Okay, first I have to *swear* that I started writing this several weeks before Erin posted the first installment of "Shrink." I guess 'tis the season to write about therapists.
I haven't posted anything since October 1998--see my story "Hallowed Eve" in the archives. But I have been reading stuff, and I apologize for not providing feedback. I'll try to make up for it in the next few weeks. For now: Kat F., Sharon B., Erin S., Izzy I., Adrian--you all rock. You're all wonderful. Don't stop.

****

Catharsis
F/F, Scully/Other
AUTHOR: Kate M. <scribegrrrl@yahoo.com>
RATING: NC-17
SUMMARY: Scully gets a little sexual healing.
WARNINGS: Some dark situations, some unethical behavior, some sadomasochism. (Also some joy and humor and warmth.) Not beta read.
SPOILERS: None
ARCHIVING: Anywhere is fine, but please let me know where.
FEEDBACK: Public and private are both appreciated. But I won't get cranky if you don't feed me....
DISCLAIMERS: Chris Carter and Tenthirteen and Fox and Etc. own Scully and Mulder and everything else to do with the X-Files. The movies and songs referred to in this story also belong to other people. I make no money from any of this. I do occasionally get an enjoyable evening out of it.
COPYRIGHT: Anything not mentioned in the disclaimer is mine. Don't steal it.

******

Catharsis
by Kate M. <scribegrrrl@yahoo.com>

******

--PROLOGUE--

She wanted to know what it felt like.

She blew a smoke ring into the air and said, drawing the words out, "Did it . . . shock you?"

I smiled a little, but didn't reply.

She turned to me and grinned devilishly, her eyes glinting. "Or was it strangely familiar, like an itch you had somehow forgotten to scratch?"

Not a word from me.

"Admit it, Dana... it was like an itch you got great relief from, once you raked your nails across just.."

She trailed a fingernail down my arm. I held my breath.

"... the right ..."

Her fingernail tripped lightly across my belly. A delicious tension covered me like a net.

"spot..."

She held perfectly still for a moment, then suddenly, precisely, with a grace that was almost angelic, touched the tip of my nose.

"Isn't that what it was like, Dana?" Her voice was sultry and slow.

I could only laugh, and nod, and scratch my nose, and stare up at the ceiling to watch the rings of smoke spread themselves thin and dissipate.

******

Monday, May 24, 1999
9:30 a.m.
West Woods Clinic
Bethesda, MD

Scully jumped, dropping the six-month-old issue of Time she'd been trying to focus on. Something had crashed or fallen just outside the door of the waiting room, something big and metallic-sounding.

The woman in the chair across from Scully laughed nervously. "That seems to happen a lot here," she said softly, "but I've never been able to figure out exactly what it is."

Scully smiled weakly and tried to re-settle herself. She wondered whether she ought to go see for herself what the noise had been, partly to allay her own curiosity, and partly to give herself a way to get away from the mousy woman opposite her, who'd spent the last half hour fussing and fidgeting, fiddling with her hair, her clothes, her jewelry, anything she could get her hands on.

Scully decided not to investigate the noise in the hall, knowing full well that she wasn't likely to come back if she stepped outside the waiting room. She'd had to make quite an effort to convince herself to keep the appointment in the first place. Of course, the none-too-subtle phone call from Skinner had provided a little extra push.

"I know it's not in your nature to admit vulnerability," he had muttered, sounding pinched and uncomfortable.

"Sir?" She had acted as if she didn't know what he could possibly be thinking, but had realized right away that she was only proving his point.

"I think it will help you to talk to someone, Scully," Skinner had said softly. "And the truth is, if you don't keep this appointment, Kirsch won't be pleased."

"Is Kirsch ever pleased, sir?"

Skinner had hung up without replying.

Scully tried to make the words on the page sit still, but they wouldn't. She threw the magazine down and looked up at the clock, just in time to see a slightly rumpled woman emerge from one of the doors on the opposite wall.

"Dana...um...Sully?" The woman looked up, smiling. A pair of Lennon-ish wire-rimmed glasses was perched on her head. She cradled a large stack of papers in her arms. Her clothes were professional in a comfortable sort of way, and her face was open and encouraging. She looked thoroughly approachable, much to Scully's dismay. She'd been hoping she'd be put off right away, and could then give herself permission to just walk out the door.

Scully sighed and stood up. "It's Scully, actually. There's a 'c' in there somewhere."

"Ah," the woman said sweetly, pulling her glasses off her head and holding them up to look through the lenses. She squinted at the top paper in the stack. "Yes, I see it there. Sorry about that; I hope you'll come in anyway."

Scully nodded and stepped into the slightly cluttered office. The woman followed close behind her, shutting the door.

"Have a seat wherever you'd like."

Scully took the regal-looking wing chair in the corner, knowing full well that it was probably not typically the patient's--"client's" was the preferred term, she'd heard--chair. {{I might as well be comfortable physically, since any other sort of comfort is out of the question.}}

"So, I'm Gwen Wilson, as you probably already know." The woman extended her hand.

"I gathered." Scully took her hand, pleasantly surprised by the firmness of the handshake.

"You can call me Gwen, or Dr. Wilson--whatever you prefer. And...what shall I call you?"

"A cab?" Scully said dryly, almost immediately regretting it as she saw a shadow of something like disappointment cross Gwen's face.

"Good one," Gwen said softly, taking a seat in the chair opposite Scully. She crossed her legs, propped her elbows on the arms of the chair, and threaded her fingers together. She looked like she was trying to convey an image of patience with her body language, but the expression on her face was one of slight annoyance.

Scully decided to play nice for the time being. "You can call me...Dana."

"All right, Dana," Gwen smiled, visibly relaxing a little. "Let's get started then, okay?"

Scully nodded and shifted in her chair. "How exactly do we do that?"

"Well, I've only heard a little about what happened. What I did hear didn't sound like fun. How are you holding up?"

"Fairly well, I think, considering."

"Would you feel comfortable giving me a brief summary of the whole thing, or should we just talk about how you're feeling instead? "

"Oh, I think I'd much prefer the summary, thanks."

"Go right ahead then--say as much or as little as you want." Gwen's face looked concerned but friendly.

{{I wonder whether there's a class in how to look like a therapist?}} Scully wondered grimly. But she had to admit that Gwen seemed genuinely nice so far.

Scully proceeded to relate the events of the three weeks of hell she had endured several months earlier. As she spoke, the details of her ordeal became almost tangible; she felt that if she were to reach out and touch the wall, she would feel the same strangely soft, textured wallpaper she'd touched every day during her captivity. It had become like a friend to her, a landmark, a reminder that she was not the only thing in the world; a reminder that she had a hand that could reach out, fingers that could touch, nerves that could accept input, a brain that could interpret what the nerves sent to it. And now her brain and nerves were reaching back there, and she could somehow sense the odd metallic taste in her mouth again, could feel the grit on her face, could smell the odor of her own unwashed and undernourished body.

She'd been taken suddenly, swiftly, silently, pulled from her drab room in a nondescript motel, where she had stopped to get some sleep. She'd had the crazy idea of taking a long solitary road trip to clear her head. She'd almost immediately realized that more time in a car was exactly what she *didn't* need, even though it was very different without Mulder there.

Ordinarily she was a light sleeper, but a fifteen-minute steaming shower, half a pizza, three-fourths of a bottle of wine, and one and a half bad movies had done their work, and her gun was unreachable by the time she'd realized that she'd been thrown over a stranger's shoulder.

Her kidnapper had taken her to the basement of what smelled like a rather old, and rather poorly kept, house. He had locked her in an empty room without so much as a word or a grunt. She'd remained there for three weeks, in utter silence and solitude.

During the night, she'd been in complete darkness, the sort of blackness that makes the eye strain to see something, anything. During the day, she'd had only the very dim light that found its way into the room through the crack at the bottom of the door and the slot at the very top of it. The slot was also used for food-dispensing-purposes, what little dispensing there was: two pieces of dry toast or a piece of wilting fruit once a week, and a bottle of water every other day. She'd had a love-hate relationship with the slot, sometimes wishing it would open wide and shower her with nourishment, and, more often toward the end of her captivity, wishing it would close its cruel, taunting mouth and leave her to die.

She'd spent the first two weeks trying to get out. She'd had no tools, not even a paper clip or an earring, but she had tried to use sheer will power to force the door open. She'd earned only bruises and cuts for her efforts, and had decided to spend the third week trying not to go crazy.

But the solitude had gotten to her, subtly, but deeply. Recalling it now, she felt her mind start to go down that path again--a path of distant, quiet voices, accompanied by the soothing rapid drumming of her fingertips against the wall and the harsh short scuffling of her breath.

Before the desperation could seduce her completely, she forced herself to return to the present, felt her hands grip the arms of the chair, heard herself clearing her own throat. She pulled her mind back from the murk.

She opened her eyes--she hadn't even realized they'd been closed--and was startled to see tears in the eyes of her new-found therapist.

Scully attempted light-heartedness, to put both herself and Gwen at ease. "That wasn't even half the story, actually. Was it that bad?" Her own voice sounded distant and strange to her. She tried to smile a little.

"It sounds like it was positively horrible, Dana."

Scully found it odd to hear. She found it odd to hear her first name from a stranger, and found it odd to hear sympathy from someone who didn't know her. She found it odd to be so understood, even on so shallow a level--no, what she really found odd was being in the presence of someone who was *trying* to understand, and who was openly compassionate.

And she found it nice. Instinctively, she exhaled slowly and fully. She felt her shoulders drop a little from their permanently tensed-up position. She let herself feel, just barely.

"It's nice to be able...to be able to remember it without shrieking, I guess."

She felt herself withdraw again then, pull back in the distance, stare at her life from afar, so she could stop feeling before she was able to do nothing but.

Gwen propped her chin on her hand and nodded. "May I ask you some questions, or is that all you want to say for now?"

Scully let out a short sharp laugh, which caused Gwen's right eyebrow to snake up in a question mark.

"I'm not used to being asked for permission to be interrogated," Scully explained. "Usually it's more a matter of 'Sit still, Agent Scully, and answer my questions.' So...it might take me a while to get used to this sort of interaction."

"Maybe we should backtrack, then," Gwen smiled. "During the first meeting with a new client, I usually do some introductory stuff--you know, talk about my credentials, and about how this whole thing works." She scratched her temple in an offhand, distracted way. "I don't know, maybe it's your classy, very 'together' demeanor--something made me skip over all that stuff this time."

Scully smiled, charmed by the admission. It seemed to close the distance between them a little. "I have been told I can be...intimidating, and even disconcerting."

"Perhaps that's true, perhaps it's not," Gwen smiled. "Regardless, I should have stuck to my routine. I am a great believer in regular habits, as long as they're good ones."

"I admire that," Scully said simply, without thinking about it.

"Thank you," Gwen said just as simply. Scully again found it odd; even simple acceptance of a compliment was something she did not seem to be used to hearing. Usually she could sense an ulterior motive, or could find something else behind the thanks, but with Gwen, honesty seemed to be the rule. It was fascinating.

"Well, here's the spiel." Gwen rearranged herself a little and cleared her throat.

As Gwen began to talk about What Therapy Should Be, Scully noticed something that made her breath catch.

"Excuse me--I'm sorry to interrupt, but..." Scully paused and shifted in her seat.

"Go ahead, please. That's one of things I was going to tell you--that you should interrupt me whenever you feel like it."

"That watch you're wearing--where did you get it?"

Gwen's brows creased together in confusion. "My...watch?" She hitched up her sleeve and held her wrist out to Dana, who was nearly falling off her chair in an effort to see the watch more clearly.

Dana extended her own wrist and held it next to Gwen's. The watches were indeed identical, an uncommon mix of silver, gold, and copper, with simple square faces and thick chain link bands.

"I've...never seen another one like it," Dana said slowly. "I had started to think I had the only one." She watched the sun glinting off the copper, fascinated by the symmetry--and the contrasts--between the two wrists. Both were sleek, held firmly, both hands curled in a fist, both watches well cared for. But where Dana's wrist was sleek and fair, Gwen's was stronger, bigger, and darker. They represented different approaches to a similar end: a strong and complex beauty.

"I haven't seen another of these either," Gwen said softly. "I always figured that was because it's a man's watch, but it looks fairly feminine, so it didn't really find a market, and almost nobody bought it."

Scully looked up, nodding in agreement, still stunned, and seemed to see Gwen a little more clearly, almost as if for the first time. The contrast between them did not stop at their wrists. Scully's blue-grey eyes met chocolate-brown eyes. Gwen's hair was much longer than Scully's, raining down her back in thick dark braids. Scully's smile was not often seen, but Gwen's was ready, open, like a hug. She showed that smile now, pleased and puzzled by the strength of Scully's reaction to a simple coincidence. The wonder on Scully's face made her look almost childlike, and Gwen could not help but feel glad that there was still some joy hidden under all the armor Scully wore--armor she had obviously been wearing like a second skin for quite some time.

Scully finally smiled a little too, and shrugged. "I guess I just find it strange that I'd actually meet someone who shares my odd taste in jewelry."

"Well, you could call it fate, if you want, or you could just call it a wacky coincidence." Gwen's eyes were smiling too, and Scully let her own smile broaden.

"Or you could still call me a cab, like I asked at the beginning of this little adventure."

Gwen wagged her finger at Scully, an odd gesture that made Scully feel like a little kid. "I'm not going to have an easy time with you, am I? You're stubborn. Recalcitrant."

Scully laughed, a bubbly sort of laugh that she herself hadn't heard in a long time. "Okay, but that's too much. It's weird enough that you're wearing my watch, but you actually know what the word 'recalcitrant' means? That's unheard of."

"What's unheard of is me laughing this early in the first session with a client." Gwen shook her head in amazement, and a little shame. She considered herself a consummate professional, and almost never varied from her well-established routine. Over the years, she had discovered several effective ways to put her clients at ease and to draw them into the open, exploratory space that honest, confidential conversation could inhabit, but this time it seemed she was being drawn in by her client. It was not the usual way of things.

Scully cleared her throat and toned down the brightness of her smile. "Well, then let's get back to business, Dr. Wilson."

"Actually Dana, I think that's up to you." Gwen's voice was serious again. "That's part of what I need to make very clear: you're the director of this movie. Whatever you say goes."

Scully raised one eyebrow, always suspicious of things like free reign and free lunch. "You're forgetting that this wasn't exactly my idea."

"Okay, fair enough. Let's talk about why Skinner thought you should come here."

Scully bristled a little, still uncomfortable with the idea that someone thought she needed help. "Ah. Perhaps you should ask him that question."

"He's not here, Dana. You are."

Scully cleared her throat. "Fine."

But she stopped, her mouth dry, her mind raising a brick wall.

"Actually, I have a really hard time...admitting things like...vulnerability." She cringed as she heard Skinner's words in her own voice.

"Okay. Is it all right if I guess why you're here?"

Scully nodded.

"Stop me if I go off the track. I'm guessing that you went through the mandatory debriefing and counseling provided by the Bureau after your ordeal. That consisted mostly of you relating the details of what happened, and of them telling you that it wasn't your fault and that you did everything you could. You were probably given some sleep aids, and were encouraged to exercise to take out any aggression you might still be feeling toward your kidnapper. And you felt incredibly supported, embraced, and nurtured by your peers, because they asked you how you were doing and didn't shy away from you. They took you out to lunch, bought you gifts, and tried to cheer you up any way they could."

Scully just waited, fascinated and frightened. Gwen let the words continue to pour in a smooth and steady stream, uncertain why she felt the need to do so, but trusting her instincts.

"But despite all that support and help and the pills, you haven't slept much since you returned to your normal routines. You haven't been able to get certain images out of your head. You haven't been able to concentrate. You haven't been able to un-hunch your shoulders. You haven't had a deep conversation with anyone at all--in fact, you carry on jovial, shallow conversations with people you wouldn't even have spoken to before this whole thing happened. Almost everything you do is part of your effort to maintain a reassuring air and put people at ease, to get things back to normal. But your co-workers have seen you staring at the screen saver for minutes at a time, they've seen you pick at the food that doesn't taste like anything at all to you, and they've seen the dark circles under those stunningly clear, cool eyes of yours.

"They know that something's missing, that you're missing, that you haven't fully returned to this world you call your life. And they know that you're fooling yourself when you tell yourself you're strong, when in fact a piece of you is falling off with every step you take. They know that if you don't take a good look in the mirror and figure out that you're lying to yourself and to them, you'll probably shatter completely someday, on the day you realize that you're not Dana Scully, exceptionally competent FBI agent who's better than everybody else, but Dana Scully, exceptionally fragile human who can be abducted, trapped, and broken, just like the rest of us poor average folks."

Scully still waited, but now she was not fascinated; she was appalled, gutted, hurt.

Gwen saw the wounded look on Scully's face and cringed a little, but was also glad. It looked like she'd put a chink in Scully's exceptionally sturdy mental walls, and that now she would get something real. Still, she knew she'd gone too far, too soon.

Gwen sighed. "You can walk out of here if you need to, Dana, but I hope you'll see my loudmouth speech as an open door, an invitation for you to make a speech of your own I just want to know how you feel." She spoke softly, wishing she could extend her wrist to match Scully's again, or could somehow make some kind of connection.

Scully opened her mouth, then closed it. She shook her head. She held her eyes wide open to dry out the tears that had started to form.

Finally she said, in a husky voice, "I was going to make a crack about your shitty bedside manner, but I realized that if I did that, you'd just accuse me of using humor to distance myself from others."

Scully tried to laugh, but ended up half-shivering, half-sobbing. She stared at the floor.

"Dana."

Scully looked up, again finding it odd to hear such a kind, giving voice speak her first name. Gwen's soft brown eyes were even stranger to her, because they seemed to both cut right through her and wrap around her and hold her up.

"I'm sorry that hurt you. But I'm trying to get through that big shield you had to build while you were in that basement room, and have probably had to build for other reasons all your life. I'm trying to get in there and see what you're really like, because then I can help you get in there too."

Scully thought for a moment, then nodded. She felt light-headed. "I guess I didn't know what to expect here. I guess I thought you'd just ask me a lot of questions. I didn't think you'd actually try to actually..." She tried to stop the slow tears, but couldn't. "I didn't think you'd actually try to see me."

Gwen reached out her hand, knowing she shouldn't. When Scully took it, some kind of warmth traveled from hand to hand, and from open friendly eyes to cautious cool eyes.

"I see you, Dana. I hope that you'll let me see more."

******

Thursday, May 27, 1999
3:12 a.m.
Scully's apartment

<<She runs down the hall, as she has so many times before. The room is behind her now. The cold dull walls and the slot in the door are behind her. They are behind her as she runs. She runs and runs to keep them behind her.

But when she turns to look over her shoulder, she can still see them, the slot in the door and the door and the room, they are behind her, but they are right behind her, as if she has only just stepped through the door, as if she has run only three or four steps, three or four very tiny steps. She runs faster and squints into the blackness ahead of her, trying to distinguish something, a shape, a glint of light, anything. She runs harder.

She is too afraid to look over her shoulder again. She simply runs.>>

<<>>

Scully awoke with a start, sweating, shaking. She'd had the dream every few nights since she'd regained her freedom. Just when she thought she'd had it for the last time, it would come back, darker, more urgent, somehow even more unsettling than before.

And it exhausted her. Despite her terror, her clenching heart, the dots of sweat on her face, her seized-up muscles, she could never stay awake after the dream. Her eyelids would fall and she'd settle back down in the too-warm bed, unable to resist. Her brain would fight, fearing the dream would only start up again, but her body would drag her back down into thick, muddy sleep.

Her fears of returning to sleep were usually justified. Tonight the dream began again almost immediately, and she ran, not daring to look over her shoulder, unable to move her heavy legs and burning feet any faster than they were already moving.

<<She heard a scream and almost turned around to see who was screaming, before she realized it was her own terrified howl.

Suddenly she fell. No; suddenly, the ground she was running on fell away. She tumbled into blackness, her arms and legs cutting wide useless swaths of air, and she heard that disembodied scream again, her own. She seemed to fall forever. She finally closed her eyes, unable to keep looking down at nothing.

And then she was underwater, under warm water, and she pulled her eyes as far open as they would go.

The water was clear, clean, calm. She paddled her way back up to the surface.

The sun was shockingly bright. She squinted up at the sapphire sky and tried to get her bearings. She was in a calm lake, surrounded on all sides by lush plants, unbelievably vibrant greens and reds, and solid, comforting cliffs, ancient, quiet grey.

The room and the door and the slot in the door were nowhere to be seen.

She felt herself start to cry with joy.

She swam a little, enjoying the therapeutic feel of the gently resisting water against her tired muscles. She glanced around, finding it hard to believe she really was free of the darkness and the cold tiny room. She floated on her back, and it was only when she did so that she realized she was naked. The realization made her laugh, a hearty gurgly laugh.

She rolled over and swam some more, then dog-paddled a bit. She tried to decide where the nearest shore was, but it seemed she was precisely in the middle of the lake.

When she turned to look to her left, she saw a figure, too far away to identify, but close enough to look familiar.

For some reason, she was not afraid.

The figure began to swim toward her, and she slowly began to swim toward it as well. As the distance between them closed, she realized who it was, and swam faster.

"Dr. Scully." The braids, the wide smile, the kind chocolate eyes.

Scully smiled broadly. "You're calling me 'Dr. Scully' now? What happened to 'Dana'?"

"What happened to Dana? Well, she's just come home, I think." Gwen suddenly held her wrist high in the air and looked at her watch, the watch that was identical to Scully's. Gwen smiled. "It's high time she arrived."

Scully reached out her arms and pulled Gwen close. She kissed her fully and deeply, wrapping her legs around Gwen, feeling her warmth even in the warm water.

She broke away laughing, joy-filled. She swam with Gwen to the shore and made love to her on warm moss-covered rocks. She kissed her again and again, as long as possible and everywhere possible, savoring her skin, relishing her.>>

<<>>

Scully awoke with a start again, but she was not sweating this time, nor was her head pounding. She put the fuzzy pieces of the dream back together in her head, and rolled her eyes when she realized what she'd been doing in her subconscious.

"Great," she muttered, rolling onto her stomach and pushing her face into the pillow. "One session and I'm already hot for my shrink. What a cliche."

******

Thursday, May 27, 1999
7:30 p.m.
Scully's apartment

*Beep.*

Scully kicked her shoes off and flopped onto the couch, expecting to hear another of Mulder's dizzying, agitated messages.

"Dana, this is Gwen Wilson." The voice was quiet but clear--clearer than her answering machine usually managed to be.

Scully sat up. She hadn't forgotten her dream, and the sound of Gwen's voice brought it back into her mind with full force.

"I just wanted to follow up on the session we had Monday. I know that I was somewhat...aggressive. I apologize for that."

Scully smirked. She thought she could hear a little shake in the cool therapist's voice.

"I just wanted to make sure that you want to keep your appointment next week. And I wanted to...well, no, that's all I wanted to do, actually. So...call me and let me know, when you can, about the appointment. You have my number." A nervous throat-clearing sound preceded the dial tone.

Scully ran her fingers through her hair and closed her eyes. On Monday, she'd felt quite sure that she didn't want to see Gwen again. After the initial breakthrough, during which Scully had felt almost empowered by the compassion Gwen had shown, the rest of the session had gone rather badly. Somehow, every question Gwen asked had put Scully on the defensive. Questions about Scully's father, about what it was like to grow up Catholic, about why she'd joined the FBI.

And Gwen had made the serious error of asking about Mulder.

Scully didn't know why, but she never felt like talking about her relationship with Mulder. Not at all. Maybe that was because she and Mulder had never discussed it--had never really said anything about friendship or love, though they had danced around the topic more than a few times. Perhaps she feared that breaking that code of silence would make it all go sour.

She knew that her love for Mulder was not sexual, nor even all that affectionate. It was based on a sort of cherishing, an appreciation for who he was--period. If she tried, she could analyze it further, and pick out some specific characteristics of his that she admired, like his ability to be gentle with strangers when he managed to notice that they needed an understanding ear, and, of course, his persistence in pursuing the truth. But none of those aspects of him, or of their relationship, were as profound and meaningful to her as the whole, and she couldn't quite characterize the whole. Often the way they understood each other was mysterious, unfounded and unreasonable. But it had become as important and as natural to her as the air she breathed.

Maybe that was why she didn't like to talk about it--she couldn't really figure it out. Or maybe it was because she was pretty sure that almost nobody would be able to really figure it out, no matter how hard they tried. It seemed futile, and almost insulting, to try to explain away something that just...just *was.*

Not even a therapist would be able to explain it. Not even one who said, "Look, I'm gay. I have a pretty open mind about relationships, so you can tell me how you feel about Mulder."

Now *that* little revelation had sent a strange shimmer up Scully's spine. And, apparently, it had implanted something in her subconscious, something that had sprouted into the dream that had distracted her all day.

Although she had appreciated Gwen's frankness, Scully had refused to say anything at all about Mulder during the session, and Gwen had eventually given up. The session had ended coldly, formally.

But, whether it was the silly fact that they were wearing the same unusual wristwatch, or the fact that Gwen had seen so startlingly clearly into Scully's fears and into the effects of her captivity, something had stuck in Scully's brain, leaving her a little shaky, uncertain, and certainly intrigued by Dr. Wilson.

{{It was strangely intimate,}} she wrote in her journal that night. {{Almost too much so. The way she looked at me, the ease with which she looked right at me and...into me.}}

{{Why do I have to analyze--and dream about--everything?}}

Scully shook her head and stood up, leaving her bag on the couch and her shoes in the hall. She shuffled to the bathroom, certain that a bubble bath would have its usual clarifying effect.

The water hissed and gurgled in fits, fighting its way out of the faucet. Cool blue liquid dove down from the bottle in Scully's hand, then folded back on itself before it was transformed into thick suds.

One sock. Two. A rumple of black, as a handsome pair of trousers fell to the floor. A tailored hip-length black jacket landing gently on top of them. A pearl-grey satin short-sleeved shirt cascading through the air, falling slowly.

Electric blue cotton underwear adding a splash of shocking color to the demure heap of fabric. Cotton grey jog bra, soft and well-worn, dangling in a careless pose atop the lot of it.

A careful toe gingerly testing the steaming water.

"Uhhhhhh." The voice a low rumble of relief.

Toes feet ankles calves knees thighs, settling, prickling to life in the hot water, muscles jumping for joy in the soothing rippling sudsy embrace.

"Yesssss." The voice lighter now, airy.

The hands slowly reaching forward, lazily turning the handles of the faucet. The shifting and adjusting, the search for the perfect position, chin just above the water.

A pause. The eyes closed, the breath slow. A fragment of a dream tumbling through the brain. An exhilarating sensation of freedom, excitement, unfettered sensuality.

The fingers suddenly sure and strong, caressing breasts, sliding smoothly over the slope of the belly.

A careful teasing touch, almost immediately growing insistent, the swirling suds gathering as if to help out, knees rising a little, then more.

Fingers flat, pressing, swaying, rippling like the water. Other fingers jumping, reaching, urgent. A push and a pull, hand versus hand, dipping, lifting, curving and tugging.

Slosh slosh slosh. Silence.

A final, sudden slosh, the knees falling, the hands still, the once sea-level chin thrown high, the back of the head christened in suds.

A sly slow smile.

A thumping heart and a heat-rushed head.

"Sure," she whispered. "I'll go to therapy next week. I'll get in touch with my...with my fucking feelings."

******

Tuesday, June 1, 1999
2:30 p.m.
West Woods Clinic
Bethesda, MD

"Come in, Dana."

Gwen's smiling face instantly made Scully feel unsettled again. She'd been trying to think of anything but her ordeal or her dream--the latter having disturbed her almost as much as the former. She had not been able to get the dream out of her mind all weekend, and had filled pages of her journal with speculation about whether she was gay, crazy, or just really lonely.

She hadn't arrived at much of a conclusion, but when she saw Gwen's face, she thought maybe it was a combination of all three.

Scully settled into a different chair than she had selected during the previous session. "Does this mean something?" she asked idly.

"Does what mean something?" Gwen sat in the same chair she had sat in before, but this time it was next to Scully, rather than across from her.

"The fact that I sat in a different chair than I did last time. Does that mean anything, like I can't commit, or that I'm especially mercurial at heart?"

Gwen laughed softly. "It probably means that you feel like sitting in a different chair today."

Scully smiled in spite of herself. "Okay, good. I guess that, just because I analyze everything, doesn't mean you have to--even if you are the shrink."

"Do you analyze everything?" Gwen's face was serious.

"Well, I guess the session has started," Scully joked.

"No time like the present."

"Sure. Okay. Yes, I do tend to analyze everything, but that is a strong asset in my line of work."

"I don't doubt that," Gwen nodded. "But is work life, and is life work? Are they the same to you?"

Scully hated the question as soon as she heard it. "Couldn't you have waited a few sessions to get to that? Do we have to focus on one of my biggest problems right away?"

Gwen looked confused. "It was just a question, Dana."

"Fine. Yes, work is life, and life is work, and that is all I know on earth, and all I need to know."

"Yeats. Ode on a Grecian Urn. Clever," Gwen smiled.

"I wasn't trying to be clever." Scully felt irritated but didn't know why. "I'm trying to say let's not talk about work right now. Let's talk about something else."

"Okay. Like how it felt to be abducted?'"

"No!" Scully was surprised to hear the anger in her own voice. "That's the same as talking about work, really."

"Okay." Gwen waved her hands. "I'm clearing the air. Let's start over. How was your week?"

"That question is about work too." Scully half laughed at the absurdity of the situation.

"Okay, I guess that's true. I'm sorry. Let's see..." Gwen tapped her temple as if she were summoning something up from the inner wrinkles of her brain. "Well, if you're really working every waking hour, then we might as well talk about the only time you're not working--when you're asleep. Let's talk about your dreams."

Scully blushed a deep crimson.

"Well, I must have hit on something there," Gwen smiled. "Tell me what you've been dreaming lately."

Scully tried to regain her composure, and almost refused to reply. But something in her wanted to know how Gwen would react. She slowly described the nightmare of non-stop running, and was again touched by what looked like genuine sadness in Gwen's eyes.

"That's horrible, Dana. Do you ever make any progress at all in the dream? Do you ever find your way out?"

Scully took a deep breath. "I did the other night," she said softly.

"Good. What happened?"

"I fell into some sort of wonderful blue lagoon and...made love with someone I barely know in real life."

"Wow! Well, that's quite a nice ending to a terrible nightmare." Gwen smiled that full, open smile again.

{{Here it comes,}} Scully thought. She nodded and squinted a little.

"Do you want to tell me who you made love with in the dream, or does it seem irrelevant?"

"Oh, I'm sure it's not irrelevant at all. But it does have a rather...unsettling effect on me."

"Okay. Well, you don't have to tell me if you don't want to, but it might point us in the right direction. Maybe this person could be some sort of aid to recovery in real life. Maybe your subconscious is trying to tell you that."

"Oh, I'm sure this person could help." Scully was starting to find it all rather funny. "I'm sure she's already helping me, actually."

If Gwen was shocked by the pronoun, she did not show it. "Well, that's good then. Do you think maybe you want to get a little closer to her in real life?"

"I doubt that would be a good idea." Scully sighed, realizing she was about to take this as far as it would go, and certain the outcome was not going to be nearly as splendorous as her dream.

"Why's that?"

"Because you'd be breaking whatever code of ethics applies to people in your profession," Scully said simply.

This time the surprise showed on the therapist's face. "I--I'm not sure I---"

"I dreamt about you, Gwen." Scully looked at the floor, embarrassed but excited, and propelled by some long-buried sense of recklessness to tell the whole story. "You were in the lake, and I swam toward you as fast as I could, and we kissed, deeper and longer than I've ever imagined a kiss could be. Then we swam to the shore and made love. Several times."

She paused for effect, and to quell the arousal that had begun to flutter somewhere near her stomach. She kept her eyes fixed on the floor.

"It was really really good, actually--I felt sated, and simultaneously very...sensitive...when I woke up." Scully's voice was almost a whisper, and she could tell her cheeks were flushed again.

Gwen cleared her throat.

"Dana, it's not uncommon for clients to place a lot of trust and hope in their therapists."

Scully let out a short sharp laugh. "Wow, that was a textbook response." She rolled her eyes and finally looked up, meeting Gwen's steady gaze.

But the steadiness in the chocolate eyes wavered. Gwen sighed and winced a little.

"What did you think I would say, Scully? That yes, I'm attracted to you too, so why don't we just get it on right here on the floor?"

Scully blushed again. "No, I didn't think you'd say that."

"You know as well as I do that there's a line in this kind of working relationship," Gwen continued, "and I won't cross it, no matter how very much I might be tempted to."

Scully's eyebrows went up sharply. "Should I..should I take that as a compliment?"

"Yes." Gwen sighed and walked over to the window. "The truth is--and I know I shouldn't say this--but the truth is that the minute I saw you, I wished you would just turn around and walk out the door, because then maybe I'd bump into you in a grocery store somewhere and could ask you for your phone number. But I was also terrified that you really might walk out the door, because even though becoming your therapist would mean I'd never get to figure out why my first look at you made a strong surge of heat course through me, I also didn't want to risk never seeing you again."

Scully was stunned. She tried to focus on her breathing, and cleared her throat. "Dr. Wilson, those speeches of yours sure do pack a punch."

They both laughed softly, glad the tension had been broken.

But there seemed to be nothing left to say. Gwen returned to her chair and sat silently, smiling a little. Finally Scully offered, "It must be difficult, to see people every day who touch you in various ways, and to never really be able to get close to them."

Now Gwen was stunned, and flooded with a sense of gratitude at the understanding. "Yes, Dana, it is extremely difficult. It's almost enough to make me quit my job, but not quite."

Scully sat up a little straighter, attempting to restore the sense of decorum for which she was well-known and, often, for which she was avoided. "Well, I'm glad you haven't quit. Because I do think you will be able to help me, in your present capacity, that is. I'm sure we can keep things at a professional level. And I'll try not to have any more dreams about you."

"Well, no reason to drop me right away now, is there?"

They laughed again, and Scully felt unguardedly happy for the first time in a long while.

"So..." Gwen said carefully. "I'm going to hazard a guess that you don't generally dream about making love to a woman. Should we talk about that?"

Scully sighed loudly and rolled her eyes.

"You know what? Talking about work is starting to sound pretty good right now."

******

Friday, June 4, 1999
10:15 p.m.
Scully's apartment

<<Pause. Rewind. Play.>>

The kiss was sudden and fierce, but also tender, even tentative, yet insistent and exploring. The breath grew heavier, hands reached and grasped. Two souls and bodies pulled at each other, eager, thrilled.

<<Pause. Rewind. Play.>>

Scully watched the kiss five times in a row, mesmerized by the beauty of it. Perhaps it was the late afternoon light in the scene, or the almost voyeuristic camera angle, or the relative silence that accompanied the sweet culmination of the longing that had been building in both the characters and in Scully herself. More likely, she was simply mesmerized by the beauty of the two women in the movie--a beauty that went beyond physical features to a strange spiritual centeredness, and a quiet strength that Scully had always hoped to someday achieve.

It was her second movie of the evening. She'd left work much earlier than usual, having taken it into her head to spend the weekend indulging her new-found fascination with women--no, not just with women. With the idea of kissing a woman, touching her, discovering her, holding her long into the night.

Since relating the details of her lush, sensuous dream to her kind-eyed therapist, Scully had read a couple of books, but was not satisfied. She'd hoped for something that would make it all come clear, something that would help her decide whether she was experiencing a passing fancy, or a profound revelation of at least part, if not the whole, of her sexual identity. She'd had two more decidedly woman-centered dreams since the first--another in which Gwen was the object of her affections, and one than was an odd mix of a bathroom encounter with Jodie Foster and an afternoon in the park with Gertrude Stein.

She'd decided to try another investigative route: movies. She'd taken the time to search the Internet before leaving work, knowing full well that she wouldn't feel comfortable asking an adolescent video store clerk for some movies about lesbians.

So she'd stumbled through her apartment door with a stack of films ranging from the laughable to the divine: Bar Girls, Claire of the Moon, Personal Best, High Art, and the one that currently had her enchanted, When Night is Falling. She'd also given in to a weak moment and rented one she'd noticed in one of the disheveled stacks of tapes at Mulder's apartment: Bondage Babes VI. She figured that one might be more appealing, or at least less offensive, after she'd had a few more glasses of wine.

Meanwhile, the players on the screen were unfolding their drama with a skill and a care that made Scully feel warm and enchanted--not unlike the way Gwen's brown eyes made her feel.

{{Gwen.}} Her thoughts had been returning to her therapist more frequently than she wanted to admit. The last session had been rather difficult; after the revelation of her dream, Scully had grudgingly recounted the details of her working life, the sterile offices, the properly perfunctory conversations, the grey suits, the 18:1 male-female ratio. And the good stuff too: the challenges, the rewards, the strength and fascination that was the natural result of being "on the inside," in an elite group.

But Gwen's face had grown increasingly saddened as Scully had talked about her job and her co-workers. When Scully asked why, Gwen had shrugged.

"I'm not sure yet. When you talk about work, something in you changes. I don't know you well enough to say exactly what it is."

Scully had laughed it off and attributed it to the fact that Gwen really didn't know her at all, but the idea had been simmering in the back of her mind.

The truth was that she had long--perhaps as long as she'd been working--been putting on a different face at work. She had, almost instinctively, done what was necessary in order to succeed, and had never wondered why. Often that had meant tolerating blatant sexism; sometimes it had meant denying her own beliefs or morals in favor of orders, protocol, and justice; occasionally it had meant retracting something she had said and believed in. It had not quite involved betrayal--no, nothing so direct. Instead, she had found ways to sidestep issues, let compromises go unspoken, give in without giving up.

Acknowledging this fact was an activity she seldom undertook, and then only briefly. She had not even toyed with the idea of coming clean about it to Gwen.

But tonight, work and its woes were left at the office--both her own office and the therapist's office--and Scully's lips were curled up at the corners, her stomach was satisfied, and her romantic leanings were decidedly stronger than usual.

She felt...free. Maybe it was the wine; maybe it was the fact that she had not had the nightmare for a few nights. Whatever it was, it was so comfortable, and friendly, and safe.

----------

11:30 p.m.

When the credits rolled, closing the curtain on the luxurious delights of When Night is Falling, Scully felt positively euphoric, and definitely enamored of both of the leads in the movie.

She also, she had to admit, felt pretty squirmy. As in ready to squirm out of her clothes and slide into the silken sheets of a canopy bed in a moonlit room, where she'd wrap her lithe arms and legs around a woman, any woman, any shape, size, color, or creed. She thought she could physically feel the need for it, even though she didn't know exactly what it would feel like.

She thought briefly of taking another bath, but a glance over at the stack of movies posed an intriguing, though somewhat embarrassing, possibility: Bondage Babes VI. She knew it was likely to be male-oriented, stagey, and juvenile; but she thought she might at least get off on it a little.

Scully checked all the blinds and curtains, feeling like a little kid. Then she walked into the bathroom, curious to see her own expression.

She was a little startled by what she saw in the mirror. Despite the wine, her eyes looked clearer than usual, and there was a slight flush to her cheeks that made her look more alive than usual. She ran her fingers through her hair and enjoyed the feel of it. She gave herself a little smile, amazed by the openness of it, and shuffled back to the living room.

She popped the tape in the VCR, both excited and apprehensive.

Five minutes into the movie, she was starting to regret it. There were three "babes" in the movie: two bleached-blonde white women, and a stereotypically "exotic" Asian woman. Scully found their appearance alone very offensive. When one of the women took off her blouse, revealing thoroughly fake-looking breasts, Scully rolled her eyes and pressed the fast-forward button on the remote.

She let the tape shuttle forward at high speed through several ridiculous "masturbation" scenes. She watched with one eye shut when the "businessmen" characters in the movie decided to partake in the fun.

She was about to give up when one of the blonde women tied the other blonde woman to a table. She pressed play, then muted the sound, deciding to bring her own context to the scene.

The woman doing the tying was clad in a snug and skimpy one-piece leather garment. It featured convenient cut-aways for her breasts and crotch, something that made Scully snort in embarrassed amusement. The woman on the table was completely naked. As blonde #1 tied blonde #2's wrists and ankles--the latter at an angle that looked decidedly uncomfortable--Scully grimaced.

But what happened next made her tingle a little. Blonde #1 slowly and carefully knelt above blonde #2's face. Blonde #2 complied with the unspoken wish and began to kiss and lick blonde #1, who wriggled with delight.

Scully cleared her throat a little and took a sip of wine.

Suddenly the Asian woman appeared in the scene, also dressed in a dominatrix getup of some sort, replete with a studded collar and studded bracelets. Scully squinted a little as she realized that the woman was also sporting a strap-on dildo. It was impossibly long, of course, and "realistically" fashioned. Scully giggled a little again, wondering whether there were ever short dildos in porn movies, or dildos that looked like a vegetable, or an animal, or anything other than a penis.

Blonde #2, still dutifully lapping away at Blonde #1, was soon bucking against the Asian woman's "appendage," and the Asian woman was fondling blonde #2's exposed breasts with one hand and her own crotch with the other.

It was, she had to admit, slightly interesting to Scully. Carefully, almost fearfully, she caressed her own breasts, trying to match the rhythm of the ridiculously long nails that were raking across Blonde #1's nipples.

Just when she thought she might get into it a little, the businessmen entered the scene, no longer content to watch, and not being very shy about their intentions.

"Oh, forget it," Scully groaned, pressing stop, then eject. "This is *so* not erotic."

She leaned her head against the back of the couch and stared up at the ceiling. She stroked her stomach absent-mindedly, now more interested in finding some sort of comfort somewhere than in fulfilling the other need she'd begun to feel.

She glanced over at the clock. If she left Gwen a message at near-midnight on a Friday night, would Gwen consider her seriously disturbed?

Did she care, on this self-indulgent night, what Gwen thought? What anybody thought?

She stood up and paced a little, then picked up the phone and dialed Gwen's office number, shifting on her feet, unable to stand still.

"Hi Gwen, it's Sc...it's Dana. It's Friday night, and I'm...well, I'm pathetic, frankly. I keep thinking about...."

She could almost feel that last glass of wine hit her just hard enough to loosen her tongue a little more.

"...I keep thinking about women, about you. I guess I was hoping you could...make some sort of suggestion, in terms of what I should about this...vaguely hungry feeling I'm having."

She sighed loudly into the phone.

"Oh, forget it. I'm sorry. You're my therapist, not my social advisor, and I apologize. I'll see you next week."

She hung up and shuffled off to bed.

<<She's in the room again. It's danker, darker, worse somehow. She can't see the slot in the door. It's too stuffy and she begins to feel like she cannot breathe.

A ray of light comes from somewhere. She squints into it.

A woman, fully clothed in black leather, her long black hair shiny in the dim light, suddenly appears in the center of the room.

"Take off your clothes, Dana," the woman says in an electronic-sounding voice.

Scully disrobes, slowly, staring at the woman, confused, but not afraid.

The woman presses her hand against Scully's bare back, encouraging her to bend over. Scully gets down on all fours, still squinting at the strange light, wondering where it came from.

{{Crack.}}

The whip comes down hard, lashing, cutting deeper than she would have thought possible.

Her back is soon in ribbons, and the light has faded. It is dark again, and she is alone again, and now it hurts like hell.>>

<<>>

******

Saturday, June 5, 1999
8:22 p.m.
The Supreme Bean Coffeehouse
Washington, D.C.

Scully looked at the clock again. Yes, it was time to admit it. It was starting to look like she'd been stood up.

She stared into her almost-empty glass. She'd been waiting almost forty-five minutes, and she didn't think she could make the last inch of latte last any longer.

{{Might as well drain it and go get another one, I guess.}} She swallowed the lukewarm coffee and scooted her chair away from the table.

"Wait, don't get up," she heard a voice say behind her. "I'll get you one of my special privileges."

Scully turned her head. Gwen was walking to the counter with that big, open smile.

Scully watched Gwen place the order, enjoying the animated way she talked, the fluid gestures she made, the leather jacket she was wearing, the perfect fit of her black jeans.

She felt herself blush. {{I'm failing miserably at keeping things professional.}}

Gwen returned to the table with two mochas, each topped with a flourish of whip cream and a harmless-looking chocolate-covered espresso bean.

"Mmm, I love these," Scully smiled, concentrating on her coffee, a little bit afraid to look at Gwen.

"No, you haven't had one of these." Gwen's leather jacket creaked as she settled in the chair opposite Scully's.

"Sure I have. Not here, but I've had a mocha before."

"But this one has a little extra something in it."

Scully was still unimpressed.

"Ah, come on Dana, I'm trying to intrigue you. Believe me, you have not had one of these particular mochas ever before in your life. It will transform you. It will change your life."

Scully smiled and gave Gwen a sidelong look. "Okay, fine, I'm intrigued. Are you happy?"

"Very. Not to mention sorry I'm late."

Scully ate the espresso bean and a couple of spoonfuls of whipped cream. Then she took a careful sip of the coffee.

'What--amaretto?"

"Shh, keep your voice down. They don't exactly have a license for this stuff."

"Wow," Scully whispered, "you must really be a mover and a shaker in this town."

Gwen laughed, a deep, slow laugh that made Scully break into one of her own too-rare, too-broad grins.

"Maybe on the dance floor," Gwen winked, "but not in very many other ways. Not in public, at least."

Scully felt herself blush again. "Let's get back to that professional level, shall we?"

Gwen nodded. "You're right. What am I thinking? It's not like it's Saturday and I am no longer bound by protocol."

Scully raised an eyebrow. "I thought you professional caretaker types were always aware of your positions of power. Or are you more like cops, who freely show their wild sides when they go off duty?"

Gwen smiled mischievously. "Only with clients who leave me midnight messages about how hungry they are for a woman."

Scully blushed fully now, from her cheeks to her forehead to the tips of her ears. "Touche."

"Seriously, Dana," Gwen said softly. "I'm not interested in playing the distant, objective therapist with you right now." Seeing Scully's raised eyebrow, she added quickly, "Nor am I trying to seduce you. It just sounded like you could use a friend, and possibly a little introduction to the lesbian scene around here."

Scully's eyebrow only went up a little higher. "Aren't you worried about...about getting caught, or something? What if Skinner were to walk in here?"

Gwen laughed. "Does Skinner usually hang out in lesbian coffeehouses?"

Scully, startled, twisted in her chair to look around the room. "Well, I did think there were an awful lot of women here," she smiled. "I guess I just figured I'm more aware of them than I used to be."

"Well, that's certainly possible. Several of them seem to be very aware of you."

Scully nearly choked on her coffee. She refused to look around, but could swear she could suddenly feel dozens of pairs of eyes staring at her.

"Gwen. Stop it."

"Sorry," Gwen smiled. "Okay, so do you want to tell me what made you so...dissatisfied last night?"

Scully cleared her throat. "Well, I was watching some movies."

"Uh-oh. Not Personal Best, I hope."

This got a chuckle from Scully. "Well, I did rent that one, but I haven't watched it yet."

"Don't, I urge you," Gwen said rather melodramatically. "It's pretty bad."

Scully just smiled. "Probably most things are, compared to When Night is Falling."

"Ahh," Gwen sighed. Scully marveled at the luxuriousness of the sigh. "Now *that's* a positive, wonderful movie," Gwen nodded. "I'm glad you came across that one."

"So am I."

"And I can see why that make you want a little...action. Or, rather, would make you want...possibility."

"Yes, that's a good way to put it. But..." Scully shook her head.

"Yes?" Gwen looked concerned, and leaned forward a little.

"Well, I don't really know what I'm doing. I'm not sure I'm gay, I'm *really* not sure why all of a sudden I'm having the kinds of dreams I'm having, and I have absolutely no idea what to do about any of it. And I'm supposed to be focusing on healing, not on chasing my hormones."

"Okay, listen, Dana." Suddenly Gwen's hand was on her own, and Scully pulled back involuntarily. But Gwen's fingers trapped her, and Scully let herself meet the gaze of those warm brown eyes. "I know that I barely know you. But I can see, as can anyone who spends five minutes with you, that you're not prone to rash behavior. You think about things, and even though you may be a little bit out of touch with the deepest parts of yourself right now, I think you have more of a direct line to your instincts than most people do. And I think you should follow them, wherever they're going."

"Wow." Scully let a slow smile creep across her face. "Do you really think that's true? That I have a direct line to my instincts?"

"Yes. If you pay attention, that is, and don't hold yourself back."

Gwen was still holding her hand. Scully gently but firmly reclaimed it and let it drop to her lap.

"So." Gwen paused to take a few hearty gulps of her mocha. "What's this about dreams again?"

Scully rolled her eyes. "I'm not sure I want to talk about those in public."

"Hey, this ain't public," Gwen teased. "We're among friends here. I'd hate to get an earful of some of the conversations that are probably going on around us."

Scully looked at the couple at the next table. They were both young and attractive, and currently rather angry. One of them was gesturing wildly with her hands, while the other had her arms crossed. Scully strained her ears a little, but couldn't quite hear what they were saying. Suddenly one of them looked at her and smiled. Scully turned back to Gwen as quickly as she was able.

"Told ya they're all watching you," Gwen smirked.

Scully glared at her and cleared her throat. "I believe we were discussing dreams."

"Yes."

"Okay, fine. I had a sort of...adventurous dream last night."

"Adventurous sexually?"

"Shh," Scully said instinctively. "But yes."

"Okay. Are we talking whips and chains here?"

Scully's eyes grew wide. She just nodded.

"That's not so surprising, Dana, if you don't mind my saying so."

"What does *that* mean?"

Gwen decided, from the lightning-quick change in the woman sitting across from her, that she never wanted to be on Scully's bad side. With that one question, Scully had gone from casually self-protective to full-on defensive, and the fire in her eyes was deadly.

Gwen tried to calm the waters. "I just mean that you are a rather controlled person, and it's not surprising that you might have some fantasies about either giving up control or taking a different sort of control."

Scully thought for a moment, then let herself exhale. "Oh," she said simply.

"Does that sound possible?"

"Well...yes."

"Does it bother you?"

Scully shifted in her chair. "Not...as such. No. But the setting of my dream was rather disturbing."

"Were you in that basement room?"

"Damn," Scully hissed, "I thought you weren't playing therapist tonight. But you're seeing through everything as well as you do in that office."

"Sorry. I'll stop if you want." Gwen slurped her mocha, and Scully smiled in spite of herself.

"What? There's that seldom seen smile of yours."

"That was a cute slurp."

Now it was Gwen's turn to put her defenses up. She decided not to respond to the comment. "Um...Dana, I don't know how much you want to talk about this S & M stuff, and the fact that you dreamt about that room again, but I would like to say one thing."

"Go ahead."

"I think dreams are important. I think they can tell us quite a bit about ourselves. But I also think that they can be just a mish-mosh of random stuff, and may not mean anything at all."

"Mish-mosh?" Scully grinned.

Gwen blinked. "Was that cute too?"

"Yes."

"Okay, I'll try to stop being cute." Gwen smiled softly and stared into her mocha. {{Another time, Dana, another place, and I'd be as cute as I possibly could, and please you in as many ways as I possibly could....}} She mentally shook herself.

Scully sighed, then nodded. "Well, I agree with what you said about dreams. And I agree that I should follow my instincts, if I can pay attention to them. So..." Scully squinted and bit her lower lip. "...where should I start?"

"You mean where should you start your search for your first wham-bam, thank-you-ma'am girl?" Gwen grinned coyly, in spite of her resolve to keep the conversation on a friendly, completely un-innuendoed level.

Scully gave her a playful glare. "Yes, I guess that's what I mean. I just don't have the professional background to phrase my wishes so...colorfully."

"All in good time, Dr. Scully. Follow me." Gwen stood up and unceremoniously walked out the door. Scully looked around, almost as if she were hoping someone would offer up some advice. None came, so she stood up too and walked out, running her fingers through her hair and shaking her head.

{{A life-changing mocha, indeed.}}

******

9:15 p.m.
La Dolce Femme nightclub

"Wait," Scully said, stopping outside the club.

"What?" Gwen turned to see Scully craning her neck and squinting up at the sign on the building.

"The name of this place. 'La Dolce' is Italian. 'Femme' is French."

Gwen stared blankly. "And?"

"I somehow doubt that was intentional."

"And?"

"Well, perhaps that reflects on the intelligence of the clientele."

Gwen rolled her eyes. "Oh, no you don't. No backing out now. C'mon. Just pretend it's an especially cosmopolitan place."

Gwen turned back toward the club.

"They should have called it 'Cherchez La Femme.' Or even 'Les Femmes, Les Biches.' Something more interesting. Something that was all the same language, at least."

Gwen, who had reached the door, bellowed over her shoulder. "Who *cares,* Dr. Scully?" She held out her hand.

Scully sighed and joined Gwen at the entrance to the club, taking her hand after a moment's hesitation.

"Oooh, boy," Scully hooted as Gwen dragged her through a door covered with feather boas.

"Don't knock it 'til you've tried it." Gwen laughed, and "vogued" a little, pulling a feather boa around her neck and batting her eyelashes. Scully didn't even try to hold back the giggle that bubbled up from some tucked-away, patiently waiting place. She squeezed Gwen's hand, and Gwen squeezed hers back.

The club was decidedly fabulous-looking, with disco balls aplenty and no shortage of sequins, feathers, and bright colors. Oddly enough, there were only a few drag queens scattered around the room; most of the denizens were women, some of them looking like they'd probably never consider "voguing" for anyone.

"Interesting study in contrasts," Scully muttered, raising an eyebrow.

"It's nice, I think. It kind of brings together two aspects of gay culture that don't have much in common, other than their own oppression." Gwen waved at someone at the bar.

"Hmm. Well, politics aside, I hope the bar is well-stocked. I need a drink or three." Scully felt a little uncomfortable as she caught the interested stares of a few women who were sitting at the bar.

"Uh-oh, look out ladies," Gwen said loudly. "The doctor is in the hay-ouse, and she plans to get medicated tonight."

Scully gave her a friendly slap on the arm and went to the bar. She ordered a double vodka and tonic, and her manner was officious enough to make the queen behind the bar make a face and give her a wink. She raised a sharp eyebrow, and he ceased his antics.

They sat at a table in a fairly quiet corner, after Scully insisted that she didn't want to hang out at the bar. "You know, if we just sit and stare at each other, everyone's going to think we're a couple," Gwen said after a while.

Scully tried to decide whether Gwen was happy about that, or uncomfortable with it, but couldn't read her face.

"Well, maybe that's okay," Scully said. "I'm beginning to wonder whether I really want to be here, and I'm beginning to think there was more than amaretto in that mocha of yours."

"Just a lot of genuine friendliness," Gwen said softly. "And as for whether you want to be here, well...I think you'd better decide that as soon as possible." Gwen angled her head toward the bar.

A woman was marching straight toward them with a slight smile on her face. She was tall, sleek, and strong-looking. Her black hair was short and tousled. And her eyes, the bright green of them visible even from a distance, were almost as inviting as Gwen's.

After crossing the distance with a grace that made it clear that she hadn't been drowning her sorrows at the bar, the woman placed her hands on the table. She nodded at Gwen, then leaned toward Scully. "I know you just got here, but I don't think I can wait any longer to ask you to dance."

Scully blushed bright red, but she somehow stood up, smiled faintly, and nodded.

"Have fun, girls," Gwen called after them as they walked to the dance floor.

{{God, it's been years since I last went dancing,}} Scully thought to herself. {{At least it's a slow song.}}

She soon realized that a slow song was not necessarily better. The woman stopped in a fairly empty part of the floor and turned toward Scully, her arms extended. Scully stepped into them a little, shyly, and tried to look like she knew what she was doing. She managed to settle into a comfortable position, but touched the woman only as much as she had to in order to avoid seeming like a cold fish.

The woman gave her a quizzical look and pulled her a little closer. Scully blushed harder and tried to smile. The woman smiled back, warmly.

"My name is Lynn, by the way."

"Lynn. That's a pretty name." Scully knew that probably sounded hokey, but she meant it and felt compelled to say it. "I'm Dana."

"Dana, I don't want to seem pushy, but you're the most beautiful woman I've ever seen in this place. And I'm here a lot." Her smile broadened, lighting up her bright eyes even more. "That probably sounded like a pick-up line, didn't it?"

"Yes, but...thank you. You're easily the most beautiful woman I've ever seen here too, but...I've never been here before tonight, and I've only glanced at a few other faces."

"Gee, thanks." Lynn laughed a husky, dark laugh that made Scully feel a little weak.

{{What is with me lately? I'm acting positively pubescent. When's the last time someone's voice made me feel...anything?}}

They danced in silence for a while. Scully found it strange to not be "led"; it was obvious to her that dancing with women was quite different from dancing with men. She tried to match Lynn's rhythm, tried to sense her movements ahead of time. She found herself trying to channel the beat through her fingertips, which were resting lightly on Lynn's soft green cotton shirt, a green that was, impossibly, as sea-soft as her eyes.

Scully cleared her throat and tried to pull herself back, to maintain a little distance from both Lynn and the subtle heat that had started to bundle up in her belly.

"Well, I'm never sure how to start conversations like this," Lynn said.

"Do you have lots of conversations like this?" Scully regretted the words as soon as she said them.

"Ah, no, actually. That is, not do-or-die conversations, not quite to this degree." Lynn held Scully's gaze and narrowed her eyes a little.

"Do-or-die?" Scully did not take her eyes from Lynn's. She felt both comforted and puzzled by the soft green warmth that was somehow cool around the edges.

"Yes, do-or-die. Do I know how to make this gorgeous woman feel comfortable, or will I die from the sheer pain of rejection?" Lynn explained.

Scully laughed, but then frowned a little. "Do I really seem that hard to please?"

"Let's just say that it looks like you'll be worth the effort."

The words sent a ripple up Scully's spine, and for a moment she thought she would run off the dance floor and out the door. Instead, she leaned into the feeling, tried to connect with it without flying apart.

"What do you do, Lynn?"

"Oh, no you don't."

"I'm sorry?"

"None of that banal getting-to-know-you, what-do-you-do, where-are-you-from-talk. There'll be plenty of time for that later. I want to know more interesting things, like what you think of when you turn out the lights and fall into bed at the end of a hard day."

"I...um..." Scully's most recent dream flashed before her eyes. She shook her head to chase it away. "I think about a lot of things, I guess. My job and the fact that I work too much. My apartment and the fact that I'd rather live in a house."

"Hmm. Well, not quite banal, but not quite scintillating either. What else?" There was a glint in Lynn's eyes. Scully couldn't tell if it sprang from mockery or affection.

Challenged and frustrated, Scully reached deep down into the bravery she usually had no trouble calling upon at work, and blurted, "And I think about sex."

Lynn smiled and pulled her even closer.

"What kind of sex do you think about, Dana?" The deep heartiness was in Lynn's voice again, and it gave Scully the courage to continue.

"Well..." The dream fluttered through her mind again. Scully closed her eyes briefly and could see the leather-clad woman on the inside of her eyelids. Startled, she snapped them open, and was relieved to see the gentle curiosity in Lynn's eyes.

"I guess I would call it...adventurous."

Lynn chuckled softly. "Good."

In a smooth, graceful move, Lynn's fingers soared up to her neck and pulled out the necklace that was hidden under her collar. Scully stared at it blankly until she realized that the chain was threaded through an impossibly tiny pair of handcuffs.

Scully blushed fiercely then, but tried to stay calm. "It appears we have...similar interests."

"That's always a good start to a relationship," Lynn smiled.

The word "relationship" made Scully freeze in her tracks. {{Is that what I'm here for? A relationship?}} Something pulled her eyes back to the table she and Gwen had been sitting at, as if she could find an answer there. But Gwen was nowhere near it. Scully turned back to Lynn, who was giving her a confused look. "Are we done dancing all of a sudden?"

"Um, Lynn, I'm not really looking--"

"Relax, Dana, I don't mean 'relationship' as in whether our house should have two bedrooms or three. I mean it in the sense of relating to each other, within whatever parameters we both care to define."

Scully admitted to herself that she liked the logic and openness of that idea. So she nodded and gave Lynn a faint smile.

They danced in silence for a while, neither of them sure what to say. The pulsing music was trance-inducing, and without realizing it, Scully pushed herself into Lynn's arms a little more, feeling the strength of them beneath the soft cotton.

She danced with her eyes closed, enjoying the strange vibrancy she was beginning to feel, letting it spread through her body. She leaned her head against Lynn's shoulder.

Just as she felt Lynn's fingers slide to the middle of her back and then dip inside the waistband of her jeans, the music surged into something acrid and angry.

"Damn," Lynn breathed, stepping back, a thoroughly disappointed look on her face. "So much for that, I guess. Talk about spoiling the mood."

"Yeah," Scully shrugged. She stared at the floor, thrilled and uncertain.

"Well, should we have a seat at a table or something?" Lynn extended her hand.

Scully took it, immediately liking the soft strength she felt there, and shook her head. "Is there someplace else we can go? I'm not feeling all that fond of this place."

At that, Lynn broke into a broad smile. "Sure. Do you have anything specific in mind?"

"Just somewhere we can...well, finish what we started."

Scully could scarcely believe she'd said the words. But the look on Lynn's face confirmed that the message was loud and clear.

"Okay, follow me."

"Wait, I'd better let Gwen know I'm leaving." Scully again looked over to their table, but Gwen was not there. She scanned the dance floor and saw somebody who looked like Gwen, but who was somehow different--more carefree, almost transported, dancing wildly to the insistent beat.

"I don't think she'll worry about you," she heard Lynn say into her ear. Scully turned, again enthralled by the deep voice. She smiled and nodded.

She let Lynn lead her out of the club and into the parking lot, where they stopped almost immediately at a black Yamaha motorcycle.

"Wow." Scully was both impressed and amused.

"Such a cliche, I know," Lynn laughed, "but I do like my bike."

Scully watched as Lynn slid onto the seat and started the motor.

"Well, have a seat, Dana." Lynn patted the seat behind her.

Scully tried to get on the bike gracefully, but slipped a little, and grabbed Lynn's shoulders to steady herself. Lynn took Scully's hands from her shoulders and pulled them around her waist.

"Ready?"

"Ready," Scully said, too loudly.

******

The feel of the air against her face was immediately exhilarating. Lynn's driving was as graceful as her walk. Scully let herself float, watching the dark trees go by, listening to all of the life in the night.

The dream flashed into her head again, but this time she closed her eyes against it, not around it. She exhaled sharply and sent the dream right out into the night sky. She breathed deep, replacing the stale air with fresh, relishing the feel of her own full lungs and the solidness of Lynn in her arms.

All too soon, Lynn pulled the bike up to the curb in front of an impressive-looking brick apartment building.

"Hope this is okay." She hopped off the bike and extended a hand to Scully.

"Is this...where you live?" Scully both hoped and feared the answer would be yes. {{What am I doing?}}

"Yup." There was the broad smile again, so reassuring and so full of promise. Scully took Lynn's hand and followed her into the building.

She noted with some surprise that Lynn pressed the "B" button in the elevator.

"You live in the basement?"

"Mmm, yeah. It's nice, actually. And...well, you'll see." Scully tried to read Lynn's face, but found nothing there but calm and confidence.

The elevator opened slowly, revealing a dimly lit hall. Lynn stepped out and walked down the hall. Scully was surprised at both the darkness of the hallway and the fact that Lynn had not offered her hand this time, and that she both seemed to expect that Scully would follow and to not really care whether she did.

Scully followed. The air was cool and the silence was almost palpable. She felt a little alarmed by the unfinished condition of the cement walls, but tried to focus on the rather pleasant view she was getting of Lynn's back.

Lynn stopped suddenly and turned to the wall. Scully squinted--she hadn't realized there were any doors in the wall. But they were in front of a grey metal door, into which Lynn inserted an ancient-looking skeleton key.

"Pretty old locks in this place, huh?" Scully said, hearing the quaver in her own voice.

Lynn did not reply. She opened the door and stepped aside, motioning for Scully to go in.

Scully stepped hesitantly into the room, which was even darker than the hall. She stopped a moment to let her eyes adjust to the light, and then very nearly turned around and ran. But she willed herself to stand still and take in the scene that was slowly coming clear before her eyes.

The room was small, the walls the same concrete as the hallway, the floor dark wood. There were no windows, and no furniture.

The door clicked behind her. Scully's captivity came rushing back with full force, and she thought she would throw up.

Instead, she slowly got on her hands and knees, and crawled to one of the walls. She put her cheek against it, and it felt and smelled exactly the same as the walls she had stared at for three weeks. The concrete seemed to soften into that odd, textured wallpaper that had covered the walls of her cell. She felt like she was being welcomed home.

She felt Lynn's hands on her back, and did not move as the hands untucked her shirt from her jeans and nudged it up over her head.

Scully held as still as she possibly could as Lynn undressed her.

The air seemed to grow colder. Scully did not let her mind register the fact that she was now fully naked. She closed her eyes and focused on the silence.

She heard a crack from somewhere behind her. Then another. She forced herself to open her eyes and look over her shoulder.

Lynn had donned a leather hood and had taken off her shirt to reveal a black bra. A collar had somehow appeared around her neck, and she wore elbow-high black gloves. A whip dangled from her left hand.

Scully tried to focus on Lynn's black jeans, which, along with the suddenly piercing green of her eyes, were the only characteristics that helped her connect this frightening figure to the warm woman she'd danced with only minutes earlier.

Scully closed her eyes again and crawled away from the wall a little. She heard Lynn's thudding footsteps, then felt her stand just close enough.

She could almost hear the air being displaced as the whip rose high in an angry arc. Scully clenched all her muscles and held her breath.

The whip came down, and Scully heard it slap.

But she felt no pain. She let herself exhale.

Again the whip rose, and slapped, and again.

She realized that the whip was hitting the wall.

Suddenly she felt a splash of silken tendrils on her back. She felt as if wings were fluttering against her skin, and the air around her grew warmer.

Warm hands supplanted the silken cords then, and caressed her back, and a deep voice purred right next to her ear. "It's okay, Dana."

Scully watched several large tears hit the floor, and was surprised they were her own. She turned and saw Lynn's warm eyes, the hood gone, the gloves nowhere to be seen, a faint smile on her lips.

Scully threw herself into Lynn's arms and sobbed, clutching, grasping for something, her cries turning into howls, hot tears tattooing her cheeks.

Through the blur of her sobs she saw the whip, looking harmless on the ground, its soft silken tassel spread across the floor like a reaching hand.

******

<<In her dream, she paints the concrete walls a soft shade of green. She watches the austerity of the room give way to tasteful oak chairs, an earth-toned sofa, several plants and bouquets of flowers.

She settles onto the couch next to the dark-haired woman waiting there for her. She tucks her feet under her and looks around the room.

It is safe. It feels like home.>>

<<>>

****

Sunday, June 6, 1999
7:28 a.m.
Lynn's apartment

Scully awoke in a sunny room and cursed the light.

"Damn, could you pull the curtains?"

She heard Lynn's throaty laugh. "My, I guess we're not a morning person."

Scully squinted up at the smiling figure, who held two steaming mugs of coffee.

"I really hope one of those is for me."

"Yes." Lynn sat on the bed next to her and held out a mug. Scully took a big gulp and sighed contentedly. "This is for you too." Lynn leaned in for a kiss, which Scully returned almost instinctively, savoring the taste and softness of Lynn's lips.

When they broke away, Scully suddenly gasped.

"What?" Lynn looked concerned.

"I'm naked. I'm..." she trailed off, trying to remember what happened the night before--that is, what had happened after the remarkably soft encounter with the tassel whip.

"Beautiful?" Lynn teased. "Yes, yes you are."

"Was I...did we...umm..."

"Yes, you were particularly tempting, but no, we did not make love. You just slept naked, and rather comfortably, I might add."

"Oh." Scully blushed, realizing she still hadn't done anything about her disrobed state, and pulled the sheet around herself.

"Hey," she said loudly, "where's my watch?" The realization that it was not around her wrist sent her into an inexplicable panic.

"On the dresser." Lynn looked concerned.

"Okay. Sorry. Wait," Scully added, "how did we get from that room to this one?"

"I carried you," Lynn said simply. Seeing the startled look in Scully's eyes, she explained. "No, I didn't parade you through the lobby or anything. That door"--she motioned to the far wall of the room --"leads to that other room."

Scully nodded, looking at the door, surprised that it was as ordinary as any other door.

She heard her voice come from somewhere far away. "What do you use that room for, Lynn?"

"I store my bike in there, usually. It serves as my garage. That's about it."

It was the last answer Scully had expected to hear. "Then...why...?"

"I don't know," Lynn shrugged. "Something told me to take you there, and to do so without explaining. I really don't know what made me think of it. But I tried to just go with the feeling and with....with your reaction to the place."

"My reaction." Scully shivered a little. "Look, Lynn, there's something I should tell you..."

Lynn reached out and pressed her fingers to Scully's lips. "Not now. For now, just relax."

Scully tried to comply. She studied Lynn's face, taken with the kindness she found there.

"How am I supposed to relax, when you're fully dressed and I'm completely naked?" Scully said suddenly.

"Sorry," Lynn smiled, jumping up. "I'll go get your clothes."

"Not what I meant, actually," Scully called after her.

Lynn stopped in her tracks. She tossed a grin over her shoulder, which only made Scully strengthen her resolve to overcome her hesitation, and follow the path she'd started on with her aggressive words.

Lynn knelt on the bed and pulled off her t-shirt. She was not wearing a bra. Scully could not help but stare at her breasts, and instinctively reached out a hand, but immediately dropped it back down, feeling uncertain. She watched, fascinated, as Lynn unbuttoned her jeans and pulled them off. Scully inhaled slowly, realizing that a bra wasn't the only sort of underwear that Lynn had foregone for the day.

"I'm...very new at this," Scully said softly. "Geez, what a cliche," she added, laughing.

"Don't worry. I'm a good teacher. That's an even worse cliche."

Lynn arranged herself in a cross-legged position on the bed and smiled. Scully just waited, trying to breathe.

"Got any handcuffs besides those around your neck?" Scully said suddenly.

Lynn laughed, startled. "You sure you want to do that now?"

Scully shook her head. "No, I guess not right now. But...let's not rule them out..." She could scarcely believe her own words. But something had been released in that room, and something had been triggered. Scully knew there was a lot of terrain left to explore.

Lynn just nodded. She took Scully's hands and gently placed them on her breasts. Scully immediately closed her eyes, startled by the softness, immensely grateful to Lynn for taking the lead again.

Soon she was falling backward, pulling Lynn with her, stretching out on the sheets and opening herself to the thrumming energy that was collecting in the space between them.

She couldn't hear anything but their breathing, her own and Lynn's, and she could not tell which breath was whose. She grazed her fingertips down Lynn's strong back and then kneaded the flesh she found there, from bottom to top and back down again. She tasted Lynn's lips, feeling like she was in slow motion, needing more, uncertain what to do next. She brushed her cheek against Lynn's, wanting as much skin on skin as she could possibly manage.

When Lynn suddenly trailed her tongue down Scully's belly, Scully stopped trying to manage anything. She closed her eyes and felt Lynn's hands slide under her hips. When Lynn's tongue dipped into the crevice of her thigh, Scully could not help but look down, and could not help but be thrilled at the sight of Lynn's shock of black hair and her strong broad shoulders.

Scully closed her eyes again and tried to relax, but each wave of calm and comfort was followed immediately by a zing of urgency, a lifting of her breath and her nerves into some other state, as if they were hopping to a layer just above the surface of her skin, where they collected and grew and fed each other. Yet the feelings reached deep too, farther down than blood, burrowing beneath even her nightmares.

Lynn's tongue danced in circles and spirals, dipped and twirled, blanketed Scully with a heat that made her shake her head back and forth on the pillow, made her tug at the sheet, made her bite her lip, hard, harder, until she opened her mouth wide to gasp for air.

Scully heard her own voice cry out and instinctively reached her hand toward Lynn's head. Her legs tensed, her neck strained up off the pillow, and her heart felt as if it had just found the door to its cage.

Lynn stretched herself alongside Scully and smiled. "Either I really am a good teacher, or you're a very willing learner."

Scully nodded, not sure she could speak. She watched the ceiling pulse, then realized it was the pulse of her own blood, and the clarity of her own eyes, that made everything look sharper and alive and in motion.

She raised her head a little and put her cheek against Lynn's again, able now to put words to the feeling of soft against soft. "Safe," she muttered. "Safe and free."

******

Monday, June 7, 1999
10:30 a.m.
FBI Headquarters

Scully picked up her desk phone for the fifth time.

"Would it be better if I left the room?" Mulder said suddenly.

"Umm...why?"

"You seem to be having a little trouble making whatever phone call it is you're trying to make. Or maybe you're just feeling extremely telephonophobic this morning."

"Telephonophobic. Let me guess."

"Fear of phones. It's a real phobia; look it up."

Scully rolled her eyes. "I'm sure it is. It doesn't happen to be one of my phobias. But actually, yes, Mulder, it would be better if you left the room."

He gave her his stunned expression, then quickly got up and walked out.

"Dr. Wilson's office." The voice on the other end of the line startled Scully. She'd hoped she'd be leaving a voice mail.

"Hello, I...is Dr. Wilson available right now?"

"As a matter of fact, she is. May I say who's calling?"

"This is Dr. Scully."

"One moment, please."

Scully cleared her throat. She was still clearing it when Gwen picked up the phone.

"Hey, the doctor of love hasn't forgotten her old--I mean relatively new but very important--friends."

"Hi Gwen."

Gwen could hear the smile in Scully's voice. "Where'd you disappear to, Dana? Did tall, dark, and lovely take you for a ride on her big dykey bike?"

Scully blushed. "I'm...I'm not quite sure how to take that," she stammered, "but yes, I did leave the club with Lynn."

"And did you leave your senses with Lynn too?"

"Gwen, what is with you this morning? You're far too jovial, even for someone as open and optimistic as you are."

"Let's just say I took a ride of my own Saturday night. And yesterday morning. And yesterday afternoon. And--"

"I get the picture," Scully interrupted. "Actually, I get a very vivid picture. Congratulations." {{I also get a weird twinge of jealously.}} Scully chased away the feeling before it could set up shop in her newly-vulnerable heart.

"Thank you, Doctor Scully."

"Gwen, I just called to say...well, to say thank you, I guess."

"Thank you for what?" Gwen's voice was serious now.

"For...encouraging me to follow my...instincts. For encouraging me to have a sort of meltdown."

"Meltdown? Wow, it really must have been a nice motorcycle."

They both chuckled. "Seriously, Gwen--"

"You're welcome, Dana," Gwen interrupted. "Now, when would you like to come in again?"

"What?"

"I'm assuming you want to make another appointment. I hope you don't think it's all going to be peaches and cream from here on out."

"Peaches and cream?"

"I really have to watch those cute phrases, don't I?" This time, Scully could hear the smile in Gwen's voice.

"Yeah. They're pretty dangerous."

"Well, you name the day and time. You've just embarked on a strange and wonderful journey, and I'm betting you'll want some more guidance down the road. There's also that pesky little trauma in your recent past--and I'll guarantee you that's not going to lie down and die anytime soon."

Scully sighed. "Okay. I can come in tomorrow, I guess, sometime tomorrow afternoon."

"4:00?"

"Fine with me."

"See you then, Dr. Strangelove."

Scully hung up. She shook her head, not sure what was going to happen next. She'd intended to tell Gwen she didn't think she'd need to see her anymore. But that, of course, was ridiculous. She could definitely use a friendly ear, and Gwen was certainly right that she had plenty to deal with, both good and bad.

An image of Gwen in a pool with a lovely, mysterious woman flashed across Scully's mind. {{I hope your weekend date knew how lucky she was, Gwen.}}

The phone rang, making Scully jump.

"Hey." Though the image of Gwen had made Scully feel somewhat warm, the sound of Lynn's voice brought a full-on rush of heat to Scully's skin.

"Hello, beautiful." Scully was surprised at the word as she said it, and at how much it made perfect sense.

"Beautiful? Wow, you sure know how to flatter a girl," Lynn teased.

"I'm just trying to catch up to you," Scully smiled. "You gave me enough compliments yesterday to last a lifetime."

"Nah, we've got a lot left to do in that department. For example, your phone voice is almost as sexy as your real-life voice."

"Uh-oh."

"Why don't you say something sexy, Dana?"

"My partner's just outside in the hall."

"Unless your partner is Susan Sarandon, that's not very sexy. Try again."

Scully laughed loud and long. "Are you meeting me for lunch today?"

"Try to stop me."

"Good. I'll meet you at noon, at...do you know where Tiki's is?"

"I'll be there."

"Bye, beautiful."

Scully hung up, smiling, flushed.

The aforementioned partner waltzed into the office. "Beautiful?" he said, gape-mouthed.

Scully gave Mulder a "don't-go-there" look. He held up his hands and slumped into his chair.

{{Boy, am I gonna need that therapy session tomorrow.}} The thought made Scully chuckle a little, and kept her smiling the rest of the day.

******

--EPILOGUE--

She doesn't let me avoid the question.

"Seriously Dana, I...I know I don't know you very well...and that this relationship may not go anywhere at all. But I'd like to know what it felt like to realize it, if you don't mind telling me."

"You mean, what it felt like to realize I want to kiss you all over? And over again?" I turn toward Lynn's smiling face and cannot help but smile myself.

Her eyes are soft and they dance over my face. "You're delicious. But that's not what I mean. What did it feel like to figure out you were attracted to women, and in a rather adventurous way?"

"Hmm." I roll onto my back again, and think. "I'm not sure that's what I've been figuring out, really."

"No?"

"No. I mean, that was an important discovery, but I think I figured out something even bigger."

"And that was...?" She blows another smoke ring into the stillness above our heads.

"How to...move. How to start to...get free. "

"Ah. That's a pretty big thing."

"Yeah."

We lie there in silence. I think, carefully, of the nightmares and their insistent pull, and realize I haven't had one all week.

"But the lesbian thing, and the S&M thing, well, those are nice perks," I add.

She laughs. Her hand cups my cheek. I turn my face to kiss her hand, and close my eyes. I nestle against her and drift into a soft, floating sleep.

I dream, and there are no walls anywhere.

--END STORY--