Title: Wonders of Nature
Author: MeGgiE42
Disclaimer: Mulder, Scully, and anyone else related to The X-files aren't mine. If they were do you think it really would have ended the way it did? ;)
Rating: PG-13(ish)
Classification: MSR,H,Adventure
Spoilers: I don't think there are any. It actually takes place after my other fic "Hopelessly Romantic" but you don't really have to read that one to understand what's going on (this fic is completely seperate, just takes place in the same universe, so to say)

Summary: Another trip to the woods is leads to a very unnexpected adventure...

The pain in his head was excruciating. Why was it so dark in here? Somewhere far off Mulder could hear the faint sound of a giant bowl of Rice Krispeys snap, crackling, and popping their way around his foggy disconnected consciousness... ~that's funny~ Mulder thought to himself ~I don't remember pouring myself breakfast~ "Mulder!" Scully raced to his side, replacing her weapon in its holster. "Mulder," Scully reached him where he lay on his side, blood slowly oozing its way down the length of his arm, complements of the newly formed wound. Carefully, Scully lifted Mulder just enough to rest his head in her lap, quickly ripping off a section of fabric from her shirt to help stay the bleeding. After attending to his arm, Scully quickly performed a cursory exam. Aside from the nasty wound to his left arm, and a few scratches here and there, Mulder seemed to be ok.

He thought he could hear Scully's voice but it sounded far away and deeply concerned. Wanting to comfort her Mulder thought to offer her his bowl of Rice Krispeys, then decided against it when he found he was having a hard time speaking. His lips seemed to be moving, but all that was coming out was a jumble of mixed up words and sounds. Gibberish to anyone outside his line of thought.

"Mulder," Scully let out a relieved sigh, "Shhh, don't try and speak, I think you're going into shock." With some effort, Scully managed to pull him into the cave they had come accustomed to calling "home" for the past few days.

After that 7-ft. Grizzly decided to attack him, Mulder had lost all belief he previously held that what they'd been called out to investigate was anything even close to Bigfoot. After a week of trekking through the mud and rain of the mountains with little to go on, Mulder was starting to think Scully was right-that this was just another dead end. When they'd finally gotten a lead, it turned out that the "Bigfoot" terrorizing the locals was just an angry mother bear who had gotten fed up with the curious tourists. Unfortunately Mulder and Scully had found this out the hard way.

Having come to learn a long time ago that when traveling with Mulder, a first aid kit was an unquestioned necessity, Scully pulled the shredded remains of her mud-covered backpack towards her as she reached for the small pack of supplies.

Mulder drifted in and out of consciousness. He could slightly feel someone working near him. Suddenly he was overcome with a fresh coolness as the makeshift bandage on his arm was removed. Scully washed the wound as best she could and applied the antibacterial cream before replacing her makeshift bandage with the roll of gauze from the first aid kit.

Mulder groaned, finally regaining full consciousness. The pain in his arm was beginning to fade into a dull throbbing. Opening his eyes, he was greeted by a warm smile.

"Where am I?" Mulder managed to croak.

"The Cascades." Was Scully's simple reply as she continued nursing his various cuts and scrapes.

"What are we doing in the mountains?" Mulder was confused from his groggy state, and the throbbing in his arm was acting up again.

"Does Bigfoot ring a bell?" Scully sat back giving him *the* look.

Suddenly it all came back to Mulder-their "lead", running through the forest...the giant angry grizzly...being attacked and knocked unconscious...Scully's soothing touch. What would he do without her? Mulder gave her a crooked grin.

"You must admit it though Scully," He struggled to get up. With Scully's help, Mulder managed to get to a sitting position, "It was a legitimate lead."

Scully gave him a skeptical look. Somehow she managed to make him feel bad even without saying a word.

~How does she do that?~ Mulder wondered to himself as he gave her his best puppy-dog eyes.

"I wouldn't say a few people reporting overturned garbage cans and noise at night would necessarily constitute us flying cross country to check it out." Scully tried to sound frustrated, but instead found herself unable to stop the smile from forming at the corners of her mouth.

"What about the footprints? The reports of a strange large animal terrorizing the neighborhoods?" Mulder grinned.

Scully shook her head, a grin on her face, "Well whatever the reason Mulder, we're through here and now we can finally go home." She stood up, attempting to shake off the layers of mud and brush she had accumulated over the past week. "I can't wait to take a bath and sleep in my own bed."

"*Our* own bed." Mulder grinned, pulling her down with his good arm to sit next to him. He placed a quick kiss on her hand, wrapping his arm around her waist and pulling her nearer.

"OUR own bed." Scully smiled as she corrected herself. Placing her head on his chest she closed her eyes. They had only been married a few months-hadn't even gotten to go on their honeymoon yet-and she was still getting used to the fact that she was technically 'Mrs. Mulder'. The thought made her laugh. It could be two months or 50 years, they'd always be "Mulder" and "Scully".

Scully snuggled closer to Mulder, careful not to disturb his arm. Outside a light rain began to fall.

They sat in comfortable silence, listening to the rhythmic drumming of the pat-pat-pat of rain just outside the small entrance to the cave.

"I'd say we should start a fire, but we both know how the last one went." Scully mumbled trying to fight back the heavy need for sleep.

Yawning, Mulder grinned, "But at least this time we didn't make the same mistake." He eyed the sleeping bag in the corner of the dusty cave. Lifting an eyebrow mischievously, Mulder laughed, pulling Scully closer.

She shook her head, letting out a small chuckle, "Of all the things we actually salvaged from that 7-ft attack of "Bigfoot" we couldn't have grabbed something a little more useful?"

"You don't think a sleeping bag is useful?" This time his tone was of humorous skepticism.

"Considering that we lost both our cell phone and the flashlights yes." Although frustrated, Scully couldn't help but share in the irony of the situation.

"Hey at least we still have the first aid kit." Mulder finished speaking just in time. A bright flash of lightning lit up the room, followed seconds later by a clap of thundered that rattled the small interior of their temporary place of residence. The slow rumble ricocheted off the cold stone walls, making the room seem more ominous than before.

Flinching slightly as the room was lit a second time, Scully retrieved the sleeping bag from the corner. Unzipping and wrapping it around herself, Scully sat back down next to Mulder. With his good arm, Mulder was able to wrap the blanket around his shoulder Scully snuggled closer, arranging herself into a comfortable position with her head on his chest. With the warmth and comfort of Mulder beside her, Scully was eventually lulled to sleep by the rhythmic beating of his heart beneath her.

The storm outside prevented Mulder from falling into a deep sleep. After many minutes of unsuccessful trying, Mulder gave up. His gaze scanned the dark interior of the cave, stopping a few moments on the entrance, and eventually coming to a rest on his sleeping wife in his arms.

Even in the pitch darkness Mulder knew that Scully was sleeping soundly, having that content, tranquil look she always had when asleep in his arms. He was glad that he could offer Scully a sense of protection that she so desperately needed, especially after all that they'd been through in the past year.

Scully stirred in her sleep, seeming to sense Mulder's gaze. Unconsciously she snuggled closer, causing a few stray strands of auburn hair to fall across her face- ultimately obstructing Mulder's view. Carefully, so as not to wake her, Mulder brushed the silken barrier behind Scully's ear, once more gaining a clear view of his sleeping partner. Pulling the edge of the sleeping bag closer, Mulder had a strange sense of deja vu. Resting his chin on the top of Scully's head, Mulder closed his eyes, trying once again-and unsuccessful at that-to get to sleep.

Almost as if she knew of his irritation of impending insomnia, Scully placed her hand in his, wrapping it in her fist and pulling it close to her heart.

At first somewhat startled to find Scully was awake, Mulder smiled, placing a soft kiss on the top of her head.

"Go to sleep Mulder." Her voice was soothing yet held a concerned command, "You'll need all the rest you can get for the long trek out of here tomorrow."

"I was asleep." Mulder lied, "Unfortunately for me you seem to act as a source of distraction." He grinned wickedly.

"Liar." Scully smiled, pressing his hand to her lips. While she was referring to the fact that he had most certainly not been asleep, she couldn't help but feel a slight twinge of flattery at his humorous excuse as to *why*.

She knew of Mulder's insomnia as much as anyone. After his abduction the nightmares had worn well into the night. They'd gotten better over time and were now distant memories of the past. Still, Mulder sometimes had a tough time falling asleep for, as the saying goes, old habits die hard. Lucky for him he had Scully. She always knew just how to comfort him, helping him ride out the worst of the nightmares and eventually making them disappear altogether. As far as she was concerned, it was the least she could do for him. She remembered all to well the months following her own abduction. In those awful times Mulder had been a constant comfort, always there when she needed him. Now it was her turn.

"Scully, I've told you before, I don't *lie*," Mulder's eyes took on the playful look of his, "I willfully participate in a campaign of misinformation."

"Ah," Scully rolled her eyes, "well, poetic illusions aside, Mulder, I still think you need to get some sleep. Without our cell phones it'll take at least a day to reach the radio at the ranger station. If we're lucky we should be out of here within 24 hours."

"Yes, *mom*" Mulder agreed to try and get some sleep.

Scully gave him The Look, but ultimately found herself being overrun as Mulder stopped any retaliation from escaping her lips with his own.

"'Night Scully." His voice was low and filled with sleep.

"Good night Mulder." Tucking herself back into the perfect fit under his chin, Scully closed her eyes. Within minutes she could hear the slow rhythmic breathing underneath her and knew Mulder had fallen asleep. Silently, Scully congratulated herself on a job well-done. Pulling the blanket closer, she closed her eyes and fell asleep.

Outside the rain continued.

The next morning, Scully awoke to find herself Mulderless. A brief moment of panic passed before she found him a few feet away, rummaging through what little was left of their food supply.

"So what'll it be Scully?" Mulder held up a candy bar and half a bag of Chex mix, "A healthy meal of synthetic preservatives," he held up the Chex Mix, "or a nice dose of glucose-filled energy?" Holding up the candy bar, Mulder grinned.

"I have a choice?" Scully yawned, "How nice of you to offer me both. I was sure you'd have that candy bar eaten before we even got off the plane." Moving to a standing position Scully took the bag of Chex mix from Mulder's hand, eyeing it wearily.

"I did." Mulder stated matter-of-factly, "well, not this one in particular," he pulled the wrapper off the candy bar and took a generous bite. "You didn't really think I'd travel cross country with one candy bar did you?"

Scully watched as Mulder fished in his pocket for a good two minutes. Finally he seemed to find what he was looking for, "Ah-ha!" Opening his fist, Mulder revealed a much crumpled bag of sunflower seeds, "Don't leave home without 'em!"

Rolling her eyes, Scully sat down next to him, opening the bag of Chex Mix. Mulder quickly finished off the candy bar and popped a few seeds in his mouth. They sat in silence for a few moments listening to the storm outside continue.

"Doesn't look like we'll be getting home any time soon." Mulder motioned towards the doorway, "Hasn't let up all night."

"Just like old times huh?" Scully sighed, remembering their many cases in which half the time was spent trying to stay dry.

"Welcome to Washington." Mulder grinned, maneuvering his jaw around the last of the sunflower seeds. Realizing this, he eyed his empty hand with a forlorn look.

Reaching for her tattered backpack, Scully rummaged through what little was left of its contents. Pulling out the first aid kit, she took her time tending to Mulder's various cuts and bruises-making sure she hadn't missed something the first time around.

Taking the bandage off Mulder's arm, Scully congratulated herself on last night's success. She'd done a good job considering that she'd had to do it in the dark. Once Mulder had a clean bandage and Scully was satisfied that he would live, she moved on to the half-of-a-soggy-map that she'd discovered at the bottom of the pack.

"At least we'll find our half our way." Scully eyed the torn map with an emotionless stare.

"Maybe we'll run into the bear during the other half of the trip and he can show us the way," Mulder grinned adding, "Seeing as how he has the other side of the map."

Scully sighed inwardly. How was it that he could be in such a great mood when they were-once again-lost in the middle of nowhere? Even after nine years together, Mulder continued to amaze her.

Mulder and Scully sat staring blankly at the storm outside for nearly 15 minutes before Mulder, becoming restless, began exploring the inner hiding places of the small cave. Picking his way through various nooks and crannies, Mulder found himself enthralled. He never knew there could be so many different types of rocks and rock formations in a sing cave.

Scully sat with her back against a cool section of wall watching Mulder as he curiously delved deeper in hopes of discovering the numinous mysteries he was sure the cave had to hold.

"Hey Scully," He motioned for her to come closer, "take a look at this."

~Here we go~ Scully thought, only slightly curious of what Mulder's new find might be.

Finding her way to Mulder's side, Scully focused on his point of interest. Half expecting to see some rock shaped like Elvis or a certain formation of rocks that somehow miraculously proved he was still alive; Scully was surprised to see that Mulder had actually found something much more useful.

"A flashlight?" Scully's tone voiced her astonishment.

"And not one of ours." Mulder held it up for her to examine. Indeed it was not your typical FBI flashlight. This one came fully equipped with a compass and AM/FM radio.

"Knicks game-5:00," Mulder grinned shaking the flashlight, "Be there, or be square."

"Don't I feel lucky." Scully took the flashlight from him and turned the knob for the radio. Static...static... some teenage pop music station...static... Sighing, Scully turned it off, "Sorry Mulder, looks like you'll have to "be square" for tonight." Handing the flashlight back to him, Scully pondered aloud, "I wonder who left it here..." She trailed off, certain that it had not been there the day before. This could only mean one thing-someone else had been there.

A slow rumble of thunder engulfed the cave, shaking the walls and sending a shiver up Scully's spine. She didn't like knowing that someone else had been there...knowing that they could come back at any time. On one hand she was almost hopeful that whoever it was would come back and they could finally get home, yet on the other hand, her cautious side-the side built up considerably by the past 9 years of working on the X-files-was telling her not to be so sure that their visitor's intentions were good...

2 hours later...

Scully sat eyeing Mulder with an incredulous look, I can't believe you know all the words to this song."

After half an hour of trying to figure out where they were and how they were going to get home (and finding the map no help) boredom had taken over and they'd resulted to listening to the one and only station their new flashlight/radio picked up.

"I can't believe you don't." Was Mulder's answer as he continued to sing to Avril Lavigne's "Complicated", "It's on every radio station every five minutes Scully." Mulder grinned, looking at her and singing along, "Why you gotta go and make things so complicated?"

Rolling her eyes, Scully turned back to the crippled map in hand. As the song ended, she sighed, throwing it back into the backpack; closing her eyes and laying her head back to rest on the cave wall.

Mulder cleared his throat, preparing his vocal chords for his next performance. Suddenly he broke into a lopsided grin as the first few chords of Cher's "Walking in Memphis" filled the cave's interior.

Opening her eyes just in time, Scully was surprised to feel herself being pulled to her feet.

"Now I know you know this one." Mulder grinned playfully, pulling her into his arms and placing a soft kiss on her lips.

Pleasantly surprised, Scully smiled, "Yes Mulder, I admit, I'm not completely withdrawn from the world of pop culture."

Mulder laughed, pulling her closer. Scully was glad to see that his arm seemed to be doing very well-in fact in seemed practically back to normal.

As the song finished, Scully turned to Mulder, indicating his arm," You know that it will be thoroughly complaining tomorrow."

"Hey, sometimes a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do." Mulder grinned again, cupping her face in his hand and lightly brushing his lips against hers.

Still trying to get used to this playful, hopelessly romantic side to Mulder, Scully grinned, allowing herself a few moments to join in his exuberance, deepening the kiss, and for once forgetting that they were lost in the middle of nowhere.

"Scully?" His voice was soft and full of emotion, pausing only a second before pulling her into another line of sweet kisses.

"Yes?" She grinned, locking gazes with him.

"It stopped raining."

Pausing to listen, Scully let out a small laugh, "Looks like our luck is changing."

Mulder glanced outside then back at Scully, "I guess that's one way of putting it." Reluctantly he broke their embrace and began packing up what little they had, making sure that the flashlight was in a safe place.

"Come on Mulder," Scully grabbed the sleeping bag and first aid kit, "let's go home."

They were lost. Completely. In the middle of the Cascade Mountains.

Scully glared at the useless map in front of her. Turning to Mulder she sighed, "Where's that photographic memory of yours when we need it?

"Unfortunately it was dark when we first got here." Mulder paused before adding, "Plus we were also in a truck for half the way and led by a guide for the rest." Feeling his happy mood from that morning beginning to diminish, Mulder glanced around, trying to find something-anything-that looked even vaguely familiar. Suddenly he spotted something that sparked some interest.

"Scully do you remember that tree over there?" Mulder pointed.

"The one that looks like half the other trees in the greater Washington area?" She gave him a skeptical look, "No."

Mulder grinned, walking closer to the tree, "I distinctly remember this tree." He stopped, pointing to a spot where the bark had been disturbed, "Or at least how it felt when I was so graciously rammed into it...complements of "Bigfoot"."

Feeling a half smile beginning to form, Scully gave him a look that clearly stated, "only-you-could-find- the-tree-that-you'd-been-flung-into-in-the-middle-of- the-forest".

"It's an acquired trait that I've gotten very good at in the past nine years." Mulder stated matter-of-factly before turning and heading further into the woods.

They'd been walking for nearly 2 hours before suddenly Mulder was attacked by an onslaught of acorns. Taken by surprise, Mulder turned to face the source of attack only to be hit square in the face by another one. Losing his balance, Mulder let out a grunt-finding himself sprawled face-down on the forest floor.

Equally alarmed, Scully rushed to his side, concerned, yet trying to hold back her laughter, "Mulder are you ok?"

She heard him mumble something about squirrels before struggling to get back to his feet. Covered in dirt and various plant-life, Mulder scowled, brushing himself off and cursing the "super squirrels" for their strength.

Seeing the look on his face, Scully was finding it very hard to hold back the giggles. Finally she gave up, letting the laughter get the better of her.

Mulder feigned a hurt look, "Yes *doctor* Scully," he continued to brush himself off as she tried to control her amusement, "I'm fine."

"I'm sorry Mulder," she had to bite the insides of her cheek to keep the threatening giggles from escaping, "It's just that-" she stopped as another acorn came hurtling towards them. Mulder ducked out of the way just in time. "The animals around here don't seem to like you too much." She finished her sentence with some difficulty.

"Just like home huh?" Mulder spoke, adding, "I wonder who they're working for."

Suddenly Scully was caught off guard as one last acorn bomb hit her in the back of the head. Turning slightly in hopes of catching sight of one of these freakishly strong squirrels, her foot caught on the same tree root that Mulder had previously tripped over.

This time it was Mulder's turn to laugh as he sprang forward-catching Scully just before she hit the ground.

"Apparently they know who we are." Mulder grinned, pulling Scully to a standing position.

She laughed, lingering for a few moments in his embrace before pulling back and brushing the remaining dirt from his hair.

"It's a tough world when even the animals are out to get you." Letting out a mock sigh of despair, Mulder took Scully's arm and began leading her into the woods- making sure to keep an eye out for any ensuing bombardments from the conspiracy of fast-pitching super squirrels.


Two men dressed in black swiftly made their way back to the cave. They mad no sound, easily blending into the ensuing darkness. Once inside, the taller man mad his way to the location where they'd last made camp. Suddenly he stopped. Things were different, someone had been there. Turning to his partner, the stern-faced man nodded slightly, pointing to the post of the missing flashlight.

The smaller man acknowledged his superior with an angry-eyed nod of the head.

There was no need for speech. Now was a crucial time. Risk to the project was not an option. It was thoroughly understood what needed to be done...

"Hey Scully?" Mulder wandered around chewing absent- mindedly on the last of the Chex Mix.

"Yes?" Scully looked up from where she was sitting, still trying to make some sense of the map in hand.

"How about a cruise?" He turned to face her.

"I'm sorry?" She was confused, "Mulder what are you talking about?"

"I mean for our honeymoon." He stopped wandering and came to sit next to her, "You know, get away from it all?"

"Mulder, you get seasick on ferry rides, and now you're telling me that you want to go on a cruise?" Scully gave him a skeptical look.

"I think I could handle a cruise," Mulder grinned, "It's not like we're being basked around in a tiny rowboat, or aging 40 years, or being hunted by Big Blue, or-"

"I think I get the point Mulder." Scully interrupted.

"It's just that I think a ship is big enough that I could convince my sea legs that we were 'safe'." He laughed adding, "Plus I know it's been something you've always wanted to do, and I'm willing to sacrifice myself for your pleasure."

Scully laughed, touched, "I don't know Mulder, the way we are with boats, ships, or anything else that floats, we might not be wise to willingly step foot on another one again." In the back of her mind Scully pondered the idea of a cruise. Then, thinking of the many incidents in which they had found trouble on ships, quickly pushed the thought out of her mind. "But thanks for the sentiment." Smiling she placed her hand on his.

Although Mulder found it somewhat odd to be discussing honeymoon plans with Scully (for never in his wildest dreams had he let himself believe that some day it would actually happen, that it would be real), he found himself caught up in trying to make up for all the pain they'd suffered through in the past nine years, in particular the most recent few. He was determined to do whatever it took to keep her safe and happy.

Dusk was beginning to fall as the sun slowly crept its way beneath the horizon.

"Well Mulder," Scully placed the map back into her backpack, standing up and moving to sit beside him, "Doesn't look like we'll be getting out of here any time soon. We might as well set up camp."

Mulder pulled out the sleeping bag, unzipped it, and folded it around his shoulders, pulling Scully towards him, "All done." He grinned.

"A true mountain man." Scully couldn't help but smile as she rested her head on his chest, reclaiming the position she had come to know so well. She felt so safe in his arms...so loved.

"This is another thing I've always wanted to do Mulder." Scully glanced upward, meeting his gaze.

"Get lost in the middle of nowhere without a map, cell phone, gun, or food?" Mulder spoke teasingly.

"No, to watch the sun set out in the middle of nowhere."

"Well then, I'm glad I could help." Mulder watched as the yellow-orange disk made its downward trek, illuminating the forest, making it glow. Everything seemed so peaceful, so...right.

Mulder turned his attention back to Scully, meting her gaze-one that clearly stated exactly what she felt. He paused briefly, allowing himself a few seconds to take in her expression before gently meeting his lips with hers.

"I love you Scully." His tone was soft and utterly sincere.

Scully paused only long enough to take in the most beautiful words that had ever crossed her ears. No matter how many times he said it, it would always make her smile.

"I love you too Mulder." She spoke from the heart, unable to express how lucky she felt to have him at her side.

~More than you'll ever know~ The thought crossed both their minds simultaneously.

Mulder brushed his finger along the length of her cheek, grinning from ear to ear, "I don't know if I'll ever get used to hearing you say that."

Scully laughed, thinking the same thing, "It'll take some time. But we have the rest of our lives to work it out."

Considering the situation, neither of them could have been any happier than they were now. Within moments the daylight faded and stars slowly began dotting the clear night sky.

It was a surprisingly warm night and within minutes Mulder had decided the sleeping bag would serve better as a mattress than a blanket. Spreading it flat on the ground, Mulder repositioned himself, pulling Scully along as well.

Scully snuggled closer, laying her head on his chest. Together they silently studied the constellations above.

Mulder couldn't believe how lucky he was. Here they were stranded in the middle of nowhere and yet, with Scully in his arms, he couldn't have imagined wanting to be anywhere else. He was perfectly content just *existing* in this moment.

Scully shifted in his arms and, as if reading his mind, smiled, lacing her fingers with his and remembering the last time they'd been lost in the woods. Suddenly it struck her as slightly ironic that Mulder had injured his arm during that not-so- nice-trip-to-the-forest too. Then, reminded of his injury, Scully sat up, turning her attention to his arm

"It's fine Scully really." Mulder met her gaze and the corner of his mouth curled upward, "But you can kiss it to make it better if you really want to."

Scully rolled her eyes before leaning down and giving his arm a peck, "All better now?"

"My arm feels fine, but I think I've obtained a permanent headache." Mulder finally admitted what he had been trying to hide all day.

Gingerly, Scully turned her attention to his head, working his temples, massaging in small circles.

"A little trick I learned during my med school days," Scully said, "Works miracles at three in the morning when you've been up to studying for so long that Tylenol might as well be sugar pills." Working her fingers in slow, soothing motions, Scully continued her work.

Mulder was in Heaven. The soft rhythmic circles quickly dissipated the throbbing in his head. Suddenly he felt Scully's gentle touch leave his temples. Opening his mouth to protest, Mulder was quickly silenced by the warm softness of her lips meeting his.

"Feel better Mulder?" Pulling back, Scully smiled.

"Much." It was true. All thoughts of his headache quickly disappeared.

"Good," Scully resumed her position, lying down next to him.

Mulder was suddenly consumed with overpowering love for the women in his arms-his best friend, partner, other half and (after nine long years), wife. Wrapping her in his arms, Mulder gently lifted Scully's face to meet his.

"Have I told you," *kiss* "how lucky I am" *kiss kiss* "To have you here with me after all these years?" Mulder spoke sincerely, brushing another kiss along her knuckles.

Scully's was overcome by the warmth of all-consuming love, "You don't have to Mulder." She spoke softly, remembering all too well the months following his abduction, knowing how lucky she was to be sitting here with him. Giving his hand a squeeze, she added, "I feel pretty lucky myself."

Taking his face in her hands, Scully brushed her fingers gently across Mulder's lips, caressing his face before kissing him, showing him exactly how she felt.

Even though he knew it was unnecessary, Mulder felt the need to show Scully just exactly how much she meant to him. Deepening the kiss, Mulder wrapped Scully even closer before pulling back slightly and grinning.

Scully met Mulder's gaze, saw that playful determined look in his eyes, and knew that it was going to be one long night...

Moving under the cover of darkness, two men slowly crept their way through the thick forest. At one point the tall one stopped, stooped down, and examined a set of footprints. No-two sets of prints, one male, one obviously female. Nodding a look of confirmation towards his partner, they continued on. Now it was only a matter of time...

Mulder was awakened briefly by something very early in the morning. Arms wrapped protectively around Scully's waist, he glanced down at her, seeing that she was still asleep. Assuming that it was probably just his imagination-or some small animal (Super-Squirrels came to mind), making their nightly rounds, Mulder drifted back to sleep.

Slowly and cautiously he made his way towards the small clearing, stopping abruptly as they came into view.

The men in black crouched silently near the cover of trees, observing the two forms that lay quietly sleeping only a few yards away. The woman was small, and even in the poor lighting of dawn, the color of her hair was apparent.

The tall man, obviously in charge, turned his attention to the man beside her. He was much taller, about six feet he guessed. It was obvious from the way he slept-arms wrapped protectively around the woman's waist, that they would have to be cautions in their approach. He wanted as little trouble as possible, however if push came to shove, they would do whatever it took to get what they needed.

"Let's just grab it and go." The smaller man broke the silence, eyeing the couple asleep in front of them.

"No," his superior's voice was gruff and commanding, "Not yet. We wait for night fall." He glanced up at the sky. Early morning sunlight was beginning to creep its way over the horizon. "We don't know how much they know yet."

With that they slinked back into the woods, waiting for the right time to strike.

Sunlight dappled the forest floor, eventually making its way to the sleeping couple. Feeling the warmth on her face, Scully opened her eyes, blinking at the sudden brightness.

"Mornin' sunshine." Mulder grinned, opening his own eyes to meet her gaze.

Scully smiled in answer, and struggled to a sitting position. Yawning she focused her attention on Mulder. Sporting a good case of bed head, and a lopsided grin, he lay with his arm still wrapped around her waist. Scully had to admit that this was a particular view she thoroughly enjoyed.

"We should get going." Mulder spoke with a twinkle in his eye. Scully still couldn't get over how he could be in such a good mood at such an early hour- especially considering that they were still stranded in the middle of nowhere.

Standing, Scully stretched, hearing various joints crack back into place, "Oh the joys of sleeping out under the stars."

Mulder was at her side in one long stride, "I'll make it up to you Scully." He grinned, kissing her briefly before turning to grab the sleeping bag and tattered backpack.

Scully just shook her head, and smiled, "What would I do without you Mulder?"

Mulder laughed, slinging the backpack onto his back with his good arm, "Well you wouldn't be stuck in this mess that's for sure."

Scully gave him *the look* and his mouth curved upward as he turned and began the long days trek.

"Mulder wait" Scully bent down to retrieve the flashlight that had fallen out of the bag sometime earlier.

He turned around to face her.

Picking up the flashlight, Scully paused, noticing that the bottom was loose. As she tried turning it back into place, something fell into her hand. Expecting to see a battery, Scully was surprised to find something else entirely.

Mulder watched as her expression changed. "Scully what is it?"

Scully looked at the object wrapped in a small piece of paper that lay in her palm. Unwrapping it, she found a key.

Mulder met her gaze with a look the mixture of curiousness and dread. She held up the key for him to see. Mulder took it and examined the small object in his hand. It didn't look like anything special, a normal key if he'd ever seen one.

"What do you think Scully?" Mulder dangled the key from his index finger and thumb, "Mr. Bear mocking us, proving that he reached the hotel before we did?" He grinned, then his expression changed to seriousness as he focused on the piece of paper.

Scully waited, watching Mulder read the words written on the paper that had, moments before, encased the key.

"Although I could be wrong," He held up the paper for her to see. Scribbled in black ink were the letters: "nbt n(y) mw". Underneath a series of pictographs were followed by the time 1:26 a.m.

They continued to stare at the mysterious writing for a few moments before meeting each other's gaze.

"What do you think it means?" Scully was suddenly overcome with the feeling that someone was watching. Waiting.

"It looks like Egyptian hieroglyphics," Mulder turned the key in his hand, "I don't know about you Scully, but my ancient Egyptian is a little rusty."

Little did either of them know that they were being watched.

Just out of sight, the men in black huddled under the cover of the thick brush.

"Sir?" The small man with beady eyes shifted nervously as he heard his superior curse under his breath.

"We should have moved earlier," he growled, quiet enough not to be heard by the couple a few yards away, "They know too much now."

"But sir, all they did was find the key. They have no reason to believe that it-" He was quickly cut off by a sharp look from "sir" as Mulder and Scully suddenly turned towards them as if they'd heard the two men talking.

The two men froze.

"Did you hear something?" Scully could have sworn she'd heard voices.

"Probably the Super-Squirrels back for their morning bombardment," As he spoke Mulder surveyed the surrounding area, giving Scully a look that meant he thought otherwise. He'd heard it too, had felt like they were being watched for a while now, "Come on Scully," he took her arm, whispering, "They're watching" even though he had no idea who "they" where, "Let's go."

They'd been walking for nearly two hours and had yet to come across any sign that they were being followed, leading Scully to think that maybe it had just been her imagination. Her stomach growled and for the first time Scully realized how hungry she was.

"My feelings exactly," Mulder spoke, having heard Scully's stomach's cry for food.

"Too bad there wasn't a river around here," Scully scanned the dense woods, "At least then we could have a chance at fishing."

"You fish Scully?" Mulder seemed amused at the thought of Scully and a fishing pole.

"Don't look so surprised Mulder," she laughed, "I did grow up with two brothers and a father in the Navy."

"Ah yes, Moby Dick," Mulder said, recalling her favorite book.

Scully grinned, "Well Mulder, if we're lucky enough to come across a good fishing spot, I'll be sure to try and dazzle you with my 'amazing fishing abilities'."

Mulder grinned, getting that playful look in his eye again, stating, "I'll be sure and remember that."

After setting up camp, Mulder began wandering around in search of something edible. Scully followed a few feet behind him, scanning the area for berries, nuts, and (just to be safe side), the occasional stalker.

"I never thought I'd have to compete against Super-Squirrels for food." Mulder grumbled, thought for a second, then added, "Although I never thought there were such things as Super-Squirrels either."

"Wow Mulder," Scully's voice held a sarcastic tone, "And here I was thinking that you'd believe in just about anything."

"A man's gotta set his limits somewhere." Mulder spoke in an equally sarcastic tone of voice.

Scully laughed, bending down to examine yet another most likely un-edible plant.

They'd managed to accumulate a fairly sizable load of various "foods" by the time they were headed back.

"Where's the gun when you need it." It was more of a statement than a question. Mulder couldn't believe that they'd both managed to lose their weapons on this trip. He had come somewhat accustomed to it over the past nine years, but Scully almost never lost hers.

~Just our luck~ Mulder thought, dreading to think about the paperwork...

Mulder was just about to voice his thoughts when suddenly a rather large tree branch suddenly broke free and came hurtling their way.

"Scully look out!" Mulder dropped the food he'd been carrying and dove in her direction, pushing her out of the way of the oncoming tree branch. They landed with a thud and rolled several feet before coming to a stop.

Scully, who had been walking in front of Mulder at the time and hadn't seen the dangerous branch, was taken by surprise, "Mulder!" She pushed her hair out of her face, struggling to face him lying on top of her.

Her expression immediately changed when she met his gaze.

"You ok?" Mulder asked with concern. That's when Scully finally noticed the large branch lying mere inches from where she'd just been standing.

Slightly shaken, Scully answered, "Yeah, I think so."

Mulder didn't move, seeming to contemplate her words.

"Mulder?" Scully interrupted his thoughts.

"Hmm?" He focused back on Scully.

"You can get off me now." She smiled as Mulder realized he was still lying on top of her.

A mischievous grin swept his features, "But what if I don't want to?" He spoke in a low voice, seductively brining his face closer to hers.

"As much as I'd like that," Scully spoke in an equally seductive voice before adding, "this root that I'm lying on is telling me otherwise."

For the first time Mulder realized the rough terrain.

"Sorry Scully." Quickly, he stood up, offering his hand to help her off the uncomfortable brush.

"Next time a large tree branch comes hurtling our way, I'll try and produce a less harsh tackle." Mulder grinned as he watched Scully pick the leaves from her hair.

Giving him *the look*, Scully continued to brush herself off. It was only after she'd managed to wipe most of the dirt and brush off that Scully turned her attention to Mulder. Seeing a bright red splotch on his forehead, she was immediately concerned. It wasn't until she stepped closer that she burst out laughing.

"What?" Mulder asked.

She couldn't manage to stop.

"What?" He was beginning to get impatient.

"Smashed...berry...forehead," was all she could manage to get out amidst her fits of laughter.

Slowly Mulder lifted his hand to his forehead, his fingers meeting something sticky. Pulling it off, Mulder found the very smashed remains of three of the few berries they'd deemed 'edible'. His face held a disgusted look as he shook the sticky mess from his fingers. Looking up he met Scully's gaze.

Meeting Mulder's gaze, Scully broke into a new fit of laughter.

"It's all the rage." Mulder deadpanned.

Getting herself under minor control, Scully couldn't stop grinning, "Mulder you still have a little, um..." She trailed off, stepping near him and reaching up on her tiptoes to remove the last of the berry. She was now in such a good mood from her fit of giggles that Scully surprised Mulder by leaning up and licking off the juice that'd managed to find its way to the tip of his nose.

"Mmm," She grinned.

"Maybe I should smash food into my face more often," Mulder grinned, pleasantly surprised by Scully's reaction. With a twinkle in his eye, he pulled her close, sweetly brushing his lips against her.

Mulder met Scully's gaze and saw a twinkle in her eyes.

"What?" He was still smiling.

"Your forehead is still red." Scully laughed pulling back and grabbing the first aid kid. Opening the lid she held it up.

Mulder stared into the mirror-like surface. Scowling, he rubbed at the red on his forehead. It was clear the dye was not going to come off easily.

"Don't worry Mulder," Scully put the first aid kit back into the backpack, "You can just blame it on the Super-Squirrels."

Mulder glanced at the branch that had nearly flattened them, 'I knew they were strong, but I'm doubting that squirrels did this."

Scully's expression changed. Suddenly she felt like they were being watched again. Uncomfortably, she shifted her gaze to the tree where the branch had originally come from. Nothing but the leaves shifting in the slight breeze came into view.

Mulder began gathering up what remained of their "supper" and headed back to the spot where they would camp for the night; all the while keeping close tabs on the surrounding forest. Once again he wished he hadn't lost his gun...

Night was beginning to fall by the time Mulder and Scully had managed to find their way back to "camp".

Scully glanced over her shoulder, trying as best she could to be inconspicuous. For the past hour or so she couldn't help but fell they were being watched.

Once they finished eating, Scully cuddled up close to Mulder. The nights were beginning to get cold, and she shivered.

Mulder wrapped his arms around Scully, resting his chin on the top of her head. Slowly the sounds of night began to settle in. Scully lay with her head on his chest, listening to his heart beat and becoming sleepy by his rhythmic breathing.

"I am gonna make this up to you Scully." Mulder's voice broke the silence as he pulled the sleeping bag around her shoulders. He didn't care how many times he had said it all ready; he wanted to make his point.

"Mulder," Scully's voice was soft, "You make it sound like this is your fault." She shifted to look him in the eye.

"You're saying it's not?" Mulder tilted his head to meet her gaze.

"Did you purposely plan to get attacked by a bear, lost in the woods, and lose your gun?"

"Well no but-"

"Then there you have it." She interrupted him, a smile forming at the corners of her mouth.

Mulder grinned, thinking how lucky he was to have someone as understanding as Scully at this side.

"I wonder if anyone's even figured out we're 'lost'." Scully said changing the subject.

"I'm sure they will come two weeks from now when nobody's filed an expense report compensating for two flashlights, two weapons, and a trip to the Cascades." Mulder quirked a grin.

Scully rolled her eyes, once again laying her head in his hest. Within minutes she was fast asleep.

Mulder lay awake for awhile thinking about the events of the day. His mind focused on the tree branch that had nearly knocked them out.

~I wonder why it fell?~ His mind lingered a few moments on the possibility that they were being followed. Eventually sleep overcame his busied thoughts and Mulder fell asleep, arms still wrapped around his sleeping wife in an innate act of protectiveness.

Under the cover of darkness once again, the men moved swiftly...silently...like wild animals stalking their prey. They reached the sleeping couple soundlessly and began to search for their reason for being there-the flashlight, the one that held the key and the location of the place in which they were to go next.

Carefully two figures-nearly invisible to the surrounding woods-made their way round-a-bout in search of the precious cargo. After five minutes of fruitless searching the first figure stopped abruptly, nearly causing his partner to run into him.

"What?" A voice hissed from behind.

The smaller man pointed.

At first the other man in black could not wee what his partner was pointing at. Then, as a cloud passed over the moon and the sky cleared, he saw what had cause for such alarm.

The bag in which the flashlight had been placed was now serving as a pillow for the two people sleeping on the forest floor in front of them. Wedged nicely between a log and a six foot sleeping man, that flashlight was not going anywhere any time soon.

"What are we gonna do Mac?" The stout man looked at his superior. A glare was thrown his way.

"We'll just have to be careful that's all." An evil sneer formed on the face of the man in charge. He moved slowly towards the couple before turning to the man beside him, "And Eddydy?"


"Don't call me Mac again."

"Sorry sir." Eddydydy mumbled, more than slightly annoyed that his partner had been chosen for head of this particular assignment. They both knew he had just as much experience in cases like this.

They moved quietly, the moon their only source of light. Just as they reached the pack, Scully stirred in her sleep. They froze.

Unconsciously Scully pulled the edge of the sleeping bag closer against the cold night.

The men in black waited.

They watched as Mulder's arms tightened around the small women sleeping in his embrace. Even asleep they seemed to be totally in synch with each other.

Eddydy swallowed, feeling his pulse quicken as Mac made his way to the edge of the log.

Reaching his hand very slowly, inch by inch, into the small opening of the bag, Mac held his breath.

It was impossible to distinguish one object from the next with the touch Mac was able to produce. Feeling around as best he could, he tried to find the flashlight.

In his sleep, Mulder vaguely registered a slight disturbance underneath is head. Shifting unconsciously, he tried to get comfortable.

Eddydy panicked, the guy was about to wake up. They needed to go. Now. He looked nervously at Mac, seeing that he was having difficulty maneuvering his hand without waking Mulder up. Finally, just as Mac's hand found the end of the object he was looking for, Mulder shifted restlessly, grabbing the backpack in his sleep and rearranging it to a more comfortable position.

The two men paused.

"C'mon! Let's just go!" Eddydydy hissed, grabbing his partner's arm.

"Wait!" Mac growled back, he wasn't going to give up that easily, they were so close! Just as he thought he had what they'd come for, Mac's face changed.

"What?" Eddydy whispered, noticing his superior's change in demeanor.

"It's stuck."

"The flashlight?"

"No," frustrated, Mac glared at the man next to him, "my hand." He tugged slightly. His hand stayed wedged between the log and the weight of Mulder's head.

Suddenly it was clear Mulder was going to wake up any second. Mac grabbed the first thing his hand touched, yanked it free, and made off into the woods.

Mulder woke up hearing a thrashing in the woods behind him. Disoriented, he struggled to a sitting position, trying his best not to wake Scully.

"Mulder?" Scully sat up.

By now the thrashing had stopped. Mulder continued to scan the surrounding woods for any sign of the intruders.

"I don't think we were just being paranoid Scully." Mulder turned his attention to the half open backpack now lying a good two feet away.

Scully followed his gaze, noticing that the bag had been moved, "Who do you think it is?" She swallowed, feeling that all too familiar knot in her stomach form, the one that always formed just as they were about to realize that they were once again caught up in yet another dangerous situation.

"My guess is whoever left that flashlight behind." Mulder stood up, carefully moving from underneath Scully in order to retrieve the bag. Scully watched as he went through its contents.

Mulder stopped rummaging and held up the flashlight for her to see.

"Well whoever it was didn't find what they were looking for." Scully glanced wearily at the object in Mulder's hand, "we must have scared them off."

"Hopefully they give up." Even as the words were leaving her mouth Scully knew better than to think the intruders were gone for good.

Once they'd reached a safe distance the two men stopped, breathing heavily as they made sure they were not being followed.

"What the-" Mac trailed off, staring at the object he held in his hand.

Eddydy turned to see what his partner was looking at. He stopped in horror as he realized what it was Mac was holding.

"FBI!?" Mac growled in disbelief, cursing under his breath and throwing the badge to the ground.

Still in shock, Eddydy bent to pick up the dirt-covered badge. Hoping they had somehow made a mistake, he opened it.

"Special Agent Fox Mulder." The name left a bitter taste on his tongue. Eddydy spoke as if he still couldn't convince himself this was really happening.

"He's freakin' FBI?!" Mac kicked at a pile of leaves, pacing as if trying to convince himself otherwise, "What else can go wrong!"

"Whoa Mac, take it easy." Eddydy spoke nervously, unaccustomed to his colleague's outburst.

Mac turned to face him, fire in his eyes. Ignoring the fact that Eddydy had called him by his first name again, he growled, "You know what this means?"

Eddydy didn't answer.

"They know." The taller man kicked at the pile of leaves again, grabbing the badge out of Eddydy's hands.

"Hey, just cause he's FBI doesn't mean they know." Eddydy glanced nervously around the forest as if just by mentioning the FBI agent he'd suddenly appear and take them into custody.

Mac stopped pacing, taking in what the smaller man said, "You're right." He began to calm down. "You're right." He repeated more to himself than to the man standing in front of him. "But we can't take that chance."

Eddydy could almost see the wheels turning in his leader's head.

"Tomorrow." Mac left it at that, shoving Mulder's badge into his pocket and stomping off.

The next morning Mulder and Scully were on the move at day break.

"He took my badge," Mulder broke the silence, turning to gage her reaction.

"Why?" Scully met his gaze.

"I don't know." Mulder spoke trying to ignore the throbbing pain in his head. "My only guess is he took it by accident."

"That will only cause him more reason to find us." Scully spoke feeling the dread of not having her weapon on hand reach a new height.

"Do you still have that piece of paper with the hieroglyphics?" Mulder asked Scully.

She pulled out the neatly folded paper.

"Good. Keep it there." Mulder shoved the key into his own pocket, replacing the flashlight into the bag, "At least if we're separated they'll have less of a chance at getting what it is they want."

Scully didn't like the sound of that, "Mulder." Her voice clearly stated her feelings.

"Don't worry Scully," He stopped, moving to look her square in the eye. Then seeming to loose his train of thought, Mulder winced.

The movement did not escape Scully. Immediately she switched to doctor mode, "Mulder come here." She took the backpack from his shoulder.

"Scully it's nothing." Mulder scolded himself for not being able to hide it from her better. He should have known better though, he'd never been able to hide anything from Scully. She knew him almost better than he knew himself.

Scully gave him a look that clearly stated 'don't bother to try and argue with me because you know I'm right'. Defeated, Mulder took the medicine offered to him, wishing he had something to wash it down with.

"Now Mulder," Scully spoke as she replaced the first aid kid, "if it gets worse be sure and tell me. I don't want to find out you've been suffering from a concussion and not telling me." Her voice was stern yet compassionate.

"Yes Dr. Scully." Mulder grinned, allowing her to perform a quick cursory examine. He was too tired to argue with her anyway.

4 hours later...

"Scully do you hear that?" Mulder stopped walking and listened.

Scully turned towards the sound of running water.

"Maybe our luck is changing." Mulder took her arm, leading her towards the source of the water.

A few yards beyond the trees a small clearing came into view. Off to the right a stream beckoned.

"Finally," Scully felt her spirits lift.

They made their way down to the bank.

"Hey Scully, you promised." Mulder grinned, setting the backpack down and shifting his glance from Scully to the water and back again.

"Yes Mulder I did." She paused, "But under one condition."

Mulder waited, curious to know the "one condition".

"That you join me." Scully spoke matter-of-factly, meeting the amused expression on Mulder's face.


Within minutes they found sticks deemed "suitable for the fishing kind" and were ready to get down to business.

They soon realized the problem of fishing line. After pondering this for a moment, Scully made her way to the backpack and shuffled through in search of something they could use. In the end their resources were limited.

"Well Mulder, we've got this," she held up a roll of medical gauze and two paperclips she'd found at the bottom of the bag, "but there's not enough gauze for two poles. Even if I strip it in half we'll be lucky if it's long enough for one." She paused before adding, "Plus I'm not so sure I want to use it for something non-medical with you around." Scully eyed the bandage on his arm.

Mulder seemed to think about this for only a second before replying, "You go ahead and use it, I'll find something else."

Scully was about to protest before Mulder interrupted her, explaining that, all things considered, they needed to eat and if medical gauze was their only hope, so be it.

Within 20 minutes Scully had managed to construct an impressive fishing pole, if she could say so her self, and dug a small pit into which enough water could flow to keep fish caught alive but prevent them from escaping. Gathering the many worms she'd encountered while digging, Scully placed them in another smaller hole to keep them from escaping or drying out.

"Wow Scully, I'm impressed." Mulder spoke as he finished setting up his own pole.

"Better than you expected or better than you hoped?" Scully grinned standing to her feet.

The familiar words did not escape Mulder who gave her a knowing grin and without warning pulled her into his arms whispering, "Nothing you do ceases to amaze me." Winking, he brushed his lips against hers.

"Don't try to distract me Mulder," surprised, yet pleased, Scully couldn't help but laugh, I know what you're trying to do."

Mocking defeat, Mulder stepped back, "You know me too well Scully." He took on a look of despair, "But you can't blame a guy for trying."

Scully just shook her head. Catching a glimpse of his shoe Scully laughed, realizing for the first time what Mulder's pole was made of.

Mulder followed her gaze to his pole, complete with shoelace for fishing line. Giving her a lopsided grin, he wondered back to his pole. Grabbing it, he stated, in his best ominous competitor voice as he "cast" his line, "And so it begins."

Scully watched as he bent down nearly touching the water due to the short length of his line. Laughing, she cast her own pole and sat down to wait.

An hour and a half later they were sitting around the campfire finishing up their first actual "meal" since they'd gotten lost.

"I must admit Scully, you know how to fish." Mulder leaned back on his elbows, "Although I didn't do to bad." He quirked a lop-sided grin.

"Yeah," Scully met his gaze, "too bad we had to throw them all back." She laughed thinking of his short pole and the tiny fish he'd actually managed to catch.

Mulder ignored her, instead offering to clean up. Scully watched as he made his way around their tiny camp cleaning up the various bits and pieces of their leftover dinner.

"I stink." Scully broke the silence, wrinkling her nose.

Mulder chuckled at her direct statement, "You can never "stink" Scully." He grinned, pulling out the sleeping bag and adding, "Although there was that one time..."Scully gave him the look and he grinned mischievously before adding, "But if you really want to, you can go take a dip in the stream."

Scully seemed to think this over for a few minutes, was about to decide against it, and finally couldn't stand it anymore, "Fine Mulder, if you need me I'll be in the water."

Mulder watched as she made her way through the trees to the water's edge. By now the sun had set and the moon shone bright in the starry sky. Mulder smiled to himself, watching as his wife mad her way into the water, illuminated only the by moonlight. It didn't take long for him to join her.

Scully was surprised to find the water unpredictably warm. Finding the water a much needed relief, she bent backwards, getting her hair wet and wishing she had some shampoo. Briefly thinking she heard something, Scully turned, only to be greeted by the shallow rippling of the moonlit water. Deciding it was probably just a fish, she turned back to trying to wash off the dirt that had collected over the past week. Suddenly, Scully felt the water current change and before she could even turn to check it out, felt arms encircle her waist.

Letting out an alarmed gasp, Scully turned sharply only to be met head on with the face of her grinning husband, "Mulder!" She let out a relieved, yet slightly annoyed sigh, "What are you doing?"

"Joining my beautiful wife in a moonlit bath." Mulder grinned that same grin that got her every time; warmed her heart and reminded Scully once again just exactly how lucky she was to have him with her.

"And scaring her half to death."

"Sorry Scully, I couldn't help myself." She couldn't help but smile, especially when he pulled those sweet little lost puppy eyes.

Scully just shook her head and before she could say anything, found herself lovingly wrapped in Mulder's arms, his lips meeting hers. Even in the soft moonlight she knew every inch of his face...could detect that certain twinkle in his eye and knew that he was thinking the very same thing about her.

Mulder smiled sincerely, lifting his hand and brushing it gently across her cheek to tuck an errant strand of red hair behind her ear.

"I love you Scully." His voice was soft as he leaned his forehead against hers.

"I love you too Mulder." Her pitch matched his, both in volume and meaning. It was straight from the heart and both knew those simple words held more than either could ever express.

Tilting her head upwards, Scully met Mulder's gaze and held it for a long time, enjoying how the moonlight illuminated their surroundings just right.

Scully felt the corner of her mouth slowly curl upward before finding herself once more lost in a loving round of sweet Mulder kisses and caresses.

Mulder pulled back slightly, turning Scully in his arms as he began massaging her shoulders, "Payment for your miraculous cure of a headache." He spoke close to her ear, working his fingers over her tense shoulders.

"Wow Mulder," Scully sighed, feeling the tension of a weeks worth of sleeping on the hard forest floor begin to dissipate, "You better watch it or you might get yourself into something you're not getting out of easily." She chuckled, making a mental note to remember his amazing massages.

"I'll remember that." Mulder continued massaging for awhile before turning her gently to face him and again wrapping his arms around Scully and pulling her close. He focused on her once again before suddenly tightening his grasp and allowing himself to fall beneath the water.

Scully barely had enough time to catch her breath before finding herself dunked underwater, still in Mulder's arms.

By the time they reached the surface again they were both laughing.

Scully shook her head, wiping the water out of her eyes as she watched Mulder scrub at the spot on his head.

"Is it gone yet?" He looked fully dismayed.

Scully laughed, realizing that he was talking about the "berry stain" on his forehead. From what she could tell in the moonlight, it was still there, "Sorry Mulder, looks like it's going to take more than that to get rid of it."

Mulder frowned and, after dunking himself a few more times, finally gave up.

"Don't worry Mulder," Scully wrapped her arms around his waist in comfort before grinning and adding, "I'm sure we can get it off if we try hard enough.

They'd been watching the FBI agent and his wife? Girlfriend? Partner? Mac couldn't quite figure out the exact relationship this Agent Mulder had with the petite redhead at his side. They held a certain bond hat was unlike any two people Mac had ever met. He thought of his own many unsuccessful relationships and couldn't help but feel a slight twinge of jealousy. Scowling, he turned to Eddy.

"Once they go to sleep you know what to do." He stared his partner in the eye, "Right?"

"Yeah Mac, I got it." Eddy failed to stop himself from using his so-called "superior's" name, receiving a warning glare from Mac.

They sat and waited for Mulder and Scully to go to sleep.

Mulder sat down on the sleeping bag perusing the strange note they'd found with the key in the radio flashlight. Scully studied his expression from her position next to him. She could see the wheels turning.

Mulder wracked his brain for any information regarding Egyptian hieroglyphics, if, indeed, that's what they were. A few of them looked slightly familiar, but that was about the extent of his knowledge, for now anyway...maybe he'd remember something once his head cleared.

Scully examined the wound on his arm, "Looks like its healing like it should." She replaced the existing gauze with a fresh bandage from the gauze she had saved back from fishing.

Mulder handed the note back to Scully to put in a safe place.

They settled down for the night. Unlike the previous nights, tonight the sky was clouded over, leaving the forest in a cover of complete darkness.

Scully shivered involuntarily against the sudden breeze. Mulder wrapped his arms around her, pulling the sleeping bag closer. There was something about the forest that night that heightened his senses; making him more alert than before. Something was different. The woods were uncharacteristically silent.

"Mulder?" Scully spoke as if sensing his tension.

"Go to sleep Scully," he smiled reassuringly, "It's probably nothing." In the back of his mind he hoped he was right.

Of course his comment just made Scully more concerned. Sitting up she followed his gaze into the woods. Total blackness greeted her. A strange uneasiness crept through her body. Scully focused back on Mulder and could tell that he was feeling the same uneasiness. She tried to convince herself that they were just being paranoid, but somehow couldn't.

"Go ahead and go to sleep, I'll keep watch." Mulder swept the darkness again, speaking absent-mindedly.

"Mulder-" Scully was about to protest, but decided against it, finally giving in, "Wake me up when you get tired." She eyed him with a look that simply stated 'and-you-better-because-you-need-sleep-too'.

"You forget who you're talking to Scully." His tone was teasing, but he continued to survey the unending darkness with caution, "I'm used to little or no sleep."

Eventually discovering that she was losing a useless battle, Scully gave in to exhaustion and was asleep within minutes.

~What is with this guy?~ Mac was beginning to get impatient ~Doesn't he ever go to sleep?~

They'd been waiting for nearly two hours since Scully had fallen asleep So far it didn't appear like Mulder was going to join her any time soon.

"Fine." Mac was tired of waiting, "He wants to do it the hard way then let him." He nodded in Eddy's direction, reaching for the knockout gas and his gun-just in case...

Mulder sat staring into the darkness. Off and on he'd thought he heard something only to turn and be greeted by the endless void of nothingness, or the occasional small nocturnal animal. It was amazing exactly how dark the night could really get when a person is without streetlights and skyscrapers.

He thought he heard a noise and before he could even react, Mulder found himself surrounded in a haze of cloud-like gas. He opened his mouth to warn Scully, but came out but a chocking gasp. He struggled to fight the impending descent into darkness. His lungs burned, his eyes watered, he wanted to yell but nothing would come out. Suddenly Mulder was overcome by an all-powerful drowsiness.

Two figures emerged from the darkness. They were the last thing Mulder saw before he blacked out.

Scully slowly opened her eyes, the sleep seeming harder to overcome than usual. What was wrong with her hand? Why did it feel so heavy? She blinked a few more times, clearing her vision. Confused, she looked around the small room, having the distinct impression that she had definitely missed something. Thinking back to the night before, Scully could not, for the life of her, remember finding a cabin or being "rescued". She remembered falling asleep after Mulder's insistence-Mulder! Feeling a twinge of panic, Scully sat up-where was he?!

A soft groan from behind indicated his presence and Scully turned to face him, feeling her pulse calm slightly in knowing that Mulder was ok.

He was on his side, face pressed hard against a cold, musty-smelling surface. Mulder tried moving, but something was holding his arm down. He pulled a little harder, accidentally bumping his injured arm into something sharp. He groaned, opening his eyes and becoming thoroughly confused at what he saw. Since when did forests have ceilings?

"Mulder," he could hear her voice, but where was she?

Scully glanced at her wrist and immediately discovered why she'd been unable to move it. She stared unbelievingly at the cold piece of metal surrounding her wrist. She followed the small chain under the leg of an old wood-burning stove. How in the world had she ended up in this old shack? Or better yet, how had she ended up in this old shack handcuffed? She felt a slight tug on her wrist and craned her neck to see on the other side of the stove.


"Scully?" His voice was groggy. Struggling to a seating position, Mulder looked around.

"Over here," she tugged on the handcuffs, "Are you ok?" His groan of pain had alarmed Scully.

"Yeah, just a little confused." He glanced down at his hand. For the first time Mulder noticed the handcuff encircling his wrist. He stared at it blankly for a few moments. Suddenly, memory of the past night's events came flooding back. The dark. The men. The gas.

"Where are we Mulder?"

"I don't know." Mulder answered her, trying to make some sense of the whole situation.

Scully began to wonder what exactly had happened last night. As if reading her mind, Mulder paused for a few moments to gather his thoughts before telling her what little he remembered.

They sat in silence for a few minutes, both trying to decide how they were going to get out, where and why they were there in the first place, and mentally mourning the loss of their weapons.

Scully was just about to open her mouth to say something when loud footsteps sounded in the next room. A squeaky old door swung open and in stepped two men.

Immediately suspicious, Mulder eyed the men, trying to decide from which agency they belonged and who they were working for.

"Well, well, well," The tall man with the athletic build sauntered into the room, giving Scully an appreciative look before settling a cold stare on Mulder, "Looky what we got here."

Scully watched as a much shorter man with beady eyes and a stocky build followed a few steps behind. He had a nervous, but amused, look on his face as he watched his superior bring out Mulder's badge and swing it loosely in his hand.

Mac bent down until he was eye-level with Mulder, opening the badge and bringing it into Mulder's view, "So Mr. FBI, what? You didn't think we were gonna to figure it out?" When Mulder didn't answer he gave out a harsh laugh, throwing the badge at Mulder's chest and standing up.

~Find what out?~ Scully could tell from the look on Mulder's face that, like her, he had no idea what the men where talking about.

"So where is it?" Mac began slowly pacing the room, all the while never taking his gaze off his prisoners.

Mulder remained calm, years of FBI training kicking into action, "I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Ha!" Another harsh laugh. It made Scully want to cringe. There was nothing about this man that she liked. She had a good idea that he was talking about the key, but Scully also knew that Mulder was not one to give up without a fight. And neither was she.

Scully eyed the man in charge cautiously, all the while wondering how he'd gotten a hold of Mulder's badge in the first place. It was obvious from the way he was looking at her, and treating Mulder, that he didn't view Scully as any sort of threat. He apparently hadn't found her badge too. This, Scully decided, for the time being, was to their advantage.

"I'll say this one more time." The man in black came closer, "Where is the key?"

Mulder looked him square in the eye, "And I'll say it again, I have no idea what you're talking about."

Mac had had enough, he motioned to Eddydy. Scully watched in horror as the stout beady-eyed man came nearer and disappeared behind the side of the stove. She winced as she heard the muffled sound of a boot connecting with flesh, followed by a painful grunt from Mulder. It was all she could do not to call out his name. Scully wanted so badly to rip off the handcuff and run to his side, but she bit her cheek, instead screaming his name in her head, feeling the burning hatred for these men reach a new height.

"I'll give you some time to peruse you're memory," Mac laughed, making his way towards the door, "We'll finish our little conversation later." With that he motioned for his partner to follow.

The instant the door was closed, Scully was calling out his name, "Mulder?"

He didn't answer.

"Mulder, are you ok?" She tried not to panic, tried to reach a position where she could actually see his face. Scully glared at the handcuff surrounding her wrist, trying to see around the stove.

"Yeah," His voice was strained, but at least he was conscious, "Just knocked the wind out of me." Mulder struggled to sit up.

Scully let out a relieved breath, feeling the need to touch him, to make sure that he was ok for herself, overcome her emotions. She struggled for a good ten minutes before finally achieving a position in which she could see his face. Working the around the leg of the stove, Scully was able to reach him.

"Scully really I'm fine." Mulder managed a weak smile, touched (as always), by her insistence to make sure he was really "fine".

Seemingly satisfied once she could see him herself, Scully sat back, letting her gaze wander before eventually resting on their attached wrists.

Mulder followed Scully's gaze to the handcuffs stretched between them, "Too bad the bear hadn't taken these too." He looked up just in time to catch the end of The Look.

~He's right though~ Scully thought. Of all the things that grizzly actually did take or manage to scatter around the greater Cascades, handcuffs had not been one of them.

"Look at it this way Scully," Mulder spoke from the other side of the stove, "Of all the things we've been through over the past many years being handcuffed together has not been one of them."

~Wow, don't I feel lucky.~ She sighed inwardly.

Mulder leaned his head against the wall closing his eyes. He tried to think of something other than the fact that he and Scully were handcuffed in the middle of nowhere with two Men in Black on guard. What was so important about that key? At first he guessed a drug ring or various other gang-related crimes, but there was something about those men that told him otherwise. They'd stumbled into something much more complex and, Mulder feared, much more dangerous.

They had been sitting there for nearly three hours and Scully was afraid their captures would be back soon. She scanned the room, looking for ways out. There were no windows, and the only door in the room was locked with a deadbolt that seemed to contrast the rustic interior of the tiny room. Other than the old stove, there wasn't much except dust and dirt to take up the room. A tattered old three-legged table stood in the far corner and a single, equally tattered, chair was pushed to one side. It was obvious the room was not used often.

~Only to hold captured FBI agents~ Scully thought to herself.

"Sounds like our friends are getting a little frustrated." Mulder broke the silence, commenting on a loud crash heard in the next room.

Suddenly remembering that the key was in her pocket, Scully used her free hand to check and make sure that it was still there. Sure enough, the small metal greeted her fingers with an apathetic glint, reflecting the meager amount of light the single bulb in the room emitted. She worked it in her fingers, turning it over in her hand. It looked like a normal key to her. Scully wondered what important secrets lay beyond its locked counterpart.

Mulder opened his eyes to see Scully holding the key in her hand, a crease lining her forehead indicated that she was deep in thought.

"Does it fit?" Scully looked up, slightly startled at the sound of his voice.

"I thought you were asleep." She met his gaze, adding, "Does what fit?"

"The key," Mulder's eyes took on that playful look as he glanced from the key in her hand to the handcuffs disappearing beneath the leg of the stove.

Scully gave him The Look, before placing the key back in her pocket then, changing her mind, removing it and tucking the key into the back of her shoe-it was less likely they'd look there.

"How long do you think they'll wait before coming back to try again?" Her expression turned serious.

"I don't know, but I'm guessing it'll be soon." Mulder took a quick look at the door as he spoke, "Sooner or later they're no longer going to find this funny." He took on a grim look, hearing the "leader's" humorless laugh echo throughout his mind.

"We have to find a way to get these cuffs off." Scully rubbed her wrist; already her skin was being rubbed raw.

Mulder turned his attention to the stove leg, moving it back and forth with his good hand. He tried to move his cuffed arm as little as possible, knowing that whenever he did move he caused Scully more discomfort.

"If I could just-" He pulled a little harder, determined to find a way. Just when he was sure it was about to give, the door burst open and in stomped the Men in Black. Quickly, Mulder let go of the leg, catching a knowing looking from Scully before focusing on the angry man in front of him.

Mulder met Mac's stony gaze. One thing was for sure, the man in charge was not laughing anymore.

"So, FBI," This time Mac addressed them both. He'd been somewhat surprised-although he should have know better, should have gone with his instincts-to find that the petite red-head was an FBI Agent as well. Special Agent Dana Scully...yeah that was her name. This new information just added to Mac's paranoia and irritation, "I've decided you've had enough time to think this over." He stared icily from one agent to the other, "Where. Is. The. Key." It was more of a broken down statement than a question.

Scully and Mulder exchanged a quick glance, neither saying a word.

Mac motioned to Eddydy with a jerk of his head.

Before Mulder had a chance to react, he felt an intense pain spread throughout his body as Eddy kicked him hard in the stomach. He doubled over in pain, bracing himself for another blow.

"No!" This time Scully couldn't help herself, "Mulder!" She yanked at the handcuffs, furious that she couldn't reach him; furious at their captures. The best thing she could do was to reach his hand beneath the stove. Scully took Mulder's cuffed hand in her own, a meager attempt at comfort.

Mulder lay on his side trying to catch his breath. While he was somewhere between thinking ~That's gonna leave a bruise~ and ~If they even touch Scully I SWEAR I'll kill them~ when he felt a small hand take hold of his. That gave him all the strength he needed, and Mulder struggled to a seating position.

"Fine," He spoke wearily, free hand still resting on his stomach, "You can have the key." Mulder caught Scully's eye before adding, "But you'll have to take us back into the woods."

"What are you talking about?" Mac glared at him.

"We lost it in the woods." Mulder turned back to Scully, meeting her eye. She nodded slightly.

"What?!" Mac stomped closer, throwing his hands in the air, "You LOST it?!" He stared Mulder hard in the eye. Suddenly he face changed into an evil grin, "Oh I get it." He gave out a curt laugh, "You don't think I'm stupid enough to fall for that old trick do you?"

Silently, Mulder had been wondering that himself.

"He's telling the truth." Scully spoke for the first time.

Mulder's pulse quickened when Mac turned his attention to Scully. He squeezed her hand in his. A silent warning not to push this guy too far. Scully brushed her thumb ever so slightly across the back of his hand ~I know Mulder, you don't have to worry~

"Is that so?" Mac bent down to face her. His breath, hot on her face, smelled of an odd mixture of what Scully could only describe as tuna fish and formaldehyde. She wanted to cringe, but held her ground.

"We lost it when we were-" Scully searched her mind, "fishing." She finished without skipping a beat.

"Fishing," Eddy spoke up for the first time, letting out a snort, "I'd say you was doin' much more than fishin' out there in that water." He and his superior laughed.

Mulder felt his level of hatred for these two rise to a new level as Eddydy walked closer.

"Ya know," Eddydy rubbed his shoulder, pivoting it in a circle, "My shoulder's been actin' up on me." He leaned closer, inches from her face, "Maybe you could help me out with that."

Mulder wanted to lunge at that man. How dare he treat Scully like that! He tugged at the stove leg harder

Scully felt Mulder tense and immediately gave his hand a squeeze. Keeping her voice level she looked Eddydy strait in the eye, "Well, I'm sure you and your buddy over there can work that one out just fine without me."

Eddydy looked at her, stunned. Mulder had to summon his willpower to keep from laughing at the look on the face of the men in black.

"Why you little-" Eddydy tapered off as he stood and raised his arm, ready to strike.

Scully caught her breath and braced herself for the inevitable. Just when she was sure she'd feel Eddydy's blow, her arm was suddenly flung upward, bringing her nearly to her feet.

Mulder, his blood on fire, lunged at the man, grabbing his arm as it was inches away from striking Scully. He could think of a thousand things he'd like to call Eddydy, but there was no time for words. Pure rage bubbled to the surface as he struck Eddydy square in the jaw, landing him unconscious on the floor.

Not predicting the fact that Mulder had managed to spring the stove leg away from its body as the two men were focused on her, Scully was taken off guard at his quick movements. She found herself quickly being pulled to a standing position, the momentum caused by their attached wrists nearly crashing her into Mulder.

She watched as Mulder, enraged, knocked the stocky man out. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw something move. Quickly Scully turned to find Mac closing the distance between them. With her arm still attached to Mulder, Scully did the first thing that came to her mind. Kicked with full force she felt her leg connect with Mac's shin. He stumbled, knocked off balance and clutched his leg. By this time, Mulder had turned around and, seeing a limping Mac, took his advantage and greeted the "leader" of the Men in Black with the same grant he'd bestowed upon his partner.

The stood for a few seconds just taking in the two man lying unconscious on the floor. Mulder turned to Scully, a concerned look on his face, "You ok?" He cupped her cheek, brushing his thumb lightly along the softness of her skin before taking her handcuffed wrist in his hand and frowning at the redness he found there.

"I'm fine Mulder." Scully gave him a small smile, before turning serious. "What about you?" She rubbed her free hand lightly across his stomach.

"Hey it wouldn't be a case if I didn't get hit sometime right?" Mulder grinned, reassuring her that he would be fine.

Scully was about to protest when Mac stirred slightly on the ground.

"Come on," Mulder placed his free hand on her arm, guiding her toward the door, "let's get out of here. I'd hate to be around when they wake up."

Mulder and Scully had been running for what seemed like hours-not an easy task when you're handcuffed together. Many times they had run into annoying obstacles, causing one to run into the other or trip, nearly bringing them both to the ground. Eventually deciding that they had a good enough lead on their abductors, they slowed, finally coming to a rest.

Out of breath, Scully spoke, "Do you think we lost them?"

"Let's hope so." Mulder, equally out of breath, glanced down at their bonded wrists, "This ain't as easy as it looks." He drawled, a grin on his face.

Scully let out a agreeing puff of air, "Let's rest for a while Mulder, I'm sure it will take the enough time to wake up." She rubbed at her wrist, cursing the handcuffs under her breath.

Mulder nodded in agreement and together they made their way to a small semi-comfortable spot to rest. They struggled, somewhat awkwardly, together to clear a spot to sit down. At one point an owl hooted, causing Mulder to turn abruptly in its direction and, forgetting momentarily that he was attached to Scully, pulled her along.

"Umffph," her voice was muffled as she ran into Mulder's arm.

"Sorry." He turned back around to face her. Scully waved it off, indicating a "no problem", and went back to clearing various bits and pieced of foliage.

Once they were finally satisfied with their work, Mulder and Scully sat down-her left shoulder touching his right.

"Well, that was fun." Mulder's face held a lopsided grin.

Scully let out a small laugh, sarcastically replying, "Yeah, I wonder why we haven't tried running handcuffed together through the forest before."

"Now that we have though, I'm sure we can think of a few other things we can try to add to our list of 'things to do involving handcuffs'." His grin turned into a sly smile.

Scully glared at him, even though secretly a part of her found it somewhat amusing.

The night was rapidly cooling and the sudden drop in temperature caused Scully an involuntary shiver. Realizing for the first time that they no longer had the sleeping bag, Scully felt the true helplessness of their situation. They no longer had the first aid kit, flashlight, or even that useless map to aid in their rescue. It was official-They were truly lost and on their own in the middle of the Cascade Mountains.

Mulder gently pulled Scully to his chest with his free arm, maneuvering his handcuffed right arm over her head, down her shoulder, and under her right arm so that it encircled her waist. Scully moved her handcuffed arm to a more comfortable position, then found his hand with hers. Mulder pulled her closer, attempting to trap as much body heat as possible. Luckily they were both still wearing their jackets, and Scully pulled her collar closer, settling her head on Mulder's chest.

As absurd as the situation was, Scully found peace and comfort in Mulder's arms. She lay silent for a few moments before noticing the strange look on Mulder's face.

"What?" She met his gaze.

"Nothing." Mulder smiled, but she could still see the pain in his eyes that he was desperately trying to hide.

"Mulder..." her tone indicated that she was not giving up that easily.

"It's just that," he met Scully's gaze, "your elbow is digging into my stomach."

"What?" Once it registered, Scully sat up abruptly, "Mulder, I forgot, I'm sorry!" She gave him a sympathetic look.

He laughed, "no need to be sorry Scully, I wasn't your fault. I don't think it would matter where your elbow was, it's bound to hit something bruised, scraped, or cut."

Suddenly Scully felt terrible. Throughout this entire trip it seemed as if Mulder was getting hurt one way or another.

She repositioned herself, carefully unzipping his jacket and gingerly lifting his shirt with her free hand. A bruise was already beginning to form.

"I'm sorry Mulder." She echoed her earlier comment, silently kicking herself for allowing such a thing to happen.

As if reading her mind, Mulder lifted her chin to meet his gaze, "I know what you're thinking and I want you to stop." He broke into a smile, brushing his thumb softly across Scully's cheek, "Unless you were a 200 pound man-in which case we'd both be in trouble-there's nothing more you could have done anyway."

Although she hated to admit it, he was right.

Mac was the first to wake up. Rubbing his jaw, he scowled, getting up and limping over to Eddy who was still unconscious on the floor.

"Get up." He nudged his partner awake.

Eddy sat up with a confused look on his face. His jaw hurt.

"Hurry up." Mac was already halfway out the door, "They couldn't have gotten far."

~Oh yeah.~ Eddy suddenly remembered *why* his jaw hurt. Those two FBI agents would be sorry for what they had done. He got up and went into the next room, opening a drawer and pulling out his gun. ~VERY sorry~.

Only an hour and a half had passed, but Mulder knew they needed to get going again. He glanced down at Scully, finding her fast asleep. He debated whether or not to wake her.

"It's ok, I'm up." As if reading his mind she opened her eyes and sat up slowly.

"I hate to tell you this Scully, but we really should get as far as we can before they wake up and realize we're gone." He spoke regretfully.

They carefully made their way to a standing position.

Scully stopped to meet his gaze, "Mulder are you sure you're ok?" He nodded in response, and together they began making their way further into the woods.

After a while of walking, Scully rubbed at her wrist, glaring down at the handcuffs. Mulder's legs were much longer and his stride he was quickly outrunning her own. Mulder followed her gaze and stopped.

"Sorry." He gave her an apologetic look, forgetting that her legs were much shorter than his, "Being chased through the woods takes all the fun out of being handcuffed." Mulder attempted to lighten the mood.

They continued on in a slower pace, eventually coming to a stop at the edge of a steep embankment. Placing her free hand on her hip, Scully scanned the terrain. Mulder glanced down the steep edge, contemplating how high it was. It was hard to tell in the dark just exactly how high it was, but Mulder was not about ready to find out the hard way.

"Looks like we'll have to find another way around." Scully met his gaze.

"We must be further off course that we were before." Mulder said scanning the woods, "They must have taken us pretty far. I don't remember this being here." He pointed to the steep cliff.

They both stood in silence, debating which way to go. Mulder was just about to suggest they try heading in a different direction when he heard a slight movement from behind.

Scully thought she'd heard something, but before she could turn around, she recognized the sickening sound of a gun being c0cked. Her breath caught in her throat.

"Turn around slowly." Mac spoke in an eerily calm voice, "Both of you."

Obeying, Mulder and Scully turned together to face him.

"Bad move." Eddy growled, "Tryin' to run away like that." He stepped closer to Scully, bringing the gun to her head. She swallowed hard, but kept her calm as the cold metal was pressed against her skin.

Mulder's heart skipped a beat as he watched Eddy put the gun to Scully's temple.

"This is your last chance." Mac spoke to Mulder, knowing that there was no way he would put his partner in danger. "Are you willing to sacrifice your partner's life for a key?" He spoke almost mockingly.

"All right," Mulder spoke calmly. Putting his hand slowly into his coat pocket, he pulled out a key and handed it to Mac. Scully met his eyes with a look only Mulder could perceive as questioning.

"And the paper?"

Mulder took his eyes off Scully just long enough to hand the paper with the Egyptian writing over to Mac.

In the meantime, Eddy was getting restless. He pushed the gun harder into Scully's temple, causing her an involuntary flinch and a step back.

Felling a tug on his wrist, Mulder immediately turned his attention back to Scully. It was too late.

Forgetting that they were on the edge of a steep cliff, Scully had stepped back, only to be drastically reminded. Instantly, her shoe lost its footing and she slipped.

"What the-" Mac stopped, glaring at Eddy, "You idiot!"

At the same time, Mulder was shouting, "Scully!" He moved fast, but not fast enough. His handcuffed wrist was fiercely yanked downward as Scully fell over the edge.

"What?" Eddy raised his hands in surrender, "What'd I do?"

Mac stalked over to his partner, "I told you not to kill them yet! We're not done!" He yelled at Eddy, grabbing the gun from his hand.

"Hey you know what?" Eddy's voice rose, "I'm getting' sick and tired of you actin' like you're so much better than me you know?" He came closer, staring Mac in the eye, "We were BOTH qualified for this job and you know it!" As they continued to fight, Mulder was still struggling.

He landed on his bad arm, wincing again as his stomach hit the ground, "Scully?!" He crawled to the edge of the cliff, desperate to make sure she was ok.

"Mulder," She was almost out of breath from the quick fall, and her wrist screamed in protest at the sharp pain of the handcuffs-the only thing that was keeping her from falling into the bottomless pit. Scully dangled helplessly, all the while trying to find some sort of handhold for her free hand.

"Scully," relief flooded his body and was more than evident in his voice, "Hold on."

"Nevertheless, *I* was the one put in charge here and *I* say what we're going to do!" Mac and Eddy were still fighting.

Mulder moved, with some difficulty, to a more sturdy position, "grab my hand!' He thought his handcuffed wrist was going to fall off, but he kept his stance.

Scully grasped at the darkness, blindly trying to find Mulder's hand. After what seemed like ages, two hands met and held on for all they were worth.

Mulder used all the strength he could muster to pull Scully to safety. She felt herself being lifted an, and eventually Scully was able to find a foothold to help her climb back over the edge of the cliff. The pressure on her handcuffed wrist lessoned until she was finally back onto safe ground.

They stumbled backward together, landing in a heap on the ground. Mulder didn't bother to stand up; instead he immediately pulled Scully into a full embrace.

"Are you ok?" Scully could see the mix of panic, concern, and relief fill Mulder's eyes.

"Yeah," Out of breath it was all she could manage to get out, "I'm ok Mulder."

He hugged her tighter, closing his eyes and whispering, "I thought I'd lost you."

Scully was still slightly shaken and trying to get over the initial shock of falling over a cliff. After a few moments she felt the adrenaline high begin to return to normal. She closed her eyes and let her forehead rest on Mulder's, before pulling back and glancing down at their attached wrists.

"Stupid things actually came in handy." Scully gave out a curt laugh. Mulder met her gaze and smiled.

By now Eddy and Mac had stopped yelling and had resulted to standing and glaring at one another. Eddy tossed the gun at Mac's chest and stomped off to the edge of the trees. There he stopped and, like a child throwing a temper tantrum, stood festering with his back turned. He waited for Mac to get the FBI agents, silently cursing at his "superior".

"Get up." Mac turned his attention back to the agents. While he and Eddy had been fighting, they'd managed to pull Scully back over the edge.

Obeying, Mulder helped Scully to her feet. He may have appeared calm on the outside, but on the inside Mulder was furious. Scully could have been killed and all this guy could do was yell at them to get up?

"My apologies Agent Scully." Mac took a step closer, and Mulder instinctively wrapped his arm around Scully's waist, pulling her closer protectively. He met Mac's gaze with a cold stare. Scully didn't respond. "It seems as if my associate's temper got the better of him."

~What's with the sudden change in demeanor?~ Scully could feel Mulder tense beside her as Mac took another step closer.

"Let this be a lesson to you both." He stopped mere inches away, his sinister tone returning, "You *don't* want to upset him." Mac gave them an evil grin, waving his gun halfheartedly, "Now let's go."

With the gun trained directly at them, there was nothing else Mulder and Scully could do but follow.

The night was becoming colder as clouds began gathering over the thick forest canopy. Mulder and Scully led the small group, gun still trained at their backs. Eddy lingered somewhat behind, keeping his distance. It was obvious he wasn't quite over his temper tantrum yet, but he'd managed to calm down enough to keep his mouth shut.

"Stop." Mac broke the silence. That single word sent chills through Scully's spine. Had he decided it was time to kill them?

"Sit down." Mac waved the gun towards a fallen moss-covered log. Slowly, Mulder and Scully sat down. "We'll rest here for tonight." He turned his attention to Eddy, "We'll get a new start in the morning." Eddy seemed to understand that he had no choice and that, hopefully, tomorrow things would go more according to plan.

"You try anything funny and next time I won't be so understanding." With that Mac sat down and, with gun still in hand, prepared to get some sleep. "You keep watch Eddy." Before Eddy could protest Mac had tossed him the gun, "Wake me up in a few hours."

Grumbling, Eddy sat down.

After so many hours of walking, Mulder and Scully were exhausted. Once they were semi-settled Mulder turned his attention to his wife.

"You ok?" His voice was soft and lowered so as not to be overheard by Eddy. He wasn't surprised to elicit the expected response of "I'm fine".

"How about you Mulder?" She placed her free hand gently on his arm before resting it softly on his stomach.

Mulder gave her a reassuring smile, "Aside from terminal cell phone withdrawal and the impending need for a cheeseburger and a bag of sunflower seeds, I'd say I was pretty good."

"Hey!" Eddy's voice caused Scully and Mulder to look up. They sat in silence as Eddy made his way over to where they were sitting, "Mac said no more funny business remember? And that means no talkin'." He waved the weapon in his hand for added effect.

"Do you always do what Mac tells you to?" Mulder spoke calmly, keeping his eye on the gun in Eddy's hand. Scully had figured Mulder would have these two profiled by the end of the day. It was merely a matter of time before he began to use it against their abductors.

Eddy seemed surprised, and somewhat disgusted, that Mulder would even think of directly disobeying his order, "Go to sleep." Eddy paced, irritated.

"You know you're just as qualified as he is," Mulder nodded in Mac's direction, "You're your own man Eddy, don't let him push you around like that."

"Shut up! I said go to SLEEP!" Eddy was becoming angry. Mulder could see the internal conflict behind the stout man's eyes. It was clear Mulder's comment gad gotten to him.

Mulder became quiet, not wanting to push the man with the gun over the edge. Eddy seemed satisfied that his prisoners weren't going to cause any more trouble and left to go sit back down. Scully could tell he was still thinking over what Mulder had said.

The next morning was dreary and the temperature had dropped drastically. Mulder and Scully found the woods uncharacteristically silent. Even the ever-present Super-Squirrels had not yet decided to venture out. The day dragged on, mostly uneventful. Everyone was cold, tired, hungry, and in a bad mood.

Mulder and Scully trudged onward in silence. Mac held the gun loosely in his hand, having decided that by now the agents were not going to give him anymore trouble.

Eddy had been silent since the morning's trek first started and Scully wondered if he was still considering Mulder's comment from last night.

By noon they reached a small cabin, much like the first one Mulder and Scully had found themselves in the first night of their capture. Mulder began wondering how many more cabins there were going to be before they reached their final destination. More importantly, he wondered what that final destination was and what was going to happen once they reached it.

Mac unlocked the cabin door and ushered them inside. This cabin was much nicer than the one before. Scully hoped that this would mean more than a hard floor and a wood-burning stove to sleep against.

She scanned the cabin's interior. There was a small fireplace in front of an expensive-looking leather couch and matching loveseat. A door leading to a small kitchen was on the far right, another leading to what Scully assumed was a bedroom, and a final door that was shut and locked with a deadbolt. Scully locked glances with Mulder for a brief moment; both wondering what was behind door number three.

A small mahogany staircase was off to the left and Mac motioned for them to follow him upstairs. Eddy watched the trio climb the stairs for about three seconds before turning and heading for the kitchen.

Upstairs, Mac unlocked one of the doors at the end of the hall. Shoving Mulder and Scully inside, he quickly locked it once more and headed back downstairs.

"Such hospitality," Mulder mumbled, before turning his attention to Scully.

"At least we have a bed this time." Scully was too busy taking in the large, lavishly decorated, bedroom to pay attention to Mulder's sarcastic remark. She stared in awe at the colorful, obviously expensive decor.

The bed itself was a wonder, complete with a canopy draped in emerald green and burgundy silk that matched the four-inch thick down comforter with the gold trim along its edges. The rest of the room held an antique vanity, an old chest decorated in Egyptian hieroglyphics, a small fireplace, and a chair that matched the bedspread. The walls were decorated in various art pieces resembling ancient Egypt, and Scully decided the entire room held an Egyptian flair.

"I guess we knew where the not came from." Mulder met Scully's gaze after scanning the room and taking in the decor.

"Mulder some of this stuff looks like the real thing." Scully let her fingers play across the wooden chest at the end of the bed.

"Authentic Egyptian artifacts could yield a lot on the black market." Mulder spoke, shifting his glance to four canopic jars set upon the vanity.

"You think this has something to do with smuggling Egyptian artifacts into the US?" Scully looked up from the chest.

"The US, Europe, Japan, who knows," Mulder made his way over to the edge of the bed, bringing a handcuffed Scully along, "All I know is that we have to find a way out of here. But first," he tossed off his shoes and lay back on the huge pillows, giving out a groan of pleasure, "lets rest."

Scully climbed carefully Mulder, taking care not to bump anything cut, scraped, or bruised, and lay down next to him.

"Wow," it was all she could manage to say as she sank into the cloud-like softness.

"My thoughts exactly." Mulder opened his eyes and turned his head to face Scully.

"This definitely makes up for the last cabin." Scully met his glance.

"Yeah, but it makes me wonder what's going to happen next." Mulder's tone turned serious, "What are Mac and Eddy up to and what's waiting for us at the other end of this escapade?" Neither of them wanted to think about it and, quite frankly, they were too exhausted to even if they did. Within minutes they were both fast asleep.

"Why'd you put 'em in The room?" Eddy took a big bite out of his meatball sandwich and spoke with his mouth full.

Mac, who had always prided himself in his high-class demeanor, glared at his associate. He may be a con artist, crook, and some could go as far as to say murderer, Mac still held pride in pulling off the facade as a "gentleman" in normal situations. It was something he had come to learn paid off when working for the high-class men and women he often ran into.

"Would you rather me put them in your room where they could see the money, along with everything else that would help them put you behind bars for the rest of your life?" Mac scowled, "Or how about the back room where they could really have fun? They could see-"

"All right already! I get the point!" Eddy finished off his sandwich and stood to make another.

Mac poured himself a cup of coffee-black, just the way he liked it, and turned to face Eddy.

"I just don't see why we need two FBI agents to drag along with us anyway." Eddy had his feet probed up on the edge of the table as he munched away at his second sandwich.

"You said it yourself." Mac remained standing, coffee cup in hand, "They're FBI." He slowly turned his cup, watching the stem rise, "We can't just let a couple of FBI agents go free...especially now. They've seen too much."

Eddy was hardly listening as he finished off his sandwich.

"Go take them something to eat." Mac finished off his cup of coffee.

"But I thought you said-"

"We can't have them slowing us down tomorrow. We have a long trip ahead of us." With that Mac left the kitchen and headed for the room with the deadbolt.

Grumbling, Eddy made three more sandwiches, one for himself and each agent, before heading upstairs.

The sound of a key in the lock caused Mulder to open his eyes. For a second he forgot where he was, but remembered instantly at seeing the Egyptian-flavored room.

Scully opened her eyes and, for a moment, thought she was having a dream-a very strange one with an Egyptian theme. She felt Mulder's arm around her waist then the dull pain in her wrist before the door swung open and Eddy stepped in.

~Ah yes, I remember now. Forget the dream; we're caught in a nightmare~ Scully slowly sat up.

"Mac says you gotta eat." Eddy placed the tray atop the wooden chest, "Now if it were up to me, I'd let you go ahead and starve, but Mac says he don't want you slowin' us down tomorrow, so rest up-we got a long day ahead of us." Once he was finished talking, Eddy quickly left, locking the door behind him.

Still in between sleep and wake, Mulder and Scully sat in dumbfounded silence for a few seconds.

"Shall we?" Mulder broke the silence, gesturing towards the tray.

Together they made their way to the end of the bed.

"Good ol' criminal home cookin'." Mulder grinned, taking up a meatball sandwich in his free hand and taking a bite, "You gotta love it."

Scully rolled her eyes, taking up her sandwich and giving it a weary eye. Although she was not a particular fan of meatball sandwiches, hunger got the better of her and she finished it off quickly.

The night was getting late, Mac and Eddy hadn't been heard from for over three hours, and Mulder was still hungry but didn't complain. Settling back into the giant down pillows, he let his eyes scan the strange room-the canopic jars, the wood chest, the thousands of dollars worth of artifacts. They had sure stumbled into something much larger than he'd anticipated. Eventually his gaze settled on Scully. If the situation were any different he might have found himself enjoying this being handcuffed together thing.

Scully noticed Mulder staring at her and turned to face him.

"What?" She lay down next to him.

"Nothing," He spoke softly, resting his chin on her head as she snuggled closer, "I was just thinking how, under any other circumstance, I might actually enjoy this room."

Scully laughed, "This coming from a man who has slept on a couch for most of his adult life?"

"You live, you learn." Mulder shrugged.

"Well, I guess I'll just have to keep that in mind." Scully smiled. In the back of her mind though, she had to agree. The room was amazing. Too bad they'd have to confiscate everything once this was over.

"There's always Christmas." Mulder grinned.

"Yeah, but first we have to find a way out of here." She gestured with her hand.

Mulder could detect the slightest bit of defeat in her voice. His gaze landed on their handcuffed wrists. With his free hand, he took hers gently, pressing his lips to her rubbed-raw wrist.

"Don't worry Scully, we'll figure something out." He kissed her forehead.

Scully couldn't help but smile. All worries quickly disappeared. She was instantly lost in his sweetness. Every day she thanked her lucky stars that he was there to cheer her up; to take her mind off the terrors of the world.

Mulder brushed a lock of hair behind Scully's ear before kissing her wrist again, moving to her collar bone, followed by a string of sweet kisses until his lips finally met with hers.

Suddenly, a mechanical buzzing noise filled the room. Startled, both Mulder and Scully sat up. Where was that coming from?

"Mulder," Scully caught his arm, looking up. Mulder followed her gaze.

"Tasteful." He wore a wry grin.

Scully rolled her eyes, she couldn't believe it. The mechanical noise had been the sound of the canopy opening to reveal a glass ceiling; one in which the bed's occupants could revel in the star-studded night sky.

"Roughing it for the rich and famous." Mulder still held that grin of his, "Or in this case, the rich and Wanted." He spoke, indicating their criminal abductors.

"I'd hate to think what else Mac and Eddy are up to." Scully spoke, eying the clear night sky.

"From the looks of things, it doesn't seem like much." Mulder met her gaze with a playful look, all the while intrigued with this new contraption. How did they get the canopy to do that? How come they didn't notice the glass ceiling before and-

"Mulder?" The sound of Scully's voice broke Mulder's train of thought.

"Hmmm?" He tore his eyes from the moonlit ceiling. Apparently he hadn't heard her the first time.

Scully gave him a crooked smile. She was sometimes amazed at how easy it was to distract Mulder. Suddenly she caught the look on his face, "Oh no, don't even think about it."

"What?" He asked innocently, giving her his best puppy-dog eyes.

"We are not, I repeat NOT getting anything even remotely resembling *this*," she gestured to the canopy and star-studded ceiling, "in our bedroom."

"I never said-" He was cut off by The Look. "Ok," he looked her square in the eye, stating, "I promise we will never have a glass ceiling in our bedroom or any other room, unless of course, we suddenly decide to buy a green house."

Scully laughed. Just the image of them owning a greenhouse brought an amused smile to her face.

"However," he leaned in closer, grinning wickedly, "That doesn't' mean we can't enjoy this one." He kissed her gently, bringing his free hand to caress her cheek.



"You're impossible." Scully laughed.

"You're the one who married me. I figured by now you'd realized the risks." Mulder grinned, pulling her closer.

"Yes Mulder, that I have," she paused briefly before adding, "But I love you anyway," and kissing him again.

The next morning they were awakened by loud yelling. Scully blinked, trying to clear her sleep-filled vision. From the sound of things they were in for a long day.

Feeling Mulder's lips press gently atop the crown of her head, Scully snuggled closer, suddenly realizing how cold the room had become. And how come it was so dark in here? Had the canopy closed over night?

"Snow storm." Mulder answered her unspoken question.

Eyebrows raised in astonishment as she turned to face him.

Mulder pointed to the ceiling. She followed his finger to the now fully covered enormous skylight. Sure enough, it was buried under a thick layer of white. Scully closed her eyes, sighing as she dropped her head to Mulder's chest. Could things get any worse? Now not only were they abducted, handcuffed, and hungry, they were now going to be suck here? In a snowstorm? With two killers? Ok, she hadn't actually seen them kill anybody, but Scully had not become the good FBI agent she was without knowing Mac and Eddy's type.

Mulder said nothing, instead taking her free hand in his and giving it a squeeze. Together they lay in silence listening to the noise below.

Downstairs Mac had allowed his "proper demeanor" to falter; spouting off every four-lettered word in the book.

"Why?" He stopped, allowing himself to calm down, "Why now?"

Eddy, who had rarely seen his boss like this, was secretly enjoying watching Mac crack.

"We should already be on our way!" Mac scowled, pounding his fist into the countertop, "Eight. We have to be there by EIGHT! Howarewe gonna do that? Huh Eddy? Huh!" He yelled, slurring his speech in his furry.

"I-uh," Eddy took a step back as Mac leapt from the bar stool he'd been sitting on, "I don't know?"

Mac gave out a huff and suddenly stopped pacing, "Go get firewood." His change in tone was drastic. He seemed to be regaining his composure.

"But I'm hungry." Eddy sometimes wondered about Mac; how he could so suddenly switch tempers in such a short amount of time.

"Fine, I'll make the food, you get the wood." With that said, Mac headed for the refrigerator.

Begrudgingly, Eddy headed up stairs.

It was almost noon and the storm had continued to rage. The sides of the cabin trembled against the angry wind. Eddy had managed to get a fire going and was just finishing off the last of his chili when Mac stepped into the room.

"Everything is set." He sat down across from Eddy at the table. They sat in silence for a few moments before he spoke again, "Go get them."

"Huh?" Eddy looked up from his bowl.

"We'll get there by eight if it kills us." Mac stood and left to "pack".

"And it probably will." Eddy muttered under his breath. Tossing his dirty dishes into the sink, he headed upstairs.

Scully swallowed the last of the chili, feeling its warmth travel all the way to her stomach. The perfect meal for such a cold day...now if only they weren't being held hostage...

Mulder grinned, watching as Scully placed her bowl back onto the tray and neatly dabbed at her lips with a napkin.

Eating chili without spilling it on yourself is hard enough under normal circumstances. Eating chili while being handcuffed to another chili-eating person is another feat entirely. But through a little teamwork, they'd been able to do it without spilling even the slightest bit. Even in such a mundane task as eating chili, Mulder and Scully were in perfect synch.

Suddenly, the door burst open and Eddy stomped in angrily.

"Get up." He scowled, his tone of voice indicating that they had better obey.

Mulder and Scully slowly made their way off the bed.

"Where are we going?" Mulder already missed the warm comfy Egyptian-style bed.

"No time for questions," Mulder winced slightly as Eddy grabbed at his recovering arm and shoved him out the door. Scully stumbled out the door after him, trying to remain on her feet. Mulder turned around just in time to grab Scully around the waist before she fell.

"Awww, isn't that sweet." Eddy said in a sarcastic tone of voice; receiving a cold glare from both agents. They continued down the stairs in silence.

They stopped once they reached the living room. Mulder caught Scully's eye and they scanned the room together.

Mac was hastily shoving money into four black leather briefcases. In front of the door two heavy trunks sat waiting.

"Sit down," Mac didn't even bother to look up, half-heartedly gesturing towards the couch.

Scully looked at Mulder. Mulder looked at Scully. Together they slowly made their way to the couch.

~This is it. We're as good as dead.~ Scully swallowed hard.

"C'mon," Mac motioned for Eddy to grab a side of one of the massive trunks. Together they carried it outside. Through the open door, Mulder watched as the two men disappeared in a thick haze of white. The blowing snow enveloped them in an instant, barely allowing Mulder to see the trunk being loaded into a waiting truck. When they came back inside Mac and Eddy were fighting once again.

"The port isn't that far away, we could-"

"No! We're leaving now." Mac cut Eddy off sharply.

"And why are we taking all this money? I thought we agreed to keep half and split it." This time Eddy held his ground, his voice raising.

"Change of plans." Mac picked up two briefcases and headed out the door. He didn't get far before Eddy stopped him.

Mac stared at his partner in disbelief, "Grab the briefcases and let's go!"

Eddy stood in front of the door, blocking Mac's exit.

"What the-" This time Mac was cut off.

"I don't think so." Eddy's voice was gruff and ice cold. He slammed the door shut behind him, rage bubbling up inside.

Mulder and Scully sat helplessly on the couch, watching as Eddy withdrew a handgun from beneath his jacket.

"Sit down...*Mac*." Eddy was unusually calm, making Mulder, Scully and Mac hold their breath.

"Eddy what-"

"Do it." He shoved the gun into Mac's chest. Slowly Mac set the briefcases down and made his way to the loveseat. Swallowing hard, he sat down.

Eddy stood with the gun trained at Mac's head, "Mulder was right," He looked from his superior to the FBI agent and back again, "I'm just as qualified for this job as you. And we both know *I* would never try to con a partner-PARTNER." He spat out the word, waving the gun dangerously in the air as he spoke, "If it were up to me we wouldn't be in this mess," he glared at Mac then turned his attention to Mulder and Scully, "AAAAAnd, I wouldn't a got us stuck here with two FBI agents!"

Mac started to protest but Eddy stopped him, "Did I say you could talk?" He moved closer, shoving the gun right into Mac's face.

Suddenly Mulder wondered just exactly how far Eddy was going to go. Maybe there had been a very good reason this man had not been put in charge.

"Eddy," Mulder's voice was calm and as he spoke he could feel Scully tense beside him. He caught her eye for a brief moment and she nodded-a nod barely perceptible to anyone other than Mulder. He continued, "It is bad what Mac's done to you, but you're in charge now. You can do whatever you want with the money." He tried to get the man's mind off the gun in his hand, "You don't have to kill Mac to get what you want."

"Who ever said anything about killing Mac?" Eddy sneered, suddenly pointing the gun at Mulder.

Scully's heart skipped a beat and every muscle in her body tensed.

Mac's worried expression suddenly morphed into an evil grin. He decided to take Eddy's change of heart and use it in his favor, "You can have whatever you want Eddy. Maybe you were right, maybe it would be better if you were in charge." As long as the barrel wasn't pointed at him, Mac didn't care what happened.

Eddy ignored him, stepping closer to the two agents sitting on the couch, "I thank you for showing me the truth." Mulder had to resist the urge to scoff at the irony of Eddy's words, "But I won't be needing your help any more." He raised the gun to Mulder's head.

Mulder had no time to react.

"NOO!" Scully barely got the word out before Eddy pulled the trigger.

She vaguely remembered hearing another gunshot but was in too much shock to care. The next few moments were a blur. Mac grabbed Eddy by the shoulder and together they managed to get the other trunk and the money out to the truck. Scully hardly even saw them leave.

"Mulder!" He lay slumped against the back of the couch, "Mulder?" Scully had to fight back the tears. No. This couldn't be happening. They were supposed to be on their honeymoon, not here, not now.

Scully tried her best not to panic but it was nearly impossible. She wiped angrily at the tears blurring her vision as she cradled Mulder's head in her lap, wiping his hair away from the blood on his head. Scully took his pulse-weak but he was alive. A huge wave of relief swept over her as she realized the bullet had just grazed his forehead. Lucky for them, Eddy was a bad shot.

"Mulder?" Her voice was barely a whisper. The sound of the snowstorm raging outside seemed to fill the cabin. The roaring wind rattled the shutters and caused Scully an involuntary chill. She continued to stroke Mulder's forehead, whispering his name and fighting back the relentless tears.

Never before had she felt so helpless. Being handcuffed prevented her from getting up and calling for help (although the likelihood of finding a phone that actually worked, she knew, was very little), and there wasn't even any way she could reach something to help stay the bleeding. Using the only thing she had, Scully tore off her remaining sleeve and gingerly applied the cloth to the wound on Mulder's head.

"You keep that up and our rescuers are going to be in for a big surprise." The sound of Mulder's voice caused Scully to jump.

"Mulder?" Relief flooded her interior as she managed a shaky sigh.

He gave her a weak smile, trying to focus on her worried expression. That's when he saw the blood. She was covered in it. Mulder sat up suddenly-much too suddenly for a man who had nearly been shot in the head-eyes wide.


"It's ok." She gently placed her hand on his chest to still him.

Only then did he realize that it was his blood that stained her shirt. ~And the only way that could be~ Mulder thought to himself ~Is if I've been shot...again...~ His mind trailed off as the throbbing in his head took over all conscious thought.

"Lie still." Scully soothed him back until his head rested on the arm of the couch. She met his gaze with tear-stained eyes, "I thought they killed you Mulder." At his name, her voice faltered and a single tear slid down her cheek.

"Hey," His voice was soft as he lifted a hand to catch the water droplet with his thumb. Scully rarely let him see her emotions get the better of her, and it tore at Mulder's heart to see her cry, and to know that he was the source of her tears. He placed a hand gently on her arm, forcing Scully to stop her doctoring for the moment as he pulled her to his chest, wrapping his free arm around her shoulders. Scully closed her eyes letting herself give in to her wrought emotions.


"Shhh," He gently cut her off, placing his lips on the crown of her head, whispering, "It's ok."

It was nearly midnight. With a few hours of careful maneuvering, Mulder and Scully had managed to find the bathroom and, therefore, the medicine cabinet. Scully had done her best trying to clean and bandage yet another of Mulder's numbering wounds accompanying this particular trip to the forest. After making Mulder take some Ibuprofen for the pain, Scully had helped him back upstairs and into the bed.

They now lay buried beneath mounds of downy comforter and, as Mulder noted while glancing toward the ceiling, a thick layer of snow. Outside the wind howled and the snow continued to fall. The storm raged unmercifully against the cabin that suddenly seemed so small nestled out in the middle of nowhere; isolated from the rest of the world.

"We have to stop them Scully." Mulder broke the silence, turning his head to face her.

"Mulder," She met his gaze with a worried look, "I think you've been through enough already don't you?" Her eyes begged him to agree. Even though in the back of her mind she knew that Mac and Eddy had to be stopped, Scully dreaded being the ones to do it.

Mulder met her eyes but said nothing. He knew she knew he was right.

"Mulder I just-" Scully let out a defeated sigh, "Why is it always us? Why do we always have to be the heroes?" She raised her eyebrows at him. Suddenly her frustrated look turned soft as she added, "I don't want..." she wouldn't meet his gaze, "I don't want to lose you." Suddenly memories of the time he had said those every words to her were vivid in Scully's mind. She remained quite for a few moments.

Mulder felt a familiar tug at his heart. He knew the memory was all too near. Lifting her chin to meet his gaze, he said nothing, only offering the safety of his embrace. Scully sank into his arms closing her eyes.

"I'm sorry I ruined your shirt." Mulder's voice broke the silence. Scully pushed back to meet his gaze, a surprised look on her face.


He cut her off with a mischievous grin, and Scully couldn't help but laugh. Leave it to Mulder to chase away the demons of the past with his characteristic off-the-subject-to-cheer-her-up remark.

"Get some sleep Mulder." Scully smiled weakly, starting to feel a little better. After considering what they'd already been through, Scully spoke, "We're going to have a long day if we plan to catch up to Mac and Eddy."

Mulder grinned. His fiery, and determined as ever, Scully was back.

The next morning Scully awoke to find herself wrapped tightly in her own personal Mulder-blanket. She could feel the tickle of his breath just below her ear and knew that he was awake.

Scully turned over slowly, all the while failing at her attempt to stifle a sleepy-eyed yawn. Her yawn turned into a grin when she caught sight of Bed-Head Mulder, grinning and as cute as ever.

"Mornin'," Mulder seemed much to peppy for so early in the morning. Scully was silently wondering where he got all that energy when her thoughts were interrupted by the feel of his lips on hers.

"Morning yourself." Scully grinned up at her husband, taking in everything from those familiar playful hazel eyes that sparkled back, to the dull smudge of red reminiscent of the "berry incident", and finally the bandage from yesterday's scare. If nothing else this trip had proved to be an eventful one. She just hoped nothing *too* eventful was waiting for them in the day's trek through the knew-high snow.

"Ready for a fun day of winter sports?" Mulder sat up, gently bringing Scully along.

"I don't know if I'd necessarily agree with your idea of fun winter sports Mulder, but I guess I'm as ready as I'll ever be." Scully's brow furrowed as she gave him a serious look, "But we're not going anywhere before I make sure that that bullet didn't cause any more harm than you insist." When it looked as if Mulder might protest Scully quickly added, "I don't care how much you try and convince me, I'm not leaving until I'm sure." She gave him a determined look.

Mulder's eyebrows rose in an innocent look, "You'll have no complaints from this patient." He quirked a grin when she gave him a skeptical look.

After they had managed to make it downstairs and to the bathroom, Scully performed the best exam she could given the meager amount of supplies she had to work with.

As Mulder was busy finishing washing his face, Scully glanced wearily at the large spa-style bathtub that took up a greater portion of the large bathroom. Her muscles ached for the warmth and glancing down at her blood/mud-splattered now sleeveless shirt, she found herself longing for a clean change of clothes and a nice long bubble bath. Sighing inwardly, Scully quickly averted her eyes from the porcelain tub that seemed to call out even in its absence. Her act was apparently not fast enough to keep Mulder from seeing the longing look she gave towards the bathtub.

He grabbed a nearby towel with his free and met Scully's gaze with an apologetic look, "I'll make it up to you Scully."

She nodded slightly. How many times had he said those very words on this trip?

"It's ok Mulder," How many times had *she* said those? "How could you have known we'd end up handcuffed together in the middle of nowhere snowed in in this lavishly decorated Egyptian-style criminals' cabin?" Her tone told him that she was only partly kidding.

After raiding Mac and Eddy's refrigerator Mulder and Scully stood facing the open doorway. The storm had calmed to a light snowfall. Large flakes drifted peacefully to the ground, adding to the think layer of white that spread as far as the eye could see. Under any other circumstance Scully would have found the scene quite beautiful. But, seeing as how they would have to trudge through this thick layer of white, she somehow couldn't get herself to enjoy it as much.

"Ready?" Mulder zipped up his coat.

"Do I have a choice?"

Mulder grinned and together they stepped out into the blinding outdoors.

Knee-high was an understatement. Waist-high was more like it. Scully struggled her way through the way-too- deep-for-one-night's-snow snow. Eventually Mulder realized her struggle and tried his best to stay in front of her to help clear a path. She couldn't believe that in just one night the landscape could change so drastically!

Scully rubbed her gloved hands together and blew warm air into them in an attempt to rid them, at least momentarily, of the cold. In doing so she brought Mulder's handcuffed arm with her. He felt the tug and glanced back to see what she was doing.

"Wanna stop for a while?" He continued walking while turning to look at her.

"I'm fine." As she spoke, Scully could see her breath. There was a sudden gust of wind which sent a chill right to the bone. Scully shivered and made a mental not to buy warmer gloves, just in case they should ever end up trekking through waist-high snow again.

"Think warm thoughts." Mulder shot her his characteristic boyish grin.

Scully glared back ~Easy for you to say, you're not up to the waist in snow with very little body fat to keep you warm. Curse that male metabolism!~

They continued on in silence.

A half a mile later they were walking through a particularly dense part of the woods when a loud bang ricocheted throughout the newly created winter wonderland.

Automatically thinking 'gunshot', Mulder grabbed Scully's wrist and ran for cover (well, as much as one could "run" through three and a half feet of snow). They made it to a group of white-covered bushes. Mulder threw himself on top of Scully, shielding her as best he could, listening to see what happened next.

Scully was out of breath and very much caught off guard as she found herself buried beneath three plus feet of snow and Mulder. Only the sound of their heavy breathing and pounding hearts could be heard.

After a few minutes of nothingness, Mulder looked at Scully, question evident in his eyes. Slowly he lifted himself off his wife to cautiously peek over the snow bank. All he was greeted with was a face-full of bush and snow. Apparently it was taller and the snow was deeper than he'd thought...

Scully got up and began brushing off snow, "Well?" She couldn't see over the bush so Scully waited impatiently for Mulder to tell her what he saw.

Mulder was quiet as he scanned the surrounding area, careful to keep himself out of sight. Suddenly his eyes fell upon a fallen branch and he stilled. Two Super-Squirrels were busy chatting rapidly away, apparently discussing their luck on surviving such a fall.

"Guess *hibernation* isn't a part of their vocabulary." Mulder muttered under his breath, trying to decide if he was more angry or relieved.

"Mulder?" Scully still awaited an explanation.

"Our friends are back." His voice lacked enthusiasm, "And by *friends* I don't mean Mac and Eddy." Mulder glanced back just in time to see the super-squirrels disappear into the forest.

Scully searched her mind for an explanation. Finally she could come to only one conclusion, "Squirrels?"

Mulder just nodded, sparing her his usual witty remark. Suddenly Scully broke into a grin. She could feel the laughter slowly bubble up inside until she was openly laughing about the absurdity of the whole situation. It didn't take Mulder long to join her. Pretty soon they were laughing so hard their sides hurt.

"I can't wait...to see...Skinner's face when...he reads our report!" Scully spoke through broken laughter. This just caused them both to laugh more until they were practically crying.

"Come on." Mulder managed to get himself under control, turning to climb out of the "snow pit".

It was a lot harder to get out of their "cover of safety" than it was to get in. They slipped and slid together until Mulder finally grabbed Scully by the waist, easily hoisted her over the side, and climbed out after her.

"Looks like we're going the right way." Mulder pointed to an area where the woods parted and fresh tire tracks revealed a snow-covered road.

Mulder and Scully crept as silently as possible onto the deck of the ship. The sun was setting just as they boarded. Unfamiliar shadows cast an ominous feel on their surroundings. They were rounding a huge crate when Scully reached out her hand and placed it on Mulder's shoulder to stay him. He looked up to see Mac and Eddy a few feet away.

Eddy tried the key again. It still didn't fit. In a fit of rage, he thrust the key in with all his might. Still no luck. He yelled and stomped around the deck of the boat, kicking anything that was in sight. Mulder and Scully held their breath as he passed by the crate they were hiding behind.

"What is this?" A man neither had seen before spoke in a raspy voice. He moved with an age old grace towards Mac and Eddy. Pausing slightly, he finally added, "Are you trying to con me out of my treasure?!"

"I-I, uh, no sir!" Eddy suddenly took on the face of a deer caught in the headlights. Mac remained quiet.

The old man stepped closer to Eddy, grabbing his shirt collar. He spoke so closely that Eddy could easily smell the lingering scent of pipe tobacco.

"I do not deal kindly to thieves and conmen." The old man growled through clenched teeth.

"Sir, I assure you we had no such intentions in mind." Mac stepped forward, speaking for the first time since he'd set foot on the ship. He continued in a calm voice, "We ran into a couple of FBI agents on the way."

"FBI?" Letting go of Eddy's collar, the old man turned his attention to Mac. Eddy fell to the deck and scrambled away.

"Yes," Mac continued in a practiced tone of voice, "They showed us some trouble, but we got rid of them." He stood closer, placing an arm on the man's shoulder, "But there is no need to worry, Sir. They are as good as dead."

"Yes!" Eddy finally stood up, nervously agreeing with Mac, "We got rid of 'em, handcuffed 'em and-"Mac shot Eddy a warning glance. Eddy stopped talking.

The old man scrutinized each of the two men before him with an ice cold stare. After a few moments he seemed satisfied enough that they were telling the truth.

"Well then where is the key?" He grumbled angrily. Turning back to face the large safe in front of him.

Both Mac and Eddy were silent.

"I asked you a question." The words were spoken slowly and deliberately, letting each hang dangerously in the air before continuing.

"I don't know Sir." Mac glanced at the large built-in safe, "It must have been switched some time along the trip..." He tapered off, lost in thought.

Eddy paced the Capitan's quarters nervously behind Mac's back. Suddenly he stopped pacing, a look of revelation crossing his face, "It was them, them FBI agents!" He looked up proudly at Mac and the old man before continuing, "Sir, they tried to get away with the key but we followed 'em-chased 'em through the woods-until we got to a cliff." He paused slightly for a breath, "When we got there we forced 'em to hand over the key and the note-I wanted to kill 'em then, but Mac wouldn't let me." He sent a fleeting glance in Mac's direction as he spoke, "But Mulder-the guy agent-he musta switched keys on us." He stopped talking and met their gazes with a very proud look on his face.

The Old Man froze, "Did you say Agent Mulder?"

"Yeah," Eddy seemed upset that no one took any notice to his brilliant solution, "What you heard of him?"

"Only by name," there was a slight pause as the Old Man's face seemed troubled, "and reputation."

"Reputation?" Mac didn't like the sound of that.

"I have had many associates of mine tell me of this Agent Mulder you speak of. He is not to be played over easily."

"Well there's no worry now Sir." Mac spoke confidently.

"Yeah, I shot him, at the cabin...before we left." Eddy's pride returned.

"I doubt a mere gunshot will slow this Agent Mulder." The Old Man suddenly looked up as if sensing something was not right.

"You think we were followed?" Mac looked doubtful.

Eddy was once again at war with his emotions, frustrated that every time he seemed to be at a high they forced him down again, "That's impossible," he growled as he once again took up pacing the polished wood floor, "I told you, I got him." He met the Old Man's eye with a look of determination.

"Even so, I do not think we should linger here long." He stepped outside briefly speaking to a shipmate in a language unintelligible by Mulder and Scully. "We will leave port as soon as possible," he said as he re-entered the room. At Eddy's look he added, "In the off chance that you were followed."

There was a great deal of commotion as Mulder and Scully watched the crew get ready to leave port. Men yelled orders to each other in a language neither could understand.

"Why the sudden change in plans?" Scully whispered from behind Mulder.

"I don't know," They were unable to hear very much of what was said inside the Capitan's quarters, "But it looks like we're going to find out."

Scully's blood ran cold as she saw the look on Mulder's face. There was no need to turn around for at the same time she felt a cold, all too familiar, barrel of a gun press into the back of her neck.

"Get up." A stern voice commanded them.

Mulder stood slowly, watching as Scully did the same. They followed the man over the deck of the ship before being taken into the Capitan's quarters.

Mixed with pure hatred, looks of shock and disbelief met them at the door. Eddy stood as if he'd seen a ghost, and without words stalked up to Mulder and thrust his fist into his stomach with all his might. Mulder doubled over in pain and fell to the floor. Eddy spit in the general direction of the man he had so quickly become to hate.

"Well well well," The Old Man walked up to the two agents. He bent to look Mulder in the eye, "So this is the infamous Agent Mulder."

Mulder looked at the unfamiliar man while trying to catch his breath.

Scully watched helplessly as the gun was thrust deeper into her neck. She was bent over due to the handcuffs, but could see Mulder's expression. She sent him a quick look of despair before being pulled into a standing position.

"And this," The Old Man took his time, "must be the lovely Agent Scully."

Scully stared coldly at the man in front of her. She'd never seen him before but obviously he'd heard of them. Who was he and what did he want?

The Old Man let out a genuine chuckle at the look on the agents' faces, "I have heard many a story of you two." He paused briefly, taking in the two people in front of him as if they were wax figures suddenly come to life, "But I never actually believed all those crazy stories...However, now I can see that I was wrong."

By now Mulder had managed a standing position and, with Scully's help, keep steady enough to look the Old Man in the eye, "Who are you?"

"Someone who has heard a lot about you." The Old Man did not elaborate, instead he turned to the man with the gun, "Take them downstairs, you know what to do."

Scully was shoved out the door by another thrust of the gun. Mulder had little choice but to follow.

Once outside, Scully was amazed at how far out to sea they already were. A pang of despair hit her when she realized just how near impossible it would be for anyone to find them now. Mulder saw her face, followed her gaze, and realized that he too was beginning to lose hope.

Night came and went, and by dusk the next day Mulder and Scully found themselves alone and freezing in a small room they had never seen before.

Scully looked around, confused. How long had they been there, and why did she not remember getting there? She turned to face Mulder. He was lying propped against the wall, head back, eyes closed. For a second Scully panicked, thinking he had passed out. Finally, Mulder slowly opened his eyes to meet her gaze.

"More knock-out drops." His voice was hoarse from lack of sleep and exhaustion.

"Why didn't they just kill us?" Scully didn't bother to state it any less bluntly.

"I'm guessing they still think we have the key." He paused for a while letting his eyes wander around the small room: a dusty chair, a small table...things were looking all too familiar, "Or they've got something "special" in store." He emphasized "special" in a wry tone of voice.



"What are we doing here?" Scully let out a defeated sigh, "I mean, how do we always seem to be in the wrong place at the right time?"

Mulder chuckled, the sparkle in his eye slowing returning, "It's what we do Scully," he grinned, "Maybe years from now people will be talking about us."

Scully rolled her eyes, unable to keep the grin from peeking through. In a sarcastic tone of voice she stated, "Yeah Mulder, and someday maybe they'll even have a TV show about us."

Mulder grinned, enjoying her willingness to play along.

Their good humor was cut short by a sudden commotion on the deck above. Scully and Mulder stiffened, both turning towards the door. There was a thunderous round of yelling and crashing before footsteps could be heard descending the stairs.

Mulder and Scully met their captures with a look the mixture of surprise and dread. They were not at all prepared for what happened next.

Mac and Eddy stumbled through the door, struggling with something. Neither Mulder nor Scully could see what it was, but both had a good chance at guessing.

"No Eddy!" Mac struggled with the shorter man in a vain attempt to keep him under control, "We still need them if we want to find the key in time!"

"There IS no time left Mac!" Eddy forced the words through clenched teeth. Up on deck more shouting ensued. There was a gunshot and suddenly Mac lost any remnants of a hold he had on Eddy.

Somewhere in the back of his mind Mulder had a fleeting thought of the whereabouts of the Old Man who seemed to know so much about them. Based on past experience with "mysterious old men", he was willing to wager that he would be gone before they got the cuffs off. IF they ever got the cuffs off that is...

Scully held her breath and squeezed Mulder's hand as the inevitable played out before her eyes. As if in slow motion, Mac fell to the floor, the blood from his wound oozing from his chest in a slow, jelly-like fashion. Scully thought vaguely how much it reminded her of the cherry pie filling her mother would always let her and her siblings fight over once the pie was in the oven. A sickening dread filled the pit of her stomach.

Eddy seemed somewhat mesmerized by the sight before him. The death of his long-time partner and-although at times it had been rough-friend. Blood continued to ooze onto the floor, reaching the soles of Eddy's shoes and parting like a slow-moving river around two giant slabs of rock.

The brief flicker of humanity left Eddy's eyes almost as fast as it had entered and he immediately turned the weapon on Mulder and Scully. Eddy walked up to Mulder slowly, a smirk on his face.

"I was gonna finish you off first," he paused glaring at Mulder with a hate that permeated the very center of his being, "But then I decided there was only one thing I could do to make you truly suffer." He gave out a dry cackle, the wildness in his eyes blazing like a fire before them. Eddy trained the gun on Scully, "Sorry Red." Scully wouldn't allow him the satisfaction of a response.

Time stood still. All actions, thoughts, words, stood balanced on a precipice as Mulder watched, terrified.

Scully met his eyes with one last lingering look. Courage. Trust. Fear. Love...Mulder and Scully. She closed her eyes as the shot rang out.

Mulder was in such a state of shock it took a good five minutes for the numbness to subside, the breathing to return, and for him to realize that Scully was still standing. She was alive!

Scully took in a shaky breath, meeting Mulder's gaze with the same surreal look of relief. They both looked towards Eddy as he lay unconscious on the floor. Scully's eyes traveled from the gun-now laying a few feet away-to the door. A second surprise met her with a new relief. AD Walther Skinner stood in the doorway as he slowly lowered the weapon in his hand.

"Sir you don't know how happy we are to see you." Scully spoke, glancing from him to Mulder and back again.

"Likewise," Skinner glanced from the men lying lifeless on the floor in front of him and up to a handcuffed, bruised, dirty, and completely worn out Mulder and Scully, "You two look like you've been through a tornado."

"If only we'd been so lucky," Mulder mumbled, leaning slightly on Scully.

"We've been looking for you for the past week." Skinner said.

"We?" Mulder turned just in time to see agents Doggett and Reyes appear in the doorway.

"Boat's secure." Doggett drawled, out of breath from the chaos that had ensued on deck.

"I called the boat crew, they should be here in a few hours to wrap up and take everyone in." Agent Reyes holstered her weapon, turning to Mulder and Scully, "Glad to see you guys are OK."

"How did you find us?" Scully glanced from person to person.

"We got a call from the local PD saying you two never showed up to file the paperwork on the grizzly bear case." Skinner tried his best to refer to the "case" as professional as possible. They'd been through enough. Mulder didn't need it to be thrown in his face that this had not been an X-file after all. Mulder dropped his gaze and was thankful when Skinner continued without comment, "After a few days of searching we ended up running into the grizzly...we found these," here he held up two cell phones and a flashlight.

Two sets of eyebrows shot up in surprise as Mulder and Scully met the A. D. with equal looks of disbelief.

"The bear, who, by the way is doing just fine, apparently didn't have much use for them." Skinner paused, handing the phones to their respectful owners. Scully took the flashlight.

"But how did you know to look for us on a ship, let alone which one?" Mulder tucked his cell phone into his mud-splattered coat pocket.

"It took us a while." Doggett broke in, "First we found the bear. Then we ended up followin' him to his cave. That's where we found your stuff." He motioned towards the cell phones and flashlight.

"As we were going back," Reyes spoke, "we ran into a spot that looked like there'd been trouble. We followed the trail of blood back to another cave."

Mulder and Scully exchanged glances. Mulder had a fleeting memory of the night he had been attacked by the grizzly. He remembered the tree and suddenly felt sick to his stomach.

"It took us a while but we were able to track your footprints to a cabin out in the middle of nowhere." It was Skinner's turn to talk. He glanced from the bandage on Mulder's head to the one on his arm, "From the amount of blood at the scene we feared the worst."

"We followed another set of...tracks" here Reyes hesitated for the "tracks" she spoke of was more like a three foot "ditch" in the deep snow, "out of the mountains and to the warehouse." Agent Reyes glanced from the men beside her to Mulder and Scully, "There we found a man who said he'd been sent out to attempt clearing the roads when he had seen the strangest thing." She paused.

"He said he saw a man and a woman. On a tractor. Handcuffed. And barreling along the fastest he'd ever seen a John Deere go in the snow." Doggett's face held a hint of a grin.

"Anyway, we were able to follow the tractor's tracks to the dock and found out that an entire ring of smugglers were using the warehouse as a storage unit. After some questioning a few of them gave in and told us the name of the ship you were on." Skinner focused his attention on the men on the floor, "Looks like we got here just in time." He cleared his throat and concentrated once again on the agents in front of him. "Their ring-leader, a man in his late 60's, seems to have disappeared. The rest of the crew-mostly illegal immigrants-say they have no idea what their superior was up to, only that they were not allowed inside the Captain's quarters and were told to use "just force" in eliminating any "outsiders" on board." He finished the story, and for a moment nobody spoke.

"Sir, can I ask you a favor?" Scully broke the silence.

Skinner looked puzzled as he waited for Scully's request.

"Unlock these things before I have to chew my arm off?" Scully held up her handcuffed arm, bringing Mulder's with it.

"Amen to that sister." Mulder gave a weak sigh.

Skinner immediately took out his keys and unlocked the cuffs. Scully rubbed her wrists, giving a look of concern to the deep red bruise that was left in its place.

Mulder rubbed his wrist. They had been handcuffed for so long it felt weird to have free space to move about without bringing Scully along, "I miss 'em already." He grinned wickedly at his wife.

Scully rolled her eyes, "Come on Mulder, we need to check you for head trauma." With that they followed Skinner, Doggett, and Reyes onto the deck of the ship, never turning to look back at the two men that had caused them so much harm in the past few weeks.

Mulder wandered around on deck until he found a place to sit down. The boat crew had radioed in that they would be there within the next two hours. Skinner, Doggett, and Reyes continued searching the ship, taking the key Scully had given them-finally removed from her shoe-so that they could open the safe. Scully no longer cared what was inside the safe. She just wanted to go home.

Scully found Mulder on deck, leaning against a pile of sandbags, his head back, eyes closed.

"Hey," she spoke softly. Mulder opened his eyes and smiled.

"This wasn't exactly the type of cruise I was thinking of when I suggested it for a honeymoon." He paused, meeting her glance. Their eyes locked and Scully smiled.

"Stop torturing yourself Mulder." She came up beside him and sat down, trying to find a comfortable place among the haphazardly strew about sandbags. Scully was quiet, taking his hand in hers.

Mulder's melancholy quickly passed and he held Scully's hand as they watched the sun slowly sink over the horizon. The moment was so strangely romantic that Scully couldn't help but grin at the look Mulder gave her. He leaned in slowly, bringing her face close to his. The moment was quickly broken as the ship suddenly lurched to the side, sending Scully into his lap.

Agent Doggett suddenly appeared and stopped short when he found Scully lying sprawled across Mulder's lap. She quickly sat up, regaining her composure and glaring at Mulder when she saw the wicked grin on his face.

"We, uh-" Doggett spoke, suddenly feeling very uncomfortable, "found something you two should probably take a look at."

Scully managed to get back on her feet. Mulder bit his lip to keep from grinning as he stood up.

"Agent Doggett?" Scully looked at him when he didn't move.

Doggett seemed to snap out of it and finally spoke, "This way." He turned and headed into the Capitan's quarters. Scully and Mulder followed.

Skinner looked up as they entered, "Looks like you two hit the jackpot." He stepped aside for Mulder and Scully to see inside the closet-sized safe. It was full of Egyptian artifacts, jewels, ancient writings, and money.

Scully gasped at the treasures before her. Mulder didn't know what to say.

"Looks like we'll be needing more than an FBI fleet sedan and an old John Deere to get all this out." Reyes grinned.

"Radio in;" Skinner turned to Agent Doggett, "We're going to need more men. The Lady of the Mist is going to need top-notch security."

"Lady of the Mist?" Mulder raised an eyebrow.

"I took a little Egyptian in college." Skinner left it at that as he made his way back on deck, leaving four dumbfounded FBI agents in his wake.

13 hours and a ton of paperwork later, Mulder and Scully were finally home.

Home. The word brought a renewed sense of comfort to Scully as she hung up her coat and flopped onto the couch with an exhausted sigh. Mulder followed suit, dropping down next to her and letting himself melt into the comfort of the couch cushions.

"I'm never getting up again." Scully spoke, eyes closed. The phone rang. She let out a groan.

"I'll get it." Mulder managed a sitting position, wincing slightly as his sore muscles screamed in protest. He grabbed the phone off the end table, "Mul-Hello?" He waited for an answer, watching Scully lie with her eyes still closed beside him, "Oh Mrs. Scully hi," Scully opened her eyes, "I'm sorry...mom." He was still not quite used to calling Scully's mother "mom". Scully smiled and closed her eyes again, "Ok, yes...we're fine...sure, she's right here." Mulder met Scully's gaze, smiled apologetically, and handed the phone over.

"Hi mom." Scully gave an inward sigh. She loved her mother, but after spending so many weeks rampaging through the Cascade Mountains handcuffed and in the middle of a blizzard, Scully wanted nothing more than a hot bath and a good night's sleep.

Mulder got up to make some hot tea while Scully spoke with her mom. As he entered the kitchen, he heard her say, "It's a long story mom" and new she would be a while. He used his cell phone (amazed that it still worked), to call for pizza instead.

"I'm gonna go take a shower." Mulder mouthed, doing the actions as he pointed towards the bathroom. Scully have him a forlorn look but nodded as she said, "Yes mom, that'd be wonderful," into the phone. Mulder grinned and headed off to wash away more than his fair share of the Cascades.

Fifteen minutes later, Mulder walked into the kitchen, freshly bathed and in a pair of sweatpants and a gray T-shirt. His hair was still wet and glistened in the light from the living room. Scully looked up from her third piece of pizza.

"My turn!" She bolted for the bathroom.

"Wow Scully, I thought you said you were tired."

"Not to tired for a bath." She was in and out of the bedroom in record time, carrying her pajamas and a handful of bath products. Mulder laughed and headed for the pizza.

After 45 minutes of eating alone and watching some black and white movie he had already seen before but couldn't remember the name of, Mulder got up and headed for the bathroom. He tapped on the door. There was no answer. He turned the knob in his hand and, finding it unlocked, stepped inside.

A hot gust of steam met him head on. He coughed and began flailing his arms about, "Gee Scully, you think you've been in here long enough?"

Scully lifted the washcloth that was covering her face, "Mulder what are you doing?" She was clearly surprised to see him.

"I got lonely," was his simple explanation as he seated himself on the edge of the toilet.

"Na-uh," Scully met his gaze, "You had your turn. Now it's mine." She replaced the washcloth over her eyes.

"But Scully," Mulder whined, "you bath has already been three times as long as my shower."

"That's not my fault." Scully didn't budge. Mulder saw this as a challenge.

Beneath the warm cloth, Scully could hear Mulder rustling about the bathroom, picking up things, setting them down, bumping into others.

"Mulder, seriously what are you doing?" Scully let out an exasperated sigh and finally removed the washcloth and laid it over the edge of the tub. When she opened her eyes all she could see was the back half of Mulder sticking out from underneath the bathroom sink. She let out an irritated, "Mulder?"

"Just fixin' the leaky sink, Scully, don't let me bother you." His voice came from inside the cupboard.

"What?" She could not believe this man. Sometimes she thought he did it on purpose just to spite her.

"I've been meaning to do this for the past few months but I never got around to it..." he trailed off, shifting around to get a better hold on the pipe.

Scully remembered the last time he tried to fix a leaking pipe, "All right already." She let out a defeated sigh, "You win."

Mulder jumped out from underneath the sink, a victorious grin sweeping his features. Scully regretfully reached for the drain.

"No don't," Mulder stayed her hand, "I know how much you enjoy your bath time Scully. I wouldn't want to put it to a premature end." He sat down next to the edge of the tub, taking a bottle of lilac-smelling bath oil and pouring a small amount into his hand, "Go ahead Scully, relax. You deserve it." His tone was sincere. Mulder reached into the water and pulled out a leg.

As he began massaging oil into her sore muscles, Scully felt her annoyance quickly disappear. She looked into the smiling face of her husband and instantly was reminded exactly why she loved this man so much. His actions brought tears to her eyes.

"Mulder you're getting soaked." Scully let out a giggle as he finished one leg and kissed the arch of her foot. He proceeded to kiss each toe and ended at her heel before placing her leg back into the sea of bubbles.

"Well, you're not going to stop there are you Mulder?" The muscles in her other leg demanded equal treatment.

"Do I ever leave unfinished business?" His voice was low as he teased in a seductive tone. Mulder shed his already soaked clothing and climbed into the tub, positioning himself at Scully's feet to allow him better access to her right leg. Scully shifted around to make room. It was a good thing they had a big tub.

Mulder proceeded his ministrations as he had before, massaging the oil in slow circles. Scully closed her eyes and sank further into the bubbles.

"Now this is what should happen after each of our long "nice trips to the forest" are finally over." Scully grinned, her eyes still closed as Mulder worked his magic. He continued his massage, following every rotation with a kiss, working his way up the length of her leg and down again before ending with an openmouthed kiss to the small of her foot.

Scully opened her eyes and smiled. She sat up and took Mulder's hand, pulling him closer to kiss him fully on the lips. She let her forehead rest on his, whispering, "I love you Mulder."

Mulder beamed, closing his eyes and whispering in answer, "I love you more than you'll ever know Scully," before finding her lips with his. He pulled her into his lap, causing the warm sea of bubbles to come dangerously close to the edge of the tub. Mulder wrapped his arms around his wife, content to stay this way forever.

Scully was beginning to get used to this hopelessly romantic side of Mulder. And to be honest she was loving every minute of it. She rested her head on his chest, enjoying the feel of slippery skin on slippery skin. He kissed the top of her head, the soft spot behind her ear, and finally found her mouth with his in a passionate kiss. Scully closed her eyes, allowing the treacherous events of the past few weeks escape her mind. The kiss lingered on. It was good to be home.


"Hello?" Groggy and still holding on to the last remnants of sleep, Mulder picked up the phone. Scully turned slightly in her sleep. Mulder tried his best not to wake her.

"Fox?" It was Mrs. Scully, "I'm sorry, did I wake you?"

"No, I was just getting up," Mulder lied, glancing at the bedside clock: 11:21. He couldn't believe how late it was! They were supposed to be at Scully's mother's house for lunch in just over a half an hour! Cradling the phone with his head and shoulder, Mulder turned and gently shook Scully. She mumbled an unintelligible something and rolled over.

"Scully," Mulder whispered as he spoke into the phone, "Yes Mrs-Mom, we'll pick up some ice on the way." He shook her a little harder. This time Scully opened her eyes, "We'll see you in about a half an hour...ok...you too...bye." Mulder quickly hung up the phone and turned around. He had a slightly panicked look on his face.

By now Scully had had a glance at the clock. Her eyes were wide in disbelief. He heard her say something about not believing she's slept so long as she ran around trying to get ready.

Mulder quickly pulled on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. After hastily pulling on a sweater and stumbling to find his shoes, Mulder was almost ready.

Fifteen minutes later Mulder found himself standing face to face with a perfectly groomed, every-hair-in-place Scully. He couldn't keep the dumbfounded look form his face.

"Ready Mulder?" Scully stood with their coats in hand.

"How'd you do that?" Mulder was always astonished how, at a moments notice, Scully could always manage to look perfect.

"Do what?" She handed him his coat.

"Never mind." He took his coat and grabbed his keys off the dresser, "We have to stop and get some ice on the way." With that they were out the door and on their way to reunite with their son.

Upon arriving at the house, Mulder, Scully, and a bag of ice were greeted by Charlie, William in his arms.

"Hey you two!" Charlie ginned, pulling his sister into a hug and handing William over to his mother. He took the ice from Mulder, telling them to come in, and was off to the kitchen before they even had a chance to say hello.

Scully held Will close in her arms, planting a kiss on his forehead, "Hey sweetie! Mommy missed you so much!" With her son finally in her arms Scully was able to relax and feel completely at home again.

"Hey buddy," Mulder bent down to give his son a kiss. William gurgled happily, wrapping his chubby fist around his father's finger.

"Dana! Fox! I'm so glad you guys are safely back home!" Mrs. Scully appeared around the corner, wiping her hands on a dishtowel as she went.

Scully gave her mom a hug, "We're glad to be back."

They were quickly ushered into the kitchen and spent the rest of the afternoon explaining what had happened on their long trek through Washington's Cascade Mountains. They left out some of the more gruesome details for the sake of all those present. Finally, at 7:30 Mulder and Scully were able to convince Margaret that they really did need to be going. Scully gave her mom and brother a hug, telling Charlie to be sure and call before he left that Friday and thanking her mom for a wonderful meal-"two meals!" Mulder finished buttoning up William against the cold night air and they made their way to the car.

The Mulder family was at last complete again.

One week later...

Scully tossed her keys to the counter as she moved to hang up her coat. It had been a very long day and after she and Mulder had spent the entire morning trying to fill out expense reports, Scully couldn't help but feel drained.

Mulder had offered to stay late and had insisted she go home to the baby. Scully had been reluctant at first, but finally agreed when he promised to bring the rest of the paperwork home so they could finish it together. Mulder promised he would be home as soon as he finished something he had to get done "real fast." Upon seeing the look she gave him he had laughed and said, "Don't worry, it's nothing life-threatening, it'll just take me a few minutes." She was too tired to argue and called her mom to say she'd be home within the hour.

"Hey sweetie." Mrs. Scully was whispering as she softly closed the nursery door behind her, "The baby's asleep, and the guys came and finished setting up this afternoon so you're all set." She gave her daughter a hug and winked, "Dinner's in the oven," Mrs. Scully grabbed her coat, "I'll see you tomorrow."

Closing the door behind her mother, Scully stopped for a second. Guys? What guys? The only guys she could think of were the Lone Gunmen and why in the world would they have been in her apartment "setting up" this afternoon? If they'd gone and decided to continue their little "surveillance" again...Scully found herself being paranoid as she headed to the bedroom to change. She was halfway through the bedroom door when she stopped dead in her tracks.

"Scully?" Mulder walked in the front door. She could hear the jingle of his keys in his pocket as he hung up his coat and headed for the bedroom.

Scully was speechless. She stared wide-eyed at the scene in front of her.

"Happy Valentine's Day," Mulder spoke softly, edging up from behind and wrapping his arms around her waist.

"Mulder, I...how did?" Scully couldn't find the words. Mulder chuckled, kissing her softly then taking her hand and leading her into the room.

She had been so stressed with work that Scully had nearly forgotten that today was Valentine's Day. She stared at the room full of candles. Rose petals lined the floor and trickled their way up and onto the bed.

The bed. She still couldn't believe it. It was The bed. The one they'd found themselves handcuffed together and snowed in in. The one in the "Egyptian room" as she had come to think of it. She glanced at the canopy...the bed with its own ticket to the stars...literally!''

When Scully had first turned around to face him, Mulder didn't know what to expect. Should he run and hide or hope that she was too surprised and/or touched to be mad? He waited nervously for her response.

The look on her face clearly showed her surprise, "Mulder? How did you manage," she gestured towards the bed and then around the entire room, "This?!"

He couldn't hide his amusement and let out another laugh. Mulder led her to the bed and sat down, "Four days ago Skinner came into our office to clear up a few last minute details on the case." Mulder paused slightly and Scully waited, "After all the technical stuff was out of the way he told me that the treasure we had apprehended was all being sent to the Smithsonian after the Egyptian government made some arrangements with ours. Anyway, he went on to say that everything they had apprehended that didn't belong to the government was going to be auctioned off."

"Mulder, please don't tell me you spent three months salary-" Scully stopped talking as it was clear Mulder was trying to hide his amusement. And not doing a very good job at it if she might say so herself. He finally let out a laugh.

"On the contrary Scully," He grinned, "I do admit that I'd thought about it for a while, but then I decided to spare my life," the twinkle in his eye reappeared, "and had forgotten about it." It was Scully's turn to grin, and Mulder continued, "About 9:30 last night I got a call from the person in charge of the auction. Somehow she'd found out who I was and wanted to give me the bed as a "token of appreciation" for "recovering so much valuable history"" Mulder chuckled, "So naturally I couldn't say no and, well, you know the rest of the story..." He tapered off.

"Mulder?" Scully took his face in her hands, "You are the sweetest, and might I add luckiest, man in the entire world." She gave him a sincere look, smiling through misty eyes as she met his lips with her own.

"So you're not mad?' Mulder pulled back slightly to look her in the eye.

"How could I possible be mad?" Scully laughed, gesturing to the room. The candlelight bounced around the bedroom, creating a romantic feel as it highlighted the delicate rose petals covering nearly every flat surface in the room. (Mulder later explained that he'd invested in a little help from Mrs. Scully and the Gunmen in getting the bed set up and the room ready. Her mother's comment from earlier then made sense; apparently she didn't know the bed was a surprise. Scully then laughed when she told Mulder how her mother had acted when she got home that evening).

"Well, I thought that since you said you would never let us have a bed like this in-"

"Mulder?" Scully interrupted her husband.

"Yeah?" He stopped talking, mesmerized by the reflection of candlelight that danced in her eyes.

"Shut up." Scully smiled allowing the candlelight a glimpse at her heart and, kicking off her shoes, pulled Mulder into a lasting kiss.

Mulder let out a short laugh, kicking off his own shoes and pulling Scully closer and onto the soft down of the bed. The recurring thought of just how lucky he really was to have Scully-HIS Scully-still at his side after all these years passed through his mind once more.

Laying wrapped lovingly in the arms of the man she loved, Scully thought briefly of their adventure in the Cascade Mountains: The Super-Squirrels, the spot that, if you looked close enough, you could still see the aftereffects of the "berry incident", the handcuffs that she wouldn't be able to look at for months and the bruise on her wrist. Ultimately, Scully couldn't help but smile. In the end everything had worked out and they were safely back in their own home. For Mulder and Scully, it was a new beginning, a chance at the 'normal life' they'd sought for so long. As for the rest of the adventure, Squirrels, Grizzly bear, Egyptian artifacts and all, it now joined the annals of various X-files memories and was from now on forever left up to the mercy of the wonders of nature.

The End :)

Sorry it took me so long to post the last part! As always, please tell me what you thought! :) ~Meggie~

=============================================================================== "Wonders of Nature" by MeGgiE42

This story was downloaded from the Gossamer Project on 9 September 2017. Do not archive stories elsewhere without permission from the author(s). See the Gossamer policies for more information: http://tooms.gossamer.org/local/policies.html ===============================================================================



The End

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