"Mom, I'm sorry, I just can't leave."
"I thought you told me he was going to be okay."
"He's developed a fever."
"But he's going to be okay." It wasn't really a question.
"I think so, but I can't just leave him here all alone." There was a longer silence. "Mom, please."
"I understand, I really do, but we had planned this."
"I know that, but Mulder certainly didn't plan to get shot. Mom, he's - "
"I know, I'm sorry. I'm just disappointed. We don't get together as a family that often so I'm just . . . Take care of him and if you can join us later . . . "
"I'll see what happens, Mom. In any case, I'll call and talk to everyone. Why don't you pick up the presents, they're all already wrapped, and put them under your tree. That way they'll be there and I won't have to worry about that."
"Okay, I'll take care of that and I do hope he improves quickly."
"I know you do. I'll be in touch." Scully sighed after breaking the connection. One more reason for Bill to be on his worse behavior.
She returned to the room to find him restless but still not conscious. She hurried to his side and without thought, caressed his cheek, the dark stubble standing out against his pale skin. He seemed to visibly relax.
Immediately a nurse entered the cubicle. "Did you press the button for more morphine?" she asked Scully.
"No, I was out making a call. Why?"
"His readouts indicated a lowering of stress." She didn't look at Scully who was staring at the hand that had cupped his cheek.
"What about his fever?"
"No change there," the nurse shook her head. "I'll let the doctor know."
Scully resumed her seat next to his bed and took his free hand in hers. He seemed to be coming up, but she needed to see his eyes.
It wasn't long before the doctor arrived and began looking over the chart. "Dr. Scully, I need to do an exam, check the site, you know the routine. I want you to leave, go get a real meal, stretch your legs, whatever, but get out of here for a little while. I have your number - " he held up his hand before she could voice her protest. "You need to look after you for a little while. He's mine for next 30 minutes at least. Go."
Scully wanted to protest, but he had a point. The best time to step away was while he was under this kind of care. It was just that the thought of leaving frightened her so. She sighed and after one last quick caress to his face, headed out of the ICU.
She did go to the cafeteria first, not that she was hungry, but her body needed sustenance. The boxed chicken Caesar salad looked the least objectionable, so she got that and an apple and sat over to the side away from the families and staff. With at least fifteen minutes to go, she had fully understood the warning given by the doctor, she decided to walk around a little. She had left her coat in the room, but it was too cold to wander around outside even with it, so she turned into the gift shop.
She actually smiled, the collection was . . . eclectic at least. Maybe she should get a novel or something. After looking over the books and picking up something she'd at least heard of, she headed for the front of the shop. The Christmas decorations were there. She sighed; it was beginning to look like they would be spending Christmas and maybe longer here at the hospital. Since Mulder couldn't have flowers in ICU, maybe she could get something - she stopped dead still at the sight of it. Yes, it was perfect.
She grabbed up the ornament, and paid for both it and the book, then headed back upstairs. The doctor wasn't quite through but allowed her return and gave her a rundown on Mulder's condition. The fever wasn't increasing, but it hadn't gone away either, so he was still in ICU for at least one more night.
Scully thanked him, aware that her presence here full time was still questionable. Once she was alone with Mulder again, she leaned over him. "Okay, Mulder. You need to open your eyes and let me know you're okay. Do you hear me?"
No response. "Mulder, it looks like we're going to be spending Christmas here, so I got this for you. Open your eyes."
She dangled the ornament over him and he stirred.
"That's right, come on, Mulder, look at me."
His eyes fluttered and she smiled. That's what he saw when his eyes opened. He blinked, focusing on her face and a ghost of smile was there. "Scully." His lips formed the word, but no sound came.
"I'm right here. You're going to be okay. Look, I got this as a decoration for you." She held up the ornament and his eyes smiled as he looked at it. Then without warning, his fever broke and the bedding was soaked.
Scully could hear feet approaching before she could turn to call for them. Good, they were keeping a close eye. The nurse leaned in obscuring his view of Scully. "Mr. Mulder? Can you hear me?"
He could, but he ignored her, trying to see around her to Scully again, then he felt the small familiar hand on his foot. She gave it a squeeze and he relaxed.
They quickly and efficiently changed him and his bed, giving him a quick sponge bath in the process. Since they were in his way, he looked up at the ornament that Scully had hung from his light and smiled.
She looked over at him, sleeping against her shoulder. He was weak, but she knew he really did heal better at home. She revisited the conversation with his doctor.
"So, Agent Mulder, how do you feel about riding in wheelchairs through airports?"
"Well, I see their value for some people."
"I'll be fine, we'll take it slow - "
"No sir. You will be riding in said wheelchair or you will remain here. You are in possession of some of my finest hand sewing and I have no intention of allowing you to jeopardize such fine stitchery."
Mulder looked over at Scully for support but found her expression mirrored the doctor's. He sighed and shut up, at least he was getting out of here.
He shifted slightly and slept on. He was still weak, but on the mend now. She'd be keeping a very close eye on him.
When the plane landed, she didn't rouse him, waiting for everyone else to debark first and give them time to bring a wheelchair to the gate. He stirred before they were alone, probably from the commotion around them and he started to straighten up. She saw the wince he tried to hide.
"You're not going to give me any grief about the wheelchair, are you?"
"The 'stitch' dude might come after me and I'm not armed."
"Good, I'd hate to have to trip you."
He grimaced, but nearly believed her. There was no one behind them now, so she rose, to give him room to slip over and rise himself.
He'd stiffened up during the flight and for a moment, he feared not being able to make it to his feet. He felt her hand under his elbow and he glanced up at her. She knew what he needed and wasn't making a big deal about it. Yeah, he loved this woman.
With her hand on his arm, he made his slow way down the aisle and was actually grateful to see the damn wheelchair.
Scully thanked the porter and dismissed him, pushing the chair easily herself toward the elevator to baggage claim.
The luggage area was already crowded by the time they arrived, so she wheeled him to one side to wait. Shortly the light began to rotate, signaling that luggage would be arriving. Mulder was focused on the flaps from which the luggage would emerge when he felt Scully jump. He turned to her in time to see her engulfed in a bear hug.
It took him a second to realize she was being hugged by . . . "Bill? How did you - "
"Mom thought you might need some help with everything. That boss of yours, Skinner, called her and let us know you were on your way back."
He stepped around her then and looked down at Mulder. "You look like shit. I guess she wasn't exaggerating."
"Good to see you too, Bill." They shook hands and Mulder was surprised at how gently Bill took his hand.
Bill smirked, then turned back to the luggage carousel. "Which ones are yours?"
"Uh, that one's Mulder's," she pointed, still bemused at his sudden appearance.
Bill stepped forward and Scully followed him after a quick squeeze to Mulder's shoulder. He watched her point out a second bag and Bill took that as well, then they returned to him.
"Okay, let's get moving." Bill turned toward the doors and Scully pushed the chair behind him.
She watched him head for the exit doors and called to him, "Bill? Where did you park, we should go up." But he continued out the door. "Bill? You can't leave a car unaccompanied out - " She stopped as the driver's door of her mother's car opened and another man exited. He wasn't as tall as Bill, nor as broad, but Mulder stared in fascination at this unfamiliar combination of Scully and Bill's face. It couldn't be -
"Charlie!" Scully moved around the chair and into a second bear hug.
Bill had the trunk open and deposited the bags inside. "Come on guys, let's get a move on. We need to get Mulder home, and then get back to Mom's so Dana can have little bit of Christmas."
"You got it," Charlie nodded, letting Scully go. "I'll need directions to Mulder's place."
"Mulder will be recuperating at my place," Scully said, reaching for the back door handle.
Mulder and Bill both turned to look at her with identical expressions on their faces eliciting a chuckle from Charlie.
Scully looked up with a bland expression and opened the door. Then she moved to help Mulder to his feet. Startled back to the present, Mulder braced his feet and tried to rise. Bill moved then and helped him to his feet. Again Mulder was surprised at his gentleness.
Scully circled the car and got into the back with Mulder and they headed out of the airport parking.
Mulder leaned over slightly. "When did we decide I was staying at your place," he whispered.
"It was part of the deal I made with your tailor."
Mulder chuckled, then winced. "Okay, as long as these two won't assault me."
"I'm armed," she said dryly.
Mulder smiled then and relaxed back against the seat. He was asleep before they reached her place and she woke him carefully.
He nodded but she could see he was spent. Apparently Bill and Charlie could as well, because they both came around to help him out and each took an arm to help him inside. Charlie helped him take off his overcoat.
"Mulder, get ready for bed."
He nodded. "Once I'm tucked in, I want you to go on over to your mother's."
"Let's get you settled first. Do you need any help?"
"I think I can handle this."
She didn't voice any doubts, but watched him carefully head into the bathroom. She moved into the kitchen to get his medicine and some water.
She heard Bill return with their bags. "Thanks, Bill."
Bill shrugged. "The guy really does look like shit. Should he be out of the hospital?"
"Probably not, but he doesn't do well in hospitals. He'll be okay here with me."
"Yeah," he said quietly.
Scully started to respond to that, but heard the bathroom door open and turned that way instead. She took his arm and led him into her bedroom. He sank onto the bed after she pulled down the covers. Scully handed him the medicine and after he took it, helped him recline against the pillow.
Charlie wandered in then. "What's this?" He held up the ornament.
"That was our decoration in the hospital." Scully took it from him and smiled at it. Mulder looked up and grinned. She placed it on the bedside table, where he could see it easily.
He reached out and touched it lightly, then looked up at Scully. "Go. I'm going to sleep for nine or ten hours. You need to spend some time with your family. I'll be fine."
She looked uncertain, but he took her hand. "You've watched me sleep for days. My phone is right here and I don't think I'll have any trouble dialing 'one'."
"I won't be long."
"Yes, you will. I'm fed and watered and stabled. Go."
She leaned over and kissed his brow. She started to straighten up and he took hold of her arm. "Merry Christmas, Scully."
"Merry Christmas, Mulder," she caressed his cheek.
Author's note - I saw the ornament and this is the story that wanted to be written.