False Reality

" Things are not always as they seem."

CH 1:

Truth be told, I was in a lot of pain. And that didn't have anything to do with my little truth cocktail. At least two of my ribs were broken or severely bruised, I just knew I had a concussion, I probably tore my rotator cuff in my shoulder, my nose was out of whack, everything on me ached, and I had concluded that I was suffering from a fatal gunshot wound to the chest. I figured, when I opened my eyes, I was going to be sitting on some rock in purgatory waiting for my judgement. My hearing came back before my eyesight, so I was a little confused to find that St. Peter sounded a lot like Wade.

"Charlie, come on, we gotta get up." Her voice was soft, close to my ear, and filled with as much concern as it was filled with determination. "Stay with me, Charlie. Can you hear me?" I must have moaned in reply, because she answered me. "Good girl." She rolled me over and started to lift my eyelids. "You think you can get up? We need to go." That blow to the head must have removed my ability to speak, since the only thing I could do was grunt and groan. Not to mention, I was speechless, and a little bit skeptical at the turn of events, considering Wade's presence.

With more of my help than I thought possible, she got me to my feet. I leaned down hard on her as she draped my arm across her shoulder and wrapped her arm around my waist. (She was just the right size for this job.) "Okay, Charlie, where's your place? I'm a little off on my sense of direction, but I'm thinking I'm in the right place." In my head I rolled my eyes at her. In reality, I motioned for us to go down. "We can't sit right now, we have to leave, Charlie." I shook my head and discovered that my brain may have been knocked loose (if that's possible.) I fell to the wall and started to slide down, but Wade pulled on the back of my pants and held me up. "No you don't." She readjusted her hold and we hobbled out of the room. "Where to, Charlie?" I must have been dozing off, because I felt two light pats to my cheek. "Don't you fucking pass out on me." Her voice was strained with frustration, but forceful with purpose. "Wake up and help me."

She let out a sigh and mumbled something about a concussion as I was trying to regain my balance. I couldn't really see straight but I felt a small hand cover my eyes for a moment and then go away. Deft fingers pried open my eyelids and I couldn't help but focus on blue eyes steeled in concetration. She removed my hand and patted my cheek again as she readjusted my arm around her shoulder. "Okay, Charlie you don't have a concussion, so no excuse we need to move." (It was just my luck.) She let out a small groan as we started to walk. "Come on Charlie, help me out."

Only because she asked so nicely, I decided to make an effort at speaking. "Down....the boiler room." I wheezed.

"The boiler room?" I nodded and sucked in a breath. She mumbled something under her breath, and we started down the steps. I pointed to the heavy door when we got into the basement. I didn't actually have to see her to know that she was arching her brow at me in confusion. We made it down the hallway and I heard her let out an 'oh' of understanding. "Is it open?" I groaned in the affirmative.

I know she didn't mean to do it, but she couldn't help but release me as we opened the door and the dogs came flying towards her. I slid to the ground like a boneless chicken. The dogs were happy to see me, but Scully was still revved up from earlier. Fortunately, my pained features were enough to distract the dogs who came to sniff and paw me back to health. (I love those dogs.) I wasn't sure if it was Wade's heart I could hear pounding or my own, but it was filling my ears and going a mile a minute. I was on the floor on my side, arms wrapped around my body. Damn, I hadn't felt this bad since '92, when I got into a car accident and a fight all in the span of ten minutes. I tried to turn my head as I caught a whiff of Wade's smell as she leaned over me. I couldn't decide if it was perfume or just some combination of shampoo and some kind of aloe lotion. "Can you call off the dogs?"

Regardless of how much pain I was in, I actually attempted to smirk as I turned my face towards her. "I think I should let them bite you." I didn't even recognize the sound of my own voice. It was like some bad impression of Louie Armstrong. I heard her let out a snort of laughter as she started to remove my jacket.

"You really mean that, don't you?"

I couldn't tell if she was hurt, or playfully curious. At this point, I couldn't help but answer honestly. "Sure do."

"That's nice to know."

"You asked." My remark was full of venom, so she was less than gentle as she helped me sit upright. "Gonna beat me up some more?"

"I'm thinking about it." Her brow was furrowed deeply as she got behind me and helped me to my feet. "Charlie, would you tell the dog to stop snarling at me and let us pass?"

"She thinks you're trying to hurt me."

"I'm trying to help, dammit." I could feel her wince as she stood at my back, keeping me upright with her hands around my waist.

I barely got my eyes to open as I looked down at the snarling Rottweiler. I was trying to convey a feeling of safety to her, but it didn't seem to be working. I rasped out to the dog, "Heel." She cocked her head at me oddly as if to ask me if I was out of my mind. I raised my voice a bit louder and told her to "Heel." She stared at me for a brief moment and then dropped the hardass act and trotted off to the kitchen. Effectively, she had just told me to go fuck myself. (I love that dog.)

Mulder was more curious as he followed us into the bathroom. "You gonna drown me?" I asked as she sat me down on the toilet, then turned on the water in the tub.

I heard her sigh as she started to take off my shoes. "If you're going to keep accusing me of trying to kill you, then I'm not answering you."

I tried to smile. "Finally, some silence." She sucked her teeth. "No smart-ass comeback?" She grumbled and my belt gave way. "C'mon Wade, give it to me good." I was starting to slur my words.

"I'm going to knock you out in a second if you don't shut up."

I tried to laugh, but only ended up wincing in pain. "You afraid I'll hurt your feelings, surgarpop?"

I could feel her eyes glaring at me without even opening my eyes. "What did they give you·asshole serum?"

"I'll give you half a point for that one."

"Stand up, Charlie." Her voice was brimming with annoyance and anger, but I stood and drunkenly stepped out of my pants, hoping I didn't fall over. I heard her let out a groan as she removed my shirt.

"Gee Wade, I know I don't quite fill out a C-cup like you do but no need to groan." I looked down and saw her shake her head in amusement. I made an attempt at poking her in the chest. "Are those real?"

She brushed off my wandering finger as she tossed my bra to the ground. "Yes they're real, you freak." She spoke through a clenched jaw and I swear I heard her say something about beating the crap out of the next person that asked her that·(but I could be lying.) "Any way that wasn't what I meant· your flesh is completely raw. Jesus, what they hell did they do?"

"I ran into 'eye-candy' and his clone earlier."

"What!?" She was genuinely surprised. "What did they want?"

"I figured you sent them, since I roughed you up and threw you out."

"Yeah, well·" She trailed off and turned the water off. "Okay, in the tub."

"You forgot something."

"I did?" She turned to look at me and realized I was still in my underwear and socks. "Oh, yeah." She dropped to her knees and quickly pinched my thigh in anticipation of the snide remark that was on the tip of my tongue.

"What the fuck was that for?"

"Don't say a word, try to have a modicum of control."

"Why should I have control when you don't?" I stepped out of my underwear, and then into the tub. I howled half in anguish and half in relief at the heat. I heard the scamper of paws across the floor, as the dogs filled the doorway. Before I could even say it, Wade was soothing the dogs in her most mellow tone of voice. They backed off and sat down in the doorway, content to watch the scene play out.

I think it took me an hour to sit down in that tub, but when I got there I almost wanted to jump back up. Luckily, I had no strength, so the hot water was allowed to do its job. "Where's your medicine kit?" She asked me. I gestured towards the closet door.

"You going to answer my question, lil bit?"

"Don't call me that." She was getting more and more annoyed by the moment.

I giggled and splashed at the water. "Getting on your nerves, brat?" She slammed the closet door and walked over to the tub where she knelt down and soaked a towel in the water.

"Would you just shut up and let me do this?" I could tell she was frustrated beyond belief, but she was also concerned.

"Oh, come on Wade, don't be such a sore loser. I thought you said you can handle it."

She started to rub soap on the towel. "Not when you're being a bitch about it."

"You act like you're the only one who has a handle on being a bitch." She sighed and started to rub my back with the towel. "That feels great."

"Is that you talking or the serum?"

I grinned. "Probably the alcohol."

"Great." She mumbled. "Arms up, I need to see those ribs." I managed to lift my right arm, but I couldn't hold back the sob of pain when I lifted my left. "Jesus! Just stop and let me do it." She sounded just as I hurt as I felt. "What the hell did you do?" She gently probed my ribs, and oddly enough I wasn't relieved when she said they were just bruised. I was hoping for a cracked rib and a punctured lung, anything to stop the madness, but I couldn't get that lucky.

"I went back to the apartment to clean up after you."

"What for?"

I shrugged my good shoulder. "It seemed like the right thing to do, I don't know."

"For somebody that hates me, I don't understand why you would do that."

I stilled her hand on my stomach and turned towards her. It was the first time I had really looked at her since we had come into the house. I still wasn't sure how old she claimed to be, but she looked more like she was pushing thirty than a nubile, recent college graduate. Her big blue eyes weren't so blue, and if I wasn't so out of it, I would have sworn she'd been crying her eyes out. She was extremely sober, which surprised me and made me feel a little bad, if only because I wasn't. I stared at her in an attempt to see through her as I held her hand to my body.

"Wade, I don't hate you. Hate is too strong." I paused and took a breath. "I loathe you." I swear I felt her heart stop. She tried to pull away, but I kept my grip. "You want to know what I think, Wade?" I leaned towards the edge of the tub, so that there was only the width of the tub keeping us apart. "I think you're a spoiled, rich little brat. I think you're a sadistic bitch, who has absolutely no regard for life including her own. I think you'd eat your fucking young, if you thought you'd get a jolt out of it." She tried to pull away again, and this time I let her, but she didn't move back. She just sat on her heels and stared at me like she was watching a train wreck. "I think the only reason why you're here is to appease some fucked up sense of conscience that you may have. You use people, Wade, that's all you do. You suck them in with your charm and brashness that people tend to equate with spunk, and then when you've had your fill, you toss them into the gutter. You're a little shit, Wade, that's what you are, and it's no wonder people only deal with you out of obligation. You have no idea how to earn trust and respect if it's not going to benefit you." I sat back and turned away from her.

We sat there in silence for a cold five minutes. When she spoke, her voice was quiet, but it didn't waver with the threat of tears. "You ready to get out?"

I didn't look at her as I used my foot to open the drain. We moved in silence as she helped me to my feet and wrapped the towel around me. She led me to the bedroom, where she sat me down on the bed and helped me put on my shorts. She laid my shirt on the bed as she stood in front of me and tended to my ribs, my shoulder, and the various and numerous cuts and gashes on my face and the rest of my body. She helped me put my shirt on and even combed out my wet hair. She pulled back the covers on the bed and sat a glass of water and a couple pills down on the night stand. I looked down at the capsules, and I heard her let out an exasperated breath.

"It's just Tylenol, I swear. Just to help you sleep. Don't take it if you don't want it." Her voice was flat and as lifeless as her eyes.

I did my best to keep a straight face as I downed the pills and water, and then sank down into the covers and closed my eyes. I wondered if this serum would make me be honest with myself. I decided not to take the chance, and focused on going to sleep, since I had no desire to question how much of an asshole I was. I would still be one in the morning, so I'd just worry about it then....assuming Wade was still there in the morning.


It was nowhere near dawn when I woke up. More like, I was jolted awake by the disjointed and spastic dark images in my head. I didn't see her at first, but when I took a sharp breath, I heard her. I cut my eyes across the room to the chair in the corner. There was just enough moonlight splayed across her face for me to see blue eyes, bloodshot not from alcohol but crying. Damn, I wanted to go back to bed and forget I woke up, but I guess I was going to have to atone for my actions earlier than I wanted to.

I know she wanted to say something to me as she sat forward in the chair somewhat. Despite the pain, I raised myself up on my elbows and looked at her. Amazing - a couple of hours ago I could curse her out without flinching, and now I felt like my throat had gone dry when I wanted to ease the two ton wall of tension pressing down on us. I wasn't going to say I was sorry (because I wasn't, well, not really), but I had promised Cynthia that I would hear her out. I just didn't know how to say that. I sighed and folded back the covers on the other side of the queen-sized bed.

"That chair's going to give you leg cramps." (I am so smooth it's ridiculous.) She thought I was real smooth as well, as her eyes opened wide and she looked at me like I just sprouted antlers from my head. I was giving her my best lopsided grin, but she probably couldn't even see my face. "Come on, Wade, get in the bed." My voice was still groggy, but it was quiet and without malice, maybe even contrite.

She shook her head, as she unfolded her legs from beneath her and put her feet on the floor. "That's okay," her voice was shaky so she took a breath, "I'll just go to the couch."

"Wade.......please." If I could have jumped out of the bed and kicked myself I would have. (God, please let this be the drugs.) We began another stare down until she spoke.

"Your dog."

I looked over at Scully who was laid out in a diagonal across the other side of the bed. "She's a hog." I nudged the dog. "Off." I nudged her again and she took her time getting off the bed, even though we both knew she was going to get back up in a few minutes. Wade stepped out of the dog's way as she eased into the bed and under the covers. I swear it looked like she was trying to balance her spine on the seam around the edge of the mattress. "I said in the bed, Wade, not levitating." I felt her move over, and I relaxed onto the bed and closed my eyes. I felt Scully hop back onto the bed and Wade stiffened. She was so rigid I thought she was vibrating. "She's not going to bite you, just relax and go to sleep."

"It's not that." She squeaked out. "I just want you to have your space."

"Wade, you're not that big. I think I'll manage."

I heard her release a puff of air that sounded like an attempted laugh. "I-I'm sorry." I could barely hear her voice over the dog's breathing.

I turned my head towards her. She was staring at the ceiling. I hesitated as I spoke. "Uh, me too." It was sincere.

She really chuckled this time as her voice caught in her throat with an impending sob. "Don't start lying to me now, Charlie."

I sighed and stared at the ceiling as well. (I needed to paint in here.) "I'm not lying...completely. I mean, I'm sorry for the way it came out or that it had to come out like that."

"I guess." She sniffled. "But I asked for it."

"Yeah, you did, but I could have had a little more tact."

"So it was just the serum and alcohol talking?" There was an inkling of relief in her voice.

This time, I chuckled. "Sure, and the fact that I just had my ass kicked twice, the grim reaper is looking for me, and I wanted nothing more than to snap your neck."

"Do you still want to?"

I let her question hang in the air for a moment and I shrugged. "I don't know what I want, Wade." This time it was my words that hung in the air.

After a moment of silence she spoke. "Can I ask you what you plan to do?"

I turned towards her and she faced me as well. "About you?" She nodded. I breathed deeply and then seethed with pain.

Wade sat up like she had been electrocuted and closed the space between us. "Do you need more aspirin? You okay? What hurts?" She brushed her hair out of her face and behind her ears as she looked at me with those big blue eyes. (The 12 year old was back.)

I gave her a grin. "Lie back down, it's okay."

"You sure?"

"Yes Florence." She raised a brow at me and then nodded her head in understanding. "I'll live. As for what I'm going to do, I don't know. I'm in trouble because I've got the book and you're in trouble because of your dad... I think. I just want to stay alive, Wade. Both of us."

She adjusted herself under the covers and turned on her side away from me. I closed my eyes and was trying to focus on sleeping when she spoke. "I'm scared, Charlie."

I opened my eyes. "I am, too." She was quiet for a moment and then I heard the distinct sound of crying. I hoped she didn't hear me groan as I turned my head towards her. "Wade, what's wrong?" She shook her head. I gingerly raised my arm and touched her shoulder. "Wade?"

She rolled over and looked at me. "You weren't supposed to say that."

I couldn't help but smile. "Contrary to popular belief, I'm not a brick wall."

She sniffled and wiped at her eyes. "I know, but still-- I was looking for a little comfort here." She grinned through her tears and I just shook my head.

"Comfort, eh?" I was trying to sound skeptical, but I'm sure the smirk on my face was undoing that effect. I held out my arms. "Come on, make some room for the dogs."

She moved to me and rested her head on my breast since that was about the only spot between my shoulder and my stomach that wasn't bruised. "Charlie, you're about as subtle as a brick wall, you know that?"

I grunted and pulled the covers up over us. "Go to sleep, Wade." I felt a small arm rest up against my side. I grabbed her wrist and draped her arm across my stomach. "Your elbow was digging into my side." I grumbled out.

I could feel the corners of her mouth curve into a smile. "Night, Charlie."

I gave her a grunt and then felt the corners of my own mouth curl into a smile as the weight of both dogs shifted the bed. Laying there in my bed, with Wade in my arms slowly coiling herself around me and the dogs at our feet, I felt the oddest sensation pass through me. And, as strange as it was (considering the pain I was in for starters), I was completely, extremely, ludicrously, and undeniably comfortable....maybe even happy.

* * *

CH 2:

So, it was the morning after and I was acting like I had just had the best sex of my life. I'd like to think that it had more to do with the Percodan I took--(did I mention this job had perks)--than the small woman nestled deep within the covers of my bed surrounded by my dogs...but who was I kidding? I was standing in the kitchen, moving the sauté pan across the flame rapidly as I scrambled eggs. This batch was without the cheese and salsa, since I didn't know how she liked her eggs. The pancakes were almost done, and I was wondering if I could pull off flipping them one armed. The pancake was in midair when she came out of the bedroom and gasped. I took my eyes off the pancake and rested them on the woman in the doorway of my bedroom. At best I could say she was swimming in my clothes--well, my pants. Sweatpants that covered her feet and her own t-shirt that was obviously not made for support--clinging to her toned frame. Both her brows raised high, as she looked at me like I had just been caught sneaking into the house after curfew. Needless to say, I missed the pancake on its descent. She smiled, and I just shrugged as I put the pan back down and turned off the burner.

"The dogs like them on the floor."

"I'm sure they do." She started walking towards me. "Why are you out of bed? How are you out of bed... and cooking no less?"



I gave her my best smile and she just stood there with her hands on her hips accentuating her taut abdomen glaring blue daggers at me. I stopped smiling and dished up the pancakes. "Look, I'm fine, I don't have a concussion, my ribs are tender, and I've dislocated my shoulder so many times I can do all sorts of neat parlor tricks with it." Blue eyes rolled as she walked towards the counter. "Just for your information, I have a mind numbing headache and if I move too far to the right too fast I might pass out, but other than that, I'm perfect." I gave her a lopsided grin and I could see her anger melt away as she moved to one of the stools. "Besides, I'm hungry and I couldn't sleep. Between you and the dogs, I was sleeping on the edge of the bed."

The sweetest flush of red filled her cheeks. "Sorry."

"S'okay." I held up the two plates of eggs. "I didn't know how you liked your eggs."

"What's in those?" She pointed towards the eggs with salsa÷my eggs. I tried not to grimace.

"Salsa and cheese." Blue eyes grew big. "You want?" I was trying not to sound disappointed.

She pulled out the stool. "Do you want them?"

I shrugged and shook my head. "Nah, take them. No problem."

She grabbed a fork and sat down at the counter. "You sure?"

She was all ready to dig in. I just grinned and nodded. "Eat them, Wade." She batted her eyelashes and then started stuffing her face. Well, she was enjoying them, so I couldn't be that mad. "How many pancakes do you want?"

She swallowed. "Doesn't matter, three or four, whatever, just come and sit down." She spoke without hesitation.

"Three or four?" I shook my head and gave her all four pancakes. I turned the stove back on so I could make a new batch. We ate in silence and then I pushed away from the counter with my plate. A small hand on my forearm stopped me. I looked down at her and she removed her hand tentatively.

"I'll do the dishes." I raised my brow. "I can do dishes, Charlie. Just put them in the machine, right?" My jaw dropped and she laughed. "Just kidding, I got it." I shook my head and drained my coffee. "First, let me check your bandages."

I swiveled around in my chair without enthusiasm to face her. "They're fine, Florence."

"Whatever, grumpy, let me look."

I rolled up my tank top so she could look at my ribs. She touched them gently and I winced more in expectancy of pain than actual pain. She rolled my shirt back down and took a look at the tourniquet she had wrapped around my shoulder that was actually helping to buffer my sore ribs. It was all very clinical as she touched my face and rubbed her fingers across the cuts and looked at my arms, but she was still the gentlest doctor I had ever known.

"Do I get a clean bill of health doc?"

She smirked at me. "Yes, grumpy."

I turned back around to the counter as she walked to the sink. "You'd be grumpy too if you got used as a punching bag and a pin cushion all in the same hour."

"So, I'll let you slide." I started to say something smart, but then she looked at me without an ounce of comedy in her eyes. "This is completely my fault and I'm sorry." She focused on the dishes in the sink.

I hid my surprised expression behind my coffee mug. I wasn't sure what to say. Damn, she confused me. One minute she was hell on wheels and a psycho on the loose. The next she was wise and sincere and worthy of friendship. I cleared my throat. "I'm not ready to totally blame this on you (that wasn't a complete lie), but stop apologizing, okay? What's done is done." My tone was firm.

"But Charlie--"

"Hey, look at me." I waited for her to look in my direction. "It's done, okay? My priority right now is keeping us both alive until we can get to your father and fix this. I don't want to save the world, and no offense, but I'm not trying to save your father either. I just want to take you to him, and get this straightened out."

She looked down into the suds as her shoulders slumped a bit. "So you're just using me now?"

"No!" I slammed my hand into the table and she jumped. I sighed and took a deep breath. "C'mere Wade. Come here." She walked around and stood in front of me. I reached out and grabbed her hands. "Look at me." She lifted her head. "I'm not using you, okay...well not why or how you think. I want you to be safe and I want me to be safe, but I have no intention of sacrificing you to anyone. If I wanted to use you, I'd turn you over to the spooks or Cabron, and save myself that way."

"Because of Carlo."

I groaned. "Fuck Carlo! Ugh!" I huffed. "Look, Wade, I don't know why, but well... you're kind of growing on me." She grinned. "Like a rash, but you're growing." She held in a giggle. "You got problems and all, but I want to see you grow up and figure those out." She hung her head in embarrassment and I touched her chin to get her look at me again. "I want to see you be the woman I know you're supposed to be and not some crazy brat. So, if that's using you, than fine. I'm using you to make you a better person, that make sense?"

She looked at me oddly. "Not really, but I understand." I shoved her playfully.

"Such a brat. I swear." We both laughed. "Come on we need to get ready."

"Where are we going?"

I scratched my head and shrugged at her. I knew damn well where we were going, but I wasn't going to tell her. I'll admit, for some odd reason I was trusting her, but it was a trust that only went as far as I could throw her. (Considering she didn't weigh that much, she was getting a lot of slack.) I looked at her and rubbed my chin. "I'm not really sure, but we need to get out of the city. If I heard the Spooks correctly, the time table has been changed, so we need to contact Carlo as soon as possible. But first we need to get out of here since I got the impression that somebody was supposed to be meeting Mr. CIA man."

She nodded and went back to the sink, then turned to me with a raised eyebrow. "Do you know what time table they were talking about?"

I shrugged as best I could. "Beats me."

"Huh?" She worried her lip as I watched her with question.

"You want to let me in on the brainstorming?"

She whipped her head in my direction and smirked. "Uh, just wondering what they wanted."

I spoke flatly. "You."

She let out a breath. "Oh, okay."

Both my eyebrows raised in surprise of her quiet reaction, even though at this point, Wade had me so dizzy I didn't know what to expect. "You don't sound surprised."

Blue eyes were wide as she turned to me and leaned back against the counter. "No, no, that's not it." She paused and nibbled on her pinky nail. "I mean I don't know," she waved a hand through the air. "Shouldn't I expect it?"

Now the answer was in my hand. (Wade was good, I'll give her that.) I was trying not to be baffled, but gone were my witty retorts and engaging banter, so I shrugged. "I-uh, I mean I guess you should expect it, why not, right? But, that's neither here nor there, is it?"

It was meant as a rhetorical question, but crisp blue eyes met my skeptical gaze and she answered. "Exactly."

We held each other's gaze until Mulder's timely licking of my foot caught my attention. It was rightfully so, since the hairs on the back of my neck were standing at attention. Something was different about Wade, and it wasn't like I was ready to decide that alien pod people had usurped her body for evil purposes, but it was wonderfully unnerving. I watched her turn back to the sink and wipe at the counter with the dishtowel. For a woman who had thrown me into the front seat of a speeding rollercoaster that only went downhill, Wade Worthing was suddenly proving to be a woman who did actually have feelings and concerns that didn't revolve around her. I think I was getting too philosophical for my own good. And besides, the more I kept staring at her-- watching the play of the muscles in her arm and admiring the sweet swell of her hips that were exposed above the rolled edges of her sweatpants-- I was losing myself in visions that were impossible and improbable. So, I changed the subject as best I could with the first thing that came to mind. "Can I ask you a question Wade?"

"Uh, sure." She didn't look up from the counter she was wiping with the dishtowel.

I held in my smile as I spoke. "Do I want to know what happened in the apartment?"

"Um, I o-d'd ?" Her voice was slightly shaky.

"Not that apartment, smartass." I was grinning when she looked up at me, so my words weren't as hurtful as they seemed.

Blue eyes looked at me sheepishly. "I may have spent the better half of my life in and out of boarding schools, and sure I question my father's love and had some rough roads after my mother died, but Carlo Worthing is still my father." Her words were strong but practiced, like she was waiting for me to ask.

"So, you're saying that you're your father's daughter."

She shrugged. "It's not as dramatic as Cate Blanchett saying, but yes."

I grinned. "Fine, I don't want to know, but," I raised my brow and wagged my finger at her, "I think we need to have a little heart to heart." Her features rose with the brightest of smiles.

"A little girl talk?"


She folded the dishtowel over the sink and looked from me to the sink and back. "I'm worth girl talk now?"

I sighed and ran my fingers through my hair. "We gotta get over this self-loathing thing." I spoke the words quietly to myself and then looked up as she asked me what I said. I shook my head. "Nothing, I'll save that speech for the 'girl talk' and yes you're worth the girl talk. I'm not sure why," I rubbed my forehead and gave her a grin, "but I guess I owe you."

She broke out into a laugh. "What do you owe me for?"

"You saved my life, for one."

She looked down at the ground and shook her head. "You saved mine."

"I revived you, Wade. When I get you to your dad, then I'll have saved your life."

She opened her mouth and then closed it as she swallowed her breath like she was swallowing her words. "Well, whatever, but you don't owe me anything." Blue eyes met mine and held them. Damn, I really hoped she wasn't playing me right now, because I had half a mind to walk around the counter and take her in my arms. Luckily, the dogs started barking and broke my sappy mood.

I jumped off the stool a little too fast and felt my bones jar. I hissed in pain and Wade was at my side. "I'm good, I'm good." She let me go hesitantly as I walked to the wall and reached behind the bookcase and grabbed my gun. I pulled back the hammer on the .44 automatic and eased to the door. I smirked to myself as I put my free hand behind my back, and sure enough, Wade's smaller hand was gripping mine in a matter of seconds. I shushed the dogs, who were flanking my sides. I opened the light switch panel and pressed a small button. The wood to the left of the panel slid back to reveal a small television screen. (Okay, so I *was* just a little paranoid.) I looked at the screen that gave me a clear view of the area directly outside my door. There was nothing. I pressed two more buttons and searched the perimeter and the lobby. I stopped on the lobby as I watched the mailman drop off the mail. I released a breath and closed the panel and put my gun back down. Wade still held my hand as we moved away from the door. "You ready to go now?" I wiggled my eyebrows.

She nodded her head. "I am beyond ready to go." She grinned at me and then glanced down at our hands. We both let go at the same time as I paid attention to an imaginary smudge on the chrome of my gun. She walked off towards the bedroom and then stopped. "Um, Charlie, I don't really have any clothes." She grinned in embarrassment.

"And my clothes certainly don't get any better." I watched her tug at the waistband of the sweatpants. "We'll take care of it when we leave, so just get together what you have and we can get out of here in about five minutes, okay?" She nodded and disappeared into the bedroom. I found myself standing in my living room with my arms folded across my chest, smiling wistfully at the doorway where Wade had stood moments before. I felt the cold steel of my gun slipping down my pants and came to my senses as I caught the gun before it slid down my pants leg. I shook my head and looked down at the dogs that were regarding me with the most comical expressions. I kneeled down and nuzzled my dogs' faces. "I've gone completely insane, guys." Both dogs barked in agreement as they tackled my laughing form to the floor. I'll admit, I was in a lot of pain as we rolled around on the floor, but for the first time in a few days I was feeling like my quality of life was improving by leaps and bounds. I saw Wade standing in the doorway shaking her head at me and smiling. I smiled back genuinely and let the pain of Mulder standing on my shoulder outweigh the thought that this was all a pipe dream. (Please, oh please, let me just be paranoid.)

* * *

CH 3:

Let's face it, things had changed. I guess it was for the better, and honestly, it certainly felt better. It was actually easy to believe that we were just on some innocent road trip and not running for our lives. We had been on the road for at least an hour and well out of the city when I stopped to take the top off the Jeep. I wasn't sure how long I could keep her from pouting anyway. To the sparse cars that passed us by, I'm sure we looked like some progressive new-age family traveling down the highway to some mountain hideway. The dogs were strapped in the back seat with bags of groceries at their feet, and we were singing badly with the country station the radio picked up.

It was going on two in the afternoon when I went into 4-wheel drive, navigating the twisty path into the canyon. I know Maryland's not as big as New York or even Pennsylvania, but that just makes all the fun places quicker to get to. I heard Wade let out a huff of air as we came to a stop near a ridge. I turned to her with a cocky smile, because I knew what she was about to say.

She rolled her eyes as she unstrapped the dogs, drawing her hand back quickly when Scully growled at her. Under her breath she mumbled, "you can get that beast." I chuckled as I moved by her and let the dog out of the restraint. She spoke when Scully hopped out of the back. "Please don't tell me we have to hike up some treacherous path?"

I laughed out loud. "You're not up for some hiking?" She looked to the sky like she was contemplating the question and then shrugged. "Don't worry, I won't work you too hard. Besides, that's what I love about these valleys and stuff. Depending on your perspective, you'd think you would never make it to where you're going. But..." I reached out and took her by the hand so that she would step in front of me. "When you change your view, you'll see that things are really closer than they appear." Wade took a breath of appreciation as she looked around the bend and saw the cabin. "Now, if you want, I'll make you hike up the back path, and by the time you get back dinner will be ready."

She laughed and then rolled her eyes. "No thank you, and anyway I'm cooking tonight." I know I looked at her like she just caught on fire, because she backhanded me gently in the stomach and started taking groceries out of the car. "I can cook Charlie, sheesh."

I tried to feign innocence, but we both knew it wasn't working. "I didn't say a thing."

"Yeah, right. Come on, let's get this stuff inside and make some dinner plans."

"You don't just make up something off the top of your head."

"Charlie!" She sounded hurt. "You have to plan what you cook. You have to think about ingredients, and cooking time, and most of all presentation." I groaned. "I assume you don't have a plan?"

I shrugged. "When I'm hungry, I eat."

"So why the expensive kitchen?"

I wiggled my eyebrows. "Well Wade, when I eat..." I paused and licked my lips. "I eat well." I realized what I said the second the words came out of my mouth, but Wade quickly turned around and headed around the corner, before either of us had time to notice the blush covering our features. I shook my head at myself, as I followed behind her. This was going to be the longest three days of my life, but considering what the last three were like, it couldn't get any worse, right?


I shoved my nitpicking instincts on to the back burner as I let Wade run around my kitchen putting things where she thought they should go, and getting out the pots and pans. I walked around and pulled the tarps off the furniture. Once I got the dust out of my nose, I let my lungs fill with the sweet smell of hickory smoke, jasmine incense, and the forest. (Maybe I'll just move here and take up hunting.) The cabin itself was pretty rustic, if you want to call it that. It had a thirty foot ceiling that I swore I was going to put a loft in when time permitted. The floor was bare to expose the wood, except in the living room where an oriental rug, a couch, two arm chairs, and a coffee table sat. A chaise sat cat-a-corner by the window pane doors that led to the back patio. The kitchen took up the rest of the open floor space. Along the inside wall were two doors, one for the bathroom, and the other the bedroom.

I walked into the bedroom and put down our bags, then stripped the bed and remade it. When I came back out, Wade was leaning over the kitchen counter scribbling away on a piece of paper. I sat down on the arm of the couch and just watched her quietly.

She was nibbling on the small nail of her pinky finger and writing every so often, after she would nod her head and grin. Blue eyes were intense as they moved back and forth across the paper and she had the tiniest crinkle on her nose. I was riveted, maybe even moved. In truth I was just insane, but I was determined to make it through the next few days. Even if that meant I had to go sleep outside on the porch swing. (Although a tree would be safer.) When she looked in my direction, I pretended to be staring at the fireplace.

"Something interesting in there, Charlie?"

I jumped as if I was startled and then stood. "Nothing, nothing." I slapped my thighs. "I need to go get some wood though, 'cause it's going to get cold tonight."

She laughed. "There's no way you're going to go chop wood with one arm, Charlie. You're good and all, but come on!"

I arched my eyebrow at her. "I'll have you know, I have many--"

She cut me off with a wave of her hand. "Don't even say it. Last time I checked, you are not the bionic woman, so park it."

I laughed and zipped up my vest. "I'd suggest that you chop it, but I know you have to do all your planning." She stuck out her tongue at me. "Don't worry, Wade. I'm not that crazy. There's a pile of wood out back if you must know."

She eyed me curiously, trying not to smile. She shook her head at me and then pretended that her paper was more important. I held in my laugh as I walked out of the back door. While Wade made her culinary masterpiece, I cleaned up, turned on the water heater, and started a fire. I was laying on the couch doing the crossword puzzle when she finally acknowledged me.

"Something's missing. Charlie?"

I looked up from my paper and she was standing behind me looking down at me. "You mean the chef forgot something, oh my."

She gave me the finger. "No, smartass. First off, we need some wine and secondly, is there absolutely no electricity in this place? All this silence is making me edgy." She pulled at the collar of her t-shirt and I smiled.

"Poor county girl like you just can't survive without a little white noise?"

"Something like that."

"I was in the middle of this puzzle." I was trying not to whine.

She threw back her head in laughter. "Charlie you've been there for fifteen minutes and you've filled in five answers." She bent over and looked at the paper. "Two of which are wrong."

I tossed the paper away and huffed. She giggled as I got up from the couch. "Where you going, sugarpop, did I hurt your feelings?"

I glared at her, but then I winked so she knew I wasn't really mad. "I'm going to get you some wine."

"Uh, correct me if I'm wrong, but we are miles from anywhere?"

I just shook my head and patted her shoulder. "One day you'll learn, I promise."

She put her hands on her hips and ran her tongue across her teeth as she contemplated her next words. My knees turned to jello, but I made it look like I was just leaning down to pet the dog. "How do you know that I don't already know, and I'm just doing all this to get under your skin?"

I cocked my head to the side and regarded the woman, who was beginning to seem less and less like the spoiled brat I'd met four days ago, and more like something, or better yet, someone, I couldn't quite put my finger on. "Wade, you've already done a stellar job of that, so you can stop."

She smiled. "I'm flattered."

"You are?" I asked.

"Should I be?" I shrugged in response. "What's that mean?"

"Hey, if you're flattered then you're flattered. If you're not, you're not." I shrugged again and smirked. "I can't help you there."

She was trying not to laugh. "Charlie, you know what? You're a pain in my ass."

I burst into laughter. "I'm happy I could return the favor, brat." I ruffled her hair.

She stepped away from my touch with a laugh. "Keep that up and·I'll poison you." She raised and lowered her eyebrows.

I gave her a lopsided grin as I leaned down so that we were almost at eye level. "I dare you." My voice was quiet and full of challenge. I watched her bite her lip as she searched for something to say. God, I hoped she didn't do that tongue and teeth thing, because I might not make it through the next ten minutes.

She let out a shaky laugh, but still kept eye contact. Yeah, I was getting to her as well. "Charlie·Charlie, what's your last name?"

I stood up straight and eased back a bit, just so I wasn't invading her personal space. "Where did that come from?" She shrugged. "Why do you want to know?"

A look of coyness crossed her features as she invaded my personal space and craned her neck up to look at me. "Well, Charlie, if I'm going to poison you I'd at least like to know your last name."

This time I did the teeth and tongue thing as I searched for words. I laughed off the fuzzy sensation in my belly and shook my head. "I'm not telling you."

"Still don't trust me?" She was all smiles.

"I wouldn't say that..but, I can't tell you."

"No fair." She formed a perfect little pout with her lips.

I was getting that queasy feeling in my stomach, but it was a good kind of queasy. "Well Wade, when you grow up you'll find that life isn't fair, and that my name is long and unpronounceable."

She started to look hurt and then she swatted me in the arm. I grabbed it like I was in pain. Blue eyes went wide as she gasped. "Oh my god, ohmygod. Charlie, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. What do you need?" She looked like she was about to cry and I couldn't help but smile.

"Wrong arm." I wiggled my eyebrows at her.

She sucked her teeth and walked into the kitchen. "And *I'm* a brat!" She called after me as I walked out of the back doors chuckling to myself. I took time for myself as I stood in the small wine cellar just to catch my breath and get my bearings straight. As I ascended the steps back into the house, I looked out to a couple of trees that looked like they might be good for sleeping in.


The meat was cooking, the potatoes were roasting, and the vegetables were steaming. The early evening was turning out to be a delightful one. I had pulled out an old radio that ran on batteries and we imagined ourselves to be really bad ball room dancers as we pranced around the house to some a.m. station that was partial to big band numbers. We had just finished our own version of a waltz, that was anything but elegant. We fell onto the couch in giggles, disturbing Scully's sleep. Wade moved closer to me for fear the dog would gnaw her eyes out.

Charlie ,your dog hates me."

No she doesn't'." I scratched the dog behind the ears. "She's just picky."

"I think she's picky about you."

I shrugged and reached for the wine bottle. "More wine, my lady?"

"Why thank you governor." We exchanged goofy looks and then I poured the wine. We sipped in relative silence until I moved off the couch and sat on the coffee table. "Are you trying to tell me something?" she asked.

"Oh no, I was just getting tired of turning my neck to look at you." (And if I keep sitting next to you, I might melt into a pool of sweat.) I smiled and she smiled back. "So will you tell me about your little habit?" I managed not to sound condescending or judgmental.

Instead of looking at me in shock, she sighed and swirled her wine. "I have a problem, is that what you want me to say?"

"Well, yeah actually."

She chuckled and then serious blue eyes met my gaze. "Yes, I have a drug problem, but I choose not do to anything about it and that's my prerogative." Her voice was firm with finality. I just stared at her and watched her open and close her mouth until she found the words. She leaned forward, cradling her wine glass in her hands, her eye contact wavering from me, to the glass, and to the carpet. "Charlie, I don't know why I do the things I do. God, I don't." She sighed and sat up as she let her head fall back so she could look at the ceiling. She was struggling to say something but, I could tell from the way she shook her head and closed her eyes, the conversation she was having in her head was even harder than the actual one. She focused her attention back to me and gave me a small smile. "Charlie, I am beyond sorry. I-I, uh," she let out a heavy breath and drank from her glass. She started to talk again and then chuckled as she ran her hand through her hair. "This isn't supposed to be this way." Her words were quiet.

I was intrigued and mesmerized and confused all at the same time. "How is it supposed to be, Wade?"

"Oh Charlie, it's not supposed to be like this, that's for sure." She drank from her glass and mumbled into it. "What am I doing, god, what am I doing."

I raised my eyebrow and looked at her. "What are you talking about, Wade?"

She sat up straight and leaned back into the cushions of the couch as she eyed me with curiosity. "Do you have bionic ears or something?" I just smiled. "I'm not talking about anything really. I'm out of my head·and more importantly I'm almost out of wine." We shared a smile.

I decided to let her musings go without interrogation. I could wait till after dinner so I just sipped my drink and I could feel her eyes on me. I looked up and met her eyes. "What?"

"You think I'm too young for you, don't you?" (Good Lord, she knew how to change the subject.) My options were to choke on the wine or spray it in her face. I opted to choke, 'cause that's just the kind of gal I am. Wade was up and patting my back before I could even sit my glass down. "Sorry about that." I could tell she was fighting a laugh.

I shook my head and sat up straight. "It's okay, really." I cleared my throat. "Shouldn't you go check your potatoes or something, they smell done." She looked down at me and brushed my hair away from my forehead. Dear god, I hope she didn't feel me shiver.

She removed her hand and clicked her tongue against the roof of her mouth. "You know what, I think I'll go check the potatoes, what do you think Charlie?"

I could only nod in response. She winked at me and skipped away. I drained the rest of my wine and refilled my glass, even though I knew I need something stronger. When I was able to move again, I would get up and get the Jameson, and seriously begin to wonder what the weather was going to be like outside tonight.

* * *

CH 4:

Dinner turned out to be hilarious. I mean the food was great, but we spent most of the time trading childhood stories of near misses. There's nothing like Catholic school to get people to bond. We shared doing the dishes and sat out on the back patio as we finished off the bottle of wine. I had forgone looking at the clock as I grabbed a book from the bookshelf and sat down on the floor in front of the fireplace. She emerged from the bathroom in my sweatpants, that she refused to stop wearing, and a tank top. I looked up at her and she smiled.

"Um, I'm beat so I'm going to bed." I nodded at her. She looked down at her fingertips and then back at me. "So, what side do you sleep on?"

I shook my head as I put the book in my lap. "No need. I'm sleeping out here, you take the bed."

"Oh, okay." She smiled, but I could see the emotion of disappointment play across her face as she bid me good night and went into the bedroom followed by Mulder.

I let go of the breath I was holding as she disappeared and I pulled out my reading glasses. It was just going to be me and Shakespeare tonight. I'm not sure how long she was asleep, but I had only made it through the second act of Twelfth Night when she came out of the bedroom. She yawned and stretched as she walked towards me and then sat down on the edge of the coffee table.

"You're still awake?" I grinned and nodded as I turned the page. She squinted at the cover of the book. "What are you reading?"

I brushed the hair from my face and looked up at her. "Twelfth Night." I held the book up and then brought it back down to my lap.

She broke into a wide smile. "Shakespeare, I see." I nodded. She wagged a finger at me. "Before you even say it, you do strike me as the kind of girl who would read Shakespeare·and wear glasses." She reached out and removed the wire rims from my face.

I watched her try on my glasses and then hand them back, although she reminded me of a sexy librarian when she wore them, and she could have kept them, but at least one of us seemed to have good sense. I slipped them back on and gave her a small grin. "So, why aren't you sleeping, Wade?"

She shrugged and dug her petite foot into the carpet. "For starters, Mulder snores."

I chuckled. "You should hear that one." I jutted my head in the direction of Scully who lay on the couch behind me. "So what else kept you up?" For the life of me I couldn't imagine why I was asking these questions, I should have just kept grinning and nodding and prayed she got the hint and skipped off to bed.

She shrugged again. "I-I guess I was just wondering if you were still up." She looked around the room. "Then again, I'm not really that sleepy." Blue eyes narrowed and a pink tongue edged out behind white teeth. "You wouldn't happen to have some Jameson here would you?"

I just shook my head at her. "I thought that was an old man's drink."

"Well maybe the mountains are bringing something out in me."

"I might have to agree with you there. I mean uh·" She stopped me with a laugh. (What the hell am I thinking?)

She cocked her head at me. "What's that mean?"

"I don't know." I rubbed my hand across my face to get rid of the blush I could feel coming. "Maybe I've been reading too long."

She giggled. "Charlie, you've only been out here for twenty minutes."

"So you've been counting?" God my voice sounded deep even to me. I started to get up.

"Just sit, I'll get the glasses."

I just nodded as she got up and walked to the kitchen. This was not a good idea. When she came back she sat down next to me and placed the bottle and glasses with ice between us. I smiled. "I see you remembered the ice." She just smiled and poured. She handed me my glass and we touched them together in a silent toast. We sipped quietly until she spoke.

"Alright, so read to me."

I looked at her with amusement in my eyes. "You're the drama queen, shouldn't you be reading to me?"

She turned towards me and drew her knees up, wrapping her arms around her legs. It was probably just the candlelight, but she looked heady with need at the moment. I shook it off and sipped from my glass. "What are we reading, Twelfth Night, right?" I nodded. She pursed her lips and slanted her head for a moment and then spoke with a perfectly quaint English accent.

" 'Why, then, methinks 'tis time to smile again.

O, world, how apt the poor are to be proud!

If one should be a prey, how much the better

To fall before the lion than the wolf' "

She finished the lines and held my gaze for a moment. I'd like to think that she felt overwhelmed and looked away first, but I smiled nervously and drank deeply of my whiskey. When my voice came back to me, I spoke. "Very nice. Very nice."

She batted her eyelashes and looked away as she drank. "What, you're not impressed?"

"Oh, I am, I am. But, I mean, you went to school for that right?"

"Yeah, but you don't think I should join the Royal Company of Shakespeare any time soon, right?" There was the smallest twinge of hurt in her voice.

I fought the urge to reach out and caress her face as I closed the book softly on my hand. "I think you can do whatever you want to Wade, you just have to go for it." Blue eyes drilled into mine and if I could have picked her thoughts I don't think I would have been scared of what I found there.

She took a breath and rubbed the back of her neck. " 'I prithee, tell what thou thinkest of me?'"

I smiled. "Isn't that supposed to be my line?"

A faint blush reached her cheeks. "Fine then, my reply: 'That you do think you are not what you are.'" She winked at me.

I sipped my drink and wracked my brain for the next line. I cleared my throat. "Should I use the Queen's English?"

She bowed her head. "By all means, my lady."

I grinned and then met her gaze and held her eyes. "And then I say: 'If I think so, I think the same of you.'"

She swallowed the line with a conviction that permeated her compact frame. " 'Then think you right: I am not what I am.'"

We were quiet for a moment not because I couldn't remember the next line, but because something in her reciting of the words struck me. Something filled my gut, and it was neither angst or anxiety, but merely question. I almost hate to use the comparison, but it was like I was looking at the layers of a rose. Perhaps better than that, it was like opening a present at Christmas. You rip off the paper and the box says Saks Fifth Avenue, so you already have this expectation, and then you tear away the tissue paper and encased inside is something that is so far from Saks Fifth Avenue its not even funny, but it turns out its worth is probably more than anything on their shelves. It was an odd feeling, I admit, but I took it in stride as my tongue found itself and I spoke the next line. " 'I would you were as I would have you be.'"

" 'Would it be better, madam, than I am? I wish it might, for now I am your fool.'"

I could only shake my head and smile, because this time I really did forget the next line. I laughed as I tried to flub over the words. "Uh, O what, um, something something beautiful and anger of his lip.'"

She burst into laughter. "It's 'O what a deal of scorn looks beautiful, in the contempt and anger of his lip.'"

"And I knew that."

She shoved me gently and we both laughed. "C'mon Charlie, read to me."

"I was getting partial to listening to you."

"Fine then, you pour and I'll read."

I nodded, and then just as I moved to pick up the bottle, she moved and sat between my legs, resting her back against me as I rested against the couch. I could only hold my arms out and let her have her way. (I could do this. I could. ) She got comfortable, nestling herself into my body, careful of my sore spots, and I could only turn my head and look out of the back door towards the tree. (It wasn't that cold out.)

"You comfy yet?" Much to my pleasure, the sarcasm of my question rang out clearer than rising desire.

She nodded and handed me my refilled glass. "Okay, where were we?"

(I was two seconds from throwing you to the floor and stripping you naked, but that's just me.) I laughed on the inside and then answered as she called my name. "Uh, act three or something?"

"You want to start there? Or where were you?"

"In the middle of Act 2." I handed her the book.

She took the book and began to adjust her eyes to the soft candlelight. "You ready?"

"God yes." I mumbled.


"Yeah, sure." I swore I saw the corners of her mouth curl into a smile but I was quickly carried away by the sound of her voice, so it no longer mattered.


CH 5 :

She was giving me a one-woman show as we plowed through the play, laughing in all the right places and laughing in places where we decided to laugh in. I found myself absently combing my fingers through her hair and she made no protest. It wasn't until she let out the smallest of moans, that I realized what I was doing. I drew my hand back and she turned her head back and up to look at me. "What happened? Did I run out of quarters for the massage?"

I managed to laugh away the impending blush. "Massage? I was reading your scalp."

Her body shook against mine as she laughed. "I didn't know you knew phrenology."

I placed my fingertips on her scalp and rubbed up and down. "Yup, and you know what·you've got a big head."

She swatted my head. "Shut up, I do not·I grew into my head a long time ago." I laughed so hard my ribs hurt. "That's what you get for making fun of me." She stuck out her tongue at me and turned back to the book.

"I wasn't making fun, I promise, just imagining you with a little body and really big head. Looking like a little stick figure." I laughed at the image in my head and she let out a low growl.

"Watch it, sugarpop, cuz I've got sharp elbows."

I looked down and realized her elbows were lined up with my ribs. "You wouldn't dare." She shrugged and started flipping through the book. "Well, no more massage if you do."

"Well since you put it like that, then I call a truce."

I smiled. "Works every time." I commenced running my fingers through her hair again.

"Does not." She was doing her best to sound hurt, but between the fire, the alcohol, and my magic fingers she was melting away in her own paradise.

"So does this mean the play is over?"

It took her a second to answer. "It's just starting. I'm just enjoying this." I laughed and grabbed her around the waist as I settled her into my body. "You make an excellent pillow, Charlie."

"So I've been told."

I could feel the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. "By whom?"

"Jealous much?"

She sucked her teeth. "You wish."

"Why wish for something that I clearly already have?"

She put the book down and folded her arms across her chest. "Look who's stuck on herself."

I was grinning from ear to ear. "Just stating the obvious, lil' bit."

I saw small lips form the cutest of pouts as she tried to turn back to look at me, but I kept her head forward. "Whatever you say Char-lie." She dragged the syllables out.

I just shook my head. "Doesn't work anymore."

This time she turned her head around. I kept my hand in her hair and let her head rest on my collarbone as she looked up at me with arched eyebrows. "And why not?" I shrugged and scratched her scalp. "That's not an answer. And stop trying to distract me."

"Is it working?" I wiggled my eyebrows and held her gaze. Whenever science got around to creating tractor beams, they would be the color of Wade's eyes. So blue, they were on the verge of being violet. Truth was, I was trying to distract myself. I was trying to do the practical thing and keep this relationship at arms' length. Meanwhile, she was in my arms, looking up at me, at the perfect angle. It wouldn't take that much effort to just duck my head about an inch and I could taste the lips that were moving in question.

"Charlie, are you listening to me?"

"Course I was."

"What did I say?"

"You said, that uh, if Lady McBeth, Gonereil, and Regan got together they could rule the world, or just make a really interesting David E. Kelley television show."

She laughed and the warmth of her body was seeping through my clothes. "I said no such thing, but was that what you were thinking about?"

I just smiled and broke our gaze to look into the fireplace in the hopes that I could pull myself together. But seeing as how she began to idly stroke my forearm that was still casually wrapped around her waist I was losing this battle fast. I was losing with such speed, that my lips started moving without aid of my brain. "Far from it actually." I met her eyes, and blue eyes looked up at me expectantly for an answer to her silent prodding. "I was thinking about how much I wanted you·" I paused deliberately as I felt her muscles tense. "to shut up."

She smiled and ran her tongue across the ridges of her top teeth. "Charlie, are you trying to tellmmmm-

Even though her mouth was small, her lips were full, and tasty. I could still taste the Jameson on her lips and when our tongues met, I could still taste the strawberries from dessert and that extra added spice that was clearly just her. I tugged on the hair still in my hands gently as I deepened the kiss, but with enough force to let hint at what was to come. We didn't seem to be coming up for air anytime soon as she removed my arm from around her waist and turned around so that she remained between my legs, but now she faced me. Small hands tangled themselves in my hair and I was prepared to eat this woman alive. She moaned from the absence of my lips only to make a sharp hissing sound as my lips found a private path down her neck. I was already to grab her by the waist and press her down into the carpet, until the small hands embedded in my hair tugged back with unexpected authority.

I was prepared to give her the evil eye, but she covered my mouth with her lips, and I know the breath left my body. (Was I ever in control?) She broke the kiss and ran her fingertips down my face and across my jaw. "Up, Charlie."

I didn't know where I was going, but she said up and I was going up, even if that meant climbing a ladder to the roof. Up turned out to be up on the couch behind me. I never fully stood up as she pushed me back and down I went, disturbing the dog who got the hint. With rapacious speed, she was straddling me and removing my shirt. If it hurt when I lifted my arm, the pain was masked by the spasms of excitement that were erupting in my groin. She made quick work of her own shirt, and without pride, I emitted the smallest of moans as I took in the sight of her bared breasts. All the dirty little thoughts I wanted to think before, but couldn't because of circumstance, came rushing forward at breakneck speed.

Half-lidded blue eyes met my own glazed over stare and she wet her lips. "See something you want?"

A zillion smartass quips ran through my head but I could only nod and then I placed my hands on either side of her waist and leaned forward. Fingertips on my forehead stopped my progress and pushed my head back towards the couch. She smiled at me with evil in her eyes and good on her lips or maybe the other way around, but it did the trick and I obeyed. She shook her head as she drew her finger down my forehead and stopped on my lips. I took the offering like good girl and suckled like it was her nipple.

"Say please, Charlie." I groaned and she removed her finger. She was good and this was all ass-backwards. I was *not* supposed to be in this position. She grinned at me like she could read my thoughts, and let out a little sigh. "You want me to help you?" I nodded like I was a six year old trying to reach to cookie jar on top of the refrigerator. She leaned into me until our lips rested on one another without pressure. Her lips moved against mine as she formed the word. She could have been telling me I had shit for brains and it would have still sounded sweet.

I pushed her back gently and stared at her. My voice was louder than I expected, but in truth I was ready go get a bull horn or spell out the words in burning embers from the fire place. "Please." She wrapped her arms around my neck and I pulled her to me to claim my prize. I didn't understand the phrase 'milk chocolate melts in your mouth and not in your hand' until I met a Nubian goddess named Tasha in my senior year of highschool and she explained to me the merits of John Coltrane as well as other things. Ever since that lesson I have been a firm lover of jazz and a worshiper of breasts. To show Wade my appreciation I nipped, sucked, lapped, and kissed her breasts like I was making up for lost time. She responded by arching her back and grabbing handfuls of my hair.

"Jesus·Charlie, you're going to wear me out before I get started." I smiled against her breast and she laughed. She gently pushed my head away and kissed me. I fell back against the couch as she looked down at me and shook her head. "You going to answer my question now?"

I smiled lazily. "I don't know if I can formulate an answer, but fine."

"Well for starters I'd like to know the last name of the woman who's about to make me come on the spot if she keeps looking at me like that."

I entwined our fingers and laughed. "It's Rossi. Charlene Theresa Regina-Marie Rossi."

"That's a lot of names."

"Confirmation, Baptism. I think I even got a name for confession. What else do you want to know?" I pulled her to me and kissed her and then let her sit back. "I'm an only child, my parents are dead, I slept with one guy in my life, I got a B.A. in English and I never finished my Master's, I'll be 33 in May, and no, I don't think you're too young for me." I took a deep breath and smiled.

"You got enough air in your lungs yet?" I nodded. "You okay, you sure?" I nodded again. "I just want you to be sure, I don't want you to have a heart attack on me."

"You sound like we're about to run a marathon." Blonde eyebrows arched devilishly as Wade removed herself from the couch and kneeled between my legs.

Neither of us made comment as she eased open the top button of my jeans. I didn't even want to look down at her, lest I come right there on the spot without her even touching me. She leaned forward and kissed my neck as she eased her hand down my pants. I didn't even care if she felt me tremble. She pulled back and looked at me slyly. I mirrored her grin, because I knew what was going to be the topic of conversation before she even ran that tongue across her lips and asked her question.

"Where is it?"

I looked down into blue eyes like I hadn't the faintest idea what she was talking about. I shrugged. "I'm afraid I don't know what you're talking about, Wade." A warm palm pressed into me and I moaned.

"Is that so?" She hummed to herself as she began to take off my pants. The air was cool against my heated legs as my jeans were removed. "Remember when we went to Barberry's and I asked you where your gun was?" Her voice was this melodic purr and she was hitting all the right spots as she rubbed against my center so I could only nod. "You said you left it in the house and for the life of me I couldn't figure out what that bulge in your pants could have possibly been if not a gun." I could only smile. "Not to mention you should find a place for those things, I was getting a shirt to sleep in and low and behold, what did I find." I laughed out loud as she evoked her faded southern belle accent.

"Sorry to disappoint you Wade." I breathed out.

She smiled and kissed me hard. "You can make it up to me."

I was in the middle of nodding my head, when I felt a slender finger creep under my underwear and find its way inside me. I didn't even get time to catch my breath as a second finger followed by a third made themselves at home. I guess it would have been stupid to ask her if she had done this before, and besides, the only thing I could seem to say was "Shit." Without her prompting I scooted closer to the edge of the couch. She smiled at me as we met one another for a kiss. I managed to look down and watched with heaving breaths as her fingers appeared and reappeared. I moaned and touched my forehead to hers as she picked up the pace. I had never been one to cry out a the top of my lungs when in the throws of passion, so as I felt myself nearing my climax I fell back against the couch and buried my hands in my hair. I hope she wasn't offended at my lack of volume, but I could tell by the large grin on her face that she was getting the point.

My muscles tensed and she leaned into me, resting her head on my chest, as I tangled my hands in her hair and held on for dear life. I breathed out an 'oh god' as she removed her fingers and I pulled her to me. She was smoothing away my sweat-matted hair from my forehead when I opened my eyes. "You okay there?"

"Just trying not to have a heart attack." She smiled and resumed her position straddled across my lap. I hugged her tightly as the last few spasms left my body. She touched her fingertips to her lips and licked them. I groaned and shuddered. She sucked on my earlobe and then kissed her way to my lips. "You ready to go again?" I shook my head. "You're shattering my image of you, Charlie."

I chuckled. "Wade, I'm afraid of your image of me." We both laughed.

"So you don't wear a strap-on during road trips, I'm allowed to be wrong."

I couldn't help but laugh. "You're not completely wrong."

"Is that so?"

She opened her mouth to say something smart and I glared at her until she found the ceiling more interesting. "One more word, Wade, and I'm sending you to your room without supper." I leaned forward until she was almost parallel to the ground.

"Do I want to know what you're doing?"

I tickled her sides a bit. "I'm trying to decided what to do with you."

"Can I suggest divesting me of my clothes and having your way with me on the floor here?"

I lifted her up a bit so that we could look at each other and she could watch me lick my lips like I was seriously considering her suggestion. "That would seem like the thing to do, no?" I didn't let her answer as I brought her up quickly and then moved off the couch and laid her on the floor. She took a breath to speak and I kissed her. "Stop talking, Wade, you're breaking my concentration."

The laughter quickly turned into a throaty moan as I buried my head in her breasts and began to work my way down the sculpted ridges of her stomach to the top of her sweatpants. I made quick work of removing her pants as I admired the soft cotton of her French cut panties. I know it was a selfish act, but I couldn't help but admire the lithe woman on her back. More for my amusement and pleasure than hers, I splayed my hand across her stomach and drew a slow path south that stopped on top of her underwear. I loved how my hand fit perfectly right in the apex of legs. I placed a feather light kiss on the flesh right where her thigh met her hip joint. It was the sweetest of curves on a woman and it made Wade tremble.

I lifted my head as I kissed my way back up her body. Small hands went to my face as I lowered myself onto her for a kiss, careful not to crush her. "Not quite like the first time, is it?"

I almost didn't hear her ask the question, but I leaned back as her words registered and shook my head. "I was angry." I closed my eyes as I felt a twinge of shame well up in my gut.

She caressed my face as if she knew what I was thinking and kissed my closed eyes. "I was stupid·so we're even." I met her gaze and smiled. "Can we kiss on it?" I nodded my head and we shared a kiss that wasn't meant as an act of arousal, but of acceptance. I leaned back and she ran her fingers through my hair. "You know what we're missing?"

"A bottle of whip cream?"

I got a pleasant swat to my rear end. "I was thinking music."

"Music?" I adjusted myself so I wasn't leaning on my left arm. "What's wrong with Ferderich's Big Band Jamboree!"

"I'm not in the mood for Swing dancing, Charlie."

I grinned at her. "What'll you do for it?"

She traced my eyebrows and the planes of my face with he fingertips. "What are you offering?"

Wade was good at this, but I was still better. I lowered my voice until it was just above a growl. "Whatever you can take." The involuntary shiver that ran through her body was response enough for me. I captured her lips in a fierce kiss, which was enough to distract her from my wandering hand. Which at the time was straining to reach under the coffee table. I found what I was looking for and aimed the remote to the wallspace to the right of the fireplace. She pulled away from my kiss as she heard the sounds of movement to her side. I did my best to look innocent, as she watched the wall open up and reveal a 36' television, a VCR, a receiver, and a CD player.

Blue eyes went wide as she turned back to me. "We don't have electricity out here Wade, we're in the middle of nowhere." She mocked my earlier statement.

"I don't know how that got there." I somehow managed to keep from laughing as I spoke the words, knowing full well when I had gone to get the wine earlier I had turned on the generator.

She glared at me and squeezed my cheeks. "If you weren't already bruised and battered, I'd give you a few lumps of my own."

"You could try." For a second she looked as if she was about to take me up on my offer, but I grabbed her wrists and pinned them back above her head, effectively stretching her out. "You were about to say?" I arched my brow at her and silently dared her to say something.

She was nothing but a ray of sunshine as she batted her eyes and shrugged as much as I would allow. "Not a word."

I winked at her and let the fates have their way with the cd player as I leaned down and gave my undivided attention to Wade's breasts. I couldn't decide if it was the D'Angelo, or just Wade writhing underneath me, but I had had enough foreplay. I let her hands go and I stood up. She sat up at my abrupt departure. I touched my fingers to my lips and gestured for her to be quiet. I saw a small hint of fear pass over her and I decided to let her run with that for that moment. I helped her to her feet and walked her to wall between the bedroom and the bathroom. I turned her around so that she faced the wall. She opened her mouth to talk and I covered her mouth with my hand and pressed my body into hers so that she pressed against the wall. "Not a word, Wade, not a word. If you understand, shake your head." She did as I told her and I let her go.

"Keep your eyes closed and don't move, okay?" She nodded. "Put your palms flat against the wall." She did it. "Now don't move." I kissed her shoulder blade and vanished into the dark of the bedroom. Thank god I was organized enough to keep some things in the same place. I flung my underwear off and reminded myself to take a deep breath and calm down. She was just a girl and I had done this before. I counted down from 20 as I pulled out my harness. Sometimes I was too organized for my own damn good as I reached my hand up in the closet and found what I was looking for without much of a search. (So much for making her wait.)

When I came back out, she was still facing the wall, eyes closed, palms flat against the wall. I was just quiet enough, that when I ran my fingertips across her shoulder blades she jumped at the touch. I pressed my body up against hers, careful to keep my lower half from meeting her and kissed her neck. "I'm impressed Wade. You'd stayed in one spot." She smiled and just nodded. I was jumping for joy on the inside. I kneeled down and tapped the inside of her thigh. Without asking she spread her legs and I pulled her underwear off. I almost fell over at the scent of her arousal. I ran my hands up and down her legs and kissed the flesh of her buttocks. "Turn around Wade, and keep them closed." She did as she was told, back flat against the wall and let me continue my exploration without comment.

"Wade what's the last thing you want to think about right now?" I held in a laugh as she raised her brow and fought the urge to talk. "You can answer, but keep your eyes closed."

"Uh, the trauma I put Sally through with the roach."

I tried to hide my chuckle in a laugh. "Fine, if at any moment I do something you don't like, you yell out Sally's name." She nodded. I kissed along the inside of her thighs and brought my fingers teasingly close to her sex. "Wade, do you remember what you bet I would do if you gave me the chance?" The slyest of smiles crossed her face as I'm sure the words, I bet you'd fuck me till I couldn't walk straight if I gave you half the chance, ran through her brain and she nodded. "Are you giving me the chance?"

She nodded and answered "Yes." Her voice was thick with anticipation and desire. I draped one toned leg over my shoulder, closed my eyes, and let my tongue lead me home. Her palms slapped against the wall as I lapped at the cum-slicked folds of her sex. She tried to bury her hands in my hair, but I knocked them away. She tried again and I pulled back, to which she let her palms rest against the wall. Unlike me, Wade was very vocal. I was beginning to think of changing my name to Jesus, when I finally stood up. "Turn around Wade." She was wobbly, but she did it. I ran a hand between her legs until it was soaked with her wetness. I toyed with her earlobes and neck as I rubbed my hand over the dildo until it was just as slick as she was. I breathed into her ear, "you ready?" She nodded and I didn't hesitate to enter her.

She was trying to push away from the wall and for a moment I thought it was too much for her, but as her head lolled back against my chest and she moaned out my name, I knew it was alright. After a few minutes, and the way she clawed at the wall I knew I couldn't do this without looking at her. I eased out, and before I could even say it, she turned around and opened her eyes. I didn't protest as I lifted her up and small, perfect legs were around my waist at once. She rose up and eased herself down onto me.

"Oh fuck, Charlie." I stepped forward so that her back rested against the wall. Her hands wound themselves in my hair and scratched at my back as I attacked her throat with my lips. "Jesus·fuck me·ohshitohshit, fuck." Her breath against my ear was on the verge of making me have an orgasm, and not that I was at all tired, but I lit into Wade with renewed vigor. I stayed inside her, but stepped back until it was just her shoulder blades and head that rested on the wall. Her hands wrapped around my arms and she held onto me. She was nearing her climax when she finally opened her eyes and caught my gaze. I moved in just a bit, so that the hand that reached out to touch my face could reach. We stayed focused on one another as climax overtook her and, for all accounts, overtook me. (I don't remember where my dogs were, but I'm sure they were both holding their ears.)

Now, I'm not a nympho, nor have I ever ascribed to celibacy, but it had never been that intense. Hell, not even the one time when I knew I was in love. It had been good, but I didn't know if I should break down into tears, or fall to my knees and start praising God. I compromised and walked into the bedroom. I eased out of her as I laid her down on the bed and she held onto me tight.

"Don't let me go." I could feel the pulse of aftershocks wracking her body as I relaxed and held onto her.

"You okay?"

She nodded.

I smiled. "You can answer."

She nodded again and wiped at her face.

"You sure you're okay?"

"I'm fine." She took a breath. "Take that off and get in here with me."

I raised up and slipped out my harness and slid into the bed with her. I thought she was going to squeeze the life out of me as she wrapped her arms around me. I let out a little whimper and she eased up.

"Oh, sorry, I forgot about that."

"S'okay. You want to sleep now?"

Even though the room was dark I could see her eyes open wide and the glisten of white teeth. "Sleep? I'm just recuperating."

I laughed and pulled her to me in a gentle embrace. It was in that small moment of rest that I prayed. (I don't go to church as often as I should, but I still keep my cross over my bedroom door.) I prayed that this wouldn't be a regret for either of us, and I prayed that we came out of this alive. Mostly, I prayed for the strength not to be afraid to open my heart. Wade needed my help and it had nothing to do with Barberry's book, or crazy C.I.A. agents, or even her father. With amusement, I wondered if her father would crack my skull if I asked to whisk his daughter away. Wade saw the grin on my face and took that as a sign of my being ready for rounds 2 through 12. I don't know if I moaned or laughed as I rolled onto my back. Whatever the case, all five feet one inches, and the 115 pounds of flesh and muscle that was Wade Worthing, was all over me like a barnacle on a ship·.and I couldn't have cared less that my ribs ached to high heaven.

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