Dana's head hurt, and her feet were cold. She tried to tuck her feet up under her blanket, and lifted her hand to her face to touch where the pain seemed the worst, then moaned aloud as much more severe pain rocketed up from her wrist. She rolled into a fetal position, cradling her wrist in her other hand. Warmth fell away from her as she moved, and cool, damp air flowed over her, making her shiver. A moment later the warmth returned, and a voice soothed her.

"Hey, take it easy there. You took quite a knock on the head."

The voice was masculine, rough-edged, and only slightly familiar. She forced open her eyes, squinting against the greyish glare of light, and focused on a scarred face with concerned dark eyes. Her mind finally supplied his identity. Bailey Malone. She tried to sit up, only to have him gently press her back down with a hand on her shoulder.

"Stay put. You've been out for quite a while now, you could have a concussion."

She settled back down, running through the warning signs of concussion, and concluded she didn't have one, though the fierce pain in her left arm told her she had a badly sprained, if not broken, wrist. Memories came back, bit by bit. She remembered sitting in the car, and seeing Malone fall to the floor. She had hurried around to help him, and as she knelt there, someone had attacked her. She'd turned, fought briefly, then... nothing.

"What happened?"

Malone sighed. "Unless I miss my guess, Jack happened."

He reached over and adjusted something over her. She glanced down and saw that she was covered by a trench coat. She hadn't unpacked hers yet, and Malone wasn't wearing his, ergo the coat was probably his. But, why was she using it for a blanket? She looked around, finally taking in their surroundings. They were in an open shed made of what appeared to be galvanized steel. The front of the shelter was open to a graveled area about thirty feet long and fifteen feet wide, surrounded both above and around by chain-link fencing with barbed wire woven through it. Beyond that she could see thick vegetation, and part of what looked to be a very run-down cabin. It leaned crazily to one side, its windows glassless, its wood weathered and stained. Beneath her, the floor was made of two-by-four planking that didn't quite make it all the way to the far wall. The gap exposed a concrete pad beneath it.

"Where are we?" she asked finally, dreading the answer.

A wry smile creased the other agent's face. "Damned if I know, Agent Scully. It looks rather like a dog-run, though it seems to have been quite thoroughly human-proofed."

Scully let her head fall back to the floor with a groan. "Oh God, not again."

"Again?" Malone queried interestedly.

She sighed. "Getting abducted." She sat up, ignoring the throbbing in her head. Apparently deciding he wasn't going to keep her down this time, Malone helped her, supporting her with a broad hand behind her back, steadying her until they were both sure she could stay upright. She cradled her hurt arm against her side. Malone saw the motion and his eyes narrowed.

"What's wrong with your arm?"

She looked at her arm, saw how swollen it was, and sighed again. "I think it's sprained. Or broken. I'm not sure which." Cautiously she wiggled her fingers, biting her lip to keep from crying out. "Sprained. I probably couldn't do that if it was broken."

"Anything we can do for it?"

"It would be good to splint it, or just support it somehow, but..." she glanced around the barren shelter before continuing, "...I don't see anything that I can use."

In response, Malone started working at the knot of his tie. She was puzzled for just a moment until he stripped it off and offered it to her.

"I don't think you can use it for both a bandage and sling, but it ought to work for one or the other," he said apologetically.

Dana accepted the length of heavy maroon silk and looped it around her arm, then stopped, at a loss as to how to tie it one-handed. Seeing her problem, he chuckled and leaned over to do it for her. It was strange to have him so close. In the chilly air, she could feel the warmth his body radiated, and smell the faint scent of male, and simultaneously soapy and spicy, a hint of smoke, a dash of sweat. Oddly it reminded her of how long it had been since she'd gone out on a date. When he finished, she settled back, gingerly letting the sling take the weight of her arm. Instantly the ache eased somewhat, and she sighed gratefully.

"Thanks, that helps."

Malone made a dismissive gesture. "De nada."

She settled his jacket more closely around her shoulders, and giggled, relief making her a little silly. "You know, if you keep loaning me your clothes, pretty soon you won't have anything left to play strip poker with."

He looked momentarily surprised, then he lifted an eyebrow and grinned. "Got a deck of cards handy?"

She made a show of patting her pockets, then looked disappointed. "Damn, Jack must have taken them."

Bailey laughed aloud, shaking his head. "I like you, Agent Scully."

"Please, make it Dana. I think since we're sharing accommodations we should be on a first- name basis."

He nodded. "Sounds good to me. So, what did you mean when you said 'not again?'"

She sighed. "I seem to have a sign tattooed on my forehead in ink visible only to weirdos that reads 'kidnap me'. This is the sixth... no, the seventh time."

He stared at her, his expression incredulous "Seven times? Well, I guess since you're smaller, you're probably an easier target than your partner."

Dana lifted an eyebrow. "Yeah, he just gets bashed over the head and drops his gun," she said drily. "And as for being an easy target, may I be so bold as to point this out that you're here too?"

He spread his hands apologetically. "Sorry, you're absolutely right. Strike that statement, okay?"

She nodded, enjoying the banter too much to cut it off. It added a surreal touch to an already bizarre situation. She wanted to get up and look for a way out, but felt a little like she was wrapped in cotton. It was probably a holdover from being unconscious but it made her leery about moving around too much. She glanced out at the graveled area beyond the lean-to, and sighed, depressed again. "I take it you've explored this place thoroughly?"

He nodded. "Every inch. There's no way we're getting out of here unless someone lets us out, or your middle name is MacGuyver."

That took a moment to sink in, but it finally did and she couldn't keep the laughter inside. After a moment she shook her head gingerly. "You're deliberately trying to keep my spirits up, aren't you?"

He looked only faintly sheepish. "Frankly it's as much for me as it is for you. I'm feeling like a first-class idiot. I should have been more careful. It was sheer arrogance to believe I was safe because he'd already gone after me once. I assumed he'd target someone else next time, even though I should know that you can't make assumptions with this guy. He defies conventional wisdom."

"What exactly did happen in the garage? I saw you go down, but you seem to be fine now."

He sighed. "There must have been something rigged on the door handle, because I remember putting my hand on the door, feeling a sharp pain, and then I couldn't move. I could see, and hear, but nothing else. I saw you struggling with him, but he was wearing a ski mask over his face so I can't really describe him. His build was right for Jack, though. Medium height, on the thin side, but very strong."

"Let me see your hand." Scully said, holding out her good one. Bailey put his hand in hers and she turned it toward the growing light. "Where did you feel the pain?"

"Along the inside, between the second and third joints."

She examined them, and nodded. "There appear to be small punctures on all four fingers, exactly where you felt the pain. I wouldn't think he could get enough drug into you that way to put you down for very long, though. You said that you felt paralyzed?"

"Yes. I think I know what he used, too. A few weeks back we had a case where a local cardiologist was kidnapped..."

"The Cronenberg case?" Scully cut in. "Agent Alvarez told me about that. The kidnapper used a synthetic curare in order to paralyze her victim."

"That's the one. I'm guessing that's what Jack used on me, after reading about the case in the papers. It's just the sort of irony he'd enjoy. "

"How long did the effects last?" Scully asked, curious about its effectiveness.

Bailey shook his head. "I don't really know. He didn't rely on whatever he used there to keep me down. He put some kind of gas mask over my face and the next thing I knew we were here, sans keys, wallets, cell phone, et cetera. He was pretty thorough about not leaving us anything we could use to get out of here."

"Gas? Nitrous oxide, maybe. That might explain why I was out so long. It's tricky stuff, you have to know how to use it."

Bailey shrugged. "I'm pretty sure it was nitrous, judging from my reaction."

She looked thoughtful. "We might have a clue there. He used some sort of injector delivery system to hit you with a paralytic. The killing of Dr. Dexter showed some skill with a scalpel. He's skilled in the use of anaesthetics, all that adds up to medical training. That might help narrow the search some."

"Remember his nickname. It's literally true. He seems to be able to pick up skills at the drop of a hat. We can't prove he's got medical training, he could have picked it up on his own. The guy's a genius, it's just too bad he's also a whacko."

Scully laughed. "Is that a technical term?"

"It is to me. You thirsty?"

"As a matter of fact, yes. Why?"

For answer he leaned past her, and when he straightened he was holding a gallon water- bottle. "He left us three of these. I checked them out, and they're all still sealed and show no signs of puncture marks that might indicate something was injected into them. I drank some from this one about an hour ago, and I haven't keeled over yet, so I think they're safe."

"Brave man."

He shook his head, looking rueful. "Desperate man. I don't react well to nitrous. I had to do something to keep from throwing up. But don't worry, I didn't touch the spout."

"Thanks. She reached for the bottle, then stopped with an annoyed sound, realizing she could neither open or lift the bottle one-handed. "Damn. I wish I had both hands!"

"Sorry, I wasn't thinking. "

He opened the bottle and held it for her, tipping it carefully so she could drink. She gulped down several swallows, then sat back with a sigh of relief.

"Now, if only he'd left a couple of aspirin."

Malone got an odd look on his face and slid a hand into his pants pocket, coming out with a small, flat container. "You know, I did think it was a little strange that he left these when he took pretty much everything else."

"Is that an aspirin tin? I haven't seen one of those in years!"

"I hung onto it because it was practical. It fits better in a pocket than a bottle." He opened the tin and removed two of the tablets, handing them to her. She studied them carefully, momentarily paranoid that Jack might have replaced them with some less innocuous substance, but the stamped-on brand name reassured her. She put them in her mouth and Bailey held the water bottle for her again. His comment about being surprised Jack had left the pills echoed her own thoughts.

"You're right about it being odd," she said after she swallowed. "Do you suppose Jack has a sense of compassion? I wouldn't have expected that at all."

"Me either, but the fact that he left water and medication seems to speak to that."

"I'd think more highly of him if he'd left us a box of Cracker Jax," Scully remarked drily. Malone seemed to think that was far more amusing than she'd intended, but after a moment she found herself laughing with him. "You know, I have to say, it's a lot nicer being kidnapped with company than by myself."

"I would imagine so." He studied her a moment, then his eyes narrowed. He reached over and took her chin in his fingers, turning her face so it was in the light. He touched the curve of her left cheekbone with surprising delicacy, but even so she flinched.

"Ouch! What?"

"This bruise on your face, it looks like a letter."

"A letter?"

He nodded, leaning close. She could smell him again, and she licked her lips in a combination of nerves and awareness. His attention was focused on her face though, so she hoped he hadn't noticed.

"It could be a 'U' maybe," he speculated. "Or an Omega, though it's hard to see if the terminal ends curve in enough for that. I suppose it could even be a horse-shoe."

"How did it... wait. He had on a ring."

"It probably imprinted when he hit you." They stared at each other, and Bailey slowly began to smile. "A clue."

Dana made a face. "It's strange to think of my face as a clue. "

"I just hope we get out of here before that bruise fades. We need to get a picture of it."

"Don't you mean if we get out of here?" Dana asked him. "It doesn't really look like he intends for us to get out."

"Remember what your partner said, to Jack, it's all a game. I'll bet he's left a clue as to our whereabouts with the VCTF. They just have to figure it out."

"Before he decides to come back and finish us off," she said pessimistically.

His fingers moved from her chin to cup her unbruised cheek. "Don't," he said gently. "That doesn't do any good."

His hand was warm, and felt good against her skin. Her eyes locked with his and they sat like that for what felt like forever, and not nearly long enough. His expression changed from concern to... something else, something she didn't dare acknowledge. The change released her from the spell of stillness that had held her. Embarrassed, by her own reaction, she turned away a bit and fidgeted with her makeshift sling. She heard him draw a deep breath and move away. When she looked back up he was leaning back against the wall, his forearms resting on his knees as he looked out toward the yard beyond. "Sorry." he offered quietly.

She shook her head. "No, it's... just this place. Do you think he's out there? Watching?"

He looked at her, then back toward the ramshackle shed just visible through the opening. "No. I'm sure he's back in Atlanta. I doubt if he moves far from Sam for long. The only thing out there is likely to be wildlife."

She nodded, feeling unaccountably relieved. "I can deal with wildlife. Especially since they're not likely to get in here with us."

"It'd be better if they could. If they could get in, maybe we could get out."

She nodded. "True."

She pushed herself to her feet and walked to the opening, looking out. Above her she could see that the sky was heavily overcast, which accounted for the odd gray tinge to the light. Their cage sat in a clearing about fifty yards in diameter, surrounded by thick forest. Aside from the shack, the clearing boasted several other dog-run type cages, though none of them had been modified with barbed wire, or a 'roof'. There was also a rusting heap of metal that looked like it had once been a truck. That was it. There wasn't even a road, though the thick grass had been torn up and muddied in two parallel grooves that led up to the cage.

"Looks like a unique fixer-upper opportunity to me," Bailey said, having come to stand next to her.

"You have a gift for understatement, Agent Malone."

"Thanks. I try. And, it's Bailey," he reminded her.

She smiled, and nodded, looking around again. Suddenly she froze. There, hung negligently through the plain chain-link of the neighboring dog-run, was a pair of heavy-duty bolt cutters. She looked at them, then back at Bailey. He shook his head with an expression of frustrated helplessness that sat oddly on him. There was no way to get to them. They were there for no reason other than to taunt them. She shivered, feeling chilled despite Bailey's coat, and it suddenly dawned on her that if she was cold with it on, how did he feel without it? "I'm so sorry, I should give this back!" She started to take the coat off, but he stopped her with a hand on her arm.

"I'm fine. If I get cold I'll let you know. Frankly, you need it more than I do."

It was true. He was wearing a wool suit, a long-sleeved shirt, a vest, socks and shoes. She had on a skirt and blouse, ragged nylons, and was missing her shoes. The blouse had seen better days, the left sleeve having ripped loose at the top when she'd struggled with Jack in the garage. She shrugged, trying for nonchalance. "You know, I never can seem to dress appropriately for an abduction."

"Well, this time it was Jack's fault. He didn't send the announcement early enough. I'm sure you would have gotten it right if you'd had some advance notice."

She grinned and shook her head. "I definitely would not have worn a skirt, that's for sure."

"But that would have been..." Bailey stopped mid-sentence and shook his head. "Never mind."

Dana eyed him for a moment but he kept his gazed fixed on the old shed, not looking at her. She wasn't entirely sure, but she thought she'd almost just gotten a compliment. But in this day and age one didn't make that sort of comment about a co-worker. Not if you wanted to keep your job. The funny thing was, if he'd actually said it, it might have annoyed her. The fact that he hadn't said it made her curious. She surveyed the dog-run again, and a thought occurred to her.

"Maybe we could dig out under the fence!"

Bailey shook his head. "I hate to burst your bubble, but I tried that. The chain link is set into a concrete pad that seems to run the length and width of the cage. I checked in several places. If you want, we can check a few more."

She shook her head with a sigh. "No, I'm sure you're right. It's just our luck to get kidnapped by an extremely efficient 'whacko', as you so succinctly put it.

Malone nodded. "Jack is nothing if not efficient. Still, could be worse. Could be raining."

She recognized the old Marty Feldman quote and would have smiled, except that at that moment a rumble of thunder rippled through the air, followed closely by a fat raindrop that smacked into her forehead. As she wiped it off, she sent him a fulminating look.

"You just had to say that, didn't you?" Dana asked as she retreated beneath the shelter and eased herself back down into a sitting position.

* * *

"Hey, any of you seen Malone?"

Mulder heard a chorus of "No's" and glanced back over his shoulder to see that it was George Findley who'd asked. He was standing outside Malone's office, and looked a little disturbed.

Mulder shook his head. "I haven't seen him since he left to take Scully to the hotel around three this morning. Why?"

"Because it's nine-forty and he's not here yet, and he's never late."

"Maybe he slept in," Mulder offered. "God knows I would have if I was the boss." Instead he'd fallen asleep on the couch in Malone's office. He'd woken up when it started to get active in the bullpen, and managed to save a little face by acting like he'd been up all night with the files.

John Grant shook his head. "You don't know Bailey Malone."

Mulder granted him that, but shrugged. "So, maybe he and..." he stopped, suddenly realizing he'd been about to suggest that perhaps Malone and Scully had gone somewhere together. The implications of that were oddly unsettling. He looked at George, then at John, and could tell by their sly grins that the same thought had just occurred to both of them.

"Why don't you call him?" he suggested with studied nonchalance.

George shook his head firmly. "Uh-unh. Not me. I ain't wakin' him up. I like my job. He can come in whenever he damned well feels like it."

Mulder lifted an eyebrow. "Tough boss?"

"When he wants to be."

"Why am I not surprised?" Mulder was sure that Malone and Scully weren't somewhere having a wild fling. He knew her better than that. Still, it wouldn't hurt to give her a call. She ought to be up and on her way by now. "Look, I'll call Scully, okay?"

Grant and Findley nodded. Mulder pulled out his cellular phone and hit Scully's auto-dial. There were several seconds of silence, then he got the "Please Try Again Later" message. He turned back to Findley. "Her phone's turned off. She's probably in the shower or something. If you want me to call Malone, I'll do it. He's not my boss."

"So, anybody taking odds on who answers the phone?" Findley asked as Grant flipped through his Rolodex and rattled off a number.

Mulder rolled his eyes and dialed. The line connected and rang six times, then an answering machine picked up and Bailey Malone's voice came on. "If you're calling me you know who I am. Leave a message." Mulder hung up without leaving one, and shook his head. "No answer, just a machine."

They looked at each other for a moment. The silence was broken by Nathan Brubaker walking into the bullpen. The silence was so total that he noticed immediately. "What?" he asked jokingly. "Did I forget to zip or something?" he asked, checking to be sure.

George laughed and shook his head. "No, nothing like that. Just a couple of folks late to work."

"Is that all? I thought maybe someone's mother died. Who's late?"

"Malone, and Agent Scully." John Grant replied, winking broadly.

Brubaker grinned. "Oh-ho! Now that's interesting."

Mulder was uncomfortable with the assumptions being made. Though at first it had been amusing, he knew that Dana Scully wasn't the type to go home with a man she'd just met. And now that his attention had been called to the fact that she wasn't back, he was beginning to have the feeling that something might be seriously wrong. Before he could say anything, Grant's phone rang. The man picked it up, identifying himself, and listened, his face clouding over. He grabbed a piece of paper and began scribbling rapidly.

"Where?" He snapped, then wrote something down. "What time?" He wrote that down as well. Finally he thanked the person and told them: "We'll be there as fast as we can," and hung up.

Somehow Mulder knew the conversation had something to do with Scully and Malone. Grant hung up and stood up, running a hand through his hair, his face grim.

"That was Atlanta P.D. They found Malone's car apparently abandoned outside a convenience store on Ashford-Dunwoody Road. The engine was running but all the doors were locked. There's a beige woman's suit jacket on the passenger seat, and a single red rose pinned to a note on the dashboard. The note's addressed to Agent Samantha Waters at the VCTF."

For a moment Mulder just sat there, as if frozen to his seat. His most primal fear, brought home to roost yet again. How the hell had Jack even known Scully was on the case? They'd been there less than a day! She wasn't a friend of Waters' or even an acquaintance! It wasn't fair that Jack should take her! That thought finally broke through his paralysis

"Call Agent Waters and tell her we'll pick her up on our way to the scene."

"Her place isn't on the way to the scene," Brubaker put in.

"I don't care. She needs to be there, and I need to see her initial reactions to the scene."

Grant nodded and picked up the phone. "I'll call her."

* * *