Scratch

Cook County Hospital

Chicago, Illinois

December 31, 2010

5:45 pm

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Scully was staring at the slightly bedraggled ‘Happy New Year’ garland strung over the Emergency Department’s intake desk, awaiting their turn in line. It was New Year’s Eve and as with many previous holidays, they were seeking medical attention for her partner.

Mulder, for his part, winced as he noticed the blood dripping on the highly polished floor of the Emergency Department’s check in area. “Uh, Scully. I think I need another tissue,” he whispered. When she looked at him with one raised eyebrow, he nodded to the floor and the interesting Jackson Pollack his red blood cells were creating.

“Oh, for crying out loud, Mulder, I told you to keep pressure on it,” Scully chided as she dug through her purse and found a slightly used Kleenex to wipe up the blood drips. “Raise you hand. The blood will drip down your sleeve.”

“And maybe someone will pay attention,” he added, dutifully raising his right hand with his left hand holding his forearm in a death grip so that he appeared to be answering some pertinent question in fifth grade — or requesting the hall pass to go to the restroom. “What’s another good shirt, anyway,” he sighed.

“It’s destroyed already, Mulder. The suit jacket, too,” Scully replied, even though she was sure he had been muttering to himself.

“No, not the jacket,” he objected. “Mrs. Wang can re-weave it. She did wonders on my navy blue jacket a couple of months ago.”

“That was a snag, not a bullet hole,” Scully reminded him as they managed to step one person closer to the window. “Geez, this is worse than the Craddock Marine on 8th Street at lunch hour,” she complained. When he simply shrugged she glared at him. “If you’d just allowed me to call for an ambulance, we’d be in the treatment room already.”

“It’s a scratch, Scully. It doesn’t even qualify as a flesh wound! I still don’t know why you wouldn’t just run past a Walgreens, get some gauze and tape and patch it yourself.”

“Because the Bureau doesn’t see fit to cover me for malpractice when you allow the wound to get infected,” she said sweetly but her eyes were pure malice.

“I would never sue you, Scully. I’ve seen you on the witness stand,” Mulder responded dryly. Amazingly, they moved up two more spots and were next in line.

Just as the nice intake nurse finished with the hacking cough in front of them, a matronly woman in a teal sweater and ‘mom’ jeans pushed her way past Scully to the window. “My husband — he was just taken in by ambulance. How do I get back there?” she demanded.

Scully raised her other eyebrow at Mulder who sighed again without further comment.

“Ma’am, if you’d give me your husband’s last name,” the nurse asked patiently.

“North. James North. I followed them, he’s having severe chest pains. I have to get back there, he’s probably having a heart attack right now,” the woman insisted frantically.

“Just a moment, let me check,” the nurse said evenly and left through a door in the back of her cubicle.

Mulder looked over at Scully who was studying the floor, probably looking for any telltale marks from his blood.

About three minutes had elapsed when the same intake nurse stuck her head through the double doors next to the registration cubicle. “Mrs. North — you can come this way.” The woman spun on her heels and in her haste, bumped into Mulder’s upraised arm. He let out a gasp but Mrs. North didn’t notice as she scurried through the doors.

“Mulder, are you all right?” Scully asked as she steadied him, being careful not to jostle his arm. It was a rhetorical question, her partner was white as a sheet and looked like he might hit the floor any minute.

“I’m fine,” he spat out through gritted teeth. “Can’t we just go? This place is a zoo.”

“No, you’re not ‘fine’. It’s still bleeding. You need stitches and I don’t like my patients moving around on me when I’m sewing them up,” Scully said with a sad shake of her head. Her words were flippant, but her expression was one of growing concern. “By now I think you might be a tad low on fluids.”

“Tell them to top me off with 10W40 — I’m high mileage,” he quipped but immediately bit down hard on his bottom lip.

Finally, the intake nurse was back at the window and miraculously, they were actually at the front of the line.

“Name and nature of your problem?” she asked tiredly.

“Special Agent Fox Mulder, and he has a gunshot wound to his –” Scully didn’t even have a chance to finish her sentence before the nurse’s eyes grew to the size of saucers and she was picking up the phone to alert the head nurse and simultaneously yelling over her shoulder for a gurney.

“Why didn’t you tell someone earlier?” she chided. “How long have you been waiting?”

“It’s just a scratch,” Mulder continued to insist, but the ashen color of his cheeks was making a different statement.

“Really, I think a wheelchair would suffice,” Scully said patiently. “He doesn’t need a gurney.”

The nurse had disappeared, only to reappear through the double doors pushing a wheelchair. “Good, because it appears we are fresh out of gurneys. If you don’t mind Officer Mulder,” she nodded, indicating he should be seated.

“Agent, not . . . never mind.” Mulder quietly accepted his fate and sat down in the chair. Once off his feet, he did feel a little better — but he wasn’t going to let Scully in on that little secret.

The nurse pushed the wheelchair and Scully trailed behind him through the double doors. On the other side, it was complete and utter chaos. From what Mulder could see every examination room was filled and there were people clogging the hall. The nurse looked around and started to push the chair over toward a room only to be beaten there by a crowd surrounding a gurney, doing life saving procedures on the fly on a hefty man in shorts and ratty tennis shoes.

“OK, um, this looks like . . . ” the nurse stood still for a moment, considering her options. “Yeah. Well, sorry about this Officer Mulder, but I think this is the best we can do for the moment.” She shoved the wheelchair over into an alcove in the hallway and set the brakes. “Sorry, Mrs. Mulder, but you’ll have to stand until I can find you a chair.”

“I’m not his — ” Scully gave up trying to explain their marital status because the nurse had already run off, presumably in search of the elusive visitors chair for the hallway.

Mulder reached over and tapped on her hand, bringing her attention down to his level. “Um, Scully. It’s really starting to hurt,” he admitted in a near whisper.

“Oh, Mulder,” she sighed. Looking around, she spied a counter with labeled drawers. Checking the labels quickly, she found a pair of scissors and some gauze and tape. She gave him a stern look. “Mrs. Wang can’t work miracles, Mulder. The jacket is toast.”

He sighed dejectedly. “Oh, all right,” he agreed with a huff and held out his arm. Deftly, she made short work of the sleeve of the jacket and then the sleeve of the white dress shirt.

Using the gauze to wipe away most of the blood, she bit her lip without realizing she was doing a perfect imitation of her partner. “Mulder, this is deeper than a scratch. It needs stitches, at least 7 or 8 from what I can see. See, it went diagonally — ” It was only her lightning fast reflexes that caught her partner before he slid to the floor, passed out cold.

“Oh my God, did he just pass out?” asked a new nurse. She stooped down and helped Scully get the unconscious agent back into the chair. “He really needs to be on a gurney,” the young woman said.

“Yes. If there was one to spare, I would definitely concur,” Scully said, blowing a wisp of hair out of her eyes.

“Hang on a sec. Don’t go anywhere,” the young nurse instructed.

“We won’t, I promise,” Scully replied, but the sarcasm was lost as the woman hurried off. Surprisingly, she was back in just a few minutes pushing a gurney, followed by an orderly big enough to be a nose tackle for the Washington Redskins.

“Jim here is going to give us a hand getting your husband on the gurney.” This time Scully didn’t even try to correct the misconception. In record time, Mulder was hoisted on the gurney and the nurse proceeded to take his vitals. “His pressure is pretty low. When did this happen?” she asked as she made notes on Mulder’s chart.

“About two hours ago,” Scully answered after checking her watch.

“Gunshot wound?” the woman asked, reading the chart.

“We’re FBI agents. We were a part of a team apprehending a suspect and things — got a little out of hand. I didn’t think it was that serious until I got a good look at it just now. Unfortunately, Mulder looked at it, too. He’s usually OK around blood, unless it’s his own.”

“He’s an officer? You should have said something,” the young woman chided.

Scully sighed. “We did, a few times now. Look, I understand how busy you are, but he really only needs stitches and some fluids. I’m a medical doctor.” She dug in her purse to find the small laminated card that identified her as a member of the medical community of the District of Columbia, in good standing. “If you would just get me a suture kit and some IV fluids — ”

The other woman regarded Scully’s offered card and frowned. “I’m pretty sure you have to have privileges at this hospital in order to treat anyone. Let me go ask.”

And before Scully could utter another word, the young nurse was gone into the chaos surrounding them.

By this time, Mulder was starting to come around. “What happened?” he rasped.

“You saw your wound and fainted,” she snapped. He bit his lip and she was immediately contrite. “I’m sorry, Mulder. This place is a zoo. But you do need stitches. And I think you could use some fluids — your blood pressure is pretty low.”

“Scully, if we were in some post apocalyptic world with no rules, what would you do in this situation?”

She raised her eyebrow and glared at him. “Mulder, I’m not going to ‘jack’ a suture kit and a unit of ringers solution. Just get that thought out of your mind right now.”

“Well, then we wait,” he replied. He moved his shoulder to try and find a more comfortable position and yelped when his arm caught on the side rail. When Scully looked down, he was bleeding again.

“Oh, for the love of — ” She shook her head while grabbing a corner of the sheet covering the gurney. “Mulder, apply pressure to this.” She turned and started off.

“Uh, Scully, where are you going?” he asked fearfully.

“To jack a suture kit and some IV fluid,” she told him with conviction born of exasperation.

She hoped she would find the necessary supplies in the same cabinet she had found the scissors and gauze, but that fate was not smiling on her. She wandered down the hall, looking in exam room after exam room, hoping to find one that didn’t either wasn’t in use, or perhaps the patient was in Xray. Finally, she was able to find such a room, only to discover the same woman from the lobby sitting in a chair, staring at the empty spot where a gurney had previously been.

“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t think this room — ”

The woman was shaking her head slowly. “I told him not to try and play basketball with the kids in the driveway. But he said ‘it’s Christmas and it’s nice out, how often does that happen?’ Then, before I know it, Jimmy comes running in yelling the Grandpa’s chest is hurting. I knew it, I knew it, I knew it,” she said, dabbing her eyes with a very wadded piece of tissue.

“Um, I hate to disturb you, uh, Mrs. North, but I’m looking for some supplies — ” Scully explained quietly as she went to the cabinets on the back wall of the exam room and started her search.

“He still thinks he’s a kid! I tell him, all the time, David — you’re 62 years old! You aren’t a spring chicken! Does he listen? Of course not. Might as well talk to the wind . . . ”

“I’m sure the staff is doing everything in their power, Mrs. North. Your husband is in good hands,” Scully said just as she opened a bottom cabinet and found her prize. “Oh, thank God,” she muttered, grabbing the kit. Now, if she could just find the where they hid the Ringers —

“Can I help you?” came a stern voice from behind her.

Scully straightened slowly, tucking the kit inside her suit jacket. “Um, yes. Mrs. North needs some tissue. I was just looking for a — ”

The nurse, wearing a steely expression, held up a box of tissue, sitting out in plain sight. “You mean these?”

“Uh, I thought maybe you had some of the ones with lotion,” Scully covered quickly. “Well, good luck Mrs. North. I hope you have some good news soon,” she said in a rush and headed back out into the chaos of the main area.

It was easy to get turned around in the large emergency department, but Scully was certain she knew the way back to the alcove where Mulder was waiting on a gurney. Until she arrived and found a portable X-ray machine where his gurney should have been. Shaking her head at her own foolishness, she retraced her steps and started off in the other direction. In the subsequent alcoves she discovered, she found assorted wheelchairs, a woman on a gurney who was sound asleep and a cardiac crash cart, but no Mulder.

Swallowing down her fear, she approached one of the harried nurses. “Excuse me, but can you tell me where I can find Fox Mulder. He was brought in with a gunshot wound — ”

“Oh, I remember! Officer Mulder, yes, just a minute,” she said, turning to step away but this time Scully tailed her until the young woman stopped at a computer terminal. “OR 7,” she said with a tired smile.

Scully sputtered and shook her head. “I don’t understand. He’s in surgery?”

“Looks like,” the nurse said with a smile. “Are you another officer?”

It was a bald-faced lie, and Scully always had trouble with those, but it was a time for drastic action. Remembering how quickly they fell all over themselves when Mrs. North had appeared at the ER intake desk, Scully squared her shoulders and stared straight into the eyes of the young woman. “No. I’m his wife,” she said, hoping her voice didn’t crack.

“Oh my goodness. Well, let’s get you up to the surgical waiting room right now!” The nurse looked around her and waved to a passing orderly. “James, would you please show Mrs. Mulder up to the surgical waiting rooms. Tell the desk nurse her husband is in OR7 and the surgeon should speak with her as soon as possible.”

“Sure thing, Nancy. Mrs. Mulder was it? If you’ll just follow me.”

Surgical Waiting Room

8:45 pm

Scully had thumbed through all 17 back issues of Sports Illustrated and had just started in on Architectural Digest when the nurse at the desk called her name, or at least her name according to Cook County Hospital. “Mrs. Mulder?” the nurse called above the hubbub of voices of other distraught family members.

Scully elbowed her way to the desk and gave the nurse a strained smile. “Is my . . . husband out of surgery?” she asked.

“The surgeon would like a word with you. Just go through this door and to your left, fifth door on the right,” the nurse said primly.

Scully followed the directions, finding what she hoped was the right office and let herself in. It was a sterile room with two chairs, a computer monitor on a desk and the standard box of tissues. She sat in the chair closest to the door and waited.

“I’m Dr. Ahad, I performed surgery on your husband,” said the tall young man with olive complexion and big brown eyes. He didn’t really look at Scully, only at the folder in his hands. “It was a tricky surgery, but I think we caught it in time. If you’ll take a look at the images I was able to pull from the scope — ”

“Scope?” Scully repeated, somewhat confused. “You had to use a scope?”

Dr. Ahad glanced over at her and nodded patiently. “Wouldn’t perform surgery without it.” He pulled a keyboard from under the desk and typed hurriedly, bringing up an image on the monitor. Grabbing a pen from his lab coat pocket, he pointed at the image. “As you can see, this protrusion — that’s was the source of the problems — ”

“What?!” Scully interrupted while staring in shock at the screen. “What I see there is an aortic dissection! That was not what Mulder had at all. It was a flesh wound! A little deep, but tissue, not even an artery. What the hell have you done?”

“Flesh wound? Madam, your husband presented at the ER with severe back pains and shortness of breath. His blood pressure was quite high, and three of the four tests we performed this morning — ”

“Hold it right there,” Scully said with a relieved sigh. “We weren’t HERE this morning. We were at the police station. My — husband — was shot during the apprehension of a suspect. He did not have back pain nor shortness of breath — at least not the last time I saw him, which,” she glanced at her watch, “was two and a half hours ago.”

“Then you aren’t Mrs. Miller?” Dr. Ahad asked, chewing on the edge of his lip.

“No. I’m . . . Dr. Dana Scully — MD. My, uh, husband is Fox Mulder — Special Agent Fox Mulder who ‘presented’ at the ER this afternoon with a gunshot wound to the upper arm. He needed stitches and fluids.”

“Then what are you doing here?” Ahad asked bluntly.

“I have absolutely no idea,” Scully replied.

Dr. Ahad looked nonplussed for a moment. “Wait right here, um, Dr. Scully was it? I’ll be right back.”

“Sure, fine, whatever,” Scully sneered as she leaned back against the wall. She let her head thump a few times just because it helped relieve the gnawing pain at the base of her skull that wrapped around her forehead, crushing all rational thought processes.

Much to her surprise, a mere ten minutes later, Dr. Ahad had returned. “I found him. If you follow me, I’ll show you were he is.”

Surgical floor, 9 West

9:35 pm

Scully pushed the door open and took in the sight before her. Mulder was lying on the bed, head elevated, arm in a sling, flipping through the meager channel selection on the overhead television.

“Oh, hey, Scully. You get lost somewhere?” he asked brightly when he saw her in the doorway.

“Mulder, how in the world did you get yourself admitted?” she asked, crossing her arms.

“Don’t ask me. They haven’t told me anything since somebody wheeled me in an OR and stitched me up. I must have fallen asleep because next thing I know, I’m here, there’s a dinner tray at my bedside and I have this,” he held up his good arm to show her the IV tubing. “I’d leave, but I think they took my clothes hostage.”

She shook her head and walked to the end of the bed, picking up the chart resting in the basket. She read through the pages and nodded. “You’re here for observation because you passed out at the sight of your wound,” she told him, dropping the chart back in the basket. Spying the visitors’ chair, she dragged it over closer to the bed and sat down tiredly. Feeling something digging into her side, she pulled out the suture kit and tossed on the bed near Mulder’s feet.

“Scully! You sly dog. You _did_ jack a suture kit! It must be love,” he grinned at her.

“Lot of good it did me. When I got back there, you were gone,” she said, stifling a yawn only to have another overcome her almost immediately.

“You look beat,” he said affectionately.

“I am. And I’m starved.”

He smiled at her and pushed the nurse call button. In a moment, the intercom in the ceiling came to life. “Yes, Agent Mulder? What can we do for you?”

“Patty? Did you tell me you keep sandwiches in the fridge at the desk?”

“Sure do. What can we get you?” came the answer.

“Got a turkey on whole wheat, with a packet of that Dijon mustard?”

“Let me look,” which was followed shortly by “no turkey, but I have a ham on rye.”

Mulder shot Scully a look, which she promptly returned with a tired nod. “That’ll work. Could you bring that in with a can of diet soda — something non-caffeinated, if you have it.”

“One ham on rye and a diet lemon-lime Shasta, coming up.”

“Mulder, those sandwiches are for the patients,” Scully objected, but her stomach was growling so loud she felt like she had to shout to be heard.

“Come up here,” Mulder ordered, after scooting over to make room on the bed.

“No, Mulder. The nurse will be in — ”

“Scully, she won’t mind. C’mon. You’re going to fall asleep in that chair, fall over, crack your head open on the hard floor and then you’ll be the one in the bed. Now get the cute little ass up here.”

She had just settled in when there was a tap on the door and the nurse came in with the promised sandwich and 8 ounce can of soda, balanced with a cup of ice. “As ordered,” she said, smiling. “Oh, hello. You must be Mrs. Mulder.”

Mulder started to correct her, but Scully jabbed her elbow into his rib. “That’s me. Thanks for taking care of my big lug here,” she smiled back.

“Oh, he’s been pretty good so far. Hey, since this is a private room, let me see if I can’t find one of the nice chairs — the ones that fold out into a bed. I think you’d both be more comfortable.”

“That would be great, Patty. Thanks,” Mulder said glancing suspiciously at his partner. The nurse smiled and left, closing the door partway behind her.

“What was that all about?” he demanded.

“What?” she asked around bites of the sandwich. “The Mrs. Mulder thing?”

“Yeah. You usually bite their heads off when they mistake you for my wife.”

Scully finished off the sandwich and chugged most of the soda before daintily wiping her mouth on the accompanying napkin. “Sometimes, you just have to play the system, Mulder,” she told him with a grin that soon turned into a long and wide yawn.

“I don’t think we’re going to be ringing in 2011 tonight, Scully,” he told her, brushing a lock of her hair behind her ear.

“That’s OK. We’ll catch it next year,” she said, snuggling into his side.

“2012,” he said quietly but when he looked down at his partner, he found her sound asleep. “Happy New Year, Scully. Love you.”

the end

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