Mulder held the door open and let Scully precede him into Kersh’s office. Their faces were carefully bland as they approached and stood in front of the man’s desk. Kersh took his time looking up and didn’t offer them a seat. After a couple of minutes he finally acknowledged their presence.
“You’ve been lent to an investigation with the VCU. Report to Supervisory Special Agent Colton. He’ll brief you when you get to Kentucky.” Kersh extended a file to Mulder.
“Colton? Is that Tom Colton?” Mulder asked, a touch of incredulity in his voice.
“Is there a problem, Agent Mulder?”
Mulder opened his mouth, but Scully’s hand on his arm stopped him. She replied. “No sir. We’ll be on our way. Thank you.”
Kersh’s eyes narrowed that she had responded, but he didn’t speak, dismissing them with a nod.
Scully subtly touched Mulder’s sleeve and he turned without another word and left the office. Scully trailed him and pulled the door closed behind them, then hurried to catch up. He turned abruptly toward her once they were out of hearing distance from Kersh’s office. “Supervisory Special Agent? Are they kidding?”
Scully shrugged and they headed out.
The briefing had already started by the time they arrived. They slipped in the back and stood against the wall. Colton’s eyes narrowed at the sight of them, but he continued without a break.
Mulder looked around the room, twenty agents counting Scully and himself. That was certainly overkill. He hadn’t had the opportunity to study the profile. It had not been made available to him. Mulder was confident that wasn’t an oversight. But if Colton was that sure they had the correct man why couldn’t a couple of agents pick him up? Was this a show of power?
Mulder raised his hand. Colton glared at him, “Agent Mulder, if you can’t be here on time, you’ll have to catch up on the way. Gentlemen, Agent Scully, pick up your gear and let’s move.”
The two of them watched the room empty. “Gear?” He whispered. Scully shook her head and followed the other agents out the door.
Mulder picked up his bullet proof vest and helmet. “He’s got to be kidding. We’re going after one guy.”
“Colton is calling the shots. Maybe you’re right; this is just making sure everyone knows he’s a ‘supervisory special agent’.”
“And they bitch about our budget.” But he followed her out.
Fortunately they were in a different vehicle from Colton and Mulder was able to ask a few questions. He was even more convinced this was being handled badly by the time the car pulled up to the building.
“Damn, the building hasn’t been cleared, but they want us to go in wearing vests and helmets? What the fuck is Colton thinking?”
“We need to talk to him, Mulder. Just stay calm.” Scully advised.
Mulder took a deep breath and exited the car, looking for Colton. Scully hurried after him tightening her vest.
“Get suited up, Mulder.” Colton said coldly.
“Colton, you need to rethink this. The building hasn’t been cleared. I haven’t had time to study the profile, but I’m sure there’s a better way to bring this guy in. You don’t want to send in a battalion. It could really set him off.”
“This is my call - “
“I understand that, but this doesn’t feel right. I - ”
“Doesn’t feel right. Well, Spooky, I’m sorry you disagree, but I have studied the profile. We’re going in. If you’re ‘uncomfortable’ stay in the van. In fact, that’s exactly where I want you to stay.” Colton turned, dismissing Mulder and headed for the building.
Mulder watched him, unbelieving for a moment, then uttered an obscenity and stalked to the vehicle. He tossed the helmet onto the floor of the van. “This is idiotic. He’s taking an army inside to make himself look like a general.”
Mitch, the agent following the audio visual from Colton’s mini-cam grinned over at him. He snapped to attention when the elevator doors opened.
“Scully, you know Colton better than I do, is he - “ Mulder turned to look behind him and realized that Scully wasn’t there.
“You looking for your partner?” Mitch asked, “She went in with the others.”
Mulder gaped at the man for half a second. “Scully.” He whispered it, a feeling of horror overtaking him. “Get ambulances here, all you can. Now!” Then he was out of the van and racing toward the door.
Mulder’s tone was too forceful to ignore. Mitch had 911 punched before Mulder had cleared the van.
Mulder was still at least thirty paces from the door when it blew. The blast, centered three stories above, knocked Mulder to the ground and flaming debris rained down on him. He covered his head with his arms and lurched to his feet. He staggered a couple of steps, then got his footing and ran toward the main door. Others were racing out of the building now, but he managed to avoid them, forcing his way up the stairs.
“Scully! Scully, can you hear me?” There was smoke now and in the background he could hear the sirens approaching.
The building was on fire. He felt a thrill of fear, but it was countered by the fact that Scully was in here. As he neared the floor they had headed for, he realized that people were no longer moving past him. He saw bodies, but he didn’t stop. He was looking for one person and he would find her.
He turned the corner and spotted her. She was moving slowly, pulling herself away from the fire, barely on her feet. One arm hung useless and there was blood dripping into her eyes. “Muld - “
“I’ve got you, Scully.” He had her in his arms already moving back toward the stairs. He moved quickly down then, taking in what he could as he hurried. He’d have to tell rescue workers what he saw.
Firefighters and rescue personnel were pouring into the building as he reached the main entrance. He gave them quick directions but refused to relinquish his hold on Scully. She had lost consciousness in his arms.
He headed for the nearest ambulance. They were ready for him and took over, moving him politely out of the way. He could hear snippets of their conversation, broken arm, that he already knew. The vest had protected her vital organs to a degree and the shield on the helmet, before she had lost it, seemed to have kept her face from the worst of the cuts, but not the blunt force.
They had an IV in her now and were immobilizing her arm. “Her blood pressure’s sinking. We need to transport her.”
Mulder moved closer. “She’s going to be okay.” It wasn’t a question.
“We need to get going.”
“Where are you taking her?”
“UK Medical. It’s the best trauma center. They’ll do everything they can.”
Everything they can? What the hell did that mean? He felt cold suddenly. There wasn’t room in the ambulance for him, he could see that without asking, and as much as he wanted to stay at her side, he wouldn’t compromise her care.
Mulder found Mitch in the confusion. “I need a car. Now.”
Mitch only hesitated an instant, then tossed a set of keys to the taller man. “Take the dark blue one, over there.”
Mulder nodded his thanks, already racing for the car. He peeled out following the ambulance. His mantra looped in his brain, “Be okay, Scully. I’m right behind you. Be okay.”
He raced inside, using the FBI sticker in lieu of legal parking. “Agent Scully, she was just brought in by ambulance.”
“And you are?”
“Special Agent Fox Mulder.” He had his badge out. “I’m her partner.”
The nurse at the desk nodded, “She’s in trauma 3. Can you fill out her paperwork? Is she allergic to anything?”
“Bee stings.” He said quietly. He took the clipboard and after a longing look at the door, he picked a chair that gave him the best view of the area and looked down at the papers.
He had long ago given up his seat when they finally allowed him to see her. The walking wounded had made their way to the ER after the ambulances. It looked like a scene out of MASH.
“We’re moving Agent Scully to the ICU.” The voice of the nurse he had pestered the most was behind him. “We’re in a hurry, but you can accompany the team.”
His look of gratitude brought a lightening to her eyes.
“Four agents dead, three critically injured including my partner.” He sat in the chair, his Armani immaculate, a conservative tie, shoes gleaming. If his arrogance was showing, that was beyond his control.
“Agent Mulder, could you describe what you witnessed?”
Mulder nodded. “Going into the building, I was searching for my partner, but on the way out with her, I was able to observe bodies unconscious or deceased in the corridor.” He was his most professional, not a hint of anything to take away his authority. No wild theories, just the facts, ma’am. He needed to get back to her. “I observed Supervisory Special Agent Colton cowering in the stairwell off the second floor.”
“Agent Mulder, describe the position in which you saw Agent Colton.”
“He was in the corner of the stairwell landing, seated, his knees up to his chest. His helmet was in his right hand. His arms were around his legs and he was rocking back and forth.” Not a semblance of emotion in the recital.
“Did you attempt to assist him?”
“No sir. I had Agent Scully in my arms. She needed immediate medical attention.”
“Did you attempt to assist anyone else?”
“No sir. When I arrived at the first floor the rescue units had arrived.”
“So you entered the building before help arrived.”
”Why were you not already in the building?”
”Agent Colton has ordered me to the surveillance van.”
“So after the explosion, you raced to the building?”
“I was already on my way when the explosion occurred.”
“I had protested the plan to Agent Colton. I felt there was a problem.”
“You felt? Agent Mulder, that’s no reason to put your life in danger.”
Mulder gave the smallest of shrugs. “My partner was inside. It’s my job to watch her back.”
“Have you had dealings with Agent Colton previously?”
Colton’s attorney snapped to attention. “Yes sir.”
“Please describe them.”
Mulder took a deep breath, “In 1994 Agent Colton approached my partner regarding a case. Agent Scully’s profile caught the suspect, but he was released. I requested permission to keep an eye on the suspect and got it, but Agent Colton had the surveillance called off. The suspect then broke into Agent Scully’s apartment and nearly killed her. I arrived in time, fortunately, to assist her.”
“Was Agent Colton reprimanded?”
“I believe so.”
The investigator nodded. “No further questions.”
Mulder glanced at his watch again. “Are we keeping you from something, Agent Mulder?” Colton’s counsel, Henderson, asked.
“You’ve checked your watch three times.”
“I have a flight back to Kentucky. I’d like to make it.”
“You’re going back?”
“My partner is still there. She’s been upgraded from critical to serious, but she’s still not out of the woods.”
“Her family - “
“Her mother is out of the country. I haven’t been able to locate her. Only Agent Scully has her itinerary.” Mulder looked at Colton, no emotion, but Colton felt himself shiver all the same. He’d put Scully in danger a second time. He knew he’d never be in a position within the Bureau to do so again. That might save his life from this man.
“Excuse me. What does this have to do with these proceedings?” The other counselor asked.
“Withdrawn.” The man looked at his notes. “You told Agent Colton you had a ‘feeling’ something wasn’t right. Could you explain that?”
Mulder clamped down hard on his anger. Scully wasn’t here to do it for him. He wanted to see Colton’s ass nailed to the flagpole on the Hoover building, so he had to maintain his cool. He took a deep breath.
“I was not given a copy of the profile, and arrived at the briefing as it ended. Colton, Agent Colton, did not see fit to answer my questions.”
“Why were you late?”
“We were circling the Lexington airport.” Short, to the point. Henderson made a note on his papers.
“I learned the particulars of the plan in the car on the way to pick up the suspect. Agent Scully and I were in car number three.” He hesitated, but neither counselor spoke. “I had picked up riot gear at the briefing and questioned the other agents as to the reason for it. When we arrived at the building, I discovered that the building had not been cleared. I felt that twenty officers in riot gear, to pick up one suspect was possibly . . . that there might be another approach.”
“Did you offer a suggestion to Agent Colton?”
“I attempted to, but was ordered to the van.”
“What made you start for the building, prior to the explosion?”
“I became aware that Agent Scully had followed Agent Colton and his team into the building.”
“And, I became concerned for her safety.” Don’t show emotion, no exasperation. Keep it together.
“It’s my understanding that you ordered Agent Mitchell Long to call for ambulances as you were leaving the van.”
“Why? No one had been injured.”
“It was my assessment that the situation was deteriorating.”
“You determined this from the van? Did the feed from Agent Colton’s - “
“I was unable to see the feed.” Shit, he shouldn’t have said that. He could have used it as an excuse. They weren’t going to accept that he ‘knew’ Scully was in danger.
That brought silence from the room, no one seemed to be able to form a question. He waited, looking impassive.
“So you determined that the situation was deteriorating without any evidence.”
“Excuse me, is there a question?” Mulder asked quietly.
“Is it true that your nickname at the Bureau is ‘Spooky’ Mulder?”
“You would have to ask at the Bureau.”
“You’ve never heard that?” The counselor pressed.
“I’ve been called a lot of things at the Bureau.”
“Is it true that you work in a division of the Bureau dealing with paranormal phenomena?”
“I worked in the X-Files. That area is now being run by other agents.” He resisted the urge to check his watch again with effort.
“Is there a point to this line of questioning?” The other counselor finally spoke.
“I was going to ask the same thing. Mr. Henderson, do you have a point?” The head of the tribunal asked.
Before Henderson could answer, Colton touched his arm. The shake of his head was infinitesimal. Henderson took a deep breath, “I withdraw the question. I have nothing further.”
Mulder looked over at the head of the tribunal overseeing the proceedings.
“You’re excused. Thank you Agent Mulder.”
Mulder nodded slightly and rose. He snatched his overcoat up and moved to the door. He was walking fast, using his long legs to his advantage, ignoring the stares from the others in the hall.
His suitcase was already in his car. With a little luck, and his badge, he’d make the flight.
“She’s asleep, Mr. Mulder.”
“How is she?” He stopped at the desk, but his eyes were focused on her door.
“She was in some discomfort, but we gave her the pain medication that the doctor prescribed.”
He winced, he shouldn’t have left her. “I need to see her.”
“I told you - “
“She’s asleep, I know. I won’t wake her.”
The nurse nodded, she knew he wouldn’t comprise her care. She’d had plenty of time to observe them. She watched quietly as he entered his partner’s room.
He stood over her bed. The monitors were turned low but he watched their blinking lights for a moment. She stirred as though sensing a presence. “Mul . . . “
He took her hand and she relaxed, not waking. He leaned over and kissed her forehead. She was going to live. That was the only vindication he needed against Colton. Let the Bureau do what it wanted. He had his priorities straight now.
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Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunman and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter, 10-13 and Fox. No infringement intended.