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Blood Ties 11: Evolution (1/?)
"I still say you should've bought the blue one."
"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know why you preferred that one, Mulder."
"Exactly. Because it brought out your beautiful blue eyes."
A snort. "It brought out my ass, you mean. Or are you trying to claim the fact it was a thong had no bearing on your opinion?"
"Scully I'm hurt that after all our years together you would think me so shallow, so one dimensional, so..."
Mulder threw up his hands in mock surrender. "Fine. Obviously nothing I could say will convince you. And it isn't as if I dislike the green suit. You look...amazing in it."
"Thank you." Scully eyed him suspiciously, waiting for the inevitable punchline. He didn't disappoint.
He leaned in close, breath sending tingles all the way down her spine. "After all, even covered up, it's an incredible ass."
"Mulder..." She broke off, corners of her mouth twitching.
Mulder, braced for a scathing comeback, froze in the act of plugging the key into the ignition. "What?"
The smile broadened, but Scully just shrugged her shoulders. "Nothing."
Mulder cocked his head, eyebrows raised. "Nothing? I don't think so. I just handed you a line guaranteed to get my butt kicked and all you do is smile at me? Who are you and what did you do with my Scully?"
The grin faded to the barest curve of her lips. "You're happy."
It obviously wasn't what he expected, and she smugly treasured the several seconds he spent flustered and off balance. Eventually, his eyes softened and he reached across the seat, lacing her fingers with his and bringing them to his lips.
"I am. Pretty amazing for a guy who once thought happiness wasn't part of his genetic make-up."
He shook his head, tugging her across the seat until only inches separated them, her face cupped between his palms. "You're responsible."
His lips descended, brushing across hers in a soft, almost reverent kiss. Nice, she thought, throat tight. Then her arms came up of their own volition, one hand snaking around his back, the other tangling in the hair at the nape of his neck, and she lost herself in the taste and feel of him.
Scully's teeth were fastened on that luscious lower lip, blissfully nibbling, when the sensation of being watched intruded. She pulled back, glancing over her shoulder. Sure enough, their rather enthusiastic display of affection seemed to be drawing more than casual attention from passersby.
"Hmm?" Undaunted by the removal of her lips, he contentedly began feasting on her neck, fingers doing maddening things to her right breast.
"We're...ah...in a convertible."
"Mmm, I know. Isn't it great? The sun...nibble...the fresh air...lick..."
He froze, then removed his hand as if burned. Peering over his shoulder, he found himself staring straight into the face of a smirking teenage boy, who promptly gave him a "thumbs up."
"You...ah...may have a point. Much as I hate--and I do mean HATE--to admit it. Let's go."
He started the car and pulled carefully into traffic. But the smile lingered on his lips.
When they arrived at Rosa's house, Mulder shut off the engine and turned to her with a far too innocent expression. "How about you model that new bathing suit for me again? Then maybe we can...um...take a nap before dinner."
Scully arched an eyebrow. "Tired, are we, Mulder?"
In the blink of an eye, innocent became lecherous. "Exhausted."
Whatever response she had planned flew out of her head when the door to the house opened and Rosa came out to meet them, brow furrowed. "Uh-oh. This doesn't look good."
"I told you we shouldn't let Skinner know where we were going."
They got out of the car. Mulder walked to meet Rosa while Scully pulled the spoils of their shopping trip from the back seat before joining them.
"Thank heavens you two are back. He's called three times since ten this morning." Rosa ushered them toward the house as she spoke.
"I'm sorry, Rosa. When I gave him the number, I never really thought he'd use it." Mulder glanced at Scully in irritation. "So much for the belated honeymoon."
"It must be important, Mulder, you know he'd never..."
"I can't imagine what could be important enough to harass Rosa." Mulder turned to the older woman, face contrite. "Rosa, I'm sorry about this. Skinner had no right to..."
Her face scrunched up. "Skinner? You mean your boss, Walter? 'Lena's friend? What does he have to do with anything?"
Mulder stopped, one hand on the doorknob, to exchange a perplexed glance with Scully. She turned to Rosa with a small shake of her head.
"Rosa, I think we're confused. We assumed Wal...Mr. Skinner was the person who's been calling for us."
Rosa pushed past him and entered the house, shaking her head bemusedly. "Ay! Don't they teach you FBIs not to leap to conclusions? Walter isn't the one who's been ringing that phone off the hook, Fox. It's that brother of yours. Grey."
"Grey?" Mulder followed her into the kitchen, Scully on his heels.
Rosa handed him a pad of paper. On the top sheet she'd jotted Grey's name and cell phone number followed by three times: 10:00, 12:15, and 2:20. Something twisted unpleasantly in Mulder's stomach and his mouth went dry. The sensation must have bled through to his face, because Scully laid her hand on his arm.
"No more jumping to conclusions. Just call him."
He nodded. "I think... I'm going to use the phone in the bedroom."
The bedroom's dim coolness did little to alleviate the perspiration beading his upper lip. Mulder swiped at it absently with the back of one hand, then reached for the phone. Grey answered on the first ring.
"This is Grey McKenzie."
"Grey, it's Fox."
"Thank God. I've been trying to reach you for hours."
No small talk. No inquiry as to how he and Scully were enjoying their vacation. Mulder swallowed; mentally shored up his defenses.
"What is it? What's wrong? Is it Kristen?"
"No, Kristen is fine. She's at a seminar in Chicago."
"It's Claire. Something's happened to Claire."
An image of Grey's niece, bright-eyed and triumphant as she hit a baseball, flashed through Mulder's mind. He'd become acquainted with all of the children in Grey's family, but Claire held a special place in his affections.
"Claire? Was there an accident? Is she hurt?"
"She's gone, Fox. Vanished. Kira put her to bed last night, just like always. When she came to get her for breakfast this morning, Claire wasn't there."
"Was she upset about anything? Could she have run away, be hiding somewhere nearby?"
"We've scoured the area, talked to neighbors. There's been no sign of her, and no one saw anything." His voice hardened. "There's something else you should know. Kira's ex-husband turned up a few weeks ago, got himself a lawyer. He's been causing trouble."
"What kind of trouble?"
"He's petitioning for visitation rights. He wants to see Claire."
Mulder let the implication of his brother's words sink in. "Do you really think he's capable...?"
The malice in Grey's tone startled him. "I know he is."
"All right, I'm on my way. Give us a chance to pack up and catch the next flight out of here. I'll let you know when we'll be arriving, but don't bother picking us up--we'll rent a car."
"Fox, I..." Grey's voice broke but he struggled to continue. "I don't know how to..."
Quietly. "Then don't. Hang on, we'll be there soon."
Scully was leaning in the doorway, face grave. "Grey's niece is missing?"
Mulder gave a quick nod as he pulled their suitcases out of the closet and began emptying drawers. "Kira hasn't seen her since she put her to bed last night. No one seems to know what happened."
Scully walked over to the bed and began organizing her own clothing. She glanced at Mulder from the corner of one eye as she laid shorts, tee shirts, and slacks into the suitcase. "But Grey thinks he does."
Mulder fished a pair of running shoes from under the bed. "You remember what Grey told us about Kira's ex?"
Scully's lips thinned. "He was physically abusive. She put up with it until he started to act out on Claire. It was what finally gave her the courage to divorce him."
"He disappeared about five years ago, right after the divorce. Has never paid a dime in alimony or child support. As far as Kira was concerned, it was good riddance."
"I can see where this is going. He showed up again, didn't he? Does Grey really think he's responsible for Claire's disappearance?"
Mulder snorted. "Think it? He's convinced. I can't say I blame him, considering the guy's history. And the fact that he's been trying to get his parental rights reinstated." Mulder stood up straight, shoving his fingers through hair already tousled by the trip in the convertible. "Scully, I'm so sorry. This was supposed to be..."
Her fingers, pressed gently against his lips, stopped the flow of words. "Hey, he's my brother, too. I'll call the airport; find out how soon we can get a flight."
He stared into her eyes for a long moment as if judging the sincerity of her statement. Slipping both arms around her waist he tugged her close, chin brushing the top of her head.
"I love you."
She could feel his surprise at her unexpected joke, first in the released tension of his body and then in the smile pressed to her forehead. "Go ahead and make that phone call, Leia. I'll finish packing."
She was able to book a 5:15 plane to Miami, where they could catch a connecting flight. They wouldn't land in Raleigh until nearly eleven, but she knew Mulder would rather endure the inconvenience than wait until morning.
She set the receiver in its cradle and just watched him for a moment, unable to shake a feeling of melancholy. He'd already thrown off the easy, relaxed aura of a man on vacation. The quick, efficient movement of his hands, stiff posture, and sharp, focused gaze all screamed Special Agent Mulder. Gone was the man who had coaxed her onto the beach in the middle of the night, spread a blanket, and made love to her under the stars. Scully drew in a slow breath, then released it in a rush, squaring her shoulders. Well, it had been glorious while it lasted.
Mulder looked up at her, eyebrows raised, and she smiled. "I'm going to go down and let Rosa know what's happening. Though knowing her, she's already figured most of it out."
His grin was brief, but genuine. "Not much gets past her, does it?"
Rosa was on the patio, a glass of lemonade on the table before her, the umbrella shading her from the unfettered heat of the late afternoon sun. She motioned Scully to sit down, concern written on her kind face.
"The honeymoon is over, eh?"
Scully's lips curved. "Mulder's right. Not much gets past you."
Rosa made a dismissive gesture with her hand. "Three phone calls. And his voice... There was great pain."
"His niece is missing. It looks as if she's been kidnapped."
Rosa gazed at her, empathy clouding her brown eyes. "Dios mio. Too much sorrow to touch one life."
It took Scully a moment to realize Rosa was speaking of Mulder, not his brother. "My mother says it's the strongest character that God gives the most challenges."
Rosa's weathered brown hand covered hers. "Your mama is a wise woman, chiquita. It would seem He has challenges for you both."
The rasp of the patio door announced Mulder's presence. Rosa stood and looked up at him, gaze shrewd. "You are ready?"
One corner of Mulder's mouth turned up. "As much as I'll ever be."
She bobbed her head, understanding the depth of his response. Linking one arm with Mulder's and the other with Scully's, she led them into the house, to the front door where their suitcases sat forlornly on the smooth tile. While Mulder carried them out to the car, Rosa embraced Scully.
"God give you strength for what lies ahead."
Scully blinked back the hot rush of tears, tightening her arms. "Thank you. For everything."
"De nada. It was my pleasure."
Mulder had returned to stand at Scully's shoulder, shuffling his feet. When Rosa released Scully he leaned down, catching the older woman in a bear hug and pressing a kiss to her cheek.
"Come and visit us in DC. You're always welcome."
Rosa chuckled, her laugher vibrating against his chest. "Ay, you keep it too cold up there! Maybe this summer."
She stepped back, holding his face between her palms, her expression intense. "I sense a difficult path ahead of you, hijo mio. The darkness can pull souls together or tear them apart. You must choose." She patted his cheek and dropped her hands. "Tell that brother of yours that the little one is in my prayers. As are you all."
"Thank you. I will."
Mulder slipped his arm around Scully as they walked to the car. "She's right, you know. Whatever happens--this isn't going to be easy. For any of us."
She squeezed the fingers curled around her waist before crossing to her door. "Nine years, Mulder. Easy has never been part of our vocabulary."
He chuffed softly and started the car. "You got me there, babe."
As they pulled out of the driveway they waved to Rosa, little more than a muted shadow behind the screen door. She watched until the car turned the corner and disappeared.
"Keep an eye on them, Waldo," she murmured. "Keep them safe."