Author: Lycanthrophile (lycanthrophile@imadethis.org)
Fandom: The X-Files
Originally Posted: July 07, 1996
Spoilers: Season 3
Disclaimer: This story is based on the characters and situations created by Chris Carter, the Fox Network and Ten Thirteen Productions. As such, the characters named are the property of those entities and are used without permission, although no copyright infringements are intended. All other characters belong to me. Just ask if you want to borrow them. :-)
Rating: NC17 for male/female sex and language
Summary: Mulder and Scully take on a missing persons case involving a fellow employee. And also take their relationship to a new level.
Word Count: 5,844
Notes: Thanks to all my Cafe UST friends and QueeQuag1 who were willing to put up with frantic e-mails about names, trivia, and general insecurities about my writing skills. You're all the greatest. {{{{{}}}}}
Archive: Please inform me

She could see the retractable leash dragging along the ground. She'd reach down to grab it, but it jerked an inch beyond her grasp. It teased her, staying oh-so-close. Then, it snagged in a fallen log. She clasped it to her, for the leash only to start rewinding with resistance. The end of the leash came closer and closer, and on it she saw....

Scully woke with a start. "Great," she thought, "It's going to be one of those nights." She had been reliving the loss of Queequeg in her dreams for the last weeks. And once the nightmares started, they were impossible to stop.

Mulder was working on the slide projector when Scully walked into the basement office. "Morning, Scully. What, rough night?" he asked as she yawned.

"Yeah, Mulder," Scully muttered. After the amount of sympathy he had given her in that cabin, she wasn't about to divulge how much the dreams were bothering her. "Have we been assigned to another case?"

"This one's special." Mulder killed the lights. "There is a serial murder who strikes once a year, referred to as 'The Seventh Day Slaughterer.' He appears to work alone. This time of the year, a young couple or family are abducted, tortured, and then killed after a week of captivity. They disappear on Monday and are found dead on Sunday. Here's his victims from last year."

A gory picture of four bodies flashed on the screen. "So what's so special about this case? I don't see any obvious X-File connection."

"It doesn't have one." A picture of a happy family of three blinked on the screen. A mom and dad, beaming in pride behind their six year old son. "This family disappeared three days ago. Their car was found run off the road this morning. Their last name is Skinner."

Scully looked up, aghast. "You don't mean..."

"Yes, Scully," Mulder said quietly, "as in AD Skinner - his brother, John, sister-in-law, Marjorie, and nephew, Jonathan, were reported missing on Monday."

There was a knock on the door. Mulder shut off the slide projector and opened it. There stood AD Skinner, haggard and pale. "Come in, sir. I'm briefing Agent Scully on the situation right now."

"I'm sorry to hear about this, sir," Scully added.

"Thank you." Skinner sounded tired. "I personally asked for the two of you to be brought in on this. You two are the only ones I can trust to tell me the truth."

Mulder spoke. "We'll do our best, sir."

Skinner nodded. Having said what he needed to say, he left the office.

"He doesn't look so good, Mulder." Scully shook her head. "Should he even be involved in this?"

"I almost mentioned that when he first brought the case to my attention. Then I realized that it wasn't my place to say that, with all the energy I've put into finding Samantha. I feel that he is too emotionally close to take an active part. But I have no objection to keeping him informed about our investigation."

"Yes, Mulder, but is it right? I mean, would it be less cruel to keep him unaware of any disturbing information that we could uncover?"

"Scully, I would have killed to find out anything, no matter how dark, how disturbing, about Samantha's disappearance. Just to know anything for certain would have been reassuring."

"Okay, Mulder, if you feel that it would be helpful."

"It will be Scully. It may not be easy, but it will be helpful."

Scully surveyed the wreck of a station wagon. "Someone just shoved them off the road," the officer in charge told her. A streak of lime green paint in a dent contrasted garishly with the light blue of the wagon.

Donning latex gloves, Scully peered into the front of the car. "There's a bit of blood on the inside windshield, most likely from the passenger hitting it with his forehead. Aside from that, there appears to be no other evidence of injuries. Do you see anything, Mulder?" No reply. She looked up, "Mulder?"

Mulder was staring at the back seat. He had a lost look on his face. "Mulder?" Scully said quietly, walking over to him. "What's wrong?" laying her hand on his shoulder.

Her touch jolted him back to the present. "Nothing, Scully," he said shrugging away her hand. "Listen, I'll go back to headquarters and start running down possible suspects. I'll call you when I find out anything." He turned and walked away.

"Sure, fine, whatever," she said to Mulder's receding back. Scully looked into the back seat. In it she saw, buckled up for a safe ride, a ratty, loved threadbare teddy bear.

Scully walked down the hallway to her apartment. Outside her door sat a mutt that looked mostly Australian Shepherd. As Scully approached, he barked hello and began to wag his tail. She saw his leash was tied to the doorknob, and a note pinned to his collar. "Hmm, no ID tags," Scully mused. "Why would someone leave a dog on my doorstep?"

As she reached for the note, the dog tried to lick her hand. "Well, you're a friendly fellow." She patted the dog absentmindedly as she read it.

Dear Ms. Scully,

Sorry to hear about the loss of your pet. Although this dog could not possibly take Queequeq's place, he may help you in ways you could not possibly imagine.


A Friend

"I can't leave you out here all night, and it's too late to take you to the pound," Scully sighed. "I guess that mean's, boy, that you stay with me tonight." She untied the leash and opened the door. The dog trotted in like he was already a member of the family. "You're lucky I still have some dog food left."

"Well, boy, it looks like you haven't eaten for three days," as the dog wolfed down the food. "I can't keep calling you 'boy.' Hmm, how about Ishmael?" Ishmael looked up and woofed. Scully grinned. "Ishmael it is then." Ishmael then curled up in the corner of the kitchenette, and went to sleep.

The phone rang. "Scully," she answered.

"It's me. I have the rundowns on the suspects. I'll bring them on over right now. I want to get started right away."

"Mulder, we've been looking at these papers for the last five hours. Are you sure that you don't need some sleep?" They were sitting on the couch, a stack of papers in front of them.

"No, there's got to be something here that we're missing - something so obvious that we're overlooking..."

"Mulder, what is wrong?" Scully sounded exasperated. "You have been more driven than usual. You're obsessing over this case."

He wouldn't look at her. "I just feel that we owe Skinner for all the times he put his ass on the line for us, and that we can partially repay him..."

"Mulder, it's me," Scully said firmly. "Anyone else might believe that line, but not me. You were okay until we went out to the crash site. What's really wrong?"

Mulder sighed. He started to speak. "Did you look into the back seat?"

"Yes, I saw the stuffed animal."

"Samantha had a ragged bear. She used to seat belt it in just like that one was. I used to tease her about it whenever we went somewhere in the car." Mulder paused and looked up at the ceiling. "It's funny. You learn to expect the big things, steel yourself against reacting to them. But it's always the little things that catch you unaware. When I looked in and saw...." His voice broke.

"Oh, Mulder," she whispered. She pulled him to her, and he started sobbing against her shoulder. She rocked him back and forth, shushing him like a child. Slowly Mulder quieted. He pulled up from her, uncertainty in his eyes. He stroked her cheek gently, and leaned in close. Scully closed her eyes, holding her breath. She felt the gentle pressure of his lips brush against hers...

"WOOF!" exploded in her ear. "What the hell?!" Mulder shouted, jerking back. Sitting on the floor by Scully, with an innocent look on his face, was Ishmael. Mulder sat up and slid further away from Scully. "When did you get another dog?" Mulder mumbled, studying the wall.

"I found him tied to my door tonight. It was too late to take Ish to the pound...."

"Ish? You already named him?" Mulder shook his head. "Are you sure you want another dog so soon after what happened to Queequeg?"

"Yes," Scully sounded irritated. "I named him Ishmael. It's nice to have someone to come home to. But this isn't getting the case solved. Let's concentrate on that now."

"I would, if your new friend hadn't grabbed that stack of papers." Ishmael had them in his mouth. "Give me those," Mulder growled. Ishamel returned the growl, backing away.

"Allow me. Ish, let go." Scully eased the papers from his mouth. Glancing at them she spoke, "I don't understand why you and dogs..., wait a minute." Scully frowned at the sheets in her hand. "Mulder, look at this," easing back down beside him. "All the murders have occurred during this time of year, correct?"

"Yes. The last two were in this area. The previous four were committed in Northern California. Those are the only ones attributed to the Seventh Day Slaughterer, though there are probably more out there."

"Well, this suspect, Richard Stubens, lived in the Bay Area from 1988 to 1993, and then moved to Washington DC." Scully looked up. "And his psych profile is rather interesting." She passed them to Mulder.

He read the papers. "Lost family eleven years ago in a plane crash. Believed he caused it because he 'wished they would die.' Committed to mental institution for three years for treatment of antisocial traits with mild schizophrenia. No previous criminal records." Mulder looked up. "He fits the profile the best of any of these. I think we should talk to him..."

"First thing in the morning," Scully interrupted. "It's almost one am and were both dead weary. We need to get some sleep. Go home, Mulder."

"Scully, if this is about what happened..."

"Mulder, please," Scully whispered. "Just put it down to mental exhaustion." Scully sighed. "It's late and you should go."

"Okay, whatever you want." Mulder got up from the couch. He walked to the door. With his hand on the doorknob, he turned to her. "I'm sorry. I don't want anything to happen to our working relationship, or more importantly, our friendship." He let himself out.

Scully looked at the ceiling and sighed. Ishmael put his head in her lap. She stroked it. "Ish, what did I just do? Why did you have to interrupt us? And why can't I tell him how much I love him?"

Scully stepped into the basement office on Friday morning, dreading facing Mulder after last night. She was relieved when she saw Skinner waiting with Mulder. "Agent Mulder was bringing me up to date," Skinner said. He looked like he hadn't slept for the last two nights. "I'll pull whatever strings I have to to help your investigation."

"Sir, are you sure you should be so closely involved in this case?" Scully began. "The emotional stress involved is overwhelming and must be affecting your judgment."

"Agent Scully," Skinner snapped, "I am well aware of what stress can do to my judgment." Skinner stopped and sighed. "I'm sorry. I had no right to snap at you."

"What Agent Scully is trying to point out, sir, is that the loss of a family member, no matter what the situation, impacts you in ways that you don't realize until someone points it out to you. Believe me, I know." Mulder allowed himself a small rueful smile.

"I understand that." Skinner sounded frustrated. "I just can't stand the uncertainty. And the guilt. You see, I haven't spoken to John for five years. We had an argument over something trivial. I don't even remember what it was. That's me and John, always fighting. And all I can think about is finding John safe and asking his forgiveness."

Scully looked Skinner in the eyes. "Sir, we can't guarantee that they will be found safe. We can't even guarantee that we will find them. But can guarantee that we will do our best."

"That's all I'm asking." Skinner started towards the door. "I'll be in my office. Let me know if you find anything." The door shut.

Mulder and Scully looked at each other in an uneasy silence. Scully finally broke the silence, "Mulder, we need to talk."

"Understatement of the year," Mulder said dryly.

Scully ignored that remark, "But here at work is not the time nor place." Scully sighed. "We need to act like last night didn't happen, for the moment. Agreed?"

Mulder looked her in the eye. "Agreed, only if you come by my place tonight and we get everything out in the open."

"Fine. Have you found out any new information about Stubens?"

Mulder referred to a paper. "There were two sets of skid marks at the crash sight - one from the Skinner's car, and one assumed to be from the assailant. The analysis of the second vehicle's tracks and paint chips found in the victims' vehicle indicate that it is probably a green Dodge Ram van. And," Mulder looked up, "Stubens drives a green Ram van." He handed the paper over to her.

"And he hasn't been at work since Monday." Scully frowned at the paper. "I think we should pay a visit to Mr. Stubens."

When no one answered the door, the landlord let them in with no problem. "Yeah, Stubens' lived here for about six months now. He's a quiet fellow, pays his rent regularly, stays to himself mostly," the old man had said. "He hasn't been seen around here for a couple of days. Was starting to get worried."

Mulder and Scully searched the room. A few heavy metal tapes, some frozen dinners in the refrigerator, a TV, a VCR and some cheesy horror tapes were all they found - at first.

Under the hide-a-bed was a photo album. Scully pulled it from its hiding place. "Mulder, look at this."

Mulder looked over her shoulder as she cracked the album open. One page had a picture of a family that had been abducted, bound, gagged, but unharmed. The next picture on the facing page was the same family, slaughtered. All the pages in the album were the same motif, family, life, and death.

"I think we've found our man," Mulder said, staring at the picture on last page. Sitting in three chairs, gagged with electrical tape, were the missing Skinner family.

Scully stood outside Mulder's apartment. She had put this off for as long as she could. First had been the calls to the police, placing APBs out on Stubens. Then came updating AD Skinner on the latest info. After making the report, Skinner had looked at her and Mulder and said, "They're still alive, aren't they?" When neither of them answered, Skinner looked as upset as when he was charged with his wife's attempted murder. Afterwards, she had gone home, changed into sweats, fed and exercised Ishmael, and finally told her self to quit avoiding Mulder and get this over with.

She took a deep breath and knocked on the door. At the muffled "come in," she pushed open the door. He sat on the couch in jeans and a t-shirt, waiting.

"Mulder, about last night..."

"Scully, I was out of line," he interrupted, looking at the floor. "Let's just forget what happened."

"That's the problem, Mulder. I can't," Scully sighed. "I have had feelings for you for a long time." He looked up at her, shock written over his face. "At first, I thought it was the normal bond there is between partners. Mulder, please don't interrupt," she said as he opened his mouth to speak. Mulder looked at the floor. "As time passed, I realized my feelings were becoming something beyond partnership, even beyond friendship. I know this will affect our working relationship, but I just thought that you should know where things stand." She turned and walked to the door.

"Dana." The softly spoken word stopped her. She turned to look at Mulder. He was on his feet, walking towards her. "Do you have any idea how I've longed to hear you say that?" He wrapped his arms around her, pulling her in close. "I've loved you since I first saw you.

When you were missing, I felt like a part of myself had died. And if you hadn't waken up from that coma, I don't think I'd still be here. I kept telling myself that I should be content with your friendship. I kept trying to deny the fact that I'm in love with you." He leaned his forehead against hers, looking deep into her eyes. "And I never even allowed myself to dream that you could feel the same."

Scully trembled. She put her hand behind his head, pulled him down, and kissed him with all the passion within her. He breathed faster, caressing her shoulders and back. When the kiss ended, they both pulled back, pleasure and unbelief in their eyes. Mulder leaned forward and brushed his lips across her forehead.

"Dana, I want you. Do you want me?" A breathy moan against her hair.

"Ah... I hate to say this... but I don't have any um... protection with me."

"I do." Uncertainty and desire in his shaky voice, the voice of someone requesting permission and afraid of being denied.

"No Fox, I don't want you. I *need* you."

Permission granted. He kissed her harder, licking her lips, his tongue seeking an entrance. As Scully opened her mouth, Mulder's hand slipped ever so slowly from her hip to her bottom. Scully whimpered with pleasure as he slowly squeezed. She started to thrust her hips against his growing erection. Mulder didn't need any more encouragement. He scooped Scully up and carried her to the bedroom.

Scully felt the warmth of the bed reach up to embrace her. Mulder kneeled on the bed, straddling her. He pushed back her sweatshirt and kissed the soft skin of her abdomen. His hands moved up along her chest, taking the shirt with him.

Scully pushed Mulder upright. Kissing him deeply she slowly peeled his t-shirt off. Mulder shivered violently as she explored his neck and chest with her lips and tongue. As she returned to his mouth, his hands slipped to the catch on her bra. He slowly unhooked it. Holding her tight against him, he slipped the straps from her arms, so only the pressure of their bodies held it in place. He leaned back, so the bra slipped off.

"My god, so beautiful," Mulder whispered as he nuzzled between her breasts. He pressed Scully into the bed, taking her nipple into his mouth. Scully moaned and arched against him as he matched the motion of his tongue on her other breast with his hand .

Scully's hands were at his waist, fumbling at his fly. She had just unzipped him and started easing his jeans off when he pulled away from her. His voice was rough with desire. "Let me go get the condoms. Why don't you finish undressing."

"Hurry back," she whispered. She watched the muscles of his back ripple as he retreated to the bathroom. She sat up and slid out of her sweatpants and damp panties, trembling with the sudden cold and desire. Her mind played out fantasies of what was about to happen, fantasies she had denied herself before.

"Dana," came the soft whisper. She looked to the door of the bathroom. Mulder stood there, condom on, fully extended. He prowled towards her.

"Fox." Mulder lowered her back to the bed. He kissed her passionately on her lips, her cheeks, her neck, her breasts.

"Fox." His hands were stroking her waist, her hips, her thighs. He brushed his hands against her soft curls.

"Fox!" His hands were exploring her inner thighs.

"Oh, Fox!" His fingers found her erect center of pleasure. She writhed against him. His fingers felt a fresh wetness.

Mulder couldn't hold out any longer. He pressed his erection against her chamber. He groaned as she admitted him.

She was so damp, so tight. Mulder started to thrust, gently at first, trying to make it last. But her gasps and moans and movements urged him to move faster and harder.

"Dana." His tension was reaching its peak. He looked down at the marvelous woman he was making love to. Her eyes were shut, mouth open in ecstasy. Her hands caressed his back, and plunged to his buttocks. She pulled him in completely as he exploded inside her.

Mulder collapsed on top of Scully. He felt her stroking the small of his back, kissing his shoulders. He wrapped his arms around her. There were no words for this moment, to describe the utter contentment he felt now. He felt Scully's breathing become slow and even as she drifted off to sleep. It had been so long since he had let his emotions rule his actions, and he had never completely given himself over to anyone, heart and soul, before. "I love you," he whispered as he closed his eyes.

Mulder heard crying. He was running down a long hallway towards a bright light, chasing the sound. He saw Samantha silhouetted just ahead of him. As he reached towards her, she disappeared. He heard the voice still, coming from behind him. He turned around and saw a forlorn form, back towards him. He reached out and touched her shoulder. The figure looked up at him and he was staring into the teary eyes of... Scully?

Mulder woke up with a start. He was trying out to figure out what the hell his dream meant when he realized he still heard the quiet sobbing. Looking around, he saw Scully next to him. She was crying in her sleep.

"Shhhh, it's okay," Mulder wrapped his arms around her. Scully startled awake. Not saying anything, she buried her face in his chest. They held each other until they fell back asleep.

Dawn. Scully cracked one eye open and looked for the alarm clock. She was wondering why it hadn't gone off. The reason - the alarm clock wasn't there. In fact, she wasn't in her bedroom. Just before she started panicking, an hand moved across her waist.

Mulder's hand.

He was lying on his side next to her. Barely touching her body, she could feel the heat radiating from him.

He pulled her in close. "I was wondering when you'd wake up," Mulder whispered into her hair. His hand slipped up and cupped her breast. He squeezed gently as he nibbled on her earlobe.

Scully rolled over and nestled against Mulder's chest. "You wore me out. And," she looked at him with a quirky smile, "for someone who never expected to be in this situation, you were awfully well prepared."

Mulder wore a smug grin. "Isn't the motto of the Boy Scouts 'Be Prepared'?"

"Hmmm. You weren't acting like a clean cut Boy Scout last night."

Mulder laughed and rolled onto his back, taking her with him. He stroked her hair gently.

"I love you, Dana Scully."

"And I love you, Fox Mulder."

They lay in each other's arms, savoring the closeness.

"Do you want to talk about the dream that upset you last night?"

"Mulder, I really don't want to get into that."

"If you talk about it, you'll feel better. You were pretty shaken last night."

Scully sighed. "I've dreamed for a while about Queequeg. That last walk we took. Only instead of just finding an empty leash, I see that damn gator eating him."

Mulder frowned at her. " 'Dreamed for a while?' This has bothered you and you didn't tell me?" The hurt in his voice was unmistakable.

"Mulder, I was sitting there in shock, trying to deal with what had been thrown at me, and all you could act was 'Sorry about Queeg, but look here at this map. Lets act like this didn't happen and get back to work.' And that was all. I know that you were never fond of him, but dammit, I loved him and you never said shit about it afterwards." Scully paused. A tear trickled down her cheek. "So you tell me, Mulder, why *should* I have told you about those dreams?"

Mulder wiped away the tear. "Scully, I had no idea... no that's not true. I knew that you were hurting, but when your father died, you wanted to dive back into work right away. I thought that was what you needed."

"Mulder, I had some time to deal with my father's death. And the death of a parent isn't entirely unexpected. But I wasn't expecting to lose Queeg so quickly."

Mulder looked thoughtful. "In my family, you never talked about your feelings. You avoided *anything* that could bring up memories of Samantha. So, I was trying to help you the only way I knew how. I'm sorry that I hurt you. Forgiven?"

"Forgiven." Scully closed her eyes and enjoyed being so close to the man she loved.


"Yes, Mulder?"

"Are you sure we're doing the right thing?" Concern and worry in his voice.

"Did you not want this to happen?"

"No, not that. I just wonder how everyone at the Bureau will take this."

"Why should they care about the 'FBI's most unwanted'? It wouldn't be the first time two partners got involved. And we don't have to announce it right away. Besides, I think we'll be able to keep our hands off each other at work."

Mulder shifted uneasily. "Actually, I'm afraid, Scully."

"Afraid of what?"

"Afraid of losing you like..." Mulder trailed off.

"Like you lost Samantha," Scully finished. Mulder nodded. "I can't say that nothing is going to happen to me, but I don't intend to."

"And I don't intend to either. But I tried to protect Samantha, I tried to protect my father, and I tried to protect you, and look what happened."

"Mulder," Scully said softly. "You are not responsible for Samantha's disappearance. You did not shoot your father. And you certainly did not abduct me."

"But I should have known something was going to happen. I should have been able to prevent..."

"Shhhh," Scully laid a finger across his lips to silence him. "You can't hold yourself responsible for all the tragedy in your life. I felt guilty about Melissa, knowing she was at the wrong place at the wrong time, where I was supposed to be. But you can't let it consume you. You can't live your life constantly trying to protect me. I won't allow you to lock me in a glass box for the rest of my life to keep the bogey man from getting me. You're not God." Scully looked into his eyes, a wicked grin on her face. "A sex god maybe, but not *the* God."

Mulder laughed a little. But he grew serious quickly. "Okay, you've got a few points there. But I don't know what I'd do if I lost you."

"Neither do I. We'll just have to cross that bridge when we get to it."

Scully opened the door to her apartment and was almost knocked down by Ishamael's enthusiastic welcome. He had his leash in his mouth.

"Poor guy, you've been waiting for me all night, haven't you?"

Scully glanced at the clock. Two hours before she was due into the Bureau. More than enough time to walk Ish, change clothes, shower, and get to the office. She and Mulder normally wouldn't come in on a Saturday, but with the time limit on the Skinner case, they didn't have that luxury.

Scully snapped the lead to Ishmael's collar. He whimpered eagerly as she opened her apartment door.

Scully traced the normal route she walked Ishmael on every day. Past the high school, down the back streets, through the old warehouse district. Most were still in use, but a few were abandoned and had fallen into disrepair.

Ishmael strained against the leash. "You sure want to go somewhere in a hurry, Ish," Scully said. "Hey! Ishmael! Come back here!" Scully shouted as Ishmael broke his collar. She chased him as she had chased Queequegs leash that one night. He darted past a green van, and into a warehouse. Scully glanced at the van as she ran past, and pulled up short. It was a lime green Ram van, with a dent on the passenger's side with chips of powder blue paint around it. Scully walked over to the door Ish ran through. She took one look inside and pulled back. It was the same warehouse in the photo album. She backed away from the door and pulled out her cell phone.


"It's me, and you're not going to believe what I've found..."

When the license plates came back as registered to Richard Stubens, it was easy to get the police backup. As soon as the SWAT team was in place, they were ready to go into the building.

"FBI! Freeze!" Mulder and Scully entered the warehouse after the SWAT team. Gun's drawn, they began to explore the maze of boxes, alert for any ambush. They split up, each searching for signs of the captives or their captor.

"I've found Stubens." Scully looked at the body sprawled face-up on the floor. A grimace of terror twisted his features and his hands were crossed over his neck, as if protecting himself from something. A fresh dog bite braceleted his left wrist. Nearby was a discharged revolver.

"Scully, you need to see this!" echoed back from another corner of the warehouse. Scully cautiously picked her way back there. She moved past the the Skinner family who was being ushered out of the darkness towards a waiting ambulance.

Back in the shadowy corner were three wooden chairs, backs towards her. Shreds of the electrical tape that was used to restrain the victims were still attached to the arms of the chairs. Mulder was staring at the floor just beyond the chairs.

Scully stepped to Mulder's side. She involuntarily gasped, and reached for him. Lying there on the floor was Ishmael with a bullet between his eyes.

Mulder looked up from his desk. "I just finished reading the Skinner family interview. How did the autopsy go?"

"There was a defensive wound on his left wrist, a dog bite. It looks like Ishmael may have bitten him before he was shot. Stubens died of a myocardial infarction. What is unusual is that there was no sign of coronary disease, heart-muscle defects, or any evidence of previous heart attacks. There is no reason that he should have died of a heart attack."

"Unless he was scared to death."

"Mulder, what are you talking about?"

A knock at the door interrupted them. There stood Skinner, looking rested for the first time in days. "I wanted to stop by and personally thank the two of you for finding my brother."

Mulder nodded. "We're glad we were able to find them before anything happened to them. How are they doing?"

"Physically they're okay. John, Marjorie, and Jonathan were all told by Stubens what he had planned for them. They are all in counseling now to deal with that. John and I are have agreed to try to make up for lost time. They are also grieving over the loss of Semp."

"Semp?" Scully looked puzzled.

"Semper Fi, their Australian Shepherd. He was the dead dog found just beyond where they were held. He had been shot point blank in front of them."

Scully sat in front of her home computer, finishing her report.

"The Skinner family are currently undergoing psychological treatment to help them deal with their experience. One unexplained fact remains. All three of the Skinners swear that they saw their dog attack Stubens, after the dog had been dead for the last three days.

"Agent Mulder believes..."

Scully stopped typing. Even after all she had seen, even after all she had experienced, even though she wanted to, she was still afraid to believe.

"... that the canine called Semper Fi had somehow returned from death, rescued his loved ones, and exacted revenge for his death. However, my dog, Ishmael, who had a striking similarity to Semper Fi, disappeared at approximately the time Stubens died. It is possible that Ishmael was seen by Stubens and, given the man's mental instability, induced a state of terror that triggered the fatal heart attack. Ishmael has not been seen since."

Scully paused again. She and Mulder had looked for Ish all over Washington. No Australian Shepherds had been turned into the pound. No one had responded to the missing dog posters. Even though she had Ishmael for only a few days, his loss still hurt deep.

"Evidence was found linking to Stubens to several other murders. With the exception of the aforementioned, there are no other facts in debate. X-File XS-112671 is closed."

"Scully, you coming to bed?" Mulder's voice came from her bedroom.

"Just let me finish this. I'll be a moment." Save, print, and shutdown. Scully turned off the table side lamp and went to the bedroom.

Mulder was laying on the bed, wearing only a pair of sweatpants. He got up when she entered the room, and went to her. "You, doing okay?" he said, brushing the hair back from her eyes.

She gave him a weak smile. "Yeah, but I do miss Ish."

"I'm sorry. I know you don't believe what I do about him, but he did save AD Skinner's family. In a way, he also brought us together."

Scully heard a muffled squeak. "Did you hear that, Mulder?"

"Hear what?" Mulder asked innocently. "I thought you were curious about what was in the box."

After leaving the office, Mulder had disappeared for a few hours, telling Scully he'd meet her at her apartment. When he arrived, he was carrying an apple box, and would not let Scully so much as touch it. It was now resting on the bed. She heard that noise again.

Scully sat down on one side of the box, Mulder beside her. She raised the lid and looked inside the nest of newspapers. "Oh, Mulder, you didn't."

"Yes I did," he said as Scully lifted the Golden Retriever puppy out of the box. "And you wouldn't believe what he did to the inside of my car." Mulder grinned, putting his arm around her. "Just think of him as my way of saying 'I'm sorry about Queequeg and Ishmael.' "

"Mulder, I was going to wait a while before I got another dog. This isn't fair." The puppy licked Scully on her cheek, lapping up the tears that were falling.

"I know." He drew her close and scratched the puppy behind his ears.

The End