TITLE: Genesis XIV: Paradise Lost 

 

SUMMARY: Shadowy forces threaten Marsh and Scully's health and happiness. This episode contains spoilers for Per Manum

*****

Part One

Day One

Washington,DC

Marsh stood naked in the bathroom doorway, toweling off her hair. She shook the water from her dark unruly mane and glanced across the room to her lover. Dana stood partially clothed in front of the large double-drawered dresser that they shared. She was wearing black briefs and nothing else. Marsh grinned and leaned against the wall to watch. She thought that there was nothing quite as beautiful as watching Dana dress, except perhaps watching her undress.

Her breasts were fuller, almost swollen, and her pink nipples darker, nearly a deep rose. She was no heavier, but her figure suggested a lushness that had been absent previously. Marsh knew Dana's body better than her own. Her discerning eye rested on the slight swelling below Scully's naval, and she smiled. Fourteen weeks. Fourteen weeks and just a little bit of show. Exquisite. And hers.

At that moment, Scully turned to catch the self-satisfied grin on her lover's elegant face. She stopped her frantic search for a matching black brassiere, lifting one eyebrow in question. "What has you so pleased? You look disgustingly proud of yourself."

Marsh shrugged, not even bothering to deny it. "You look beautiful pregnant."

Scully blushed, surprised that a compliment from her lover could still do that. She was acutely conscious of the changes in her body, and every day it was more of a surprise. She had expected the physical changes, but what she had not expected was the way being pregnant made her feel about herself. There was something about knowing she was producing a life that made her feel incredibly sensuous. She was aware of an undercurrent of arousal that was always with her, making her want to stretch and purr with a mixture of supreme contentment and languorous desire. She had never needed any prompting where sex was concerned; she only need look at Marsh to want her. Now she didn't even need that. She was simply ready all the time. She assumed it was a result of all the hormone surges accompanying her pregnancy, and it would probably dissipate as the early pleasure of her state gave way to the inevitable discomfort of growing bigger and heavier. Nevertheless, she was enjoying the sensation.

She found herself grinning at Marsh, who continued to lounge indolently, arms crossed loosely over her chest, as always totally unaware of her own attractiveness. Scully's eyes moved from that captivating grin down the length of Marsh's lean form. She lingered for a moment on the small tattoo just above the dark triangle of hair at the base of Marsh's belly. She remembered the night they got it, and how aroused she had become while watching Marsh stand half naked, a stranger's hands using her body as a canvas. That tattoo was like her passion for Marsh, hidden and secret and somehow forbidden. Not because Marsh was a woman, but because Scully wanted her with a primal passion that verged on ravenous. An appetite she revealed to no one else. When she brought her eyes back to Marsh's, she drew a sharp breath. The grin was gone and in its place was a raw hunger that she hadn't seen for quite some time.

"Oh no," Scully warned. "I'll be late."

Marsh came slowly toward her, not listening. All her attention was focused on Scully's breasts, on the exact spot where she intended to put her mouth. For some reason, Scully was backing up, but Marsh simply moved inexorably forward. Then Scully's knees hit the bed and she was falling backwards with a soft laugh. Marsh leaned down with an arm outstretched on either side of her now recumbent lover and said in a low, dangerous tone, "You won't be that late."

When Marsh was very very hungry, she was very very slow. It made Scully feel as if the slightest movement from her would break the thin thread of Marsh's control and she would suddenly be devoured, as if by a wild animal abruptly loosed from its cage. When it was happening, as Marsh consumed her, inch by slow torturous inch, claiming her with mouth and hands and tongue, Scully could barely breathe. It was not the tender gentle loving that had followed in the aftermath of her near disastrous encounter with the alien bounty hunter. It was not even the wild, wanton lovemaking of their early days together. It was the kind of fearsome passion that came from knowing that this one single person held all of your hopes and all of your dreams in the fragile beat of their heart.

"Marsh," Scully whispered, their faces very close now, their desire misting the air around them. Marsh lowered her head and Scully lifted her own breasts in both hands, offering them to Marsh's lips. Her neck arched back as the first sharp contact of teeth and tongue seared a trail down her spine, into her legs, spreading upward into her pelvis. She moaned, eyes closed, lips parted, skin flushed hot with the quick rush of arousal.

Marsh's hands covered Scully's, pressing the ripe sweet flesh to her lips, marveling at the heat that filled her mouth. She groaned, eyes closed, barely aware enough to keep most of her weight off Scully's body. God, she felt like she was starving. She ached inside. Her blood ran hot, her pulse pounded, and she couldn't have stopped had someone held a gun to her head. Dimly, she felt Scully's hands on her back, her hips, digging in, pulling her down, until there was no space between them. The sudden push of Scully's thigh between her legs caught her by surprise, the pressure on her distended clitoris making her whole body spasm. She ground herself down against the warm soft skin, groaning at the contact, her inflamed tissues swelling to the bursting point.

"Ah, God," Marsh gasped. She lifted her head, and, barely able to see, found Scully's blue eyes, deepened with desire to indigo, fixed on her face. She kept her gaze locked on those dark pools as she ran her hand possessively up the inside of Scully's thigh. She watched Scully's features soften with need as she traced her fingers through the warm wetness between Scully's legs. She struggled to ignore the ever rising pressure in her depths, filling her senses with the sight and sound and scent of her lover, but each second forced her closer to the edge.

Scully reached between them, grasped Marsh's wrist tightly, and directed her hand upward to her clitoris. "Squeeze," she implored, too ready too soon. Her hips lifted of their own accord, and she tightened her arms around Marsh's back. She cried out, a short piercing wail, as Marsh's knowing fingers found her, stroking and tugging and pulling her toward orgasm.

Marsh pressed her face to Scully's shoulder, feeling Scully shudder beneath her, sensing the contractions inside her. She bit down on the soft flesh beneath her lips, desperately holding back her own relentlessly approaching release. Her sensitive fingers felt each delicate pulsation, and even in the still quiet after the last surge had dissipated, the raging pulse still pounded beneath her fingertips.

When she came to herself, Marsh gently rolled off, coming to lie beside Scully, half on and half off the bed. She stared up at the ceiling, catching her breath, one hand softly stroking Scully's abdomen. "Have I ever mentioned that I think pregnant women are very sexy?" Marsh said, her voice still thick with desire.

Scully blinked, trying to reassemble her body parts. She found she couldn't move. She swallowed, wondering if she would be able to make words. Miraculously, something still worked. "I'm not sure you ever said, but I noticed," she answered faintly.

They turned their heads to face one another, linking hands.

"You okay?" Scully asked, her voice stronger and certain parts of her anatomy beginning to reawaken.

"Uh huh," Marsh muttered.

"I didn't feel you come," Scully said, suddenly feeling very hungry herself.

Marsh grinned. "I was practicing restraint."

Scully managed a faint lift of her brow. "Oh yeah? Did it work?"

"Unh uh," she confessed, remembering the sweet moment of surrender with a satisfied sigh. "I need more practice."

Scully rolled up on an elbow, smiled at her, then leaned down and kissed her quite thoroughly. "We'll give you another chance later."

"I'm not a very fast study," Marsh warned, her eyes dancing.

Scully forced herself up and headed toward the bathroom for her second shower of the morning. "We'll just do it till you get it right."

Marsh settled back on the bed to wait for Scully to get ready for work. She loved to watch her get dressed.

*****

"Hey," Marsh said softly, coming up behind Scully and wrapping her arms gently around her lover's waist. Her eyes met Scully's in the mirror. There were traces of tears lingering on Dana's long lashes. "What is it?"

Scully shook her head, not knowing what to say. It just seemed to happen, these moments of overwhelming uncertainty and sadness. Sometimes she thought it was just all the changes, inside her body, and outside, in her world. God, Mulder had been gone more than two months. It seemed like two lifetimes. She glanced at the ultrasound she had laid on the dresser. She still wasn't sure how it had happened.

Marsh followed her glance, saw the light and shadows forming the shape of a nascent being. Felt Dana tremble in her arms. She rested her cheek against Scully's hair, rocking her slight in the comfort of her embrace. She slid her palm down Scully's belly, resting it softly on the faint swelling. "Worried?"

Scully shook her head no. She clasped both hands over Marsh's and leaned into her. "I was thinking about Mulder."

Marsh kissed her temple, waited. They had talked about it a long time before approaching him the first time. He was perfect, except for the things none of them could know for sure. How would he feel fathering a child he would not raise? How would *they* feel explaining it all some day. So many possible ways it might go wrong, but so many reasons it was right. In the end, it hadn't mattered, because Dana's ova had been irreparably damaged.

"I'm sorry he won't be here for this," Scully whispered. He would have loved it, she knew.

"Maybe he will be," Marsh murmured.

Scully smiled tremulously, drew a steadying breath. "Maybe he will."

She looked at herself in the mirror one last time, running her hand over her abdomen half in wonder, half in bewilderment. If only she knew for sure.

*****

Scully walked into the office she shared with John Doggett half a day late. Hopefully her reasons for being so didn't show on her face. The fact that she was still thinking about sex probably explained why she didn't realize he was with someone until she was half way into the room.

"I'm sorry, Agent Doggett," she said. "I didn't realize that you had an appointment."

She was about to leave when Doggett hurriedly spoke. "Uh, actually Agent Scully, this is Duffy Haskill. He says he knows you."

She shook her head and the stranger began to tell his story. As he spoke, she tried to hide the sense of dread that grew with every word. This could not be possible, this wild tale of alien babies and doctors who murdered the mothers to keep the secrets of their experiments. Experiments on abductees. Women who mysteriously became pregnant. Women like her.

"I have proof," Haskill said, holding out an ultrasound.

Scully reached for it, hoping that her terror did not show. She looked at it. It looked very much like the one she had held in her hands just a few hours before. The one of her baby. For a moment, she thought she would scream. This could not be happening. They could not take another part of her. No.

She dismissed it as fantasy, but the image of the ultrasound was burned into her consciousness. One thought kept running through her mind. Doggett was right. Duffy Haskill's story. The story of those
women.

It was her story.

Part Two

Day Two 

Zeus Genetics Laboratory 

Germantown, Maryland

"You can't be back here," the angry man in the white lab coat ordered. "You'll have to wait out front."

Scully nodded and managed to look calm as she hurried past him. She leaned against the wall outside the room of horrors and closed her eyes. It didn't help to erase the images of row after row of pathetic creatures preserved in formalin, abject reminders of man's failed attempts to manipulate and subvert the laws of nature. Unconsciously her hand strayed over her abdomen. Her scientific, rational mind told her that this place was nothing more than a genetic engineering laboratory, one of several around the country engaged in fetal research. Perfectly legitimate. It had nothing to do with her. Nothing at all.

But she couldn't help think about Cathy Haskill, the purported abductee, the supposedly dead mother with the missing baby. And that frightened woman - Hendershot - who she had just seen screaming in that bright sterile room down the hall. The part of her that had seen too much to deny the undeniable feared that Duffy Haskill's story could be true. That somehow there *were* women who had been abducted and defiled and impregnated with some inhuman form of life. Women who were destined to bring forth from their bodies the products of experimentations too depraved to contemplate. If it had happened to them, it could happen to her. And if it happened to her, she did not think she could bear it. Not another violation. Not again.

The minute she walked into the apartment, she called the hospital. She couldn't face this alone.

"I'm sorry, Dr. Scully," a sympathetic voice informed her. "Dr.Black just took a stab wound to the abdomen up to the OR. She'll be scrubbed for a couple of hours. It was a mess."

Scully hesitated, trying to think, wanting to talk to her so badly.

"Dr. Scully?" Concern in the tone now. There wasn't a person in the trauma unit who didn't know that something serious was going on in the Chief of Trauma's personal life. Half the time Marshall Black looked like a trauma victim herself, sleepless, stressed, and ready to snap. The other half she was euphoric, happier than anyone could ever recall. They all knew that Dana Scully was the reason. "Dr. Scully? Is something wrong? Should I call into the OR for her?"

"No," Scully said quickly, angry at herself for letting her imagination drive her crazy. She wasn't going to make Marsh crazy, too. "No, there's no problem. Don't bother her."

She hung up the phone slowly, struggling for calm. Facts, she needed facts, not wild supposition and irrational fears. And she needed someone she could trust, someone who could give her an objective opinion.

She brought up the address file on her laptop, checked the number she knew by heart, and dialed. "Dr. Parenti, please."

*****

Marsh pulled off the surgeon's cap covered with red chili peppers and embroidered with the caption _Hot Stuff_, a gift from a patient, and tossed it into her locker. She rubbed her face with both hands, stretched her stiff shoulders, and searched her lab coat for quarters for the soda machine. God, it was hot under those lights. Her scrubs were soaked and she was parched.

Her beeper went off as she opened the can. She drank down half the soda and punched in her office extension. "Black."

"Dr. Black, Dr. Scully called several times."

Marsh's heart started to pound. "Yes?" she said sharply.

"She asked that you call her at home."

Marsh glanced at the wall clock. A little after five pm. Dana was never home that early. Marsh swallowed, her throat tight. "At home?"

"Yes, Doctor."

"Call Carter and ask her to cover for me." Marsh hung up without waiting for a reply, walked to her locker, and grabbed her jacket. She didn't bother to change.

"Dana?" Marsh called as she pushed through the door to the apartment. There was a faint light coming from the bedroom and she hurried through the living room and up the loft stairs. "Dana?" she asked worriedly, crossing to where her lover lay on the bed, back to the door, curled up tightly with her arms crossed protectively over her abdomen. Marsh sat beside her on the edge of the bed, brushed the hair from Scully's cheek, then gently rested her hand on her shoulder. "Hey," she said softly. "What's wrong?"

Scully rolled toward her and wrapped her arms around Marsh's waist, laying her head in Marsh's lap, drawing her body close to Marsh's. "In a minute," Scully whispered, so happy Marsh had come. Marsh was the only person she had never had to ask. She always knew.

Marsh shifted fully onto the bed, propped herself up against the pillows, and gathered Scully close, cradling her in her arms. She held her, slowly running her hands up and down her back, soothing her with her touch. "Are you hurt?" she asked finally, unable to bear the anxiety any longer. "The baby-has something happened?"

"No," Scully said quickly. "I'm all right." She sat up a little straighter, keeping one arm across Marsh's body, just wanting to feel her, and added, "At least I *think* I am."

Marsh's eyes darkened, part fury, part fear. Hadn't they been through enough? Hadn't Dana suffered enough? What more could possibly happen? How much more could they take? She asked quietly, her jaws so tight her head ached, "What's going on?"

Scully told her all the details of Haskill's visit, and his wild story, and her journey to Zeus Genetics. "I took my ultrasound to Dr. Parenti this morning along with the one from Haskill's wife."

"And?" Marsh asked, her stomach in knots. This was a nightmare.

"He said they both looked fine."

Marsh let out her breath. "Thank God."

"Doggett's been doing some digging. He said that the Haskill's had used Parenti at one time. During one of her attempts to conceive, I imagine," Scully added, trying to contain her panic. She didn't believe in coincidences. No investigator did. But she wanted to. She needed to now.

"That's not so unusual, is it?" Marsh asked, desperately trying to make sense of this sudden, horrifying development. "He *is* one of the top infertility specialists in the DC area. Probably a lot of the really tough cases end up with him."

"That's what I keep telling myself," Scully agreed. "But there are so many similarities in our stories. Her abduction - her infertility - then her pregnancy when it should have been impossible."

Marsh slipped her hand under Scully's chin and lifted her face so that their eyes met. "It doesn't necessarily mean anything. As far as we know, your in vitro was done with *my* eggs, and there's no reason to think that they were tampered with."

Scully's expression was clouded with a mixture of hope and uncertainty. "I know," she whispered. "I'm just - scared."

Those words were harder for Marsh to hear than almost any other. She kept her voice even and sure. "We'll get an amnio as soon as it's safe. We'll check the fetus's DNA. Mine's already been analysed. We'll make sure, okay?"

"Okay." Scully stretched out against the length of Marsh's body, wanting every bit of contact she could get. She rested her head on Marsh's shoulder, one leg over Marsh's. "How long can you stay?"

"I can call Carter and tell her that I won't be back."

"No," Scully said after a moment. "Just stay here with me for a while. I only need a few minutes to start thinking straight again. Then I'll be fine."

A few minutes turned into nearly an hour, as Scully dozed fretfully and Marsh held her, struggling with her own demons. When Scully opened her eyes again, she lay still, her head on Marsh's chest, listening to the slow steady beat of Marsh's heart. "You awake?" she asked, softly running her hand over Marsh's abdomen.

"Mmm," Marsh answered, nuzzling in Scully's hair, breathing in her scent.

"What have you been doing?" Scully asked, continuing her slow exploration over the curve of Marsh's hip, down her thigh. Just needing to feel her, needing the solid secure presence of her.

"Thinking about you," Marsh murmured, kissing the tip of her ear. "Thinking how lucky I am."

"Oh, Marsh," Scully laughed quietly, loving her for her words, but her heart aching at the same time. "With all I've put you through the last few months, lucky is hardly the word I would choose."

Marsh tightened her hold, lifting the hair at the base of Scully's neck with one hand and kissing her softly there. "I have you, and you're all I ever wanted. Now, with the baby, it seems like an embarrassment of riches."

Scully was suddenly very still. "If there's anything wrong on the amnio -" She fell silent, unable to say the words. They both knew what would have to be done.

"Dana," Marsh said gently, "No matter what, we'll get through it."

Scully sat up unexpectedly and turned to face Marsh, sliding her leg all the way over Marsh's waist and settling into her lap. She framed Marsh's jaw with both hands, looking at her intently. "You mean that." A statement, not a question.

Marsh held Scully's gaze steadily, every ounce of her strength apparent in her expression. "With all my heart."

Scully leaned forward, her palms still cupping Marsh's face, and kissed her. A long, slow searching kiss that began as thanks and ended as wonder. "You," she breathed after a long moment, her lips hovering above Marsh's mouth, "you are the miracle of my life."

Marsh reached for her, but Scully pressed gently down against her chest with one hand, stilling her motion.

"No," Scully ordered softly, "lie still. Listen."

Marsh closed her eyes and dropped her head back against the pillows, knowing that there were times when Dana needed her this way. Marsh had never allowed herself to be so vulnerable with anyone, but she loved her, and she trusted her.

Scully loosed the drawstring at Marsh's waist. Slowly, she pulled the cotton shirt free of the scrub pants and raised the lower edge. As skin was bared, inch by inch, she ran her fingers lightly over the surface, watching Marsh's muscles tighten and quiver. Marsh shifted her hips under Scully's legs, but Scully ignored the silent plea for attention.

"Lift up," Scully commanded softly, pulling off the top as Marsh complied. She threw the shirt into the corner, then brought her hands down over Marsh's breasts, eliciting a sharp gasp and a reflex jerk from her lover. She caught the small tight nipples between her fingers, twisting lightly as her palms cupped the firm flesh. She massaged and squeezed, tugging and teasing, until Marsh couldn't help but groan. Then Scully swiftly pushed herself a little lower on Marsh's body until she could take the tender nipples between her teeth.

She didn't relent, alternately sucking and biting, until another faint groan escaped Marsh's throat, a groan almost a cry. Only then did Scully move from on top of Marsh to beside her, drawing her nails hard enough along Marsh's belly to leave faint lines. Moaning, Marsh raised off the bed as Scully's fingers raked the length of her abdomen, wild for more contact, desperate to be touched. Scully glanced at the thin, taut fabric between Marsh's thighs. It was soaked.

Scully smiled, face intent, eyes ravenous.

"Dana," Marsh breathed.

"Shh," Scully crooned, intent on lowering the pants over Marsh's hips, her own hunger beginning to blur her vision. "Patience."

At the light touch of Scully's hand on the inside of her leg, Marsh's breath rushed out on a sigh. She parted her thighs, open and defenseless and totally willing to be possessed. Her oh of pleasure when Scully slipped inside in one long slow thrust was accompanied by the swift contraction of every muscle in her body. Scully, tender and intense, spoke to her of need and devotion and surrender with caresses more poignant than words.

Body bow-string taut, hands twisting in the sheets, Marsh's eyes flickered open. They were all pupil, black as night. Deep deep caverns of pure desire. Marsh's lips parted, her breath swift and ragged. She watched Scully's face through a haze as Scully methodically reduced her, stroke by relentless stroke, to nothing more than sweat and blood and bone.

Dimly, over the roar in her ears of her own pulse pounding, she heard Scully intone, "Wait. Wait. Wait."

Somewhere in the core of her the dam broke. She cried out once, a choked, broken cry, as a fury of fire consumed her from the inside, burning along muscle and nerve until it reduced her to ashes.

*****

"Thanks for covering for me, Carter," Marsh said as she tossed her jacket over the chair in the trauma bay. "I owe you."

Susan Carter, the trauma fellow, eyed her boss thoughtfully. Marsh looked odd. There were circles of fatigue under her eyes, but she had an air of still calmness about her as if nothing in the world could disturb her.

"Everything okay?" Carter ventured carefully.

Marsh glanced at her, but her thoughts were on Dana as she had last seen her, sleeping peacefully, a very satisfied smile on her face.

"Everything is fine," she said with relief. It was close to midnight. Nothing would happen tonight.

Dana was safe until morning.

Part three

An All-Night Diner 

Downtown Washington DC 

2:58AM

Skinner ground his teeth and struggled with the decision to be her supervisor or her friend. He looked across the small formica table in the deserted diner at Dana Scully and was astonished by her defeated expression. There was a bleak emptiness in her blue eyes that he could not remember ever having seen before, even in the early days of Mulder's disappearance or the darkest days of her cancer. In all the years he had known her, through all the anguish and torment and near fatal encounters, he had never seen her look so beaten. He cleared his throat and looked past her through the rain-streaked glass of the wide front window into the dark night. The vacant street was suffused with an eerie red haze from the reflections of neon signs and dirty streetlights, and the otherworldliness of it added to his disquiet.

"You need to call Marsh now," was what he eventually said. In the last analysis, anything that he could be to her, confidant or protector, was not enough. She needed comfort, and that was one thing he had never been able to give her. She had never let him close enough for him to do that, and in truth, he wasn't sure he wanted to be that near to her pain.

She shook her head, wordlessly. "I can't," she said finally, her voice ominously flat. She could not think about Marsh's pain, or she would not be able to do what she needed to do. "I don't know what's happening, but if it's anything close to what it might be, there's too much risk to her."

"You can't just disappear," Skinner protested. He needed no reminding of what happened to Marsh when Karen had died. He had been there to witness her devastation. Marsh had been young and newly in love then. Now, even he could see that what bound her to Dana Scully ran far deeper than that first relationship. For all her strengths, he of all people knew that love was Marsh's weakness. "You know as well as I do that she'll go out of her mind. She might never forgive you."

For a moment, Scully's face lost all expression. If there was any possibility that Mary Hendershot's story was true, every woman who had been abducted was at terrible risk, including herself. She wouldn't put Marsh in the path of that danger. Until she knew for certain what was happening, she couldn't involve anyone else. If she hadn't known that Skinner would immediately began a search for her, she wouldn't have called him at all. She counted on the fact that Marsh would go to him for answers, and she prayed that he would be able to keep her from doing something dangerous. It was the best that she could do with so little time and so much at stake. "I can't tell Marsh what I don't know myself. She would insist on going with me. I can't let her do that."

Skinner frowned. "Agent Scully, you need to tell me exactly what's going on or I can't help you. No one can."

"I *can't* tell you what's going on," she said in painful frustration. "I don't *know* what's going on. All I know for certain is that there's a woman sitting outside in my car who came to me, hysterical and in fear of her life. If any part of her story is true, it means that she's in terrible danger."

"Then let me help you," he said again desperately.

"The fewer people who know where we are or what's happening, the better it is for everyone," she insisted stubbornly.

At that moment, the door opened and a familiar deep voice asked the lone waitress behind the counter for coffee. John Doggett pulled out a chair at the small table and looked from one to the other expectantly.

"Thanks for coming down here," Skinner said, still looking at Scully.

"You going somewhere?" Doggett said as he stared at Scully, clearly perplexed and angry.

"Yes," Scully said tersely, her mind still on Marsh and the woman waiting for her in the car outside. She hadn't been able to prevent Skinner from calling Doggett, but she wasn't going to be forced into telling him anything. He was no more likely than Marsh to let her do what needed to be done without interference. She knew that Skinner was waiting for her to explain, but she would not.

"You gotta tell him, Scully," Skinner said after an angry and suspicious Doggett had abruptly left them.

She followed Doggett out into the rain, Skinner close behind. She stood looking at him across the hood of his truck, telling him nothing, her expression asking for his understanding. Finally, she had to leave. She had at least one woman and her unborn child's life to safeguard, and it was possible that there were others. As she hurried toward her car, she knew that she must find the answers for them and for herself. There was no more time.

*****

FBI headquarters 8:35 AM

Skinner wearily reached for the telephone. "Yes, what is it?"

"AD Skinner, there's a Dr. Black here who insists..."

"Send her in," he said, removing his glasses and rubbing his eyes to clear the fatigue.

He tried to gauge her mood from the expression on her face as she stalked towards his desk. Fury was a light way of putting it. Her eyes were blazing and her jaw rigidly set . Despite the anger, he saw something else flickering in her eyes. She was terrified.

"Walter..." she began, her voice so dangerously low it was merely a growl.

He would have tried to bluff her and pretend ignorance if it hadn't been for that brief glimpse of her fear. He didn't have it in him to add to it. His voice was softer than it might otherwise have been as he said, "Marsh, there isn't very much I can tell you."

She was taken aback by his words. She wanted answers, she wanted them immediately, and she knew he was the only person who would have them. She hadn't expected him to admit any knowledge of what Dana was doing. In a way that was even more frightening than she had imagined. It meant that he wasn't in charge.

She stood nearly at attention before him, so taut that her body hummed with tension. Each word fell with the force of a hammer blow. "I called home at 7 o'clock this morning. Dana wasn't there. The night operator had a message that Dana had called at 2 AM to say that she would be out of town indefinitely. The operator said that Dana had specifically instructed her not to give me the message until this morning."

"Marsh," Skinner said again. "I don't know anything except that she's safe."

"Where is she, Walter?" Marsh said with lethal intensity.

She was leaning forward, her hands braced against the front edge of his desk. He had a feeling that she might spring over it and put her hands around his throat. He sat very still, his eyes meeting hers. It wasn't the first time he been forced to choose between loyalties. It probably wouldn't be the last. He couldn't see that putting Marsh at risk would help Scully.

"I don't know."

"I don't believe you."

Skinner remained impassive.

Marsh stared at him and knew that she would not sway him. Maybe he knew, and maybe he really didn't. She was suddenly very tired.

"Tell her to call me," she said quietly.

He watched her go and wondered how long it would take for her to break.

*****

Marsh walked. It was raining and gray. She hurt.

Every breath, every step, was agonizing. She could not absorb the fact that Dana had left her. She could not imagine that anything, *anything*, could have made her do that. She tried to think. She tried to force herself past the pain. Only a jumble of broken thoughts, fragmented images, rewarded her efforts.

Dana, lying in a field hospital, pale and shocky, looking vulnerable but never, ever, weak. Dana, sitting by her bedside when she had awakened after the kidnapping, steady and strong and comforting. Dana, in all her various moments of passion and beauty, a presence so integral to Marsh's being that her absence was like dying.

"Dr. Black," a voice called. "Marsh."

Marsh looked in confusion at the car that had pulled alongside of her, at the familiar face peering at her across the front seat through the rolled down passenger window.

"Lara?" Marsh asked dazedly.

Lara Means pushed the front door open. "Get in, Marsh. You're soaking wet."

Marsh shook her head. "I'm fine."

As Marsh turned to walk away, Lara called, "I might know where she is."

Marsh spun around, her heart racing. She pulled open the door, leaned in. "Where is she?"

Lara shook her head. "Not here. We'll talk at my place. You need to get warm and dry."

"Tell me what you know, damn it," Marsh insisted, her voice rising threateningly. She needed to know, felt as if she might shatter if she didn't make sense of what was happening.

"I will," Lara said soothingly. "Just as soon as we get out of here." She could see that Marsh wasn't thinking clearly, even if Marsh's emotions hadn't been bombarding her with wave after wave of unbearable anguish. God, how was Marsh still walking around with everything inside of her tearing loose? Lara continued calmly, "Think, Marsh. Would Dana do this if she didn't believe there was great danger? Now get in the car. Please."

Marsh finally relented and slid in, barely getting the door closed before Lara took off down the street. She realized that she was very cold as she began to shiver. "How do you know about Dana?" she asked, struggling to stop her teeth from chattering.

Lara directed the vents toward her and turned up the heat, maneuvering the midday traffic expertly. "I know that the two of you are together because you told me the first night we met that you were involved. It didn't take much asking around to pick up the rumors. The Bureau is a great place for rumors."

"What do you know about where she is?" Marsh persisted, unable to think about anything else.

Lara pulled into an underground parking garage beneath a highrise apartment building. She stopped the car and swiveled on the seat to face Marsh. "I don't know anything for sure, but people are asking questions. Strange questions. Come upstairs."

Before Marsh could protest further, Lara was out of the vehicle and heading toward an elevator. Marsh followed, aware that she was beginning to shake. She'd been up all night, and the events of the morning had taken an enormous toll emotionally as well as physically. She leaned against the elevator wall for support and stared at Lara.

"Is she all right?" Marsh asked desperately.

Lara shuddered under a second barrage of psychic images following closely in the wake of Marsh's question. The projected torment hit her physically, as tangible as a blow. It occurred to Lara that every ounce of Marsh's suffering was going to be absorbed by an empath like herself, and if she weren't careful, Marsh's agony would drown her. She needed to erect some kind of empathic shield immediately before she was incapacitated.

Lara gasped, wincing at the lancing pain in her head. She fought the dark angry images of death and devastation that poured from the tortured woman beside her. "Marsh, wait. Just come inside. Give me a chance to tell you what I know."

Lara took Marsh's arm and led her down the hallway and into her apartment. Reluctantly, Marsh followed, helpless to do anything else.

At almost exactly the same moment, Dana Scully looked up into the calm eyes of the doctor who held the amniocentesis needle poised above her abdomen. Knowing that her future hung in the balance, she nodded her consent, helpless to do anything else.

Part Four

When she opened her eyes, the first thing she did was slip her hand under the blanket and palpate her abdomen. The faint swelling that she had grown accustomed to was still present, and there was no pain. No pain, other than the small puncture site where the amniocentesis needle had passed through her skin and muscles into her uterus. She wondered what it had *really* shown.

The second thing she did was whisper one word. "Marsh."

But of course, Marsh would not be there. Not this time. Marsh would not be waiting by her bedside, her fingers softly stroking her skin. Marsh would not be there, a deep warmth in her eyes, telling her that she was safe, telling her that everything was still all right. Marsh would not be there. She had made certain of that.

She had decided that this was something she needed to do alone. If what she carried in her body was not the miracle that she and Marsh had hoped for, but the nightmare Mary Hendershot feared, then she would not risk all that remained to her while searching for the truth. Mulder was gone. The baby -- the baby might be also. She could survive losing them, although it was tearing her heart out. But she could bear it. She could bear losing anything, everything, except Marsh.

All the events of the last day and a half came flooding back to her. The early morning flight to the hospital, the doctors who had befriended, then betrayed her, the ultrasound of someone else's baby substituted for hers, the strangers who rescued her and Mary Hendershot. Friends? Or enemies? She remembered jumbled details of Mary's precipitous delivery in the back of a truck, uncertain what she had really witnessed.

She closed her eyes and listened to the steady rhythmic beep of her own heart magnified and dehumanized by the impersonal machinery that surrounded her. After a moment even those sounds receded. That was when she heard the low quiet breathing of someone trying hard to be inconspicuous. She sat up in alarm, barely able to contain her panic.

"Agent Doggett!" she exclaimed when she saw him sitting in the shadows. His presence was of some comfort, but her pulse still raced with panic. Where was she? Was she really safe, or had he been taken in by impostors, too?

"Agent Scully!" he said, his relief overshadowing his discomfort. He moved closer, peering at her intently. "It's okay. You're fine."

She looked at him, wondering how he could possibly know that. Nothing was all right, and it might never be again. Doggett was basically a good man. She thought she could probably trust him, under other circumstances. But he had not seen what she had seen, and he could not imagine what he had never experienced. His world was concrete, based on his training and his past. Her world, her terrors, were not his. She said nothing, searching his face for the truth.

He looked down uncomfortably, then forced himself to meet her gaze. "And your baby's fine, too," he added softly.

She looked away, her eyes filling. If only she believed that. She didn't know what to believe, whom to trust. And now she wasn't even sure where to go next. If she went home, without answers, she had accomplished nothing. She would still not know if there were nameless forces controlling her destiny, using her for their own demented purposes. She would still not know what she nurtured in her body. And she would still not know if she - and Marsh - were safe.

*****

Marsh opened her eyes, confused by the unfamiliar surroundings. She was lying on a sofa, a light cover draped over her. She was naked underneath it. She turned her head and studied the woman curled up in the large leather chair opposite her. It had been years since she had awakened with, or even near, anyone except Dana. The experience was disorienting. But then the last two days had been impossible to comprehend.

Lara appeared to be asleep, her head leaning on one hand, her elbow propped up on the broad arm of the chair. Her shoulder length blond hair partially covered her face, and her penetrating green eyes were closed. Marsh remembered that they had been talking. Lara had been explaining how she had come to find Marsh and what she knew about Dana's absence.

"I have a friend in the behavioral division," Lara had explained as she handed Marsh a steaming mug of soup. "She's been hearing things concerning Dana Scully."

"What things?" Marsh had asked, ignoring the soup. She shivered in her damp scrubs as she leaned forward on the sofa in Lara's living room.

Lara indicated a robe she had placed next to Marsh. "You should get out of those clothes. You'll be a lot more comfortable. And we're in for a wait, I think."

Marsh grimaced, but she took the offered garment.

Lara inclined her head toward a hallway. "Bathroom's down that way."

Marsh was back in an instant, wrapped in a dark blue robe, her dark hair disheveled from a quick toweling. She didn't notice Lara's appraising glance as she repeated, "What things?"

"I was told that someone, possibly a deep cover operative, has been digging around in Dana's files. Her abduction files," Lara disclosed, sitting in the chair opposite the couch, curling her legs beneath her. "There is all kind of speculation that some 'unofficial' group, maybe a CIA offshoot, is involved in secret research projects. John Doggett's been trying to find out who this person is and if he has anything to do with Dana going underground."

Marsh's stomach churned. She remembered Dana's story about this Haskill guy and his wild tales of pregnant women and alien babies. Stories that couldn't possibly be true. But then so many things that hadn't been conceivable to her before meeting Dana had proved to be possible. "How do you know this?" she asked, struggling to control her rising panic.

Lara steeled herself against the onslaught of Marsh's emotions. The fact that Marsh was an unusually powerful personality made it more difficult to maintain a psychic barrier between them. "A friend of a friend kind of thing. Someone who worked with Doggett a few years ago on a different case altogether." Lara looked away for a second, remembering those harrowing few weeks, then returned her attention to Marsh. "Someone I was close to. Someone I trust completely."

"But why would Dana suddenly disappear?" Marsh asked wearily. She and Dana had not always agreed, but Dana had never done anything like this before. When Marsh had objected to Dana returning to Oregon with Mulder to search for the UFO, Dana had gone anyway. But Dana had told her she was going. Dana had always allowed Marsh to be a part of her decisions. Marsh had never expected Dana to shut her out this completely, even though Dana *had* been emotionally withdrawn ever since Mulder's disappearance.

Lara looked uncomfortable. There were things that she knew that she couldn't explain to Marsh *how" she knew. Not without revealing too much about herself and compromising others. "She's pregnant, isn't she?"

"Yes." Marsh swallowed around the lump in her throat. "God, where is she?" Marsh felt as if she had been asking that question forever and didn't really expect an answer any longer.

"I don't know, Marsh," Lara said, her voice sympathetic. "But I imagine that she's trying to figure out how much of these rumors about experiments and conspiracies are true."

"She would have told me!" Marsh exclaimed in frustration.

"Not if she thought that you might be in danger."

Marsh just stared at her, absorbing the words, wanting to believe that Dana knew her better than that. "No," she said definitively. "She wouldn't do that. She wouldn't."

Lara said nothing. Marsh's confusion and pain were impossible to filter completely, and it took effort to withstand the crippling intensity of her bewilderment and betrayal. Lara took a deep breath, trying to clear her mind.

"I'm hoping that my friend calls with something more specific soon," Lara continued. "She said that she and Doggett were reaching out to everyone they knew for a line on where Dana might have gone."

They waited, and when the silence became unbearable, Marsh reached for the phone on the table beside the sofa. First she tried Skinner's office. He was out, and not expected back, so his secretary said. Then she tried her home, and heard only her own voice instructing callers to leave a message. There were no messages from Dana.

Lara's contact did not call. Marsh realized now, hours later, that despite her best efforts to stay awake, she had finally fallen asleep sometime late in the night. Quietly she dialed her home number. No messages. She leaned her head back and closed her eyes, trying desperately to resist the depression threatening to overpower her defenses. She needed to do something. She couldn't just wait. She couldn't let Dana face whatever dangers there might be alone.

Skinner. He had to know. Grimly, she decided it was time to pay him another visit. This time she would not leave until she knew whatever *he* knew. She sat up abruptly, looking about for her clothes. As she dropped the blanket and reached for the robe lying over the arm of the sofa, she realized that Lara was awake and watching her.

"They're in the dryer," Lara said, averting her gaze after a moment. "I have some clothes that will fit you. I'll go get them."

Just as Lara rose, the phone rang. She answered quickly, listened for a moment, and then murmured a brief thanks. She hung up, looking seriously at Marsh. "Walden-Freedman Army Hospital."

*****

Scully walked slowly across the parking lot, allowing Doggett to keep a steadying hand on her elbow. She was still feeling the effects of the tranquilizers the Special Forces Agent had used to sedate her. The doctors had wanted to keep her for observation, but she had insisted on leaving. She wasn't going to stay in that place one second longer than necessary. Despite Doggett's rational explanation for everything that had happened to her and Mary Hendershot, she did not believe it. Too many things didn't make sense. As she had told him, it was all planned. She just wasn't sure yet why, or by whom.

As they approached his pickup truck, a car approached, tires squealing, and slammed to a halt nearby. Doggett reached for his weapon.

"Wait," Scully said tersely as the passenger door opened and Marsh stepped out. She didn't recognize the blond behind the wheel and wondered briefly what Marsh was doing with her. But her attention shifted immediately to Marsh, who was standing motionless staring back at her. Scully's heart twisted at the sight of Marsh's gaunt appearance and uncertain expression. *She's afraid to come near me* Scully thought, realizing that she would much rather weather Marsh's temper than see her so unsure. Scully walked slowly toward her, wondering what she could possibly say that would erase that haunted look in Marsh's dark eyes.

Doggett watched her go, one hand resting lightly on the handle of his gun, warily eyeing the car and the woman beside it. He recognized the tall, black-haired woman. She seemed to turn up whenever Scully was in trouble. He couldn't see the driver clearly and that made him nervous. At this point, he didn't trust anyone.

Scully stopped two feet in front of her. They didn't touch. She looked up into those charcoal eyes, eyes that she had seen flash with anger and deepen with desire and dissolve in surrender. Never had she seen them so wounded. "Marsh," she said sadly.

"Dana." Marsh's voice was hoarse with fatigue. Now that she had seen Dana and knew that she was safe, the sudden realization that Dana had intentionally attempted to disappear overwhelmed her. Perhaps she had been mistaken in her belief that what they shared was inviolate. She straightened, her expression becoming unreadable. "Are you all right?"

Scully nodded. She hated to hear the distance in her tone, but she couldn't blame her. She wanted to explain, but what could she say? She still had no answers. "Just tired."

"Where are you going?" Marsh asked, just a hint of desperation in her question. She was trembling. This could not be happening.

"I'm taking some time off," Scully said wearily. She had no explanation that Marsh would accept, and she could not fight her now.

"Are you coming home?" Marsh asked quietly, no inflection in her voice.

Scully's face was etched with sorrow. "I told you once that I would always come home. Will you believe that?"

Marsh looked past Scully to where Doggett stood watching them suspiciously. There was something oddly comforting in his presence. If Dana wouldn't let her help her, perhaps she'd let him. "Dana," she said, touching her hand briefly, then letting her hand fall away. "I love you, Dana."

"Oh, Marsh," Scully whispered so softly Marsh could barely hear her. "I know." She was so tired. It had been so hard, for so long, and she had paid so dearly. She simply could not pay any more. "As soon as I can. I promise."

Marsh watched her walk away. Everything inside of her was cold. Frozen. She watched while Scully and Doggett climbed into his truck, and she watched while the truck moved away through the long deserted lot and finally disappeared. At last she slid back into the front seat of Lara's car.

"Is there somewhere I can take you?" Lara asked gently.

Marsh stared straight ahead. "It really doesn't matter."

Part Five

Memorial Hospital 

Trauma Admitting Area 8:43PM

 

"Dr. Black?"

Marsh glanced up vacantly. "Yes?"

Dr. Susan Carter studied Marsh anxiously. Marsh was sitting at the long counter that ran along one wall of the trauma bay, a cup of cold coffee gripped in one hand, a pile of unopened charts in front of her, gazing blankly into space. The trauma chief looked haggard, and Susan knew for a fact that Marsh Black had been sleeping in the on call room for the last four nights. "Uh, you're not on call tonight. Why don't you get out of here before something happens. It's a full moon. You know we always get hit hard this time of month."

Marsh stared at her wordlessly. "Do you believe in that sort of thing?" Marsh asked at last. "Extraterrestrial forces and supernatural events?"

There was something very eerie about the way Marsh asked the question, almost as if she were talking to herself. Susan forced a laugh that sounded hollow. "Sure. Don't you?"

"Yes," Marsh said, opening the first folder and turning away. "I do."

*****

"Dana?"

Dana Scully glanced up vacantly. "Yes?"

"Are you going to tell me what's bothering you?" Margaret Scully said, pulling out a chair and joining her daughter at the small table in the kitchen of her home. Dana had been sitting there for hours, gazing blankly into space. It wasn't Maggie's usual custom to pry into Dana's business. Sometimes she regretted the habit of silence that had grown around them over the years, but habits were hard to break. Almost a week of this behavior, however, was too much to ignore. "You know that I love to see you," she said, "but I can't remember the last time that you stayed overnight here when there wasn't a family holiday you couldn't escape."

Maggie's tone was gentle, but her eyes were dark with worry. Her greatest fear was that Dana's cancer had returned, and that Dana simply did not know how to tell her. She gathered herself and took a deep breath. "Are you ill?"

Scully's first thought was of the fetus. She hadn't told her mother yet. She had wanted to wait until she was certain that everything was going well. She wanted to spare her mother the pain and disappointment if something went wrong early in her pregnancy. It was possible, especially with in vitro fertilization, that she might not be able to sustain the pregnancy to term. Now she *couldn't* tell her. Because it might be something much worse than a simple complication. It might be a nightmare. "No, Mom. I'm not sick."

Maggie searched Scully's eyes but she had never been able to penetrate their cool surface. She couldn't read the truth there, but she could see the pain. Something was very wrong. She loved her daughter, and it was from that place of caring that she queried gently, "Has something happened between you and Marsh?"

Scully was astonished at the question. Her mother rarely brought up her relationship with Marsh, although Maggie was always genuinely welcoming whenever she and Marsh visited. It just wasn't something her mother was comfortable with, and Scully had learned to accept that. She might have wished for it to be different, but it wasn't as if she and her mother had ever had that kind of communication before.

Scully hesitated, trying to dispel the image of Marsh as she had last seen her, pale and gaunt and so wounded. Just thinking about her started the ache again, and for an instant, Scully could not speak. Her silence betrayed her. By the time she answered, "No. Everything is fine," Maggie knew the truth.

Margaret Scully struggled with the next question. If it were one of her sons she was speaking to, or Missy, she would have known how to talk about such things. But this was different. It was difficult to think about the exact nature of Dana's relationship with Marshall Black, but if she didn't, she would never comprehend her daughter's life, or her pain. And that was something she very much wanted to do. "You'll have to tell me what's wrong, Dana. I don't know the right things to ask."

"Mom," Scully began, hoping to change the subject, "it's noth-"

"Has she left you?" Maggie asked suddenly. It was the only thing she could imagine that might hurt Dana so.

"God, I hope not," Scully answered without thinking. The mere idea sent a jolt of pain through her chest.

"Then *you've* left her," Maggie said quietly, wondering why she wasn't pleased. She should be, she supposed, since perhaps it meant that Dana had changed her mind about being a lesbian. But she couldn't help remembering the radiance of Dana's smile whenever Marsh walked into the room or the light lilt of Dana's laughter that had been missing for years before Marsh. For the first time Maggie considered that perhaps those things were more important than the fact that Dana loved a woman.

"No!" Scully cried. "No! I just needed time away. I - things have happened --" To her horror, she began to cry. She turned her face away, biting her lower lip, struggling with the feelings of helplessness and fear. "I haven't left her," she whispered. *God, Marsh knows that, doesn't she? She couldn't think that I've _left_ her!*

Maggie waited, something she had gotten very good at where her daughter was concerned. She knew better than to try to comfort Dana until Dana had control of herself again. Finally she asked softly, "Then why are you here by yourself?"

Scully wanted to tell her. She wanted someone to unburden her fears with. Most of all, she wanted someone to tell her that everything would be all right. But she couldn't ask that of her mother, because in the telling there was danger. The less her mother knew about the abductions, and the experiments, and the - baby, the better. Scully settled on partial truths, because that was all she dared share. "I'm just having trouble getting over Mulder's disappearance," she said quietly. "I needed to get away from the Bureau, away from the memories of him."

"I'm so sorry, Dana," Maggie said quickly, covering Scully's hand with hers. "I can only imagine how awful it must be for you. I know how much I miss him. Is there any word?"

Scully shook her head.

"I'm sorry," Maggie repeated. There was more, more than just Mulder, but she knew that Dana wouldn't tell her. "Does Marsh know where you are?"

Scully shook her head again. She hadn't been sure where she would go when Doggett drove her back to her apartment. It had been strange being there. She rarely was these days. All she knew was that she needed to get away, at least temporarily. She needed time to sort through the facts of Mary Hendershot's pregnancy and to look into the backgrounds of people associated with Zeus Genetics. She needed to find out if people were looking for her. And she needed to protect Marsh, who had as much a part in creating the being inside of her as she had. The only way she knew to do that was to stay away from her. Had she been thinking clearly, she probably wouldn't have come to her mother's house either, but she had come home because she was frightened and hurt and her mother was the only person, other than Marsh, who had always welcomed her without question.

"No," Scully said, her voice faint with anguish, "she doesn't know where I am. I didn't tell her."

"Whatever it is, Dana," Maggie said gently, "you have to tell her. She must be very worried."

Scully got up suddenly and walked to the counter, looking out through the window over the sink into the night. "I don't want to hurt her." She couldn't say that she wanted to protect Marsh, because that would only frighten her mother. Scully sighed, finding once again that she could not unburden herself without endangering someone she loved.

"Dana," Maggie ventured cautiously, "when you allow someone to love you, you owe them the right to be part of your pain as well as your joy."

Scully turned and met her mother's eyes. "What if she could be harmed?"

Maggie's heart lurched at the words. She knew that this was as close as Dana would ever come to telling her there was danger. But tonight, this was not about her own fear, it was about Dana's torment. "If she loves you, Dana, nothing could ever hurt her as much as not facing this with you."

"Mom-" Scully began, her words trailing off into tears.

Maggie went to her and wrapped her arms around her, rocking her slightly. "Go home, Dana," she whispered tenderly. "The two of you should be together."

*****

Memorial Hospital 11:22PM

"Who is it?" Marsh rasped at the sound of the soft knock, turning in the dark on the narrow bed to face the door. She hadn't been asleep, merely lying without thinking, waiting. She could work, the responses so automatic that nothing could disrupt that part of her brain. When she wasn't working, she was waiting. That was when everything seemed to stop. She forgot to eat and couldn't sleep. The rhythm and order of her life was gone. Dana was gone.

"It's Dana, Marsh," came the soft reply.

It took her a second to realize that she wasn't dreaming. Then she sat up on the side of the bed and replied, "Come in." She felt oddly detached, even though her heart was pounding.

A sliver of light fell across the room as the door opened and a shadow slipped inside. Then the door closed and the brief flash of illumination was gone.

Scully stood just inside the entrance to the small room, able to make out Marsh's form but not her face. The space between them was only a few feet, but it seemed interminably far. She had never been so distant from her, and it left her feeling hollow and terribly alone. Into the silence, she said, "Can I turn on the light?"

Marsh switched on the small bedside lamp. The narrow cone of light that fell across her stark features etched every line in harsh relief. Scully could not see her eyes, and she knew that was where the truth lay. There she would read the extent of the hurt and the depth of Marsh's forgiveness. She had not meant to cause this anguish, and had she been able to think clearly, she might have chosen a different path. But she hadn't been able to see beyond the newest terror and the soul-wearying assault of yet another horror invading her life.

"I'm sorry, Marsh," Scully said quietly, taking one careful step forward. "I didn't mean to hurt you."

"What *did* you mean?"Marsh asked just as quietly. Her tone was oddly devoid of emotion.

Scully stopped, not quite in touching range. "It all happened so unexpectedly. One minute I was pregnant with our baby, and the next minute I was back in the middle of some horrible conspiracy carrying god knows what inside of me." She ran a hand through her hair, remembering the panic of discovering that Dr. Miryum had substituted another woman's ultrasound for hers. "I couldn't trust the doctors, I couldn't trust the Special Forces Agents, I wasn't even sure I could trust my own eyes. I thought *they* might be coming for me again. I was scared."

Marsh flinched at the last words. "I'm sorry, too, Dana. Sorry that you were frightened and I -- I -- couldn't help."

"It wasn't that I didn't want your help, Marsh," Scully said desperately. "I was afraid they might hurt you, too. I couldn't let that happen."

"I'd rather die than lose you," Marsh said softly.

"And I'd rather leave you than see you hurt," Scully replied just as softly.

Marsh shook her head almost imperceptibly. "As if it would matter what anyone did to me if something happened to you." Marsh finally looked at her, her dark eyes swirling with anger and confusion. "Don't you know me at all?"

Scully's heart was breaking. She just couldn't stand any more pain. Her pain. Marsh's pain. Mulder's long ago pain that lived in her still. She crossed the final distance and pulled Marsh to her, cradling Marsh's face against her belly. "I know that I love you, Marsh. I love you so much."

Scully stroked Marsh's hair and her face, reveling in the sweet comfort of her nearness. She had craved her touch every second they had been apart. Marsh's arms came around her waist, tentative and uncertain. Scully sensed her hesitation but said nothing. Words were not the answer. She raised Marsh's face with one gentle hand and kissed her lips, tenderly, almost reverently.

Marsh closed her eyes, tightening her hold on Scully's body, her anger just a distant echo now. Nothing was solved and everything that mattered was right there in her arms. She loved Dana, needed her, and whatever stood against them must not stand between them.

When their lips finally parted, Marsh pushed back on the bed and turned out the light. She pulled Scully down beside her, lifted the light sheet, and slid under, covering them both when Scully stretched out next to her. Marsh settled Scully's head onto her shoulder, stroking Scully's back and arm with long, soothing caresses.

Scully sighed and fit herself to Marsh's familiar angles and curves. She pulled the shirt out of Marsh's scrub pants and slipped her hand underneath, resting her palm lightly on Marsh's abdomen. It wasn't sexual, she just wanted to feel her warmth.

Marsh lifted the edge of Scully's sweater and smoothed her hand over Scully's bare back. Their legs entwined, and they moved closer into one another. Neither of them spoke, both aware of the fragile connection as their loneliness and grief surrendered to love. Forgiveness whispered between them on silent caresses as they began to let go of the pain.

*****

End

*****

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.