Title: Revolution
Author: XScout
Rating: R - it gets pretty gory, folks.
Classification: ATS
Keywords: MT, MSR
Spoilers: Fight The Future, Ascension, Fire, Redux
Timeline: Season 1 through the movie. Currently assigned to X-files.
Summary: Every story has a cycle. A beginning, a middle, an end. Mulder and Scully must face death and life, love and fear. Again and again.

Disclaimer: Mulder, Scully, Maggie, Bill Jr., and Skinner are all the property of CC and 10-13. Isn’t slavery illegal? Ah, well. They’re not mine and there is no money made from this. I wish. Everyone else is mine and I’ve taken all the liberties I want with them.

Author’s Notes: Here it is, my first novel length story. About a year in the making and finally done. I must thank Kel, who has made this a medically accurate story and has encouraged me more than she knows. Next is Lena, my beta reader. Thanks for going through this thing and nitpicking all my mistakes, it’d be a mess without you.

Now, I must ask for feedback. Please, it is my first novel and I really need to know what you think. XScout@hotmail.com Thanks so much! And now, without further ado...




Revolution: A complete cycle of events, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Often a repeating cycle.


The Middle


Investigative Support Unit
Quantico, Virginia
Thursday, January 7
3:25 p.m.

"You look like shit."

"Thanks Denise, your sympathy is overwhelming."

"Seriously, Mulder, you should go home." Denise Chandler stood next to the FBI's best criminal profiler, the infamous 'Spooky Mulder', and gave him a look of mild disgust mixed with honest concern.

Mulder coughed shortly in his hand before passing it across his face. "I can't. I have to finish this first."

Denise sighed. "You're not doing anyone any good right now, you can hardly think straight. You've been here since last night, you should take a break." She nudged him on the shoulder, "Besides, I'll tell Dana that you haven't slept or eaten and let *her* tear you in two." She smiled at his pursed lips. "*Or* you could leave now, get a few hours sleep, and come back in one well-rested piece."

Fox Mulder leaned back in his chair and gazed up at the woman next to him. She was fairly tall, about five foot seven, with long black hair that was usually pulled up into a pony tail. Her face was conventionally pretty, graced by well-defined cheekbones, a curving chin, and a smooth complexion. But she never used her looks to further her career, as some women in the Bureau had, working harder than most and achieving a good reputation as a result. Despite their physical differences, the similarities between her and Scully were amazing. Both were good agents, well-imbued with scientific knowledge, sharp witted, and stubborn. Damn stubborn. He closed his eyes and rubbed the bridge of his nose with his forefinger and thumb. "All right, you win. I'll go."

A smug grin formed on Denise's face. She knew blackmail would work. She watched as Mulder struggled to his feet, swaying slightly, and her grin disappeared. "I don't think you should drive. Let me take you home, you can leave your car here and Dana can pick you up in the morning."

"You're just trying to come onto me,” Mulder grumbled, coughing again.

"Oh yeah, every time I hear the sound of phlegm being hacked up, my heart skips a beat. C'mon, let's get you home." She slid a hand under his elbow to guide him to the elevator.

"Wait, my notes." He turned around and grabbed several files from the desk, stuffing them into his briefcase and snapping the case shut.

Denise shook her head. Did the man ever stop working? She helped the unsteady agent all the way to the parking garage, letting him lean on her for support. She unlocked the passenger door of her Taurus and shoved him inside, stifling a chuckle when his knees hit the dashboard. Mulder shot her a look of pure venom and reached under the seat to adjust it. She shut the door and moved around to get in on the other side.

She started the car and headed toward the exit. "So, you gonna tell me where you live or am I supposed to be a mind reader?"

He gave her clipped directions to his apartment as he played with the car dials, turning up the heat full blast. Then he settled back in his seat and promptly fell asleep. Denise had to call his name several times to wake him up.

"Huh? What?"

"I said, we're here" She looked at her passenger closely. "Do you want me to help you inside?"

Mulder shook his head. "No, you've done enough already. I'm fine, just need a few hours of sleep." He pulled himself out of her car and turned back to get his briefcase. "Thanks."

"No problem. Take care of yourself."

He gave her his best smile and swiveled around to walk quickly to the entrance of his apartment building. Denise watched him until he disappeared inside before pulling away from the curb.

4:17 p.m.

She knew it from the minute the case file showed up on her desk. She knew it was going to be a bad one. Knowing that didn't make it any easier now.

Dana Scully checked her rear view mirror and pulled into the right hand lane. Traffic was light, allowing her mind to wander over the events of the past week.

She and Mulder had been called in on a case that was being investigated by the VCS, a case in which the killer would disembowel his victims and then exsanguinate them. The X-Files team was requested to rule out the possibility that this wasn't some form of anthropomancy- trying to divine one's future from the placement of the entrails. At least that was the *official* reason.

She knew better then that. It was an ill disguised ploy to get her partner's profiling abilities. It seemed they wouldn't give up until one of their God forsaken cases killed him, or until he couldn't crawl out of the killer's mind, like Bill Patterson.

Spooky Mulder had lived up to his reputation, bringing the case farther in one week than it had progressed in the previous month of investigation. But at what cost? He had hardly slept, barely eaten, and spent every waking moment on trying to solve this. And Special Agent Dana Scully was scared.

She wasn't scared of the killer. No, she had long ago learned to deal with the horrific aspects of her job. She was scared for her partner. For his health, both mental and physical. But other than keeping a close eye on him and trying to persuade him to rest, there was nothing she could do. And on the days when she couldn't be with him, Denise Chandler kept her updated on his condition.

Scully knew Denise from her days at the Academy; they were in several of the same classes and often studied together. She was glad that she wasn't alone in trying to keep Mulder sane. Today was one of the days they had been separated. She'd had to interview the medical examiners who had done the autopsies of the first three victims, to ascertain whether they needed to be redone. Thankfully they hadn't. She had autopsied the last two victims and that was quite enough for her.

She paused in her ruminations to blare her horn at the discourteous driver in front of her, cursing under her breath. She was anxious to get back to Quantico, to see how Mulder was doing. She had been too busy today to do more than say hello this morning before heading out. It was time to check in. She held the wheel with one hand and used the other to grope in her coat for the phone. Pulling the antenna out with her teeth, she pressed speed dial three.


"Denise, it's Dana."

"Dana, honey, you finally done playin' doctor?" Denise's cheerful tone went a long way to lift Scully's spirits.

"Let's hope so. How's Mulder?"

"*I'm* fine, thank you for asking,” Denise said sarcastically, her voice humorous to take away the sting of the words.

Scully snorted good naturedly. "Sorry, it's just that I've had this feeling all day that something bad is going to happen."

"So, you're psychic now?" Denise teased.

"Woman's intuition. You tell Mulder and I'll make you sit in on the next autopsy."

"You have my word. Speaking of Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome, he's not here. I spent the last six hours listening to him try and smother his coughing and couldn't take it any more."

Scully's heart constricted slightly. "Coughing?"

"Yeah, said he was coming down with a cold. I've heard people with pneumonia sound better than his 'cold'. So I took him home about an hour ago." Denise debated about telling her friend the rest. She decided to be honest. "He was weak and dizzy so I didn't trust him to drive, told him you could pick him up tomorrow. Is that okay?"

"Yeah, fine,” Scully said absently. "Listen, Denise, do me a favor? Tell SAC Lahaina I finished talking to all the MEs and none of the autopsies need to be redone. I'll be there tomorrow to give him a more in-depth report, but right now I'm going to go check on Mulder. Knowing him, he'll need a little persuasion getting some rest."

"I hear you. All right, I'll tell Lahaina, but he's not gonna be happy. He was hoping that there was something missed in those autopsies that you'd find to give us something to go on." Denise sighed at the seeming futility of her job.

"Thanks, I owe you. See you tomorrow."

"Give Mulder a kiss for me," Denise shot into the phone before hanging up.

Scully stared at her cell phone for a moment, listening to the dial tone. Jealousy surged through her unexpectedly but she quickly dismissed it. Denise had been in a steady relationship for the past three years and she was sure that her boyfriend would pop the big question soon. She was constantly teasing Scully about her relationship with Mulder, intimating that they were more than just friends and partners. Scully took all the comments in stride, content in the fact that no one could ever really understand her relationship with her partner.

She loved him, she could admit that to herself. But it was something so much deeper than any physical love. It was spiritual. They were soulmates, as cliche as it sounded, there was no other way to describe it. She still yearned to have a physical relationship with him, but that would just be a confirmation of their spiritual bond, nothing more than admitting to each other what they themselves already knew.

So deep in thought, before she knew it she was pulling up in front of Mulder's apartment building. Killing the engine, she hurriedly unbuckled her safety belt and was out the door in seconds. As she stood in the elevator, willing it to go faster, she chided herself for being so worried. He probably just had a cold... but in his weakened condition it could easily turn into something worse.

The elevator 'dinged' its arrival on the correct floor and she waited until the doors were open just enough to allow her passage. She stopped in front of apartment 42, briefly noting that the two was hanging upside-down again. She knocked lightly before using her key, letting Mulder know that she was coming in, so don't shoot. She needn't have worried, he was fast asleep on the couch, the TV on with the sound turned down.

Well, wonder of all wonders. She stepped over the pile of accumulated envelopes and newspapers shoved just inside the door, setting her coat and purse on the kitchen table. It was the middle of winter and it had been snowing lightly over the past few weeks, so she wasn't surprised that he had the heater on. She glanced at her watch, it was just after five o'clock and her body was reminding her she hadn't had anything to eat since breakfast. She decided to make some dinner, knowing that Mulder had probably missed both breakfast and lunch.

Flipping on the kitchen light, she wandered over to the refrigerator to see if there was anything in it. There were three things- a loaf of bread, a carton of eggs, and a jug of orange juice that expired a month ago. Bachelors, go figure. Next, she explored the cupboards, finally discovering a can of chicken soup shoved in the back. She took it out and emptied the contents in the cleanest pot she could find. While the soup was heating up, she went to check on Mulder.

He was lying on his couch, his left arm wrapped around his body, his right resting by his side. She had a sudden sense of deja vu. It was just like when he'd been drugged to the gills and was feverish just before his father was killed. She shook away the memory, focusing on the present. A glance at her partner's face was all it took. It was drawn and pale, his eyes moving back and forth in REM sleep. Whatever he was dreaming, it wasn't pleasant. During cases when he slipped into profiler mode he often had terrifying nightmares, just another reason for him to avoid sleep.

And sleep was what he needed, so she let him be, hoping that the dream wouldn't escalate. She was about to return to the kitchen, but a familiar sight caught her eye. She paused and looked closer at the television. It was the five o’clock news, relating the story of the ‘East Coast Executioner’, as the press had taken to calling the UNSUB, that she and Mulder were currently seeking. What had caught her attention was a shot of Mulder, standing over a crime scene like a sentinel. She sat on the coffee table, turning the sound up just enough to hear but not enough to wake her partner.

“Special Agent Fox Mulder, a criminal profiler, and his partner have recently joined the investigating team, bringing the case closer to a resolution. Agent Mulder was not able to speak with us, but it appears that everything is being handled with the utmost care. And now, we go to Bob Newark for sports.”

Dana flipped off the television, shaking her head in disgust. Damn news people had been hovering over this case since the second victim, badgering agents and spreading rumors. All they did was cause panic in the local populace by making reports without consulting the authorities. She didn’t mind that her name had not been mentioned, that her presence had been dismissed. Mulder had a reputation from his years in Violent Crimes, though he never purposely encouraged it, and the news never forgot a reputation. She sighed, glad that Mulder hadn’t seen the report, he would be furious. What if the killer was watching? By saying that the case was close to resolved, it put the investigation in danger because the UNSUB might change his pattern, take drastic measures, even go after one of the agents on the case. There was a possibility that he might become nervous and get sloppy, leaving behind a clue that would lead the authorities straight to him, but that was highly unlikely. People like this lived for publicity, for outwitting their pursuers. She chewed on her lower lip for a moment and then mentally shrugged. There wasn’t much she could do about it until something happened.

Back in the kitchen, she busied herself with cleaning up the few dishes in the sink, throwing out the spoiled goods from the fridge, and even sorting the mail. She separated it into three piles: bills, junk mail, and the magazines that he insisted weren't his. She had just finished glancing through a week old Sears ad when a muffled moan reached her ears.

Time to wake him up. She hurried into the family room and over to her partner's twitching form. He was breathing heavily, his head tossing back and forth, perspiration dotting his brow. She knelt between the couch and the coffee table, laying one hand on Mulder's shoulder. Shaking him gently, she called his name.

Mulder gasped and sat up suddenly, his eyes wide, unseeing. "Mulder, it's me. It's Scully. C'mon, breathe. Take deep breaths, in... out... in... good," she spoke reassuringly, all the while rubbing his back in circular motions.

Mulder blinked furiously, rubbing the heel of his hand in one eye. "Scully? What are you doing here?"

She stood and looked down at him. "I heard you weren't feeling well and thought I might stop by to see if I could help."

"Damn it,” Mulder muttered. "She promised. That woman couldn't keep a secret if her mouth was sewn shut."

"It's not Denise's fault that she's so open with her information. If you'll remember, I am very proficient in getting a confession out of a killer. What makes you think I couldn't get one out of a friend?"

Mulder ignored the question, his nose wrinkling slightly. "What's cooking?"

"Chicken soup."

"*I* had chicken soup?? Must have been left over from last year's flu season." Mulder's chuckle disintegrated into a coughing fit. He waved off Scully's attempts to help and settled back down on the couch.

She brushed her hand across his forehead, shocked at the heat emanating from him. "Be right back, I want to take your temperature."

Mulder groaned dramatically. "Thermometer's in the- oh, you found it."

Scully sat down on the coffee table, thermometer in hand. "Open." He complied. "Now, keep it under there until I say. I have to go check the soup." She went to the kitchen, removing the pot from the stove and turned off the fire. When she came back, it was to find her partner curled in a fetal position, shivering violently.

"Mulder? What's wrong?" The heater had made the apartment comfortably warm, so she was sure his condition had nothing to do with the exterior temperature.

"C-c-cold,” he managed to say around the glass instrument in his mouth.

She pulled out the thermometer and held it up to the light. "Jesus, no wonder you're freezing. You're running a temp of 104. We have to get you cooled down immediately."

"I th-thought I was already c-cold enough,” he said through chattering teeth.

"Mulder, an adult with a temp that high runs a risk of febrile seizures. We have to bring the fever down." Rubbing his forearm sympathetically, she got up and moved to the bathroom. She twisted on the cold water in the tub, turned the hot water on a bit, and plugged the drain.

Quickly returning to the other room, she pulled Mulder into a sitting position. "I need you to get undressed now. Can you do that?"

He trembled harder. "I d-don't th-think s-so."

His lack of a lewd comment just made her more certain that he was dangerously sick. "All right, I'll help." She peeled off his sweat soaked T-shirt and tugged the socks from his feet. Then she removed one leg at a time from the gray sweat pants that hung too loosely on his hips. She stepped back a moment, debating. She decided to let him retain some dignity. "You can wear the boxers into the tub."

She lifted one long arm and draped it over her shoulders. Heaving mightily, she managed to get him to his feet, swaying precariously with his unbalanced weight. Together they stumbled into the bathroom, where a tub full of tepid water awaited. Mulder hissed as he placed one foot in the bathtub.

"C'mon, you can do it, partner. Please? For me?" Scully encouraged. He looked at her pleading expression and sat definitively in the water. She smiled, knowing that he wouldn't have been able to deny her. Grabbing a washcloth from the towel bar, she began washing Mulder's bare chest, letting the cool water run down his torso.

Eventually the shaking subsided and all that remained was a still man, asleep in the tub.

7:07 p.m.

Getting Mulder's lanky form out of the bath and into clothes had been more of a challenge than getting him undressed and into the tub. But Scully managed, mostly because Mulder was lucid enough to help get a new pair of boxers and sweats on.

She set him down at the table and placed a bowl of steaming soup in front of him, daring him to tell her he wasn't hungry. But when she saw the grim set of his mouth she knew that she was asking too much. "Just eat what you can, okay? We'll save the rest for later." He gave her a slight smile and picked up the spoon.

He made it farther than she had hoped, actually downing a little more than half the contents of the bowl. With a full stomach and closer to normal body temp, Mulder was re-energized, talking and gesturing animatedly about the case.

"I know we're missing something here, Scully, I just can't put my finger on it. He's going to kill again, fairly soon too. But we're not going to find this guy, not if we can't put the evidence together." He chewed his lip, mind racing.

"There isn't much evidence *to* put together, Mulder." Scully placed his bowl in the dishwasher and joined him at the table.

"Actually, there is quite a lot of evidence. The entrails are placed in specific arrangements, pointing to an organized individual. Lack of blood at the scene means the murder occurred at a different location. Considering the amount of blood loss contradictory to the wounds, and the small amount of blood splatter on the body, exsanguination is a very likely scenario. That means he has the equipment necessary. The placement of the intestines is secondary, it's the need for blood that is more important to him. He's using it for something. Probably knocks out the victim, takes them to a sterile location where he keeps the equipment, disembowels them, then takes all their blood as they die. Then he places the bodies in a well-frequented area, the entrails laid out next to the body in an almost ornamental way. Like artwork. Again, a crime that was planned, organized, and efficient. No prints, nothing but a few animal fibers.

"Hog and camel hair. That denotes the possibility that he works at a zoo or some other animal oriented occupation. Not a veterinarian, since camels, as far as I know, are not regular patients at your local vet. But that's what is wrong here. I just don't get the impression that animals are big in the UNSUB's lifestyle. Most serial killers have a past in which cruelty to animals is a norm, such as killing the family pet. That could mean that this guy got a job with animals so that he could 'experiment' on them or that he is a butcher who is familiar with hogs and has the skills to disembowel quickly. But not exactly the kind of person who would have access to a camel. The only occupation where both a hog and a camel might be related, is a zoo, which are quite strict in their employee's treatment of the animals.

"So you see, the animal fibers are the key to finding the UNSUB. We have all the information in front of us, if only I could see it!"

"Mulder, it is not up to you to solve this alone, no one expects you to." She saw the look of reproof he gave her. "Well, most people don't expect you to. I missed the last briefing, the one where you presented the profile, because I was meeting with the MEs of the first victims. Give me a short summary."

"He's male, white, late thirties to early forties, single but only recently, average to above average IQ, college dropout, criminal record but only for small things like petty theft or attempted arson. He's big, probably over six foot, well built, strong enough to take down another healthy male. He's an introvert, a recluse, afraid of other people's opinions and fearful of being rejected. Scruffy looking, but not enough to be noticeable. Occupation is difficult. I think it borders between blue and white collar, a job that can be considered either, depending on the person.

“I say that he is only recently single because the breakup is most likely what triggered his killings. He is trying to prove something to his ex-girlfriend, trying to show her his worth. His insecurity is so great that he has a phobia of other people’s opinions. Maybe he doesn’t even have a job, can’t get one, and that’s why she left him.” He sighed and ground the heel of his left hand in his eye.

Scully thought for a moment. "You're right, the animal related job isn't going to take us anywhere." She paused when she saw him yawn. "It will probably be clearer after you get a good night's rest. Don't give me that look, you are tired and sick, you need to rest."

"But we're so close, Scully, I can feel it."

"Mulder, listen to me. Making yourself sicker by not giving your body time to recuperate is not going to help catch this guy. I have some sleeping pills if you need them and I am calling you in sick tomorrow. You are going the spend the day sleeping, eating, and taking it easy. Do you understand?"

"But Scully, I-"

"Please. Mulder, I need you to get well. I care about you too much to watch you kill yourself slowly." She saw that she was getting through to him. "Promise me that you'll rest tomorrow."

He closed his eyes and sighed. "I promise."

Friday, January 8
7:28 a.m.

Mulder awoke to an epiphany. He knew the reason for the hair fibers. Throwing himself off the couch he began to pace the length of his family room, mulling over the idea. That *had* to be it, it all fit!

He moved over to his desk, flipped on his computer and sat down heavily in the old chair. Lying on the desktop was a note from Scully:

Left around six this morning. Extra soup is in the fridge and sleeping pills are in the cabinet. Remember what you promised. -S

He felt a twinge of guilt for not doing exactly as Scully had said. But he wasn't coming *in* to work, so this didn't really count, did it? He pulled up his profile and began to edit in the new information.

When he was finished, he e-mailed a copy to SAC Lahaina, hoping that it was soon enough to be of use before the next victim was taken.

It wasn't.

So focused was he on his profile, that Mulder didn't hear his door swing slowly open, or the soft footsteps behind him. Suddenly, a chloroform soaked cloth was pressed to his mouth, a strong hand pushed at the back of his head to keep him from trying to escape the sickeningly sweet smell. Mulder reached up and clawed at the arms, desperately attempting to pull them away. Mulder rocked back in his chair, slamming the wooden edge into his attacker's stomach. He was rewarded with a loud grunt and the grip on his head loosened temporarily. But Mulder was sick, weak, and dehydrated. The chloroform acted quickly, only allowing Mulder one last fling of his arms, scattering papers and books off the desk. Then his limbs went numb, a steady buzzing noise grew louder in his ears, and his eyelids grew heavy.

His profile was one victim too late.

Investigative Support Unit
8:03 a.m.

Special Agent In Charge Samuel Lahaina trudged into his office, dropping his briefcase on his desk with a loud thump. He stood facing away from the door, staring at the walls that were morbidly decorated with crime scene photos. This case was a nightmare. Useless evidence, random victims, and the Director breathing down his neck to boot. At least he'd been able to get Mulder assigned to it. The man was such an exceptional profiler, why was he wasting his time chasing little green men?

Lahaina slapped himself mentally for such a thought. He was seeing first hand why Spooky Mulder had needed to transfer out of the ISU. The agent had worked nonstop for the past week, and now he was too sick to come in.

He sighed his regret, swiveled around and switched on the computer, opening his briefcase and pulling out his notes. He looked up at the screen and noticed that he had mail. Opening up the mailbox, he was delighted to see that it was from Mulder. He scanned through it quickly, his eyes growing wide. "Oh my God," he whispered.


Scully was in the command center with the rest of the team assigned to the case. They were all putting together their notes and discussing possible avenues of investigation, preparing for the meeting at 8:30. Everyone was shocked into silence when the SAC burst into the room, waving several sheets of paper wildly, shouting jubilantly, "We've got a lead!"

The agents were too surprised to react, so Lahaina just motioned them to take a seat. "Agent Mulder just sent me an updated version of his profile. Seems he has a good idea on what the source of those animal fibers are."

Everyone looked at each other, murmuring excitedly. The suspense grew almost unbearable before Lahaina continued. "They're from paint brushes. Apparently, brushes are made from many different animals, including squirrel, skunk, and of course, hog and camel. Mulder thinks this guy is using blood as his painting medium and laying out the intestines as some sort of artistic signature.

"I want a list of all art stores in the area surrounding the crime scenes, all employees are to be interviewed and given the suspect’s description as put forth in the profile. We are going to *nail* this bastard."

Cheers went up around the room as agents sprang into action, scraping of chairs and rustling of papers echoing down the halls. Scully, however, was not cheerful. In fact, she was quite the opposite. Denise noticed her friend's demeanor and elbowed her gently.

"Dana? What's wrong?"

"He promised he'd rest,” Scully replied indignantly.

"Who? Mulder? C'mon Dana, you don't expect the guy to sit on information like this until he's feeling up to sharing it with the rest of us." Denise waggled a knowing finger at the redhead.

"I know,” Scully sighed. "It's just that I'm so worried about him."

"Why don't you call him, make sure he's behaving." Denise grinned evilly. "Make him think you're really pissed at him, it'll scare the shit out of him."

"Language, Denise."

"Fuck language." Scully smiled. "Hah. Knew I'd get you to show some teeth."

"You are too much, you know that?" Scully laughed as she pulled out her cell phone. "I won't scare him too badly though." She pressed speed dial one and waited patiently. By the time the phone on the other end rang eight times, she gave up.

Denise frowned. "Not answering?"

Scully's expression matched her friend's. "No."

"Maybe he took a pill."

"Maybe." Scully sounded unconvinced. "I don't know, I feel like something's wrong."

Denise stood up and grabbed her coat. "Let's go, Ms. Psychic to the Stars."

Scully grinned, pulling out her car keys. "It's women's intuition, and don't you forget it."

Fox Mulder's Apartment
9:18 am

Scully didn't even bother knocking. She just pulled out the key marked 'Mulder', flashing Denise a 'shut up' look, and unlocked the door.

It was dark, all the lights were off and the blinds were closed. "Mulder?" she called softly.

No response. She stepped into the family room and switched on the light. The room was a mess. The desk chair was overturned, papers and books strewn across the floor. Signs of a struggle.

Denise joined her a minute later. "Rest of the apartment is empty. Nothing appears to be missing."

"Except Mulder,” Scully whispered.

"Yeah. Do you think it was our guy?" Denise asked, not wanting to believe it.

Scully nodded, unable to speak.

“How? Why would he come after Mulder?” Denise turned in a circle as she stood in the middle of the family room.

Scully was asking herself the same question. Her eyes came to rest on the television and she remembered the news report she had seen the previous night. “He saw Mulder on the news,” she murmured, her mind reeling as her fears from when she saw the report appeared to have come true.

"Dana? You okay? You want to sit down?"

The voice that came from her was chilling in its fury. "No. We are going to find this guy, and when we do, Mulder had better be alive or I am going to shoot the bastard in cold blood."

Denise swallowed nervously, not doubting for a second that her friend would do exactly as she said.

Michael's Arts and Crafts
230 Towne Center Parkway
2:11 p.m.

"I don't think I'll ever get the smell of potpourri out of my sinuses,” Denise grumbled as she and Scully walked into the last art store on their list. They had already interviewed over fifty employees at thirteen different craft stores. None of the other teams had had any luck either.

The news about Mulder's kidnapping had spread like wildfire, drawing every available agent out onto the streets to go through the over two hundred art stores in the area surrounding the five crime scenes.

Denise started to wander through the store, in search of any employees. Scully stood next to the customer service booth where a small brunette was standing, trying to look busy. She seemed delighted to find a customer. "Hi! Can I help you?" she asked brightly.

"My name is Agent Scully, I'm with the FBI." The girl's eyes grew enormously rounded. "I need to ask you a few questions."

"Uh, sure," the girl stammered.

"I need to know if you've seen a man who buys a lot of paint brushes. He'd be a large man, in his late thirties, early forties, white, not well dressed." Scully waited patiently as the girl wracked her brain.

"Uh, no, not that I can think of. But I'm not here that much. Jennifer's on break right now, she might know 'cause she's here all the time," the girl offered.

"Thank you." After obtaining directions to the breakroom, Scully found Denise and they both entered the 'Employees Only' area. A blonde girl was sitting at a table, leaning back on two legs of a metal folding chair, munching on popcorn and watching a flickering TV screen. Scully cleared her throat, "Excuse me."

The girl jerked in her seat, the chair clanging to the ground loudly, and her head whipped around to stare at the two women. "Oh! You two startled me! You looking for someone?"

"Actually, we're looking for you." Scully held up her ID at the girl's confused look.

"FBI??" Jennifer squeaked. She calmed quickly. "Cool."

Denise and Scully exchanged an amused look. Denise inclined her head toward Scully, deferring the questioning to her. Dana sat down on the metal chair next to Jennifer. "We need to know if you have seen someone." She again described the UNSUB, adding that he would probably be buying paint brushes in large quantities.

Jennifer pursed her lips thoughtfully. "Actually, yeah, I think I know who you're talking about. I only remember the guy 'cause he's a regular. Comes in about once a week and buys a bunch of expensive brushes, you know, the real animal hair kind, not the synthetic ones. I noticed that he often buys the same brushes over and over. Asked him once why he did that. Told me it was because once he used them, they were christened and were too sacred to use again." Jennifer's face screwed up in a smile. "Thought it was kinda weird, but artists are supposedly eccentric, right?"

Scully could hardly contain her excitement. "Do you know his name?"

"No. But he was in here last night, wrote a check. For sixty-two something I think. I rung him up. You know, we keep the checks for a day after they're written, it's probably still in the office. I could identify it for you if you'd like."

"That would be absolutely marvelous." Scully was smiling genuinely now. It was the first glimmer of hope she'd had all day. The man Jennifer was talking about certainly sounded like he displayed the kind of behavior that the suspect would.

Jennifer called the manager to the breakroom to open the door to the office. The manager was surprised to find two FBI agents in his store, but he complied with all their requests and soon they were on their way, name and address of the killer in hand.


The End


9787 Mast Boulevarde
3:27 p.m.

It had been decided that negotiation would not be possible with this particular subject, so an armed assault was the other option. A team of ten agents was suited up in bullet proof vests and half were armed with automatic rifles. There were four snipers place advantageously around the property, and an ambulance standing by out of sight. Upon questioning the neighbors, they had confirmed that the suspect was home.

Scully was in the first group to enter the house, all yelling "FBI!" as they stormed through the rooms. "First floor clear!" shouted Agent Duke, the team leader. They swarmed upstairs, the next group pouring through the front door to re-canvas the lower level. Duke came to a locked door and broke it open with a mighty kick, pivoting around to point his weapon into the room.

He took in the scene before him and almost lost his lunch. The two agents behind him could be heard whispering "Jesus Christ" and "Oh God".

Scully was bringing up the rear and couldn't see through the others packed in the doorway. She could hear Duke call out, "FBI! Freeze!" She managed to shove her way to Duke's side as he slowly entered the room. The other three remained back, not wanting to antagonize the killer. What Scully saw made her heart freeze, her stomach drop, and her mouth go dry.

Gene Kearns was kneeling at the far end of a large room filled with canvases, brushes, bottles, easels, and other art paraphernalia. He was kneeling over the still form of Fox Mulder, whose intestines were dangling from the madman's hands. Kearns stared at the agents standing fifteen feet away and smiled ferally.

Scully's hands began to shake, her gun trembling up and down but remaining pointed at Kearns. In a stone cold voice she ordered, "Release Agent Mulder and step away."

Kearns' eyes narrowed as he glared at her, not moving from his position.

Scully couldn't keep her eyes off of her partner's face, which was a ghastly shade of gray. A tube inserted in his open abdomen was draining his blood into a glass jar atop a small motor. Thank God he wasn't feeling any of it. "I said release him! Move away or I will shoot you right now, you bastard!" she screamed.

Duke stepped forward when he saw Scully's finger twitch on the trigger. "Scully, don't do it. It's not worth it."

"Scully?" rasped a deep voice from Kearns' direction. "So, you are the infamous Dana Scully," he chuckled. "Fox has been asking for you." He tugged on the lengths of entrails in his hands. The body on the floor jerked and an agonized groan escaped Mulder's lips.

Oh God. He was conscious! She was distantly aware of the sound of retching behind her.

The panic suddenly disappeared, replaced with a calm coldness. "I am only going to say this one more time. Release him and step away." She raised her gun a bit higher so that it pointed directly at Kearns' forehead.

Kearns stared at the diminutive woman in front of him and for the first time in years, he was afraid for his life. There was something in her eyes that told him that she wasn't quite sane at this moment, that she would not think twice about shooting an unarmed man, despite FBI regulations. He swallowed the lump in his throat and cautiously lowered his hands to the body below him. He set the lengths of intestines down on the open cavity in Mulder's abdomen then sat back on his haunches before straightening up into a standing position.

Dukes rushed forward, walking around Mulder's bloody form as quickly as possible, trying to avoid looking at the body. He wrenched Kearns' hands behind him and snapped the handcuffs on in one fluid motion. Meanwhile, Scully made her way to her partner, dropping down beside him, ignoring the red liquid seeping into her pants at the knees. Mulder's glazed eyes wandered in her direction.

"Mulder? It's Scully, I'm here, you're going to be okay." She leaned over and reached up to uncuff his hands from the metal ring stuck in the floor. His wrists were cut deeply, a testament to his struggles against the unimaginable pain. She then took his arms and gently brought them down to his sides, knowing that lack of circulation would make it hard for him to move his limbs of his own accord. The motor of the drainage machine was still going and some air was being sucked in past the blood, making a sick gurgling sound. She viciously yanked the plug from the wall and the motor sputtered and died. Then she carefully pulled the tube from his abdomen, her fingers shaking as she watched scarlet liquid drip from the nozzle.

"Scully?" came a whispered reply, his voice raw from crying out, his lips cracked and speckled with red.

She brushed a lock of hair from his forehead, trying to delay the inevitable. "The paramedics are on their way, you're going to be fine." Maybe if she said it enough, she'd believe it herself. It was time to stop procrastinating. She ran her eyes down from his face, across his chest, coming to rest on the mass of entrails heaped upon his stomach. She was overwhelmed by the need to empty her stomach but she tamped down on it, shoving it aside angrily. He needed professional help right now, not an emotional wreck.

But there was nothing she could do. She couldn't handle his wounds without gloves, the area was probably filthy and they had to try and keep it as clean as possible until they could flush it out at the hospital. She certainly couldn't try shoving all the intestines back inside his body cavity, that was a detailed procedure that she didn't want to attempt. Replacing the entrails back inside a lifeless corpse was one thing, into her alive and fully aware partner was quite another.

Movement caught her eye and she glanced over to Mulder's face. His eyes were filled with tears, one occasionally escaping to run down his cheek, his brows were furrowed in pain and his breaths were shallow. His trembling hand lifted from the ground, slowly raising to Scully's face. His long fingers touched the back of her neck, his palm resting on her jaw. His thumb ran back and forth across her cheekbone in a gentle caress and she leaned into it, bringing her own hand up to press his against her.

"Scully, I-" he paused to catch his breath, agony coursing through his veins, "- love you." His voice broke on the last word.

Her breath caught in her throat, her mind reeling. Then she understood. "Mulder, don't. Don't you dare say goodbye."

"I'm... sorry," he gasped. The tears she had been holding back burst forth, dripping down to mingle with the blood welling out onto the floor. All of a sudden his hand dropped from her cheek, his eyes closing, his body going slack.

"NO! Mulder, don't leave me!" She scrambled over to his head, trying to find a pulse. Nothing. She tilted his head back and plugged his nose before bending down to breathe into his mouth. She then moved her hands to his chest, giving five quick thrusts. "C'mon Mulder. Where the hell are those paramedics?!!" she demanded over her shoulder.

Duke, who had been holding the other agents at bay as well as communicating with the SAC via cellphone, yelled back, "They'll be here in another minute, there was a car accident and they had to go around it!"

"Damn it," she muttered. She continued to switch between breathing for him and cardiac massage, not caring that she was sobbing openly. "Mulder, don't do this to me, I need you!" Another breath. "Don't you understand? I don’t want to live without you.” She moved back to his mouth, but before she could do anything, his body jerked.

Once, twice, then his head turned to the side and he coughed, blood spraying from his parted lips. He drew in a deep breath, a loud wet sound emerging. Just then, there was a commotion from the hallway and a split second later, the paramedics were there, swarming over the two agents.

She backed away, her mind still numb from the realization that she had almost lost him. Another minute passed and they were wheeling him out the door on a gurney. The room began to fill with agents as they took in the details of the crime scene, falling back on procedure as a means to fight the uneasiness caused by knowing the crime was committed against one of their own.

Scully swept her eyes around the scene once more before hurrying after her partner. She hit the bottom of the stairs and turned around the corner so fast that she ran into someone, almost knocking them down. Hands reached out to steady her. "Dana?"

It took a moment for Scully to recognize who was standing in front of her. "Denise?" Flashing lights from the front yard caught her eye. "I'm sorry, I have to go."

"Wait, I'll come with you." The two women raced out the door and up to the back of the ambulance where an EMT was just closing the doors.

He saw them and was shaking his head before they got there. "Sorry ladies, no room for passengers, you're going to have to find another ride."

Scully looked like she was about to argue but Denise laid a hand on her arm and spoke to the medic, "What hospital are you taking him to?"

"Northeast Georgetown."

"Thanks." With that, she pulled Scully after her, dragging her away from the sight of the disappearing ambulance. "C'mon Dana, the sooner we get to the car, the sooner we get to the hospital."

That was all it took. Before Denise could blink, Scully was in the passenger seat, impatiently waiting for the driver. Denise obliged her by running over and throwing herself into the car. Starting the ignition, she reached across Dana and pulled a small domed light from the glove compartment. She set it on the dash and flipped it on, a flashing red glow lighting up in front of them.

She tossed her friend a conspiratorial grin. "For emergencies." She didn't get a response. She didn't really expect one. She knew that Dana's mind was focused on one thing and one thing alone.


4:12 p.m.

"Damn it! God fucking damn it!!"

Denise said nothing, keeping her eyes locked on the endless mass of cars in front of her.

"Don't people realize what the flashing light means??"

"It's four o'clock, rush hour. If they *could* move over, I'm sure they would. But look, we're packed in like sardines."

Scully's hands were clenched into fists, her shoulders trembling. "We're not going to make it. What if he... what if he dies and I'm not there? Oh God, I can't lose him, not now."

"Listen, Dana. Hey, are you listening to me? All right now, that's it. Mulder is *not* going to die. Do you know why? Because I've seen the way he looks at you and there is no chance in hell that man would dream of dying on you."

Scully was looking at her now, eyes more focused, breathe more even. "What if he doesn't have a choice?"

Denise pursed her lips. "We're only about five miles from the hospital, we could always get out and run there."

A flurry of movement and see was staring at an open car door. "I was only kidding,” she muttered as she unbuckled her seat belt. She searched the line of vehicles ahead and spotted an auburn head quickly moving up the street. She ignored the honks and yells around her and chased after Dana.

Luckily, Scully was a bit worn out from her emotional distress and Denise was able to catch up to her. Together they raced through the immobile cars, dodging any movement such as a vehicle inching forward or a car door opening to see what was going on.

They were still a good four miles away when Scully suddenly stopped. Denise had to slide to a halt to avoid slamming into her.

"Can you drive a motorcycle?"

A deep breath. "What?"

"Can you drive a motorcycle?"

Denise furrowed her brows. "Yeah, why?"

Scully pointed to their left, where a young man was just mounting a cycle, helmet in hand. Denise nodded breathlessly and they ran over to him.

Scully reached him first and her badge was out instantly. "Sir? We're federal agents and we need to commandeer your vehicle."

"What?? You've got to be joking."

Denise pulled out her own ID. "No, Sir, this is a federal emergency. Please get off the motorcycle."

The youth did as he was told, albeit reluctantly. Denise swung her leg over and settled down, Scully straddling the seat behind her. "Thank you, Sir, we'll contact you later on where to pick up your vehicle." Without waiting for a reply they were off, speeding between the lines of cars.

Northeast Georgetown Medical Center
4:29 p.m.

The motorcycle screeched to a stop just outside the double doors boldly marked 'Emergency Room'. Scully was once again ahead of her friend and was through the doors before Denise had a chance to shut off the engine.

She knew there was little chance of Dana disappearing on her, so she refrained from running after her. She dismounted and wandered into the hospital, searching for the distraught woman. She found Scully standing in front of a tall man dressed in scrubs, scattered blood stains a glossy dark brown against the green fabric. She joined the pair in the middle of a sentence.

"...in hemorragic shock. We managed to stabilize him and sent him up to the OR about half an hour ago. He'll probably still be in surgery for another forty-five minutes or so. If you want, I can have someone show you up to-"

"I know where it is, thank you." Scully turned and headed for the elevators, leaving Denise with the doctor.

Denise dipped her head, mumbling a quick "Thanks" and scurried after Dana. They boarded the elevator and rode up in silence, each consumed by their own thoughts.

The doors opened and they emerged into a quiet hallway, only a few nurses here and there. Scully didn't stop for instructions, she'd been here enough times to navigate the halls with her eyes closed. She took them to a room where cushioned chairs were set against the wall, a table with magazines in the center. She sank into one and sighed forlornly as she picked up the magazine on top of the pile. "This was here last time."

Denise raised her eyebrows but said nothing. Scully tossed the magazine back on the table and folded her arms, ready to wait. Denise perused the covers of all the magazines but nothing caught her eye. She wasn't exactly in the mood to read about dating tips or the latest celebrity break-up.

The silence lasted all of five minutes. It was broken by a muffled whimper. Denise looked over to see Dana's face buried in her hands, her shoulders quaking. She laid her hand on the distraught woman's back, rubbing in circular motions.

"Shhh, it's all right, Dana, it's gonna be okay. Mulder's got to live, because I've got one hell of a lecture to give him."

Scully didn't move from her position, only spoke in a mild tone, her words slightly muffled by her hands. "He was disemboweled, Denise. The bastard *dis-em-boweled* him.” Bleary eyes turned to stare at the taller woman. “How is he supposed to live through that??"

Denise closed her eyes and swallowed. No one had told her what Mulder's condition was. She had assumed it was bad, considering her friend's reactions, but she still hadn't known the exact nature of Mulder's injuries. "Jesus," she mumbled. "Can someone recover from that?" she asked softly.

"I don't know. I just don't know."

The sound of her friend's voice broke her heart. Denise gently pried Scully's hands away from her face and looked into her blue depths. "Let it go, Dana. Let it go."

Scully did just that. She wrapped her arms around Denise and sobbed uncontrollably, unabashedly, and unreservedly.

5:27 p.m.

"Dana Scully?"

Two female heads jerked up to stare hazy-eyed at the doctor. The man looked confused as they both stood up and came towards him. The red-headed one spoke first.

"I'm Dana Scully."

"Ah. Mr. Mulder has you listed as his next of kin, is that correct?"

She nodded. "I'm also his partner in the FBI and a medical doctor, so please, don't hold anything back."

He smiled and Dana hoped it was a good sign. "I wouldn't dream of it *Doctor* Scully. I'm Dr. Alex Morgan and my team and I just finished up surgery on your partner." He glanced to Scully's right, unsure as to whether he should continue.

Dana followed his gaze. "Oh, I'm sorry. This is Denise Chandler, also an FBI agent and a personal friend."

Morgan inclined his head in acknowledgement. "All right then, why don't we have a seat?" The three moved over to the chairs and sat, Dr. Morgan across from the two women.

"We washed out the wound with an antibiotic solution and then reinserted the intestines with saline packing. We tied off a couple bleeders and put a few sutures here and there, but basically the gut is intact. Ischemic damage is minimal and we are hoping to avoid a colostomy. The wound remains unclosed since we will have to open it up two to three times a day to irrigate it with the same solution. He's on a ventilator temporarily but as soon as he wakes up, we'll extubate. We're hoping that won't be too long, because he's at risk for pneumonia and chest physiotherapy is not an option in this particular case.

"He's on epinephrine, dopamine, and neosynephrine to maintain his blood pressure-"

"Don't they compromise circulation to the intestines, kidneys, and stomach?” Scully interrupted.

"Yes, but at this point we have no choice. We'll be watching him closely for any loss in blood supply to his intestines, but again we're hoping that he won't need the pressors long enough to do any damage there. A jejunostomy and gastric tube will empty the contents of his jejunum and stomach constantly and we'll be checking for bowel sounds occasionally.”

“What about blood? He lost so much before we arrived, what kind of blood products did you use?”

“We gave him four units of fresh frozen plasma.” Dana nodded and Morgan actually smiled slightly, enjoying the fact that he was talking to a colleague, someone he wouldn’t have to spell everything out to. “If everything goes well and the wound stays clean, we should be able to close it in three to four days. But to be completely honest with you, I don't think the chances of that are very high. More than likely we'll have to wait up to seven days until we can be sure there is no infection."

Morgan remained silent for a few moments, allowing the pair of agents to digest this information. "He'll be in the ICU until after the surgery to close and he's extubated and doesn't need the pressors anymore."

Scully swallowed, unsuccessfully attempting to wet her parched throat. "Can we see him?"

The doctor pressed his lips together and tried to decide whether company would be good for his patient or not. But something told him that this woman wouldn't take no for an answer. "Yes, I'll show you to his room."

They rose and walked down the eerily quiet hallways, their shoes clicking loudly on the tiled floors. Dr. Morgan stopped in front of a room with a large window to the right of the door, showing those outside its occupant. Scully raised her hand and pressed her palm against the glass, as much to steady herself as to feel closer to the man inside.

Denise thanked Dr. Morgan and the surgeon left with a promise that he'd be back soon to check on them. She took Dana by the elbow and led her inside, practically pushing her into a chair. Pulling another, less comfortable seat over from across the room, she set herself up on the other side of Mulder's bed. After fidgeting with her hands, her clothes, her hair, and her jewelry, she finally summoned the courage to look at him.

She wished she hadn't.

She couldn't see the wound, that wasn't it. It was all the tubes and wires attached to him. He wasn't wearing a gown, only a sheet covered his lower half, leaving his torso easily accessible. An IV in his hand was one she could readily identify and the tube disappearing under the sheet she guessed was a Foley catheter. Ouch.

Then there were the mysterious ones. A bundle of tubes that entered Mulder's body just below his left collarbone and another larger one just above his navel, swathed in bandages, covering the hideous wound she knew was there. Between these were several sticky patches with wires running to one of the countless machines surrounding the bed.

Her gaze drifted up to find Dana staring blankly at the motionless form of her partner. Denise couldn't imagine what her friend was going through, what she was thinking. But she did know that whatever it was, it probably wasn't pleasant. At least she could do something about that.

"So Dana, how about a crash course in Unidentifiable Tubes 101?"

Scully blinked. "What? Oh... uh, sure." She looked around her as though to get her bearings and then appeared to focus. She smiled slightly, knowing that Denise was trying to get her mind off her fears. "Okay, we'll start at the top then. The group of tubes you see below the clavicle is called a TLC, or triple-lumen catheter, like a big IV that administers his infusions. Cardiac monitors on the chest and pulse oximeter on his finger. These monitor heart rate and oxygen saturation.

"What looks like an IV is actually an arterial line, it measures blood pressure. The one coming from his midsection is the jejunostomy/gastric tube that Dr. Morgan mentioned and last but not least is the Foley, which everyone knows the purpose of."

Denise snorted. "I'll bet Mulder hates those."

A fond expression passed across Scully's face. "He does." She leaned closer to her partner, "Hear that, Mulder? You're going to have to wake up and heal before they take out the Foley."

Beeps and hums were the only reply.

8:33 p.m.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to wake you."

Scully stretched her back then rotated her neck from left to right. "Mmm, no, that's okay, What time is it?"

The nurse glanced at her watch. "Half past eight."

It was then that Scully noticed the empty chair across from her. "Where's Denise?"

"If you mean the woman who was in here with you, she got a phone call and had to leave. She said she would be back tonight though."

"Oh. Thank you, Nurse..." She scrunched her tired eyes and made out the name on the badge, "Halloway."

"Call me Tasha and no thanks are necessary. I'm glad to see that Mr. Mulder has people who care about him." She moved up to Mulder's head and began sorting out equipment. "It's time for his first suction," she explained.

Scully nodded in understanding. Since normal chest physiotherapy, which consisted of turning someone on their side while clapping them on the back to loosen pulmonary chest secretions, wasn't advisable in this case, suctioning out the secretions was especially crucial. She was thankful that Mulder wasn't awake for this as it would most probably be very unpleasant.

Tasha went about her business, talking cheerfully to the patient as she prepared her equipment. "It's going to be a while before you get to move around so we're going to bring in a special air bed just for you. Like those bouncy things kids play in at carnivals. You seem like a carnival kind of guy to me, the sort of person who loves the funhouse." She finished her ministrations and turned to Scully. "What do you think?"

Dana grinned. "Mulder is definitely a funhouse kind of guy." She paused and looked thoughtful for a moment. "Unless it's a Tabernacle of Terror." She laughed at Tasha's expression, reveling in the feeling of having something to laugh about. "So, what is this air bed you were talking about?"

"It's a bed that has an air compressor that fills the bed section by section and varies the pressure in each section. This way we don't have to turn him, just inflate or deflate as needed."

Scully pursed her lips. "Won't that be painful?"

"There will be a certain level of discomfort but significantly less than actually moving him. Okay, I'm about to disconnect the vent and alarms are going to go off, so don't worry. Would you do me a favor and turn it off for me when it does? I can't reach it from here." After Dana nodded, she continued, "And since he'll still need one hundred percent oxygen I'm electing you to bag him. You remember how?"

"It's been a while, but I think I can manage."

"Good. His tidal volume is 1.2 liters, so don’t be afraid to give him a big breath." Tasha unhooked the tubing from the ventilator and Dana attached the AMBU bag to the end of the endotracheal tube, squeezing in time with Mulder's breathing. Alarms started screeching and Dana used her free hand to switch them off. Denise had donned a pair of sterile gloves and laid a pad over his chest to keep things as clean as possible. "I'll tell you everything I'm going to do as I'm doing it, okay?"

Scully smiled, grateful that they had been supplied with such an understanding nurse.

"Okay, take off the AMBU bag." Scully did as was told and Tasha squirted some liquid down the ETT. “Now, bag him again.” Tasha slid a thin tube into the larger ETT. "I just used some suction lavage to help liquefy the secretions so they come up easier before inserting the suction catheter until the patient coughs. Obviously, since he is unconscious, we'll just have to make our best guess instead. Hmm, I think that's about right." She placed her gloved finger over a port on the tube and pulled it out. "Bag again."

Tasha reviewed the monitors before turning to Scully. "Pulse ox looks good and we got a lot of loose stuff, I'm going to do it again. Okay, remove the bag." She repeated the earlier process, this time directing her comments to Mulder. "You're going to feel so much better when this is done, I promise."

She finished up and quickly reconnected the ETT to the vent tubing, again looking at the monitors to make sure that the patient’s vital signs weren't compromised. "I'm going to clean out his mouth now, we wouldn't want him to wake up with a nasty taste, now would we?" She was trying to reassure Scully that he *would* be waking up.

Tasha paused and placed a stethoscope on Mulder's chest, listening for any wheezing to make sure she hadn't caused Bronchospasm. "All right, sounds good." She gathered up her equipment and turned to leave. "I think he'll be off the ventilator fairly soon, so we won't have to do this too much."

Dana smiled warmly at her in thanks, grateful once again to be blessed with such a compassionate nurse. Last time she and Mulder frequented this hospital, they had been stuck with a God awful woman who had no idea about patient comfort or family feelings. Probably transferred back to Hell or wherever she had come from.

Now Scully found herself awake and alone with her partner for the first time since they had arrived here. She pulled his left hand between her own two and tried to ignore the lack of life in his limp fingers.

"So partner, here we are again. I swear, if you hate hospitals so much you must be a masochist. At least this time you're not driving the staff crazy with your manners. So far you've been a model patient, but they're in for a surprise when you wake up."

She paused and took a deep shuddering breath. "Oh Mulder, I'd give anything for you to be the horrible patient you usually are right now. Please don't do this to me, you can't leave, not after what you said. Don't believe for a second that I'm going to let you get away with that, for saying goodbye, for giving up.

"You are usually so eloquent, a man who has a way with words, and yet you couldn't put together the three most important ones until the end? What you *thought* was the end. But it isn't, not by a long shot. I won't let you die, not without a fight. Because I fully intend on showing you each and every day how much those three little words mean."

Dana lowered her head and gently placed her lips on the long fingers protruding from her grasp. They twitched in response to her touch then were still again.

She blinked. Had she imagined it? No, wait! There! Another twitch. Her eyes flew up to his face, her breath catching in her throat as she saw clouded hazel staring back at her.

"Mulder? It's Scully, you are in a hospital. You're going to be okay."

His eyes flicked back and forth, as though assessing his surroundings but came back to rest on her. She thought she saw a hint of understanding and then his lids closed, the monitor readouts that had changed minutely returning to their previous statistics.

Scully could hardly contain herself. This was the first sign of hope she had been offered and, small though it may be, it was enough to buoy her spirits.

Denise walked in to find a smiling Dana Scully.

Either her friend's grief had driven her over the edge or something good had occurred. "What happened?"

"He woke up!" Dana was out of her chair and pulling Denise into her arms for a jubilant hug. "Not all the way of course, but it will be a while before he's fully awake."

Denise couldn't help but smile, Dana's attitude was infectious. But then she sobered, wondering if her friend wasn't just grasping at straws. "I didn't think that was really a big deal. From what Dr. Morgan said, I got the impression that the hardest part is about to come."

At the crestfallen look on Scully's face Denise wanted to slap herself. She was such a shit, coming in here and dashing Dana's hopes like that. But she didn't want Scully to get her hopes up so high that, when they came crashing down, she came down with them. They had to be realistic, Dana of all people should recognize that.

Scully sank back down into her chair. "I know. God, but I know. It's just that... I want- no, I *need* to talk to him. I need him to hear me, to know that I'm with him. If he's awake, I can tell him..." She trailed off, her thoughts turning inward.

Denise knelt down next to her and laid an arm across her shoulders. "He knows, Dana. Trust me, he knows."

They remained that way for a good ten minutes, each wrapped in their own thoughts. Finally Scully spoke. "Who called?"

"It was Assistant Director Skinner. SAC Lahaina contacted him and told him the situation. He said that he would have come down here himself to offer his support, but there are matters that have to be handled personally. He gives you and Mulder his best and will come as soon as he is possibly able. So, you two are close friends of the AD?"

Scully snorted. "Let's just say that we hold each other in high regard and respect one another. Skinner is a good man and a good superior, he cares about his agents. That's more than I can say for a lot of other Assistant Directors."

"Hmmm." Denise’s head bobbed up and down thoughtfully. "Maybe I should see if I can transfer so that Skinner's my supervisor. Westerly is an asshole, I have no idea how he made it to AD. Anyway, Lahaina called right after Skinner and I had to go down to the crime scene to finish up a couple of things."

She turned and scrounged around in the bag she had brought with her, pulling out a large lump wrapped in wax paper. "Here, I brought you something to eat. Pastrami on rye, light on the mustard, heavy on the relish."

Scully smiled her thanks. "I hope you brought coffee with that."

"Of course. They have a Starbuck's right across the street. How thoughtful, don't you think?"

Scully sipped gratefully at the large cup Denise handed her. "We should tell a nurse that Mulder is in the process of waking up. They may be able to start turning down the vent now, that way they can be prepared."

“Prepared for what?"

"Patients on ventilators are often terrified when they wake and they get anxious. Mulder's not too big on them, but he's pretty good at staying calm."

Denise cringed. The fact that Mulder was able to have an educated opinion on ventilators was something she didn't want to think about.

9:02 p.m.

What a difference a tube makes. Or lack of one.

Mulder had been weaned from the ventilator and extubated while still unconscious, avoiding any emotional mishaps, and now had a nasal cannula supplying him with oxygen. Denise could look at him without flinching. She had taken up her previous position across from Dana and together they talked of inconsequential things. Weather, old friends, fashion, anything that had no references to the FBI. Daily life chatter harmonized with blips, beeps, and whirs.

Then it was joined by another sound. A groan. The women fell silent and all eyes turned to the center of the room. Scully put on her biggest smile, the 100 watt smile she reserved for times like this. "Hey, Mulder, decided to join-"

"No!" His eyes were wide open and panicked, his breaths coming in hard bursts. Suddenly his arms and legs began to thrash about. fighting with the sheet and the tubes, his hoarse voice raised in a combination of fear and anger.

"Sweet Jesus,” Denise whispered, backing away quickly as one fist swung dangerously close to her face. Scully was up and slamming her palm against the call button, the other hand trying to keep Mulder from pulling out any tubes.

Two nurses came running into the room, Dr. Morgan right behind. Scully didn't divert her attention, just hung desperately onto her partner's bucking body. "He's going to kill himself, you've got to sedate him!"

Blood was starting to seep through the thick dressing over his abdomen, more spreading across his shoulder at the point of the TLC. The arterial line had been ripped out and blood was spurting from the opened artery in his wrist. Monitors were screaming as loud as the patient.

Morgan motioned to the two nurses, "Hold him down, use the restraints if you can!" Luckily for them, Mulder was weak and they were able to overpower him with some effort. He strained against the straps secured around his wrists and ankles, his head tossing back and forth.

One of the nurses put pressure on the radial artery, motioning to the doctor that they were ready. Dr. Morgan approached with a syringe and attatched it to a stopcock on the TLC, pushing down on the plunger. Everyone held their breath as Mulder's muscles stop bulging, his body relaxing quickly as the drug took effect. But his eyes remained open.

"What did you give him?" Scully asked.

Morgan worked while he talked, outfitting Mulder with an automatic blood pressure cuff and getting set up to suture a new arterial line in place. "7.5 milligrams of Narcocurarine. It will paralyze him for about an hour. We can't sedate him with his blood pressure so low. We're going to have to examine him thoroughly, see what kind of damage was done and pray to God that it was only minor. I think you should stay while we do this, talk to him, let him know what is going on. We don't want an encore performance when the drug wears off."

Scully nodded and walked over to Denise, who was standing in the corner, trembling. "Denise? You okay? C'mon, Denise, talk to me."

She saw the woman swallow convulsively. "I... What happened?"

"It's over now, it's all right. We'll talk about it later. Why don't you go down to the cafeteria and get some coffee."

Denise's head bobbed up and down numbly. "Yeah... coffee,” she repeated. Another swallow and she managed to move forward on unsteady legs, her eyes latching onto the man in the bed. She seemed to be relieved that he wasn't looking at her, wasn't moving, and emboldened by this, she hurried past him out the door.

Returning to Mulder's side, Dana slipped her hand over his, ignoring the rough velcro scratching her skin. Another doctor came in, conferring quietly with Morgan. She reached up and caressed the damp hair from Mulder's forehead, her heart constricting at the terror she saw in his eyes.

"Mulder, it's Scully. I'm here, you're safe, it's all over. You're in the hospital, everything is going to be okay. The doctors had to paralyze you so you didn't hurt yourself, it's only temporary."

He appeared to focus on her, his eyes reflecting less fear. She continued to speak in hushed tones, repeating over and over that he was safe. The doctors had begun their examination but if Mulder noticed, he showed no sign. His gaze was locked on Scully, as if she was the only thing that existed in his world.

From the corner of her eye she saw flashes of red and white, her stomach churning as she tried to ignore what was going on mere inches from her. The longer it took, the more concerned she became. After what seemed like forever, they finished, pulling the sheet back up.

"Mulder, I have to talk to the doctor now. I'm not going anywhere, I'll be in the same room, okay?" She trailed her fingers down his cheek and stepped over to where Morgan and the other doctor were standing. She folded her arms and closed her eyes, taking a deep breath. "Well?"

"We washed the wound with antibiotic solution and had to redo a couple of sutures, other than that we think everything is as well as it can be. The TLC should be okay, just watched to make sure it doesn't irritate the area. The paralytic will wear off in around a half hour, do you think he'll be cognizant by then?"

"Yes. He's not delusional if that's what you're thinking. He just experienced a severe trauma and... How do I put this? He has an eidetic memory, and most likely he was having a flashback to that trauma; a very vivid one. I don't want to go into details, but there are certain similar pieces of equipment here that are reminiscent of one that was present during the trauma. More than likely, this caused the flashback.

"I can assure you that he will be as lucid as the drugs will allow him to be. More than you might expect actually, since medicines seem to affect him differently than others and his ability to heal is amazing. It's what I'm counting on to get him through this."

Dr. Morgan had listened intently, paling at the mention of the circumstances which led this pair of agents here. The other doctor had left at that point and Scully had the feeling that he was losing the remains of his dinner in privacy. Morgan smiled kindly down at Scully. "People tend to heal faster when they have someone who loves them close by." If he thought it strange that Dana flushed at this, he didn't comment on it. "I think we should just let him rest for a while. Nurse Halloway will be back at 11:30 to suction and then we'll leave you two alone for the night."

Scully took Morgan's hand and squeezed. "Thank you."

He patted her hand tenderly. "You're very welcome."

He left then, closing the door behind him and Scully saw him through the large window, talking to a nurse. She turned her attention back to inside the room and took her seat by her partner's side.

"Mulder? I'm here." His lids were at half mast, he was struggling to stay awake. "I know you don't want to go to sleep feeling like this, but you need to rest. I promise I won't go anywhere." Her gaze slid down to the velcro restraints. "I'm going to leave the straps on until you wake up again. We can't take the chance that next time you'll do some serious damage.

"And no, it's not your fault; you were just reacting to a memory. Now go to sleep." Her hand caressed his cheek, wiping away dried tear tracks. She leaned forward and kissed his forehead. "I need you to try and get better, G-man. I need you to make me whole. I *need* you."

His eyelids almost closed but he snapped them open again. She knew what he was waiting for.

"And I love you, Mulder. With all my heart."

Finally he slept.

11:39 p.m.

Denise had returned just before eleven, silently handing Scully a cup of coffee. She remained standing for a long time, just watching Mulder sleep.

Eventually she turned to Dana and spoke softly. "I'm gonna go home now, I need my beauty sleep. I'll stop by tomorrow to see how he's doing."

Scully started to rise but Denise just motioned for her to stay where she was. "Either of you would do the same thing if our situations were reversed, so there's no need for thanks." She made her way to the door, pausing just before she left. "Try and get some rest, Dana."

Then she was gone and another woman stood in her place. "Hello, Dr. Scully. It's that time again." Tasha had slightly different equipment with her this time, as the patient was no longer intubated. "Mr. Mulder isn't secreting much, I think this will be the last time we need to suction."

"That's good. And you can call me Dana, he's just Mulder."

Tasha looked thoughtfully at the man and then shrugged. "You should probably wake him up. The feeling of this isn't going to be pleasant and I don't want him to... react like earlier."

"You heard?"

"I think the whole floor heard. Don't worry, I don't think we'll have a repeat performance. But better safe than sorry as they say."

Scully nodded in agreement. She leaned across her partner, rubbing her fingers along his arm to wake him. "Mulder. C'mon Mulder, nap time is over."

"Mmm?" was the mumbled reply. He squeezed his eyelids together then tried to raise a hand to wipe the sleep away. But he couldn't, he was still restrained. Visions of a cold floor and his wrists chained above his head flashed through his mind. He began to tug frantically at the straps, his blurry eyes searching for anything familiar.

He froze at a touch on his arm. The pressure around his wrists disappeared and he was able to rub his eyes. A red and peach blob appeared and he blinked several times, finally focusing on the shape.

"Scully," he croaked.

"Hey there. You remember where you are?"

The room was still out of focus but he knew the smell, the sound. "Hospital."

"That's right. The nurse is about to put a tube down your nose and we need you to try and stay still,” she explained.


"I know you are, but you can't have anything to drink. No ice chips either." Her voice was full of sympathy.

"Mulder? My name is Tasha, I'm going to be putting a thin tube in your nose that will go down your throat so that we can suction out any secretions as a precaution against pneumonia. It'll only take a minute, okay?"

Mulder didn't like the idea at all, but he didn't really have a choice, did he?

The nurse knew this and so she began. The soft tube going in his nose and down his throat wasn't that much different than a nasogastric, so he was fairly used to the feeling. Then a choking sensation overwhelmed him, as though his trachea was being squeezed from the inside. He clenched his eyes shut, his hands balling into fists as he tried not to move, to cry out. Then it was gone, leaving behind a dull ache, his thirst all the more pressing.

"You did wonderfully, Mulder. Now, since you're not secreting much we're not going have to do this again. Provided that you try to cough it up instead." Tasha patted his arm and replaced the nasal cannula. She turned to Scully. "You two have a good night."

Dana smiled her thanks distractedly, wanting nothing more than to talk to her partner. Tasha just grinned and left. Scully threaded her fingers through Mulder's. "How are you feeling?"

He opened his eyes and looked straight into her cool blue depths. "Hurts."

Dana had to bite the inside of her cheek to keep her expression calm. Mulder never admitted to pain. Never. She used her free hand to stroke his cheek. "I know, Sweetheart, I know it hurts,” she crooned.

She didn't know what compelled her to use the term of endearment, but it somehow seemed appropriate. "Why don't you go to sleep. You'll feel better when you wake up. I promise."

Comforted by her words, trusting her without reserve, he let himself drift off into painless darkness.

Only then did she allow the tears to fall.

Saturday, January 9
6:06 a.m.

"Dana, Honey? Why don't you lay down for a while, you don't look comfortable in that chair."

Scully stretched her arms, then rubbed her eyes and neck with separate hands. "No, Mom, I have to be here when he wakes up."

Margaret Scully had arrived just before midnight, after receiving an almost incoherent phone call from her daughter. Without hesitation she had gotten in her car and driven over at the safest speed possible, desperately needing to comfort her child. When she showed up, Dana had broken into tears, sobbing in her mother's arms like she hadn't done since she was little.

It took about twenty minutes for her to cry herself out and then she had managed to tell her mom the situation. Margaret listened calmly, her expression betraying none of the horror she was feeling. She had to be strong for Dana, just in case Fox didn't make it.

Maggie then excused herself to talk to Fox's doctor, a nice young man who looked like he'd been working too long. He showed her to a room not far from Fox's and she had been able to sleep for a couple hours. Now she was trying to get Dana to do the same. But Dana would have none of it, it was that stubborn streak she had inherited from her father.

"Dr. Morgan said he wouldn't wake up for a few more hours. I'll sit with Fox and the second he shows sign of waking I'll come get you." Margaret was using her most reasonable tone.

Scully pursed her lips. "All right, but send a nurse for me instead of coming yourself, I don't want him left alone, not even for a few seconds."

Maggie seemed satisfied with this. "Good. Now, go two doors down and take a left-"

"It's the first door on the right after that. Yes, Mom, I know." Dana heaved a sigh. "We've been here before."

Margaret frowned. She didn't like to be reminded of all the times she had been called to be informed that her daughter or Fox had been hospitalized again.

Scully pushed her sore body out of the chair, glancing at her mother when the older woman gasped. "What?" Margaret just pointed at her and she looked down at herself. Her clothes were covered in blood, splatters and blotches of reddish brown from her knees to her chest. She wrapped her coat around her to hide the evidence of her partner's torture.

Just then they were joined by another woman. "Morning, Dana."

A tired smile flashed across Scully's face. "Hi, Tasha. Don't they ever let you out of here?"

A big grin. "Never." The nurse turned to the new visitor. "You must be Mrs. Scully."

Maggie nodded absently, her mind still reeling from the sight of all the blood stains hidden beneath Dana's coat.

Tasha maneuvered her way through the crowded room to Mulder's IV pole, from which several bags were hanging. She placed another huge bag up with them, attaching it to the TLC. "Time to start our boy on some sort of diet. This is TPN." She elaborated when Margaret looked confused, "Total Parenteral Nutrition, it's not to the gut feeding, goes directly into his blood stream. Not the most appetizing looking thing in the world, but it works." The TPN was an opaque white color and, just as Tasha said, looked none too tasty.

"Okay. I'm going to leave for a while, take a shower, catch a bit of sleep. My mom will stay with Mulder. Come get me when he starts to wake up." Dana was heading out the door when Tasha spoke again.

"The shower room is-"

Scully waved her hand, a pained expression on her face. "I know."

8:14 a.m.




The world was trembling and Scully opened her eyes to see why. Tasha was shaking her, calling her name softly. "What? Mulder! Is he...?"

"He's fine. Hasn't woken yet but it's time for his first power wash."

Sleep still clouded her mind, she had a bit of trouble comprehending this. "Power wash?"

"Where we wash out the wound to kill any infection, get rid of dead tissue and such."

Dana yawned. "Mmmkay. I'll be right there."

Tasha disappeared down the hallway and Scully took a few moments to gather her senses. Once she felt she could face the world, she drearily stumbled from the room and down to her partner's.

Tasha met her there. "We sent your mom downstairs for some breakfast, and usually would suggest you do the same, as this isn't exactly neat work. But we think it would be best if you were here with him for the first time. If he does okay then you can probably skip the rest of the washes." The nurse began handing Scully a gown, mask, and cap identical to the one both she and the doctor were wearing.

While putting on the required apparel, Dana took a good look at the doctor, eventually recognizing him through the mask on his face. "Dr. Morgan? You’re going to do the power wash yourself?"

Morgan's eyes squinted at the edges, showing the smile behind the mask. "I just finished up rounds and decided that I'd like to keep a close eye on this one. I've got several surgeries lined up this afternoon so I won't be able to do the midday wash. I'll send Dr. Davalos, she's had a lot of experience in this area so Agent Mulder will be well taken care of."

Scully finished fitting the cap on her head. "Thank you for all you're doing."

"All in the line of duty,” Morgan returned. "Now, let's get started. Would you please stand by his head? Yes, right there is good, that way he can see you and you're still out of the way. Fentanyl in? Good, you can start the Versed now, Tasha."

Mulder's eyes flickered open as though he sensed the people around him. He almost panicked, but when he saw Dana next to him, he calmed down. Her crystal blue eyes were staring at him from out of a green mask and cap. Her voice was slightly muffled by the fabric but he understood.

"Mulder, we're going to wash out your wound now. We'll have to do this three times a day so no infection sets in. You feel groggy because of the medication but you shouldn't feel any pain. I'll be right here the entire time."

Dr. Morgan pulled back the sheet and began removing the saline packing, revealing the various shades of pink decorating the inside of a human body. Tasha laid a suction tube attached to the wall into the wound, then the doctor picked up another tube and started spraying antibiotic solution onto the gleaming intestines. "Looking good, tissue is healing up."

Scully kept her eyes fixed on Mulder's face. She had long since become accustomed to the view of blood, bone, and organs, but this was different. This was personal.

Tasha was keeping a close watch on the monitors, seeing if Mulder could compensate for the extra stress of the power washing. "Doctor, his heart rate's rising."

Morgan looked up to gauge the monitor himself. "Not by much. I'm almost finished."

Mulder's eyes were glazed but Scully could still read them. And they were telling her he was in pain. The slight flinching at the corners, the furrow in the brows, all the classic signs of a Mulder trying to hide his discomfort. She was beginning to become alarmed. "Are you sure-"

She wasn't able to finish, Tasha interrupted hastily. "BP's dropping!"

Morgan cursed. "Increase pressor dosage,” he ordered.

Tasha moved quickly to comply. "Heart rate's up to 120."

"Damn it. All right, let's pull out." He extracted the suctioning tube and gathered up more packing. "How's he looking?"

"Blood pressure is coming back up slowly, heart rate's still fast but it's dropping." Tasha took a moment to flash a reassuring look at Dana.

Dr. Morgan was busy packing the wound with sterile gauze, soaked in the same antibiotic solution used in the irrigation. Then he wrapped more dry gauze around the damp and covered that with clear bio-occlusive dressing. "Tasha, why don't you give Mulder a bed bath before you change the sheets. Dr. Scully, if I could have a moment?"

Both women’s heads bobbed. The nurse set about her duties and Scully whispered words of comfort to her partner before following the doctor out the door. They stood just outside, staring in through the large window. "Compared to yesterday, Agent Mulder's injuries appear to have improved. However, I am concerned with his reaction. Has he ever had any adverse reactions in the past to Versed?"

Scully thought for a moment, reviewing all the past times Mulder had been put on the drug. "No," she was shaking her head, "never. But like I said before, he has a certain amount of resistance to medicines."

"Yes, that's why we gave him quite a large dose, but now I'm afraid we might have over-sedated him. We upped his pressors to give him enough blood pressure to tolerate the analgesic, and that seems to have worked. Now, we could increase the pain medication but considering his problems with drugs I would rather not. I was thinking that perhaps we should try Brevital to-"

"Isn't that a barbiturate?" Scully pointed out.

"Yes, but short-acting only. We've got a lot of washes ahead of us and they won't do any good if they are too traumatic for the patient."

Dana sighed. "He always has to do things the hard way."

Morgan smiled in sympathy. "I'll put it down on his chart so Dr. Davalos knows what to do. I'll try and be here to do the evening wash but with my schedule..." he trailed off and shrugged, indicating the impossibility of predicting his daily duties.

Tasha joined them. "I'm done. Dana, how about I find you a recliner to drag in here? If that chair is half as uncomfortable as it looks then I think your body could use a break."

"That would be wonderful, thank you." The two medical personnel left and Scully re-entered the room, taking a seat in the soon to be replaced chair. "I'm sorry, Mulder, I should have known."

He wasn't running on all four cylinders, but he was still lucid enough to understand and respond. "Not your fault." His voice was weak and it took a lot of effort. His eyes drifted sideways and she turned around to see what had caught his attention.

Her mother was there, a huge smile on her face. "Fox! I'm so glad to see you're awake. Dana, look who I ran into down in the cafeteria." Margaret stepped aside and another woman preceded her into the room.

Scully rose and gave them both a hug. "Denise, thanks for coming by."

"I can't stay, I just stopped by to see how our boy was doing. I have to get back to work and all that fun paperwork that you are missing out on. You know, if they made forms and ledgers a necessary activity in jails, there'd be a lot less criminals. But the Justice Department would probably consider it cruel and unusual punishment." Denise leaned over Mulder, took in his overall appearance and decided to make it brief. "Hey there. Thought you should know that I'm saving all the thick forms for you. Wouldn't want you to feel left out."

Mulder gave her a weak smile. That was enough for her. "Well, duty calls. I'll stop by again tomorrow just to make sure you two are behaving yourselves." Then she was out the door, dodging a nurse and two orderlies.

The nurse was Tasha and the men behind her were each bearing objects. The first was a recliner, which was set down next to Mulder's bed. The other was an IV pole with something about the size of a shoebox hanging from it, placed with the rest of the assorted equipment. Scully relinquished her previous chair and practically sighed in contentment as she sank into the new one.

"Tasha, you are a saint."

"My halo is supported by my horns." The nurse grinned and waved the two chuckling orderlies away. "Thanks Hank, Tom." She moved to the new piece of machinery, attaching it to other things. "Okay, Mulder, I've got a present for you too. Now, this is a PCA pump, Patient Controlled Analgesia. It lets you dose yourself with pain medication within set limits. Just push this button here and voila! No more waiting for us to give you the good stuff."

She demonstrated one more time, just to make sure that Mulder understood. Once she was satisfied that everything was in order, she headed for the exit. "As one woman so eloquently put it, 'duty calls'. I'll be back for the mid-day wash with Dr. Davalos. My shift ends about an hour before that but I'll hang around so that I can help the doctor determine the amount of improvement in Mulder's tissue."

Scully smiled and opened her mouth, but Tasha beat her to it. "I know, I know. I'm a saint. Did it ever occur to you that my motives are purely selfish? That I'm just trying to get on Mulder's good side so that he won't be the grouchy patient I've heard about."

Scully actually laughed at this. "Plan ahead, good idea."

9:11 p.m.

The rest of the day had gone by rather quickly. Dr. Davalos was the expert Morgan had claimed she would be and Mulder's last two power washes had gone by without incident, the Brevital doing its job perfectly.

Mulder was thrilled with the PCA pump, because now he wouldn't have to admit to being in pain, wouldn't have to show his weakness. So he happily dosed himself into a painless slumber.

Scully was currently engrossed in last month's medical journals, which she hadn't been able to read due to a heavy case load. She had given her mother the key to her apartment and insisted Maggie spend the night there. Margaret agreed and promised to bring Dana some new clothes and a couple personal items.

So focused was she on a particularly fascinating article, that she didn't notice the first signs of her partner's unrest. His eyes were twitching under his lids in REM sleep, his breathing hitched and his muscles tense.

His awakening was so abrupt that the monitors weren't able to register anything amiss until it happened. He sat up in bed, eyes wide and unseeing, his arms thrashing in front of him. "No! Get away from me, you bastard! Scully! Noooo! Stop! Oh God, Sculleeee!"

Alarms were blaring now, trilling their patient's distress in high pitched tones. Scully was out of her chair in seconds, grabbing Mulder's wrists and calling out his name. "Mulder! Mulder, it's okay, you're safe. No one's going to hurt you, Sweetheart, you're going to be fine." She shushed him, pushing his trembling body back onto the bed. She continued to talk to him, caressing his face and arms gently. Tears were streaming down his pale face, his lungs laboring with the power of his sobs.

Several nurses had come running when the monitors went crazy, but upon arriving they saw that everything was under control and so they returned to their stations, sadly shaking their heads. They knew who those two were, knew what they had been through, it was all over the news. Nightmares were to be expected.

Scully knew this full well also, but she had been praying that the dreams wouldn't be so severe, that her partner would be allowed some respite. It seemed that it was not to be. She had him calmed to the point were he just sniffled occasionally and appeared to be coming back to his surroundings. She checked all his bandages and, satisfied that he hadn't done himself any damage, she returned to her reassuring touches.

He was staring at her, as though he couldn't believe she was there. "Scully?"

"I'm here, Sweetheart."

He smiled faintly. "I knew you'd find me." Then he closed his eyes and went back to sleep.

Dana leaned over and kissed his cheek. "I'll always be here."

Monday, January 10
4:47 p.m.

The next two days passed in a blur of routine. Margaret and Denise stopped by often, bringing flowers and positive thoughts with them. Dana had managed to inveigle the hospital staff to bring another bed into Mulder’s room for her to sleep on, so she never left him alone. Power washes were three times a day at eight in the morning, two in the afternoon, and again at eight in the evening. Between them, Mulder rested, listening to Scully read to him from medical journals, the FBI newsletter, and even the John Grisham novel she had started. He didn't sleep much, but when he did he was usually wakened by nightmares- the gut wrenching, sheet twisting, reality distorting kind.

Dr. Morgan was worried about this, since sleep was a big part of the healing process. Scully had told him about her partner's penchant for nightmares, that there wasn't much any of them could do about it except be there for him when he woke up.

So it was that when Assistant Director Skinner stopped by, he found both his agents awake and alert. He had paused on the threshold into the room, shocked by the appearance of his maverick agent. To Skinner it looked like Mulder was a gaunt reflection of himself. He was thin and pale, his cheeks hollow, his eyes smudged gray underneath. Tousled hair tumbled over a furrowed brow, tubes and bandages hiding the cause for Mulder's deteriorated state.

Skinner cleared his throat, announcing his presence. Two pairs of eyes turned his way. "Agent Mulder, Agent Scully."

Scully was standing but Skinner waved away the ingrained reaction. "Sit Scully, we're not in my office."

"Sir, how good of you to come." Dana was genuinely happy to see her boss. She knew that Mulder respected him and even looked up to him, so this visit was welcomed whole-heartedly.

"I'm sorry it took me this long, but I was tied up in matters that couldn't be handled by anyone else." He sighed dramatically. "Such is the life of a bureaucrat." He moved over to Mulder's bedside, folding his hands behind his back. "Agent Mulder, I hear that you're feeling better."

Mulder swallowed nervously. Something about the way Skinner was eyeing him was making him edgy. "Yes, Sir, thank you for your concern."

"Just wanted to let you know that everyone at the bureau is rooting for you and that I personally want to commend you for doing such an excellent job on this case. Speaking of which, I have a few things I'd like to go over with Agent Scully. Would you excuse us?"

Scully obediently followed her superior out the door, her eyebrows raised in question. "Sir, I sent you a full report yesterday, was there anything wrong with-"

"I'm not interested in your report, Scully, that was just an excuse. What I want is your honest opinion on Mulder's condition."

"Oh." She was still confused. Did Skinner think she was hiding something about Mulder's state of health? "He's doing much better, amazing the doctors at his rate of recovery as usual. Still needs to gain some weight and it will take physical therapy to get him back up to speed."

Skinner put his hands on his hips and looked down his nose at her. "I wanted *your* opinion, Scully."

Dana's shoulder's slumped. He had known she was holding back. Her next words were whispered as she said out loud what she would only admit to herself in silence. "Sir, I... I'm so scared for him. He's lost a lot of weight, he can't feed himself, can't perform the simplest functions because he's so weak. He *is* recovering, but he can't sleep due to nightmares and even though he has medication, he still seems to be in a lot of pain."

The AD mulled this over for a bit. "Are you sure they're giving him enough pain medication?"

She nodded emphatically. "Yes, he has control of it himself, he can dose himself with as much as he needs."

Skinner looked at his female agent and saw the worry lines, the dark circles under her eyes. She was exhausted and wasn't thinking as clearly as she normally would. "Dana, do you think that it's possible that maybe Mulder *isn't* dosing himself?"

Scully's head jerked up. "That he isn't... Oh my God, how could I have been so blind??"

Skinned placed a hand on her shoulder. "Scully, you're tired and you're scared, not exactly prime conditions for deductive reasoning. Now, I'm going to let you deal with this, but after that I expect you to start taking care of yourself. I do not need two of my agents bed-ridden."

Dana heard the caring behind the words and smiled. "Yes, Sir." They re-entered the room and Skinner offered Mulder his good wishes before leaving. Scully was standing next to the PCA Pump, scrutinizing it carefully.

"What are you looking for?" Mulder asked.

"I'm trying to see it there's anything wrong with the pump."


"Because that is the only reason I can come up with as to why it isn't working." She locked gazes with her partner, daring him to lie to her.

Fleetingly, Mulder thought of making up some excuse. But he couldn't. Not with Scully looking at him like that, not when he thought of everything she'd done for him. She deserved the truth. "I haven't been using it."

Dana closed her eyes and sighed. "Why?"

"Because it... it makes the nightmares come during the day." He looked down at his hands. "They're so vivid and I can't tell what is real and what isn't."

"You mean you're hallucinating?"

“I prefer the term 'visions' myself."

Her eyebrow quirked. "Mulder, why didn't you tell me?"

It was his turn to sigh. "I didn't want to worry you. You're already so concerned, I didn't want to add anything to the list."

"Only you, Mulder. Only you would be worried about my welfare when you're the one lying in a hospital bed."

"I don't want to give you any more grief. You've suffered enough because of me."

"Mulder, when will you get it through your thick skull that it is not your fault?" His eyes were downcast and she knew it was a lost cause. "All right, I'll ask Dr. Morgan to switch from Morphine to Demerol, okay? And Mulder, you have to promise me something." She took his left hand in hers, careful of the arterial line and pulse oximeter. "You have to promise to tell me if you are having any problems. You cannot take an injury like this lightly, we have to know if anything is wrong so we can compensate. Otherwise the healing process will be prolonged."

A smile played at his lips. "And we all know how much I enjoy the accommodations."

Scully laughed, tension flowing out of her body. "You are incorrigible."

Wednesday, January 13
10:12 a.m.

"Mulder, I have great news! Dr. Morgan said that since you looked so good in this morning's wash, he wants to close up the wound tonight!"

"So when can I get out of here?"

"You *must* be joking. You're in the ICU for God's sake, you can plan on spending at least another week or so in the hospital."

Mulder didn't say anything, just stared into space with his mouth slightly open. Scully noticed the line between his brows and knew he was deep in thought. "Mulder. Earth to Mulder."

He raised his eyes to meet hers and she was shocked to find fear glinting in them. She sat down on the edge of his bed, mindful not to jostle him. Even with the PCA he was still experiencing some pain, but that was to be expected. Her hand automatically moved to his forehead, caressing the dark bangs from his pale skin. "What's the matter?"

"Will I..." he took as deep a breath as he was able, "Will I be a... a cripple?" These last words were whispered.

"A...? No, Sweetheart, not at all. Your recovery will take time, but it will be a full one as far as the doctor can tell. After this procedure you'll have to stay here for another week and a half then six weeks of rehab or home care. Another six weeks before you can go back to work with restrictions. Probably six months up to a year before you feel like you did before the injury." He looked stricken and she hastened to say something that would raise his spirits. "But you've always amazed me with how quickly you heal, you might be able to cut down that timetable."

"Scully?" He was fiddling with the sheets.

"Hmm?" She continued to run her fingers through his hair.

"You know what I said back at... at the crime scene?"

Her fingers paused and she cocked her head at his intonation. If she didn't know any better, she'd say that he was afraid. "Yes. And do you remember my answer?"

He swallowed and looked up from his nervous fumbling. "Are you sure? I mean, do you want to risk it?"

Scully ran through all the implications in her head. He didn't think he was worthy of her love, that all he had brought her was pain and sorrow and that if they were to become involved, she would somehow suffer more because of it. How had he come to this, that he believed that he didn't deserve the love of others?

Dana smiled softly then bent close and placed a gentle kiss on Mulder's lips. "Without you, there is nothing *to* risk."

6:01 p.m.

"Dana. Hey, Dana." Denise put her hands on her hips and tapped her foot impatiently. "Agent Scully!"

Scully's head whipped up to stare at her friend. "Huh? What? Denise?"

"Why is it that every time I come by, my presence is a shock to you?"

"Oh, I'm sorry, Denise, it's not you. It's just that I have a lot on my mind."

"That implies that you *have* a mind. There you go, a smile. That wasn't too hard, now was it?" Denise sat down in a vacant chair next to Scully in the waiting room. "I know you're worried about Mulder, Dana, we all are. But what you're doing to yourself isn't healthy. You're barely eating, sleeping on an uncomfortable cot, and the constant worrying isn't helping. You're gonna be too run down to do Mulder any good.

"That's why *I'm* here. You're mother and I decided that it was time you got a break. We're taking you out to dinner, kind of a 'Mulder's Closing Surgery Celebration' if you will."

Dana was already shaking her head before Denise finished the sentence. "I can't. Mulder is due out of surgery in about half an hour, I have to be there."

"Why? He won't wake up for a while after that, will he?"

"You don't understand, Denise, I promised him I'd be there for him, that I wouldn't leave him alone. Imagine being sick and weak, violently torn from your home and dragged to a cold room where no one hears your screams. You're chained to the floor and some madman cuts you open, shoves a tube in your belly, and starts pulling your intestines out. Nothing but pain, fear, and the sound of your life slipping away. You cry for help, beg for it to stop, but no one comes. You wonder where everyone is, why they aren't here, why no one can stop this torture. You're alone with a madman, alone with your fear and torment. When someone finally does show up, it is almost too late. Now, you imagine all that and tell me if you would ever want to be alone again?

"Mulder is a strong individual, he's had to be with the kind of shit that Fate has thrown at him, but there will come a time when he won't be able to carry the burden alone. I think that time has come. So whether he is awake, delirious, or asleep, I will *not* leave him alone."

Denise was at a loss for words. She had always considered Mulder as the kind of guy who could handle anything, whether it be mutants or serial killers. She'd heard numerous stories while in the Academy that portrayed Spooky Mulder as some sort of crime fighting machine. When she had met him, she was surprised to find that most of the stories were true and so she had come to think of him as unstoppable. The idea that after all this time, Mulder had finally been faced with something he couldn't handle, came as a great shock.

"God, Dana, I'm sorry. It's just that I..." She wasn't quite sure what to say.

Scully reached over and patted her hand. "I know, you're just trying to help. Both you and my mother have your hearts in the right place, but at this moment, *my* heart isn't inclined to agree. Yes, this is a big step towards recovery, but there so much else that can go wrong. He could get an infection, obstruction, cholecystitis, he could even eviscerate."

Denise swallowed. "You mean his guts could fall out again?"

"That's a worst case scenario but there's always the possibility. Plus, he's going to have to go through some physical therapy. He's too weak to walk or move much and, knowing Mulder, he's going to want to do both before he should. Then there's home care. I refuse to put him in a rehab facility, I intend to take him home with me. Only problem is, he'll fight me on it. He won't want to burden me or make me feel like I'm responsible for him. The man is so self-deprecating sometimes that I want to hit him over the head until he gets it into that brilliant mind of his that he is not at fault for every single mishap in my life."

"Dana, you're worrying about things that haven't even happened yet. If he has any complications, you'll be prepared, but why stress yourself out by assuming the worst? And, though I know you know him better than anyone else, maybe you're selling the guy short. He might just see that he's better off with you than by himself."

"She's right you know. Fox is a smart man, he may surprise us all," Margaret Scully said as she moved from leaning against the door frame to sit next to the other two women. "Dana, Fox loves you and you love him, that's all that matters. True, you both have some tough times ahead, but you'll get through them." That was it, end of discussion, Maggie had spoken. "Now, how about instead of taking you out to dinner, we bring dinner to you? There's a marvelous Italian place right across the street that I'm sure we can cajole into delivering. Dana, what can I get for you?"

"Um, tortellini sounds good."


"I'll have some fettucini alfredo."

"All right, I'll be back in about half an hour to forty-five minutes. Fox should be out of surgery by then and we can all eat in his room." With that, Margaret got up and strode purposefully out of the room.

Denise looked at Scully's bewildered face and just grinned.


The Beginning


Friday, January 15
9:38 a.m.

"So, how does it feel to be out of the ICU?"

"I want to go to Disneyland."

"I don't think they'd allow you to ride anything with all this equipment."

"Aw, c'mon, Scully, I don't have an IV anymore."

"It was an arterial line, not an IV. Besides, you need to lose a few more tubes before you do any serious moving around. Tomorrow we'll get rid of the Foley. Today's agenda is to start some range of motion exercises. You remember those from back when you were shot in the leg, don't you?"

Mulder groaned. "How could I forget? How about the TLC, when do I get to have that out?"

"Why, Mulder! You *have* been paying attention! You get to keep that for awhile, until Dr. Morgan decides that you're eating enough on your own. For now, it's the only way you get any nutrition. You'll start feeling a bit hungrier soon but your intestines can't handle anything serious for a few days. The J/G-tube stays too."

"I'm never going to look at a straw the same way again. Being fed from a tube is not something I want to dwell on."

A male voice broke into the conversation. "Well then, you should have plenty of motivation to get well. That's great! Patients who want to get better usually cooperate a lot more."

Scully turned around to find a pair of green eyes shining from under a thick shock of black hair. He was tall, well built but not bulky, and his face showed a kind of confidence. He stepped further into the room and up to Mulder's bedside. "Hi, I'm Bassam, I'll be your physical therapist for the duration of your stay."

Scully shook hands. "Nice to meet you, Ba... Bas..."

"Bassam. Bah-Sahm. It's Arabic, a lot of people have trouble with it. Sometimes I wish my parents were a little less imaginative."

"That's something I can sympathize with,” Mulder intoned from the bed.

"Yeah, I can imagine. Fox, huh? What, were your parents hippies?"

"No, actually they were quite the opposite. I asked my mom once and she said that it was my father that named me." Mulder blanched at the memory. "I never got around to asking him. But nobody calls me Fox. Except for my mom and Mrs. Scully, everybody calls me Mulder."

"Okay then, Mulder, I was told that you're already familiar with the basic principles of range of motion exercises."

"Yeah, but that was when my leg was injured. Don't see why I need to do them now."

"Ah ah ah, no negative thinking. Trust me, when we get you out of that bed and walking, you'll be grateful for this. Now, we're going to start with some passive/active motions, where I help a bit but you do most of this on your own. Sound good?"

Mulder sighed and nodded. Anything to get him out of this hospital sooner.

Bassam picked up Mulder's left leg gently. "Now, I want you to move your ankle in a circle...

And so it went, from both legs up to the arms. Mulder became frustrated when he realized that this wasn't going to be as easy as he had originally thought. By the time they were done he felt ready to sleep for a year.

Bassam told him he'd done a great job and headed out the door, reminding them that he would be back for another session tomorrow. Scully caught up to the therapist halfway down the hall. "Hey, I just wanted to thank you, you were great. I know that Mulder isn't the most patient man, but you handled him well. I am a bit concerned at how much it wore him out though. You don't think we're moving too fast?"

"No, not at all. This was his first session, he'll do much better next time. Actually, I'm pretty impressed with how well he did, especially after the kind of trauma his body has been through. We'll have him walking around in a few days at this rate."

"That's Mulder for you. Always trying to do things faster and he usually pays the price. All right, I'll trust your judgment on this one, but let me warn you, don't let him fool you. He won't tell you if he's tired or hurts, he'll just ride it out."

Bassam furrowed his brows. "Hmm, I suspected something like that. Okay, thanks for the tip, I'll keep it in mind. Have you thought of any long term care?"

"Yes, I'll be taking him home with me when he is discharged. I'm a doctor and I know what kind of care he'll need."

"That's perfect." He glanced at his watch. "I gotta go, I have an appointment with a car accident victim." He flashed her a huge grin. "He's taking his first steps after three months."

Scully smiled back. "Miracles do happen."

Sunday, January 17
11:33 a.m.

"Can't we just take them out now?"

"Mulder, I already told you about this. Now, hold still and let Tasha put the caps on."

Doing as he was told, Mulder stopped fidgeting and allowed the nurse to cap off the TLC and J/G-tube. Tasha finished and stepped back, sweeping an arm out in Mulder's direction. "Okay, he's all yours."

Bassam grinned devilishly. "You're not off the hook quite yet. I need you to help me get him out of bed."

Tasha sighed dramatically. "My work is never done." Together, she and Bassam managed to get Mulder out of his bed and into a wheelchair. The PCA was attached to the IV pole protruding from the back of the chair.

Mulder self-consciously adjusted his shirt. Now that the Foley catheter was gone, he was able to wear sweat pants and a button up flannel. Though it helped him feel minutely less like an invalid, he still longed for something a little more dignified. "Can't we just do this in my room?"

Bassam pushed Mulder out the door, heading down the hallway, Scully next to him. "Nope. We've got a special room all set up for people who need a little help getting back on their feet. Padded floors and all."

"Maybe someone else is using the room right now." Mulder was staring at the door they were moving towards.

"That's why we make appointments, Mr. FBI," Bassam teased.

Scully wasn't able to shrug off Mulder's protests as easily as the therapist was. It wasn't like Mulder to grasp at straws to avoid a bit of exercise. She looked down at him and noticed that he was rubbing his sweaty palms together.

He was nervous! Mr. 'You've Never Seen Me Panic' was wearing his expressionless face. They reached the door and Scully laid a hand on Bassam's forearm to stop him from continuing into the room. "Can you give me a minute with him?"

Bassam inclined his head, a look of understanding in his eyes, then pushed through the door by himself. Scully knelt beside Mulder and put a hand on his knee. "Mulder, what's wrong?"

He swallowed, not meeting her eye. "Nothing."

"Mulder, what did I say about hiding things from me?"

He sighed. "I don't want to do this."

She kept all tone of confrontation out of her voice. "Why not?"

"What if I can't do it?"

"Is *that* what is bothering you? You're afraid you won't be able to walk? Sweetheart, it takes time. True, you won't get very far today, but after a while you'll be able to move around a lot easier."

Mulder chewed on his lip a while. "You'll stay?"

"Of course I will, I'm the cheer squad." She smiled and wheeled her partner after Bassam. Inside they discovered a large room full of platforms and equipment, everything covered in soft rubbery material. There were a few other patients there, some with therapists, all looking like they were working harder than they ever had in their lives. Bassam was in a corner, motioning to them. They joined him quickly and he got everything set up, gently getting Mulder into an upright position.

"Okay, I'm going to walk with you, I won't let you fall. Use my arm if you have to, but try to focus on your legs." Bassam put an arm behind Mulder's back, not putting any weight on the patient, but letting him know that he was there as support. "Now, move your right foot forward. Good! Left foot. A little farther, great! Right again. Come on, I know you can do it."

Bassam kept up his running litany of encouragement, persuading but not pushing. Mulder was breathing hard, sweat running down the side of his face, his muscles trembling with the effort. He concentrated on simple things, like lifting up the foot, shuffling it forward, setting it down. So simple and yet so monumental.

"You're doing wonderful, Mulder!" Scully shouted, her enthusiasm buoying him greatly.

"That's enough, time to turn around. Think you can make it back?"

"Yeah," Mulder answered breathlessly.

Bassam eyed him. "You sure?"

Mulder just focused on turning around. By the time they made it back he almost collapsed into the chair. When he had managed to catch his breath he looked up and measured the distance of his arduous task. "Five feet?? I only went five feet?"

"Yeah, man, that was amazing! I didn't think we'd make it past three!" Bassam was grinning from ear to ear. "Dana told me you set hospital records, but I didn't really believe her."

Mulder's eyes settled on the red-headed woman next to him, a look of gratitude on his face. "I want to believe."

Thursday, January 21
8:52 a.m.

The days went by in a blur of set schedules. Mulder was ambulated twice a day, usually by either Bassam or Tasha, then spent the rest of his time resting. Not necessarily sleeping, as he was still having nightmares. Today he was eating his first meal. Or in this case, drinking.

“Ugh! Scully, what is this crap?? It smells like vomit for Christ's sake!"

Scully couldn't help the smirk that broke out across her face. "It's called Criticare and it's good for you. Drink it."

"The idea of a tube is sounding better and better."

"Mulder, drink it or I can make that tube a reality. It's an elemental diet, it doesn't need to be digested."

"Probably because the guy who already digested it hacked it up so I could drink it."


Shit. She had that tone in her voice. The one that told him that he had better do what she said or she would inflict bodily harm on him. "All right, all right," he grumbled. He lifted the drink to his lips, breathing from his mouth so he wouldn't have to smell the vile stench. He swallowed a large gulp, gagging slightly. "Jesus! It's sour!" He rubbed his tongue on the roof of his mouth to try and get rid of the bitter taste. "And it's greasy. How long will I have to drink this?"

"Only for two days, until the doctors can be sure that it's safe for you to start on a liquid diet."

Mulder grimaced. "Why do I bother waking up? Nothing but another nightmare."

Scully's smirk disappeared. "Mulder, I'm worried about these nightmares. I think you should talk to someone."

"I'm fine. No, wait, let me finish. I have been having nightmares for the better part of my life, I can handle them. I do *not* need some shrink with less credentials than I do to tell me that I've been traumatized. I know I have been fucking traumatized! But me telling some guy about what it was like to have my guts ripped out of me is not going to make things any better. I need to deal with this on my own, Dana, *please*? Trust me."

Scully took his hand in hers and ran her fingers down his cheek. "Sweetheart, you know I trust you, with everything that I am. I just want you to know that I am here for you if you ever need to talk. But I also want you to seriously think about getting some professional help if you are still having these particular nightmares after a month."

Mulder squeezed her hand. "I will." His free hand caught hers as it lowered from his face, pulling it towards his lips so he could place a tender kiss on her palm. "Scully? I like it when you call me that."

It took Dana a moment to comprehend what he was talking about. She hadn't realized that she had used the term, that she had been using it constantly over the past week. She stood and leaned forward to kiss him gently. "I love you, Sweetheart," she whispered.

Wednesday, January 27
9:08 a.m.

True to her word, two days after their conversation on food, Mulder was moved to a liquid diet. Apple juice, tea, broth, and Jell-O made up most of his meals. Often he wasn't really hungry or was too exhausted to want to eat. A few threats of a feeding tube was all it took for him to down whatever they were giving him. The Total Parenteral Nutrition administered through the TLC made up for the lack of intake.

Physical therapy continued with regularity, Mulder taking more steps each day. He could now walk up to twenty feet on his own, albeit unsteadily. Scully was again amazed at the speed at which her partner's recovery was progressing. It wasn't the kind of injury that you walked away from, it was the kind that planted you six feet under. Leave it to Mulder to break the rules.

She gazed happily down at the man who was dozing peacefully for once, marveling at the sight. There were no unsightly tubes protruding from below his collarbone or from above his navel. She had almost forgotten what that looked like. Mulder had finally been able to eat enough on his own and the TPN was discontinued the day before, eliminating the need for the Triple-Lumen catheter. Along with it went the jejunostomy/gastric tube, leaving him with nothing but the PCA and a few necessary monitors.

The Patient Controlled Anesthesia was scheduled to be discontinued today and Scully was nervous. Would he be in pain? What if the pills weren't enough? What if he hid the fact that they didn't work?

Dana rubbed her eyes with the heels of her hands. Denise and her mother were right, she needed to stop worrying. They had made it this far with relatively few problems, maybe she was just assuming the worst.

Dr. Morgan had said that if Mulder passed his tests today, then he'd be released tomorrow into Scully's care. Yes, it was a bit early, but she was a doctor, Morgan trusted her to keep things in hand. That made Scully both excited and fearful at the same time. He was still weak; would she be able to take care of him herself?

A hand on her shoulder startled her out of her reverie. "Dana, Honey? What's the matter?"

"Mom, what are you doing here, I thought you had an appointment with a social worker about Mrs. Miranda?"

"I did. It ended about twenty minutes ago and since their office is only a few blocks away I decided to bring you some breakfast." She brought a bag out from behind her back, a heavenly aroma wafting from it. "Coffee, a croissant, and a bagel with cream cheese."

"I hope you're prepared to share, Scully."

Both women turned to see Mulder's smiling eyes open and focused their way. "Not on your life, Mister, this is all mine." Scully laughed as she took the bag from Maggie, her earlier fears forgotten.

Mulder's lip jutted out in an exaggerated pout and Scully had to look away. That expression could get her to do anything. Mulder realized it was futile and decided to drop it. "Mrs. Scully, if you don't mind me asking, why would you be going to see a social worker?"

"It's about my next door neighbor, Mrs. Miranda. She is getting along in her years and I'm afraid she can no longer take care of herself. She has no family to speak of and I am the only neighbor around for miles. So I made an appointment to see if I could find a home for Mrs. Miranda's specific needs."

"Mom, you are such a good Samaritan, sometimes I wonder when the Pope is going to show up at your door and proclaim you a saint."

"It's to make up for all the trouble I got into as a child."

Mulder chuckled, wincing a bit. He could just imagine what kind of a spitfire Dana's mom had been.

Maggie winked at Mulder and then motioned to her daughter. "Fox, if you'll excuse us, I need to talk to Dana for a moment."

Scully got up and followed Margaret out the door, hastily wiping croissant crumbs from her mouth. After they closed the door behind them she placed a hand on her mother's arm. "Mom, what is it?"

"I was going to ask you the same question. You looked so distraught when I came in that I was afraid that maybe something was wrong with Fox."

"No. Actually, it's the opposite. Dr. Morgan says that he is doing so well that he may be released tomorrow into my care."

"That's wonderful! What's wrong with that?"

"Mom, I don't think it's a good idea."

"Now, Honey, I know that it's only because you care, but this environment cannot provide anything more that he can't be given at home."

Scully chewed on her lip a moment, thinking over the pros and cons. Margaret was using *that* tone. The 'I'm-your-mother-and-I-know-best' tone. She took a deep breath and blew out heavily. "He should stay here. Mom, do you realize how serious his condition is?"

Maggie motioned to the closed door, indicating the man inside. "Dana, you said yourself that he was recovering at a remarkable rate."

"Yes, I did. But there's a difference between *recovering* and *recovered*." Scully leaned her forehead against the smooth wall, closing her eyes. "He can't stand up for more than ten minutes at a time, can't eat anything harsher than soup, he's extremely weak, still in some pain, and..."

Maggie waited for her daughter to continue but Dana seemed to be lost in thought. "And?" she prompted.

"And he's having nightmares. Not that that's unusual for Mulder, but these are worse than his regular ones. Every single night he wakes up screaming." A tear trickled down her cheek, her mind replaying all the times she had rushed to her partner's side as he cried out in terror over the past few weeks.

"Dana, I'm sure if it wasn't safe to do so, the doctors wouldn't allow him out of here."

"That's just it. They're only releasing him because *I'm* a doctor. And since all he needs now is rest, they decided that I should be able to handle him." She turned to face her mother, despair in her eyes. "But I'm so scared that something could go wrong and it will be my fault. Mom, I can't lose him. I *can't*."

Maggie drew Scully into her arms, holding her tightly. "I know, Dana, I know. But you won't have to do this by yourself, I'm sure Mrs. Mulder will help." The stricken look in her daughter's eyes made her breath catch in her throat. "What? Nothing's happened to her, has it?"

Dana closed her eyes and drew in a deep breath. "No, Mom, she's fine." She opened her eyes and stared at her mother. "I haven't called her."

"You haven't?? Why not?"

"You don't understand, Christina Mulder isn't like you. I'm listed as Mulder's next of kin, you know that, right?" She continued after Maggie's affirmative nod. "He says it's because he doesn't want to worry her, that ever since Samantha's disappearance she has had trouble dealing with these kinds of situations. But personally, I think that is just an excuse.

"I don't know much about my partner's past, but I do know that it wasn't a happy one. Tina Mulder is a cold woman who would rather watch her son suffer than tell him the truth about what happened to his sister. I refuse to call her because I know that she couldn't care less about her only son's condition."

Margaret was shocked by the vehemence in Dana's voice and by the idea of a mother who would not rush to her child's side in a situation such as this. She decided then and there that she would show Fox what a real mother was. "All right, then he'll come stay at my house."

"Mom, I couldn't ask you to do that."

"Nonsense. I have that big old house to myself, it would be a pleasure to take care of you and Fox for a while."

"I'm not sure Mulder would be comfortable. No offense, it's just that he is always reluctant to let someone care for him."

"That's why he should come to stay with *us*. Because he needs loving care, not this stale hospital." She pushed her daughter away, holding her at arm's length, looking straight into her eyes. "Besides, with two Scully women watching him, what could possibly go wrong?"

Dana smiled. "True." She paused and thought about her decision. Upon reaching it she laid her hand on her mother's forearm. "Let's go tell your guest the news."

Thursday, January 28
9:56 a.m.

Mulder was almost moved to tears.

The room was filled to overflowing with well wishers, here to see him off. Bassam, Tasha, and Dr. Morgan were there, along with several other members of the hospital staff. Skinner and Denise were among a group of agents from the VCS. As far away from this group as possible was a trio of men who looked quite out of place in the crowd; the Lone Gunmen had of course heard what happened and had come to offer their support. Dana and her mother finished off the guest list.

Balloons were tied to every available piece of equipment, flowers covered all empty surfaces and a huge banner stretched across one wall, proclaiming 'Good Luck, Mulder!' in bright colors. Mulder could never remember ever having so many people care about him while he was in the hospital. Not recently and certainly not as a child. So he tried to hold the tears back and kept a smile plastered on his face.

Scully cleared her throat and moved to the side of Mulder's bed, quieting everyone and gaining their attention. "All right everybody, it's time we got this show on the road."

That was the cue to leave. The Gunmen were the first to approach the bed, eager to be out of the same room as government employees. Frohike grinned and slapped Mulder on the shoulder. "Be sure to stop by sometime, we'll get some cheesesteaks and discuss the theory of lights in the sky being linked to earthquakes."

Langly pushed his glasses back up on his nose and pushed his limp hair from his face. "Do you have your laptop? 'Cause if you do, we can start up a righteous game of Doom."

Byers waited for his two companions to back away before he stepped up, pulling a large package from behind his back. "Kelly made this for you. It's a fruitcake. Yeah, I know, but it's the only thing she can cook moderately well."

Mulder chuckled and took the gift, passing it to Scully, who had a confused look on her face. "Kelly?" she asked.

Byers was a bit surprised by the question, but considering his lifestyle, he should had suspected. He held up his left hand, a gold band encircling his ring finger. "My wife." With that the three exited hastily.

Scully glanced at Mulder, eyebrow raised. He returned the expression. "Why, Agent Scully, I'm disappointed. You mean to tell me that you never noticed the ring? Byers has been married for the past four years."

Dana just snorted. "I knew he was more normal than the others."

Next up was SAC Lahaina, who shook Mulder’s and Scully's hands, congratulating them both on a job well done. The rest of the agents filed past, mumbling their good-byes. Skinner and Denise brought up the rear.

"I don't want to see you back at my office until Agent Scully declares that you are ready, is that understood, Agent Mulder?" His stern tone lightened up considerably, "Besides, I wouldn't show my face at work if I were you, the guys in finance are fuming over these latest expenses."

Mulder grinned. "I'll remember that, Sir, thanks for the warning."

Denise leaned over and gently hugged her friend. "I'm going to be calling every day, so I don't want to hear that you've been giving these girls any grief. Or I'll have to come over and whip you into shape."

He put his hands up in mock surrender. "I promise I'll be good."

They laughed and after another hug, she followed Skinner out the door. All that were left were Tasha, Bassam, and Dr. Morgan now. Bassam moved forward, as though to help Mulder out of bed. Mulder stopped him with a glare. "I can do it myself."

Bassam broke into a wide smile. "I know you can. You're a hard worker, you can do anything you put your mind to. Look me up when you're feeling more like you normal self, we'll set up that game of basketball you've been promising. Then we'll see of you're as good as you say you are or whether you're just all talk."

Mulder clasped hands with the big man. "Anytime."

Tasha sighed. "Male bonding, uck. It's too bad you're already taken, Mulder, or I'd ask you to look me up too." She gave both agents hugs. "You two take care of each other."

Scully put a hand on Mulder's shoulder. "We will."

Dr. Morgan remained standing at the end of the bed, watching Mulder carefully maneuver himself into the wheelchair. He still moved slowly, gingerly, but it was a vast improvement. Farther than Morgan had ever believed possible.

"Well, Dr. Scully, he's all yours. You have his meds and prescriptions for refills. I want him back here in a week for a follow-up, see what needs to be changed or discontinued."

Scully reached out to shake hands with the doctor. "Thank you, Alex, you have been absolutely marvelous. A great surgeon and a good friend."

He smiled and patted Dana's hand. Turning to Mulder, he said in his most authoritative voice, "You are to rest. Nothing active, nothing stressful. I will not have you messing up all my hard work. Do as Dana says and you will recover fully. Now, get out of my hospital."

Mulder grinned so widely that his teeth gleamed in the light. "Gladly."

Tasha moved behind the wheelchair and pushed Mulder into the hall, Scully and Margaret on either side. The hallway was lined with nurses, orderlies, and several other patients who had come to know Mulder over the past three weeks. As the agent passed, they broke into applause, shouts of encouragement and congratulations intermixed.

Dana wasn't sure, but she could swear that Mulder was blushing.

End Part 1

Continues in Part 2