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Genesis II : Tempered by Fire


Part One

A Saturday 2:23 pm

Scully was certain she did not have the ability to orgasm again. But she thought that the last time, and the time before that. She had lost track of the hours, her muscles long since having ceased to function, her bones slowly dissolving. *My mind will be the next to go* She didn't have the energy or the inclination to tell Marsh to stop whatever it was she was doing with her tongue. The pressure was building, her hips were beginning to rock, and she heard herself making the sounds she made when she was about to come.

"Ahh...ahh...ahh..." She gripped Marsh's fingers, squeezing them with the rhythm of the blood pulsing in her pelvis. So close, ready to explode-- *_What_ is that????* Dimly a persistent noise penetrated her consciousness, forcing her back from the brink of orgasm. "Marsh," she gasped, too conditioned to ignore it, "what is ringing?"

Marsh groaned, about to come herself from the urgent movement of Dana's leg between her own. She raised her head a fraction, "My beeper." Then she pulled Scully into her mouth again, not caring who might be calling. All she wanted was one more minute and she would bring them both off.

"That's not your beeper! That's my phone!" Scully exclaimed, rolling out from under Marsh. "Where is the damn thing," she groaned, standing none too steadily.

Marsh pressed her forehead to the mattress, cursing softly as she tried to ignore the insistent throbbing between her legs. Her fingers strayed to her clitoris. It was so hard, and it felt so good to touch it. In another second she would come. *Like the last ten years? Wait for her, you fool!* She dragged her hand away. "It's with your clothes on the window seat," she finally managed as Scully ransacked the room.

Scully tore through the neatly arranged pile, snatched up the phone, and collapsed back on the bed. "Sorry," she whispered to Marsh, pulling Marsh's head onto her lap with one hand while pushing the on button on her cellular with the other. She stroked the damp hair back from Marsh's face as she announced, "Scully."

"Scully? Where are you?"

Scully straightened slightly. "Mulder! What's going on?"

"You didn't come back to the office yesterday--"

"Mulder--it's Saturday morning. Why are you calling me?"

"It's Saturday _afternoon_, Scully," Mulder said pointedly.

Scully felt Marsh tremble against her. *Damn, she was ready to come, too!* Trying to control her exasperation, she said through clenched teeth, "Whatever, Mulder. What's the matter?"

"Well, there _is_ a lot of paperwork and I was wondering if you were coming in."

*He's bored and he wants company* Scully gazed down the long expanse of Marsh's toned body, thinking how much she would like to run her hands over every inch of her. "Mulder, it's Saturday. Do we have a new assignment?"

"No, but--"

"Are you in any kind of trouble?"

"No, but--"

"I'll see you Monday, Mulder," Scully said as she pushed the off button. She reached for Marsh, pulling her up until their faces were at the same level. She pressed her lips to the hollow at the base of Marsh's throat as she slid one hand down Marsh's belly into the warmth that was waiting for her below.

Marsh shuddered, gasping, "God, I need to come."

Scully smiled, circling her with slow, teasing strokes, feeling her tense and swell. "I'm sorry about the call," Scully murmured, pressing until Marsh's hips jerked. "Let me make it up to you."

Marsh whimpered as Scully milked the length of her engorged clitoris between her thumb and forefinger, clutching Scully's shoulders with bruising intensity. "Ohh, you're making me come---" Marsh cried, burying her face against Scully's breast.

"Hold on, honey," Scully breathed into her hair, tightening her hold on the quivering woman with her other arm. "Let me make this good for you."

"Can't-- I'm-- coming--" Marsh sobbed as she exploded under Scully's fingers.

*Oh yesssss, so beautiful* Scully pressed her face to the top of Marsh's head, cradling her against her own body as the orgasm shook her. "I've got you, I've got you," she murmured over and over as Marsh trembled. To her amazement, Marsh gripped her wrist with surprising strength and pushed her fingers inside her, closing her legs and trapping Scully's hand. The power of possessing her this way was intoxicating. "Oh, god," Scully moaned, "what you're doing to me."

Marsh groaned as Scully filled her, her hips thrusting as her internal muscles contracted around Scully's fingers. It seemed like hours before she could speak. "I'm going to kill him."

Scully laughed, hugging the lean, dark haired woman. "Not if I see him first."

"Anything serious?" Marsh asked as she finally found the strength to move. She nestled her cheek against Dana's firm belly, slowly trailing her fingers along the inside of Dana's legs from her knees to the silky hair at the base of her thighs.

"Mmmm--"Scully sighed as she shifted slightly and opened her legs. "No. Just weekend blues."

"Good," Marsh replied softly as she slipped a finger along each side of Scully's clitoris. "Because you seem in need of a little attention," she observed as she massaged the exquisitely sensitive shaft rhythmically.

"Unnhh--I don't think so," Scully moaned. "I think you finally wore me out."

Marsh withdrew until only the pad of her finger lightly stroked the tip. "Is that your diagnosis, Dr. Scully?" Marsh countered teasingly. She caught her breath as the tissue under her fingers stiffened. Still she kept her movements feather soft.

"It feels so good--" Scully whispered, her eyes closed, her hands resting on Marsh's hair. "But I don't think I can--"

"Sshhh--" Marsh murmured. "You don't have to. I just want to touch you." Slowly she inched her face down until she could replace her fingers with her lips. Soft, light kisses--barely a breath.

"Oh!" Scully cried as the silken warmth of Marsh's tongue caressed her. She felt herself opening, distending, reaching for Marsh's mouth-- even as she lay still, surrendering to the total abandon of being pleasured. "You're wonderful--"

Marsh drew back enough to look at the flushed, achingly beautiful woman, her heart filled with wonder at the miracle of her presence. *Oh, Dana--if only I could say--* She had no words to describe what this moment meant, so she set about telling her the best way she knew how. She let her body speak to her. Ever so slowly she encircled Dana with her lips, then began to suck gently, alternating the rhythmic motion with soft, long strokes of her tongue. It took tremendous concentration for her to keep the contact light, because just the scent of her drove her wild. As much as she wanted to consume her, she knew Dana needed this time to be gentle, and she wanted to give her that. Tenderly, she worshipped.

"Marsh--" Scully rasped, her entire body coiled with the tension building in her belly. "Don't stop."

Marsh murmured soft assurances, never leaving her.

The room was completely quiet, the air heavy with expectation, when suddenly a piercing cry broke the stillness. "Ahhhhh--" Scully screamed, her hands fisting in the sheets, her back arching off the bed.

Marsh gripped Dana's legs, cleaving to her, moaning as she felt Dana coming. She thought her heart might break with the sheer beauty of her.*I lo--* Marsh closed her eyes tightly. *Don't you _dare_, Black. Don't even _think_ it*

They lay together, Marsh curled around Scully, her face resting on the smooth skin of her thigh. She reveled in Scully's small sounds of contentment, knowing complete satisfaction herself. Scully's fingers drew faint aimless patterns on her skin as they listened to each other breathe.

"Marsh?" Scully said at length.


"Are you okay?"

Marsh planted a small kiss on the inside of Dana's thigh. "Perfect."

"Good, because I do believe I've perished. If you can die from too much pleasure, I've been gone for a while."

Marsh pushed yourself up on the bed until she was lying alongside Scully, slipping one arm under Scully's shoulders and guiding her head onto her chest. "I can't think of enough words to tell you how wonderful you are. I hope I've been able to show you."

Scully tightened her grip around the whip slender form, brushing her lips lightly over the soft, full breast beneath her cheek. She couldn't seem to stop smiling. "What you've shown me goes beyond description. Unfortunately, you've melted most of my synapses, and I'm incapable of intelligent conversation. This has been the most incredible 24 hours of my life."

Marsh's squinted at the clock on the bedside table. "Actually, it's been a bit more than that. It's almost 5 o'clock in the afternoon."

Scully's eyes widened in amazement. "Have we actually been making love for almost a day?"

"Just about," Marsh laughed, bending to kiss the top of Scully's head.

Scully couldn't begin to absorb that fact. She had never made such a rapid, intense connection with anyone before. She certainly had never given herself physically so completely, even after she had been with someone for a while. If she thought about it now, her world would tilt, and she was much too happy--simply happy--to begin questioning what had happened so soon. "Is this your idea of a date? You spend hours ravishing a poor unsuspecting female, never feeding them so they are too weak to resist?"

Marsh couldn't imagine anyone less likely to be described as weak and unsuspecting. She responded with a chuckle, "That was my plan. Not too subtle I guess."

Scully rolled over onto her stomach so they were face-to-face. She kissed her, a soft but assertively possessive kiss. When she pulled back, her eyes were slightly hazy. "Who needs subtle?" she said in a low, husky voice. *I'm beginning to think I could survive on your kisses alone*

Marsh ran her hands up Scully's sides until her palms cupped her breasts, thumbs just grazing her nipples. Scully sighed, her lips parting slightly, her eyes losing focus. "Marsh," Scully whispered, "stop. Have mercy. I can't resist you. Please, please--I need you to _feed_ me!"

Marsh grinned, raising her head so she could grasp one nipple between her teeth. She bit lightly for an instant, then rolled out from under Scully. "Your every wish is my command."

"You sadist!" Scully exclaimed. "You know you just made me wet all over again, don't you!"

Marsh placed one hand lightly over her heart, raising her eyebrows in mock surprise. "I meant no such thing."

*God, I hope you did, or else I'm in real trouble* Scully bounded off the bed, grasped Marsh by the shoulders, and forcefully turned her towards the bathroom. "_Shower_! _Food_! _Now_!"


7:10 p.m. Saturday evening

"Is this okay?" Marsh asked. She had seen Scully's surprise when they entered the restaurant.

"It's fine," Scully said, looking about the small dimly lit restaurant. The tables were judiciously placed to allow privacy, and the candles and quiet background music added to the intimate atmosphere. Most of the couples were women.

"I didn't mean to make assumptions," Marsh said with concern, aware of the romantic setting. "I just wanted to have a little more time with you some place where we could be comfortable with one another." She'd forgotten for a moment that their encounter probably didn't mean the same thing to Dana that it had meant to her. Just because _she_ felt resurrected did not make this more than a brief interlude for the attractive FBI agent.

Scully reached across the small tabletop and took Marsh's left hand firmly in her own. "Right now I'd be happy to hold your hand on the steps of the Capitol Building. This was probably a better choice."

Marsh smiled faintly, but her eyes were troubled. She studied the fine lattice of delicate veins in Dana's hand as she traced light circles with her thumb along the palm. There was pain in her face when she looked up. "You've never slept with a woman before, have you?"

"No," Scully said, "and that means nothing more than that I never had reason to before. I slept with men-- not many-- because it was the expected thing to do. It wasn't horrible, but the earth didn't move either. Being with you was like finding I could suddenly speak another language--a language I was born to speak. The earth did more than move, it changed shape entirely. There's no going back from here." Her tone suggested she would hear no arguments.

Marsh was already in too deep to pretend it didn't matter. "You mean something to me, Dana. Yesterday, last night -- it felt like a beginning, and in some crazy way, it felt like something I've been meant to do for years. Being with you, waking up with you, making love--I'll never be able to forget that. If it was just a one time thing for you, I understand, but I need to know."

Scully didn't hesitate. "The only things I've ever really trusted were the things I could prove, the _facts_ of my life. These past few years, I've come to doubt even those. I look at you, and for an instant, my life makes sense. Crazy? Absolutely. But true. You are so many things I admire, Marsh -- and in case you haven't noticed, I can't keep my hands off you. This is _not_ a one night stand."

"I'm sorry," Marsh said, knowing she was pushing. "There's no reason you should need to answer these questions."

Scully gave Marsh's hand a little shake. She waited as the waitress dropped off their menus, then said, "If you need to know, that's reason enough."

"Why me?" Marsh asked softly.

Scully searched for words that would make sense to both of them. It wasn't the sex, although that had been spectacular, and it wasn't just Marsh's kindness or her intelligence or her effortless intimacy. It was somehow a combination of all of those things, and something altogether indescribable. *Because there's no one else like you in the world* She raised Marsh's hand to her lips, pressing a brief kiss to her delicate fingers. If there were other people in the restaurant, she was unaware of them in that moment. "You touch my soul."

Marsh shuddered, her eyes closing with the impact of Dana's words. When she could open them without the threat of tears falling, Dana's eyes were searching her face. "You make me dream again," Marsh said, her voice breaking.

Marsh's vulnerability was palpable. Scully doubted she could allow her own need to be so visible; she wasn't sure she was that brave. "I want to hold you so much," Scully whispered.

Marsh's smile was nourishment itself as she nodded towards the approaching waitress. "I'll not be accused of seducing a starving woman again. Dinner first."

Scully loosened her grip on Marsh's hand, acknowledging the waitress with a faint smile, but her mind was filled with images of Marsh Black naked in her arms. *I can't imagine why I ever thought I was hungry for anything but her*


Part Two

Monday 8:55 a.m. FBI headquarters, Washington D.C.

Mulder glanced up and tilted his head. There it was again, the strange sound that seemed to be emanating from his partner. He leaned back in his swivel chair and stared at her. She didn't _look_ any different. Scully was searching MedPac for any obscure references to mass thermal conflagration. Her beige suit was exquisitely tailored as usual, the small gold cross, her only jewelry, glinted on her pale silk blouse, and she peered with utter concentration through her wire rim glasses at the computer screen. *Maybe I'm imagining things* He shrugged his shoulders and reached for his pencil. His hand stopped in mid-air as he heard the unmistakable sound of humming.

"All right, who are you and what have you done with Scully?" he demanded.

Scully turned in her seat, one arm draped along the back. "Are you okay?" she asked, staring at him as if he had lost his mind.

"_ I'm_ fine." Come to think of it, he hadn't seen her look this relaxed in months. Something was up. "Did something happen over the weekend?" *Damn! She's blushing*

"No!" Scully croaked. She cleared her throat and tried again. "Not a thing." She turned back to the computer, hoping he would let it go.

"Sculleeeeeee---" he called in a light annoying sing-song tone. "You're lyiiiiiiiiing."

Mercifully, the phone rang before Scully was forced to reply. Mulder gave her a look that said he wasn't done with her yet as he picked up the receiver. "Mulder."

She tried to read the expression on his face, but he merely replaced the phone with a shrug and announced, "Skinner wants to see us."

She wasn't prepared for what they found when they entered AD Skinner's office. She resorted to the expression she usually reserved for defense attorneys and chauvinistic local police chiefs--one of complete indifference. She hoped it was working, because her insides were quaking.

Skinner nodded for his two agents to join him and his visitor. "I'm sure you both remember Dr. Black?"

Mulder murmured hello as he took the seat between the surgeon and his partner. She looked different in her navy pin-striped suit than she had in the rumpled scrubs he remembered from the hospital. Her layered black hair looked slightly less wind blown, and she had lost the fatigue lines that had creased her otherwise flawless skin, but it was something more than that. She had a self possessed, confident air that suggested she had done this before, and Mulder remembered her easy familiarity with Skinner at the hospital. There was more to Dr. Black than there appeared, and Mulder was instantly suspicious. His partner, he noted, hadn't even said _hello_.

"I asked Dr. Black to come in because I got a strange report from Memorial this morning," Skinner said by way of introduction. He looked toward Marsh. "Maybe you can fill them in."

She shifted in her chair slightly so she could face Mulder and Scully. She smiled at them both, her eyes lingering for just a fraction of a second on Scully. She averted her eyes before she lost her concentration. She hadn't seen her for 24 hours, and it felt like forever. Just being in the same room with her made her heart race. "I was contacted yesterday by the hospital administrator on call--she was concerned because a large number of patients were being discharged under unusual circumstances. It turns out that all of the patients were victims of the fire at Ruskin Dam. All of their medical records, x-rays, lab reports--everything is gone."

Scully risked a quick glance as Marsh spoke. *She's even more beautiful than I remember* She hadn't expected to see Marsh again so soon, and certainly not in Skinner's office. When they parted Sunday morning, they had not made any firm plans. Marsh had kissed her, caressing Scully's cheek gently. She looked into Scully's eyes and whispered softly, "Call me." Scully knew then that Marsh was leaving the future up to her. It was like her to give Scully time to adjust to everything that had happened. *Focus, Scully!* She considered the information. "There must have been some kind of transfer request?" Scully questioned, grateful that her voice was steady.

Marsh shook her head. "I was in the operating room when I got the call. By the time I got out, most of the patients were gone. The medical transport personnel didn't seem to have any specific information, and wouldn't release their transport destination. I'm afraid I don't know much more."

"Dr. Black has agreed to notify us if there is further contact," Skinner informed them.

*Contact? What does he mean by _contact_, and what does it have to do with Marsh!* Scully glanced quickly from Marsh to Skinner. Their expressions revealed nothing. She was used to this from Skinner, as he was a master at concealing his feelings. She hated being distanced from Marsh. It was the first time she experienced it, and it was frighteningly lonely. *My god, if I feel this way after only one weekend!*

Mulder had been unusually quiet during the entire briefing. "I'm sure anything Dr. Black can tell us would be helpful," he said rather sharply.

Skinner gave him an appraising glance. "Right then. Agent Scully, if you would stay for a moment."

Marsh and Mulder stood, clearly having been dismissed. Marsh dared one last glance at Dana and to her surprise, Dana put out her hand. As Marsh returned the handshake, Scully rubbed her thumb in small soft circles over Marsh's knuckles. Marsh caught her breath swiftly as the unexpected touch electrified her senses. Her eyelids fluttered for an instant as she grew wet with arousal. She caught herself before the moan arising from her belly could escape.

"I'll talk to _you_ again, Dr. Black," Scully said, her voice low and husky, her eyes fixed on Marsh. She sensed Marsh's response and her own body stirred. *You are insane, Scully! Mulder and Skinner are two feet away!*

"Yes." Marsh responded thickly. She hoped she looked more in control than she felt as she followed Mulder from the room.

Skinner waited until the door closed behind them before motioning to Scully to sit once again. He leaned back, choosing his words carefully. "How well do you know Dr. Black, Agent Scully?"

"Sir?" Scully asked, her expression carefully neutral.

"I'm assuming that you know she's a former agent. You probably also know she still functions in an unofficial capacity. Unofficial, but nevertheless important." He stared at her impassively, waiting for her response.

"Yes, sir?" Scully replied. She had enough experience with interrogation not to volunteer information. *Why are we discussing her? She can't be involved in this, can she?* Fear raced through her veins at the thought.

"Most of what she does for the bureau is confidential. It wouldn't be in our best interest--or hers--to call attention to her activities."

*He's talking about covert operations* Scully's anxiety made her short on patience. Usually it was Mulder who played these word games with Skinner. "I'm not sure I'm following, sir."

Skinner removed his glasses and polished them with the perfectly folded, pristine white handkerchief he removed from his back pocket. He took his time replacing them. "I don't know what happened to you and the others at Ruskin Dam, Agent Scully. I don't think anyone does. What I do know is that there are forces involved that we can't identify, let alone control. If someone is watching you, then Dr. Black may also come under scrutiny."

*He already knows about us!* After the shock, Scully's first reaction was anger. "Who were you following--me or her?"

Skinner came around the front of his desk and hiked one hip up on the edge. His granite countenance softened infinitesimally. "I don't know. It didn't come from this office. I'm just the unofficial messenger."


"Meaning, Agent Scully," Skinner said pointedly, "we're not having this conversation."

"Is she in any danger?" Scully asked, her voice steady but her throat terribly dry.

Skinner glanced away, grimacing slightly. "Probably no more than you are."

*Yes, but that is part of _my_ job* Scully squared her shoulders, meeting Skinner's gaze fully. "I appreciate the information, sir."

"Just remember--the survivors disappeared because _someone_ thought they would reveal _something_ about what went on here, and possibly in Russia, too. We don't know who those _someones_ might be, but they're powerful enough to make people disappear. Be alert, Agent Scully," Skinner warned. He stood and Scully took it to mean their meeting was over. She was half way to the door when his voice stopped her.

"One more thing, Agent Scully," he called softly, almost as an afterthought.

Scully turned. "Sir?"

"Sixteen years ago a federal agent by the name of Karen Summers was killed in the line of duty. Marshall Black didn't just resign, she turned in her gun and her badge, and she drove her Porsche into the Potomac." He saw her flinch, and knew what he thought he had detected between them was true. He shrugged, adding, "Maybe it was an accident." He didn't want to know.

Scully struggled to hide her sudden nausea. The idea of Marsh in such anguish was physically painful. Her voice was harsh when she asked, "Why are you telling me this?"

"I like her."

Something hard glinted in Scully's eyes as she stared back. "So do I."


10:30 a.m.

"So Scully," Mulder asked when she rejoined him in their basement office, "what do you think that was all about?"

"I think Skinner wants us to go on a fishing expedition," she said caustically. She was beginning to wonder if everyone around her had a hidden agenda. Everyone except Mulder.

"You think Dr. Black is the hook or the lure?"

"What's that supposed to mean?" Scully snapped. She couldn't get the image of Marsh going off a bridge into the dark swirling waters of the Potomac out of her mind. She knew what kind of pain it took to bring someone to that point, she just didn't want to think about the loneliness that must have accompanied it. In her darkest moments, Mulder and her mother had been there for her to hold on to. Without them... *God, how much she must have suffered!*

"Come on, Scully! Who is she? How do we know we can trust her?" Mulder said vehemently. "We don't know who she's _really_ working for!"

Scully tried to control her temper. Mulder had been suspicious of every one since Michael Kritschgau convinced him that most of what he had discovered over the last five years had been an elaborate ruse. Perpetrated by whom for what purpose neither of them understood. She wasn't sure what to believe any longer, but one thing she still trusted was her own experience. Marshall Black was not the enemy.

"You know who she is, Mulder. You told me yourself. She used to be an agent, and now she does some work for the bureau as a consultant."

"What kind of work does a doctor do undercover, Scully? Pretty convenient to have one on the payroll if you want to do a little behind-the-scenes experimentation!"

"In case you haven't noticed, Mulder, Marsh Black is a respected trauma surgeon at a prestigious  hospital. And she hardly made her involvement with the bureau a secret. Has it ever occurred to you that she probably spends her time patching up agents injured during _unofficial_ engagements?" Scully countered, her eyes flashing as she slowly lost the battle with her temper.

Mulder was used to Scully's natural skepticism, and most of the time he depended on it to keep his own thinking sharp. It was one of the things he enjoyed most about their partnership. Sometimes, though, she bordered on just plain stubborn. "Why are you defending her?"

"I'm not _defending_her!!"

"Yes, you are," Mulder said softly, watching her with new interest. She wasn't just defending her, she was protecting her. He had never seen Scully quite so agitated either.

"Just trust me on this, will you, Mulder?" Scully responded emphatically.

"What happened this weekend, Scully?" Mulder persisted in the low tone he used when talking to witnesses. The voice that said _You can trust me, tell me your secrets_.

Scully started to protest, then she took a good look at him. His expression was completely open, expectant, nonjudgmental. He simply wanted to understand--because for him _understanding_ was the only goal. He was frequently disappointed, but she had never known him to reject the truth. She valued his friendship, and respected herself, too much to lie about this. He was her partner.

"I slept with her this weekend."

Time stopped. There was no sound. Mulder didn't blink or change expression in any way. He did sit down. He reached for a pencil, turning it end over end between his fingers. His eyes met hers straight on. "Jesus, Scully."

She grinned a little ruefully. "Yeah."

"I didn't know--"

"Neither did I."

"You okay with it?" Mulder asked. Friend to friend.

"Yes." No hesitation.

Carefully, he said, "You don't know much about her." Still suspicious.

"I know enough." Certain.

"How much does she know?"

*About what? The abduction, the cancer, Emily??* Again the slightly proud, slightly sheepish grin. "We didn't do a whole lot of talking."

Mulder was glad he was sitting. "Dana--" He cleared his throat. "I trust your judgement, you know that, right?"

"I know, Mulder." She believed it.

"If it's the real thing, I'm for it. Just be careful, okay?"

"Of what?" Scully asked softly, making him say it.

"You could get hurt. She could break your heart." Thinking of Phoebe, of Diana.

"She won't."

Her blue eyes were clear, calm, and absolutely sure. He had to trust her; she was his partner.


Part Three

Later that day 5:10 pm

"Hey Scully! There's a couple of messages for you," the bureau dispatcher called as she and Mulder walked through the warren of desks and busy agents toward the stairs to their office. He waved a handful of pink message slips in her direction.

"Why don't you go ahead, Scully," Mulder said. "We're not going to get anything else done today. We can go back to the hospital first thing in the morning and finish the questioning."

His tone implied he didn't think they'd find anything, and she agreed with him. No one at Memorial Hospital knew anything about the fate of the missing patients. She had barely been able to keep her mind on the repetitive fruitless interviews they were conducting. Instead she had been looking everywhere for Marshall Black, her disappointment growing with each passing moment. Ever since that morning, all she wanted was to see Marsh and assure herself that she was safe.

"Scully?" Mulder queried.

Scully jumped, realizing he was watching her, waiting for an answer. She looked around the room, disoriented for a moment. "Yes, sure. Good idea," she said hastily.

"Wool gathering, Dr. Scully? Or just a little x-rated reminiscence?" Mulder added with a smirk.

Scully colored, snapping, "Cut it out, Mulder."

He leaned close, smiling evilly, "Ooooo-- but Scully, I finally have a chance to get back at you for all those rude remarks about my videos."

Scully lowered her voice, but her tone was scathing. "I would hardly put Marshall Black and your videos in the same category!"

Mulder raised his eyebrows, his smile growing. "Now there's an idea I hadn't thought of."

"If it weren't so hard to break in a new partner, I'd be forced to shoot you," Scully seethed, although she was struggling not to smile. She was grateful she did not have to hide something so important from the one person she was closest to.

Mulder relented, giving her a little shove in the direction of the dispatcher. "Go on, get your messages and get out of here. I'm sure there's one or two things you'd rather be doing."

Scully blushed again, answering, "You're not going to quit, are you?"

Mulder simply grinned and walked away.

Scully leafed through her messages on her way to her car. Her heart tripped when she saw the familiar name, and she immediately reached for her cell phone. She waited impatiently through the interminable number of connections until she heard the deep, sonorous voice. "Marsh? It's Dana," she said, unable to disguise her excitement.

"I meant to wait for you to call me, but I couldn't. I need to see you. I need to talk you," Marsh replied seriously.

Scully was instantly concerned. "Has something happened? Has someone tried to question you about the missing patients?"

"I'm all right. Can we meet somewhere private?"

"Name the place," Scully said, all business. Something was definitely not right, and she wasn't going to be happy until she could see Marsh.

"My place in 45 minutes?" Marsh suggested.

"I'll be there," Scully assured her.


Marsh held the door open so Scully could proceed her into the apartment. Scully turned just as Marsh reached for her. She lifted her arms to encircle Marsh's neck as Marsh slipped her hands under Scully's suit jacket. Scully pressed close to the taller woman as their lips met, closing her eyes as the sweet sensation of want washed through her. She opened her mouth, seeking the strong demanding tongue, eager for the joining. Scully moaned into Marsh's mouth and pushed Marsh back against the door, her skirt riding up as she straddled Marsh's thigh, her hips slowly rocking against the firm muscles. Her moans became short cries as her clit twitched with pre-orgasmic spasms. *Oh god, Dana, slow down--you _can't_ come already!*

Marsh tugged Scully's blouse from the waist band of her skirt, hungry for her skin. She hesitated for just a second when she encountered the holster clipped to the back. The feel of the heavy weapon in the leather sheath catapulted her back to another time and another woman in her arms. For an instant the old pain pierced her anew. Then she heard Dana's voice, and felt Dana moving against her, and she knew exactly what she wanted. She wanted Dana Scully, and she wanted her now. She growled as she slid her hands under the flimsy bra, grasping the hard nipples at the same time as she clamped her teeth onto Dana's earlobe. Her head threatened to explode when Dana jerked against her, her fingers digging into Marsh's upper arms.

"Marsh-- Marsh--" Scully gasped, "I'm going to come--"

"Yeah," Marsh groaned in her ear. Marsh pushed one hand up under Scully's skirt, pulling clothing aside until she could slide inside of her, her palm cupping her swollen flesh, her thumb riding over the top of her clitoris. Her vision clouded, her arm pumping upward as Dana ground against her. She tightened her hold around Dana's slim waist when the smooth muscles inside closed around her fingers. "Oh, yesss," Marsh rasped, "do it now."

Scully sobbed in a breath as her whole body stiffened, her entire consciousness focused on the nearly unbearable pressure in her clit. Then Marsh thumbed across it hard and she was screaming and bucking and coming and sobbing...

Marsh braced her back against the door, trying to hold them both up, but the best she could manage was to slide to the floor with Dana in her arms, still coming into her hand. "Oh god, oh god, oh god.." Marsh moaned, her chest so tight she could barely breathe. She would die from wanting her.

They ended up in a tangle of body parts, Dana lying between Marsh's legs, curled up on her lap. Marsh rested her chin on the top of Scully's head, trying to catch her breath. The room was dimly lit by the light from the street lamps outside. They hadn't even touched a light switch or said _hello_ before they had fallen on one another. All she wanted to do now was hold her. She had been so frightened all day.

Scully stirred, shifting enough to let Marsh slide her hand from inside her. "Ohh.." she gasped, feeling the loss. "I miss you already," she murmured, "how can that be?"

Marsh shook her head against the silken red hair. "I don't know. I've been walking around since you left yesterday wet from wanting you. I'm so swollen it hurts. I wanted to make myself come, just to ease the pressure, but I knew it would only make me lonely. It's crazy - I've never been like this before."

Scully smiled, pleased. "And how are we now, Dr. Black?" she said teasingly, lightly stroking Marsh's stomach below the bottom of her shirt and the top of her trousers.

Marsh tilted Dana's chin to kiss her. "_We_ are just fine, thank you, Dr. Scully. I think you might have come for both of us."

Scully leaned against Marsh's shoulder so she could watch her face. She worked the zipper down on the silk slacks, reaching under the fabric beneath. She smiled again as Marsh lifted her hips to give her room. "Uh huh," she murmured as she found her wet and ready. Marsh's eyes began closing as Scully rolled her clitoris between her fingers. "Look at me, Marsh," she whispered, her heart nearly stopping as she watched the elegant planes of Marsh's face dissolve with need. *I don't think I can bear it, she's so beautiful* Scully bit her lip to silence her own moans as she pulsed in time with Marsh. "Not until I say," she gasped.

Marsh tried hard to focus, searching Dana's face for an anchor. She found it in her fathomless blue eyes, a strength and certainty so profound, she let herself fall into them. "Tell me when," she cried softly, rigid with the effort of containing her imminent orgasm. "Ohh--I can't hold it!-- God--hurry!"

"Ohh--almost--uh-uh-uh..," Scully intoned to the rhythm of their bucking hips, "oh yes, oh yes -- now, Marsh--come with me -- _noooowww_oh,oh,..ooooooohhhhhh." Her vision dimmed as she exploded but she kept her eyes on Marsh, watching the reflection of her own orgasm in Marsh's face.

"Dana..." Marsh murmured, her neck arching with the gripping spasms, her tone a benediction. Scully grasped her face with both hands, pulling her down into a kiss. They were wed for what seemed like an eternity in the swirling kaleidoscope of their twin climaxes. Finally their pounding hearts stilled, their harsh gasps subsided, and they rested in peaceful communion.

Scully stirred first, unable to ignore the questions clamoring in her mind any longer. "Marsh--what's going on? Why were you in Skinner's office this morning? Why did you need to see me?"

Marsh stood, offering a hand to help Scully up. "Come on, let's change and find something to eat. I'll tell you then."

Scully wanted answers immediately, but she reminded herself that Marsh was neither a suspect nor a colleague. She couldn't deal with her in the same way she conducted her professional relationships--she was, after all, her--*why not say it, Dana. Lover--she's your lover* She took Marsh's hand, pulling herself up and sliding her arm around Marsh's waist. She leaned against her slightly, not wanting her too far away. "Okay, food first."

A half an hour later she was standing in Marsh's well equipped galley kitchen watching Marsh put together a passable dinner from odds and ends she found in the refrigerator. She sipped her glass of red wine and watched Marsh's hands as she worked. Her fingers were long and supple, sure surgeon's fingers. She thought in amazement that just a few moments ago those hands had owned her body, inside and out. It was like nothing she had ever experienced, and it was the most natural thing in her life. Scully went to her where she stood working at the counter and pressed against her back, wrapping her arms around her waist. She laid her cheek against Marsh's shoulder, breathing in the faint smells of her shampoo and the aftermath of their love making. "Talk to me, Marsh. I'm worried, and I have to know what's going on."

Marsh carefully placed the chopping knife on the counter, turning in the circle of Scully's arms until they were face-to-face. Her expression was serious, but her eyes were tender. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to worry you. I called Skinner this morning when I couldn't sort out by myself exactly what happened to a dozen of my patients. He asked me to come in to review what information I had on them. I didn't realize he would call you. I'm sorry if that was awkward for you."

"It was only awkward because it was hard to concentrate with you so close, and me wanting to kiss you so badly," Scully said with a small smile. "I would prefer a warning next time so I don't disgrace myself."

"Well, you got back at me with that _handshake_," Marsh replied ruefully. "I'd been thinking about you non-stop for 24 hours. When you touched me like that, I almost came on the spot."

Scully placed her fingers lightly against Marsh's lips. "Don't talk about it, don't even think about it. If you do, we're going to end up making love right here on the floor."

Marsh took a deep breath, afraid of what she was going to discover. "When the bureau calls me, it's usually because they need a doctor with high level clearance. Most of the time I don't know the circumstances, and I've learned not to ask for explanations. This time is different. This time whatever is going on involves you. I need to know why."

"I'm not sure I know myself," Scully replied. "What I've been able to remember doesn't make much sense."

"Your partner seemed very interested in the x-rays of the patients from the fire," Marsh continued. "They've all disappeared, except one set. Yours had been pulled from the general circulation, which isn't uncommon when we admit a law enforcement agent. I looked at them today."

Scully's stomach churned. *So soon? Couldn't we have just a little time to be happy--without all of this?* She searched Marsh's worried eyes and knew it was already too late. Her past was upon them, and would be part of any future they might have. "And that's why you called me," she sighed.

Wordlessly, Marsh turned her around. She lifted the thick, soft hair at the base of Dana's neck. She ran her finger lightly over the inch long vertical scar. The choking fear she had experienced when she first looked at Dana's x-rays and saw the foreign object returned. She clenched her jaw, forcing herself to ask, "What is it?"

Scully leaned back against her, grasping Marsh's hands were they lay encircling her waist. She closed her eyes, envisioning the small metallic chip which was lodged adjacent to her spinal cord. "I don't know. I _ do_ know it saved my life." Marsh's arms tightened around her.

"How?" Marsh questioned, her voice tight.

"Six months ago I nearly died of cancer. That chip somehow induced a remission."

*oh Jesus, please--please don't let me lose her* Marsh closed eyes as the panic escalated, bending her forehead to rest against Scully's hair. She struggled to keep her voice even. "And now?"

Scully flinched. There it was, the question that haunted her waking moments and invaded the landscape of her dreams. She didn't talk about it with Mulder; she didn't talk about it with her mother; she didn't talk about it with her priest. She had to talk about it now, because this woman had held nothing of herself back--she had allowed Dana to see her vulnerability, and her fear, and her need. Marsh had trusted Scully with her body, and her secrets. It was time. "There's no sign of it--so far. I can't predict the likelihood of recurrence because no one has ever seen anything quite like it."

Marsh wanted to curse, to rage against the injustice, to rail against the incomprehensibility of such a thing. She didn't. Instead she kissed the top of Scully's head, then turned Scully to face her. She lifted Dana's face in both hands, aching inside at the pain in her eyes. "I wish I could have been there for you. I'm here now."

Scully pressed a kiss to Marsh's palm. "It's not fair to you, Marsh. I've gotten used to living day to day--but you shouldn't have to."

Marsh clasped both of Scully's hands, bringing them to her lips. "If you're in my life every day, I wouldn't ask for more."

*How can I ask her to live with this?* Scully pressed her forehead to Marsh's chest. Her voice was shaking as she said, "I want you so much, I don't think I can be rational."

Marsh laughed gently, stroking her back tenderly. "Who wants a rational lover? Since I seem to be crazy about you, it seems only right."

Scully nuzzled her face against the soft curve of Marsh's breast, brushing her lips over her nipple. "Crazy doesn't begin to describe it," she murmured softly. She was afraid to even _think_ the words she wanted to say.


Part Four

Tuesday 4:55 am

This time Marsh awoke alone. She lay for a moment listening for some sound, some movement, to tell her Dana was still there. She expected her to be gone, expected her to be a dream. There was only silence. She stepped into her sweats and pulled a tee shirt from the pile on the floor. Their clothes had suffered somewhat in their eagerness to undress one another the night before. She crossed softly to the top of the spiral staircase, and looked down into the room below. Marsh released the breath she hadn't been aware of holding. Dana was there--by the window; she was not a dream.

"Bad dreams?" Marsh asked as she settled beside Scully on the sofa.

Scully turned so that she could lean back into Marsh's arms. "Not exactly." Her voice was quiet, sad somehow. "I was thinking about us."

*Here it comes* Marsh swallowed the sawdust in her throat. "Feeling guilty?" she asked lightly.

Scully turned in surprise. "God, no. Is that what you think is going to happen? That I'm suddenly going to have second thoughts, and walk out of here?" There was more than a hint of anger in her tone. "Just what is it you think I've been doing, Marsh? Amusing myself with a little recreational sex?" She stared at Marsh, suddenly uncertain. "Or have I been reading _you_ wrong? Maybe you're the one who isn't serious."

"Hey, hey--slow down," Marsh pleaded. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that. It's just that I've been too happy _not_ to worry. Sounds crazy, doesn't it? You are the most amazing thing to ever happen in my life, and I can't quite believe it. I couldn't be more serious about you, or more certain of what I want. I want you--every way, every day."

Scully knew it was true, she had felt it in Marsh's touch. She sighed, reaching for Marsh's hand. "I'm sorry, too. I can't bear the thought of anything, or anyone, hurting you. I'm afraid that being with me might put you in danger."

"Why?" Marsh asked, less frightened by the prospect of harm than of losing her.

"Skinner so much as warned me this morning not to see you," Scully admitted. "One of us is being followed, and I suspect it's me. It wouldn't be the first time."

Marsh laughed grimly. "So much for the privacy act. Did you tell him to stuff it?"

It was Scully's turn to laugh. "I'd like to keep my job a little longer. I also got the sense it wasn't coming from him. No matter where it's coming from though, it's a problem. I don't want to jeopardize your position with the bureau or the hospital."

"So what are you suggesting?" Marsh asked sharply. "That we not see each other?"

"No!--I don't know, Marsh. I can't even bear to think about not seeing you for a day! I just don't want you hurt!"

"Believe me, nothing could hurt me as much as not being able to see you," Marsh insisted. She looked at Scully closely. Her unhappiness was apparent. "There's something else, isn't there?"

Scully debated not answering. In the end, she chose honesty, because without it they had nothing. "Skinner told me what happened when Karen Summers died."

"Walter was quite talkative this morning, wasn't he?" Marsh said bitterly. She stood up suddenly and walked to the window, her hands clenched at her sides. "What difference does it make now?"

Scully wanted to go to her, but she knew she was the cause of her pain. "Marsh," she said softly, "my job is pretty safe, but it's not without risk. And then--" She took a deep breath, steeling herself for her next words. "What if my cancer returns?"

Marsh's back was rigid, her voice harsh. "I was just a green recruit, and she was a seasoned field agent. I couldn't believe she'd even talk to me, and when she asked me out, I fell hard. I was very young, and she was my first lover. Did Walter bother to tell you the whole story? Did he tell you that I was there when she went down? Did he tell you she was wearing her vest, but the shot caught her in the throat? Did he tell you I was out of my mind with grief when I went off that bridge? I don't even remember getting into the car!!"

"Marsh, don't," Scully pleaded. The anguish in Marsh's voice was breaking her heart. "You don't have to do this."

Marsh turned, her jaw tight. "But I do, don't I? You want to know what will happen to me if you die. That's it, isn't it? That's really what you're asking me."

Scully couldn't stand it any longer. She went to her, wrapping her arms around her waist, laying her head against her chest. "I don't want to be the cause of your pain. I would never forgive myself."

Marsh tightened her arms around Scully. "Then believe this--nothing would ever hurt me as much as not spending whatever time we have together."

"I have to believe it," Scully whispered, "because there's no way I can do without you."

"You won't have to," Marsh replied, "I'm here for you as long as you want me."


7:48 a.m.

"Come on, come on," Scully muttered under her breath while trying to maneuver through rush hour traffic in the center of the nation's capital. "If I show up late for work, Mulder will never let me forget it."

She would have had plenty of time if it hadn't been for the shower. It seemed reasonable at the time for her to jump in while Marsh was showering for work. She hadn't counted on losing herself in the beauty of Marsh's body as rivulets of water streamed over it. She hadn't meant to do anything more than catch the tiny droplets that cascaded from Marsh's nipple on her tongue. But then she had pulled the tight pink nub into her mouth, and Marsh had moaned and trapped Scully's thigh between her legs. Marsh was hot and wet where she rubbed against her, and suddenly Scully was throbbing. Then she had backed Marsh up against the rear of the shower, and she was kneeling, the water beating on her back, so she could part the silky hair between Marsh's taut thighs with her tongue. Marsh's clitoris was already hard and standing out, waiting for her mouth. Marsh began to whimper as she sucked her, clutching Scully's shoulders for support. Her own clit pounded insistently in time with Marsh's, and she touched herself without thinking. Then she couldn't stop, and she was rubbing herself as she circled Marsh with her tongue, both of them moaning, their bodies quivering, the escalating pressure nearly unbearable. Marsh went off first, her head banging back against the glass enclosure, her legs rigid with strain. When Marsh started spasming between her lips, Scully's hips bucked in response, and she came into her hand. Marsh ended up on the floor with Scully more or less on top of her, and both of them nearly drowning. It was the best shower Scully ever had.

Scully smiled at the memory and the flush of arousal that accompanied it. Just as she pulled into the underground parking facility, her cell phone rang. She slammed into a parking space, reaching for her trench coat with one hand and her phone with the other. "Scully," she said.

"Scully, it's me," Mulder said. "Don't bother coming downstairs, Skinner wants us in his office _now_."

"Okay," Scully replied, crossing toward the elevator. "What's going on?"

"No idea," he said. "See you in a minute."

As it was, they both arrived outside AD Skinner's door at the same time. Miraculously, Mulder carried two cups of coffee and handed one wordlessly to Scully.

"Bless you," Scully whispered as she followed him into Skinner's office. She took her customary seat next to Mulder across from Skinner's desk. Skinner looked humorless as usual, his jacket off and his shirt sleeves already rolled up. He had probably been at work since six a.m.

He regarded them both intently for a moment, then leaned back in his leather chair with a grimace. "Marshall Black is missing. She had a seven a.m. surgery scheduled and didn't show up. The--"

"That's impossible!" Scully interrupted, half rising from her chair. She was having a hard time focusing on Skinner; there seemed to be something wrong with her vision. She shook her head, trying in vain to clear it, repeating urgently, "That's impossible. There must be a mistake."

Mulder reached a steadying hand to her arm. "Scully," he said in a cautious tone, "let's hear the rest of it."

She turned on him, her azure eyes flashing fire. "I just left her two hours ago, Mulder! She was fine!"

*Jesus Scully, get a grip. This is no time to be making announcements like that* She obviously didn't know what she was saying, or she wouldn't be exposing herself this way in front of Skinner. Mulder thought frantically, trying to formulate a plausible explanation for Scully's statement.

Before Mulder could speak, Skinner leaned forward, saying, "I don't care _why_ you were interviewing Dr. Black at 6 o'clock in the morning, Agent Scully. What can you tell me that might help us locate her?"

Scully looked at him helplessly, her mind blank. *This can't be happening! She's all right. She _has_ to be. Good God, don't let me lose her now!*

"Scully," Mulder whispered urgently, forcing her to focus on him. *Come _on_, Scully, you can do this*

She stared at her partner, at the face she knew so well, and her mind began to function. She was a federal agent, she was a professional, and if Marsh needed anything from her now, it was her thinking like one.

"She left her house at 6:05 a.m., driving her Porsche. She was wearing--," For an instant, her voice failed her. She cleared her throat and continued, "She was wearing blue flannel slacks, a light blue blazer, and a white turtleneck. I don't think she had an over coat." Scully looked at Skinner, her eyes filled with pain. *She kissed me goodbye. She said she'd call me between her cases to talk about dinner* With effort, Scully asked quietly, "Have you found her car?"

"Yes," he said, biting off the word. "It's in her marked slot in the hospital garage. She was due in the OR at seven, and apparently it's unheard of for her to be late. When she wasn't there by seven-fifteen security checked the garage, saw her car, and became suspicious. A heads-up security chief remembered the missing patients and thought there might be a connection. That's the only reason we were notified so quickly."

Scully fought back the bile rising in her throat. She would _not_ fall apart! "Was there any sign of a struggle?" she asked, nearly choking on the words. *oh god, Marsh--please, no*

"No," Skinner growled. "We need to jump on this one, people. We must assume this is related to the incident at the dam, and the missing patients. In all likelihood, someone thinks Black knows something, since she is the attending physician of record for all the survivors. We need to find her before they discover she doesn't know anything."

He didn't elaborate, and he didn't need to. It was unlikely that Marsh would be returned unharmed whether she provided useful information or not. There would be no request for ransom. Her best hope was if they found her quickly. Her chances of survival beyond tweny-four hours were slim.

Mulder stood, addressing Skinner, but speaking for Scully's benefit. "Marsh Black _is_ an agent, whether she's active or not. She's smart enough to stay alive until we find her. And we _will_ find her."

Skinner gave them both a hard stare. "That's what I expect. So get started."

He watched them leave the office, wondering if he was making a mistake letting Scully work the case. She was white as a sheet, but she hadn't lost her composure, he'd give her that. Still, he hadn't forgotten, could never forget, the look on Marsh Black's face the day Karen Summers went down. Scully had looked like that just now, and he didn't want another agent taking a drive off a bridge. He just hoped Mulder was smart enough not to leave her alone.


"Scully--" Mulder said urgently the moment Skinner's door closed behind them. "We'll find her."

Scully silenced him with a raised hand. "Don't. Don't tell me lies, Mulder. Not now."

Mulder stopped, grasping her by the shoulders, turning her to face him. He peered intently into her face, not caring that people passing by were staring at them. "Don't give up before we've started, Scully. It's way too soon for that."

"I know. It's just when I think of someone taking her ..." *Hurting her...* She clenched her hands tightly, her nails biting into her palms. She was having trouble feeling anything. The small crescents of pain were actually comforting. After a second, she met his gaze. "How in God's name did you stand it?"

He wasn't sure whether she meant Samantha's disappearance or her own. His answer was still the same. "I got angry. Get angry, Scully."

She forced herself to think, turning from him and starting toward the stairs to the parking garage. "It doesn't make any sense, Mulder. Why would anyone risk this, when she couldn't possibly have any useful information?"

Mulder hurried to keep pace, grateful to see some color returning to her deathly pale cheeks. "When has any of it made sense, Scully? Five years of smoke and mirrors, truth and lies. Maybe there's something _we're _ missing. Maybe there _was_ something on the x-rays, or in the lab tests, or in the physical examinations. There has to be some reason why the patients were all removed, and there has to be some kind of common bond. They were all at Ruskin Dam for a reason. Marsh is the only one who's had intimate access to all of them."

"She would have told me," Scully insisted.

"Maybe she hasn't figured the link out, but someone is afraid she will," he said as gently as he knew how. He could name half a dozen people who had disappeared or met untimely deaths because of what they _might_ have known. He knew Scully could, too.

She refused to consider that possibility. Shaking her head, she pulled open the driver's side of her bureau car with enough force to shake the entire frame.

"You sure you want to drive?" Mulder asked. She might be functioning again, but her hands were shaking, and she looked shell-shocked.

Scully looked at him over the hood of the car, her eyes smoldering. "Three hours ago I was making love to her, Mulder. Now I may never see her again. Yes, I want to drive. I want to shoot someone--is that angry enough?"

Mulder nodded seriously, opening the passenger side door. "It's a good start."


Five hours later they sat slumped over cups of lukewarm, over-brewed coffee in the hospital cafeteria. Scully stared unseeing into the muddy liquid. Mulder stared anxiously at her.

"We still have to interview all the employees who were changing shifts about the time Marsh would have arrived at the hospital. We're going to have a lot of people to wake-up," Mulder said, trying to sound enthusiastic. They were down to their last possibilities, and they both knew it. No one they had talked to thus far had seen Marsh drive in or had noticed anything the slightest bit out of the ordinary. Without a witness, they would have absolutely no hope of finding her.

Scully mustered every remnant of her shattered will power and tried to concentrate. As each hour had passed, hope dissipated, leaving behind a strange lassitude. It was not unlike the emptiness she had felt upon awakening at Ruskin Dam. It was a little bit like dying, only there was no promise of peace. Marsh was not here to call her back.

She looked at Mulder, her blue eyes so wounded it tore his heart. "Can't you contact someone, Mulder? There has to be someone who knows more than we do -- about the implanted chips, the abductions, about whoever or what ever is behind it all."

"Oh, Scully," he murmured sadly. "Anyone who might have helped us is dead. And I don't know any longer if anything they told us could be believed."

"There's _ got _ to be something we can do," Scully said frantically. She had to move, or she feared she might surrender to the relentless despair that pounded at the defenses of her mind. If she contemplated the reality of Marsh being gone from her life, of never hearing her voice again, or looking into her eyes, or feeling the comfort of her presence, she wasn't sure how she would survive it. She knew with absolute certainty what desolation accompanied Marsh on that near fatal ride so long ago. With everything she had endured, nothing had prepared her for the loss of someone who had touched her so deeply and so intimately. For the first time in her life, she had felt completely known. To have experienced it, no matter how briefly, would make living without it unbearable. She looked at Mulder, and saw his caring, and drew strength from his presence. She said with determination, "Let's get that list of night shift employees who have parking stickers for that lot. Then let's start waking people up."

"You've got it, partner," Mulder said with relief. The way she looked had been starting to scare him. He'd seen her lose her father, and her sister, and very nearly her own life. He'd seen her emotionally battered and physically beaten, but he had never seen her eyes so empty. He didn't need to understand how to know that Marshall Black had touched a place in Scully where no one else had ever been. He'd give anything he had to see that she didn't lose that.


Part Five

2 a.m. The next morning

Eight hours ago they had gotten a break. Their questioning had turned up a nurse who reported leaving early that morning and seeing a white van with its motor running in the parking garage. She thought at the time it was odd, because there was still an hour until change of shift and it was much too early for visitors. That was the only reason she had paid any attention to it. She couldn't remember it having any distinguishing logos, but she had recalled a portion of the license plate. With that information, they were able to notify all the local authorities to look for anything resembling it. It had given them their first bit of hope.

Since then nothing.

Scully glanced across the room at Mulder. He was slumped in his chair, his neck at an awkward angle, asleep. There was nothing more they could do. There had never really been any hope of finding her. It was strange-- now that she accepted Marsh was gone, the despair had been replaced by an eerie calm. It was as if the pain had engulfed her completely, separating her from the rest of the world, insulating her in a separate reality. Methodically, she straightened her notes and gathered her things.

Mulder looked up to see her at the door. "Where are you going, Scully?" he asked softly.

"Out for a walk," she said hollowly, reaching for the door knob.

"I'll come with you," he said, rising. He didn't think there was any point in mentioning it was the middle of the night in downtown Washington D.C., and hardly a safe place for a stroll.

"No, Mulder," Scully said, still not looking at him. "I don't want any company just now."

"Scully," he protested, crossing the room to stand beside her. She looked up at him then, and he nearly gasped at the desolation in her face. *Oh Jesus, what is she thinking!*

Their eyes met and held, neither able to hide the truth, neither needing to speak. They had always been able to communicate their deepest emotions without words.

*This time you don't understand, Mulder. You can't help me*

*I can't let you go, Scully*

The ringing of the phone shattered the surreal silence like glass.

Scully watched Mulder's face as he listened, aware that she had stopped breathing. He looked at her, triumphant. Sensation began to return to her body as her heart thudded painfully. *Please god -- let us find her*

Then Mulder was slamming down the phone, rushing toward her. "DC police just found a white van partially submerged in the river. They're pulling it out now. Come on Scully, it's got to be her."


They were forced to a halt behind a pile up of police cars and other emergency vehicles. Scully was out of the car before Mulder brought it to a stop. She ran, badge extended in front of her, toward the vehicle being winched out of the river. A burly police sergeant attempted to block her path.

"Federal agent," Scully shouted, shouldering past him. She got her first clear view of the white van, and her heart plummeted. With the exception of the double rear doors, the entire vehicle was submerged. It didn't look like anyone inside could have survived.

"Hey! Are you crazy, lady?" an officer shouted as Scully waded into the water.

"Let her go," Mulder said, grasping the officer's arm to restrain him. He watched as Scully pushed her way to the front of the vehicle and peered through the half exposed windshield. He held his breath, not knowing what to hope for. If Marsh weren't in the vehicle, they were back were they started from with nothing to go on. If she were inside, she was very likely dead.

Scully knew immediately the cab was empty. She stared inside for an extra second just to convince herself that Marsh was not there. The rear half of the van was windowless, and separated from the cab by some kind of partition. She was in water nearly to her waist, but she didn't feel the cold. Her chest burned with every breath, but she pushed her way insistently through the throng of men crowding around the rear of the vehicle, which was now balanced precariously on the bank of the river.

"For God sake, get this thing open," Scully commanded in a tone that could make a room full of agents come to attention. "If she's in there, she doesn't have much time." *Just let her be inside. Let her be alive*

Two men forced a jack between the door handles and popped the lock. The doors were difficult to swing open with the van angled so steeply downward. Scully tried to get closer, frantic for a look inside.

Suddenly Mulder was beside her. "I'm taller, Scully. Let me get in there." He managed to block her view as he helped the others pull the door open. If someone had put a bullet through Marshall Black's head, he didn't want Scully to see what was inside that van. He almost couldn't believe it when they finally got the doors opened.

"Jesus Christ," one of the policemen uttered.

Scully took a deep breath, steeling herself for the answer she feared would come. "Is she alive, Mulder?"

"Can't tell," he grunted as they lifted Marsh's body up out of the vehicle.

Scully was beside her the instant they transferred her onto a backboard. She motioned the EMT's away. She registered the blood on Marsh's face and around the cord binding her hands. *Oh Marsh, what have they done to you?* She pressed two fingers to the carotid artery in Marsh's neck. *She's cold* For a moment, her fears were realized. She didn't feel anything. Then, a faint but steady pulse rippled beneath her fingers. She closed her eyes, biting down on her lip so hard she drew blood. When she looked up, no one could see the tears. "She's alive. Get her into the ambulance _now_! You can start support measures while we transport."

The last thing Mulder saw as the ambulance doors swung closed was Scully, kneeling on the floor beside the stretcher, cradling Marsh's body, her head bowed. He wondered if she was praying.


Memorial Hospital 5 a.m.

Skinner found Mulder standing in the hall, peering through the glass of the intensive care unit. He glanced in, but the curtains were pulled around the bed.

"What the hell happened?" he asked roughly. His level of concern was reflected in the fact that he was unshaven, and had appeared in public in corduroys and an unpressed shirt.

"Someone got sloppy," Mulder said flatly, "and Marshall Black is one brave woman."

Skinner clenched his jaw, in no mood for Mulder's obliquity. "Would you like to explain that, Agent Mulder? And where is Scully?"

"She's inside with Marsh," Mulder said, gesturing toward the closed curtains. "Whoever was behind this, they don't have very good help. He was obviously supposed to kill Marsh and dispose of her body and the van. My guess is he was in a hurry. They apparently had her drugged to the point of unconsciousness, so he didn't bother to finish the job. He simply dumped the van the first chance he got. Didn't even bother to wait until it sunk--which it didn't."

Skinner waited. He generally knew when Mulder was holding back. He usually didn't tolerate it, but there was something in Mulder's face that gave him pause. He'd seen him look this way before, when Scully had been ill, like he was trying to find someplace to put his pain.

When Mulder continued, his voice was hard. "She must have been awake enough to realize what was happening, but too weak to get out. The van was nose down into the river and nearly filled with water. They had her wrists tied with electrical cord, and she managed to hook the cord around the inside handle of the door. She was literally hanging by her wrists with her head barely above the water. She was pretty torn up."

Skinner's eyes narrowed, and a muscle bulged in his jaw. "And how is she now?"

"Still hasn't regained consciousness."

"Why don't you and Scully go home," Skinner suggested. "I'll post some men, although I doubt anyone will make an attempt here. They were done with her, and if she was drugged, she probably won't remember much of it. She's not a threat any longer."

"I think both Agent Scully and myself would prefer to be here to question her when she wakes up," Mulder said, hoping Skinner would accept his flimsy excuse. *There's no way Scully is leaving, and I'm not trusting her back to anyone else*

Skinner wasn't buying it, but he doubted he would get either of them to leave. "Right," he said curtly. "Call me with any news."

Mulder pulled a chair over next to the door and made himself comfortable. It wouldn't be the first time he sat vigil outside a hospital room for Scully.


7:30 a.m.

Her head felt twice its size and filled with sawdust. Her shoulders ached and her wrists burned like hell. She couldn't remember much after pulling into the parking lot. There were men, and lights, and she remembered thinking how much she wanted to tell Dana she was sorry for leaving her. She turned her head and opened her eyes. Scully was there, hastily brushing tears from her cheeks. *God, I'm glad you're here. I never thought I would see you again* She swallowed the dust in her throat. "Didn't they teach you that FBI agents aren't supposed to cry?" Marsh asked softly.

Scully leaned forward to brush her lips gently across Marsh's. "They were only talking about being tortured or shot. I don't think they were talking about almost losing the love of your life."

Marsh wanted to touch her so badly. She tried to raise her arm, and winced at the laser-like pain the small movement evoked.

Scully gently wrapped her fingers around Marsh's below the bandages. "You're banged up and bruised pretty badly, and you've got severe contusions on your forearms. Your wrists are lacerated--the nerves and tendons seem to be intact. Your hands should be fine."

"Screw my hands," Marsh said with surprising strength, more concerned about the dark circles around Dana's eyes and the perceptible tremor in her body. "Are you all right?"

"Now that you're back, I am," Scully said, brushing her fingers through Marsh's hair tenderly. *God, I was so scared. If we hadn't found you--*

Marsh was struggling to stay awake, but she was losing the battle.
"I told you I wasn't going anywhere," Marsh murmured faintly as she drifted off. Her last words were barely audible. "Don't you know I love you?"

Scully smiled tenderly at the sleeping woman. The last 24 hours had felt like an eternity. An eternity in which she had come face-to-face with her own vulnerability. Marsh had entered her life with a force and passion that she could not resist, that she had no desire to resist. Marsh had exposed a need only she could fill. Scully knew with absolute certainty that without Marsh her life would be forever diminished. Whatever shape the future took, they would forge it together.

She laid her cheek against Marsh's bruised and battered hand. As she closed her eyes, she whispered softly, "And I love you, too, Dr. Black."

Scully slept, while outside the door Mulder kept watch.


DISCLAIMERS: The characters of Scully, Mulder, Skinner and others/events introduced on the X-Files are the sole property of Chris Carter etc, and are used here without permission for entertainment, not for profit.  


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