A Question of Trust



Scully rolled up her jacket and placed it under Mulder’s head. His breathing was coming in slow rasps and his face was covered in sweat.


“Am I dying?” He asked her, a parody of a grin on his face.


“Don’t be stupid. It’d take more than a few bullets to see you off.” She smiled, but she couldn’t keep the concern from her eyes. “You’d probably need a stake through the heart and lots of garlic,” she joked. She wasn’t too worried about the wounds on his shoulder and upper arm, the bullets had gone cleanly through them, but the one on his leg did concern her. She moved aside the makeshift dressing and looked at it again. She had managed to stop the bleeding but she didn’t like the look of it.


She glanced around their surroundings in despair. It was an old, condemned apartment block. Cold, dirty, not a place to tend a sick man, but safe. And that was the main thing right now. Scully looked down at her bloodstained hands and tried to consider their options, coming to the conclusion within seconds that they had none. She desperately wanted to get Mulder to a hospital but she knew that she would be signing his death warrant if she did. These men who were after them had links everywhere. Mulder wouldn’t be safe. The FBI were no use either. She could still taste the bitterness of the moment when she had handed in her badge and gun and followed Mulder out of the room. She could remember the expression in Skinner’s eyes.


“Don’t do this, Scully.” He had told her, grasping her arm and pulling her into a corner of the room, away from the prying ears of the men in suits who sat gravely in judgement on her.


“I don’t see I have any other option, sir,” she told him coldly, shaking his hand off. She didn’t trust him, she couldn’t trust him, despite the other times when he had seemed to come through for them. There would always be a question mark over Skinner as far as she was concerned. She knew Mulder trusted him more than she did and she couldn’t say why she felt the way that she did, but it was just an instinct. She didn’t want to trust the man. So why was she sitting here in this gloomy basement and seriously considering calling him?


Scully ran through her so-called “options” again: she couldn’t call anyone she knew or trusted, like her brother for example, because that would put them in immediate danger. She couldn’t call any of the other agents in the FBI because she didn’t trust any of them enough and those she thought might be trustworthy would be committing professional suicide if they lifted a finger to help her and Mulder. More than that, they would be laying their lives on the line. Scully was in no doubt about just how dangerous their pursuers were. Anyone she contacted would be placed in the firing line. That left Skinner. There was a chance that he would refuse to help, or worse, betray them. There was also the very real possibility that he would be completely unable to help them. Even if he was trustworthy, there was every chance that he also would become a target. Scully thought about it, trying to ignore the sound of Mulder’s labored breathing in the next room and the little cries he made every so often. She needed medical supplies. Even if she couldn’t get Mulder to a hospital, she could at least make him more comfortable. She pulled out her cell phone and entered the number reluctantly, aware that her back was against the wall. Out of options, Dana. She told herself. No choice.


“Skinner.” He sounded so normal and business-like that it shocked her, as she stood in this basement, covered in blood and dirt. “Hello, who is this?” He asked when she failed to reply. Still she was not sure. “Scully?” He almost whispered her name and she felt her stomach contract.


“Yes, it’s me.” How had he guessed?


“You’re in trouble.”


“Yes.” That was such an understatement that it made her laugh out loud. “Oh yes, sir. We are in big trouble.”


“Is Mulder with you?”




“Where are you?”


“I can’t say, sir.”


“What do you want?”


“Mulder’s been wounded. He’s in a bad way.” There was silence from his end now, then a sigh.


“Tell me where you are, Scully. I’ll get help to you.”


“No! I don’t trust you.”


“Then why did you phone me?”


“I…need some help. I need medical supplies and water. Food as well. We’re safe here for now but I can’t risk taking Mulder to a hospital and I can’t risk going home. Damn it but I can’t even risk getting any money out of my account. If we surface they’ll find us.”


“There has been some…information at our end,” Skinner said cautiously, “that leads me to believe that you were right in your assumptions, Scully.”


“Oh, so you believe us now, do you?” She said, suddenly very angry. “You believe us now that we’ve put ourselves on the line and been forced to resign and Mulder’s got three bullet wounds and we’re holed up like rats in a sewer?”


“I believed you then, Scully.” Skinner’s voice was calm and rational. She could imagine him sitting in his clean office in his clean clothes. He wasn’t covered in blood, he wasn’t hungry, thirsty, dirty or wounded.


“Then why didn’t you stick up for us, sir? Why didn’t you refuse to accept our resignations?” She was almost crying with her anger and frustration now.


“There are things you don’t understand, Scully. Other pressures on me. It didn’t help that you and Mulder decided to take matters into your own hands on this one.”


“Damn you! Why can’t you, just for once, come down on our side? Without ambiguity, without all this double-talk. Just one time, sir!” She severed the connection and threw the phone down on the rickety crate she was using as a table. She hadn’t achieved anything. No help was on the way. All she had done was to alienate the one man who might be able to save them.


“Scully…” Mulder’s voice rasped out from the other room and she went to see to him. As she did, her phone rang. She looked at it, wondering if she should reply, then snatched it up.


“Who is it?” She demanded.


“Skinner. Scully I am on your side, but you need to tell me where you are.”


“So you can turn us in?”


“No. So I can come and help you.”


She closed her eyes and considered this for a moment.




“I’m coming, Mulder.” She walked into the other room, nestling the cell phone under her chin.


“You lied, Scully.” Mulder rasped, a tiny glimmer of a smile in his eyes. “You said I wasn’t dying.”


“You aren’t damn you!” She told him. “Help’s on the way.”


“Help?” He looked at her as if he couldn’t focus, his eyes slipping in all directions.


“Yes. Skinner’s coming down.” She told him, crossing her fingers behind her back. She spoke into the phone again. “Will you come down here?” she asked. “Alone. Bringing us supplies?” There was a pause on the other end of the phone.


“Yes.” Skinner said at last.


“I mean it!” Scully said forcefully. “Alone, sir. Don’t tell anyone. And make sure you’re not followed.”


“Alright, Scully, calm down. I’m sure I can remember how to get somewhere without being followed. I haven’t sat behind a desk for that long. Now where are you?”


She told him, wearily, knowing she had no choice and also knowing that she still didn’t trust him.


She wiped the sweat off Mulder’s face, noticing the dark black smudges under his eyes and his unnatural pallor. He seemed to have drifted off into some sort of sleep. At least she hoped it was sleep and that he wasn’t unconscious.


“Mulder, if you can hear me, I’m going upstairs,” she whispered. There was no reply. Scully looked at her watch. It had been two hours since her conversation with Skinner. He would be here soon. She took out her gun, the one Mulder had purloined for her from god knew where and frowned at it. It was heavier than her normal gun and she wasn’t used to the way it felt in her hand. Never mind. She’d use it if she had to. She had already used it on the man who shot Mulder.


She made her way up the stairs and went into one of the big rooms overlooking the dusty alleyway. The windows were all cracked and broken making the room freezing cold. She settled herself down in the best vantage point and waited. She saw him moving, quietly for such a big man, slipping down the alleyway as if he knew exactly where he was going. Then she heard the door opening a long way below. She didn’t move, watching the street to see if he had brought anyone with him, or had been followed. He was carrying a bag, strapped over his shoulder. Still she waited. Nothing moved in the alleyway.


“Scully.” She heard him call her, softly, then again, louder. “Scully!” Silently she made her way back down the stairs, watching him over the banisters. He hadn’t seen her yet. He had his back to her, looking into the empty rooms, one by one. Scully breathed in sharply. His gun was drawn. She vaulted the last banister and ended up right behind him, her gun pressed to the back of his head.




“Are you alone?” She asked.




“And you weren’t followed?”


“No. Come on, Scully. You’re not really going to shoot me, are you.” It wasn’t even a question. He knew she wouldn’t. She lowered the gun and brushed past him.


“Mulder’s this way.” She led him down the stairs to the basement.


“How is he?” Skinner asked.


“Not good.” She shrugged. “See for yourself.” She crossed over to where Mulder was lying. He was covered in even more sweat than before and she could see the blood seeping through the makeshift bandage on his leg. She looked up at Skinner for the first time. He was frowning.


“Prognosis?” he asked her tersely. She shrugged.


“The shoulder and arm wounds aren’t too bad. But there’s a bullet still in his leg. It needs to come out. If it doesn’t an infection will set in. Then he’ll die.” She said it matter of factly because she couldn’t believe it. Mulder was a huge part of her life. It was inconceivable that he should cease to exist.


“We should take him to a hospital.” Skinner said.


“NO!” Scully rounded on him. “None of them are safe, sir. You have no idea what we’re up against here.”


“With all due respect, Scully, I think I do.” He told her. “Maybe you’re right. You’re certainly in a corner.”


“No thanks to you,” she said bitterly. He sighed and rocked back on his heels.


“Scully, you can’t stay here forever.” He pointed out.


“I just need to buy some time.” She bit her lip, unsure what more to tell him.


“You have something planned then?” He picked up on what had remained unspoken.


“Yes.” She hesitated. “Another day or so and I’ll know. One way or the other.”


He didn’t ask any more questions which was a relief. Instead he un-strapped the bag and opened it, pulling out a bottle of water and handing it to her. She took it without speaking and downed the lot in one go. There was one blanket which he arranged over Mulder. Then he pulled out the medical kit and a bottle of alcohol.


“I wasn’t planning on getting drunk.” Scully remarked, feeling shattered.


“Neither was I. However I was planning on using it to sterilize some instruments and then help you in an operation.” Skinner said. She looked up, questioningly.


“Well you said that bullet had to come out.” Skinner reminded her.


“Yes, but I can’t…if I get it wrong he could lose his leg,” she said.


“If you don’t try he might lose his life.” Skinner pointed out tersely. “Come on, Scully. You’re a doctor. I know it’s been a long time since you practised but you can’t have forgotten it all.”


“No. You’re right. I just need to wake up a bit here.” Scully shook her head vigorously and patted her cheeks, trying to concentrate.


“I brought some food. That might help.” Skinner handed her a box containing some rather squashed looking pre-packaged sandwiches and a bag with some fruit and chocolate in it. She tucked in greedily. It had been nearly 48 hours since she last ate. She hadn’t realized how hungry she was. “It’s not very interesting I’m afraid.” Skinner said, as she choked the food down. “But it was all I could lay my hands on at such short notice.”


“It’s fine,” she said incoherently, between chews. She watched as he unpacked a sterilized dressing and some tweezers.


“No scalpel. Not standard medical kit stuff I suppose.” He gave a ghost of a smile. “But I have a knife.” He reached into his sock and pulled out an army knife.


“You keep a knife in your sock?” She asked, staring stupidly. Somehow he never seemed like the sort of man who would.


“You never know when it could come in handy.” He shrugged. “On occasions such as this for example.” He nodded in Mulder’s direction.


“I…I need to wash up.” Scully said, looking at her dirty, stained hands.


“Here.” He handed her two packs of sterilized wipes. “I think we should save the water for drinking. You can dip your hands in the alcohol once you’ve got the worst of the dirt off,” he told her. She did as he said, grateful that she didn’t have to make all the decisions any more.


Skinner took his coat off and turned up his shirt sleeves. He knelt down beside Mulder and put a hand on the other man’s forehead.


“He’s burning up.”


“Yes.” She shrugged, dipping her hands in the alcohol. Skinner undid the bandage on Mulder’s leg, just above the knee and grimaced at the sight of the ugly wound.


“It’s a bad one.”


“Yes.” She said again.


“Scully.” Mulder moved his head. “Scully!”


“It’s alright, Mulder. I’m here.” She smiled at him as he opened his eyes. It was dark in the basement. What daylight had seeped down there was fading fast and the beam from her torch was growing fainter. “Damn. The batteries are running down.” Scully glanced at the torch.


“Here.” Skinner pulled out a powerfully beamed flashlight from the bag.


“Anything else you have in that box of tricks?” she asked with a faint smile. “Like a fully equipped operating theater for example?”


“Sorry.” He shrugged. “But I can offer you one inexperienced head nurse.” He returned her faint smile and pulled the knife out of the alcohol. “Scalpel, doctor?”


“Thanks.” She took it and then took a deep breath. “No anaesthetic.” She murmured to Skinner. They looked at each other for a long moment and then he nodded grimly, putting one hand on Mulder’s knee and the other on his unwounded shoulder.


“Ready.” He said.


“Sorry, Mulder.” She said, plunging the knife into the wound. Mulder screamed, his body convulsing, but Skinner held him down, struggling with the injured man in an effort to keep his leg still enough for Scully to operate on.


“NO!” Mulder sobbed, the sweat pouring off him. “Please….”


“It’s alright, son.” Skinner murmured, wincing at the sound. Scully breathed deeply.


“I wish he’d shut up.” She growled, her nerves frayed by weariness and the sheer heartrending pain in Mulder’s voice.


“Hold on.” Skinner pulled out a handkerchief from his pocket and formed it into a wad. He pressed it into Mulder’s mouth. “Bite on that, Fox,” he said. Mulder’s screams dissipated into a muffled groan and Scully pressed on, opening up a small hole in his leg, pushing down until she found the bullet. She got hold of the tweezers and rummaged around, trying to get some purchase on the bullet. Mulder was struggling, his face a dark red. She bit her lip and looked at Skinner. “I can’t do this,” she said.


“You have to,” he replied, giving her no options, not indulging her weakness. Faced with no other choice she dug down again. Beneath her, she could feel Mulder flailing out but his leg didn’t move, Skinner was holding it steady. At last she got a grip on the bullet and began pulling it out, slowly, sure that she would drop it. She got it out with a tug and chucked it on the floor. Mulder lay still now, his eyes open but black with pain. Skinner removed the handkerchief and used it to wipe some of the sweat off Mulder’s forehead.


“Are you alright?” he asked her. She was trying to wash the wound with some of the alcohol but her hand was trembling. Skinner took the bottle from her and poured it over the wound. Mulder started to shake.


“He’s in shock.” Scully said, pulling up the blanket around him. “I thought I was going to kill him. Perhaps I have killed him.” She murmured, staring into space, trying to stop trembling.


“You did fine.” Skinner’s voice sounded reassuring in the darkness of the room. He was illuminated in the harsh glare of the flashlight, his shirt now stained with Mulder’s blood. “Come on, Scully. This wound needs a dressing.” She pulled herself together and opened one of the packs of sterilized dressings, pressing it down firmly on Mulder’s leg and tying a bandage around it to keep it in place. Skinner took a bottle of the water and opened it, pressing it against Mulder’s lips. The injured man drank greedily, the water spilling down over his chin.


“You’re going to be fine, Mulder.” Skinner said and his voice sounded calm and soothing. Scully watched as he smoothed Mulder’s hair back. Then he wet the handkerchief and washed the streaks of blood and tears off Mulder’s face. It was funny, she had never thought of him as a gentle person before, but as she watched him she saw a side of him that she realized she had always known existed but had never acknowledged. He looked strange, out of place crouched in this filthy basement in his shirt and tie, kneeling at Mulder’s head. He seemed too big, too imposing to be tending to the injured. He belonged in his office, giving out orders, playing whatever games it was that he played, talking to people she distrusted, doing deals with them. Had he done a deal with them about this situation? Scully wondered. Had he told anyone where they were?


“Sir?” Mulder was looking at Skinner, his eyes confused. “You sold us!” Mulder grabbed Skinner’s tie and pulled at it, his arms flailing around, uncoordinated. “You let them shoot me. You held me down while they shot me…” His voice was hoarse.


“No, Mulder.” Scully sat down beside him and took his hand while Skinner gently disengaged himself from the other man’s grasp. “He’s helping us. He helped me get the bullet out of your leg. You’re going to be fine, Mulder.”


“Scully? I can’t see you.” Mulder’s hand found her face and pawed at it, trying to recognize her by touch alone.


“I’m here, it’s alright.” She soothed him. After a while he closed his eyes and was still again. Scully pulled the blanket tight around him and followed Skinner wearily into the other room.


“Is he asleep?” Skinner asked, finding an old packing case in the corner of the room and dragging it forward for her to sit on.


“Thanks.” She perched on it, feeling utterly dead. “Yes. Asleep.”


“He’ll be fine. You did a good job.” Skinner told her.


“Thanks, but you don’t know that.” Scully said, shuddering at the memory of pushing that knife in, of Mulder’s convulsing body underneath her.


“No, but I’m trying to be useful here.” Skinner shrugged, sitting down in front of the crate and leaning back on it. “You need some rest too. Stop worrying about Mulder.”


“I am just so fed up with all this.” Scully said. “All this running and hiding and fighting all the time. Not just this time, but all the other times. All the things we never get quite close enough to.” She stared down at her bloody fingers. “Just hints – hints, rumors, half-truths. I want to feel like we have just one success.”


“You have.” Skinner said. “You’ve achieved a lot. Both of you.”


“Not the important things. Not the things that matter most to him.” Scully pointed her head in the direction of the other room, yawning.


“You need some rest.” Skinner said. He went back into Mulder’s room and retrieved the flashlight, the bag and his coat. Scully lay down on the floor, wishing she at least had a pillow.


“Here.” Skinner tucked the bag under her head.


“Versatile thing,” she mumbled. He laid the coat over her.


“I’ll keep watch,” he said, drawing his gun and sitting on the packing case. She didn’t want to fall asleep. Supposing he made a phone call, told someone where they were? Maybe he’d leave her here, go and make one of his deals with those faceless men he knew, go back to the FBI and turn them in. And yet she felt strangely safe as he sat watching over her. She fell asleep.


She was cold and stiff when she awoke. The room was in darkness and she looked up, trying to get her bearings. Skinner was standing by the door, the gun still in his hand.


“Is everything alright?” She asked. “Mulder?”


“He’s fine. I checked a few minutes ago. He’s still sleeping.”


“Is he warm enough?” she asked, shivering. It was freezing and she could see her breath in the air.


“Still pretty sweltering by the look of him.” Skinner said.


“How long have I been asleep?”


“Only an hour or so, Scully. You need to get some more rest.”


“Oh.” She lay back down. Her whole body felt stiff and achy and she was so cold. She pulled Skinner’s coat tightly around her but she still couldn’t stop the shivering. Was it just because it was so cold in here, or was it a reaction to the strain of the past few days? Probably a combination of the two. The shivering became worse until she couldn’t hide it, her teeth chattering uncontrollably.


“It’s alright.” Skinner came over and sat down beside her on the floor. She supposed she should have been surprised when he lay down next to her and pulled her close, but she wasn’t. “Body heat,” he murmured. It made sense, but all the same the intimacy of the gesture unnerved her. Would he have offered if she had been Mulder? she wondered. “Don’t worry,” he said, his voice sounding too close to her ear. “I’ll stay awake. Now you sleep.” He tucked the coat down around her and she could feel his arm on her waist, his chest pressed close to her back. It was a curiously sensual experience and Scully found it hard to relax, feeling his warm breath on her neck, the rise and fall of his chest against her, the sound of his breathing. He was warm though and after a while her shivering stopped. She felt calmer than she had done for several days. She stopped fighting it and her muscles loosened. Soon she fell asleep.


The gunshot woke her. Skinner wasn’t anywhere to be seen. She got to her feet and pulled out her own gun, running across the room to check on Mulder. He was still there, lying on the floor, his face a pallid mask. She could hear that he was still breathing and sighed in relief, turning round to discover the source of the gunshot. She edged her way into the hall, sliding along, trying to make out shapes in the dim light. There was a noise, a movement. She turned, quickly, raising her gun.


“Don’t shoot! It’s me!” Skinner emerged from the shadows.


“What’s going on? What the hell is going on?” She cried, almost buckling from the tension.


“I heard something and went to investigate. I found this.” Skinner beckoned her over and she nearly stumbled on the body. It was still warm. She turned it over, dreading what she might find. He was Chinese in appearance. That was all she needed to know.


“Is he one of them?” Skinner asked.


“Yes.” She nodded.


“Then we have to get out of here.” Skinner ran back into the other room. “Here.” He tossed her the bag. “Pack up everything we’ll need.”


“What about Mulder?” She asked, trying to think.


“I’ll get him.” He said, disappearing into the other room. He checked Mulder’s bandages and re-tied one of them more tightly. Then he put his arms under the other man’s shoulders and somehow managed to lift him into a standing position. Mulder groaned.


“It’s alright, Mulder. But we have to move.” Skinner told him. “Can you walk?” Mulder’s head lolled back against his shoulder but he didn’t reply. Skinner sighed. “Okay, we’ll do it the hard way then.” He put one of Mulder’s arms across his shoulder and started dragging him along, but Mulder was a tall guy and he knew he wasn’t going to be travelling anywhere fast.


“Come on,” he said to Scully, grimly. “Let’s get moving.”


Scully stood there, just staring.


“Where?” she asked. “Where can we go?”


“Well not your apartment or mine, that’s for sure.” Skinner gave her a grim smile. “And as for Mulder’s – even less safe I should imagine. However, I think I know a place.”


Scully looked at him uncertainly. She wished she hadn’t fallen asleep. Wasn’t all this just a bit too convenient? How had that man found them? Had he been told? Had Skinner lured him here to his death in order to move Scully out? She knew Skinner wouldn’t turn her over to the triad gang – they were his enemies as well. But Skinner knew another side to all this, a side he wouldn’t talk about. Was he going to take her there? To his friends, her enemies?


“Scully!” Skinner growled. “I don’t know how many more of them there are.” She came to a decision and picked up the bag. They couldn’t stay here and sometimes it was easier to just follow orders, to let somebody else make the decisions.


They moved slowly out into the street, Scully going first, to see if there was anybody lying in wait for them. There wasn’t. Skinner dragged Mulder’s dead weight along the alleyway and down into the road.


“What now? I don’t suppose you brought a car?” Scully asked him.


“And leave it sitting outside for someone to notice? Don’t be stupid. It looks like we’ll have to steal one.” Skinner said.


“Steal one?” Scully looked shocked.


“Well we either steal one or walk.” Skinner told her.


They found a likely candidate a little way along the street. Scully looked at her watch. It was 4 o’ clock in the morning. Nobody was around. Skinner propped Mulder up against a wall and fiddled around with the car’s lock. It only took him about 30 seconds and he was in. The next thing Scully knew the car started.


“You have hidden talents,” she murmured, pushing Mulder into the back seat and getting in beside Skinner.


“Don’t we all?” Skinner glanced over his shoulder. “He’s still with us?”


“Yes.” Scully bit her lip as she saw that the bleeding on his leg had started again. “Is it far? This place of yours?” she asked.


“About an hour.” Skinner swung the car round onto a road going out of town, towards the open country.


It was a cabin, in the middle of nowhere. People could die out here and nobody would know, Scully thought to herself as she got out of the car. She took the bag and Skinner took Mulder. The door to the cabin was shut and locked but Skinner kicked it down.


“Where are we?” she asked him.


“A safe house,” he replied.


“An FBI safe house?” She asked.


“Not quite.” He didn’t explain further. Instead he deposited Mulder on the one bed in the tiny cabin and then got hold of a dresser standing near the door. “Help me, Scully,” he said and between them they moved the dresser over so that it obscured the entrance. “We don’t want any surprises.” Skinner remarked grimly. She nodded and went into the small bedroom to see if there was anything she could do for Mulder. He was still unconscious but she re-tied the bandage over his wound.


“There’s water.” Skinner said. “But I don’t think we should turn the lights on.” She nodded.


“I could do with a bath,” she murmured wistfully.


“Then have one.” Skinner told her, pointing her to a small room next to the bedroom. She looked at him in surprise. “Well you may as well. There’s nothing much else to do. There’s probably some clean clothes here as well. I’ll take a look. I’ll also see if there are any medical supplies.” There weren’t – at least not much more than another bandage but it would probably come in useful Scully thought. The bath wasn’t more than lukewarm, but it was nice to be clean. Skinner found her some gray sweat pants and a baggy tee shirt. Not exactly her normal style, but better than nothing. He also changed his shirt, pulling on a faded old Harvard sweatshirt that was a size too small for him, accentuating the taut muscles of his body. She wasn’t used to seeing him dressed so informally and for a moment she was intrigued by the difference it made to his features.


“Soup?” He offered, rifling through a cupboard and finding some tins. They couldn’t anything to open it with so he cut into it with his knife. While he fixed supper, Scully went back to Mulder’s room with a bowl full of water. She cut away his clothing and sponged him down, changing his dressings again. When she had finished the soup was ready and waiting. It was so good to have something warm to eat! Yet it was surreal as well, sipping soup in this remote cabin in the dark with this man she did not trust.


“What now?” she asked him, breaking the long silence.


“I was about to ask you the same question,” he said.


“I need to make a call.” She pulled out her cell phone and turned it on. There was no reply from the number she dialed and she put the phone back down. “We wait,” she said, shrugging. Skinner nodded.


“You have the couch then.” He pointed. “I’ll keep watch.”


“No.” She didn’t trust him after what had happened last time he had kept watch. “You need sleep too,” she said. “I’ll keep watch until morning.” She would be able to cope better in the daylight, she thought to herself. Maybe her contact would be answering his phone by then.


“Alright.” Skinner shrugged. He rummaged around and managed to find a blanket, then he stretched himself out on the couch.


Scully went and stood by the window, looking out at the dark shadows of the trees. After a while she felt her eyelids drooping. “I need to stay awake,” she muttered, pinching herself. She wandered back to the couch. Skinner’s eyes were closed and she watched him for a moment, feeling curious, not knowing what she was looking for. Did she somehow think she could find the truth in his face, learn whether he was trustworthy or not just by looking at him? She studied the wide forehead and strong jaw, the thick, powerful neck and shoulders and then came to with a start. His eyes were open and he was watching her!


“I was worried…I thought I’d fall asleep.” She admitted, flustered, as if that explained the way she had been looking at him.


“Come and sit down.” He sat up and patted the couch. “If we try and talk one of us might end up staying awake.” He lifted up the blanket and she crawled in beside him. There was no heating in the cabin except a log fire which they weren’t stupid enough to light. She was cold again and thought with longing of the intimate warmth they had shared back in the basement. Without meaning to she leaned closer to him, her thigh and shoulder touching his.


“You don’t trust me,” he said, unexpectedly.


“How did you know?” She looked at him, startled, only able to make out the shape of his face in the gloom.


“I could tell by the way you were looking at me. Although…” he paused. “I don’t think you’ve ever really trusted me, Scully.”


“No.” She felt almost guilty. He had gone out of his way to be helpful this evening and yet there was always the possibility that he was only helping himself.


“There have been…misunderstandings,” he said and she wished she could see the expression in his eyes to know whether he was telling the truth. She made no reply. “I’ve always tried my best to protect you where I could. Both of you.” Skinner added.


“If you say so.” She shrugged. There was another long silence and she could feel her eyes growing heavy again, her head drooping sideways until it touched his shoulder. Then, unresisting, she allowed him to put his arm around her and pull her close. She wanted to be close to him, she wanted this comfort, the comfort of warm flesh and blood, of strong, protective arms. “I’m falling asleep,” she muttered.


“That’s alright. I’ll stay awake,” he said. But that’s what I’m afraid of, she thought to herself, wondering what she might wake to find. She couldn’t fight it though. She was just too tired. Instead she found herself drifting off. As she did so she could have sworn that she felt his lips press against her head and his hand find hers under the blanket.


Sunlight shining through the window woke her up. She was lying on the couch, her body encased in a pair of arms, her face pressed against someone’s chest.


“You’re awake.” He looked down on her, smiling. He wasn’t wearing his glasses and it took a moment for her to recognize him and remember what was going on.


“Yes.” She felt embarrassed by the intimacy of their position but she was warm and comfortable and she didn’t want to move. He didn’t move either and she found herself snuggling against him, enjoying the feel of his body next to hers. She also found herself examining her feelings – was it him she didn’t trust or the way he made her feel? The way he had always made her feel. It wasn’t love, or even anything more basic, but there was a tug here, the beginnings of something that she had always shied away from. Of course he was her boss, and she had never exactly imagined he was boyfriend material, yet…the attraction was there. And what was he playing at now? Holding her close to him like this, his arms around her neck and waist. Did he feel the same way? Was he telling the truth about protecting her or was this all a ruse for him to find out where she was hiding the item that he almost certainly knew existed and almost certainly wanted someone else to have?


“Is it late?” she asked. He glanced at his watch. “Ten o’ clock. I didn’t wake you before – partly because I figured you needed the rest and partly because you sleep like the dead, Scully! I got up a couple of times to check on Mulder and you never even moved.”


“Mulder!” she sat up, remembering. “Is he alright?”


“He’s fine. I gave him something to eat and drink. I thought he looked a bit better.”


“I ought to go and check on him.”


“He’s asleep. He doesn’t need checking.” Skinner pulled her down again and she went, unresisting. Skinner cleared his throat. “I just wanted to say…” he paused and she waited, feeling a curious sense of excitement inside, wondering what was coming next. “I just wanted to say that we’re in by no means a safe situation.” Skinner said.


“Yeah, well I had kind of worked that out.” She laughed.


“And I don’t know what the future will bring.”




“And I don’t want to die without telling you…that I…” He stopped and she looked up at him.


“It’s alright.” She said. “I think I know.” Her lips somehow found his without her meaning to. Something inside her snapped as she realized that she was acting on instinct, her heart, her body, her soul guiding her and not her head. Her head was shouting at her to pull back, to stop, not to go any further with this man she did not trust, but for the first time in her life she didn’t listen.


It had started as a warm kiss of affection and need, but as soon as she felt his mouth against hers she found herself wanting more. She opened her lips, and opened his with her tongue, hearing his sharp intake of breath, feeling the surprise in the hard muscles of his body. It was the sort of kiss that makes your head spin and your knees go weak. Scully was glad that she was lying down or she was sure that she would have toppled over. Now she was as surprised as he was. How long had she been harboring this need? His hands were gentle, brushing her arms lightly, not presuming to touch her anywhere else, not demanding anything else, or expecting it. Yet she knew what she wanted and was amazed by her boldness as she found the bottom of his sweatshirt and ran her fingers up inside it, caressing his body. He moaned and rolled back as she found his hard nipples and pushing up the sweatshirt she moved her face down to them and ran her tongue over them. Underneath her, she could feel the tense excitement in him and the hardness inside his pants.


“Scully…” he murmured. “Um…no, this is stupid…Dana…”


“Ssh.” She wanted to see his body, to feel it under her hands, to touch and consume it.


“Is this what you want?” He looked down on her, a bemused expression on his face.


“Don’t you?” she whispered.


“Yes. Oh yes.” He buried his face in her hair, kissing it over and over again and now his hands grew bold. His fingers insinuated themselves under her tee shirt, found the fabric of her bra and undid it easily. She felt her breasts loosened under her tee shirt, the nipples hardening as his fingertips found them, brushed them lightly. She kissed him again, closing her eyes, then she tried to wriggle out of the tee shirt without breaking contact with his mouth. It was a physical impossibility and he pushed her away, laughing, pulling the tee shirt over her head. Somehow she felt she should be embarrassed by her nakedness but she wasn’t. She put her hands on his head and guided it to her breasts, allowing him to kiss her, wanting his lips to touch her there, his tongue to find her nipples. She was sitting astride him now, relishing the unexpected eroticism of his naked head beneath her fingers. She could feel his erection digging against her thigh and wanted to feel him inside her, knew she could not stop until she felt him pushing up between her legs. A thought brought her up short and she stopped the little kisses she was showering on his head and pulled back.


“What’s wrong.” He drew back from her breasts and looked at her. “Have you changed your mind?”


“No. But… I don’t suppose you have any condoms on you?” she asked him and he laughed, a short bark of a laugh.


“No, Dana. Funnily enough I don’t. When you rang me, I didn’t exactly place condoms top of the list of items that might come in handy. Dumb of me really. A guy should always be prepared!”


She laughed and he laughed as well, his face relaxing and his teeth showing. She stared at him.


“What is it?” he asked.


“I don’t think I’ve ever really seen you laugh.” She said. “You looked so – unfamiliar.”


“You look pretty unfamiliar from this angle as well,” he said, staring straight at her breasts which were level with his head. She laughed again.


“What do you want to do? About the condoms I mean.” He put a thumb on each of her nipples, rubbing lightly, kissing her neck softly.


“Well…seeing as how we could be dead very soon…I’m willing to take the risk if you are.” She couldn’t believe herself. She never took emotional or sexual risks.


He pulled her back down on top of him, his fingers finding the elasticized waist of her sweat pants, pulling them down, her panties going with them. She wriggled free of them and found herself completely naked and more uninhibited than she could ever remember being in her life.


“So tell me, what exactly was in that soup you gave me last night?” She murmured in his ear. He exploded with laughter, pressing his arms around her naked body, his fingers rubbing her bottom sensuously.


“Special Skinner aphrodisiac. Works every time,” he whispered, his fingers finding the moist crevice between her legs and pushing up inside. She moaned, her mouth nuzzling at his nipples, her fingers pushing at his trousers, finding his belt and undoing it, unzipping him. He was hard and ready for her and the burning, throbbing sensation between her thighs told her she was certainly ready for him. She lifted herself up, positioned herself over him then lowered herself down, guiding him into her. He was big and very hard and she cried out with the pleasure of feeling him inside her, rising up and down on him, her hands pushing on his shoulders, his running over her breasts, his mouth against her nipples, sucking hard, nibbling, kissing. She was so wet already that it wasn’t long before she found herself reaching a climax. His eyes were closed, a look of concentration on his face and she guessed that he was holding on until she came which she did, almost the next second, wave after wave of delicious orgasm flooding through her body. She gave a series of little whimpering cries, feeling the sweat pour off her forehead and run along her red hair. Then she felt him explode within her, his come shooting inside her and trickling warm and sticky down her leg. She held him to her, clutching his head between her breasts as her breathing slowed along with his and they rested there for a long time, relishing the aftermath of this unexpected passion. At last he pulled her down, off him, holding her against him.


“Well, at least we can die happy,” he murmured.


“Yeah. Although…” she turned round to face him, looking into his dark eyes. “After that, I don’t want to die. I want to live, to live to do it again.”


“Me too. Although perhaps…not quite yet.” He glanced down with a rueful grin. She smiled, kissing him.


“No. I just like…lying here, with you. Feeling safe.”


“Dana, you’re probably less safe now than you’ve ever been in your life.”


“Yes, but you, you make me feel safe.” And he did. His big arms were protective, his air of calm assurance, his way of knowing what to do, that air of command he had.


“I wish it were so.” He pushed some of her damp hair from her forehead. “I wish I could keep you safe, Dana. I wish I knew how.”


“Don’t.” She pushed him away.




“You were about to ask me to do something I don’t want to do.”


He didn’t say anything for a while, just held her. Then he sighed.


“I know you have the box,” he said.


“How do you know?” She asked sharply.


“Because otherwise they wouldn’t still be looking for you. Have you looked in it?”




“But you think you know what’s inside?”


“Yes. Or at least, Mulder does. He risked his life for it.”


“But you’re not so sure it was worth that risk?”


“No.” She looked into his eyes, startled that they were so close to her, so naked. Usually they were hidden – behind his glasses, behind the veneer of his authority and behind the smokescreen of those things that he knew but would not or could not share with them. “I know that he thinks it contains the proof he needs, but I can’t see what use that proof is to him. What can he do with it? It’s not a good enough reason to die.”




“Not when there are things to live for.” Her arms tightened around his body.


“Would you consider then…doing a deal?”


“This isn’t exactly pillow talk.” She moved away from him, trying to get up but he pulled her back.


“I can keep you safe, Dana. I can keep you safe the way you want me to. I can work out a deal for you. It may be your only way out.”


“And is it the only reason why you came when I called you? Because you thought you could persuade me into it? Is that what all this is about.” She waved her hand angrily over their two naked bodies, wondering what Mulder would think of it if he could see them now and coming out in a cold sweat at the thought that he might have heard their lovemaking.


“Don’t be stupid!” He looked angry, and hurt she thought. And yet, the trust between them was so tenuous.


“I’m not. I never understand your motivation, sir.” She said, realizing that she had found no way of addressing him more intimately.


“This is my motivation.” He took hold of her hand and placed it over his heart. “My feelings for you, Dana.”


“And all the other things you don’t tell us? All the secrets?”


“I don’t have all the answers!” he protested.


“No,” she said softly, sadly. “Somehow I thought you’d say that.”


She got up and pulled on her clothing, suddenly ashamed of her nakedness. Then she went to check on Mulder. He still slept but on pulling away the dressing on his leg she saw what Skinner had not. It was inflamed and infected. She drew back in annoyance at herself, that she had just done what she had with Skinner whilst Mulder lay here, so desperately ill. What had she been thinking of?


“How is he?” Skinner stood in the doorway, fully dressed once more.


“Worse. He needs antibiotics.” She frowned, holding onto Mulder’s hand, wondering what he would want her to do.


“You know, I always thought that you and he…” Skinner gestured.


“Me and Mulder!” She laughed out loud.


“What’s so funny? He’s a good-looking guy and you, well you sure are a beautiful woman. You’re together such a lot.”


“Oh I don’t think Mulder even realizes I am a woman. And if he has noticed, well, he treats me more like a sister. Mulder’s always looking to recreate lost sisters.”


“Ah.” Skinner nodded. “And what about you? Didn’t you ever want more from him?”


“No,” she said firmly. “Mulder’s not my sort. He’s a good friend but there’s nothing more to it.”


“Nothing more? You’ve risked your life for him on dozens of occasions.” Skinner pointed out.


“I know. I care about him, but…it’s not about that sort of love with me and Mulder. It’s something else. Mulder can be a scary sort of guy to be around. He doesn’t exactly lead a very settled life. I don’t think I could stand the pace of being involved with him. Are you jealous?” she asked suddenly, looking at him in surprise. He gave a pained sort of smile.


“All the time.”


She stared at him, then forced her mind back to the more pressing issue of the small black box that was taped inside Mulder’s shoe. Did Skinner mean all this stuff or was it all just emotional blackmail?


“I have a phone call to make,” she said. He shrugged, his eyes narrowing.


“Go ahead,” he said.


This time the call was answered. She recognized the voice immediately.


“It’s me,” she said. “What’s your answer?”


“I’m sorry. I can’t help you.” The connection was severed.


Scully sat there, on the side of the bed, looking at Mulder’s pale face.


“I know what you’d want me to do, Mulder,” she said. “But I just can’t do it.” She kissed his cheek gently then got up and returned to the other room where Skinner was standing by the window, a gun in his hand.


“Trouble?” She asked.


“No. I don’t think so. I’m just checking. Look, Scully, we don’t have much time. Have you made a decision yet?”


“Yes. Make your phone call, sir.” She spat the last word, turning her back on him.


“Dana.” He ran after her, tugging on her arm. “What do you want me to do, Dana? I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t here. If you don’t give up the box to my…contacts then they’ll come looking for you. I won’t be able to stop them and I probably won’t be able to protect you. And there’s the triads to think of as well. They won’t rest until they’ve got that box back. Wouldn’t you rather the two of them were pursuing each other and not you? The only way I can keep you safe is if you give up the box. But the trouble is…by making you do that, I lose your trust don’t I?”


“Your contacts are evil men, sir and I happen to believe that a man can be judged by the company he keeps.”


“We don’t live in a perfect world, Dana. Sometimes we have to eat with the devil just to stay alive.”


“Well I hope his food chokes you,” she said, shaking his hand from her arm. “Here.” She thrust the phone into his hand. “Just make the call, sir.”


She stayed with Mulder on the way to the hospital. Skinner was beside her and she wished he’d go. She could still feel his body, still longed to touch him, to recapture that intimacy but it was too late. She was with Mulder when he awoke a few hours later.


“Scully?” He smiled at her and she took his hand. “The box?” He asked, his eyes hopeful. She exchanged a glance with Skinner and shook her head. The expression in Mulder’s eyes changed instantly. He slid his hand away from hers and turned his face to the wall.


“I’m sorry, Mulder. I had to do a deal.” She told him, shooting a venomous glance at Skinner. Mulder didn’t reply and after a while she gave up and left the hospital. She was looking forward to going back to her own apartment, changing out of these strange clothes that smelled of sex and reminded her of a mistake she had made.


“Dana.” Skinner was behind her, reaching for her arm. “Please…”


“Nothing’s changed.” She turned to face him. “It’s a question of trust you see, sir. And I still don’t trust you.”


“Dana…” But she ignored him and carried on down the steps, alone again as usual.







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