All the Best Laid Plans of FBI Agents…

All Best Laid Plans Of FBI Agents…

AUTHOR: XSketch (XSketch@hotmail.com)

WEBSITE: http://thesketchfiles.bravehost.com

RATING: R – for descriptive imagery that may disturb/upset younger

readers.

CLASSIFICATION: MT, ST, MSR, A, AU

SPOILERS: Up to Je Souhaite and then AU

SUMMARY: He’d wanted the day to go off without a hitch, not with a

bang!

FEEDBACK: I’m beyond begging now – PLEASE send it, good or bad!!!

DISCLAIMER: Mulder, Scully, Skinner and the Lone Gunmen belong to

CC, Fox, 1013 and Co., but everybody else is mine :-p

ARCHIVE: Two weeks exclusive to VS13, and then you’re welcome to it

as long as you let me know where it’s going.

AUTHOR’S NOTES: Written at break-neck (or, rather, ‘break-wrist’

hehehe) speed for the VS13 Valentine’s Day Special. The title comes

from the ol’ phrase ‘The best laid plans of mice and men often go

awry’ by Robert Burns, but I’ve no clue whatsoever as to where the

idea for the story came from, so please don’t ask LOL 😉

DEDICATION: For Waddles52, Truthwebothknow, Erin B and Vickie M…

just because 🙂

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“Mulder, can I take this blindfold off yet?”

“Huh-uh – just a little longer. You know, for a woman so dependant

on waiting for the hard, cold facts to be presented with scientific

evidence, you’re very impatient!”

“I waited six years to hear the words ‘I love you’ from your lips –

I think that proves my patience level as quite admirable!”

Mulder smiled and squeezed her shoulders as he guided his partner

into the warmly-lit restaurant. “Pfft, please! I had to wait

another two for you to return the favor, so that’s nothing in

comparison.”

After so many years of botched attempts at spending a peaceful,

stress\hassle\injury-free Valentine’s Day together, he’d booked

their ‘vacation’ time off work for the week and secretly reserved a

table for them at the most romantic – certainly, in his guessing,

the most expensive – and beautiful eatery in the whole of D.C. He’d

even insisted that they both keep their cellphones switched off all

night, playfully daring that he could last a lot longer without the

little device than her.

No interruptions from *anybody* – not her mom, the Gunmen, Skinner,

some crackpot; no ghost hunts or mutant chases or profiling; no

hospital vigils or hostage negotiations.

Just the two of them.

The thought alone made him feel warm inside, and it took a moment

for Mulder to realise the Maitre D’ was approaching – opening his

mouth to welcome them. Quickly, the FBI agent raised a silencing

hand, pointed briefly to his blindfolded partner and then reached

into his pocket to withdraw his ID.

“Mulder?”

“Shhh, we’re nearly there.”

The other man nodded his acknowledgement after checking the

reservations log, and then gestured for them to follow him to their

table, which was tucked away in a quiet corner. As Mulder pulled

out a chair and sat Scully down on it, the head waiter carefully

leant over to light the two candlesticks.

With a quick appraising glance, Mulder smiled, nodded, and then

crouched down to whisper in his partner’s ear, “We’re here.”

Slowly, he lifted the fabric from her face. “Happy Valentine’s Day.”

Dishonesty was not something that belonged anywhere within a ten

mile radius of their relationship, but as Dana blinked several times

to focus and let her eyes adjust to the light, she would have to

confess that she’d been lying earlier when she’d tried to assure him

that they didn’t need any ‘plans’ for the day or that he didn’t need

to pamper her. Considering the hell they’d been through, why

shouldn’t they be allowed to kick back, treat themselves and do

something ‘normal’?

The flicker of the candlelight in the dimness came into view first,

shortly followed by the dining set – the reflection of the small

flames dancing across the smooth surfaces. And as corny as it

sounded, Scully’s heart actually skipped a beat.

While she struggled to find words, Mulder took his place opposite

her, and the Maitre D’ poured each of them a glass of pre-ordered

wine, explaining “Your waiter will be along shortly to take your

order,” before leaving them alone.

“So,” Mulder started, picking up the menu and staring at her

expression of wide-eyed wonder, “What d’you think? Does it pass the

Scully Standard?”

More blinking, until finally she managed to choke out, “How–?

When–?…We can’t afford this!”

“Yes we can – it’s not as if we do stuff like this every day. So?”

What was that about being pampered? To hell with that: it was just

a night out at a restaurant, but compared to what they normally did,

right now she felt like a queen!

“It’s perfect.”

And just knowing he’d put that smile of pure delight on her face

made Mulder a king, silently vowing that they should switch their

phones off more often.

XxXxXxXxX

ABANDONED BUILDING

Still. Intent.

In the blackness, two eyes shielded by glass watched as the two

agents entered the restaurant next door. Joy only tampered by the

haunting memories of them arresting him seven months ago exploded

inside, and the figure turned away from the window to stare

agreeably at the collection of fifteen tall white and red gas

canisters and four petrol cans.

He would have his revenge.

XxXxXxXxX

FBI HEADQUARTERS

WASHINGTON D.C.

7:45 PM

Skinner was just putting his jacket on, ready to finally leave for

the day, when the frantic knocking came at his office door.

“Come in!”

At his behest, the door swung open and a young agent – tie askew –

rushed in, waving several sheets of pair in front of the assistant

director’s face. “Sir, earlier today Ryan Oluvetty escaped from his

cell, and – we have reason to believe – hijacked a truck

transporting highly flammable chemicals.”

“Ryan Oluvetty?” The name rang a bell, but Skinner frowned and

shook his head in confusion.

“Agents Mulder and Scully helped Violent Crimes track him down last

year after a string of bizarre arson attacks and murders.”

“‘Bizarre’?”

“I don’t know the details, sir. I just know Oluvetty’s cell was

tossed and they found a slip of paper under his mattress with their

up-to-date home address scrawled on it. An investigation’s been

opened to determine who provided the information and how it was not

discovered earlier.” The agent paused and watched as his superior

sharply straightened his coat and rushed to pick up the phone

receiver. “Uh, sir, we’ve already tried to reach them on their

cellphones and home line but got no response from any of them.”

‘Just me, Scully and a candlelit dinner – we deserve that, and I

can’t risk depriving her of that simple thing again.’

“*Dammit*!” Skinner exclaimed, slamming the receiver back down into

its cradle as Mulder‘s words echoed in his mind. “Of all the times

to finally get your act together, you do it now.” He turned back

to face the other man. “The truck driver made a positive ID,

Agent–?”

“Agent Evan Phillips. And, no, the driver was left dead on the

sidewalk with his throat slit, but a witness who recognized him from

his mugshot reports seeing Oluvetty in the area around the time of

the murder. We sent a DCPD squad car over to their house, but they

weren’t there.”

Walter began to pace the room, desperately trying to recall if

Mulder had indicated where he was taking his partner. When no

knowledge sprang forward though, he knew there was only one option

left and moved back to the phone on his desk. “Agent Phillips, if

you haven’t already, put out an APB on both Ryan Oluvetty and the

truck, and then report back to me,” he barked out, beginning to dial

the number for the only resource that could hold the key to Mulder

and Scully’s survival. “And I guarantee, if anything happens to my

agents, I’ll be opening an investigation of my own to find out why

the *hell* nobody brought this to my attention a *lot* damn sooner!”

Loosening his tie even more, Evan agreed, apologized, and then made

a quick exit from the office.

“Lone Gunmen.”

“It’s Skinner.” He cast a glance around the room to check there was

nobody else present, and then sighed, “They’re in danger. Where

did they go?”

XxXxXxXxX

Using the diffused light from the lamppost across the street to see

what he was doing, Ryan Oluvetty placed the final cylinder against

the wall that separated this building from the restaurant, paused to

wipe the sweat from his brow with the back of his left hand, and

then pulled a gas mask up to cover his face.

In the large, empty vacuum of silence, it was possible to just

faintly hear the orchestral music and chattering voices from next

door.

It mattered very little, however – soon the air would be filled by a

very different, much louder, sound.

Unwilling to put it off any longer, the fugitive reached out to open

the release valve on the first canister of compressed gas.

XxXxXxXxX

DINO TORTELL’S RESTAURANT

7:48 PM

Scully took a sip of her soup but paused mid-slurp when she realized

Mulder was silently staring at her – that familiar goofy grin

lifting his left cheek as high as it would go. She returned the

smile and stretched her arm out across the table so that they could

join hands. They’d only been here twenty minutes, but already the

evening – mostly spent, thus far, in companionable silence – was

promising to be the best they’d been able to spend together for a

long time, if not ever.

Except, there was something still niggling away at her.

“Seriously, Mulder,” she began, withdrawing her hand from his grasp,

“how’d you get a table here on Valentine’s Day?”

“You know, contrary to popular belief, I can actually wash myself,

clothe myself and make arrangements eight months in advance!” he

retorted with a chuckle. “I felt so bad about last year’s fiasco, a

couple months after I finally got out of the hospital I decided to

start planning ahead….with the tiniest amount of help from

Frohike.”

Dana was about to make a quip about the Gunmen figuring somewhere

into the whole equation when suddenly the Maitre D’ appeared beside

their table.

“Excuse me, but, Mr. Mulder, there is a phone call for you at the

front desk.”

Removing the napkin from his lap, putting it back down on the

tabletop beside his bowl of rapidly cooling soup, and then standing,

the male agent frowned and raised a questioning eyebrow at his

partner. The only person that knew exactly where they were was

Frohike, and he doubted very much the little man would interrupt

their night out unless it was the greatest of importance or most

urgent emergency.

Not wanting to worry her too much, he leant down, placed a quick

kiss on her lips and then headed to the other side of the restaurant.

~~~~~

Skinner’s car sped along the streets as fast as possible with

several police vehicles, FBI fleet sedans and two fire trucks in

close pursuit. The chances were very slim that anybody would be

evacuated in enough time to get a safe distance away, but with

adrenaline and pure fear coursing through his veins – killing off

all abilities to produce rational thought – the only thing he could

do when he heard the male agent’s voice answer at the other end of

the phone line was yell, “*Get the hell out of there!*”

~~~~~

Ten minutes.

That should be long enough.

There were sirens approaching, anyway, so there was no time to wait

any longer. They couldn’t, *wouldn’t* take him back again, ever,

He withdrew the book of matches from his pocket, took one out,

raised his head to stare at the ceiling in a silent prayer and

struck once, twice, and–

~~~~~

“Sir?”

Mulder shifted from one foot to the other. But then the line went

dead, there was a blinding flash of yellow, the power went out and

the force of a thousand elephants charging at him sent his body

flying and slamming into the wall ten feet behind him and then to

the floor, all within the space of half a second.

The deafening sound of the explosion and resulting screams didn’t

shatter the air until a millisecond after overwhelming pain had sent

him into oblivion.

~~~~~

The car careened across the road and then spun out of control. When

it finally came to a stop, all Walter Skinner could do was watch in

horror as the blast sent the truck that had been parked outside the

abandoned building into the air and then rolling into the front of

the closed store on the opposite side of the street, where it

instantly exploded into a ball of flames.

An endless shower of glass and debris fell on the fleeing citizens,

while fire and thick, black smoke reached for the heavens.

And as the vehicles that had followed him here rushed ahead to

tackle the devastation, the assistant director felt all traces of

hope die within him.

XxXxXxXxX

OFFICES OF THE LONE GUNMEN

TACOMA PARK

10:22 PM

Frohike wiped a shaky hand across his dry mouth whilst the other

kept a firm, tight hold on the telephone handset – frantically

waiting for Mulder and Scully’s boss to call with an update. He’d

managed to hack into a surveillance camera on K street and watch the

explosion just before static filled the screen, and after thanking

God for Mulder not being completely secretive about his plans, he

wished Byers and Langly were here to calm him down.

As if answering his plea, the door opened and Langly excitedly

rushed in, shortly followed by Byers – both clearly well inebriated.

“Whoa, dude, did you hear the news? A bomb or something went off

downtown – they’ve got all the emergency services down there an–…

What?”

“Where the hell have you been?” Frohike snapped, stepping right up

in front of his long-haired friend and straightening his back to its

full height. “I’ve been waiting for you to get back for ages!”

Langly regarded the shorter man and then side-stepped around him.

“Jeez, who needs a mother or wife with you around? Anyway, I’m

wondering if the military might have some involvment, ‘cos–”

“You moron, Mulder and Scully were in that explosion!”

XxXxXxXxX

‘It’s perfect – I just keep waiting for the other shoe to drop…for

some poltergeist to throw the tables across the room or-‘

‘You shouldn’t joke about stuff like that, Scully; it’s been known

to happen before and could again.’

Very distant screams and moans – almost like down a long tunnel –

sifted through Mulder’s memories and tried to summon him back to the

place where something heavy was pushing down on him, he couldn’t

breathe, and the pain–

No. He was okay here, at the other end of the tunnel where nothing

could get to him.

*Mulder, you have to breathe. Please, just breathe…*

Scully. Beautiful Scully sat across the table from him, smiling and

brushing back some errant hair from her face… He’d walked away to

answer the phone and left her sitting there alone…

*You can’t give up now – not now. Just breathe and everything will

be okay*

His senses are filled by the overpowering smell of smoke and the

cries of pain become clearer, nearer, but still he tries to back

away. He’d left her behind, and now she was out there somewhere in

the middle of those screams, alone – how could he have done that to

her?

*Don’t give up*

He had to find her, save her, make it up to her…

Everything came closer and he felt himself swiftly pulled down the

dark tunnel – like an object sucked into orbit. Smell, sound, the

taste of blood in the back of his throat, and the vice-like grip on

his chest, all constantly gaining in intensity until he finally

flung his eyelids open wide and snatched in his first breath in two

minutes.

“He’s alive!”

“Okay, let’s try lift this off him and then get him onto a stretcher

ASAP.”

Wait, neither of those were Scully! What the hell–?

Still struggling to get any air into his lungs, Mulder blinked

several times and then focused on the figure looming over him just

as an air mask was placed over his mouth,

“Sc…l….ee… S–” He coughed hard and blood trickled out of the

side of his mouth.

“It’s okay, sir – we’re here to help. Just take it easy,” the voice

from above assured. “Can you tell me what your name is?”

No, he couldn’t. He just wanted Scully, dammit!

“Sc–…S…eee… H…tss…”

A hand appeared from the darkness and started to rummage through his

suit jacket until it came across his ID wallet.

“‘FBI Agent Fox Mulder’,” the second stranger from his left read out.

“FBI? Isn’t there a director or whatever from there looking for two

of his agents?”

Skinner? Skinner was here, too? Maybe he knew where she was…

Mulder’s mouth opened to try say his partner’s name again, but an

unbearable surge of pain wracked his body, and then…the weight was

gone from his chest.

“He’s free. Come on, let’s get him out of here!”

XxXxXxXxX

“Assistant Director?”

Skinner put down a piece of the rubble he’d been helping to clear

and turned to see a young paramedic standing behind him with

something clasped in his hands. “Yes?”

“Is this one of your agents?”

The dusty, torn and singed item was held out to him, and Walter

snatched in a breath when he realized what it was. Slowly, he

opened it and stared at Mulder’s Bureau photograph. “Have…” He

coughed and strained to find his voice. It was his job and

responsibility to be concerned about the health of everybody here as

opposed to any particular individual or individuals, but after

almost three hours and digging out four dead, seven injured bodies,

worry for the status of his two friends had only increased in

precedence. “H-have you found him?”

“He’s just being loaded into that ambulance over there.” The

paramedic pointed toward the vehicle forty feet behind him, and

began to say something more, but Skinner was already running away in

that direction.

XxXxXxXxX

TACOMA PARK

10:39 PM

The phone rang to life and Frohike answered before it had chance to

complete the first trill. “Skinner?”

Byers and Langly moved closer to listen in too.

“Yeah,” came the unsteady response down the line. “They just found

Mulder, and he’s on his way to the hospital.”

All three Gunmen glanced at each other and swallowed hard. Byers

was the first to dare ask, “How is he?”

“Not very good, but he was conscious when I saw him. He’s having a

lot of problems breathing, and they’re worried one of his broken

ribs has punctured a lung.” Pause and deep breath. “They’ve taken

him to D.C General…Can you–…”

“Don’t worry,” John assured, knowing the assistant director couldn’t

speak the question out loud for fear of his job, especially not in a

public place. “We’ll keep an eye on his progress and check they’re

giving him the right medication.”

“Thanks.”

Frohike took that as his chance to jump in, and quickly queried,

“What about Agent Scully? Wasn’t she with him?”

There was a long, silent pause.

“Walt?”

“No, he wasn’t with her,” Skinner finally sighed. “I was on the

phone, telling him to get out of there…”

At the other end of the connection, the assistant director removed

his glasses and lowered to sit on the curb. He kept hearing the

clatter and then the mighty boom just before the line had gone dead

over and over in his head, like a broken record. But, as he looked

back over at the volunteers that had come, even at this time of

night, all helping to clear the debris and save lives, Walter knew

there was no time to dwell on that or let it haunt him.

…Especially when there was still one more thing he had to do…

He thanked the guys again for their help, hung up, and then dialed

another familiar number. There were a lot more rings this time, but

finally, sleepily, a voice at the other end coughed, “Hello?”

“Mrs. Scully, it’s Walter Skinner…”

XxXxXxXxX

Maggie had arrived the following day at the site of the explosion,

where a new shift of helpers (as well as some still from the night

before) had been doing all they could to not let hope die for those

buried under the rubble. Feeling useless, though, she’d then made

her way to the hospital to keep vigil at Mulder’s bedside in place

of her daughter.

A week later, Dana still hadn’t been rescued, and Fox had barely

gained consciousness for long enough to remember what his name was,

let alone what had happened.

“I promise you, I’m keeping completely on top of this twenty-four

seven,” Skinner sighed, preparing to take another large swig from

the plastic cup of coffee as he and Mrs. Scully sat in the almost-

empty hospital cafeteria. And he was telling the truth – he’d

hardly had any sleep at all over the last eight days. “If I could

snap my fingers and reverse time or have Dana walk through that

door, you know I would.”

The older woman nodded, but no amount of assurances or promises

would calm her soul. Her daughter was missing, and all she kept

hearing on the news and from the police was that the longer those

buried remained there, the less likely they were to come out alive.

“When…When I saw the destruction–… The thought of her trapped

alone under all that debris in pain, unable to move…” Smoke still

rising from the leveled ruins, the fire across the street under

control but still not completely out, body bags waiting expectantly

to be filled on the sidewalk, and bloodied bodies–…. It was stuff

she’d seen on the news and in the movies hundreds of times, but to

have actually stood there in the middle of it all, knowing her

youngest daughter was under there somewhere, made the reality hit

home far too painfully. “P-part of me prayed that…that she died

instantly…to stop her suffering… W-what kind of m-m-mother does

that make m-me?”

Skinner lowered his head for a moment as he contemplated his next

words, and then lifted it again to reply, “What kind of mother would

it make you if you hadn’t prayed for that?”

Both fell silent in thought.

XxXxXxXxX

D.C GENERAL HOSPITAL

FEBRUARY 23rd, 2006

2:16 PM

So thirsty.

So tired…

Dark dankness surrounded him, but he couldn’t move – something had

him pinned down – and his head hurt like hell. There were voices

and the sound of movement somewhere nearby, but the blackness made

it impossible to see, so he tried to call out to them… Only to

find his voice wouldn’t work.

If only…Mulder were here?

“Scully!”

Maggie sharply looked up at the scratched, unused voice’s

exclamation, and stared wide-eyed at the figure sitting bolt-upright

in the hospital bed. “Fox! Oh, my God…” She quickly stood up

and tentatively combed a hand through his hair. “I’ll go get the

doctor.”

She was out the door, tears beginning to well in her eyes, before he

could ask any questions

Mulder slumped back against the pillow – the sharp stab ripping

through his left shoulder making him wish he’d been more gentle.

What was going on? What had happened? He remembers watching

Scully as she’d slurped at spoonful after spoonful of soup, and

then feeling his heart lift to unknown heights when she’d sensed

the direction of his unwavering gaze and looked up with that

beautiful smile. He remembers the head waiter spoiling the moment

by turning up at their table and announcing there was a phone call

for him.

Walking away, but casting one last glance over his shoulder before

he got too far.

Picking up the receiver and hearing Skinner’s frantic order over the

line.

And then….nothing but excruciating, torturous pain searing through

his whole body.

He thinks there might have been something after that about somebody

stealing his FBI badge, but that might just be the Demerol working

overtime…

Eyes slip shut. The fact that Maggie had been at his bedside

instead of Scully only heightens his panic and desire to shut out

the world.

…They’d been celebrating Valentine‘s Day…how the hell had it

gone so wrong?

XxXxXxXxX

“Broken leg, ribs, dislocated shoulder, fractured pelvis,

Haemothorax, a black eye, smoke and dust inhalation…Man, are you

trying to get some kind of record for injuries? They shot you full

of so many different types of drugs, we were worried you might get

addicted!”

Mulder gave a half-hearted smile at Langly’s comment, but he didn’t

reply – not even with the kind of quip he would have returned by

instinct any other day. Instead, he let out a deep sigh and stared

longingly at the room’s entrance. The last twenty-four hours had

brought doctors, nurses, more glorious Demerol, Skinner, Karen

Kosseff ‘suggesting’ (though, more like ‘demanding‘, in his opinion)

he make an appointment to see her upon his release from the

hospital, the Gunmen, news reporters that had gotten past security,

interrogating FBI agents, confirmation of the discovery of Ryan

Oluvetty’s dismembered remains, and unadulterated boredom…but no

Scully or news of her.

‘You can’t give up hope,’ Skinner had insisted in the dark, early

hours of this morning.

He wouldn’t give up, but trying to be strong for both himself and

Mrs. Scully was taking its rapid toll on his injured soul.

Suddenly, the door swung open and his boss rushed into the room,

panting, “They’ve found her, and she’s alive!”

Despite his incapacitating injuries, Mulder pulled the bed covers

back with his good arm, and struggled to remove his cast-clad leg

from the suspended rest. All three Gunmen and Skinner quickly

moved to stop him, though, and a brief struggle ensued.

“I have to see her!”

“And you will,” the A.D choked out, “but slowly.”

XxXxXxXxX

FEBRUARY 24th, 2006

6:15 PM

Both the doctor and Maggie Scully looked up as Mulder’s wheelchair

was carefully-but-urgently pushed into Scully’s room by Skinner (the

Gunmen shortly behind, but hanging back to wait at the entranceway).

“What’s wrong with her?” the injured agent’s quiet, strained voice

asked.

Dana lay unconscious, her head bandaged and a respiration mask over

her mouth. Apart from a few cuts and abrasions, and casts on both

feet, there didn’t seem to be any other injuries, but he knew to

expect differently…

“She’s very, *very* lucky,” Dr. Drummond assured, watching as Mulder

– now carefully positioned at the bedside – tightly clasped Scully’s

left hand in both of his own and then tenderly kissed her palm.

“She’s suffering from dehydration, hypothermia and serious smoke/

dirt inhalation, both ankles are broken, and there’s a nasty bump to

her head, but, otherwise, she’s doing okay. All X-rays have given

me no reason to believe there’s any internal damage, and I’ve

scheduled an MRI for tomorrow morning but expect that to be normal

as well. I’d go as far as to call it a miracle considering how long

she was trapped there; If it hadn’t been for the partition that

pinned her down shielding her from flying debris, and the water in

the toilet bowl–… Well, I’m sure I don’t really need to tell you.”

Maggie gave a silent nod and closed her eyes as she thanked God for

the millionth time.

Mulder was confused, though, as he backtracked over what Drummond

had said. ‘Toilet bowl’? ‘Partition’? That made no sense – he’d

left her at the table…His memory may be foggy, but that he *could*

remember with clarity. “Toilet?”

“She was dug out from what remained of the restroom,” Skinner cut in

to explain.

“But… B-but…”

“Even…FBI agents…need…to use the…little girls’…room…from

…time to…time, Mul-der…”

Maggie, Mulder, Skinner and the Gunmen all snatched in a breath at

the sound of Dana’s whispered, choked retort from behind the plastic

mask. She smiled at their reaction and fixed her eyes on her

partner’s – silently asking if he was okay, and reassuring him that

she was. When he gave an imperceptible nod that practically yelled

‘now that I know you are’ to nobody but her, she visibly relaxed and

then shifted to glance at her mother, who returned the smile she

received.

Fifty-two people had died in the explosion, but somehow – by Fate or

Chance or pure luck – they were still kicking back… Miracles were

so underrated.

XxXxXxXxX

—————

EPILOGUE

—————

K STREET

MARCH 17th, 2006

11:22 AM

Walter Skinner’s car pulled up at the end of the street, but the

three figures remained inside for a contemplative moment.

Due to a sudden chest infection that had endangered the stitches in

Mulder’s lung and left him barely able to breathe, the hospital had

kept him in for the next three weeks. Scully had been given her

release papers the week earlier, but had remained constant and

vigilant at her partner’s side.

Today was his release day, though, and here was where they knew they

had to come before finally heading home.

While Mulder awkwardly slipped out of the car and rested himself

comfortably on the hospital-issued crutches, Skinner pulled out the

folded wheelchair, opened it, and then helped Scully get into it.

“You sure you don’t want me to go with you?” their boss asked,

placing a small bouquet of flowers on Dana’s lap.

Both agents cast a glance in the direction of where the restaurant

had stood, and then shared an agreeing nod.

“We need to do this,” Dana sighed, gripping the wheels of the chair

in both hands.

It had been the first time they’d seen the destruction, apart from

on TV. Burnt, bent scaffolding and minimal rubble was all that was

left to indicate there had ever been anything there, whilst nothing

remained of what had been the abandoned building next door. The

store opposite had hardly faired any better.

They didn’t need to close their eyes to hear the screams and moans

echoing in their heads.

“Cupid’s arrow must have ricocheted off of something and hit the gas

tank,” Mulder lamely joked. When she didn’t respond, he quickly

added – more seriously, “You know, the annoying thing is, I don’t

even remember who Ryan Oluvetty was!”

“Whether we do or don’t, it doesn’t really matter,” Dana sighed

after a pause. “We can’t stop arresting people in case they come

back for revenge. It wasn’t our fault…It wasn’t *your* fault.”

She pinned him with her ice blue glare. “I know you keep blaming

yourself, but you have to stop. I checked the casefile: he didn’t

just want us – he wanted to take as many people out as possible. If

it hadn’t been the fifty-two in there” – a hand shot out to point at

the shattered bricks and several burnt, upturned tables – “it could

have very easily been one hundred and fifty-two elsewhere on another

day.”

“If we’d taken our cellphones–”

“It was Valentine’s Day! We deserve to have our own time, and we

know the only way to do that is completely cut ourselves off from

the FBI, my mom…everything… It was such a beautiful evening, and

that was the only reason why I went to the restroom – for once we

were like a normal couple, and the thought moved me to tears, so

when you went to answer the phone, I thought it would be best to

touch up my make-up. If I hadn’t been in there when the blast went

off–”

“I know.”

There were emotions and memories and theories tearing away at their

senses that needed to be shared and talked out, but the physical and

mental pains were still too raw. Mulder realized then, as he

watched Scully lean over to place the bouquet down on the sidewalk

amongst the other tributes, that maybe the Bureau counselor’s demand

for an appointment wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

“So,” he coughed, trying to lighten the mood a fraction, “Home and

pizza next Valentine’s?”

Scully glanced down at his plastered leg and let out a small burst

of laughter before staring back up at him. “How about we leave the

plans til last minute?”

“Yeah…That’s probably best…”

Planning to celebrate both their love and their lives as soon as

they got home, the couple turned away from the crime scene and

slowly – side-by-side – made their way back to Skinner’s parked

vehicle.

“Happy Belated Valentine’s Day, Scully.”

“Happy Valentine’s Day, partner.”

THE END

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