I'm fed up. I've just about had it with Mulder. He said he'd be over my apartment at eight o'clock tonight, and it's now eleven. I've already called his cell phone and the Lone Gunmen. I'm at his place right now, checking his phone messages, looking around for any clue to his tardiness. His car is still parked in its customary space; his Sig and FBI ID are in his dresser drawer.
There was no sign of forced entry, no sign of anything unusual when I arrived a few moments ago. I can't imagine where he would go without his weapon, but then again, I don't suppose he takes it with him for a jog around the block. That's one possibility, but for three, maybe four hours? He would have left me a message if he knew he was going to be late. Or he would have concocted some half-truth, feeding it to my voice mail before he chased after some stupid, waste of time lead.
So, where the hell is he now? It's a lot colder then it was before eight, and I assume he left here before then if he was on his way to my place. So I get to imagine him lying in a ditch somewhere, an assassin's bullet in his chest. Maybe his legs are merely broken, after a black unmarked sedan swept him off the road. Maybe he's just in a bar, drunk as a skunk, waiting for his long suffering partner to find his sorry ass and cart him back home.
I've gone through this too many times and I'm too too sick of this routine Mulder-in-jeopardy crap. Granted, he has pulled me out of some very hairy situations. Granted, he's my best friend in the world, maybe the only person I can completely trust anymore.
I know I should trust my family, too. But, that's not the kind of trust I'm talking about. I can't possibly explain to Mom or Bill the intricacies of a global conspiracy to eradicate human life as we know it. I can't possibly explain why I can't be contacted for days at a time when we're trying to disguise our travel plans. I hate lying to Mom, but she'd never fully understand why I'm still trying to find more of my children. She'd haul me off to the loony bin. She'd yell and scream at Mulder for allowing me to torment myself this way.
Ironically, I'm the one who suggested such extra-curricular activities when we're off the Bureau clock. Mulder wanted nothing to do with it, till he realized I would be putting myself in constant danger when I took brief, but stealthy trips out-of-state. Or even around DC. I got a map out and drew concentric circles on it, radiating from my home in Georgetown. I proposed systematically canvassing every medical or research laboratory in DC till we had checked out each one for ties to Roush, Transgen, or any other name remotely linked to the Consortium's reign of terror in our lives.
So, yeah, I'm thinking the worst right now. It's all probably just irrational worrying brought on by too little sleep this week. But nothing's gone wrong for so long that I'm beginning to feel jinxed. That things just can't continue to be this trouble free for very much longer.
October's been too damn quiet. Something always happens to us around Halloween. I'm certainly not superstitious, but I've come to dread this time of year. There are too many temptations for Mulder. Aside from the usual parade of haunted houses, ghostly graveyard visions and moving furniture, there always seem to be a spate of Halloween inspired murders that we get called in on. Either because of Mulder's profiling abilities or my forensic knowledge. And unless we're elsewhere, on another case, in another state, we get dragged into situations that should probably be handled by other agents.
But it seems no one can resist calling in Mr. and Mrs. Spooky, especially when there's devil worship or werewolves involved. Nine times out of ten, these cases are no more complicated than your average homicide. They just seem to be up our alley because some teenager drew a pentagram on his cellar floor, or some adults had a costume party and the drunken participants couldn't tell the difference between a human monster dressed up like a werewolf and, well, a creature that I don't believe exists. Not really. Not the way Mulder does. Oh, God, where is he? Where the fucking hell did he run off to tonight?
Several hours later
Ah, Jeez, did I fall asleep on this couch? I've got every light on in this apartment, which isn't saying much. Mulder likes it dark in here, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't illuminate it enough to stay awake. But maybe I'm so damn tired I would've fallen asleep under halogen floodlights.
It's one o'clock dammit! I'm calling Frohike one more time and then I'll have to call Skinner if Mulder's not over there. I punch in speed dial three and a still very wide awake voice answers. We have just gotten through exchanging pleasantries when I hear a key turning. I tell Frohike I'll call back and end the call.
Mulder sees me sitting on his couch, and a pained smile crosses his face. He then takes a step or two into the apartment and falls clumsily to his knees. I am up in an instant, catching him before his jaw hits the floor.
He is a mess. His jogging clothes are covered with dirt, as though he fell in some flower bed, rolling around in it for fun. I lay him down on the floor, then grab a throw pillow and gently position it underneath his head. I make a quick check of his vitals while he mumbles something incoherent to me. He's still conscious, but in a very weak state. I ask him if he's hurt, and he is able to mutter 'head' to me. I check him out and discover a very large bump at the back of his head. He's not bleeding, but I'm almost sure he's had a concussion, however he got hurt.
"Mulder... Mulder? Do you remember what happened?"
I hold his head in my hands, forcing him to make eye contact with me. I not only want to know what happened, I want him to stay awake for awhile, just until I can evaluate all his symptoms.
"You were? Did they hit you with a gun, Mulder?"
"Okay, you have to stay awake just a little while longer. Let me get my bag out of the car. Can you hang on, Mulder?"
I run to my car and get my medical bag, returning to find him rolled over on his side. I set my bag aside and gently roll him back onto the pillow, brushing some of the dirt off his clothes as I do so.
"Hey, Mulder, stick with me, okay? You look like you've been rolling around in the dirt all day. Where were you when this happened?"
"Oh, that's descriptive. Why don't you tell me a little more while I check out your eyes?"
I shine my penlight in each eye and am rewarded with a goofy smile from Mulder. He seems to be coming around now, his fainting spell over. I brush his bangs off his dirty forehead and grin back at him.
"You feel a little better now?"
"Yeah. You're here, Scully."
"I've been here for hours. You never showed up at my apartment. I was really worried about you."
"Yeah, sure, Mulder. You're just great."
"I am. I can even get up now..."
He pushes his hands against the floor for leverage, but falls back in another attack of dizziness. I move the pillow back underneath his head and say, "Stay put, I'm getting you some water."
He looks up at me, his face filled with both pain and gratitude. If I wasn't here to take care of him, he'd lie on the floor for hours, till someone finally made a welfare check on him. And knowing Mulder, the Lone Gunmen and I are the only ones who would even think to note his disappearance. He doesn't speak to his mother very often. He doesn't have a girlfriend. He doesn't socialize with the people in this apartment building. God knows they probably have had it up to here with his disruptive activities. He's probably lucky if they say hello to him in the elevator.
I get the water, and he chugs some of it down. I shove the thermometer in his mouth before he has a chance to protest. I grab a pillow and set it under my knees so I can take another look at that bump, make sure it's not bleeding. It's not, and I finally feel like I can relax a little. He's still groggy, but he's certainly not completely out of it. In fact, he hasn't stopped watching me the whole time he's had that thermometer in his mouth. I am dreading the double-entendre I see in his eyes. He's dying to say something flippant, and I steel myself for some lewd comment.
Instead, when I remove the thermometer, he says, "You're so good for me, Scully."
He grabs my free hand and brings it to his lips, kissing it lightly. I can't help but be embarrassed. I feel my cheeks reddening and turn my face toward the door. I've been trying to act like his faithful partner here and then he has to go and say something like that, something so sweet, so personal.
I regain a little of my composure and scrutinize the thermometer. It's one hundred degrees, not enough to send us to the hospital yet. I've thought of taking him there, but I know he'd bitch up a storm if I mentioned it. I'd rather stay here anyway, since I'm going to be waking up every two hours to check on his concussion.
Ignoring his last, quite wonderful, comment as skillfully as I can, I ask him, "Do you think you can sit up now?"
"Maybe. With some help." He gives me a wan, beseeching look that projects his weariness, and I give him both my hands, then pull him to a sitting position on the floor.
"Not so much."
"Why don't you stay like this for a few minutes, till we're sure you're not going to faint away again, Mulder?"
"Real men don't faint, Scully."
"Well, this man has a good excuse. Let me get you some more water."
He's still holding my hands, and he won't let me go without giving them an affectionate squeeze. Whoo, another dandy reason to rush off for that glass of water. He's so vulnerable and so damn gorgeous. I want to hold him in my arms and make it better... not exactly professional thoughts right now.
I sure hope he can get those dirty clothes off by himself, because I'm feeling less and less competent as a passive observer here. And the last thing I want to do is take advantage of him in his moment of weakness... Then again, if he were totally together tonight, I might be seeing his affection in a different light. Better to wait twenty-four hours and see if he still feels the same way...
When I return to his side, he is still sitting quietly, using his arms to balance himself upright. I ask, "Want to move against the couch, put your back up against something?"
"Sure. I didn't dare move till you gave me your express permission, Scully. Don't know what punishment you might mete out to me..." He gives me a devilish grin which tells me he feels a helluva lot better. I help him scoot over to his couch, and he rests against it.
"Join me?" he says.
"Sure," I say, as I lower myself next to him, shoving the coffee table out of the way. We share the rest of the water and sit quietly together, each lost in our own thoughts.
After a few minutes he says, "Thanks, Scully."
"It's nothing, Mulder. I'm glad I was here for you. Did the mugger take anything of yours?"
"I don't know. It was all I could do to get back here. That's probably why I was in such bad shape. I was in a pretty remote area of the jogging trail I use, so no one must have seen me lying there. I must have been out for five or six hours because I left here at 6:30. What time is it now?"
"It's 1:30. Six hours sounds right, if you were hurt at around seven. You've been home a half hour. Check your wallet or whatever you had with you."
He pulls a small wallet from his sweatpants, one he obviously uses only when he jogs. It has a few dollars and his license, which he displays to me proudly.
"Lousy picture, Mulder."
"Yeah, that was the first one they took. They let me keep it. The good one's in my other wallet."
"Well, I'll have to see it sometime."
"Oh, I bet you will."
"You think I'd rifle through your wallet, Mulder?"
"Maybe. If you had to."
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
"I don't know, Scully. I don't think I'm making much sense right now."
"Can I take a shower?"
"How about a bath?"
"You're going to draw me a bath, Scully?" he says, with a gleeful smile.
I laugh as I say, "Don't get any ideas, Mulder. This is strictly a one time event."
He actually looks disappointed as I rise from my place beside him, so I tousle his hair with one hand, chuckling softly. As I cross the room, I can feel his eyes following me, a fact I happily confirm by turning completely around, then walking backward down the hallway. The grin I receive from him is worth the pain of slamming into the door jamb, a miscalculation that I really hadn't expected. Fortunately, I'm out of his line of sight by then, but he still hears my unladylike expression of displeasure.
"Okay, Scully?" he asks, in an amused tone.
"Yep, fine, wonderful," I mutter, cursing my impulsive action. I guess you could say that flirting with Mulder has its drawbacks sometimes.
I fill the tub and set a towel on the edge of the porcelain. I find some clean sweats in his bedroom and toss them on top of the sink. When I return to the living room, Mulder is struggling to remove his ankle holster. The gun already lies on the coffee table.
"So you were armed, after all?"
"Lot of good it did me, too. I can't figure out how someone got the drop on me, Scully. I was standing on the jog path one minute, the next I'm face down in a flower bed. And they didn't even take my watch or my wallet. If I wasn't so damn paranoid already, I'd be more paranoid than ever."
"You think it's a warning?"
"You bet I do."
"Mulder... if this is about the laboratories..."
"It could be. And if it is, I don't want that to dissuade you, Scully. You have a right to investigate what happened to your ova. I'm not wimping out on you. I just think I might have to find myself a jogging partner..."
I smile at that and say, "Anytime, partner. I'd rather run four miles with you than nurse wounds like this."
"But you seemed to be enjoying playing nurse, Dr. Scully..." he teases.
"Since you seem to be feeling so much better, Mulder, get your ass into the bathroom. I'd still like to get some sleep tonight."
"Gonna help me over there?" he asks, using the end of couch to steady himself. He falters slightly as he takes one cautious step, and I lend him my shoulder immediately.
"Sorry, Scully. I guess I'm all right as long as I'm not moving around."
"Shit, Mulder. I don't know how you made it home on your own. Didn't you try to call me?"
"Nah, I thought I could make it on my own. I did make it on my own."
"Don't ever do that again, okay?"
"Get mugged or not call you?"
I sigh with exasperation as we finally reach the bathroom door.
"There's some clothes on the sink for you and I'll be right out here, okay?"
He transfers his weight from my shoulder to the door jamb, leaning against it heavily. Instead of a verbal response to my query, he stares down at me, catching my eyes with his. With one swift, sharp movement, he pulls me toward him with his free hand, hugging me to his chest. He drops one single kiss on my forehead, then releases me and slips into the bathroom without a word.
I'm too shocked to form any sort of reaction and stand still as Lot's wife for several minutes time, listening to soft ripples from the tub as Mulder eases himself in. Damn that man! He must know what that does to me or else why would he do it? Why cast such a blatantly romantic gesture my way if he didn't realize its affect on me? Weak as a baby, stumbling over his own two feet, and he still has the power to reduce me to a lovesick doe-eyed girl.
I gather my wits and go back out to the kitchen to make some herbal tea. Ever since he discovered my penchant for cinnamon spice tea, there's always been some at his apartment. At first that amused me, now it comforts me that he's carved out a place for me in his life, albeit an ambiguous one.
We've successfully avoided any discussion of our lives outside of the Bureau, because frankly, we have no lives outside of the Bureau. I haven't seen my mother more than a few times a month and I'm usually so exhausted on Sundays that I sleep most of the day. I've spent many Saturdays this past summer in Mulder's company, visiting the Lone Gunmen, poring over the information they've gathered, catching up on our case files. I'm fully aware that he'll use any excuse to have Saturday night dinner with me.
That was the plan yesterday. Like so many other Saturday nights. I pretend to be slightly annoyed that he wants to work a sixth night of the week. Because we don't. We end up watching Mystery Science Theater or Tracy and Hepburn movies on my couch. With popcorn and any alcohol that happens to be kicking around my apartment at the time. This pretense has lasted for months, starting in late May and continuing through the long, hot summer.
I really had no choice. I coveted his company as much as he did mine, and the only concession I've made to our so-called 'professional' relationship is continuing to maintain the illusion that we're hanging out every Saturday night for something other than that company. Maybe it's our twisted, alien concept of what courtship should be like, maybe we're both scared to death of losing each other if things don't work out.
But it's kept us on an even keel till now. Till I spent all last night worrying about him. Till I thought I lost him this time around. Till he made me feel that he lived for me alone, with that little melodramatic kiss of his. Well, he's in no condition to be amorous tonight, Dana Katharine. Let's get the patient to bed and then I can crawl under that cozy afghan on the couch.
I sit down on the couch and drink my tea, checking my watch to see how long he's been holed up in the bath. Ten minutes and counting, better see if he's fallen asleep in there. I crack the bathroom door to check up on him.
"Uh-huh, Scully," he says weakly.
"Sure. Wanna join me?"
"Yeah, sure, Mulder. I'm stripping off my clothes now."
"I hear ya, Scully. I'm almost done in here. You take the bed, okay?"
"No you don't. You're sleeping in that bed tonight. No arguments, Mulder. I'm tired and cranky and ready for bed."
I head back to the couch, satisfied that I gave him fair warning. I'd actually like to share that bed with him tonight, but like I've been saying, it's not fair to prey on a man with a head injury. As it is, I'm going to have to wake him up every two hours to make sure he's alright. I wouldn't want to be an unnecessary distraction, would I?
Five minutes later, he emerges from the bath, looking refreshed and a whole lot steadier. He comes out to the living room and plops down on the couch next to me, forcing me to juggle my cup and saucer gingerly. I shoot him a perturbed glare, which he takes no mind of, grinning back at me.
"For me?" He points to the mug on the coffee table, filled with now lukewarm cinnamon liquid. I nod and watch him carefully grasp the stoneware vessel. He's never liked the fragile china he keeps around for God knows what reason. Probably for me, now that I think about it. And considering his condition before he took his bath, I bet that the mug would be easier to handle.
We sit quietly, sipping tea, staring off into space. He's only inches away, but it doesn't unnerve me, as I focus on the street sounds and the random noises from other apartments in his building.
"Hey, Scully?" he says finally.
I turn and notice how weary his eyes are. "Yeah?" I am transfixed by the sound of his voice, soft and low.
He puts down his empty mug and leans over to kiss me on my cheek, his hand caressing mine. A shiver of excitement courses through me, and the teacup falls from my hands. We both reach down to retrieve it, gently bumping heads in the process.
"Ouch! Oh, Mulder, I'm sorry. You've already been knocked around enough today!"
"It's okay, Scully," he says, rubbing the point of impact for emphasis. "I'd much rather be knocked around by you than anyone else."
We smile shyly at one another and I retrieve the cup and rise to take it to the kitchen.
"Hand me your mug, please, Mulder. Then, go get to bed. I'll be there in a minute to swipe your alarm clock."
"Are you sure you won't let me sleep out here?" he says, in a last ditch effort to be a good host.
"Of course, now stop talking and start walking." I use the same tone of voice my mother used to send us off to bed and it has the desired effect; he sends me an affectionate grin and wanders off to the bedroom.
I spend a few minutes tidying up the kitchen, then fritter away a little more time getting ready for bed. I'm hoping he's fallen asleep already, so I can just sneak in and out of his bedroom undetected. Fat chance. This man lives to entice me, it seems. While I'm unplugging the digital clock, I feel a large hand around my waist, urging me to sit next to him on the bed. Dammit, Mulder. You can't make me stay in here with you.
"Sit for awhile, Scully."
I see the need in those lonely eyes, eyes that reflect my own want within. What harm can it do to stay with him now? What harm would it ever have done? I make a last minute decision that I may regret later, but have to make now. I set the alarm two hours from now, set it on the nightstand and flip off the reading lamp.
"Unh hunh," I mutter, as I slide under the soft covers and find Mulder's shoulder. His left arm snakes under me and pulls me against him, gently, tenderly. He leans down and kisses the top of my head once. I nuzzle into his chest, kissing him twice, then rest my hand on his warm cotton tee.
As an overwhelming feeling of peace travels through me, I forget why this has always scared me so, forget why I had misgivings in the first place. I nestle against my wounded warrior, restoring our strength, making things right. 'Loneliness is a choice'... Thank God it's not mine anymore.
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