Tempestuous

By Piper Sargasso

Disclaimer: Characters within belong to CC and 1013. No infringement intended.

Author's note: This is for the September Whispers of X Challenge. Requirements listed at the end. Special thanks to Mimic for the thorough beta!

This story is dedicated to Carol, a fellow listmate at IWTB who never fails to brighten my day with her amazing support and encouraging words. And to Circe Invidiosa, for generously giving me a page on her site. You can visit my other stories as well as hers at:

Now – on with the show!

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

"Mulder, wake up!" I nudged my sleeping partner with an elbow before he could do further damage to my silk blouse. Disoriented, he mumbled a groggy, "Huh?" before nodding back off. Really articulate, Mulder. But at least he was facing the opposite direction.

I looked down at the yellow-tinged ring of drool with mild irritation. I'd been mildly irritated all day, as a matter of fact. Upon walking into the office, I was bombarded with a series of slides with Mulder's usual commentary to accompany them, then was informed that I needed to be ready for a flight that left in three hours. This whole case was pointless, in my opinion. I mean, a haunting? Mulder must have been getting pretty desperate to get out of the office. I wondered what strings he pulled to get this approved.

I'd been a good sport, so far. Didn't say a word when he dropped this little bomb on me, though I knew he'd been planning this for at least a day or two. Seriously, nothing gets approved with the Bureau that quickly unless it's vital to a case. But I stifled my annoyance and left to pick up some things at my apartment while he waited in my living room. It wasn't the first time that he'd done this and it most certainly wouldn't be the last. There was little point in complaining.

Not a word was said when he dozed off right after takeoff – while I was talking to him. I could see by the dark circles under his eyes that he'd probably worked on gathering information on this case all night. I was gracious in not shoving him off of my chest when his head lolled onto it, mid-flight. He was sleeping, after all, and had no idea what he was doing.

But the moment I realized the warmth that was spreading just above my left breast wasn't from his hot breath, but from drool escaping his open mouth, I drew the line. Looking over at him, sprawled out into the aisle, frowning in his sleep from the interruption, I felt a small but fleeting tug on my heart. He could be so cute when he slept.

The captain's monotone over the intercom, announced our descent into Indianapolis. From there, it was a puddle-jumper all the way into Evansville. As big as that town was, they didn't have an international airport. Indianapolis was the closest we could get on a commercial airliner. I always have a Buddy Holly moment when flying on those things.

We hit a pocket of turbulence and the plane dipped, leaving my stomach up where the plane used to be and jerking Mulder out of his deep slumber. He sucked in a huge breath of surprise. It was all I could do to keep from laughing at the wide-eyed look on his face.

"Welcome to Indiana, Mulder," I said sarcastically.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Scully didn't look so well. Her face was completely drained of color. Tiny blue capillaries showed beneath the pale skin and she was so valiantly trying not to wobble as we exited the plane.

I wasn't feeling so hot myself. The short flight down from Indianapolis was scary as hell, if you want to know the truth. The mid-afternoon sky was almost enough to make me want to stay grounded for a while, case or not. Angry black clouds encased us as we flew through some serious rain. I was amazed we even got the go-ahead for takeoff. The plane bounced and dipped against the resulting turbulence. Needless to say, both Scully and I were gripping the armrests like they were the last lifeboat on the Titanic.

After obtaining a rental from a very exuberant Budget agent, we drove toward the quaint town of Newburgh.

"Looks like a pretty nasty storm is headed this way," I commented. Scully nodded in agreement and continued to look outside the window. I knew she was less than thrilled with the idea of investigating this case, but I felt it merited the benefit of our expertise.

The town of Newburgh is filled with restored historical homes and is situated alongside the Ohio River. The owner of one such home, a Mrs. Avery Maire, contacted our office a week ago to report strange sounds and wispy puffs of smoke appearing in her two-story Victorian house. She also claimed that the sounds could be followed out to the riverbank, where they would cease and the apparition of a man would suddenly appear. Such stories often surround bodies of water, drownings and mishaps being common occurrences there.

Winding the car through the narrow, rolling streets, I strained to see through the downpour rushing over the windshield. Finally, I found the house.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

"Here we are," he announced. Mulder has a knack for stating the obvious sometimes.

I looked out the window dubiously. The rain was really coming down. The last thing I wanted was to leave the dryness of the car and run out into weather like that. For about three seconds, I weighed my options. One, I could sit here and act like a child, refusing to go anywhere. Two, I could suggest that he go first, while I searched for accommodations for the evening. Or three, I could stop whining and start behaving like a professional. Honestly, it was only a little rain.

Heaving a sigh, I pulled out my umbrella and stepped out into the onslaught of rain. Did I say "a little rain?" Maybe "deluge" would've been more appropriate. The wind kicked up and blew my umbrella inside-out. I heard Mulder's car door slam as footsteps as he ran to join me. We sprinted up the steep steps up the lawn that led to the wrap-around porch. The rain was so heavy it nearly blinded us as it beat down on our exposed heads. Once sheltered, I shook out my useless umbrella and bent it back while Mulder knocked on the heavy oak door.

A loud barking preceded the opening of the door. An elderly woman in a long, flowered dress looked us up and down. "Yes?" she asked in a voice that sounded too strong to belong to such a fragile-looking body. She tussled with a dog that desperately wanted to push its way past her.

Flashing my drenched badge, I spoke loudly over the raucous of the downpour. "Mrs. Maire? We're agents Mulder and Scully, with the FBI."

Mulder broke in, "You contacted our office about some paranormal activities surrounding your home."

Understanding dawned on her. "Oh, yes! Oh, it's been an absolute nightmare. Please, won't you come in?" She smiled brightly and leaned down to grab the collar of a very large Labrador. In doing so, she'd opened the door widely, giving us our first glimpse of the animal. It bucked and snarled as she spoke firmly to it. "You behave, Princess." She gave us an apologetic glance, "Princess isn't used to strangers. Please, make yourselves comfortable."

We warily sidestepped them and took a seat on the couch. The home was very tastefully decorated, true to the era in which it was built. Tiffany lamps illuminated beautiful antique furniture and knickknacks. A floral rug with a salmon-colored background covered much of the hardwood floor, allowing only a few feet of the rich, cherry wood to show along the walls.

The home was truly beautiful. Mrs. Maire had added coziness to the room with several  lush, green plants. Antique portraits and paintings hung by wires on the walls completed the look.

She let "Princess" go and sat in the Queen Anne chair across from Mulder and I. The dog stood guard at her side, snarling and growling at Mulder with some very sharp teeth exposed. Her tongue shot out every few seconds to lick at her lips, which were pulled tightly back. I don't think she liked Mulder too well.

"Ah, Mrs. Maire?" Mulder began nervously. He started shifting uncomfortably in his seat, nearly climbing the back of the couch. It was all I could do to keep from laughing. "Would you like to, ah, tell us - whoa, puppy! – tell us where you first saw the apparition?"

By now, his back was flush against the back of the couch, eyes wide, hands out in a defensive gesture. Princess continued her warning growls, tensed and leaning forward. She was just looking for an excuse to pounce.

I opened my mouth to ask Mrs. Maire to put the dog in another room until we were finished. Mulder chose that moment to readjust his position.

Big mistake.

Princess sprung forward like a lion on a wildebeest and clamped her jaws onto Mulder's inner thigh, just missing the crotch. He howled in pain and vainly pushed at the dog. Mrs. Maire stood up, mouth wide open in shock as she took in the scene while I pulled at Princess' collar. Finally, she loosened her hold on her own, satisfied, and sauntered off to another part of the house.

Poor Mulder never had a chance.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

After refusing my partner's demands to examine the wound, I excused myself and slunked off into the bathroom where I could lick my wounded pride. How embarrassing was that? Above me, the heavens rumbled loudly. Great. We were going to have to bunk down for the night and pick up here tomorrow. I pulled down my ripped pants and looked at the bite mark on my leg. Shit, that's gonna leave one hell of a bruise. I eased my ruined slacks back over my legs and carefully returned to the sitting room. Princess my ass.

Scully looked over at me from her position next to the large bay window. She was alone in the room. "Mulder, Mrs. Maire just heard on the radio that a tornado has just touched down in Evansville. I think we should find a place to stay for the night."

"Where is she now?" I asked.

"She's in the other room, listening to the rest of the report." She grinned, "She's offered to let us stay with her for the duration of our investigation."

"You didn't say yes, did you?" I didn't like the way she was still grinning.

"Of course not, Mulder," she said in a sickly sweet voice, "I explained to her that you're allergic to dog hair."

I laughed in spite of myself. Mrs. Maire stepped into the room. "You two had better get moving. The storm here's getting much worse. Mr. Mulder, I'd like to apologize for Princess's behavior. She's just a little defensive when it comes to me, I suppose."

"There's no need to apologize, Ma'am. Could you please direct us to the nearest motel?"

"Well, the closest thing would be Charlotte's B&B. Just follow the river. It's about a mile down the road. You can't miss it."

A bed and breakfast? We'd never get that approved. "I was actually thinking more along the lines of a motel."

She shook her head, "Nothing like that for miles, Mr. Mulder. The closest would be in Evansville, and I doubt you'll make it in time." She pointed at the threatening, black sky outside. Sighing in defeat, I thanked her and motioned to Scully for us to get going.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Charlotte's Bed and Breakfast was just as exquisite as Mrs. Maire's beautiful Victorian. Decorated in the same style, it was like stepping back in time. No doubt, the city's history played a large part. Several of the homes, like the B&B and Mrs. Maire's, had been proclaimed historical landmarks. Each had a green, rectangular plaque to signify this.

Our accommodations were located at the bottom of a hill, facing the Ohio River. As we walked up to the high counter to check in, there was talk between the woman behind the counter and what appeared to be another guest about the dangerous water levels. Apparently, the river flooded quickly there. Being on low ground was a concern.

"Yes?" the woman behind the counter asked as we approached. She was an older woman, about sixty-five with mellow blue eyes and a kind smile.

I leaned over the counter-top and asked, "Yes, we'd like two rooms for the night."

The woman shook her head slightly, "Sorry, dear, but I have only one room available and it's only because of the weather I have that." She dropped her voice to a stage-

whisper, "Tourist-season, you know."

I looked warily at Mulder, who appeared to be a little uncomfortable about the situation. There was really no choice in the matter; the nasty storm brewing outside was picking up velocity and we'd never make it into the next town in time. Surely we could deal with the arrangements for one night.

"That will be fine," I told her. After filling out the requisite documents, we trudged our dripping bodies up the woman's pristine staircase. The red, floral runner turned nearly black in places where we trickled water. She showed us to our room, to the left of the stairs and opened the door.

"If you need anything at all, please, feel free to let me know. I'm Charlotte. Dinner is served at six-thirty and breakfast is come as you may. I stop serving at eleven, however, to prepare for lunch. The kitchen is always open, so if you need a snack or drink at any time, you can help yourself to whatever's in the fridge. Bathroom's down the hall, to the left. We have only one, so please remember to be considerate of the other guests when you shower." A loud rumble of thunder, followed by the crash of lightening sounded above the house. She wrung her hands and looked heavenward. "You two settle in and make yourselves comfortable." Offering us a tight smile, Charlotte bustled off downstairs.

We stepped into our room, which matched the rest of the house-turned-bed-and-breakfast. A high, queen-sized canopy bed sat on the far left side of the room, a gauzy scarf draped above it. The headboard was intricately carved with flowers and fairies, as was the canopy frame. The bed was like a little island in itself, enticing in its intimacy. Matching nightstands were on each side of the bed. A massive armoire stood on the opposite wall. Mulder, being the curious soul that he is, felt compelled to open it. Much to his delight, the doors revealed a television and VCR, along with a nice stereo system. The tight grin on his face let me know that it was doubtful I'd get much sleep that night.

The room was lit by two torchieres with wrought-iron, dragonfly shades pointing toward the ceiling while several sconces on the walls held soft-white light bulbs, diffusing the light into a warm glow. The warmth of the room as a whole was a huge contrast to the violent storm that raged just beyond the heavy, jacquard drapes that framed the two windows overlooking the river. A nearly identical rug was situated in the middle of the floor.

Mulder shut the door and flopped his suitcase on top of an upholstered, Queen Anne chair. It was just wide enough to accommodate the luggage. "Mulder," I warned, "you're going to ruin the upholstery with all that water."

He looked at me blankly for a beat, then slid the suitcase to the floor. I sighed as he dug through it to find dry clothes. Here I was, in an absolutely stunning and romantic room – with Mulder. It seemed like such a waste to me. I really didn't feel like mothering him, but the physician in me nagged at the back of my head.

"Mulder," I began as I pulled off my blazer, "I will be taking a look at your injury." He looked over at me like a whipped puppy. That was just too bad. I could not, in good conscience, allow him to get infected. Mrs. Maire had assured me that the dog's immunizations were up to date, but infection could easily set in, regardless. He'd been trying so hard not to limp on his way into the house and into the room, but his cowboy-walk told me what he wouldn't. The man was in pain.

"You know, I still have some Vicotin left over from your last fiasco. But, I'd have to examine you first, of course." I smiled. He shot me a look of irritation. She with the prescription painkillers wins.

"Fine," he answered tightly. Scooping up a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, he walked out the door.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Well, I thought, this was a situation fit for prime time. A dog attack – apparently, a very comical dog attack, judging by Scully's barely contained look of glee, followed by a storm rivaling that of Noah's little cloudburst and then I had to drop my pants in front of Scully – whom I would be sleeping next to for the night. It wasn't looking good.

Well, I decided, I'll just refuse. The pain wasn't that bad. Who needed to walk straight? As long as my thighs didn't rub together, I'd be fine. Resolved, I walked down the hall to dress in the bathroom.

The large bathroom was just as frou-frou as the rest of the place. An old-fashioned claw tub jutted from the middle of the back wall, the copper plumbing of the shower exposed with the large head bowing down like a wilted sunflower. Fluffy rugs lay on either side of it. The sink was column-style with a burgundy and lace skirt hanging off it. Large bulbs lined the top of the mirror above. I imagined Scully would feel right at home here.

Damn woman, luring me with drugs. I decided to resist at all costs. Quickly dressing, I walked back down the hall and entered our room. Scully stood next to the window, staring at the rippling water across the street.

"Listen, Mulder," she told me.

I crossed the room to stand beside her and strained my ears. The faint sound of a continuous, wailing siren drifted through the thick-paned window. It was actually frightening, in a primal sort of way. I recognized it as the tornado warning system.

"It must be coming from the West. Evansville is the closest town to have a siren like that," she said. I looked at the trembling hand holding the draperies back.

"You okay, Scully?" She looked shaken.

Nodding, she responded, "Yeah. As a young girl, I had a frightening experience with severe weather. I guess it kind of stuck with me."

"What happened?" I pressed.

She sighed. "I was in school. I think it was the fourth grade. Anyway, we were in class. There had been a storm earlier, but it looked like the worst had passed. The wind had been thrashing the trees outside the classroom window, but suddenly, it became very still. The sky turned a strange shade of green. I swear, Mulder, it was like the world stopped, it was so quiet. Then there was a loud siren, different than a fire alarm, and we all had to file outside the classroom and line the walls. Each of us faced the wall on our knees and had to cover our heads with our arms while the teachers looked on. We stayed in that crouched position for at least twenty minutes when, suddenly, there was a sound like a train plowing through the school. After it was all over, I found out it was the roof of the gym being ripped off by a tornado. It was the scariest experience of my life."

I looked at her for a moment, a bit taken aback by her admission. It took a lot of willpower not to scoop her up into my arms and hold her to me. She looked so fragile. But, I knew she wouldn't appreciate the gesture, so I held my eager arms safely by my sides.

She turned away from the window and walked over to the armoire. Tuning in a local station on the radio, she listened to the weather report. A funnel cloud had been spotted over the East side of Evansville and two more tornadoes had touched down in nearby Henderson, Kentucky.

"Well, I suppose leaving this house is completely out of the question," I mumbled. I considered it to be a miracle that the power hadn't been knocked out yet. As if on Satan's cue, the lights flickered and all went dark. The silence that followed boomed in my ears. In the absence of the familiar hum of electricity, I could hear the sound of my own breathing amplified.

"Aww, damnit all to Hell!" I exclaimed. Scully tensed beside me in the darkened room. "Sorry, Scully. You okay?"

"Yeah, Mulder. I'm fine. I'm going to go downstairs and see if Charlotte has any candles." She left the room, letting the door click softly closed behind her.

I pulled the drapes back as far as possible and hooked them behind some decorative holders with little cherubs on the wall next to the windows. In the sparse light, I closed my suitcase up and tucked it beneath the bed, out of the way. With my luck, I'd trip over the damn thing. A few moments later, Scully returned with a small box of various candles and a kerosene lantern. She set the candles up around the room as I followed behind her, lighting them. The lantern was placed on the tiny, roll-top desk on the far right side of the room. It gave off the most light.

Satisfied with the placement of the candles, Scully turned to face me with both hands on her hips.

"Drop 'em, Mulder."

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

"What?" he croaked. I bit back a smile.

"I need to examine your wound, Mulder. Or would you rather continue to walk like you've just popped out of a spaghetti western for the remainder of our trip?"

"No, Scully. I'm okay. The mutt just nicked me."

Yeah, pull the other one a while, Mulder. "Well, regardless, it's my duty as your personal physician and, might I add, ass saver to render medical treatment on an as-needed basis. Don't argue with me, Mulder. Just drop your pants and get up on that bed."

Well, that seemed to work. He grudgingly pulled his jeans off and climbed gingerly onto the edge of the bed, awaiting my examination. He looked every bit like a willful child who'd been ordered to sit still for a shot. I retrieved the lantern from the desk and knelt before Mulder's bare legs.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

I wanted to say, "Well, if you wanted me in your bed that badly, all you had to do was ask, Scully," or something equally smart-assed, but the look on her face advised me otherwise. Damn. She was no fun when she went into "doctor-mode."

I hopped up on the bed as nimbly as I could manage. The pain from that rabid beast was slightly more than I would ever admit to Dr. Scully there. Drugs or not, a man had to have his pride.

She dropped down to her knees in front of me, unknowingly providing a visual of every inappropriate fantasy I'd ever had about her. Sneaking a cheap peek down her button-down blouse – which was still wet, by the way, I briefly feasted my eyes on pure, beautifully rounded cleavage. Better get out of those wet clothes, Scully. Wouldn't want to catch cold, would you?

I gave myself a mental slap and tried not to focus on her hot breath on my leg, or the tender touch of her silky hand on my inner thigh. Tried to redirect my attention, away from the gentle whisper of that same hand as it slid an inch or two closer to the promised

land. Unintentional, sure. She would never intentionally feel me up. Don't think about the almost imperceptible way her skilled hands jittered against the sensitive flesh of my leg or the lightening-quick glance to my crotch, so fast, I almost missed it. Ignore the way her little pink tongue flicked out to lick that sweet bottom lip before she returned her gaze to the task at hand.

Yeah, forget all that. That's gonna happen. Oh, and Mulder? Stop breathing, while you're at it.

I tracked her each slight movement of her hands, every rise of her chest as she breathed. My own breath quickened and my pulse raced in my veins. She was just too close. I wondered if she could hear the loud beating of my heart.

"See, Scully?" I rasped out. "Just a little nick."

Her hands stilled on my legs and she turned big, luminous blue eyes up to look at me. Mouth slightly parted, she blinked and nodded her agreement. She stood and brushed her hands on her slacks, avoiding my eyes. Her small body was silhouetted against the far wall by the warm glow of the candlelight. The image trembled in the flickering light.

"It needs to be dressed, Mulder," she replied quietly.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

He stared down at me, burning into me with lowered, green eyes. My heart did an embarrassing little flip-flop and it was then that I realized I was shaking. Barely, but shaking, nonetheless. I had to get control of the situation. It was the candlelight and the storm, that's all. Nothing to get so bent out of shape about.

A loud crack of thunder made me jump as I walked over to my medical bag. I hated feeling afraid, especially of something as natural as a storm. Gathering gauze, first-aid tape and triple-antibiotic medicine, I crossed the room to administer to his injury.

"You're lucky you had a Tetanus booster recently. Now, I need you to go into the bathroom and wash that for me."

"Scullee! You could've said something before I went to change before."

"Mulder, don't whine. It's unattractive. I had to look at the bite first. Now go - you don't want me to pull out the antiseptic."

He slid off the bed and bent to pull his pants back up. "And get yourself a glass of water downstairs while you're at it. You'll need something to take these pills with."

He flashed me a sour look and walked out of the room. I took advantage of his absence and quickly changed into dry clothes. He returned a few moments later with a small, plastic cup in hand.

"Look, Scully!" he grinned and held out the cup for me to see. "Marvin the Martian. Charlotte said one of her grandkids left it behind after a visit. Took a lot of convincing, but she let me buy it from her."

He was so excited, it was hard to burst his bubble. "Mulder, you do realize that you can buy those at any discount department store in America, right? You didn't have to con it away from that woman's grandchild."

He frowned. "Scully, I'm disappointed in you. To think I would actually swindle a woman out of her horde of cartoon-themed cups - I only bought one, you know. To commemorate the occasion."

"And what occasion would that be, Mulder?" I asked.

"Why, the first time we get to sleep together, Agent Scully," he replied sweetly.

I felt my mouth drop open in pure shock and actually stumbled backward. Mulder granted me an amused smile. Damn that man! Just when I think I've lost the ability to be surprised by his comments, he bowls me over with another one. Always coming out of left field.

"Lower your pants and get back on that bed, please," I said firmly. The heat of my flushed face burned, equal to the heat I felt gathering in my lower stomach. Calling on all my strengths as a doctor and professional, I ignored it and brought the first-aid supplies to the bed, resuming my position at his feet. I sat them down on the nightstand and looked up at him. All the mirth was gone from his eyes, replaced by a darkened gaze. He held a pillow in his lap.

"Mulder," Jesus! Was that my voice? "You'll need to move that pillow. I can't get to the wound properly."

He looked away. "Can't, Scully."

Oh. Oh!

Well, I didn't want to embarrass either of us, so instead I moved the pillow up a couple of inches, where he held it in place, out of my way for the most part. I gently pried his legs apart, lingering perhaps a little longer than necessary. His skin was warm and the hairs tickled my palms and fingertips. Clearing my throat, I reached over to the nightstand and grabbed the triple-antibiotic ointment. Very carefully, I applied the ointment to the bite, barely smoothing it onto the injury. His leg jumped at the cold contact, so I held a firmer grip on his thigh with my left hand. It really was just a small bite. I think his pants had taken the worst of the attack. We were fortunate that there was minimal bleeding and, therefore, no need to elevate the leg. The last thing I needed was to baby Mulder on bed rest, no matter how short the time might be.

I dressed it with a gauze pad and secured it with first-aid tape. Allowing my willful gaze to travel up his thigh, over the pillow and into his eyes, it became obvious to me that he wasn't the only one having trouble. All I could think about was the fact that in a few short hours, I'd be climbing into bed with this man. God help me.

My lips suddenly felt very dry. Mulder's lids dropped a little lower, watching my tongue moisten them. What the hell happened to the A/C? The mugginess from the late August precipitation seemed to be seeping into the room. I opened my mouth to tell him I was finished, but no words came forth. He inhaled sharply and I looked down at my hand. Somehow, it had managed to creep up the inside of his thigh, mere inches away from that which he strove to cover with that ridiculous pillow. I snatched my hand away quickly and scrambled to my feet.

"Dinner will be ready in about ten minutes, Mulder." My voice shook slightly and I couldn't meet his eyes. Without another word, I hastily walked out the door before I could further make an idiot of myself.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Dinner was uneventful. Nice, even. There was quiet and polite conversation about the weather. The handful of guests were all friendly as we sat around the table and exchanged pleasantries. We found that two of them were permanent residents and two other couples were on vacation there. One was on their honeymoon.

Every time I tried to catch Scully's attention from across the table, she'd drop her eyes to her plate. She was edgy, and understandably so. I wished I could take the last thirty minutes back and start over – beginning with the moment I made a supreme ass of myself by sporting wood. A pillow, Mulder? Yeah, she'll never guess what was under that. I waited for the earth to open up and swallow me whole, but I knew the Universe wouldn't be that kind.

Finally, dinner was over. Scully insisted on helping Charlotte with the dinner mess while the rest of us went back to our rooms. I plopped down on the bed, wincing when the shock vibrated through my sore leg. Rolling lazily to my feet, I went to pick through Scully's bag. After all that mess earlier, she'd forgotten to give me the pills. Really, the pain was manageable, but I read the dosage and took them anyway. I figured Scully was probably a kicker and I wanted to be as numb as possible for later.

The lights were still out, so I had nothing to do but wait for her to return. Plopping back on the bed, I tried not to think about the reason she wanted to put distance between us. It was all my fault. You'd think I was a hormonal teenager, the way I reacted the moment I thought of her hands on my bare skin again. She hadn't even touched me yet. Humiliating.

I got up and looked out the window. The storm had calmed considerably. With any luck, the power would be back on soon. I hoped so – with nothing else but Dana Scully beside me for entertainment, there was definitely more humiliation on the horizon.

About twenty minutes later, she returned. I was lying on my back again, feeling no pain.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

"Hey, Scully. I was afraid I'd have to send out a search party for you," he said from the bed. His head rested atop his hands and his eyes never left the ceiling as he spoke.

"Mulder, we forgot your – "

"Took 'em," he interrupted.

I paused. "How many did you take?"

He sat up, partially, and propped his head on his arm. "I read the bottle, Mom. Two, just like the directions say."

I shook my head at him. "Mulder, the dosage is one." He just stared at me.  Whatever. It wasn't going to hurt him. At least his mind seemed to be off – other things. I looked down at my watch. Only seven-thirty.

"Do you think you'll be okay if I go take a shower?" I asked him.

"Gee, I don't know, Scully. Maybe you should take me with you so you can make sure I keep myself out of trouble." He waggled his eyebrows. I rolled my eyes. Yeah, he was back to his usual self. I gathered up my clothing and toiletries, then headed for the bathroom.

I showered quickly in the weak light of two kerosene lanterns left in there for everyone's use. The last thing I wanted was to be caught under the water when the storm picked up again. Stepping out, a vase of dead flowers caught my eye. I thought it was strange that such an immaculately run place contained such an oversight. It stuck out like a sore thumb with its withered buds and wilted, dry petals. It was kind of sad, really. Sort of a fitting metaphor for my life, as it were.

The thought was too depressing. Pushing it away, I dried off and dressed, cursing the impulse that made me choose a silk slip with spaghetti straps to sleep in for this trip. Then again, I hadn't expected to be sharing with anyone. I dried and brushed my hair, wrapped my robe around me and gathered my things up. The cooler air hit me in the face the moment I opened the door, making me dizzy for a moment from the temperature change.

Pausing outside the door, I took a deep, cleansing breath. It was going to be a long night. I steeled my reserve and walked into our room.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

She breezed through the room in her big, terrycloth robe and dropped her stuff into the open suitcase which was resting on what I'd assumed to be the side of the bed she'd laid claim to. I shifted under the covers, propping my head on my hand, and watched her.

"Mulder, I'd like to turn in early, if you don't mind," she said, hands on hips and expectant look on face.

I couldn't resist. "Sure, Scully. Climb on in. I know how anxious you must be to join me." I grinned at her consternation and patted the empty space beside me. She rolled her eyes and went about blowing out all the candles. Bringing the lantern to the nightstand, she stood next to the bed and extinguished our last source of light. I listened in the darkness to the sound of her robe sliding to the floor, without comment. She slipped between the sheets and shifted until her back was to me.

"'Night, Mulder," she mumbled.

"'Night, Scully."

I lay there for a good forty-five minutes, wondering how I could possibly be expected to fall asleep when my partner was half-naked not but a foot away from me. I doubted she could sleep either, judging by the cadence of her breathing. The sweet smell of honeyed peaches lingered between us, growing stronger each time she moved.

She smelled like heaven. My hand wandered on its own volition to graze the fabric of her pajamas. Silk. Jesus. I tensed, waiting for her to react to my touch. I guessed that she hadn't felt it and raised my finger to feel the texture of the silk again. I imagined her skin would be much smoother.

She shifted, this time onto her back. Almonds. The scent of almonds lay beneath the stronger fragrances, subtle and unassuming. Just like her. I breathed the scent in slowly, not wanted to attract attention to myself. Her foot wandered over to my side, brushing softly against me. I exhaled loudly.

"You okay, Mulder? How's your leg?"

"It's fine. Pain's gone completely."

She hummed in response, then rolled onto her side, back facing me once again.

Eventually, she fell asleep. I was right about Scully being a kicker. She's also a blanket hog. She wasn't used to sharing, and it showed.

As I lay flat on my back, my thoughts drifted to a case we were on about two weeks prior to this one. Scully was wearing those stilts she likes to call shoes, standing next to me as I slouched against the wall. We were looking over a file together when she decided to go on a coffee run for the both of us. On her way out the door, she must've gotten a little too close to me, because her hair brushed against my lips, wispy as an angel's kiss. She never knew it, but thinking about it ever since then had been driving me crazy. It was like setting a buffet in front of a starving man and snatching it away as soon as he reaches for the first roll.

I thought about her perfume that day. Honeysuckle with rose undertones. A lot of women had abandoned those scents for less old-fashioned ones. Not Scully. Her perfume was as classic as she was.

I leaned over slightly and indulged in another good pull of her light fragrance into my lungs. It was fainter now that her hair had dried completely. I rolled over and pressed my nose into the mass of wavy hair that fell gracefully over the white pillowcase, praying that she wouldn't catch me in the act. I could only imagine trying to explain that one.

My hand snaked down to grasp a small piece of her pajamas again. I trailed down to the small of her back, to my little safe zone, and pinched the fabric between my fingers. Silk is very sensual, when you think about it. The slight whisper of the fine threads as they rub against each other, watching it flutter against a woman as she walks – or the feel of it as she wears it to bed, sliding it along the length of your body. You can feel the heat radiate through the thin, almost gossamer fabric – heat like I was feeling from Scully at that moment.

Emboldened in my search, I reached around slightly – just to sample the texture, of course – and opened my eyes wide when the garment ended just below her hip. Not modest pajamas, but – a slip?

Christ, was this going to be a long night.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

I awoke the next morning as if in a cozy bubble. Warmth and security surged through my body, enveloping me. I hummed, smiling against the crisp sheets of my bed, languidly stretching out my muscles. I never wanted to leave that place.

Then, I heard Mulder's answering hum in my ear. Eyes snapping open, I attempted to turn my head to assess the situation, but couldn't move. I was on my side, just as I had been when I finally fell asleep the night before. His arm was thrown around my waist, just above my hip. He had me pulled flush against his body.

My right leg was pinned between his two legs, tickled by his hair the same way my hands had been when I was tending to him the previous night. The feel of his puffs of breath on my exposed neck was comforting, yet dangerous at the same time. Each hot burst on my skin sent a warm pool into the pit of my stomach.

Well, I supposed it couldn't hurt to stay here a little while longer. The thought of moving, or waking him to move was akin to stepping into an ice cold shower. I didn't want the warm feeling to go away.

I snuggled closer, if that was possible, inadvertently pushing my rear up against his groin. Mulder groaned softly and thrust slightly forward, pressing his morning erection into my lower back like the rude poke of a stick. A very big stick.

Half awake and still delighting in my fuzzy awakening, I shifted as far up the bed as his strong arms would allow and cuddled into the arch of his body once again. He responded with another small moan and pushed back against me, more insistently.

Oh, my. 

I'd somehow managed to position myself in such a way that his poking was aimed right where I wanted it the most, right between my upper thighs, grazing my clitoris through the thin panties I wore.

I couldn't resist doing it again. I pushed back, he thrust forward. Closing my eyes, I rolled myself into his groin hard, gasping softly as the contact produced waves of pleasure, rocketing through my deprived body like icy little fingers. His push forward was equally heated, driving me closer to resolution.

"Mmm, Mulder," I whispered. Suddenly, he stiffened.

"No, Scully. I won't do it this way."

I disentangled myself from his limbs and sat up, looking at him. "What?"

Mulder sat up, too. He looked miserable, avoiding my eyes. "It can't be like this."

"But Mulder, I-"

"No, Scully." He grabbed my hand and looked down at me for the first time that morning. His eyes watered slightly as he pressed my hand against his heart. "I won't do this to you, Scully. You deserve so much more. We deserve so much more."

I was a little stunned - he was putting the possibility of a relationship ahead of satisfying a baser need. How could I ever have expected anything else from him? Nodding weakly, I pulled my hand away to get down from the lofty bed. The storm had subsided altogether through the night, leaving a bright sky to dry up the puddles that lingered in its wake.

I gathered some clothes and a toothbrush to take with me to the bathroom. Turning back to him before I left the room, I smiled softly. "Thank you, Mulder."

He smiled in return. I closed the door and went to prepare for the investigation ahead.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

The smell of bacon and pancakes wafted up from the kitchen. I pulled on some clothes and waited with a grumbling stomach for Scully to return from the bathroom.

I knew I'd done the right thing. She was never meant to be taken advantage of. Dana Scully was not a woman built for meaningless quickies. She was a woman made to be cherished and loved, to be stroked and brought to passion by the hands of a man who worshipped her. I couldn't bring myself to allow our hormone-driven dry humping reduce or undermine what we could have together.

The door opened, revealing a freshened Scully. She clasped her little makeup bag in one hand.

"That couple on their honeymoon wanted to use the bathroom. Together." She blew out a breath. "I'm going to have to finish getting ready in here and then we can go."

I smiled. "You never had roommates in college, Scully?"

She whipped around to answer, "College was a long time ago, Mulder. I've long since forgotten what it's like to get kicked out of the bathroom or clean shaved beard stubble out of the sink." She turned back around and sat at a little vanity in the corner.

Shaved beard… What the hell?

"Scully? Is there something you'd like to share here?"

She gave me an enigmatic smile over her reflection in the mirror and went about applying her makeup.

For my own sanity, I decided to let it go. The last thing I wanted to think about was a young Scully cleaning up after another man in college. Yeah, I'm a little possessive. I can't help myself. When she was finally finished, I persuaded her to come downstairs for breakfast before heading back out to Mrs. Maire's home.

Placing my hand at the small of her back, I ushered her out the door of our room.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

As we walked down the stairs, the delicious smells of various breakfast foods hit me for the first time. I think I was too preoccupied before to notice them. My short time in the bathroom gathering my thoughts had done me a world of good. Thankfully, Mulder didn't want to sit down and have a long, involved discussion about any of it. I didn't think I could handle it at that point.

Breakfast was as good as it smelled. We even met another guest, Mr. Mason. He was a friendly man, down from Gary for an antique car show they held in Evansville called Frog Follies.

"You see," he told us, "everyone soups up these old classics and displays them at the 4-H Fairgrounds. It's a really big event – thousands come out every day of the weekend it runs. Hell, we even race 'em sometimes!"

We ate and listened as he explained all the different styles of cars. Nearly all of them were from the earlier decades. "I've got a 1955 Willys Ms. Charlotte was kind enough to let me store in her garage while I'm here. Named her "The Groundhog." If you folks want to see her after I get back, just let me know. I'm happy to show 'er off!"

"Thank you, Mr. Mason. I'd like that," I answered. I always did enjoy admiring the older models. Must be a product of my childhood, growing up around Naval bases that sometimes hosted those same events.

Mr. Mason excused himself and set out for the fairgrounds. I glanced over at Charlotte, who was busy washing the dishes, and lowered my voice. "I think we should start today by looking for another place to stay."

"You're not going to find anything, dear." Charlotte tossed over her shoulder. "Between the 'Follies and the storm, everything'll be booked solid."

I looked at Mulder. We couldn't stay in the same room for the duration of the trip, that was for sure. "Are you certain? Surely there must be vacancies somewhere."

"Nope," she responded. "I already did some calling around for a young couple who stopped by earlier. Everyone's booked. The tornado did enough damage to force some parts of town out of their homes and that car show always fills up the motels."

Great. "Well, Mulder, we could always stay with Mrs. Maire. She did offer."

"And sleep next to Kujo? I don't think so!"

I couldn't help the small bark of laughter that escaped my mouth. Mulder frowned. "I'm glad you're amused, Scully. That dog should be put down."

"Right. You'd never be able to live with the guilt."

"May I make a suggestion?" Charlotte cut in, "Stay here tonight. If you check out, I'll have to turn your room over and I'd really hate to see you without a place to stay."

I liked Charlotte. She was a kind woman and her concern for us touched me. Looking back at Mulder, I asked him what he thought. He nibbled on his last piece of bacon and answered, "Anything's better than staying with that rabid mutt."

I took that as a yes.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

We pulled up to the front of Mrs. Maire's two-story home around 10:00 that morning. It looked a lot nicer in the daylight. Less foreboding. The river, to the far right of the house, calmly flowed by as the birds chirped in the thick trees above. If it weren't for the leaves littering the yard or the smaller, fallen branches, you'd never tell a severe storm had taken hold of this small community.

As in many older, preserved towns, the stairs leading up the high lawn were steep and narrow. This close up, you couldn't see the house at all unless you were on the top few steps. The house itself was beautiful. I didn't notice the day before all the stained glass windows that decorated the clear panes below.

I remembered that I once told Scully I wanted to settle down in a place like Home, Pennsylvania. But I thought this place was just about as close to perfect as it could be. Small town – with cable - and large town convenience mere miles away. I pictured coming home to a place like this, walking into the house I shared with Scully, being knocked down by an excited puppy. Scully's stomach bulging in a little pooch as she rested her hand upon it. The way the light would glint off the gold band and refract from the diamond…

I shook myself from my daydream. Whenever whimsical notions popped up in my head, I swatted them away like annoying flies. It did no good to think of impossible things. Raising my hand to knock, I sent a silent prayer to whoever was listening to make sure Princess was locked away. Damn dog.

"Oh, hello there!" Mrs. Maire said with a smile. "Please, come in." She moved to the side to allow us entry. As I walked past her, she placed a hand on my arm and added, "And don't you worry, Mr. Mulder. Princess is safe and sound in my bedroom. What with your allergies and all, I thought it would be best." She winked and gave me a smile. I looked over at Scully, who was grinning from ear to ear.

We took our seats. "Mrs. Maire," I began, "Please tell us the first time you experienced any unusual activity."

She sat back in her chair and thought for a moment. "Well, I'd say the very first time was about five months ago. I was sitting at my kitchen table, writing a letter to my daughter. All of a sudden, I saw this big cloud-like thing, floating through the room. Then it just – disappeared."

"May we see the kitchen, Mrs. Maire?" Scully said. The older woman nodded and led us into her large kitchen. "Here," she said, "it stopped right in front of the island. That's where I was." She pointed to the dinette across the room.

I walked over to the window. The kitchen was adjacent to the river, which was right over the lawn and down the knoll the house rested on. "Mrs. Maire, you said that there were noises you couldn't explain."

"The loudest thumping you'll ever want to hear. And a voice, like someone whispering only you can't understand a blessed word. I've even tried talking to it before, but it never responded."

I nodded. "You also said that there was an apparition of a man who appeared just out there?" I pointed outside the window.

"Yes. I followed the sound of his voice outside and saw the figure of a man, hovering by that drop over there. When I peeked over the edge, I saw him just standing on the riverbank, so I decided to climb down and take a look. By then, he was gone."

"And this has happened on more than one occasion?"

"Oh, yeah. Happens all the time! Only this last time, he seemed to be trying to tell me something about the river. I've been trying to get help about this for a long time, Mr. Mulder. I'm surprised that the police thought this was important enough to contact the FBI."

Scully raised her eyebrow and looked pointedly at me, arms crossed and lips pursed. It was no secret she thought this was a waste of time. Maybe it was. But as long as we got out of that office, I didn't care.

"Mrs. Maire, I'd like to take a look outside." I told her.

She nodded, "Of course. Please, take your time."

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Mulder headed out the door, leaving me to stand in the kitchen with Mrs. Maire. In his absence, I listened to anecdotes about her grandchildren, her personal religious beliefs about the "ghost" and some very personal questions about my relationship with Mulder. I also found out that she hadn't had regular visitors since after her husband died two years ago. Much of her family had either passed on or lived far away.

Excusing myself, I stepped out to the side lawn to speak to Mulder. He stood next to the drop-off, staring at the swirling river below.

"Mulder."

He turned around slowly. "Did you find out anything new about our amazing, disappearing man, Scully?" A shaft of light shone through the leaves of the tree above us, striking Mulder's eyes as they danced mirthfully.

I looked at him for a moment, all embarrassment of my actions earlier dissolved. He was really a beautiful creature, stunning in his silent strength and unassuming good looks. He wasn't the sort of man that would turn your head at a quick, first glance. His beauty hit you full force only after speaking to him, even if only for a moment. The way all his attention instantly focused on you like he had tunnel vision was overwhelming in its intensity. It's what every woman dreams of in a man, and I was fortunate enough to have him as a partner and friend.

"You could say that," I answered. He turned his back on me, staring out at the muddy water once more.

"I want to drag the river," he stated plainly.

I stood there, dumbfounded. Why the hell would he want to do that? Walking around him, I joined his side and looked up at him. "Mulder, I see no reason to go to that extreme."

"There's a reason that the spirit of that man stops here. His appearance began only a short while ago – aren't you the least bit curious?"

"Curious enough to spend valuable time and tax dollars dragging the river? No. Mulder, this is a ghost story, derived from loneliness. A poor soul trying to give herself a reprieve from her forlorn existence. Nothing more."

"Loneliness? That's your explanation? I don't buy it, Scully."

Well, that was a surprise. "It has been proven that some people who have isolated themselves or have experienced acute loneliness are prone to fantasy. The very fact that Mrs. Maire has willingly withdrawn from society speaks of her present state of well

being. All she has is that dog, with all of her family living so far away."

"I don't think these phenomena can be reduced to something so trite."

"Well, it's possible that she's been experiencing what is known as a waking dream, where visual and auditory hallucinations occur while awake."

He looked doubtful. "I'm familiar with the term, Scully. Somehow, I doubt that's the case here."

I blew out an impatient breath. "It's also possible that the clouds of smoke gathering in the kitchen could be attributed to a bit of material drifting in the eye's vitreous humour, known as a "floater." Such things can cause the illusion that something is moving in the peripheral vision. I'd like to examine the house and see what I can find."

"Well, you do that. I'll be at the library seeing what I can dig up on the history of this house." He started to walk away, but stopped and turned to face me. "And Scully? If you happen to experience any "hallucinations" while I'm gone, make sure to give me a call." He grinned broadly and made his way toward the front of the house.

I stared at his retreating back. I shouted at him, "Fine. You make the call. And I expect you to write this one up, Mulder. I don't want to be responsible for explaining why we required all that manpower based on a story and a hunch." He raised a hand in answer and continued walking. I could just imagine the victory grin on his face and it irritated me beyond reason. The man was relentless, but there really had to be a line. Unfortunately, I'd lost this battle. Walking back into the house, I informed Mrs. Maire of our intentions and went about searching the house for more plausible and down-to-earth explanations for the phenomena.

Everything seemed to be in excellent order, especially considering the age of the structure itself. The plumbing and electrical wiring were current and had recently been inspected. There was no gas leakage of any kind to be found. Since the owner was a non-smoker, cigarette smoke couldn't be the culprit. After a very thorough search of both the house and the surrounding grounds, I was at a loss. 

I said goodbye to Mrs. Maire and walked outside, squinting against the mid-afternoon sunlight that seeped through the canvas of leaves above. Mulder had left the car for my use. He must have decided to walk to the library. Everything in town was very close, so he had only a short walk. We'd learned all of this from Charlotte earlier that morning at breakfast.

It was truly a beautiful day. There was little evidence of the disastrous storm the day before, as store and homeowners alike had cleared away much of the debris that littered sidewalks and lawns. I drove with the windows down, delighting in the feel of the warm air lifting and blowing through my hair. In a few moments, I was pulling into the parking lot of the library.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Poring over my heap of books and papers, I was intrigued by the history of the small town of Newburgh. Settled in 1803, it was one of the oldest communities in Southwestern Indiana. In 1916, it entered the Union as the 19th state. In 1862, it had the distinguished honor of being the first town north of the Mason-Dixon line to be captured by Confederate forces.

All that history, and yet, little of the stories of hauntings and legends that usually accompany it. In fact, the worst this town had endured was the indignity of being bested by the Confederates when they crossed the Ohio and confiscated supplies without ever having fired a shot. That's one thing they wouldn't boast in a welcome brochure, I mused.

"Having any luck?" a female voice interrupted.

I looked up and peered at the speaker through my glasses. Scully stood there, mouth dropped open slightly. "You okay?" I asked.

She flushed, "Uh, fine, Mulder."

I frowned. "Okay," I said. Whatever was wrong with her, she looked all right now. "I couldn't find anything of much use here. The house was used as a political meeting place in the Civil War, but nothing extraordinary has ever happened there or on the grounds it rests on."

She sat in the mauve chair across from me. "I couldn't find anything either. The house seems to be in excellent working order." She sighed.

"Well, I'd like to go back there later, around the time that she said she first encountered the "hallucination." I used air quotes and grinned, just to irritate her.

Looking at her watch, she diplomatically ignored my attempt. "That would be in another three hours. I'm starved, Mulder. Let's go see what's on Main Street."

We left the car in the parking lot and strolled leisurely down the hill that was Main Street. It consisted of small shops, tightly packed and lining the narrow street. It was quaint and reminded me of a little village. We found a sandwich shop and grabbed a late lunch.

As we were finishing, Scully surprised me. "Do you want to take a walk? It's such a nice day and we have a couple of hours to kill." She looked at me with big, blue eyes. Honestly, she had no idea that I could deny her nothing under normal circumstances, but she could wrap me around her finger with a look like that.

I smiled. "Only if we can check out this Dam Park I keep hearing about"

She wiped her mouth and dropped the napkin into the empty sandwich basket. "Deal. Let's go."

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

The sun gently spread its warmth over us as we walked down that cute little historical district housing much of the limited business in the town. I removed my blazer and draped it across my arm to allow it to beat gently on my exposed skin, relishing the feel of the slight breeze that stirred the heated air around us. We walked down the hilly street to the river that lay below.

"Looks better from far away," Mulder commented. It was the perfect compliment to the scene from the top of the hill, framed by the old buildings. Close up, it was a dirty, debris-filled body of water. It was disappointing, really. As if we'd expected something different from the river that ran beside Mrs. Maire's home.

We wandered along the bank and came across a small ice cream shop. "C'mon, Scully, have some with me," Mulder insisted. I agreed and got a Black Forest cone, laughing when the cherries and hot fudge started to dribble down the still-warm waffle cone onto my hand. Mulder looked at me in wonder.

"What?" I asked.

He just stared, shaking his head slightly with a serious expression on his face. I sobered instantly. Things were changing between us, especially since that embarrassing little incident earlier. It was almost palpable. I also knew that neither of us had the guts to give it that final push forward. All the old arguments notwithstanding, we were both just too damn scared. But the way he was looking at me… It may have been a while, but I could still remember the way a man looks just before he's about to kiss you.

Not able to stop staring at his lips, I mumbled, "We should get going."

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Her voice snapped me back into reality. Jesus. What the hell was I thinking?

"Yeah," I rasped out.

We walked back, following the river until we reached the end of the street. Neither of us spoke. I wondered, what was she thinking? What if she didn't want any of this? I was worried that I'd screw this up before it even had a chance to begin. Trudging up the hill, her hand brushed mine. She gave me a small smile and relief washed through me. I was making too much of her silence.

Twenty minutes later, we were pulling up to the front of Mrs. Maire's home. She seemed relieved to see us.

"Oh, it'll be so nice to have someone here when it happens," she exclaimed as soon as we entered. "I can't tell you how many times I've told my story to my kids, only to have them treat me like I was losing my marbles." She laughed and shook her head.

I smiled politely. It was a shame that this friendly woman was closeted away from the world, having only the grocery delivery man and weekly phone calls from her kids to keep her company.

"I'd like to be clear – you said that the image appears to you at around this time in the kitchen?"

"Yes," she answered and looked at the massive grandfather clock, which showed the time to be quarter 'til six. "Then it makes all that racket. We'd better get in there soon, or else you'll miss most of it." She walked into the kitchen with us following closely behind. 

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

If I thought we were wasting our time before, I was absolutely certain of it now. Four hours past the time we expected the "ghost" and not a single rattle that couldn't be accounted for.

"I'm afraid it isn't going to show tonight," Mrs. Maire said sadly. I felt bad for the poor woman. She had so wanted someone to believe her. "It's never this late, you know." Looking into her coffee cup, she sighed and spoke softly, "My oldest son wants to put me into a home. He thinks that I've finally lost my mind." She lifted her watery gaze to meet mine. "I'm not crazy. I know what I saw."

All I could do was nod. It was the first time in my life that I actually wanted to believe in the existence of such a thing. My heart went out to the elderly woman. Steeling herself, she rose with her head held high with dignity and walked over to the counter.

A sudden loud crash startled us. Mulder and I jumped to our feet instantly and my eyes darted quickly to the source. Mrs. Maire stood at the counter, staring out the window with her jaw dropped open. At her feet lay the shattered remains of the coffee pot, black liquid and glass mingling on the ceramic tile.

"Mrs. Maire?" I asked urgently. No response. I grasped her elbow and repeated myself. "Mrs. Maire? Are you alright?"

Her mouth opened and closed like a floundering fish. She was focused on something outside the window. "Mulder, we need to get her into a chair." He quickly came to her side to assist me. As we attempted to pull her toward the table, she resisted. Pointing one shaky finger at the window, she licked her lips and said, "There it is."

Mulder let her arm go and looked outside. "What is it?" I asked. He didn't answer right away, so I stepped over to his side and looked out the window with one hand on my weapon, tensed and ready for anything.

"Nothing," he said. "There's nothing there."

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Scully walked through the room, wearily depositing her blazer on the chair. I watched as she dropped onto the bed and rubbed her eyes in defiance to her exhaustion, then scooped up her toiletries in preparation of a shower.

On the way back to the B&B, she'd tried to convince me to cancel the dredging scheduled for the following afternoon, but I'd been adamant about moving forward with it. I just had a feeling, something I could never make her understand. Scully dealt in facts, not feelings.

I patiently waited for Scully's return, studying the composite sketch of the man drawn earlier, then took my turn in the shower. As the warm water lapped over my tense muscles, my mind wandered into familiar, dangerous territory. I've often fantasized about my luscious partner, but this was different. This time, I had very real, very recent memories to tease me, my very own arsenal of erotic imagery. The sight of her kneeling before me, the feel of her hot breath, puffing from her parted, full-berried lips and the intensity of her gaze as she pretended to play the perfect professional, trying so hard not to let me see the interest she held in other parts of my perfectly healthy anatomy. The feel of her body as it pressed so perfectly into mine, like the other half of me I never knew was missing. Grinding and pushing into me, moaning softly in a sort of abandon I never thought I'd be blessed to hear.

All of these things ran through my mind at the speed of light, making my wandering hand that much harder to stop. Before I knew it, my hand had made its way down my slick, soapy body and grasped my cock, stroking it harder and faster as the urgency overwhelmed me. I couldn't think about anything but the sight of her in these moments, with her eyes dropped almost coquettishly and her tongue darting out like she was starved. When I came, it was with her name on the tip of my tongue. It was all I could do to keep from calling it out loud.

A little drained, a little ashamed, I got out of the shower and toweled off. I'd done the right thing. It would've been a very bad idea to crawl into bed with Scully with a raging hard-on. Still, I felt like an asshole for using her to get off.

Just what the hell was going on with us, anyway? Just as soon as I feel like I have a firm grasp of "the rules," she goes off and changes them on me. I thought about how completely wonderful and right it felt to wake up with her tiny body cradled and entangled in mine, yet, what was I supposed to think about it? The worst thing I could imagine would be to spill my guts to her and have to see the look on her face that said she didn't feel the same. I could handle anything but that.

I dressed and walked down the hall for another night of sheer torture.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

The man could be so infuriating at times. I couldn't believe he still wanted to follow through on that request to drag the river, even after his proof-positive failed him earlier. He himself admitted to seeing nothing. Why, then, did he insist on going forward on this?

I sat on the bed, smearing lotion on my legs and massaging it into the skin while I continued my internal rant. Waste of funds and time. Can't believe he always has to go out on a limb, after all the hoaxes and inaccurate accounts we'd seen.

Mulder poked his head inside the door mid- tirade like a child would when he knows he's about to be chewed out by a principal. I ignored him. If he wanted to put on the puppy-dog face, then let him. I'm far too old to be moved by such a childish act. He slunk inside the room, shutting the door and locking it behind him, then climbed up into the high bed effortlessly.

I pumped more lotion into my hand and massaged it into the other leg, slowly, to get all the kinks out. Mulder turned on the TV from the ever-present remote at his bedside and began channel surfing.

"Scully, what is that?" he asked, never looking away from the screen.

I sighed tiredly. "What's what, Mulder?"

He turned to face me. "That lotion. What's it called?"

His question threw me for a loop. It was a rare day that Fox Mulder was interested in my fragrance of choice. "Am I to hope that my answer will determine this year's Christmas present?"

He cocked his head and smiled slyly, "Maybe."

"Well, in that case, I hope you aren't shy about shopping in women's lingerie stores." I quickly finished before the customary comment from him could be delivered. "It's called Secret Crush."

He scrunched up his nose. "You're kidding."

I shook my head.

"Scully, it sounds like something in some high school girl's locker."

I shot him a withering look. Actually, I'd thought the same thing until I tried it, but I'll be damned if I'd tell him that.

He cleared his throat. "Anyway, it's nice." He turned back to the TV, leaving me a bit stunned. In his own, Mulder-esque way, he'd just given me quite the compliment. I smiled in spite of myself and went back to finish my legs.

I was exhausted. The day had been strange and basically unproductive, as a whole. There had been no sightings or strange noises, no evidence of any kind that would support Mulder's belief that we were dealing with a haunting. And I didn't even want to contemplate our actions earlier in the morning. Thank God Mulder was gentleman enough to let it go. I didn't think I could handle a lengthy and uncomfortable conversation about it.

I placed the lotion on the nightstand, shutting off the lamp that rested there, and slid between the sheets, snuggling against the silkiness of the cotton. Quality was certainly not sacrificed there, that was for sure. Settling onto my side a tossed a "G'night, Mulder," over my shoulder and closed my eyes against the flashing of the television in the darkened room.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Two hours. Two long, difficult hours, propped against pillows, listening to the cadence of Scully's breathing as I flipped through the channels. My program of choice was the worst idea I'd ever had, but after an hour and a half of fighting the urge to settle on my usual late-night premium channels, I finally gave in.

And damn, but I was sorry I had.

On the screen was a couple engaging in a test of wills in an office setting. I'd gathered that the petite brunette was the man's assistant. These movies aren't exactly of the cerebral variety, so I was able to catch on to the flimsy plot easily. The woman sat on the edge of her boss's desk, garter purposely exposed as she thrust her breasts forward. I glanced over at Scully. Still asleep, thank God.

I turned my attention back to the screen. The woman was issuing some sort of challenge… Holy shit! That's my kind of woman! Made me want an assistant of my own. The man smiled in response to the challenge and took her hand as she led him to the elevator. They cut to the outside of the building, businessmen and women milling around in power suits. A large, stone fountain sat in the front and the man sat down on it. The woman smiled and sat down, lifting her skirt before settling down on his lap. He reached between them to unzip his fly and she raised up slightly, then sat back again. The man moaned loudly as she slid down on him and gasped.

I couldn't help but think of me and Scully in that situation, in the middle of a crowded place with her sweet ass on my lap, gliding up and down on my cock. Would she moan like the woman on TV, or would she play it cool, doing all she could not to attract attention? I pictured what she would look like to the outside world, the world that had no clue how crazy she was driving me as I was buried deep inside of her. Her eyes – would they be open, or closed? Open, I decided. She wouldn't want to give our secret away. The only tell-tale signs would be obvious only to me, by the sounds of her breath puffing erratically and the fierce beating of her heart against my hand as it held her to me for balance, beneath her breasts. 

"Mulder, what are you watching?" Scully's voice made me jump a mile high.

"Jesus, Scully! You scared the hell out of me."

She didn't respond, just sat up and stared intently at the television. Oh, shit, I thought. Here's where I get the ass chewing for watching Skinemax while she was so innocently sleeping beside me.

After several long, uncomfortable moments of silence, she finally spoke up. "Humph! Yeah, like that could happen."

Shocked, I whipped my head around to face her. "Huh?"

"I mean, look at that," she continued, "Tell me that this isn't one of the most ridiculous scenarios you've ever seen."

Way to crush a dream, Scully. "What's so ridiculous about it?" I ventured.

"Well, first of all, they'd never get by with that. Look at that place! It's packed to the gills with people, yet there they are, in the middle of the crowd and no one notices?" she snorted, "Yeah, right. Secondly, look at that angle. It is physically impossible to make love at that angle. That is, unless his penis is attached to his thighs. Honestly, you'd think they'd at least make an attempt at making it look real." She shook her head, wide eyes still glued to the screen. Just as the onscreen couple was finishing up, the woman made a comment about finishing up some Xeroxing for him. "Oh, please! She's his secretary?"

I smiled and faced her again. "I believe the PC term is 'assistant'."

She waved a dismissive hand. "Whatever. Mulder, how do you find this even remotely appealing?"

"Well, it was appealing, up until about ten minutes ago," I chuckled lightly.

"Well, it's not at all realistic." She quietly listened to more of the dialogue. Something the woman in the movie said made her eyes go wide in disbelief. "That was their first time?"

I wasn't sure what had gotten into her, exactly, but the conversation was actually making me a bit uneasy. Maybe it was the relaxed atmosphere of the town or the hour, but she wasn't talking like the Scully I knew. Still, I was intrigued.

"Apparently so," I answered.

She snorted, "What a romantic. I wonder why he didn't just prop her up on the desk and have his way with her."

I shifted slightly. Careful, Scully. That little scenario was a common occurrence in my fantasy world. Clearing my throat, I posed the question I never thought I'd have the balls to ask. "Wh-where would you prefer?"

She looked at me and I swear I could see her breathing quicken beneath that thin layer of silk. "Um," her eyes darted away for a millisecond, then returned to stare courageously into mine. I realized how close our faces were – maybe only about a foot apart. "Truthfully, Mulder? I couldn't think of a better place than here."

Holy shit.

"Yeah, it's really – nice here," I stammered nervously. Real smooth, dumbass. She smiled tightly in response.

"Turn off the TV, would you? I'd like to get some sleep tonight." With that, she turned to face the other wall and laid down. A golden opportunity and I missed it. Jesus, life wasn't fair.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

What the hell was I thinking?

I laid there, as still as possible and willed my heart and breathing to return to normal. That was the most incredibly stupid thing I'd ever done – and subtlety? God. Would the humiliation never cease?

Behind me, Mulder turned the television off and settled in next to me. The heat off his body was felt against my back in our close proximity. What had I expected in that brief and ill-advised exchange? That he would proclaim his undying love and devotion to me? I prayed that the whole thing would just – die. The very last thing I wanted was for it to be an issue.

All I could think about was the look on his face when I answered his question. He was scared. I couldn't say I blamed him. Life is measured in leaps - sane, logical leaps. This was the wrong leap at the worst possible time. But, when would it be time? Had we missed the boat? Would I wake up, twenty years from now, filled with the regret of having let this pass? It was simply too hard to contemplate. It hurt too much.

I listened to his breathing, noting that he was as wide awake as I. There was nothing standing between the two of us now. We were raw, exposed. This morning was the ultimate crumbling of our stubborn wills. And now this… Someone, something was about to break.

I never imagined it would be me.

I rolled around to face him, surprised that he was turned toward me, and smiled.

"Hi," I said.

He smiled back, a broad grin that lit up his whole, beautiful face and replied, "Hi."

I raised a hand to rest gently on his smooth cheek. He searched my eyes, brow furrowed in confusion. "I don't want to do this anymore," I whispered.

He laid a light hand on top of mine. "I don't either."

"I'm tired, Mulder. So tired of pretending that this isn't what I want."

His eyes bore into mine. "Then don't."

Drawn together by a force stronger, wiser, more powerful than us, we tasted each other's lips for the very first time. It was sweet, innocent. Lips caressing with loving tenderness as he tangled a hand into my hair.

"You know I love you, Scully," he said earnestly, in a way that made my bottom lip tremble. Oh, Mulder. Of course I know. I smiled warmly, nodding as butterflies did a cute little square dance in my belly.

He caressed my cheek with one warm hand, mirroring me as the other continued to sift through my hair. Eyes darkening in the splash of light from the window, he looked at my mouth hungrily and licked his lips. "And I can't, won't pretend any longer. I know what I want, Scully, and what I want is you."

Before I could respond in kind, he claimed my lips, crushing them against his in a stormy clash of tongues and teeth. It was unreal, dizzying in its all-encompassing intensity. Dangerous and right, all at once. He tasted beautiful.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

She tasted beautiful. Like mint and vanilla and just pure Scully. Just like I imagined she would – more delectable than the sweetest truffles, softer than the finest silk. And I love her; oh, God do I love her.

Impatiently, she pulled at my hips, urging me to climb onto her. Far be it from me to deny a lady. She hastily broke the near-brutal kiss; licking her plumped lips before gasping out a shaky, "Need you, Mulder. Want you." I bent to nibble one perfect, taut nipple through the silk of that damned slip that had driven me to insanity the night before, the gasp and answering arch of her back, complete music to my ears.

My arms shook with the weight of my nervous desire, straddling the woman that I've loved for years and trying not to gape as she irritably yanked at the thin straps of her slip until none of its silkiness concealed the marvel that was her breasts. Perfection. High on her chest, pert and the perfect size. I had to taste her, had to see if they were as good in my mouth as they looked to my hazed eyes.

They tasted faintly of roses, of that essence I'd only previously gotten a hint of. That slight whisper of her true scent – sitting next to her in the car for endless hours or standing close to her in the confines of our office. It was stronger here, and I followed it down to where it was stronger still, placing feather-light, open kisses on her ribs, around the clothing gathered below her breasts, on her tight belly, around her navel. I flicked a tongue out to sample the satin of her skin, blazing a trail to the delicious dampness between her legs, wantonly displayed to me. She was feral, humming in the back of her throat as I drank her in, bucking unabashedly while grasping hands full of my hair. I breathed her in. This, this was Scully. The true woman, pure and undiluted.

The throbbing of my own need was of little importance. I had stumbled upon my deity, my salvation. There was nothing but the veneration I wanted to lavish upon her. Her pleasure was my own, and the feeling was as foreign as it was intoxicating. When she climaxed, she was a thousand times more beautiful than any depiction of angels and a part of me touched Heaven with her.

Wordlessly, she urged my upward. I sat up on my knees and slowly pulled the silk slip down her body, watching as she shivered from the feathery contact in her highly sensitized state. Realizing that I was still fully clothed, I pulled my t-shirt off, tossing it to over the side of our bed, our canopied nest, and shifted to yank my boxers off. I settled between her thighs and jumped at the electric spark of her hands around my cock as she guided me inside her. Deeper, deeper I plunged until I was fully submerged and surrounded by her.

Her arching back and meeting thrusts were divinity, tenfold. My body thrummed with a pleasure I'd never known, fueled by the need I'd felt for this woman for more years than I cared to admit. It was like being suspended in that glorious place between build-up and release indefinitely. Pleasure and frustration, battling for dominance. Spiritual and overwhelming.

I felt it coming saw it on the horizon and begged for it to come to me. All at once, I could sense the pinnacle rushing toward me. Reaching a hand down between us, I rubbed at the hardened pebble in time with the grinding thrusts. In a sudden sunburst, I came, feeling an exquisite tightening and answering rush of heat wash over my buried cock seconds after. Sweaty and weak, I rolled off of her fevered body and pulled her against me in an embrace. 

"Love you, Mulder," she breathed out. "So much."

We held each other for a long time, listening to one another's hearts and breathing as they slowed to normal. Nothing in the world could ever compare to that moment, a defining moment in my life, as far as I was concerned. It was that one moment you just knew was the purpose of your existence.

Elated but weary, I coaxed the forgotten blanket at the foot of our bed up with the only leg not pinned between Scully's and covered us up in the chilliness of the room. She sighed and snuggled into my arms, mumbling nonsense into my neck as she slept.

My Scully.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

When I wake up in the mornings, I do so in stages. I'm not a grump, nor am I disagreeable in the early hours. I'm simply just not what one would call a "morning person." First, I become vaguely aware of my surroundings, but cannot be bothered to open my eyes, no matter how the alarm clock protests. Second, I stretch out my limbs, relishing the feline luxury of the feeling it brings. At this point, I will slap at the snooze button, sometimes for the second time. Finally, I open my eyes and adjust to the diffused sunlight through my blinds. On average, it takes me about twenty minutes to "wake up."

That morning, however, it took all of twenty seconds.

It was lovely, before awareness hit. Like being cradled in the puffiest cumulous cloud, only warm. In those pre-dawn moments of nearly-awake, I idly wondered if it was what a mother's womb felt like to her baby. So soft and cozy and utterly delicious. Then, the cloud moved.

"Morning," it said. That's when I remembered. Nibbling, licking, lapping. Grinding, thrusting and pure, unadulterated bliss.

And there I was, wrapped snugly in his embrace with the covers up to my chin in the middle of the most exquisitely intimate bed. The canopy, with its trailing gauze around the bedposts created a little nest of sorts, sanctuary from the rest of the world.

My feelings toward Mulder hadn't changed. Not in the least. It was just that things are often so very different in the light of day. I was excruciatingly shy now and embarrassed by my behavior. What must he think of me? was all I could think.

I hazarded a wary, sideways glance, trying to gauge his reaction. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the flash of teeth. I turned to face him, still unsure of what to expect. I'd be so humiliated if I saw regret in his eyes.

Mulder stared at me, not but six inches from my face, with the goofiest grin I'd ever seen him wear. He looked like a lovesick teenager.

"'Bout time you woke up, sleepyhead," he said jovially, giving me a good squeeze with his arms – which I had still been wrapped in. Relief washed over me like an Absolution. Could it really be? Had we finally evolved to the people I'd feared we'd never become? Had we taken that final leap, the insane, illogical leap I so craved – and everything was okay?

It was so surreal. And almost life-affirming. For so long, I'd lost my bearings in a sea of cynicism. That day, I learned that not everything had to hurt. Love didn't have to be painful. It could be wonderful and simple when two people loved with the depth Mulder and I felt for each other.

We made love in our little haven twice more, before the team was due out at Mrs. Maire's home to begin the river search. Afterward, we walked down to Main Street, indulging in a cappuccino and some of the best donuts I'd ever tasted from a tiny, family owned bakery on the strip. Laughing out loud felt wonderful. I'd done a lot of that during the lately.

Finally, duty reared its ugly head. We walked back to get the car and drove over to meet the team.

"You know, Mulder," I began as we exited the car and started our trek up the stairs of the lawn, "it's very likely that Mrs. Maire's hallucinations are a symptom of Alzheimer's." Damn! Why hadn't I thought to look up her medical records?

Mulder said nothing. I stopped at the top of the stairs, crossing my arms and looking up at him. "Please call off the search. You and I both know there's nothing in the water." Please, Mulder, I'd wanted to say. No more ammunition for them to use against you at the Bureau. I knew he understood the silent plea, as he always did. Just as I understood the silent answer - Scully, you know I have to do this. It was our usual, unspoken argument, and it always ended the same.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

An hour after our arrival, there was a commotion below Mrs. Maire's yard, on the riverbank. We'd been sipping on iced tea on the back patio and nibbling homemade petites fours she'd spent the morning baking and glazing for her "guests." Up until that point, I'd almost been convinced that Scully was right – that I'd jumped the gun and called for an all out search – all for nothing more than an elderly woman's overactive imagination.

Following the cacophony of shouts and orders, I slid down the drop-off in a manly show of agility and ran down the few yards where part of the team stood on land.

"What is it?" I asked the Sheriff's Deputy.

He shook his head in disbelief, the hand holding the walkie-talkie dropped to his side like it suddenly turned to lead. "They just pulled a body out of the river," he said, never taking his eyes off the boat. I squinted against the glare of the sun off the water. Sure enough, a body was being hauled aboard. "I – This was the last thing I expected to find, Agent Mulder. I thought we were wasting our time here." I was beginning to myself, buddy, I thought. 

Several minutes later, an ambulance attracted nosy neighbors as the paramedics joined the crew by the river. Mrs. Maire had a small dock she shared with the family behind her house, which hadn't come in handy for years until that day. The body was transferred to a stretcher and the pockets emptied for clues as to the identity of the hapless man. The body was bloated and unrecognizable from the prolonged exposure to water, so it was very fortunate that the man's wallet was still in his pocket. It would've taken a long time to make a positive ID, and to determine cause of death.

"Well, I'll be damned," I said in sheer amazement. The driver's license named the victim to be one Jason Halifax of 404 Middle Street, Newburgh, Indiana. D.O.B. 3/16/71. But what was really extraordinary was the picture.

Scully leaned over and grasped the other half of the license, eyes wide. The man looked exactly like the description Mrs. Maire had given to us and to the sketch artist. I pulled the drawing from my pocket and put it next to the ID.

They were the same man.

~ The End ~

Challenge Elements:

~ A tornado

~ Sex in a crowded place

~ A Marvin the Martian cartoon

~ A broken coffeepot, not related to tornado

~ A groundhog

~ A cold shower

~ A vase with dead flowers in it