He was aware they were working on him, he knew there was oxygen being pumped into his nose through the cannula and that someone was wrapping his hands. It didn’t matter; nothing mattered except what was going on the other side of the glass.
She was burned, he’d heard them, they didn’t know why she was still alive. 90% of her body, her hair was gone and her skin was blackened or raw. She was unconscious, thank goodness. What would the pain have been . . . he didn’t finish that thought. They were talking about amputating her fingers to cut down on infection. They’d already said if she lived, if, that they would have to look for donor skin because she didn’t have enough left to graft. He’d heard them; they were using cadaver skin on her now. God!
How had this happened? It was too sudden. There had been no time to stop things, to save her. He had been caught off guard. Scully had realized what was happening before him and had shoved him out of the way. He had fallen and . . .
He wanted to be in there with her, he needed to be in there. He knew they wanted to keep the area sterile, but he needed to touch her. He had to touch her, he had to feel her. He wouldn’t hurt her; he just had to be closer.
He turned to the nurse who had finished wrapping the burns on his hands. “Please, just for a moment. I have to talk to her.”
“Mr. Mulder, she can’t hear you.”
“She’ll hear me. Put me in one of those paper wraps, I’ll wear a mask. I just have to get in there, just for a moment.”
The nurse looked helplessly at the doctor as he joined them. He had obviously heard the request. “Mr. Mulder - “
“Please. I won’t hurt her, I just need to, I need . . . “ his voice gave out then.
“You’re injured yourself, Mr. Mulder.”
“No, I’m fine.”
The doctor looked through the window at his patient. The extent of her injuries was horrific, and his experience told him that she would not survive. The look in this man’s eyes as he gazed at his partner was compelling. He looked over at the nurse. “Get a gown for him.”
“She needs the contact,” he explained and returned to the room.
The nurse helped him into the gown, being especially careful of the burns on his hands. He couldn’t care less; he had to get in there. The door made a whooshing sound as he entered. There was positive atmosphere in here, forcing oxygen into her damaged lungs. He couldn’t remember when he’d learned that, it didn’t matter anyway.
He shuffled forward and looked down at her. He couldn’t help the wince and was glad her eyes were closed. She was completely wrapped in gauze; even her eyebrows were gone. How the hell could she keep him in line without her eyebrows? The scars wouldn’t matter to him, not if she lived. He started to reach out, to touch her face but the doctor’s hand on his arm stopped him. “I’m sorry, you can’t touch her.”
“Is she getting enough pain medication?“ his voice choked off.
“She’s not on pain medication, Mr. Mulder. She doesn’t need it. The nerve endings have been burned away.” The nurse was whispering, for which he was grateful. Scully didn’t need to hear that.
He winced but reluctantly nodded. At least he was in here. She was breathing, she was alive. He leaned in, “Scully, it’s me. You’re going to be okay. I’m not leaving you. You just rest and get strong.”
There was no response. Not being able to touch her was maddening, but he didn’t want to make anything worse. A nurse moved closer to check the drip rate on one of her IVs and draped a sheet over the forms around her legs. It ruffled as though a breeze had caught it. Strange, there was no window in here. Then he felt the breeze on his face, it was stronger and the nurse looked around. It was growing stronger still, the gauze on the tray was fluttering now and then instruments were shifted by the wind that was whirling around the room. The tray tipped over and the nurse staggered back a step. It had turned into a gale. Mulder looked back down at Scully before he was blown off his feet.
He was standing in his office in his dark gray suit. How the hell had he gotten here? His hands weren’t bandaged. Before he could look around he heard the door open.
“Mulder? Come on, Skinner’s waiting.”
He whirled around, startling her. He was looming over her now, not speaking. His hand came up to touch the soft, smooth skin of her face. He caressed it softly, then one of his hands, his undamaged hands, entwined in her hair.
He pulled her to him then, holding her against his body, feeling her chest move with deeper breathing. He bent down then and took her lips with his own.
She responded for a moment, then pulled back, staring at him. “Mulder, what are you doing?”
He still didn’t speak, just devouring her with his eyes. Instead of racing away from him, she pushed the door shut. “Are you okay? Mulder, what’s going on?”
His lips moved, but he didn’t speak. He stood stock-still as her hands came up to check for fever. She checked his pupil dilation and took his hand to feel for his pulse. He didn’t protest, she was touching him and he reveled in it.
“I’ll call Skinner and delay the meeting.”
“No. I’m okay.”
“You’re not okay.”
“I will be. Come on.” He took her arm, holding her close to him as they walked to the elevator. She didn’t say anything, but looked up at him with concern again. He gave her a little space when they exited the elevator on Skinner’s floor, but his hand was on her back. He didn’t usually do that in the building but under the circumstances she was glad he had. Something was definitely wrong with him. He-he’d kissed her, kissed her like he meant it. She needed some time to explore what that had brought up in her.
Skinner looked up when they tapped on his open door. He motioned them in and they took their regular seats. Mulder’s eyes caught sight of the folder on his desk and he froze.
“I need the two of you to fly out to Chicago. We’ve been requested on - “
“We can’t take this case,” Mulder interrupted.
“Excuse me?” Skinner looked up at him and Scully looked over, but kept silent.
“It, it’s not an X-File. We - “
“And you know that how?”
“I . . . “ Mulder looked over at Scully.
“Do you mind if I at least tell you what the case is?” Skinner said with exaggerated patience.
“Please, go ahead sir,” Scully encouraged him, turning away from Mulder.
After another glance at Mulder, Skinner turned to Scully. “We have five victims over two states. The latest victim was found outside of Yorkville, Illinois. There’s a national park near there. The bodies have been burned beyond recognition. They’re working on DNA identification.”
Mulder turned away. The movement caused Scully to look over at him again. His hands were shaking.
“You have experience with burning of this sort - “
“No. This is not like Ruskin Dam or El Rico. There’s no X-File here. He burned them so we wouldn’t know he couldn’t rape them.”
Both Scully and Skinner turned to look at him. “You’ve already profiled him?” Skinner asked.
“No, I . . . Okay, I’ll head out to Chicago, but there’s no reason for Agent Scully to go. I can handle - “
“What?” Scully interrupted, not caring that Skinner was in the room.
“There’s no need - “
“Sir, we’ll be on our way shortly.” She rose from the chair and held out her hand for the folder.
Bemused, he handed it to her. “I’ll need a report in 24 hours.”
“Yes, sir.” She started for the door and Mulder belatedly rose. He moved quickly so she wouldn’t be out of his sight. Skinner watched them leave without a word.
Mulder lengthened his stride to reach her and raised his hand to touch her back. She anticipated it and moved aside. She hurried into the elevator and he moved after her. There were several other people in there, so he couldn’t talk to her. He breathed a sigh of relief when everyone else exited. “Scully - “
“What is wrong with you?” she turned on him.
“Nothing. I just wanted to save you from a wasted - “
“Bullshit,” she spat at him. “You just kissed me, you, you held me, now you don’t want to be around me?”
“No, that’s not . . . “
She backed away when he moved closer. “What is going on? I need to know.”
“I want you to stay here. Let me go to Chicago and handle this case. Maybe it won’t take but a couple of days, and - “
“No. Mulder look at me. I am not letting you go anywhere alone right now.”
He looked like he started to say something but instead took the file from her hand. “I’ll swing by and pick you up. We can ride together to the airport.”
“No way. I’ll pick you up. I’m not stupid, Mulder.”
He wouldn’t meet her eyes. He would have left without her and she knew it. A classic ditch, but she knew him too well. He nodded and they headed for the office. She picked up her briefcase and turned to leave again. “Wait up.” He grabbed his own things and moved with her. She waited as he locked the door and they headed up to the parking garage.
She could see his car, but he was headed towards hers. He walked her all the way to the car and stood there as she unlocked it. He didn’t speak, so finally she turned to look up at him. Before she could ask again if he was all right, his hand came back to the caress her cheek. “Mulder - “
“I’ll see you in a little while.”
He turned then and moved toward his car, leaving her speechless.
Once at home, she hurried to pack, feeling the need to check on him again. He would tell her what was going on. She had to know. She threw what she needed in her suitcase and headed for his apartment.
He was ready for a change, waiting for her when she exited the elevator. It was as though he wanted to watch her walk down the hall. Mostly he was scaring her; not of him, for him.
He didn’t give her a chance to ask, just picking up his suitcase and stepping out into the hall with her. Her brow was furrowed as he locked up, then his hand was on her back, more firmly than usual and leading her to her car. Silently she capitulated; he couldn’t get away once they were on their flight. She’d get some kind of explanation then.
She took the seat by the window as usual, so that his long legs would have the benefit of the aisle. They couldn’t talk with all of the loading going on, so she picked up the file to familiarize herself with the case. Before she could get into it, she felt his hand tugging lightly on the little finger of her left hand. He took possession of the hand and began playing with her fingers, watching them, touching them. She started to pull back, but his grip tightened, not allowing her to leave the confines of his hands.
Her concern for his mental state increased. Maybe a crowded plane wasn’t the place to have the conversation they needed. What the hell had happened?
After takeoff he reclined his seat slightly and, keeping possession of her hand, closed his eyes. Finally she could turn and look at him. He wasn’t asleep, she knew that, but he had definitely put a barrier there. She gave up on trying to get her hand back; he wasn’t hurting her, just scaring her. She did the best she could reading the file, but her mind and her hand weren’t in it.
It wasn’t until they were ready to land a little over an hour later that he sat up. “Scully.” She turned to him but he was focused on the seat in front of him, not looking at her at all. “Your safety, your life, is the most important thing to me. You need to know that.”
She stared at him, wondering for a moment if he was truly awake.
“You know I love you, but I needed to say it.”
That knocked the breath out of her. His voice, always sexy, had an added quality of rasp to it since his fight with the tobacco bugs. Now it was causing moisture to pool and she sat there, struck dumb. He released her hand then, but she placed it on the sleeve of his suit.
“I’m in love with you,” he said quietly.
She stared at him, her mouth open. She jerked violently when the tires hit the tarmac. He didn’t move, still not looking at her. He was the first one out of his seat when they pulled up to the terminal. He opened the overhead compartment and lifted down both of their carry-ons.
He let her out ahead of him, but once in the terminal he walked ahead of her, causing her to move faster to keep up. At the car rental counter she realized he wasn’t even flirting with the girl. To be fair, he didn’t really flirt, but that easy smile of his always seemed to get them good service. This time he wasn’t even looking up at the young woman. Scully could see the disappointment on her face.
He took the keys, mumbled a thank you and turned away. Scully followed silently and let him lead her to the car.
She got into the passenger seat while he loaded the trunk.
“We should go to headquarters.”
Scully nodded. This wasn’t the time or place for the talk they needed. He had distanced himself on the plane, and with the other passengers, she hadn’t wanted to cause a scene. Eventually they’d get to a hotel and she’d force him to talk.
The chief greeted them immediately and led them to a small conference room where the evidence was laid out. “I really appreciate you coming out here so quick. We have our share of murders this close to the city, but not like this. I wasn’t even sure the victim was female when I saw her. Those burns . . . “ he shook his head.
Mulder looked away.
“I was told you have some experience with burns like these.”
“Not exactly.” Without even glancing down, Mulder went into his spiel. “You’re looking for a white male, between 25 and 35, high intelligence, physically attractive, able to put his victims at ease. He’s not from here, but is comfortable traveling . . . “
Scully tuned him out. She’d get this information later; he would have to file a report of his profile anyway. Right now her main concern was her partner. He might look confident and persuasive in that suit, but she could see he was distracted, worried. Yes, the victim, victims, were important right now, but her job was to look after him. If something was affecting him, then it would take that much longer to do their job.
The sheriff looked suitably impressed. She wasn’t the one to tell him that Mulder hadn’t even looked at the file.
“We’ve kept the body for you, Agent Scully. If you like, I can take you over there right now.”
“We have a car, if you can give us directions . . . “ she trailed off. Maybe Mulder wouldn’t want to come with her.
Instead he nodded and listened to the directions. They thanked the sheriff, assured him they would return, and headed for their car. “Mulder, if there’s something - “
He shook his head, so she dropped it. They made another uncomfortably silent drive to the morgue where she took over. Their IDs got them inside quickly and the coroner stayed right with her, as though afraid she would try to abscond with the body. She glanced over at Mulder to roll her eyes at the older man’s behavior, but saw that Mulder was riveted at the sight of the woman’s burned and blackened body.
He turned abruptly, as pale as she ever remembered seeing him. “I’ll wait outside.”
Before she could respond he was out the door, leaving it swinging behind him.
“Weak stomach?” the coroner asked.
“Sometimes,” was her response, though it wasn’t true. Mulder had observed some of the most atrocious autopsies she’d ever done. She hadn’t even touched this woman. She couldn’t exactly chase after him, so she donned a gown and gloves. The autopsy had already been done, but that wasn’t going to keep her from checking out a few things for herself.
She found him sitting in the coroner’s office holding a magazine, but it didn’t look as though he had turned a page. He looked up when he heard her footsteps and rose to his feet. His hand was reaching for her when he saw the doctor behind her.
“He strangled her, Mulder. She was dead before he set her on fire.” Mulder nodded, but she saw him swallow reflexively. “We should get back to the station.” She thanked the doctor, then led Mulder to the car. “Do you want me to drive?”
He shook his head and got in on the driver’s side. She sighed as she pulled the passenger door open and slid inside.
Back at the station Mulder finally took a seat and started looking at the evidence. Scully watched as he started turning pages faster and faster, caught up in the information.
“Mulder? Have you found something?” ‘Yeah, something that he recognized’, he thought but he couldn’t say that. He nodded. “Should I get the sheriff?”
He shook his head. He was no closer to knowing who the perp was than his first visit here. He wanted to step away.
“Let’s get out of here. We can grab a bite and get some rooms.”
He pulled into the motel and got out without a word. Again she followed him.
“Do you have connecting rooms?” he was asking at the desk by the time she joined him.
“I’m sorry. They’re already booked.”
He glanced down at Scully, then nodded. “Fine, two rooms.”
She kept quiet. They occasionally had connecting rooms, but she couldn’t remember him ever requesting them. She had to get him to open up.
She took the first room, and stood silently watching him as he moved past her. He barely hesitated when she stopped. He didn’t say anything and wouldn’t look at her though he could feel her eyes on him as he let himself into his room.
He took a shower, as much to stall as to relax. He was pretty sure she’d be knocking on his door in a few minutes, demanding answers. He didn’t have any. Had he seen the future? Had he lived what happened to her? Was that the truth or was this? Was this guy going to ambush them? He knew too much about this case. Hell, he’d already had a profile written, at least in his head, when they arrived. But he wasn’t just reliving it, things were different. They had a different rental car, different rooms at the motel. They’d had connecting rooms before. The doors had been unlocked, always available to each other but he hadn’t taken advantage of her company. Someday - that’s what had been in the back of his mind. He sure as hell hadn’t admitted he was in love with her the first time. The look of shock on her face had told him what he needed to know about that.
On cue he heard the knock at his door. Hell, could he even tell the sound of her fist against a door now? He opened the door in his jeans, a towel around his neck, his hair slicked back.
“We have to talk.”
He let her in and closed the door behind her. “You’ll think I’m crazy.” He gave her a sick little smile. “Okay, crazier than normal.”
Her eyebrow rose and he stared at it, then she saw tears fill his eyes and he was pulling her to him. Was he kissing her brows? Her arms slipped around his waist; it felt right.
“Muld - “ his lips took hers then and she met them with equal emotion. This wasn’t why she had come, but she wasn’t surprised. After his revelation on the plane, she had realized something drastic had happened. Something that had jolted him, and therefore her, out of the status quo.
She had no clear memory of reaching the bed, but they were reclined on it, making out like teenagers. She was well aware of the bulge in his jeans.
She pulled back, but kept her hand on his waist. The last thing she wanted was to show him any rejection. “Mulder, talk to me, please.”
“I saw you, burned, like that woman.” His hands fisted to keep from pulling her back.
“You had a vision?”
“No, no I, I lived it. We were here.”
“Could it, could it have been a dream?”
“I had the profile in my head before Skinner handed you the file. I’m good, Scully,” he gave her a tremulous little smile, “but not that good.”
“Go on,” she squeezed his hand.
“The mayor called a press conference when we got here. Publicity . . . “ he shook his head. “We walked in unprepared and our faces were out there along with too many details of the case. Our guy had to have targeted you from that. Later when we were at the station, a call came in about a fire. You and I took off with a couple of deputies. We were out in a wooded area, it was dusk. I was ahead of you, and you saw something. I never found out what, but you tackled me. You’re a strong little wench and I wasn’t expecting it from that angle.” He ignored her reaction to his description. “I went down and, and then there was a flash. You, you went up like a match.” He didn’t speak then.
“Were, were you hurt?” Her voice was low, battered by his emotion.
“My, my hands, where I tried to put you out. Don’t do it. Don’t ever push me out of danger and take it on yourself.”
“It’s part of my job, Mulder. Just like you - ”
“No! Your job is to outlive me, to - “
“No!” she shuddered at his words. “No. Don’t even - “ He pulled her against him and they held each other for a long moment. “Is that why you asked for connecting rooms?”
He took a deep breath, “We had them, the first time. The thing is, we were in our rooms, both doors between the rooms were unlocked, accessible, but I didn’t take advantage of it. I stayed on my side and you stayed on yours.”
“Why?” she asked in a small voice.
“Because of your expression when I told you I was in love with you. It made me think you didn’t want to hear it.”
“No. I was stunned, but . . . Mulder, I’m here now.”
“I can’t let it happen. I don’t want you around this case.”
“If this . . . whatever happened, what would have happened if I hadn’t shoved you?”
“You wouldn’t have been injured,” he responded immediately.
“Not good enough. Would whatever it was have hit you?”
He shrugged. She shook her head and now it was her hand caressing his face. More slowly this time he took her lips. They weren’t frantic now, savoring each other, exploring, tasting each other. It wasn’t long enough for him, but she pulled back again. “Mulder - “
He met her eyes.
“We can’t - “ She saw the shield come down on his emotions. She leaned in and kissed his nose. “We can’t do this now. It’s not fair to either of us. How will we know we’re doing this because it’s the right thing? There’s too much emotion, too much fear. When we get home, when things have calmed down, we need to explore this further.”
He gaped at her. “You, you’re not . . . “
“I’m not saying no, Mulder. I’m saying let’s get through this, intact, because I would very much like to explore this part of us more.”
He seemed unable to respond to that, which caused her to smile. His smile grew in response. “I, I should head back to my room.”
“Do you have to? I mean, we’ve established that we’re going to wait - a little while, but if you stayed in here . . . “
She chuckled. “Nice try, Mulder.”
The sheriff looked up when they entered the station the next morning. “Good, you’re here. The mayor’s called a press conference and - “
“No!” they said it together, causing the sheriff to fall back a step.
“A press conference is the last thing we need,” Scully put her hand on Mulder’s arm trying to keep him calm.
“We thought it was a good idea. We need to warn the populace that we have a serial - “
“No. Any information is too much. We don’t want him to know what we know, it’s to our advantage if he thinks we haven’t even made the connection. If he finds out an FBI profiler is here he could escalate, start playing games. You need to talk the mayor out of this.”
“You don’t know our mayor. He’s old school, been mayor since before dirt. I won’t be able to talk him out of anything like this. Maybe he’d listen to you,” he sounded doubtful.
Mulder and Scully exchanged glances. “I’ll talk to him,” Mulder said. “I don’t want - “
She shook her head, stopping his statement. He looked down at her and nodded when she motioned for them to get some privacy. “Excuse us.”
Once out in the hall he turned to her. “Just stay here. I’ll go talk to the mayor, talk him out of this press conference.”
“Call him, Mulder. I don’t want you to go over there either. If he has press, they could get a shot of you instead of me.”
He started to protest that but the look on her face stopped him. “Okay, that makes sense. Come on.” They returned to the main room and the sheriff called the mayor’s office for him. Once he was on the phone, the sheriff handed Mulder the receiver.
“Agent Mulder? Glad I got hold of you. I need you to come over to my office. I’m holding a - “
“No sir. I’m calling to ask that you cancel this press conference.”
“This is a sensitive case. We don’t want to alarm the public, but we also don’t want to alert this man that we’re aware of what’s going on.”
“I have to alert my people. We’ve got a monster out there, killing young women. I want to make sure he doesn’t get any more victims from around here.”
“Please, listen to me. My partner and I are here to find this guy. If you tip him off that the FBI has made the connection and sent a profiler out here he could escalate or decide to play games.”
“My people are more important. I’m going to have this press conference.”
“I don’t have the authority to forbid you, but I’m asking you to reconsider.”
The man’s voice was cool now. “Thank you for your suggestion. I have to go now.” Mulder found himself holding a dead phone.
“Shit,” he muttered as Scully looked over at him. She joined him, silently asking the question. He shook his head. “No good. He’s going through with it.”
“Okay, then we stay out of the way.”
“Is that enough?” he asked helplessly.
“It has to be. Come on, let’s go over what we have one more time.”
She led him to the small conference room where the information they had was spread out. The sheriff joined them shortly.
“Any luck with the mayor?”
“None. How much information does he have?”
They compared notes until Mulder looked over at Scully, shaking his head. They all looked up at the knock on the door. “Cliff, the mayor’s on.” One of the deputies stuck his head in.
“Come on, there’s a TV in my office.” The sheriff led the way. An older man with silver hair and a ‘sincere’ suit was standing behind a podium. Mulder closed his eyes, shaking his head until he heard Scully gasp.
His eyes flew open to see a clip of them, the two of them, leaving the hospital yesterday after checking out the body. “That son of a - “
“Mulder, what - “
“I want you on the next plane.”
“No, I’m not leaving you out here alone.”
“Uh, excuse me,” the sheriff murmured, leaving them in his office.
Once they were alone Mulder put his arm around her, pulling her to the far side of the office, away from the door. “Scully, listen to me. I want you to leave. I’ll take you to the airport.”
“I’m not leaving. Things aren’t like you remember them. You said yourself things are different.”
“No, they aren’t. Everything is happening just like before. The differences are minor; car color, motel rooms. But the big things are the same. Your picture was on television.”
“So was yours,” she hissed at him.
“I’m not his type.”
Her eyes narrowed. “I’m not leaving you here. We know what could happen, we can watch for it.”
“Like we were able to watch out for the press conference? Scully, this is important.”
“Yes, it is and I’m going to be by your side. We’re a team, Mulder.”
Mulder’s lips moved, but no sound emerged. He was torn between wanting her close and wanting her as far away as possible. What was the damn right thing!
The sheriff rejoined them then. “Sorry to disturb you, but we could use some help out here. The phones are ringing off the hook.”
Mulder didn’t seem to hear him, but Scully nodded. “The press conference. We’re going to receive a lot of calls now.” She started for the door and that jolted Mulder back to the present. He followed silently, things were out of his control, again.
They began taking calls while the sheriff began calling in off-duty personnel.
Mostly now he was disgusted. They were wasting time listening to disgruntled neighbors and troublemakers. He looked over at Scully again. She was being professional, taking down the information from one more caller. She had tucked her hair behind one ear and he appreciated again the smooth skin of her jaw line. He had to keep her safe.
“Hey, sheriff! We’ve got a report of a fire out on highway 58, in that wooded area.”
“Shit!” the sheriff muttered. Scully looked over at Mulder and saw that he had frozen in place. Feeling her eyes, he looked over at her. The pleading look in his eyes shook her. She stiffened her resolve and rose.
“We need to check that out. The victims have been burned. We need to see if that’s what’s happening here.”
The sheriff looked startled. “You think - “
“We need to make sure.”
“Okay. Take Carruthers and Smith. Stay in contact.”
Mulder looked betrayed when she turned back to him. “Come on. We’ll follow the deputies.”
He stood then, jerking his jacket from the back of the chair. He was silent until they were seated in the car. “Are you trying to get yourself killed?” he hissed at her.
“No. We know what we’re facing, Mulder. We have to do this together. There’s no one else that I trust to cover my back like you do.”
“I didn’t - “
He closed his eyes at that, then started the engine and pulled out behind the deputies. He looked down to see her hand resting on his thigh. He covered it with his hand.
“This is the place,” he said softly when the deputies turned off the main road, heading toward a wooded area. They could see dark smoke rising from the trees. “Stay in the car, Scully.”
“You know I can’t do that. You need me.”
“So you do believe I’ve lived this before.”
She blinked, yes, she did believe him. As incredible as it was, she had fallen into that belief. He was so sure. “I know you, Mulder. Something happened. Let’s get this guy and go home.”
Go home. Yes, that’s what he wanted for them. She was opening her door, so he took a deep breath and did the same.
They followed the deputies toward the woods. Two fire trucks were already on the scene and they could hear a third approaching. Mulder looked over at Scully and pointed to one of the trails heading into the woods. She nodded and pulled her gun. She told the deputies where they were headed, then fell in behind Mulder.
He looked back at her, then they entered the trail head, moving away from the activity of the fire. They didn’t speak as they moved quickly and quietly. He tried to look everywhere. He didn’t know what she had seen, but he couldn’t miss it this time.
They were moving deeper into the woods and the smell of smoke was stronger.
There, was there a movement? He started to turn his head, but she was already moving to tackle him. He didn’t fight her, allowing himself to go down, but this time his arm shot out, snagging her waist. He yanked her down beside him and then rolled covering her body with his own. He could feel the heat of the flash bomb as it flew over them, where she had been standing just seconds before. It hit a tree a few yards from them and crashed into the underbrush, setting it aflame.
Then Mulder was on his knees, his gun out, firing at the figure fumbling to light a second device. He felt Scully rise to her knees as well and could feel her firing though he didn’t consciously hear it. Her hand on his arm finally stopped him and he realized he’d been pulling the trigger on an empty chamber for some time. The figure was down, had he really fired ten shots? He was changing magazines even as he raced toward him, Scully at his side.
He stood there, over the body as Scully checked for vitals. He could see the man was dead without her examination. He’d emptied his gun into him and Scully had to have hit him a few times. The second incendiary device lay beside him. He hadn’t been able to light it before Mulder’s first bullet had hit him.
He turned then and grabbed Scully to him, crushing her against him. Their lips met and merged as they gave life to one another.
The sound of others racing toward them penetrated and they broke apart. They stared at each other; a barrier was gone from between them now.
“Over here. We need an ambulance.”
The two deputies skidded to a halt beside them and looked down at the body.
“What did you find?” Scully asked them.
“A body, woman. It’s going to take some science to identify her.”
Scully nodded. He’d lured them here with another victim. The only positive was there would be no more victims from this guy.
“I’ll do the autopsy on the victim,” Scully was speaking to Caruthers. “Obviously I can’t autopsy him since I’m one of the shooters.” She looked down at the body once again.
Caruthers responded to her and Mulder saw him speaking into his radio, but he couldn’t follow his words. Slowly it came to him that he was in shock. It was over and she hadn’t been injured - maybe crushed a little when he’d sprawled atop her, but not injured. Why were there so many people around when he needed to talk to her, only to her?
She looked over at him and recognized the symptoms instantly. “Agent Mulder and I will meet you back at the station after we clean up. Would you like to take our weapons?”
“I, uh, I guess I better for evidence sake. I’ll let the sheriff know you’ll be there shortly.”
Scully nodded and moved closer to Mulder. His hand managed to stop at just touching her lower back. They were in public, and he escorted her to their car.
“Let me drive, Mulder.”
He shook his head, but allowed her to open her own door. Once she decided he was okay to drive, since there wasn’t much traffic, she relaxed slightly. She didn’t resist when he took hold of her hand and placed it back on his thigh, covering it again.
“Mulder - “
He shook his head, so she subsided. They could talk later.
He escorted her to her room and watched her swipe her card. When the light turned green she pressed on the lever and he turned away. Her hand caught his sleeve and he turned back. She pushed the door open and tugged him in after her.
He watched her as she shut the door behind him. “You were right, about everything. You saved my life.”
He shook his head. “I saved mine.”
Her hand around his neck pulled him down to her. “Thank you for saving both of us,” she whispered into his lips just before she took possession of them. He lifted her and felt her legs go around his waist.
“Ten rounds, Mulder? While I agree that you got your man, I need to know why you fired ten rounds into him.”
“That was all the gun held,” Mulder replied with no inflection.
Skinner’s eyes narrowed but before he responded, Scully spoke. “He had at least one more incendiary device, we needed - “
“You put five rounds into him, Agent Scully. I’ll get to you in a minute.”
She looked down. Skinner studied the two of them with obvious frustration. “What the hell do you know about this case you’re not telling me?”
“Everything is in the report, sir,” Scully responded for them.
Skinner muttered something she couldn’t quite hear, though it sounded like ‘fat chance’. “Dismissed,” he said abruptly. Mulder was on his feet before Scully processed the words. Skinner glared at them as they left his office.
“We were dismissed. Let’s get out of here.”
“And go where?”
For the first time he smiled. “I know a place.”
“Mulder . . . “ her lips twitched.
“Yeah, there,” he looked into her eyes, his smile fading. His hand came up again to caress the soft, smooth skin of her cheek.
“We’re okay, Mulder.”
“I know.” He took her hand, ignoring the looks that generated in the hall and led her to the elevator.
Links to other sites on the Web
Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunman and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter, 10-13 and Fox. No infringement intended.