like to come. It's a local artist but I think you might be interested in some of his work."

"What would possibly make you think that?" he asks, the words coming out unkindly.

Needless to say, I'm finding him Grade A annoying, my tone expressing as much though I'm supposed to be befriending him. "It's just that I noticed what you were looking at the last time you were here. . . But come or don't come. It's no skin off my nose," I tell him plainly and leave him be, walking away.

He follows off after me, grabbing gently at my arm and halting my progress. "Boy, Ms. Molloy, don't hold back how you feel," he says with something that sounds akin to intrigue.

"I've never been known for holding back what I think."

"Neither have I. . . Call me Beck. May I call you Dana?"

"If that so pleases you, Beck."

"It does, Dana. It does. When did you say this showing was?"

"Next Wednesday."

"You'll be there?"

"Certainly," I reply with as much enthusiasm as I can muster, hoping my presence will be enough to convince him.

"I'll . . . see then," he utters noncommittally.

"Don't strain yourself on my account."

That earns a smile from him. "Are you always this feisty?"

"Only with men as incorrigible as you," I grin slyly.

"Then I guess now's not the time to ask about that dinner."

"You know," I say thoughtfully, starting to get into this; he seems to like having someone give it right back, "let's do that dinner. I figure when we're done hurling insults at one other we can hurl some food. Might be fun." Yeah, razzing him =is= fun and I can't resist indulging being how lousy I've been feeling.

"Indeed. How about tomorrow at that little Italian restaurant two blocks up?"

I freeze, all sense of fun lost, my mind flying distinctly elsewhere.

"Dana? . . . You do like Italian, don't you?"

Oh, I =love= Italian, Beck, but not in the way you might think.

The rise of his voice finally catches my attention. "Dana?"

My wide eyes dart back to him, realizing I've been somewhere else. "Yeah . . . sure," I mutter answering him, my enthusiasm of a moment before doused like a small flame under a big bucket of ice cold water.

"Say 6ish? I'll pick you up here."


"In your Sunday best, Dana," he suggests with another smile.

"Whatever," I mutter again, walking away.

Just having to get away.

And get Michael out of my head.

The next evening, Beckinsdale, dressed to the nines, promptly whisks me, dressed casually cool, to that too cozy for comfort Italian restaurant he had mentioned. Regrettably, the place had an eerily similar feel and atmosphere to Cesco's, the Italian restaurant in Maryland that Michael and I frequented and where he had proposed. That along with the familiar aroma filling the air caused a heavy ache in my heart.

With difficulty, I try to push my feelings and thoughts aside to concentrate on the stranger I find sitting across from me at the table. Before I've cleared my head, however, Beck's all in my business. "So tell me about yourself."

"There's not much to tell. I'm just a nearly middle-aged woman trying to make a nice, easy living."

"Sounds a bit like me. Were you always interested in art?"

"No, I went to medical school. Graduated but didn't practice. I used my . . . expertise in other areas. Collaborating and such."

"Sounds interesting. What kind of doctor were you? I'm thinking a psychiatrist judging by the way you sharply volley barbs back and forth."

"No, I like to get down and dirty with my hands. Forensic pathology."

"Dead people? Yuck. I give you a lot of credit though. I didn't think a little thing like you could handle something like that."

"Is that supposed to be an example of that special charm of yours, Beck?"

"Just making an observation."

"Well, what you see isn't always what you get."

"I'm beginning to learn that. How did you go from what seem to be such opposite interests?"

"I just got tired of the whole . . . dead thing, I guess you could say. It was so depressing after awhile. So I decided to concentrate on something I was really interested in in college. Try to make a career of it. And that was art."

"Where are you from?"

"The DC area. So this is all new and exciting to me, coming to live in a new place with a new job and no friends or family near."

"Husband or boyfriend?"

"None to speak of," I somehow return with a straight face though a lump has formed in my throat. I swallow around it, quickly turning the spotlight on him. "So, what about you?"

"Nothing much to tell either. I made my money and now I live a nice, quiet little life."

"Any family? . . . Friends?"

"My parents are gone, no siblings. As far as friends go, I'm very private. I have acquaintances but no one I would categorize as a friend. You could be the first in a long time."

"And why would I attain such distinction?"

"You're smart and I like your style."

"Considering our interaction so far, brief though it's been, I have to say I'm surprised."

"That makes two of us," he admits, seemingly surprised by his own words.

Dinner continues pleasantly enough though I don't have much luck drawing him out. He continues to ask about me and I have to make some stuff up on the fly despite the cover the FBI provided and what I had already gone over in my head. I just hope I can keep all the details straight later on.

At one point, Beck's hand covers mine in a gesture of I don't know what and I have to force myself not to pull away. He's pleasant enough to look at but the last thing I want is him touching me or getting the wrong idea. Befriending him is one thing. Anything beyond that is out of the question.

At my suggestion, we skip dessert then pay the check (me offering to pay my own way, he insisting I not) and head for our coats hanging up near the entrance of the restaurant. By now, I have had enough of his company, just wanting to be by myself with my dangerously diverging thoughts. Truthfully, though everything has been innocent enough, I feel like I'm cheating in a way and couldn't stop the thoughts of Michael--no matter how I fought myself--from popping up throughout the entire evening.

I move to slip my coat on and he gently snatches it away to help me on with it. Though I'm not feeling the sentiment, I smile with mild appreciation.

"Can I walk you to your apartment?" he then asks.

"That's not necessary," I assure him.

"I know but I want to. It's dark and you're--"

"Only four blocks away. I can manage."

"I'd feel better if you didn't walk alone," he tells me, slowly pulling my coat closed around me and tying the belt at my waist.

Looking down, I watch his hands perform this mildly intimate task but make my intentions clear. "Fine," I acquiesce, "but you're not coming up."

"And why is that?" he smirks.

"Because this is not a date, remember?"

"Funny enough, I have to keep reminding myself of that," he admits, his eyes twinkling at me.

I shudder inside, finding I don't like what he's implying and move to exit the restaurant, effectively stomping on the awkwardness of the moment. Briskly, we walk the four blocks, his arm loosely around my shoulder. No words pass between us as we walk, intent as I am on getting away from him. Once we're standing in the lobby of my apartment building, just gawking at one another, I struggle for the right words. "Thank you for an . . . interesting evening." I don't know what else to call it.

"No, thank =you=. I hope we can do it again sometime very soon."

I just nod lightly.

Feeling awkward again and not knowing what else to do, I put my hand out which he takes this time without a hint of hesitation. When he brings my hand to his lips for a kiss, I squirm in my sensible shoes with discomfort. Then he tugs me close and plants a kiss on my cheek, lingering there, wanting more. Wanting me to respond.

Waiting for me to.

A snowball's chance in hell would be an underestimation of his chances.

I pull away with a tight smile, trying to toe the line between not giving him the wrong idea and not putting him off entirely.

Attaining his trust and friendship was important to the goals set forth by both the FBI and myself. In today's world, the FBI's reasons for stopping Beckinsdale were imperative and just but I'm sorry to admit that my own reasons were more important to me. Kersh held Michael's future in his hands and I would not dare allow him to ruin his career.

The look Beck's wearing on his face is one I've see on men before, his eyes burning with desire and I'm feeling uneasy again.

"Goodnight, Beck," I mutter quickly, just wanting the evening to be done already.

"'Night, Dana."

I leave him standing in the vestibule of the lobby. As I round the corner, I glance back his way and he's still looking at me longingly. Ignoring him, I push forward, and make a mad dash for my apartment. Once inside, I quickly shut the door behind me, blowing out a breath and closing my eyes in relief at the thick wood obstruction firmly at my back.

After we went to dinner together that one night, Beck made it a point to come by the gallery nearly every day to see me. For no particular reason I could discern and with no extra encouragement from me. Which was good, I guess.

My presence alone seemed to be all the encouragement he needed as he came by mostly when Kay and Jackie had left for the day or were about to leave. He'd just kind of hang around and pick my brain about anything and everything which I would allow but when I tried to pick his in return, he'd clam up fast. Apparently, he had nothing else to do, no where else to be, and no one else to see as he'd stay until I'd literally kick him out, exasperated, or the gallery closed for the evening.

Beck's odd visitations went on for approximately two weeks and when he suggested that we share dinner together again, I calmly jumped at the chance on the condition that it was at his place. Observing him there among his comforts with the chance to maybe get a look at an appointment book or overhear a telling phone call was my only hope at this point. Something had to give.

Or I was about to.



Anything at all to keep the investigation moving forward as it had been stalled for far too long to begin with and this was the only way I knew to go about it. My frustrated handler, Agent Hart, had started to pump me for information about Beckinsdale and I had absolutely nothing to provide. Which was unacceptable to the FBI. So fed up was he that he even resorted to staking out Beckinsdale's residence on his own, watching his comings and goings.

And even he had nothing of any interest to report.

The lack of any information to provide to the FBI was also unacceptable to me. I desperately wanted to get back to my own life, the ache in me to see the man I married, hear little Mike's giggle or Joseph's sweet voice on the line from Chicago too much to bear now. It was actually becoming something physical to me, like the break of a bone or a missing limb, the pain and longing becoming incessant and worsening with each passing day.

I had no idea what they'd told Michael. Did they even tell him I was on an assignment or did they just leave him hanging, wondering what had happened that day he returned from NY? God, could he possibly think I just up and left? It didn't seem possible; he knew me and the absolute love and adoration I felt for him but I had no illusions that they could make it look however the hell they wanted. Kersh didn't care a lick about the state of my marriage or my life and Michael wasn't FBI anymore; because he had "disgraced" the FBI with his lies, concealing who his father had been, he wasn't entitled to any information in their eyes. My only hope was Skinner knowing how much I was against leaving my family to do Kersh's dirty work and hoping he had intervened and done the right thing.

Honestly, though, I was worried. While I tried valiantly to concentrate on the job I had to do, what was becoming of my personal life was eating away at me. I could barely fall asleep at night despite my exhaustion and when I finally did, I'd awaken from nightmares that Michael hated me for what I'd done to us and our family. It was probably the furthest thing from the truth, I knew, but I was waking up regularly in the morning with nausea and vomiting, literally making myself sick over it.

My distress coupled with my vulnerability led me to request that Agent Hart have Skinner contact me as soon as possible much to Hart's disapproval.

For our next "date", Beck swung by the gallery at closing much to Kay's delight--I was finally getting myself out there according to her. Like a mother hen, she had hung around to check out how Beck and I looked together, and when satisfied, she offered me a giddy smile and a wink on the sly. Somehow, that made me more uncomfortable than I already was and I was just glad I made sure to dress casually in dress slacks and a blazer that morning, nothing too tight or revealing to tempt my pseudo suitor. Insisting our date be at his home was probably already giving him the wrong impression but the well had already run dry on me in the idea department.

I follow him in my own vehicle. The drive is approximately ten minutes long and I try to memorize the streets, landmarks--anything-- that might help me remember where we are and how we got there. Unfortunately, I'm not blessed with Mulder's photographic memory and everything starts to blur together. I curse my deficiency in that area, my proficiency being in hardcore facts in black and white; I could recite a page of information verbatim from a textbook but all of Beck's stops and turns through all these wide side streets was confusing.

Finally, he pulls into the driveway of a quaint little beach home in West Hampton while I park curbside. Once inside, he shows me around his lavish, beautifully decorated digs. I make sure we breeze in and out of his bedroom and take specific note of his office with an expensive looking computer setup. His desk, indeed, adorns an appointment book that I'm itching to thumb through. For a man who has nowhere specific to be everyday and practically no friends by his own admission, it's an awfully big, fat appointment book.

When we reach the dining room, I realize that Beck has surely not been picking up on my signals that we are =not= nurturing a fledgling romance. The magnificent Mahogany table is set with fine china, candles, and flowers and red wine has already been poured into two pieces of ornate stemware. The implications cause me to swallow hard, wondering how I'm going to extricate myself yet again without putting him off.

He then brings out some trays of catered food, which he politely serves and then scarfs down while I nibble without much of an appetite. My striking up a conversation about his beautiful house and expensive tastes--hoping it would lead to some revelation about something--proves fruitless. Once again, I talk of my work as a doctor thinking he might follow suit but I realize I'm basically talking to myself.

Or a wall.

Actually, I think walls are better participants--at least, they can reverberate sound, not like Mr. Deaf Mute here sitting next to me.

After dinner, we retire to his couch and I pray for some interruption so I can get a crack at his office. I contemplate excusing myself to the bathroom but there is no way I can sneak around without him noticing or missing me. He brings the wine over which I, again, avoid as I had at dinner for fear of the slightest inebriation; I need my mind and body to be firing on all cylinders.

He sits too close, eyes burning with desire and I know the wine has eased his inhibitions. When he moves in for a kiss, I think my eyes widen and I turn my face away and embrace him instead, my mind scrambling a mile a minute for what to do.

"Dana . . ." he protests softly. Hands roam across my back, trying to find their way up and under my blouse and blazer to bare skin.

"What are doing, Beck?" I admonish just as softly.

"You must know . . ." he rasps, beginning to place kisses on my neck. My hands come up pushing at his chest, trying to push him away. He continues to kiss my delicate skin, becoming more aggressive. In his roughness, he grabs my head and crushes his cold, lifeless lips to mine, trying to devour me.

"Beck, no . . . Stop . . ." I plead, pulling away from him and out of his embrace.

"Dana, what is it? What's wrong?" he asks, confused.

"This isn't right--we're friends," I urge.

"I want you, don't you know that?"

"Beck . . . Why do you want to complicate things? I enjoy your company and you obviously enjoy mine. Why can't we just leave it at that?"

"Dana, I can't pretend that I don't want you. I want to make love to you."

"That's . . . that's a lovely sentiment. But at my age sex is very overrated. I mean I don't even know anything about you."

"Is that what you want? . . . What if I tried? Made a concerted effort to let you in. What about then?"

"Like you did tonight? . . . Why, because you want to get into my pants? At dinner, I sat there and rambled on to myself . . . Beck, sex doesn't work like that for me. . . I need more. I need to know a person before I sleep with them. I need . . . I need a commitment."

"What, like . . . marriage?"

When he says the 'dreaded' M word, he sounds surprised, not appalled by the idea so I go with it. ". . . Yeah," I sigh. Maybe it'll buy me some precious time. On the other hand, it could just blow this whole farce up into my face.

Finally, he rises, frustrated and shouting. "Why can't you just let go, just this once?"

"Because I've done that and that's not what it's about for me. Look, I'm sorry if I mislead you--maybe it's better if I just go."

"No, Dana," he cries, disappointed. Faced with my threat to leave, his demeanor changes dramatically. "It's fine. Let's just sit and talk. No pressure, I promise."

I shrug nonchalantly. "If that's what you really want."

Crap. I didn't have the slightest idea of how I was going to get rid of him but I needed some time alone to go over this place with a fine-toothed comb and that sure as hell didn't look to be happening tonight.

"It is--thank you," he says, sounding relieved and smiling at me.

He stokes the fire in the hearth and assumes his place beside me once again on the couch. When he pulls me close, draping his arm around my shoulder with a hopeful expression on his face, a chill runs down my spine.

Opportunity to try and nail Beckinsdale knocked one night not long after.

I answered, rifling through his office and belongings.

He returned home with cold medicine in hand for me.

I returned to Hart empty-handed.

More or less.

Our only hope at this point lay in the one scribbling I found adorning that big, fat appointment book of his.

I followed him to that appointment.

I followed him a long way off.

A long way for what turned out to be nothing.

All for no good reason.

Oh, the FBI had pegged Beckinsdale's interest in art all right. Particularly in the sketching of nude models at little, two-bit art houses late at night.

Yep, another dead end.

Another dead end in more ways than one in a never ending string of them.

For I don't care what anyone said.

Alex Becker, the man I had wasted the last two fucking months of my life trying to take down, was not the infamous Alexander Beckinsdale.

I would stake everything I was and everything I had on it.

"I see your picture, I smell your skin on the empty pillow next to mine. You have only been gone ten days, but already I'm wasting away. I know I'll see you again whether far or soon. But I need you to know that I care and I miss you."

After the initial shock provided by AD Skinner had worn off, I put on a brave face and went on as best possible. It helped that I had convinced myself that Dana was just away on an extended trip in the field. You know, one of Mulder's pointless trips to the forest. That had helped for the first couple of weeks. It made the emptiness . . . tolerable, I guess, for lack of a better word.

During those weeks, the stress of what I was going through caused the complications from my overdose to act up. My right hand trembled more noticeably than it had in some time and there were days, I realized, that I had no idea why she was gone. Those were the roughest, when I would go a whole day or two wondering where she was and what the hell had happened between the two of us. Talk about torture. That torture perched me on the brink of exhaustion and, ironically, I'd finally find sleep. Then, miraculously, I'd wake up the next morning and remember what had gone down, my short-term memory restored just like that.

When I did remember, I marked the days that passed with a big black X on the calendar feeling as if I accomplished something major by just getting through another day without her. I could do this I kept telling myself. I worked long, long hours with as much overtime as possible. Whatever little time left over was reserved for talks with Joseph and a visit or two with Mike.

Since I was still persona non grata at the FBI, my work these days was in construction and home improvement for a father-son construction company. Compared to my job as an FBI agent, it was quite ordinary and boring but I had always liked carpentry and working with my hands. Also figured it didn't look too good to be out of work when you were attempting to adopt a child. And let us not forget that those pesky bills that needed to be paid each month.

All in all, it wasn't a bad gig. Kept me from going out of my mind. Kept me from thinking about Dana 24/7. That is, until the owner's son, whom I worked with everyday, kept bugging me to bring my wife over to his place to meet his wife. Nice guy. My age. Even though I kept to myself and hadn't mentioned Dana, he noticed my wedding band. Got me to talk about her as he did about his own wife and relate some fun stories, some precious times. Then I would always have to make up some lame ass excuse about why we couldn't all get together.

During that time, I kept the pressure on Skinner and had even resorted to pressuring Agent Hart's partner, whom I was friends with, for answers. It turned out to be futile as were my daily calls to Skinner. More accurately, I called Skinner three and four times a day demanding to speak to him, demanding answers.

I knew I was being a royal pain in the ass but why should I care? What did they expect of me after what they'd done? The thing of it was that he stopped taking my calls and told me he'd get in touch with me when there was something I needed to know.

How could someone who claimed to care for her do this? He had his orders, loyalties and responsibilities but the way this whole thing went down was wrong. Something more was going on than a simple undercover operation. And I demanded to know. Even with the classified nature of the case, Skinner, in his brilliant estimation, decided that I didn't need to know where my wife was, what she was doing, if she was all right, or when or if she was coming home. Apparently, it was all none of my concern. I'd love to know how he would act if he was stuck in a similar situation.

I'd warned him though.

I'd warned him I'd be all over him; I could be the most relentless, annoying fuck he'd ever run into, my ax to grind with him aside.

Because this was about Dana.

Where she was concerned, I promised to be the most relentless, annoying fuck he'd ever have the misfortune of crossing paths with.

Is there anything I feel these days other than frustration, tension, depression, fatigue and helplessness?

Oh, and dizziness.

Let us not forget that. It seems to have replaced my bouts of nausea and vomiting.

Even lying motionless on the bed in the dark with my eyes closed as I do now hasn't completely stopped my world from spinning. And I fear it's not going to get any better when my cell phone trills at this late hour, the phone that only Agent Hart contacts me on. His inquisition will only heighten my stress, which is the last thing I need. I have a good mind to let it go unanswered but Hart might alert Skinner to the fact which would alarm him as my request to speak with the AD surely had; that had been a mistake I regret.

"Please, Hart, not now--" I complain miserably in to the offending piece of plastic and slowly ease back down on the bed as if it were the hardest thing I've ever done.

"Agent Scully," Skinner announces softly, "Agent Hart told me that you wanted to speak with me . . . How are you doing?" The question is formality. He knows me well enough that I would never have requested to speak with him like this unless I was doing badly.

"Fine," I end up lying after a beat or two, the word escaping in frustration that I'm unable to contain. I regret feeling so vulnerable that I argued briefly with Hart to have Skinner call me and am embarrassed now that he actually has. Since I won't admit weakness to anyone but Michael or on occasion Mulder, I say only what is expected. "Thank you for calling. I know this is highly irregular."

"Don't worry about it . . . Scully, seven years I've known you and you are =not= fine . . ."

"Well, I'm hanging in there, sir. I'm just not feeling like the picture of health at the moment but I'll be fine."

"And the job?"

"As Hart can personally attest to and as I've told him already, there's not much to report."

"You've still got nothing?"

"Yeah. Beck, as I know him, seems . . . I don't know harmless. I don't think he's Beckinsdale. In fact, I'm sure of it."

"If he's not their man, there's been a major screw up somewhere. . . He's done nothing . . . suspicious?"

"Nothing. About the only transgressions I can recount are a parking ticket and a drawer full of dirty underwear. Not exactly federal offenses."

"I'm not sure I want to know how =you= know what's in his underwear drawer."

"Don't even get me started."

"Is he--"

"He's way too interested. I'm warding him off as best I can but I'm not sure how much longer I can keep him at arm's length."

He picks up on the unintentional trepidation in my voice and calls me on it. "You're worried but I thought you said he was harmless."

"Yes, meaning . . . incapable. To me, he seems incapable of spying. Of trading secrets. Of killing. But he's a man . . . and he wants sex just like every other man."

"Scully, be careful. Mike's already out of his mind." At the mention of my husband's name, I don't reply, react, or even breathe it seems. "Scully?"


"Is there anything you want to know?"

I stall. This is so hard. I'm not in control of my feelings and therefore not being the consummate professional I pride myself on. "I . . . I know I have a job to do and I'm trying so hard not to think about him--"

"But maybe if you allowed yourself that at least, it would help."

"Maybe but in order to accomplish what I have to, I need to focus. And in order to do that, I can't be thinking about him. It's just the not knowing is making me crazy."

"Scully, let me ease your mind. Though I could relate none of the details, of course, I told him you were given an important assignment, one without options. Needless to say, he wasn't a happy man. He calls me two, three times a day minimum. . . I think you get the picture. . ."

My heart starts pounding harder in my chest, thinking about him and in anticipation and trepidation of what Skinner might say in answer to my question. "Have you seen him?"

"Not since I gave him the news."

"Did Kersh gave you that thankless job, too, or did you take it upon yourself?"

"Though we don't think too highly of the man--"

"That's putting it mildly," I interrupt.

"Indeed . . . He allowed me to tell Mike after I . . . explained some things about you for him."

"Yeah, well . . . remind me to send him a bundt cake," I remark sourly. I wouldn't thank that man for anything even if he had given me the last available scrap of food on earth.

"I hear you. Listen, Scully . . . stay well. And again, be careful."

"You don't have to tell me twice."

"I just did."

"Message received, sir."

Things just don't seem to have a way of working themselves out it seems. At least, not for this trio of agents I've come to care for. Mulder and Scully are family and Michael Anzotti is like an in-law whose love and devotion to Scully has earned him absolute aces in my book.

And what could I do for any of them but let Kersh lead me around by the nose and fuck me in the ass.

All Scully wanted was to do her job and get back to her life as quickly as possible. That didn't seem all that unreasonable. What she was getting was much more than she bargained for and I didn't know how to help her.

Or Mike. I owed Scully that much.

I chuff out a frustrated sigh over the whole situation and when I notice Kersh hovering in the doorway of my office, I don't even acknowledge him with anything other than a long, 'what the hell do you want from me now' stare.

Perpetually cranky Kersh ignores my death look and stalks through the doorway to stand in front of my desk. He has no use in acknowledging me either and launches right into it. "What have you got for me?"

"In regard to?" I ask crankily; the prospect of reading his mind is frightful.

"Agent Scully's assignment."

I hesitate, knowing my answer will only cause her more problems. "There's nothing much yet."

"That's what you told me weeks ago."

"And that's what I'm telling you again because it's the truth."

"Well, there better be something soon or--"

"Or what?" I challenge.

"There will be consequences to pay."

With that said, I'd like to strangle him. Instead, I plead Scully's case. "Agent Scully is doing the best she can. And you know that's damn near better than anyone else."

"But I need results, Mr. Skinner. If Beckinsdale even has a hint that something's amiss, he'll bolt out of there so fast. . . The longer this takes, the chances of nailing him become more and more remote so you push her. Push her hard. Do I make myself clear?"

"What the hell else do you want from her? You know how difficult this is," I plead again.

Uninterested, he swipes at a piece lint on his lapel. "Yes, and I don't particularly care."

"No, I'm sure you don't as long as you get what you're after and she makes you look good. All for a job she was blackmailed into taking in the first place," I growl.

"She took it, didn't she?" he counters.

"After you threatened her. Who was it this time, Mulder or Anzotti?"

"I suggest, Mr. Skinner, that you keep your unfounded accusations to yourself and get me some results."

"This case is a sham! The only thing this guy is interested in is getting her into his bed."

"Is that what the problem is because if that's the case, then we don't have a problem. Do you understand?"

I study him, trying to gauge if he really means what I think he means. He couldn't possibly, could he? "What are you saying?"

"You know exactly what I'm saying."

"Agent Scully didn't sign on to betray her husband along with doing your dirty work."

"Tell her to fuck him or I'll tell her," he states icily without flinching in the slightest.

I'm momentarily stunned by the profanity, by the sheer sickness of what he's saying but that's Kersh; Mulder and Scully believe he's evil incarnate and I do, too. And if he thinks I'm going to order Scully to sleep with some . . . some psycho turncoat for any reason, any reason at all he must have rocks in his head.

With inward uneasiness, I attempt to call his bluff. "When should I have Agent Scully call you, Deputy Director?"

Instead of responding, he fixes me with the most sinister look I've ever seen on another human being's face and then turns to leave.

Panicked, I jump to my feet, calling out to him, trying to get him to think better of it and listen to reason. "Kersh? . . . Kersh!" Kersh--Goddamnit!" I jump up from my desk, futilely chasing after him in the hallway. I race toward the elevator whisking him away, yelling, "Hold that elevator!" He purposely lets the door close as I near, a tiny, smug grin in place on his face, antagonizing me.

Son of a bitch!

In trying to defend and stand by Scully, had I worsened her predicament? Would Kersh really go through with his threat?


I had thought things couldn't get much worse for Scully but I don't think I could have figured it more wrong.

No doubt that fuck-face Kersh would see to it.

Another day--more of the same frustration.

Another night--more precious time slipping away.

Exhausted, depressed, and feeling ill again, I can barely stomach five bites of the takeout food I've brought home for dinner this night. Not having a good, full night's sleep since this all began, my energy and ambition even to write in my journal have died. I feel as if it's a struggle to even exist at this moment and though I don't remember meaning to, I end up falling asleep on the bed. How or when I got there I don't even recall.

I know where I am now only because my cell phone is trilling incessantly and it has startled me from sleep. Groggily, I mumble into the phone. This better be good, Hart. "Yeah?"

"What's the hold up?"

". . . Hold up? . . . Who is this?" I mumble in confusion, still half-asleep.

"It's Deputy Director Kersh. Get your head together, agent."

Bastard. "What can I do for you, sir?" I ask derisively.

"Answer my question for starters. Why haven't you made any progress as yet?"

"Beckinsdale hasn't done anything remotely questionable. . . I don't think this is your man."

"You're not paid to think on this, Agent Scully."

"All I'm doing is spinning my wheels here . . . I need . . . I can't . . ." I trail off.

"You can't what, Agent Scully?"

"I . . . I can't do this anymore."

"That's not acceptable. Are you sure there's nothing else, nothing else preventing progress of this investigation?" he suggests.

"No, sir," I respond immediately, defense creeping into my voice.

"Something you might've mentioned to AD Skinner?"

"I don't know what you're talking about," I immediately lie, as a regretful Skinner had warned me of his colossal mistake.

"Give Beckinsdale what he wants, Agent Scully."

"What he wants?" I repeat, rising from the bed, now fully awake. "What does he want?"

"What every man wants with an attractive, desirable woman . . . He wants sex and I don't see what the problem is."

"No, you wouldn't, would you? That was not part of our deal," I snarl low into the phone. God, he's the fucking devil.

"Whatever it takes to get the job done--that's our deal."

"I will =not= do this. I will =not= betray my husband."

"Not even for the good of your country because that's what we're talking about here."

"For no one, do you hear me?" I roar with rage.

"That's a lovely sentiment but in this case, loyalty and fidelity are unproductive. I want progress . . . See to it that you make some," he slowly and clearly threatens, his words, their meaning hanging in the air. There's a prolonged pause before he taunts me further. "By the way, Agent Scully, I must admit I admire your sense of loyalty and devotion," he tells me, the smirk evident in his voice even over the phone.

And I admire absolutely nothing about you, you sick fuck I want to scream at the top of my lungs, my blood boiling in my veins with him taking obvious pleasure in my misery. Without a word in response, I disconnect and chuck the phone to the ground in a fit of anger. It skids across the hardwood flooring, a plastic piece or two breaking off in its rude acquaintance with said floor.

I wonder if the damn thing will even work anymore.

Ironically, that phone is kind of like me.

Sliding without much control . . .

Hoping not to land in a heap somewhere . . .

Pieces of me starting to break off here and there . . .

Anguished, I stumble backward, my body bumping up against the wall, my knees weakening beneath me. As I slide down the wall my face in my hands, I try to press back the storm of tears gathering in my eyes.


Do =I= work anymore?

Nearly two months had passed since Dana left and they had been the slowest, most agonizing eight weeks of my life. Working like a dog to keep my mind occupied didn't leave much time for anything else including Joseph or Mike. And lying to myself about Dana's absence only worked for so long.

I spiraled downward by week four or five, I don't remember which, and started to neglect my boys along with everything else including myself. Living was just going through the motions and I could barely get that right.

Skinner contacted me once about two weeks ago assuring me that Dana was okay but that was the only information I was granted. He had meant it as a help but it had only made things worse, reminded me of how much of the time I hadn't a clue what was going on with her.

Wow. I guess I was supposed to be grateful for Skinner's small fucking favors.

Well, I was distinctively =not= okay.

A brief wake up call came from Megan at Mike's orphanage. She had called the house yet again today and had left several messages over the previous few weeks wondering where Dana and I had been. And thank goodness she had; it was a reminder of what was still important. I couldn't tell her, of course, why I'd been so out of it lately, why I seemed to be neglecting Mike, but none of it was his fault. I loved him and he deserved better of me.

This time and forever more, I would be there for him and never let him down again. It was about time I got my shit together and put him first; this day was as good a time as any to start.

When I arrive at the orphanage, Megan's busy filing, her back to the greeting area. She's a nice 18-YO girl who volunteers much of her free time to the orphanage and the unfortunate kids here. It's well known that she has a particular soft spot for Dana, Mike and I and she's rooting for the three of us to become a family, which is welcome.

At least someone is rooting for us.

There's warmth in my voice upon greeting her. "Hey, Megster. I'm here."

"Well, it's about time I'd say," she returns with a warmth of her own and a small grin. "Mike's been waiting impatiently for you all morning . . . I haven't seen you in so long. How have you been?"

"Crazy with some stuff at work but I promise I won't let him down again."

"Good to hear. How's Dana?"

"She's fine," I mutter without looking Megan in the eyes, praying to God it was true, wishing I knew for sure. "She's been away on a case."

"Give her my best. And just to let you know--Lisa Cristofaro's been by a number of times to see him," she remarks with distaste.

"I'm sure she has," I return bitterly.

Jack Cristofaro's sister is fighting Dana and I for custody of Mike and she's fighting dirty to boot. At the last meeting with the judge, Cristofaro's side had dropped the bomb about my OD, labeled me a drug addict, and demanded that I be barred from seeing Mike. Even with a good lawyer, they had kept me from him for about a month, and Dana and I were devastated. Only after having Drs. Leiter and Carr report in minute detail on my full recovery had I been allowed to see him again. Dana and I were just thankful the FBI hadn't gone public with my suspension and my father's identity; they seemed to be holding it under the tightest of wraps for fear of another embarrassing situation coming to light. Which was good for us--less fuel for the inferno.

One of the worst things regarding Mike's adoption was that I had lied to Dana. Not purposely, of course, but with the situation we found ourselves in, I had told her what I felt in my heart to be true at the time and it had turned out to be a lie just the same. That night we staked out Jack Cristofaro's apartment, I had assured her that adopting Mike wouldn't resemble what she had gone through with Emily; there would be no such rejection, pain or disappointment.

Despite our best efforts, that had turned out to be the biggest, bald-faced lie of them all.

Once I catch a glimpse of Mike headed my way, I'm able to push all this troublesome stuff aside.

"Michael!" he shouts upon seeing me with the exuberance of an excited little boy. He shoots out full speed from the orphanage employee's guiding hand to me.

I find I'm just as excited to see him, a wide smile breaking out on my face. "Hey, little man," I crouch down where I am, waiting for him, and he practically knocks me over when he darts into my arms. He crushes me about my neck and I hold him just as tightly.

Mike's a very open and loving little boy and wastes no time telling me how he feels when we reluctantly let go of one another. "I missed you."

"Not like I missed you. How's my boy doing?" An infectious smile breaks out on my face.

"Good now that you're here." I know exactly what the next words out of his mouth will be and it's hard knowing I'm right. "Is Dana coming?" he asks, still with that unmistakable excitement in his voice.

It kills me to have to break it to him that she isn't and, God, I I can't even tell him when she will be again. "No, she's not. Something very, very important came up and it's impossible for her to be here right now but if she could help it, she wouldn't miss seeing you for anything. You know that, don't you?"

The look on his face plummets, much like mine had when Skinner gave me the heartbreaking news. "Yeah, but I miss her."

"Me, too, buddy. Me, too. But I want you to remember that she's always with you."

"How?" he asks, looking to me with those big blue, trusting eyes of his, the question on his sweet face.

"In here and here," I tell him, gently tapping at his head and heart as Dana had once done when she had explained to him about keeping the memory of his mother alive. "And with this," I add with certainty, gently pulling the gold cross and chain that Dana and I had given him out from under his T-shirt. I hold it out for him to see and explain what I mean. "We gave this to you so that you would always know you were loved, wanted, and cared for. Even when we couldn't be with you. Like I couldn't before. Like Dana can't now. Let this cross be a reminder of her, of all the good times we've shared, of how much Dana and I love you." I tuck the cross safely back inside his shirt and pull him close for a quick hug and a kiss. My eyes tear up with the memories of being separated from him bubbling up along with everything going on with Dana.

"I love you, too, Michael," he declares, tugging at my heartstrings just a little more and hugging me again tightly.

Though Dana and I were both Catholic, our crosses representing such, we had meant the gift to be a symbol of our love and concern for him, not any type of religious connotation. If we were lucky enough to be granted custody of him, though, we would raise him to be Catholic. Dana had more or less returned to her faith after my overdose and our marriage, and as I had with my mother when I was a young boy, I had joined her on those occasions when she felt she needed to turn to the church.

After swiping at my eyes to keep those tears away, I hoist Mike into my arms, ready to depart. "Later, Megan. We're outta here."

"Have fun, you guys," she calls out and proceeds to pick up the ringing phone. She and the caller converse and then I hear her answer the caller with a specific date, a date that stops me dead in my tracks momentarily.

Mike looks at me, questioning my hesitance. Faintly I smile back at him and push forward, reminding myself to take things one minute, one hour, one day at a time. I'm going to enjoy this day out at the park with Mike, enjoy him, and make sure he has a great time. Dana would want that.

No matter what special day is coming up soon.

A day that should be celebrated, =would be= celebrated if things were different.

A day I actually dread now.

Now that Dana's gone.

My love,

Happy Anniversary.

I would give anything to be with you, especially today of all days. I know they say that absence makes the heart grow fonder but my heart is so full, so full of you, that before this mess I couldn't be any more "fond" of you if I tried. I hope that makes sense.

Time seems to be flying by while I'm standing still here alone. It's been 63 days since I last gazed upon your beautiful face, of which I've memorized every line. I remember and fantasize about running my fingers through your thick, black hair in the heat of the night and having your dark topaz eyes with their long eyelashes gaze upon me with immense love and desire again.

I spent the evening of our anniversary trying not to think, trying not to wonder what you were going through. Truth be told, I already knew. I was in hell, too.

Sleeping, as usual, was out of the question though I tried valiantly in an effort to forget what day it was and what we were feeling. I ran myself a warm bubble bath and managed to doze off for about 15 minutes. Afterward, I showered, my hand sweeping over my body again and again to wash away the soap. When I reached my breasts and my clit, I imagined that they were your loving, assured hands. I so wanted them to be and I gave into the illusion. I thought of you, of the two of us moving together.

And I got myself off.

I didn't want to do it. I hadn't done it the entire time we'd been separated. Not because I was ashamed; you know I wasn't. Many times I've masturbated for you to get us both off. It's just that I didn't want to feel. I didn't want to be reminded of my sexual wants and desires, things I had no way of adequately sating with everything going on. Your touch, your fingers didn't feel like my own but I had needed release anyway I could get it; the ache in me for you had become intolerable and I needed to quell it.

I came, felt somewhat better and then lay down on the bed for a long while just staring into the quiet, pitch black room. At one point while still curled up on my side, I switched on the bedside lamp and reached down into the bottom drawer of the night table, digging though the contents with purpose. Digging all the way through to the bottom till my hand closed upon a hard, perfectly circular piece of metal.

I held out my wedding ring in front of me, the jewelry shining brilliantly in the lamplight, just examining its simple beauty and giving into the wonderful memories that accompanied the band of gold. I next examined your name around my finger then slipped the ring in its rightful place over my tattoo. Switching off the light, I lay there again, alone in the dark.

Sometime later, I wiped away the trails of wetness on my face, tears having fallen silently from my eyes to the pillow.

Happy Anniversary, my darling.

Your love.

A few days after visiting with Mike, Dana's and my one-year wedding anniversary comes.

I call into work sick the morning of and it's no lie. I'm sick in my heart. All the progress I seemed to have made only days ago fell by the wayside and I didn't give a shit about work or anything else. With all the overtime I had been doing for the construction company, they could spare me a day.

I didn't shave, didn't shower. Spent the morning calling Skinner at least five times, brooding and feeling sorry for myself. Oh, and I also downed a half bottle of scotch whiskey and a bottle of rather expensive wine that Dana and I were saving for said anniversary. Had Dana's present and two glasses out on the coffee table except I was the only one there to do the drinking. Think I passed out on the couch sometime around noon.

By six o'clock that evening, I'm awake and sober but feeling like I've been run over by a truck. Figure it's time for a nice little chat with Skinner so I hang around the Hoover Building waiting for him to leave for the day. Unfortunately, he's walking out with two other bigwigs so it's impossible to approach him then. Think I'll be following him home to confront him there, but we end up at a nice restaurant about 10 minutes from the Hoover Building. I give him a head start in, and he's seated in a booth near the door and the noisy bar. Probably the best seat he can get as it's a bit busy.

I saunter over to the bar for a shot, readying to lay into him. To my surprise, a buxom, leggy blonde slides into the booth opposite him and I mentally curse her for ruining my opportunity. She was a sight to behold all right--every man's type. Every man but me. Mine was a petite, feisty red-head with the face of an angel and my heart in her hands.

I wait at the bar for about half an hour. Me and two more shots of sambucca wait impatiently for the lady to get up and go to the restroom, make a phone call . . . something. I just want her to get the fuck up already so I can beat some sense into her date.

More time ticks by and it's becoming abundantly clear I'll need a chisel to pry the two apart. With all the sweet talking, hand holding and giggling, there is no doubt that the two of them are going home together tonight. Such a sickening display would have caused me to lose my lunch in disgust if I cared enough to eat much of anything these days.

How unfair, how ironic is it that Skinner and this stranger are going home together while I'm going home to an empty house and an empty bed?

Dana's and my one-year wedding anniversary comes and goes.

On my way to visit a friend near Annapolis, I decide to drive past Dana and Michael's house, surprised to find my son-in-law's truck parked in the driveway. I havn't heard from them in nearly a month, and we missed our last dinner together due to the nature of their work. Last evening, I called to wish them a Happy Anniversary but there had been no answer. It's all beginning to seem strange to me, so I take the opportunity to knock on their door with the prospect of actually getting to speak to Michael.

After knocking twice, I hear his rough voice. "Go away!"

Startled by the sound of his voice, I hesitate before speaking. "Michael . . . it's Margaret."

After a prolonged pause, Michael comes to the door, cracking it open a few inches. "Mom, . . . uh, this is a surprise."

"I'm sorry if I woke you."

"No, it's okay," he explains, his voice sounding strange. "What can I do for you?" he offers but doesn't open the door even an inch more.

"May I come in?"

He hesitates. "It's not really a good time."

Again, he sounds strange, like something's wrong. "I was just driving by and saw your truck in the driveway. I wanted to stop in and see if everything was all right. I haven't seen or heard from either you or Dana in so long. I tried to call last night to wish you a Happy Anniversary but there was no answer. Did you two go out and enjoy yourselves?"

"Uh, yeah . . . We--Ma, I need to talk to you. Why don't you come in. Excuse the mess," he tells me, finally swinging the door open widely now.

Entering, I note that the living room is an absolute disaster. There are papers, mail, and microwave dinner trays strewn around. Empty wine glasses and a wine bottle along with a bottle of whiskey adorn the coffee table with a blanket and pillows on the couch. The smell of stale liquor permeates the air.

Or Michael.

Or both.

Turning to him for an explanation, I note he's a disaster, too: unkempt hair, red-rimmed eyes, a scraggly beard, and wrinkled clothes that he seems to be slipping into again as we speak.

"Michael . . . what is all this? Are you all right? Are you sleeping on the couch?"

"Yes, but not for the reason you might think. And in answer to your second question, no, I'm not all right. Why don't you sit down."

I can't sit down. He needs something; he needs . . . help. I care about this young man as if he were one of my own and I want to help him in any way if he'll let me. Unfortunately, the only thing I can think of at the moment is not all that helpful. "Let me make you some coffee."

"No, Ma--I'm fine," he insists. "I'm not drunk. At least, not anymore. =Please=. Sit," he instructs, clearing away the blanket on the couch. I do as he asks because the sight of him like this is breaking my heart.

He quickly runs his hands through his thick hair in an attempt to appear presentable. "I'm sorry that the place is such a mess. That I'm a mess."

"It's okay, Michael. Just tell me what's going on. Is it Dana?" I broach with fear, knowing in my gut this has something to do with her. I just can't picture that their marriage has fallen apart. No, not them. Not two people so much in love.


"Is she all right?"

He swallows hard. His beautiful eyes on me are unflinching but they look like they've grown moist with tears. "I wish I knew."

My heart falls in my chest. "What do you mean? Where is she, I want to talk to her."

"She's . . . she's gone," he mutters, unable to look me in the eyes now.

God, this conversation is like pulling teeth. "Gone? . . . Michael, please be honest with me and tell me what's going on with my daughter," I plead.

"I'm sorry. I don't mean to be cryptic. Look, the truth is the FBI gave her an undercover assignment. That was a little over two months ago."

"Two months--why wasn't I told?" I cry.

"I wanted to tell you, believe me, but I didn't think that the two of us needed to be going crazy with worry. I've worried enough for the both of us."

My questions comes in a nervous rush. "How is she? Is she safe?"

"I don't really know. Skinner only tells me something when =he= deems it necessary for me to know," he says bitterly. "And that was only once a couple of weeks ago. She was fine then."

"What's her assignment? Where?"

"Ma, it's classified. Skinner won't even tell me."

"Dana didn't give you any indication at all?"

Again, his voice is bitter, frustrated. "No, we weren't even given the opportunity to discuss it. I was in NY visiting my sister, expecting to meet Dana for dinner the night I returned. She didn't show, I got worried, and then Skinner appeared on my doorstep to tell me that she was gone. That the FBI plucked her away just like that."

That is so horribly unfair I can't quite comprehend it.

"How can they do that?"

"They can and do whatever the hell they want."

"What about you? What about Mike?" Don't they matter?

He just shakes his head and falls into the couch beside me, defeated.

"All I know is, I've spent every second of every day for the last two months wondering and worrying about my wife."

Michael notices me eyeing the empty bottle of expensive wine on the cocktail table, one of the gifts I'd given them last Christmas.

"What's with the wine?" I inquire.

He tells me, obviously a bit embarrassed. "Dana and I were saving that for our anniversary and I didn't want to disappoint. . . I'm sorry you had to see me like this, that you had to find out about Dana this way."

"No, =I'm= sorry for you and for Dana. I can't believe this. I wish I could help in some way. Is there anything I can do?"

"Yeah, you can go visit with Mike; Dana and I would really appreciate that and I know he'd love to see you."

"I'd love to see him without a doubt but what about you, son? Are you all right? . . . What are you going to do?" I ask, reaching for his hands and taking them in mine in comfort.

"I have someone to visit myself though I'm sure your visit will be much more enjoyable," he says mysteriously.

"Michael, don't make trouble for yourself. It's not worth it."

He squeezes my hands but then pulls away, seemingly lost in his own thoughts for a moment. He then speaks calmly but his eyes are dark and far away. "I'm . . . I'm just going to have a little chat with Skinner."

I swallow hard but don't reply. If I know my son-in-law and his 'little chat' doesn't have its desired effect, fists will start flying. And as much as I hate to admit it, maybe that's exactly what we need.

Mr. Skinner better watch his step.

If I know my son-in-law . . .

After Mrs. Scully's surprise visit had embarrassed the shit out of me, I cleaned myself up as much as I could manage these days. Meaning, I showered and trimmed my beard; donned some clean, unwrinkled clothes; straightened up the bomb of a house we owned; washed some of the mounds of dirty clothes I had accumulated; and went grocery shopping for the bare necessities.

My humiliation aside, much of my efforts were to bide my time. I was coming for Walter Skinner and if he didn't tell me what I wanted to know, God help him. Even though Dana and I had already been married at the time of my 'grand inquisition' by the FBI regarding my father, Skinner had mistrusted me or maybe mistrusted my feelings for her. Perhaps he had feelings of his own, paternal or otherwise, getting in the way. Whatever the case, I got the sense that day he came to tell me about Dana that he wanted to make amends somehow. And you could be sure, by God, that I was going to give him that opportunity.

Predictable creature that he was, Skinner left work at the same exact time as the previous night with the same exact people. Even headed to the same exact restaurant and booth. For this reason, I hoped he didn't have any enemies with serious grudges because he'd be any easy target to pick off.

Not a minute after he settles into his seat, I settle into the seat opposite him, not taking any chances this time.

"Hey, Walt. You mind if I have a seat? No--Thanks, I didn't think so."

By the look on his face and the tone of his voice, he's quite annoyed by my intrusion. Or the fact that I'm not blond with big tits. I can't figure out which. "Is there something I can do for you, Mike?"

"There is actually but we'll get to that. I just wanted to know how that wine you were having with dinner is. . . See, I have this thing for wine. But let me see for myself," I say, stealing his drink, swirling the red alcohol around, and bringing the glass to my lips for a taste. "Mmm. Good . . . Dry. But I'll bet it's not as good as last night's vintage though."

"Is there some point to your ramblings? You look like hell by the way."

"Never mind how I look. Let's talk about how I feel. Last night while you were enjoying a nice, romantic dinner here with your lady friend, I was celebrating my one-year wedding anniversary. Alone. By myself. On my couch. With a bottle of whiskey and a bottle of wine. Are you starting to get my point now?"

Believe it or not, I notice his face soften. "I think I am."

"God knows where my wife was or what she was doing. God knows if she was even safe. Do you think that's fair, Walt? Last night while you were most likely fucking some woman you didn't know very well, I was sitting on my couch drowning my sorrow in alcohol and praying that my wife was safe. Praying that I was going to see her again. =My wife=, Walt. On our anniversary. Do you have any idea how that makes me feel? How that infuriates me?" I tell him, nearly yelling.

"Take it easy. I understand what you're saying."

The fucking nerve of him. He tells me he understands when he doesn't have a fucking clue. My fist slams down hard on the table in response, loudly rattling the dishes and silverware. Everyone in close vicinity stops what they're doing, turning to look at us. I ignore it. "Don't tell me to take it easy. Don't tell me you understand unless you're prepared to do something about it!"

He grimaces at my outburst, surely embarrassed. "You do realize if I tell you where she is and you contact her you're jeopardizing her life, not to mention the lives of others--"

"Her life is already in danger is it not? And I don't give a flying fuck about anyone else!"

He whispers desperately. "Mike--this is against my better judgement--"

"Has she asked about me?"

"Yes," he admits reluctantly.

"Do you tell her the truth or some semblance of the truth? Do you tell her that I'm a fucking mess since they did this to us?"

"If it's any consolation, she's not doing all that hot herself."

"That's all I need to know, Skinner. Tell me where she is," I plead.

He stares hard at me a moment, his jaw clenching and unclenching; he's deciding what to do, how to play this. Then, begrudgingly, he pulls a pen from the breast pocket of his dress shirt and slowly scribbles down the information on the inside of a matchbook cover. In between his index and middle fingers, he holds the matchbook out to the side, just out of my reach. I'm inclined to jump across the table at him for this valuable information, the promise of Dana's location spurring me to do anything I have to to get it though I resist the urge. Doing such a desperate thing would ruin any chance I have with him; I know he's sympathetic toward me.

"Whatever you do, don't make me regret this," he warns low and gruff, then swings his hand out to me, offering the matchbook up. Finally offering Dana to me.

Snatching the matchbook away from him fast before he's back in his right mind, I'm aboard a shuttle to NY within a matter of a few short hours.

There was so much to do with this showing we were doing and so little time. Luckily, it had been a quiet morning and Kay, Jackie, and I had been able to concentrate solely on setting up the gallery for the event. As Beck had mentioned, I'd noticed Kay had a burgeoning little business and she was a good businesswoman with an eye for what people liked. She also had a number of influential clients, some of who would be here tonight from New York City. So everything had to be perfect. Right down to the wine and hors'dourves served.

I move from one task to the other with efficiency like I always do, dimly wondering if Beckinsdale is going to show. Now that I had nearly rebuffed him, I didn't know quite what to expect. He had been coming around still but with less frequency though I was sure he still wanted me. That was always abundantly clear when he was around me but I think he was trying to give me space and let me come to him.

I push the unpleasant thoughts of Beck aside and continue with the preparations even as the bell dings at the front door, signaling someone has entered the gallery. With me towards the back of the store, Kay and Jackie will take care of any customer that strays in so I don't concern myself too much with it even though I feel this niggling at my neck.

As I unwrap a sculpture from its protective packaging and hold it out, examining it, a voice comes from somewhere behind me.

"You know, as hideous as that thing is, if you're selling it, I'm most definitely buying it."

It's a voice that resonates like music in my ears and always has.

Beautiful music.

Am I only imagining hearing what I've longed to hear or does that niggling mean . . .

I glance quickly over my shoulder and react with immense surprise, almost dropping the sculpture when I lay my eyes on Michael. In excitement and nervousness, my heart thuds hard and fast in my chest at the sight of him and I fumble with the statue. Regaining my composure is imperative because the only thing I can think about with him standing only ten feet away is kissing him and touching him. Showing him how much he means to me.

Trying to regain my cool, I keep my back to him and place the statue safely down in the box it had been originally contained in. With him throwing me totally off balance, my voice escapes in a hiss when I'm finally able to talk.

"God, Michael--" I swallow hard, "what the hell are you doing here?"

"I came to wish my wife a Happy Anniversary. Something wrong with that?"

No, there shouldn't be, of course, but in my cursed existence there was something =very= wrong with it. "You shouldn't have come," I tell him with as much irritation as I can muster.

He tries valiantly to mask the hurt in his urgent voice and steps ever closer. "I don't think you really mean that. . . Do you have any idea how worried I've been? How much Joseph, Mike and I have missed you?"

Oh, believe you me, they hadn't cornered the market on that; I knew how they felt all too well but ignore his questions just the same. "How did you find me?" I ask, crouching down and playing with the protective wrapping of the sculpture in a lame attempt to look busy.

"I prayed on Skinner's guilt and he sang like a canary."

I close my eyes and shake my head in frustration. That's Michael speak for threatening him. Just what we need. Here I am throwing our personal lives into the toilet to ensure he gets his job back and he's going around intimidating Assistant Directors of the FBI. Lovely.

"You shouldn't have done that. You need to leave--"

"No--invite me to the showing," he growls low, obviously not having missed our announcements hanging up all over the gallery, not to mention all over town.

Back and forth, our argument continues, much of it through both of our clenched jaws.

"Michael, you need to go--"

"No--tell them I'm an old friend from out of town and you've invited me as your guest tonight."

"Just go--go right now before anyone sees--"

"I came all this fucking way and I'm not--"

"Yes. You. Are. Do you hear me? This is not some fucking game."

"Dana, please--" he whispers urgently, having none of it and closing the distance between us. With the desperation in his voice, my resolve is starting to wither away.

Please, don't let him come any closer, don't let him touch me.

I couldn't bear it.

I couldn't turn him away.

He pulls me up and to him with a firm grip but my hands come up against his chest, keeping him at bay. Should Kay or Jackie pass by now and see us practically struggling within each other's arms, I don't know what I would say. Finally face to face, I glare at him as hard as I can. Trying to tell him in no uncertain terms that he better go.

God, this is so difficult. So impossible. Lying to the face of the man I adore. Meaning one thing and wanting something entirely different.

But he gets what I mean, dropping his hands from my body and blinking back my rejection in heartbroken eyes and a crushed face.

Crushed to smithereens like my heart.

He makes one last ditch effort to change my mind, his lips sweeping down in an attempt to capture mine.

"Michael--don't," I warn low but stern.

At first, he freezes. Then his hand gently cups my face, his fingers trailing lovingly along the skin of my cheek as he slowly backs away from me in hurt and disbelief. Without another word or glance, he takes off, each of his footfalls along the tiled gallery echoing in my ears and reverberating through my very soul. I panic, realizing that he's really leaving, how I've hurt him, how I just can't let him walk away from here when I finally feel alive for the first time in what seems like forever.

Impulsively, I chase after him and try to lightly pull my somewhat angry, reluctant husband back in the gallery. He resists at first and I wordlessly plea with him to forgive what I've done. One look at my sorrowful face softens his resolve as does the feel of my skin on his, my hand at his arm. Lightly, I tug him to where Kay and Jackie are.

"Kay, Jackie I'd like you to meet," I start to say struggling to lie, "Mike . . . Mike Joseph. He's in town for a short time and I've invited him to the showing tonight . . . as my guest." I smile a fake, toothy grin for all to see.

Wearing the widest grins I've yet to witness on their faces, the women put out their hands, Michael politely greeting them with a strong, assured hand of his own. "Ladies, it's a pleasure to meet you both."

Kay gushes like a schoolgirl after getting a load of him. "Dana, I thought you said there was no one special in your life."

"There isn't. Mike's just . . . an old friend," I shrug and explain lamely.

"That's a pity," Kay says in such a way that it's anything but to her. Then she shamelessly goes for the gold. "How about fixing Jackie up with him then?"

Jackie's all smiles but unlike her mother she's a bit shy and doesn't say anything. But she doesn't need to. She's thrilled with the idea; that glowing face of hers says it all.

"No," I snap in answer to Kay's question. Jealousy shoots through me and I grow warm, heat rising in my cheeks at this and my embarrassing faux pas. "That's not really a good idea," I then mumble with a bit of nervous energy but sound more calm, more like myself. "You don't want to do that."

"Why not, Dana?" a perplexed Kay asks.

Michael then echoes her words, deliberately trying to make this more difficult for me. Or amusing for him. "Yeah, why not?"

Ignoring him, I turn to Kay, trying to get my bearings. "Because . . . because as nice as he is, he's . . . he's a ladies man I'm sorry to say. Kay, the last thing you want is Jackie to get mixed up with someone like him."

"Gee, Dana, tell us how you really feel," Michael says with humor evident in his voice, trying to lighten things up after I've unintentionally acted strangely.

We smirk at one another and I lightly elbow him in that six-pack stomach of his. "That's what friends are for, =Mike.= I'm just . . . telling them like it is." I turn to Kay and Jackie again. "I meant what I said in the nicest way. He's a great guy but the truth is he likes his women."

"Yep, I eat them for breakfast," Michael jokes again, patting lightly at his stomach and we all smile.

"Point taken," Kay concedes, still smiling. "But we'd still love to have you join us this evening, Mike."

"Thank you, I wouldn't miss it. Now, if you ladies will excuse me, I have some errands to run but I look forward to joining you tonight." He bids them ado while the two of them nearly drool all over his departing back.

"Bye, Miiike," Jackie calls out dreamily.

Without chancing a glance at Kay or Jackie and giving myself away a little more, I wordlessly extricate myself from their presence to escort Michael to the door. I can feel the heat all around us as well as his eyes burning into my back as I lead the way. We linger in the doorway, face to face once again, just breathing in the sight of one another. More than anything, I want to take him in my arms and show him how much I love him and how much he's been missed.

Ever so briefly, his fingers come up and press lightly against my lips and I can't stop myself from kissing him even if it's only the pads of his fingers. He glances behind me and then pulls away abruptly, probably noticing the captive audience behind us in the gallery. Within seconds, he's gone. Like he was never here in the first place.

A mixture of sadness and relief washes over me with Michael gone but at least now maybe I'll be able to concentrate on something besides him. That idea lasts for all of about five seconds as Jackie won't let the subject of Michael drop when I rejoin the women. "Oh my God, Dana. He is =so= hot. Where have you been hiding him?"

In my bed, little girl. In my bed. Don't you even think of going anywhere near him. "Nowhere. He's not around very often. And besides which, I told you he's just a friend," I lie again with the accompanying fake smile attached, which, sadly, I think I'm beginning to perfect. "Now, I, for one, am going to get back to work--we've still got a lot to do before tonight."

And I walk off to do that work in total disgust with myself.

Everything I've just gone and done where Michael is concerned is --take your pick--pure idiocy or lunacy.

Or both.

After Dana quickly and quietly ushered me out of the gallery and I shopped for something appropriate to wear to this shindig, I returned to my motel room full of nervous energy. Hoping Dana would contact me on my cell phone at some point before the showing went for naught and I practically wore a hole in the carpet with my pacing as I didn't know what the hell to do with myself. That 6 pm showing could come at the speed of light and it still wouldn't come quite fast enough for me. I had convinced myself that if I just saw her with my own eyes, saw that she was truly fine that that would be enough, that I could just go back to Annapolis and carry on like nothing was wrong until her job was finished. Until she came home.

How wrong I was.

Seeing Dana and being so close to her--her smell, her skin--again after all the time we'd been forced apart only inflamed my need of her. I shouldn't have forced her hand though, truthfully, I had practically begged her to invite me. It was wrong, =I= was wrong but I needed to be near her even if only for a little while.

The showing from 6-8 pm went off mostly without a hitch. Dana moved and shaked and sold her client like a pro all the while ignoring me. I have to admit she was good at schmoozing people out of their money for something some people might classify as "art" (crap would have been a better word in my opinion) but then again this woman, my wife, was brilliant at most anything she set her mind upon.

Did I say she was ignoring me? The truth was she was doing her damnedest to and I was trying hard to make myself scarce besides. But in between chitchats with this one and that one, I'd catch her watching me (as I watched her) intently, her feelings of love and desire overwhelming me across the crowded gallery. Women came up to me to flirt shamelessly and though I could feel Dana's jealousy starting to rise, she never intervened or let it deter her from her task.

Concern and my own jealousy flared upon meeting Beck as he was called. The little bastard's interest in Dana was immediately apparent as was his scorn for me especially if I was anywhere in her vicinity. The moment I left her side after meeting him for the first time, he quickly got her alone, quite upset by something. She did her best to pacify him but he acted just like . . . like a Goddamn jealous lover whose heart I wanted to cut out.

Warily, I eyed him throughout the evening, his interest in Dana worrisome . . .

"To have and not to hold So hot yet so cold My heart is in your hand And yet you never stand Close enough for me to have my way"

After the showing, we were to take our artist and his companion out for a fancy dinner at a nearby restaurant to celebrate. The two of them along with Kay would be arriving later after schmoozing it up with potential buyers, one being Alec Baldwin of all people. In recent years, the Hamptons had developed a chic reputation as the place to be seen at various charity, art and theater events and party alongside the numerous celebrities that reside there like Baldwin.

So the four of us--Beck, Jackie, Michael and myself--proceeded to start dinner without them. At a long, rectangular table for seven, I went for a middle seat while Beck unfailingly planted himself next to me. Jackie did the same on my left, regrettably forcing Michael to the other side of the table though exactly opposite me. The only positive thing was that she wasn't getting to sit beside him either. That is, until she realized her misfortune and finally rose up to seat herself next to him.

Damn that girl.

She had had Michael's ear all night, following him around the showing like a lovesick puppy. Looking as he did, he was probably used to that, but I had become sick of it enough for the both of us.

Dinner went off okay with Jackie trying to engage us all in conversation. Even Beck seemed more open than usual but I knew I wasn't going to learn anything this night that would further the case and get me home any sooner. Compared to our unwanted companions, Michael and I were much more quiet but he at least tried to look interested when he wasn't eyeing Beck with a suspicious eye or staring at me. With those intense eyes of his nearly always on me, I grew warm all over and tried my best to keep my own eyes on whatever food I had before me at the time.

Or on anything else =but= him.

The only high point was right after the main course when both Beck and Jackie had excused themselves for the restrooms, leaving Michael and I miraculously alone. Catching me by surprise, I didn't know how to tell him everything in my heart in only the few short minutes we had and I don't think he did either. We didn't even make a move toward each other, just stared into one another's eyes, love struck.

Well, I didn't move at first but then footed off one of my pumps to move my foot slowly and seductively up his calf. Grinning devilishly at him as he did at me, I continued to run my foot up his leg and toward his groin once I scooted down in my chair a little. I was almost there at the goal when Kay and the guests of honor finally appeared, spoiling our one-little-lousy-freaking moment alone. Immediately, my leg fell away from Michael's body like heavy lead, red rising in my face as I sat up stiff straight and then rose to greet them.

By the time I returned to my seat, the gang was all there, Beck and Jackie having returned. Michael wore the same look of disappointment I did, which was only likely to worsen; I know he had visions of the two of us being together tonight and Lord knows I had the same visions, too. Of making up for precious lost time. But it wasn't going to happen, not if I had any say in the matter. If I wanted to keep it together, keep this charade alive, it couldn't happen.

After all, he and I had already kept our distance most of the evening though I had had my eye on him as much as I could without it appearing too noticeable. At least, that was my hope. The problem was he looked so scrumptious in a suit and tie--nothing new there--and he had attracted a lot of attention from the opposite sex, not to mention some gay men. It was hard enough to do what I had to (when I actually had no idea of what I was doing half the time) but it was that much more difficult when everyone and their uncle was hitting on Michael, including Jackie. As a Scully, I'd always prided myself on keeping my emotions in check but my blood pressure had been steadily rising all night, my jealousy thermometer about ready to burst.

For me to function properly at all with him near, I had thought it best we stay away from one another as much as possible but I was beginning to wonder if that had been a mistake. Maybe if I had staked more of a claim on him, I wouldn't feel like taking out my gun and shooting everyone that even looked in his vicinity. Admittedly, though staking my claim with Beck hovering and bidding for my attention would have made for an even more screwed up evening. But maybe if I had, I wouldn't be forced to watch Jackie's hands roaming up and down my husband's broad back, her arms wrapped tightly around him as they dance.

I have to give Michael credit though--he had resisted valiantly, had actually said "no" politely a few times when she asked. But with Kay and Beck pressuring and teasing them and a few drinks in her, Jackie had gotten nervy and literally pulled Michael out onto the dance floor with her. My jealousy aside, I had actually felt sorry for him because he couldn't have looked more uncomfortable and embarrassed with the situation if he had tried.

Thankfully, on all counts, the night was starting to come to a close as dessert and coffee were now being served. I had to get the hell out of here and away from everyone.

Including my own husband.

Beck watches me watching Michael and Jackie. "You can't keep your eyes off them. Or is it just him?"

I lie of course. "No, it's Jackie actually." Seemingly without control, my eyes flit back and forth between Beck and the scene on the dance floor.

"Is there something I should know about you, Dana?" he smirks.

I don't even crack a hint of a smile; my patience is totally shot. "I'm just concerned about her. She's a young woman and he's--"

"What, a serial killer or something?" he jokes, cutting me off. "I'm sure she can take care of herself."

"Probably. I just don't want to see him take advantage of her."

"I think you're the only one he wants to take advantage of . . . Even while he's dancing with her, he's staring at you."

"Don't be ridiculous, Beck. We're old friends, nothing more," I counter, frustration in me growing.

"That's what you told me but I'm not all that convinced."

"Why is that?"

"As I said, you can't keep your eyes off them."

"Beck, you're getting the completely wrong idea. I promised Kay I'd watch out for Jackie and that includes keeping her away from the likes of him. End of subject," I tell him pointedly.

"Would you like to join them?"

"No, thank you. I'm content to just watch." Watch and shoot imaginary lasers at Jackie.

"They make a great looking couple, don't you think?"

"If you say so, Beck," I utter with annoyance. Yeah, they'll be a couple over my dead body.

"Like us," he then adds, smiling and moving in to place a wet kiss against my cheek.

I think I may end up being sick from Beck's insinuations and display but especially when I notice Jackie's roaming hands squeeze Michael's ass. An irritated Michael abruptly walks off the dance floor toward our table.

Irritated myself, it is then that I make the rash decision to screw the whole lot of them. Screw them and damn the consequences as I do exactly what I said I wouldn't. What I promised myself I wouldn't.

What I know I shouldn't.

I rise from my chair "Everyone, I want to thank you for a wonderful, successful evening--" "No, thank =you=, Dana," Kay interjects, raising her wine glass to me. "Thank you for all your hard work. We couldn't have pulled it off without you."

"I appreciate that," I smile. "I'm going to take off but I hope all of you enjoy the rest of the evening. The last drinks of the night are on me." I raise my glass, tip it toward them and take one last sip before grabbing my evening bag off the table, ready to blow this pop stand.

Nearby, Michael protests with a severely dejected look on his face when I chance a glance in his direction while Beck does so with words. "Dana, don't leave--please stay a while longer."

"I'd like to but Mike and I have a lot of catching up to do. I'll see you tomorrow though."

"Are you sure you'll be okay?" Beck questions.

"I'll be fine. Mike will take good care of me, won't you?" I ask, throwing it Michael's way. Now there is no question what I have in mind.

Michael strides over to my side trying to hide how pleased he is but careful not to touch me in any intimate way. "Oh, I'll take good care of you all right . . . That you can count on, Beck," he smirks unmistakably.

"Tomorrow then, Dana," Beck promises and kisses my cheek. As he does so, he can't hide his displeasure or jealousy of Michael, his eyes narrowing hatefully at the man who is my world.

With mildly trembling hands, I unlock my apartment door. It's the same trembling I experienced on the whole way here, dying to touch and talk to Michael but knowing better.

Just my husband's nearness, knowing that he's with me, where he belongs, has made me a bit of a nervous wreck.

Or maybe it's just my vivid imagination of all the wonderful things I know we're going to do to one other.

I rush in and head immediately towards the blinds on the windows. I'd like to shut Michael and I out to the rest of the world for a good long time but this one night is all we have. I move with such quick efficiency that Michael's still standing near the doorway exactly where I'd left him moments before.

Then, I nearly pounce on my unsuspecting husband, pushing him into and up against the nearby wall. My hands are everywhere on him at once, first pulling his face down to mine for a bruising kiss and then feeling up certain parts of his anatomy. But I want to feel his bare, taut skin underneath my fingers and I furiously tug at his clothes, especially the belt, button and zipper of his dress pants.

Michael responds in kind as I knew he would until I've just about got my hand around his cock. My mouth on his just about stifles his alternating groans of pleasure and frustration.

" . . . wait . . . God, Dana . . . let's just . . . you're killing me here . . . let's talk a minute . . ."

"God, Michael . . . let's not," I groan back between kisses after my hand has found my stiff reward in his pants.

I've ached for this, ached for him and only him for two long, miserable months. I tug at his body and we stumble, intoxicated by love, passion, and need, to the nearby couch, finally getting busy there and on the floor.

At some point in our marathon evening of lovemaking, we found our way into the bedroom and christened that room as well. After spending over two months in this apartment with some of the worst thoughts and feelings I've ever known, it was wonderful to feel love saturating every inch of this once dreadful place.

The source of that love leans in to plant a tender kiss at my forehead as I lie against his chest. I'm in heaven, reluctant to move but he's restless beside me. I know why but he still doesn't ask.

"So, Dana, you ready to talk now or what?"

I look up at him, smirking. "Um, seeing as I'm not the one with my hands bound, that sounds like a question I should be asking you." I'd used his tie to lightly bind his hands to the headboard while I had my wicked way with him.

"Hardy, har, har . . . Will you please untie me now?" he asks softly.

Playfully, I ponder the question. "Mm, I'm not sure. I think I like having you at my mercy."

"Oh, Dana, you know I'm always at your mercy with or without my hands bound. But right about now my hand is really numb."

My playfulness turns sour, realizing how stupid and inconsiderate I've been. How I could've forgotten about his hand, a complication of his "OD," is beyond me. "Shit, Michael, I'm sorry," I apologize sincerely and immediately move to do as he asked. One at a time, I kiss his hands and then take them within mine, gently and lovingly massaging the blood through his fingers.

Michael takes my stupidity in stride, not letting it dissuade him from the talk he apparently still wants to have. "So, tell me about loverboy at the showing. I was about ready to knock his block off."

"That's funny especially since I wasn't the one being manhandled. Or should I say woman-handled," I smirk, trying to keep him off a certain subject. He knows much better than to be asking me about what I'm here to do and who I'm here to do it with. No pun intended. "I'm serious, Dana. What are they having you do? Who in the hell is he?"

"Michael, I don't want to have this talk with you . . . I can't besides which, you know that." I kiss his right hand, cradling it against my cheek.

"What are they threatening you with?"

I pull and rise away from him, sighing at his persistence. "If you keep this up, it's going to end in a fight and that's the last thing I want. I want to talk about us, about our family. Tell me about Joseph's birthday."

He sighs his own frustration. "Joseph's birthday--let's see--Big chocolate cake. Candles. Bunch of noisy kids. Gifts-- toys. Lots and lots of toys . . . It was fine. Damn near not the same without you but he was happy so I was happy--for a little while at least. He missed you something awful though. . . Like father, like son."

"Now that's what a girl likes to hear--a great time was had and two of my favorite men missing me to boot."

"As if you ever thought otherwise."

"No, but it's still nice to be reminded."

He holds out his hand to me. "Then come on over here and let me remind you over and over again."

Expertly, he does just that with every inch of his body when I come to him and for a small time, I'm able to forget what I've done here tonight.

Soft fingers in my hair.

Loving hand expertly stroking my need.

Perfect, plump mouth on mine and then in mine.

Blindly, I reach for Dana to reciprocate but come upon a cold, empty bed, the only thing stirring me is my dream of her. She had somehow eased her way out from under my arms the morning after three rounds of glorious lovemaking. I groan upon finding her gone, wondering how she had slipped away without my realizing it.

Swinging my legs to the floor, I sit up, rubbing at my sleep filled eyes and my itchy beard. I manage to find my boxers in our mess of clothes on the floor and hope to find Dana with as much ease. Barefoot, I pad around the spacious four room apartment which seems empty until I come upon the closed bathroom door, the water from the shower running.

Mmm. A shower means Dana naked.

Dana wet.

Dana naked =and= wet.

The possibilities are wonderfully endless until I find the doorknob unyielding in my hand. Surprised, I wiggle it a few times just to be sure, still finding it won't turn.

Well, a locked door certainly puts a damper on the things I had in mind.

With disappointment, I trudge back to the bed to wait for her. Maybe we can find an out of the way place to have some breakfast together or take a walk on the deserted beach. =Anything= as long as we do it =together= would be fine.

Upon hearing the bathroom door click open, I call out immediately, my back to her. "You okay?" I ask, still pondering the significance of the locked door. I mean, she's entitled to her privacy; there's nothing wrong with that but I don't ever remember her locking me on out the other side of the door in all the time we'd been together.

"Yeah, why?" she asks with what I detect to be slight defense creeping into her voice.

"Just wondering. What are you up to?"

"Getting ready for work."

Indeed. When I turn to look at her, she's impeccably dressed and coifed. Checking her reflection in the mirror, she tries hard to hide the bite I'd inadvertently marked her neck with beneath her shirt collar.

I guess breakfast or that walk are truly out of the question, much to my disappointment. I still give it the old college try though. "How about playing hooky for the day and spending it with me?"

Somehow, I knew my idea wasn't going to fly. "I can't. . . When is your flight back?" she asks without hesitation. Way to cut to the chase, wife.

"I don't have one."

"You don't have one? Michael, you can't stay here."

"I'm aware of that," I grumble.

"Why didn't you book one?"

I ignore her. If she thinks I want to leave her here alone risking her life doing God knows what than she's certifiable. I wasn't planning on going home without my wife. Somehow, I had to convince her. I rise and make my way over to her, pulling her close. "I don't want to leave just yet. Not until . . ." I murmur, the words unspoken as I press my lips to hers.

"Michael, stop--" she rasps with desire but struggles in my embrace. She pushes away and breaks free.

Confusion reigns. Just last night, she couldn't get enough of me. "What is it, Dana? What's wrong?"

Efficiently, she moves about the bedroom, gathering my strewn clothes together in a neat pile while explaining. "You need to go. Right now. Get dressed," she instructs in her no-nonsense voice.

I just stare at her, not believing either my eyes nor ears. "Why are you being like this?" I argue.

"Because I realize how stupid and weak I've been to allow this to happen. I shouldn't have let you come here--"

"You're stupid and weak for making love to your husband?" I respond, nearly exasperated.

"You know what I mean."

"That doesn't make it hurt any less."

". . . I've been totally unprofessional . . ."

If she's going to beat herself up mercifully, I'll tell her what she wants to hear. "Dana, I'll leave--just tell me when I can see you again." Nothing like practically begging to be with your own wife.

"You can't. There won't be a next time," she tells me matter-of- factly, handing me my discarded clothes from the night before.

"Dana, I can't go back to the way things were. I =won't.=" I aver.

"We don't have a choice," she immediately snaps.

"Why the hell not? This is =your= choice. Why are you doing this?"

"Michael, I can't do my job if all I'm thinking about is the next time I'm going to see you, hear your voice . . . taste you," she murmurs.

"Fine, forget about me. What about Joseph and Mike? . . . The longer you stay away the worse it is for Mike's adoption."

"Don't you think I know that? Do you honestly think I'd purposely jeopardize his adoption?" she asks, pleading for my understanding.

"No, of course, not but I don't know what to tell him or Joseph anymore. Not to mention everyone else."

"Tell the boys I love them and I'll be with them as soon as humanly possible. I don't care what anyone else thinks," she says, her hand lightly pressing against her forehead.

"What do I tell myself?"

"God, Michael, don't do this. Don't make this any harder for me," she pleads again, her hand then flying to her mouth.

She's gone distinctly pale and my concern jumps two-fold. "Dana, what is it? Are you all right?" I ask, reaching out to her but she shakes off both me and my concern.

"I'm fine, Michael. Just go," she says miserably and makes a beeline for the bathroom, shutting me out yet again with a quick slam of the door. Behind it, I can hear her retching and my face falls.

"Dana, you're sick . . . I can't leave you like this--I can't leave with things like this between us--"

"Yes, you can--my stomach is just a little upset--I'll be fine . . ."

"Dana, open the damn door," I demand, furiously jiggling the locked doorknob.

Long, agonizing moments pass before I hear her voice again. "Michael, go--I'll be fine if you just . . . =go.="

Dejected, I give up, realizing that maybe I'm exactly what had upset her in the first place. I turn away from the door to find my clothes and dress as she had asked. I seem to be moving in slow motion as it's killing me to leave her like this.

Done with my task, I return to basically conversing with a closed door, trying to convince my wife to come out from behind it. "Dana, I'm leaving . . . I'm leaving but I'll be waiting for you. I want you to promise me you'll be careful . . . Promise me you won't take any unnecessary risks . . ."

Dana's silence reigns.

Full of frustration and desperation, I'm ready to break the fucking door down but know if I act crazy she'll never come out. Still, I can't hide what I'm feeling. "For Christ's sake, Dana, just open the damn door and talk to me!"

It's gone too eerily quiet in that bathroom now.

Resigned, I know she's not coming out and that I have to leave her here alone. Even so, I'm not above begging. "Baby, please just come home to me."

With no response, I reluctantly turn to go, praying that she'll say something to me but continued silence is my only response. Before quietly slipping out her apartment door, I say the only thing that matters in this fucked up existence we all lead.

"Dana . . . I love you."

Michael left days ago yet Beck hasn't shown his face again since the night of the showing despite my numerous calls. I hoped my husband didn't pull the same act when I finally returned home. Though it might be just what I deserve after the way I treated him and way we parted, I couldn't bear it. I think I cried in that bathroom for over an hour after he had gone.

Sitting around this night pondering and fretting about my next move in regard to Beck has frustrated me to no end and Hart's advice has been useless. I've worked myself up enough that I'm feeling warm; either that or I'm running a fever. I've drained two large glasses of cold seltzer water and have now resorted to placing the cold glass against the heat of my face and chest. When checking the thermostat, I'm surprised by the knock at my door and the person doing the knocking.

"Beck--I'm glad you stopped by . . . This is a nice surprise." He looks different, haunted, guilty of something but I don't know what. I ignore my uneasy feelings to plow on with the masquerade. "You haven't returned any of my calls and I've been wondering how you've been."

"Oh, you know. I get by. As always."

"You want to come in?"

"Yeah, if you're sure it's okay."

"It is." The silence that follows is awkward. "So, how have you been?" I continue, trying, again, to draw blood from a stone.

"As well as can be expected under the circumstances."

I wonder to what circumstances he's referring but ignore it. I don't know what I've done to piss him off and would rather not remind him if possible. "Can I get you something? A drink?"

"I'll fix it," he insists. "Do you need a refill?"

"Yeah, the seltzer water in the fridge if you don't mind," I say, handing him my near empty glass and he heads around the bend to the kitchen.

"No problem . . . So, Dana, I'm still trying to figure out what happened, what I did wrong."

My eyes close in response. Oh, Lord. Here we go. "You didn't do anything wrong," I insist. "You just stopped showing up so obviously =I've= done something wrong." Though I don't know what. He hands me back my glass and I down nearly half of the cold liquid; it's gotten warm in here once again.

"Why can't you just be straight with me, Dana?"

"I am being straight. What makes you think I'm not?"

"For one, that guy, Mike."

"Is that what this is about? I told you he's just a friend."

"So you keep saying."

"I keep saying it because it's the truth."

"Is that right?"

"Look, I told you you're making something out of nothing."

"Tell me something--do you take all your 'friends' home with you all night long?"

"What are . . . you talking about?"

"The night of the gallery showing--I saw the two of you. I watched you go home with him to your apartment. Not one light went on all night. And he didn't leave until late the following morning. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out what was going on."

"What were . . . you doing? Watching . . . me? We stayed up all night . . . talking . . . over old times. What business . . . is it . . . of yours?" I ask with considerable difficulty. I can't seem to string the words together correctly. What's wrong with me?

So sleepy . . . I can't stay up on me feet . . .

My hands reach out, reaching for anything at all to break my coming fall. I seem to be futilely patting the air around me and will fall. By some stroke of luck, I finally find the couch and sink heavily into it.

I'm conscious of what's going on, I think, but powerless to move my body in response.

My limbs don't seem to work.

Beck moves to lean over me, his hand starting to work the buttons of my blouse while his lips move to mine. Furious and frightened about what's happening to me, I watch him. I feel him, feel his hands tickling the sensitive skin of my stomach. His cold, disgusting hands then trail up to my breasts while his lips plunder my mouth. God, I want to scream, scream bloody fucking murder because I can't push him away like I desperately want to.

I try.

In my mind, at least, I try.

And try.

And try again.

But things are going gray . . .

Going far away . . .

I'm far, far away.

Jerking awake all of a sudden, I stare at the red digits of the alarm clock through half-closed lids, the bright color stinging my eyes. Or is it the bright of the room?

Whatever the culprit, I struggle to keep my eyes open and focus; it seems like the hardest thing I've ever had to do.

2:35 pm.


How is that possible?

T h i n k

think what day what day


head throb-bing

sit up . . . Up


T h i n k

where am I, where am I, where am I

F o c u s

hurts to think . . . too hard

clear head--shower--bathroom

M o v e

One. Foot. In. Front. Of. The. Other.


remove negligee

beautiful lace

soft black satin












blood between my legs



falling to my knees

God, my stomach . . . It hurts . . .

tears, uncontrollable





. . .

Urgent whispers that I don't quite understand echo all around me until they're in my ear. Until I'm being shaken awake.

"Scully? . . . Agent Scully, can you hear me? . . . Wake up."

My eyes are wide but uncomprehending for long moments until I realize Agent Hart has pulled me up from the cold bathroom floor tiles caressing my face and covered me in a large bath towel. As I sit on the bed now, my head still throbs but at least I can string two words, two thoughts together.

His voice remains urgent. "Scully, what happened? Why didn't you meet me this morning like we planned?"

"Hart," I murmur, swallowing down my despair, ". . . something's wrong." Tears build in my eyes.

"What? What the hell happened to you?"

Hart's eyes pin me for an answer and I pull the towel tighter around myself under his probing gaze. "I think . . . I think Beckinsdale drugged me last night."

"Drugged you? To what end? Did you get too close to something?"

I lick my dry, cracked lips in frustration, wishing to God there had been something to get too close to. This wasn't our man; Again, I'd stake my life on it.

"No," I whisper, shaking my head.

"Then what? . . . Agent Scully, did he--"

The horrid word goes unspoken.

I turn away from Hart, swallowing down the numbness and tears, chills spiking my back. I shiver uncontrollably.

Hart finds my robe and hands it to me with a sorrowful expression though I can't meet his eyes. Pulling it over me, I'm lost in my own thoughts for a while, trying, straining desperately to remember what happened to me last night; I'm afraid I don't recall.

Is that a curse?

Or a blessing and gift?

Once again, Hart literally shakes me out of my stupor, his hand at my shoulder.

"Scully, I just talked to AD Skinner and he wants you on the next flight to Washington . . . After getting yourself checked out."

"What?" I ask in disbelief. "What about Kersh?"

"He said he'd take care of Kersh. He wants you back there--no ifs, ands or buts."

And Kersh will most certainly take care of Michael which I cannot allow.

"No, Hart--I'll get him." For what, I don't have the foggiest. "I just need a little more time and I'll--"

"My orders are to bring him in right now," he tells me while checking the clip of his Sig. Then with dogged determination, he heads toward the door.

"For what? We don't have anything!" I exclaim with exasperation, calling out to his retreating back.

We don't have one bloody fucking thing pertaining to why I was put here in the first place. I want to get up and stop Hart, stand in his way, but I don't have the energy or the fight left within me.

In response to my shouting, he stops dead in his tracks but will not look at me. His voice is so soft and full of remorse when he responds that I can barely hear him. But it doesn't matter; I already know what he shall say.

"Rape, Agent Scully . . . We have suspicion of rape."

There's that word, that horrible, disgusting word. Out in the open and for all to hear even if it may not be true. With my head clearer now, I don't believe that Beckinsdale went through with it. After spending the last two months with him, I don't think he's capable of such depravity. The intention to seduce, to have his way may have been there but follow through is everything in this.

"Can I help you with something? Do you need anything?" Hart asks, sounding like there's pity in that there voice of his.

I somehow reply with strength and confidence through a thick throat of tears, fear and frustration. "No--I'm fine, Hart."

You know where you can go with that pity of yours.


Just what I need.

Southampton Hospital's ER is packed to the gills when I arrive and I'm tempted to take off; there's not much time to spare as the next flight out of this hellhole to DC is in three measly hours.

But come hell or high water, I =will= be on that plane.

After registering, I plead my case about the special circumstances surrounding my situation to move the hospital waiting game along.

<But--I have a plane to catch in four hours with at least an hour's ride without traffic to the airport.>

<<We'll do the best we can, ma'am.>>

Would you do better if my face was battered and bruised--if I actually looked like some rape victim?

<But--I'm a special agent with the FBI.>

<<I'm sorry.>>

You're sorry I'm an FBI agent? You know what, right about now, so am I.

<But--I'm working a delicate undercover operation a long way from home.>

<<I can't help you.>>

No, no one has.

No one did.

No one can.

Some minutes later, a nurse Grahn calls me into one of the many small examining rooms of the ER. I get in there as fast as I'm able to carry my weary, depressed body and then it's time to piss into a cup, drain my already too weary body of precious blood, and answer one inane question after another.

The best were the personal questions about my sex life along with the nurse's lecture about safe vs. risky sex, multiple partners, etc., etc. What, did I look like some 16-YO girl? I was a married woman nearing 40 for God's sake. And I loved the weird looks she cast my way when I had trouble recalling exactly the last time I'd engaged in consensual intercourse. I'm sorry to say I hadn't had my trusty calendar out when I was pushing my husband up against the wall on our one night together in what seemed like forever.

After some more time passes, what looks to be a twenty-something year old pimple-faced male resident old enough to be my kid who acts like he knows everything but in reality probably knows nothing arrives on the scene and slaps on some exam gloves to give me a gynecological. Lord, I may be out of it and hurting but I'm =not= insane.

<I want to see a gynecologist!> That seems to be like asking for a miracle especially when one of the patients appears to be infarcting right in the ER, doctors and nurses rushing here, there and everywhere. The commotion cannot be missed and, therefore, they won't miss me when I sneak on out.

I attempt it but Grahn stops me cold, seemingly having eyes in the back of her head. With all the other doctors and nurses handling the emergency, of course, she's the one free to badger me.

"Mrs. Anzotti--where are you going?"

"I have a plane to catch in less than four hours."

"You shouldn't leave."

"That is =not= an option," I argue.

"Then let us at least get your samples tested for STDs, pregnancy--"

"There's no chance of pregnancy."

And you'd know that if you took the time to look at what I'd plainly written down under 'history and conditions.'

"I don't understand."

"Forget it," I snap with annoyance.

"Well, promise me you'll call me at this number in a few hours. I know someone in the lab--I'll push through your samples ASAP . . . =Please=, please get the proper exam done and good luck." She's giving me that look, the same look of pity that Agent Hart had shown earlier, which I won't acknowledge.

I don't need pity or luck.

All I need is to go home, home to my family.

By the skin of my teeth, I made my flight at JFK International Airport with nothing but a small duffel bag in tow that I'd hurriedly purchased in one of the airport's shops. I'd had to run--a full on, run for everything your worth run--through the airport and the terminal to make the plane as the last call for my flight had already been announced and boarding begun. That was after I'd grabbed the first bag I'd seen.

I ruminate momentarily over that damn duffel bag emblazoned with the 'I Love New York' logo as I tuck it in the overhead compartment above my seat. Just how ironic is that freaking logo when the bag in question is stuffed with the "evidence"--sheets, glass, and negligee--of the possible rape perpetrated against me in the "fair" city of NY?

Despite it being Michael's hometown, I can honestly say I now despise NY.

As I sat on the plane, I'd felt a modicum of relief that I was finally going home though who knew what would happen afterward. Once Kersh got wind of what Skinner had done, the shit was going to hit the fan for me and for Michael. Even Mulder was susceptible. As evidenced months and months before, Kersh knew =exactly= how to play me.

Once the plane landed at Dulles, I made a mad dash from my seat, cutting past and darting between other passengers in the aisles in an attempt to get home even a minute quicker. Most people shot me dirty looks in return but I was way past the point of caring.

Michael, I'm coming home as soon as humanly possible.

But before I could do that, do what I so longed to, I had to call that nurse in NY for my hematology and urinalysis results though I was confident they would find nothing. I don't think sex was forced on me; I had no soreness or aching vaginally or rectally, no cuts or bruising in either area nor on my face or at my wrists or ankles. The dried blood on my legs and in my genital area could have been due to something as simple as my menstrual cycle, not anything Alexander Beckinsdale had done.

I fish out the number the nurse had given me and make the call after finding an entire bank of unoccupied public phones in the airport. Though I'm finally on familiar ground, my hands tremble slightly as I dial. "This is Dana Anzotti. I was a patient there earlier today and a nurse Grahn asked me to call at about this time, saying she would have some test results for me."

Nurse Grahn offers a brief hello and then connects me with Dr. Petersen, the head of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Southampton Hospital, I'm told. His voice is youngish sounding but strong, assured and professional.

"Mrs. Anzotti, I have your test results here in front of me and I'm happy to say that you were negative for all the major sexually transmitted diseases. Of course, there wasn't enough time to test for HIV so it's important that you have that testing conducted as soon as possible."

"Of course." See, what did I tell you? Basically, everything's fine.

"And there was something else, something that--" Dr. Petersen begins and stops just short of finishing.

I broach my question with a bit of fear growing inside of me. Why, I'm not sure.

"That what, doctor?"

"We found something that we weren't expecting."

I find myself swallowing hard. Jesus, just say it already.

"Go on."

When he does, I'm not sure whether to laugh with joy or cry in despair as fear isn't the only thing growing inside of me.

"Mrs. Anzotti, much to our surprise and yours I'm sure, you're . . . pregnant."


TO BE CONTINUED Series concludes in WIW: 7 <-- archivist note: this fic may not exist

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