Shooting Hoops

TITLE: Shooting Hoops

AUTHORS: XSketch and Sally Bahnsen

EMAIL: XSketch@hotmail.com, salbahnsen@optusnet.com.au

CATEGORY: MSR, MT, A

RATING: PG-13…..maybe a little more for violence and language

SUMMARY: One crazed fan, one ignorant athlete, one game and two FBI agents do

not mix. Could this night *really* get any worse? Hell yes!

FEEDBACK: Even fanfic writers need nutrition! Why not feed two today? You know

you want to… <g>

DISCLAIMER: Mulder and Scully are our slaves to be emotionally or physically

tortured whenever we wish. Huh? Oh, apparently there’s new rules: some guy

called CC and a big ol’ corporation called Fox own ’em 😦 Just as well we get no

monetary benefit out of this then, isn’t it? LOL

ARCHIVE: Two weeks exclusive to VS13

AUTHORS NOTES: Written with love for the VS13’s Spring Sports Special. We should

also note that we took some artistic license and swapped round the venue for the

last basketball game of the series because it was more fun to have it at The Garden,

so please don’t come chasing after us with pointy items unless it’s to poke us into

writing more 😉

DEDICATION: (Sally) This story is dedicated to the gals at MR. But especially the

nubester, for being a worthy opponent and for making me smile everyday.

(Sketch) For Nubsie, all at MR, and my writing buddy on this, Sal – this has been an

awesome writing experience, thank you sooo much 🙂 Also a nod to Kathy Bates,

whose portrayal of Annie Wilkes in the film version of Stephen King’s ‘Misery’ creeps

the living hell out of me more than Donnie Pfaster, even to this day! And, lastly, Mr

P.

====================================================

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The ball bounced – one, two, three – against the shiny wooden

boards. One foot fell gracefully in front of the other before both

legs coiled and then propelled the body they were attached to into

the air. Hundreds of flashbulbs flickered to life for a hundredth of

a second, but the ball’s aim remained on target as a long, muscular

arm launched it ever forward.

The LED clock on the scoreboard counted down another second.

2.

The whole crowd of spectators snatched in a breath; waiting,

anticipating.

Yet somewhere above and beyond the crowd, perched precariously on a

metal rafter as far from where the light reached as possible, a very

unimpressed soul shook her head, wiped away the beads of sweat

blurring her vision, and then lowered it back to stare through the

scope. A black barrel sliced through the shadows as she sought out

her prey once more, and–

1.

With purpose, the basketball left the palm’s cradle, and spun through

four revolutions until it hit the metal hoop it had been heading

towards, where it then hesitantly teetered for an instant – chance,

air current, weight, Newton’s theory of Gravity and one hundred other

factors congregating to decide the orb’s fate, whilst Todd Hooper

(who had put it into play) landed back on his feet and prayed for

this game-winning two-pointer.

The shadow-shrouded figure didn’t care either way, though. For

years, up until just a few days ago, the result scores of her

favorite sporting team’s games had meant everything – the world – to

her, but then the final straws of patience, loyalty and tolerance had

snapped, and now the only thing that did matter was taking down

Hooper for being such an ignorant, arrogant pig.

One lousy autograph! That was all the lonely stranger had asked for

in her dozens of letters to the star athlete, and yet no reply had

come. So, it was time for the good ol’ logic to kick in: if one

devoted fan wasn’t allowed to have the simplest of things like a

signature scrawled no-matter-how-quickly on any item at hand, why

should anyone else have the chance?

0.

A finger rested against the trigger and started to apply pressure.

The orange Spalding was finally given its decision and fell through

the hoop.

Spectators went wild as the horn to mark the end of the game blew.

Crosshairs remained fixed on Hooper’s head, and the assassin was just

about to pull the trigger completely back, when suddenly a blinding

flood of camera flashes illuminated the whole arena and members of

the audience swarmed onto the court.

One more attempt to find and shoot down the player, but the chance

had come and gone within the blink of an eye.

There was no time to regret or linger, though – the assault rifle had

to be packed away and an escape needed to be carried out before the

janitors and security did a sweep of the place. For now, the only

consolation to take away was the fact that there would always be

another chance…

And, with a small smirk, the figure already decided upon when that

next time should be – in one week, during the team’s game against the

New York Knicks.

Now, that would really get some attention.

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

Two cups of coffee in a cardboard tray and a box of Krispy Kreme

donuts were balanced precariously in Scully’s left hand while her

briefcase hung like a lead weight from her right. She kicked twice at

the door with her right foot before it swung open wide enough for her

to squeeze through.

Mulder sat with his feet propped on his desk, his tie loosely knotted

and the top button of his shirt undone. It was barely 11 am, yet he

looked as if he’d put in a full 8 hours. There was even the beginning

of a 5 o’clock shadow darkening his jaw line. The handset of his

phone was pressed between his ear and shoulder, both hands busy

twirling a freshly sharpened pencil. He smiled when Scully entered

the office, dropped the pencil and made a half-hearted effort at

shuffling files to make space for the coffee and donuts.

Scully caught the tail end of Mulder’s conversation as she plunked

her Krispy Kreme bounty and coffee tray on the desk.

Mulder nodded his thanks at Scully and spoke into the handset. “Okay,

yeah. Tonight? You can? Here? Yeah, yeah, that’ll be fine. Okay,

thanks. No, really. I owe you one– No, make that a hundred! Yeah,

you too. Bye.”

Scully nearly jumped out of her skin when Mulder slapped his desk and

let out a very uncharacteristic ‘yee hah’! When he stood and did

what Scully could only describe as a happy dance, she was seriously

considering calling 911. Instead she stood very still and raised her

left eyebrow as both crossed over her chest.

“Is everything okay, Mulder?”

He came around to the front of his desk, placed his hands on Scully’s

shoulders and planted a wet, sloppy kiss on her forehead. “You are

not going to believe what just happened!”

“Try me.” Her eyebrow remained embedded in her hairline, and it was

taking every ounce of self-restraint not to reach up and check his

pupils for evidence of a head injury.

Mulder released her shoulders and did a quick foxtrot kind of pace

around the office, before coming to a halt in the middle of the

room. In a very ‘Adam West’ sort of way, he then pointed his finger

at the ceiling while turning to face Scully and announced, “Have I

got a surprise for you?!”

“Hmmm.”

Pausing only long enough to check his watch, he raced back to the

working side of his desk and this time enthusiastically gathered his

strewn files into a neat pile. “We’ve gotta get this report written

for Skinner. I wanna be out of here by 2 o’clock.”

“Mulder, will you stop, and just tell me what the hell is going on?”

“I’m taking you out tonight, Scully. The tickets are being FedExxed

to the Hoover Building even as we speak, and I think you’ll be pretty

pleased when you see where we’re going to be seated.”

Scully felt herself relax and a warm, gooey feeling pooled in the pit

of her stomach. Mulder was going to surprise her with a romantic

night out. He’d organized tickets. Great seats, he’d said. She

imagined all kinds of scenarios. Andrew Lloyd Webber had top

billing, or could it be the Kirov Ballet? Had she hinted to Mulder

that she would love to see their performance of William Forsyth’s

masterworks?

“Come on Scully, quit daydreaming, we’ve got work to do.” She glared

at her partner for interrupting her visionary splendor and watched as

he took a long swig of his coffee around a huge mouthful of glazed

cream-filled donut – a little dollop of custardy cream clinging to

the corner of his mouth. For one mad second Scully wanted to leap

across the room and lick it off… But then she came to her senses,

straightened her hair, and wiped two sweaty palms along the side of

her skirt. Taking a delicate sip of her own coffee, she gave herself

a mental slap, metaphorically rolled up her sleeves and seated

herself behind her desk to write her own report. The quicker the

paperwork was done, the quicker they could leave the office and the

quicker her fantasizing would become a reality.

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

MULDER/SCULLY RESIDENCE

3:12 PM

Scully sunk down in the warm tub of water, bubbles fizzing and

popping around her ears. She felt wonderful. Mulder had picked up the

FedEx envelope from the front desk of the FBI building around 1:30pm,

still refusing to tell her exactly where they were going, only that

she would get the surprise of her life.

She still couldn’t believe that Mulder had organized this himself. Oh

god! What was she going to wear? If she didn’t know where they were

going, how would she know how to dress?

“Scully?” Mulder rapped lightly on the door and opened it just wide

enough to peek in. “Are you nearly done? We need to think about

leaving – I want to beat the crowd so we can get something to eat.”

He was taking her to dinner, too? Oh, Mulder. She smiled

indulgently. “Okay, I won’t be long.”

Five minutes later, Scully was shaved in all the right places, blow-

dried, talcum-powdered, moisturized, and deodorized. Dressed in only

her underwear and bathrobe she was applying the finishing touches to

her make up when Mulder again rapped on the bathroom door, this time

a little more forcefully. He opened the door and came in, clearly

agitated. “Um, Scully, we really need to get on the road.”

Scully tucked her mascara back in its cover and reached for her

lipstick. “You know, Mulder, you better tell me where we’re going or

I’m not going to know what to wear.”

“Dress warm. I’d suggest jeans, sweater and probably some kind of

jacket.”

Scully stared at Mulder’s reflection in the mirror. “Jeans? But…”

But Mulder wasn’t listening. He was eyeing his watch as if he could

control the time by mind power alone.

His earlier happy dance in the office had definitely morphed into the

dance of the impatient. “Scully? Will you be much longer? Tip off’s

at 7:30 and I really want to grab a bite to eat before the start.”

Scully abandoned her lipstick and turned slowly to face her partner.

“‘Tip off’?”

“Yeah, the game starts at 7:30.”

“What game?” She took a step towards him.

Mulder sighed and grinned. “Okay, I guess I’m going to have to tell

you. I really wanted this to be a surprise, but…I have got

corporate seats for the Knicks versus Nets game. We will be

practically court-side where we can get up close and personal with

all the action. Scully you’ll be able to smell the sweat!” Mulder’s

smile was so wide she was worried he’d rupture a cheek muscle.

Meanwhile, she could feel her own face contorting into a deep frown –

the earlier warm fuzzy feeling in her stomach quickly turning into a

solid lump of ice.

She had to swallow twice before she could bring herself to speak.

“We’re…we’re going to a basketball game?”

“Scully, not just any basketball game. The *Knicks* versus The Nets

game. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get tickets for this

game?”

Actually, no, she didn’t. It wasn’t something she thought about on a

regular basis. In fact, truth be told, it wasn’t something she had

ever thought about at all, in her whole life. She had reservations

about baseball, but at least she liked it – understood it… But

Basketball? It was like another language that she had no interest in

learning whatsoever.

Scully took a long look at her partner, tamped down her rising fury

and considered the way he was practically bouncing off the bathroom

walls with unbridled enthusiasm. He was genuinely pleased with

himself, and just as genuinely expected her to share his excitement.

There was an empty, hollow feeling in her gut, her eyes stung with

disappointment, and when she swallowed she noticed a nasty lump

hovering at the back of her throat, but she was not going to let

Mulder see how stupid she felt. So, in a quiet voice, she said, “I

better finish getting ready or we’ll be late,” and then turned back

to the mirror to pick up her lipstick.

Mulder came up behind her, wrapped both arms around her and squeezed

her in a big bear hug. “This is going to be great, Scully. It’s a

once in a lifetime opportunity.” Scully noticed his broad grin had

settled into a wistful smile. He was already at the game, imagining

the plays in his head. He gave her one last squeeze, a gentle kiss to

the crown of her head, studied his watch one more time then

announced, “I’ll go bring the car around while you get dressed.” His

exit reminded Scully of a big Afghan pup, bouncing on all fours.

The surprise of her life, she reflected dubiously. Yeah, he was right

about that.

Scully sighed. God, she loved that man, but sometimes he just really

pissed her off!

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

MADISON SQUARE GARDEN

APRIL 19th, 2006

6:48 PM

Like a vulture patiently waiting for its next meal to drop dead on

the ground below it, the slim, solitary figure dressed all in black

rested against one of the room supports high up in the eaves of the

stadium and intently watched the deluge of sports fans (most adorned

in their extortionately expensive yet tacky team paraphernalia) pour

in and fill the seats.

Tonight was the night.

Tonight *had* to be the night: it was the last game of the series for

both teams (neither of which had a chance of going through to the

playoffs whatever the outcome of this match-up anyway), and Hooper

had been allowed to live a week too long – there could be no re-

planning and waiting for the next season.

No, tonight.

Definitely tonight, no matter what it took or who she needed to take

out to get to that conceited, obnoxious, ignorant, self-centered

bastard who didn’t even care about the people that essentially paid

his wages enough to give one measly autograph.

The figure reached for the long black duffel bag and pulled it closer

to comfort herself.

‘He’ll learn. They all will.’

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

“I still say it wasn’t right to do that! What if Skinner finds out

you’ve been recklessly waving your ID credentials around just to get

special treatment?”

“Scully, if I hadn’t we’d still be stuck at the damn turnpike!”

“Yes, but I don’t think a du–…a basketball game constitutes as a

‘federal emergency’.”

As he handed over their tickets and they finally filed into the arena

at twenty-past-seven, Mulder shot his partner an unappreciative

glance, and Dana felt the last glimmer of hope she’d been clinging to

that this was just a bad joke fade away – taking with it any argument

she may have had left within her.

‘Dumb, pointless basketball game…’

His features quickly melted into a smile as he looked toward the

court, and before she could say anything more there was the familiar

feel of his hand pressing against her back. “Come on, Scully, let’s

go find our seats.”

Shuffling forward – moved by the force of his hand as opposed to her

own will – Scully blinked several times. “But we haven’t eaten since

this morning!”

“We’ll just have to grab a ‘dog or something during the half-time

period,” he dismissed, never faltering in his progression toward the

courtside. “If you hadn’t spent so long in the bathroom or the

traffic hadn’t been so clogged we woulda gotten here in time to get

something more an–…” He trailed off, looked down at their ticket

stubs and then at the seating either side of them, mumbling,

“…section 27, row c, seats– Aha! Here we are! Isn’t this great?”

His words ran over and over in Scully’s head as he directed her to

their seats. She appreciated that this meant a lot to him, and was

even pleased to see that joyous, excited, relaxed aura surrounding

him, despite the cost of her own boredom and disappointment (for

God’s sake, she loved him – of course she wanted to see him happy!),

but if he ignored her or made one more snide crack, she would not be

held responsible for any physical damage she would be driven to incur

upon him.

Let down, starved, and out of place… Scully highly doubted this

night could possibly get any worse.

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

The game started on time without a hitch, and everything seemed to be

going smoothly.

Except, for one embittered soul, the plan was going far from well.

The center, Todd Hooper, hadn’t started the game – wasn’t even on the

substitutes’ bench.

High above the court, the crazed fan gripped frantically at the black

gun bag beside her on the framework. This couldn’t be happening…

Dammit, she deserved her revenge!

Tears of anger and hurt welled in her eyes as she prepared to stand

and leave. But then she faltered – actually looked back down at the

court to reconsider any further course of action, as if intuition was

telling her there was still hope…that vengeance could still be won.

So, she stayed.

And the decision paid off: not one minute after she retuned to her

place, a whistle was blown and her prey entered the arena – waving

self-righteously at the cheering crowd.

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

Scully let out a deep sigh as her stomach loudly begged for some –

*any* – form of sustenance, and glanced down at her watch for the

hundredth time since the game had started, briefly lifting it to her

ear to check it hadn’t stopped.

The minute hand was mocking her, she just knew it. She suspected

that whoever had gotten them the tickets (more than likely Danny) was

off somewhere having a good laugh at her expense too.

“Come on!” Mulder suddenly called out as his beloved team advanced

towards the opponents’ hoop.

She studied his face as he watched the game – followed the line of

his unshaven jaw as it constantly moved, like the ocean – and

literally felt her mouth watering at the thought of how tasty he

always looked…

…which, in turn, had her thinking of food again, and set her

stomach off once more with its desperate gurgling and growling.

Maybe if she weren’t so bored, she’d be able to distract her hunger,

but the game was far from entertaining or remotely interesting, and

the only thing she could think about was how lovely it would have

been if he’d just been thoughtful enough to take her out to that show

or that restaurant…anywhere but here!

Another deep sigh as she sat back and distractedly lifted her chin up

to look at the roof structure.

And that’s when she saw it. Out of the corner of her eye and for no

more than a second, but there nevertheless, and something about it

niggled at her senses: a figure, dimly highlighted by the lighting

rig below where it stood, crouching down until the blinding glare

from the lamps made it impossible to see.

“Mulder,” Scully started, never lowering her gaze as she tapped his

arm. “Mulder, there’s someone up on the roof supports.” He didn’t

respond, so she tried again. “Mulder!”

“What?” He was clearly desperate to turn his attention back to the

game, but, bless him, at least he looked genuinely concerned.

“What’s wrong?”

“I saw someone above the court.”

Mulder shrugged, briefly glancing back at the gameplay before looking

at his partner again. “It’s probably just security…The place is

swarming with them.”

She shook her head, dismissing the comment. “It wasn’t–”

The short, sharp whistle blow cut her off, and before she knew what

was happening, the whole stadium was ringing with the sound of

applause and cheers, and Mulder was on his feet joining in as if she

wasn’t even there.

That was the last straw, and Dana quickly moved out into the aisle to

report what she’d seen to one of the arena police as a throbbing

headache begun to build behind her eyes. She thought she heard his

voice calling after her, but the noise from the spectators washed it

out, and she was past the point of caring enough to return to her

seat.

Although she couldn’t turn fast enough on her heels when a gunshot

ripped through the air and panic ensued.

Ducking for cover and reaching instinctively for weapon that wasn’t

there, Mulder turned and looked for his partner – only just

realizing she was no longer at his side. “Scully?” A quick glance

at the rafters and he leapt back to his feet, desperately searching

for her amongst the fleeing crowd. “Scully?”

“Mulder! Over here.”

She forced herself upstream against the surging mob, inching her way

back towards her seat, but for every foot of progress she made, the

panicked spectators forced her further away from her goal.

“Mulder!”

Mulder caught a glimpse of red hair crushed between a sea of people.

“Scully!”

“Mulder, he’s in the rafters.”

“Call for back up. I’m going up there.”

“No wait, Mu–”

But Scully was pushed backwards and her last glimpse of Mulder was of

him scrambling over rows of seats heading towards the back of the

stadium.

“Dammit!”

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

Mulder leapt across the seats, taking the rows two at a time. Most of

the spectators had made a beeline for the nearest exits leaving seats

empty and a relatively easy path to navigate.

Nervous glances towards the roof produced no sign of the shooter, and

he wondered anxiously if maybe the gunman was lining up for another

shot.

By the time he made it to the top of the stadium Mulder was wiping

sweat from his eyes and gasping for breath. The ladder reaching up to

the roof supports was in the western corner against the back wall.

Using the seats as cover, Mulder crept between the rows, searching

the eaves above for the shooter and wishing he had his weapon.

“Hold it! Don’t move. I’m armed and I will shoot.” The orders were

issued with authority from somewhere behind Mulder, but there was no

mistaking the underlying fear in their delivery. Mulder couldn’t see

who was speaking to him and he wondered briefly if he’d found the

shooter, or more to the point, if the shooter had found him?

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

The rush of people forcing Scully toward the exit never seemed to

end, and it was by pure luck that she somehow managed to shoulder her

way through the flow and out into a clearing at the side without

being knocked over. She glanced back in the direction of the court,

wishing she could see what Mulder was doing, but then ‘Agent’ mode

kicked in, and Dana quickly reached for her phone as she ran in

search of the security office.

“This is Special Agent Dana Scully of the FBI – I need immediate

police back-up at Madison Square Garden…We’ve got shots fired by a

sniper!”

By the time she’d confirmed the location, any other pertinent

information and hung up, she was opening the door to the security

supervisor’s office.

“Hey! What the hell d’ you think you’re doin’?” a large man

exclaimed, standing up from behind his desk and moving around to bar

Scully’s entrance.

“I’m a federal agent–”

“I don’t care – you can’t just burst in here like you own the damn

place!”

It wasn’t something she enjoyed at any particular time, but now was

really pushing her tolerance for dealing with a complete asshole.

“You’ve got a sniper out there who may have shot someone – or even

still may if you don’t do something – and you’re worried about the

protocol of your office?” She barked, forcing her way past the taller

figure and then sharply turning to face him. “Why aren’t you out

there doing anything?”

As if it answered all her questions, the guard unsnapped a two-way

radio from his belt and waved it in front of her face. “You think I

haven’t a clue what’s goin’ on? We’ve got venue staff struggling to

calm thousands of panicking spectators down and I got a team sweeping

that arena tryin’ to determine where the shot came from.”

“I know where the shot came from.” If she wasn’t so worried about

what Mulder was doing, Dana wondered if she would have just left this

jerk in the dark and taken control of everything herself, but lives

were at stake and they needed all the help they could get.

What was that she’d thought about the night not getting any worse?

The uniformed man straightened at the new tidbit of information –

chewed at the inside of his mouth as he sized the red-haired woman

up. She knew where the shot came from? Was it just pure coincidence

that an FBI agent was at the stadium on the night of an attack and,

furthermore, could pinpoint the origin of the shot, or was there

something else going on here?

He frowned, and inconspicuously rested a hand atop his holstered

pistol. “Who’d you say you are again?”

Scully noticed the uncertain, protective stance and gave an

understanding nod of her head as she slowly reached for her ID…only

to remember it was in her jacket pocket, which she’d taken off and

draped over the back of her seat once they’d settled down.

*Shit*

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

Mulder raised his arms above his head, not willing to identify

himself until he knew who he was dealing with.

“Okay, turn around nice and slow, keep your hands where I can see

them.”

He did as he was told, turning in a slow arc until he was facing the

man issuing the orders.

A security guard.

Mulder’s knees trembled with relief and he let out a slow breath.

“I’m a fed –”

“Shut up! I’m doing the talking. Now, what the hell are you doing

hiding out up here?”

Mulder kept his voice nice and steady. “My name is Fox Mulder. I’m a

federal agent. My ID is in my pocket.”

“Oh sure, we get a sniper and there just happens to be a federal

agent watching the game.” The man licked his lips, adjusted his

stance. “Okay, come over here; keep it slow, one step at a time.”

“Contrary to popular belief, occasionally we do get to experience

life outside of the Bureau.” Mulder informed the guard as he edged

his way towards the man. “I’m *not* the shooter and every second you

waste talking to me is giving him more of a chance to get away.”

Mulder ran his tongue over his lips, his mouth dry but his brow wet

with nervous perspiration. “I’m going to reach into my back pocket

and get my ID.”

The security guard, a tall man who looked to be in his late fifties

shuffled his feet and corrected the grip on his weapon. “Don’t try

anything silly, son.”

“Believe me,” Mulder insisted, “I have no intention of trying

anything.” Mulder pulled out his ID, held it up for inspection and

then tossed it at the man’s feet. The security guard picked it up,

keeping his weapon trained on Mulder’s chest. He studied the ID and

scrutinized Mulder’s face, waiting for what seemed like an eternity

before finally loosening his grip on the gun and lowering it to its

holster.

Mulder relaxed visibly, and easily caught his ID when it was tossed

back at him.

“What are we dealing with?” The man moved to stand beside Mulder.

Pointing towards the roof beams, Mulder shared what he knew. “I’m

going up there to check it out, my partner’s down there somewhere

hopefully organizing back up. You need to let the police know what

we’ve got and I want you to keep everyone not involved in law

enforcement away from here. Okay?”

The uniformed man nodded and gave Mulder a dubious look. “Should you

be doing this alone?”

“Probably not, but I’m off duty,” Mulder called over his shoulder as

he ran towards the ladder.

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

“My name is Special Agent Dana Scully,” she hesitated, inwardly

cursing herself for not thinking to snag her coat as she’d stormed

off. “My badge is in the arena with my belongings – I was here just

watching the game and happened to look up and see someone in the

rafters shortly before the shot. Wh–”

“Sir, this is Virgil up on deck 6,” the radio crackled to life,

cutting Scully short. “Just encountered a Fox Mulder from the FBI –

he says the shooter’s up top.”

‘Please don’t play Superhero, Mulder,’ she prayed, lowering her head

as her eyes briefly slipped shut.

“Two feds?” the security supervisor coughed, “Isn’t this just my

lucky night?” He paused and then spoke into the walkie-talkie,

“What’s going on up there?”

There was a silent pause – only broken by the faint crackle over the

speaker – and then “Crazy bastard’s gone up to talk the perp down.”

She wasn’t surprised, but Scully still felt something heavy settle

within her stomach as her head snapped up – the image of him climbing

up the rows of seats as the distance between them had increased

playing over and over in her mind. She opened her mouth to say

something, but another voice was talking over the radio before she

had chance.

“Mack reporting in.”

This appeared to be what the supervisor had been waiting for as his

features lit up and he quickly asked, “Go ahead, Mack.”

“The players are all accounted for and uninjured, but we got an

injured civilian.”

“I’m a medical doctor,” Scully suddenly announced, wishing that one

fact could solve everything. “Look, Officer–?”

“Gene Wilkes – Captain Gene Wilkes,” the broad figure introduced –

shoulders relaxing fractionally. “Agent…Scully? I’m sure you’re

just trying to help, but we got a medical team that’s equipped to

deal with any emergency an–”

“And they may be lucky to get in there at all with their first aid

kits!” she exclaimed. “Look, that’s my partner in there going after

that sniper and there’s an injured person I might be able to help –

at least until the first-aid team or EMTs do arrive. Yes, I’m trying

to help, but this is my job too – even when I’m off the clock – and

I’m not about to back down from that. I just need to get back in

that arena.”

Wilkes considered what she’d said, but knew that without any time to

waste on arguing, all he could do was agree and help in whatever way

he could. “I’ll help you get through the crowd,” he finally

acquiesced, re-holstering his radio and moving aside so that Scully

could leave the room first.

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

“Oh god, oh god.” What had she done? There were people everywhere,

running, screaming and she couldn’t even tell whether she’d hit her

target. To top it all, her shoulder ached from the recoil – she

hadn’t expected that. All she wanted to do was make that uppity

bastard pay. And had she? Oh shit, there were no more chances and

they’d put her in jail and then what? Run. She had to get away or the

place would be swarming with cops and they’d catch her and she’d be

locked up. Hands trembling, sweaty inside her leather gloves, she

slung the rifle over her shoulder and crawled along the scaffolding.

Shit, what was that? There was someone coming up the ladder. She

shuffled backwards until she was up against a railing, cornered. Oh,

god, who was it? The cops? She pulled her rifle from her shoulder and

took up aim. She wasn’t going to jail, no way. Whoever it was had

better keep their distance.

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

Mulder peeked over the top of the ladder. The ceiling was a maze of

scaffold-like beams and rafters. He looked left and right and saw

nothing but rows and rows of latticed steelwork disappearing into

gloomy darkness. Carefully, he pulled himself up, the skin on the

back of his neck prickling in anticipation of a bullet taking him out.

Nothing happened.

Mulder climbed a little further so that he was perched on all fours

along a narrow platform. The roof rafters branched off on either side

of him and stretched out into gloomy darkness in front. There were

huge spot lights a few feet below the small platform, anchored in

place with thick rope. Electric cables were threaded along the beams,

coiled on the ground at regular intervals. Warily, he crawled along

the scaffolding straight out in front, painfully aware that one wrong

move could send him hurtling to the ground.

“And just where the hell do you think you’re going?” A loud ‘click-

click’ informed Mulder a weapon had just been cocked at about the

same time as his mind processed that the voice he was hearing

belonged to a woman.

In the shadow to his left, he was just able to make out a small

figure crouched in the corner. As his eyesight grew accustomed to the

semi-darkness there was no doubt that this was the shooter. The woman

was dressed all in black, her gloved hands wrapped tightly around the

barrel of a telescopic rifle.

“What are you doing up here?”

There was an edge to her voice, desperate.

“Would you believe I’ve come to check out a report of bats in the

belfry?”

“Don’t give me that shit. What the hell are you doing here!?” The

woman handled her weapon nervously.

“Why do you think I’m up here?” Mulder asked in that smooth-as-

chocolate voice, hoping to draw the woman out.

“I think you’re about to meet your maker, that’s what I think.” The

woman stood up, the rifle an ugly extension of her arms as she raised

it to her shoulder.

“WAIT! Wait.” Mulder cautiously moved from all fours to a kneeling

position, holding one hand up in a defensive gesture.

The woman took aim, “What have I got to wait for? The cops’ll be here

any minute and then I’ll be behind bars.”

“No one knows you’re up here. There’s just you and me.” Mulder tried

to get a look at what was happening below him, but the angle was

wrong to get a good view. From where the shooter was, she could

probably see the whole stadium. “Why don’t you tell me your name?”

“Why would I want to do that?” Her finger twitched against the

trigger.

“Because you look like you need someone to talk to. You look like you

could use a friend.”

“It’s no good. I’m going to jail.” Mulder thought he could detect a

slight shift in the shooter’s mood. “I killed him.”

“Tell me your name.” Mulder insisted quietly.

“Laura,” she answered, just as quietly.

“Laura, my name’s Mulder.” But the woman wasn’t listening to him. She

was staring off to a place that existed only in her head.

“I shot him.”

“Who, Laura? Who did you shoot?” Despite hearing the sound of the

gunshot, Mulder had no idea whether she’d actually hit anyone.

“Todd Hooper.” She practically spat the name. Then more quietly,

almost like a whiney child. “I only wanted his autograph. He couldn’t

even stop for 10 seconds and scribble his name on a photo.” Her voice

grew angrier, “He’s an arrogant bastard!”

Mulder started to rise to his feet, still holding his hands out

defensively.

“Laura, we don’t know that you actually hit anyone. If you missed

then there’s no harm done.” He was all the way up now.

“I’ve gone to every game. He was my hero. All I wanted was a little

signature.”

“Laura?” Mulder took a step towards her.

“He just brushed me off, didn’t even look at me.”

“Laura, why don’t you give me the gun?” Inching closer.

“What?” She seemed to see Mulder for the first time since he stood

up. “What are you doing? No! Get away from me!”

“Laura, take it easy. I’m not going to hurt you.”

“Get back!”

“Don’t make this end badly. If you give me the gun now, nobody else

needs to get hurt.”

“You’re a cop!” Laura raised the gun. “You’re not going to take me! I

WON’T GO TO JAIL!”

The woman was almost hysterical. Mulder needed to calm her down

before the situation got out of control.

“No one wants to put you in jail.”

“Bullshit! Get away from me.” She took a step backwards, stumbled

slightly and in an attempt to right herself her finger squeezed

around the trigger.

Mulder saw the flash of gunfire just before he felt the bullet enter

his left leg above the knee. One millisecond later his brain

registered the pain. Instinct made him clutch at his wounded leg, the

sudden movement throwing him off balance. With sheer terror, he

realized that he was toppling sideways with nothing to break his

fall. Desperately, he fought to find something to hang onto but his

hands, slick with his own blood were unable to find purchase on the

metal railing and he slid over the edge of the roof beam hurtling

towards the ground.

In the space of a second, Mulder discovered it was true what people

said about your life flashing before your eyes when facing death. And

just when he’d resigned himself to the fact that he’d never see

Scully again, never have the chance to say goodbye and tell her how

much he loved her, his descent came to an abrupt halt.

He felt something wrap tight around his left ankle and his knee

cracked in protest as it took the full strain of his weight. It was

then Mulder realized that he was dangling in mid air.

The bullet wound burned in his thigh, his knee and hip screamed with

the sudden wrench of his broken fall and his ankle felt as if

something were trying to cut right through the bone, but God-dammit

it, he was alive.

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

Despite the unwavering bedlam as everyone fought to evacuate the

building as quickly as possible – cries and screams and yells

probably audible within a twenty mile radius of the building – moving

against the crowd certainly proved to be easier with the broad figure

of Wilkes leading the way, and it wasn’t long before Scully was back

inside the arena. She looked up at where she’d spotted the shooter

as she moved toward the injured spectator, but the bright floods

blocked her vision so for now she would just have to draw comfort

from the idea that Mulder knew (in his own strange way) what he was

doing.

“This is Katie,” Officer Mack started as Scully crouched down in

front of the seated ten-year-old girl and pulled back the bundle of

tissues that had been pressed against her bleeding left arm. “She

and her mom were watching the game – her dad had just disappeared to

use the john…”

“Does her dad know?” the female agent queried, carefully inspecting

the wound.

“We put a message out over the PA system, but he’s not shown up yet.”

“Judging by the crowds out there, he’ll be lucky to get in at all…”

Dana remarked, distractedly. She paused and smiled reassuringly at

the girl, who was braving it enough to not cry. “You’re gonna be

okay, Katie,” she nodded before turning her attention back to the

security guard. “Where’s her mother then?”

“We took her aside just to help calm her down – she was getting

hysterical, and we didn’t want her scaring the kid anymore.”

“You didn’t wanna scare her but took her mom away?”

“Is it serious?” Wilkes quickly cut in, bending over to glance at the

wound also.

Scully shook her head, replacing the wad of tissues and standing up

before reaching once more for her cellphone. “The bullet’s just

nicked the skin…She’ll need stitches, but nothing serious.” She

stepped away and looked once more up at the lighting rig well above

where she stood as her fingers tapped out 911 on the keypad.

The sound of a woman’s voice shouting filtered through the air, but

the echo made it impossible to locate, so she assumed it was the

girl’s irate mother and lifted the phone to her ear.

“911 – how–”

*BANG*

Everyone ducked down and several guns were instinctively drawn…

But Scully stood frozen and aghast as she saw first the gun flare,

and then – shortly after – Mulder’s form come into view…falling

towards her…

He was falling from the ceiling!

“*Nooooo!*”

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

From his precarious position, Mulder could see the whole stadium.

There was an unearthly silence as he hung suspended above the seats,

swinging idly in a tight circle. He thought he saw a flash of red

hair below him. No, it couldn’t be. But then he saw it again.

“Scull-eee!” His voice was raspy, strained. Could she even hear him?

The look of shock on her face mirrored the fear he knew was etched on

his own. He may have been spared the finality of hitting the ground,

but how long would the cable be able to hold him?

Blood flowed freely from the wound in his leg, dripping on his face,

and splattering to the floor below. Adding insult to injury, he felt

his cell phone slip from his pocket and plunge towards the ground.

And then the cable shifted, just an inch or two, but Mulder’s body

jerked downwards with the sudden movement.

His head throbbed and his vision blurred as gravity forced too much

blood to his brain.

How the hell was he going to get out of this one?

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

Scully’s phone slipped from her grasp and landed on the polished

floor just as Mulder’s fell from his upside-down pocket and smashed

alongside it.

She went to run forward in a desperate attempt to try to catch him or

at least break the fall, but as quickly as his descent began, it came

to an abrupt stop, and she was left blinking with confusion as he

seemingly floated in mid air (the pain and terror carved in his

features visible even from this far below him).

“Mulder?”

One of the lights in the rig blew, sending sparks flying everywhere,

and a horrid creaking scratched at her senses.

“He’s snagged on a cable!” a voice suddenly exclaimed from somewhere

behind her.

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

The throbbing pain in his leg, loss of blood and his good friend:

shock, all combined to send his heart rate skyrocketing and his head

spinning. The roaring in his ears told him it would only be a matter

of time before he would pass out. The only saving grace was that he’d

be spared the agony of being awake when he finally plummeted to an

almost certain death below.

Mulder caught another glimpse of Scully standing beside a small child

with a crowd of security guards gathered around her. She was staring

at him, at first with uncertainty, then she seemed to come to a

decision and with a new kind of fear in his heart, he understood what

she was planning to do.

He shook his head ‘no’ at her. If she tried to help him she risked

being taken down when the rig gave way. He mouthed the words ‘I’m

sorry’, and ‘I love you’ just before she took off in much the same

way he had done what must have been only 10 or 15 minutes ago.

‘Oh god’ he prayed, ‘please let me go before she gets to the top.’

And with that last thought, his vision faded to black and the noise

of screams and yelling grew more distant as he slipped into

unconsciousness.

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

Scully held her breath, her heart hammering against her chest at a

million miles an hour, as she saw the cable cradling his foot slacken

even further. It wouldn’t be long before the whole lighting rig

crashed down to the court’s surface with him.

She had to rescue him. There had to be a way.

Mulder shook his head as if begging her not to try to help. Scully

knew he wouldn’t want her up there risking her own life, but she’d be

dammed if she was just going to stand by and watch him fall to his

death.

When he mouthed ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘I love you’, Dana knew she couldn’t

wait any longer.

“I need some guards to come up there with me, someone to get the

tallest ladder this place has…and will somebody *please* call for

EMTs!” she barked out orders, rushing in the direction she’d seen

Mulder take not ten minutes earlier and refusing to pause long enough

to see if anyone was obeying or following her.

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

The first thing Scully encountered when she finally made it to the

top of the stadium was another security guard, his panicked

expression telling her he’d been witness to Mulder’s fall.

A few seconds later, two more security staff joined her at the base

of the ladder.

“We’ve got to go up. He needs help.” Scully stated the obvious, but

by doing so it at least made her feel as if she was doing *something*.

The first guy moved to the side, but caught her arm as she went to

climb the ladder. “The shooter’s still up there and since your

partner fell, there’s no guarantee that structure is still stable.”

It was logic she would have used in any other situation, and dammit

she was trying to stay as calm as humanly possible (had to, in fact,

congratulate herself for actually pausing long enough to listen to

these people who didn’t value Mulder’s life anywhere near as much as

she did), but the longer they stood here debating the ‘right’ thing

to do, the shorter her partner’s chances of getting out of this alive

became.

And she wasn’t going to let him fall.

“Whether anybody goes up there or not, that whole rig is gonna go,”

she snapped, tightly gripping onto one of the ladder’s rungs with her

right hand to both support her shaken, terrified frame, and make the

point very clear that there would be no stopping her.

“And the shooter?” Wilkes suddenly quizzed as he approached the small

gathering. “You wanna get yourself shot, too? Or maybe someone

else?”

This was ridiculous – there was no time for this! – and with one last

shake of her head as she glanced up at where Mulder hung, Dana

started her ascent up the ladder; shaking, sweaty palms making it

difficult to retain hold of the rungs.

At the base of the ladder, Wilkes shook his head in disgust and then

quickly snatched up his radio. “Maintenance? Anyone from

maintenance there?” There was no reply, so he tried again to no

avail. “God damn…” Wiping a hand across his dry mouth, he glanced

up at the dangling figure raining blood upon the court and then at

the three guards gathered beside him. “Virgil, you go up there with

her – make sure you keep me informed on *everything* that’s going on,

no matter how insignificant it may seem.”

“Yes, sir!” the tall, gray-haired guard affirmed with a nod of his

head.

The supervisor smiled his appreciation at the older man before

barking into the radio once more, “Mack? Where’s that medical team?”

“They’re on their way, captain.”

“What about the emergency services?”

“The same, except there’s traffic all the way back to the Hudson so

they may be another ten minutes. Hope you didn’t have any bets on

this game, sir.”

“Under the circumstances I’ll pretend you just didn’t say that,”

Wilkes coughed. Clipping the two-way back on his belt, he started

making his way back down the seating blocks. “You two,” he called

over his shoulder before he got too far out of earshot, “with me – we

gotta go get that scissor lift and move some people so that we can

get it in here!”

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

There was a metallic groaning noise and some movement as Scully

pulled herself up onto the beam and took stock of her surroundings.

The first thing her gaze fell on was the cowering, whimpering woman

huddled at the far end of the walkway – a bolt-action rifle discarded

and balancing hazardously on the strut five feet away.

“I–…He–…I didn’t mean–…*Make it stop*!”

Scully considered her options, decided the sniper was subdued enough

to not be a further threat, and then carefully inched toward where

her partner hung.

“Mulder? Mulder, it’s me – can you hear me?” she called, leaning

over the edge. From this angle, she couldn’t see his face or exactly

where the bullet had hit him, but she could see the pool of blood on

the floor below and, added to his non-existent reply, it was enough

for her to fear the worst. “We’re gonna get you out of this, so

don’t worry. Just…Just hang in there, partner, okay?” She hated

the pun, but hoped he could draw some strength from the hint of humor.

He still didn’t respond, but the framework let out an even louder

protest as Dan Virgil appeared at the top of the access ladder.

“His foot’s tangled in the cable,” she announced, never taking her

eyes off the black length saving her partner’s life but feeling her

fear rack up another notch as it dropped from the bar a fraction.

“But he hasn’t got long.” Quickly, her gaze lifted to fix on the

sniper.

“They’re getting the personnel lift in – it won’t reach high enough,

but they’ll have a much better chance of safely catching him when he

goes,” the security officer replied. He put a foot up on the rafter,

but when it shifted and let out a screech, he quickly reversed the

move and sighed when silence fell once more.

“What’s your name?” Scully ground out, trying to remain as composed

as possible but knowing she was failing miserably. “Why did you do

it?”

Laura shook her head and continued to babble nonsensically to herself

as she rocked back and forth.

“*Who are you*?”

“…–uleeee…”

Faint and barely there but there nevertheless; Scully’s head snapped

around at the sound of Mulder’s whimper of her name and she quickly

shifted to lean as far over the edge of the beam as possible.

“I’m here,” Dana gently assured, outstretching a hand to tenderly

brush against his shin – unaware that the movement would send yet

another surge of pain wracking through his leg and body. He

instantly hissed and shuddered in response, and she quickly pulled

the offending hand away. “Oh, Mulder…Why is it only you that can

get into these messes, and so frequently, too?”

This time his only reply was a low groan.

“Can you tell me where it hurts? Where did you get hit?”

“Hurtsss…wooo-zy…ti-tired-”

“No, don’t close your eyes…You know the drill by now: you have to

stay awake!”

“… sssss…heav–…head…”

“No!” She sat up, feeling even more helpless than she had before as

she looked out at the arena. He was going to fall and she couldn’t

stop it, just as she hadn’t been able to stop them from coming to the

game in the first place, or hadn’t been able to stop him from running

after the homicidal bitch that now cowered like a big baby in the

corner and…

…And she had to stop thinking like this. Mulder was counting on

her to save him and arrest the perp. He was counting on her to remain

rational and take charge. Basically, he was counting on her, and

blame or negativity wouldn’t get them anywhere.

“Virgil, we’ve got the lift,” the security supervisor’s voice

suddenly came over the walkie-talkie. “We should be there in three

minutes.”

As if sensing its chance to take them all down with it was slipping

away, the rig creaked, groaned, shuddered, and then dropped several

inches. Another light exploded in a shower of sparks and Mulder’s

unconscious body swung limply back and forth like a pendulum – the

momentum causing the cable to tighten impossibly further around his

ankle.

“Sir, we…we don’t have three minutes,” Virgil managed to rasp out

into the radio as he clung for dear life at the ladder.

The tears had been welling up, unshed in the face of professionalism,

but now there was no holding them back as Scully desperately reached

over to grab onto Mulder’s left foot with both hands and pulled as

hard as she possibly could. As expected, his weight was too much to

lift, but she wouldn’t give up – *couldn’t* give up…

“Help me…please…Please, God, no…” Her head lowered as the sobs

flooded from the depths of her being and trembling hands continued to

scrabble at his leg. “Please…”

Her last word was as quiet as possible, but Virgil had heard enough,

and decided there was only one chance left. As carefully as

possible, he clambered onto the beam too and smoothly moved up next

to the female agent, outstretching his own hands to tug at Mulder’s

leg also.

Suddenly from the other side of the court, there was a motorized

sound, and both the security guard and Scully lifted their heads to

see the large vehicle with the powered platform on the back drive

into the stadium until it was just below them.

“Lock it down!” Wilkes’s voice could be heard commanding as his two

colleagues rushed to either side of the vehicle.

“See? It’s gonna be okay,” Virgil smiled at Scully, pretending to

ignore the increasing groan emanating from each end of the strut.

“He’ll be safely on the ground again in no time.” There was a

whirring noise from below, and when he looked again, the platform was

beginning its steady but slow climb upwards.

Very slow climb.

…Maybe too slow…

“It’s not gonna hold any longer!” he called out.

Wilkes shook his head with non-acceptance at the obvious. With the

platform half-way as high it could go, he refused to believe they

would lose this one now.

With a deafening crash, the rig dropped a further ten inches. Scully

grabbed for Mulder instead of the beam and almost threw herself off,

whilst Virgil reached in his pocket and withdrew a knife.

And all the while this was happening, the sniper responsible for

everything continued to cry to herself.

All three men on the platform raised their arms in the air as the

platform reached its peak.

“Cut it, Dan!” one of them called.

Virgil nodded and lowered his knife to the cable.

Dana heard the words and saw the action, but nothing registered until

Mulder’s body started free-falling again.

“*No*!”

The awaiting guards were able to slow his descent, but the agent’s

weight slipped through their fingers and dropped onto the blue

platform with a muffled clang. The fact he was safe just a matter

of feet and not meters below, though, sent a wave of relief beyond

anything imaginable sweeping through Scully’s body…until the beam

buckled again.

“Jump!” Virgil ordered, grabbing Scully’s arm.

“What about her?” – pointing toward the huddled figure.

“I’ll get her – just go!”

Even more structural groaning, and she obeyed, easily dropping the

ten feet to crouch down beside Mulder’s motionless form without a

backwards glance.

“Lady, this is gonna fall in a minute, so why don’t you just come

here?” the guard started, standing up and taking a step toward the

sniper.

“I’m not going to jail!”

“No – you’re gonna end up dead if you stay up here, so…” Another

step, more weight placed where it wasn’t sturdy, and the rig had had

enough – without warning the whole thing broke away from its supports

and tumbled toward the floor. Virgil instinctively grabbed out for

the first thing he could, and the next thing he knew he was being

helped over the bar and onto the now-crowded platform.

But the last thing heard from Laura was an ear-piercing scream, cut

off by the almighty crash of metal smashing into the stadium floor.

It all became too overwhelming, and before she even had chance to

examine her partner’s injuries, Scully passed out.

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

MULDER/SCULLY RESIDENCE

3 DAYS LATER

8PM

Mulder leaned back on the couch, his left leg stretched out in front

of him and propped up on several pillows. It still throbbed

mercilessly and every four hours on the dot, Scully would arrive with

his painkillers and stand over him while he took them. Not that he

needed any encouragement – the pain was sufficient enough that he

didn’t feel in the least bit inclined to argue.

Not only had he suffered the bullet wound, but his knee and ankle had

also taken a battering when they had taken the full brunt of his

weight after he fell. Torn ligaments in both joints only added to his

woes…not to mention the bruised ribs and grazed shoulder courtesy

of his rescue drop.

For the last three days Scully hadn’t left his side. She hovered

protectively over him in the hospital, checking and double-checking

whenever a member of the medical staff came in to take his vitals or

administer medication. By the time he’d been released she had just

about pissed off every staff member she had come in contact with. In

fact, when Scully had wheeled him towards the exit earlier that day,

he could have sworn he’d heard a not-so-subtle cheer go up.

“Mulder, here.” Scully pulled him back from his reverie, thrusting

more pain meds and a glass of water towards him. “It’s time.”

He swallowed the pills, drank all of the water and shifted uneasily

on the couch. At the moment his leg wasn’t too bad, all things

considered, but every time he moved, or breathed deeply or god

forbid, coughed, his ribs screamed bloody murder at him.

“How are you feeling?” She sat on the arm of the couch, staring into

his eyes in a way that Mulder doubted very much meant that he was

going to get lucky that night. He saw concern, and in an odd sort of

way: fear, distance. ‘His’ Scully had almost completely disappeared

behind an aloof curtain of professionalism, and despite her constant

close proximity, Mulder felt as if she were miles away in every other

respect.

When he woke up in the hospital, he was sure he’d be in for an

earful. Usually she would kick his ass from here to kingdom come for

being so reckless; running off again and putting himself in danger.

But she hadn’t said a thing, just looked at him with something he

couldn’t quite wrap his mind around. She’d been walking on eggshells

now for three days, treating him like he might disintegrate into a

million pieces if she so much as looked at him sideways.

Scully continued to watch him, her face too pale and her eyes haunted

as if she were seeing something unbearable over and over in her

mind. She was really starting to scare him.

“Scully?”

She stared right through him.

“Scully!”

She snapped back to the present with a soft gasp, and an almost

imperceptible shake of her head.

Mulder reached out and took her hand and made space for her beside

him on the couch. “C’mere.” He pulled her gently down.

“No, Mulder, your injuries. . . ”

“I’m fine.” He offered what he hoped was a reassuring smile and,

mustering all his strength, stretched his arm out along the back of

the couch, inviting her in. She slipped into the warm cocoon of his

body, careful of his ribs and shoulder. Mulder refused to accept her

distance and scooped her closer, clenching his jaw against the pain

in his side.

Gently, he rubbed her arm, long soothing strokes from elbow to

shoulder until he felt her begin to relax under his touch.

“Scully, are you all right?” He felt her stiffen, and she snapped her

head around to look at him, her expression making him wonder if he’d

just sprouted another head.

“Why would you ask me that?” She frowned, her tone defensive.

“I don’t know, you just–…you haven’t been yourself. Scully, you’d

tell me if there was something wrong, wouldn’t you?”

“Something wrong.” She repeated under her breath. And then she puffed

a soft snort. “Something wrong.” Her gaze turned inward and she was

lost in space again.

“Scully?” She came back to herself almost immediately, turned back

to look at Mulder and seemed as if she was about to say something.

But instead, she covered her mouth with her hand and ran from the

living room.

A few seconds later Mulder heard the bathroom door close and the

sound of painful heaving coming from down the hall.

“Oh shit!” What the hell was going on with her? Mulder eased his

leg off the couch, his movements slow and awkward and riddled with

pain. He scooted forward and grabbed his crutches from the floor

beside the couch. Again those damn ribs begged him not to move but

this time he just ignored them.

“Don’t get off that couch, Mulder.” Scully was in the doorway, her

face pale and the hair around her face wet.

“Jeezus, Scully, what happened? Are you okay?”

“No. No, I’m not.” The words hung like ice in the room.

Slowly, Mulder sat back, keeping his leg straight out in front of him

and one arm wrapped around his middle. The pain in his side was like

a knife in his ribs.

“Are you going to tell me what’s wrong, Scully?” Despite the burning

in his side, he felt a cold shiver run down his spine, a heavy lump

in his stomach. She was frightening him. Had that damn cancer come

back?

“What would be the point, Mulder?” She’d taken to pacing now. Her

arms wrapped tightly around her chest.

“Wha–…what do you mean?”

“Because we’ve had this conversation a thousand times before, and not

one of those times has it ever made any difference! Have you ever

taken any notice?” She stopped, sucked in her bottom lip and

chewed. In exasperation, she dropped her hands to her sides and

sighed. “Just what would be the point?” This was more to herself

rather than Mulder.

Suddenly, it was starting to dawn on him. This was the ass-kicking

he’d been waiting for. No problem, he knew he probably deserved it.

All he had to do was sit there and ride out the storm.

“Scully, I’m sorry. I know you were scared when I fell – shit, *I*

was scared! I–”

“No more, Mulder.” She looked at him with an expression that chilled

the blood in his veins.

“No more what?” he asked, not sure he wanted to hear the answer.

“I can’t take it any more. The other night, when you were

dangling…” She shook her head, her body trembling slightly.

“…bleeding, and the roof was falling and I had no idea…I didn’t…

I– ” She sucked back a sob, raising a trembling hand to her face to

cover her mouth. But another sob broke free, louder, filled with

hurt, confusion, and it was the worst sound Mulder had ever heard in

his life.

“Scully, come here.” He shuffled to the edge of the couch. Scully

didn’t move, she’d turned her back on him and he watched in horror as

her shoulders shook with all the pain and fear and stress of what

she’d been holding back since the other night.

“Scully, please.” His own voice was quaking. “Please, babe, come

here.”

She turned to face him, her bottom lip still trembling, her sobbing a

painful sound that caught in her throat and Mulder felt his world

start to crumble. God, what had he done to her?

He pushed himself up, every muscle in his body protesting, but none

of his injuries hurting as much as the ache in his chest. He took one

limping step towards her, his abused leg screaming at him to stop and

for a moment his vision grayed and his stomach rose and he had to

grab onto the wall for support.

“Mulder! What are you doing?” He felt Scully grab his arm and wrap

it over her shoulder, carefully guiding him back to the safety of the

couch. She eased him down, lifted his leg and propped it back on the

pillows. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

He couldn’t remember, his head was still woozy and he wasn’t too sure

about the stability of his stomach, either. If he could just rest and

get his breath, let his head clear.

“Mulder? Can you hear me?”

“I’m okay, I’m alright.”

Mulder felt the couch dip, and Scully’s warmth pressing against his

side. For once his ribs didn’t complain.

He looked up at Scully. “What…what did you mean…you can’t…take

any more?”

She closed her eyes, effectively shutting him out again.

“Scully? What are you — ”

“I don’t *know*.” She shook her head. “I don’t know, Mulder. It’s

just…I can’t watch you die again. For all intents and purposes you

should be dead. You have no right to be here, laying on the couch,

talking to me.” Then, very quietly, “I thought I’d lost you.” Her

words were trembling and she shuddered against him.

“You’re going to leave me.” He knew it. Somehow, all along, he knew

it would happen.

But Scully stared at him wide-eyed with shock, her head shaking.

“No. No, never Mulder. God, why would you even think such a thing?”

“But…what else is there? You love your job, you can’t quit the

FBI.”

“I love *you*.”

It was Mulder’s turn to shudder. Memories of hurtling toward the

ground had snapped him out of sleep and kept him awake without fail

over the last few nights, and that was scary enough, but…What if it

had been Scully up there, dangling from the cable only seconds away

from death – her blood decorating the basketball court? How would he

be reacting right now? The words ‘strait’ and ‘jacket’ crossed his

mind.

He reached up and cupped her cheek. They hadn’t spoken of Laura or

passed comment when they’d seen the news reports on the television at

the hospital, but none of that mattered. What did, however, was that

he’d rushed off without her watching his back or a second thought and

put his life dangerously on the line yet again with almost fatal

consequences. He needed to apologise for putting her through that

helpless nightmare. “I’m sorry, Scully. I’m sorry for what you went

through.”

She took his hand and stilled the gentle caresses on her cheek. “I

know you are.”

After a few moments of silent contemplation, Mulder said, “What are

we going to do?”

Scully shrugged. “I don’t really think there’s an answer. I…I guess

I was…I’m…. I’m maybe…suffering some kind of delayed shock.”

She squeezed his hand. “I was so certain that I wouldn’t be able to

save you in time.”

“But you did, Scully.”

“Mmmm.” She smiled at him and after a few moments added. “You really

thought a basketball game was going to be the surprise of my life?”

“Hey, I dare you to tell me you weren’t surprised.” He teased,

relieved that Scully’s mood had lightened a little.

“Well, next time you want to surprise me, how about you make it

something a little more sedate.” She traced a lazy circle on the palm

of his hand. “Did I ever mention the Kirov Ballet are performing at

the Kennedy Center?”

“Ballet–” He was mid protest when he remembered her sobs, the look

of utter devastation on her face. With a brighter tone to his voice,

he said “The Ballet sounds like a great idea, Scully.”

“Don’t make promises you can’t keep – it’s not nice.”

“Seriously, if that’s what you want, then we’ll go.”

She frowned and pulled away fractionally. He actually sounded…

genuine? “Really? You – Fox William Mulder – would go to the ballet

with me?” She reached up and felt his forehead. “You don’t seem to

be running a fever…Are you sure?”

“Yeah. I’m sure.” And with that he pulled Scully down so she was

laying along the length of the couch, cradled in his arms, and

despite the throbbing in his ribs and leg, for just a moment, he

didn’t think life could get any better than this.

“Hey, Scully?”

“Mm hmm?”

“Do they sell hot dogs at the Ballet?”

“Oh, Mulder!”

==========

THE END

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