Title: Agua Mala, Sangre Mala
Author: dee_ayy 
Written: February 28, 1999
Rating: PG-13 for language. Otherwise just mostly medical Mulder Torture (my favorite kind!)
Disclaimer: I didn't invent them, but I sure do like them a lot. So I hope you lawyers at Fox and 1013 don't mind that I'm playing with them a bit. Stop leaving these huge blanks in your episodes, and I'd stop doing this!
Spoilers: Yup. For the season 6 episode AGUA MALA. Be warned.
Archive: By all means. But be so kind as to let me know.

Summary: What DOES happen to a Special Agent who has been attacked by a sea monster, anyway? And does he forgive his partner?

Note: That's "Bad Water, Bad Blood" in Spanish. I believe it's also Bad Grammar in Spanish but hey, I didn't start it!

Mulder stared in disbelief as the door slammed in his face. He could hear her in there, screaming. He clearly heard her yell "My partner!"  If he wasn't in so much distress, he might even smile. He waited, confident that Scully would talk some sense into these Florida nuts, and the door would open.

His throat began to constrict more. The pain from the wounds on his neck was becoming unbearable. But still he waited. How long? Seemed like hours, more likely minutes, maybe just seconds. He had to sit down. He allowed his body to slide to the floor next to the door. Scully would find him there when she opened it.

He waited until the realization finally struck. She wasn't coming. The door wasn't opening. He was on his own.

Soon he really and truly could not breathe. His lungs tried to suck in the much-needed oxygen, but he knew it wasn't enough. He could hear his own breaths, loud, desperate gasps and wheezes, reverberating in his ears. Not even the raging storm could drown out the sound. He'd been afraid, he'd even panicked in his lifetime, but he'd never known what it was like to not be able to breathe, to be denied the very thing required for life. It was unlike anything he'd ever experienced. This is what panic truly felt like.

Stop, Mulder, calm down. Concentrate. He focused his mind as best he could on the task at hand--breathing. He wasn't lightheaded; he wasn't dizzy, not yet, anyway--so clearly he was getting air. Don't panic, don't panic, don't panic. Scully will open the door. She has to open the door; she wouldn't leave you like this. She'll open the door, and you'll be okay.

Tentatively, he reached up to touch the wounds he knew were circling his neck. It had only taken a split second for that thing to wrap around its prey--him. He hadn't even had time to react before it was too late. Thank God he'd had his gun in his hand, or he shuddered to think what would have happened.  Breathe, Mulder, keep breathing.

Does Scully have another ballpoint?

What a fucking disgusting thought. But valid. He was gonna need it, wasn't he? Don't think about that. Not yet.

Open the door, Scully.

His gun. Where was his gun? He could shoot the lock off and let himself in, couldn't he? He felt his holster, and found it empty. Fuck. He kept his head looking straight ahead, and felt around his body for the weapon. Nothing. He had to look. He had to move his head.

He turned toward to door, and the pain seared through his body. The edges of his vision started to go black, but it cleared before he passed out, and he was looking to his right. No gun. He moved slowly, carefully this time, and leaned back against the wall.

Movement caught his eye. Above him, in the light panel. Was it that thing again? He could swear it was there, the same movement. He had to move. He had to get out of there. He pushed himself up, and hugged the wall for safety, and support. Then he slowly inched away.

Please, Scully, open the door right now! I have to get away from this thing!

It was definitely moving up there. He started to run. Away from the door, away from the safety of the one person who might be able to help him now, away from Scully, who had let the door stay closed.

She'll find me. Wherever I am, she'll find me before it's too late. Please let her find me in time.

He tripped and fell. The pain was excruciating, and the fall seemed to push what little air was in there out of his lungs. He gasped and rolled onto his back, desperate to fill his lungs again. Breathe. Breathe. Breathe. He could do it. He was still all right. He heard the rain and the wind; it was nearby. He dared to roll onto his stomach again and look up. French doors. He was near the outside. A gust of wind threw one of the doors open, and the elements came rushing in at him. He felt the razor-like streams of rain hit his face, propelled sideways by the force of the storm. He closed his eyes against the assault, but after a moment dared to open them. He had to get up, he had to keep moving, He had to do something, or that thing would find him again.

When he did open his eyes, he saw it: a cat. A fucking cat was sitting blithely in the rain, seemingly grooming itself against the storm. Not only that, it was the _same_ cat, the Shipley's cat. All hell was breaking loose here, and the damn cat was cool as a cucumber.

Why? Why hadn't that thing gotten the cat? Why wasn't the cat alarmed? Don't they have some sort of sixth sense about danger? Why was it so calm? Don't cats hate water? Why was this animal so happy to be sitting in the rain?

The rain? Was it the rain? Fresh water! The thing lives in salt water. It died in the jar of fresh water. Gump had melted in the epsom salts. He had to get outside, into the rain. That had to be the answer.

He lifted himself onto his elbows, and then to his knees. Dizziness swept over him like one of the waves crashing to shore outside. Pain, or lack of oxygen? He couldn't tell. He crawled forward, too slowly for his taste, but it was the best he could do. His left hand had finally reached through the door into the rain, when a piercing noise cut through the sound of the wind.


He turned his head quickly, to use the last of his strength to call to her. But he had none left. The pain of the sudden movement hit, and this time he was unable to fight off the blackness that swept over his eyes, and he collapsed through the door.

Scully raced down the hallway, frantically looking for her partner. How could she have left him out here? Where had he gone?


She swung the industrial flashlight haphazardly from side to side, focusing it for a second down each hallway, in each open door, looking for his familiar form. As she swung it around in front of her, to point it in the next room, the light briefly captured a bulk straight ahead, at the end of the hall. It had to be him.

"Mulder?" She raced ahead, and found him, lying half out and half inside the door. Had he figured it out too? Is that why he was halfway outside? She knew she was right. She'd thrown the bucket of fresh water on Vincent and he'd manifested no symptoms at all, aside from the nasty sting marks of the tentacles. He was fine, and Mulder would be, too, provided she got him out into the rain.

She dropped the flashlight on the ground and kicked it so its helter-skelter beam pointed in their general direction. Then she bent down, put her arms under her partner's armpits, and pulled. But he didn't budge, not even an inch.

"Come on, Mulder, Help me out here!" Mulder's body shook, and he moved slightly. Had he been unconscious? She'd been in such a hurry she had just assumed he was awake. But now she realized she didn't even know if he was breathing. He was on his stomach, so she couldn't see if his chest was rising. She knelt down, placed her ear close to his face, and blocked the other ear against the sounds of the storm. It was faint, but she heard wheezing. She definitely heard wheezing. Then his arm came up and haphazardly grasped at her jacket. He was awake.

So why wouldn't he move? She stood up and grabbed the light, running it down Mulder's body. His waist was over the threshold of the door. He must be caught on something. She put the light down again, went back to Mulder's head, and grabbed him at the armpits again, ready to lift and pull this time. "Mulder, I need you to help me. I can't pull you myself, and we have to get you out into the rain. Come on, you can do it."

"Hey, Agent Scully! Angela needs you!" Scully looked up and saw Walter coming toward her.

"Get over here! I need your help! We have to get him into the rain!"

Walter ran to her, and in a second they had pulled Mulder outside. Scully pushed him over until he was on his back, and started pulling his clothes away from his neck; desperate to let the fresh water hit his wounds. Mulder opened his eyes, and found Scully's. The look on his face made Scully's blood run cold--it was one of pure terror. He couldn't breathe.

"Agent Scully, Angela sent me to get you. She says she's having another one."

Fuck. She'd forgotten about the placenta. "She's not having another one. She's delivering her placenta. Tell her to just push. It will come out. I can't leave him here. Not again. She's on her own. She'll be fine."

She looked down on her partner, and began scooping water from the puddles on the ground and pouring them in the sting marks. "It's the water, Mulder, fresh water will kill them. Just lie still and breathe. It'll be all right."

She picked up the light and shined it around until she found what she needed. It was an empty McDonald's drink cup, and it had been plastered flat against the wall by the wind, but it would do. She pulled it off and reformed its shape, then she ran to a particularly deep puddle, filled the cup, ran back to Mulder and poured it on his neck. She suddenly became aware that Walter was standing there staring at her.

"Help Angela or help me, but for God's sake, don't just stand there!"

Walter snapped to attention, and looked down at the prostrate agent. "He breathing?"

"Yeah, for now."

"How come he ain't okay like George?"

"I don't know. Because the organisms have been in him longer, probably. I don't know."

"What can I do?"

Scully looked up at the man. Maybe he wasn't totally pussy-whipped after all. "Go back to Angela, make sure she's okay. Then check the medicine cabinets. Find me antihistamines. Anything with 'allergy' on the box. Bring me anything you can find, and hurry."

"Okay, Agent Scully."

He left, and it was just the two of them against the elements again. How many times had this happened to them? And how many times did Mulder manage to get injured? It was unbelievable, actually.  She looked down at him, and tried to check his pulse without disturbing the wounds too much. It was thready, but okay. But the sounds of the storm made it all but impossible for her to assess how he was breathing. She could feel the shallow rise and fall of his chest, but she could also see the effort accompanying each breath. Maybe she'd been too late? Maybe those things had grown too big in him already?

She didn't know what to do for him aside from what she was doing already. She picked up the cup, and continued to flush the wounds with rainwater. She kept washing the wounds, over and over and over. It was the only thing she could think of to do.

Okay, Mulder, breathe. Breathe. Scully's here now. It will be okay. Just breathe.

But try as he might, he could not quell the panic. He couldn't breathe. He wasn't getting enough oxygen. He was sure he wasn't. Every breath was an excruciating effort. He tried to keep his eyes open, to use them to communicate with her, but the rain would hit, driven by the force of the wind, and force him to close them. Scully kept scurrying away and coming back. He could feel the water pouring over his neck. The cold of it was soothing, but it wasn't helping him breathe.

The next time she returned to him and he felt the water pour on his throat, he put his hand up blindly until he had grabbed her. He heard her faintly: "What, Mulder?" He forced his eyes to stay open despite the rain, and tried to speak to her. He had to let her know he couldn't breathe.

"B. . .  Br. . ." Speaking was too much of an effort. He couldn't form even a single word, let alone get it past his lips. The effort alone left him gasping and made him dizzy. He felt the rain hitting his face abate somewhat, and noticed that his partner was shielding his eyes from the rain with her hand. She took the flashlight and shined it over his face.

"I know, Mulder, I know. It's hard to breathe. But you're okay, you're okay. You're getting enough air. Your color is still good. Just relax, stay quiet, don't try to talk. It will be easier. Help will be here soon." She lowered the hand that was shielding his eyes until it lightly touched his face, then put down the flashlight and turned away to refill the cup one more time, but Mulder still heard her say "I hope."

"Agent Scully?" Walter was running toward her, and Scully stopped pouring water on Mulder's neck to await his arrival. "This is all I could find." He dropped three boxes of allergy medication on the ground by her feet.

Scully picked them up and surveyed the packaging. One was labeled Maximum Strength. That would do. Relatively small pills, too. She looked up at Walter. "How's Angela?"

Walter grinned a little. "She's pissed at you."

Scully snorted. "I bet. Look, Walter, go back and get on the deputy's radio. Find out how long before some help gets out here if you can. He's not getting any worse, I don't think, but he's not getting better, either. I don't know if this is doing any good. Is Vincent still okay? And how's the baby?"

"Yeah, he's fine, the asshole, and the baby looks okay to me. But Angela won't let me touch him." Walter hesitated for a second, and then left.

Scully turned her attention back to Mulder. She noticed all of a sudden that the wind had died down, and it wasn't raining as hard. Was the storm letting up? Might help be able to find them? She didn't know, but she had to do something.

"Mulder?" He opened his eyes. "Mulder, I think you're suffering from an allergic reaction. I think that might be why it's hard for you to breathe. An antihistamine will help. Not much, but it should help a little. Do you think you can swallow a pill?"

Mulder tried to swallow. It felt like nothing was going down, but it probably was. He started to nod, but the pain stopped him.

"Are you absolutely sure, Mulder? This is no time to be tough." She put her hand on his Adam's apple. "Swallow for me." Mulder did, and she felt the action in his throat. It seemed relatively strong, but she had no idea if his esophagus was open enough to allow the pill through. The last thing she wanted to do was choke him on a pill; it was best not to risk it. Instead, she took out four little pills and crushed them on the top of the flashlight with a rock, using her body to shield the operation from the rain. She poured the powder into the cup, which she had filled with a small amount of water.

"Mulder, I diluted them in the water. You need to swallow the water, okay? It should be easier than the pills." She lifted his head up slightly, put the cup to his lips, and tilted it. Only about half of it went into his mouth, the rest dribbling down his chin.

The taste was incredibly acrid, and it made Mulder want to gag, but he did his best to swallow as much as he could. But he ended up sputtering and coughing, the action sending pain shooting through his neck.

Was that a siren?

Scully heard it too. She looked off to her left, and saw the flashing lights approach. "Help is here, Mulder, I'll be right back."  She grabbed the flashlight and ran around the corner, off into the night.

"Mr. Mulder? My name's Orlando. Like in Disney World. I'm a paramedic. How you doin'?" Mulder used his eyes to search around, looking for Scully, and Orlando noticed. "You lookin' for your pretty friend? She's showing my partner where the lady who had the baby is. She'll be right back. You guys have been busy out here!" Orlando used his penlight to illuminate the wounds on Mulder's neck. He gasped.

"Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, what did THAT? Those look like stings. You're having trouble breathing, your friend tells me?" Mulder nodded slightly. "Yeah, I can tell. Here you go, this should help." He fastened an oxygen mask around Mulder's head, and started the flow. It helped immediately. It was still hard to breathe, but each breath he did get was better. The tightness that had built in his chest began to abate slightly.

"Are you injured anywhere else, Mr. Mulder?" Mulder shook his head, and the pain made him gasp.

"Hey, sorry. You can't talk, huh? And you shouldn't be moving your neck. Tell you what. I need to ask you some questions here, and I want you to give me a thumbs up if the answer is yes, and a thumbs down if the answer is no, can you do that?" Thumbs up.

"Great. Have you ever had an allergic reaction like this before?" Thumbs down.

"Do you have any history of heart trouble at all?" Thumbs down.

"Do you have high blood pressure?" Down.

"Diabetes?" Down.

"Asthma?" Down.
While he was querying Mulder, Orlando had been taking his vital signs. "Okay, good, that's good. I think I know just what you need. Let me get on the horn here, and we'll have you feeling better in no time."

"How's he doing?" Orlando looked up to find Scully standing by his side.

"He's doing okay, I guess. What the hell got him?"

"Some sort of aquatic creature. I only got a glimpse of it, but it was almost like an octopus arm, with tentacles. Definitely a salt-water creature, though. It must have gotten into the building plumbing from backwash in the storm."

"Okay. Looks like anaphylactic shock to me. Let me get authorization the give him some adrenaline, and that should help his breathing." Orlando picked up the radio to call the hospital.

"I think you're right, and I'm a medical doctor. I already tried to administer an over-the-counter antihistamine. This one." She picked up the box and read the active ingredient. "Diphenhydramine. 8 mg. But more went out of his mouth than into it. Do you have an epinephrine injector pen?"

"Yeah, but I'm not gonna let you authorize it. Not when I've got my own doctor on the line. It'll take two minutes. " He picked up his radio and relayed the information.

"We have a white male, mid-30s, about 170 pounds, it looks like he was stung or bitten by something. Witnesses on scene say it was aquatic, like an octopus. He has three rows of round wounds circling his neck. Pulse is 130, respirations are 30 and shallow, Blood pressure 80 over 56. He is in extreme respiratory distress, but is alert. I'm administering oxygen now. It looks like he's suffering anaphylactic shock. A doctor on scene tried to administer 8 mg over-the-counter diphenhydramine orally with limited success. Request permission to give him a shot of epi. He has no history of heart trouble, high BP, diabetes or asthma." Orlando listened for a moment, then said "10-4." He put down the radio and fished in his drug box until he came up with an epinephrine injector pen.

"Mr. Mulder, I'm going to give you a shot in your thigh that should help you breathe in a matter of minutes, okay? It's just adrenaline." Mulder gave the man a thumbs-up, and Orlando placed the mechanism against Mulder's thigh, and released the needle into the agent's leg. Mulder writhed in agony and tried to twist away from the needle, but Orlando held it fast and pushed his patient's leg back down to the ground. "I know it hurts, but we have to leave it in until all the drug is into your system."

Hurts was an understatement. It felt like his thigh was on fire. And it went on forever. It was even worse than the pain in his neck. But after an eternity, Orlando pulled the needle away. Mulder felt a hand on his shoulder, and looked to see Scully kneeling by his side. "Five minutes," she said. "You'll be breathing better in five minutes."

Orlando was talking to the doctors over the radio again. Scully heard him say "10-4, flush the wounds with sterile saline and start an IV."

"NO!" Orlando looked at her, shocked.

"Excuse me?"

"Not saline. No salt water. The organism that attacked him lives off salt water. Look, I can't go in to the whole etiology of this thing, but applying saline will make it grow. Fresh water will kill it."

"Look, lady, with aquatic stings you always flush with salt water. Not fresh."

"Not this time! I'll explain it all to the doctors at the hospital. Use fresh water! It's why we're out here in the rain, so the rainwater could kill the organism. And that IV. Not normal saline. Don't administer anything with salt, you hear me?"

Orlando looked at her incredulously, then picked up the radio to tell them what she'd said. Finally he said "Okay, 10-4. We'll use dextrose." He dropped the radio and looked at Scully. "You win. No salt. Hold the flashlight for me."

Mulder watched as the paramedic pulled out scissors and cut the sleeve of his clothing. Great. More clothes sacrificed to the cause. He stopped watching, however, when the man approached his arm with the IV needle. Instead he shifted his gaze and looked at Scully on the other side of him. She smiled at him. Was that an apologetic smile? It ought to be. He took a breath and realized it came much easier. That stuff was working. He could breathe again, sort of. He still had the oxygen mask over his face, but he tested his voice by clearing his throat. It worked. And Scully noticed.

"You feeling better, Mulder?" He looked at her and grunted his response. She smiled again.  "Hey, your ride is here." Scully pointed in the doors, but Mulder didn't want to move his neck to look. The next thing he knew, Orlando had taken the oxygen mask off and he and another man--must be his partner--were picking him up.

He tried to protest, but his voice came out as a hoarse whisper. "I can walk."

Orlando laughed. "Not a chance. You just stay still." The two men carried him through the door and placed him on a gurney. Orlando replaced the oxygen mask, and then gently wrapped sterile gauze around Mulder's neck wounds. Once they were covered he opened a bottle of sterile water and saturated the dressing. "Okay, let's go."

God, would she just shut up? Angela, on the gurney next to him, was yammering at a mile a minute. "We thought you were a goner" seemed to be her favorite topic of conversation, and Mulder couldn't take it any more. It was a crowded ride--too crowded for Scully in the back of the ambulance. She was driving Vincent in Deputy Greer's car, and Angela was driving him crazy. He stopped focusing on her words, and just closed his eyes, hoping that they'd be there soon.

She must really be aggravating him. His heart was beating really fast, and he started shaking. But when the nausea started, he knew it wasn't the woman. Something was wrong. He grabbed Orlando's arm to get his attention.

"Gonna be. . . sick."

Orlando removed the oxygen mask, rolled Mulder onto his side--away from Angela, Mulder noted with relief--and fished around until he found a basin in case he threw up. "Don't worry, Mr. Mulder. We'll be at Naples Community Hospital in no time."

Mulder felt his stomach heave and churn, but he didn't vomit. But what really concerned him was the feeling that his heart was going to explode in his chest, and he thought he might pass out. He felt Orlando pick up his wrist and feel his pulse.

"Whoa. Slow down there, Speed Racer!"

Mulder looked at the man reproachfully. "Would if I could. What's happening?"

"Adrenaline can do this sometimes. It's better than suffocating, though." The people in the back felt the ambulance come to a stop. "Here we are." The doors swung open and Mulder was pulled from the vehicle.

God, he hated this: the flurry of activity when you come in on a gurney. Hands everywhere, clothes ripping off, being pushed and rolled and prodded--the utter feeling of helplessness. Mulder just stared straight at the ceiling and rode it out. He recognized Orlando's voice, so he concentrated on him.

"He complained of nausea on the way in, and his pulse went haywire."

Another voice. "Probably just reaction to the epi."  That's what Orlando had said. "Get him on a monitor as a precaution, though. " Shit. He felt the sticky pads of the heart monitor attach themselves to the hair on his chest. ""What OTC antihistamine was administered?"


"That explains it. Diphenhydramine exacerbates that effect of epinephrine. I don't think we have anything to worry about. What's his O-2 sat?" Mulder felt the familiar object clipped onto his index finger. He wanted to follow the activity, but it hurt too much to turn his head.

"90% on room air."  A woman said that.

"Hmm, a little low. Put him on 5 liters with a nasal cannula." He hated those damn things up his nose. A nurse came into his line of vision as she fastened the oxygen hose around his ears and under his nose. She smiled at him.

"Mr. Mulder?" Ahh, finally, the doctor was gonna talk to him. He came into Mulder's line of vision, then adjusted the gurney so Mulder was sitting up slightly. He was huge. Six-eight, six-nine. He should be playing for the Knicks. "My name is Doctor Morrison. How are you feeling right now?"

"Better. But like I'm jumping out of my skin a little. Shaky." He held up a hand to show him the trembling. "And my neck hurts."

"That's better?"

Mulder grinned ever so slightly. "At least I can breathe."

Dr. Morrison smiled back. "Right. Well let me explain what's going on here. Whatever it is that stung you," he lifted the damp bandage around Mulder's neck and took a look. Mulder saw him try not to grimace. Was it that bad? "Whatever it is that did that caused an allergic reaction, and you started to go into anaphylactic shock. That's why you couldn't breathe. The epinephrine you were given reversed that, but a little too well, since you'd already been given that antihistamine."

"She shouldn't have done that?"

"Oh, no, it was the right idea. The antihistamines would have bought you some time if the ambulance had been further away. Epinephrine only lasts for about 20 minutes. Its effects will be abating very soon, and you'll settle down. Are you nauseous at all? Any stomach cramping?"

"No, not any more." Mulder could hear how weak and hoarse his voice sounded. It was strange--almost like it was someone else's voice.

The doctor took a penlight and looked into Mulder's eyes. "How about your chest. Is it feeling tight?"

"Yeah, a little."

"And your throat? Is it hard to swallow?"

Mulder tried it. "Yeah, like when you have a sore throat. Only it's not sore."

"Open your mouth for me."  Morrison poked around in there with a tongue depressor, and when Mulder felt it actually pushing his tongue down, he volunteered an "Ahhhhh."

"It's swollen all right. But not too bad." He sat Mulder up straight and listened to his lungs. "You're still congested and wheezing, too. Are you dizzy, lightheaded?"


"But I bet you fell weak."

Mulder thought about it for a second. "Yeah, sort of."

"All classic symptoms of a severe allergic reaction. We're going to draw some blood to see if there was anything toxic in the thing that stung you. But what _is_ that thing that stung you?"

Mulder surrendered his arm to the phlebotamist. "I don't know what it was. It had a long arm, or it was a snake or something, but it had tentacles. And it came down and wrapped around my neck. I shot it off. Is Scully here? My partner, Dana Scully. She knows more about it. She has one of them--a small one--that she pulled from another victim."

Dr. Morrison's eyebrows arched. "She pulled it out of a victim? This thing is a parasite?"

Mulder shrugged. "It was growing in him. She pulled it out."

Morrison turned to a nurse. "Go out to the waiting room and see if his partner is out there. If she is, bring her in here, will you?" The woman nodded and left. The doctor then laid Mulder flat again, removed the bandage from his wounds, and turned on the harsh overhead examination lamp, pointing it at the agent's neck. He turned to someone else. "Get me a magnifier, will you?"

A huge lighted magnifying glass appeared out of nowhere, and the doctor pointed it at Mulder's neck. "I'll try not to hurt you."  He took two gloved fingers and pulled open one of the round wounds, trying to peer inside.

The pain was excruciating. Mulder tried as hard as he could to withstand it, but every touch sent a sharp burning pain through his neck to the rest of his body. He clenched his eyes shut tightly, he grasped the side of the gurney, he bit his lip. He could hear his already rapid heart rate getting faster, and his breathing quickened, which actually heightened the pain, since he wasn't breathing all that well anyway. What the hell had he ever done to deserve this torture--aside from chase after sea monsters in a hurricane? Finally he'd had enough. He took his hand up and grabbed the doctor's arm. "Doc, you're failing."

"Excuse me?"

"At trying not to hurt me. You're failing."

The doctor settled his arms at his side. "Sorry." A voice from behind caused him to turn.

"Dr. Morrison, this is Dana Scully."

The doctor held up his gloved hands to apologize for not shaking her hand. "I understand you have one of the organisms that attacked your friend here?"

Scully fished in the huge pockets of her windbreaker. "Yeah, here it is. I removed it from the neck of your Deputy Greer. It's dead--and so is he." She handed the jar to the doctor, and nodded toward Mulder. "How is he doing?"

"Well, I don't think he feels so hot right now, but he's doing fine.  You're the doctor the paramedic was talking to at the scene?" Scully nodded. "Well, looks like the epinephrine did the trick, but he's still experiencing symptoms of a severe allergic reaction. I'd like to load him up with antihistamines, maybe some corticosteroids tonight and see how he is tomorrow.  But right now I want to find out all I can about the thing that attacked him. Your partner here tells me it was some sort of aquatic creature?"

"That's right. It lived in seawater. When we found the deputy his trachea was swollen shut from the reaction. I performed a trach, and some time later I found that thing in one of the wounds." A thought occurred to her then. "Have you checked Mulder's temperature? The deputy had a raging fever."

"We did. It was only slightly elevated--ninety-nine-two. We'll keep monitoring it, though. So what's the deal with the salt and fresh water?"

"The thing lived in sea water. And it lived in a human, but died in a jar of fresh water. I just figured that the saline content in the human body was enough to allow it to grow. I was flushing the wounds with rainwater, from puddles, in an attempt to kill the organisms in the wounds, when the paramedics arrived. I think it worked, because he didn't get any worse."

"But you believe this thing planted eggs or offspring or something in the wounds?"

"That's the only conclusion, I think. It was growing in the deputy, using his bodily fluid to grow. And when he was immersed in salt water, the process sped up incredibly. That was why I didn't want the paramedics going anywhere near Mulder with saline."

Morrison turned his attention back to Mulder, who had been quietly listening to the exchange, smugly noting that Scully was espousing the very theory he had suggested earlier in the day. "Well, Mr. Mulder, if what your partner says is true, then we're going to have to clean each and every wound on your neck, and make sure there isn't something growing in there." Mulder grimaced. This, he was sure, would not be pleasant. "Problem is, quite honestly, I'm not sure what the best way to do this is. I'm gonna go do a little research, and I'll be right back." He left, and aside from one nurse puttering in the back of the room, Mulder and Scully were alone. Scully approached the gurney.

"How you doing?"

Mulder wouldn't look at her. "Where were you, Scully?"

"They wouldn't let me in. Made me wait in the waiting room."

"Not _here_, Scully, back there. Where were you? I waited by the door as long as I could."

Scully knew that's what he'd been asking about. She'd been wondering the same thing herself. "Vincent pulled a gun on me and locked the door, Mulder. And then Angela went into labor."

He moved his head in her direction, grimacing at the pain it caused, and fixed her with a hardened, yet hurt, look. "So?"

His one-word reproach made Scully suddenly furious--and defensive. "SO? So what was I supposed to do, Mulder? Let him shoot me? How would that have helped you?"

"He wouldn't have shot you. Self preservation was all he cares about, and you were the only one who could have helped any of us." Mulder shifted his gaze away again, to a point far behind Scully. " I'm good, but I can't do that thing with the ballpoint pen."  Then Mulder paused, and looked his partner intently in the eye for a long moment.

"I needed you, Scully."

Scully's face fell, and her anger melted away. Those four words, that admission, was all it took. He was right, of course. He'd needed her, and she hadn't been there. She hadn't done absolutely everything in her power to help him. She'd gone to those lengths for him many times in the past, but this time she'd come up short.

"You're right, Mulder, and I'm sorry. I was exhausted and scared, and it was a moment of incredibly poor judgment, and I'm sorry. That's all I can say." She dared to reach out and rest her hand on his, and was relieved when he didn't pull it away. "No, that's not all. I'm glad you're okay."

Mulder didn't say a word.

"Well, I think we have a plan." Dr. Morrison had been gone for only about 15 minutes. "We're gonna hit you with some broad-spectrum antibiotics, clean each wound, monitor you for a bit for signs of infection, and hope for the best. That's the plan for the stings. For the allergic reaction, a strong antihistamine, a little Prednisone, and a good night's sleep," he looked at his watch. "So to speak."

Mulder listened dispassionately, and said nothing.

"What are you going to use to clean his wounds?" He wasn't even interested that Scully was again playing his medical advocate.

"Well, I think nothing more than a little hydrogen peroxide will do the trick. It's an antimicrobial, it will kill anything alive in there, and it's fast and simple; we won't have to worry about other drug interactions and whatnot--or with causing further damage to his throat."

Mulder had cleaned cuts with peroxide before. He didn't like this idea. "Umm, excuse me, but won't that hurt like hell? How may of these holes do I have in my neck anyway?"

Morrison smiled. "It's gonna hurt, no doubt about that. But the antihistamine will provide a sedative effect, so we'll give you that first. And I'll use a topical anesthetic. But I don't want to give you any narcotic painkillers if I can help it, because those can depress your breathing even more than it is already."  The doctor looked to the nurse who had been preparing syringes and nodded. "And with your throat constricture, we don't want you swallowing anything right now, so I'm afraid we're going to turn you into a bit of a pin cushion here. We have four shots for you, all of which need to go into a large muscle, if you know what I mean."

Mulder knew what he meant. "Four?"

"Uh huh. Atarax, the antihistamine, and Prednisone, the coritcosteroid, for the allergic reaction, and then a couple of broad-spectrum antibiotics. We don't know what we're dealing with here, so better to be safe than sorry."

Mulder shifted slightly onto his right side. "Do me a favor and don't put them all in the same cheek, okay?"  Morrison grinned and gave his patient two of the four shots on the left side, then handed the remaining syringes across to the nurse. Mulder shifted over to his left side and groaned when the weight of his body landed on the injection sites. The nurse gave him the last shots, and he rolled back onto his back. "Now what?"

"Well, we wait a little, let the antihistamine take effect--you should get extremely drowsy, and don't fight it. Then we'll debride the wounds and let you get some sleep. I'll be back in about 15 minutes."

But Mulder wasn't left alone in those 15 minutes, nor were the two agents given a chance to talk. The nurse tried to usher Scully out of the room so she could get the patient changed into a hospital gown, and when Scully looked to her partner, waiting for Mulder to speak up and say she could stay, she found him looking the other way. Scully gave up her protest and went to the door. Before she went out, she turned back.

"I'll see you later, Mulder."

Mulder looked at the door in time to see the flash of red hair going out. What the hell was he doing? She'd apologized, she'd admitted she'd made a mistake, what more did he want? He didn't know what more he wanted. But he couldn't shake the memory of sitting by that door, getting sicker by the minute, waiting vainly for her to come to him. And he couldn't forget the chill that had run down his spine when he realized she wasn't coming. He depended on her more than she knew, and more than he was even willing to admit; he knew that. But this time, his need had been obvious, and urgent, and she hadn't been there. For the first time since they'd been partnered, she hadn't been there. In the past she'd even found him when he'd run off; saved him when he didn't want saving. But this time, when only a deadbolt and a frightened man stood between them, she'd wavered. Quite frankly, he still couldn't believe it had happened.

"Okay, Mr. Mulder, here we go. Are you ready?"  Mulder was lying flat on his back on the gurney, with his head slightly lower than his body in order to fully expose his throat; a nurse was at his head, ready to hold it firmly in place at his temples, and there was a bright light shining directly into his face. It was almost like he was being interrogated in one of those bad B movies, he noted. Dr Morrison was wearing a surgical mask and a pair of magnifying glasses, and was sitting at Mulder's left, with a tray of equipment at the ready. And though he couldn't see her, Mulder knew Scully was hovering around somewhere.

"As I'll ever be."

"Okay, this should sting a little, and I'm going to be getting in really close for a good look, so apologies in advance for getting in your face."

"I think that's the least of my worries, don't you?" Mulder could tell the doctor was smiling. It's never a bad idea to relax the guy who's gonna be coming at you with sharp objects.

The first few wounds went relatively easily. The peroxide stung, but not more than it would on a cut, and the doctor declared them clean. Mulder started to relax, thinking maybe it wasn't going to be so bad after all. But then he heard Morrison say it.

"I think we have something." Mulder's body tensed immediately. He could sense Scully's presence as she moved closer to the bed, though he couldn't turn his head to see her. He felt the small rush of cold as the doctor sprayed more anesthetic on the wound, but it didn't help. When Morrison started to pull with a small pair of tweezers, it felt to Mulder like he was being stabbed in the neck. He braced himself as best he could, and clenched his jaw, trying not to cry out, but it was almost unbearable.  Suddenly he felt a small hand, Scully's hand, unclench his right fist from the bed coverings, and take it in her own. Her grasp was firm and strong, yet gentle at the same time. He could feel her caressing his hand softly, but she didn't say a word. She was just letting him know she was here now, no matter what had happened earlier. Damn her. It was impossible to stay mad at her.

Mulder opened his eyes when Morrison spoke again. "Got it." It was small, only about 1/2 of an inch long. "Dr. Scully, the one you pulled from the deputy was alive when it was removed?"

"Uh huh. It was moving. It died when I put it in the water."

"Well, this one looks decidedly dead. I think you were right-on about the rainwater."  He dropped it in a container, and continued his investigation of the wounds.

"That was the last one, Mr. Mulder. All in all we found five of those things, all dead. Considering how many wounds it caused, that's not so bad, eh?"

"Easy for you to say--they weren't in _your_ neck!"  Mulder was lying on his stomach now, with his face buried in the cradle of his arms, a position designed to allow the doctor to treat the wounds on the back of his neck.

Morrison chuckled. "Can you turn yourself back over? Do you need help?"

"I got it." Mulder gingerly flipped back over. "I'm beat."

"I bet. You'd have been asleep an hour ago if I hadn't had to root around in your neck like that. How are the rest of your symptoms, though? The tightness in your chest, the throat constriction, the heart palpitations? Better?"

"Yeah. I feel fine now, except I can't keep my eyes open. And the neck, of course."

"Good, that's just what we like to hear. We'll give you a quick once over since you're still here, and then send you up to a room to get some rest."

"How long do I have to stay here?"

"Not long, I don't think." Morrison looked at his watch. "Hmmm. Almost 3am. I'll be back on at two this afternoon. We'll check out your wounds and how you're feeling when I get back, and maybe let you go then."

The nurse checked the heparin lock IV needle in the back of Mulder's hand--just a precaution, they'd told him--one more time, and declared it secure. "We're going to have to keep checking up on you while you sleep to make sure the symptoms of your reaction don't return as the antihistamines wear off, and that you don't spike a fever, but we'll try not to disturb you too much, okay?" Mulder was used to that. He just gave her an "uh huh" and she left.

He was alone for the time being, and as tired as he was, there was one thing he wanted to do more than sleep. He slipped his feet to the floor and pushed himself up, heading to the bathroom. He had to lean heavily on the sink--the drugs he'd been given were making him exhausted. But he had to see for himself. He pulled down the gauze encircling his throat so he could finally see these wounds for himself.

"What are you doing, Mulder? You should be in bed." Scully had come up behind him and he hadn't noticed.

"I know, Scully, but I hadn't seen it for myself yet. It's downright disgusting."

"I know it is. But they'll heal, UNLESS you keep fiddling with them. Do want to get them infected?"  She took her partner by the elbow. "Come on, get back to bed. You have to be exhausted."

Mulder shook off her aid and made his way back to bed himself.  As he leaned back on the pillows he had to arrange them to minimize the pressure on his neck, but eventually he made himself comfortable.

"You okay now, Mulder?"

He looked at her wearily. "How do you mean?"

"I think you know how I mean."

Mulder's eyelids were drooping. He knew how important this conversation was, but he was powerless over the sleep that was taking him. "Can we talk about this later, Scully? I'm crashing here."

She smiled at him sympathetically. "Sure Mulder, we can talk later. I'll see you later." As she spoke she was softly stroking his forearm, and the familiarity and comfort of the gesture was not lost on the man. How could he stay mad at her? After all the times she had saved his ass, after all the shit he'd put her through, he was hardly justified in holding a grudge. But he couldn't hold his eyes open any longer. Tomorrow, he'd tell her tomorrow.

It seemed as though his ears were stuffed with cotton, but he still heard her clearly when she said, "You sleep now" and leaned in to lightly kiss his forehead. No, he had tell her now. By the time he'd pried his eyes open again she had her hand on the doorknob.

"Scully?" She turned back, surprised.

"Yeah, Mulder?"

"I am okay now. Really."

God, he wished he knew how to make her smile like that every day. "I'm glad. Pleasant dreams, Mulder." Scully flipped off the light and shut the door behind her, and Mulder settled back for some much-needed sleep.

The End

Thanks: To the whole crew (you know who you are!). And especially Keryn this time, for her wealth of information on allergic reactions (though I wish you didn't have so much first-hand experience!).

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