Portents

TITLE: Portents

AUTHOR: Dawn

EMAIL: sunrise@lightfirst.com

RATING: PG

SPOILERS: Prequel to Justice, Interrupted

SUMMARY: Portent — Prophetic or threatening significance

DISCLAIMER: Mulder and Scully belong to Chris Carter and

1013 Productions. No copyright infringement is intended.

AUTHOR’S NOTES: Written for the VS10 Post-episode

challenge. Many thanks to dtg and Vickie for beta.

FEEDBACK: Yes, please.

Portents

By Dawn

They’ve been at it for hours now, and she’s had enough.

Loaned to Domestic Terrorism in what was essentially a political

gesture of good will, they are staked out in front of the dilapidated

shell of a factory, waiting for a clandestine meeting between two

alleged arms dealers. In four hours of surveillance they’ve

consumed a thermos of coffee, listened to the Yankees beat the

White Sox, and debated whether Skinner has an active sex life. In a

final act of desperation, she’s allowed Mulder to cajole her into a

game of Watercooler Trivia.

“My turn.” Mulder slips another seed between his teeth, gaze

skimming over her before returning to the darkened building. “The

category is ‘Dirty Little Secrets’ for two hundred.”

“All right. Fire away.”

“Which Hoover building employee’s fashionable coiffure is

actually a wig?”

She thinks a moment. Frowns. “Clarification, Mulder. A full wig?

Because lots of women wear hairpieces.”

“Give me a little credit, Scully; I know the difference. I’m telling

you, this ‘do’ is a don’t.”

“Okay, okay.”

She chews the inside of one cheek, sifting through a sea of faces

and coming up empty. Who in the hell could he be talking about?

Smugly annoying, Mulder spits a seed out the window and begins

humming the Jeopardy theme under his breath. She huffs, grasping

at straws.

“Florence Dobson?”

His brow furrows. “Florence who?”

“In Financial Operations. I would think you’d be buddies, Mulder.

Among other things, she handles reimbursements.”

“Ahh. You mean the older lady with hair like a gray football

helmet?”

“I take it she’s not the one.”

He mimics a buzzer. “Nope. Not even close.” He checks his watch,

then glares out the window. “This was a waste of time. The action

is going to happen around back; I’d bet my life on it.”

She tamps down the urge to strangle him. “Mulder?”

“Hmm?” He gives her a blank, uncomprehending look, but she

knows him well enough to glimpse the glint of mischief beneath.

“So it’s not Florence Dobson. Who is it?”

He leans in, as if about to impart information vital to national

defense and not a juicy piece of gossip. “You won’t believe this,

Scully. I mean, I can hardly believe it. Never in a million years–”

“Mulderrrr…”

The pop of a gunshot has them scrambling from the car even

before the radio crackles to life with the ASAC’s shouts for

reinforcements. But by the time they make it into the building, it’s

over. A scruffy-looking street punk in ripped jeans and a leather

jacket stands with palms pressed to the cinderblock wall and legs

spread. His ‘business associate’ lies crumpled on the ground in a

puddle of blood.

“Always last to the party, huh, Mulder?” Agent Sam Kenilworth,

not one of Mulder’s biggest fans, smirks up at them as he crouches

and disarms the motionless figure. “We were beginning to worry

you’d been abducted by little green men.”

His partner, Ricky Glassman, snickers under his breath as he frisks

the punk. Less than a year out of the academy, Glassman reminds

her of an eager-to-please puppy tagging at Kenilworth’s heels. She

grits her teeth but Mulder, as always, ignores the bait.

“Not a chance, Sam. See, they’re airing the intergalactic World

Series right now and no self-respecting Reticulan would be caught

dead away from his television. Next week–that’s a different story.”

His deadpan delivery is marred only by a subtle wink in her

direction before he ambles over to confer with ASAC Griffin.

Kenilworth’s jaw drops–she can see the wheels turning as he tries

to decide if he’s just been had–and Glassman sneaks a few furtive

glances from over his shoulder. Squelching a grin, she kneels

beside the downed suspect to assess his condition.

“You’re going to need a coroner, not an ambulance,” she tells

Kenilworth. “He’s dead.”

“That’s what the little bastard gets for resisting arrest.” Kenilworth

zips the confiscated weapon into a plastic evidence bag and stands.

Just as all hell breaks loose.

Scuffling feet, a harsh gasp of surprise, a low grunt of pain.

Kenilworth, eyes huge, diving toward his partner. “Ricky! Gun!”

Glassman doubled over, arms clutching his gut. The punk whirling,

face twisted into a snarl and fingers wrapped around a gun.

Glassman’s gun.

Shots fired.

Mulder!

A distant corner of her mind registers the thud of bodies hitting the

ground, Kenilworth’s curses, and the smack of fists hitting flesh.

Griffin charges across the room. “Drop it–NOW!”

Glassman’s babbling a stream of excuses and apologies.

His partner, furious: “Shut the hell up, Ricky, and give me your

cuffs!”

It’s only a drone, white noise. All she can see, feel, touch is Mulder

as he sways, amazingly still on his feet, a bewildered expression on

his chalk-white face and a rapidly growing crimson stain spreading

across his crisp blue shirt. His lips form her name and he sinks to

his knees.

She eases him down, cradling him in her lap. Blood–warm, wet,

sticky–is everywhere, oozing between her fingers, soaking into her

coat… His shirt feels spongy under her palms. Wide hazel eyes

lock onto hers and he again attempts to say her name.

“Scuh…”

Catching in his throat, the syllable transforms into a ragged cough.

Blood now paints his lips and trickles from the corner of his

mouth.

“Shh, shh. Don’t try to talk.”

His head lolls on her arm as she rips open his shirt, buttons flying

to click and roll across the floor. Blinking back stinging tears, she

struggles to breathe.

It’s bad. Very bad.

Someone–Griffin–thrusts a wad of cloth in her face. She presses it

firmly against the bubbling wound with one hand, the other cradled

along his jaw to support his head. His eyes are already turning

glassy and vague and she swears she feels him drawing away from

her. Faintly, in the distance, a siren wails.

“Somebody get those EMTs in here NOW!”

What was meant to sound commanding is shaky and broken.

Mulder’s eyelashes flutter and he fights to focus on her face.

Stubborn to the core, he tries a third time to speak. Lips move

soundlessly, but her heart doesn’t need to hear the words.

Scully. Love you.

He’s saying goodbye.

“Don’t you dare give up on me, Mulder. I will kick your ass–even

if I have to chase you into the afterlife to do it.” Tears blur her

vision but she refuses to let them fall, her thumb brushing back and

forth across his cool cheek.

One corner of his mouth tries to turn up but his eyes slip shut and

his expression goes slack. Suddenly he feels unreasonably heavy in

her arms.

A dead weight.

God, no.

She clutches him closer, pressing her cheek against the softness of

his hair, rocking. Not now. Not like this–stupid, meaningless… She

dimly hears Griffin call out, directing the EMTs to their location;

Kenilworth manhandling a sullen but compliant gunman;

Glassman still moaning regrets.

Stifling a keening sob, she prays. Bargains.

Just one more chance. Please, God, I’ll do anything you ask of me.

Just give him–

“–one more chance.”

The sound of her own voice, husky with tears, jerks her out of

slumber. Scully bolts upright, eyes roaming the darkened living

room, breathing rapid and harsh in the silence. Images clinging like

cobwebs, she swipes the back of one trembling hand over damp

cheeks and struggles to shake off the dream.

The stakeout. The shooting. Mulder bleeding on the ground. Dying

in her arms.

Part dream, part memory. Two weeks have passed since that

terrible night. Mulder was discharged from the hospital this

morning. A wraith of his former self–too pale, too thin–he’s weak

as a kitten and utterly dependent upon her for even his most basic

needs. But alive.

Alive.

Psyche still edgy and raw from her dream, Scully rises on shaky

legs and pads back to her bedroom on bare, catlike feet. Pale slices

of moonlight slip between the blinds, illuminating her bed and

Mulder’s still form. Propped on a mound of fluffy pillows, one arm

curled protectively across his chest, the chuff of his soft, rhythmic

breathing soothes her troubled spirit.

She closes her eyes, tension draining out of her body, leaving her

limp and languid with relief. The doctors assert that Mulder’s

stubborn tenacity was responsible for his survival. Mulder insists

her unwavering love and belief in him was the tether binding him

to life, to her. And she… She remembers a bargain born from

desperation.

No matter. The gift of this man in her bed, in her life, is worth any

price God might exact. They’ve both been given another chance,

and she doesn’t intend to waste it.

She’s still hovering in the doorway, absorbed in her own thoughts,

when his respiration quickens and becomes uneven. Lips tighten

and brow furrows, while limbs shift restlessly beneath the covers.

The signs of a nightmare, heartbreakingly familiar now that they

share a bed, spur her to action. Mulder’s knitting flesh can ill afford

the sudden, sometimes violent movements his dreams can provoke.

Easing onto the mattress, careful to jostle him as little as possible,

she strokes the backs of her fingers over his sandpapery cheek. Her

voice, low and honey-smooth, is pitched to soothe him out of the

darkness.

“Mulder, you’re dreaming. You need to wake up.”

His hair-trigger reflexes dulled by pain medication, Mulder drifts

back to her slowly, eyes fluttering open to stare blankly at her face.

After a moment, clarity seeps back into his gaze and his lips curve

into a slightly loopy smile.

“Hi.”

“Hi yourself.” She touches her lips to his in a chaste but emotion-

filled kiss.

He blinks; sighs. “Want more of that.”

She brushes her thumb across the lip she just kissed, smiling. “Me

too. Hold that thought.”

Lines around his eyes and mouth, and the stiff careful way he

shifts position speak volumes about a level of pain he tries to deny.

She gets him a glass of water and the little pink pill, and though his

eyes communicate frustration, he accepts both without comment.

When she stands, intending to return to the couch, he catches hold

of her wrist.

“Stay.”

He has no idea how deeply she longs to do just that. For two

endless weeks she’s slept in a cold, empty bed, missing his

comforting warmth at her back, the reassuring whisper of his

breath on her neck. The thought of curling up beside him is

seductive, but pragmatism and a three-inch scar hold her back.

“I don’t think that’s such a good idea.”

The line between his brows deepens and he thrusts out his lip.

“Since when?”

She lets him draw her down, placing one hand on his bandage-

swathed chest. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

“You won’t.”

When exactly did she lose the ability to resist him? Or is it simply

that she needs this as badly as he does? “Here. Sit up a minute.”

She rearranges bedding and Mulder until she’s the one propped

against the headboard, his head pillowed on her chest. He relaxes

against her with a quivering sigh of contentment, cuddling her like

a weary toddler embracing his favorite teddy bear. His fingers slip

under the edge of her pajama top, stroking the tender skin just

above her waist.

“Needed this.”

She presses a kiss to the crown of his head, fingers threading

through his hair. “Me too.” Sleep beckons until memories,

sharpened by her dream, remind her of unfinished business.

“Mulder?”

“Hmm?” He’s already fading, lulled by the pain pill and her

soothing touch.

“You never told me who wears a wig.”

It takes his foggy brain a moment to make the connection, soft

chuckle cut short by a wince of pain. “Shelby Thompson.”

Her fingers falter. “In HR? The chesty blonde with the lacquered

on make-up?”

He chuffs again; moans. “Scully, stop. You’re killing me.”

“You were right. Never in a million years…” She cranes her head

to see his face. “Dare I ask?”

“She and Janine Christiansen had a falling out.” Mulder’s words

slur, his eyelids drifting to half-mast. “Never piss off a woman,

Scully. “‘S always gonna come back and bite ya on the ass.”

She thinks of Glassman’s OPR hearing, mouth forming a hard

smile as her fingers resume stroking. “Words to live by, Mulder.

You know the old saying about a woman scorned?

Underestimating us can land you in a whole world of trouble.”

She lets her eyes drift shut, lulled by Mulder’s warm weight and

soft, rhythmic breathing as he sinks into dreams troubled by

blazing headlights, paralyzing fear, and heartbreaking betrayal.

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