This story is based on characters created by Chris Carter and Ten Thirteen Productions. Characters used without permission. No infringement intended.
TITLE: The Death of Me Yet
AUTHOR: Jo-Ann Lassiter
EMAIL ADDRESS: email@example.com
DISTRIBUTION STATEMENT: Post anywhere. Thanks.
SPOILER WARNING: Season 8, only for the reference to Kersh’s
CLASSIFICATION: S, R
KEY WORDS: Mulder/Scully UST/Romance
SUMMARY: Scully and an ailing Mulder track a killer in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
THANKS: As always, to Gerry.
The Death of Me Yet
by Jo-Ann Lassiter
Deputy Director Kersh’s Office
“Mulder, I’ll meet you downstairs in a few minutes, okay?” Scully
paused in the doorway, gently guiding her partner out the door.
At his look of utter befuddlement, Scully had to fight down the
almost overwhelming urge to take him in her arms and make him
all better. She settled instead for rubbing a hand between his
shoulder blades while sending him on his way. “Go on. I’ll be right
down,” she whispered.
Mulder nodded shakily, then turned and walked stiffly away.
Scully took in a deep breath, letting it out slowly as she closed the
door behind him, stepping back into the office. She faced the man
at the desk.
Kersh wasn’t even pretending he hadn’t witnessed that touching
little scene at the door. “Something, Agent Scully?”
“Yes, sir.” Standing tall, Scully squared her shoulders, ready for
battle. “Why did you pull Agent Mulder off the X-Files to work on
Kersh leaned back in his chair, folding his arms across his chest. “I
believe I already explained that, Agent.”
Scully strode to his desk; she knew enough not to sit unless she
was invited. “You said that the Portsmouth office needed a profiler
in New Hampshire. What you didn’t say is why you’re sending
Mulder when you’ve got all the profilers in the ISU at your
“Two-thirds of whom are out with the flu.”
Scully just stared at him. “Sir, Agent Mulder has the flu, too. Yet,
you’re sending him, and it’s not even his *job*.”
“Agent Mulder looked perfectly healthy to me,” Kersh said,
waving her off. “If he’s so sick, why was he here?”
“Because he was ordered to be here!”
A long, slow smile grew on Kersh’s face, making Scully want to
shudder more than she ever had at the sight of any ghost, mutant or
Reticulan. “Are you telling me…” Kersh let out a laugh. “…So
you’re trying to tell me that Agent Mulder, lying in bed with the
latest designer flu, got up, got dressed–quite dapperly, I might
add–and came in here because he was *ordered* to?” Kersh stared
at her, as if actually expecting an answer, then continued without
giving her a chance to formulate one. “Forgive me, Agent, but
Counting to ten under her breath, Scully waited until she was sure
steam wouldn’t escape from any external orifices before she
opened her mouth. “That’s exactly what I’m saying.” She wondered
if Kersh was aware that the soft, controlled tone she’d just utilized
was the one that caused Mulder to nearly wet his pants whenever it
was directed at him.
Kersh laughed harshly just before he slammed his fist on the
desktop. Placing both hands palm down, he raised himself until he
was towering over her. “Do you know what, Agent Scully? I don’t
care. I don’t care if it took every last ounce of strength he had to
get here; the fact is that he did it. And if he can do that, then he can
*damn* well get his ass up to New Hampshire to work on this
“Sir, that makes no sense…” Scully felt herself spiraling out of
control. “Why didn’t you order one of the ‘real’ profilers out of
bed? Why Mulder? He’s not–”
“I’m making him useful, Agent. I’m justifying his even being in the
Bureau at all. I’m giving him a real case where he can use real
skills to find a real killer. And if he wants to keep his job, he’ll
*do* his job.”
Stunned, Scully fell into the nearest chair, protocol be damned.
Kersh must have been counting the days to Skinner’s vacation so
he could pull this stunt. “He can barely stand, sir. How can you
expect him to work?”
“Oh, he can work.” Kersh smiled again, and Scully felt sick to her
stomach at the sight of it. “Agent Mulder’s abilities to work while…
indisposed… are legendary. That’s why I know he can do this.”
Kersh sat back down, looking much like the cat that ate the canary.
“That’s why he *will* do this.”
“Sir…” Scully leaned forward in her chair, all shows of strength
rapidly deserting her. “He really is sick,” she said softly. “Isn’t
there anyone else–”
“No, there is not,” Kersh said sharply; then he sighed, and Scully
became immediately wary as his face softened into something
almost resembling human compassion. “If it makes you feel any
better, the Portsmouth people jumped at Mulder’s services–and
they requested yours, too.”
Scully narrowed her eyes, wondering when the hell he was going
to tell her this little tidbit of information. After all, she’d been out
the door already, only returning to plead Mulder’s case. “Mine?”
Kersh nodded. “The local coroner’s admitted that he’s way out of
his league, and they figured that since Mulder’s coming and you’re
his partner…” Kersh looked her in the eye. “Or would you prefer
that another pathologist accompany him?”
“No,” Scully answered quickly, before he could change his mind.
“No. I…” She stood up. “I’ll go.” Quite aware that she was leaving
without being dismissed, Scully strode to the door, opened it and
got the hell out of there.
FBI Resident Agency
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
“Agent Scully, I’m so sorry. If I had known he was sick–”
The young Supervisory Senior Resident Agent looked beside
himself with concern, and Scully wanted to allay his fears that he’d
killed a fellow agent. “It’s not your fault, Agent Watts,” she said,
rushing into the conference room where Watts was standing
helplessly behind her partner, who lay hunched over the
conference table, face down in a river of yellow legal paper. “Do
you think you could…?” She smiled weakly at the flustered SSRA.
“Oh. Yes. Yes. Sorry.” He started to move away, yielding his
position at Mulder’s back to Scully. “Is he…” The young man
swallowed audibly. “Should I call a doctor?”
Scully shook her head. “I’m a doctor.” She laid a hand gently on
Mulder’s forehead. “He’ll be all right.”
Watts hesitated a second, his eyes darting to the prone agent. “I
didn’t know what to do,” he stuttered. “He was telling me what he
had so far, and he just… bam! No warning, no indication that…”
The agent sucked in a breath. “I’ll be just outside if you need
anything.” And he hurried out of the room.
Even as she frowned at the heat her hand encountered, Scully
allowed herself a small smile. Watts was okay. Thrilled when she
and Mulder arrived, horrified when he took one look at Mulder and
discovered how ill her partner was, Scully found the SSRA an
intelligent man with a compassionate heart. Instead of dispatching
her off to the White Mountains, where the killings took place and
the bodies were being held, he had asked her if she’d mind very
much waiting until tomorrow and flying up with Mulder.
Something about a gas shortage and favorable weather conditions
and some other B.S. that he’d conjured up.
Mulder moaned, and Scully gave him her full attention again.
“Hey…” She brushed her hand through his hair.
“Scully…” he groaned, raising his head. “Scully, I…” His head fell
back to the table. “Scully, please… Please take out your gun and
put me out of my misery.”
“How is my pistol-whipping you going to make you feel better?”
she asked, tugging at his arm until he rose to his feet.
“Funny,” he mumbled. “No wonder you went into pathology.”
“Come on, Mulder,” she said, slipping an arm around his waist.
“I’m taking you to the motel and putting you to bed.” When she
received no indecent comment, not even a leer, Scully knew just
how ill her partner felt.
“Scully, I’ll give you anything if you’ll just let me lie down right
here,” he whimpered, aiming himself at the table.
“No can do, partner.” As she yanked him away from the smooth,
polished wood, her hand came into contact with his thigh, and she
rubbed it soothingly. “You’ll appreciate this in about half an hour.”
He froze at her words and stood, staring at her, panic and disbelief
on his face.
“What?” she asked.
His face flushed even more than it already was, and he ducked his
head. “I can’t.”
“Can’t what?” she asked, pulling him closer to her, snaking a hand
under his jacket and around his waist, getting ready to help him
“I can’t…” He mumbled the rest.
She leaned in closer, trying to see his face. “What? I can’t
Angry, embarrassed eyes met hers. “I said I can’t…” he snapped,
then looked away. “I can’t make love to you tonight. I don’t think I
“Oh, Mulder,” she said, sympathetically, finally tumbling to the
fact that his mind had gone there after all; she lifted his arm around
her shoulders and propelled them toward the door. “I would never
proposition you when you weren’t well enough to enjoy it.”
He angled his drooping head so that he was eye to eye with her.
“Make me better, Scully.”
FBI Field Base of Operations
White Mountain National Forest
Rocky Gorge Campground
Scully snapped off her gloves and tossed them in the hazardous
waste bin, looking around at the canvas walls as she strode to the
rear of the large tent. Well, it wasn’t the worst place in which she’d
performed an autopsy, but it certainly ranked in the top five. At
least, she reasoned, shivering in the frosty mountain air, there was
no need to haul the body back into a refrigeration unit. What the
hell kind of a person killed under these conditions anyway?
Gazing down upon the man who might be able to answer that
question, Scully hated to wake him. “Mulder,” she said, softly,
shaking him gently. “Mulder, c’mon. Wake up.”
“Wha… Scully? Time to go?” he murmured sleepily, grunting as
she helped him to sit up. “Are you done?” He rubbed his eyes with
the heels of his hands. “God, I feel like shit.”
“I know,” she said, rubbing her hand up and down his back.
“Find anything?” he asked.
She nodded. “The coroner’s reports indicated the cause of death as
‘blunt instrument trauma.’ While this may be true, there was
something done post death which leads me to believe that we’re not
dealing with your average serial killer.”
“What?” he asked, tiredly. She could tell that he was trying his
hardest to act interested, but he didn’t quite pull it off.
“I noticed a tiny hole just above the ear, so I decided to take a look
At an inarticulate noise from Mulder, she paused, but he waved her
“Well, judging from the miniscule amount of matter I found on the
skin near the pinhole…” She took a breath. “…I’d have to say your
suspect sucked out all of the brain fluid, and a good deal of the
Mulder’s hand immediately covered his mouth. “No more. Don’t
tell me anymore.” He struggled to his feet with her aid. “I need
Once outside, he gulped in several breaths and looked around. “Is
there anyplace warm around here?” He stuffed his hands into his
pockets and tried to burrow deeper inside his jacket. “You can give
me all the gory details, and I can make a few more refinements to
the profile if I can find somewhere to write.”
Scully nodded. “The rangers’ cabin. Behind the hospital tent. It has
real heat and hot water.”
“Great,” he said, heading in that direction. “Let’s make the
additions before we head up to the first crime scene.” Mulder
coughed into his gloved hand, a harsh biting sound that Scully
thought had to be hurting his throat.
Scully wanted to tell him to forget about the crime scenes, that he
should be in bed, resting, but she knew he couldn’t. Not with Kersh
breathing down his neck. “Mulder, why are they making you do
this?” she asked, unable to contain her curiosity any longer.
Mulder doubled over with a series of hacking coughs before he
answered her. “Because they know I can do it,” he said, out of
She steadied him, returning his nod of thanks. “That’s what Kersh
“Ah,” Mulder said, trying to suppress another cough. “The fabled
iron profiler legend knows no bounds.”
“So it’s true?” Not that she doubted it, but to hear it confirmed
He gave her a sickly smile. “You’re witnessing it first-hand.”
She pulled him to the edge of the woods when his next bout of
coughing unsettled his stomach. Holding him as he vomited up the
water and crackers she’d made him consume earlier, she found her
thoughts straying to the deputy director.
And what a bastard he was.
“You’re kidding, right?” Scully stared at Special Agent Dale
Forsberg as she watched a second head sprout up from between the
man’s shoulders. “You don’t seriously expect us to ride in one of
Forsberg shrugged. “It’s the only way to get up there. That, or
Scully planted her feet and shook her head. “Neither of those is
“Acceptable or not, Agent Scully, those are your only options.”
“We came here by helicopter. Why can’t we–”
“It’s too thickly wooded up there. There’s no place to land, and you
don’t want to be lowered down in those crosswinds.”
Scully was at a loss; she wondered if Mulder would forgo the visits
under the circumstances. Then she heard Kersh’s voice spewing all
that garbage about Mulder’s job, and she knew he couldn’t.
“Are you sure there’s nothing else we could take?” She glanced at
her partner, curled up on a cot practically on top of the stove.
Forsberg’s face softened, following her gaze; he shook his head.
“I’m sorry. You were originally scheduled for the regular four-
wheelers, which only seats one, but we thought it might be better if
you took the two-seater.” The agent reached behind him and
picked up three sheets of yellow paper with her partner’s
handwriting on them. “Agent Mulder’s drawn us a pretty good
picture already. Does he really have to go up there?”
Scully looked at Forsberg, then back at Mulder. Did he? Again she
heard Kersh’s voice and again she knew that even if they could get
away without visiting the sites, they shouldn’t because it would
only come back and bite them–bite Mulder–on the ass when they
got back to D.C. and it was discovered that they hadn’t touched all
“Where’d you say it was?” she asked, facing Forsberg again.
He walked over to a window, and Scully followed him. “Right
there.” He pointed to a lean-to in which she could see a group of
four-wheeled vehicles, one of which, the two-seater which
resembled a mini-jeep, was to be their transportation. “If this was
any other winter, you’d be on a snowmobile,” Forsberg continued,
“but we’ve gotten hardly any snow this year so you’ll have to take
“We’re going to freeze,” she muttered, gazing at the open-air car.
“Uh, they gave us these…” Forsberg produced a bundle of cold-
weather gear from thin air. “Snowsuits, gloves, hats, goggles and
Scully took the articles, not even curious as to whom the ‘they’
They were going to freeze.
Somewhere in the White Mountain National Forest
She had to give credit where credit was due. ‘They’ had actually
provided the correct sizes–for both of them. Not only was she
attired properly, after half an hour of driving exposed to the frigid
mountain air, she was not quite the popsicle she’d thought she’d be.
Mulder, however, wasn’t faring so well. As she glanced at him,
huddled beneath all the blankets she could wrangle out of
Forsberg, she doubted that anything short of a blast furnace could
warm her partner.
“How are you doing, Mulder?” she asked.
“Okay,” came the muffled reply. “How much longer?”
She glanced quickly at her watch, then at the folded trail map she
held pressed between her hand and the steering wheel. “About ten
The wind caught a pocket of the map and tore it out of her hand;
when she made a grab for it, the four-wheeler ran off the trail and
nearly smashed into a tree. As she fought to get them back on the
trail, she abandoned her hold on the map, and it flew out behind
Finally getting the vehicle back in control and on the trail again,
she skidded them to a stop. She gazed over at her partner, who was
dazedly unburrowing himself from his nest. “Look,” she panted, “I
know you don’t feel well, and I’m sorry, but I could really use some
help with navigation.”
His expression changed rapidly from frightened to confused to
shamed, and she immediately felt awful for yelling at him.
“Where’s the map?” he asked, in a quiet voice.
Scully secured the 4-wheeler and stepped out. She gestured to the
woods around them. “I’ll… find it. You…” She pointed at him. “…
Mulder nodded, then reached across and grabbed her arm. “Scully,
wait! It’s right here.”
Following his gaze, Scully snatched the map from where it lay
plastered to her seatback by the wind. She smiled at him, getting
back in and handing him the map. “Maybe our luck is changing.”
She caressed his cheek as lovingly as she could in her extra-thick
insulated mittens. “Maybe you’ll be feeling better soon.”
“Maybe,” he agreed cautiously, as he gathered the blankets around
himself. “Is the wind picking up?” he asked, and she could see him
trying to keep a firm grip on the trail map.
“Yeah,” she said. “The higher we get, the windier and the colder
Scully put the vehicle in gear and sent them bouncing over rocks
and branches and tree roots again. Mulder made a sour face and
pulled the blankets more securely around himself.
“Peachy,” he said.
They were at the third site when Scully realized that their earlier
luck had been just as she’d feared: a fluke. Instead of getting better,
her partner’s condition had worsened to the point where she felt not
only concern for his well-being, but for his survival.
“Okay, Mulder, we’re almost there.” She relaxed the death grip she
had on him only for the two seconds it took for her to maneuver
him into the four-wheeler. “You with me?” she asked once she had
him settled in.
“With you,” he wheezed, then broke out into a coughing fit.
Grabbing a bottle of water from the seat beside him, she quickly
uncapped it and held it to the lips of the still-coughing man. “Try
to drink some water,” she told him, tilting the bottle. “Your throat’s
too dry, and it’s making you cough. The last thing you need is
She managed to get some down his throat, and the coughing eased
but the wheeze didn’t; her partner was literally gasping for air.
“Okay, that’s it.” She stalked around to the driver’s side and got in,
starting the engine. “We are getting the hell out of here. Kersh can
just kiss my ass.”
“Why should… he… have all the fun?”
Shocked to hear him speaking, let alone coherently, let alone alert
enough to make a ribald comment, Scully looked at him in wonder.
His eyes were closed, his breathing was labored, but he was
smiling. “Thank you, God,” she said, and Mulder’s eyes snapped
open. She smiled at the hopeful look on his face. “Feeling better
now that you’re not running around out there?”
He nodded, then leaned his body into hers and rested his head on
her shoulder. “Do me a favor?” he asked in a whisper.
“What?” she answered, wrapping her arms around him and pulling
him closer as she felt him begin to shiver.
He encircled her with the arm that wasn’t pressed between their
bodies and his head slid off her shoulder and onto her chest.
“What is it, Mulder?” she asked gently. “What do you need me to
do?” Her hand traced soothing circles on his back while she
pressed a kiss to the top of his head.
She felt him hugging her with all the strength he had. “Christ,
Scully. You’re already doing it.”
Moving back a little so that she could see his face, she allowed an
expression of amusement to come into her eyes. “And here I
thought I was doing it for me.”
His eyes slid shut, and he snuggled into her. “Scully?”
His voice was breathy when he spoke. “Just wanted to tell you that
I love you, and…” He struggled to take a breath. “I…” His arms
loosened around her, and his head grew heavy against her. “I’m
going to…” His body went totally slack in her arms, and she knew
he’d passed out.
She held him for a few minutes, then shifted him so she could
buckle him in. Gazing at him with a mixture of sympathy and
affection, Scully sighed as she engaged the engine. She positioned
the map half under her bottom and started down the mountain.
They hadn’t been on the road fifteen minutes when she came upon
It was a bull moose, and it was big. And it was standing about ten
feet away, smack in the middle of the trail. Even if Scully hadn’t
read the literature on vehicle/moose collisions and the ensuing
human fatalities, she would have chosen to avoid something twice
her height and weight–jeep and Mulder included.
She slammed on the brakes and jerked the wheel sharply to the
right, in the only direction that wouldn’t get them killed outright.
The change in terrain was drastic. Whereas before they’d been
traversing the gentle slope of the trail, they now plummeted at
breakneck speed down the steep mountainside. Braking did little to
stop wheels sliding on dried pine needles and loose pebbles, and
when the collision with the birch tree seemed inevitable, Scully let
go of the wheel and grabbed onto her partner.
She almost cried when, at the last possible second, the jeep veered
off to the side and came to an abrupt stop inside an elder bush. For
about five seconds, all Scully did was hold tightly to Mulder and
breathe. Then she felt a sharp pain in her side and found that not
only was the jeep inside the bush, but the bush was inside the jeep.
Those parts of the bush that hadn’t been broken off during the
crash were poking and prodding every which way above and
Craning her neck to her left, Scully sucked in a breath when she
saw the bloodied tip of a broken branch dangling a few inches
away. Carefully, she changed position, relieved when the level of
pain in her side increased only slightly. At least it was a clean stab
wound; if a piece were still in there, she would have felt it.
Ignoring the burning in her side, Scully turned to her partner. He
looked relatively intact, at least injury-wise. She was worried,
however, that their wild ride down the side of the mountain hadn’t
produced so much as a peep out of him. She peeled off a mitten
and felt his skin, then frantically looked around for a way to get
them the hell out of there.
Mulder was burning up. His fever was higher than when they’d
started back, and she needed to get him to a medical facility ASAP.
But how, dammit? The jeep was literally embedded in the bush.
Judging by their position about a foot off the ground, Scully
guessed that they’d been airborne the last second or so. Lucky for
them the bush had been there to stop their attempt at finding a
really fast way down the mountain.
Almost afraid now to look out the front windshield, Scully gasped
when her gaze beyond the brush encountered nothing but blue. She
was suddenly grateful that the bush had taken it upon itself to hug
them so firmly to its bosom. All the same, they had to get out of
there. Even the strongest of branches–and these didn’t look
particularly strong–could snap, and send them careening to their
She unbuckled herself and then Mulder. Reaching beneath her, she
pulled out the map and tucked it inside a pocket, then tossed any
supplies she could get her hands on out the back, onto the ground
behind the jeep. She took a breath and looked for the safest
direction in which to disembark. With the front of the jeep tilted
upward, the rear was nearly sitting on the ground behind them, so
the decision was, for once, an easy one. Once she got Mulder into
the storage area in the back, he should literally roll right out. The
hard part would be getting him there.
There was no way she could lift him out without causing some
movement to the jeep; she had to wake him.
“Mulder…” She tapped lightly on his cheek, and when she got no
reaction, she pulled his hood away from his head and put her lips
to his ear. “Mulder… Come on. I need you to wake up.”
He made a sound that was part moan/part whimper, and Scully
swore she’d get even with Kersh for this somehow.
“Hey, partner. We’re in a little bit of trouble, and I need your help,”
she told him when his eyelids fluttered.
“Whazzit, Scully? Whassmatter?” he slurred.
“We ran off the road, and we need to get out of the jeep. I’ll explain
more fully later, but for now I need you to help me, okay?” She
hated talking to him like he was a child, but in his half-awake state
it was the quickest way to get through to him.
” ‘kay, Scully.” He nodded clumsily, as his eyes kept drooping
“Good.” Scully climbed up onto her seat, then crouched down and
held onto the sides of his head with her hands. “I want you to get
up on the seat, Mulder. Like me. See?” She waited while he
blinked his eyes a few times, trying to focus.
Then his head tilted back, and he looked up at her. His mouth hung
open, and he blinked lazily. “I don’t know if I can.”
Sliding her hands to his shoulders, she leaned forward until she
was face-to-face with him. “Sure, you can,” she said in her most
reassuring voice. “I’ll help you. Okay?”
She pulled him up until he was kneeling on the seat, his feet
hanging over the edge, his chest flush with the seatback. He laid
his head on his folded arms. “I don’t feel well, Scully,” he said, his
voice shaking. “I really don’t think I can climb up there.”
“Can you try, Mulder? We need to get out of here, and I can’t lift
you.” Spotting his blankets where they’d slid to the floor, Scully
retrieved them and lobbed them out the back with the rest of their
Suddenly, everything spun around her, and she found herself
sitting back down, Mulder’s anxious face looming above her.
“Scully! Scully! What happened? Are you all right?”
” s’okay, Mulder,” she said, as the world settled back on its axis
around her. “I have a minor injury, and got a little light-headed for
She saw the alarm in his eyes and patted his cheek. “It’s no big
deal.” She tried not to grimace as she climbed back onto the seat.
He was wide-awake now, she was pleased to see; concern for her
well-being had knocked him out of his stupor. She couldn’t resist
giving him a hug for it. Then she tugged on his arms, trying to pull
“Don’t Scully. I can do it.” The determination in his statement
might have convinced her were it not for the tremor in his voice.
She laid a hand on his arm and spoke to him gently. “Mulder, I’m
not hurt that badly. If you need my help, take it.”
He seemed to debate the issue, then nodded his head. “Thanks,” he
She smiled, then gripped him under his arms. “Ready?”
Giving her a nod, he let her pull him up while he concentrated on
getting his feet under him. When he was finally upright, she
panted, “Okay. Up and over.”
She made a mental note to laugh later at the look of astonishment
that came over his face, but for now she just crawled over the seat
and gave a yank on his hands. She could only think, “Oh, shit,” as
Mulder practically soared past her to land heavily in the back of
the jeep before tumbling out onto the sloped ground. Scully
scrambled out after him as she heard the snap of a branch, and the
jeep’s front end dropped a couple of inches.
Pulling Mulder clear of the jeep, she watched in horror as the heap
of metal finally became too much for the bush, and their only
means of transportation trundled down the mountain, quickly
disappearing from sight. A loud crash signaled its demise as it
made contact with a tree or a rock or God only knew what.
Scully tightened her hold on her partner, unwilling to allow the
same fate to come to him. Looking up, she breathed a sigh of relief
when she saw the trail about thirty yards above them. Their flight
down the mountain must have only *felt* like miles. Well, at least
if they had to hike, it wouldn’t be on the treacherous mountain
itself but on the mild–in comparison–incline of the trail. Plus,
their chances of being rescued were greater on the well-marked,
“Scully–” Mulder began, but broke off when he was overcome
with a series of coughs. Scully held him and rubbed his back until
he calmed, then examined his face. They were a little further down
the mountain, so the air wasn’t as thin, and Mulder could breathe
better, but he looked done in enough just from the flu.
“Mulder, I want us to get up onto the trail,” she told him gently.
“We need to climb up there.” She pointed to the slight clearing
behind and above him.
He didn’t even look. He just nodded and reached out a hand to her.
Slipping his arm around her neck, they made it a couple of feet
before Mulder collapsed onto his side.
“Oh, Mulder…” Scully felt so bad for him as he lay panting and
sweating in the frosty mountain air. She picked up the blankets and
covered him with them. “Maybe we can wait a few minutes.”
Again, he just nodded, but there was no mistaking the gratitude in
his eyes. Taking a corner of one of the blankets, Scully patted his
face dry, then stood up. “I’ll be right back,” she told him.
She checked the surrounding area for the items she’d salvaged, and
recovered everything that was within reach. Forsberg had provided
her with a knapsack, and she’d stocked it with water, aspirin,
packages of tissues, and an assortment of granola and candy bars
she’d bought at the motel’s snack area. The jeep had been equipped
with a length of rope, spare tire, first aid kit and a walkie-talkie.
Scully sighed. With the exception of the first aid kit, which had
been within easy reach, she hadn’t had a chance to save the other
items before they lost the jeep.
She wondered if she should try to get to the jeep; that radio would
come in mighty handy now that they were stranded. As she trudged
back up to Mulder with her cache of supplies, she decided that the
risk was too high that she’d sustain an injury. She also doubted the
radio had survived what sounded like a teeth-shattering collision.
Pausing briefly to glance at her partner, Scully carried the
knapsack, a couple opened bottles of water and the first aid kit up
to the trail. Her side was feeling uncomfortably wet and sticky, and
Scully hoped that the bleeding had stopped. Mulder’s being sick
was bad enough; she didn’t need both of them incapacitated.
She paused a moment to catch her breath, then made her way back
to Mulder, giving a startled yelp when she lost her footing and
started to slide down. She had just started to gain momentum when
she felt Mulder’s arm snag her around the waist. Grateful though
she was for his stopping her, she couldn’t hold in her cry of pain as
his arm dug into her wound.
“I’m sorry, Scully. I’m sorry,” Mulder practically sobbed, but he
didn’t let her go until they both stopped sliding.
Scully had to wait a few seconds until she could think clearly
again, and then she turned around to look at her partner. Tears
were in his eyes, and he looked frightened to death.
“Mulder, it’s okay. I’m okay.”
He nodded his head that he understood, even though the remnants
of his anguish remained in his eyes. With a shaky hand, he reached
over and gently wiped her face of tears she hadn’t realized she’d
shed. Scully grasped his hand and kissed his palm, then pressed it
to her face. For a few moments, she closed her eyes and let
sensation take her over as she let herself feel how much she
appreciated having Mulder in her life.
The heat from his hand, however, brought her back to reality
damned fast. She opened her eyes to find Mulder gazing at her
with what could only be described as loopy contentment. He
looked like he was about to pass out but was enjoying himself too
much to do so. Well, whatever worked, she thought, suddenly
feeling an overpowering need to grin at his expression.
Mulder’s eyebrows rose a couple of notches at her smile, and she
couldn’t resist–she just had to hug him. Mulder reclaimed his hand
and hugged her back loosely, mindful of her injury.
Although she truly hated to break their embrace, she needed to
capitalize on his temporary fortitude and get him up to the trail.
“Mulder, can you walk?” she asked, pulling out of his arms far too
easily for her liking. “Can you climb up there with me?”
Nodding, he clambered to his feet. The lightheartedness of a few
seconds ago had been replaced by an air of gravity. “Actually,
Scully, I think it had better be right now, because in about three
minutes I’m going to pass out.”
She gave a short nod and jumped to her feet, then doubled over
when the wound in her side reminded her that it was there.
Mulder reached out to her, and she took his hand, more to help him
than to accept any help he had offered. Still, she found herself
relying on his aid as they picked their way up the mountain. About
halfway up, they reversed position, and she took the lead as
Mulder’s strength began to flag.
“Almost there, Mulder. Come on. Just a few more feet.” His lips
were pressed tight, and she could see him trying desperately not to
cough. She felt an adrenaline burst kick in and pulled him the
As soon as she let go of his hand, Mulder fell to his knees and
started coughing; he hunched forward, his head resting on his
folded arms. Scanning the area, Scully located one of the water
bottles and scooped it up. She knelt beside Mulder and gently
coaxed him upright; uncapping the bottle, she handed it to him. He
suppressed his coughing long enough to take a couple of swallows,
and that seemed to do the trick
He gave her a smile of thanks right before he fainted.
Mulder looked up quickly as the door slammed against the wall.
His vision darkened momentarily as the room faded from view,
then it wavered back in until he could focus on the source of all the
noise. Neil Valenti, his immediate supervisor, stood hands on hips,
a frown of disapproval on his face. “You got that damned profile
done yet? I promised it to the A.D. forty-five minutes ago.”
Looking down at the notepads scattered over the table, Mulder
reached for one, then checked himself. “Which one was yours?”
“For Christ’s sakes, Mulder. The Jacoby case.”
“Oh… Right.” Mulder picked up a blue file folder and held it out to
the agent. “Just finished it a few minutes ago.”
Valenti looked peeved. “Then why the hell didn’t you bring it to
me? You knew I was waiting for it.”
Mulder wanted to curl up on top of the table and cry. Or die. At
this moment, he didn’t care which. He was up to his ears in
profiles, all of them “top priority,” and he felt like death–most
definitely not warmed over. He was too damned cold for that.
“Sorry, Neil. I’ve got these others to finish, and–”
Valenti snatched the folder out of Mulder’s hand. “Yeah, yeah.
That’s what you always say.”
Mulder closed his eyes as Valenti left as brusquely as he came.
“Because that’s the way it always is,” he said to the empty office.
“Sorry…” Mulder mumbled in his sleep. “I… finish…”
He moaned, squirming in her arms as though trying to escape from
his dream. “Please… just want sleep few hours… Let me…”
When he folded in on himself, and his shoulders started shaking,
Scully couldn’t stand it any more. “Mulder,” she called gently.
“Hey, come on. It’s only a dream.” She touched his arms, and his
reaction was immediate, wrapping her in a bear hug and holding on
for dear life.
“Mm… Scully. You came. You came to save me.”
When he rolled them over, pinning her beneath his body, Scully
became mildly alarmed. “Mulder, what are you–”
“I’m so tired, Scully, but they won’t let me sleep.” His eyes were
open, and he was looking at her, but she suspected that Mulder was
still a long way away.
Reaching out, she brushed her fingers through his hair. “Who won’t
let you sleep?”
“Valenti, Rogers, Wattumbi… all of them. Can’t sleep. Need to
work.” His eyes closed. “So tired, though.” He turned his head
away to cough. “And sick. They won’t let me sleep when I’m sick.”
Her anger with Kersh flared when she heard that. When she
caressed his face, his eyes opened, and he gave her a lazy smile.
“But you let me sleep, Scully.” His eyes closed again, and he
reopened them with an effort. “Did you come to make them let me
Her heart went out to him at the hopeful expression in his eyes.
“That’s right, Mulder. You sleep, and I’ll kick their asses if they try
to wake you.”
Smiling dreamily, he slid off her until only his head lay pillowed in
her lap. He looked at her, and she could tell that he had snapped
out of his dream. “Is this okay?” he asked softly.
She sat up and placed a gentle kiss on his cheek. “Of course it is.”
He sighed happily and snuggled in closer, wrapping one arm
around her waist. “I wish I had you back then, Scully.” He gave her
a squeeze. “I’m so grateful I have you now.”
Scully gathered all the blankets and covered them both. She slid
down, pulling Mulder up until his head was resting just beneath her
chin. Kissing the top of his head, she hugged him to her. “As well
you should be.”
She felt him shake with silent laughter. “Ah, God, but I love you,
“I know you do, Mulder.” She ruffled his hair and settled her cheek
atop his head. “Sometimes that’s the only thing in this life that I
*am* sure of.”
“Maybe we should lay off him for awhile. I mean, *look* at him.”
Jack Godfried’s voice reached Mulder’s ears through the crack in
the door and even though he was puking up everything he’d ever
had to eat, Mulder felt himself flushing with embarrassment. When
he could pause enough to take a breath, he stretched an arm out
and slammed the door shut.
He wanted to stay where he was forever. He might be sick, it might
smell pretty rank in there, but he was alone. He had privacy. And
there were no babies dying in there. No kids with their hands
chopped off, or their intestines removed or their tiny bodies
violated in any other number of unspeakable ways.
Here he needed only to concentrate on one thing: making sure his
aim was on target.
An impatient rapping on the door made him cringe. “You almost
done in there, Mulder? Some of us are on deadline, you know.” It
was the despised voice of the recently promoted Neil Valenti, and
it gave Mulder an incentive to keep puking.
“Mulder!” Valenti was pounding on the door now, and Mulder
wished he’d just shut up and go the hell away.
“For Christ’s sakes, Mulder. Can’t you do this on your own time?”
The voice was right next to him now, and Mulder was so pissed
that the jerk couldn’t even give him five minutes to be sick that he
momentarily rose above his bodily ills to address the man.
“I don’t have any of my own fucking time, Neil. You and your co-
workers see to that.” Mulder indicated the door. “Get the fuck out.
And try working on your own damned profile for once. I’m too
sick.” Mulder turned back to the toilet.
“No fucking way!” Mulder’s shoulder was grabbed, and he was
jerked upright to face Valenti. “You just get over yourself, Spooky,
and get your head back in the game where it belongs.”
Mulder pulled out of Valenti’s grasp and sank back down to the
floor. “I can’t. I can’t do it any more. I can’t eat, I can’t think… Hell,
I can’t even sit up any more.” He let himself slide onto the floor.
“Lemme sleep, Neil.”
“You can sleep later, Mulder. For now, I want–”
“No!” Mulder sat up with the rest of his energy. “It’s always ‘later.’
You or Bill or Frank–” He stopped, frustrated when he couldn’t
remember the names of the people he worked with every day.
“You–all of you–need me every second of every day and every
night. For God’s sake, Neil, I haven’t been to my apartment in
“That’s not my problem,” Valenti said, dismissively.
“It damned well *is* your problem, because I quit.” Mulder pushed
himself to his feet, anger giving him temporary strength. “I fucking
He tromped out of the bathroom and stalked out the door, nearly
colliding with Patterson. Then he pulled out his cell phone, called a
cab and got himself admitted to the nearest hospital.
Scully’s eyes opened and fell on her partner, lying beside her. His
restless shifting and his mumbling had awakened her, but since he
didn’t seem to be in too much distress, she let him sleep while she
slipped outside to relieve herself. She thought she’d take care of
her wound while she had her clothes undone, but it was too cold
and windy, so she hustled back to the blankets and her warm
Mulder. Once under the covers, she peeled back the layers of
clothing to reveal the injury.
The wound wasn’t too deep, but it was oozing pus, so she cleaned
it, disinfected it, and slathered on a generous amount of antibiotic
cream from the first aid kit. A gauze pad, folded in quarters, and an
extra large bandaid were all it took to complete her ministrations.
Satisfied with her work, she lay back down by Mulder’s side when
he began whimpering.
She caught enough of his dream for her to get a better idea of what
life had been like for him back in his ‘glory’ days. Now she had no
trouble understanding why he loved their office in the basement. It
also gave her more of an insight as to why Mulder often had
difficulty working with other agents.
It saddened her to think that he’d been abused so badly by his
fellow workers. It angered her to know that he still was–and that
she was a willing participant. She wondered how far up the ladder
this blatant mistreatment of her partner went. If she had protested
Kersh’s actions, would anyone have listened?
Mulder came suddenly awake with a cry of surprise, and Scully
hastened to comfort him. “Hey, easy there, Mulder. It was just a
dream.” She rubbed a hand across his back as she spoke in a
soothing voice. “You’re here with me: Scully.”
She felt a rumble against her chest and realized he was laughing.
“You are the first person I think of, Scully, and the only one I
would care to be stranded with in the mountains in the winter, so it
wouldn’t have been too much of a stretch for me to guess that the
‘me’ was you.” He lifted his head and smiled at her.
“I take it you’re feeling better?” she asked, both amused and
annoyed by the smugness in his tone.
“Yes, I feel better. Not much, but a definite improvement over last
night.” He sighed. “Let me warn you from experience, though–it
won’t last. I’ll be feeling rotten in no time.” He pulled gently from
her arms and got to his feet. “While we’re in the ‘eye,’ so to speak,
should we try to make some headway in getting out of here? Or at
least a little further down, where it’s not as cold and windy.”
She shivered, missing the warmth Mulder had been sharing with
her. Nodding, she stood, taking his hand up when he offered it to
her. “You’re right. It’s getting light out, so we should be able to
follow the path okay. Hopefully, we’ll meet a rescue team before
we get too far.”
Mulder turned and directed his gaze back up the mountain. “How
far from the ranger station do you suppose we are?”
Scully took the map out of her pocket, located their last known
position, then found the ranger station. “We’re actually not in too
bad a position. We’re about an hours’ driving time away, but we
weren’t going much over fifteen miles per hour.”
“We’ve gone fifteen miles?” Mulder asked.
“Well, the trail twists and turns and rises and falls…” She stopped.
“The elevation for this mountain is only around 4,500 feet. Could
we really have covered fifteen miles when it’s not even one mile
Mulder nodded. “Easy. These trails are blazed for enjoyment, not
for the quickest way up and down.”
Scully sighed. “Doesn’t anyone ever need to get down in a hurry?
What do they do when someone’s hurt?” She held up a hand at the
question forming on his lips. “I took care of it while you were
asleep. It was just beginning to become infected, but I think I
headed it off.”
Mulder nodded, apparently satisfied. “Is there anything on the
She shook her head. “I already looked. If there is, it’s not on this
Mulder gave a frustrated grin. “Figures. Nothing could ever go that
easy for us.” He helped Scully gather up their supplies, hesitating
when he came to the four wool blankets.
“It’d probably be easier if you wore them,” she offered.
Mulder ducked his head, a sure indication that he’d had the same
thought, but would not have voiced it; he didn’t want to admit that
he craved the extra warmth, a sign that he was feeling better.
“Would you mind sharing them?” She was so happy that he was
well enough to put on his brave front that she tried to soften the
blow for him. She held out a hand, and he grinned as he shook out
two blankets, draping them over her back.
“I thought you’d never ask,” he said, spreading the remaining two
She shook her head, once again having figured him out correctly,
yet underestimated him at the same time. “You are one of a kind,
Mulder,” she said, smiling.
He hefted the backpack beneath the blankets and gazed at her, a
sparkle in his eye. “That’s part of the reason you love me, isn’t it?”
He was thrilled by the answering twinkle in her eyes. “You know
Scully watched with amusement the almost jaunty gait of her
partner as he walked ahead of her. Happy that a few words from
her had rejuvenated him this much, it also saddened her that he still
grasped onto these tiny expressions of love the way a drowning
man did to a life raft.
Was she so stingy with them before? Had she so rarely shown him
how much she cared for him that any crumb she’d thrown his way
had become, to him, equivalent to a banquet?
She wasn’t a very demonstrative person. Surely he knew that that
was why she didn’t throw platitudes of love his way every time she
wanted to. Daring a look at him, she smiled when he turned to her
as though he’d felt her eyes upon him. Hell, he probably could.
Catching up with him, she placed a hand on his back. “How are
“I’m good,” he said, nodding. He indicated the spot she’d just
vacated. “What were you thinking about just then?”
Reluctant to reveal her shortcomings to him, she shrugged and
offered him a half-truth instead. “I was thinking how much better
you were doing.”
He frowned as if he knew she wasn’t being totally honest with him.
“Oh,” he said, turning his attention back to the path. “I’m feeling
Suddenly, the disappointment she saw on his face, and felt in
herself, became unbearable. “I was thinking about how much I
love you,” she blurted out, “and how I don’t seem to tell you
He stopped then, and she plowed into his back. Before she could
peel herself off his backside, he did a one-eighty, holding onto her
shoulders before she could move away. Relocating one hand to
caress her cheek, he smiled gently. “Thank you,” he said softly.
She shrugged. “I thought you needed to know.”
Chuckling, he touched his forehead to hers in a gesture she’d come
to associate with his deep affection for her. He kissed her forehead,
then tilted her head so that she had to look into his eyes. And then
He knew. He’d always known.
Mulder cursed softly as he trudged along behind Scully. He’d felt
the change come over him a few minutes earlier, but hadn’t
mentioned it to his partner. The further down the mountain they
could get, the better off they’d be, so he’d kept to himself the fact
that with each step he took he was feeling poorer and poorer. He
wanted to keep going until he absolutely couldn’t go on any longer.
Scully turned her head to check his progress, and before he could
blink, she was at his side, taking the brunt of his weight as he slid
bonelessly to the ground. “Oh, Mulder,” she said, softly. “You
should have said something.”
He shook his head. “I was okay until a couple of minutes ago.”
“You should have said something then.”
Giving a tired smile, he shrugged. “Thought I could keep going
awhile longer.” He let his eyes drift shut. “Must be getting old.”
She settled him a little more comfortably against a tree trunk.
“We’re both getting old.” Kissing him lightly on his forehead, she
uttered, “But as long as we do it together, I don’t mind.”
Opening his eyes, he fought to bring her face into focus. “Do you
really mean that? Do you… would you… grow old with me?”
She smiled then, a huge grin that he’d never before seen gracing
her features. “Well, not right away, but… yeah.” Her gaze shifted
down to their clasped hands. “I think I have to,” she said, her voice
just above a whisper.
“Wow,” Mulder said, just before he fainted.
Scully laid the last of the blankets over her partner, narrowed her
eyes, and squinted up at the sky. She was certain that those fluffy
grey clouds rolling in were up to no good.
Where the hell was their rescue? Didn’t *anyone* notice that they
hadn’t returned? At the very least, someone should have missed the
damned jeep thing. And just where in the bloody blue blazes on
this blamed mountain were she and Mulder anyway?
Scully brought out the trail map and opened it to their last known
position. It was dismayingly close to the summit. She cursed
herself for not paying attention to landmarks on her drive down.
Absurdly, she wondered if she’d be able to locate the site of their
“mishap” if she looked for a picture of a moose.
The loud “snap” of a branch breaking off to her right sent Scully
scrambling into a side pocket for her gun. Just as her hand closed
over the weapon, a gravelly voice ordered, “Hold it right there.”
Her finger on the trigger, her thumb about to flick the safety off,
“Let go of whatever it is you’ve got a hold of in there, and bring
your hand out slowly–and empty.” Scully looked toward the voice
and found a bear of a man holding a shotgun against her partner’s
head. “Or your boyfriend here gets his pretty face messed up.”
“Okay,” she said, in what she hoped was a calm voice. “Okay, I’m
doing it.” Relinquishing her hold on the hard steel, she drew her
hand out carefully.
“Good,” the man intoned, nodding and licking his lips. He looked
almost as nervous as she did. “Now reach in two fingers–no
thumb–and pull it out.”
Scully did as directed, and as soon as her weapon was in sight, he
snatched it out of her hand. She was relieved to see that Mulder
was no longer in the gun’s sights.
“What about him?” the man asked. “He got a gun, too?”
“Yeah,” she said, nodding, wondering whether or not she should
volunteer information about their professions.
“Get it.” The barrel was once again held against Mulder’s temple.
“The same way as yours.”
Scully nodded, pulling the pile of blankets off Mulder. Kneeling
beside him, she patted him down until she felt the hard lump at his
side. She reached into his pocket, pulled the gun out, and offered it
to their captor.
After the man had deposited their weapons in his jacket pocket, he
indicated the ground near Mulder. “Sit down.” He gestured to the
unmoving Mulder. “What’s wrong with him?”
“He’s sick,” Scully answered. “Flu,” she added, in case the man
should think Mulder had some highly contagious disease and
decide to put him out of his misery.
“Well, for godsakes, cover him back up,” the man said.
Surprised, Scully hastened to comply. Since it appeared that the
man wasn’t the ogre Scully had thought him to be, she took the
time to tuck the blankets snugly around her partner. “Thank you,”
she said, sincerely.
“What are you two doing up here? Don’t you know there’s a storm
Scully’s gaze took in the gathering clouds. “I suspected as much.”
She sighed tiredly. “I crashed our four-wheeler trying to avoid a
The man snorted. “Wise move.”
Scully studied the man as his thoughts seemed to drift. “Are you
going to let us go?” she asked.
“You still haven’t told me why you’re here.” The shotgun, which
had been pointed toward the ground, swung up to cover her and
“My partner and I were investigating the sites of some murders
which took place up here.”
The man’s demeanor changed from irritated to interested. “Are you
Scully hesitated, then nodded, deciding that it would be in their
best interests to tell the truth rather than be caught in a lie. “FBI.”
“Son of a bitch,” the man cursed, and his face seemed to… ripple.
Scully blinked, wondering if she’d just seen what she thought she
saw. “Get him up,” he said. The man jerked his weapon at Mulder,
and Scully quickly turned her investigator switch to ‘off.’ “You’re
getting out of here now.”
Wanting nothing better, Scully rousted her partner. “Mulder,” she
called, slapping his face lightly.
Mulder groaned and rolled away.
Casting a quick glance to their captor, Scully latched onto Mulder’s
shoulder and gave it a shake. “Come on, Mulder. I’m sorry, but you
have to get up now.”
Suddenly, Mulder gave a wail of anguish. “Nooo! Scully, you
promised. You said you’d kick their asses!”
“What’s he talking about? Kick whose asses?” the man asked,
growing more and more agitated by the second.
Scully thought it best to come clean on the first attempt, rather than
try to pass it off as nothing. “He was dreaming earlier.
Remembering when he was a young profiler and his colleagues
wouldn’t let him sleep. He was so good they didn’t want to let him
stop to rest.” She brushed a hand through Mulder’s hair lovingly.
“Even when he was sick.” She looked up at the man. “I told him I’d
kick their asses so he could sleep.”
The man’s features softened to an expression of understanding. He
looked at Mulder, then turned his gaze to her. “I’m sorry, but it’s
necessary. If you don’t get out of here in time, you’ll know why.”
A plethora of scenarios, culled from too many years of x-files, ran
through Scully’s mind. She didn’t know which would apply in this
situation, or if it was an entirely new one, but she certainly didn’t
want to wait around to find out. She thanked her lucky stars that
their roles weren’t reversed. It would be just like Mulder to want to
see what would transpire.
She leaned in until her lips were grazing her partner’s ear. “Mulder,
we have to go. There’s a man here, and he says we have to leave.
He has our guns, and he said we have to leave now.”
She didn’t know which part registered, but Mulder’s eyes opened,
and he made an effort to sit up. “What? What, Scully? What’s
“We need to go,” she said. “I need to get you up, and we need to go
His confusion-filled eyes blinking, Mulder nodded his head.
“Okay. But I’m feeling pretty fuzzy. I don’t know how long I’ll
“I know, Mulder. And I’m sorry.” She knelt beside him. “But
there’s something… urgent… in his insistence that we need to get
out of here.”
“Whose?” Mulder was blinking owlishly at her, and Scully read
the confusion in his eyes.
“There’s a man here,” she repeated. “He has our guns, and he says
we have to leave.”
“How?” he asked, and she saw that the cobwebs had finally cleared
from his mind. “Didn’t you tell him that’s what we’ve been trying to
He met her eyes, and she knew what he was going to say next. She
cut him off before the thought could be fully formed in his brain.
“No,” she said. “I’m not going without you.”
Expecting a rebuttal, she was surprised when he drew in a ragged
breath. “Thank you,” he said, quietly. “I was terrified that you
might finally listen to me.”
She shook her head. “Never happen.”
He laughed, then turned serious. “I feel like shit, Scully. I don’t
know how far we’re going to get this time.”
“He says there’s a storm coming.” When she leaned down to help
him up, she whispered in his ear, “But I don’t think that’s the real
reason he wants us to get moving.” She took the arm Mulder
reached out to her. “He’s afraid for us.”
“Why?” Mulder asked, as Scully levered herself under his arm and
raised him to a standing position.
“I don’t know.” She shook her head. “I only know that it’s
something we don’t want to be around for.” She turned so that she
and Mulder were facing their captor. “I just need to pick up our
supplies, and we’ll leave.”
The man held up a hand. “Let me.” He handed Scully the knapsack
and the blankets.
Accepting them, she nodded to the items in the man’s pocket.
“What about our weapons?”
Their captor hesitated a second, then reached into his jacket and
pulled out the guns. “Here,” he said, handling them as if they
would burn him. “Now, go.” He pointed his arm down the trail.
“And don’t stop until you’re off this mountain.”
Scully looked down the trail, then back at the man. “Do you know
how far we are from the bottom? How long will it take?”
“We’re a little more than halfway to the summit. Should take you a
couple of hours.”
Scully sighed in frustration. “My partner is sick. We’re not able to
travel very fast.” She gave her partner an apologetic smile. “He’s
already passed out twice. I doubt very much if we’ll make it down
The man shook his head slowly. “I sincerely hope you’re wrong
“Why?” Scully’s patience was beginning to wear thin. “Why do we
have to leave so quickly?” Not that she didn’t want to; it’s just that
they couldn’t. Not with Mulder in the condition he was in.
The man seemed to be considering his words carefully before he
finally spoke. “Because you’re in danger from this killer you’re
Scully was alarmed. “He’s here? He’s close?”
The man nodded solemnly. He indicated the path. “Go now. And
put in as much distance as you can to the bottom.”
Scully held the man’s gaze for another second before she latched
onto her partner and led him back to the path. After they were out
of sight of their captor, she wrapped all the blankets around the
two of them, huddling closer to Mulder for warmth. “How’s that?”
she asked, adjusting the hood of his snowsuit so that it was more
snug around his head.
“Fine,” he croaked, and she could tell he wanted to be anything but
“I know,” she said softly. “I promise… you can sleep for a week
once we get out of here.”
Hell, he could sleep for a month, a year, he could have his way
with her whenever he wanted. Just as long as he made it out.
Surely, Mulder thought, death could not be any worse than what he
was going through right now. If it wasn’t for the fact that it would
endanger Scully’s life, Mulder would have succumbed to death’s
allure long ago. He felt like he’d been walking for days.
It was snowing now. Just putting one foot in front of the other was
almost more than he could handle. He’d already fallen a few times,
and stumbled even more; he wanted to cry every time Scully
forced him back to his feet.
His foot caught on a jutting rock, and he went down–again–
landing hard on his knees.
“Oh, Mulder…” Scully mourned, dropping to her knees beside him.
Knowing what was coming next, Mulder felt his eyes fill and his
nose become stuffed. He sniffed and tried to blink back the tears,
but found that he just hadn’t the strength any longer. He bowed his
head, braced his hands on his thighs, and gave in to the despair and
self-pity that he’d been fighting off for the last hour and a half.
“Mulder, I’m so sorry,” Scully said, enfolding him in her arms.
“I can’t… go on, Scully,” he said, his voice hitching. “I don’t want
to give up, but I just can’t… do it.”
He braced himself for the pep talk, even as his tears continued to
drop onto the snow.
“I’ll try to find us some shelter.”
Surprised, he looked up. She was regarding him with so much
tenderness that it almost overwhelmed him. He sniffled, reigning
in his tears. “Is it safe?”
She shrugged. “I don’t really know.” She hugged him tighter. “I
only know that I can’t stand to see you suffering any longer.”
He took a deep breath, suddenly feeling ashamed; the snow
melting beneath his knees seemed like a good thing to look at. “I’m
sorry I’m not stronger,” he said, quietly.
“Stronger?” she asked, and his head snapped up at the near hysteria
he heard in her voice. She released him from her embrace and
grabbed his head so that he had no choice but to look into her eyes.
“Mulder, this whole case you have been nothing *but* strong. I
don’t know how you ever made it this far.” She shook her head,
letting her hands drop to her sides. “I know I couldn’t.”
He shook his head vehemently. “If it was you, we wouldn’t be
having this conversation. You would rather die than show me any
sign of weakness.”
He saw the flash of anger in her eyes. “I–” Then she stopped
abruptly and sighed. “You’re probably right.” She took hold of his
hand. “But that doesn’t make me stronger.” At his questioning
look, she dropped her gaze to their joined hands. “That just makes
me less open, more afraid to show you how I really feel.”
He nodded, sensing the truth in her words, feeling more like he
thought a man should feel around a woman, and especially around
the woman he loved. “Okay if I wait here?”
She nodded. “I’m not going too far. I’m just going to look for
something off the beaten path, so to speak.” Smiling, she wrapped
all the blankets around him before standing up. “I should only be
gone a few minutes.”
He couldn’t help but feel a little apprehensive, both at her going off
alone, and at his being left alone, in a snowstorm, with a killer on
the loose. Yet, he returned her smile and nodded at her parting.
Her footsteps muffled by the fresh snow, it was only seconds
before he felt like he was the only person left in the world.
When she saw Mulder seated upright, his back against a tree, his
eyes closed, his hands limp and unmoving in his lap, Scully’s
breath caught in her throat. “Mulder?” she asked, not caring if he
heard the quiver in her voice, not caring about anything except if
he was alive.
To her surprise and great relief, his eyes opened immediately.
She released a shaky breath. “How are you doing? I thought you
He looked just as relieved at seeing her there as she was at seeing
him still alive. “I was too scared to sleep. I thought…” Taking a
deep breath, he seemed to be regrouping his thoughts. “I thought
that if I fell asleep, I might not wake up again. I thought I might
not see you again.” The hint of a smile touched his eyes. “I thought
you might not be too happy to come back and find I’d expired.”
She laughed, now that she could, now that he *hadn’t* expired.
“You’re right. I’d have been royally pissed if you’d died before we
got to do everything I want to do once we get out of here and get
His eyes lit up. “Such as?”
“Oh, you know… the usual. Hugging, snuggling, kissing, making
love like bunnies…”
He laughed. “I’m glad I stuck around, then. I definitely don’t want
to miss out on any of that.” Then his smile faded, and he shuddered
“Come on,” she said, reaching down to grasp his hands, helping
him to his feet. “I found someplace dry.”
Leading him off the trail and onto the sharper incline, Scully
tightened her grip on him, following her bootprints, then the
markers she’d left when her footsteps were no longer visible
because of the falling snow.
Mulder seemed a little stronger now; the rest had apparently done
him some good. When she announced that they’d reached their
destination, however, Mulder threw himself through the opening
and lay on his side, shaking. Scully clambered over him, through
the entrance, into the shallow cave. She dragged Mulder the few
feet to the back of the cave, then hauled him to an upright position
when he began coughing uncontrollably.
The episode lasted about a minute, ending with Mulder trying to
suppress the cough by breathing through his nose. Scully slung the
knapsack off her back and uncapped a water bottle, offering it to
him. It was a few minutes more before he could calm himself
enough to chance a sip.
By this time, his eyes were tearing and his nose was running, and
he could barely draw in a breath between sips.
“Dammit, Mulder, why didn’t you say something? We could have
stopped to rest.” He had given no indication that he was in any sort
“Couldn’t stop,” he gasped. “If I stopped… I might not be able to…
move again.” He sucked in a breath. “Couldn’t chance it.”
She sighed, nodding; she would have done the same. “Here,” she
said, softly, handing him some tissues from where she knew he’d
stashed them in the pockets of his snowsuit.
“Thanks,” he mumbled, yanking off his gloves to accept the
Kleenex. After making himself more presentable, he let his eyes
wander, examining their accommodations, while his breathing
“It’s not much,” she said, “but at least it’s dry.” She eyed the
entrance. “As long as the wind doesn’t change.”
“It’s great,” he said. “Can we do anything about blocking that
It was about five feet high and three feet across, but as Scully
pictured the insignificant amount of brush they’d passed that could
be useful as a screen, it appeared double that. “I’ll see what I can
find,” she said, crawling toward the exit.
“Wait!” Mulder called, stuffing his hands back into his gloves. “I’ll
She laid a hand on his thigh. “You’re too sick.” To emphasize her
declaration, she brushed a bead of sweat from his forehead with
her thumb. “Stay here and rest.”
He looked like he was about to argue with her when he suddenly
dropped his gaze and nodded. “Don’t go too far.” She heard a host
of emotions in that utterance, and she loved him for feeling every
one of them for her.
“I’ll be careful,” she acknowledged. “I’ll button up.” She kissed him
on his lips. “I love you, too.” And please don’t be ashamed, she
added silently, hugging him tightly.
“I can’t help it,” he said into her hair. “I should go with you.”
“Not when you’re this sick, you shouldn’t.” Letting him go, she
gave him a gentle shove; he acquiesced and lay down. “I’ll be right
back,” she said, burying him under a mound of blankets. “Warm
these up for when I get back.” She smiled and threw him a wink.
“I’ll do my best,” he returned, grinning.
She took in one last glimpse of him before darting out into the
“You always do,” she said, softly.
“Well. It’s about time.”
Even through his sleep-addled brain, Mulder heard the laughter in
her voice. “What time is it?” he croaked. He took in the darkness
outside the partially-blocked entryway. “What day, for that
“Same day, but it’s a little after three.” She followed his gaze. “It’s
still snowing. That’s why it seems so dark.”
He felt no small amount of panic that they were trapped on a
mountain with little food, a serial killer on the loose, and useless
cel phones. Not to mention that one of them felt like total and
absolute crap. His only consolation was that Scully wasn’t the sick
one. He’d much rather that their fate rested in her hands instead of
his. “Are we in any danger?”
“Not at the moment,” she answered. “We’re out of the snow. We
have plenty of ‘water,’ and I have a small supply of the best junk
food the hotel and ranger station vending machines had to offer.”
“God, Scully, if we had a TV, this would be a regular resort.” A
pebble dug into his backside as he slowly sat up. “A soft bed might
be a plus, too.” His bladder let its presence be known when he
shifted to a more comfortable position; he remembered the winter
wonderland surrounding them. “Indoor plumbing could be an
asset, as well.”
She gave him a sympathetic smile. “I knew that a long time ago,”
she said, then indicated the doorway with a tilt of her head. “Better
get out there while there’s still enough light to find your way
He nodded, tossing off the blankets and donning his hat and
gloves. Scully moved the brush aside and crawled out ahead of
him; he was surprised to find her fully dressed for the outdoors as
well. “Are you coming with me?” he asked.
Her head bobbed a ‘yes.’ “I’ll turn my back to give you some
privacy, but we’ll be standing ass to ass, Mulder. I’m not losing you
because you couldn’t find your way back from a potty break.”
He felt exulted and insulted at the same time. “I can–”
“I know you can,” she said softly. “But you’re ill. And I’m a little
more familiar with the terrain.” She looked around at the almost
total whiteness. “What little we can see of it.”
His eyes took in the monotonous vision of trees and rocks, all
covered in snow. Ten feet out, he knew he’d be lost. “Lead on,
Taking hold of his arm, she walked them to a tree not too far away
. She faced him toward the tree, then did an about-face. As he
pulled off one glove with his teeth and fumbled his way through
layers of clothing, he felt her at his backside. “You weren’t kidding
that we’d be ass-to-ass, were you?”
“Nope,” she answered. “Although we’re really more ass-to-back.”
He smiled as, finally, he reached his goal; he tried not to sigh in
relief while he was emptying his bladder. He also tried not to think
of how close Scully was and that she was privy to his every
movement. Finishing, he groaned in pleasure. “Oh, God. That feels
much better.” After tucking and zipping and re-gloving, he turned
around and grasped her shoulders gently. “All set.” When she
faced him, he kissed her on the forehead. “God, I love you.”
She raised an eyebrow. “And that’s the best you can do?”
Always up for a challenge, Mulder leaned down to capture her lips
He didn’t know if it was because of the kiss, the altitude or the flu,
but he felt himself growing light-headed and broke off. “I’m afraid
*that’s* the best I can do for now,” he puffed, leaning heavily on
“What’s wrong?” She was gazing at him with concern.
“A little dizzy,” he said.
She wound an arm around his waist, taking on part of his weight as
she started them back. “You need to eat, and we need to get some
fluids into you.”
“Okay.” It had been awhile since he’d eaten–and then lost–his
breakfast. He wasn’t feeling so much nauseous any more as he was
feeling tired, achy and light-headed. By the time they reached the
cave mouth, he was shaking and sweating.
Scully lowered him gently to the floor; when she left him to move
the brush back into place, he closed his eyes, trying to will himself
back to some semblance of normal. Feeling her settling beside him,
he opened his eyes a crack. She was holding her arms open to him.
“Come on, Mulder,” she said, gathering him in her arms.
He didn’t hesitate even a nanosecond. He wouldn’t have thought he
could fold himself into a small enough bundle to be gathered to her
bosom, yet there he was. Gradually, through all the layers of
clothing, her warmth seeped into his chilled bones; he sighed in
Scully hugged him tighter, then pulled away a little. “Feeling
“Feeling warmer,” he told her. He still felt like crap, but at least it
was warm crap.
Scully’s arm left him, and he felt her reach for something. “What’ll
it be, partner? I have a wide assortment of candy bars, granola
bars, cookies and crackers.”
He sat up, trying to get a peek into the backpack she was
unzipping. His stomach felt a little rebellious at the thought of
putting something in it. “Um, crackers?” He met her gaze for a
second. “The blander, the better.”
Out the corner of his eye, he saw her nod in understanding. The
sound of cellophane rustling brought his eyes to her hands.
Removing a plain saltine, she offered it to him with a shy smile.
“From my soup last night.”
He smiled gratefully as he took the cracker and bit into a corner.
Bless her for anticipating what he hadn’t even considered. A little
embarrassed that she apparently knew his body—and its
weaknesses—better than he did, Mulder let his gaze drop down to
his lap as he nibbled on his second cracker.
“So why all the food?” he asked, curious as to why his health-
conscious partner was carrying around a horde of junk food.
A fleeting smile came to her lips. “I knew we were coming up here
today. And I knew that you wouldn’t be eating much in the way of
‘real’ food. So I got a few things that might tempt you to eat, even
if you weren’t hungry.”
Warmed that she’d given so much thought to his well-being,
Mulder squeezed her hand. “Thanks,” he said quietly. “Thanks for
looking after me so much better than I look after myself.”
She squeezed back. “It used to be my job, Mulder, but now it’s my
pleasure.” A smile suddenly sprang to her face. “I suppose I should
make some glib remark about its being to my advantage to keep
you in top condition—and while that may be true to some extent,
it’s not the reason.” Her expression softened to one of affection.
“The fact of the matter is that I care about you. I care about how
you’re feeling, and I want to help you feel better.” Her eyes
hardened, and her lips compressed to a thin line. “I hate that Kersh
could send you out here when you’re so ill. I hate that it’s even a
consideration, that because they’ve abused you in the past, he
thinks that gives him the right to order you to work when you
should be home in bed. I’d like to see that bastard show up for desk
duty—much less field work—with a hundred and three degree
She was red-faced and puffing when she finished. Mulder couldn’t
help it: as shitty as he felt, he was tickled pink. “I’ve mentioned
that I love you, right?”
She looked at him then, gave a laugh and threw her arms around
his neck. “You may have told me once or twice.”
He smiled against her neck, but jerked back when he felt
something wet on his cheek. “Hey,” he said, brushing a finger
under her wet eyes. “What’s this about?”
She shook her head. “I just get so angry sometimes.” Using the
back of one hand, she wiped her eyes dry. “The way you were
treated. The way they still treat you.” She took a deep breath. “It
just pisses me off.”
He swore he could feel his heart swelling up into his throat. He had
to swallow before he could speak. “I don’t know why you love me,
Scully, but I’m glad you do.” Reaching out, he pulled her back into
his embrace. “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to tell you how grateful
I am to have you in my life.”
Scully gave him a hug and then gently disentangled herself. He
caught the tail end of the pleased smile she had been wearing.
Nodding to the cracker he still held in his hand, she told him, “You
can start by eating something.”
Shaking his head in amusement, he dutifully finished off the
cracker. She promptly handed him another one. By the time he’d
consumed all the crackers from all the packages—eight crackers in
all—his stomach felt settled enough for him to try something with
a little more flavor. The adventurous side of him told him to go for
the jalapeno Doritos, but the more practical side of him (he was
surprised by this; he didn’t think he had one) made him choose the
After eating half the bag, Mulder no longer felt hungry. He folded
down the top of the bag and handed it to Scully. “Thanks. I’ve had
enough for now.”
She regarded him with a suspicious glint in her eye. “Is your
He was surprised to find that it was; he nodded. “Yup. It’s fine. I’m
just full.” He ran an appraising eye over her petite form swallowed
up in all her winter garb. “What about you? You have to eat, too.”
She chuckled, reaching into one of the pockets of her snowsuit,
pulling out the wrapper to a granola bar. “Already ate.” She offered
the wrapper to him.
He frowned. Is that what she called a meal? “You have—”
Another wrapper appeared under his nose. Twinkies this time.
Mulder nodded his approval. “Okay,” he said in a gravelly voice.
Before the thought that his throat was dry could even develop in
his mind, Scully produced a bottle of water. Accepting it, he raised
his eyebrows. Well. Wasn’t someone taking this Mrs. Spooky thing
right to heart?
“There’s nothing spooky about it, Mulder,” she said, and he nearly
spit out the mouthful of water he was about to swallow.
Oh, no? he thought, swallowing the liquid, his eyes widening on
the question he was unable to voice.
“No,” she replied, a smug look overtaking her features. “It’s all
about being able to read you.” Taking the bottle from him, she re-
capped it and put it aside. She let her hands play over his face. “Of
anticipating what’s going through that delicious mind of yours.”
He couldn’t prevent the enormous grin from spreading over his
She sidled up closer to him, her hand skimming down his face to
gently caress his neck. “You are delicious through and through,
He felt a shiver run through him at her words. “I think that’s my
She shrugged. “Can’t say I’ve ever heard it from you.” She
snuggled in until she was practically in his lap. “You don’t use it,
you lose it.”
Never one to be accused of inactivity, Mulder wrapped his arms
around her and pulled her the rest of the way onto his lap. “Oh, I’ve
used it,” he purred in his best sexy voice. “Just not out loud. I think
I was afraid you’d pummel me into a ball of mush.”
Pushing herself out to arm’s length, Scully’s amused gaze captured
his eyes. “You might end up a ball of mush, but it wouldn’t be from
my pummeling you.”
Trying to wrap his mind around what that might entail, Mulder
groaned. “Scully…” he whined.
She batted her eyelashes. “What?” she asked, innocently.
How could anyone with a three-inch layer of bulky clothing be so
damned sexy? Surprised to find himself reacting to her under his
own sixteen layers of winterwear, Mulder pulled her back to his
chest, burrowing his nose under her hood and into her hair.
“Love you,” he said, touching his lips to her neck gently. The
closeness of her shoulder beneath his ear was too much to resist; he
let his head drop down, and uttered one last, “Love you, Scully,”
before he drifted off.
Only the slightest bit miffed that her Romeo had fallen asleep just
as things were heating up, Scully eased herself off Mulder’s lap
and gently lay him down on the “bed” of pine needles that had
accumulated in the cave over the years. With a sigh, she leaned
back against the wall, contemplating Mulder, the cave, the
mountain outside their ‘doorway,’ the killer, the FBI…
Jolted awake from a sleep she couldn’t even remember lying down
for, Scully panicked for a few seconds while she tried to remember
where she was. The feel of pine needles beneath her hand and the
agitated moan of her partner brought her up to speed fairly quickly.
Pulling off a glove, she laid her palm on her partner’s cheek,
disquieted by the heat she found there. His thrashing calmed upon
her initial touch, but started up again when she removed her hand
to reach for the water and the first aid kit. Abandoning her search
for the moment, she rested her hand on his forehead.
“Mulder,” she called softly. He moaned in response. “Can you
open your eyes for me, partner?” She massaged his face gently as
she spoke to him.
“Save me…” he muttered. “Scully, save me… They won’t let me…”
He broke off suddenly with a sob that broke her heart.
“Leave him alone, you bastards!” she yelled. She leaned over to
speak softly into Mulder’s ear. “There you go, partner.” She
pressed her lips to his ear in a kiss. “Come on now. Come back to
“Scully,” he sighed. His head turned until his lips met hers,
whether intentional or by accident, Scully couldn’t tell. “Thanks,”
he whispered into her mouth, before his breathing evened out.
“Sure thing,” she muttered, irked that he’d fallen back to sleep so
easily while she was now wide-awake.
About to lie back down and give it the old college try, she shivered
when the sound of a howl reached her ears. She froze, trying to
determine just which mountain creature could be out there, and
hoping that her ‘door’ would be effective at hiding them.
After a few seconds, she heard stealthy footsteps as they trod over
the snow-covered ground through to the crunchy leaf cover below.
Even though it had been snowing steadily for a few hours, only a
couple of inches had managed to accumulate, and she could see,
with the brightening sky, that the snow had stopped altogether.
While one portion of her brain marveled that she’d apparently slept
twelve hours straight, another pondered just what could be stalking
them. Slipping her hand into her pocket, Scully removed her
weapon, checking the clip and releasing the safety. She debated
whether or not to wake Mulder, then decided that, hell, misery
loved company, and wouldn’t he just be all the more miserable if
she didn’t wake him.
She leaned in close to his ear, shaking his shoulder while she
whispered, “Mulder, wake up.”
His eyes fluttered open, and for a moment, Scully was distracted
by how utterly endearing he looked. “Whassrong?” he asked,
blinking those glorious eyelashes over those gorgeous eyes.
Giving herself a mental swat upside the head, Scully filled him in
on their potential visitor. “Someone or some thing is outside. I
need you to back me up in case it decides to come in.”
His grogginess dissipated in an instant. She gave him a hand a he
struggled to sit up. “Thanks,” he puffed out, breathing heavily. “Do
you…” He reached inside his pocket, drawing out his gun. “…have
any idea what it could be?”
She shook her head. “Whatever it is, it’s treading slowly and
carefully.” She gave him a grave look. “Almost as if…” She trailed
“As if it knew we were in here,” he finished quietly.
“Yeah.” She watched as Mulder flicked his safety off as quietly as
he could, then they turned their attention to the entrance, both
weapons trained on the doorway.
Within a minute, loud snuffling announced the arrival of
something most definitely not human. Holding her breath as the
outline of a very large biped loomed into view behind the brush,
Scully grit her teeth to tamp down the feeling of panic that was
starting to build.
Suddenly, the bushes were swept aside, and what looked like
Godzilla in armor plating stood glaring in at them. Scully’s mouth
went dry. She lowered her gun and reached for Mulder’s hand.
There was no way bullets were going to penetrate that hide. If she
was going to die, she was going to do it connected to Mulder in
Mulder, too, lowered his weapon. Grasping Scully’s hand in his, he
went her one better by pulling her into a crushing embrace. Scully
closed her eyes and hugged him for all she was worth, love and
regret now overshadowing the all-encompassing fear she’d felt
only a few seconds ago.
“Scully…” Mulder murmured, and she heard his voice—as well as
his heart—breaking. She felt him swallow as his throat constricted
“I know, Mulder.” She hugged him tighter. “Me, too.”
As she waited for the beast to strike, it occurred to her that the
death blow was taking an unusually long time in coming. She
cracked open an eye, hoping that by some miracle…
It was crouched down, staring at her, regarding her with curiosity.
‘Intelligent?’ she wondered. “Mulder,” she whispered.
His head shifted forward a little, and his cheek pressed into hers as
he peeked around her head. “What’s it doing?” he whispered back.
The thing was now regarding them with an expression of
amusement, irritation, and indulgence. “I *can* hear you, you
Scully’s mouth dropped open.
Mulder jerked back in surprise so fast, he cracked his head against
the wall. “Son of a…” he began, then broke off abruptly.
As much as Scully wanted to ascertain that he was okay, she
couldn’t take her eyes off the refugee from Japanimation that had
just addressed them with a British accent.
“You’ll never apprehend him with *those*.” The creature was
gazing distastefully at the weapons being held limply in their
“Uh…” Scully began. “Wh…” She cleared her throat and tried
again. “What should we use?” Then the absurdity of the situation
hit her. “Who the hell are you? And who the hell is ‘him?'”
The beast laughed in delight, and Scully was surprised that she
knew this, because the only sound that reached her ears was a
growl. “Oh, I do so adore your attitude,” it said, in that damned
accent again, and she was really hard-pressed to match that voice
to that… er… face. “I,” the beast began, his countenance losing all
trace of humor, “am…” He paused again. “Oh, bloody hell. Just call
me ‘Targ.” You’d never be able to pronounce the Kilartian
Scully blinked. She ran though her mental database of all known
languages, including popular, archaic and defunct. “‘Kilartian’ was
not among them.
“Where are you from?” Mulder asked, annoying the hell out of her
that he’d come to the conclusion a split second before her: that
their friend was not of this world. Or dimension. Or plane of
She jerked her head. When had believing in aliens, demons and
time travelers become so matter-of-fact, so second nature, to her?
Thinking all Mulder’s attention was devoted to the creature, Scully
jumped when he touched her lightly on the arm.
The warmth and concern in his voice knocked her out of her
thoughts and back to the present. It also served to vanquish any
lingering vestiges of irritation and jealousy she’d harbored toward
her partner. She was not surprised to find his gaze upon her, and
not the creature. “I’m okay,” she said, trying to convey by her tone
that she really was. Breaking their eye contact, she addressed Targ.
“Who are you?”
The creature dipped its head, a movement that looked so out of
place, given its fearsome appearance, yet also quite natural. “Like
you,” he indicated her and Mulder, “I am a law officer.”
Scully nodded. She’d suspected as much. “Are you from…”
Throwing a sideways glance at her partner, she decided to fulfill
her own curiosity, and shock the hell out of him as an added bonus.
“…from another planet or another dimension?”
Mulder did not disappoint. “Wow, Scully.” She turned to find him
studying her, his expression one of awe, surprise and delight.
Blushing a little, even though she’d expected just that reaction, she
returned his smile before turning her attention back to Targ.
“Actually, from both,” he replied. “And another time.”
“The future?” she asked.
Targ shook his head. “The past. The much distant past.”
“Really?” Mulder asked, and Scully shared his wonderment. She
thought how truly gratifying it was to finally experience that sense
of belief, of acceptance of something at face value, just because
someone told her it was so.
“Yes, really,” Targ answered. He gestured to the winter
wonderland outside, a little impatiently, it appeared to Scully.
“Now since you obviously didn’t take my earlier advice about
leaving this mountain–”
“The old man,” Scully interrupted. “That was you.”
“Why didn’t you just tell us?” Scully was a little irked by that
whole ‘mystery man of the mountain’ performance now that she
knew it had been Targ all along.
“I had no intention of revealing myself to you.” He indicated their
surroundings. “Now, however, you give me no choice.” Taking a
moment to sniff the cold, crisp air, he returned his gaze to her.
“Retic has your scent.”
“Retic? Is that who you’re after?” Mulder asked.
“He is, yes. And since you are now involved, you can assist me in
capturing my prey.” He sniffed again. “Although considering the
carnage he’s wrought, ‘prey’ is not too appropriate a term.”
“Is he responsible for the deaths up here?” Scully asked.
Targ nodded. “Yes, And in my home. And in the country you call
“Is that where you…” Scully raised her eyebrows in question. She
tilted her head. “The accent?”
Targ stared in incomprehension for a moment. “The language is
the same, but the… dialect… is not?”
“The accent is distinctly British, yes,” Scully told him, something
still puzzling her. “The old man, though. You didn’t use that accent
Targ seemed put out. “Of course not,” he reproved her. “That
would have been as out of place as your seeing me like this.”
Scully exchanged a look with Mulder. ‘Probably more so,’ she
“So…” Targ rubbed his ‘hands’ together in expectation, then
indicated the area outside the cave. “Shall we?”
Assisting Mulder to his feet, Scully said, “I don’t know how much
help we’ll be. You said our weapons were useless, and if he’s built
like you, we aren’t about to overpower him.” She regarded her
partner, leaning heavily on her; he looked like he wouldn’t last
upright more than fifteen minutes. “And my partner’s sick. He
won’t be able to help us much.” Placing her lips to his ear, she
whispered, “Sorry, Mulder.”
He nodded shakily. “It’s okay,” he said softly. Then he lifted his
head to observe the alien. “I’m afraid she’s right. It’s all I can do to
stand. I’m not going to be any help to you in a fight.”
“Not to worry,” Targ tut-tutted, shooing them out of the cave.
“He’ll do fine.”
The smugness in the alien’s tone didn’t escape Scully. She stopped
in her tracks, holding onto Mulder tightly so that he stayed with
her. “No,” she said, when Targ turned around to face her.
“I’m afraid it’s the only way,” Targ replied, and the only thing
stopping Scully from giving him an earful was the fact that his tone
really did convey regret—and that he was probably right.
Mulder was to be the bait.
If he’d ever been more miserable in his life, Mulder couldn’t recall
it. They’d selected a patch of flat land, cleared a small area of
snow, and started a fire. He was dry and relatively warm, but he
wanted to be anything but sitting up, pretending he wasn’t dying.
Targ had assured them that Retic was in the vicinity, if not the
immediate area, and would soon be paying him a visit. The alien
law officer had masked Scully’s scent from his adversary, and
Mulder gained no small relief from the fact that the only life being
risked in this ploy was his.
He knew that she hated the situation and that she was worried
about him; he hoped that that worry wouldn’t cause her to do
anything rash or reckless. His normally level-headed partner
tended to come a little unglued when his life was in danger.
Although she rarely displayed any evidence of this, it was a secret
she’d revealed to him when their relationship had finally, finally,
*finally* evolved to the next plane.
The snap of a twig off to his left jerked his attention away from the
fire. Mulder’s breath caught at what was now approaching him.
Although smaller than Targ, an air of viciousness clung to the alien
like a second skin. The smile it gave him was not meant to
As the creature moved closer, and neither Scully or Targ appeared
to be coming to the rescue, Mulder thought some action in his own
defense might be advisable. Drawing his weapon out of his pocket,
he flicked the safety off and pointed it at the alien; he was relieved
to find his hand steady and his aim true—for all the good it would
Unlike the inaction he’d taken with Targ, Mulder did not lay his
weapon down; even though he knew it would have no effect on the
heavily-armored creature, it made him feel like he had some
control over his fate. Aiming for the alien’s eyes, Mulder got off
two ineffective shots before the creature was upon him. Its mouth
opened wide, engulfing the first part of him it reached: his
outstretched hand—his outstretched hand with the gun.
As the teeth were closing over his arm, Mulder fired into Retic’s
mouth. The alien howled, and Mulder yanked his wounded arm
free. Enraged, the alien backhanded Mulder, sending him flying
until a tree broke his flight.
Right before he passed out, Mulder saw Targ, and then a stormy-
faced Scully appear out of thin air. He almost giggled at the
thought that if looks could kill, Scully’s could annihilate. He
almost felt sorry for the alien.
And then he grew puzzled because her glare was not directed at
Retic, their enemy, but at Targ, their ally.
His eyes, when he opened them, were met with the sight of gray
and green. He groaned in disappointment; he’d hoped to be waking
up in a nice, warm bed, Scully by his side…
He turned his head, and there she was, cuddled against him,
sleeping like a baby. As awareness returned to him, so did all the
aches and pains that reminded him he still had that blasted flu.
Suddenly remembering the last few minutes before his unexpected
nap, Mulder jerked up in alarm.
“What? What?” Scully reached for him in her confusion, and
Mulder cursed himself for waking her.
“Shh. It’s okay. I’m sorry I woke you.” He rubbed her back, then
looked at his arm. Wasn’t that arm recently in the mouth of a bad-
tempered alien? And didn’t that bad-tempered alien try to chow
down on said arm?
“Targ fixed it,” Scully told him, and he could feel the distaste in
“Shouldn’t he have?” he wondered.
She nodded. “Of course. The jerk. It was the least he could do after
trying to feed you to that overgrown iguana.”
Mulder furrowed his brows in confusion; he replayed the entire
encounter with Retic until it became clear. “He had no intention of
rescuing me, did he?”
Scully shook her head angrily. “No. And since he had me in that
damned… stasis field… I couldn’t do anything, either.” She looked
away. “Except watch.”
“Scully…” he started.
“No, Mulder,” she cut him off. “No matter what you’re going to
say, there is no comparison. I was going to watch you die. I knew
it was going to happen, and there wasn’t a thing I could do to stop
“But it didn’t happen.” He gazed at her, puzzled. “Why didn’t it
He was so pleased to see a smile on her face, he almost didn’t care
about the answer. “You shot him in the only place where some
damage could be done.”
Mulder blinked. “So I killed him?”
Scully hedged a moment before answering. “You incapacitated
him. While Targ was debating whether or not Retic would recover
enough to finish you off, I took Targ’s weapon and ended the
debate.” Her features turned surly. “He’s lucky I didn’t do the same
“But why? Why didn’t Targ try to capture Retic once he was
Scully’s lip curled into a sneer. “It appears that right after Retic has
‘fed,’ he lapses into a ‘digestion’ period for about five minutes. Targ
was going to use this time to subdue him and transport him back.”
“But you didn’t let him,” Mulder said softly.
“That coward,” Scully spat. “Willing to sacrifice another living
being so that he didn’t have to break a sweat.” She drew in a shaky
breath, then captured his gaze. “I wanted to kill him. Because he
used you, and tricked me, and nearly got you killed.” She paused.
“And for what he put me through.”
He rubbed a hand up and down her arm. “I can only imagine what
it must have felt like—and just thinking about it scares the hell out
of me. I’m sorry you had to go through that.”
She nodded stiffly, and he could tell she was trying not to cry. “Oh,
Mulder. When I watched your arm disappear into that thing’s
mouth, I thought for sure I was watching you die.”
She threw herself into his arms, and he felt her tears on his neck.
He had no witty remark to make, and no words of comfort to offer
for a pain of this magnitude, so he just held her tight and tried not
to cry himself.
He wanted to slap himself when, after only a few minutes, what
had begun as a small tickle grew into a full-blown coughing fit.
When he could finally get a breath, he found their roles were
reversed, with Scully holding him upright, her hands offering
support as well as comfort.
“Sorry,” he wheezed.
She gave him a severe look.
“Sorry,” he said, apologizing for apologizing. Then the absurdity
of his words hit him, and he smiled goofily.
Scully laughed, and Mulder was so thrilled to see it that he forgot
about his illness and their situation and his near-death and laughed
All too soon, reality seeped back in. The grim look returned to
Scully’s face before it softened into one of concern. “We should try
to get out of here. Do you want to give it a try?”
What he wanted was to curl up in Scully’s arms until either he felt
better or spring arrived, whichever came last.
He surprised himself by telling her just that.
She smiled sadly. “I wish you could rest, too. You need to rest.”
She stood up, then helped him rise to his feet slowly. “When we
get home, and I get you into bed, I’m not letting you out again for
anyone. You’re going to stay put until you’re well, and until I’m
good and ready to let you go.”
It sounded terrific to him, but he was worried because the reason it
sounded so good was the promise of sleep–and nothing else. He
looked at her glumly. “I think I’m losing my sex drive.”
Her eyebrows set a new height record. “What?”
He let his gaze drift down to his boots. “When you mentioned you
and me and bed… the only thing I want to do is sleep.”
She shook her head. “Oh, Mulder,” she chuckled.
He looked back up, feeling silly. “It’s probably just temporary,
She clutched his arm possessively. “I can almost guarantee it.”
Laying his hand over hers, he patted it lovingly. “In that case, let’s
get started on the road to recovery.”
Deputy Director Kersh’s Office
“Bears?” Deputy Director Kersh stared at Scully over the top of his
wire rims. “Your suspect was eaten by bears?”
“The suspect was taken by bears. We couldn’t find any trace of
him, so it’s assumed he was eaten.”
“That’s your professional opinion?” Kersh challenged.
“That is the professional opinion of the White Mountain Parks
Kersh sighed. “You’re certain it was him?”
“Yes, sir He attacked Agent Mulder, and he admitted to the
murders.” Even if it wasn’t quite true, even if it was Targ who’d
told them about the killings, it was as close to the truth as she was
willing to put on paper.
“Very well.” Kersh’s eyes scanned the office. “Where *is* Agent
“Home. Recovering from the flu.”
Kersh didn’t seem in the least affected. “Really. When do you
expect him back?”
“About one to two weeks.” She was about to offer more of an
explanation, then decided not to bother. Kersh didn’t care, anyway.
“I see. Dismissed, Agent.”
Meeting Kersh’s diffident eyes with a cold glare of her own, Scully
nodded and left.
She stopped off at Skinner’s office, arranging to take a few
vacation days with his assistant. After she thanked the woman, she
took the elevator to the basement, grabbed her coat and her
briefcase, and went home.
Dana Scully’s Apartment
Clutching her bundles tightly, trying to make as little noise as
possible, Scully sneaked past the sleeping form on the couch; she
nearly dropped the three grocery bags, two lunch sacks, and one
pharmacy package when Mulder uttered a raspy, “Hi.”
She placed her parcels on the counter and returned to his side,
shucking her coat as she did so. “Hi,” she said, softly, touching the
back of her hand to his still-hot skin. “How are you feeling?”
He licked his lips. “Not too great physically, but much better
She smiled, knowing exactly what he meant. Sleeping in a cold,
dark cave and traveling on a snowy, unfriendly mountain were
harrowing under the best of circumstances, but when a person’s not
at his best, and is downright ill… well, it was enough to make a
grown man cry. She brushed the hair out of his eyes, her fingers
tracing his brow gently. “Are you hungry?”
He mulled it over for a moment before he answered. “I think so.”
He sniffed the air, and Scully could smell the tantalizing aroma
wafting from the kitchen. “What did you bring?”
“Roast chicken breast and a salad for me, and chicken broth–with
crackers–for you.” She indicated the bags on the counter. “I’m
willing to share if you think you can eat some chicken.”
He turned slightly green and swallowed hard before he answered.
“No, thanks. I’m going to stick with the soup and crackers.”
She rubbed her palm along his upper arm. “It’s okay. At least
you’re eating something.”
After they’d been picked up by the ranger–who had only
questioned their whereabouts because of the absence of the jeep
thingy–then choppered back to Portsmouth, she’d driven them
straight to her place. She’d put Mulder in her bed, from which he
hadn’t budged until this morning when he’d relocated to the couch,
and the comforting drone of the television.
He’d had no appetite for two days, and it had been all she could do
to get liquids into him. That he was now hungry enough for soup
and crackers was encouraging. She was glad she’d stopped at the
grocery store and stocked up on crackers, bread and a variety of
soups, from clear broth to the more hearty vegetable ones.
“Do you want me to bring it in here?” she asked.
He sat up slowly, and didn’t seem inclined to move. “If you
wouldn’t mind,” he said, eyeing her dining room as if it were a
thousand miles away.
“No, I don’t mind,” she assured him. Her eyes darted to her meal.
“I’ll get you settled, then I’ll eat in the kitchen.”
His gaze was equal parts grateful and guilty when he looked up at
her. “Thanks,” he said in a small voice.
Sitting next to him, she wrapped an arm around his middle,
holding him gently. “I know your stomach’s still queasy, and that
it’s my chicken you have an aversion to, not me.” She gave him a
light squeeze to emphasize her words.
He nodded, his expression one of misery. “I hate being sick.”
Taking her other hand in his, he brought it to his cheek. “I hate that
at this moment the only thing I want from you is for you to take
care of me. I feel like I should be ashamed for wanting that.” He
looked up at her, dropping their hands to his lap. “But I don’t, and
for that I do feel ashamed.”
She laughed lightly. “You’re such a *man*.”
That earned her a smile. He snorted. “I don’t feel like much of one
She brought his hand to her lips and kissed it. “I know. You’re
thinking that I’m seeing you at your worst.” When he looked away,
she brought his face back with a gentle touch. “You’re actually
hugely appealing, all helpless and whiny and oh-so-cuddly.”
“Whiny?” he whined, then immediately grimaced. “Oh, God, I
am.” He gazed into her eyes, a little shyly, she thought. “Helpless,
I readily agree.” He let a grin grow over his face. “You think I’m
Wrapping her arms around him, she hugged him. “You are
His expression changed to one of doubt. “Even on that mountain?
You can’t possibly find anything cuddly about a delirious man
begging for you to save him from past ghosts. My God, could I
have been any more pitiable?”
“I felt honored,” she told him, “that you had such faith in my
capability to deal with your ‘co-workers,’ that you would weave me
into your dream, into your memory.”
He hugged her as tightly as he could, then released her so he could
see her face. “It’s true. What I said.” His fingers intertwined with
hers. “I wish I had you back then. I’m so glad I have you now.” His
eyes brightened. “I wish I could have seen you in Kersh’s office
after I’d left.”
She blinked. “Mulder, I didn’t change his mind. You still had to go
up that damned mountain.”
“Yeah, but you tried. I know you tried.” He looked into her eyes.
“And that makes all the difference.”
She saw the gratitude and the acceptance and the love, and she
knew he was right. “Yeah, I guess it does.”
“Still…” he sighed.
“What?” She was dismayed that he’d changed his mind so quickly.
“The next time you beat up an alien and take his weapon, I’d really
like to be awake to see it.”
She didn’t care if he was sick; she let him have it—right on the
Then she got up to freshen her lipstick, since she left most of it on