Dedicated to the wonderful red2007 on Twitter for the 2019 Summer X-Files Fanfic Exchange. Huge thank you, as always to by beta and source of sanity Annie, admiralty.

The Clarke Residence

Bakersfield, California

June 2nd, 1999

10:52pm

This was the third time this week.

It was the first and foremost pressing thought on his mind right now. The first time it happened it was Dear God, what's happening? The second time was No, not again. But after three times he felt disturbingly rational, maybe it was just the shock.

At least, that's how Jack Clarke tried to rationalize his situation as his body was pressed firmly onto the bed by a dark black mass. He couldn't see a face this time, but he could feel the energy…and the warmth. He felt hot air press onto his neck as his lower body squirmed, almost as if it was moving of its own accord, or as if it was reacting to something else.

It was the third time, but he still hadn't given up the hope that this was all just a dream. He couldn't think of any other way to explain it, so he let his eyes roll to the back of his head as he succumbed to the world's most realistic wet dream.

When he woke up in the morning, he felt like every cell in his body was running on low and his bedroom smelled like rotting meat. He got up lethargically, stripped himself of his crusted over boxers, and made his way to the bathroom only to be greeted by the same sight as the mornings before. His eyes were completely bloodshot and his skin looked like notebook paper with thin veins of blue sticking out as the lines.

He bent over to splash some water on his face, but winced when he felt an uncomfortable stinging on his back. He turned around and careened his head towards the mirror only to see eight deep gashes marring his shoulder blades.

"Oh my god," he whispered, his eyes widening in horror as he realized this most certainly had not been merely a dream.

J. Edgar Hoover Building

Washington, D.C.

June 4th, 1999

4:30pm

He'd been working hard on something all day,

"Scratch marks," Scully stated, watching Mulder's face to gauge his reaction to her statement.

"Not just any scratch marks, Scully," he tsked, raising an eyebrow in challenge.

She looked back at the projector slide of the man who sent Mulder a -quote- very urgent e-mail, and tried to see whatever it was she was missing. "Sex scratch marks," she deadpanned. "Not exactly special."

Mulder raised both his eyebrows, this time in pleasant surprise and poorly tried to suppress a grin. "Oh?"

"Am I wrong?" she asked.

There was something about the introductory part of an investigation that put Mulder in a playful, and easily excitable, mood and wasn't going to let her off that easy. "About the rarity of sex scratch marks or-"

"Mulder..." she warned.

"Because I must say, I'm quite interested, from a purely scientific standpoint, in hearing how often you've encountered sex scratch marks," he teased smoothly.

He'd always liked teasing her, but recently it just seemed like he was hell bent on crossing the imaginary line they'd drawn between partners and more than. He hadn't fully crossed it yet, though New Years had been pretty damn close. She could tell he was nervous, but apparently he'd decided to set up shop right on the line and see how much he could get away with. Sometimes he'd earn a blush in response, on really good days a shy smile, and on days like today: a stern look.

"Fine," he smirked, pressing the next slide to show the same man with bloodshot eyes and a sickly pallor in what appeared to be a self-taken photo. "Supernatural scratch marks."

She felt her brows furrow together at his proclamation. "I'm not following."

Mulder stood up straight from his position leaning against the projector and walked over, reciting the file before even grabbing it. "Jack Clarke, aged 35, says he's been having strange dreams this week and has been waking up feeling absolutely exhausted and worn out-"

"Has he tried going to a doctor? Or even taking vitamins?" Scully interrupted, looking at the image of a man who appeared to have never seen the sun before.

"Jack considered that, but he's adamant nothing in his routine has changed. Then a few days ago, he woke up with these claw marks along his back which he hasn't been able to find a reasonable explanation for."

"Did his girlfriend-"

"Single," Mulder answered before she could even ask the question.

She opened her mouth and he added, "And he says he's in the middle of a rather long dry spell, so no partners in the equation."

Sounds familiar, she thought to herself as she played with her nail idly. "I still don't understand why you seem to have such an interest in this. Is it odd? Yes. But is it completely possible he could have injured himself and not realized it? Also yes."

Mulder nodded as she spoke, clearly having anticipated this reaction as his fingers skimmed the folder for something. "Yes, Scully, but-" he stopped as he found what he was looking for, taking it out of the pale yellow folder and sliding it her way, "Is it possible that his friend could have injured himself the exact same way only a few days before dying?"

"Who is this?" Scully asked, leaning forward and taking in the glossy image of a man quite similar to Clarke except he was clearly dead.

"Mark Jones, 36, Jack Clarke's best friend. He apparently had also been suffering from night terrors followed by exhaustion. He got those same marks on him last Saturday and was dead by Tuesday," he replied.

"Dead from what?" Scully asked, looking for anything telling on the body.

Mulder just shrugged. "No one knows, but it's something Mr. Clarke is desperate to find out before it's too late."

Despite her reservations, she couldn't deny she was a little intrigued. "So when do we leave?"

"Tomorrow morning," he replied, handing her an already-prepared plane ticket in her name. "Get ready for a whirlwind of a case."