Skinner tapped on the door of the office and then stepped in as Scully looked up.
“I was looking for Mulder.”
“He left a little while ago; can I give him a message?”
Skinner shook his head, “It’s not important. Will you be here long?” She ran a hand across her forehead as though massaging a headache. “You okay?”
“Yes, I’m fine.” She rose from the desk and swayed. Skinner moved instantly to take hold of her.
“Sit back down. Do you need to put your head down?” He placed his hand against her face. She definitely had a fever.
“I’m okay.” But he noted she was clutching his arm.
“I’ll call 911.”
“No, Sir, that’s not necessary. I’ll just go home.”
“Oh yeah, I’m going to let you drive, when you can’t even walk.”
Her face flushed an even darker red. He realized then that her eyes were slightly glassy with her elevated temperature.
“I’m sure Mulder has some aspirin around here. You need to get that fever down.” She didn’t respond, but he pulled open the lap drawer and spotted a small bottle of aspirin. He shook two into his hand and picked up a cup with cold coffee in it.
“I’ll get you some water.”
“No, that’s okay. I can take them with this.” She popped the capsules in her mouth and downed the tepid coffee.
“Okay, come on. Let’s get you home.”
“I’m sure I can - “
“Don’t argue with me. Come on.”
She subsided and allowed him to help her to her feet. He kept his hand on her arm and led her to his car. He seated her then got in himself. She let her head rest against the back of the seat and closed her eyes.
She seemed to be asleep when they got to her apartment. He parked and rounded the car to wake her. Again he held on to her to help her inside. She was trembling slightly now, the aspirin obviously hadn’t kicked in yet.
He took her keys to open the door and let her in. “Why don’t you go get in bed? I’ll make you some tea.”
“That’s really not . . . “ She looked up at him. “Thanks.”
She moved toward her bedroom as he watched. Once the door was closed he headed for the kitchen. He made her tea and found her bottle of aspirin, she might want some more. In any case, he’d take it in to her.
He approached her room and tapped on the door. “Come in.” She was just getting in the bed. She had changed into pajamas and her trembling seemed to have decreased.
“Got you some tea.”
“Thanks.” She took a sip. He left her for a moment and returned with a cool cloth.
“Lie down, let the aspirin work.”
“I appreciate this. You make a good nurse.”
“Yeah, but this gets out, I’ll have to kill you.”
She gave him a quick smile and slid down in the bed. He put the cloth on her forehead, then retreated from the room. He pulled his cell phone from his suit coat and dialed.
“Mulder, its Skinner.”
“Yes sir. Is anything wrong?” Skinner never called him at home.
“Agent Scully became ill at work - “
“Where is she?” Mulder interrupted immediately.
“I brought her to her apartment.”
“I’m on my way.”
Skinner shook his head at the dial tone and huffed slightly in amusement. He shouldn’t be surprised.
Mulder started to put his key in the lock when it opened. He was startled to see Skinner.
“I, uh, I thought you’d be gone.”
“I didn’t want you to have to disturb her to get in.” Skinner realized how stupid that was now. Of course Mulder had a key. He’d known Scully had a key to his place for years.
“What’s wrong with her?”
“She’s got a fever and was unsteady on her feet. I didn’t think she should drive.”
“Yeah. Thanks.” Mulder glanced around the apartment.
“She’s in bed, probably asleep by now. Well, I’ll clear out. If you need anything . . . “
“We’ll be okay. Thanks again for bringing her home.”
Skinner nodded and let himself out without another word.
Mulder shut the door behind him and headed toward her room. She was asleep, but he approached her quietly and touched her forehead gently.
She stirred slightly, “Walter?”
“Uh, no it’s me.”
“Mulder? When did you get here?”
“Skinner called me.”
“He didn’t have to do that.” Her eyes were closing again.
Yeah, you should have, was his thought, but he didn’t express it.
“What happened?” He sat beside her on the bed.
“I knew I wasn’t feeling well, but I must have developed a fever. It’s a good thing Walter came by.”
“Yeah, I guess it was. Why was he there anyway?”
“Oh, he came looking for you.” He waited, but she didn’t say anything else.
“He said you were unsteady on your feet.”
“Oh that. It was no big deal, he thought I was going to faint and caught me, but I was just a little dizzy.”
“He caught you?” No wonder she was calling him ‘Walter’.
She nodded and her eyes slipped closed.
“Sorry, you go back to sleep.” He rose from the bed, straightened the covers and retreated from the room. He headed toward the kitchen. She always had edible food here.
He opened the refrigerator, but after a moment realized he hadn’t actually seen anything in there and shut the door. He’d ‘caught’ her? She’d fallen into his arms?
Why hadn’t he realized she wasn’t feeling well?
He was dozing on the couch when he heard her, restless in the next room. He rose and hurried in there to check on her.
“Where is he? Where . . . Walter . . . “
She was calling for Walter? And just when the hell had she started calling him ‘Walter’ anyway?
He touched her forehead, her fever had risen again. She was burning up. “Scully?”
She opened her eyes, but didn’t seem to see him. Her eyes were unfocused.
“Scully, it’s me. Can you hear me?” Maybe he should take her to the ER.
“Mu . . . Mulder? I thought Walter was here.”
“Uh, no. He left, maybe we should head over to the hospital, have you checked out.”
She shook her head, “Mulder.” Her eyes closed again, and before he could move, her fever broke, soaking her pajamas.
She couldn’t lay here in drenched nightclothes, it would make her even sicker. He’d just not look. He found her some fresh pajamas, and got a towel, then returned to the bed. She was already breathing easier.
He took a deep breath and began removing her damp clothing. Professional, remain professional. Ignore the fact that this is the woman you love, ignore the fact that seeing her like this is wreaking havoc with your body and mind.
He used the towel to dry her off, and gave serious consideration to studying the pros and cons of becoming a eunuch. As quickly as he could, he redressed her in dry pajamas and moved her to the couch. He remade her bed and brought her back, she barely stirred.
Then he retired to the couch to keep watch over her for the rest of the night, not daring to close his eyes and relive the entire episode again in every detail.
“I kept my eyes closed.”
Scully looked down but seemed to give a small huff of amusement. She hadn’t expected to find him here, in fact she had no memory of him being here. Skinner had been here when she went to sleep, but it was Mulder she had found sprawled on her couch when she emerged this morning. And she was wearing totally different pajamas than when she had laid down.
“I hope you’re not . . . I was a total gentleman.”
“It’s . . . it’s okay. I trust you.”
“No, really I’m comfortable with you.”
“Comfortable? Like a brother or something?”
“No, that’s not - “
“Like a partner then.”
“Well, you are my partner.”
He gave a single nod. “Scully, do you ever think of me as a man?”
She blinked at that question, “Mulder, I . . . I try very hard not to think of you that way.”
He said nothing; just looked at her.
“Mulder, when we’re not in that little office practically pressed up against each other, we - “ She saw his eyes dilate at those words. Kept his eyes closed, huh?
“We’re in some cheap motel with walls so thin that I can hear you turn over in the night. I wouldn’t be able to get any work done at all if I didn’t concentrate on the case.”
He made no move that she could detect, but he seemed to deflate somehow. She didn’t have a clue what to say. Finally he turned toward the counter and poured her a cup of coffee. When he handed it to her she took a seat at the table.
“What’s wrong Mulder?”
“Nothing.” He hesitated, “When did you start calling Skinner ‘Walter’?”
“I don’t. What are you talking about?”
Only when you’re not in control, huh Scully? But he kept quiet.
She decided to return to the last comment he’d made, “Do you . . . do you want me to think of you as a man?”
“I don’t want you to do anything you don’t want to Scully. Look, if I’m going to make it to the office, I need to run home and shower and change.”
“Can I bring you some lunch in a little while?”
“Mulder, you don’t . . . yes. If you don’t mind, I’d appreciate it. Maybe some soup?”
“Sure. See you a little after twelve.” He let himself out then and she just sat, watching the door after he had closed it.
He was wearing his insecurities like a badge today, but she wasn’t entirely sure what she’d done. She’d been honest; she did avoid thinking of him as a man.
When he’d been ill, from the drugs introduced into the water in his apartment, she’d been quite intimate with him in his helpless state. They’d never discussed how she was able to get him across country, traveling alone for three days. The fact that she enjoyed those memories was her own dirty little secret, and not something that she’d ever considered sharing with him.
Obviously she had been more ill than she thought, if her breaking fever had been severe enough for Mulder to change the sheets. She was feeling better, if a little weak. She rose and headed for the bathroom.
She took a leisurely bath and soaked the toxins from her skin, eyes closed and relaxed. Her thoughts inevitably drifted back to thoughts of that trip with Mulder. It had been spur of the moment and rushed, with him bleeding from a bullet wound that she had inflicted, so why were her memories pleasant?
She’d been able to rouse him enough to help him stumble to the car before the police arrived, Mulder collapsing in the back seat as she took off. She had headed straight for her apartment, covering him with the blanket from her trunk and leaving him in the car as she threw together some supplies from her store of first aid items.
Then she’d gotten them the hell out of Dodge.
She had pulled into a deserted rest stop in Virginia, not a place she would normally frequent this time of night, but she was armed and alert enough to handle anything at this point.
She had crawled into the back seat with him to check out the wound. The bullet had gone through clean, thank goodness, and he wasn’t losing blood now. She was a better shot than she’d realized. No, she knew she was good, but this shot had been the most important of her life. She could only hope he’d understand and forgive her some day.
She finished the bandaging and gave him a shot of penicillin in the other arm. He didn’t rouse, but his breathing was steady and his fever didn’t seem too high. She hadn’t thought to grab a thermometer.
Okay, she needed to get on the move again. She returned to the front seat and pulled out the map. She’d known she needed to get him out of town, now they needed to hide for awhile and find out what was wrong with him.
Albert Holstein. She needed to talk to him and he was all the way across the country. Yes, no one would look for them there.
She put the car in gear and headed west. She’d started out full of adrenaline and fear, but within an hour she could feel weariness creeping over her. They were still closer to DC than she wanted to be, but hopefully no one even knew they were gone yet. She had a long trip ahead of her, he could use some real rest, and it would be better to give him a true physical exam in the light.
She found a motel on the highway and pulled in. Now how the hell was she going to get him inside? First things first, she checked in and moved the car directly in front of the room.
She unloaded the car, then knew she had to tackle somehow getting him inside. “Mulder, Mulder come on.” She patted his face, “Mulder, please.”
He blinked a couple of times, but that was all. Now what?
“Hey lady, need some help?” Two teenaged boys and their dates had approached her. The boys looked like football players.
“He’s not been well . . . “
“Yeah, we can get him.” The larger of the two boys spoke, and she moved to the side. They hauled him out of the car and, with an arm over each of their shoulders, took him inside. She cringed at the pain that would have generated if he’d been conscious. After lowering him gently onto the bed, they retreated to the door of the room.
“Can you handle him now?”
“Yes, thank you very much.”
The bigger guy shrugged, “I’ve done it more than once for my father. If you’re sure . . . “
“I am, but thank you again.”
The boy gave her a sad smile, and though he didn’t physically resemble Mulder, she saw some of that strength of a boy becoming a man too soon. She glanced over at the girl he took by the hand, and they nodded to each other. For a moment, women understanding each other, then the young people moved on and Scully shut and locked her door.
She looked at the comatose man and took a deep breath. He was so still, shouldn’t he be waking?
Scully approached the bed. The kids must have seen the blood on his shirt, but they’d made no comment. She began stripping him. At least the bleeding hadn’t recurred when they moved him. His heart rate was steady and it seemed a little slower than when she had pulled into the rest area.
There was more that she needed to do. For one she needed to ensure his kidneys were working. She reached for the button on his waistband, then hesitated once more. Clinical, Dana, remain clinical, you are a doctor. She lowered his zipper and began inching his jeans down his legs, then his shorts. Her eyes widened slightly in appreciation. Clinical, Dana.
She got him to relieve himself in the ice bucket, then gave him a thorough sponge bath. Okay, she enjoyed it, but no one ever needed to know that - even herself.
After he was settled for the night and she felt she could leave him, she washed out their clothes and took a quick shower herself. A long bath would have been nice, but she wanted to get back to him in case he stirred.
She dressed for bed, then took a seat at the small table. She attempted to relax and get comfortable, but she was still too keyed up. The initial adrenaline was gone, but the fear remained. She knew they were trying to set Mulder up, but she had shot him. If she’d been off . . . her hands were shaking.
She’d never get any rest here, and she had a long trip ahead. She glanced at the bed - she’d left him nude, but she was fully dressed. She needed to stretch out, get some real rest.
Scully lay carefully beside him on the bed and, after a moment, turned onto her side away from him and slipped into sleep.
When she woke, feeling rested the next morning, she found she had moved closer to him and was lying facing him. He had barely moved, but the hand of his uninjured arm was splayed across her belly, as though assuring himself of her presence.
The gesture warmed her, he was ill and out of it, but he knew somehow that she was here with him. She slipped out of the bed and got dressed, anxious to be on the way again. After taking care of his needs and reminding herself that she wasn’t here for pleasure, or gawking, she dressed him in a sweat suit that had been in her apartment from one of their trips. It was easier to handle and no zippers. She didn’t bother with his boxers, just bundling his still damp clothing together to get out to the car as she packed. She arranged them to dry in the back window, then headed back to him.
“Mulder, can you hear me?” She patted his face.
He murmured something nonsense, but at least he seemed to hear something.
“Can you stand? Mulder come on, help me here.”
He didn’t make an intelligent sound, but he seemed, on some level, to understand she needed him to move. He didn’t open his eyes, but allowed her to pull him upright.
“Just a few steps, Mulder. That’s right.” She led him to the car and he sank into the backseat, once again dead to the world. Whatever he was on, wasn’t out of his system. She made him as comfortable as possible, then got back into the front and headed west. That much activity had wiped him out again, but maybe that was for the best. He really was easier to move this way, and he wasn’t arguing with her. If she took a few moments pleasure from the experience, it didn’t hurt him and hell, she was human.
When she needed gas, she pulled into a convenience store and got several bottles of water as well as some canned broth and other clear liquids. He’d have to eat sometime and she wasn’t sure she could get anything more complicated down him.
She stopped once around lunch time, to get him to relieve himself again and got some fluids down him. Not enough, but he didn’t seem to be becoming dehydrated.
Scully stretched and walked around a little, then returned to the car. She wasn’t going to be able to get to Albert today. At least one more night on the road. Why did her respiration pick up at the thought?
She pulled into the hotel that she had chosen a little early, she might be physically able to drive a couple more hours, but she was stiff and weary and he needed some fluids. This was a chain she was familiar with and she was here, enough said.
Again, she checked in and then moved the car. He was slightly easier to rouse this evening and stumbled with her into the room. Anyone who saw them would no doubt draw the same conclusions as the kids last night, but at least they would be left alone.
He sank into the bed, but didn’t seem to be as deeply out of it. The drugs were wearing off thank goodness. She propped him up and gave him the water. The best she was going to be able to do with the broth was heat it by hot water, but tepid would have to do. She had the impression that his eyes followed her around the room, but he made no comment and she couldn’t be sure.
He still wasn’t steady, or awake, enough to stand in the bathroom, so she took care of him again, then fed him the soup using one of the water bottles. At least he had some nourishment down him. She bathed him again and he was out.
She did decide on a hot bath that night, to soak some of the stiffness out of her muscles. He was better, just asleep now rather than the deep comatose state of yesterday. When the water had grown tepid, she finally got out and dressed for bed. After looking at the television set for about two seconds, she decided not to turn it on and crawled into the bed beside him. She was asleep in minutes.
She found herself pressed against him the next morning, somehow lying on his good shoulder and that arm was around her, the hand once again splayed over her belly, but this time inside of her pajamas. And she’d slept through that? She wondered for a moment if he had any idea what woman he was groping, but decided not to dwell on it.
She disengaged herself from him and made her way to the bathroom. When she was dressed she returned to him. His morning hard on was even more impressive than yesterday and the thought crossed her mind that she hoped he knew it was her. She pushed that aside with a stern chastisement and took hold of him. Okay, maybe her thumb did make a slight caressing motion but she was startled when his cock twitched in her hand. She glanced toward his face to find his eyes open, looking at her.
“Mu . . . Mulder?”
He didn’t respond and his eyes closed again, but they had been open. He’d been watching her as she . . . oh god. She took care of business as quickly as she could, then packed the car.
The relaxation from the bath and waking in his arms was gone and she felt edgy, guilty as she drove off. She hadn’t done anything wrong. The man needed to be looked after, she’d gotten him out of harm’s way in DC at least temporarily, so why . . . Oh for crap’s sake, Dana, you know exactly why! You were taking advantage of him. Okay, you weren’t exactly raping the man, but you were definitely enjoying your duties more than was absolutely necessary to get the job done.
She sighed, he was such a magnificent specimen of man. No one else that she’d had a relationship with had come close to this ideal, but this relationship wasn’t on that level and probably never would be. An air of depression settled around her and none of her self-talk could lift it. She couldn’t have him and she needed to get her act together so that he would never know what had transpired.
The relief of reaching Albert Holstein’s home and being greeted so warmly was slightly surprising. Albert’s declaration that he had known they were coming didn’t even faze her. She might not believe in such things, but Albert’s calm and quiet way of saying it didn’t cause her hackles to rise as usual.
Albert’s son and grandson assisted Mulder into the bedroom and took care of things, so that she was no longer responsible for him all alone. Part of her was disappointed to lose the access she’d had to him over the last couple of days, but another part was relieved and she settled the mantle of partner and doctor more firmly around her shoulders.
Mulder didn’t know what had happened and would never know just as she would never forget. That was the way it had to be . . .
Scully stretched, she hadn’t meant to remain in the tub this long but the memories were good. She rose from her bath feeling much steadier, took a quick shower to rinse off the bubbles, then dressed.
Mulder would be here soon with her lunch and she wanted to be ready for him. She needed him to know she was feeling better, and maybe they needed to have a little talk about . . . about things.