Practice Makes Perfect

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This story is based on characters created by Chris

Carter and Ten Thirteen Productions. Characters used

without permission. No infringement intended.

TITLE: Practice Makes Perfect

AUTHOR: Jo-Ann Lassiter

EMAIL ADDRESS: Jolassi555@cs.com

DISTRIBUTION STATEMENT: Two weeks exclusive on VS10.

Then post anywhere. Thanks.

RATING: PG-13

CLASSIFICATION: S, R

SUMMARY: Three years ago, Mulder’s profile was

directly responsible for the capture of a man who had

been killing the presidents of large corporations.

The man escaped and had not been heard from again —

until now. Mulder and Scully are called to a case in

Texas where they once again cross paths with Lawrence

Dexter III.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is a sequel of sorts to VS8’s

Your Past is Showing.” You should be able to read

this without reading that, though, as I think I’ve

scattered enough explanation throughout to bring you

up to speed. If not… well, it’s episode 8X18.

THANKS: To Gerry, for her usual crack beta work.

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Teaser

George Bush Intercontinental/Houston Airport

February 15

8:03 a.m.

Larry Dexter woke as soon as the wheels touched down

on the tarmac. After three years, it was good to be

back in the good ol’ US of A. He’d take care of the

business he was there for, and at the same time

pursue a pleasure he’d put off far long.

Still clutching the folder containing the dossiers

he’d compiled on the two FBI agents, he flipped it

open; since his assignment required him to be a

little further away from the agents than he would

have liked, bringing them to him only presented yet

another puzzle to be solved.

He directed his attention to the male of the two.

After finally having made the decision to focus his

attention on Agent Mulder rather than Agent Scully,

his mind had spent the hours before he fell asleep

working out the details. He read over the agent’s

physical characteristics, smiling when he reached the

one that had won him the honor of ‘target.’

He smiled to himself. Even if it hadn’t been so easy

to pick Mulder, he suspected he would have found some

way to assure his selection. While Agent Scully had

most certainly played a part, it was Mulder’s profile

that had directly led to his capture.

As for those fools who’d recommended minimum security

over the objections of the two agents and that

assistant director — a shame that he couldn’t bring

him out as well — Larry wouldn’t even waste his time

with those incompetents. And they’d called *him*

mentally unstable. He wasn’t the one who’d placed a

trained assassin in a van with two elderly guards and

a staff psychiatrist.

It had been laughable how he’d been able to convince

everyone of his ‘illness.’ Only those three agents

from DC had been wise enough to see him for what he

really was. He wouldn’t be surprised if they’d

guessed his ‘real’ profession as well.

Being taken for a nerd had always served him well; he

supposed there was even some substance to it, what

with his love for science and ‘gadgets.’ But how many

nerds could single out a target from a crowd of

thousands — and then eliminate him, quickly,

quietly, and without having to raise a finger?

Dexter sighed. Of course, the means by which he’d

achieved that particular aspect of his profession had

also contributed to his downfall; short though his

incarceration had been, it had caused him to shelve

his plans — however temporarily — to deal with the

men whose actions had caused his beloved mother’s

death.

Of the twelve on his list, he’d only been able to

eliminate six. He hadn’t expected to get all of them

in round one, but he’d anticipated eliminating a few

more than he actually had. Damn those feds.

No matter. He was back now, and after he’d had a

little fun with Special Agent Fox Mulder, he’d put

his contingency plan into action. Mother always said

he was so good at his work — if she only knew, he

giggled — because he planned so far in advance.

Wouldn’t those mother killers be surprised when they

found out he had returned?

He dearly hoped they were all still alive so that he

would not be denied the pleasure of watching them

die.

Act I

Dodge, Texas

11:16 a.m.

February 23

Mulder removed a hand from the steering wheel,

swiping it across his wet forehead; he glanced over

at his partner, dozing in the passenger seat. That

should be him, he thought sourly.

When the rental agent had offered the keys, he’d

grabbed them and settled himself in the driver’s seat

before he’d thought about it. Scully had once called

him a chauvinist because he always wanted to drive;

at the time, he’d scoffed at the notion as absurd,

but here he’d gone and done out of habit something he

hadn’t even wanted to be doing. Christ. He *was* a

chauvinist.

If he didn’t feel so lousy, he might have laughed; as

it was, all he wanted to do was find the motel and

crawl into bed. He sighed as he left the interstate

for the road that was the last leg of their journey.

Another mile or two, and they’d be there.

Just as Mulder merged from the left onto the busy

two-lane, a wave of dizziness hit him so hard that he

knew he was about to pass out. He gave a cursory

glance in the rear view mirror, then cut across the

right lane into the breakdown lane, narrowly missing

a delivery truck. He stomped on the brake, threw the

car into park, and slumped against the steering

wheel.

He came to when Scully’s frantic voice penetrated the

fog in which he was enshrouded. “Scully…” he

moaned, not actually able to make out anything that

she was saying. He felt her hands on his head as she

gently lifted it off the steering wheel.

“What’s wrong, Mulder?” she asked, her voice breaking

up like a bad telephone connection.

“Dizzy,” he mumbled, his head still spinning. He

didn’t even consider opening his eyes.

“You nearly caused an accident,” she said, softly.

“I know. I’m sorry,” he panted, trying to keep from

fainting again.

“Did you — ”

A loud rapping on Mulder’s window startled them both

into silence. Even Mulder’s harsh breathing stopped

for a few seconds.

“It’s a sheriff’s department deputy,” Scully told

him.

“Unh hunh,” Mulder murmured, when he resumed

breathing again.

“I think he wants you to roll down your window.” She

nudged him with her elbow.

Fumbling around until he located the switch, Mulder

tabbed the button, and the window rolled down. Hot

air rushed in, and Mulder felt the world dissolve

into blackness.

**

“Mulder!” What the hell was wrong with him? That was

twice in two minutes. Scully cupped her hand around

his chin and shook his head lightly, as she addressed

the officer. “Deputy, my partner — ”

“I’ll be wantin’ your license ‘n’ registration, son,”

the man cut her off.

Mulder groaned and opened his eyes. Scully rubbed a

hand over his cheek worriedly.

“License ‘n’ registration,” the officer repeated,

more forcefully than before.

“Give us a minute here, would you?” Scully said, her

patience wearing thin.

“All right, get on out of that car,” the deputy

demanded, yanking on the door handle, pulling it

open.

“If you’d just let me explain — ”

“Get out,” he ordered, jerking with his thumb, and

directing his words to a semi-conscious Mulder,

disregarding Scully altogether.

When the man reached out a beefy hand and grabbed

Mulder’s shoulder, Scully pushed it away. “Back off,”

she growled, incensed now by the man’s refusal to

listen to reason. “Can’t you see he’s — ”

She broke off when she found the barrel of a weapon

three inches from her face. Very slowly, she brought

her eyes up to meet the officer’s. “There’s no need

for that, Deputy. If you’ll just — ”

“Get out of that car now!” The officer took a step

back. “The two of you.” Scully swallowed as she heard

the safety being released. “Right now!”

She freed herself from the safety belt and reached to

the handle on her door.

“Hold it right there,” the cop demanded. Scully

paused and looked up. “You get out on this side.” He

indicated Mulder’s open door. “Get out, boy,” he said

to Mulder.

Looking somewhat more alert, Mulder released his seat

belt and stumbled out; Scully climbed over the stick

shift and followed him.

The deputy looked them up and down, making no effort

to hide his disdain for their expensive clothing.

“If I may be allowed to explain — ” Scully tried

again.

“Ma’am, I’d appreciate it if you’d quit yer yappin’

so I can give this feller his sobriety test.” The

deputy reached into his pocket and pulled out a set

of handcuffs.

Scully bristled. If he was thinking of cuffing

Mulder… “Listen, Deputy…” She glanced at his name

tag. “…Jenkins, we seem to have gotten off on the

wrong foot here. My partner and I — ”

All capacity for speech left her as the deputy

snapped the cuff onto her left wrist and then secured

the other to the steering wheel. Scully blinked. She

was *not* standing outside her rental in the ‘hottest

February on record,’ handcuffed to a steering wheel.

She was *not* watching as some poor excuse for a law

enforcement officer dragged her sick partner away

from her.

In shocked silence, she struggled to gather her wits

about her as she tried to ascertain what the hell had

just happened.

**

Mulder was having trouble locating his nose. From

past experience, he knew it was somewhere on his

face, but trying to find it with one finger while his

eyes were closed was a lot harder than he thought it

would be. Having his eyes shut, though, was a big

plus because the light from the sun had been causing

him some serious hurt.

“All right, walk to the end of the car and then

back,” he heard barked at him.

With his eyes closed? he wondered. Pushing himself up

off the car, Mulder got to take one step before the

light-headedness hit him again.

“Hey, you! Did I tell you to stop? Get moving!” He

felt a rough shove on his back and lurched forward a

few feet, more from the push than from any power of

his own.

“Christ,” he heard, muttered under the man’s breath.

“Get your sorry ass back here, you drunkard. I’m

takin’ you in for drivin’ under the influence.”

“He is *not* drunk!” Scully’s incensed voice reached

Mulder’s ears, just as he executed an about-face that

toppled him onto the pavement. The tarmac biting into

his cheek was hot, and he knew he really ought to

move. Instead, he closed his eyes and waited for

Scully to rescue him.

**

Scully’s eyes followed Mulder’s ungraceful descent to

the highway. She didn’t know what was wrong with him,

but she did know that he definitely was not drunk.

“He’s not, huh?” the deputy’s triumphant voice

retorted.

“He’s sick,” Scully countered. “He has not been

drinking.”

“Ma’am, you assaulted an officer of the law. I’m not

inclined to believe anything you’d tell me.”

“Assaulted…” Scully sputtered. “*You* assaulted

*him.* You’re the one who grabbed him — ”

“I was assisting him out of the vehicle.” The

deputy’s tone reverted to that pompous, officious

tone that all officers of the law affected when they

talked down to a suspect. Scully vowed never to allow

herself to speak to anyone that way ever again.

“And I tried to explain to you that he was sick, and

you dragged him out anyway.” …you jerk, she added

to herself.

“Ma’am, he exited the vehicle under his own power. I

did not ‘drag’ him out.”

Scully was about ready to pop a blood vessel.

“Whatever.” She looked at Mulder, moaning softly,

struggling to rise from the hot pavement. “Look, are

you going to help him up, or what?”

The deputy shook his head. “Oh, no, Ma’am. I don’t

want to be accused of ‘assaulting’ him again. Why

don’t *you* help him up?” he asked, snottily, turning

his back on her and walking to where Mulder lay.

“Fine, Deputy. I will.” For once grateful for her

small-boned structure, Scully wriggled free of the

loose cuff. She rubbed her wrist, seriously

considering drawing her weapon on this buffoon. The

idiot hadn’t even frisked them!

The deputy nearly jumped out of his skin as she

passed him to kneel beside Mulder. “How’d…” He

looked back to the car. “How’d you do that?” His

weapon was trained on her again, and Scully sighed.

“You told me to help him, and I am.” She directed her

gaze to the gun, held in shaky hands. “Now would you

please put that away before you hurt someone?”

The deputy’s eyes narrowed. “You’re mighty cool for

someone having a gun pointed at them. Just how often

does it happen to you?”

About to lift Mulder to his feet, Scully turned her

attention back to Jenkins. She considered a smartass

reply, but thought better of it. “More than I’d

like,” she muttered. To the deputy she said,

“Actually, we’re FBI agents.”

Scully let Mulder latch onto her, and she rose

slowly, holding him when he started to topple again.

“Easy. I’ve got you,” she assured him, softly.

“Let go of him, and get back over to that car,” the

deputy said, taking aim at her chest.

“If I let go of him, he’ll fall,” Scully said, trying

to reason with the man.

“If you don’t let go of him, I’ll shoot you.” The

deputy’s voice was steady, but the hand holding the

gun wavered slightly. Scully decided she should tread

carefully.

“Can I take him to your car?”

“Let him go, ma’am. Right now.”

“I’m sorry, Mulder,” she whispered as she

relinquished her hold on him. Mulder slithered to the

ground at her feet.

“Scully…” he groaned. “What’s goin’ on?”

The deputy walked over to their car and removed the

cuff dangling from the steering wheel; he motioned

her over, then pulled her hands behind her back and

snapped the cuffs onto her wrists. “We’re being

arrested, Mulder.”

“Why?’ His tone was so innocent and so pitiful that

Scully was now sorry that she hadn’t pulled her

weapon when she’d had the chance.

She winced as Mulder was pulled roughly to his feet.

When the deputy produced another pair of handcuffs,

she couldn’t believe it. “You’re not really going to

cuff him, are you?” she asked. “He can barely stand.

He’s not any danger to you.”

The officer pulled Mulder’s arms behind him a little

more forcefully than Scully deemed necessary. She

could feel her blood beginning to boil. After the

cuffs were in place, he wedged a hand under Mulder’s

armpit and started hauling him toward the sheriff’s

department car.

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When they reached the car, the deputy pushed him

against the car. “Okay, cowboy, spread ’em.”

After a second’s confusion, Mulder grunted and

shifted until he had assumed the position. Just as

the deputy was about to frisk him, a cherry red

pickup truck came careening around the curve,

swerving to avoid the rear end of a slow-moving sedan

and narrowly missing the three of them.

“Goddammit!” Jenkins shouted. Yanking at the door

handle, he scrambled inside, getting as far as

shifting the gears before Scully caught his eye; she

was astounded that he was about to give chase,

leaving them outside, lying where they’d dove to

avoid being flattened, with their hands cuffed behind

their backs.

“Goddammit,” Jenkins swore again, throwing the car

back into park and getting out. He hauled Mulder up,

then pulled Scully to her feet. “Get in,” he ordered

her.

“Deputy, this is a mistake,” Scully spit out through

gritted teeth as she clambered into the back seat.

“You’re making a mistake.” She maneuvered her

shoulder to catch Mulder as he practically fell in;

he was barely managing to stay awake. “We *are* FBI

agents. This man is my partner, and he’s sick. I

demand that you — ”

“Just shut up! You don’t demand nuthin’!” The deputy

closed the door, walking over to their rental, where

he went through the motions of locking up.

Resigned to her fate for the moment, Scully turned

her attention back to her partner. “Mulder?” She

nudged him with her shoulder. “How are you holding

up?’

“I feel really awful, Scully,” he said, his non-

denial surprising her more than if he’d broken out in

song. He leaned back into the seat. “Sorry,” he

whispered, closing his eyes. “I wasn’t expecting it

to hit me like that. I don’t know what’s causing

this.”

“You weren’t sick before this?” she asked gently.

He shook his head. “Not like this. I felt a little

wiped at the rental place, but nowhere near this

bad.”

Scully’s attention was drawn to the deputy as he

returned to the car, pocketing their keys before he

got in; he restarted the car and pulled out into the

flow of traffic. Looking back at her partner, Scully

found him slumped against the door, eyes closed.

“Mulder?”

She didn’t really expect an answer.

**

Mulder came roughly awake when he felt himself being

manhandled out the door of the car.

“Hey! There’s no need for that!” Scully enraged voice

was music to his ears. She would protect him from

this big goon.

As Mulder stumbled along, he prayed that the big goon

didn’t let go of him, or he’d fall flat on his face;

the rude awakening had done nothing to improve his

state of well-being. Or lack thereof. All it had

served to do was speed up his heartbeat so that he

could feel the blood pounding in his head all the

harder.

“Inside,” the man growled, giving Mulder another

shove.

“And how do you propose that I do that?” Mulder was

surprised to hear Scully’s voice in front of him, and

he looked up. She was standing by a door, looking

flushed and exasperated and gorgeous.

The big goon huffed, stepping around Mulder to turn

the knob and push open the door. “There y’go,

darlin’.” Even in his less-than-stellar state, Mulder

could hear the sarcasm in the deputy’s voice.

When she speared the deputy with her venomous glare,

Mulder was thrilled that he wasn’t her target this

time. He hoped he’d be conscious when she finally got

to give the goon what for.

Able to move under his own power now, Mulder followed

Scully inside. “This way,” he heard off to his left.

A gentle prod from Scully nudged him toward the open

cell door. Reaching it, he stopped and gazed at the

deputy questioningly.

“In there,” the deputy ordered.

“My…” He had to cough to clear his dry throat. “The

cuffs are still on.”

“And they’re stayin’ on.” The man grabbed Scully’s

arm and pushed her into Mulder, nearly causing him to

fall. “You can thank your girlfriend for that.”

Ignoring Jenkins, she threw a quick glance at Mulder,

catching his nod that he was not hurt. She turned her

attention back to the law officer. “You can’t leave

us like this!”

A light push against her collarbone by the deputy

landed her just inside the cell, and he swung the

door closed. “I can’t, eh?”

“Deputy, please.” Mulder could tell that Scully was

trying very hard to calm her delivery. “We *are* FBI

agents. My partner is sick, and I need to see what’s

wrong with him.”

The deputy appeared to consider her words for a

moment, then shook his head. “Sorry. No.” His smug

expression told her that he was anything but sorry.

Scully closed her eyes, and Mulder could hear her

counting to ten, although she didn’t utter a

syllable. When she opened her eyes, Mulder shuddered

at the barely-restrained fury that radiated off her.

“Deputy?” she asked, in a sweetly dangerous voice.

“When is the sheriff expected back?”

“Sheriff’s at a scene right now. He’ll be back when

he’s back.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Scully had

had enough, and Mulder couldn’t blame her; the man

had violated more than one of their civil rights.

“Scully,” Mulder called, walking slowly to the lone

bed in the cell. “It’s not worth it. Let’s just sit

and wait for the sheriff.”

“You just listen to your boyfriend, honey,” the

deputy snarled.

Turning her back on him while he was still speaking,

Scully sat beside her partner. “Feeling any better?”

“Not really.” Mulder tried not to whine as he leaned

his head back against the wall, closing his eyes.

“Still dizzy?”

“Mm.” He shifted to the right, losing his balance and

toppling to the mattress behind Scully.

He felt her weight leave the mattress. “You all

right?”

“No,” he whispered. “If things don’t stop spinning

soon, I’m going to lose my breakfast.”

“Damn that asshole,” Scully spat. “You should be in a

hospital.” He felt Scully’s breath on his cheek for

about two seconds before he heard her voice from a

few feet away. “Hang on a sec, Mulder.” The sound of

grunting and groaning reached his ears, and then he

felt Scully’s hands on his cheek.

Taking a chance, he cracked open one eye, then the

other, relieved when her image remained stationary.

He grinned when he saw that her hands were no longer

behind her back and that she was now able to touch

him.

“Mulder? Do you think if I helped you, you could work

your hands out in front, too?”

He shook his head. “The way I’m feeling, I’d either

pass out or throw up if I tried it.” He met her eyes.

“Neither of those sounds too appealing.”

She gave him a sympathetic nod. “How about we give it

a try, and you tell me if you need to stop?”

He knew that having his hands in front, rather than

behind, him would be infinitely more comfortable, but

he was afraid of what it might cost him to accomplish

it. He drew in a deep breath, then let it out slowly,

nodding his head.

Scully gave him a smile that did wonders towards

bolstering his spirits. Giving her the best smile he

could muster, he lay back on the bed while Scully

coaxed him through the contortions necessary to

perform his Houdini act. With his knees crushed to

his chest and his cuffed hands stuck between his

ankles and his knees, Mulder felt an urgent need to

get this over with — quickly.

Scully must have caught the desperation on his face

because she gave a mighty tug on his hands that

allowed his legs to spring through. She helped him up

and brought him to the toilet where he, as predicted,

lost his breakfast.

When he was through, she handed him some water in a

paper cup and waited while he rinsed his mouth. He

tossed the cup in the direction of the trash can,

then looked up at her balefully, certain he was

wearing an ‘I’ve fallen and I can’t get up’ look on

his face.

Looping her arms over his head, her handcuffed hands

resting against his belly, she helped him to regain

his footing and held him as he tried to catch his

breath. “Okay now?” he heard softly from behind him,

after his heart had stopped racing.

“Not okay,” he croaked. “But better.” He blinked;

something was different. “The dizziness is gone, I

think.” He inhaled deeply, then blew it out. “God, I

feel *much* better.”

Scully started to pull her hands away, freeing him

from where they held him captive; he clamped his

hands over hers, holding them in place. “Must you go

so soon?”

Scully did not resist, and instead adjusted her body

more comfortably behind him. She pressed her hands

into his abdomen. “Not at all.”

He sighed deeply, filling her embrace all the more.

“We have *got* to try some variation of this when

we’re not in a jail cell.”

She gave him a nudge that affected him as anything

but playful. “You,” she said, giving him a meaningful

squeeze, “are on.”

**

Act II

Dodge County Jail

2:33 p.m.

February 23

The sound of Mulder’s stomach rumbling loudly in her

ear made Scully realize how hungry she was. Raising

her head up from where she’d fallen asleep using

Mulder’s lap as a pillow, Scully checked her watch,

pissed to find out how late it was and that they

hadn’t been fed yet. She wondered if the sheriff was

back and why the hell they were still in jail.

Careful not to wake her partner, Scully slid off the

bed; she trod quietly to the door and peered into the

office. It was eerily silent. Deputy Dawg was nowhere

to be seen.

Suddenly, the front door burst open, and a hand

pushed the deputy inside. Scully thought that this

was rather rash behavior for the sheriff to exhibit,

even if the deputy did deserve it.

The man who was holding the gun on the deputy was not

in uniform. He looked laughably geeky in his dark

blue jeans — with a crease in them, for chrissakes –

– blindingly white Reeboks, and pale blue pocket t-

shirt. The only thing that looked natural on the man

was the two-days’ growth of beard on his face.

Scully thought he looked a little familiar.

“Agent Scully! A pleasure to see you again.”

Scully squinted, trying to match the voice to the

face.

The man tipped a non-existent hat. “John Doe,” he

said, giving the stupefied deputy another shove. “I

can’t tell you how pleased I am that the FBI has seen

fit to dispatch you to investigate the calamities

that have befallen this placid little community.”

‘John Doe’ peered around the deputy’s quivering form.

“And how’s the intrepid Agent Mulder?” he asked in a

voice that indicated he already was well aware of the

state of her partner’s health.

“What do you know about what happened to him?” Scully

asked.

The man bowed slightly. “My dear Agent Scully, I am

responsible for it.” He gave her a big toothy smile

that she found repulsive. “I have Deputy Jenkins

here, though, to thank for your current

incarceration.” He poked the deputy in the back with

the barrel of the gun; the deputy shuddered, and

Scully almost felt sorry for him.

“What did you do to my partner?” Scully asked

quietly, glancing back to see if Mulder was still

asleep. She wondered if the man knew that whatever

had caused this had worn off. If not, she wasn’t

about to tell him.

“Don’t worry, Agent Scully. Agent Mulder’s reprieve

is temporary… a slight technical problem which has

now been rectified.” The man looked at her partner,

and as if on cue, Mulder moaned.

“What did you do to him?” Scully demanded, hastening

to Mulder’s side. Sweat had broken out on his face,

his eyes were screwed shut tightly, and he’d begun to

thrash his head from side to side. “Stop it!” Scully

directed to John Doe. “Whatever you’re doing to him,

please stop it!”

The man shook his head slowly. “I derive so little

enjoyment out of life. Would you deny me, Agent

Scully?”

“Stop it now!” she yelled.

“No.” His voice no longer held that jovial tone to

it, and Scully shivered at the menace she now heard.

“Agent Mulder’s intervention prevented my punishing

the individuals who killed my mother.”

As she realized who it was they were dealing with,

Scully bit her lip to keep herself from blurting that

Mulder wasn’t the only one responsible for Lawrence

Dexter’s capture. She didn’t want to add any more

targets to Dexter’s revenge list. Forgive me, Mulder,

she thought, as she watched him writhing and

groaning.

“He was only doing his job,” Scully told Dexter.

Dexter nodded. “Which is why he’s still alive.” His

eyes locked with Scully’s. “I understand duty. I

believe in it. But his profile still led to my

capture and necessitated my ‘laying low’ due to my

subsequent… uh… sudden departure.” The pleasant

tone was back in his voice. “Thank those responsible

for recommending the insanity angle, would you? It

would have been much more difficult to effect an

escape with handcuffs and tighter security.”

Scully closed her eyes momentarily. Those assholes

had really done it. With the exception of Mulder,

Skinner and her, all the other agents on the team had

advocated that Dexter be tried as criminally insane.

The judge had apparently agreed.

But Dexter never made it to his trial. He killed

three people and escaped while being transported from

the hospital to the courthouse.

“Scully…” Mulder’s thrashing had ceased, and he was

attempting to get up.

“I’m right here, Mulder.” She rubbed her hands up and

down his arms. “Try to lie still.”

“Gonna be sick,” he moaned.

Quickly hoisting him to his feet, Scully brought him

to the toilet. He grasped the rim, dropped to his

knees and began vomiting. Scully turned pleading eyes

to Dexter, who looked surprised, repulsed and

delighted, all at the same time. “Please,” she

begged. “Stop doing this to him.”

“Well!” he exclaimed. “I didn’t expect this.”

Scully was kneeling beside Mulder, rubbing his back

as he continued to be sick. “What do you mean?”

Dexter smiled and shrugged. “It was supposed to cause

dizziness and then a killer headache. Just enough to

incapacitate him for a few days, while I completed my

business here. But, well…” He gave her a sheepish

look. “I finished before you arrived, and I didn’t

want to let a perfectly good plan go to waste.” His

gaze moved to take in the man now lying on the floor,

gasping for air. Dexter gave a brilliant smile. “And

here I am.” His eyes darted to Scully and back to

Mulder. “Enjoying the show.”

Scully turned away, focusing all her attention on her

partner. Nothing she said was going to cause Dexter

to have a change of heart and stop whatever the hell

he was doing to Mulder; she would just have to do as

much as she could to help him.

“Here, Mulder,” she said, lifting him by his

shoulders. “Come lie on the bed.”

“No,” he panted, pulling away.

“Mulder, what the hell are you — ”

“Still sick,” he groaned. “I can’t… The bed…”

“Shh… It’s okay.” She brushed wet strands of hair

out of his eyes.

“Well, Agent Scully,” she heard Dexter saying, “as

entertaining as this has been, I really do have to be

going now.” He shoved the deputy into the empty cell

next to theirs and pulled the door shut with a

‘clang!’

As Dexter turned to leave, Scully pulled Mulder’s

weapon from the ankle holster on his leg. “Dexter,”

she called.

Dexter had the front door partially opened when he

stopped and looked at her. Delight was not what she

expected to see on his face. “He didn’t take your

weapons! I’m so glad I decided to have a chat with

you. I would never have witnessed this shining

example of small town ineptitude otherwise.”

“Lay down your weapon,” Scully directed, not amused.

“And turn off whatever the hell is affecting my

partner.”

Smiling charmingly, shrugging, Dexter made a move to

place his pistol on the floor, then darted through

the open door before Scully could react. “I don’t

think so,” she heard from the other side. “You have a

nice day now.”

“Dexter!” Scully yelled in frustration. “Dexter!”

She watched the closed door for a few seconds before

whipping around to glare at Jenkins.

“Who…” Jenkins swallowed, wide eyes focused on the

weapon now pointed at him. “Who in blue blazes was

that?”

Ignoring him and feeling smug about it, Scully turned

back to Mulder, hoping that whatever was happening

to Mulder would be gone now that Dexter was.

It wasn’t. Dammit, Dexter must have left some sort of

transmitter in the office, or planted it… Scully

whirled on the deputy. “Check your pockets,” she

ordered.

“What in tarnation is going on here? Who are you

people?” the deputy asked, making no move to comply.

Swinging the gun around, Scully aimed it at Jenkins.

“Check your pockets.” She took a second to glare at

him. “Now.”

Jenkins pulled his wallet, badge, keys and change out

of his pants pockets. “What’m I lookin’ for?”

“Anything you don’t recognize.” Standing with his

pockets turned inside out, Jenkins looked downright

pathetic, quite a change from the arrogant bastard of

earlier. “Damn,” Scully muttered, noting the small

pile. “Bring that over here.”

When Jenkins balked, she tapped the bars with her

weapon, and he hastily gathered all his possessions

and delivered them to her.

“Place them on the floor and slide them in here.”

Scully indicated a section of the floor, then moved

back a step. When Jenkins came closer, she noticed

the pocket on his shirt and nodded toward it. “What

about that shirt pocket?”

Shrugging, Jenkins fished around, coming up with a

small round plastic disk. “What’s this?” he asked.

Feeling her heart rate quickening, Scully glanced at

Mulder to see if the closeness of the disk had any

effect on him. His arms were held tightly to his

head, and he was beginning to whimper.

“Keep the rest of that stuff, and give me the disk,”

Scully told him. Mulder’s whimpers had turned into

cries of anguish. “Move!” she shouted.

The deputy hustled toward the bars, set the disk just

inside of Scully’s cell, and backed away.

“Scully…” Mulder sobbed. “Oh, Christ, Scully…”

Cursing as she got a look at the hard plastic casing,

Scully looked around the cell in dismay. Seeing

nothing she could use as a hammer, she ripped off her

shoe and pounded the disk with the heel until she

heard a satisfying crunch.

She ran to Mulder, soothing him as he recovered from

the torture he’d just been through. Trying to reach a

tissue in her jacket pocket, she was pulled up short

by the handcuffs. She looked over at the deputy.

“Jenkins. Do you have the keys to these?”

When the deputy hesitated yet again, Scully threw a

warning glance at the weapon laying on the floor

within her reach. She almost hoped Jenkins would

resist.

Scully watched the deputy’s gaze fall on the gun

before he indicated the key ring on the floor inside

her cell. “It’s — ”

“I know which one it is,” Scully cut him off,

retrieving the keys and taking them back to where

Mulder lay, his breathing ragged and hitching.

After removing her cuffs, Scully unlocked Mulder’s.

“Thanks,” he croaked, rubbing his wrists for a couple

of seconds before pressing the heels of his hands to

his temples.

“Still hurt?’ she asked.

He nodded. “Not like before, but, yeah.”

“What about the dizziness, the nausea?” She touched

his hands lightly, and he let her take over the head

massage.

“Not as bad.” She could see he was fading fast, and

she all but carried him to the bed. He needed no

coaxing to lie down, and was asleep before she got

his feet up off the floor.

A movement in the next cell caught her eye, and she

looked at the deputy. “Will any of these open that

door?” She indicated her cell door.

Jenkins shook his head.

“Where are they?” she asked.

Jenkins pointed to the desk with his chin. “Top

drawer of the sheriff’s desk.”

Scully moaned. “Great.” She stared at the lock, then

at the gun still on the floor. The lock was one of

those old, solid steel ones that looked damned near

impregnable. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to try.

She picked up Mulder’s gun, then placed it back in

his ankle holster and withdrew her more powerful Sig.

“Jenkins,” she called, taking aim. “How old is this

lock?”

“Uh… About sixty, seventy years.”

Scully sighed. “What are the chances I could shoot it

open?” she asked him.

She heard him take a deep breath, then let it out

slowly. “Near impossible. That’s a Yale lock, about 3

inches thick. A bullet’d barely scratch her.”

After studying the lock for another minute, Scully

re-holstered her weapon; she didn’t want to chance a

ricochet hitting one of them. Stabbing Jenkins with a

glare, she asked, “When will the sheriff be back?”

“Um…” He glanced at the door nervously, as if he’d

just remembered something important.

“When, Jenkins?” Scully asked, impatiently.

“Oh, shit, he’s not coming back.” He looked at her,

his face full of fearful realization. “At least not

until after the storm.”

Scully suddenly got a bad feeling. “Storm?”

Jenkins looked anxiously at the front door, which was

starting to rattle from the wind. “Tornado,” he said,

his voice full of dread. “A twister is headed this

way. I just knew this blamed heat was gonna cause

trouble!” He moved his gaze to Scully. “I was coming

to take the two of you to the shelter, when that

maniac got the drop on me.”

Scully looked around nervously. “Are we safe in

here?”

The deputy licked his lips. “As safe as anyplace can

be that’s not below ground.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

Jenkins shrugged. “This jail’s been through over a

hundred years’ worth of twisters, and it’s still

standing.”

The rattling of the door was nonstop now, and Scully

felt a prickling on the back of her neck when she

heard the roar outside getting louder by the second.

She recalled reading that the sound from a tornado

was likened to that of an approaching freight train.

“Oh, God,” she whispered.

“Ma’am!” Jenkins was yelling to be heard over the

din; she gazed at him dully and found him unbuckling

his belt, then rebuckling it around one of the cell

bars. “You’re gonna need to anchor yourselves to

these bars. Either that twister’s comin’ right at us,

or it’s gonna be awful close.” His gaze swept the

cell. “If you don’t want to be blown around against

the walls, you’d best fasten yourselves to the bars.”

He indicated the outer office. “There are no windows

in this building, and that’ll protect us a mite, but

if that twister hits us dead on — -and it sounds

like it might — -you’re gonna want to be connected

to something solid.”

After taking a second for the deputy’s words to sink

in, Scully rushed over to Mulder, slapping him none

too gently in her haste to wake him. “Come on,

Mulder. Wake up.”

His eyes shot open to glare at her. “Ow! Scully, what

the hell?” He caught her hand before another one

landed on his cheek. Looking at her, his expression

changed from angry to concerned. “What’s wrong?”

“Tornado!” she shouted, straining to be heard. She

gave his arm a tug. “We need to anchor ourselves to

the bars.” Scooping up the two sets of handcuffs from

where she’d dropped them on the floor, she snapped

one end over Mulder’s wrist, dragging him toward the

bars at the front of the cell. Locking it in place

around the sturdy steel, she repeated the process

with her wrist, taking care to make it tighter than

the deputy had. As an afterthought, she patted her

pocket to assure herself that the key ring was still

where she’d put it.

Hesitating only a moment, Scully locked herself into

place mere inches from her partner. Though still a

bit dazed, Mulder wrapped his arm around her and drew

her close. She wrapped her free arm around his waist

and held on for dear life.

clip_image006

**

2:48 p.m.

As a native of coastal Massachusetts and then as a

denizen of Virginia, Mulder had had little to no

experience with tornadoes. Abstractly, he wondered

how it was he’d avoided the experience until now.

Scully had burrowed herself under his armpit, and

while one portion of his brain was overjoyed that she

was accepting his protection, another part was scared

shitless. When the front door blew open, Mulder

tightened his hold, and Scully practically crawled

inside him.

The noise was deafening now, and with the door open,

anything that wasn’t anchored was sucked out the

door. Scully was snatched from his grasp, and he was

pulled into the bars; the sheer force of it jarred

his teeth, and the air was stolen from his mouth. As

he struggled to breathe in the vortex, Mulder was

frantic with worry when he couldn’t move his head to

check on Scully.

Not so naïve to believe that it couldn’t get any

worse, Mulder was nonetheless surprised when the roar

outside intensified, the wind reversed and he was

literally blown off the bars. Even though it saved

him from being batted about the cell, Mulder cursed

the handcuff as it strove to sever his wrist from his

hand. He hoped Scully’s lighter body weight reduced

the strain on her wrist.

A loud clang by his imprisoned hand brought his

attention to the bars in front of him. He looked on

in horror as anything that hadn’t made it out the

door was now being hurled at them by the frenzied

winds. He never thought he’d ever feel lucky that he

was in jail.

So far, everything that had come their way had been

large enough to be stopped by the bars, but Mulder

felt his heart leap to his throat when the desk

drawers started exploding out. Fearful of what a

sharpened pencil or a letter opener could do at 100

MPH, Mulder was relieved when suddenly everything

stopped.

The roar, the wind, the pull on his arm ceased

abruptly, and he dropped like a lead weight, crashing

into the bars before slumping to the floor. He

scrambled to get his feet under him when pain from

his shoulder made him see stars. “Ow! Jesus!” he

gasped.

Expecting some sort of response from his partner and

not receiving one made Mulder shake off the graying

of his vision. “Scully?” he croaked.

She was hanging limply by her arm, not moving. His

heart started beating faster, and he felt himself

trembling with fear; he could barely breathe in the

still air. “Oh, God. Scully?” he choked out, reaching

for her face.

Her skin was hot and dry, and Mulder didn’t know if

that meant anything. Feeling for the pulse at her

neck, he almost passed out when he found it strong

and steady. He thought she must have been knocked out

when she hit the bars. Still, he checked her for

injuries, sighing when he didn’t find any.

Now that threat of serious injury had been ruled out

for Scully, Mulder’s shoulder was screaming for

attention. A groan from the next cell distracted him

only minimally. “Deputy?” Mulder questioned, unable

to maneuver himself around to face the other man.

“Are you all right?”

The deputy grunted an affirmative. “The blamed sheets

from the bed are tryin’ to strangle me.” His voice

was slightly muffled, and Mulder laughed at the

absurdity of it. He glanced at the bed in their cell.

It was stripped clean, but the bedding was nowhere in

sight. Only the pillow, too thick to fit through the

bars, remained, snug against the next cell.

Mulder winced as he moved back to face Scully,

grateful that she hadn’t left too much space between

them when she’d cuffed them to the bars. Struggling

to recall in which pocket she’d placed the keys, he

ended up patting her down when he couldn’t remember.

Though an enjoyable task under normal circumstances,

the pull on his shoulder made it excruciating.

Sweating and shaking when he finally found the keys,

he had to rest a minute before he could free himself.

After unlocking the cuff, he used his right hand to

lower his left arm very carefully; it hurt too much

to let it hang at his side, so he tucked it into the

waistband of his pants.

Then he turned and regarded his partner with dismay.

Once he uncuffed her, he’d be unable to hold her

upright with his other arm. Stepping close to her, he

pressed his body into hers, propping her up against

the bars. He reached up with his good arm and, after

a few clumsy attempts, was able to get her free. When

she slumped on top of him, he managed to get a grip

on her waist and lower her to the floor.

He winced when he caught sight of the lump on her

forehead. Trailing a finger gently down her cheek, he

called softly, “Scully…” Very gently, he tapped her

face with the side of his finger. “Come on, partner.

Wake up.”

A long, low, drawn-out groan made him almost forget

that they both were injured. “Mulderrr…” she

moaned, and he had to remind himself that he was

hearing a moan of distress, not of pleasure.

“I’m here, Scully,” he said gently, brushing the hair

out of her face with his good hand. “Lie still a

minute. You took a pretty good conk to the head.”

“Okay,” she whispered, surprising him with her

compliance.

After a few minutes of kneeling and watching her

anxiously, her eyes popped open, and she pushed

herself to a sitting position. “Careful,” he told

her, hovering but avoiding any contact that might jar

his shoulder.

Picking up on his out-of-character behavior, she eyed

him appraisingly. “Where are you injured?”

“I think I dislocated my shoulder.” He looked down at

the hand tucked into his waistband. He endured a few

seconds of her prodding on and around his joint

before he jerked away. Surprised and a little

embarrassed by this move, he again offered the

shoulder for her inspection. “Sorry,” he mumbled.

When he looked at her face, and her eyes met his, he

saw the change from doctor to partner to friend to

lover. All in the span of one second. Her hand came

up to cup his cheek, then slid to his neck. “Help me

up, and I’ll try not to hurt you too much.”

His concern for his shoulder was forgotten. “Why

don’t you give it another couple of minutes, Scully?

You were unconscious, you know.”

Smiling, she shook her head. “I feel fine now.” When

she started pushing to her feet, Mulder had no choice

but to relent and give her a hand.

He watched her carefully, and when he saw no

indication that she was feigning her good health, he

let himself relax, wincing from the movement.

“Okay?” she asked, directing him to the naked bed

frame and pushing him onto it.

He nodded, unable to speak as she resumed her

examination. She tried, he could tell, but it was

impossible for her to touch him and not hurt him.

“Almost done,” she said gently, as skilled fingers

probed tender flesh.

Again he nodded, then sighed when she declared that

she was done.

“The best I can do is immobilize it,” she told him.

“It looks like there may be some muscle damage as

well.” She turned her attention to the man in the

other cell. “Deputy, could you hand me those sheets,

please?”

As the officer complied, his eyes darted from her to

Mulder and back to her. “Y’all are really FBI?”

He heard Scully sigh. “Yes, we are.”

The man shook his head. “I’m sure sorry, ma’am.”

“You should be,” he heard his partner mutter, as she

dumped the bedding next to Mulder.

Any comments he had on the subject of the deputy’s

apology immediately fled when he saw his partner

tearing sheets in preparation of more torture. He

managed to stay quiet while she positioned his arm,

then attached it tightly to his chest. When she

finally pronounced that she was finished, he found

himself once again sweating and shaking, and wanting

desperately to pass out.

“Does it still hurt?” Her tone was concerned, and a

little alarmed.

He shook his head. “Not now.”

“Oh, Mulder…” She wrestled the mattress back onto

the bed frame, then guided him to it. Why don’t you

lie down for awhile?”

He couldn’t have protested if he’d wanted to. Letting

her help him down, he closed his eyes and sank into

the welcome darkness.

**

Act III

10:07 p.m.

“What in tarnation are you doing in there?”

Scully practically fell out of the bed when the

exasperated words penetrated into her doze. Rolling

smoothly off the mattress, she faced the two men

squared off at the adjoining cell.

The deputy sputtered an explanation of how he came to

be incarcerated in his own jail while the sheriff

unlocked the door.

Stopping when he caught sight of her and a Mulder

getting slowly to his feet, the sheriff asked, “Who

are they?” As the man’s gaze took in their

appearance, disbelief painted his face. “Oh, lord,

tell me they aren’t the ‘mobsters’ you arrested this

morning.”

Euphoric anticipation in the scene about to play out

caused Scully — and probably Mulder, too — to

refrain from answering for the flustered deputy.

The deputy shuffled from foot to foot, still inside

the unlocked cell. His gaze remained glued to his

boots. “Well… yeah.”

Muttering under his breath, the sheriff unlocked

their cell door. “I’m Sheriff Carl Farris. Agents

Mulder and Scully?”

Scully took out her I.D. and presented it to the

sheriff. “Yes, sir.”

The sheriff’s gaze drifted to his deputy and then

back to Scully. “Why didn’t you…” He indicated

Scully’s I.D. and the deputy.

“I wasn’t given the opportunity to do so,” she

answered.

The sheriff pinned Jenkins with a glare. “Didn’t they

tell you they were federal agents?”

Jenkins cleared his throat. “Sort of.”

“What the hell does that mean?” the sheriff exploded.

“Either they did or they didn’t.”

“We told him, but he didn’t believe us,” Scully

volunteered, savoring every moment of this.

“He was drunk,” the deputy challenged, pointing a

finger at Mulder. “Couldn’t pass the sobriety test.”

The sheriff turned back to Scully for an explanation.

“My partner was sick. The madman who locked your

deputy in that cell was using a device that affected

Agent Mulder’s health. I tried to explain…” She

felt the bitterness at Mulder’s treatment by the

deputy return. “…but he slapped the cuffs on and

threw us in a cell, and he wouldn’t listen.”

Mulder picked up the tale of woe. “Our cel phones

don’t get a signal here, so we couldn’t call anyone.

Plus, it’s hard to dial with handcuffs on,” he

muttered under his breath.

Scully — and apparently the sheriff, too — heard

him anyway. “Francis,” he addressed the deputy. “Did

you put them in a cell with the cuffs on?”

Jenkins nodded miserably.

Farris shook his head, then addressed Scully and

Mulder again. “I’m sorry about that, Agents. Francis

has been warned about that, but it doesn’t appear to

be taking too well.”

Scully exchanged a look with Mulder. ‘Obviously not,’

his raised eyebrows conveyed.

Seeing her partner holding himself a little stiffly,

Scully said to the sheriff, “I’ve got to get Agent

Mulder to the hospital.” She herded him out the cell

and into the debris-strewn office. “If you’ll excuse

us, we’ll check back with you tomorrow on the case.”

Seemingly just noticing that Mulder was injured,

Farris hastily moved aside. “Oh. Of course. Mind if I

ask what happened?”

“We were stuck in here when the twister hit.” Mulder

indicated Jenkins with a tilt of his head. “At the

deputy’s suggestion, we secured ourselves to the

bars.”

“Agent Mulder came down a little too hard,” Scully

finished.

The sheriff nodded. “County Hospital is five miles

out of town, going toward Huntsville, on the 190. You

should have no trouble finding it.”

Scully nodded her thanks as she ushered her partner

to the door. “We’ll be by late morning, if that’s all

right, Sheriff.”

“That’ll be fine, Agent Scully. It’ll give me time to

make this place a mite more presentable,” he grinned.

Scully gave him a tired smile. “We’d have no

objections coming by later if you need more time.”

The sheriff thought a moment. “How about two? That’ll

give you time to rest a bit, and me time to get a

little order in here.”

“Two it is,” Mulder answered for them. “See you

then.”

Scully smiled and followed her partner. They walked

out the door, then turned around and walked back in.

“Sheriff, could we trouble you for a ride?”

**

Larson’s Motel

9:49 a.m.

February 24

“Yes, sir. I’ll keep you apprised.” Through slitted

eyes, Mulder watched as Scully placed the motel phone

back in the cradle.

Mulder groaned and opened his eyes. “Was that

Skinner?” His voice was still rough with sleep, and

he coughed to clear it.

“He sends his love.”

Mulder snorted. “Maybe to you.”

Scully smiled. “His concern then.” Her face lost its

brightness. “He’s worried that you haven’t seen the

last of Lawrence Dexter.”

Wincing as he struggled to sit up, Mulder nodded.

“It’s a valid assumption, given Dexter’s history.” He

felt a little woozy, and let himself fall back

against the headboard. The impact jarred his

shoulder, and he grunted from the pain. Although the

doctor at the hospital had been able to pop his

shoulder back in, it still hurt like a son of a

bitch.

“What’s the matter?” Scully homed in on him like a

bee to honey.

Mulder tried to shake the cobwebs out of his head.

“Must be the medication they gave me.”

“Are you dizzy again?

Now that he’d been sitting up for few seconds, he

didn’t feel so bad. “It’s going away,” he told her,

his head beginning to clear. However, when he stood

up, Scully had to grab onto him to keep him from

toppling over.

“Whoa! What were you saying about its going away?”

And after another few seconds, it did. Not entirely,

but enough so he could continue his trek. “Thanks,”

he said, breaking out of her hold.

“Mulder,” she called after him. “You shouldn’t — ”

“Just going to the bathroom, Scully. I’ll come right

back out. I promise.”

He heard her halt her pursuit of him. “All right. Be

careful, though.”

Nodding, he entered the small room and closed the

door. He had just finished washing his hands, and was

reaching for the hand towel when his knees turned to

jelly, and he found himself sitting on the bathroom

floor.

The door suddenly flew open, nearly beaning him, and

he looked up in surprise. Scully stood over him like

a mother bear protecting her cub. “What happened?”

she asked as she lifted him to his feet. “Did you get

dizzy again?”

He honestly couldn’t remember. One minute he was

standing there, the next he was on the floor staring

up at his partner. “I don’t know.”

“This is *not* from the medication,” Scully stated

firmly. “Besides, that should have worn off about

four hours ago.”

“I know,” he said, as she walked him back to the bed.

“This feels like what happened earlier.”

“Dammit,” Scully swore. “That son of a bitch is still

in the area.”

“It looks like it,” Mulder agreed, sitting down

heavily on the bed; starting to feel ill, he crawled

up to the pillows and lay down. “Or he left behind a

present.”

Scully’s alarmed eyes met his, then she stalked away

and heaved his partially-packed bag onto the other

side of the bed. He tried not to groan when the

movement upset his already queasy stomach.

“Well, that’s everything.” Scully’s declaration

startled him awake.

He blinked and looked up at her. “Done already?” His

voice was hardly more than a croak.

Scully laughed. “Mulder, you’ve been asleep for two

hours.” She gazed at him with concern and affection.

“But, yes, I’m done.”

“Find anything?” he asked, even though he could tell

by her demeanor what the answer would be.

“No,” she answered quietly. “There’s nothing here.”

Her eyes met his. “We’re going to have to look for

him.”

Dumbfounded to hear her include him in the search

without his having to fight for it, he could only

nod, his mouth parted in awe.

Sitting beside him on the bed gently, she placed her

palm on the side of his face. “It’s your health he’s

screwing with, Mulder. You have every right to be in

on the hunt for him.”

“Thank you,” he managed to choke out. Just when he

thought he was sure he knew everything about her, she

still had the ability to surprise him.

She smiled her response and took hold of his hands,

giving them a squeeze. “Do you feel up to showering?”

He shook his head slowly. “I think I might need

help.” The sad truth was that he really thought he

would.

She helped him to his feet and guided him to the

bathroom, then stripped them both.

Mulder cursed Dexter anew when he found that his

greatest desire was not to ravish his partner, but to

keep her free of injury when he inevitably fell onto

his ass.

**

Sheriff’s Office

2:27 p.m.

“So this man Dexter is responsible for *all* the

‘accidents’ this past week?” The sheriff looked up at

Scully from behind his desk. “Even the ghost in the

diner?”

Scully blew out a breath, but before she could reply,

the sheriff put up a hand to stop her.

“I know it wasn’t really a ghost, Agent Scully, but

how did he do it? I have half a dozen witnesses who

swear they saw a man walk in through one wall and

walk back out another.”

“It could have been a holographic projection of some

kind,” Mulder interjected. “He certainly has the

technological know-how to make it look real.”

Scully nodded her agreement. “And we have reason to

believe that he has access to very sophisticated

equipment.”

She exchanged a look with her partner, critiquing his

appearance at the same time. He sat slumped in the

chair, elbow propped up on the sheriff’s desk, his

hand shielding his eyes from the bright fluorescent

lights.

“So where is he now?” Farris asked.

Scully shrugged. “He left just before the tornado

struck. I don’t know where he is now.”

“That’s it, then?” the sheriff asked. “Now that he’s

gone, all these weird events will stop?”

Scully glanced at her sick partner, who now appeared

to be asleep. “Almost all.”

Farris looked up sharply. “What do you mean, ‘almost

all?'”

“Dexter either left something behind, or is still in

the area. Whatever he used earlier on Agent Mulder is

affecting him again.”

The sheriff looked closely at Mulder, and his face

softened in sympathy. “Why does it only affect him?”

Scully shook her head. “We’ve been wondering that,

too, and we think he must have found some unique

element in Mulder’s chemical makeup that allows

Dexter to somehow zero in, to focus… whatever the

hell he devised… exclusively on him.” She noticed

the sheriff’s curiosity, but to the man’s credit, he

did not ask. This factor prompted her to tell him.

“Agent Mulder is red/green colorblind. We think that

the same genetic defect that causes the

colorblindness is also the trait that Dexter has

somehow been able to home in on.”

Farris nodded gravely. “Can I do anything to help?”

God bless the man, Scully thought. This almost made

up for his having an idiot for a deputy. Suddenly

remembering their not-so-pleasant encounter with the

man, Scully looked around warily. “We would

appreciate your help, Sheriff, but you can understand

that we would prefer not to work with Deputy

Jenkins.”

Farris nodded his agreement. “You won’t have to worry

about that. I let Francis go.”

Immediately — and irrationally — Scully felt

responsible.

The sheriff waived away her concern. “Don’t feel too

sorry for him. He’s my wife’s cousin and I’ve been

looking for a good enough reason to get rid of him

for months. I’m sorry it had to come at your expense,

but I surely thank you for the excuse I needed to

finally fire his ass.”

“Uh, Sheriff, I know you’ve got your hands full with

the fallout from the tornado, so if you could just

clear it so we have free reign to search the area,

we’ll be on our way.”

Farris glanced at Mulder, then nodded. “I hope you

don’t mind my saying so, Agent Scully, but your

partner doesn’t look like he’s in any condition to go

on a manhunt.”

Scully let her gaze drift to her sleeping partner for

a moment. “Unfortunately, Mulder’s illness is the one

sure way we have of finding either Dexter or whatever

is being used to make him sick.”

Farris squinted in puzzlement.

“The closer we get, the more he’s affected.”

Farris drew in a breath and let it out slowly. “You

mean, the closer you get, the sicker he gets?”

Scully nodded solemnly. “That’s right.”

The sheriff looked appalled. “Look, I can get someone

to take over for me here, and I can help you — ”

“That won’t be necessary,” Scully cut him off. “We’re

almost positive that Dexter has left the area — if

he was able to.”

Farris looked up at that. “You think he might be

dead?”

She hoped. “Or injured. He left only a couple of

minutes before that twister struck.”

“But you said Agent Mulder wasn’t affected until this

morning. If your suspect was killed, who activated

the device?”

“We know he planted one in Jenkins’ pocket — which

didn’t start to affect Mulder for a few minutes. We

think he must have used some sort of time delay.

Mulder could have been affected last night, but he

was too groggy from the pain killers at the hospital

to notice much before he fell asleep.” She paused,

thinking. “He was fine at the hospital, so we don’t

have to look in that direction. But it’s affecting

him more here than at the hotel, so we seem to be

heading in the right direction.”

Farris sighed. “All right, Agent Scully. But if you

find that son of a bitch alive, you call me if you

need me.”

Scully smiled. “Sheriff, it will be my pleasure.”

**

Just Outside the Agents’ Rental Car

4:06 p.m.

If he didn’t know Scully was with him, Mulder would

have sworn he was in hell. Why he ever thought it

would be a good idea to use himself as a gauge to

Dexter’s whereabouts was beyond him now.

He’d lost count of the number of times they’d had to

pull over so he could throw up, and even Scully was

growing exasperated by all the stops. As he crawled

back into the car from his latest bout, she was

studying a map and acknowledged him with a glance.

“Are you through?” she asked, and the annoyance in

her tone made him want to hit her.

“Do you think I’m enjoying this?” he spat. “I’m sorry

if I’m holding things up, but I didn’t think you’d

want to drive a rental car that smells like a sewer.”

“Look, I’m sorry, but we’re never going to find him

if we keep stopping every two minutes.”

“Well, what would you suggest I do? Stick my head out

the window every time I have to puke?” Exhausted and

dizzy beyond belief, he let himself fall against the

seat; when he noticed Scully’s scrutiny, he curled

against the door, turning away from her.

Her hand on his shoulder made him jump. “I’m sorry,”

she said, and the genuine sorrow in her voice made

him swallow hard. Yet he did not turn around; he

wasn’t quite ready to forgive her.

All too soon, her warmth was gone as she put the car

in gear and continued slowly along the debris-strewn

road. After a few minutes’ driving, he began to feel

better.

“Stop,” he croaked. “We’re going the wrong way.”

Scully brought the car to a stop, then looked at him

a moment before nodding and wordlessly reversing

direction. When they came to a side road, she took

it, and immediately he felt the effects.

“This way, huh?” she asked, with a noticeably strong

sympathetic tone in her voice.

Mulder knew he wasn’t required to answer, so he

concentrated on fighting the nausea, determined not

to lose any more time at the side of the road.

After about half a minute, he knew he’d made a major

mistake; unable to voice his panic, and before he

could convey his dilemma to his partner, Mulder found

himself heaving onto the floor. Though Scully

immediately pulled over, Mulder was embarrassed at

his inability to control his own actions. The second

the car came to a stop, he pulled on the handle and

stumbled out.

Christ, he thought she’d seen him at his absolute

worst, but this was a record low, even for him.

Feeling her hands on his shoulders, he tried to shake

her off. “Go on ahead, Scully.” He tried not to let

his emotions color his words. “We’re as close as

we’re going to get.”

“Mulder…” She tried to get him to turn around, but

he used the last of his strength to finally pull out

of her grip.

“Scully, just find whatever the hell is doing this to

me. I can’t help you anymore.” He sobbed it out, and

didn’t care that he did. “I just can’t.” He felt her

watching him, but he refused to face her, looking as

bad as he knew he must look.

“Okay, Mulder, but I know why you’re doing this.” Her

hand felt warm where she laid it on his back. “We’ll

discuss it when you’re feeling better.”

He nodded frantically. “Right,” he choked out, hoping

to hold back until she was in the car and away.

Though he didn’t hear the car door open and shut

before he began puking his guts out again, he did

hear her drive away right before he passed out.

**

4:53 p.m.

Mulder was exactly where she’d left him. She winced

when she took in his appearance; he’d been sick again

and then passed out right into the mess.

Returning to the car, she retrieved a couple of the

bottles of water they had bought to keep themselves

hydrated in the hot weather.

After dragging Mulder a few feet away from where he

was lying, she poured one of the bottles over his

face and hair. Worried when dousing him with water

didn’t rouse him, she fished his handkerchief out of

his pocket and wiped off the remaining hints of

sickness from his face. She tapped on his cheek

gently.

“Mulder… Hey, partner, come on. Wake up.” She wet a

clean portion of the cloth and ran it over his

forehead and eyes.

“Unnh…” he groaned. “Scully?”

A thrill still ran through her whenever she was

reminded that she was always Mulder’s first waking

thought. “Yeah, it’s me,” she told him, lovingly,

nudging his cheekbone with the backs of her fingers.

“How are you feeling?”

She watched as he took stock, then opened his eyes

and regarded her. “Better.” Taking a breath, he

wrinkled his nose, then jerked upright. He looked at

the ground around him. “I thought I…” He trailed

off.

“I’m afraid you did,” she said sympathetically. She

indicated the spot about six feet away.

His eyes alit on the area indicated, and his face

reddened, yet he didn’t say anything.

She touched a finger to the back of his hand. “You

don’t have to hide from me, Mulder.”

He shook his head and looked down at his lap. “I

don’t want you to see me looking like that.”

“But I did.” She knelt down beside him. “And it

hasn’t changed anything.” He shrugged, and she could

tell that though he believed her, it still troubled

him.

Looking up, he met her eyes. “What happened with

Dexter? I assume you found the device since I’m able

to sit here and talk to you.” His eyebrows furrowed

in question. “So what happened?”

Trying not to recall the scene she’d come upon when

she found their suspect, Scully looked away.

“Dexter’s dead. I found the device and destroyed it.

End of story.”

“What aren’t you telling me?” he asked, softly, and

she thought how there were times when she absolutely

hated the fact that he knew her so well.

“He asked me to kill him,” she stated flatly.

Mulder displayed the tiniest bit of surprise. “And

did you?”

Crossing her arms across her chest, she sighed. “He

wasn’t as lucky as we were, stuck inside a nice box,

with bars all around us.” She stopped, picturing the

scene in her mind. “There were fence pickets laying

everywhere, sticking up out of the ground… All but

one missed him.” She took a deep breath to try to

steady her increasingly faster-beating heart. “He ‘d

lost a lot of blood, but he was still alive.” She

looked away. “He pleaded with me to shoot him.”

The compassion in Mulder’s eyes made her glad she’d

done what she was about to tell him next.

“I made him tell me about the device he was using on

you.” At the question in his eyes, she explained. “He

had it in his jeans pocket. I took it and destroyed

it.” She focused on his face. “He had hidden similar

devices all over the D.C. area three years ago.” At

Mulder’s appalled look, she nodded. “For those CEO’s

he didn’t get to finish off. You were given the honor

of being subjected to the milder version. Because you

had nothing to do with his mother’s death, and for

doing your job, and doing it well, you got off easy.”

His look of disbelief made her laugh. “I know. I

know.” She patted his shoulder. “But at least you’re

alive. The others, if he’d been able to activate

them, would have eventually killed them.”

“Do you know where they’re hidden?” he asked.

She nodded, taking a notebook out of her pocket.

“Everything is in here: where they’re hidden, how to

activate them, the intended target.” She tapped the

small brown book with her finger. “As well as all his

little ‘experiments’ out here. And his…

professional work.”

Mulder gave a low whistle. “Some legacy he left,” he

commented, then gazed at her. “So did you…” He left

it at that.

She met his eyes, not blinking. “I couldn’t do it.”

He nodded. “What happened?” he asked softly.

She drew in a deep breath, then blew it out. “I took

aim, and I was all set to pull the trigger… and I

just couldn’t.” She glanced down guiltily at him.

Although grateful for the love and support in his

gaze, she had to look away for what was coming next.

“He grabbed my gun. A dying, mortally-wounded man

took away my weapon and shot himself with it.”

When she looked back at Mulder, she was dismayed by

the shock on his face. “He could have killed you,

Scully.”

She shook her head. “He didn’t want to kill me.” Her

eyes met his. “And he didn’t really take my gun away.

I gave it to him.”

Mulder’s shocked look increased. “Jesus, Scully…”

She looked down at her shoes; she really did not want

to tell him this. “It was his price for telling me

where he’d hidden the device,” she practically

mumbled. “…That I kill him or let him kill

himself.”

“Jesus…” he whispered. “Scully — ”

“Don’t even say it, Mulder.” She met his eyes again,

her own full of conviction. “He named a price — you

— and I paid it. Don’t even *think* for a minute

that I shouldn’t have.”

“But… he could have killed you.”

She sighed in exasperation. “You didn’t see him. I

did. You didn’t examine him. You didn’t see how much

he was suffering.” She shook her head. “He had barely

enough strength to pull the trigger once. He wasn’t

about to waste that shot on me.” She looked hard into

his eyes, as if that could make him see. “I made a

judgement call, Mulder. Either you trust me on this,

or you mull over for the rest of your life the fact

that I love you enough to take chances with my life

to save yours.” She narrowed her eyes at him and

quirked an eyebrow. “Sound familiar?”

She was relieved to see him visibly relax at that.

His lips even twitched upward almost in a smile.

“Yeah. I guess I can relate.”

Scully laughed. “Understatement of the year.”

Mulder chuckled, then winced when Scully helped him

to his feet.

“Shoulder still sore?”

He nodded, then said in a sheepish voice, “But my

stomach muscles hurt more.”

Scully nodded in sympathy; all that vomiting had

taken its toll. “I’ll bet,” she said, rubbing his

back.

Mulder gazed at her lovingly, then he smirked. “How

about we get the hell out of Dodge, pardner?”

Rolling her eyes, Scully groaned. “You’ve just been

waiting for the right time to use that, haven’t you?”

Her partner smiled happily. “Yeah.” He raised an

eyebrow. “And you haven’t?”

She shook her head. “Never even occurred to me.”

When Mulder rolled his eyes at her, Scully laughed.

**

Epilogue

February 25

A.D. Skinner’s Office

6:12 p.m.

“That’s the last of them,” Skinner sighed as he hung

up the phone.

“I’m impressed,” Mulder stated. “We just turned in

that notebook this afternoon.”

Skinner smiled. “Some pretty powerful people were on

that list, Agent Mulder.”

“What about the other… information?” Scully asked.

“That’s not your concern, Agent.” Skinner seemed

surprised at his harsh tone, and his next comment

came out a little milder. “The FBI has turned it over

to another agency.”

Mulder exchanged a look with Scully. Neither had to

ask which agency.

“So…” Skinner claimed their attention once again.

“That ends that. You can go home, Agents.”

Mulder nodded and stood up, Scully right by his side.

As they started for the door, Skinner stopped them.

“Agents?”

They turned around to face him.

“That was good work,” Skinner said quietly. “I’m glad

we can finally lay this case to rest.”

“Thank you, sir,” Mulder heard Scully say, while he

could only nod dumbly. What good work had he done?

Unless Skinner counted getting sick at every step a

plus, and in that event he solved this one by

himself.

When Scully turned and continued to the door, Mulder

followed her out. He was still embarrassed that his

partner had seen him in so many unflattering

situations. He couldn’t help but recall how irritated

she’d been during their search for Dexter when she’d

had to pull over every few minutes so he could vomit.

Just the thought made him feel humiliated all over

again.

“Mulder!”

His head jerked up in surprise. “Huh?” Finding his

partner’s eyes filled with mild annoyance, he shook

off the feeling of deja vu.

“I said, do you want to get some dinner?”

“Um…” He really wasn’t all that hungry, but if he

said so, he was certain he’d be facing The

Inquisition. “Sure.”

When Scully gave him a stern look, Mulder returned a

confused one. “Not here,” she said, motioning him

into the elevator.

Not sure what he’d done to get the silent treatment,

he nonetheless accompanied her to their office, where

they packed up and left in utter silence.

He was confident enough not to worry that she didn’t

love him any longer, and from the looks she was

throwing his way, he was beginning to see what had

upset her. He sighed. It wasn’t his fault that he

felt that way. And look who was calling the kettle

black! The ‘I’m fine” queen. The original ‘never let

them see you sweat’ model — or in her instance,

‘never show any weakness, never let Mulder comfort

you, never let him take care of you or allow him to

see you at anything less than your absolute perfect

best!’

How dare she be upset at his being embarrassed! She’d

had a front row seat to what he’d never been allowed

to even *know* about when *she* was sick.

Once they were in the car and Scully turned to him,

Mulder was ready to counter any argument she gave him

about his feelings.

Her softly-uttered, “I’m sorry,” totally derailed his

thoughts.

“What?” was all he could manage.

“Because it was you, because it’s absurd to me that I

would see you in any light other than perfect, I’d

discounted how very humiliating it feels to have

someone watching while you’re feeling as far from

perfect as you can feel.” She cupped his cheek. “And

I apologize for how much worse I made you feel in the

car. In my defense, I can only say that I was so

anxious to catch Dexter and put a stop to what he was

doing to you, that I forgot about *you.*”

Mulder swallowed hard, nodding. While he appreciated

her viewpoint and could understand her impatience,

still it hurt. In time, he would push it out of his

mind, but for now the memory was too sharp to simply

brush aside. He took a deep breath, and dredged up a

smile. “It’s okay,” he said softly.

She gave him the eyebrow, and he laughed.

“It will be,” he amended. Taking her hand in his, he

brought it to his lips and gently kissed her palm.

“Because I know you love me.”

“Damned right,” she averred. After a few seconds, he

let her go so she could start the car.

As she drove in silence, his mind couldn’t help but

wander back to the previous day and what she’d gone

through alone with Dexter. He hadn’t been the only

one who’d had a tough time of it.

“You’ll be all right, too, Scully.”

Eyes never leaving the road, she smiled. “I know.”

When she didn’t say anything else, Mulder felt the

need to prompt her. “Do you know why?”

A wistful smile came to her face. “Because you know I

love you.”

Mulder shook his head slowly from side to side.

“You’re impossible,” he said good-naturedly.

Taking her eyes off the road for a moment, Scully

glanced at him. “Do you know why?

“Because I love you,” Mulder said quietly.

Scully nodded with enthusiasm.

“Damned right.”

The End

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