Title: Last Light
SUMMARY: After being injured in a car crash, Mulder and Scully realize that the cabin they found might not be the safest place to stay.
Location: White Mountains, New Hampshire
"What the hell is this, Mulder?" Scully asked, leaning forward in her seat.
Mulder glanced from the road to his partner, who was sitting in the passenger seat of their Bureau-issued car. She was peering at the tape deck Mulder had fixed to the dashboard, attempting to read the label on the cassette that was currently playing. He noted with amusement that he was careful to keep to himself that her nose was wrinkled as if the tape was offending her sense of smell as well as her musical taste.
"This," he said, with no small degree of relish, "is Pearl Jam. And I think it's pretty good."
Scully winced as another burst of squalling guitar cut across the vocals. "Keep your eyes on the road, Mulder," she said absently. "Don't you find this just a little...abrasive?"
Mulder, who had been carefully watching the road after her reminder, flicked his eyes back at her. "You remember the agreement? Whoever happens to be driving gets to pick the tunes. Did I complain when you dug out that old Beach Boys thing? Nope. I'm just trying to broaden your horizons."
"Mulder, the road." Scully huddled deeper inside her blazer. Despite the car heater being on, the bitter cold of the mountain air seemed to seep in through every crack and crevice in the car's body work. "Anyway, what's wrong with the Beach Boys? It's good to drive to."
Mulder sighed, squinting out of the windshield at the road ahead. It was almost twilight, and while the visibility was still good, clouds were massing on the horizon to the left. "Scully, there's nothing wrong with the Beach Boys --" He held up a finger as she opened her mouth "-- in moderation. If I hear 'Good Vibrations' one more time, I'm going to bug out."
Scully settled back in her seat, letting go a sigh of her own. She knew that Mulder was as frustrated with this assignment as she was, especially since Skinner could've assigned any agents to it. But on paper this assignment had seemed like a nice change of pace from their usual cases: take a Bureau car, drive to Allentown, pick up a witness. Except that said witness had done a bunk two days before she and Mulder arrived, leaving them to chase from city to city after her. Scully looked out the window. The weather was closing in on them. She sighed again. And Mulder had brought along the tape collection from hell.
At first the tape player had seemed like a good way to pass the time. Bureau cars were not fitted with stereos, but -- as Mulder had said --who was going to know? But as the assignment dragged on, they began to run out of things to play...and while both of them appreciated most of the classical composers, their taste in more modern music couldn't be further apart.
Scully decided to appeal to his better nature. "Mulder, I have a proposition. If you let me change this tape, you can chose the next two."
Mulder shook his head. "Uh-uh, because I know what's coming next."
He grinned. "'The Best Of Simon and Garfunkel.'"
Scully smiled back despite herself. "How did you guess?"
"You've got that 'The Sound Of Silence' look in your eye again."
She laughed. "OK," she said, "I'll concede. If I can change the tape, not only can you pick the next two, but I'll buy a whole new one -- of your choice -- at the next service station. My final offer."
"And if I decline?"
"Then I'll kick you out of the car and you can walk across the mountain. And I'll change the tape anyway."
Mulder laughed. "You win," he said.
Scully sighed with relief and leant forward to root through the box of tapes at her feet. "OK," she said, "it's too cold for classical, you don't want the Beach Boys or Paul and Art..."
Mulder concentrated on the road as she rummaged. The clouds were approaching fast, and the light was failing. He decided that the next motel they came across would have to serve as home for the night. They could pick up the trail in the morning.
The first few spots of snow hit the windshield, and Mulder cursed under his breath. He listened with half an ear to Scully's monologue, mentally calculating the best place to slip a word in edgeways.
"Scully..." he began, but got no further. Suddenly and without any warning, a figure lunged from the trees that lined the road. Mulder swore viciously and hauled the wheel over hard in a desperate attempt to avoid the person. Scully yelped as the top of her head hit the dashboard.
The figure flashed by on the left of the car with bare inches to spare. Mulder struggled with the wheel, attempting to bring the car back on a straight course before the front wheels hit the embankment that bordered the road. The wheels slid uselessly across the wet tarmac.
Scully screamed and braced her hand against the dash. A second later she regretted this action as Mulder slammed on the brakes. As her momentum threw her forward, Scully could feel her wrist being bent backwards as her torso slammed hard into her elbow. She closed her eyes against the pain, trying to determine if her ribs were merely bruised or something worse.
Gradually Scully realized that the car was no longer moving. She opened her eyes and tried to take stock of the situation. The car was partly off the road, tilting at an angle toward the trees which seemed to extend forever in either direction. Scully hadn't noticed before how remote this road was, and it made her nervous. And the sky suddenly seemed much darker than before as the snow continued to fall.
And Mulder was sitting in the driver's seat, his head against the steering wheel, a thin trickle of blood easing down from his forehead. He didn't seem to be moving. Scully cursed the Bureau for not equipping the older cars with airbags.
"Mulder?!" Scully asked worriedly, starting to lean towards her still partner.
However, she stopped when a searing pain shot through her body. She sat back in her own seat, her breath coming in short gasps. At least she now knew that she had some broken ribs.
"Mulder?!" Scully asked again, this time just moving her good arm to her partner's shoulder. "Are you alright?!"
Mulder moaned. "Perhaps 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' would be appropriate about now."
Scully laughed and instantly regretted it as another sharp pain hit. "Are you all right?"
Mulder leaned his head back against the head rest, his eyes still closed, and Scully could now see the small gash on his forehead that was causing the blood. "My head is splitting, but other than that I think I'm fine," answered Mulder.
"Good," Scully said. "Because I didn't get off as easy as you."
Mulder opened his eyes and turned toward Scully, but she could tell almost immediately that something was wrong.
"Mulder, what is it?"
"Perhaps I was a bit too hasty in my earlier assessment."
"Because I can't see a thing."
Scully leaned forward in her seat, hissing with pain as her damaged ribs ground together. "Nothing?" she asked. "Not even dim light?"
Mulder tried to smile. "I can't even tell if my eyes are open," he replied. "What kind of shape are you in?"
Scully leant back into her seat. "My wrist is sprained. My ribs...I don't know. There might be one or two broken."
Mulder passed his hand in front of his eyes. "Looks like I got off lightly," he said. "Is the car drivable?"
Scully leant forward in her seat. "Ouch." She peered over the dash and sighed. The front end of the car was buried in a road-side ditch. If she and Mulder had been able-bodied, they would have been able to drag it out. Maybe. Considering her broken ribs and Mulder's blindness, the odds tilted somewhat sharply in the ditch's favour.
Mulder heard her sigh. "Not good?"
Scully gingerly felt her ribs with her good hand. "No, not good," she replied. The snow began to fall heavier. She thrust aside for a moment the clamour of voices inside her that threatened to drown out her thoughts -- what if Mulder's skull is fractured? What if you puncture a lung? What happens when the night falls and the temperature drops? -- she tried to concentrate on the most immediate problems. "Have you got your cellphone handy?"
Mulder reached into his jacket pocket. He pulled out his mobile phone and gave it a little shake. Something rattled inside the casing. Knowing that it was almost certainly useless, he pulled up the antenna anyway. There was no dial tone. "Scully?"
Distracted, she didn't hear Mulder's voice until he repeated his question. "Mmmm?"
"Scully, I'm sorry."
She glanced over at her partner and saw the worry and fear on his face. His eyes moved uselessly in their sockets, seeking for reassurance. She felt a tug at her heart and reached over and grasped his hand. "S'okay," she murmured. "What happened, anyway?"
Mulder sighed. "I saw someone run into the road, and I swerved to avoid them. And that was all she wrote."
The ever-increasing snow fall brought Scully to an abrupt decision. "We have to find shelter," she said. "There might be a service station or motel nearby." I hope , she added mentally. "If we stay here, we'll freeze. Plus, we both need medical attention."
Mulder considered. "Could we run the heater and shelter in the car?"
Scully peered at the gas meter. "We're too low on fuel," she replied. "Plus which, if the exhaust is blocked or damaged, we could asphyxiate on the carbon monoxide. So, no choice, really."
He sighed. "Guess not. Our winter coats are in the trunk." He gently disengaged his hand from hers and unbuckled his seat belt. "Right," he said.
He reached over and felt around for the door handle. Scully, seeing that he intended to make the first move out of the car, protested. "Mulder, let me go first. You can't see, plus you might have a skull fracture."
Mulder found the door handle and pulled. The door clicked open and cold air immediately flushed the warmth from the car. "And you, my dear," he replied, "have a damaged wrist, and those ribs of yours might puncture something vital. Stay there until I get some coats. Then we'll see if you can walk or not. Pop the trunk open, would you?"
Scully shook her head. "Obstinate pig," she murmured as Mulder slipped out of his seat and leant against the side of the car. "Stupid, male, obstinate, sexist pig." She reached her hand forward and pulled the trunk release catch.
Outside the car, Mulder paused until he heard the trunk pop open. Just pretend that you've got your eyes closed he told himself. Easy-peasy . He gingerly felt his way along the side of the car. Rushing and giving himself a broken ankle would only worsen the situation. The cold air nipped playfully at his cheeks and nose.
He reached the trunk without mishap and sighed with relief. He pulled it open and reached inside. His fingers crashed painfully against something hard and metallic -- the toolbox, he presumed --and he cursed under his breath. Stupid, stupid , he thought. He reached in again, this time more carefully. His palm brushed the soft material of Scully's and his own winter jackets and he pulled them out. As an afterthought, he felt around until he found the first aid box and the flashlight as well.
He negotiated his way back down the car and slumped back into his seat. He slowly pulled the door shut. "Scully?" he said.
There was a terrifying moment when she didn't respond, and Mulder felt his heart lurch up into his throat. "Scully?" he repeated, a little louder.
"Mulder?" Her voice had never sounded so good.
"Scully, you scared me. Didn't you hear me come back?"
"No...sorry. I was examining my ribs."
Mulder smiled. "You mean you've got your shirt open? Of all the times you could possibly pick to show off your body, you pick the one when I can't see a damn thing?"
Scully laughed. "Mulder, I'm bruised, battered and bleeding. Besides which, I've got gooseflesh like you've never seen before. I don't think you'd be overly inspired."
"How are they? Is the damage serious?"
In fact, Scully was feeling a little more optimistic. While there was no doubt that one rib was definitely broken, it was a clean break with no splintering. She thought that the chances of puncturing anything were fairly slim. The other ribs seemed to be merely bruised. "Help me brace my wrist?" she asked Mulder.
While they splinted her wrist using tape from the first aid kit and an ice scraper Scully found under the seat, she filled Mulder in on her self- diagnosis. "So you'll be OK to walk?" he asked.
"As I said before, we don't really have a choice. Whatever happens, we'll be better off staying together in these conditions. I think the chances of another car happening along are faint in the extreme. We'll freeze if we stay here."
"OK," he said, "let's walk the land."
Outside the car, Scully bound her chest with a bandage. She found that walking was painful, but not impossible. Mulder helped her into her coat, then she leaned back into the car and picked up their guns, which had been in the glove compartment.
Mulder held out his hand. "Lead on, great leader," he teased.
Scully shivered inside her coat. "This is not going to be fun," she said.
"No. And if one of us shouldn't make it, there's something I'd like you to know."
"What's that?" Scully asked.
Mulder laughed "You know what they say about one sense benefiting if another is taken away? Well, I may be male, stupid, obstinate and a pig, but I'm not sexist."
Scully smiled, shivering inside her coat. "OK," she said, "I'll concede that one. Sorry." She reached over and took his hand with her good one. "Shall we walk?."
Scully and Mulder began walking up the road, but after only a few steps Scully stopped, and Mulder could hear her gasping for breath.
"Are you okay, Dana?" Mulder asked worriedly.
"I don't think we can do this, Mulder," she said.
"Well, I've treated people with broken ribs before, but I've never known how painful they could be," she said. "And each step seems to make it worse."
"Then why don't you lean on me?" Mulder said, sliding his hand up her arm and around her back.
"Mulder, you're too tall," Scully said, reaching her good arm, which still held the flashlight, around to Mulder's far shoulder. "Besides, I don't see any break in the trees for at least a mile, and I don't even think I could walk that far anyway. And it'll be dark soon, too, and then neither of us will be able to see."
"But what about your 'we have no choice -- we'll have to walk'?"
"Well, I have to admit the idea of laying down in the snow and freezing is starting to seem rather tempting."
"Why don't we just head through the trees towards that light?"
Scully turned immediately to her partner. "Your sight's back?!" she asked excitedly.
But Mulder's forehead was crinkled, as if he were very confused. "No," he said. "But I could've sworn that just for a moment I saw a light off that way."
Scully slowly reached over with her bandaged hand and waved it in front of Mulder's face but he had no reaction. She then turned toward where Mulder's blank eyes were staring and, although there was no light, there was indeed a cabin about 500 feet away that was barely visible through the snow. "Mulder, how could you see that cabin if you can't see my hand in front of your face?"
"I don't know," he said. "But is there really a cabin?"
"Yes, thank God," Scully said. "And I think it's reachable in the state we're in."
"New Hampshire?" Mulder teased.
Scully rolled her eyes -- Mulder chose the weirdest times for his sense of humor. "Let's go," she said.
"Just take it slow," Mulder said. "Lean on me. And remember, we don't have that far to go."
Scully started to lead them into the forest. Mulder's support made a huge difference as far as the pain from her ribs went, but it was still not pleasant. This was complicated by the fact that the darkening sky and the accumulating snow was making it difficult for Scully to see the ground, and as a result the two of them were constantly stumbling on unseen rocks and twigs.
After a while in silence, Scully said, "Mulder?"
"Is your eyesight any better?"
Scully sighed. "I'm going to want to examine you when we get to the cabin. I don't know of any head injury that causes loss of sight that can momentarily bring it back. I'm afraid something's terribly wrong."
"Maybe I didn't really see anything," Mulder said. "Maybe my mind just thought I saw a flash."
"But in the exact direction of the cabin? And I never would've seen the cabin if it hadn't been for you."
"How much further do we have to go?" Mulder asked as he stumbled on yet another rock.
"We're about halfway there." She paused and then asked, "What if there's no phone? How will we get out of here then?"
"Let's worry about that when we get there. And if there's no phone, at least we'll be out of the snow for the night. We can worry about getting out of here then."
"Perhaps we should've left a note on the car, saying we'd gone off in this direction."
"But our tracks through the snow will be visible -- anyone stopping for the car would be able to tell where we went, won't they?"
"I suppose," Scully said. "But what if the door to the cabin is locked?"
"Why are you worrying about all these things?" Mulder asked, exasperated.
"It keeps my mind off the pain."
"Oh," Mulder said. "Then, by all means, worry all you want."
After a seemingly endless period of pain and cold, they reached the side of the cabin. Scully leaned against the door, her eyes closed, grimly telling herself that she would not, under any circumstances, faint.
"Are there any lights on?"
Scully opened her eyes with a groan. She peered through the glass panel set into the front of the door. "No, no lights," she said. There was a knocker set above the window, and she brought it down hard on the wood. Her battered ribs ground together and she yelped in pain.
Mulder stepped awkwardly forward. "Here, let me," he said.
Scully guided his hand to the knocker and he brought it down hard enough to rattle the glass. After waiting a couple of minutes, he did it again.
"I guess no one's in," he said eventually.
Scully looked up at the sky. The snow was now falling in earnest and the clouds formed an impenetrable cover. The chances of them reaching another shelter in their current condition were negligible. Her feet were freezing, and her cheeks and hands felt painfully chilled. She began to wonder if she wasn't already suffering from frostbite.
"Break it," she said.
Mulder, who had been leaning against the door with his eyes closed, straightened. "I guess the FBI can pay for the damage," he said and then paused. "But maybe you should do it?" He still felt awkward and lost without his sight.
Scully was shivering violently inside her coat. Her lips felt numb, blistered. She tried to answer, but all that came out was, "I--" The wind picked up, howling around the cabin as if it were as frustrated as they at being denied access. I'm slipping into shock she thought.
"Nevermind, I'll do it." Mulder placed his fingertips on the glass panel closest to the side of the door, marking its position. He drew his gun from its holster and checked the safety. He then reversed his grip so that he held the barrel, with the butt pointing down as a crude hammer. He rested it on the glass for a moment between his fingers. "Watch your eyes," he said, and Scully stepped away from the door into the full teeth of the gale. Snow whipped across her face.
Mulder brought the gun down onto the glass sharply, cracking the window. he repeated the action, and the glass shattered inwards. He ran the gun around the frame, knocking all of the shards out, before carefully reaching in and unlatching the door. He holstered his gun and beckoned Scully forwards.
She pushed the door open with her good hand and stepped inside, broken glass crunching beneath her winter boots. There was a light switch on the wall beside the door, and she flipped it on. "Come on in," she said.
As Mulder felt his way through the door, Scully moved forward down the hallway. Stairs directly in front of her lead up to the second floor, while there were two closed doors set into the hall, one on her left and one on her right.
Mulder closed the front door and stood awkwardly in the hall, the fingertips of one hand resting on the wall. His head turned this way and that, seeking for some visual stimulus and finding none. Scully reached over and took his hand.
"Scully, you're freezing!" he exclaimed. Her hand felt as cold as ice, and he could feel the tremors in her skin as her body tried in vain to generate some heat.
Scully opened her mouth to reply and found with a distant, detached kind of amazement that her voice had deserted her totally. Traitor she thought lazily. Her fingers and toes felt as though they had been stolen away and replaced with replicas cast from blue ice. The pain of her broken ribs felt very small and very far away. Even inside the cabin, she could still feel the wind howling around her face. I'm going to faint she thought. I'm falling...
Her vision clouded over and she felt herself begin to sway. She barely heard Mulder's cry of alarm. Desperate not to lose consciousness, she poked herself in the side with her free hand.
Her head jerked up and she let out a hissed curse through clenched teeth. The pain from her sprained wrist and broken rib was a blaze of heat, melting away the comfortable chill in an instant. Her good hand spasmed inside Mulder's, her nails -- sensibly short as they were -- driving into his palm.
Mulder yelped. "Scully?! Are you okay?!"
Sweat and snow had plastered Scully's hair to her head, and she flicked it aside. She knew that, sooner or later, the lassitude would return and she would be lucky to fight it off again. Before then, they needed to find a source of warmth. While Mulder seemed no worse for wear except for his blindness, she knew that a combination of shock and cold would probably soon finish her off. Gritting teeth, she looked about the hall. Right , she thought.
"Mulder, stay here. I'm going to see if I can find a fire. I'll be right back."
He opened his mouth to protest, but she cut him off: "...and don't argue!" His mouth snapped shut again, mostly from surprise, she thought with dry, tired humour.
Scully moved down the hall and opened the door on her left. It led to a well- appointed kitchen. It seemed that the owners of the cabin had bought it so that they could boast to their friends about living on the edge of the wilderness while still retaining most of the comforts of home. Well done, Sherlock , the voice that was powering her brittle determination cut in, now let's get a move on, shall we?
Her ribs were now sending up a chorus of distress at being jostled around. She moved across the hall and opened the other door. This one led to an open- plan living and dining room. Scully switched on the light. Set against the far wall was a gas fire. She sighed with relief, hoping that the owners of the cabin had not decided to move somewhere more clement during the winter months and switched the supply off at the main.
"Scully," Mulder called from the hall.
Scully took one more quick glance around the living room and then went back out to her partner. "What?" she asked.
"If it's not too much to ask, would you mind checking to see if there's a bathroom facility somewhere?"
Scully smiled evilly. "Whatever for?" she teased.
Mulder blushed and looked somewhat annoyed. "What do you think?"
"I'll go see," Scully said, hoping that there was a toilet somewhere inside the cabin and that they wouldn't have to rely on an outhouse. Luckily there was one between the kitchen and the dining room, and Scully returned to her partner to lead him there.
"Do you need any help?" Scully teased as she turned on the bathroom light.
"Just close the door on your way out," he said pointedly.
Scully ducked out of the bathroom and, after shutting the door, went over to the gas fire and tried to figure out how it worked. As she leaned down to inspect it, the pain seared through her body and she ended up sitting down on the couch until she could breathe again. She was just trying to gather her strength to get up when she heard a yelp from the bathroom.
"Mulder?! Are you okay?!" Scully asked, pushing her pain aside and hurrying to the bathroom door. Upon hearing Mulder scrabbling to find the door knob, she opened the door for him. "What happened?!"
"I saw, Scully!"
"You can see again?!"
"No! But just for a moment I saw ! It was like a flash of light, like when I saw the cabin."
"But you can't see anything now?" Scully asked, waving her good hand in front of his eyes.
"No. But the fact that I saw for a moment is a good sign, isn't it?"
Scully didn't answer. She was wracking her brains, trying to remember anything from her medical background that would explain Mulder's temporary blindness. Or temporary sight, as the case seemed to be. Grabbing his hand, she led him over to the couch, saying, "Mulder, I need to examine you. I'm afraid something is terribly wrong with you."
"I thought you came to that conclusion months ago," Mulder teased as Scully sat him down on the couch.
"Lie back," she instructed, ignoring his remarks. As he lay back, Scully examined the gash on his forehead, and then checked his eyes.
"I don't get it," she said frustratedly, sitting down next to Mulder. "Your head wound appears minor, and you don't even have a concussion. So what could be causing the blindness?"
Mulder didn't have an answer for this. For once, he didn't even have any paranormal theories to bounce off of her. He was worried about his situation, but he was more worried about hers at present. "How are you doing?" he asked.
"Glad to be sitting down," she said, smiling. "Even if it is freezing in here."
"Does there appear to be any heat source?" Mulder asked.
"Yes, a gas fire, though I don't know how it works."
"Where is it?" Mulder asked, blindly glancing around.
"Why? Do you know how gas fires work?" Scully asked, somewhat cheered.
"No. But you need to sit for awhile. Point me in the right direction and I'll see what I can do."
"Just to your right," Scully replied. She knew that she should get off of the chair and help him, but the cushions seemed to have wrapped themselves comfortingly around her pain, and her eyelids began to droop of their own accord.
Mulder ran his hands along the side of the fireplace and then down the sides. He found the gas control and the ignition button and took a deep breath. Although his medical training was no where near as exhaustive as his partner's, he knew what a night spent in a freezing cold room could do to her in her current state. "If I lose my eyebrows over this, Agent Scully," he said, "I'm going to be deeply unimpressed."
He turned the gas control and heard the hissing sound of the fuel coming from the jets. So far, so good he thought. He pressed the ignition button. For a terrifying moment, there was no sound, but then the lighter sparked and the gas caught alight. Mulder sat back on his haunches and enjoyed the feel of the warmth for a moment before turning back to where his partner lay.
"Scully?" he called.
She murmured something sleepily in reply, and he gingerly felt his way over to the couch. One of his hands caught the material of her coat and he tugged on it gently. "Mmmmm?" Scully said.
Mulder smiled. "It sounds like you're half asleep already," he said. "Why don't you lie down and rest?"
He heard her shift around on the couch and the rustle of material as she arranged her coat to cover herself. She gave a little hiss of pain as she settled on her broken rib, then her breathing smoothed out.
Mulder cast about, feeling with his hands for something that he could lie on. The heat from the fire had begun to permeate the room, throwing off the harsh chill of the night outside. He could hear the wind shrieking around the house even over the muted roar of the fire, and he imagined the snow piling up outside.
One of his hands brushed against an easy chair and he pulled himself onto it. Laying his gun on the floor within easy reach, he rested his head back on the cushions and closed his useless eyes. The darkness was no more complete than when they had been open. He sighed deeply. There was nothing more to be done until Scully awoke, so he forced his mind to let go of their problems and drift.
Scully knew that she was asleep. This was an undoubted fact: she had felt herself go, despite the burning pain in her side and wrist. So, she had to be asleep.
With sleep came dreams: that was to be expected. She was a doctor, she knew these things, she told herself with the certainty of sleep-logic. I'm asleep, I'm dreaming .
Although her eyes were shut, she could sense Mulder across the room; an unconscious, subliminal accumulation of data from her other senses. The smell of the mud and pine needles on his shoes, the sound of his breathing, even the smell of his aftershave. A small, quiet smile touched the mouth of her dreaming self as she imagined his earnest face. Mulder , she thought, and the word brought with it a host of associations: their shared adventures, his sometimes infuriating know-it-all smile, how it had felt to hold his hand. And other things as well...but those she wasn't ready to deal with, not yet, and she tucked them away again like sleepy children. One day, she knew, they would awake for good, and their questions would have to be faced. But this was only a dream, after all. Plenty of time for that later.
Her smile faded as she became aware of another presence in the room. She had sought out Mulder with her senses willingly, trustingly. This new presence, though, pushed itself upon her with almost rude force. Where the sounds and scents of her partner had been soft, undemanding, the stimuli associated with this other were harsh, plaintive.
Yet, she sensed with her dream-logic that it was not malign. In place of Mulder's scent, it presented the smell of shallow earth, the forest. She seemed to see it before her, although her eyes were firmly closed. It was hazy, ragged, hanging before her dream sight as though suspended on a hook. It seemed to step a little closer, and its proportions clarified into those of a man, although she could make no sense of its facial features.
The scent of the trees and earth grew stronger, more pungent, yet Scully was unafraid. In the same way that she had found Mulder from across the room, she sensed that the apparition meant her no harm. And what if it did? This was, after all, only a dream, she reminded herself.
The figure stretched out a hand, and Scully flinched. The hand was pulled back sharply, almost guiltily. When it was extended again, she submitted her dreaming self to its touch. Its fingertips were cold, but not unpleasant. She seemed to see a spark jump from its nails into the darkness of her sleeping mind, illuminating the landscape that lay there.
The figure squatted before her and reached out again, this time to her broken rib. Again she felt the spark leap from its hand to her skin, and this time it was warm; a warmth that slipped easily into her shattered bone, soothing the pain there. She sighed as the burning ache that had spiked her even in sleep was soothed. When the apparition reached to her wrist, she submitted willingly. Again, the spark; and again, the gentle warmth.
Then, as abruptly as the figure had made itself known, it was gone, leaving just a trace of its earthy smell.
I'm dreaming , she thought to herself again. Just dreaming .
When she awoke she was too warm, and she shrugged aside her coat. The fire was still roaring, and she reached over easily, without thinking, and turned it down.
And stopped. She sat up on the couch and tenderly felt her injured side. There was some soreness there still, and she flinched from her own probing fingers, but none of the agony that she had expected. There was still extensive bruising, and possibly a small fracture, but nothing like the injury she had felt in the car. She frowned. Her wrist, too, was less painful than she remembered.
A snatch of random thought flickered across her mind: dreaming? , bringing with it the smell of pine and dark earth. She sought to hold it, to wrest some meaning from it, but it was already gone into the darkness with a playful flick of its tail.
Scully frowned and forced herself to get a grip. Obviously, she had misdiagnosed herself in the car. It was understandable: she had been under considerable stress and in a lot of pain. She pushed aside for the moment the memory of how her ribs had sickeningly moved under her hand back at the scene of the crash, and decided to worry about it when she had more time.
She turned her attention to Mulder. He was sleeping in the easy chair, his neck at an awkward angle that Scully knew would be painful when he awoke. His coat was in a crumpled pile by his feet -- Scully imagined he'd covered himself with the coat but then threw it off in his sleep when the fire got too warm.
Scully leaned over and re-covered Mulder with the makeshift blanket, noticing that her ribs definitely felt different from when she'd first sat down upon the couch. But how long ago had that been? Scully checked her watch and noticed that it was almost 1am. Evidently they'd both needed the sleep after such a stressful day. And there was still a long night ahead of them. She sat back and closed her eyes.
She had almost drifted off again when she heard Mulder mumbling. She opened her eyes and glanced over at her partner. He was deep in REM sleep, for Scully could see his eyes moving back and forth beneath his drawn lids. And he was mumbling; "Samantha".
Scully lay still for a moment, trying to decide if she should wake him or not.
But she never had to come to a decision, as Mulder awoke with a start.
He sat up in the chair, his eyes wide open, and Scully could sense his disorientation.
"It's okay, Mulder," she said soothingly. "We're in the cabin. We were in the car accident. Remember?"
After a moment his memory recalled the events of the evening and he sat back in his chair.
"I still can't see anything," Mulder said, as if Scully couldn't tell. After a moment he asked quietly, "I was dreaming about her, wasn't I?"
"Yes," Scully said. "Do you remember the dream?"
Mulder shook his head. "I never remember them. But somehow they're always with me anyway. It's as if, when I wake up, I feel anew all the grief and loss, as if she'd only disappeared yesterday."
"Have you talked to anyone about it?"
"You mean besides you? Who would I talk to?"
"There's staff psychologists, Mulder -- maybe they could--"
"What?! Tell me that it never happened?! Or perhaps tell me that my work in the X-files is only feeding my inability to cope with what really happened and I should seek reassignment in order to help close old wounds....I'm a trained psychologist, Scully -- I know the routine."
"That doesn't mean that you couldn't use some professional advice," Scully said snidely, almost hurt by his sudden outburst.
"I'm sorry," Mulder said, realizing how he'd sounded. "I didn't mean to snap. I guess I'm just a little on edge, what with all that's happened and not being able to see. And having nightmares doesn't help my disposition any."
"I'll say!" Scully said teasingly.
"So what time is it, anyway? Time to fly the coop and look for someone to rescue us? You know, I'm really disappointed in you, Scully."
"What on earth for?"
"Well, I've come to always rely on you to get me out of tight spots!"
"You do tend to have more than your share!" Scully said, laughing. "And it's about 1am."
"Damn, we missed it," Mulder said, slapping his hand melodramatically against his lap.
"The witching hour!"
"After all that's happened to us, the last thing we need is witches," Scully teased.
Mulder suddenly realized he'd been so engrossed in his own worries that he hadn't inquired about her condition, so he quickly asked, "How are you doing?"
"Much better, strangely enough," Scully said. "I must've misdiagnosed myself in the car because now I think my ribs are only bruised."
"Are you sure?"
"I think so. Most of the shooting pain is gone, although I'm still not in the best of shape."
"Maybe the sleep did you some good."
"Sleep itself couldn't've done anything. But..." she trailed off, not knowing exactly what to say. Should she tell Mulder about her dream? After all, it was just a dream, wasn't it?
"What?" Mulder asked.
Scully considered. If anyone would have understood about her strange dream, it would have been Mulder. But then, he had enough on his mind as things stood without troubling him further. She decided to tell him later, once they had gotten themselves out of their current mess. "Doesn't matter," she said. She saw by his face that he wasn't going to let it go that easily, so she pre- empted him by saying "It looks like the owners aren't going to make it back tonight. I guess that we may as well make ourselves comfortable."
Mulder paused for a second before replying, as if considering whether or not to pursue the thread of their earlier conversation. Apparently he decided against it: "Guess so," he said. "Perhaps they got caught in town by the storm. In the meantime, I wonder if there's a telephone in here somewhere?"
Scully stared at him for a moment in surprise, her mouth open. "You know," she said, "I never even thought to look! God, how stupid!" She snapped her fingers. "I think I might have seen one in the kitchen..." Her voice trailed off.
Mulder frowned. "Scully? What's wrong?"
Scully was silent for a moment. She clicked her fingers again, this time away from her body. Again, she saw what had caused her the pause: Mulder's eyes had flicked unconsciously towards the motion. "Mulder," she said, "how many fingers am I holding up?" She held up her little finger.
"Jeez, Scully, how do I know? Three?"
Scully frowned. "Ok," she said, "doesn't matter. Anyway, I think that I saw a phone in the hall-". Mid-sentence, she leant over and pinched Mulder's earlobe hard between her nails.
He jerked back angrily. "Hey," he protested, "what the hell was that-"
She cut him off. "How many fingers?" she barked at him, using her best "I'm- FBI-so-get-down-on-the-floor" voice. She held up two fingers.
Without thinking, Mulder replied "Two. That hurt, Scully!"
His partner was silent. "What?" he said.
"Could be good news," she replied. "It seems that your eyes work, but nothing is getting to your brain. When I clicked my fingers you looked at them...and you guessed how many I was holding up as well. But it only seems to work when you're distracted. I wonder why?"
She leant forward and peered at his face. His eyes appeared normal: there were no blood-lines, no fractures in the iris. They both pointed straight ahead.
"Good news or bad news?" Mulder asked.
Much as she would have liked to give him something to calm his fears, Scully was forced to admit her ignorance. The fact that the problem seemed to lie not with his eyes or brain but somewhere in between could either be good or bad. Without a reference text, she really couldn't say, and she told him so.
He sighed. "Oh, well," he said. "Why don't you go see about that phone."
Scully nodded and got to her feet. "I'll be back in a second," she said.
She walked stiffly to the hallway. Damaged ribs aside, sleeping on the couch had kinked the long muscles in her legs, and the first few steps were painful. She wondered at how a person could not notice their body, take it totally for granted until something went wrong with it. Like her ribs. Like Mulder's eyes. She wondered briefly how he would cope if his sight never came back, what he would do.
The phone was in the hall as she remembered, and she pushed her gloomy thoughts aside for the moment. If the phone was working, there was a good chance that they could be picked up tonight, despite the storm.
The pane that Mulder had broken on the way in let in both the wind and the snow, chilling her midriff and making her ribs ache anew. Despite how much better they had felt after her sleep, she knew that they would be paining her for some days yet. Walking out was clearly not an option: injuries aside, she could see the snow piled almost three feet high outside already, and the storm showed no sign of abating.
She reached the phone and picked it up, cupping it close to her ear to cup out the sound of the storm. A drift of snow swirled in through the empty part of the door and settled on the carpet.
There was no dial-tone. Scully sighed, but she wasn't overly surprised: the lines were probably down. Even if they had been laid underground, it was likely that the system would foul up somewhere along the line in a storm of that severity. Indeed, the owners of the cabin might have had the line disconnected if they were away on vacation.
"Any luck?" Mulder called.
"No," she replied, "no tone. It's..."
She stopped. Just for a moment, on the cusp of her hearing, she had thought she heard something. Just the wind she thought, just the wind blowing around the house . She was just about to put the phone down when it came again. She strained her ears towards it, her flesh goosepimpling as though someone had dropped a wet and agile spider down her spine.
The sound was low, almost too low to hear. It sounded like speech, but the words were moaned and slurred together, becoming meaningless. It's a crossed line she thought. That was the logical conclusion, yet it didn't sound as though the voice was having one half of a conversation. It sounded like it was trying to make itself heard to someone who could barely-if at all-hear it.
Someone like me she thought, and her scalp tingled. With a sudden, harsh gesture, she put the phone back onto the hook and backed up a couple of steps, as if it were a dangerous animal into whose territory she had strayed.
"Scully, are you ok out there?" Mulder sounded anxious.
With sudden, shocking clarity, the phone began to ring. Scully yelped in surprise, her first response being to knock it from the wall. Get a grip, woman! she told herself furiously. Get a damn grip! It's only a phone!
She reached out a hand and lifted the receiver, tentatively holding it to her ear. But there was nothing this time; the phone was clearly dead. She replaced the receiver, wondering how the phone had rung. Had the lines been cut as she answered? she wondered and then realized she was becoming as paranoid as Mulder.
As she turned around, ready to return to the living room, she saw something in the doorway. She jumped back, startled, trying to get her eyes to focus on the shape in the darkness.
"Who was it?" Mulder asked, suddenly appearing in the doorway and replacing whatever had been there a moment before.
"What?" Scully asked distractedly, her brain still trying to make some sense of what had just happened. "The phone's dead."
"But I heard it ring," Mulder said.
"I don't know why it rung, Mulder!" Scully snapped, unnerved by the entire situation. "The phone's dead -- you can listen to it yourself!"
"I believe you," Mulder said, sensing Scully's mood and quickly backing off. Shivering, he said, "It sure is colder in here than in by the fire."
"It's the draft from the broken window," Scully said absently.
Mulder fumbled his way to the door and strained his eyes, trying to see something outside. "What's the weather like out?"
"There's several feet of snow," Scully said, "and it's still snowing. It looks like we're stuck here, at least for awhile."
"Then we might as well get some more sleep," Mulder said, hoping Scully's mood might be better in the morning. Holding out his hand to her, he asked, "Do you mind leading me back to the easy chair? I crashed into something on my way in here and I'll have a killer bruise from it on my thigh by morning, so I'd rather not repeat that mistake."
"C'mon," Scully said, leading him back to the living room, to the warm fire and the inviting comfort of sleep.
When Mulder awoke, he sensed that it was light out, although his sight had still not returned. However, he could somehow tell, through the blindness, that the day had come, the way he often could through his closed eyelids in the morning.
"Scully?" he asked quietly.
"Mmmmmm?" Scully answered groggily.
"Is it morning yet?"
After a pause, Scully answered, "Mmmm-Hmmmmm."
"Then shouldn't we be getting up and seeing if we can find a way out of here?" When there was no answer he asked again, "Scully?"
As he listened to his partner's slow, steady breathing, he realized that she had returned to sleep. Although he felt too awake to do the same, he decided not to bother her again and instead lay there quietly thinking about their situation.
He thought about the phone call and suddenly wondered about Scully's behaviour. The way she had snapped at him had seemed so out of character, as if she were truly upset about something.
Mulder smiled at himself -- anyone listening in on his thoughts would think he was insane, he realized. After all, Scully had been badly injured in a car accident and now was stranded in a blizzard in a cabin without a working phone; she had every right to be upset. But Mulder had worked with her long enough to know that little inconveniences like this weren't enough to unnerve her. So why had she acted so strange?
What if it's my eyes? Mulder thought. What if she knows something terrible about my condition and is afraid to tell me? But Scully was a blunt person, Mulder realized, especially with him. She wouldn't be able to keep something like that from him, even if she wanted to. She would've told him straight out if she thought his blindness was really serious.
The same way Samantha would've.
Mulder suddenly realized how much Scully reminded him of Samantha. He wondered if that was part of why he cared for her so. Of course, the similarities weren't exact -- after all, Samantha was only eight, at least in Mulder's mind, and Scully was a grown woman, a very attractive grown woman in fact. But their personalities were much the same: their bluntness, their infuriating way of pointing out his mistakes, their stubbornness, their cries for help.
Mulder stopped mid-thought and did a mental rewind. Of course, Samantha's cries seemed always with him. That was why he always flinched when people called him "Fox", for he always heard Samantha's voice calling it.
But Scully had cried for help, too, that night on his answering machine. He had never told anyone, but he had saved that tape and replayed the message over and over whilst Scully was missing, hoping to find some clue to her whereabouts. And once she'd returned, he couldn't bear to tape over it and had hidden it instead in a box of old tapes.
Yet, Scully's cries were for Mulder, not Fox. And yet Scully was the person he'd been the closest to since Samantha. She deserved to call him Fox as well.
"Scully?" he asked quietly, though strongly enough to wake her.
"Yeah, Mulder," she asked groggily.
"You can call me Fox," he said.
There was a pause, and he wondered if she'd returned to sleep. But then her voice began, "But I thought--"
Mulder cut her off. "I know what I said before. But I..." he trailed off, wondering what exactly he should say. After a moment, he merely said, "Samantha used to call me Fox."
Mulder could hear Scully sitting up on the couch, and he was glad that she was truly awake now. But her next question surprised him.
"What's your middle name?"
"My middle name?"
"Yeah. Surely your parents didn't saddle you with a first name like Fox without giving you some sort of middle name."
"But why do you want to know it?" he asked, almost embarrassed.
"So that you'll know when you're in trouble," Scully teased. "My father always called me 'Dana Katherine' when I was in trouble."
Mulder smiled. "I'll have to remember that. And it's Theodore."
"Fox Theodore Mulder," Scully said out-loud, as if trying it on for size. "If you don't mind me asking, what on earth possessed your parents to name you Fox?"
Mulder shrugged. "Beats me. When I was real little, I used to like it because it made me feel special. But then when I started growing up and getting teased, I realized that being 'special' wasn't necessarily a blessing. 'Fox the fox' still rings in my ears to this day!"
"It could've been worse," Scully said. "You could have been extremely unattractive."
"Oh, but I was!" Mulder said. "In junior high especially. I hit my growth spurt really early, right around age 12, so I was really skinny and awkward for several years. And Samantha was always the first to point out how funny I looked."
"It's too bad she can't see you now," Scully said. "I think she'd be impressed at how you turned out."
Mulder grinned. "Me? Nahhh," he replied. "Stop it or I'll blush."
Scully laughed, feeling the tension that had gathered in her after the incident with the phone dissipate. "Hey," she said, "I think that the snow's stopped."
She went to a window and peered out. The storm seemed to have abated during the night, leaving the snow to gleam dully in the weak morning light. She saw that the tree-line began some ten yards or so from the cabin.
"How thick is it?" Mulder asked.
"A good few feet." Scully peered up at the sky and saw that, although the snow might have stopped, clouds were still massing overhead. "You know," she said, "I might be able to walk to the car. I could flag down a snow plough."
"I wouldn't recommend it," Mulder replied. "It might snow again, you could get lost. The ploughs might not even be out yet. It's not a good gamble, Scully. I think-"
Scully turned. "What?"
"I saw it again! There was kind of a flash of light, and I saw...I think it was you, by the window, and..."
Scully moved toward him. "That's good," she said, "maybe it means that..." She stopped. Mulder had ceased speaking and was staring at her with an intense expression on his face. No , she corrected herself not at me, through me. He's blind .
Such was the intensity of his gaze that she found herself turning with it, anxious to see what had caught his attention so profoundly. She looked out of the window into the tree-line, and there she saw a flash of movement. It was so quick and so brief that she would have dismissed it as snow falling from a branch were it not for the fact that Mulder spoke:
"Someone's out there."
Scully hesitated for a second. Mulder was blind. Yet, he was apparently seeing in flashes, especially when distracted. "I'll go check it out," she said.
Moving as fast as her ribs would allow her, she went to the front door, opened it and jogged painfully around to the back of the house. Her breath steamed in the cold air, and the frost jumped nimbly down her shirt, raising her flesh into goosepimples. "Hello?" she called. "Is anyone there?"
There was no reply, and yet she sensed that she was being watched. She felt the gaze as though it were a weight on her forehead, pressing and marking her skin. She repeated her call, and again there was no answer. She began to shiver in earnest. After calling once more, she returned to the cabin, still feeling as though the eyes of an unseen observer were upon her.
"There was no-one there," she told Mulder. "Or if there was, they weren't answering."
Mulder was sat on the couch, rubbing his eyes. "Perhaps it was a neighbour," he said. "They mightn't have answered because they didn't recognise you. Perhaps they thought you were a burgler?"
Scully shook her head. "Why would a burglar advertise their presence? How are your eyes now?"
Mulder shrugged. "I'm as blind as a bat," he said. "There was just that flash, and then nothing again. It seems that it's getting better, though?"
His partner heard the unspoked plea for reassurance in his voice, and answered as best she could: "It seems...hopeful," she said, knowing that it would sound like cold comfort. "I could walk to the next cabin..."
Mulder shook his head. "In which direction? How far? And that's always assuming that it was a neighbour and not an animal or something. I think we're here for the duration, Agent Scully."
Scully sighed. Mulder's arguments made sense. Although her ribs felt so much better than they had the night before, she doubted that she would be up to an arduous trek across snow-bound woodland. Without any ready means of summoning help and with the clouds massing overhead again, it did indeed look as though they were stuck until the weather improved. "I hate the damn countryside," she murmured.
Mulder laughed. "Ah, Scully, it ain't that bad. Besides, we could use a day or two off work."
Scully sighed. "I suppose so. I just hope Skinner doesn't rake us over the coals for this one."
"How can he -- it's not OUR fault that someone ran in front of me on the road."
"Maybe THAT'S who was outside," Scully said excitedly.
"But why show up now?"
Scully shrugged. "It was just an idea."
"I have a better idea."
"Breakfast. I'm starved."
"I am, too. I just hope there's some sort of food. I'll go check out the kitchen situation." Scully went into the kitchen and opened the cabinets. After searching for awhile, she returned to Mulder in the living room. "Well, the good news is that we won't starve. The bad news is, I hope you like soup for breakfast because that's all there is."
Mulder groaned. "And I was hoping for some French toast! How much soup is there -- should we ration it?"
Scully shook her head and then realized that Mulder couldn't see her. "No. One whole cabinet is full of cans -- it looks like someone stocked up in case of an emergency."
"I'd say this constitutes an emergency, wouldn't you?"
"Yep," Scully said. "So what would you like for breakfast -- tomato, cream of broccoli, split pea, bean with bacon, chicken noodle, or chile?"
Mulder smacked his lips together a few times. "I think tomato tastes the most like a breakfast soup, don't you?"
"I guess," Scully said, returning to the kitchen.
Mulder heard her opening various drawers and cabinets, and after a minute he heard her mutter, "Damn!"
"What?" Mulder hollered out to her.
"There's bowls, spoons, glasses, and pans, but no can opener."
Mulder laughed. "Just our luck -- we're stranded at a cabin owned by macho men who use their teeth to open cans."
"What should we do?" Scully asked, walking into the living room.
"It seems we have two options: one, we could try using our teeth."
Scully rolled her eyes. "Or?" she prompted.
"Or two, we could use the can opener on my pocket knife," Mulder said, digging his Swiss Army knife out of his pocket and throwing it in Scully's general direction.
"Nice aim," Scully said sarcastically as she walked halfway across the room to retrieve the knife from the floor. "I'll go start the soup, then."
About ten minutes later Scully brought the two bowls of hot soup out to the living room and then returned to the kitchen to get glasses of water for them to drink. "You know, it certainly is lucky that whoever owns this place kept the water and gas turned on."
"Maybe it means they're planning on returning soon."
"If so, I hope they don't suspect that we're burglars. I can just imagine explaining our arrest record to Skinner."
Mulder laughed. "You shouldn't be so hard on Skinner. He's really not so bad."
"As an ally, yes. But as a boss, no."
"It's not his fault that he has to answer to people above him. And admit it, Scully -- if you had me working for you, wouldn't you get frustrated occasionally?"
"Is this a trick question?" Scully teased.
Mulder pretended to be wounded. "I'm not THAT bad, am I?"
"Mulder, you're always ditching me, you're always disobeying orders, and you're always putting your life in unnecessary danger."
"Why Agent Scully, I didn't know you cared," Mulder teased.
"I'm serious, Mulder. You get beat up more than any agent I know. I can't count the times I've had to save your ass because you've let someone get the better of you. You've got to start working on your self-defense skills."
"Well, it's not like I've ever had to save YOUR ass," Mulder said, slightly offended. "What about Tooms, for instance?"
"I didn't exactly expect to have someone crawl out of my heating vent," Scully said defensively. "And at least I don't have a habit of going into dark places alone, like someone I could name."
"I beg to differ -- what exactly do you call what you did following Luther Boggs's channeling ? If I remember correctly, you went into that warehouse alone without telling me after I'd WARNED you that Boggs was a fake."
"My father had just died, Mulder -- I don't think I should be held responsible for anything stupid I did then."
"But you could've been killed in there."
"As could you, in cases too numerous to mention! But I think we should just drop the subject, before we start saying things we'll regret. Especially if we're going to be stuck with each other for awhile, which it looks like we are."
Mulder nodded. "I'm sorry. I guess tomato soup for breakfast doesn't exactly put me in the best mood."
"Apology accepted." Scully took the emptied bowl from her partner and went into the kitchen. She placed both bowls in the sink. There was a window above the draining board, and she gazed out of it for a moment. The trees had been cut back away from the house, leaving a space that she presumed was a garden. There was a black refuse sack sitting against a metal bin. She noted that the bin was locked: probably to stop animals digging around for scraps.
She went back into the dining room. Mulder was sitting cross-legged on the couch, his shoes off. His jacket was slung over the arm along with his tie. He had relit the fire. His eyes were closed.
"What are you doing?" Scully asked.
He smiled. "Listening," he said. "I figure that I may as well make the most of the senses I have left. How's the weather?"
"Clouds still massing. Looks like we're here for another night at least." Scully moved closer to the fire and held out her hands. Compared to the warmth of the dining room, the kitchen had been chilly. She looked around the room, her mind idling in neutral, listening to Mulder's breathing and the hiss of the fire.
Something jolted Scully's mind. She fished for it, and it came back to her. There were no family photos in the room: no portraits, no snapshots. There were no ornaments either, she noticed. no personal touches. And yet, it was obvious that someone had recently been in the cabin: the food, the fact that the utilities were still connected. She shared her thoughts with Mulder.
"Maybe they just went back to their house?" he suggested. "We could have missed them by days, maybe even just hours." He opened his eyes. "There's a tap dripping upstairs."
Scully smiled and laughed. "Are you kidding?" she said.
"And I suppose that you want me to go up there all on my own and stop it, despite what you said about going into strange places on my own?"
Mulder smiled. "I had a hypocrisy clause written into my contract," he said.
Scully sighed. "What am I, a plumber?" She got up from the chair that she had been sitting in and went to the hall. The temperature dropped immediately, making her flesh goosepimple and her sore ribs ache. She started up the stairs.
The cold air made her feel uneasy. Surely it couldn't be this cold, even with the broken window? She reached the landing and looked around. There were three doors: two bedrooms and a bathroom, she presumed. Her breath began to steam.
"Scully?" She jumped. Mulder's voice came from the bottom of the stairs. "Are you OK?"
Am I? Her mind echoed. I'm jumping at shadows, for heaven's sake. Her fear and sense of unease turned to anger. "Dammit, Mulder, you scared me!" she snapped. "I can turn off a tap without your help, thank you!"
"Pardon me, I'm sure." Scully heard the anger creeping into her partner's voice and forced herself to relax. She took a deep breath and opened the first door. Behind her, she heard Mulder climbing the stairs slowly, carefully.
The door opened into a double bedroom. She closed it again, not wanting to pry. Behind her, Mulder reached the landing. She turned and saw him there, standing uncertainly. He rested a hand on the wall.
She opened the second door and found the bathroom. Directly ahead of her was the sink, the tap dripping a slow but continuous trickle of water. There was a bath to her right. A medicine cabinet was hung over the sink, the doors mirrored. Jeez, I look likea mess, Scully thought.
The air in the bathroom was even colder than that in the hallways. Her hand stuck to the tap when she turned it off, the cold metal seeming to bite into her skin. She heard Mulder follow her into the doorway. She ran her hands through her hair and peered into her reflection's eyes. "Any other odd jobs around the house?" she asked, careful to tone her voice lightly.
Mulder heard the apology in her voice and considered. "Well, the roof could do with a few new tiles," he said. "And..." He paused.
Scully turned from the mirror. "Mulder?" she said. She saw that he was staring at a point on the wall just to the right of the door.
"I can see some light," he said. "Just a little, but I can see!"
Scully smiled despite the seriousness of the situation. There was an almost child-like delight in his voice. She followed his gaze down. The smile faded, and her skin pimpled again, but not this time from the cold. There, on the wall, directly under her partner's gaze, was a spot of blood.
"Oh my God," Scully muttered under her breath as she moved over to inspect it closer.
"What is it?" Mulder asked.
"There's blood on the wall," Scully said.
"Where?! Right where you were looking!"
Mulder looked shocked. "You're kidding!" he said, knowing that she wasn't.
Scully carefully studied the evidence in front of her as if it were a routine crime scene. She noticed that an attempt had been made to clean up the blood, for the area on the wall around the dark spot had a brownish-pink tinge to it. But the fact that there was still a dark spot at all indicated that someone had evidently lost a lot of blood against this wall. A shiver went down Scully's spine. "I've the feeling that someone died in this room," Scully said. "It's too bad we didn't bring the camera with us. I'd like to document the scene."
"It's not going anywhere, and neither are we, for that matter," Mulder said. "When we get out of here, we can take pictures then."
Scully sighed. Mulder was right -- they were stuck here, so there was nothing to be gained from panicking now. But the whole thing unnerved her. "Let's go back downstairs," Scully said. "I'm freezing."
Mulder reached out his hand to Scully, who took it and started to lead him back downstairs.
"You weren't kidding!" Mulder said.
"You ARE freezing! Your hand feels like ice. How're your ribs doing?"
"They ache, but they definitely aren't broken," she said matter-of-factly. "I wouldn't be able to move around this much if they were." Again her mind flashed to her initial diagnosis back at the car and the strange dream she'd had, but she wasn't in the mood right now to share these thoughts with Mulder. The stairs had tired her more than she was willing to admit, and she knew that even ribs that were merely bruised weren't going to be pleasant to live with for the next few days if she insisted on moving around so much.
Once they got back to the warmth of the fire, Mulder asked, "So how fresh was it?"
"What?" Scully asked, confused.
"The blood upstairs," Mulder said.
"Oh. I'm not really sure. It wasn't BRAND new -- the clotting and coloring of it seemed to indicate it was at least a few days old, though I couldn't definitely give any sort of time scale beyond that."
After a moment, Mulder asked, "Was it really exactly where I was looking?"
"Yes. Didn't you see it?"
"No. I just saw a brief flash of light like the other ones I've seen. Like the one when I saw the cabin!"
Scully laughed. She recognized that tone in his voice. "So what's your theory, Mulder?"
"Maybe I'm only seeing things I'm SUPPOSED to see," he said excitedly. "Perhaps I'm being shown these things for a reason."
" Perhaps you hit your head just a little too hard against the steering wheel," Scully teased. "Besides, how could anything manipulate your injury in that way?"
"But what if me injury, my blindness, wasn't caused by the accident?"
"Then what?" I refuse to believe aliens are controlling your blindness."
"Then how about a ghost? If someone WAS killed upstairs in the bathroom, then maybe his ghost is manipulating me in some way."
Scully looked at her partner's earnest look and grinned. His unique outlook on life would never cease to amaze her. "Well, Mulder, I'll let you work on that theory a little more."
"And what'll you do?"
"I'm going to take a nap. My ribs are starting to ache more, and sleep is probably just what they need."
Mulder sighed. He was bored. And his heightened senses were really starting to get annoying. After Scully had drifted off to sleep on the couch, he had tried to get some shut-eye himself. Unfortunately, he could hear the clock on the wall endlessly ticking away, and its insistent noise kept him from drifting off.
So he sat in the easy chair and let his mind wander. He suddenly realized that if anything were to happen right now, he'd be powerless to stop it. He'd never noticed before how much he really did rely on his eyesight. If his blindness weren't a temporary thing, he would definitely have to resign his post with the Bureau. And then what would he do? He had no answer to that question, and the very thought of it scared him.
He decided to try to think of something more cheerful. He could still hear the clock ticking away, and he wondered what time it was. He was starting to get hungry and hoped that they could have lunch soon, even if it only consisted of more soup.
In addition to the clock, he could hear the sound of the wind howling around the house. And the fire hissing in the fireplace. And Scully's breathing. He concentrated on her slow, even breaths and tried to imagine her small sleeping form on the couch. She must look very vulnerable right now, he thought. He remembered reading in a psychology text somewhere that people were often kind to those asleep because sleep was such a vulnerable state, being so close to death. Poets through the ages had discussed the similarities between sleep and death. But Mulder knew there was a world of difference, for now Scully merely slept, but only a few months ago she had really been on the verge of death.
Mulder remembered sitting by her bedside in the hospital, watching the various machines report her vital signs and wondering if she was going to live. He had sworn then and there that he'd never put her life in such jeopardy again. Of course, she had had something to say about that decision! Once back at work, she had insisted that he not treat her with kid gloves. But he still worried about her incessantly, and he wondered what his life would be like without her in it.
Mulder's stomach growled, and he decided that it was definitely time for lunch, whether Scully was awake or not. He stood up and slowly made his way towards the kitchen. He was trying to be quiet, so as not to wake up his sleeping partner, but he couldn't help exclaiming "Shit!" when he stubbed his toe hard against the doorframe. And trying to find things in an unfamiliar kitchen was a noisy business. He'd just located the cans when he heard Scully's voice holler worriedly, "Mulder?!"
"I'm fixing us some lunch," he hollered back, not knowing that Scully was already by his side.
Scully sighed with relief upon seeing Mulder, and then she began to laugh when she saw the can he was holding. "I think I better do the cooking," Scully said, "unless you really want to eat enchilada sauce."
"Oops," Mulder said as Scully took the can from his hand. "Perhaps you're right, then. So, how are you feeling?"
"More tired than when I laid down," Scully confessed as she grabbed a can of soup and began opening it. "Did you get any sleep?"
"No. The damn clock was too loud."
"Clock?" Scully asked, not even having noticed there was one.
"Yes. Tick...tick...tick...I was beginning to think that hearing the Beach Boys would be a blessing!"
"I'm not going to dignify that comment with a reply," Scully said as she switched on the stove. The kitchen, though not as cold as the upstairs rooms, was still chilly. She held her hand out over the ring, hoping that the heat would warm her fingers and soothe the nagging ache in her wrist. She yawned.
Mulder gingerly reached out and touched the worktop. He leaned against it and folded his arms. "So what's your theory on what's happening?" he asked.
Scully, who had been watching bubbles rise in the heating soup, jumped a little at the sound of his voice. She sighed. "We know that your sight seems to return when you're distracted," she said, "so maybe you were distracted at the time?" She poured the soup into bowls.
"Feasible, I guess." Mulder set his bowl on the counter. Scully put a spoon in his hand and he started to eat. Suddenly, his head jerked upwards.
Startled, Scully almost dropped her bowl. "What?" she said.
"I heard something upstairs...in one of the rooms, I think."
Scully listened too. At first she was convinced that Mulder was imagining it. She realised she had been holding her breath, and was about to let it go and scold him when she heard it too: a muffled thump. She put her soup down and darted from the kitchen. Her ribs groaned under the stress.
She went to the dining room and pulled her gun from its holster. She heard Mulder curse behind her as he stumbled over something. There was another thump from upstairs, and then a crash that she would have heard even if she weren't listening for it.
"Scully! Wait up, dammit!" Mulder hissed.
She shushed him and pushed past him up the stairs. She cat-footed up two or three, then paused and listened, holding her breath, her back pressed against the cold wall. Something thumped against carpet above her head. The closer of the two bedrooms, she decided. She slipped the safety catch off of her gun. Mulder paused at the bottom of the stairs, his head cocked in a listening posture.
Scully tip-toed up the last few stairs. She had closed the door to the bedroom on her last visit, and she placed her hand on the handle and listened again, putting her back to the wall beside the frame. The room was silent for moment, and then the noise started again: pause, thump, pause, thump. She tried to imagine what would make a noise like that and came up blank. She took a breath.
She opened the door and winced as a shooting pain danced up her wrist and buried itself in her armpit. She peered around the doorway, gun hand extended. The room seemed to be empty, and her challenge died on her lips. She began to relax, thinking that she'd picked the wrong room.
Her heart jumped into her throat and she lept back defensively, her gun levelled. Through the doorway she could see a double bed, a night table, and a wardrobe set flush against the wall. Part of the room was hidden from her by the door, but she had seen no one there when she took her first look. She stepped warily into the room.
There was no-one there. She put her back to the wall and began to work her way along the wall counterclockwise, towards the wardrobe. As she cleared the door, she saw that a window on the opposite wall had been smashed, leaving glass scattered across the carpet. She reached the wardrobe and began to slide along it.
Scully started and scolded herself for being so skittish. She resumed her movement. Hidden behind the door was a make-up table with an ornate vanity mirror set above it. There was no evidence that the table had been used recently: no toiletries, no photos or ornaments.
Scully frowned, her gun lowering. There was patently no one in the room except for herself. There was not enough space under the bed to fit a mouse, much less an assailant. She leaned forward and peered under the table.
Trapped beneath was a small bird, apparently confused at its inability to escape. It would hop forward a few steps, spread its wings, and then knock into the underside of the table.
Scully smiled, the tension draining out of her. With the danger gone, her ribs and wrist set up a clamour of indignant pain. She sat down on the bed and held her side with her good hand, breathing shallowly. She called for Mulder, watching the bird flex its wings slowly, as if pondering whether to make another attempt. She pushed the safety catch back on the gun.
Mulder appeared at the door. "What was it?" he asked.
Scully explained, and he smiled. "I'm glad you find it so amusing!" she snapped. Her anger was only a cover, though, and she knew it. She, too, was immensely relieved.
"How did it get in?" Mulder asked, leaning on the wardrobe.
"It must have flown into the window and broke it, I guess," Scully replied. Now that the adrenaline was wearing off, she had begun to feel the cold through her suit shirt. She wrapped her arms gently around her ribs and shivered.
Mulder was frowning. "Surely if it had hit the window with enough force to break it, it wouldn't be in any shape to get up again, would it?"
Scully paused. "You're right..." She got up and crossed to the window, mindful of the broken glass on the floor. The frame was about two feet by four. A few shards of glass clung to the wood, but most was scattered in an arc before her on the carpet. The wind sighed in through the gap and chilled her skin. Even if the bird had broken the window, there was no way that it would have knocked all of the glass out.
Scully inched forward and peered out. Below the window there was a lip, and beside that, a drainpipe. A very STURDY drainpipe , the back of her mind chipped in. She looked at the frame. There, on the inside, just where someone would have put their hand to drag themselves in, was a fingerprint printed in engine grease.
Scully felt a chill run down her spine, as if an ice cube were thawing on the nape of her neck. "Mulder?" she said. He looked up.
"Mulder, I don't think that we're the first people to break into this house," she said.
"What?!" Mulder asked.
"There's a fingerprint right inside the window, and a drainpipe outside. I think someone crawled up here and broke in." Scully shivered as she spoke, not sure if it was the draft or her words that caused the chill. She looked out the window, searching for clues about the intruders but not being able to see much for all the snow on the ground.
"Well, they're not here now," Mulder said. "We would've heard them by now if they were."
"They could be hiding in the other bedroom," Scully offered. "I should
"It would make a nice change from soup."
Scully laughed and leaned down to get a better look at the bird. She
"Hitchcock would've loved this," Scully muttered. "I guess I'll go
Mulder nodded and followed her down the hall. He wasn't much of a
"Anything?" Mulder asked.
"Nothing," Scully said, sighing with relief. "But what if they come
Mulder shrugged. "We'll just have to cross that bridge when we come to it."
"Yeah, bridge of troubled water," Scully mumbled.
Mulder laughed. "If I'd've known that Paul and Art were writing the
Scully nodded and led the two of them downstairs. Whilst in the hall
Mulder was counting the minutes until dinner. Not that he was
"...But why break-in to a house and then kill someone?" Scully wondered
"What time is it?" Mulder interrupted.
"Oh," Scully said, glancing down at her watch. "About 6:30ish."
"Do you think that's too early for dinner?" he asked hopefully.
Scully sighed frustratedly. "I'll go make it." She stood up,
"What kind do you want tonight?" Scully asked as she walked towards the
"How about chile?"
Mulder could hear her working away in the kitchen, but she seemed to be
"Our salvation," Scully explained, walking over to him. "A bottle of
"Why Agent Scully! I never knew!"
Scully laughed and handed him a glass.
"Are you sure this is wise?" Mulder asked. "I mean, what if the bad
"Well, let's see," Scully said. "You're blind, and probably couldn't
Mulder felt bad. He'd had no idea that she was in any real pain, since
Scully soon brought out the two bowls of chile and Mulder took a bite.
"What? No cheese and onions?" Mulder teased.
"Sorry. No bird steaks either."
Mulder grinned and took a sip of his whiskey, causing Scully to laugh.
"What?!" he asked defensively.
"Your face," she said, as if this were some sort of explanation.
"You find my face laughable? Well, I'm glad I could amuse you."
"No, I mean the face you made when you tasted the whiskey. You looked
"Well, I haven't had anything stronger than New Year's champagne for several
Scully laughed. She could feel the alcohol slipping into her bones with
Mulder placed his bowl carefully on the floor and leaned back in the
Scully, who was sitting upon the floor, inched closer to the fire. She
Mulder smiled. "'Tis your lucky day, my dear," he pronounced grandly.
Scully smiled. "And so modest. Why only the Northern hemisphere?"
"There's a little Zen Buddhist guy on a remote island who's better than me.
Scully laughed. "He said, 'Make me one with everything.'" She
She pushed both thoughts aside. The only question she needed to ask
Mulder laughed and began to knead her shoulders gently. Scully sighed,
"You know, that Zen guy warned me about this," Mulder replied.
"People getting philosophical when I rub their backs. And I don't
Scully shrugged, gazing into the fire. The sight of the flames was
Mulder transferred his attentions to her lower back. The unfamiliar
Scully supported her weight awkwardly on her one good hand so that Mulder
Mulder laughed. "That's it? 'Be happy'? I don't think it'll
"Didn't hear you do better."
Mulder stopped rubbing Scully's back for a moment and considered. He
"That's not half bad. Where'd you get that one? The Zen Buddhist?"
"I'm afraid not. That came from 'The Sandman'. A comic book,
Scully laughed against the back of her hand. "You live your life by
Mulder reached behind himself and fished out a cushion. He cuffed her
Scully batted the cushion out of his hand. "If you weren't blind, I'd
"Threats? And after I rubbed your back for you, too...I'm hurt."
Scully was beginning to feel the initial effect of the whiskey wear
Mulder gave a lopsided grin. He too was feeling the initial effect of
"Nothing? Ten million years to evolve a brain of that size and
Mulder listened to the wind slam about the house. Without thinking, he
"Was that Zen, comic book, or Mulder?" Scully asked. She yawned
Mulder grimaced. "I need to stretch." He got up and arched his
Scully smiled and shifted so that her back lay against his chest.
A little while later, Mulder slipped into dreams after her.
Scully dreamed she was back in the car after their crash. She knew what
The corners of her mouth curled upward in her sleep. Dreaming, she
But now she was back in the car, and the warmth of the cabin seemed very,
There was a flicker of movement to the side. Mulder's side. She
There was the movement again, and suddenly there was a man by Mulder's
Her relief curdled in her, became fear. She smelt trees, and dark
Oh god, he sees me, she thought.
The figure reached out a hand. A nagging sense of familiarity overtook
Scully's eyes felt as wide as saucers. Dreaming, she thought, just
The hand rested on Mulder's forehand for a second, and Scully wanted to
Then the hand lifted, was withdrawn. The man bent forward and whispered
You are not dreaming. You are remembering, so remember well.
Scully felt a chill that often accompanied her nightmares, reminding her that
She saw the dream figure put his hand on Mulder again, this time passing it
And with that thought still on her mind, she slipped from the dream into a
The first thing Scully was conscious of was the pain of her hand being
Scully heard the voice again and this time realised it was not part of a
"Mulder, wake up," she said, nudging him and attempting to free her hand from
This time he jumped awake with a start. It took him a moment to
"Are you okay?" he asked worriedly. "Did I hurt your hand?"
"No," Scully fibbed, rubbing her hand. "I'm fine. But are YOU okay?"
But Mulder didn't seem to have heard. "They were taking her,
As Mulder spoke, Scully could see the frightened twelve-year-old boy,
"They took her and I couldn't stop them."
As the dream slunk away, Scully could see the years of grief descend upon
Scully quickly pulled back. "I'm sorry," she mumbled, not sure what she
"No, I'm sorry," he said, feeling guilty about his reaction. "I...it's
"You don't have to, you know," Scully said gently, taking his hand.
"Is that a promise?"
Scully smiled and nodded, though she knew Mulder couldn't see. "Yes,
He squeezed back. "Then can I ask you for a favor?"
Scully looked at Mulder warily. "What?"
"Would you mind getting up? My foot is completely asleep."
Scully quickly moved away. "You better wake it up..."
"It won't sleep through the night," Mulder finished with her, and they both
"Do you believe in fate, Dana?" Mulder asked out of the blue as he sat
Although Mulder could not see, he could somehow sense that she was giving
"What do you think?"
"But don't you think that lots of things in life are more than just
"Such as the two of us becoming partners."
"Fate didn't make us partners, Mulder; Blevins did!"
"But I've had partners before; you met Jerry. But I've never had such
"I'll admit that we do make a good team, but I don't see that fate had
"Well then, what about the fact that our car crashed in the middle of
"Here comes the ghost theory again," Scully mumbled.
"Seriously, Scully, don't you think fate might've played a role?
"That's a good line, Mulder," Scully teased. "Does it work on all
Mulder didn't understand at first, but when the realisation hit he began to
"Actually," he said, "it hasn't worked on any women yet." He sighed
"Dreaming..." Scully murmured. Memories of the dream Mulder had
She trailed off, not sure what she had been meaning to say. She put her
"Do you?" Mulder asked, smiling.
Scully glanced up at him. "It has been known to happen," she
said. "I think
Mulder concentrated. "Yes...yes, I think he was. But that could
have been a
"You're starting to sound like me, Mulder. And it could have been, but
Mulder shrugged. "That's plausible, I suppose." He
grimaced. "You're right,
"He reached in through the window and touched your face...and he
"Why, Agent Scully, we'll make a believer out of you yet."
Scully pulled a face. "Not likely, Agent Mulder. Just because I
Mulder brought his watch up to his face automatically. Scully felt
"So had I," Mulder said. He sighed deeply. "So had I, my dear."
Scully took his hand and squeezed it.
Mulder swallowed. "You know what I'm going to do if my sight never
He smiled, but it was an effort for him, she saw. So unlike his usual
"Oh, Mulder..." Scully searched for something to say. "Mulder...you
Mulder said nothing. She knew he didn't need to: what she had
said was so
Scully sighed frustratedly. "How did we get into this situation, Mulder?"
Mulder smiled. "I guess you wouldn't appreciate my bringing up fate again."
"You read my mind."
"I thought you didn't believe in telepathy," Mulder teased, his mood
Scully grinned and snuggled closer to him. Closing her eyes, she
"Actually..." he began but then trailed off.
"What?" Scully prompted.
"I'm...I don't want to go back to sleep right now -- perchance to dream, you
Scully nodded and squeezed his hand. "Sure." She sat up and said,
"What?" Mulder asked, thrown by the abruptness of her question.
"Well, I know you went to school in England, and I know about..."
"Phoebe," Mulder said for her.
Scully nodded. "But you never talk about it -- England, I mean.
Mulder shifted against the chair. He was silent for a while, and Scully
"I did and I didn't," he said. "It's like anything, I guess...you take
Scully leaned back against his chest. She was tempted to ask which
Mulder paused for a moment, and Scully realised that he most probably knew
When he spoke, it was slow, measured, as if he was carefully turning each
Mulder trailed off, his brow drawn tightly into a grimace of pain or
"After I met Phoebe," he continued, "things changed, in a way. Now I
"She didn't feel the same way?"
"I think...maybe she did. But then, most things with Phoebe were a
"Even your relationship?"
"Even that. Maybe especially that. With hindsight, she was never
Mulder fell silent again. His head dropped to his chest, and his eyes
"Then she took what I'd told her and she...used it for an assignment:
Scully fought for something to say, some words she could offer to her
Mulder pushed his cheek gently against her hand. "S'okay kiddo," he
"In a galaxy far, far away?" Scully replied lightly, hoping to lift his
To her relief he smiled, the clouds above his brow breaking up a
Scully snuggled against his chest. She yawned as well, covering her
It might've been the whiskey they'd consumed earlier. Or sheer
When Scully finally did awake, it was already light out. She glanced up
She was warm. And it wasn't just the heat of Mulder being so
close. The air
As gently as she could, Scully removed Mulder's arm from around her and stood
Her assessment had been correct -- the low clouds were gone, and she could
Scully breathed a sigh of relief, realising that they might be able to walk
As she was prying open a can of chicken soup with Mulder's knife, a movement
"What's for breakfast?"
Mulder's voice so close made Scully jump. "I...uh...chicken soup."
"What is it?" Mulder asked, sensing her unease.
"There's a dog outside."
"That would make a nice change from soup," Mulder teased.
But Scully didn't notice. "It's scratching at a garbage sack."
"So? That's what dogs do ."
"But why wasn't the sack put in the metal bin?" Scully asked. "I've got
Mulder looked surprised. "Finally following a hunch, Agent Scully?"
Scully frowned. "We already know that someone broke in..." She
"Scully..." he called back from the kitchen, his voice tinged with
Ignoring his protest, she unlocked and opened the back door. At the
Despite the passing of the storm, the outside air was still cold
She moved closer to the bin, her nose wrinkling at the rank smell.
The snow was already freezing her toes and soaking through her shoes,
She stepped closer to the door and then froze; where the lock should
"Scully? You OK?" Mulder's voice made her start.
"Fine. Just stay there."
"This invalid thing is starting to lose its appeal, you know!"
"Right, right," Scully murmured under her breath. She stood in
Thankfully, Mulder picked up her tone. "Will do!" he called back.
Knowing that there was nothing she could do to reassure him, she
Scully padded through the snow to the corner on the garage. Hoping
Scully paused, listening intently. There was no sound from within
And then froze, her breath catching. One of the tires was flat.
Alone...she found herself wishing fervently that Mulder were beside
She stepped into the garage. There was a cord dangling from the
"Oh, dammit," she whispered to herself. She clicked off the light.
Later that morning, after they had eaten, Mulder called them to what
"OK," Mulder began, "let's review what we know. Someone broke in
Scully massaged her wrist. She had a nasty feeling that there was a
Mulder nodded. "Sounds plausible," he said. "Perhaps this was
"And the bullet holes?"
Mulder grinned. "Maybe the deer have been granted the right to bear
Scully threw a cushion at him. "Try and be serious," she said,
"Ok, Ok," he said, holding up his arms to ward off further missiles.
Scully nodded. "Maybe. That would seem to fit what we have so
"Could we walk out?"
Scully considered. She sighed; much as it was an attractive idea,
"Ok. The problem is, of course that as soon as the weather clears,
Scully thought for a moment. "Not necessarily. Why should they?
"Good point. With any luck, they'll be halfway across the country by
Scully sighed. "Hopefully. But I'm not holding my breath."
"Don't. I don't want you to die from lack of oxygen."
Scully picked up a cushion but decided at the last moment not to throw it at
"What kind of soup do you want for lunch?" she asked, not really hungry but
"Lunch already? We just had breakfast! Not that it's very easy to
"I'm just glad it's not Ramen," Scully said. "Ever since medical
"What was that like?" Mulder asked.
"No, medical school."
"Oh...that," Scully said. "Well, it was...medical school."
"C'mon, Scully. I spilled my guts about England -- fair's fair."
Scully sighed. "I'm not sure what to say. I don't really think I
Mulder could hear the tone in her voice, prompting him to ask, "Including
Scully was silent for a few moments before answering. "My parents
Mulder looked surprised. "Of what?"
"Of not making it."
"But you already HAD made it. You'd survived the worst part."
"But I hadn't done my residency yet. And maybe I wouldn't have survived
"Dana Scully, I refuse to believe that. You're one of the best doctors
"But sometimes I wonder 'what if', you know? Maybe I could've made a
"You saved my life," Mulder said quietly. "It may not seem big to you,
Scully reached out and took his hand. "It matters to me, too."
They both sat there quietly for a moment, not needing to say anything.
"I guess that's my cue to go make lunch," Scully said, letting go of Mulder's
"What haven't we had yet?" Mulder asked, getting to his feet and making the
"I think split pea and bean with bacon."
"Well, considering that we're trapped together inside this small cabin, I
"Split pea it is then," Scully said.
As Mulder reached the kitchen he tilted his head, listening intently.
Scully listened and then glanced out the window. The dog was back,
"Dammit!" Scully said, rushing to get her gun again.
"What?!" Mulder asked frantically.
"Dogs!" Scully said, running outside. When the dogs refused to scatter
Scully fought down a wave of nausea and leaned over to get a better look.
Although the thought did not exactly appeal to her, she decided she better
Scully was surprised when she looked back at the cabin and no longer saw
"Mulder!" she called as she walked into the house and quickly locked the door
Mulder had heard Scully dash outside, then a shot from her pistol. He
He heard a series of yelps and presumed that Scully had fired the
He was about to try and navigate his way to the door when he felt a
There was a glimmer in the forefront of his vision, as though he was
For a moment, it seemed as though his wordless prayer was being
Excitement began to build in his chest. He turned back to the
He turned, more slowly this time, and once again his sight began to
Mulder froze, half-turned. There, standing in the door leading to
"My God," Mulder murmured. Once the shock of realising he was not
Without speaking, the figure turned from the door and walked into the
The figure was waiting for him at the foot of the stairs, still with
Even as they reached the top of the stairs, and the figure stepped
He placed his hand on the door that the ghost -- there was no other
He nodded to himself and turned the door handle. He stepped into the
He glanced at his mysterious companion. The figure nodded slowly,
Mulder sat back on his haunches, deep in thought. As he so often
"Fun, Fun, Fun" -- Mulder realised that they hadn't BEEN listening to the
So perhaps it was a hold-up. Shots fired, the car damaged...the robbers
A hostage taken, and then no longer needed. "They killed you, didn't
The figure made no explanation, showed no emotion. It reached its
"Dammit," he whispered. "Dammit, what else do you want?"
"Mulder! Where are you?"
Scully's voice roused him from his thoughts. He stood awkwardly,
There was a pause from below. When Scully replied, her voice was
After she had called Mulder from the kitchen, Scully had dumped the
As she crossed the threshold to the living room, a strong, male hand
"Lose the gun," a voice whispered.
Scully let her fingers loosen, and her pistol fell to the floor with
"Now," the voice continued, "who might Mulder be?"
Scully swallowed. Since they knew about Mulder already, trying to
There was a rustle of movement to her left. Another voice whispered
Scully's captor snarled. "No. We came this far. What's two
"Scully? I'm up here, and I think that there's something you should
"Call him," her captor whispered.
There was a click as her captor cocked his gun. "Call him now,
Scully's mind began to race...was there a way to alert Mulder without
Mulder heard Scully's call and was about to attempt the stairs when he
Suddenly the conversation echoed back through his mind:
*"What's your middle name?"*
*"Why do you want to know?"*
*"So that you'll know when you're in trouble."*
Something was wrong. Very, very wrong.
And Scully wasn't telling him what it was. So that meant that someone
'If only I had my gun,' Mulder thought, his mind racing to remember where
Scully hoped that Mulder had understood her cryptic call for help. Not
"We were in an accident," Scully said quietly to her captors, holding up her
The man holding the gun to Scully's head laughed. "Yeah, right!"
Scully began to whisper. "I'm telling you the truth. If you don't
"Scully?" Mulder's voice drifted down the stairs. "Where are
The captor had pulled Scully back out of the doorway, and Mulder had brushed
Scully felt the gun press into her head as the guy whispered quietly, "Don't
"Fox," Scully said steadily, "I'm over by the fireplace."
As Mulder slowly made his way across the room, away from the sound of her
Scully sighed with relief, though not obviously enough for her captors to
"Yes," Scully said steadily, "the dogs are gone."
Mulder nodded in understanding as he reached the fireplace and the easy chair
Scully took a deep breath and then acted quickly. In one swift
Mulder strained his useless eyes toward where he'd heard her scream, and
Mulder then heard someone clambering down the stairs, and so he hollered, in
The man complied with Mulder's order, and the gun thunked down to the bottom
"Now place your hands on your head and slowly come into the living room."
When there was no response, Mulder repeated, "Come down here slowly with your
After a moment he ran to the stairs and, finding no one there, raced up them.
As he turned from the window towards the wardrobe, Mulder thought he saw the
"Dana?" he asked, tenderly placing his hand on her shoulder. After a moment she stirred, and Mulder breathed a sigh of relief.
"You bastard!" The man Mulder had shot was sat with his back to the wall, hands clenched at his side. "You shot me, you bastard," he moaned, his voice filled with almost childlike pain and wonderment.
Mulder moved to his side and knelt beside him, quickly going through his pockets to check for any other weapons. He pulled out a wallet and a mobile phone. "Robbery business good this year?" he asked acidly. "If my partner wasn't okay, I'd have done a lot worse than shoot you, so shut up and count yourself lucky." He pocketed the phone and kicked the man's pistol across the floor.
Scully stirred again, and Mulder returned to her side. "Threatening a witness, Agent Mulder?" she said as he gently turned her over. "I heard that."
Mulder smiled. Her face was pale and drawn, and there were tight lines around her mouth from the effort of controlling the pain, but she appeared not to be in any danger. "Ask me how many fingers," he said.
Scully smiled a little. "Your sight's come back?"
"It would appear that my blindness has served its purpose. And right now, my dear, I think you're the most beautiful thing I've ever seen."
"Why Agent Mulder, I never knew you found injured women so appealing." Scully nodded in the direction of her assailant. "Is he going to live?"
"He needs medical attention but he'll be fine. His buddy ran off into the woods." Mulder produced the phone with a flourish. "Looks like we have a way out of here."
Scully closed her eyes. "About damn time," she murmured. "Mulder?"
He leaned close. "What?"
"Mulder, if the ambulance has a tape deck, can I choose the music?"
Her partner smiled and gently hugged her. "As long as it's not the Beach Boys," he whispered into her hair.
Coda: Washington DC, FBI building
Mulder sat in the organised chaos of his office, his feet on the desk. In front of him was a case file. After he and Scully had been picked up, the case had been closed by two other agents. They had done a fine job, but there were several omissions: Mulder's blindness, the speed at which Scully's ribs had healed. There had been an unspoken agreement between himself and his partner that they would discuss these things "later".
The file mostly re-iterated what Mulder knew or had guessed already: there had been a bank robbery in New Hope, a town some miles from the cabin. There had been a violent confrontation with the police, during which the robbers had taken a hostage. Fleeing the scene, the car had been damaged.
Statements given by the two (the other had been picked up on the road)
confirmed that the hostage had tried to escape but had been cornered in the
bathroom and shot. The body had been buried -- minus hands and teeth
-- in the woods in a shallow grave linedd
Their hostage taken care of, the robbers went in search of another car, or at least a spare tire, and were caught in another nearby town by the weather. They had hidden in the garage of an unoccupied summer home until the snow melted.
Mulder sighed. A routine case, but the possibilities! Why had he been able to see the ghost only when blinded? And why was his
blindness only temporary -- upon being checked by a doctor afterwards, there
was no evidence of any sort of head trauma that
Mulder sighed again. Outwardly, he appeared calm, but inside he was
more than a little nervous. Scully had finally been pronounced fit to
return to active duty, and today would be her first day back. He
didn't know why this should make him so tense. Perhaps it was because,
despite the warmth they had shared in the cabin, his partner had seemed a
little distant at the hospital; her eyes had at times seemed far away, as if
she were seeing something that he couldn't. Often, she seemed deep
in thought. Mulder had begun to feel afraid that they had broken
some unwritten rule by baring their souls to one another, and
He glanced at the clock: 8:05. She was a little late, but maybe it was the traffic...
Her voice startled him and he jumped, sending the file skidding to the floor. Scully bent down, picked it up, and leafed through it briefly. Damn, she could be so hard to read! Mulder held his silence, while inside the tension grew...would she tell him that they had become too close, that sharing their innermost secrets had exposed too much? Surely not...but then...His thoughts chased around in circles.
Scully closed the file and tossed it onto the desk. She cocked her head and smiled, and it was full of such warmth that the growing anxiety that Mulder had felt thawed in a moment. He returned the smile.
"Have you eaten breakfast yet?" she asked.
Mulder shook his head. Scully took his coat from its hook on the back of the door and passed it to him. Mulder slipped it on, temporarily nonplused. Scully linked her arm with his and led him from the office.
"Breakfast is on me," she said. "I'd like to hear what you saw in the cabin. And then I'm going to tell you about the strange dreams I had there."