So I wrote this way back in 2005, and it's been on another site called MiJ. I'm trying to get all my fics into one place, hence the pseudo repost.

Title: Conundrum

Author: Skinfull

Date: 16 Sep 2005 23:46:35

Rating: PG 13

Classification: Fluff City (But honestly...who wouldn't like to see Mulder in nothing but a pair of leather chaps? Oh...have I said too much? LOL) Case file with a difference. Adult situations and some violence. Use reader discretion.

Disclaimer: Not mine, no profit, no harm.

Summary: ST: TNG Season 5 episode 114 of the same name inspired this fic. (Yes I am a Trek geek as well) What if something happened that cause partial amnesia in Mulder and Scully?

Feedback: dingodoyle Love all feedback. Thanks in Advance!


By Skinfull

Callaghan Ranch



"Look Mulder I don't like it anymore then you do, but we have a job to do so just deal with it."

She was giving him a wickedly crooked smile as she gazed down at him; his shirt was tossed to the ground and his torso was gleaming, tauntingly bare and covered with a sheen of sweat from his hard work in the relentless sun. Before she changed her mind and got carried away with her scrutiny, Agent Scully flicked the edge of her hat, kicked her heels into the side of her horse and broke into a gallop.

As he watched her ride back towards the farmhouse, her figure outlined beautifully in the tight denims and black leather chaps almost made Mulder think this undercover gig was worth it. Dropping the sledgehammer to the ground, he wiped his brow with his forearm and blew a waft of cold air over his face. Two weeks they'd been working on this ranch as help hands and still they had nothing to report. Having spoken nightly to Skinner, who was adamant that they remain there until they had something to call in, Mulder was now fully sure, as he glanced back over the fifty back breaking fence posts he'd already planted, that it was an obscure form of punishment, not an undercover case.

"Hey, Cody. You about done with them posts?"

Mulder looked up to see, John Callaghan, the Ranch owner approaching with two horses. Even after two weeks working on the ranch, he still wasn't used to being called Cody.

"Just about." Mulder fitted the last one into the hole by his foot and pounded it in securely. After securing the last of the wire around it, he stood back to admire his work and couldn't help the smile of pride that stretched over his tired face.

"Good," John drawled, holding out the reigns from one of the horses to Mulder. "I just heard Tom calling everyone for supper."

Mulder rolled the hammer and wire tools he'd been using into a blanket, then slid them easily into a shoulder bag on the back of the saddle. The horse, John was holding steady for him, looked around as he tied the latches, but Mulder patted the animal's shoulder firmly in reassurance. He reached for his shirt and pulled it on but left it open. Thankful for the three-week horse- training course he'd taken with Scully before coming on this case, he slipped his foot into the stirrup and hoisted himself onto the horse easily.

With another firm pat to the horse's shoulder, Mulder flexed the reigns and kicked the horse with his heels to catch up with John, who was cantering head towards the ranch. Dana Scully walked away from the stables and followed the raucous voices coming from the food hall. She had worked with horses before; in stables during summer breaks, but never had she actually stayed on a ranch. She had taken on the role of Ranch Doctor a week after Mulder joined. She slept at the main house, sharing the space only with John Callaghan, who as far as she could tell almost never slept. He was in the office working every night when she bid him goodnight and went to her room, and still there in the mornings when she rose for breakfast.

The other six men who worked the ranch shared a smaller 4-bedroom house that boasted the largest kitchen she'd ever been in, and a great dining room that reminded her of the dorm common rooms at college, only much more rustic. It was filled with a large table surrounded by ten chairs at one end, and scattered with couches and chairs at the other. Three guitars rested against the wall next to the huge marble fireplace and pictures of various horses and ranch workers past and present, lined the walls. As she opened the door and walked in, the noise level paused for a second as most of the men turned to see her and stood up from their seats. The rest followed suit but they all cheered when she waved them down with smile and a frown.

Mark walked over to her, taking her elbow to lead her to her usual space in the middle of the table, then sat next to her, his smile wide and undisguised. "Thank you," she said as he poured her a glass of water and placed it next to her plate.

"No problem Sarah. Anything else I can get you?" he asked eagerly, too eagerly she thought.

"No thanks."

"If Cody see's you sidling up to the Doc like that I don't think he'd be happy."

The voice was Tom's, the ranch's cook. An elderly man who had worked with the animals in his younger days, but who's failing back had forced him into the gentler work of feeding the hoard of ranch workers. Mark ignored him but Scully couldn't help the retort.

"Cody? Why wouldn't he be happy?" she asked innocently.

"You know damn well why he wouldn't be, young lady! I've seen the way he looks at you and I know you've seen it too!"

She blushed under his watchful gaze and turned away to concentrate on the floral pattern of the tablecloth, giving him all the confirmation he needed. "Well if Cody has something to say about it, Cody can say it to me," Mark said full of gusto, the audience of the workers giving him the courage he needed to speak his mind.

"Cody can say what to you?" Everyone turned to see Mulder and John walking in. Mulder had donned a fresh shirt and raked his unruly hair away from his face with his fingers. His cheeks were flushed from the brief ride in from the field, and his lips were curved into a lopsided smile as he spotted Mark's proximity to Scully.

Everyone turned back to Mark who was sitting a little straighter now, his face also flushed, but his eyes darting around the room searching for solace.

"Just about the fencing we need to do on the back yard," he muttered, much to the amusement of the rest of them who promptly broke out into cheers and laughter. "What's for dinner Tom?" Mark deftly changed the subject as he stood up and walked to the fire to add more logs.

Mulder walked across the room and purposefully sat across from Scully, leaving Mark's chair empty to show there were no hard feelings. Tom enlisted the help of Jack, who was sitting by the fire strumming on a guitar, and Mark to help him serve the food and soon the conversation was centred back on the ranch; the duties that had been completed and the new ones that had arisen during the day. Every evening it was the same routine. Chow time was the chance everyone had to catch up on the day's events and reassess priorities if need be, air grievances and stuff. John listened carefully to everyone's ideas and divided chores for the following day.

Mulder admired his skill in leadership and knew all the men respected him. Would give their life up for him, and work to the bone every day for this man. So the case bothered him even more. To figure out why seven people that had been brutally murdered, whose bodies were found in scattered locations cross the state, and had all worked on this ranch in the past eighteen months. It was puzzling. It was the only common ground found between all the victims and after extensive but fruitless background checks on all the men here, Skinner authorized an undercover operation.

Mulder glanced carefully around the table. Reaching for a slice of bread, he watched the laughing faces of all the men present as Jack told them all about how he found Sonny, who sat opposite him his face flushing with humiliation, skinny dipping in the lake with Mary-Ellen Griffen last Sunday.

Every day out on the ranch, he relied on backup from all these men whom he had become relatively close with. It was hard to stay distant in such close confines. He always wore his ankle holster though, and made sure Scully wore hers, but most of the men went out into the fields armed in case of an encounter with a bear or wildcat, so no one took any notice of it.

"Okay, okay, finish up now," Tom said as he stood up from the table. "I wanna get this place cleared before sunrise!"

Plates were scraped clean and Scully offered to help, but she was shooed away and steered over to the large blue couch by the fire. Most of the men followed her with cries of entertainment leaving Mulder, Tom and Sonny to clear the rest up. The fire was stoked again and more logs were added as Jack reached for his guitar and began to strum gently on the strings. As Sonny joined the small crowd and took his seat, with a dishtowel slung over his shoulder,

Jack began to sing a well-written parody song about skinny-dipping, much to the amusement of the rest of the men. Sonny took the jibe well and bowed at the waist when the song was over as the rest of them applauded. Mulder and Tom joined them by the fire and as always, surreptitiously, he did a quick head count. He spotted Scully across the way and winked at her before letting his eyes circle the crowd, counting everyone. John was seated regally in a large black armchair that would have dwarfed a smaller man, but barely held his large frame. Tom sat next to him and Scully was seated next to Mark. Sonny was perched on the edge of the fireplace and Jack on the small stool next to him, his guitar on his knee.

That's only seven, he realized. Someone was missing. In all the time he'd been here it was the first time someone was missing. Mulder frowned letting his eyes wander around the group, spotting and naming each face as his eyes fell upon it. It was Jeff who was missing, he realized. They darted back to Scully who had also noted the absence. He was about to stand and make an excuse to leave when a loud crack of thunder filled the air. The room lit up brightly as a fork of lightning illuminated the night sky, then the room plunged into an eerie darkness that was held at bay only by the fire's glow.

"Whoo that was a whopper!" Tom said sipping his coffee as if nothing had happened. "Looks like the power's down."

"I'll get the generator started," Mark said grabbing a coat from the rack and racing out into the storm.

"Sonny, get them shutters fixed!" John called out and Sonny jumped up to lock them shut and save them from banging noisily against the walls.

"A thunder storm," Scully said almost in awe. Storms in the city were annoying and usually a hindrance, but here in Colorado it was a sight to be cherished. "It's beautiful." She stepped closer to the window and peered up into the angry clouded sky as the lightning danced across it, followed shortly by the clatter of thunder.

"Scu... Sarah...step away from the window," Mulder walked over to her and took her elbow but she brushed him away.

"Look! Look at the sky!" she said smiling, but Mulder offered it only a quick glance before pulling her away with a small degree of urgency. Just then Mark came bounding in, his hair plastered to his head from the pounding rain, bringing with him a gust of wind that scoured the room for a release before fading. He shut the door and pulled off his coat.

"The generator is empty. I need fuel."

"Leave it a while Mark, we'll manage by the fire," John said gesturing for everyone to take their seats again. "C'mon Jack, you know the song I want to hear."

Jack smiled and pulled his guitar back into place, as everyone got comfortable again. This time Mulder held onto Scully's arm and led her over to the chair he'd been using. Sitting her down comfortably, he perched on the wide arm and draped his arm across the back of it. He lifted his leg to balance his foot by her knee, twisting his ankle to the side to show Scully the bulge of his gun if she needed it.

But before he could relax the fire was doused and the room was forced into total darkness. Mulder reached for his gun but before he could grab it, brilliant white lights shone in through every window blinding them all for several seconds. Mulder moved his body to hide Scully's face, holding her against his chest and burying her head against his shoulder. Then as suddenly as it began it ended. The lights were gone and the fire was once more lit. A little breathless and confused from the shock, everyone glanced around the room at everyone else. Mulder held his eyes tightly closed for a minute more to stave off the dizziness, then realized he was holding someone tighter then was probably comfortable for them.

"Sorry," he said, stepping back as he opened his eyes, he looked down to the small, undoubtedly female figure in his arms. Her eyes were a cool blue and they looked up at him in wonder, as her small face with delicate features, framed by locks of dark red hair observed him. He didn't know why he was holding this beautiful stranger but he was aware how much he was enjoying it.

"Is everyone ok?" Turning to the source of the voice he saw an elderly man wearing an apron, holding his hands out. Various agreements circled the small crowd as everyone nodded, some of them patting themselves down with instinctive checks for injury.

"What the hell happened?"

"The lightning...the storm."

"The fire..."

"What was that?"

Everyone spoke at once but the man in the apron called for silence and quickly received it. "Listen, I don't know about you guys but I am having trouble remembering who you all are...or for that matter...who I am."