"Here! In here, come on!" Skinner had her by the arm, not quite carrying her. She must be frozen through. It wasnít a whole lot warmer in here, but at least they were out of the wind. He managed to shove the door shut by using his body. Scully had collapsed in a heap on the floor.
He surveyed the room quickly, not a lot here to look at and no electricity; he flicked the light switch several times. That might or might not be from the storm. This was just a cabin that was probably not used in the winter anyway. He fervently hoped they kept some food here for when they did drop by.
Now he had Scully in his arms. She seemed to weigh even less frozen. He used his foot to uncover the couch from the sheet that was draped over it and laid her down gently. She was beyond shivering. He quickly grabbed the rest of the dustsheets and piled them on her. Not enough. Could he get a fire going? He had no choice; theyíd both die here if he didnít. At least there was wood in the box. If he could thaw a little he could probably find a woodpile outside. First he had to get her warm.
Smart people, they kept their matches in a container on the mantle. If they had been harder to find than that, he wasnít sure he could have done it. As it was he was trembling so badly he dropped the first match without successfully striking it. He wasnít much behind her with hypothermia. Willing his hands still, he managed to strike the second match and hold it to the paper underneath the fire that had been laid.
When he saw that it had caught, he hauled himself up and staggered toward Scully. He couldnít lift her anymore, but he was able to drag her closer to the fire. He had to find something warm and dry to wear, for both of them.
Leaving her alone on the rug in front of the fire that was beginning to warm the room, he spotted the doors leading off of this room and the stairs leading to a loft. There had to be bedding here and maybe spare clothes. Move Skinner; youíre almost out of time. He hit pay dirt in the closer of the two downstairs rooms. Not much in the way of furniture, but several blankets piled at the foot of the bed. He stripped off his wet clothes, they werenít nearly as stiff as they had been, and wrapped himself in a quilt from the bed. Then he loaded himself with the other blankets and hurried back to her.
She hadnít stirred. God, was he too late? No, there was a pulse. She had just passed out. The ice in her hair and clothes was melting and forming a puddle on the rug. For just seconds he hesitated before beginning to remove her clothes. To hell with modesty, this was life or death.
He stripped her and began rubbing her down with one of the blankets he had brought. When she began to respond he wrapped her in a second blanket and pulled her into his lap. She was shivering now as the blood began to circulate and she burrowed herself into his chest. He sat on the floor, close to the fire, rocking her and reassuring her that they would be okay. It was long minutes before she was able to look up at him.
"Thanks." She managed to croak out. He nodded and pushed a piece of wet hair off of her forehead. The gesture reminded her of Mulder and her eyes widened.
"What?" He pulled her closer to him again.
"Do you think the others are okay?"
"I think Mulder and the others in the first transport are. I donít think anyone else got out after us."
She closed her eyes and he knew the shivering was no longer just from being cold. At least eight were dead, very nearly ten. He should have been able to save more, but it had happened too fast. He also knew that Mulder was somewhere going ballistic for having left Scully while he went to interrogate their suspects. If the outside world knew yet.
"Do you think you can stand?" She nodded and he helped her to her feet. She held the blanket against her and he made her more comfortable on the couch. "Iíll see if thereís anything here to eat."
She nodded and pulled the blanket tighter around her. He wandered over to the kitchen area of the room and began searching the shelves for food. This was definitely not a luxury cabin, but adequate. No cabinets, but bright curtains had been hung to cover the shelves on the wall and under the sink. The refrigerator was empty; well that made sense if they had turned off the power for the winter. There were boxes of rice mixes, pasta and sauce, and a few cans of beans and soup. Not a feast, but they wouldnít starve for awhile. Ah! Tea bags, thatís what Scully needed. Now he just had to figure out a way to heat water.
He turned at the touch of her hand. The blanket was twisted around her several times and still dragged on the floor as she walked. "Can I help?"
"Sure, weíre looking for something to boil water in." She nodded and turned to the far side of the kitchen to begin her search. He watched her walk away. There was so much woman crammed into that tiny package. Heíd never met anyone with more determination or guts. Any other woman that he had ever met would be in hysterics on the couch. But Scully, minutes ago sheíd been near death from exposure, now she was up helping him locate whatever it took to keep them safe. Mulder was one hell of a lucky man.
That thought drew him up short. She didnít belong to Mulder. She was her own person. Oh, heíd heard all the rumors about the two of them, but he really didnít think they were together that way. He understood the regulations better than the next man did, but Mulder was even more spooky than he thought if he was able to withstand the pressure of being around her. He shook his head to rid himself of those thoughts. This was a survival situation, get on track, Walter.
"Ah ha!" She turned triumphantly holding up a small pot for the water. "Now all we need is water."
"Let me get dressed, thereís plenty of the fluffy white kind outside."
"Our clothes arenít dry. Letís just reach out and get a little for now and do a major trip outside later."
Skinner nodded, that probably would be better. He needed to bring more wood in if he could find it and fill all the vessels in the cabin with snow. After the food was gone theyíd have to survive on water until help came. Hopefully it wouldnít take that long.
It didnít take long to get the water boiling, and they both felt better with the warmth of the tea inside. Their clothes, now spread out in front of the fire, were drying quickly, but they both felt the dwindling of the wood box acutely.
Tucking the blanket back around her, Scully rose. "Iím going to see what we have here. Maybe there are other clothes."
Walter nodded, "Iíll take upstairs."
This was obviously a hunting cabin. There was the one main room that they were in with the fireplace. The two doors off of the room were the bedroom that Walter had found earlier and the bathroom. Again there were no cabinets or closets, just pegs and curtained alcoves. Scully found a winter jacket hanging on a peg just inside the bedroom and a pair of gloves on the shelf behind the curtain. There were no other clothes and Walter had already brought the blankets out of the room, except for the quilt covering the bed. There was no chest of drawers to search, only the bed and a small table beside it, which was empty.
The bathroom had little more to offer. There was no tub, only a shower, a toilet and a sink. The medicine cabinet above the sink held a half bottle of aspirin and a couple of disposable razors. Under the sink were some bathroom cleanser, a toilet brush, some antifreeze and a couple of rags.
She pulled herself up from her crouch under the sink. This had to be a manís getaway. A woman would have left a few more amenities around, just to save having to haul them in each time. Well if the place saved their lives, she had no room to complain. Maybe Skinner had done better upstairs.
Actually he had. The loft had obviously become the storage area. There he found some older ski clothes, not in the best of condition, a pair of boots that had seen better days, three sweaters and a ski mask. There was also a futon for additional sleeping space. His problem was getting all of the loot downstairs while maintaining a modicum of modesty. He solved it by checking for her presence, giving a brief warning, then tossing everything over the railing. He followed down the stairs to find her picking through the lot.
"You did a lot better than I did. I found one additional blanket in the bedroom, and a few rags from the bathroom. Letís take them over to the fire and beat the dust out of them."
Skinner insisted that he don the dry clothes and go outside in search of wood and additional water supplies. He piled on the clothes. The boots didnít fit that well but he hoped not to be outside too long. What little light theyíd had to help find the cabin was rapidly vanishing, as night joined the storm to blot out the sky.
His face froze immediately and he pulled the ski mask down over his features. He better find something quick, or he wouldnít make it back in.
He finally got lucky, there was a large wood pile on the north side of the house, as far from the door as they could have put it. Figures. He loaded his arms and trudged back. She was waiting for him, holding the door open. She was wrapped in a couple of the blankets, which she had managed to twist enough that they didnít fall as she took some of the wood from his trembling arms.
"Tell me where it is, Iíll make the next trip." She tried to pull him over closer to the fire.
"No. Iím already cold; Iíll make a couple more trips. Thereís no reason for both of us to be miserable. Iíll dump it here by the door and you can move it over, okay?"
She nodded, not okay, but it did make sense. He was gone again, so she began stacking the wood closer to the fire to begin the drying process. After three trips she tried to bar him from going back out.
"This will more than get us through the night. You need to warm up."
Shaking, he nodded his head. "Just let me get a bucket or two of snow and Iíll take you up on it." She handed him the two largest utensils she had found in the kitchen and let him go out one last time.
He could barely hold the pots when he returned and she took his arm and pulled him closer to the fire. She helped him to the floor and removed his gloves for him.
He had done too much, pushed himself too hard. "Walter, I want you to lay back and let me get these clothes off of you. Just relax."
"I can do it." He tried to remain upright as she pushed him down toward the rug.
"Walter?" He looked up into her eyes. "Shut up."
So this was what Mulder put up with. It didnít occur to him to fight her on it. She meant business and she was going to have her way. Sheíd make a good director some day. He idly wondered if he would be retired by the time she made it that far.
He really was out of it, she was already undressing him while he zoned in and out. Would he even be able to move tomorrow? Oh come on, she could at least leave his shorts! Okay, they were damp, but. . . another losing fight. When had she started outranking him? Now he was being roughly massaged by the blanket he had used on her. Oh, turnabout was fair play, huh? His hands and feet felt like spikes were being driven through them. He was definitely going to put in for that vacation when he got back, somewhere tropical.
His breathing was easier and Scully began to relax. Heíd stayed outside too long, doing heavy work. What would she do if something happened to him? They really needed each other to get through this. He was beginning to drift off to sleep now; she needed him to move to a drier spot before that happened.
"Walter! Walter, wake up. Come on, you need to get on the couch. Then you can rest better." He wearily obeyed her, half dragging himself with her help. He was asleep instantly.
When he woke he had no idea where he was or what had happened, but was immediately aware of the woman in his arms. What had he. . .? Scully! Why was he sleeping nude, with Scully scrunched up against him? She squirmed closer to him and he became aware of his erection pressing against her thigh. His first reaction was to get the hell out of here before Mulder shot him, then memory began returning. The avalanche and storm, remembering this cabin from the trip up, the fight to get here, rubbing her down to bring her back to life and now obviously she had reciprocated following his trips outside to bring in the wood. God this felt good! Nothing could happen between them, he was her supervisor, but on the other hand, nothing could keep him from enjoying this sensation. And he certainly was warm.
He glanced over at the fire. It was beginning to die down, he should get up and put more wood on. In a minute, this was too good to disturb. Okay, maybe he was a pervert but this had probably saved their lives. He was going to stick to that story in any case.
She stirred again, her leg rubbing against his cock. This was becoming less of a good idea. It had been too long and this felt too good.
"Scully?" Lord, he could sing bass about now. Her warm breath against his chest wasnít helping any either. He cleared his throat and tried again, "Scully?"
"Um? Oh!" She woke with the start and immediately tried to draw herself away from him. The loss of her warmth against him was devastating in more ways than one.
"Itís okay. I just need to add more wood to the fire. Okay?"
"Yeah, sure." She didnít meet his eyes, moving to get out of his way. He wrapped one of the dustsheets around him rather than take one the blankets surrounding her and refilled the fireplace.
Now did he return to the couch or. . .? He heard her take a deep breath. "Walter? Hurry, come on before we both freeze."
He glanced down, the room was probably cold enough to kill both of them, but not cold enough to take care of his problem. Great. Well, there really was no choice. He slipped back onto the couch and pulled her close to him again. This is a survival situation, just keep repeating that to yourself. A man his age should surely have more control than this. How do you ignore the elephant in the room when his trunk. . . damn!
"Think you can get back to sleep?"
"Maybe. I keep wondering what happens if they donít come looking for us?"
Skinner actually chuckled at that. "What?" She twisted around, "Whatís funny?"
"Thinking they wonít be searching for us. Iíve seen Mulder when youíve been missing before. He moves heaven and earth to find you. All I have to do is stay close by and Iíll be rescued too."
There was a faint smile on her face now. "He does seem to want to know where I am most of the time. I guess losing Samantha like that at an early age. . ."
"You donít think youíve replaced his sister in his mind?"
"Well, Iím only a year older than she would be, and. . . "
"Youíre kidding right?" She turned to look at him. "You donít honestly think that Mulder thinks of you as substitute for his sister?"
"Well, I. . . "
"Sister is the last word that comes to his mind when he thinks of you. Please donít tell me youíre oblivious to this."
"Weíre partners, friends, even best friends, but. . . "
"Thatís because you understand regulations and he has the social skills of a door knob."
"He does not." This could get uncomfortable, talking about Mulder while pressed against the nude body of another man.
"Well, maybe not. I thought he had evolved that high, but I could be wrong."
"You canít fool me, I know how you really feel about Mulder."
"How I feel?"
"Yes, you respect his skills and you trust him more than any other agent under you." Skinner shifted a little and she couldnít help the light laugh. "Weíve got to get a handle on this."
That drew a laugh from him, "You know Scully, thereís not a damn thing we can say that wonít be a double entendre right now. Maybe we should shut up and try to go back to sleep."
She nodded and turned away from him, cuddling in closer to his chest. She was quiet so long that he thought she had fallen asleep. He barely heard the whispered, "Thanks, Walter." He gave her a little squeeze, but didnít speak. There wasnít anything he could say.
They slept peacefully the rest of the night and pretended to ignore the obvious embarrassment the following morning, pulling on the now dry clothing in front of the fireplace.
Another mug of hot tea and some rice completed breakfast, then they restacked the wood that Skinner had risked his life for the previous night and checked the weather. The wind was down considerably, but the snow had not stopped and the sky was completely overcast. There was no hope of an air rescue yet. They settled in to wait.
Mulder looked up at the tap on the door. Finally! He'd expected the rest of the team to get here quicker than this. Scully still had forensics to complete and he wanted her take on some of the answers he'd been given. He needed the "scientific" point of view.
"Agent Mulder?" The younger agent stuck his head in the door. He didn't really want to get any closer to the spooky guy. Especially not now.
"Oh, I thought you were my partner."
"We've received some bad news, sir."
"What?" Why was the back of his neck tingling like that?
"There's been an accident. The. . . the building you were using as headquarters on the mountain is gone."
"What do you mean, gone?" Mulder had risen to his feet.
"Well, gone, destroyed. After you and the prisoners left there was an avalanche and. . . and well it was swept away." He couldn't run away, he was an FBI agent. Why did he suddenly feel like a little kid about to be pounded into the ground?
Mulder took a step toward him. When had the air gotten so thick? "And the survivors?"
"Well, they haven't exactly been able to find any. The storm blew up faster than expected. We can't get up there to do a search and rescue."
"Are you telling me there are people up there, injured and we can't get to them?"
"Yes, uh yes sir."
"Who's in charge of the rescue?" He was already out of the room and striding down the hall. Stay in control, Mulder, stay in control. He fairly burst into the control room, where coordinates of the rescue were being planned.
"Bring me up to speed." His tone, his posture, his whole demeanor spoke command. The men bent over the map all but snapped to attention.
"It looks like the mountain let go here." The taller of the two men pointed at the map. "The building you were in was here." He pointed to another location below the first spot.
"Okay, but it was near the edge of the slide. See? They could have gotten out and. . . "
"There was almost no warning, Agent Mulder. I seriously doubt anyone got out." He locked eyes with the agent and saw the uncertainty flare behind the bravado.
"If they did, is there anywhere they could have gone for shelter." Don't give it up Mulder. Scully can do anything, how many times does she have to prove that to you?
The ranger gave a slight shake of his head, but answered "There are a few hunting cabins up this way. Nothing fancy, but shelter if they could get that far."
"Then that's where I'll start. Your men can search the area where the building was. I've heard of people that have survived in air pockets in the snow for days."
"I don't know of any, Agent Mulder. I don't want you getting your hopes up. We'll be retrieving bodies, you need to face that and get in touch with the authorities at the Bureau."
Mulder managed to fight down the impulse to flatten him. "You don't know the people I work with. My partner and my superior were in that building. I will find them. When do we leave?"
"When the storm dies down enough. That's going to be tomorrow at best. It's already almost dark. We can't do anything tonight."
"But they can't survive out there!"
The ranger looked at him, but didn't repeat his earlier statement. Instead he took Mulder's arm and led him away from the table. "I'm sorry, Agent Mulder. I really am. But it's my responsibility that no one else is lost up there. We'll have to see what the weather is in the morning. If we can get out then, we will. We've done everything we can right now."
Wait until morning? Could she survive overnight? Could he get to her without their assistance?
"No one goes up there tonight. This is my jurisdiction and if I have to put you in cuffs I will." If this man self-destructed, at least he was going to do it here.
Mulder looked down, he was right. Looking for him could hinder the search for the real victims. Scully, hang on, please. I'll be there as soon as I can. Just hang on.
After a sleepless night he located the head of the team shortly after what should have been dawn. "When are we leaving?"
"Mulder, look out the damn window. We can't fly in that and what the hell good would it do to try to walk it? You're going to have to wait. I'm sorry to say this to you, I know these people were your friends, but they're in the same shape now they were twelve hours ago. I risk no one to rescue bodies. Am I making myself clear?"
The two men flanking Mulder managed to grab him before he got to their boss. Barely, and it took both of them to drag him down.
"Let him go. I'd feel the same way. Just remember Mulder, if you take me out, that's one less experienced person to help when we can get up there."
Mulder wiped his hand across his mouth and retreated from the room. Scully always said he did nothing with less grace than waiting. But Scully, I'm waiting to see if you're alive! He had to brace himself against the wall as the shudder ran through his body. His own personal nightmare, come alive again. He made it to his room and sank onto the bed, staring off into space.
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Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunman and Skinner all belong to Chris, 10-13 and Fox Ė Bless them for it!! No infringement intended.