The Vanishers (or Stinkworts and Buttercups)

By mommieburger

Submitted 5/15/2016

Summary: Mulder and Scully get called into a kidnapping and one of the suspects is an invisible being. Both agents deal with the concept of true love, but Mulder gets caught indulging his base desires. Scully must make a choice, but can Mulder convince her to make the right one?

Disclaimer: The X-Files characters are the creations of Chris Carter and 1013 Productions. I'm just taking them out for a joyride and I'll write them like I stole them, but return them safely. No money being made unless winning the lottery counts, considering that is a work of fiction also.

This is an explicit story and no crumb crunchers under 18 are allowed. I appreciate your curiosity, but I'm not responsible for your delinquency. You will have to wait until you are older to be as depraved and obsessed as me.

Spoilers: As usual, I use the characters and story line through the end of season 7 without Requiem. No cute, but totally unnecessary child, no Mulder death, no weirdo story arc that gave Gillian Anderson a job for seasons 8 & 9. As for season 10, the jury is still out—waiting on part 2. Considering some of the *stuff* I've had to swallow from X-Files writers in the past, season 10 didn't look so bad. I know you purists are throwing rotten tomatoes at your computer screen right now. Remember that those should be composted, not landfilled.

Let's hear it for our heroes! On with the show…

Post Note: Some poetic license was taken with the effects of Buttercups on the human body. It normally is a skin irritant and I have no idea if it could be distilled to create a poison that can attack the heart. Coincidentally, I gave the secondary title of 'Stinkworts and Buttercups' because both plants have similar qualities. While the kidnap story refers more to the stinkwort, the buttercup plays into the X-file portion and my running theme.

Also, the Princess Bride references were to honor one of my most beloved films. I hope there are those still out there that will recognize the quotes, characters and scenarios that kept that film dear to my heart for decades. The movie was made in 1987 (yes, I'm dating myself) so if you are young and have never seen this movie—do so. Any lover of MSR is a romantic at heart. I promise, you will NOT be disappointed.


Fox Mulder's Apartment

Alexandria, VA

12:07 AM

Mulder couldn't see through the curtain of red that swung over his face as Scully pumped up and down on his exposed member. He barely remembered waking as she came into the room quietly, pulled down his sweats and began to taste him. He rose to the occasion. God, how he wanted this and here she was. Those ripe lips were suckling him and he was fast approaching heaven. After bringing him to the edge of orgasm, she climbed up his body and Mulder realized that she was completely naked. He tried to reach for her, but his arms were heavy, like he had been drugged. Mulder fought through the haze, but quickly gave up as Scully settled on his engorged penis and began to move. The overwhelming sensations were ensuring his complete compliance as her warm, moist heat enveloped him. All he could do was moan his enjoyment as she continued moving faster and faster. Just when he was about to explode, Mulder managed to move his hands and held her hips down as he shouted his completion and pumped his hot, thick liquid into her petite body.

Act I – A Story without Kissing

Mulder woke to find himself in need of tissues. Damn, Dream Scully strikes again. This was the third time this week. A man can't control his subconscious, but Mulder had to get a hold of his. It was just getting worse. He needed the real Scully and she was the last thing on earth he could have.

He got up and cleaned himself off. Padding to the bathroom Mulder threw the soiled shirt into the hamper and looked at himself in the mirror. He was getting older, but he still had his good looks. Mulder ran and went swimming regularly. He got some appreciative glances the last time he wore his red speedo. A few of them were men, but the times were changing and modern dating was like a box of chocolates—you never knew what you were going to get.

Mulder had considered trying to date again. Just a few months ago, he ran into an old flame and they decided to have dinner. It was nice—and sterile. The saddest thing about the whole evening was when he realized he was more interested in eating greasy food on a stake out with Scully, than sitting in this elegant restaurant with a devastatingly beautiful woman. His date was telegraphing that sex was definitely one of the available menu options, and Mulder just called for the check. He was pathetic.

Going back to the couch, Mulder tried to go back to sleep, but it wasn't going to happen. He finally turned on the video tape (that wasn't his) and watched a few minutes. This tape made bad days tolerable knowing he could come home to a unique fantasy. Mulder found a porn company that would do special requests. He sent them a couple of stock photos that had the players general looks, gave the scene and what he wanted to happen and they made a custom 30 minute production for him. It was pricey, but worth it. The company kept the rights to market it and the customer got exactly what he wanted. Win Win.

Mulder did doze a little and only woke when the buttery light came streaming through the window. He chuffed. What, the hell, is 'buttery light' anyway? There was a story he read that used that phrase and Mulder got a big chuckle out of it. He made a vow that if he ever wrote his own story, he was going to use that phrase just for shits and giggles.

Well, time to get up and face another day of loneliness and yearning. He decided to wear the charcoal suit with the orange tie that had flying monkeys on it. Scully loved that one. She might even laugh and that would make his day.

As usual, he was first to their basement office. The peace offering of coffee and a Danish was placed on Scully's desk. He hoped the coffee wouldn't get cold as they didn't have a microwave. He owed her something after stranding her yesterday. They were finishing up Senator Thelen's blackmail case when Frohike called about this guy that had real footage of a Sasquatch. The guy was only going to be there for the next 30 minutes and Mulder knew that Scully wouldn't let him go if he told her, so—he just left. She got stuck with the onsite paperwork and Skinner ended up giving her a ride home. The apology phone call went to voice mail last night, not a surprise. Yeah, he could be a jerk, sometimes.

Scully walked in and the air chilled about 20 degrees. They called her the Ice Queen for a reason. After 7 years together, his 5'2" partner could still command the room and send grown men looking for cover. Her ruby hair and creamy, pale skin had nothing on her brilliant, peacock blue eyes. She was gorgeous…and royally pissed at him. Not the peanut butter and jelly type of pairing you always hoped for, but very typical as of late. Scully took one look at the proffered treats and then turned those stunning eyes at him.

"Is this supposed to make things better?" Scully's tone was acidic.

Mulder shrunk down into his seat a little. "It's a start—right?"

"Sasquatch, Mulder?" She was staring at his tie. Mulder wanted pump his fist when a small smile played at the edge of her mouth. That was practically a belly laugh in the Scully manual. "I expect dinner too. I had to ask Skinner for a ride home. Skinner—Mulder."

Mulder shrugged. "There is nothing to be worried about, Scully. Just because he is an ox of a man, outweighs you by 100lbs, growls more than he talks and seems to be always in a surly mood doesn't mean he is the Dread Pirate Roberts. You got home safe."

Scully shook her head and walked over to her desk. "I didn't say I was afraid of him, Mulder. He's our boss. It makes us look bad when my partner ditches me and I don't know where you are. He wasn't happy."

"I know. He called last night to express that."

"Good. I'm glad I'm not the only who had to hear it." She saw a file on her desk. "What's this?"

"The finished Thelen report. Skinner emailed the rest of the details and I did it last night." Mulder was pleased at the two raised eyebrows he received from her. "Am I forgiven?" There was another quirk of the lips. The temperature started to rise in the office—or was that just him?

"Alright. Thanks, Mulder. I still want dinner."

"As you wish."

Scully was prepared to walk into the pit of despair that the FBI calls an office and tear, freeze or otherwise maim Mulder for making her endure a stern lecture from Skinner all the way home on how irresponsible her partner is. That concept was a no brainer (in lots of ways). Sometimes she really hated it when she had practiced what she was going to say and then he does something so Mulderish that she can't be mad at him anymore. He wore that tie on purpose—she was sure of it.

Doing that report was going to save her hours tonight and she had already allocated that time to a candlelit bubble bath, painting her nails and watching The Princess Bride. What she didn't expect was a new assignment. Mulder had already been briefed, apparently last night, and was prepared. Now that she wasn't going to do bodily harm to him, he beckoned her over to his computer and they went over the highlights. It was a kidnapping case with a twist.

Mulder tapped his keyboard with a flourish. "This is a strange one. Two men from Florin, Maine went missing unexpectedly last week and their wives believed they were kidnapped based on the ransom demand they received. The local police were familiar with the couples because the men had called on two separate occasions to say they saw an invisible intruder in their home.

"What is an invisible intruder, Mulder?"

"I'm glad you asked." Mulder tapped another key and security camera footage played that showed one of the missing men, wrestling outside his home—with no one. It appeared that something was striking the man and he was returning the blows, but no image was visible on the screen for the assailant.

"That's inconceivable. Could he be faking it?" Scully asked.

"It's possible. The local PD thinks so, but that is primarily because both men were seen at a bar that night, drinking heavily. They may not be faking it, but sometimes a drunk's pink elephants have been known to get rowdy."

"What are the terms of the ransom?" Scully asked, playing the video clip again. She noticed that some of objects behind the intruder were hazy, almost as if something was affecting the ability of the camera to view them properly.

Mulder punched it up and printed it out. "I'll give you the hard copy to read. I just got an email response from Skinner and we are cleared to move out this morning. Hope you didn't have a hot date tonight."

Scully read the note intently and answered Mulder absently. "Actually I did, Mulder. Are you sure we can't fly out tomorrow?" Scully didn't see the stunned look on her partner's face.

"I'm sure you can see the due date for the ransom as well as I can, Scully. It is two days from today. We need all the time we can get because the locals waited too long to call us in. Usually, the FBI ranks kidnapping cases a little higher than whatever boy toy you have on the hook. I'm sure he is a commoner just like the rest of us."

That got Scully's attention. "Boy toy? Really, Mulder."

He got up and grunted. "Do you have your go bag in the car?"

"We can't even stop at my apartment?" Scully was getting annoyed. "It's on the way to the airport."

"No time." Mulder said churlishly. "You can call your *date* in the car."

*A date*? He is having near nightly wet dreams because of that woman and she is just sauntering out on a date. Mulder was trying to control his temper, but he was glad he was ruining her time with Todd, Brent or Westley. Whatever his name was, he had no right to even talk to her.

They packed up their office equipment and Scully silently got the bag out of the trunk of her car. She wasn't speaking to him again. She was right, her apartment was on the way to the airport and the flight Skinner arranged didn't leave for three hours. They had time and if he didn't stop, she was going to be in a pissy mood for the rest of the trip.

"Our flight doesn't' leave for three hours. We can swing by your place." Mulder said as he pulled out of the parking garage.

"Thanks, Mulder." Scully didn't sound grateful. They drove in silence for a while, but he could feel her staring at him. "Mulder, you have been in a strange mood for the last three weeks. What is going on?"

"Nothing, Scully." Mulder answered quickly. He wondered if she had noticed. She had given him space to work it out and now she was calling him on it. Time to deflect the subject. "Why don't you call your date so you don't forget later?"

Scully was not deterred. "Wasn't the dinner with your old girlfriend about three weeks ago?"

Dammit. He knew he shouldn't have told her about Jenna. Now he has to explain (without explaining) that after seeing his beautiful, sexy and available ex-girlfriend that all he wanted was his beautiful, sexy and UNavailable partner. It crossed his mind that he might be in love with Scully, but with the nocturnal emissions going off like fireworks, it had to be just physical attraction—right? How can you spend days (and sometimes nights) with someone like her and not have your body respond? He isn't all dead or even mostly dead. There is a large part of him that's very much alive. Double Dammit.

"Scully, I don't accept your premise that I have been in a 'strange mood' and if I was, it had nothing to do with Jenna. We had a nice time." She continued to stare at him and said nothing. In a few moments, she faced front again and Mulder let out an internal sigh. He was sure she didn't accept his statement, but she wasn't going to pursue it—for now. That was good because she didn't want to kick over that rock.

They arrived at her apartment and Mulder found a parking space out front. Up to her floor and through the entrance, Mulder stepped into the world of Scully. He loved her place, it was so…homey. While his apartment was dark with secrets and conspiracies lurking around every corner, hers had warmth and light. Scully ran to her bedroom and he could hear her rustling around and then fleeing to the bathroom for her toiletries.

Mulder moseyed to the small desk by the window where there was a picture of her entire family, complete with deceased father and sister, another one of her nieces and nephews and there was one of him. Surprised, Mulder picked it up and saw it was a blown up candid shot of him squatting at a crime scene. He had his patented trench coat on and he was looking at the camera. He remembered when and where this was taken, it had to have been 3 years ago. People were seeing ghosts of former victims before they died and Scully saw one too even though she hid it from him until the end. It was when she was stricken with cancer. He almost lost her that year. There was something odd in the background and he pulled the photo close. Just barely visible was a shadow image of a 9 or 10 year old girl standing behind him. My god.

"You found it." Scully came up behind him. He whirled to see her, the shock evident on his face. "She was watching over you. There isn't' enough detail to be sure, but in my heart I know who this was. That's why I like this picture." She took it from him and placed it gently back on her desk. "I'm ready when you are, Mulder."

"You knew?" Mulder said quietly. "You knew my sister, Samantha, was dead three years ago?"

Scully shook her head. "No. I didn't *know*, not for sure, and even if she was—you deserved to find out what happened to her so it didn't change anything. Come on, we will miss our flight." She walked toward the door and Mulder followed in a daze.

Act II – Mawage is what brings us together today

Their plane landed in early afternoon. The duo rented a car and drove to the sleepy town of Florin, Maine enjoying the beautiful autumn colors that Maine provided. Mulder had vacationed in this part of the country with his family and the state can do Fall up right. The only other place that had such spectacular autumn color and natural beauty was Michigan. Growing up in Martha's Vineyard, Mulder was used to the sea and Maine was an ocean peninsula where Michigan was a fresh water one—six of one, half a dozen of the other. At least Lake Michigan didn't have any sharks.

Traveling through the town, the partners discovered they had just missed the town's Harvest Fest as banners and cornstalks were being put away. Mulder drove to the sheriff's office and they walked into a small building with a front desk and a couple of jail cells in plain view of the front door. The town of Florin, might be better called a village. There were only 1500 people that lived here and the one grocery store, post office and bar were all that were needed.

"Hi," Mulder said evenly. "We are looking for Sherriff Fezzer. We are from the FBI." Mulder almost wanted to say that they were from the government and here to help, but that wouldn't have been useful. It didn't take long to see who was in charge here. If they thought Walter Skinner was big, he had nothing on this brute.

Sherriff Fezzer was at least 6'6" tall and as broad as a barn (or at least a shed). His chest looked like he could hug a Volkswagen with room to spare. Scully stood her ground, but he could feel her apprehension. Hell, Mulder could feel his apprehension.

"I'm Sherriff Fezzer. Are you Agents Mulder and Scully?" His baritone probably registered on the Richter scale. Mulder tried not to squeak when he spoke.

"Yes. I'm Special Agent Fox Mulder and this is my partner, Special Agent Dana Scully. We are here about the Cole and Grost kidnappings."

"Good. Come with me and I'll brief you." The agents were eclipsed in the shadow of the beast, but they kept composed. They went into Fezzer's office and closed the door, motioning them to sit. The sheriff was blunt and wasted no time. "Peter Cole and Rod Grost are some of the biggest assholes in the town. They did everything to excess—drink, cheat, slack off—you name it. Out of all the fine people in Florin that folks would actually want back, I can't believe these schmucks were chosen to be kidnapped."

Scully was professional. "Do you have evidence that the kidnapping has been faked?"

The bear shook his head. "No, and that's why you are here. Just in case. You see, ma'am, Cole and Grost don't have any funds of their own. Their wives come from money and made the mistake of marrying their sorry asses. I think they are trying to "get" their share because they both signed pre-nuptial agreements and would get nothing in a divorce."

"That's a strong accusation." Mulder said. "Is that why you waited over a week to call in the FBI?"

"Nope. Didn't get the ransom note until 2 days ago." Fezzer shifted in the too small chair and it groaned painfully. Mulder thought it would be kind just to shoot it and put it out of its misery. The giant continued. "It was just a missing person case up until then and the wives and I assumed they wanted to cheat on them without an audience (this is real small town) and they would turn up eventually. Have you seen the ransom note?" The pair nodded. "What did you think of it?"

Mulder took the lead on this one. "It seemed strange that they asked for different amounts of money—like they knew the net worth of each woman and that supposedly one team of kidnappers asked to have the funds dropped in two different places. It doubles the risk. They didn't ask for small, non-sequential bills, not to call the police or many of the usual precautions."

Fezzer nodded. "Rod and Peter were never too bright." Fezzer stood up unexpectedly and the chair finally escaped and banged into the wall. Scully startled and leaned back to look at him. "I think that you would get a better sense of this if you talked to the wives. I'll bring the car around front if you want to ride with me." He strode out a back door and the vibrations were felt with each step on the wooden floor. Mulder couldn't help but think that somewhere in Maine, a seismologist was scratching his head.

The partners were alone and exchanged a brief incredulous look before they got up to go back to the front desk. When they opened the door, it was a din out there.

"Look, Dr. Vizzini, there is nothing we can do about those kids cutting through your back yard. We can talk to them, but it's not something we strictly enforce around here. Kids will be kids." The deputy was trying to be reasonable with a very odd man.

The strange man had poofy brown hair, a lab coat and something that looked suspiciously like a taser. The man was still arguing. "This is inconceivable! I want something done…" He puffed out his chest and waved the device around. "Or, I'll do it myself."

Mulder decided to intervene. "Dr. Vizzini?" The man's wild eyes swung to agent. "My name is Agent Mulder from the FBI. Is that a taser in your hand?"

"FBI?" Vizzini approached them taking great note of Scully. "Both of you are from the FBI?" Mulder nodded. "Well! I've finally got some action around here. Those darn kids keep trying to sneak down to my lab and I can't have that. I'm working on something special and can't give away those trade secrets now can we? It's my brains against the rest of the world!" He smiled goofily from one agent to the other.

Scully gave it the old college try. "Dr. Vizzini, we aren't here about your trespassing problem, we will let the local law enforcement handle that, but we are concerned that you may be holding a regulated weapon in your hand."

Vizzini looked down at the taser-like object. "Oh, this! It's not a taser." He looked Scully up and down. "You are a very lovely woman—are you married?"

"Doctor…" Scully said firmly.

"Of course, this is one of those stud measurement devices. I was making modifications to my laboratory when those urchins starting throwing rocks at my house again. They try to get me to come out so they can sneak down into the basement. Speaking of that, I would love to show you my lab sometime. It's quite…stimulating." Vizzini raised his eyebrows hopefully at Scully.

"We have more pressing work here, Doctor." Mulder added, trying not to throttle the peculiar man. His blatant advances toward Scully irritated him.

"Ah! The Cole and Grost kidnappings—of course!" Vizzini put a finger to his nose knowingly. "I talked to Amy and Jill. Those knuckle-draggers will be back when they run out of the money they won playing poker—don't worry. I'm sure the Neanderthals are perfectly fine. Such lovely ladies as Amy and Jill need a man of intellect to stimulate them properly. I'm sure you are the same way, Agent Scully. Your partner looks like he has more on bottom than on top. Once you go brains, you won't go back!"

Scully nearly laughed, but covered her mouth in time. Mulder had lost patience. "Unless you have pertinent information about the kidnapping, we have to be leaving, the sheriff is waiting."

"Yes, I'm sure that Sheriff Fezzer will do his best. Probably more suited for a wrestling ring, but he is a likeable fellow." Vizzini turned to Scully. "I live on Elm Lane, it the house at the end—you can't miss it. Come see me when Agent Mulder has bored you enough. Ciao!" The man flounced out leaving the agents and the deputy with stunned expressions.

"Is he always like this?" Mulder said to the deputy.

"I have no idea. Thankfully, I don't have to deal with him often. He and his wife keep to themselves."

"Wife?" Scully said shocked. "He didn't act like he had a wife."

The deputy shrugged. "He does. Nice enough lady, a bit of a wilted flower though." The deputy looked carefully around. "You didn't hear this from me, but the rumor is that Amy Cole and Jill Grost are being frequented by Dr. Vizzini and not for services of a medical nature—if you get my drift. They are just the latest in a string of 'attended' wives. It's a town scandal!"

Mulder latched on. "Do you think that the disappearance of the husbands had something to do with that?"

The deputy nodded. "Maybe. While Cole and Grost cat around, most of the time they return home that night. There was a big rumor that one of them came back and found his wife being raped by an invisible person! I'm not one to gossip, but I think it was that scientist. Who knows what he has been cooking up in that lab and the word is that he found the secret to invisibility!"

Scully covered her mouth again, but Mulder was interested. "Why do people think Dr. Vizzini can become invisible?"

"Something is going on in Florin, Agent Mulder. The deputy was now feeling important. "Things that the doctor needs, but can't pay for, go missing—right under the store owner's nose! Animals have been disappearing. People are bumping into things that aren't there. It's common knowledge that the doctor and those women were making it between the sheets. Cole threatened that if he ever came around again, he would kill him. Everyone knows about the security tape and no one can explain how Cole fought with an invisible man unless the rumors are true. If you can't find Cole and Grost—take a look at Dr. Vizzini. Maybe he made them disappear!"

A loud baritone ripped through the room like a fart in church. "Stop acting like a housewife, Lenny. Come on, Agents. I'll take you to the women." Mulder and Scully followed the Sherriff through the door.

Scully had to work at not viewing the characters in this town as handpicked straight out of central casting. The mountain of a sheriff, the gossiping deputy and the lustful local scientist have set the stage for an unusual case. Mulder looked on pointe and actually his face showed that he was taking a lot of this seriously. Scully will admit that the security footage tape was odd. With the deputy corroborating that some thought there was an invisibility serum, it had a touch of an X-file to it so maybe this wasn't a wasted trip. Scully hoped that they could get enough information from the wives to either find their 'missing' husbands or otherwise resolve the 'kidnapping'.

Sheriff Fezzer had Jill Grost come to Amy Cole's house for the interview. Mulder did most of the talking and found that their marriages were a sham and that while both spouses weren't happy about it, they ran around on each other frequently.

"Are either of you having a sexual relationship Dr. Vizzini?" Mulder asked brazenly. Jill Grost and Amy Cole's faces drained of color. The women glanced quickly at each other.

Amy Cole was the first to respond. Her voice was shaky, apparently not expecting a full frontal assault. "If I was, it would have nothing to do with the kidnapping of my husband."

"Unless, the doctor is a suspect." Scully responded stonily. The Cole woman gave her a withering stare.

"I'm sure Dr. Phil has nothing to do with this." Jill Grost replied. "Amy and I believe this is a shameless attempt to extort money and the sheriff agrees." Jill leaned forward and touched Mulder's arm. Scully heard the word 'tart' run through her mind at the contact. "Agent Mulder, our husbands are bums. Amy and I are cousins and our families own most of this town. We give our men an allowance and only ask that they stay out of trouble in return. They can't even do that right. We only brought in the Feds because if we were wrong, we didn't want to get in legal trouble by not looking for them."

"Do either of you intend to pay the ransom?" Scully interjected. Again, the women looked at each other.

Amy twisted her lips. "Jill and I haven't decided. We were hoping that you could just find them before the ransom was required. Agent Mulder," She crossed her legs provocatively and Scully was getting annoyed with this oversexed town. "Whether we pay the ransom or not, our husbands are going to jail for this boneheaded move. We will likely divorce them and move on. There are more fish in the sea." Jill stopped and smiled widely at Mulder. Scully tried not to roll her eyes. "Please make finding them your priority so we can end this ridiculousness and get back to our lives." And our adulterous sex… Scully added silently.

"Where should we start looking?" Mulder said equally exasperated.

"You could try their hunting cabin. The drop sites for the money are close by." Jill Grost offered.

Mulder stared at the sheriff in disbelief. That sounded like something he should have mentioned right away. "Did you search their cabin, sheriff?"

Fezzer looked uncomfortable. "Yes. It was the first place we looked when they went missing. It showed signs of recent habitation, but Peter and Rod are up there all the time. You have to understand, Agent Mulder that the cabin sits on a hill. The men could see us approaching from a quarter mile away. I don't have enough people to surround it so they could have easily escaped into the woods by the time we got there."

Mulder sighed heavily. He looked over at Scully who shrugged slightly. "Sheriff, you do have resources at your disposal. The State Police have men, helicopters and they have thermal imaging technology that can tell from more than a quarter mile away if there are two men in that cabin. Do you want to call them or should I?"

After making the arrangements for the State Police to bring in a helicopter and a few troops to investigate the cabin tomorrow, Mulder and Scully went to check in at the only motel in the area. It seemed like a decent place, not the usual rat traps they stayed in. No rodents of unusual size here, but there also were no connecting rooms. They were across from each other and that was fine. Mulder and Scully agreed to relax for an hour, digest the information and then meet at 5pm for a strategy session.

Scully was generally disappointed in the case. What started out as a real kidnapping has turned into a joke. Scully hated drama and this case dripped with it. To these people, marriage had no meaning. Forget invisibility serums, UFOs and countless other unexplained phenomena—maybe the real X-file is the existence of true love. Wouldn't that be the kicker?

Mulder knocked on her door around 5pm and they talked about the case. Both agreed it was highly unlikely that Peter Cole and Rod Grost were really kidnapped. However, they had to follow protocol and do it by the book. Fine. What was interesting was Mulder's take on the scientist.

"It think we should take him up on his generous invitation to see his laboratory, Scully. I think something is going on in this town. It may not be the kidnapping, but I think there is an X-file here." Mulder was pacing around the room.

"I'm not opposed." Scully heard herself say although a soak in a bathtub with rose scented bubble bath was sounding better by the second. "There isn't much to this case and a little excitement—or at least amusement would be nice." Scully wasn't going to say anything, but she was bored. "Those women wouldn't mind a personalized visit from you tonight based on their flirtations. I thought that Jill Grost was going to do a Sharon Stone imitation.

"Not interested." Mulder said blankly.

Scully was intrigued. "Why not?"

Mulder was being unusually candid. "I don't want just sex anymore."

"Anymore? I'm glad you have been getting some." Scully scoffed.

"I haven't. Not with a partner. These wives cheated on their husbands and the husbands on their wives. What is the purpose of sex if it isn't with someone you love?"

Scully was fascinated. "Some will say it's a pleasurable activity and good exercise." Scully paused and looked at him curiously. "Are you considering finding a serious relationship, Mulder? This is new." She always assumed that Mulder never wanted something long term because it would get in the way of his quest.

Mulder turned to her and his expression was unreadable. "What I want—I can't have."

Scully glommed onto that. "What do you want, Mulder?" She saw him struggling with an answer and then deciding to project an expressionless mask. That was interesting. She would love to be the fly on the wall in his mind.

"I'm not sure it matters as it's out of my control anyway." He looked directly at her and Scully felt the gravity of the moment. "What I want is a connection that is part physical and part spiritual. Something real and everlasting."

"Sounds like you are looking for true love, Mulder. Aren't we all?"

"Are you, Scully?" Mulder's eyes haven't left hers and Scully was starting to feel flayed and exposed.

"I suppose so." Scully turned away from him. She didn't want him to read her any more than he already could. "True love doesn't happen to everyone. If it did, it wouldn't be so special. Most humans live their lives without finding it, but they still manage to have a fulfilling existence."

"What would you do if you found it?" Mulder was still staring at her, she could sense it.

Scully refused to turn around. "I would grab it and not let go." Mulder had walked closer to her and she could feel his body heat.

"Would you sacrifice everything for it?" His voice was low and close to her ear.

"Everything is a big word, but I would like to think so." Scully had to turn the tables. "How about you, Mulder?"

He sighed. "I've been asking myself that question for a while. I don't know the answer to that. Like you said, most people live decent lives without it."

Scully turned around and finally looked at her partner. "If it were me, I wouldn't dwell on a question that doesn't need to be answered. Do you want to get some dinner?"

Mulder's face was dead pan. "Sure, Scully. Let's go."

Act III – The Man in Black

Mulder woodenly ate his burger in the only Florin bar/restaurant with Scully sitting quietly across from him. He didn't like the way the conversation ended at the hotel with Scully basically blowing him off. He didn't know what he felt for her, but it Mulder was sure it was something that he hadn't felt for anyone else. Frankly it scared him—especially if she didn't feel the same way. She had a date that she had to cancel, that stupid scientist was trying to pick her up…she was a desirable woman. His own dreams testified to that. Mulder understood that fear was the reason why he never pursued Scully. If she rejected him, there wouldn't be anything left of his self-esteem to salvage. It would be worse if they started a relationship and then it ended. He could never recover because she would leave him.

He was going to have to accept that his fantasies were as close as he was going to get to her and that realization actually caused something that felt like physical pain this time. He wanted more, but had no way to get it. It was starting to depress him.

"You've been quiet, Mulder." Scully said scooping in salad. "Still thinking about the esoteric?"

Mulder picked at his fries. "Something like that."

Scully tried to catch his eye. "Hey, this is really bothering you, isn't it?"

"Drop it, Scully." Mulder said with finality. He saw her eyebrows go up—both of them.

"I'm sorry, Mulder. I wasn't making fun. Everyone deserves to find The One. I just didn't know you were looking for a mate. I thought that your quest for the Truth was the most important thing in your life and that was your true love."

Mulder looked sharply up at that statement and stared hard at her. "Do you really believe that?" Scully nodded. He stood up abruptly, threw some money on the table and the keys to the rental car. I'm going back to walk back to the hotel. It isn't that far. See you in the morning, Scully." Mulder had to get out of there before he made a bigger fool of himself.

It was dark and Florin didn't have a lot of street lights. It was true that the hotel wasn't far and the crisp night air was feeling good. Mulder tried not to dwell on Scully, but she invaded his thoughts again. Apparently, she didn't expect him to have natural desires for a companion—someone to love. Shit. This is probably why she stays so far away from him. She thinks she's married to his work and unavailable. All this time he thought Scully was the unapproachable one.

He was so caught up in his own thoughts that he didn't hear the men come up behind him. One sucker punched him and by the time he whirled around the other two were on him. Mulder fought back and managed to do some damage to one of them, but he was handily outnumbered and the surprise attack had him off kilter. Suddenly, there was another man who started pulling off the assailants. Mulder managed to defeat the one still on him and when that attacker saw what the other guy was doing to his friends, he fled.

Mulder staggered to see if his champion needed help, but he didn't. The man knew martial arts and was kicking serious ass. Soon, the attackers scrambled away and ran for their very lives. Mulder was in awe. "Thanks!" He said to the man. "I had no idea why they were after me and they caught me by surprise."

"You would think an FBI man would be more careful." The man said stepping into the light so Mulder could see his face.

The Hispanic man was about Mulder's age with thin, well-trimmed facial hair and a stocky build. Mulder was embarrassed. "You're right, I wasn't paying attention. Thanks again for your help. What is your name and how did you know I was FBI?"

"My name is Manuel and I followed the men from that bar that were following you. They were after you because they were drunk and thought it would be cool to beat up a Fed." He paused. "You were probably distracted by that delicious red-head. Is she your partner?"

Mulder tensed. "Is she going to be okay?"

"I think so, but we might want to go back to make sure. She seemed upset when you left." Manuel started walking back to the bar.

Mulder fell into step with him. "Cool moves. Did you study?"

Manuel smiled. "Yes. I've been studying since I was small. I watched my dad get killed by a gang of punks and I decided I wasn't going to let that happen to me or anyone I cared about."

"I appreciate you using your skill on someone you didn't know." Mulder said as they walked down the road.

"Having an FBI man injured in our town will not be good for any of us. Besides, you looked like you could use a break. I heard you are working on the kidnapping case."


"Cole and Grost aren't kidnapped, but you know that—right?"

"Gotta wait for the evidence, man. Law enforcement aren't allowed to make assumptions." Mulder watched as a muscle car passed them. It was a beautiful orange Dodge Charger.

They walked in silence for a while. Manuel looked over at him. "Not that I was trying to listen, but I overheard you say your true love was your work."

Mulder was grim. "No, my partner said that."

"Exactly. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that you have feelings for her. Take some unsolicited advice from my sainted mother. She said, 'Manny, a woman is like God in that if you don't give her room in your heart, she won't come in and if you don't worship her, she will leave'. My mom was a big Catholic." Manuel smiled at the memory. "I used to be consumed by my quest to avenge my father. I lost the love of many good women because of that. I have a feeling that if you lost this woman, you would be losing something very special. That's all I've got to say."

They reached the bar and Scully was just coming out. She took one look at Mulder's dirty and ripped clothes, the cut on his face then went into doctor mode. "Mulder? What happened?" She ran up to him and started feeling his face and head for injuries.

"I'm okay, Scully." Mulder said indulgently and lowered her hands from his face. "Meet Manuel. He fought off three guys that tried to beat me up on the road."

Manuel took her hand and bowed over it. "Usted es tan bella como usted es caliente. I just helped ma'am."

Scully pulled a wry smile. "I do speak a little Spanish, Manuel. Thank you and…thank you for helping my partner."

"El gusto es mio. We just wanted to be sure you were alright. I'll be getting home now. Have fun storming the castle." Manuel turned away, but Mulder caught his arm and warmly shook his hand. The man tapped him on the shoulder and walked off into the night.

"Mulder?" Scully looked at him with compassion and touched his face gently. It felt like a warm rain over his soul. "Please come back with me." Mulder nodded and got in the passenger's seat without complaint. Scully rarely drove and Mulder was enjoying being babied. He knew that when they got back to the hotel, she would insist on seeing to his injuries. Her small, soft hands would touch him, treat his wounds and then she would tell him how silly it was to do what he did. During all of that, he would feel her love shining through and it would be enough. Idly, Mulder wondered if that was why he got injured so much. Maybe it was his subconscious at work.

The next day could have been written in a cheap airport novel (and probably was). At 6am, the State Police brought in their equipment, including helicopter and infrared device, then flew up to the cabin. Sheriff Fezzer and his two deputies stayed below until it was confirmed that two heat signatures were found. The State Troopers performed very delicate fuckery and were much better than the Florin crew in formulating a plan and securing the area.

State, Feds and Fezzer's men surrounded the cabin while the two men were sleeping and took them by surprise. It wouldn't have mattered if they had escaped as the helicopter was watching the whole thing. When they rushed out, Peter Cole and Rod Grost were captured, the cabin searched and charges were filed for faking a kidnapping and attempted extortion. As predicted, they landed in jail, but graciously, the State Police took the wayward husbands into custody instead of making Mulder and Scully escort them to a federal detention center. Kidnapping was a federal crime and the false report was federal territory. Aside from signing some prisoner transfer paperwork and the report due to their boss, Mulder and Scully's part was over. It was an anti-climactic end that left everyone limp.

Thankfully no one asked where Mulder had gotten the cut above his eye and he wasn't telling. They were finished with all the basics by 2pm. The partners had a choice and Mulder pulled his puppy dog look to entice Scully to visit the horny professor. Mulder could tell she was curious too and they found themselves at the end of Elm Lane staring at a large house with white aluminum siding and a well-kept yard with flowers, bushes and a few ornamental trees.

Mulder was feeling almost back to normal having been pampered by Scully and finally wrapping up the 'kidnapping' case. He boldly walked up to the front door and rang the bell. "Watch this, Scully. A Frankenstein monster will come out and take our coats and hats."

"We don't have hats, Mulder." Scully said trying to keep her face straight. Mulder could tell she was feeling less on edge. Maybe, last night's ministrations gave her a boost too.

The door was opened, not by Frankenstein's monster, but by a small, mousy woman with wilted brown hair and a simple frock. Mulder wasn't sure he had ever used the word 'frock' in describing any clothing, but that's what it was.

"Hello," Mulder said, pouring on the charm. "We are here to see Dr. Vizzini. Is he available?"

The mouse didn't look up very far. She might as gotten as far as Mulder's tie knot. She refused to look at Scully at all. "Whom may I say is calling?" She sounded like a recording.

"Agents Mulder and Scully. We are from the FBI." The woman jumped. Mulder held out a hand. "The doctor isn't in trouble. He invited Agent Scully to tour his lab and since we will be leaving soon, we decided to take him up on his offer. Please tell him Agent Scully asked to come."

Scully gave Mulder a quick glance, but didn't say anything. Yeah, he was being a jerk again. It's all for a good cause. If this was a genuine X-file, then Scully was the ticket in. The mouse finally looked up at both of them, lingered on Mulder then gave a quick, sharp glance to Scully. "Wait here." She disappeared.

"Mulder!" Scully hissed. "That is the wife that Vizzini is running around on! I don't think…"

The woman returned very quickly. "Please come in. May I take your coats?" Both agents gave up their outer garments. "Follow me, please." The mouse kept her head down and Mulder grabbed Scully to keep from trying to touch the woman.

"What is your name?" Scully tried and was met with dead silence. She lifted an eyebrow at Mulder who just shrugged. After many twists, turns and stairs, they reached a fire door that had a key pad attached. The mouse spoke.

"Husband, the guests are here."

The light turned green on the pad and she opened the heavy door. The group entered a certified laboratory. It had gizmos, flasks, coils, electronic machines and the requisite—mad scientist. Mulder was good at preparing his face. He did it all the time with Scully. The shock of Dr. Vizzini's hair in a uncontrolled and 'excited' fashion with the white lab coat, thick black gloves and holding the fizzing vial of unidentified green substance was classic. Mulder almost lost it. What changed his mood was the predatory look that came over the doctor's face when he saw Scully. It began to dawn on him that this may have been a bad idea.

"Agent Scully!" Dr. Vizzini put down his 'experiment' and removed his gloves. "What a pleasure." He reached Scully and took her unoffered hand. "I'm glad your meathead partner let you come." He pulled Scully away from Mulder's side gently and circled an arm about her. "I can't wait to take you on a tour."

Scully recovered enough to stop him. "I'm glad we could see your lab, but my partner, Agent Mulder, is interested too. Besides, you haven't introduced us to your wife."

Mulder inwardly grinned. Scully wasn't a pushover and he was feeling sorry for the wilted thing that stood off to the side while her husband embarrassed her. He would never do that to Scully, but then he remembered a few times he did. Shit. He was a jerk. No wonder…

Dr. Vizzini sniffed loudly. "Her name is Kerri and I'm sure you will see more of her later. This way, my dear…"

Scully twisted away from him and went to shake Kerri's hand. The woman shrunk back. She tried anyway. "I'm pleased to meet you Kerri. I'm Dr. Dana Scully. This is my partner, Dr. Fox Mulder. We are agents in the FBI, like we mentioned before."

Mulder enjoyed the blanched face of the superior man, Dr. Vizzini, when Scully introduced him as a doctor. He was one, having a PhD in Psychology from Oxford. *Eat those credentials weirdo boy*.

"Dana," Vizzini cooed. "I had no idea you were that learned. I'm sure you will appreciate this experiment over here much more than the rest…" Vizzini tried to steer her away and luckily Scully saw his signal to leave him alone with Kerri. She left with the lecherous doctor and Mulder was hoping she could hold out a few minutes while he found out what was going on with the wife. Mulder focused.

"Hi, my name is Fox and I love your yard. It reminded me of my parents' home in Massachusetts. My mother grew a lot of things when I was young. What kind of plants do you have?"

The Kerri mouse finally met his eyes. "Your mother?"

Mulder smiled at her. "Yes. I have fond memories." It was a small white lie, but he was rewarded with a shy smile from the woman.

"I grow lots of things. Herbs and fruit and…flowers. I especially like buttercups, but they are supposed to only bloom in the spring." Kerri stood up straighter. "However, I can make them bloom all year round." Mulder could tell she was proud of this.

"That's amazing. I can't keep my fish alive. It's probably all the travelling I do. A plant might fare better. What do you recommend?"

"Any fichus is a good training plant. You look like someone that needs something to come home to. Plants can be quite comforting." Kerri was smiling fully at him now. He's made contact.

"Kerri, how long have you been married? Any children?" Mulder decided to hit hard. Lab boy was due back any second.

The woman wilted again. "Phil and I have been married for 10 years. No children, though I want some. Phil said he will let me know when he is ready."

Mulder felt for her. "Kerri, I like you. You seem like a sweet woman. In case we don't get to talk again, here is my card." Mulder handed her his office card. "If you need anything or feel like making a new start, come see me. I know people that can help." It wasn't a second too soon. Vizzini came back around the corner and Kerri had just hidden his card. Mulder was a little uncomfortable when she stuck it in her bra, but he saw why-later. Scully looked a little worse for wear, but Mulder trusted that she knew it was for a good cause.

Vizzini had a sour look on his face when he saw them. "Ah, Kerri and Agent Mulder. I trust you two have behaved yourselves?" Vizzini grabbed his wife and went through her pockets trying to be surreptitious. Really? I'm standing right here! The bra turned out to be a good idea. "Ok. I've showed Agent Scully the sights and sounds of my laboratory. What do you think, Agent Mulder? Don't hurt yourself too much trying to grasp the complexities."

Mulder had made his decision on the human worth of the doctor. Scully's immediate gravitation to his side and Kerri's abject fear of her husband, solidified it. The man was a cretin. There was no point in saving any hurt feelings. "Well, from what limited tour I was 'given', you have an unusual set up. I do have a few questions though. There have been some reports of invisible people in Florin. In fact, one of the alleged kidnapping victims was caught on tape struggling with one. Do you know anything about that or have any experiments that could be used for that purpose?"

Kerri looked sharply at her husband and then lowered her eyes again. Mulder caught the movement, but continued to stare at the scientist.

Vizzini shrugged. "I work on a lot of things here. It is conceivable that I've dabbled in something like that, but if I was able to pull that off successfully, would I still be working out of my basement? I would have a professional lab and financial backers—don't you think? The people in this town are notorious gossips. The more wild the tale, the more apt they are to spread it. I'm sure that tape was doctored to fool the sheep."

"How do you support your work, Dr. Vizzini?" Mulder got to the point.

The scientist colored. "I have some personal funds."

Scully found her voice. "Doctor, you mentioned that your degree is in Physics. What university did you receive your doctorate from?"

Vizzini turned even redder. "It was so long ago." He sniffed. "I'm getting the impression that my generous offer to tour my lab is turning into an interrogation session by the Federal government. Is there something in particular you are accusing me of, Agent Mulder?"

Mulder shook his head. "You aren't under investigation—right now. I just had a personal theory. Would you like to hear it?" Mulder paused and when there was no objection, continued. "I think that you do have a process to become invisible and have been using around town for some time. I also believe that you have used this ability to visit some of the homes in the area and that Cole caught you coming out of his, resulting in the security footage. I also think that whatever this process is may border on illegal or dangerous so you are unable to take your findings to the legitimate scientific community—not to mention that you lack the educational background to have standing. My professional theory, as a PhD in Psychology from Oxford, is that your air of superiority masks a life of fraud and deep insecurity. You make up for that by belittling everyone around you and cheating on your wife." Mulder put his hands in his pockets. "How am I doing with my theories, doctor?"

Vizzini's voice was low and deadly. "Get out."

Mulder guided Scully toward the laboratory door. "With pleasure." They climbed to the main floor and headed for the front door. Mulder saw Kerri watching them carefully. When she handed them their coats, Kerri looked Mulder in the eye. Quite a change from the mouse that answered the door. Mulder felt that he gave the woman some options she didn't have before. It was up to her to take them.

Scully was staring at him as they got in the car. Their plane was leaving in four hours and they still had to pack up at the hotel. "Yes, Scully? Did you want to say something?"

"You are a piece of work, Mulder."

He didn't look at her, but he could hear the pleasure in her voice. "I hope you mean that in a good way."

"Mulder, do you realize that after your 'assessment' we will never get access to that man without a search warrant? If you wanted to prove your invisibility theory, you won't be able to now."

"Not necessarily, Scully." Mulder pulled into the hotel driveway. "If Skinner approves another trip back here, we simply wait outside the wife of the week's house and trap him. Hauling an invisible scientist in front of a judge will be enough for a search warrant."

Scully chuckled. "Do you think that Skinner will let us come back here?"

"Maybe." Mulder glanced at his partner. "What did he say to you while I was talking to Kerri?"

"I spent most of the time keeping his hands off of me. He is a complete letch, Mulder. If I didn't feel sorry for his wife, I wouldn't have tolerated it."

"I know. Thanks. Kerri Vizzini isn't as cowed as she appears. I think in the right environment that she will bounce right back. I gave her my card and told her that I'd help if she wanted to change her circumstances."

"That was nice of you. Let's pack and make our plane. We still have our final report to do." Scully sighed heavily.

Mulder considered her. "Don't I owe you dinner?"

Scully smirked as she opened the car door. "Yep! I won't let you forget it either. The place will have, at minimum, cloth napkins."

"I'm not always cheap, Scully."

"I didn't say you were, but often your idea of dinner and mine differ greatly. You consider eating at a hot dog cart—dinner."

Mulder remembered what Manuel said about women. He needed to prove to Scully that he enjoyed other things in life and there was room for her. He would take Scully out to wine and dine her. Dinner, dancing, champagne—the works. Then he will 'accidentally' kiss her and see what develops. A brilliant plan if he said so himself.

"Ok. You made your point. No hot dog carts. How about we go out Saturday night and I'll guarantee you will have a great time. Dress up and the rest will be a surprise." Mulder watched her stop and turn to him.

"Are you serious about this?" Scully was skeptical.

Mulder put his hand on his chest. "As serious as a heart attack. Trust me."

Scully gave him a wide smile. Mulder felt his heart flip. If he knew that was all it took… "I trust you, Mulder. It's a date."

*A date…Wow*

Act IV – The Pursuit into Guilder

It took them longer to get back to Washington DC as their flight was delayed due to a weight inconsistency with the luggage, but they finally made it. Mulder and Scully went their separate ways. Scully said something about finally getting her bubble bath and Mulder had plans to make and only three days to get them done. He couldn't believe how excited he was. Scully was giving him a chance, but she didn't know what that meant to him. Scully assumed it was an opportunity for Mulder to show that he had basic social skills in a classy setting, but to him it was a test to see if he could hold her interest outside of work.

Scully had asked about his childhood before and Mulder always gave some vague answer about growing up on Martha's Vineyard and having a summer cottage. She knew that his parents were part of the upper crust social scene, but Mulder wondered if she realized that it meant so was he. There were the endless cotillions, parties and events that required the use the correct fork, the ability to make witty conversation and—dancing skills. Mulder was a good dancer and he couldn't wait to show Scully his moves—especially the final one when he gets to really taste those soft lips of hers.

Lust ripped through him as he thought of how she would taste and feel. He rewound the custom tape and began to watch it from the beginning. A tall brown haired man and short red-headed woman walked into an office that eerily looked like the basement X-files office in the Hoover Bldg. They were dressed in business attire and soft music played in the background. Mulder specifically asked that there would be no dialog so that he could make up his own in his mind.

Both people sat at their desks and appeared to start working, but the man gets up and comes over to the woman and starts nibbling on her neck. He then grabs her breasts and she leans back into him and they kiss. The man pulls her out of the chair, removes her jacket and starts unbuttoning her blouse. The woman is working on the man at the same time, but she only gets his shirt unbuttoned. Mulder requested that the man leave most of his clothes on. He wanted the woman to be the star of the show.

The blouse comes off and the pale redhead has on a black lace bra. The skirt is next and when that is removed, she is wearing black lace garters with black sheer stockings and bright red fuck-me pumps. The man roughly grabs her and they kiss for a long time while he runs his hands all over her, then the good stuff happens. He spins her around, pushes her down on the desk so that her hands are flat and her red hair spills all over the dark wood. Her gorgeous rump is high in the air and the man opens his pants, reveals his large cock and pushes right into her. She moans and gasps at the invasion and he starts to fuck her. Mulder has his cock out and is strumming to the beat. Sometimes it is almost as if he could feel Scully, his imagination was so strong.

The scene goes on for 20 minutes with several positions including him lifting her up and removing her bra so her breasts swing free. Then at the end, she gets on her knees and sucks him off with the cream pie scene of him shooting all over her breasts. *Wow*

The final scene is them getting dressed, sharing a warm hug, a few kisses and then sitting back down at their desks as if nothing happened. They accomplish this right before a man that suspiciously looked like Walter Skinner comes through the door to give them some paperwork. The man and woman look knowingly between each other and the boss just scratches his head. The end. Mulder had already gotten off earlier in the show, but he watched the whole thing. He loved the ending. If he and Scully ever have a relationship, Skinner would be the last one to know.

Mulder made some calls to the restaurant and a few other places before turning around and bumping into something. The strange thing about that is…nothing was there. He immediately put out his hands to see if he would hit something else, but he came up empty. Shrugging it off, he made himself a MLT sandwich (mutton, lettuce and tomato) where the mutton was really lean and the tomato very ripe. It's the next best thing to true love. He changed and went to sleep. Tomorrow was one day closer to a date with *her*.

Mulder woke the next day feeling strange. His dreams were sexual, as usual, but he didn't wake up needing tissues and he didn't dream of Scully. He dreamt that a ghost came to him in the night and gave him a blow job. It touched his body and even kissed him. It was a little rattling, but Mulder was sure that it was an unconscious remnant of the trip to Maine and the weird pseudo-scientist Vizzini. He did intend to ask Skinner to go back and investigate, but he wasn't holding out much hope for that approval.

He reached the office first and put the mocha latte with extra whipped cream on Scully's desk. He just felt like doing something nice for her. Of course, he wouldn't be himself if that was the only reason. Part of it was the guilt he felt for dreaming about someone else last night, but the rest was altruistic. A few minutes later, when Scully breezed in, he offered her a wide smile.

"Hello Sunshine. Sleep well?"

Scully looked at the coffee and Mulder grinning at her. "Chupacabra sighting?"

"I just wanted to be nice. We are on report duty this morning, remember?" Mulder was pleased as he watched Scully try not to smile.

"Sometimes I don't know what to make of you."

"Your lines are: 'Thank you, Mulder.' 'That was sweet, Mulder.' 'You are a prince among men, Mulder.'" That actually earned him a grin and a chuckle.

"Thank you, Mulder." Scully said. "I would have thought such consideration from you was inconceivable."

"I don't think that word means what you think it means." Mulder got up and lumped down some of the kidnapping reports from the local and state authorities on her desk. "I'll work on the witness testimony, you have the official ones."

Scully was surly again. "Alright. Hey!" She jumped back as the latte leaped up and almost hit her, but got the paperwork instead.

"You should be more careful, Scully. That won't scan with dark coffee stains on them. We will have to get new copies."

Scully stared at him. "I didn't knock it over, Mulder. The cup nearly flew and its aim was for me, not the paperwork." She got paper towel and was trying to sop it up. When she went to throw them away, Scully tripped and fell sprawling onto the floor. "Ugh!" She had landed in the rest of the coffee spill and her skirt was ruined.

Mulder immediately came over to help her. He saw her stunned face and offered an arm. "Scully! You are not usually this clumsy."

"I know. I tripped over something." She grabbed Mulder's arm and he helped her up. "Look at my skirt! I haven't refilled my go bag and all I have here are workout clothes. I'm going to have to go home, Mulder, I'll do the paperwork from there."

Mulder was getting suspicious. "Wait. I'll come with you. Just let me stop at my place for a few things." This makes twice that one of them bumped into something that wasn't there. When the coffee missed Scully the first time, she was tripped and stained her clothes so she is now forced to go home. Hmmmm…. If he had to guess, it looked to be done on purpose and the only person that could have pulled that off is the invisible fiend from Florin.

Ignoring the obvious question of how he got here, who is the target? Dr. Vizzini could be trying to get Scully alone so he could assault her or is the scientist could be looking for a way to hurt him without an audience after Mulder called him out yesterday. Either way, Mulder had no intention of leaving Scully alone.

She was packing up her laptop and files, but stopped to goggle at Mulder because he was swinging a yardstick around the room. "Mulder? If you want to measure the room, you have to put it against a flat surface."

"I think Dr. Vizzini is here in this office and I think he was in my apartment last night too."

"What?" Scully looked around the room. "That's a major leap of logic. I tripped, Mulder. Besides, how did he get here so quickly? We just came back from Maine last night. Even if he took the next plane out, how does he know where your apartment is? Mulder, I can understand that you might be paranoid about the concept of invisible people, but it is highly unlikely that he would care enough to follow us to DC."

Mulder continued to swing the stick. "Something's wrong, Scully. I don't want you alone."

She sighed. "I have to get out of these clothes, Mulder. Come on before you hurt yourself."

Mulder put the stick down. "I'll drive."

Mulder stopped by his apartment and convinced Scully to come up with him while he grabbed some clothes of his own. He unlocked the door and tried to pull Scully quickly through, but the door caught her shoulder.

"Ow! Mulder, calm down!" Scully rubbed herself absently after he yanked her inside and slammed the door.

"Stay here while I get my stuff." Mulder ran into his bedroom and quickly gathered a suit for tomorrow and some night clothes. He was only gone about 10 minutes, but when he came out, he was horrified. Scully was right where he left her, but blaring on the TV was the custom video apparently wound to the beginning and just starting in on the good stuff. Black lace was everywhere.

Mulder desperately wanted to sink through the floor. He never intended her to see this and it's going to be very hard to explain. He nearly cringed when Scully turned to him speechless.

"Mulder?" Her voice sounded small.

"Uh…That's a long story, Scully." Mulder hastily ran over and turned it off. He was about to launch into his sorry-ass excuse when a thought occurred to him. "Scully, did you turn on the TV and VCR?"

"No, it came on by itself. I assumed you had it on some sort of timer. Can you explain…?"

Mulder was worried, but for a different reason. Vizzini was here. He probably snuck in when the door stuck on Scully's shoulder. He wanted her to see this so it would damage their relationship. "I can't explain right now. He's here."

"Vizzini?" Scully crossed her arms. "Are you telling me that he turned on the machines?"

"Yes. He wanted you to see that." Mulder knew there were too many places to hide in his apartment for him to find the scientist, but he was going to get him eventually. He had to have been riding with them in the car. If he can control that, then he would have no way to get to Scully's apartment.

"Let's go, Scully." She started to say something pointing at the TV, but he cut her off. "I promise I'll explain later. We need to go now." Scully shut her mouth and walked out with him.

They went down to the car and Mulder pressed the button to unlock the car. He opened the trunk and swept around in there before putting his clothes inside. He walked around to see Scully getting in the car and then he got in. He leaned back and swept the backseat. Nothing. Alright. He tried to ignore Scully's baffled stare.

"Are you okay, Mulder? You are starting to worry me." Scully said it softly, almost as if she didn't want to excite him further.

"I'm fine. I think we lost him." Mulder pulled away from the curb and didn't notice the trunk open and close quickly before he left. When they got to Scully's place, Mulder pulled out all of their bags and they went up to her apartment. He kept frequently turning around, but nothing was there. They went inside and Mulder tried to block the entrance so nothing could get past him while he wrestled with the bags.

"Really, Mulder." Scully went to help him, opening the door wide.

"No!" Mulder said, but it was too late. "You might have let him in!"

"I thought you said we lost him back at your place." Scully was exasperated. "Look, Mulder. We have work to do. Let's get the report done and then we can discuss your…entertainment choices later. I'm going to change."

That hurt, but he couldn't blame her. He was caught red-handed (or red-fisted) and he was going to make Vizzini pay for this. He put the bags down and when Scully came back out dressed in a long sweater and leggings, he ignored the delicate curve of her legs and started up his laptop. She went to hers. For the next 2 hours the partners said little to each other as they typed. It was quiet in her apartment and Mulder kept glancing at her to gauge her mood and got no clues. Scully finished hers first and stood up.

"Do you want some tea or coffee, Mulder?"

"Yeah. Whatever you are drinking is fine." Mulder really wanted some knock-out drops so he didn't have to answer any future questions, but that would violate the Bureau drug policy.

Scully brought out the tea and placed it next to Mulder. She looked over his shoulder at his work. This was normal behavior for her, but the memory of the man in the video coming up to the redhead was forefront in his mind. She sensed it too and backed away. Damn. He has got to resolve this.

"Done!" Mulder said and emailed his section with a flourish. "Let's read and see if any tweaks are needed." The agents did so on their respective devices and after a brief discussion about leaving the punk street attack out, they agreed and sent it off to Skinner. It was the moment of truth.

"Do you want to order any food? I could make some pasta." Scully said gathering up the cups.

"No." Mulder said. "I doubt I'll feel like eating." He waited until she came back in the room. "I'm sorry, Scully. I didn't know what else to do."

Scully leaned against the wall. "Mulder, that was *us* in that video. The woman was short and a redhead, the man was tall and dark. It was our basement office complete with the 'I Want to Believe' poster! Why?"

Mulder decided to be honest. "Because I wanted you." He stood and paced. "I dream about you almost every night. I see you every day, smell the essence that is Scully and I'm affected. I know you don't feel the same about me and I know I can't act on this, but it's there and I had to find a way to deal with it so our partnership would be preserved. I'm sorry you saw that. I never meant for you to know about it."

She shook her head. "Did it ever occur to you to talk to me about this?"

"Yes, for about 2 seconds. You are pissed at me most of the time, you are going out on dates. I have nothing to offer you and we are partners. It will never happen."

Scully approached him and looked him in the eye. "This is what you wanted and couldn't have. This is what is out of your control."

"Yes." Mulder didn't elaborate. "Please forgive me, Scully. Don't leave."

"I can't leave you." Scully laughed. "I could never leave you. I love you, Mulder."

Mulder raised his head. "What?"

Scully took his hands in hers. "What we have is special. I believe that you love me and I love you. I'm here to support you on your quest. I won't deny that you are a beautiful man and I would be dead to say I'm not attracted to you, but…"

"But what, Scully."

"Lust is one thing. I get it. The video was a shock, but I would be lying if I said it hadn't crossed my mind a time or two. I just think we work better as friends. I will never expect you to choose between me and your search for the Truth. That wouldn't be fair."

Mulder sat heavily down on the couch. She loved him enough to let him pursue his quest and she was standing right beside. My god, how blind could he be? "You think my true love is the Truth. That's there is no room for you."

Scully sighed. "Mulder, you are a man that has deep emotions and loyalties. This is going to sound like a rejection, but I assure you it's not. I would rather be 100% as your friend than 25% as your lover. I can't compete with your journey and I've stopped trying. You have my complete allegiance and I'll be right by your side."

"But you won't be my lover."

"You can only have one true love—Mulder. I'm not it." Scully sounded sad, but she was brave.

Mulder was shocked at her honesty. "I want you to be….I thought you were…I thought you *are*."

Scully kissed him on the forehead. "Just remember that I do love you. Enjoy your video and know I'm okay with it."

Mulder felt like his heart had been ripped from his body. She was sending him away into exile. Even if she was right by his side, she will not let him into her heart. Manuel was right. Scully has room requirements. She will not be satisfied with a corner and he has not offered anything more. This is all his fault.

"What if I want more, Scully? What if this isn't good enough?"

Scully looked at his and he could see her sadness. It was rare when she allowed him to read her so clearly. "Mulder, humans can have fulfilling lives without having it all. I've accepted that."

Mulder could hear the unspoken words…*Maybe you should too*.

"Alright, Scully." It was all he could think to say. What he wanted to do was throw himself off the balcony. He was granted an opportunity to have real love—true love, and he blew it. There may not be another chance. That kiss he was planning Saturday night, seemed like sacrilege now. Mulder didn't think anything could hurt this bad—but it did.

Act V – Miracles to the Max

Scully ended up ordering Italian and they watched the Nicks game. She had opened a bottle of red wine and Mulder was enjoying the athletic moves and making appropriate (and inappropriate) comments about the history and parental lineage of some of the players. Neither one saw the invisible competitor in the room drop a liquid into Scully's wine glass. However, when she took her next sip, she reacted instantly.

"Aargh! That tastes awful!" She began to gag.

"Scully?" Mulder was grabbing her arms that were clawing at her throat.

"Call 911, Mulder! I'm having an allergic…Cough, Cough"

Mulder dialed immediately, gave the information and went back to her. Scully had fallen on the couch and was unresponsive. Whatever it was, it acted quickly. Soon, there was a small trickle of blood coming from her mouth and Mulder started to panic. "No!" Mulder gathered her in his arms. "No, Scully—please!" He looked around the room. "Vizzini! She had better live through this or there won't be a place on this planet that you can hide—I PROMISE YOU!" A few minutes later the paramedics arrived to take her to the poison control unit. Mulder followed in his car and made sure to take the wine glass to the hospital.

Maggie Scully came whizzing into the hospital waiting room where Mulder was sitting dejectedly. "Fox! What happened? How is she doing?"

"Hello, Mrs. Scully." Mulder said rising to meet her. "Scully is in with the doctors right now. It appears she ingested a poison and they are trying to analyze what it is and how to counteract it."

"Poison?!" Maggie Scully nearly yelled. "How did that happen, Fox?"

Mulder hung his head. "It's a long story and not very believable."

Maggie crossed her arms. "From some of the things Dana has told me, I'm not surprised."

"The long and short of it is that I believe we were stalked by someone from a recent case and he poisoned her. I'm not 100% sure why, but it may have to do with revenge."

Scully's mom sat heavily in a seat. "Do you think she will live?"

Mulder answered softly. "I don't know. I'm waiting to hear." Almost on cue, the doctor came up to Mulder.

"Are you Fox Mulder?" The name on the tag said Dr. Sorenson.

"Yes. How is she?"

Dr. Sorenson adjusted his glasses. "There is good news and bad news. The bad news is that she is in a coma." Maggie Scully gasped. "The coma was an automatic response to the toxin and may have saved her life by slowing her functions so that the substance didn't reach her heart too quickly. The good news is, thanks to the wine you provided, we were able to isolate the substance and take the appropriate countermeasures. When dealing with unknown toxins, we could have easily given her the wrong medicine."

"How long will she be in the coma?" Maggie asked. "I'm her mother."

The doctor shrugged. "Unknown. It could be hours, days or weeks. It really depends how many biological systems were affected before our countermeasures took effect and how her body responds to them. She appears to be comfortable and the next 12 hours will be crucial. All we can do now is wait."

Mulder's voice cracked. "Can I see her?" The doctor nodded and they followed him to a hospital room where Scully lay, hooked up to machines. It was a familiar scene that Mulder never wanted repeated ever again. The doctor started to leave. "Wait!" Mulder approached. "What was the toxin—does it have a name?"

"It's a concentrated form of a cardiac glycoside. It's common in some plants, like fox glove or buttercups but the bitter taste usually prevents man or beast from ingesting enough to become a threat. This was definitely manmade and not a commercial product."

"Did you say, 'buttercups'?" Mulder's face drained of color.

"Yes. That's one plant that has this toxin." Sorenson turned toward the door. "Please excuse me, I have some other patients to attend to, but I will be monitoring Ms. Scully's condition closely." He left the room.

Mulder sank down into a nearby seat. "Oh my god. I have to call Skinner."

"What is it, Fox?" Maggie looked up from her daughter's bedside.

"Scully's not out of danger." He pulled out his phone and called his boss. "Kimberly, I need to reach Assistant Director Skinner right away it's a matter of life or death." He waited and then a familiar growl came on the line. "Sir, we need to get someone in Florin, Maine to check on the residence of Dr. Philip Vizzini. He may be in imminent danger or he may already be dead. Also, Scully has been poisoned and is at the hospital in a coma. I believe that her life is still threatened." Mulder listened. "It would be difficult to explain over the phone. Can you post a guard on her hospital room and come to see me here? Scully is in room 403….Right. See you soon."

"Fox, please tell me the person that did this to my daughter isn't still loose." Maggie looked scared.

Mulder walked to her and put a hand on her shoulder. I'm sorry Mrs. Scully. I will tell you that I'm not going to leave her until this person is caught. You have my word."

Maggie Scully looked up at him and patted his hand. "I know you care for Dana, Fox. I trust you to watch out for her."

When Skinner arrived, Mulder asked Maggie to leave for a few minutes and explained the situation to his boss. Naturally skeptical of an invisible person, Skinner didn't buy in immediately, but Mulder insisted that he operate under the assumption that he was right. "It could make the difference between life and death for Scully. Kerri Vizzini is obsessed and deranged. I'm sure she will try again."

Skinner put his hands on his hips. "I'll inform the local sheriff in Florin and post a guard until she wakes up. What do you intend to do?"

"I'm going to stay with her. I can't leave her alone."

"Mulder," Skinner said quietly. "She may be a coma for weeks. You can't be here 24/7."

"Watch me." Mulder said mulishly. "I'll take all the time I've built up—I'll quit, if necessary."

Skinner narrowed his eyes at him. "I'm not asking for your resignation, Mulder—just your common sense. You are too close to this and aren't thinking clearly. I know you two care a lot for each other, but I'm tired of picking up the pieces when one of you loses his or her mind because the other is in trouble. Convince me that your good judgement isn't affected by this."

"I can't prove a negative, sir. All I can tell you is this isn't over and I'm not letting that woman kill my partner. Do whatever you have to do and I'll do the same." Mulder stared hard at his superior.

Skinner sighed. "I've been down this road before. When either one of you is like this, there is no reasoning with you. Protect your partner." He turned to leave. "Sometimes I just wish you two would get a room and be done with it. The sad thing is that if I tried to break you up, I'd lose two of my best agents. I guess this is the price I have to pay." At the door, Skinner softened his tone. "She'll pull through, Mulder. I want her back too." He left.

Maggie came back in and they both sat at her bedside in a comfortable silence. Mulder didn't even feel Maggie caress his head and kiss him as she left later that evening. He was asleep, face down on her mattress, holding her hand.


Mulder could hear his name called and woke up groggily. The first thing he did was look at Scully, but she hadn't changed. The monitors beeped with animation and he felt her pulse just for his own reassurance. After a brief caress of her cheek, he looked around the room. Nothing out of the ordinary, but he wouldn't see her coming—would he? It was stupid of him to fall asleep. Mulder made a mental note in the morning to get the Lone Gunmen to take watches so there was someone always on alert.


Mulder was wide awake now. "Who is that? Kerri? Stay away from her!"

A soft, ethereal voice reverberated in the room "She doesn't deserve you, Fox. You need someone that can return your love. That woman is cold. You'll see. When she is gone and we are together—you won't miss her. Move aside, I'll make it quick."

"Kerri, I'm not going to let you kill my partner. How did you become invisible?"

There was tinkling laughter. "That was the easy part. My arrogant husband didn't think I could understand what he was doing. I did. He accidentally found that by combining chameleon DNA with certain plant DNA, he was able to produce a liquid that would turn human cells transparent. It had the added effect of allowing him to blend into the background, if he didn't move too fast. That's how he continued seeing Jill Grost and Amy Cole after he was caught by one of the husbands. We don't have to worry about him any longer."

Mulder's heart sank. "Kerri, what did you do to Philip Vizzini?" He still couldn't see her, but watched the air carefully for movement. Her voice sounded like it came from about 10 feet away, but he wasn't taking any chances.

"What I did to her. Phil graciously allowed me to still cook and clean. I made all of his meals." The laughter again. "He never saw it coming. You did. I knew you were a very smart man when you exposed my ass of a husband. I could see that you liked me. You sent away your partner so you could talk to me. No other man has even looked in my direction since I married Phil. You're cute too."

Mulder had to call upon his psychological training. This woman was abused, delusional and infatuated. Forcing reality on her could ignite her anger, but keeping the delusion going wasn't the right thing to do. "Kerri, I paid attention to you because you looked like you could use some encouragement and help. I love Scully. Killing her will not make me love you."

It didn't faze the deranged soul. "That's okay. You will learn to appreciate me—in time. Move aside, Fox."

"No." Mulder said evenly and drew his weapon. "Don't make me hurt you, Kerri."

"I don't think you are going to have much luck shooting a person you can't see, Fox."

A force came at him and Mulder was knocked aside, but managed to grab her and toss her across the room into some equipment that caused a great clatter. The posted guard came in the room to see Mulder wrestling with—nothing.

Mulder yelled. "There is an invisible woman here. Take her into custody before she harms my partner!" Mulder struggled as he tried to keep Kerri Vizzini from taking his weapon. To his credit, the guard didn't question, but moved and grabbed the 'person' and pulled her off the agent. Mulder holstered his gun and then assisted. Between them both, they managed to handcuff the assailant.

"Wow." The guard said. "That's a first for me. I subdued someone that wasn't there. You X-file folks are pretty spooky."

The guard, Skinner and the local police all came to see the apparently 'invisible' assassin. By the time they were ready to take her away, some of the formula started to wear off and her body became more opaque. Unfortunately, it revealed that she was naked. That made sense if the substance made her cells transparent. In any event, the threat to Scully was neutralized and now, all he had to do was wait for her to wake up. Maggie Scully was relieved to hear the news of the assailant's capture, but she, like Mulder, were concerned that Scully was still in a coma.

Mulder stayed through Thursday night and accepted flowers from the Lone Gunmen, Skinner and a host of other *men* from the FBI. Did Scully have any female friends? After being told he looked (and smelled) like hell by the 6th person, he was considering having one of the Lone Gunmen keep an eye on Scully while he showered and changed. It was a good thing he didn't. Mulder was taking a small nap when he heard some moans from the previously unresponsive patient.


Mulder sat right up. "Scully?"

"Mulder?" A small, weak voice said from beside him.

"I'm here. Welcome back. How do you feel?"

"Like shit." Scully said flatly. "What happened? The wine…"

Mulder took her hand. "You're alive. It was close." He stopped and swallowed hard. "It was a real person, but it was Kerri Vizzini, not Philip. She poisoned you with a potion made from buttercups and killed her husband as well. He was found at the dinner table, face down in his mashed potatoes."

"Why, Mulder?" Scully licked her parched lips. Mulder gave her a drink of water.

"Kerri assumed my kindness meant something else. She saw you as a threat and learned well from her husband. She just took what she wanted by any means necessary." Mulder paused rubbing her hand. "Kerri is in custody now. She was invisible, Scully. I'm not crazy."

Scully smiled weakly. "Thank you, Mulder. You are a prince among men."

Mulder beamed. "You learned your lines, Scully!"

Once Scully was awake, she recovered quickly. By Friday morning, she was well enough to go home. Maggie Scully, with many grateful looks to Mulder, took her daughter to Scully's apartment and babied her. Mulder knew that Scully needed the decompression time and her mother was there to see to her needs. Back at his dismal apartment, Mulder milled around absently. Nothing interested him because where he wanted to be, wasn't where he was. Their date was supposed to be for tomorrow night, but that was obviously out. Scully could not be feeling well enough for that. He was disappointed.

His phone rang and he picked it up, seeing Scully's name in lights. "Mulder."

"Mulder, it's me."

Those words were like a healing balm to his soul. He came close to never hearing them again. "Hi Scully. How are you feeling?"

"Are we still on for dinner?"

That woman has Mulder radar, ESP or…just knows him very well. He will take all the above. "I still have reservations, but I don't want to push you considering you were in a coma just a few hours ago. We can move it to next weekend or the one after that. No problem."

"I want to keep it, if that is okay with you."

Luckily, Mulder's goofy grin didn't translate on the phone. "Sure. You still have to dress up."

"So do you, Mulder." Scully was teasing.

"I've been told that I clean up well."

The amusement was still in her voice. "Looking forward to seeing that."



"Are you okay?" Mulder waited and the long pause, gave him pause.

"I'm okay, Mulder. I think we have some things to talk about. Important things."

"Should I be worried, Scully?"

"No. This was inevitable."

"Now, I'm worried, Scully."

The only thing stopping his panic mode was the smile he could hear in her voice. "Don't be. Are you picking me up? What time?"

"Yes and 7pm."

"See you then." She hung up. They never said goodbye. Mulder didn't want to examine that point too carefully, but it didn't need much interpretation. They could never say 'goodbye' to each other. That made him feel good. He read somewhere that death cannot stop true love, it can only delay it for a while. What a concept. In the hospital, he had accepted that Scully was his one and only. The question was he—hers? Mulder was going to get that resolved tomorrow and he was going to face it like a man. That meant, he wasn't taking 'no' for an answer.

Act VI – The Fire Swamp

Mulder dressed for his date with Scully. He couldn't be more nervous. After nearly losing her, there was no reason not to tell her how he feels and force her to make a decision. The phone call confirming their date told him that she already had this on her mind.

He decided to wear the tie with the green aliens on it. Of course, he was going to bring along a black one to change into before the restaurant, but the look on Scully's face would be priceless. He hoped all his plans were in place and he still intended on kissing her. Mulder was not going to let another opportunity pass him by again.

He drove to her place and at 7pm on the dot, he rang the doorbell. Yes, he was waiting outside for 5 minutes—in the hallway—but he wanted to be prompt. He told himself that when Scully opened the door he was to show grace, decorum and gentlemen like behavior… "You look flaming HOT, Scully!" Was what—unfortunately—came out of his mouth, instead.

Her smirk showed her appreciation and she stepped back to let him in. "Thanks, Mulder…" She looked at his tie. The effort to resist appearing amused and therefore, encouraging him, was being fought and she managed to win—but just barely. "Nice tie. Is that an indication of the program for this evening?"

Mulder gave his version of a predatory grin. "Nope. I have a black tie in the car. I did want to see you smile and I was cheated."

Scully looked to the side and her smirk grew wider. "That wasn't fair, Mulder."

"That outfit isn't fair, Scully. I didn't think you owned anything like that." She wore a black sparkling halter top tied at the neck, matching belly dancer skirt and a whole lot of creamy Scully flesh in between. Mulder licked his lips and his eyes met hers. "I'm not made of stone. That getup is designed to get attention and you've got mine."

"You have reservations—right?"

Mulder's smile was still in place. "I can cancel them."

"Let's go, Mulder." Scully grabbed a peacock blue wrap and tied it around herself. It matched her eyes.

*Daymn*. He offered his arm and she took it. Mulder was definitely going to kiss her tonight. Ain't no question 'bout that.

The agents arrived at the heralded restaurant, 'Le Marais de Feu'. Mulder dropped a few names to get reservations at the last minute. It was normally a six month wait. With the requisite 'tip' to the maître 'de, they got a good—private—seat near the fountain.

"This is very exclusive, Mulder." Scully said with admiration. "I'm impressed."

"Anything for you, Scully." Mulder looked at the menu with no prices. As they say: 'If you have to ask, you can't afford it.'

"Is anything off limits?" Scully asked and held his gaze. Mulder got the hint. She wasn't talking about just the menu, it was for the whole evening.

Mulder focused on her. "No, Scully. Everything is available to you. Ask or order anything you want. I hope that you are just as yielding with my requests." Mulder was gratified to see a small shiver run through her. *God, how he wanted her right now*.

Scully hit behind her menu. "I intend to be very candid with what I want. Ok with that, Mulder?"

He shivered. *Hell yes*. "I'm all ears, Scully."

As planned, the champagne arrived. Scully raised an eyebrow and then two when he was given a taste and said, "Please give me the 1942 that I requested." The steward scurried it hastily away.

"I didn't know you knew champagne, Mulder." Scully was looking at him strangely.

"I'm not a connoisseur, but they did not give me what I requested." Mulder looked at the menu. "Have you decided what you want?"


"Is it the chicken?" Mulder looked squarely at her.

"No. I want the scallops."

Mulder smiled. "Those are good here."

"Is this where you brought your ex-girlfriend, Jenna?" Scully wasn't looking at him, but he could tell she gauging his reaction.

"As a matter of fact it was." Mulder decided he wanted to be brutally honest tonight. "We had a nice dinner."

Scully was apparently following his lead. "And then what happened?"

Mulder saw she was still avoiding his gaze. He reached across and lifted up her chin to face him. He wanted her to see his sincerity. "Nothing happened, Scully. I picked up the check, walked her to the car and said goodnight."

"Really?" Scully asked quietly. Mulder nodded. She crinkled her brow. "Why?"

"I didn't want her—not anymore."

Scully lowered her eyes. "What do you want, Mulder?" He was saved by the steward returning with the correct bottle of champagne.

Mulder tasted it—passed it and the drinks were poured. Once the man had gone, Mulder offered a toast. "To honesty, sexuality, friendship and love. May they serve their majesty—Lady Destiny and may she always smile fondly upon us. Cheers."

Their glasses clinked and Scully took a sip out of hers as Mulder drank from his glass. It's not a complete toast until the people drink, signifying their approval. Mulder knew at that moment that Lady Destiny was definitely in the house.

The waiter was prompt and took their orders. Mulder heard the band start and didn't want to wait to hold her a minute longer. He stood up and offered his hand. "Care to dance, Scully?" The brilliant smile that graced her face was gratifying. She gave her hand and Mulder led her to the floor. They swirled elegantly around for a few minutes and Mulder was enjoying touching the open area of skin that Scully's outfit allowed. His thumb absently brushed her ribs and inched a little higher unconsciously.

"Mulder, your hand seems to have a mind of it's own." Scully said as she gave up trying to hold his shoulder and grabbed onto his arm instead.

"It's the height difference." Mulder mused. The twinkling in his eyes must have given his true intentions away.

"Uh huh." She replied, but she was pleased. That's all that matters. "Mulder, you are good at this. Where did you learn to dance?"

"When I was young. We've danced twice before—remember? High school reunion, raining cows? The Cher concert?"

Scully actually laughed. "I remember. Those were weird cases. Who knew one man's emotions could control the weather?" She paused. "The other one read like a comic book." The song ended and Mulder walked her back to the table where the appetizers were waiting for them. Mulder requested escargot and Scully had her requisite salad.

"I can't believe you eat snails, Mulder." Scully speared a tomato with her fork.

"I can't believe you live on rabbit food, Scully." Mulder stopped and look seriously at her. "You are getting too thin. It reminds me of when…" He broke it off and looked at the table. Scully did too. Mulder started again. "I just think some home style cooking might suit you better on occasion."

Scully didn't look at him. "Thanks, Mulder. I know you mean well. I'm trying to maintain my girlish figure."

"For who, Scully?" Mulder looked pointedly at her. "For that guy you had to cancel on when we went to Maine?"

"What guy?"

"Your hot date, Scully." Mulder was trying not to be irritated, but he was. The thought of her with someone else was deeply disturbing. He wasn't prepared for the giggle that wafted from across the table.

"Oh! My 'hot' date." Scully hid her mouth. "That was a date with a candlelit, rose-scented bubble bath. I had also planned to do my nails that night and watch a movie. I still haven't completely recovered from missing that."

Mulder was stunned. "There was no guy?"

"Nope." The waiter came and removed their plates.

"Oh. I thought…"

Scully aimed her brilliant blue eyes at him. He was mesmerized. "Is that why you were being a jerk that day? You thought I was going out with someone?"

"I don't know about being a jerk, but I didn't like the idea of you seeing a man."

"Why?" Scully held his gaze.

It was put up or shut up. Mulder hadn't planned on it coming out before they had even gotten their entrée, but there was no time like the present. "I wanted you with me, Scully. I wanted to be the one."

"Mulder," She began. "Didn't we already decide that we are better off as friends?"

"No, *you* did." His voice was sharper than intended. "I didn't have much say in the matter." Scully looked at her hands. "I wanted a chance, Scully. I think I've earned it." Mulder stopped talking because the attendant came with their meal.

Both of them waited while they were served and then they ate in silence for a while. Mulder's words hung heavy in the air. Soon he couldn't take it anymore. "I'm sorry if I'm making you feel uncomfortable, but I nearly lost you—again. I'm done waiting, hoping, longing..." He swallowed. "I don't think it's very fair that you and you alone get to decide my future happiness. I want a vote too."

Scully put down her fork and looked at him. "When I was in the coma, I could hear everything that went on in that room." Mulder inhaled sharply. "I heard you tell Skinner that you would quit your job if you had to. I heard you tell Kerri Vizzini that you loved me. I felt you constantly holding my hand. You're right in that I don't have the authority to make a blanket decision for both of us, but I've never been asked to be a part of the process from the beginning. How fair is that?"

Mulder sighed. "I guess I didn't see it that way. Are you done eating? I'd like to take a walk by the fountain." Scully wiped her mouth and Mulder grabbed the waiter, handed him his credit card and said they will be back. He ushered her outside, anxious to continue this conversation with more privacy. It was, thankfully, a warm autumn evening. The breeze was a little biting so Mulder gallantly took off his jacket and draped it around Scully's bare shoulders. "I'd take your wrap, but it clashes with my outfit." That got a half smile from her.

They admired the color changing fountain for a few moments while Mulder wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close. He was stunned that she let him. "Scully, I'm done beating around the bush. Until Maine, I didn't realize that you thought my one true love was the quest for the Truth and that there wasn't any room for you. I've thought about it. I've given you few reasons to think otherwise, but it's not true. You are what I want. Every time that I come close to losing you, I realize that I can't work without you loving and supporting me. I need you."

Scully leaned back into him. "I know, Mulder. I told you that I will still be at your side—no matter what."

"That's not enough. I want you to love me, Scully."

"I do."

He spun her around. "Not like a brother or a friend. I want you to be 'in' love with me…the way I am with you." Scully started to pull away, but he held her tight. "You mean everything to me. I've never felt this way for anyone else. If you had died two days ago…I would have too. I don't want to sound sappy with idealistic thoughts of true love, but if this isn't it—it's doesn't exist for anyone. I want you to love me that way, Scully. Do you?"

Mulder held his breath. He had walked the plank and now awaited his fate. Scully was still looking at him, but he couldn't read her expression. There were so many emotions, he didn't dare try to catalog them, but it was apparent when she reached her decision.

Scully's voice was soft. He could barely hear her. "I always have, Mulder. Part of loving you was letting you free to be who you are. I wasn't sure when you would come to me and I long ago accepted that it may be never. I didn't want to pressure or threaten you and I could never leave you. I knew you loved me, but I wasn't sure how much and I saw that you couldn't express it anyway. I had to accept that too." Scully's eyes were shining with unshed tears. "I never expected to hear this from you. Yes, I'm 'in' love with you, Mulder. I always have been."

He pulled her to him and kissed her. She came willingly and her mouth opened like a flower. He sucked on those soft petals and then drank deeply from her, sweeping her mouth with his tongue. This was heaven, screw the rest of the world. It was all he would ever need.

They finally broke apart and Mulder escorted her back inside. They both were chilled and their dinner date was still in progress. He considered ordering dessert, but if he had anything to say about it, that was coming later. Instead, they picked at their food for a while, finished the champagne and just basked in their new glow. Words weren't necessary anymore. In tandem, as usual, they rose from the table, Mulder hastily signed the check, including a generous tip, and they left the restaurant.

On the drive back to her place, both agents were engaged in deep thought. Mulder was thrilled he had spent an evening at The Fire Swamp or 'Le Marais de Feu' and lived to tell the tale. He even had his princess still with him. They went up to her apartment and she opened the door.

"Coming in, Mulder?"

"Is that an invitation?"

"Only if you want it to be."

"You shouldn't have worn that outfit. It gives men ideas."

"Let's see if you are also a man of action, Mulder. Come inside." She walked in and he followed shutting and locking the door behind him.

Mulder's voice was husky. "When I said that I wanted you—I meant it. I've been sexually frustrated for way too long. Send me away now or face the consequences."

Scully turned around and her eyes echoed his passion. She was doing something behind her back. "I understand and I want the consequences, Mulder." Her skirt was a wraparound. She untied it and let it drop to the floor. Black lace garters, sheer black stockings and black fuck me pumps. She watched him take in the view with awe. "Sorry, the red pumps would clashed with my wrap. Maybe next time."


Act VII – Happily Ever After

Every aspect of that video was done, redone, replayed, rehashed, altered, adapted and completed. The tape didn't show the woman getting hers, but that was done too. Call it poetic license. The two agents lay spooned up in bed as Sunday morning made its appearance. Mulder watched with amusement as the light streaming in through her lace curtains gave the room a buttery glow.

The bundle of repressed sexual energy next to him stirred. She was a powerhouse and he was taken through the paces. It was a good thing he kept in shape. Her low moan as she rose to consciousness gave him instant blue steel. He would never get enough of her.

"Mulder?" Her sexy, sleep addled voice said. "Are you awake?"

"Yes, my love." He liked saying that.

"Good." She turned toward him and snuggled into his chest. "Put your arms around me. I'm cold."

He snickered, but did as he was told. "As you wish, my dear. Anything else?"

"When I fully wake up, I'd like to have sex again."

"Your wish is my command." Mulder was rewarded with a kiss to his chin before she snuggled back into him. Wow. She was all his.

Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. Scully was up instantly. "What time is it Mulder?"

"A little after 9am."

"It's Sunday isn't' it?"


"Oh my god, my mother!" Scully leaped out of bed and rushed around for her robe. Mulder was enjoying the view. "Stay in here. Don't make a sound. We go to church every Sunday. She can't know you are here."

"Scully…" Mulder tried to inject reason, but the woman found the robe and flew out the living room to answer the growing, insistent knock.

Mulder got up and searched around for his pants, but realized they were out in the living room along with the rest of their clothes. It was unlikely that Maggie Scully's powers of observation would fail to notice this. He did find a pair of jeans in the closet that he must have left over here at some point and put those on. Scully came running back into the bedroom and headed for the bath.

She whispered. "I'm going to get ready and go with Mom. I want to see you after—please?"

"Scully…" Mulder started again, but she fled for the bathroom. Her mother is not an idiot. The shower turned on and Mulder leaned against the wall.

"Come on out, Fox." That was Maggie Scully calling to him from the other room. He tried to tell Scully this wouldn't work. He walked out in jeans with no shirt and met his lover's mother. Awkward.

"Good morning, Mrs. Scully." Mulder found his dress shirt on the floor and started to put it on. When he looked up at her, there wasn't censure. Maggie Scully was wearing the same half grin he sometimes cajoled out of his partner.

"Good morning to you." She looked around the room. The black skirt, blue wrap, dress pants and shoes were strewn everywhere. *What is there to say?* "Have a good night?" Maggie asked.

Mulder was sure he was blushing. "I would say so. How are *you* feeling?"

Maggie held his gaze. "Pretty good. I'm glad for both of you. It's about damn time."

Mulder was shocked not only because Mrs. Scully was accepting that he was screwing her daughter, but she swore too. "You are okay with this?"

She walked up to him. "Fox, you have loved my daughter from the beginning and I have always thought of you as my adopted son. I'd like that to be real someday. I know it may not be right now, but someday. You love her and she loves you. I'm tired of seeing you both miserable trying to pretend your attraction doesn't exist. I don't care about Bureau policy, this is right and I'm happy for you." She gathered Mulder into a hug.

"Thanks, Mrs. Scully." Mulder hugged her back.

"It's Maggie, and Fox?" She stepped away and waited until she had his attention. "Treat her like the Princess she is and you will not have any problems."

Mulder nodded. "I've gotten some recent advice about that. Will do, Mrs. Scully—Maggie."

Scully came bursting out to see Mulder and her mother taking. "Um…Mom…I can explain."

Maggie held up a hand. "No need. Let's go to church and when we come back, Fox is taking us to brunch. Isn't that right, Fox?"

Mulder grinned. "As you wish."


Mulder and Scully were sitting in front of AD Skinner while he read through the report of the capture of Kerri Vizzini. When he finished, he removed his wire rim glasses and stared at the two rogue agents.

"Due to Mrs. Vizzini's murder and attempted murder charge, the contents of the laboratory of the supposed Dr. Vizzini were confiscated. Have you been made aware of the results of their findings?"

Mulder nodded. "The substance that caused invisibility was only made in small quantities. Kerri Vizzini used the last of it and Phil Vizzini didn't have any notes. The secret formula has been lost."

Skinner glared at them. "You don't seem upset by that, Agent Mulder."

"I'm not. Someone else will just use it to commit a crime or even worse. I'm happy about it actually."

"You seem happier as of late." Skinner said suspiciously. "You too, Agent Scully." She shrugged. Skinner closed the file with a flourish. You are dismissed. I might have a case for you later this afternoon.

"Yes, sir." Mulder and Scully rose, walking to the door.

"Oh, agents?" Skinner called after them. "A word of caution, your basement office is not as isolated as it seems. Watch yourselves. You don't want to find yourself on video—do you?"

Mulder and Scully turned back to see their superior reached into his drawer, pull out a small object and place it on his desk. It was a miniature red stiletto. Mulder blanched and Scully colored. They beat a hasty exit.