Disclaimer: Scully and Mulder and the Budahas' aren't mine but Chris Carter's, 1013's and Fox's. Now, I'm not sure if Ellens Air Force Base is real but I don't think it matters who claims it as I make no profit whatsoever from this.
Author's Notes: Bought the 1st 2 seasons on DVD and am having a grand ole time reliving the glory days. *Sigh* Anyhoo, lemme know if you liked it. Xscout@hotmail.com
I glance in the mirror again, the reflection shivering slightly as the car trundles through a bad patch of road. There is no sign of them, no hint that we are being followed. It has been over fifteen minutes since we left the base and I finally feel it is safe. Reaching down under my seat I grope around for several seconds before I find what I am searching for. Gripping the lever tight, I pull up and feel the seat slide forward.
Finally I can reach the pedals without stretching my toes.
Why do all men have to have such long legs? Flicking my eyes over to where Mulder is hunched over in the passenger seat, I feel a hysterical giggle building in my throat. His knees are practically pinned to the dashboard. But the silence emanating from his corner of the vehicle manages to stifle any urge to laugh.
I may not have worked with Fox Mulder for more than a few months, but there are certain characteristics about him that I have come to accept as a built-in part of his personality. One of them is his restlessness. He is always moving; bouncing a leg, fiddling with something in his hands, pacing the length of a room, jogging. It seems to be a way for him to release tension and also appears to help his cognitive processes. His powers of observation and superb memory are characteristics that often surprise me. I have thought more than once that he is wasting his talents on the X-Files, especially when we're at a crime scene and he begins analyzing it with such precision and clarity. His penchant for sunflower seeds is annoying and most psychologists would probably suggest he has an oral fixation but as he himself has a Ph.D. in psychology, I suppose he is aware of the possibility. Then there's his obvious obsession with anything paranormal. It is so integral to the man, I wouldn't be surprised if there is a genome in his genetic makeup that specifically targets the cells in his brain that control paranoia and belief.
But the attribute that struck me the very first day I met him was his speech. Not the way he speaks, though he is well educated and extremely intelligent, it's the way he never seems to stop talking for more than five minutes. One might find this terribly irritating; a continuous prattle that never allows your ears a rest, but it's not like that. Usually he talks about the cases we're working on and I pay attention, knowing that anything and everything could be relevant and I don't want to be caught unaware. I readily admit that I have had very little practice in the field after my two years teaching at Quantico and I want to make sure I become as adept at it as my partner. When he's not talking to me directly about a case, he's mumbling to himself about it, flipping through his 'Rolodex memory', as I like to call it, for any relationships to previous cases.
Then there's the non-work related talking. No, it's not inappropriate; he's never talked about a hot date he had or the regular around the cooler gossip. Come to think of it, it might not be because he thinks it's inappropriate, it may be because he hasn't had a hot date. Hmm. Anyway, most of the time it's about inane things like the weather, a movie he saw the previous night, what to eat for lunch. This may seem like a rather impersonal way to talk to one's partner, but the way he does it makes it personal. Randomly pointing out that the Reflecting Pool at the Washington Monument looks like glass on a sunny day or debating the pros and cons of a good pastrami sandwich versus a turkey club, he turns what would normally seem to be a mundane topic of conversation into a personalized editorial.
At first I thought it was to cover his nervousness about having a new partner to break in. Then I realized that was ridiculous because the man had already gone through six other partners in the last five years and was an old hat at this. It took me a couple of weeks to figure out what was really behind this seeming need to hear his own voice. On our first case I noticed that he had the television on the entire time we were at our hotel, though he didn't appear to ever be watching it. When the same thing happened on our next case, I realized that it wasn't on for content but for comfort.
Mulder doesn't like silence.
I suppose you could call it a fear of silence but that would be doing him an injustice by creating a phobia out of something that might be a simple case of boredom calmed by noise. I previously mentioned his need to move constantly and noise is probably an auditory version of pacing or fidgeting. Then again he might be afraid of absolute quiet. Perhaps it reminds him of something from his past, which he rarely reveals to me, and any cessation of sounds brings with it uncomfortable memories. Or maybe the utter stillness implies secrecy, something which I know he cannot stand, going against ever fiber in his being that cries out for the truth.
Whatever the reason, I have come to accept the continual sound of his voice and with that acceptance comes a sense of comfort that I relate to his rich tones. If he's talking then I know he's there and his presence is something I rely upon.
But at this moment I feel as though I am drowning in silence.
Which is why I am scared for him now. He has not uttered a word apart from the "How did I get here?" question he half-heartedly tossed my way when we left Ellens. The vacant look in his usually expressive eyes is cause enough for concern but it is his complete lack of speech that bothers me most. Normally I would satisfy myself with a perfunctory medical exam to establish his pulse and temperature at the very least. But I don't dare stop the car. I don't know if the military goons are following us and if we don't get to the motel and then the airport in a hurry, I don't want to think about the repercussions this could have on Mulder's career. He's been toeing the line for quite a while and I think trespassing on a top secret air force base is a mile past crossing it.
Another check to the rear-view mirror and I am satisfied that no one is tailing us. It's only a few miles to our hotel and I push my foot down on the accelerator, wanting to get there as soon as possible so I can examine my partner. The silence in the car is thick, weighing heavily on my already tense shoulders. In what seems like hours but in reality is only a few minutes, we pull up to our motel. I turn off the engine and remove the keys from the ignition, taking a deep breath as I do so. Swiveling my head to look at my partner, I clear my throat uncertainly.
I get no response.
"Mulder?" I say it a bit louder as though talking to a slow child.
I think he blinked.
The next time I call his name I reach out and give his shoulder a slight shake. He jerks in his seat and I withdraw my hand quickly. Slowly his face turns and his eyes search for mine. It takes longer than I had hoped for recognition to finally dawn.
"Yes, Mulder, it's me. We're at the motel." I wait for a reply but all I get is another languid blink. I'll take whatever I can get. "We need to go inside, do you think you can do that?"
A tiny sliver of tongue traces across his lips and his head slowly droops forward and up again. With movements achingly laggard, he opens the car door and stands. I hurriedly follow suit and practically run around the front of the vehicle until I am by his side. He's standing with a death grip on the door, his body wavering unsteadily as though a strong gust could blow him over. Hesitant to touch him again after his first reception to contact, I let my fingertips trail up his arm before becoming a firmer grip on his shoulder. He doesn't shy away and I take this as a sign to throw caution to the wind. Pulling his right arm up over my head, I manage to loose his grip on the car and together we shuffle towards our rooms. I decide to conduct the examination in my room, knowing it would be cleaner and my medical supplies would be at hand.
Fumbling for a moment with the keys, I unlock the door and stagger slightly over the threshold. Mulder is a lot heavier than he looks, there must be quite a bit of lean muscle on his thin frame. Depositing him on the end of my bed, I quickly get my medical bag out of the closet next to my suitcase and return to my patient. Mulder's head is sleepily nodding left and right as he takes in his surroundings and I can see the tiniest sharpening of his eyes. This is a good sign.
Holding up my index finger in front of his face, I force words out of my tight throat. "Mulder, I want you to focus on my finger. C'mon, I need you to focus for me. Yes, that's right. Now I want you to follow my finger." Left, back, right, back. His eyes follow my moving digit but there is an uncomfortable delay each time. Rummaging around in my bag I pull out my thermometer and coax him into putting it under his tongue.
As I wait for the thermometer to work, I bring a penlight up and click it on so the small beam shines in Mulder's left eye. Suddenly his head jerks back with such force I wouldn't be surprised if he got whiplash. Okay, there's a definite sensitivity to light. At least he didn't dislodge the thermometer with his maneuver. Or bite it in half. Dragging the small glass instrument from his mouth, I am disheartened by a reading of 100.3 degrees. Well, at least it isn't dangerously high. Hey, I'm trying to think positively.
A check of his reflexes show sluggish reactions and my mind is made up. He needs to be in a hospital. I need to know what kind of drugs he was given, what his reaction to them might be, how long they will affect him, and also to establish that he was assaulted by the personnel of Ellens Air Force Base. Documentation is always the best way to go about proving a case against other divisions of the government and Lord knows we have a hard enough time documenting anything in the X-Files.
Brushing an errant lock from his sweat-dappled forehead I look into his eyes. "Mulder, I want to take you to the hospital. You need to see a doctor."
A bit of hazel replaces the black pools of his eyes. "You're my doctor."
A flush rises to my cheeks and I duck my face in embarrassment. A drug-induced compliment is a compliment nonetheless. "I can't diagnose you and give you the right medicine. But we need to go now before whatever they gave you is out of your system."
His jaw works back and forth. "Yes, go."
I release a breath I didn't know I was holding. That was one less obstacle to overcome. Once again draping his arm across my shoulders, I heave him up off the bed and we're back in the car after stumbling ungracefully across the pavement. This time I take a moment to adjust his seat so that his legs have more room before I take my own seat behind the wheel. The rumble of the engine signals our departure and I turn out onto the main road.
"We'll be at the hospital in no time, Mulder, don't worry."
He frowns at my comment and I think it is because he is confused again. "Remember I said we need to have you seen by a doctor?"
"No, no hospital. We have to see Colonel Budahas."
I would have been pleased by the fact that he strung two whole sentences together if I hadn't been caught off guard by his statement.
"We can see the Colonel after we go to the hospital." I say it in a coaxing tone, one that I know he hates but it usually works.
He shakes his head vigorously and then stops abruptly, letting out a small moan and dropping his face into his hands. At least his body agrees with me.
"Mulder, we have no idea what kind of drugs you were given, you could be in danger of anaphylactic shock. You're not thinking clearly and you would give Mrs. Budahas even more to worry about if you show up in the condition you're in."
"I need to talk to him. They took something from him and they took something from me."
He lifts bleary eyes to me and I see something in them that I don't recognize. Fear? Confusion? Desolation maybe? It is his next words that seal my decision.
"Please, Scully. I need this."
Heaving a sigh and wishing to God that I had been given a partner who had the tiniest sense of self-preservation, I turn the car around and head towards the Budahas'. We drive on in silence for a bit, him in a drugged stupor and me in a fuming mood.
Finally I offer him an ultimatum. "Five minutes, Mulder. After that, we are heading straight to the nearest hospital and I'm not taking 'no' for an answer."
The voice that replies is hoarse and broken. "Thank you."
I simply nod and continue to drive. We don't speak anymore as we travel down the road, each of us lost in our respective thoughts. It is hard to concentrate however, half my mind being oppressed by the silence. I'm drowning again and the fear is beginning to build once more.
Then I hear a sound.
Nothing much really, but the inhaling and exhaling of the man in the seat next to me. In, out, in, out, in. The fear ebbs, replaced with relief and calm. With this new sense comes an epiphany that strikes me with such force that I almost swerve into the oncoming lane.
I don't need to hear Mulder's voice to feel comforted by his presence, all I need is to hear his breath, know he is alive and by my side. As long as I have some tangible feeling of him, I can be assured that he is there with me.
Such dependence on a partner so soon is probably not a good sign. But for some reason I'm not worried.
We continue to drive in silence as a tiny smile creeps across my face.