Last Kiss

cover

TITLE: Last Kiss

AUTHORS: Sally Bahnsen and Dawn Zemke

EMAIL: sunrise@lightfirst.com

rbahnsen@optusnet.com.au

RATING: PG

CATEGORY: X

KEYWORDS: MSR

SPOILERS: None

ARCHIVE: Two weeks exclusively on VS10, then

Gossamer and Ephemeral. Others are fine, just let

us know.

DISCLAIMER: Mulder, Scully and Skinner belong to

Chris Carter, 1013 and Fox. No copyright

infringement intended.

SUMMARY: When your worst nightmare comes true,

could it be time to just let go?

FEEDBACK: Gratefully accepted.

AUTHORS’ NOTES: Many thanks to dtg and Vickie

for insightful beta, and to Suzanne for both beta

and medical expertise. This story was three years

in the making, and was inspired by the Pearl Jam

song, “Last Kiss.” We hope you like it!

Last Kiss

By Sally Bahnsen and Dawn Zemke

clip_image002

TEASER:

11:52 PM

Location unknown

Darkness enveloped him, moon and stars hidden by

an impenetrable black veil. Wind battered him from

head to toe, piercing his clothing as thoroughly

as the blade of a knife. He squinted against the

droplets that pelted his face, crystals that

collected on his eyelashes and

melted to trickle down his cheeks in icy tears.

Oh, God. What had he done?

Hands, stained red. Dark hair matted against pale

skin. Tight, painful breaths. Chest heaving. Pain.

All over. It resounded through his head. Thumping,

adding to the confusion. Where was he?

WHERE THE HELL WAS HE?

“SCULLLEEEEEEEEE!”

“Scully.” Softer now. Barely a whisper, the word

evaporating on his lips like the sheer white cloud

created by his breath. Swirling into the night.

Gone.

“Scully?” Puzzled.

Find her. Yes. He had to. But where? *Which way?*

Branches scraped at his face, tearing the skin,

stinging.

Run.

Faster. Faster.

*Can’t, it hurts.*

Knees trembling, weak.

Shivering. Freezing. Sleet clung to his clothes,

ran in rivulets through his hair, wound its way

down his back.

So cold.

clip_image004

ACT I

Margaret Scully’s House

Six hours earlier

Damn, it was cold!

He shivered against the freezing wind that whipped

his legs, catching his thick coat and pulling on

it until it resembled a billowing sail, stretched

taught on a gale-driven yacht. His hair blew into

spiky tufts, standing straight out from his head,

a look any punk rocker would envy.

Slush crunched beneath his feet and a fine dusting

of sleet settled across his shoulders, sprinkled

like powdered sugar. He tried brushing it off with

his fingers but as quickly as he scraped at it,

more appeared. His hands were freezing. He cupped

them to his mouth and huffed into them, his warm

breath useless against the icy chill. She had told

him to wear his gloves. He should have listened.

He jogged the remaining distance to the house and

stomped loudly up the wooden steps. Ice quivered

nervously on the railing then slid soundlessly to

the ground. A security light winked on above his

head, bathing the porch with a brilliant white

glow. For a second it startled him, and he blew

out a long breath that swirled into a frosty

cloud.

Squinting, unaccustomed to the sudden glare, he

reached out and rang the doorbell. He smiled when

the cheesy tune of “Home, Home on the Range” sang

out from inside.

He waited, tucking his hands under his armpits

trying to keep them warm, jiggling his legs like a

toddler desperate to use the bathroom.

The door swung open and a blast of warm air rushed

out at him. He shivered.

“Fox! Come in, you must be freezing.”

“Hey, Mrs. Scully.” Mulder stamped his feet and

swiped at the last remnants of ice that clung to

his clothing and hair.

“Oh, don’t worry about that. Come on in! I want to

close the door before all the heat gets out.”

Inside was blessedly warm. He removed his coat and

hung it on the coatrack beside a smaller version

of his own, smiling. Scully.

“You go on ahead to the kitchen, Fox; I’ll be

there in a minute. I just need to fetch some wine

from the basement.” Maggie punctuated her words

with an affectionate squeeze to his arm.

Mulder’s lips automatically returned her smile,

but his brow wrinkled. “Are you sure you don’t

need any help?”

“I think I can still manage to heft a bottle up

one flight of steps–even if they are a bit old

and rickety.” Maggie tossed the words carelessly

over her shoulder, the dry wit in her tone

reminding him sharply of her daughter. “Go

reassure Dana you’ve arrived in one piece. I’ve

had to listen to her fret about you driving in

this weather for the last half hour.”

Any acknowledgement he might have voiced was lost

in the creak of the basement door and the clumping

of feet on wooden steps. Rather than stinging, her

dismissal warmed Mulder, driving away the last

vestiges of chill winter air. Actions truly spoke

louder than words. Maggie’s casual treatment only

served to reinforce the fact that, at least in her

mind, his status had irrevocably shifted from

guest to family member. The feeling of welcome, of

belonging, was one he hadn’t experienced in a very

long time.

Longer than he cared to admit.

Ironic, that Maggie’s genuine affection, her

willingness to embrace him, warts and all, brought

an equal mix of pain to temper the joy. The sad

truth was that he was more relaxed and at peace

here, with her, than he’d ever felt with his own

mother. That admission, disturbing enough while

she was alive, now haunted him.

He’d tried to love his mother deeply and

unconditionally, like any good son. Focused on her

perseverance and strength of spirit. Her ability

to survive unimaginable sorrow with quiet grace

and poise. Struggled to accept that there were

parts of her he’d never know, that he’d never be

allowed to know.

Charred photographs, dark secrets, and bitter

half-truths.

She’d taken that damn self-possession to her

grave.

Mulder blinked, pulling his thoughts from their

dark plunge with an almost physical tug. He sucked

in a deep breath, brushing his fingers over the

smooth fabric of Scully’s coat, and headed for the

kitchen.

He wandered through the living room, redolent with

the spicy scent of cinnamon and apples and warmed

by a crackling fire, and into the dining room. The

polished top of the large cherrywood table gleamed

in a spill of bright light from the kitchen

doorway. Pausing with his toes just shy of the

tile, fingertips trailing back and forth across

the smooth wood, he admired the view.

Scully stood at the stove, stirring something in a

large metal pot and humming under her breath.

Burnished copper tresses brushed the neckline of a

moss green angora sweater, and well-worn denim

hugged her curves in all the right places. She

swayed a little to the tune in her head, small

feet clad in ridiculously fuzzy pink socks

scuffing back and forth against the tile.

*MINE* Mulder thought, a little surprised by the

intensity of the accompanying emotions–

overwhelming wonder, wide-eyed disbelief, fierce

possessiveness, and not a shred of shame for his

caveman attitude. Deliberately quieting the tread

of his sneakered feet, he crept up behind her and

slipped both arms around her waist.

“Hey, baby. What’s a looker like you doing slaving

over a hot stove?” He pitched his voice low and

husky, nuzzling the tender skin just behind her

right ear.

A breathy gasp and then Scully relaxed, her body

sinking into his with easy familiarity. “Making

Irish stew for the man I love,” she answered, her

own tone smoky.

“Lucky guy.” Mulder nibbled his way down the pale

skin of her throat, lips curving when she couldn’t

suppress a shiver.

Scully released the spoon and turned within the

circle of his arms until she faced him, arched

eyebrow tempered with a grin. “And he better not

forget it.”

Mulder’s smirk faded as he gazed intently into her

eyes, heart on his sleeve. “Not a chance,” he

murmured.

Before she could swallow the lump in her throat,

he’d taken possession of her mouth with a kiss

that curled her toes–literally. With a sound that

was half sigh, half whimper she surrendered, body

melting into his embrace and mouth opening under

the assault of his lips and tongue.

She experienced a hefty dose of missing time

before recovering her wits enough to remember the

pot of stew. Scully’s fumbling fingers located the

dial to shut off the burner, inadvertently

breaking the kiss in the process. Struggling to

slow her rapid respiration, she lay one hand on

his cheek, frowning a little at the lack of

warmth.

“Mulder, you’re freezing.”

He leaned over to press his forehead against her

own so that when he spoke, his warm breath puffed

gently against her lips. “Brilliant deduction,

Agent Scully. The temperature’s dropped another

ten degrees and my damn heater’s acting up.” She

felt, rather than saw him wriggle his eyebrows.

“Had to think warm thoughts about my partner to

avoid turning into a Popsicle.”

His lips trailed across her cheek before returning

to her ear and she reflexively slid her fingers

into the short, silky hair at the nape of his neck

while tilting her head encouragingly.

“To what…ah…do I owe…oooh, yeah…all this

attention?”

Mulder never faltered in his task, punctuating

every few words with his lips and teeth on her

neck. “Because…*nibble*…I can. Don’t have to

worry…*lick*…about aliens…*nip*…or

protocol…*kiss*…or the Bureau rumor mill.”

Scully’s eyes, which had drifted shut, cracked

open in time to see her mother leaning in the

kitchen doorway, lips pursed in a poor attempt to

disguise a cat-that-ate-the-canary grin.

“Very true, Mulder,” she agreed, breath catching

when he began working his way back along her jaw.

“There is, however, my… ah…mother.”

“Downstairs getting wine,” Mulder mumbled against

her lips.

“Not any more.”

Five thousand volts of electricity couldn’t have

affected a quicker halt to Mulder’s festivities.

He pulled back, the back of one hand swiping

across his lips as if to remove the damning

evidence and a flush spreading across his cheeks.

“No need for more salt, Scully, the stew tastes

fine. So, uh, what can I do to help?”

Maggie smirked, crossing over to the refrigerator

and removing a tomato and a cucumber. “You can cut

these up for our salad, Fox. That is, if you’ve

finished…sampling the stew.”

Mulder accepted the vegetables, casting Scully a

quelling look. “I think so. For now anyway.”

He retrieved a knife from the block and began

carefully slicing the tomato. Maggie took Scully’s

place at the stove, giving the pot a final stir

and examining it with a critical eye.

“Were the roads a problem?”

“Not when I left DC, but they’ve gotten pretty icy

since then. For the last fifteen minutes of the

trip I had to slow down quite a bit in order to

keep the car on the road.” Mulder set aside the

tomato wedges and began attacking the cucumber.

“Well, I’m glad you made it in once piece. This

weather is so unpredictable. Who would imagine

we’d be hit with a snowstorm this late in the

season?” Maggie added a pinch of thyme to the pot

and resumed stirring. “Dana, would you mind

setting the table? We’re just about ready to eat.”

Mulder felt Scully’s warmth along his back, one

hand lingering on his waist while the other

reached around to open the drawer to his right.

Unfortunately, she misjudged the distance and the

drawer’s corner clipped his right hip. The impact,

more startling than painful, caused the knife to

slip, slicing flesh instead of the cucumber.

Mulder hissed in pain, dropping the knife to

clutch his left index finger, which attempted to

bleed all over the cucumber slices.

“Oh, Mulder, I’m so sorry!” Scully yanked several

paper towels from a nearby roll and thrust them

into his hand. “Here, put pressure on that.”

“Don’t worry about it, it’s not that bad,” Mulder

replied, grimacing a bit as he followed her

instructions.

“Dana, there’s a first aid kit under the bathroom

sink.” Maggie’s voice was calm and unruffled.

“Take Fox in and patch him up.”

“It’s not a big deal, really, I can just…”

Maggie’s stern glare stopped his words cold.

“No sense risking an infection.” She raised a

Scully brow. “Anyway, you don’t really think Dana

is going to let you get away without examining

that, do you?”

Hazel eyes cut over to blue and Mulder’s lips

curved. “I see your point. Lead the way, Scully.

I’ll come quietly.”

Scully’s hand curled around his elbow and she

steered him out of the kitchen. Once in the

bathroom, she retrieved the kit and uncovered his

finger. She carefully blotted the blood, which had

slowed to a steady trickle.

“Fairly deep, but not very long. It’s your lucky

day, Mulder. You won’t need stitches.” Her voice

was light and teasing, but her face twisted with

remorse. She busied herself unwrapping a sterile

gauze pad and a small bottle of hydrogen peroxide.

“Hey.” Mulder ducked his head, forcing Scully to

meet his gaze. “The finger is still there. Stop

beating yourself up over this.”

She bit her lip as she struggled with the bottle

cap, which stubbornly refused to yield. “It was

careless of me to reach around you like that when

you had a knife. I should have known better.

Mulder stilled her restless hands and liberated

the bottle. Sticking it under his arm, he wrestled

the cap open one-handed. “It was an accident,

Scully. I’m prone to ’em–in case you hadn’t

noticed. Now slap a bandage on it and you can kiss

it and make it better…later.”

That coaxed a rueful little grin onto her lips.

“Deal.” She upended the bottle, liberally soaking

the gauze pad, and stretched out her hand. “Here.

Give me that.”

For the first time Mulder seemed to register what

the bottle contained. Eyes wide, he snatched the

injured digit to his chest and vehemently shook

his head.

“Are you crazy? That stuff is going to burn like a

son of a bitch! Just hand me a band aid; we don’t

want dinner to get cold.”

Scully folded her arms and narrowed her eyes.

“Mulder, you are such a baby. That cut has to be

cleaned. Do you know how many germs there are in

the average kitchen?”

He stuck his lip out, the poster boy for

belligerence. “This is your mother’s house,

Scully. You could eat off her floor!”

She shook her head and waved the pad at him. “If

that finger becomes infected you could lose

dexterity. Next thing you know, you can’t handle

your weapon and poof!–there goes your field agent

status for a week. Is that what you really want?”

Mulder stared at her for a long moment as if

desperately trying to gauge how serious she was.

Finally, he huffed and stuck out his hand.

Scully took it gently in her own, though the

corners of her mouth turned up in a smirk. “Now

hold still. If you’re a really good boy, I’ll see

that mom gives you a special treat after dinner.”

Mulder waggled his eyebrows. “Really good is my

middle name, Scully. But there’s only one kind of

treat I’m interested in and it doesn’t come from

your mo…OW! Shit! Sculleeee!”

“There, all done. That wasn’t so bad, now was it?”

Scully chirped, reaching for a bandage.

“Remind me to explain the concept of ‘playing

doctor’, Scully, because you’ve got it all wrong.”

***************************************

Midnight

Location unknown

Tiny twigs and stones pressed into his face. Mud

clung to his lips, gritty against teeth and

tongue. He spat, a half-hearted effort that

required more energy than he was capable of

expending. He knew he had to get up, keep moving,

but couldn’t quite figure out why. His head hurt

when he moved. So much better on the ground. Lying

still, sinking into the darkness.

Cold.

Bone chilling. Icy. Pressing into his body, the

damp ground soaking his sweatshirt, the frigid air

boring into every cell.

*Can’t stay here.* He knew that. There was

something he had to do, some place he had to be.

Mulder took inventory of his situation, digging

deep within to summon the energy needed to drag

his body up. He pulled his right arm close to his

body, spreading his fingers wide and pushing the

heel of his hand down in readiness to take his

weight. He tried to do the same with his left, but

it seemed to be missing.

A moment of panic seized him before he realized

his arm was trapped beneath his body. Numb and

useless.

He wished for a similar numbness in his head.

Anything to dull the unrelenting percussion

ensemble behind his eyes.

With his face screwed up in a tight grimace he

pushed hard with his right hand, managing to tip

himself awkwardly onto his side, eventually coming

to land none too gently on his back–panting hard.

And then…he screamed. A loud, ear-splitting

wail.

A blinding jolt of agony shot through the fingers

of his left hand, along his arm and into this

shoulder. His head rocked from side to side; the

immediate pain almost unbearable.

Short ragged sobs seemed to be the only way he

could get oxygen. Tears leaked from the corners of

his eyes, hot against icy skin. He hugged his arm

to his chest, and moaned.

It felt like an eternity before the gut wrenching

agony began to subside, only to be replaced by a

continuous undulating thud. It originated in his

fingers, worked its way up his arm and enveloped

his shoulder before traveling back to his fingers

to start over.

Mulder grunted, fighting both dizziness and

nausea. If he could just concentrate on the simple

task of breathing, maybe everything else would

take care of itself. Somewhere, from deep in his

memory, echoed a familiar mantra.

*Deep breath in, slow breath out. Come on, Mulder,

breathe with me. In…out…*

“SCULLEE!” His eyes flew open, blinking against

the fine flakes floating from the sky.

“Scully?” And then he remembered. She wasn’t with

him. He was alone.

There was someplace he had to be. Scully was

there. And he had to go to her.

Oh, God, that meant he *had* to get up.

Maybe if he just took his time.

Slowly. He could do it.

Take a breath. Hold it.

Support left arm against chest.

Good, good.

Careful now.

Slide right arm against body. Use elbow for

leverage. Push.

Wait. Deep breath. Another.

Okay. Bend at the waist. Sit up.

*Breathe! Breathe! No! Don’t pant! Don’t pant.*

A little more. Just a little more.

Bend knees. Brace right hand on the ground. Big

breath. Hold it. Now…PUSH!

Oh God. His knees trembled, his head pounded, his

stomach heaved and worst of all, his arm gave

another spike of pure agony.

But he was standing. Staggering to maintain his

balance and regretting ever having made the

decision to move, but standing nonetheless.

Wobbling like a newborn colt, Mulder managed a few

ungainly steps towards a tree, and giving himself

a minute to recover, hung on with the desperation

of a drowning man clinging to a life raft. He had

to stay upright. If he fell, it was all over. He’d

never make it up again.

Time had become a blur, its relevance completely

lost on Mulder. He had no idea how long he’d been

leaning against the tree until his body’s reflexes

reminded him that he was cold. The shivering sent

little sparks of pain radiating from his wrist. It

pricked at his skin like hot needles. His hand

throbbed relentlessly.

He stared at the arm cradled protectively against

his chest. It was too dark to see the damage

clearly, but he had a pretty good idea what was

wrong. Hesitantly he ran the tips of the fingers

on his right hand over the wrist of his left,

flinching when even this light contact provoked a

sharp stab of pain.

Mulder swayed when he felt a large bump protruding

from the side of his wrist. Further investigation

revealed fingers swollen to twice their normal

size, but something else caught his attention. A

soggy, wet bandage wrapped around his index

finger, cutting into the distended flesh.

He toyed with it. Gently caressing the frayed

edges peeling away from his skin. A memory flashed

through his mind.

*Oh, Mulder I’m so sorry!*

“Wha…Scu…” The words caught in his throat.

*Here, give me that*.

He could see her so clearly. Hear her voice in his

head as if she were standing beside him.

*There, all done. That wasn’t so bad, now was it?*

Blue eyes smiling at him.

Where was she? Where the hell were these images

coming from? His head ached with the effort of

thinking, the need to focus.

*If you’re a good boy, I’ll see that mom gives you

a special treat after dinner.*

Mrs. Scully. Oh God, he was supposed to pick her

up from her mom’s! But…if the memories were

real, if she had put the bandage on his finger, he

must have been there already.

Then where the hell was she?

ACT II

Mrs. Scully’s House

Two hours earlier

“Fox, where’s Dana?”

“She went upstairs to get her overnight bag.”

Mulder lounged against the banister, picking idly

at the bandage on his finger.

“It’s been so nice having her here this weekend. I

appreciate you driving all this way just to give

her a ride home,” Maggie dried her hands on a

dishtowel, turning to face him.

“You think I made the trip for Scully? It was your

stew that brought me out on a night like this,” he

replied with a crooked grin.

Maggie folded her arms, eyes twinkling at his

gentle teasing. “I’m flattered. I hope you know

you don’t have to stand on ceremony. As far as I’m

concerned, you’re like one of my boys, welcome any

time.”

The sincere warmth in her words hit him

unexpectedly on the raw. “Thank you.” He ducked

his head, but the emotion must have bled onto to

his face.

Maggie’s gaze was gentle but shrewd. “It never

really stops hurting, does it? I’m sorry if what I

said…”

“Don’t.” He pasted on a smile to soften the word’s

sharp edges. “Please, don’t apologize. It’s not

necessary. I’m…I wasn’t very close to my mother.

We didn’t see much of each other, and when we did,

we didn’t really get along.”

Maggie absorbed his words with a barely

perceptible nod. “I raised four children, Fox. We

had more than our share of disagreements–issues

as insignificant as skirt length and as life-

altering as career path. But not one of those

arguments had any bearing on the depth of my

love.”

Memories rose, unbidden. A stinging slap. Photos

turned to ashes. No note–*oh, God, how could she

have left him without even saying goodbye?*

“I know my mother loved me.” He chuffed a bitter

little laugh. “I just don’t think she liked me

very much.” He shoved his hands into his pockets

and turned away, willing the conversation to be

over.

“What’s going on? Why the grim faces?”

An arm snaked around his waist, fingers tickling

the area just above Mulder’s right hip, and an

auburn head nudged its way under his left arm.

From the corner of his eye, Mulder saw Maggie give

him a searching look before turning her attention

to her daughter. “I’ll let Fox explain it to you

in the car.” Her brow furrowed. “Are you sure you

don’t want to stay here tonight? If the

temperature has continued to drop, those roads

must be pretty slick by now.”

Mulder answered Scully’s questioning eyebrow with

a slight shrug, deferring to her judgment. After a

brief hesitation, she sighed and shook her head.

“Thanks for the offer, Mom, but we really need to

get back. Mulder and I were out of town all week

and I’ve got a mountain of laundry and a case

report that A.D. Skinner expects first thing

tomorrow morning.”

“All right, I get the picture. You two get your

coats while I pack up some of this leftover stew

to take with you.”

Mulder allowed Scully to tug him back toward the

front door, enjoying the softness of her hand in

his. He liberated her coat from the rack, holding

it so that she could slip her arms into the

sleeves, and took the opportunity to envelope her

in a brief embrace.

Scully watched him don his own coat, eyes sharply

assessing. “What exactly were you and my mother

talking about, Mulder?”

He filched her knit cap from her pocket, tugging

it snugly over her ears until only the wisps of

her bangs protruded. “Baseball,” he said, keeping

his face guileless. “She wanted to know if I

thought the Yankees had a shot at the World

Series.”

Both eyebrows disappeared under cream colored

yarn. “Baseball. My mother.”

“Sure, Scully. You didn’t think I really bought

that ‘I’ve never hit a baseball’ act, did you? I

mean, between your father and brothers–not to

mention your own tomboy past–I bet your mother

could teach me a thing or two about the game.” His

voice was light and teasing, his eyes dark and

intense.

Scully pursed her lips and looked up at him

through a fringe of lashes. “Everyone can use a

little personal instruction now and then, Mulder.”

She let her voice drop. “A little one on one.”

Mulder leaned in until his lips brushed her cheek.

“Wrong sport. But I’m only too happy to give

private lessons whenever you’d like.”

She shivered, tilting her head to bring his lips

to her own. “Oh, I like.”

The kiss was just getting really interesting when

the rustle of plastic and a cleared throat

reminded them they were not alone. Scully pulled

back reluctantly, licking her lips. She turned to

accept the bag of food from her mother, self-

consciously pressing one hand to her flushed

cheek.

“Thanks, Mom. For dinner, and for the doggy bag.”

“It was delicious; thank you for the invitation,”

Mulder added.

“I meant what I said, Fox. Any time.” Maggie gave

them each a quick hug and kiss, urging Dana to

turn up her collar and grumbling over the fact

that Mulder had neglected to wear gloves.

“Drive carefully, and call me when you get home,”

she said, swinging open the door to admit a blast

of frigid air. “And keep warm.”

Mulder leaned in close as they descended the porch

steps. “You heard your mother, Scully. We need to

keep warm. And I’m full of ideas on how to

accomplish that.”

*************************************

12:46 AM

Location unknown

It consumed him. It clung to every fiber, every

cell. It penetrated his sodden clothing and wormed

its way deep into his bones.

There was no reprieve. No escape. The cold just

was. He had come to accept it.

The cold.

The pain.

The fear.

He no longer shivered with the teeth-jarring

regularity of earlier. A spasmodic jerk feebly

offered intermittently was the only sign that his

body was making even the slightest attempt to warm

itself.

Numbness. He ached with it.

His feet were nothing more than useless clumps of

flesh crammed into saturated sneakers. His

sweatshirt hung heavy across his shoulders, the

icy weight of it further contributing to his

discomfort.

Time had ceased to exist in any organized form as

he sat huddled beneath the spindly branches of a

weather-beaten pine tree, seeking its meager

shelter.

How long had it been since his body gave up all

pretense of staying upright? Since the cold had

sapped what little adrenaline-driven energy he had

been relying on to push him forward? He didn’t

know, and now, he was beyond caring.

Mulder’s world had narrowed down to a one-

dimensional existence: misery.

He fought to keep it a bay. Clawed through the

veil of hopelessness that wrapped around his

thoughts, making him doubt what was real, what was

truth. Confusing him. Perhaps he was trapped in

the midst of a cruel dream. Caught in a nightmare

and unable to awaken. But he felt the pain. It was

real. It hurt.

His wrist throbbed mercilessly. He hugged his arm

to his chest. Fat, swollen fingers scraped

against his stubble-roughened chin. Mulder groaned

and his head swam when even this meager contact

heightened the agony in his arm.

He tried to think beyond the pain, beyond the

frigid temperature sapping him of his strength.

How did he get here?

How did he come to be alone?

If he was hurt then what about Scully? Was she

lying in a ditch somewhere? Injured? Waiting for

him to find her?

*MULDERRRR! I need your help!*

NO! No, that wasn’t right. That cry was from a

time before. A past he wished he could forget, a

past he wished he could erase from his life. But

more so from Scully’s.

*Drive carefully, and call me when you get home.*

Drive carefully. Drive carefully. Drive carefully.

*Mulder! Watch out!*

Oh, God.

His heart froze in his chest, the blood in his

veins as cold as the rain and sleet beating

against the ice-deadened skin on his face.

Memories more horrific than his imagination could

ever conjure flooded his mind. The truth. It

pummeled him. And now he knew. He knew there was

no reason to fight the cold. So he didn’t. He lay

down among the prickly, frozen pine needles

scattered on the ground. He buried his head into

the crook of his uninjured arm, letting his

painful left one lie uselessly beneath his chin.

He waited. Praying the cold would carry out its

task quickly. No longer possessing the will to

fight, Mulder allowed himself to succumb to the

frigid temperatures. As he slipped into a numb,

pain-free sleep he could have sworn he heard a

voice, calling to him on the wailing gusts of the

wind.

**********************************************

Mrs. Scully’s House

Two hours earlier

“If you’re sleepy, I can drive. It’s late, and I

know you haven’t slept much this week.”

Mulder slid behind the wheel, tossing the ice

scraper into the back seat and blowing on his

chilled fingers. At this point the heater was

doing little more than blowing tepid air. “I’ll be

all right.

You know me–this time of night is when I get my

second wind.”

“Looks like we might actually have some

accumulation by morning.” Scully squinted through

the windshield as he guided the car carefully onto

the main road. The back end shimmied when he

completed the turn, gliding across the pavement

toward the center line. Mulder grimaced and

reduced their already sedate speed.

“Sorry. It’s a lot slipperier than it was a few

hours ago.”

Scully studied his face in the dim glow from the

dash. “It’s not too late to go back to my mom’s.”

clip_image006

“What about the case report? And all those dirty

clothes?”

“Skinner will understand. And it wouldn’t be the

first time I had to wash a pair of underwear in

the sink.”

The corner of Mulder’s mouth curved. “Or better

yet, go without.” He darted a quick look at her

face, openly smirking. “C’mon, Scully. You had to

know that one was coming.”

She blatantly ignored the jibe. “The storm,

Mulder? Do you want to turn back?”

“Nah, it’ll be fine. If it makes you feel better,

turn on the radio. They should be giving status

reports on the roads.”

A soft click, rapid snatches of country, rock, and

muzak, followed by the drone of a newscast. Mulder

listened idly to the announcer describe the latest

in a rash of convenience store hold-ups, muttering

under his breath when ice began to coat the

windshield wipers and render them useless.

“What were you and Mom talking about?”

Trust Scully to remember that little detail.

Mulder tightened his grip on the steering wheel

and concentrated on not clenching his jaw.

“We talked about a lot of things, Scully. You, the

weather, Irish stew…”

“Mulder.”

It never ceased to amaze him how one word–his

name–on her lips could convey such a wide range

of meaning. Light and teasing when she managed to

snag the last bagel. Sharp and urgent when danger

loomed at his back. Low and throaty when his lips

and fingers shattered her customary reserve.

Gently reproving when his smoke and mirrors proved

no match for her powers of perception.

Mulder sucked in a long slow breath; let it out in

a whoosh. “We were discussing mothers in general.”

A beat. “Mine in particular.”

He watched Scully from the corner of his eye, saw

the way she worried her lip between her teeth.

Scully, of all people, knew this subject was an

emotional minefield. Her hand crept across the

seat to rest on his thigh, warm and solid.

“I’m sorry if she said anything…painful, Mulder.

If she did, it was completely unintentional.”

Her gentle attempt to comfort became tangled up in

the maelstrom of feelings regarding his mother’s

death. One piece of him was warmed by her tender

concern, another irritated by the kid glove

treatment.

“Scully, your mother’s only offense is in making

mine suffer by comparison.” The sharp, cold tone

of his voice both startled and gratified him.

“I’ve come to terms with what happened; it’s

over.”

Scully observed his white-knuckled grip on the

wheel and his studiously blank expression. *You’ve

put it aside, Mulder. Buried it in a dark place.

But come to terms with it? I don’t think so.*

“You know, Mulder, it’s not surprising that

you’d…”

He shushed her, twisting the knob to raise the

radio’s volume.

“…steadily dropping temperatures have

transformed the freezing rain to sleet and snow.

Roads are extremely slick, making travel

hazardous; there is a travelers’ advisory for the

entire metropolitan area. We highly recommend you

stay indoors if at all possible. We’ve already had

a five-car pile-up

on the BW Parkway near 175; police and EMTs are on

the scene…”

Mulder signaled and jockeyed the car into the far

right lane.

“Mulder?”

He indicated an approaching exit with a tilt of

his head. “That accident isn’t more than five

miles ahead, Scully. I’m going to get off the

Parkway and take back roads from here.”

She nodded and sank back into her seat, watching

Mulder guide the car off the highway and onto a

darker, quieter stretch of road. Though she wanted

to pursue their earlier conversation, Scully held

her tongue. Mulder needed to focus on navigating

the icy roads, not old wounds.

As she had countless times before, she wondered

what had possessed Teena Mulder. Not to take her

life–after her own bout with a terminal illness,

Scully could empathize all too well with the

crushing sense of hopelessness, the overwhelming

weariness. What she could not understand was the

lack of a note, of some attempt on Teena’s part to

connect with her son one last time.

Closure.

Despite Mulder’s emotional words, inspired by a

vision of his sister in a starlit field, Scully

feared it was a gift he’d never truly receive. And

a part of her she kept carefully hidden hated

Teena Mulder for that.

The sound of Mulder cursing lustily under his

breath tore her from her dark thoughts. He was

hunched over the wheel, peering through the

windshield, his body thrumming with tension.

“Visibility is practically zero,” he said tightly.

“It doesn’t help that the heater isn’t working

well enough to defrost the glass. Scully, grab

that ice scraper from the back seat. As soon as I

find a safe spot to pull over I’m going

to…SHIT!”

She’d just removed her seatbelt and was fumbling

for the scraper when Mulder’s sharp cry jerked her

attention forward. Through the curtain of sleet

and ice she could just make out the station wagon

lying sideways across their lane, its front end

hanging off the side of the embankment.

Time slowed to a crawl. Mulder pumped the brake,

struggling to guide their car around the crippled

vehicle, right hand flung out in an instinctive

gesture to protect her. Despite his reduced speed,

the slick pavement provided no traction, and their

sedan lurched into a sickening spin that seemed to

pick up momentum as they neared the stalled car.

Impact was swift and unavoidable.

“Mulder! Watch out!”

The cars collided with a bone-jarring jolt and the

shriek of metal on metal. Their vehicle ricocheted

off the stalled car and suddenly everything turned

topsy-turvy as the violent impact tumbled them

into a head over heels roll. Her hands wrenched

from the vinyl seat, Scully was thrown sideways. A

blast of frigid air enveloped her and she was

airborne for a brief, sickening moment before her

body

slammed into something with enough force to tear a

scream of pain from her lips.

Everything went mercifully black.

ACT III

U.S. Route 1

One hour earlier

Mulder came to slowly and painfully, Scully’s

scream echoing in his ears and a faint smell of

cordite stinging his nostrils. For a moment he

thought he’d been shot, and it took a few seconds

for him to realize the smell was coming from the

airbag. Carefully, he forced himself to move,

sucking in a sharp breath as pain ricocheted along

his left side. He was crammed in tight against the

steadily deflating airbag, his knees jammed under

the dash and the roof nudging his head. It took a

few seconds to work through the cotton in his

brain until the pieces fell into place.

*Scully!*

Mulder turned his head toward the passenger seat.

What he saw almost stopped his heart. A gaping

hole where the door should have been and the empty

seat beside him confirmed his worst fears.

“Scully!”

Panic deadened the pain in his side. He wriggled

and kicked till he could pull his legs free,

heaving the airbag aside with his right hand and

grabbing at the door handle with his left. But the

fingers wrapped around the handle were strangely

weak and uncooperative. His wrist throbbed and

sharp pain shot up his arm.

Leaning hard into the seat with his left shoulder,

he reached across and tried again with his right

hand, at the same time giving the door a solid

kick with his right foot. It burst open and Mulder

half fell, half climbed from the stricken vehicle.

Wind blowing straight off the snow whipped through

his hair, its icy chill flaring the ache in his

head to a squeezing agony. Dizzy and disoriented,

Mulder leaned against the side of the car,

desperately trying to force his body to cooperate.

Tentatively, he reached up and touched his

forehead, not surprised when his fingers came away

damp and stained with his own blood. Using the

mangled hood of the car as leverage, he propelled

himself forward and staggered around to the

passenger side, struggling to maintain his footing

on the slippery ice.

A crumpled form lay on the snow-covered ground a

few yards from the rear end. “Scully!”

Mulder dropped to his knees beside her, working

his hands under her body so he could turn her

over. “God, Scully!”

He scraped through the shallow layer of snow

around her, his clumsy movements reminding him of

his injured wrist.

“Scully! Talk to me!”

Gently he brushed the hair from her face. Thick

blood coated his fingers. It clung to her hair and

oozed along the side of her face.

“Scully.”

A flicker of eyelids, a slight twist of her mouth,

and then his name on her lips. “Mul…”

“I’m here. Just hold…”

“Cold…I’m…cold.” Her eyes rolled shut.

“Scully. No! Stay with me.”

He slid cross-legged to the ground, carefully

pulling her onto his lap, fear and panic making

him oblivious to any other injuries she might have

sustained. “Scully, wake up! Come on, talk to me!”

His mind whirled, eyes darting from her pale,

motionless features to the sleet and snow swirling

lightly about them.

Get her warm. Get her warm. That’s all he needed

to do. Then she’d be all right.

He scrambled to his feet, shrugging out of his

coat as he stood, but the sudden movement sent his

feet skittering from under him. Rubber soles

fought to find a grip on the smooth ice. He

managed a couple of staggering steps before losing

his balance and crashing to the ground. Reflexes

kicked in and instinctively he stretched out both

hands to break the fall. Agony, sudden and violent

engulfed his left wrist and Mulder couldn’t help

the scream.

Injured arm nestled against his chest, Mulder

rolled onto his knees and shuffled back to Scully.

One-handed he pulled at the coat and placed it

over her. Then, gritting his teeth he gathered her

up and stumbled back to the car. By the time he

had laid her on the back seat he was seeing stars.

A couple of deep breaths stilled the spinning in

his head and settled the nausea in his stomach.

He dropped to his knees by the open door, leaning

in to tuck the coat around her.

“Scully.” Panting heavily and keeping his head low

to avoid the dented roof, he clambered inside the

car and slid along the seat till he was perched on

the edge by her waist.

Carefully, he moved the hair from her face and

traced the line of her jaw with his index finger.

Closing his eyes he dipped his head so his

forehead rested on hers. “Scully. Please. C’mon,

babe, wake up. You’ve got to help me out here. I

don’t know what to do for you.”

She remained silent.

“Scully?”

He pulled back and looked at her. The pale glow

from the partly veiled moon offered little

illumination, but it was enough for Mulder to make

out the ashen tone of her skin, the bluish tinge

to her lips.

“God!”

Trembling fingers sought the soft skin under her

jaw. He held his breath and concentrated, but no

matter how hard he willed the artery to throb

beneath his fingers, he felt nothing. “NO!

Scully.” Ignoring his injured wrist, Mulder

grasped her arms and pulled her towards him.

“SCULLY!”

She remained quiet and unresponsive, her head

lolling bonelessly to the side.

His lungs froze in his chest, his vision narrowed

to a pinpoint of light. He shook his head and

forced himself to breathe. No! He couldn’t pass

out. Scully needed him.

And then he knew what he had to do. It was all so

clear to him now, so obvious.

Gently laying her back down, Mulder made sure the

coat was securely tucked in place. He leaned over

until his mouth was pressed against her ear and

whispered, “I’m going to get you out of this,

babe. I promise.” Then bringing his lips to hers,

he kissed her one last time. “I love you, Scully.”

Mulder backed out of the car and moved to the

front. He squeezed into the confined space,

desperately hunting for his cell phone. The glove

box, the door panels and the compartment between

their seats all came up empty. He searched the

back again, feeling along the floor under the

driver’s seat and…there it was. He snatched up

his cell phone and climbed outside again. It took

2 attempts before he finally hit the right

buttons, frantically pacing as he waited for 911

to connect. When

nothing happened he pulled the phone from his ear

and inspected the digital window. “No signal”

glared back at him.

“Shit!” He hurled the phone at the car, feeling

little satisfaction as it clunked against the

abused metal and dropped onto the ice. He stood

panting, right hand cupping his forehead as he

struggled to come up with a plan.

The other car. THE OTHER CAR. Get there. Might be

help. God! Was there someone in it? Were they hurt

too? Where the hell did it go?

He turned in circles.

Where is it, where is it?

There!

He could just make it out, hidden in the shadow of

several trees. The mangled rear end angled

skyward, the front buried in a ditch by the side

of the road.

Swaying like a drunk, Mulder staggered towards the

wrecked vehicle and slid to a halt. The icy ground

forced his momentum forward and he came up hard

against the side of the car. It wobbled under the

impact.

Check the doors.

Keeping his painful left hand tight against his

body, Mulder reached out with his right and tugged

on the side rear door. Then the front. Both

locked. He skittered around to the other side,

hammering on the windows with the heel of his

hand. “Hello! Can anyone hear me? I need help!” No

sound. No movement.

The car shuddered under his pounding, shifting

slightly to the right before starting a slow tilt

towards the left. Mulder tried to scamper out of

the way. But instead of firm earth beneath his

feet, the ground dropped away under him. He landed

with a solid thump on his stomach. The impact sent

a jarring shockwave of agony through his injured

wrist, momentarily robbing him of breath and clear

thought.

He came to his senses with the realization he was

slipping. The soggy undergrowth offered

little resistance as he clawed at the ground,

desperately searching for a handhold to stop his

decent. But the rain had loosened the earth and

every time he managed to grasp onto a small bush

or a handful of grass it came away in his grip.

He fought to gain traction among the tangled scrub

making one last desperate grab at a small sapling

to his left. Pain ripped through his wrist and up

his arm, a silent scream twisted his lips as his

last tether to safety slipped from his grasp.

Mulder’s rapid slide turned into a roll that

abruptly ended in a teeth-rattling jolt. Sparks

momentarily burst before his eyes like fireworks,

then darkness descended.

Gnawing, relentless pain and bone-chilling cold

tugged him back from blissful darkness. He was

lying face down, cheek pressed against frigid,

snow-covered ground. Spitting grit and snow, he

struggled first to his knees, then to his feet,

swaying, his injured arm clutched to his chest. He

managed one, staggering, drunken step, then two,

and three. Clothes sodden with snow clung to his

limbs like leaden weights and he could barely see

through the curtain of swirling flakes.

He didn’t know where he was. Numb feet and uneven

terrain conspired against him and once again he

slipped and went down on his knees, a frustrated

sob wrenched from his lips.

His clumsy attempt to scrub the frozen crystals

from his lashes only succeeded in shoving more of

the cold wetness into his eyes, thanks to his

snow-encrusted sleeve. A flash of color, vivid

against the all-encompassing white, caught his eye

and he lifted trembling hands to stare at crimson

fingers. His breath caught in his throat and his

stomach did a lazy roll.

Oh, God. What had he done?

Hands, stained red. Dark hair matted against pale

skin. Tight, painful breaths. Chest heaving. Pain.

All over. It resounded through his head. Thumping,

adding to the confusion. Where was he?

WHERE THE HELL WAS HE?

“SCULLLEEEEEEEEE!”

********************************

Route 1

1:55 AM

Assistant Director Skinner stepped out of his car

into a wind that whistled in his ears and spit

light snow across his field of vision. He stood

silently, hands buried deep in the pockets of his

heavy overcoat, and surveyed the scene of the

accident. Paramedics were lifting a gurney into

the back of an ambulance, the small figure on

board barely visible beneath a pile of blankets

and a wall of medical

equipment.

He headed toward the ambulance, hoping for a quick

word with the EMTs before they transported Scully

to the hospital.

Thick white bandages wrapped around her forehead,

a small patch of red already soaking through the

bulky padding. An oxygen mask covered her face.

She looked so still and lifeless that the AD found

himself checking the heart monitor for

reassurance.

Skinner stepped to the side as one of the

paramedics pushed past him and slammed the doors

shut. “How’s she doing?”

“All things considered, she’s one lucky lady.

“Is she going to make it?”

“Her vitals are stable and so far she’s holding

her own. We’ll know more when we get her to the

hospital. Now, I really need to get going.”

Skinner nodded, his jaw clenched and mouth set in

a tight line.

“Sir?”

Skinner turned to face the man approaching from

behind.

“I’m Special Agent Rawlins.” He held out his hand

and Skinner gave it a firm shake. “I’ve got the

owner of the other vehicle here. You wanted to

speak to him?”

“Yes.”

“We’ve got him waiting in one of the police

vehicles.”

Skinner nodded letting his eyes wander over the

bustle of activity surrounding them. Searchlights

had been erected around the perimeter of the

accident site. A small generator hummed in the

background. An assortment of emergency vehicles

parked in a semi-circle bordered a makeshift

command center. The local PD had acted quickly and

efficiently in response to his call.

The ambulance with Scully inside pulled slowly

away, the flashing red and blue lights a colorful

contrast to the desolate background of snow and

deeply shadowed trees. He sighed inwardly–at

least

one of his agents was in relative safety. Now all

they had to do was find Mulder. Again.

He turned back to Agent Rawlins. “How long before

the dogs get here?”

“ETA is 10 minutes, Sir.”

Skinner nodded and fell into step beside Rawlins

as he led the way toward the parked cars.

“Sir? We’re checking along the road. There’s a few

houses not far from here, maybe Agent Mulder

made

it to one of them.”

“Maybe.” Skinner stared into the darkness. But

knowing Mulder, he doubted it.

When he opened the back door of the Ford Crown

Vic, Skinner was confronted by a wildly disheveled

man. He could have been 60 or maybe 70, his gray-

streaked brown hair standing up in unruly tufts

around his head. What looked like a two-day-old

growth shadowed his jaw. Despite his unruly

appearance and the early hour, the man’s eyes held

a surprising clarity.

“Sir, this is Mr. Harper.”

Skinner slid in beside the man, glad of the brief

respite from the frigid cold. He refused to think

of Mulder wandering out in this weather, instead,

choosing to believe that his agent had found

refuge in somebody’s home.

“Mr. Harper, I’m Assistant Director Skinner with

the FBI. Can you tell me what happened?”

“I don’t exactly know myself. My car stalled on

the side of the road earlier tonight, and no

amount of coaxing from me would get the old girl

started again. The battery’s been acting up for

sometime, so I figured that was the problem. I

live a half-mile or so up the road, and rather

than sit around here and freeze my butt off on the

wild chance help would come by, I decided to hoof

it on home. My son lives in town, and I figured

I’d call him and get him to come down to give me a

jump.”

“What time was this?”

“Hmm…maybe ten, or a little after.”

“And what time did you get back here?”

“By the time I got home and called my son…I

guess we got back here some time after midnight.

Damn near gave me a heart attack when I saw the

state of the cars. And finding that poor young

woman in the back…” The man paused obviously

still having a hard time coming to terms with the

situation. “We thought she was dead at first but

when my son went to check on her she started to

mumble something. Couldn’t make out what she was

sayin’, but she sure seemed to be in a bad way.”

“Did you see anyone else? Was there a man with

her?”

“No, sir. Looked like someone else had tended her

though. She was laid on the back seat with a coat

over her. We found a wallet in one of the pockets

and an FBI badge inside. It had a picture of a

young fella. Is that the man you’re looking for?”

“Yes it is.”

“My son, Tommy, drove back to the house to call

the cops. His cell wouldn’t work out here. He had

some blankets in the back of the pickup, so we

covered the young lady with them before he left. I

stayed with her till help arrived. If Tommy had

seen anyone along the way he would have picked ’em

up.”

The police had been in constant radio contact

during the trip from DC and Skinner knew that so

far there’d been no sign of Mulder.

He slid his hands under his glasses and rubbed his

eyes. Something had happened to Mulder, of that

he was certain. The blood spatters they’d found

indicated he’d been injured, but still mobile.

That had to be a good sign, right? Or in Mulder’s

case, maybe not. Damn it. Why the hell didn’t he

stay with the car? Stupid question. He’d gone to

find help for Scully.

Skinner heaved a gusty sigh. There was nothing

more to be gained by talking to this man. He’d

confirmed that Mulder had been with Scully. Now

all they had to do was find him.

“Thank you for your help, Mr. Harper. An officer

will be along shortly to take your statement.”

The blast of cold air that hit when he opened the

car door only reinforced his growing concern for

Mulder’s safety. How long could he survive out

there?

“Assistant Director? The tracker dogs are here.”

Agent Rawlins pointed to a van pulling in beside

the other emergency vehicles. “We’ve got Mulder’s

coat for them to work off. Sir, once they pick up

his scent it will only be a matter of time.”

“But will it be enough?” Skinner’s eyes locked

with Rawlins’s, the implication not lost on either

man.

Skinner turned toward the police van acting as the

command center. “I’m going to touch base with the

officer in charge. Let me know when the search

team is assembled.”

“You’re going with them?”

“Is that a problem, Agent?”

“No, Sir! I’ll go and check on their progress.”

A quick nod of his head and Skinner was striding

towards the police truck.

ACT IV

2:00 AM

Somewhere off Route 1

“Fox.”

The voice was nagging, buzzing in his ear like a

persistent mosquito. Mulder mentally swatted it

away, straining to sink back into the velvet

comfort of darkness.

“Fox. Wake up.”

His befuddled mind conjured up images of early

morning darkness, chilled air and warm blankets.

His eyelids fluttered, but remained closed.

“Five minutes, Mom. Jus’…five…”

“Fox William Mulder! Open your eyes this minute!”

The familiar rebuke jolted through him like

electrical current. Mulder’s eyes flew open and he

scrambled to push himself upright, moaning as the

sharp agony in his wrist jerked him to full

consciousness. He stared stupidly down at his

soggy clothes, then squinted into the swirling

flakes, teeth chattering. His brain sluggishly

tried to process the discrepancy between dream and

reality.

“Mom?”

The name left his lips as little more than a

froggy croak, sorrow and embarrassment prompting

him immediately to wince at his own stupidity.

*You’ve really lost it now, Spooky. First you

killed Scully and now you’re calling for your dead

mother. Pathetic*. He ground the heel of his hand

into his eyes, tears blazing a path down his icy

cheeks.

“Sitting there, feeling sorry for yourself isn’t

going to solve anything. You need to get up, Fox.

Get moving or you’re going to freeze to death.”

Breath caught in his chest, heart thudding wildly,

he whipped his head around stare in the direction

of the hauntingly familiar tone. Standing not more

than five feet behind him, her elegant clothes and

meticulously styled white hair undisturbed by the

gusting wind, sleet, and snow, stood his mother.

Lips pursed, forehead lined with exasperation–

he’d seen that expression countless times over the

years. The “oh for heaven’s sake, Fox!” look.

clip_image008

“You’re dead.” Not the most astute observation,

but then what could you expect from someone most

likely concussed and definitely on his way to

becoming a Popsicle.

The irritated frown deepened. “I realize that,

Fox. Now get up and turn around. If you keep

heading in this direction no one will find you. At

least, not until it’s too late.”

The initial chill as he’d jolted awake was fading,

shivers tapering off as a seductive feeling of

warmth took their place. Mulder drew his legs up,

aching arm sandwiched between thighs and chest,

and laid his cheek on his knees. “It doesn’t

matter.”

An impatient huff. “Don’t be ridiculous. You, of

all people, know every choice we make matters. Is

this what’s become of you? The Fox Mulder I knew

would never just lie down and give up.”

Anger rose up inside him, driving back the

fogginess. His head snapped up and his lip curled.

“And the mother I knew would never seal herself in

a room and crank up the gas. I guess we’re even.”

Several indefinable emotions flickered rapidly

across his mother’s face before it settled into a

neutral expression. When she spoke, a hint of

warmth softened the words. “Not everything is as

it appears, Fox. There’s much about me you don’t

know or understand yet.”

“Really? And whose fault is that? How many times

did I come to you, begging you to open up to me

about Dad…about Sam? For years you let me chase

my own tail, blaming myself for losing her, for

not being able to bring her back.” He dug his

knuckles into bleary eyes. “Why am I wasting my

breath? You aren’t even here.”

“Of course I am. When did you stop believing in

those extreme possibilities, Fox?”

Mulder pressed his throbbing head to his knees. “I

didn’t, Mom. I just stopped believing in you.”

There was a long silence. Certain if he lifted his

head he’d find her gone, her voice startled him

yet again. “I suppose I deserve that.”

Was that…regret in her voice? Impossible. Teena

Mulder was nothing if not sure of her convictions.

“Fox, you and I may have been a bit of a

disappointment to each other. But I did love you.

I tried my best to protect you, even when you

despised me for it.”

The adrenaline rush was seeping away, leaving only

weary resignation. He met her gaze, surprised but

unmoved by the emotion he found there. “You

protected yourself and that bastard who wants to

call himself my father. As for love–I saw the

proof of your love. It was nothing but ashes.”

“There are none so blind as those who will not

see.” She shook her head impatiently. “Damn it,

Fox! The burned photos? Use your head. Does that

sound like something I would do without an

extremely good reason?”

“I don’t know. You’re the one with all the

answers. You tell me.” To his chagrin the gibe

caught in his throat and tears burned his eyes.

Suddenly she was beside him, carding her fingers

through his hair the way she’d done when he was a

little boy. The warmth and solidity of the

familiar gesture bypassed his defenses.

“They were only pieces of paper, Fox. Everything

important is imprinted indelibly in my heart.”

“You left me.” The words escaped before he could

stop them, aching and needy. He clamped his lips

together and blinked, horrified.

The fingers stilled, then cupped his cheek. “If

you believe nothing else, believe this: I had no

choice.”

He leaned into the caress, chuffing raggedly. “I

want to believe.”

The warmth withdrew, her voice turned cool,

composed. “Now it’s time you got up and started

moving.”

Overpowering lethargy weighted his limbs, his

eyelids. “Can’t.”

“You can. Your boss, Mr. Skinner, is looking for

you as we speak. You just need to turn around and

head in the right direction.”

An image popped into his mind–his boss, jaw

clenched in the classic Skinner grimace, as he

lifted Scully’s cold, lifeless body. Mulder

squeezed his eyes shut. “Scully.”

“Do you think this is what she’d want? I’ll admit

I never got to know Miss Scully well, but she

didn’t seem the kind of person to give up. What

would she say if she could see you now?”

One corner of his mouth turned up in a painful,

lop-sided smirk. “She’d kick my ass.”

His mother’s voice was dry. “Undoubtedly. Get up,

Fox. For her, if not for yourself.”

It was possibly the only thing that could have

reached him. Mulder staggered to his feet, grimly

holding himself upright as the initial dizziness

and nausea abated. “You never cut me any slack,”

he muttered, surprised to find no bitterness in

the observation.

clip_image010

She smiled a tight little smile. “You never really

needed it, Fox. You just thought you did.” And she

was gone.

Somehow he got his legs moving, one foot in front

of the other, plowing doggedly back the way he’d

come. Just when he was certain he couldn’t take

another step, he caught a glimpse of bobbing

lights and heard the faint sound of a dog,

barking. Five more strides and his right foot hit

a hole, pitching him to his knees. After several

attempts to stand he sank back, exhausted. His

ears were ringing, his vision narrowed to a

pinprick.

“Here.” The weak, raspy cry for help would have

been comical if it hadn’t come from his own mouth.

“I’m over here.”

The barking seemed to grow louder, the lights

brighter, and then everything faded away.

*****************************

Rugged terrain and slippery patches of ice were

fast reminding Skinner how many years he’d spent

behind a desk. Muscles bunched tight along his

thighs and calves ached in protest as he fought to

keep up with the tracker dogs. Despite the cold,

an irritating stream of sweat trickled between his

shoulder blades, and he’d made a mental note to

himself at least a half mile back to change his

brand of deodorant.

Within minutes of the team assembling, the dogs

had picked up a scent and were straining on their

leads, itching to follow Mulder’s trail.

The going had gotten tough almost immediately.

They’d half slid, half climbed down a sharp

incline and Skinner couldn’t begin to imagine why

Mulder would have gone this way. Lord knows, it

was nowhere near civilization and, if anything,

was heading away from the main road and his best

chance of help.

They’d been on the hunt for nearly an hour, the

dogs alternating between a breakneck pace and

lengthy pauses when the scent petered out. At one

point, they had actually turned completely around,

finding themselves heading back the way they’d

come, albeit on a slightly different route. If

Skinner’s estimation was correct, they couldn’t be

more than a half mile from the road.

Skinner’s feet were heavy in sodden boots, and he

felt the early warning sting of blisters on his

heels. He was on the verge of swallowing his pride

and succumbing to his body’s demand for rest when

there was a loud cry up ahead.

“Over here!”

A new rush of adrenaline spurred the Assistant

Director on. Picking up his pace, he caught up

with the lead team in a matter of seconds. It took

a moment for his eyes to adjust to the bright beam

of light trained out in front of him, and then

another moment for him to realize what the

flashlight was illuminating.

A few yards ahead, a body lay sprawled on the

ground, barely visible amongst the tangle of small

shrubs and spindly grass. Two members of the

search and rescue team were hunkered down beside

it.

“Shit!” Skinner pushed past the dog handlers and

crouched next to the men. He lay two fingers

against Mulder’s icy throat and nearly collapsed

with relief when he located a pulse. “He’s alive!”

Within seconds, the two paramedics who accompanied

the search party were at Mulder’s side. Skinner

stepped out of the way, but remained close enough

to keep an eye on what was happening. The wind was

brutal, knifing through his overcoat and seeming

to freeze the sweat on his overheated body. He

stomped his feet and hugged the coat tighter,

wondering again how Mulder could have survived

this.

The EMT’s worked swiftly by flashlight, noting

their observations aloud in medical shorthand that

made Skinner wish fervently for Scully’s

expertise. The one reading he needed no help

understanding was Mulder’s measured body

temperature. Ninety-two degrees was dangerously

low.

“Hey, buddy, can you hear me?” One of the men

checked Mulder’s pupils with a penlight. “Pupils

are equal and reactive but it looks like he took a

pretty good blow to the head.”

Skinner gritted his teeth, liking less and less

the report on Mulder’s condition.

“Yeah, and he’s got a fractured left wrist,” the

other EMT supplied. As he worked on immobilizing

the arm, Mulder moaned softly. “Hey, buddy! You

with us?”

Mulder didn’t respond.

“Let’s get him out of here.” They unfolded the

stretcher and placed Mulder on it, nestling warm

packs around his torso and then covering him with

heavy blankets that must have felt like heaven.

Skinner got his first good look at Mulder’s face

as they lifted the stretcher, and his heart sank

to his toes. He couldn’t help wondering if either

of his agents would survive this night.

Georgetown Memorial Hospital

9:22 AM

The maddening itch dragged him to awareness.

Mulder’s head rolled restlessly back and forth and

he scrunched his nose, cheek brushing a pillowcase

whose coarse texture and medicinal smell screamed

hospital. Try as he might, he could not seem to

raise either arm to deliver the much needed

scratch. Eyelids struggling to half-mast, he

blinked blearily at his surroundings and took

inventory.

The expected hospital room–private, thankfully.

He could feel a bandage on his forehead, just

beneath his hairline. Both arms were immobilized,

the left by a cast that extended from wrist to

elbow, the right by an IV that seemed to be

delivering fluids and, if his muzziness was any

indication, pain meds. Several blankets had been

tucked snugly around him and the blinds had been

shuttered against the early morning sunlight. His

gaze panned across the room and froze on the chair

pulled up beside the bed.

The empty chair.

*Scully.*

Mulder squeezed his eyes shut and breathed slowly

through his mouth, willing away the tears that

stung his eyes and clogged his throat. Though he

tried valiantly to conjure up the memory of her

laughing, eyes sparkling with mirth, all he could

see was her still, white face. His tongue touched

his lips, recalling how cold Scully’s had felt,

pressed against his in a desperate kiss. The last

kiss.

A whoosh of air followed by footsteps alerted

Mulder to the fact he had company. He kept his

eyes shut, unwilling to face the bland cheer of a

nurse certain to remind him how lucky he was to be

alive, when lucky was the last emotion he was

feeling. Anticipating fingers grasping his wrist,

he was surprised to hear the chair scrape across

the linoleum, followed by a weighty sigh and the

faint scent of sweat and aftershave. Intrigued, he

cracked open one eyelid.

“Mulder.” Skinner sat forward. “About time you

joined us.”

Mulder blinked, oddly disoriented by the sight of

his boss in Scully’s accustomed place. “Sir?” The

word emerged more breath than substance.

Skinner held up a quelling hand and fumbled with a

cup of water. Mulder sipped slowly from the straw,

taking the opportunity to study his boss.

Skinner’s normally pristine suit was rumpled and

he sported more than a five o’clock shadow. Behind

his glasses, his dark eyes were lined with

fatigue.

Mulder abandoned the straw, a frown pulling at the

bandage on his head, and tried again. “Sir, you

look terrible.”

Skinner snorted, shaking his head. “Mulder, I’d be

remiss not to point out that you’ve seen better

days yourself. How are you feeling?”

Mulder shrank from the intense gaze, choosing to

inspect the ceiling instead. “Seems like I’ll

live.” And that was the irony, wasn’t it?

“Yes, you will.” A pause, and he could feel

Skinner scrutinizing his face. “Mulder, do you

remember what happened?”

He nodded, turning back to his boss with jaw

clenched. “There was a stalled car in the road. I

tried to swerve around it but the pavement was icy

and… Scully was thrown from the car on impact.

She wasn’t… I couldn’t…” He sucked in a deep

breath and pushed the memory away, determined not

to break down in front of Skinner. “I tried to

help her, but…there was nothing I could do.”

“You must have become disoriented from the cold

and the knock on the head. From what we can tell,

you’d wandered nearly a mile away from the road.

Then, for some reason, you doubled back.”

“You found me.”

“Well, the dogs did. It was touch and go for a

while there. You were dangerously hypothermic, and

they’re still a bit concerned about frostbite on a

few toes. Another fifteen minutes and…”

Skinner’s voice trailed off and he cleared his

throat, discomfort palpable. “You were lucky,

Mulder. Very lucky.”

“You think so?” Dismayed by the tremor in his

voice, Mulder returned his gaze to a particularly

fascinating crack in the ceiling. “That’s a matter

of perspective, I guess.” His head throbbed, his

wrist ached, and he suddenly wanted nothing more

than the oblivion of sleep.

He could hear the frown in Skinner’s voice.

“Perspective? How else could you…?”

The door swished open to admit a young woman with

long, curly dark hair, a stethoscope slung around

the neck of her white coat. Skinner rose as she

offered Mulder a dazzling smile.

“Agent Mulder. It’s good to see you’re finally

awake. I’m Cindy George; we met earlier. I’ve been

taking care of you since you were brought in.”

Mulder gave a slight shake of his head, followed

quickly by a wince at the foolishness of the

action. “I don’t remember.”

She waved a hand dismissively. “Not surprising.

You were in pretty rough shape, but you’re looking

much better.” She tipped her chin toward Skinner.

“Mr. Skinner. I need to examine Agent Mulder for a

few minutes. You can wait in the lounge, if you

like, and I’ll come get you when I’m finished.”

After an unsuccessful attempt to make eye contact

with Mulder, Skinner left Dr. George to her poking

and prodding. He retreated to the lounge, grateful

to find it unoccupied, and claimed an

uncomfortable plastic chair. Shoving his glasses

to the top of his head, he scrubbed at weary eyes

and stubbled jaw, longing for coffee yet too weary

to search it out. Something about Mulder troubled

him, a nagging sensation that his agent’s behavior

was off. Of course, considering the concussion,

broken wrist, and exposure, he supposed normal was

a relative term. With everything he and Scully had

been through, Mulder could hardly be expected

to…

The revelation hit Skinner like a proverbial ton

of bricks. Scully. Mulder had been conscious for a

good five minutes before the doctor’s entrance,

yet he’d never once asked about his partner.

Skinner sat up straighter, replaying bits of

conversation in his head.

*Scully was thrown from the car on impact. She

wasn’t… I couldn’t…I tried to help her,

but…there was nothing I could do.*

*You were lucky, Mulder. Very lucky.

You think so? That’s a matter of perspective, I

guess.*

My God. Surely he didn’t think…

But it all made sense. The cryptic remarks. The

air of despondency. And, above all, the complete

lack of interest in Scully’s current medical

condition. Mulder hadn’t asked because he thought

he already knew.

Mulder believed Scully was dead.

Skinner stood and began to pace, eyes flicking

toward Mulder’s doorway. Ten minutes passed. He

watched a nurse enter and leave, but it was

another five minutes before Dr. George finally

emerged.

She flashed him a reassuring smile, eyebrows

soaring when he barreled down the hallway to meet

her.

“There’s no cause for alarm, Mr. Skinner.

Everything is looking good. My concerns about

frostbite appear to be groundless–his extremities

have good circulation and there’s no tissue

damage. The blow to the head was severe, but he’s

obviously awake and oriented, pupils even and

reactive. Immobilizing the wrist has removed the

pressure on the nerves in his hand and he appears

to have regained nearly normal sensation in his

fingers. I’d like to keep him one more night, just

to be safe, but he should be able to go home

tomorrow.”

“And Agent Scully?”

“Ironically, though she gave us a scare when they

first brought her in, she’s doing better than he

is. She’ll have a pretty severe headache for the

next couple of days, and I’d be hard pressed to

find a square inch of her that’s not bruised, but

being inside the car protected her from the worst

of the cold. If Agent Mulder hadn’t moved her the

way he did, she undoubtedly would have died from

exposure.”

Skinner winced. “Yes, well, about that. I’d like

to talk to Agent Mulder for a moment, if

possible.”

“I’m afraid it’s not.” At Skinner’s blank look she

quickly added. “Gail gave him his next dose of

pain medication while I was performing my exam. He

was out like a light by the time I left.”

“Damn.” Skinner squeezed the back of his neck.

“How long will he sleep?”

“Hard to say for sure, but given his level of

exhaustion I wouldn’t expect him to surface for at

least a couple of hours.”

Skinner shoved his hands in his pockets as he

mulled over the doctor’s words. “Perhaps that’s

for the best. It gives us, gives Scully, a little

more time. You said she’s feeling better?”

“Well…yes. She’s still quite weak and sore,

though. I’d planned to keep her overnight, as

well.”

“Better enough to be mobile? In a wheelchair,

maybe, if she took it easy?”

Dr. George’s brow creased. “You’re losing me here,

Mr. Skinner.”

“There’s been a bit of a misunderstanding, Doctor.

But I think we can put things straight.” He

couldn’t help grinning at her obvious suspicion.

“If you’ll show me where I can get a decent cup of

coffee, I’ll be glad to explain.”

One corner of her mouth turned up. “You’ve piqued

my interest, sir. It’s a deal.”

*************************************

Georgetown Hospital

12:06 PM

This time he fought the pull of sounds and smells,

struggling to burrow back into the comforting

forgetfulness of insensibility. With consciousness

came pain, the throbbing of his arm and head

barely more than a minor annoyance as compared to

the aching emptiness in his chest.

Scully was dead.

Sensing a presence in the chair beside him, Mulder

swallowed and turned his face away, ignoring his

dry throat’s screams for water. He couldn’t deal

with Skinner now–not with pity barely concealed

in overly kind eyes, and especially not with his

boss’s attempt to ease a void no one would ever be

able to fill.

Scully was dead.

Long ago, even before they’d become physically

intimate, he and Scully had come to terms with the

risks inherent in their job and the consequences

of those risks. Losing her was an inescapable

possibility: a stray bullet, a terrorist’s bomb,

the flick of a knife…these were potential

outcomes he’d had to acknowledge, to accept in

their continued pursuit of the truth. That she’d

been taken from him by something so inane, so

pointless as a stalled vehicle and an icy patch of

asphalt multiplied his already crushing sense of

loss and guilt.

Scully was dead.

He’d once told her he didn’t think he could

continue without her, emotion-filled words uttered

under desperate circumstances. Now, irrevocably,

he knew the truth in them.

He squeezed his eyes more tightly shut,

remembering how she’d felt in his arms just scant

hours earlier, the soft curve of her cheek, her

tone low and smoky.

*Everyone can use a little personal instruction

now and then, Mulder. A little one on one.*

*God, Scully.*

“Mulder.”

Had he ever told her what hearing his name on her

lips did to him? He’d always loved Scully’s voice

in all its varied inflections and timbres:

teasing, lecturing, comforting, seducing… He

could hear it now, as clearly as if she’d spoken

aloud. The thought that such clarity would fade

with time was unbearable.

“Mulder.”

Quiet, coaxing, a puff of breath tickling the

sensitive flesh near his ear. His eyes flew open,

his heart suddenly hammering at breakneck speed.

No. It couldn’t be. It was a trick, an illusion

conjured up by his grieving mind in a cruel effort

to blunt the pain.

Scully was…

The fingertips that brushed his forehead and

trailed back through his hair were unmistakable.

Breath caught somewhere between his lungs and his

throat and he slowly turned his head to lean into

the touch, terrified to look, powerless not to. It

seemed as if everything around him, all sound and

what little color the drab room had to offer,

faded away as his gaze locked onto wide blue eyes

and a rare, teeth-flashing smile.

“Hey.” Her hand dipped, thumb brushing his cheek

now, heart-stoppingly warm, and solid…and alive.

“Scully.”

The name clawed its way out of his parched throat,

rough, shaky, nothing like the reverent

supplication he’d intended. He saw her impossibly

beautiful smile widen a split second before it

blurred and the first, choked sob tore loose from

his chest.

Time became hazy along with his awareness. When he

came back to himself he was cradled in Scully’s

embrace, face buried in the crook of her shoulder.

Despite the uncomfortable tug of tubing, he’d

managed to bury his I.V.-impaired hand in her

hair, sifting the silky locks through his fingers

in continual reassurance that she was real.

“Scully, God, I…I thought I’d lost you.”

Scully gave a watery little chuckle and he felt

her lips brush his forehead. “For a while there, I

did too.”

Adrenaline ebbed, replaced by overwhelming

weariness and a sense of peace. Abruptly he

remembered Scully’s injuries and jerked backward,

scrutinizing abnormally pale skin and the thick

bandage near her right temple. He recognized the

fine lines of pain around her eyes and mouth, and

the slight squint that indicated headache.

Reluctantly he removed his hand from her hair,

swiping impatiently at the moisture on his cheeks

before carefully tracing the gauze with one

finger.

“Your head…”

“I’m fine, Mulder.” She helped him settle back

onto his pillows and poured him a cup of water,

her movements smooth despite the unsteadiness in

her voice. His face must have registered his

disbelief as he accepted the straw; one corner of

her mouth turned up in a wry grin. “Well, all

things considered. Still, I’d say a concussion and

a few bruises are pretty tame compared to what

might have been.” She curled her fingers around

his. “I was unconscious until they brought me

here, Mulder. If you hadn’t moved me into shelter

of the car, I would have died of exposure.”

Mulder pushed the cup aside, unable to meet her

eyes. “I left you.”

Her grip tightened, drawing him back. “You covered

me with your own coat. Went out into that storm,

looking for help, despite a head injury and a

broken wrist.”

He snorted and shook his head, not ready to

concede the point. “I wandered around in circles.

If not for Skinner we both would be…” He trailed

off.

“Mulder?”

He searched her face, feeling lightheaded as some

of the shock returned full force. “You were dead,

Scully. I was so certain. I tried… There was no

pulse.”

Scully released his hand, reaching across his body

to caress the fingers that peeked out of the

plastic cast. “Feel that?”

Mulder looked down, frowning a little at the odd

sensation. “Feels like my hand has been asleep.

Pins and needles.”

“Dr. George tells me you’d lost almost all

sensation in both hands by the time you were

brought in. Mulder, what with the cold and the

pressure the swelling from that broken wrist was

exerting on the nerves, you wouldn’t have been

able to feel much of anything.”

“You mean…?”

“I was alive. And thanks to you, I stayed that

way.”

He looked away, blinking, uncomfortable with

emotions stripped raw and too close to the

surface. Scully evidently sensed his unease and

moved on.

“You know, I was never as much at risk as you

were. Skinner says you’d wandered away from the

road, that it was pure luck you turned back to

where they could find you.”

The bittersweet pang was unexpected, though not

necessarily unwelcome. “Luck? Not exactly.” Mulder

didn’t even realize he’d spoken aloud until he

heard Scully’s concerned reply.

“Mulder? What is it?”

He shook his head. “Nothing.”

She huffed. “Really? You certainly got an odd look

on your face. Did something happen out there?”

His mother’s face appeared in his mind’s eye and

he felt the phantom touch of her fingers on his

cheek.

*If you believe nothing else, believe this: I had

no choice.*

He looked up, relieved to feel the shadow of a

genuine smile on his lips. “Soon, Scully. I

promise. I just need a little time to process

everything.”

The door opened and a nurse stuck her head inside.

“Miss Scully? Dr. George says your time is up. She

wants you back in bed.”

“Huh. She can stand in line.”

Scully cocked a warning eyebrow at Mulder’s nearly

inaudible mutter, wincing when the motion pulled

on tender flesh.

He tipped his head toward the wheelchair parked

beside the bed. “Go get some rest. You look

exhausted.”

She leaned carefully over, lips brushing, then

clinging to his until the waiting nurse politely

cleared her throat. Scully pulled away, a

lingering hand cupping his jaw.

“Are you all right?”

The fist around his heart, which had begun to

loosen the moment he saw Scully’s face, finally

let go. “Ten minutes ago I’d’ve had to say no. But

now…” Mulder’s lips curved. “Yeah, Scully. I’m

damn near perfect.”

He sank back into the soft pillows, battling heavy

eyelids and smothering a yawn as he watched Scully

climb back into the chair. By the time the nurse

had wheeled her from the room, he was asleep.

EPILOGUE

Georgetown

1:30 AM

The low drone tugged Scully from slumber, vague

memories of pain and helplessness fading as she

registered the comfort and security of her own

bed. She reached one arm behind her, frowning when

her fingertips encountered cool sheets rather than

warm flesh. With an impatient puff of breath, she

eased herself carefully upright and swung her legs

to the floor, snagging her robe from the foot of

the bed. Standing slowly to accommodate aching

muscles and avoid reawakening the now dormant

headache, she slipped the soft terrycloth over her

arms and padded barefoot into the living room.

Flickering blue light from the television

illuminated Mulder, slumped on the sofa, his long

legs stretched out beneath the coffee table and

his casted wrist cradled to his chest. Though his

gaze was fixed on the screen, even at a distance

Scully could see his mind was miles away.

“Hey.” She switched on a small lamp, detouring to

shut off the TV before dropping onto the cushions

and leaning against him.

“Hey.” Mulder’s lips curved and his good arm came

around to pull her more snugly against his side.

“Couldn’t sleep?”

“Hmm.” She nuzzled the soft fabric of his tee

shirt, soaking up his warmth. “Bed got cold.”

He chuffed softly. “Now I know my true place in

this relationship.”

“Yup. Human hot water bottle.”

The sank into silent contentment for a while,

Scully listening to the steady, soothing beat of

his heart while his fingers stroked through her

hair. When it became clear he had no intention of

speaking, she shook off her stupor and sighed.

“Does this mean you’re still processing?”

His fingers faltered a moment before resuming

their previous rhythm. “What are you asking,

Scully?”

“Something happened out in that snowstorm, Mulder.

It’s been there, in your eyes, ever since you woke

up in the hospital. Now, if you need more time,

that’s all right. But you’re not getting off the

hook until you talk to me.”

Another long silence while she stubbornly resisted

the urge to drift back toward sleep. Finally

Mulder’s hand left her hair and came to rest on

her shoulder, fingers curling in a firm grip as if

to reassure himself of her solidity. When he

spoke, his voice was little more than a whisper.

“Do you remember what Skinner told you about how

they found me?”

She frowned, slipping her hand under his tee shirt

to touch the soft, warm skin beneath. “Which part?

That you were three-quarters frozen, or that you’d

nearly wandered away from any possibility of

help?”

“I’d headed in the wrong direction, Scully. I was

very confused, hopelessly turned around, and

definitely not firing on all cylinders.”

“I’m not surprised. Hypothermia alone could

produce such symptoms, and you were concussed on

top of it.”

The fingers tightened and she could have sworn she

felt him shiver. “It was more than that, Scully. I

thought you were dead. After a while, it got

harder and harder to come up with a reason to keep

going.”

She sucked in a sharp breath and lifted her head,

scrutinizing his studiously blank expression.

“What are you saying?”

One shoulder lifted almost imperceptibly. “I’d

given up. Decided to just…let go.”

She tamped down on the flash of anger, the desire

to shake some sense into him and demand that he

never, ever consider such an alternative, no

matter what might occur in the future. “What

happened?”

Silence, then a reply so mumbled she could barely

make out the words, certain she’d misunderstood.

“Mulder?”

“I saw my mother, Scully. And I don’t want to hear

about concussions, hypothermia, and

hallucinations. I saw her, heard her speak. She

was there.”

Okay. If the defensive tone and rigid tension in

his body were any indication, she’d best tread

very lightly across this minefield.

“What did she say?”

The guarded look faded from his eyes, replaced by

a hint of the affection she’d feared Teena had

destroyed along with some childhood photos and her

own life. “She kicked my butt. Told me to stop the

pity party, turn around, and start walking.” He

looked intently at Scully. “She told me to do it

for you, if not for myself. That you wouldn’t want

me to give up.”

Scully raised an eyebrow. “Smart woman.”

She laid her cheek back against Mulder’s chest,

thoughts and emotions swirling, chaotic.

Mulder’s hand returned to the back of her head but

simply rested there. “You think it was all my

imagination, don’t you? That she wasn’t real.” The

question held no condemnation, just an edge of

disappointment.

“I would, except…” She blew out a long breath.

Time to further demolish her reputation as

resident skeptic. “I saw my father, Mulder. The

night he died.”

“You never told me.”

“I never told anyone. Not even Melissa.”

“What happened?”

“He was sitting in that chair.” She gestured at

the wingback on the other side of the coffee

table. “He and Mom had been over for dinner

earlier that evening. I fell asleep on the couch

and when I woke up, there he was. It think he was

trying to tell me something; his lips were moving

but I couldn’t make out the words. Then the phone

rang and it was Mom, calling from the hospital.”

“So, you believe I saw her?”

Scully smoothed her hand over the curve of his

hip, considering. “I believe the people we love

are not lost to us. That they can speak to us, if

we listen with our hearts.”

His body, relaxed back into its boneless sprawl,

told her she’d answered well.

“Thanks, Scully.” A tug on her hair, and then

Mulder was drawing her up until her face was

inches from his own, cheek cupped in his palm.

“But I have to say, I prefer the more direct form

of communication.”

He kissed her then, the long, slow glide of lips

and tongue leaving her body melting and her soul

filled with peace. Pulling back, he touched his

forehead to hers.

“I thought I’d never get to do that again,

Scully.” His voice broke on her name, but he

smiled. “I’m glad I was wrong.”

Eyes burning, she matched his grin. “So am I,

Mulder. More than I can say.” Threading her

fingers through the soft hair at the nape of his

neck, she proceeded to show him.

The End

Advertisements

One thought on “Last Kiss”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s