Someone Outside
By Scribe
Dana Scully, feeling overwhelmed and overstressed by work and life in general, developes an obsession with a gentle, ordinary woman.
Warning: f/f rape, sexual obsession and abuseive relationship. Dana Scully developes a dangerous sexual obsession with another woman. Warning: graphic f/f nonconsensual sex and abusive relationship.
Disclaimers: Song portions from 'All That Glitters', 'I Just Can't Get Enough', and 'Boney Fingers'. Not mine.

Chapter 1: Free

She sings. That's what made me notice her first. It was two am, and I was making my way home, hoping to manage a couple of hours sleep before I had to get up, go in, and start the report of my latest foray into the bizarre with Fox. Almost to the house, I remembered how empty the refrigerator was, and the empty spindle hanging beside the toilet in my bathroom. Well, at least I hadn't remembered when I was groping for paper that wasn't there.

I remembered a small convenience store a few blocks back. It had still been open, I think. The lot was empty, but the florescents glowed behind the large sheets of glass that made up most of the front walls. I turned around and headed back.

The lot was still empty when I pulled up and parked. I scanned the store through the plate glass as I approached. That was surely why it was designed to be so open, so that anyone passing (particularly cruising police cars) could see at a glance what was going on inside. I didn't see a clerk, and that worried me.

I'm FBI, and the bad possibilities occur to me naturally. Instead of assuming they were having a smoke in a back room, or in the john, I considered the possibility of them face down in a store room, bleeding their life out after a robbery. When I stepped up on the front curb, I had my purse open, my hand inside on my gun.

As I pushed the door open, there was a loud, annoying electronic buzz from over my head. Behind the far aisle, a dark, curly head suddenly popped up. There was startled wariness in the wide blue eyes, that melted when they focused on me. I'd been classified as non threatening. I eased my hand off the gun and shut my purse before that impression could change.

"Hey there." She moved around the end of the aisle, heading toward the front counter. A large yellow pricing gun trailing a streamer of paper tape, and several stacks of grey plastic bins overflowing with a jumble of dry goods explained what she had been doing out of sight.

She stepped past me, close enough for the sleeve of the hideous orange polyester jacket she wore to brush my arm, and grabbed the push bar on the door. She was a big woman, a half head taller than myself, and heavy, but she moved with that odd grace that some fat people seem to have. She tugged hard, fighting the slide that had been easing the door shut, and managed to get it closed. The teeth rattling buzz that had been sounding shut off abruptly.

She smiled at me as she went around behind the counter to stand at the register. "That thing makes an awful racket, don't it? It'd shake my fillings loose, if I had fillings. What can I do you for tonight?"

How could anyone be this alert and cheerful at two am? "Toilet tissue?"

"Right back where I was standing," she directed. As I walked to the back, I heard her start singing softly. It was a silly, bouncy tune that I remembered hearing on some commercial. A commercial jingle? "Hey now, you're an all star, get yer game on, go play..." What had they been advertising? Probably started out as a song, then was tagged to shill something. I found the toiletries section. The shelf was almost empty, but a nearby tote held several individual roles of paper. "Hey now, you're a rock star, get the show on, get paid..." The price was obscene, but supply and demand...

I went to the counter, carrying my choice. She had an elbow on the counter, chin in hand, looking very relaxed. "All that glitters is go-wold, only shootin' star-ars break the mo-uwold..." As I set the tissue on the counter, she straightened, picking it up. She turned it over in her hands, then looked at me. "Are you sure you want to spend this much for just one roll?"

I was surprised. I'd never had a clerk admit that the prices in their store were less than fair. "Till I can get time to shop."

"It's just that...well, I don't know how big a supply you need, but we have a four pack for only about fifty cents more than this. Better value."

"I didn't see any."

"That's right, I forgot. Hang on just a sec." She exited the counter area, again brushing against me. As she went, she was singing under her breath. "Since I met you baby, I been outa my head. I jus' can't get enough, I jus' can't get enough..." She rummaged in one of the bins, and soon returned with a plastic wrapped quartet of toilet tissue rolls. "Here you go." She grabbed the pricing gun, dialed it, and slapped a tag on the bundle. "There. Now it's official."


"No prob. Anything else?"

"Yes, I'm hungry. Do you have anything non life threatening?"

She laughed. It was a young sound, and I looked at her more closely. She wasn't really young, she had to be at least ten years older than I. But her face was smooth, unlined. It was like she'd managed to keep the world from inflicting itself on her expression. Her skin was beautiful, pink and cream under the harsh glare of the florescents, innocent of even the lightest cosmetic and almost luminous.

"No, darlin'. Our graveyard clientele thrive on the four major food groups: salt, grease, sugar, and caffeine. The closest you'd come would be an overpriced can of vegetables that have been here since my grandma was in knickers, and that would be loaded with enough sodium to preserve a Smithfield ham. But I tell you what..."

She leaned forward conspiratorially. Her eyes glinted merrily. She whispered, "As long as you're only buying necessities, the ice cream freezer is right over there, and we just got in a delivery." She smiled. No lipstick, but her wide, beautifully formed mouth was a natural rose pink.

My mouth suddenly filled with saliva. I couldn't be sure that it was entirely at the thought of ice cream. "Good idea." I went to the chest freezer and started to sort through pints. She examined my selection when I returned.

"That's a good choice," she said, tapping the carton. "Ben and Jerry. I'd adopt those boys, if I could afford it. This is one of the few things we have that's honestly worth the price." She sighed. "Of course, it's no Blue Bell."

"What's that?"

She sang again, "Blue Bell, the best ice cream in the country. It's home made, down hoooome..." Another smile, slightly abashed. "Sorry. They stick in my mind. We have Blue Bell back in Texas. It's regional, you can't get it out here, and I miss it."

"You sing a lot. You must really enjoy your job."

"I hate it." she said matter of factly. "The singing helps keep me from going bonkers. It kind of gets me in trouble, sometimes. Makes some of the customers nervous, so the bosses said to can it. Seems that I'm too happy to suit them. But when no one's here..." She shrugged. "I didn't figure you'd bust me to them. You don't look that uptight."

Well, that was a first. I can't count the number of times someone's told me I looked tense, repressed, uptight, anal retentive...Okay, most of those are from one source, and Fox does like to tease me.

She rang up my purchases, and told me the total, which was only slightly heart stopping. I handed over the money, and she popped the cash register open and collected my change. When she didn't lay it on the counter, I held out my hand. She counted it into my hand. I could feel the heat of her fingers through the paper of the bill as she pressed it into my palm. "There ya go. Anything else?"

"No. Just home, ice cream, bath, and bed."

"Sounds like a plan. Just remember, no matter what the 'recommended portion size' is: one pint, one serving." She picked up the pricing machine and twirled it like a gun. "I have to get cracking. They'll skin my head if I don't have this done by shift change."

"That looks like a lot of work. Is anyone coming in to help you?"

She laughed shortly. "Double coverage? Boy, there's a fantasy. Why should they hire someone else to ease the burden when they have a perfectly good peon right here? You take care, now." I opened the door, and the buzz almost drowned her out as she made her way back to the far aisle. "Work your fingers to the bone, whataya get? Boney fingers, boney fingers..."

I went home and ran a stingingly hot bath, then stripped and settled in the tub with the pint of ice cream and a spoon. I ate rich, bad for me ice cream and let the heat seep deep into my flesh, loosening taut muscles and easing aches.

Sooner than I expected I was scraping thick, sweet liquid and chocolate chips out of the bottom of the carton, murmuring, "One pint, one serving." Replete, I set aside the carton and spoon, and eased back into the still hot water, closing my eyes, beginning to doze. I dreamed. Blue bells and aging Vermont hippies, and a clear, sweet voice singing, "Since I met you baby, I been outta my head. I just can't get enough, I just can't get enough..."



Disclaimer: Song portion from 'The Rose'. Not mine.

Chapter 2: Second Glance

I stopped at the convenience store the next evening for a soda. Yes, I had a six pack at home, but I'd have to pour it over ice. I'd rather have it prechilled, I decided. There were a couple of cars on the lot when I drove up, and I could see several customers drifting the aisles or standing in line. The woman ringing them up was a small, intense looking black girl.

Feeling vaguely disappointed, I selected a diet soda and got in line. One of the men ahead of me was flirting with the clerk, who responded with coy giggles. I idly scanned the lot, wondering if I'd get checked out before my drink warmed up.

She came around the side of the building, stepping into the yellowish glare of the outside lights, and paused to pick up a crumpled candy wrapper. She shoved it into a trash barrel near the door, and I saw her frowning. The plastic receptacle was overflowing. The buzzer went off as she came in, causing the others to look around. The clerk's gaze flicked over her dismissively before returning to her flirtation.

The woman moved back behind the counter, peeling off a windbreaker *too thin, she should wear something warmer* to reveal the hideous pumpkin colored uniform. "Martina, you didn't pull the trash?"

"I didn't have time." She'd finally finished with the first customer, but he hovered near the door, waiting. The second one only wanted a pack of gum, but she managed to missring it twice.

The dark haired clerk went to a time clock on the wall, pulling a card out of a folder and clocking in. She took a tape out of a security VCR and replaced it with a fresh one, making a note on a sheet as she set the used tape on a shelf. "You'll do it before you go, right? They want me to wash down the lot AND the glass tonight."

"Um. Come on and get this change out done, Free. I got things to do."

The woman came over with a clipboard and pencil. "Get your last customer, Marty."

Martina looked at me disinterestedly. "You don't mind waitin' about five minutes, huh? We gotta do shift change."

Before I could answer the other clerk said gruffly, "For heaven's sake, ring her up! It's one soda."

"Yeah, well it's nine right now, and..."

"And we'd be finished by now if you hadn't been batting your eyelashes."

Martina scowled. "Don't get nasty just cause you're jealous, Free."

"Me? Jealous? I'm happy for you. But ring her up. You don't leave a good customer standing like that." Grumbling, the girl complied. She slapped my change down in front of me and punched a button that sent the machine into a racketting, coughing fit, spitting streamers of paper. "You could have asked if she needed anything else." she said mildly.

"They don't pay me enough to kiss ass."

Shaking her head, the older woman quickly counted the cash in the drawer, getting the younger one to confirm the count. Then she handed over the clipboard and removed the receipt tape from the machine as the girl took her paperwork to a desk in the back corner.

"Sorry about that."

"It's alright."

"No, it isn't, really." Her voice was low. "I don't think Martina is with us for long. She just can't grasp the fact that actually being pleasant is part of the job."

"Will you fire her?"

This seemed to amuse the woman. "Me? Dear girl, I'm not in authority here. I'm just one of the draft animals."

Martina, wrapped in a leather jacket and sporting a tiny gold lame` purse slipped past, headed for the door. As she went, she called, "Paper work's screwed up, Free. Fix it, willya?" The customer grabbed her butt when she came within reach, and she shrieked with laughter, shoving open the door.

"Wait, Marty!" She raised her voice to be heard over the buzz from the security warning. She could be heard well enough, but Marty didn't care to listen. She was hustling into a grey primered Camero. "Marty, the trash?"

The door slammed, an engine roared, and there was a squeal of rubber as the car pealed out. He shoulders slumped. "I'll be damned," she said quietly, as the buzzer faded. "Screwed again." She glanced at me apologetically. "I'm sorry about the language."

"Forget it. You were more polite than I would have been."

"So, did the ice cream and the hydro-therapy help last night?" So she'd remembered.

"A lot. Wonderfully decadent." I offered my hand. "I'm Dana Scully. Did she call you Free?"

She shook hands. Her grip was warm and gently, fingers just a little rough. Probably from all the cleaning she had to do. "Fraid so. Short for Freedom. Freedom Littlefountain."

"Let me guess. Your parents were hippie Indians."

She chuckled. "Southern red necks. I'm too old to be a hippie child. I was born in the late fifties, I was too young to enjoy the sixties, to scared of my mama to enjoy the seventies, too tired to deal with the eighties, and too disgusted to mess with the nineties. I'm trying to keep my hopes up for the millennium. No, the name is my own fault. It's a translation of two of my names. Believe me, the originals sound much weirder."

As she spoke, she went back to the desk and examined the paperwork. "Good God, how did that child manage to ball this up so badly? I can scarcely believe it's incompetence. It's so bad it looks deliberate. It'll take me half the night to straighten this out, if it's possible at all."

"Then leave it. Let her take responsibility for her mistakes."

"Easier said than done. I have more seniority, I'm supposed to make sure things run smoothly. I hate being responsible for what someone else does. I'm supposed to control the younger workers, even if I'm not management. I hate having to give orders. No one ever listens, anyway."

"Am I keeping you from your work?"

She looked surprised. "Dear, you ARE my work. Is there anything else you need? Anything I can do for you?"

When was the last time anyone had said that to me? Of course, it was the woman's JOB, but as Martina had demonstrated, not that many people saw it that way. "No, I'm fine." A beat. "Are you alright?"

Free considered, as if startled by the question. She shrugged, smiling. "I will be. I'll survive." The smile became the tiniest bit...not really bitter. Wistful. "I don't have a choice."

"Good night, then. I'll see you later."

"Be safe, now." As I pushed my way out, Free was beginning her first song of the night. "Some say love, it is a river that drowns the tender reed..."



Disclaimer: Song portion from 'Then What?'. Not mine.

Chapter 3: Affection

I started going by the store every evening, even when I didn't need anything. I liked to get there early, so I could see her arrive. I'd have my soda or juice, and watch the corner of the building till she came around. She almost always did something on the way in: snagging a piece of trash, kicking a fold out of the non skid rug at the door, rubbing a speck off the glass with the sleeve of that neon pumpkin jacket.

She always had a smile for me as she counted the register, did the shift change. She'd been right. Martina didn't come back. "And fifty bucks went missing on her shift. She needed to go, because with that much, even if it isn't dishonesty, it's incompetence. She never bothered to come in to be fired. I lost my day off, but I guess it's worth it, not to have to come in behind her."

A couple of weeks after I started coming in, I said, "I never see your car. Where do you park it?"

She tapped her forehead. "Up here. No wheels. I have to do with public transport, and the buses don't run this late in this part of town. I only live about five blocks away, though. It isn't bad, as long as it isn't raining. Or snowing. Or over ninety."

"Are you crazy, walking alone at this time of night? And I'll bet it's still dark out when you get off."

"Not lately, it isn't," she said wearily. "They keep extending my shift because the new manager can't finish the paperwork on time without someone working the register."

"Why don't they have someone else come in."

"Because I'm cheaper."

"That isn't fair. I'm pretty sure it's against federal regulations to..."

"Dana," her voice was gentle. "It's sweet of you to get outraged on my behalf, but I'm a grunt. The federales aren't interested in me."

"This federale is." She looked a question at me. I hadn't been planning on this, but... I took out my ID case and showed her my card.

She looked surprised, but not disgusted. "You're a Special Agent?" She looked me over quickly. "But you're so tiny. I thought they had to be Amazons. And I thought you were...I don't know. I had the impression you were a professional. Doctor or lawyer, or something."

"I am. I have degrees in both, but I don't practice." Now her eyes narrowed. Please believe me, I thought. For some reason, it was important that she not think I was scamming her.

At last she said slowly, "Well, if it was anyone else who said it, I'd think they were in the grips of some sort of complex. You, I believe."

I waited for the questions. The questions about cases, busts, plots and conspiracies. They didn't come. We talked about a lot of things, but she never brought up my work. If I mentioned it, she listened, but she didn't press for details. It was as if she were willing to absorb anything I gave her, but not willing to pressure me for more.

I liked that. I found myself telling her more and more about my life. It got to where I was spending an hour or two at her job each night. She'd go about her job, stocking and cleaning, and I'd follow. We'd chat as she worked. Or sometimes I'd just sit at a table in the little section provided for the deli, and watch her. And listen, because she sang. She always sang. It was a near constant, unselfconscious flow. Sometimes it was complete songs, sometimes it was just a chorus, or a snippet. Sometimes it was just a tune, filled in with generic sounds. "Dum da dum dum da." But almost always, music.

One evening a bit later I came in and found her leaning on the counter, studying a page of the classifieds. I felt apprehensive. Was she looking for another job? Here I was just a regular. I was afraid that if she moved on to another job, and I showed up there, I'd be a stalker.

She had a felt tipped pen in hand, and as I came up, she circled an ad. "What are you doing?"

She glanced up. "Oh, hi Dana. I'm house hunting. My landlord decided to go no pets. I either have to cough up a three hundred dollar pet deposit, or get rid of my cat by next week. I'm not gonna do either. But there isn't much available." She sighed. "Me and Snicky may end up sleeping in the bus station a couple of nights."

"There's no need for that. Would you be willing to share space?"

"You mean like as a border?"

"More like a roommate."

"Maybe. Do you vouch for whoever has the space?"

"I do. It's me."

"You? You're looking to take in a roommate?"

"I have plenty of space. And," I lied "I could use some help with the rent and utilities. Plus I'm lonely these days. It would be good to have another sentient being in the house."

She smiled. "I know what you mean. I love Snicky, but he's a lousy conversationalist."

"If you're interested, you could come by the house to check out the room. Tomorrow evening?"

She ripped a piece of paper off a pad. "What's the address? And what time? I have to be to work at nine."

I gave her the address. "Come over about seven. You can see the place, and I'll make dinner. You'll have a little time to make up your mind."

She studied the address. "Yes, I can get here on the bus without too much trouble. The problem will be getting to work after."

"I'll drive you."

"Oh. Well, sure, then."

"Good. Well, I'll go home now. I want to shovel the place out, make a good impression."

She tilted her head, smiling. "You've already made a good impression. I wouldn't be coming over, otherwise." When I left, she was singing softly, a bright, calypso sounding tune. "Then what? Whatcha gonna do when the new wears off and the old shines thorough and it ain't really love, and it ain't really lust, and you ain't anybody anybody's gonna trust...." I saw her spin, then do a discreet little boogie. She was happy. I'd made her happy. "Then what, when it all goes bust and you can't turn back for the bridges you burned, and Fate can't wait to kick you in the butt, then what? Oooh, then what?"

I cleaned house when I got home, and some more when I go up the next morning. At lunch I went shopping and bought several sets of sheets, fine linen, and a pretty bed set of spread, pillow shams, dust ruffle. Dark green. Dark green would set off her pale skin and russet hair. Mulder peeked in the bags that afternoon at the office.

"Whoa, going all domestic, Scully? A little out of your line, aren't they? Don't you usually go for the flowery, peachy designs?"

I took them away, screwing the bags shut. "I'm getting a new roommate. I need fresh linens."

"Really? Anyone I know?"

"No. She's outside my usual circle." Mulder knows about some of my outside relations. Especially since a former lover, irrationally jealous, confronted him about what she perceived to be our 'relationship'. I love Mulder, but it will never be that sort of love. I couldn't open myself up to someone so likely to get themselves killed. Or get me killed, for that matter.

"Good, Scully. I hope it works out for you."

That evening the house is spotless, the room as inviting as I can make it. A lasagna bubbles richly around the edges in a warm oven, a good wine cools in the refrigerator. How long has it been since I have gone through these same preparations for anyone, male or female? I start to light candles, then put them away. Too much, too like a seduction. She's only coming to decide if she wants to move in. And it things are TOO welcoming, that might put her off, too.

Because I'm not sure of her. There have been no overt remarks, few subtle cues. And asking her is risky. She seems gentle, tolerant. But she might be skittish, and I don't want to frighten her off.

A few minutes before seven there is a knock on the door. I open it, and she's on the front step. The horrid jack o lantern colored jacket is over her arm, and it's the first time I've seen her in what she calls her 'civies'. It is a dark green sweatshirt. Over the left breast, where the company logos or monograms usually go are a tiny pair of golden cats' eyes. I was right, dark green suits her. It makes her pale skin almost luminous, and puts green tints in the blue of her eyes.

She's smiling at me, a little puzzled. "Am I early?"

I realize I've been keeping her on the stoop, staring at her. "No, come in. Sorry."

She steps in. "I know, I'm hard to recognized without the costume, right?" She pitches it on the couch. "God, I hate that thing. All the little children love me, because they think that with an outfit like that, I must be a clown." She looks around the room, and I tense, waiting for her reaction. "Wow. Dana, this is beautiful. Are you sure you want to share this place? It's so pretty and peaceful."

"I'm sure. Come on, I'll show you the bedroom." Once again she makes noises of approval.

She sits on the edge of the bed, gives a tiny experimental bounce. Her hand smooths the silky coverlet. "Is this new? You didn't have to do that."

"I was planning to anyway," I lie. "Go on and lay down. Test it to see if it's comfortable."

She kicks off her shoes, swings her legs up on the bed, and stretches out, closing her eyes, She lies there for a moment, smiling with here eyes still closed, and turns her head to rub her cheek on the pillow. Then she stretches luxuriantly, shifting to turn on her hip, one leg scissoring back and forth lazily. I watch, my mouth going dry, fingers starting to twitch. At last she gets up, smile still in place. "That is so comfortable."

She starts groping for her shoes, and I say, "You don't have to do that. Go on and get a feel for the place."

"You're sure?"

"I don't mind."

"Thanks. That's always the first thing I do when I get home. The shoes go off." I like the idea of her padding around my house barefooted, home.

At dinner, I urge a second helping of lasagna on her when I see her eyeing the pan. She refuses the wine, with apologies. "I know it isn't much, but I have to work. They're after me enough without me showing up with alcohol on my breath."

Finally I'm drawing patterns with my fork in the tomato sauce left on my plate. She says quietly, "Dana, I like you a lot. I think we'd get on, as long as I curb my messiness. But this place is so perfect...How much would you need a month?"

"How much have you been paying?" She names a figure. It's low. It wouldn't take much of a bite out of my salary, but then it's not my salary it's coming out of.

"I couldn't pay much more than that."

I name a figure significantly less than what she's been paying. Her eyes widen. "And that would include utilities, and food, of course," I add. "And I'd expect you to bring your cat."

I think that is what does it. She smiles joyously. "Oh, yes, I'd like to live here, if you'll have me?"

"Yes, I'll have you." *I'll have you. By God, I WILL have you.*



Disclaimer: Song portions are from 'Come to My Window' by Melissa Ethridge, and 'I Will Always Love You' by Dolly Parton. Not mine.

Chapter 4: Obsession

She's moved in. It didn't take long, she rented her place furnished. Clothes, a few dishes, lots of books, and a large black and white extomcat. The dishes go into storage. The clothes are stowed, the books arranged on shelves, the cat makes himself at home. She makes herself at home.

I'm home in the evenings, and she usually gets up an hour or two before she has to go to work. We have dinner together, maybe watch a little television. She finally puts on the hated orange uniform, dragging it on as if it pains her. I give her a ride to work. She can't walk anymore, it's too far away. I don't mind. I like the quiet times when we ride back and forth. But she insists on taking the bus home each morning. "Too much trouble for you to get me, bring me home, then go to work." Sometimes she's back in time for us to have breakfast together, but often she's held over.

I don't like that, and I tell her so. I tell her that they're taking advantage of her. She shrugs sadly, and says it wouldn't be the first time. I'm beginning to resent those people.

I have to go out in the field with Mulder. It's a frantic two days away. When it's over with, we have a killer in jail, but there are still aspects of the case that aren't explained. Nothing unusual for the X Files, but Mulder can't let it alone, of course. On the long drive back he picks over it till I think I'm going to scream.

I'm surprised to find her at home when I finally get back around ten-thirty. "Shock, shock. I got a day off." She takes one look at me, and orders me to sit on the couch, then asks if I want hot tea or wine. She brings me a glass of red wine, and I drink it too fast. She brings me another, telling me to sip it. As I do, she says, frowning, "Dana, you're wound up tighter than a three day clock. You're a doctor. Don't you have something you can take to relax?"

"I don't like to resort to drugs unless I have to."

"But you need to relax, before you get a migraine or something."

"Just give me a few minutes." I lean my head back on the couch, sighing. I can hear her moving around. It´s a soothing sound. I know what would help me relax. Feeling a little silly, but hopeful, I say, "Sing to me?"

She starts immediately, "Come to my window. Crawl inside and wait by the light of the moon. Come to my window, I'll be home soon..." The words of the Melissa Ethridge song move over me, soft and cool. I felt the tension start to ease. "Will that one be alright?"

"Yes. Please go on."

She's moves around behind me, and I hear her voice again. "I would dial the numbers, just to hear your breath. I would stand inside my hell and hold the hand of death." I flinch when she touches me. Her hands settle on my temples, cool and light. "You don't know how far I'd go to ease this precious ache. You don't know how much I need, or how much I can take." She's rubbing in slow, gentle circles. I feel the metal band around my skull start to loosen. "Just to reach you, just to reach you. Oh, I'll reach you..."

She sings the opening chorus. "Come to my window. Crawl inside and wait by the light of the moon." She slides her hands lightly through my hair, cupping the back of my skull, and I lift my head. "Come to my window. I'll be home soon." It sounds like the sweetest promise in the world. Coming home to someone who's waiting, just for you. Her hands settle on my neck, and begin to massage. Now her touch is. warm.

"Keeping my eyes open I cannot afford to sleep. Giving away promises I know that I can't keep. Nothing fills this blackness that has seeped into my chest." Her hands are firm, the skin just a little rough. Just rough enough to stimulate. "I need you in my blood, I am forsaking all the rest. Just to reach you, just to reach you." Her voice is a sweet croon. "Oooh, I'll reach you." Yes, you will. You have. Like no one else.

Her fingers dig at my shoulders. Knots ease, melt. Heat is settling in my belly. "Come to my window. Crawl inside and wait by the light of the moon. Come to my window, I'll be home soon."

My head drops to the side, boneless. Her palm smooths against my cheek gently, lifting my head back up. Her voice is quieter, only a whisper. "I don't care what they think. I don't care what they say. What do they know about this love anyway?" I'm sinking deeper into the sofa. I wait, hoping that next I'll feel the touch of her lips on my neck, or my cheek. "Come to my window. I'll be home, I'll be home, I'll be home. I'm comin' home..."

Her hands stop moving. Her voice is gentle. "Dana? Is that better?"

"Yes." *Don't stop. Keep touching me.*

"Do you want dinner now?"

*Food isn't what I need.*

"You just rest. I'll fix something."

And before I have the courage to speak, she's gone, and I hear her in the kitchen. Cabinets open, water runs. And she's singing again. Something plaintive and pretty, "If I should stay, well I'd only be in your way..." I just sit, and think, and listen.

*Does she know? Can't she tell? That song...It's too much of a coincidence. But she sings all the time, it doesn't necessarily mean anything. But the way she was touching me...Did I imagine anything more than a friendly neck rub? She was concerned, she's already shown how considerate she is. But those hands...*

I don't say anything. I don't do anything. Because when she calls me into the kitchen, her face is a little anxious, concerned. "Still okay? Headache didn't come back, did it? You're being really quiet."

"No, I'm fine." I sit down to the meal of macaroni and cheese ("Comfort food," she cheerfully informs me).

"Alright. But just let me know whenever you need a neck rub or massage. I'm not good at a lot of things, but I'm good at that. My brother used to get back spasms. I practiced, so he wouldn't have to blow cash on a masseur."

My hands shake at the image this calls up, my fork chattering on the china. She looks at me closely. "Dana? Are you sure..."

"I said I'm okay." My voice is rougher than I intended, and she looks hurt I sigh. No, it hadn't been anything but a neck rub. To her, anyway. "I'm sorry I snapped. Long hard day."

She nods, eyes brimming with sympathy. "I kinda understand. A little. I just have to deal with the craziness and nastiness that drifts in off the street. You have to go looking for it."

*Don't do this. Don't understand me when you don't understand me at all. Don't offer comfort if you aren't ready to give me what I really need. Just don't. No. Do.*

I eat, not really tasting the food. I eat because she made it for me, she wants me to eat, she'll be worried if I don't. She might touch me again in gentle concern, and if she does...

God help me, I don't know what I'll do.



Disclaimer: Song portion from 'Listen to the Rhythm of the Falling Rain'. Not mine.

Chapter 5: Mixed Signals

If I've gone crazy, she's driven me to it, and she doesn't even know what she's doing. That's the conclusion I've come to. I wouldn't have thought that it was possible for a grown woman, one who wasn't raised in total isolation, to be so naive. How is it possible for someone to move through this world without letting it touch them to this extent? Or rather, how has she escaped it for so long?

She fascinated me. I didn't know why, I still don't, but there it is. Obsessions, after all, are not logical. But then I was still calling it 'interest'. She wasn't a secretive person then, her life was pretty much an open book. I think if I'd asked anything, she would have told me. After awhile I realized it was because she thought that there was absolutely nothing of vital interest about herself, so why should she bother to block off, or be mysterious? She didn't realize that being so open leaves you vulnerable.

She'd gotten a letter from her niece. It was there with the morning mail when she came home, tired from a hectic night at the convenience store, and she read it while I fixed breakfast. There was a loud groan, and I looked over to see her shaking her head. "Something wrong? Someone sick?" *No, damn it. You'd better all be healthy. I don't want her rushing off to attend anyone. And she would, even if it meant losing her job.*

"Physically, no. Metaphorically, I'm not so sure." She dropped the paper with a sigh. "Eva has another 'boyfriend'. That's about the...let's see...eighth one this year. She's averaging a little better than one a month. And it's another one she met at work."

"Workplace romances can be iffy," I agree.

She raises her eyebrows. "Dana, Eva dances in a 'gentleman's club'."


"Yes. The guys hanging around there are not usually the monogamous type. There must still be some good men out there. Problem is, I think I may be related to them all by blood, and I'm not THAT southern."

Another sigh. "Well, she's twenty-one, free, and stubborn as hell. I just hope she doesn't get hurt so badly that she never trusts anyone. She's so bright and pretty, it'd be a shame if she ended up alone." A laugh. "Like her maiden aunt."

Here was a chance to pry a little bit, a genuine excuse. "I was wondering why you aren't married. You seem to be a nurturing, family oriented type."

She shrugged. "Never met the right one." Free stood up and peeled off her uniform jacket. It had been cold last night, and she'd worn a sweatshirt under it to insulate her when she went out to sweep the parking lot. She rolled her shoulders, wincing a little. I wasn't the only one who had tension aches. But I didn't dare offer her a neck rub. I couldn't guarantee what would happen if I put my hands on her.

"I know your schedule is tough, but you haven't gone out since you've been here. That's almost a month."

"Oh, it's been a little longer than that. Let's see," she squinted, obviously doing mental calculations. "Do you count double dates where you got dumped?"


"Then it's been forty-two years." I must look skeptical, because she says, "No one I liked ever asked. The point of going out is to be with someone you like, isn't it?"

I digest this information. "You aren't saying that you're still a virgin?"

She doesn't quite flinch. "I'm not?"

"Are you?"

She becomes very involved in buttering a slice of toast precisely. I don't say anything else, waiting for an answer. Finally she say, "Let's say that I avoid vacationing around active volcanos, lest a sacrifice be required." She takes a bite, then mumbles. "It isn't catching, last I heard."

"Are you gay?" *Dear Lord, Dana. Cut your own throat, why don't you?*

"Would it make any difference if I was?"

*Oh, God, YES. Then I could start breathing again.* "No."

"I'm glad to hear that. I'm not gay." A hesitation, a flicker of indecision. "I...don't know what...I don't like labels." She's starting to blush, nervously twining her fingers together. I watch, remembering the feel of her hands, the contrasts: gentle and firm, soft, and a little rough. I shouldn't think about those hands, really I shouldn't.

"This isn't really a breakfast conversation." She gets up and walks out of the kitchen. "I REALLY need a bath. Can I use some of your bath crystals?"

"Help yourself." I check my watch. I have a little time before I have to leave for the office, so I have another cup of coffee. I listen to the water run in the bathroom. In a moment I hear her singing. "Listen to the rhythm of the fallin' rain, tellin' me just what a fool I been..." I wait a little longer, listening. then I go and knock softly on the bathroom door?

The splashing stops. "Eeyayuh?"

*Why do I need to go in?* "Free, I didn't brush my teeth. Okay if I come in?"

"Just a sec." There is the dull squeak of flesh on porcelain, and a rattle as she draws the shower curtains. "Okay. Come on."

The bathroom is damp with steam when I enter, and it smells of honeysuckle. I get my brush and the toothpaste, glancing casually at the tub. The opaque curtain stretches across it. There is a sliver of a gap at each end. To the right, I can just see the back of her curly head resting against the wall. To the left, I see one foot break water, the toe patting the faucet, dislodging a drop that has been quivering on it's lip. I brush my teeth so hard that my gums bleed.

As I leave, I hear her call "Have a nice day." Her voice is already thick with drowsiness. In a few minutes she'll be crawling into bed, sliding between the dark green sheets. I know I'm going to spend the rest of the morning, if not the rest of the day, thinking about that.

The house is empty when I return home. This is the first time she's been gone. Always before she was still sleeping, or drowsily puttering in the kitchen. But there is no sign of her. Her purse is gone, but the flagrant orange jacket is still hanging in her closet.

Where could she be? *Any one of a thousand places, Dana. She's not a child, she's a grown woman.* Telling myself this doesn't do much good. I've seen too often what can happen when someone is 'just late'. It could be perfectly harmless, perfectly innocent. But there's darkness lurking out there, ready to snatch the vulnerable and unwary. I already hate her job. Working the graveyard shift at a convenience story is almost as good as having a bull´s-eye painted on your back. And those people she works for take advantage of her.

Where is she? Before long I'm pacing, wearing a trail from livingroom to kitchen. It's getting close to her work time. We always leave at eight-thirty. The time comes...and passes. I pick up the phone to start dialing hospitals. I put it down as I hear the rattle of a key in the door.

The door opens, and she comes in, singing a country western tune under her breath, and before I can stop myself, I'm moving up into her personal space, confronting her. "Where have you been?"

She doesn't pull away from me, but she flinches in surprise. "I went to the movies. I didn't plan on it, but I caught two features. What's wrong?" I'm breathing harder than I should. "I know I'm late. I'm sorry. I'll just get my uniform..."

As she started to slip past, I grabbed her arm. My grip must have been harder than I intended, because she winced. I loosened my hold quickly, but I didn't let go. I can only imagine what she thought, as she gazed down at me. I've seen myself like this before. I know I'm so pale that my freckles stand out, and there are two spots of color on my cheeks. "I was worried about you," I grind out."

She seems confused by my agitation, but placating. "I'm sorry, I didn't think...I was going to be back earlier."

I let go of her hand, and smooth the sleeve awkwardly. "Did you go alone?"

Her brows draw together in puzzlement. "What?"

I'm very quiet now. I hope she can't hear the danger in my voice. "The movies. Did you go alone, or did you go with someone?"

"Who would I go with? I went by myself."

"Alright." I take a step back. "Go get your uniform, or you'll be late."

She gives me a last bewildered glance, and goes to her room, rubbing her arm. She doesn't understand what just happened. I'm not entirely sure I understand. I just know that the thought that she might have gone out with someone else makes me furious.



Note: The song is an original by myself called 'Lyla's Lament'. Mine.

Chapter 6: Touching

I don't know. Maybe I could have resisted if she just hadn't been so damn sweet. It might have stayed controlable if she'd been snotty, or selfish, or distant. I would have admired, but I'd have curbed any desire to...own.

But she was always so giving, so genreous with her time and her interest. There wasn't anything I said that was ignored or dismissed. She remembered how I liked my coffee, how I folded the towels, when my favorite programs were on.

And the little things about her just sucked me in. The smell of the honeysuckle bath gel she favored always lingered about her. She'd play with her hair absently while reading or watching tv, twirling a lock over and over on one finger till I wanted to push aside he hand and plunge my fingers into the dark mass of curls and feel them wind around me. Even the way she ate popcorn, carefully selecting each kernal, then nipping it into sections.

And her complete oblivion. She didn't notice that I'd spend long minutes just watching her, saying nothing. She doesn't know that on several occasions I've removed some of her clothing from the hamper in the bathroom, and slept with it, drinking in her scent as I fell asleep. Or that I've started to go through her things occasionally, just looking at them, touching them. Because they're hers.

When I came home from work that evening, after once again trying to help Mulder explain an expense report to a very skeptical Skinner, I was once again tensed like a spring. Free, wearing the baggy, ragged shorts and tee shirt she calls her 'civies', spotted it the moment I walked through the door, and got the wine. I waited and, as I'd hoped, as I'd prayed, she offered to rub my neck.

"That sure did help last time, Free. But you told me you do backrubs?"

"Yes. Would you rather have one of those?"

"If you don't mind." I tensed even more, waiting for her response. But I'd judged her well, she couldn't refuse a request from someone so unvomfortable.


"Great. Come on in the bedroom."

As we walked back to my room she said, "This'll work out perfect. I traded days off, so I don't have to go in tonight. That means you won't even have to get up to give me a ride, you can just drift off to sleep if you want to."

In my room, I turn off the lights, except for a bedside lamp, and strip my coverlette down to the foot of the bed. As I begine to unbutton my blouse I say casually, "Check the nightstand. I think I have something in there that'll make it more relaxing." As I remove my skirt and hose, she finds the little bottle of massage oil I purchased and placed there after the neck rub.

Free uncaps it and sniffs curiously, then smiles. "Honeysuckle That's nice. But won't this be a little messy?"

"Don't use much, and it won't." I'm leaving on my underwear, bra and panties. I might make her uncomfortable if I get naked, like I want to. And, if all goes well, I'll be naked soon, anyway.

I get on the big bed, in the center, arranging the pillows comfortably under my chin and chest so that my torso is slightly elevated, then wait. She stands at the bedside, cocking her head this way and that, deciding the best way to approach her task. "Could you scoot over some?"

"Nah. I'm too comfortable to move. Just get up on the bed, too. It'll be easier on your back."

"Oh, okay, Lazy." I feel the matress sink under her weight as she kneels on it, and I shudder at the thought that she's now with me, in my bed. "Dana, are you cold? Should I go set the heater?"

"I'm fine. I just need to relax."

"Okay, help is on the way. Lemme see, I can reach around...No. Or the other side...No, not that either. Well, there's just no other solution. Let me know if I mush you."

She moves, and suddenly she's straddling my thighs. I close my eyes and smile into the pillow as I feel the smooth slide of her leg, bare beneath the old shorts, against my own thighs. "Okay, let's see now." I glance over my shoulder. She's poured a little of the oil into her hand, and now she sets the bottle aside on the nightstand. She rubs her palms together, warming and spreading the oil.

I close my eyes when I feel her press palms on either side of my spine, heels facing each other. "Watch your breath." Suddenly she stiffens her arms, pressing down with a sharp, hard, even thrust. I hear a muted crackle, and something gives way in my back.

"Free! What are you DOING?"

"Popping your back, of course. Hang on, just a couple more. Hasn't anyone ever done this for you before?"

"No." Her hands have moved up another couple of inches, and there's another sharp push, another crackle. "Uhn. What is this, some sort of oriental pre torture thing?"

She laughs, and moves up to repeat the action between my shoulder blades. "Dana, you only do this for people you really like. Doesn't it feel better?"

It does. My spine feels much looser. "I don't know about everyone else, but this is one of the redneck signs of affection, if you're willing to pop someone's back for them. Most folks would rather have a good back pop than have you loan them money."

"I can see why."

She's moved back down to the small of my back, and starts massaging, digging knuckles deep into the tight muscles. It hurts a little at first, but the knots loosen. Then she switches to fingertips, kneading firmly, but with less agression. She repeats this process up my back, pausing once to get some more oil.

She starts singing.. This time it's low and plaintive, soothing but melancholy. It sounds like an old folksong. "I went out to meet my lover, and he held me through the night. We gave our all to each other, and I went home by morning light." She speaks matter of factly. " Dana, your bra is going to get goopy."

"So take it off." I murmur. Her hands pause on my back, warm fingers splayed. Then I feel her unfasten the hooks. My nipples stiffen beneath me as she spreads it open, leaving it loosely hooked on my arms by the straps.

She begins massaging again, singing. "Smile for me, mother and father. And forgive me for my pride. I have been with my sweet lover, and he wants me for his bride." She's making long, sweeping strokes, up and down my back. "Far away there is a battle. He must go, and I must stay. He'll return, when duty's satisfied. That will be my wedding day."

She's leaning forward, resting weight on the heels of her hands as she massages my shoulders. I can't restrain a quiet groan. Her thighs shift as she reaches, squeezing my own legs together, and I feel the liquid heat building in my sex. My fingers flex on the sheets.

"Cry for me, my friends and neighbors. Weep for me, you stars above. For today I got a letter. I have lost my one true love." God, isn't that the oldest story, love and loss? The odd melancholy mingles with the sexual heat I feel growing inside. It's like the woman touching me: sad, sweet, intense, but somehow detatched from the world *me* around.

She's rocking slowly, back and forth, sweeping me with each pass. I'm making little grunts in the back of my throat with each motion. Is it possible that I'm going to cum just from getting a back rub?

"Shelter me, you rolling river. Spread your arms, and take me in. Let me sleep beneath your waters, till I see my love again." God, death songs. Morbidity and sexuality, a twisted, but strong combination. I feel boneless now, molton. It won't take much to send me over the edge. If she'll just kiss me, taste some of the oil she's been rubbing into my flesh. If she'll just slip a hand beneath me and touch my pebble hard nipples. Or better yet, slide a hand into my panties and touch my even stiffer clitoris. I'm so close...

"Dana, are you asleep?" The whisper is barely audible, her movement has stilled. *Don't scare her off, Dana.* It's all I can do to keep from screaming when she gets off the bed and tiptoes out of the room, leaving me lying there. Leaving me acheing with arousal and need, feeling my panties dampen.

Son of a bitch, she didn't know. SHE DIDN'T KNOW. She almost brought me to orgasm just by touching my back, and she didn't realize it. Why hadn't I turned over, grabbed her, and rolled on top of her when I had the chance? Because it would have sent her screaming from the room, and I wouldn't have been strong enough to hold her. Not in a direct, full frontal assault. And she's apparently not going to be seduced.

I can't stay here like this. I'll never be able to sleep, and it isn't safe to stay here in this state, with her peacefully watching tv or sleeping in the other room. Because I might do something. I'll have to be careful, or she'll run. But I need to be taken care of. I dial a number that I haven't used for awhile. "It's me. You said whenever." I listen to her as she tells someone who's there that something has come up, and they'll have to leave. She's sorry, but it's important. "I'll be there in twenty minutes. Be ready for me."

I hang up. You meet a lot of interesting people working on the X Files. I'm pretty sure that Mulder has picked up a few bed partners this way, too. I pull on jeans and a sweatshirt, getting rid of the bra, then head for the livingroom. She's tucked up on the couch, watching an old movie in the dark. She's startled by my sudden appearance. "Oh, I thought you were asleep."

"I'm going out. I may not be back tonight."

She doesn't question me, compliant as usual, but not as compliant as I need. "Okay. Didn't the massage help any?"

"It worked a little too well, Free." She looks puzzled, but I don't explain. I can't explain. I'll just have to show her later.



Chapter 7: Surrogate

Fifteen minutes later I was standing before the door of the other apartment. I stayed there for a moment, staring at it. Her name was Rene. I didn't love her, she didn't love me. We'd had sex a few times, and that was all it was. Why did I feel guilty about what I was about to do?

She wasn't anything like what I really wanted right now, but I NEEDED...She would be willing, though, even enthusiastic. Anything, everything, the more, the better. Right now I had to have that. Free couldn't give it, and it wasn't something that could be taken. So I was here.

I knocked. The door opened quickly, and I stepped in. Rene was wearing a short satin robe, her blonde hair falling down around her collar. She shut and locked the door, then turned to me.

Rene's face is angular, cat like, with bright hazel eyes, almost like Mulder's. Sometimes I wonder if that wasn't part of what first attracted me to her. They look green now, because of the color of the robe she's wearing. I wish they were blue. She starts to say something, and I reach up (she's taller than I), grab her face strongly, and drag her down so that I can kiss her, hard. This catches her off guard, and she stumbles a little.

I push her back against the door, still kissing her, working my tongue into her startled mouth. I let my hands drop, finding the collar of her robe, and jerk it open. She gasps against my lips as I reach in and find her breasts. She's naked, ready for me, as I'd asked.

She pulls her mouth away from mine, gasping and laughing a little. "Oh, so that's how it's gonna be, huh? You're not in the mood to play nice?"

I answer by pinching her nipples hard enough to wring a groan from her. But it's as much pleasure as pain, and I feel the little buds begin to stiffen and swell. But I'm still not really comfortable with hurting her, no matter how much she enjoys it, and I apologize by following the pinches with gentle kisses and licks.

"Bed." She moans, pushing at me. "C'mon, Dana. It's all ready."

I'm ready to take her right there against the wall or on the livingroom floor, but I let her lead me into the bedroom. It's lighted only by one dim lamp sitting on the nightstand. The glow illuminates the selection of sex toys she has laid out beneath it. I don't keep them myself, I've always used the natural method of making love. But this isn't making love. This isn't even just sex. This is going to be pure, animal fucking.

She wants to undress me, but I'm too impatient for that. I push away her hands, snapping, "Get on the bed." She throws off the already open robe as I kick off my shoes. By the time I've peeled off my socks, she's lounging on the mattress, posing seductively. She doesn't need to to that tonight. I couldn't get any hotter if I was doused with gasoline and set alight. But still, I pause to admire the view.

Her breasts are on the small side, but perfectly formed. She glides her hands over them now, cupping them for my inspection. The sight of her nipples, swollen into stiff peaks, make my own harden as I jerk my shirt over my head.

I lean over and run a hand down her torso, counting each rib by feel, almost sadly. *too thin, why won't she EAT?* Over the board flat abdomen, and I wish for a gently rounded, womanly belly. *Damn, Dana, all this laid out for you and you alone, and you're yearning for something else* I stop short of her crotch. My voice is thick. "Play with yourself. Get wet for me."

She laughs throatily, her hands moving down between her legs as she purrs, "Lover, I'm already there."

I watch her masterbate as I pull down my jeans and panties. My underwear, when I strip it off, is damp and fragrant with musk. She rubs the length of her crease slowly, senuously. Smiling, she spreads her legs wide to offer me the best view possible.

Yes, she is already wet. I see the moisture glisten on her labia as she rubs and tugs. She presses against herself, and I can tell when her fingers find her clitoris by the way she stiffens, then melts with a low hum of satisfaction. I kneel on the bed beside her, watching, caressing my own breasts to full, aching sensitivity.

I notice, in a vague way, that her nails are short, and natural. I know that the last time I saw her she had sported artificial red claws. Judging from a faint, sharp tang on the air, she removed them not long ago. She really HAD gotten ready for me. Nails like that could be a dangerous hazard in the typed of sex she liked to indulge in.

One finger dips lower and disappears into the moist slit, then another. She slides them in and out slowly, raising her hips minutely. When they are slick and glistening, she lifts her ass a little, and teases them along the crack.

I can't hold back any longer. I crawl around so that I can come up between her spread legs, and she smiles down at me. I study her groin. The pubic thatch is only a little darker than the hair on her head: she's a natural blonde. But it's sparse. It's as if her adolescence hadn't made much headway here. I don't know why, but somehow I think that Free's pubes will be not that different than what she has on her head: dark, thick, curly, silky.

*Why speculate?* I brush aside the thin hair, take hold of her hips, and lean down. No preliminaries, I simply shove my tongue into her vagina has far as I can, and lick vigorously. She jerks, with a pleased, startled cry, and I continue. She was wet, but now she oozes. I lap with ferocious intensity, drinking her as much as eating her. Then I move up to concentrate on her clit.

It's as stiff and swollen as a tiny cock, and I take it between my lips and flick my tongue over it. She groans, and I feel her hands in my hair, stroking through the strands. I cover it completely with my mouth and suck, hard. The groan grows strangled.

I'm wet now, too, and I straddle her thigh and begin humping against her as I suck. I clamp tight, and the friction as I rub against her smooth skin is exquisite.

She's babbling to me, words running together nonsensically, but it all means the same thing. Fuck me, Dana. Use me. Hurt me. Make me cum. And I'm more than willing...

She orgasms the first time when I bite her. I set my teeth on her straining clit and nip sharply, enough to cause pain. She howls and thrashes, almost throwing me off, but I ride her, and my mouth never loses contact. Chewing lightly, I slip two fingers inside her, and feel her ripple around me. Yes, it was good for her. But it's a long way from over.

She coos softly, trying to pull me up for a kiss. But I don't want to kiss now. I take the two fingers I have moistened in her body, and draw them down the slit, pulling her ass cheeks apart. She gasps when I force them past the tight ring of flesh that guards the entrance to her bowels. I never would play like this with her before, and she isn't expecting it.

But after the initial startle, she obligingly reaches down to keep herself spread for me. And as I push and pull, I feel her flesh relaxing around my probes. Soon she's pushing down on each inward thrust.

I take her still erect clit in my fingers, and rub roughly. I glance over at the toys laid out on the bedside table and say, "How do you want it?"

Her eyes glisten greedily, and she points. "That in my ass, that in my cunt. Hurry, Dana, hurry!"

I leave her body long enough to take a small bottle of lubricant and oil the slender, ivory colored wand she first indicated. She takes it easily when I push it into her ass. I insert it shallowly, leaving a good bit out for a grip.

Her second choice is an almost eerily lifelike artificial penis. It is molded in a firm, but pliable rubbery substance. When I oil it, it almost seems to shift in my hands, as if alive.

Rene is watching with lust glazed eyes. She twists and arches, flexing herself around the anal probe, stimulating herself. "Gimme," she breathes. "Fuck me, Dana. I neeeeed it."

I drag the pillow out from under her head, and she scoots farther down in the bed, seeing what I intend. This time when I kneel, I face the foot of the bed, and I straddle her head. I lower myself slowly, and she cranes her neck, tongue extended, to make first contact. There is a light, wiggling tickle right at the very center of my sex crease. She laughs, "Damn, Dana, you're DRIPPING! Let mama take care of you." Her hands hook up over my legs, and she pulls me down.

I close my eyes, biting my lip at the first deep, lavish lick. Rene travels the entire length of my swimming slit, making an incredibly obscene slurping noise that sends heat bolting up my spine. I moan, and lay length wise on her body, scratching at her thigh, which is still slick with my juice.

She moves and seeks hungrily, working her tongue in me with a rhythm dedicated to driving me insane. It is very effective. Reality is swimming around me now, over ridden by sheer sensation. I grope blindly and find the small anal probe, and begin tugging and pushing. She whimpers against my flesh, legs spreading even wider. Her hips arch in silent pleading, and I fit the head of the dildo to her yearning cunt and push.

She's chosen a thick one, and she grunts as the lips of her sex flower open to accept the bulbous head. Knowing what she wants, what I need, I don't slow down. I push firmly, burying it inside her. Two inches, three. I'm glad she chose one of softer rubber, I'd have been worried about doing what I'm goint to do with a hard plastic vibrator.

She's licking my clitoris as I ease in another three inches. Then I pull back just a little, and press it deeper on the instroke. I do this several times, filling her just a little more, till I have almost ten inches buried in her streaming passage. Rene is a girl of great capacities.

For a moment I let her rest, let her adjust, only easing the probe in and out of her ass a little more vigorously. She moans and twists her hips in pleading. She's ready, and so am I.

I really drop my weight down on her, shoving my wet cunt against her face, and she meets me, pulling me even tighter. I don't know how she can breathe, and I don't care. I take hold of both of the man made instruments of pleasure and begin to fuck her in earnest. I am not gentle. She doesn't want gentleness, and neither do I. I work her hard, co-ordinating the thrusts of both hands, pounding at her. I never let up on my assault of her cunt, but occasionally I abandon the anal probe so that I can roughly rub and pinch her wildly throbbing clit.

She's biting and sucking and licking maddly. I'll be scraped and bruised when we are done, but I don't care. I can feel the orgasm boiling up inside me, like the top of my head is about to blow off. I'm slamming the dildo in and out, almost exiting on the backstroke. Then I go to short, hard strokes, so powerful that my shoulders are going to give me hell tomorrow.

I'm making noises, saying things...I don't know, maybe I'm speaking in tongues. It doesn't make any sense, but it doesn't matter, because I'm cumming now. My whole body is clenching and spasmning. Rene is holding me to her face so tight that she has to be seconds from passing out, her nails raking my ass. But it doesn't matter, because she's cumming, too. She jitters and vibrates like she's hooked up to an electric current.

I've heard it called 'the little death' before, and that's what it is this time. The world goes away for a moment, and I'm floating in warm, grey cotton wool, tingling as if a static charge is running over my skin, concentrating in my distended nipples and my throbbing crotch.

When I can make sense again, I'm still sprawled over Rene. She has pulled her head free of the vise of my thighs, and is gulping in long, ragged breaths. I start to pull the dildo free, but she rasps, "Leave them." Moving shakily, I roll off her onto my back, feet up toward the head of the bed.

Rene moves, turning and crawling to lie parallel to me, carefull holding her toys in the clasp of her body. I really don't want to cuddle, but when she reaches for me, I allow her to hold me. I close my eyes and think. *I used to think she was soft. Now she feels like she's all hard angles* I blindly stroke her hair, heavy and straight, and think of dark, lively curls.

"Who were you fucking, Dana?" her voice is calm, but curious.

"You were here, weren't you?" I don't really answer the question, not to her, or to myself.

"I was here, alright. But it wasn't ME you were screwing. I don't mind, I fantasize myself sometimes. You've been Angelina Jolie a time or two. I'm just curious because this was the first time I sensed it from you."

"You're imagining things."

"Hm. Maybe. Alright then, what are you escaping?"

"You've lost me again. I'm not trapped by anything."

"Are you sure about that?"

I open my eyes and look at her with mild exasperation. This had been good, why is she insisting on analyzing it? She never has before. "What makes you think that?"

"It was what you said when you came."

I frown, not able to remember. It's a blurr of sensation. "And what was that?"

"You don't remember? God, Dana, you were screaming, over and over. 'Free, free, free."



Disclaimer: 'Sweet Misery' by John Denver

Chapter 8: Declaration

I don't really want to stay the night, but I do. I do, because Free is there at my place, alone. And I don't think it's wise for me to be with her right now, alone. Instead I get up early and return to change clothes before going to work.

In the bathroom, I notice a glass. What on earth is a glass doing in the bathroom. I pick it up and sniff it, and there is a whiff of citrus, mixed with a medicinal smell. The inside is filmed, and there is a tiny drift of packed powder in the bottom. I check the wastebasket, and my hunch is confirmed. Alka Seltzer Plus. She took a cold medicine before going to bed.

She's asleep, and I pause outside her door, listening. There is quiet, then a rustle. A cough. I open the door.

She's lying in bed, staring at the ceiling. She looks tired, and I get the impression that she wasn't sleeping, not any time lately. She coughs again.

"Free, you alright?"

She sits up, rubbing a hand across her face. "Oh, not too bad. Caught a cold, I guess. It snuck up on me a little while after you left last night. But I dosed it. I'll just get some of that decongestant cough syrup I saw in the bathroom, if you don't mind..."

"Stay there." I get the bottle, and a spoon, and bring it to her. When she reaches for it, I hold it away. "You'll spill it. Just relax." I pour a dose into the spoon and hold it to her lips.

She engulfs the spoon like a child, instead of trying to sop from it. She winces as she swallows, face screwing up with a shudder. "Eeww, that stuff is nasty! All those millions for research, and you'd think they'd come up with something a little more pleasant." I'm pouring another dose, and she says, "Oh, no, Dana, really. I'm sure that was enough."

"Recommended dosage is two, kiddo. Open up." She bites her lip, eyeing first the spoon, then me. "Free, who's the doctor here?" Reluctantly she opens her mouth, and I insert the spoon. She doesn't try to take it this time, just sitting there with the spoon resting on her tongue, so I tip it and spill it out. She jerks, almost biting the spoon, then forces herself to swallow, wincing.

I screw the cap on the bottle. "Do you have a sore throat?"

"A little."

"Did you take a flue shot?"



"They charge for them, okay? I've always done alright before."

"But in your job, the number of people you're exposed to every day...It should be manditory."

"Well, it's not. You'd better get to work, you'll be late."

"Alright. Look, drink a lot of fluids, and I don't mean sodas. I have a half gallon of orange juice in the fridge, and I want to see most of it gone when I get home. Just eat something light for lunch: soup, I wouldn't even advise crackers or toast right now. And rest as much as possible."

"You know, if my mom fussed over me half this much...I don't know. I'd have either left sooner, or still be there." She lies back down. She staring at the ceiling again when I leave.

Fox and I are interviewing witnesses to a spontaneous combustion. The woman burst into flames at a pool party. You'd think...the pool's right there, roll her in, everything's fine. And they had. But she'd gone on burning underwater.

We're getting the same story, over and over again. Most of them noticed a peculiar odor, like insulation burning. The woman started to complain. The woman started to scream. She'd been drinking a lot, was in fact an alcoholic. It wasn't the first time she'd caused a scene at a gathering. Then a lot of the witnesses noticed the odor of hot bacon grease, and the woman's skin had seemed shiny...Then little flames were licking all over her body, then she went up like a torch...

Normally, I'd have been fascinated. Fox was. He was busily digging away at witness statements, asking all the right questions. Was she smoking, was anyone NEAR her smoking, any chance of s stray spark from the barbeque...

I took a moment to call Free. The phone rang for a long time. I was about to give up, considering running home to check on her, when the receiver lifted. I heard raspy breathing, "Scully residence."

"Hello, Free. You live there too, you know."

"No one ever calls me, Dana, except to come in to work early."

"How are you?" There's a rattling cough. "Take another dose of cough syrup, it's time."

"I already did. It should work in a little while. What's up?"

"Just checking on you."

"I'm okay."

"You don't sound okay." Her voice is thicker, lifeless.

"Thank you. I'm just tired. A little sleep would help. The damn insomnia is back."

"Look in my nightstand. There's a little brown bottle of blue capsules. Take one of those. Just one."

"Maybe. Thanks, Dana. I wanna go lay back down. Don't worry, it's just a cold."

"I'll bring some more medicine when I come home."

"If you wanna. I'll be okay. Bye."

She hangs up, and I stare at the phone, then shut it off.

I want to go back and check on her, but I need to do the autopsy right away. Not that it can tell me much. There isn't a whole hell of a lot left of the woman, just a few chunks of carbonized bone. We're having the pool drained, and I'll inspect what gets caught in the filter later. Still, I examine what is left, eleminate some possibilities. It doesn't look like an alcohol fueled fire, no matter what the local cops and 911 technicians and party goers seem to think.

I scrub hard before I leave the autopsy room. The burn smell seems to be able to make it's way even through the latex gloves. I stop to get supplies before I go home. Juice, soup, cough drops, tissues, a new thermometer...Fox bit through my old one during some godawful episode that I don't want to remember. I get a perscription for strong antihistimines, and a codeine based cough syrup, because the over the counter brand didn't seem to be doing much good. Just in case, I get a syringe of B12, to boost her system. It may not be easy to get her to let me administer it. She's turning out to be a stubborn patient. Not nasty, or aggressive, just balky.

I'm a little late getting home. She's on the couch, dressed a little sloppily, barefooted. Staring at the tv with her mouth a little open. "Hi Dana." She sounds listless. "Sorry, I didn't cook. I'd've probably made you sick, too." And now I know why she was catching flies. She sounds very clogged.

"What are you doing up? If you wanted to watch tv, why didn't you haul your pillows and cover in here and lie down on the couch."

"Too much trouble."

I go to put away the supplies. The orange juice looks untouched. I frown, check the wastebasket. It is pristine, as I left it. So no soup, either. I check the bread, the lunchmeat, the fruit. Nothing looks like it was touched.

I go back in the living room. "Free, what kind of soup did you have for lunch?"

She blinks slowly. "Uh, I can't remember. Noodle, I think."

"What else?"

She shrugs. "Some crackers? And a banana...I think. And some orange juice. You told me to drink juice, right?"

"But you didn't."

She tries to look indignant. "I did so." I stare at her. She wilts a little. "I had a few swallows. But I felt like I was gonna bring it back up, so I stopped."

"And you didn't have any soup or crackers, either. I've never brought a can of noodle soup into this house. If you'd said chicken and rice, I might have believed you. If there was a can in the trash. And we didn't have any crackers. And there are still two bananas in there. I know because I had one from breakfast." She's blushing. "Free, didn't you eat ANYTHING?"

"I'm not hungry." She looks shamefaced. "I'm sorry I lied to you, but I knew you'd be pissed. I figured I'd eat something at work tonight."

"What? You think you're going to WORK tonight?"

She looks bewildered. "Dana, I have to. I don't have paid sick days, you know that."

"I don't give a damn about that. You're in no shape to work, you need to stay home."

"But I can't." She stands up slowly, wincing. She must be having muscle aches now. "I haven't done a full load of hours this week. They gave me that extra day off so they could train the new clerk. Which means they may cut my hours even further. I can't give them an excuse."

"But Free, you're sick. They can't want you to work while you're ill."

She smiles tiredly. "Don't you have a charitable view of them? They don't give a damn, sweety. As long as I clean up any vomit I put on the floor, and don't gross the customers out too bad." She coughs, hard. It's deep, and racking. She puts a hand on the wall for a moment, steadying herself. She pulls an almost empty bottle of cough syrup off the table and swigs directly from the bottle. She only grimaces a little, then smiles at me weakly. "That stuff isn't so terrible after you've had a half pint or so. At least compared to the alternative."

"Free, you can't go to work."

"Don't worry. All I have to do is work the cash register. They'll have the newbie doing all the cleaning. I got them to do that much. They wanted ME to do the stocking and cleaning, and let newbie run the register for experience. I told 'em that if I got pneumonia from stocking that cooler, you were instructed to sue their nuts off."

"Well, bully for them. And don't think I wouldn't. But it shouldn't come to that. Just lay down and I'll..."

"Dana, no." Her voice is quiet, but decided. "Now excuse me while I go put on that piece of shit uniform and ready myself for another ten hour stint of slavery."

She moves slowly and painfully. But from her room I hear an old John Denver song. "Heard you had some troubles, thought I'd try to help you. In my time I've had a little trouble, too." It's slow, almost half time, with frequent pauses for phlegmy breaths. "If you let it get you, down you know I bet you. It will get you down and walk around on you." But she's singing. "Sweet misery, she loves her company. She's in a crowd when she is all alone. She doesn't care, follow you everywhere. She is most happy when she makes you moan."

I consider giving the name of her manager, and the store owner, to a friend at the IRS.

She comes out looking a little more pulled together. As pulled together as anyone can be in that orange monstrosity. She silently goes into the kitchen and returns with the cough drops and tissues. She's quiet in the car, hugging herself, humming the song, occasionally muttering a word.

"What are you going to eat tonight? You'll have a break, with the other one there, won't you?"

"I s'pose." She doesn't sound convinced. "I don't have any cash. Payday in two days."

We've pulled up to the store. I open my purse and silently offer her a ten. She stares at it, then frowns at me. "I can't take your money."

I shove the bill into her front pocket. "If you don't eat, you'll faint. You can't starve yourself while you're sick, despite what the nursery rhymes say. You can pay me back later. And drag a stool up behind that cash register. I mean it."

She coughs, unwraps a coughdrop, and pops it. "Yeah, they'll love that." She gets out and starts tiredly for the door. I see her wince at the alarm buzz, and reluctantly drive home, to spend a restless, mostly sleepless night. She forced herself to stay in bed till after sunrise, then got up and dressed, made coffee.

She wanted to go to the store and pick Free up, but remembered how adamnant she'd been about getting her own way home, not causeing any trouble. She drank her coffee, and wished that she smoked, waiting. When seven-thirty came and went, she called the store. Free was supposed to get off at seven, she should have been home by now.

The voice that answered was unfamiliar, and answered boredly with the store's name. "I need to speak to Free."

"She's busy at the register. Got a line."

"She was supposed to be off a half hour ago."

Dana could almost hear the shrug. "New clerk was s'posed to stay over till I could get the paperwork done, but he hauled butt out of here sometimes during the middle of the night. Said he had a cough, and wasn't about to stock the cooler or sweep the lot. Damn good thing I had Free on duty or that shit would have never got done."

"What? You mean to tell me that as sick as she was she went into that cold?"

"She ain't complainin'. Anyway, she's eatin' those coughdrops like popcorn. She'll be okay."

"I want to talk to her right now."

"Like I said, she's busy. Don't worry, roomie. She'll be done in about ten minutes, that is IF I get off the phone and finish my paperwork. She already has a cab ordered." She hung up.

I paced. The time for me to leave for the office had come and gone by the time the taxie pulled up and she crawled out of it. I was waiting for her with the door open as she dragged herself slowly up the walk.

"You look like death warmed over." She was as pale as skim milk, except for the dark circles under her eyes. Her beautiful curly hair looked snarled and neglected.

She smiled faintly. "Why, thank you. I love you, too." I flinched at the words, looking at her sharply. But she was unzipping her uniform, oblivious of my reaction. She was just teasing.

She tossed the jacket on the couch, picking the T-shirt she'd worn underneath away from her torso. It looked sweaty. "'Scuse me. Gotta get out of this stuff." She walked back toward her room, beginning to unhook her bra on the way. Now I knew she was sick. She'd always been very carefull about dressing and undressing in private. Damn it.

I checked the front pocket of her jacket for change. There was almost eight dollars. I carried it back to her room. "Free." She was pulling a fresh T-shirt over her head, one of the comfortable, oversized ones. "Free, what did you eat last night?"

She frowned, pushing her pants down and picking up the loose shorts she had waiting. "Some crackers. Some orange juice. Don't fuss at me, Dana. Nothing looked good." She stepped into the shorts, almost overbalancing, sitting on the bed.

"Free." I go and sit beside her on the bed. "You can't do this to yourself. You went into the cooler and out onto the lot last night, didn't you?"

A flush rides up her pale cheeks. "There wasn't anyone else. I had to."

"No, you didn't."

"It's my job, Dana."

"Free, you're more than your job." I touch her, finger combing her hair back from her face. I feel the heat radiating, and lay my hand on her forehead, becoming alarmed. "Free, you're burning up!"

She squinchs her eyes, shivering. "Boy, your hand is cold, Dana. Maybe, a little."

I go and get the thermometer, wipe it with alcohol, and slip it under her tongue. She sits lifelessly, except for ticking the thermometer up and down. When I take it out, it reads 102, not as bad as I feared, but bad enough. "You need to go to the doctor."

"No, I don't. It's just the flu, you know that. I'll take some medicine, I'll stay in bed today." She slides her eyes at me, making a comical face. "I'll drink juice and eat soup. I'll force myself. Okay?"

"I'll stay home and take care of you."

"No you won't. I'll boycot all common sense if you do. Just mix up the soup and leave it in the microwave for me to heat it later. You should be gone by now."

"Not till I get you settled." I go and get the soup ready. leaving it in the microwave in a microwave proof bowl. I bring her twi insulated pitchers: one of juice, one of ice water, and glasses. I get some of the antihistimenes down her, a decongestant, and some of the codein laced cough syrup.

"Free, you're off tonight."

She yawns. "T'morrow night for sure."

"No, I spoke to your manager. She didn't tell you before you left?"

"Tell me what?"

"They're switching your schedual so you can recuperate. You don't have to be in after tomorrow."

"Really?" She sounds doubtfull. "I better call and check."

"No. I'll have them call you, so you're sure. I spoke to them as your physician, and they saw the light."

She blinks, obviously having a hard time believing this of her employers. "That would be nice."

"So you can just concentrate on getting well."

"You're gonna be late. Not good when you work for the gov, Dana."

"Just one more thing. I want to give you a B12 shot before I go."

She grimaces. "Oh, well, what's one more ache? Okay."

I go and get the disposable syringe, and the alcohol. She sits up and offeres her arm. "Not there. It'd hurt too much. Your hip. Lie down, that'll make it easier."

She sighs, and kicks off the covers, then rolls over to lie face down, scrunching her pillow under her chin. "Right or left side?"

"Whichever is better."

"Wellllll...I lay more on my right side, so..." She hooks her fingers in the left side of her waisteband and pulls down the shorts and panties, exposing her hip and part of her buttock.

I stare at the pale flesh. I wipe it with alcohol, listening to her mutter about how cold it is. Then I brace my left hand on her hip, frameing a small pathc of skin, pulling it taut. "This will sting, and ache a little. Try to relax."

She breathes deeply, closing her eyes. "Go ahead, doctor."

For all her stubborness about taking care of herself, she takes a shot well. She doesn't clench up, doesn't flinch away. She breathes deeply, inhaling a bit when the needle peices her skin. She holds still while I make the injection, no movement to interfer. I pull the needle free, moving an alcohol soaked pad onto the tiny hole immediately.

I'd left the cap standing on the nightstand, and I fit the needle back into it one handed, still holding the pad on her shot. I drop the spent, recapped syringe. "How's that?"

"Hurts like hell." she says matter of factly. "Must be good for me, huh?"

I massage the spot, trying to work out some of the soreness. "Does that help?"

"Some." She sounds drowzy. I hope that she'll drift off to sleep right here. As much as I want her to eat, ten or twelve solid hours of sleep would do her a lot more good.

I keep massaging. "Free, this job isn't good for you. I want you to think about quitting it."

She sighs. "Nice dream. But I've talked to you about this, haven't I? Where else would I go?"

I reach up and rub her shoulders, feeling the muscles as tense as mine ever were. "You don't have to go anywhere. I could take care of you."

She rolls her head losely at my touch, eyes closed. "You're doing so much right now. Wouldn't be right for me to ask for any more."

"You don't have to ask, Free. I WANT to." I stroke the length of her back. " I want to do it all for you. I make enough money, it wouldn't be any sort of burden. That's what you do when you care about someone. You take care of them."

She's very still, her breathing deep and thick. Her head is turned away. "I care about you, Free. I...I love you." She doesn't move, doesn't make a sound. Is she asleep? Did I wait till she was asleep to make my confession?

I move my hands down, and find that I am cupping her ass, smoothing my hands out toward her hips. I gently pull her shorts back up, covering the bruising patch of shin. I whisper, "Free?"

She rolls her head to look at me. Her eyes are bleary with weariness and the medicines she's taken. "Free, say something. Please." I'm so afraid.

But she doesn't look shocked, or even surprised. She looks...I'm not sure. At last she says quietly. "I heard you. Dana...Dana, I'm real sick right now. My head isn't working. I can't talk about this. You'd better go on to work."

"You're right. I shouldn't have said anything right now, but...You're not mad, are you?"

"No, I'm not mad. But you need to go to work now."

"Alright. be sure to drink all of those liquids, alright? And be careful going to the bathroom. Keep yourself braced at all times. And if you start to get light headed, sit down before you fall down. Alright?" I'm babbleing, I know I am. But I have to fill the silence.

She nods solemnly. I leave before I can panic.



Disclaimer: Words of song are from, I think, 'Falling Rain'.

Chapter 9: Crisis

I awake in the dark, and lie very still I can hear Free breathing beside me. It sounds easier, less clogged. That's good, it was worrying me. I turn, and the room is so dark that I can't really see her. Just the barest silhouette, the curve of cheek. I touch her forehead lightly, and it feels cool, thank god. The fever broke sometime while we slept.

Her forehead is cool, but the rest of her body is very warm. I cuddle against her, snugging my arms around her waist. Warm, soft, pliant. The medicines are still coursing through her, keeping her relaxed, sleepy if not asleep. She's lying sprawled loosely, except for her hands crooked up over her head.

Her head moves slightly on the pillow. There is the silky brush of her hair. The fringes are still a little damp, whether from her bath or sweat, I can't say. The overiding scents are honeysuckle and musk. It's intoxicating.

There's a bead of sweat on her upper lip. I cant' resist. I lean over and lick it away, tasting her salt, and soap, and the faint tange of the codein based cough syrup that is partially responsible for her deep sleep.

She shifts a little, her own pink tongue lapping at the place where mine touched. Then her eyes slit open. Slivers of stormy sky, clouded. Not fully aware. Her lips move a second before she makes sound. "...Dana?"

"Sh, it's alright." I stroke her hair, combing the curls as I've wanted to for so long. "You're much better now. You're going to be fine. I'm taking care of you, like I said I would."

I kiss her softly. Her lips tremble beneath mine. It's all still so new to her. "You need to sleep, baby. You haven't slept good for so long. That'll make you better."

She arches up slightly. "Dana, please..."

I kiss her throat, feeling the slow, steady pulse begin to speed up. I love it when she says my name. I'd do anything for her, give her anything in my power. Because she's given me so much.

"Just hush a little while longer, Free. You don't have to do anything. Dana will take care of you."

Her skin is so smooth. I could just devour every inch of her. It's so hard to believe that I can, that I can touch her all I wish. Hold her, taste her, move against her...It was all so far away this morning...

This morning. God, did I make a hash of it. Just blurting it out like that. When she was ill, and weary, and in no shape to make life decisions. She was right to tell me to go on to work, that she wasn't ready to talk about it right then.

Lord, I'd even more or less grabbed her ass. Bonehead move, was just THERE. I swear, I started out just rubbing the sting out of the B12 shot. I should have known better.

But she reacted better than I had any right to expect. I could have very easily ended up kicked across the room by a very startled, or angry woman. But she'd been...I can't say. She wasn't horrified, or indignant. But she wasn't exactly welcoming, either. Confusion and disbelief seemed to be the main components of her reaction.

At least she wasn't angry, I kept telling myself. But, really, I think I'd have preferred some anger to this...blankness. It felt like she was cutting me off, and that had never happened before.

I went through what had been drained from the spontaneous combustion pool. Sludge. Grease, bone chips. What you'd have if you'd tossed a hastily creamated body into a pool, more or less. We found her wedding ring and a delicate chain necklace intact, when they should have been either smelted or vaporized by a fire of that magnitude.

Mulder was overjoyed. I don't mean her was grinning or laughing, or anything unseemly. No, he displayed proper dignity at all times. But he was practically VIBRATING with excitement. He drove a couple of the witnesses a few steps closer to the loony bin with his questions.

I wanted to go home at lunch, but I didn't. I wanted to call and check on her, but I didn't do that, either. She needed her rest, and she needed time to think. I wasn't sure she could do both at once. It might be days before she really responded to my declaration. I determined not to push it. I wasn't just going to let it pass, mind you. Now that I'd said it, things had to move to a different level. If she had been pretending, she could no longer pretend that she didn't know. And I didn't have to pretend indifference anymore, when I was aching to touch, kiss, hold...have..

That morning I'd stopped at her place of business and informed the manager that Free was taking the next three days off. When the bitch started to protest, I'd shown her my ID, informed her that I was Free's physician, and mentioned civil suits. Under my careful eye, she called Free and told her to take the next few days off. She was careful not to sound phony, or begrudging. I could tell from her tone that Free was bewildered by this turn of events, but happy with it. I was REALLY going to have to get Free to give up this peice of shit excuse for employment. There was no reason for her to work. Not when she had me.

I got home around dusk. The house was dim and quiet. She was curled up on the couch, this time with her pillow and bedclothes, watching an old movie. 'Rebecca', I think. She replies to my tentative greetings quietly, her voice a little less hoarse than it was. The cough syrup is on the table before her. She's been taking the doses regularly. That means she still hasn't slept as much as she needs.

"Did you eat?"

"Yes, doctor. Lunch and supper."

I check the pitchers. The water is gone, there's a little juice left. I take them and the sticky glasses into the kitchen, put them in the sink. I'm being careful not to say anything...significant.

I check the wastebasket. Yes, there's another soup can there, and an apple core. Good, she's eating. And there's something else.

I pull it out and examine it closely, picking out details. The thick marks of the felt tip pen. Circles, slashes. Coldness seeps into me slowly as I stare. I put it quietly back into the basket. I brace my hands on the counter, lower my head between my arms, and breath slowly and carefully.

I can actually feel my sanity slipping away.

I hear her call from the living room. "Dana, can I use your bath salts again? I want a really good, long, hot soak. I think that would help."

When I speak, I do not scream. My voice is perfectly normal, almost placid. Somehow this frightens me even more. "Of course, Free. But wait a minute, won't you? I need to give you another round of medicine."


First I pour the rest of the juice into a glass. I go to my bedroom, and I don't look at her closely as I pass. I get the little bottle out of my dresser drawer and shake out a blue capsule. After a moment, I shake out another, then cap and replace it.

Back in the kitchen, I break open both of the capsules, sifting the white powder into the orange juice. The drug itself is white, they package it in blue capsules. I don't know why. So many things seem purposeless when you can't see the whole picture. I stur carefully, then add ice cubes. I test the taste with my tongue. It should pass. Her sense of taste will be dulled from the medication and loss of smell caused by stuffiness.

In the living room I feed her antihistimines, decongestant, stronge cough syrup. And finally the orange juice. By that time, she's grateful for something that will take away the nasty taste. She pauses after a few swallows, and I say gently, "Drink it all, Free. You need it." I watch as she obediently turns up the glass, her throat working as she swallows. I resist the temptation to reach out and touch the soft pulse of the muscles. I'm glad to see that there is no sediment in the glass. She got it all.

She gets up and shuffles toward the bathroom. I say, "Don't lock the door." She glances back at me. "Not with all that medicine in you. If you lose your balance, and slip, I need to be able to get to you." She nods silently, and continues down the hallway.

I go in my room, strip, and wrap myself in a robe. Then I sit on my bed and listen. The water finishes running. There are soft splashes. I hear her singing, soft and hoarse. "Listen to the rhythm of the fallin' rain. Tellin' me just what a fool I been. I wish that it would go and let me cry in pain, and let me be alone again."

I close my eyes. And I imagine what it would be like if I never heard that voice again, singing. By my side, or in another room...

"The only girl I care about has gone away, lookin' for a brand new start. Little does she know that when she left that day, along with her she took my heart."

My hands go to fists on my thighs. *You can't do it, Free. I can't let you take my heart.*

The voice cracks a little, almost making the high, sweet note. "Rain please tell me, now does that seem fair? For her to steal my heart away when she don't care? I can't love another when my heart's somewhere fare away."

I get up and go to the kitchen wastebasket, then my purse. I feel the weight of the three objects, feel the contrast of the materials.

I listen as I walk down the hall to the bathroom. Her voice is faint. She's falling toward sleep, but fighting it. "Oh, listen to the falling rain." Her tone is almost conversational. "Pitter patter, pitter patter. Ooohh..."

I knock. "Free? I have a call for you. I'll bring in the cell phone, okay?"

Silence. "Just a second." There is the rattle of the shower curtain being drawn. "Okay."

I step in, and my robe sticks to me almost immediately. The room is steamy. The smell of honeysuckle is thick. This must be what a deep summer night feels and smells like back in her native state of Texas. Her left hand appears through the right hand slit near her head, making small 'gimme' motions.

I lay the first two objects on the counter, and step forward. I'm glad to see that there are several towels on the towel rack. That will save some steps. I hang one of the towels over my arm, reach out, and snap the first bracelet of my handcuffs around her left wrist.

She doesn't know what is happening. The right hand darts out to investigate the cold steel around it's mate. "Dana?" It's almost a birdlike chirp as I snap the second cuff home. I take the towel and swiftly pass it around the linking chains twice. Then I haul up. There is a safety bar mounted vertically on the end wall, and I knot the towel firmly at it's base.

I pull back the shower curtain. She hangs there limply for a moment, fingers flexing. She looks perplexed. I know that it's due to the drugs in her system. Otherwise she'd be thrashing and screaming by now. She frowns, making a few experimental kicks, trying to get her feet under her while she grasps at the towel.

Her voice is a little louder, but still blurry. "What are you doing? What...why...Dana!" Her tone sharpens as she feels how thoroughly she's restrained. It starts to rise.

I drop another towel over her head, because I don't want to see her expression right now. She shakes her head, till I reach behind me, take my gun, and press it against her temple. She goes very still as I release the safety. Now her voice is tiny. "Dana?"

"Shut up, Free." I nudge a little, and her head rocks with the motion. "Do you know what this is?" A hesitation, and a slow nod. I want you to be very still, and very quiet for the next few minutes. Can you do that?' Again the nod. "I'm going to lay this down, but it's right within reach. Remember that." Another nod, so slow that it's almost imperceptable.

I lay the gun back down. I make nooses in the ends of two more towels, and slip one over each foot. She doesn't try to kick, or avoid my hands. In a few moments I pull, dragging her toward the other end of the tub, till she's half lying in the water, her arms stretched above her head. There is another safety bar, horizontal this time, at this end of the tub. I lift her legs, and tie a foot to each end. Her head and shoulders are above the water, torso submerged. legs left dripping and spread.

I put the safety back on the gun, lay it aside, then lift the towel. Her eyes are still cloudy with the drugs, but they are wide. She stares at me, then swallows. "Can I talk?"


"What...what's happening? You're scaring me."

I put down the lid on the toilet and sit. I just stare at her. She shifts a little, but she doesn't have much slack to move. I study her closely, as I've wanted to for so long. The smooth, pale expanses of skin, slightly pinked by the warmth of the water. The water itself is milky with the bathsalts. All I can see beneath it is teasing shadows, the hint of form. I can make out the curves of her breasts. Farther down there is a shadow that hints at her pubis.

She is still, looking back. I see the muscles in her thighs tense in an instictive, vain effort to cross her legs.

At last I pick up the third item, and show it to her. She looks at it uncomprehendingly. I shake it open with a crackle of paper. And I point to the boxes that are circled in magic marker, then crossed out. Apartment for rent. Apartment for rent. Room for rent.

She looks up at me, understanding building, warring with the ennuie that the codeine and tranquilizer I gave her in the orange juice is inducing. She starts to shake her head.

I say quietly. "You're not leaving me, Free."



Warning: violent f/f sexual assault

Chapter 10: Ravishment

She swallows again, and says quietly, "I don't know what you mean, Dana. I...I was just looking at the paper is all."

She winces as I slowly tear the paper in two, fold the halves together, tear again...I repeat the action till the paper is nothing but a handful of shreds, then deposit it in thr wastebasket.

"Please don't lie to me. You were doing exactly this before you came to stay here. I'm not stupid, Free. Not about details like this. I'm a fucking FBI agent, remember?"

"Yes, I didn't mean that. I...I was just LOOKING, Dana. I wasn't really planning on doing anything."

"Really? You know what I think? I think that when you got better, I'd just come home one day to find you and your cat gone. Vanished. Of course..." I lean closer to her, and she cringes down an inch. "If you did that...I'd find you. The FBI is very good at tracking people, Free. At least the one's like you. The one's that are so honest, that they've never covered their trail before. You ought to think about that. If you DID leave me, I'd be showing up on your doorstep, sooner or later."

"I don't understand what's going on here. Would you please let me go?"



"I told you this morning that I love you."

She's quiet, then has a tentative stab at arch indignation. "Well, this is a fine way to show it."

I don't fall for the bait. "Yes, it is." I answer calmly. "I asked you once before, and you skirted the question. So I'll ask you again. Are you gay, Free?"

She flinches again. "I've never been with a woman, Dana."

"You've never been with a man, either, have you?" The pink flush rises. "Don't you know, Free?"

"I...I don't really think I'm either. I don't think about it much."

"Bullshit. Oh, don't look so shocked. If you don't know, then you're gay, or at least bi. You're just too afraid to make any move on it."

"Well, that's my right..."

"Not when you play around with someone else, Free."

"But I don't."

"Fuck." She blinks at the obscenity. "You are such a fucking tease. Do you mean to tell me that it's natural, and not calculated? Then you are REALLY dangerous."

"But Dana...I don't. I never..."

"No? The singing, Free. You have to know how seductive the singing is. Drawing me into your own little world, with the words and music. All the love songs."

"I...just sing. I don't really think about it..."

I nod. "It's just part of you. And the little kindnesses, the little courtesies. Part of you. What about the neck rub, Free? The back massage? What about them? YOU started it, you offered. Your hands..."

I close my eyes and shiver with the sensory memory. "Oh, god, your hands. You know just exactly where and how...Straddling me like that, moving against me..."

Her eyes are wide. For the first time, she's seeing her actions from the outside. Realizing that they meant more than she thought.

"Last got me so hot I thought I was going insane. And then you left me." I scream. "YOU LEFT ME!"

She jerks instinctively, twisting in her bonds. Water sprays and splashes, but she can't GO anywhere. In a second she's still again, trembling. "I'm sorry." she whimpers. She's not even sure what she's apologizing for, but it seems like the safest thing to do.

"No, don't be afraid." I hold out one hand to her. "I'm sorry, Free. It's just part of your...oblivion. And that's part of you, part of what I love. You're so fucking UNTOUCHED somehow. But you've got to see how it is. This...avoidance has gone on too long. It's time to stop running."

I stand up, and slip off my robe. Her eyes widen. "Dana...what are you doing? Please, Dana. You're scaring me."

"Don't be afraid." I kneel next to the tub.

She draws in a deep breath, and I put my hand over her mouth, hard. "Don't. Don't spoil this, Free. If you scream, if you try to attract outside attention...I'll shoot you. I'll make it very quick and painless. Then I'll shoot myself. Do you understand that?" Her eyes, above my hand, fill with tears. "Do you believe that?" She gives a tiny nod. "Are you going to scream?" An infintesimal shake. "Good girl."

I take away my hand, and she lets out the breath slowly. A tear spills, steaking her smooth cheek. I bend toward her and lick it away. "Don't cry. I just need to touch you. Love you."

There's a washcloth on the side of the tub. I take it and wet it. There's a tube of honeysuckle scented bath gel there also, and I squeeze a generous amount into the cloth, then work it into a thick lather.

I start to wash her, swirling white, fragrant patterns on her throat, neck, shoulders. I follow the path that the rag has made with my other hand, smoothing the soap into her skin.

Down to her breasts, my hands starting to tremble slightly. The top curves barely break the surface of the water. I lift each gently in turn, laying down the thick film of soap with the cloth, then working it with my hand. She whimpers when I rub and squeeze her nipples. I don't stop, I give them much gentle attention. Then I rinse away the soap, bend down, and taste them.

The steam of the water rises into my face as I kiss and lick, then bite. She shifts as much as her bonds will allow, which isn't much. And she whispers, "Oh, god. Dana, don't. Please. I don't want this, Dana. Not like this." It's easy to ignore. All I really hear is my name, and 'please'.

I move the cloth in my right hand down her belly, feeling it heave with her breath and her adgitation. Then my hand moves, at last, down between her legs.

She stiffens, eyes huge, soft mouth open. "It's alright, Free. Just relax. Let me love you."

I'm vaguely aware that I'm kneeling in a puddle. Her brief thrashings have splashed out some of the water. It's lower now in the tub, only a few inches. Her groin barely rises above the surface.

I squeeze more of the gel on the cloth, then apply it directly to her pubic thatch. It's just as dark and thick and silky as I had imagined. I work the cloth slowly back and forth. The gel foams and lathers, laying down soap that's thicker than shaving cream.

I drop the cloth, and my hand is coated with the white lather. I squeeze a little more of the gel into my left hand, and work them together till it almost looks as if I'm wearing white gloves.

She's watching me with an absolutely terrified look on her face. I smile at her, spread my knees wider, and move my left hand down to my crotch. Her eyes snap shut.

"Look at me, Free."

"No. Dana, this is so wrong. Please stop. I...I think I can forget it if you just stop, now."

"Free, if you don't open you eyes and look at me, do you know what I'll do?" I calculate, deciding what will be most effective. The gun worked once, but she might realize that I want her too much to shoot her. How else is she vulnerable?

"Free, if you don't open your eyes, and keep them open, look at me all the time... If you don't do that...I'm going to go get your cat, and drown him right between your legs."

Her eyes snap open in horror. I've found a very useful button. "You know I could do it, especially since he doesn't have his front claws. Though you and I might get a little raked up from the back ones..."

"No, don't do that. Please, don't hurt him."

"Then don't try to hide from this, Free. Watch." I touch myself again, and she doesn't close her eyes, or try to look away. But I half close my own eyes as I rub, because it's easier to pretend that it's her hand, not mine.

I didn't really need the bath gel, because I'm already wet and open, and it's so easy to slip a finger in. I moan with the sensation, and begin to move it in and out. I take the cloth in my left hand again, and reach for her.

I spread the bubbles up her belly, down through her pubis, sliding the cloth along the soft crease that splits her body. Back to where it becomes the split between her cheeks, and back again. Again. And again.

Then I drop the cloth into the water, and there's only my hand, slick with the soap. I continue the gentle strokes along the lips of her sex, while I push another finger into myself, my right hand moving more quickly, because I'm already getting close to orgasm. When you've waited this long, it doesn't take much.

"It feels good, doesn't it?" I whisper. She bites her lip. "It's alright, Free. I know it does. I'm a doctor, remember? I know how the nerves, and blood, and hormones work on you, even when you're afraid."

Still touching her, I stand up. Moving carefully, I step into the tub, between her legs. There's barely enough room, and I kneel down.

Her breath is hitching. She's so sensitive. What will it be like without the drugs in her system?

I want to lie on top of her, but there's no room. That will have to come later. For now...

I slide my fingers lightly between the folds, pushing, seeking, and find it. The tiny button of flesh so filled with nerves that it's only purpose in existance is to give pleasure. I start to rub her clitoris very gently, stroking, then making circular motions.

She moans, throwing her head back so that it bangs on the tiled wall. "Don't do that, darling. Don't hurt yourself."

She's panting, sweet face flushed, eye wild and glazed. So beautiful.

I make sure my hand is well coated, and slide a finger down, searching. The left seeks, the right continues manipulating her clit. It's hard now, thick and throbbing with sensations she's fighting.

I finally locate her vaginal slit. It's as small and tight as I would have imagined. Never breeched. I wiggle to find the best angle, and push lightly. Again she stiffens, and her head bangs back against the wall. "Dana, pleeeeease..." the moan is long and desperate.

But, when you are in love, pleading can be interpreted many ways. I choose my way, and whisper, "Yes, pet." and push.

Her body goes rigid, as if she's received an electric shock, and my finger slides in deep. And it's a good thing that I had the soap, because she hasn't lubricated naturally. Damn.

Not that I let that stop me. I pull out, and hear her sobbing as I coat my fingers with more gel. When I reach for her again, she kicks futiley at the wall, gasping, "nonononono".

But she can't escape. I find the little slit, and this time I work in two fingers, probeing strongly. Another harsh gasp, and a wail. "It hurts."

"Then relax. Let your body get used to it. You can enjoy this, if you'll just accept it."

I don't want to hurt her, but I need this. So I move slowly, instead of ramming, like I want to. In and out, over and over. And she's so damn tight and hot. I wonder how much of it is the fever, how much of it is just her.

She does relax some. Her body softens and spreads around me, in self defense. I keep rubbing and squeezing the morsel of flesh between my fingers. The pain is there, but it's mixed with pleasure now. She protests, but her body doesn't lie.

And at last I feel her begin to lubricate. Her inner juices start to flow, making the way even more slippery. Yes, this is what I want.

I whisper to her, "There, baby. You're getting wet now. So sweet. Open up for me, darling."

She's crying steadily, but her hips are lifting, the scant inch that is allowed by her bonds.

I abandon rubbing her to touch myself again. With a few quick, hard rubs, I come. Trembling, I almost fall on her, but catch myself on the rim of the tub. I heave with my release, head thrown back, gasping. My hand never stops moving, thrusting the two fingers into her.

When I can think again, I lean over and kiss her, then whisper in her ear. "Now you, precious."

I manage to shove in a third finger. She squirms, whining. And I lose it. I don't know if it's the sound she made, or the feeling of her body moving around my fingers, or the mix of lust and pain in her eyes...

I make a sound I've never made before. A growl.

And suddenly I'm pumping into her as hard as I can, straining to go as deep as possible, hard and fast.

And her body snaps rigid, as I feel her narrow channel begin to ripple and pulse, squeezing me. I keep moving as she closes her eyes and screams, sickness roughened voice breaking till it is only a breathless moan.

When I ease myself free of her body, the water around her crotch tints pink. She goes limp, except for racking sobs.

I gently pour water over both of us, washing away the soap. There is a thin trickle of blood between her legs. I examine my hand, puzzled. My nails are very short, filed smooth. Then I realize.

She had been a true physical virgin. I broke her maidenhead, truly deflowered her.

She's limp and compliant as I untie her legs and arms. I keep the handcuffs on. I help her out of the tub, very carefully.

Her legs won't hold her, and I sit her on the toilet, and dry her. She sits with eyes closed, letting me do what I want. She winces and whimpers when I dry between her legs, but she doesn't try to stop me.

I dry myself, and lead her from the bathroom. She tries to go to her room, but I stop her.

"I want to sleep, please Dana."

"Of course, Free. But you won't sleep there anymore." I lead her into my room, ease her down onto my bed. "This is your place now." I climb in with her, and hold her.

I awake in the dark, and lie very still I can hear Free breathing beside me. I cuddle against her, snugging my arms around her waist. Warm, soft, pliant. The medicines are still coursing through her, keeping her relaxed, sleepy if not asleep. She's lying sprawled loosely, except for her hands crooked up over her head.

There's a bead of sweat on her upper lip. I cant' resist. I lean over and lick it away, tasting her salt, and soap, and the faint tange of the codein based cough syrup that is partially responsible for her deep sleep.

She shifts a little, her own pink tongue lapping at the place where mine touched. Then her eyes slit open. Slivers of stormy sky, clouded. Not fully aware. Her lips move a second before she makes sound. "...Dana?"

"Sh, it's alright." I stroke her hair, combing the curls as I've wanted to for so long. "You're much better now. You're going to be fine. I'm taking care of you, like I said I would."

I kiss her softly. Her lips tremble beneath mine. It's all still so new to her. "You need to sleep, baby. You haven't slept good for so long. That'll make you better."

She arches up slightly. "Dana, please..."

I kiss her throat, feeling the slow, steady pulse begin to speed up. I love it when she says my name. I'd do anything for her, give her anything in my power. Because she's given me so much.

"Just hush a little while longer, Free. You don't have to do anything. Dana will take care of you."

Her skin is so smooth. I could just devour every inch of her. It's so hard to believe that I can, that I can touch her all I wish. Hold her, taste her, move against her...It was all so far away this morning...

My fingers idly trace the handcuffs that still encircle her wrists, and I wonder how long it will be before I dare remove them.



Chapter 11: Captivity

Free is breathing clearer this morning. The fever is gone, and the drug haze has almost faded from her eyes. She's weak, but all she needs is rest and care, and she'll be fine. Once she accepts things as they are, that is.

She wants to go back in her old room this morning. "But...but that's MY room."

I have to explain things to her again. "This is OUR room now, Free. Lovers sleep together. I'll bring your things in later."

I let her use the bathroom, not leaving while she is on the toilet, but turning away to give her a little privacy. She mutters with pain, and I feel a little guilty. I didn't really want to start our relationship out like that, but she's so stubborn sometimes...

I unhandcuff her for a minute to let her put on an old T-shirt and shorts. She looks longingly toward the front door, but I touch the pocket of the robe I've donned. She's seen me slip my gun in the pocket, and she goes quietly back into the bedroom.

This time I have her put her hands behind her back. I cuff her, passing the cuffs around a post in the headboard, so that she's sitting upright with her hands behind her. I lie back down, putting my head in her lap, and just lie there for awhile. I feel so at peace.



"Dana...I won't tell, if you let me go."

"You won't tell anyway, Free. This was private, it's nothing anyone else needs to know."

"I mean I won't tell the police, or your work, or anybody. But you have to let me go..."

I move quickly, kneeling up and straddling her legs. I take her face in a rough grip. "You're not leaving me! I told you that!"

"You can't keep me! It isn't right, Dana, it's sick..."

I slap her, hard, and am immediately contrite. "Baby, don't say things like that." She's gasping, a dull red mark rising on her cheek. "Can't you see that makes me crazy? Just don't talk about leaving any more. We belong together."

"No." She jerks her legs, trying to throw me off.

I can't stand it. I finally have her, and she's trying to push me away. Not even just keeping the distance, like she did, but pushing me away.

I slap her again, and a third time. She wails, "Stop it! This is wrong."

I...I hurt her, then. I'm a doctor, and I know what will cause pain. I know the places where the right kind of touch will cause agony that doesn't leave permanent damage.

And I know this is wrong, because she's helpless, she can't defend herself. Not even to the pitiful extent she would have been able to, if her hands were loose. But I can't stop, because I have to get her under control. She has to realize that she belongs with me.

It doesn't take long to reduce her to racking sobs, then pleas.

"Who do you belong to, Free?"

"I don't...Dana, please..."

I jerk her head to the side and fasten my mouth on her neck, and I suck and bite till she's again whimpering in pain, struggling. When I draw back there is a livid, wine dark patch. "Tell me who you belong to."

She shakes her head, and I repeat the action on the other side, giving her a matching set. "Tell me. I can do this all over your body."

She draws in a sobbing breath. "You."

"Say it."

She squeezes her eyes shut. "You, Dana. I belong to you."

"And you'll stay with me."

"Yes, just don't hurt me anymore."

I stroke her face. "As long as you remember that, we'll be fine."

I get dressed and fix her a large breakfast. Sitting on the bed, I begin to feed it to her. "You need to eat all of this. I won't be able to come home at lunch to feed you."

She pulls back from the forkfull of eggs I'm offering, dismayed. "You're not going to uncuff me before you go?"

"I don't trust you that well yet."

"But what if I need to go to the bathroom?"

"Try not to. If you can't hold it...well, sheets wash." Her bottom lip trembles. Before, I would have fought the urge, but now I give in and kiss her, sucking it. She sits very still and stiff. I sigh. I hope some time soon she'll respond.

"What if the house catches on fire?"

"That's not going to happen. If you behave yourself, I'll give you run of the house again in a few days." She's looking miserably at her lap. I caress her face, dipping my head so I can see her. "You might try...convincing me." She closes her eyes briefly, as if in pain. I shake my head. I have to be patient.

On the way to work, I stop at the store. The manager is working the cash register, no extra help in sight. The place is a pigsty. Trash barrels overflow, the floor is dusty and sticky with stains, the windows are streaked, trash litters the lot, the cooler looks half empty. My God, Free must've been keeping this place up practically single handedly.

The manager looks rumpled and distraught. When she sees me, her expression becomes wary, but hopeful. "She better?"

"She is. And she's no longer employed here. She quits."

The woman would have been less dismayed if a bomb had gone off. "WHAT? She can't do that! She has to give at least two weeks notice."

"Bullshit. There's no law like that on the books. And don't think you're going to be able to guilt her into staying over. This place has seriously compromised her health, not to mention her sense of well being and sanity. I'd shoot her before I let her come back to work in this hellhole. You can mail her the final paycheck. And if you try to bother her over the phone, I will be very...very...displeased." She gapes after me as I leave. That felt good. I've been wanting to say something to that exploiting bitch for a long time.

At work, I find out that there's been another spontaneous combustion: the first victim's ex-husband. He bought it while taking a shower. Most of what was left of him got washed down the drain before someone thought to shut the water off. All that is left is a few handfuls of carbon, bone chips, some fillings, and a waterproof watch. The plastic shower curtain was unmelted.

Fox is having a field day cross referencing to try sort through common factors. I'm worrying about Free. I'm feeling remorseful about that sheets remark earlier. But I'm also considering buying a rubber sheet, just in case I have to leave her cuffed longer than I hope. It's no wonder that I'm startled when Fox says, "So, how's Free?"

"What?" I look at him suspiciously.

He frowns. "Her cold, Dana. You were laying in enough meds to take a small town through an epidemic just the other day."

"Oh. She's much better. She'll need to convalesce for awhile."

His forehead puckers in concern. "It was that bad? Why didn't you get her to a hospital?"

"She's a stubborn woman."

"Maybe. But you're always pretty good at hauling stubborn butts in when it's for their own good."

"Look, Fox, she's alright. Give it a rest, would you?"

Trust Mulder not to leave well enough alone. At lunch he came to me, looking concerned. "Scully, I called your place, and no one answered. Maybe we should go check on Free."

I snap. "Christ, Mulder, she's probably just deeply asleep. She hasn't had proper sleep in ages, and there you go, trying to disturb her!"

"I just wanted to tell her hi, and hope she was well soon."

My voice is acid. "I'll convey your well wishes. Just please, don't bother her anymore. I'll let you know when she's well enough for a call or visit." *Which will be never. You don't think I'd risk her around you, do you? You're too damn charming when you want to be, and this relationship is still too new and fragile.*

On the way home, I buy a rubberized mattress pad. I also stop at an adult novelties store. I emerge with a set of leather, lambswool lined cuffs. I spent a long time looking at the lovely assortment of collars, but ultimately left without them. I may need one farther down the line, to reinforce my claim on her psyche, but I'm trying to avoid anything too extreme right now. I hope it won't be necessary. Though the image of a pretty stamped leather collar peeking through the fall of her curls is rather appealing...

Archived: July 05, 2001