The doorbell finally woke her. She looked over at the clock - it was after two. "Damn it, Mulder." She forced herself out of bed. He better have a hell of a good excuse this time. The bell rang again.
"Coming, Mulder! What in the. . . ?" she looked through the peephole in her door as a matter of course. Skinner?
She fumbled getting the door open. "Director Skinner? What? Come in." She pulled her robe tighter around her.
"Dana. . ." He never called her that. She put her hand on his arm, pulling him inside.
"Whatís wrong?" He had never come here like this before. Something terrible had happened.
"Letís sit down." He steered her toward the couch.
"Mulder." It had to be Mulder, nothing else could frighten her like this.
He nodded. "Earlier this evening. . . "
"Heís not dead." Surely she would feel it if he were.
"No, heís still alive, but he has been shot."
"Where? How?" Why wasnít her doctor-self taking control? She acting like a, like a, well not the way she liked to think she would.
"Apparently he went out to the convenience store near his apartment to get some of those seeds heís always eating. . . "
"No. . . oh god, no. Then itís my fault. He wanted to stop earlier and I talked him out of it. No." She could feel herself shutting down, she had caused this. If she hadnít been in such a hurry to get back to the office. . .
"Dana, this is not your fault."
"Where is he? How is he?"
"Heís at Georgetown. Iím here to take you there."
"But how is he, Walter?" Neither of them noticed her use of his first name.
"He was shot three times. Twice in the left lung. . . " he stopped again, he didnít want to tell her this.
"Where?" She couldnít stop her voice from trembling.
"In the head, Dana." He watched the color leave her face, and automatically reached out and pressed her head down between her knees. "Take a deep breath, Dana. Just take a minute."
"Iím. . . Iím okay, Walter. I have to get dressed." I have to get to him, I have to tell him. . .
"I know. Just take a minute." He had known sheíd be upset, thatís why he had come personally. But her reaction surprised even him.
"Iím okay, really. I need to go to him."
He nodded and helped her to her feet, gauging her abilities.
"Iíll just be a minute." He nodded and when she left the room picked up her phone and called the hospital. Mulder was still in surgery. Skinner let them know he was on his way.
She was as good as her word. "Please, letís go."
"Okay." He held her arm out to the car and after she was settled, told her that he had called the hospital, but there was no news.
They went straight to the ICU to wait. He brought her coffee, which she took gratefully. "When did this happen?"
"But itís after three!"
"The guy that shot him took his ID. It was a nurse here that recognized him."
She gave a wan smile. "Shows how much time we spend here, huh?"
Skinner gave an unamused chuckle. "Guess it does. Looks like somethingís happening."
They rose and followed the gurney into a cubicle. They caught sight of the bandage around his head at the same time. Skinner froze until he realized Scully was clinging to his arm. He put his arm around her waist and she sank into him.
"Scully?" She wasnít going to faint was she? Scully didnít do that.
"Iím okay," she whispered.
"Yeah. Sit down. Get your bearings."
"Walter?" She wanted to hear reassuring words, she needed to hear them. Shot in the head, not Mulder.
"Donít jump to conclusions. Wait and talk to the doctor." She nodded, not releasing his arm.
"I. . . yes. How is he?" Screw explanations - theyíd tell her more thinking she was family, and damn it, she was listed as next of kin for him! Skinner raised an eyebrow but refrained from comment.
"Lucky?" She couldnít keep the quaver from her voice.
"Yes. Iím Dr. Charles." They shook hands all around.
"The bullet to the head caused a lot less trauma than we had anticipated. No bone splinters in the brain, more of a deep graze. Heíll have a hell of a headache and need to regrow some hair. You might want to keep this guy away from him." He grinned at Skinner.
"But itís not nearly as bad as it looks. The lungs were actually a more serious problem and we were able to repair the damage there as well. Thatís why heís on the respirator, just to help out and give his lungs some time to heal."
"Heís going to hate that. Heíll fight the respirator."
"Well, weíll try to keep him calm. Listen, his bed will be here until he comes around, then weíll move him to a room in the unit."
"I have to stay."
"Heís not supposed to have visitors, you know."
"Iím a medical doctor, and heís going to need to see a familiar face when he wakes up with that respirator."
"Well, okay. If youíll remember that Iím his doctor." He pinned her with his eyes until she nodded. "You gonna tell me youíre a doctor, too?" He turned to Skinner.
"No, just his boss."
"You wouldnít believe it if I just wrote a note?"
"You obviously donít know what a slacker this guy is," he said and grinned at Scully.
She could finally feel herself relaxing. Mulder was going to be okay - no brain damage. She didnít even realize she was crying until Skinner handed her his handkerchief. She shrugged and gave him a lopsided grin.
"Iíll find you a chair."
"Thanks. Walter. . . thanks for everything." He squeezed her hand and headed down the hall.
They moved him to his room earlier than they had anticipated since he had his own personal special duty MD at his bedside. The recliner they brought her was much more comfortable as well. When he began to stir she rose and placed her hand on his arm.
"Iím here, Mulder. I want you to stay calm. Okay? Youíre on a respirator to help you breathe, but youíre going to be fine." She was lightly rubbing his arm, keeping up a constant contact with him.
His eyes showed his confusion, but he managed not to panic. She continued to rub his arm and caress his face. "Itís okay, Mulder. Youíre going to be fine. You were very lucky."
He tried to speak, but of course the respirator made that impossible.
"No, Mulder. Just let the respirator work. We can do the hand squeeze thing. Twice for yes, once for no. Okay?"
Two squeezes. She closed her eyes and said a small prayer of thanks. He understood. . . there really was no brain damage. She leaned more heavily against the bed, relief taking some of her strength.
"Are you in any pain, Mulder?"
Two squeezes. She pressed the button for the nurse.
"Do you remember what happened?"
"Well, it doesnít matter now. I can bring you up to date later." She looked up as the nurse entered. "Thanks, heís experiencing some pain. Do you have a meds order?"
"Yes, Doctor. Iíll bring it right in." After the pain medication had been added to his drip and the nurse checked all of the monitors, she left them with a semblance of privacy again.
"Try to get some rest, Mulder. I wonít leave you. Iíll be right here until they remove the respirator. Okay?"
Two squeezes. She brushed a kiss on his forehead, which seemed to startle him. She smiled and his eyelids started to droop.
Scully dozed beside him.
His vitals were good enough for the doctor to decide to remove the respirator after only eight hours, as much for Mulderís comfort as any other reason. As she had promised, Scully was there.
"Okay now, I want you to cough a little to help me remove this thing. Understand?"
Mulder gave a slight nod, then winced.
When the mechanism was gone, Scully placed a straw at his lips. "I know your throatís dry; take just a couple of sips. Youíre doing great."
Dr. Charles stepped away from the bed and was speaking with one of the nurses. Scully leaned in so Mulder could whisper. "Is there anything you need?"
"What?" Her name? What was he talking about?
"Need your name," he rasped out.
"Mulder, Iím Scully. Dana Scully."
He smiled at her, "Angel."
She looked up and saw the doctor had overheard and was speaking rapidly in low tones to the nurse. She took off at a swift pace and he joined Scully at the bed.
"Mr. Mulder, you received a blow to the head. That can leave people a little confused. Letís see how youíre doing. Okay? Can you tell me your first name?" Dr. Charles leaned in a little.
"Yes, do you know your first name?"
The confusion in Mulderís eyes was becoming concern and rapidly panic.
"Mulder, itís okay."
"Sheís right, Mr. Mulder. This is very common with even the slightest of head injuries. You have nothing to be worried about at this point."
"What is my name?" Mulder managed to whisper.
"Fox. Youíre Fox Mulder." Scully took his hand.
"No, really. I need to know."
She had to stifle a grin. "I swear, Mulder. Thatís your name. Youíve always hated it. Thatís why everyone calls you Mulder."
"Fox? And youíre Dana?"
"You call me Scully."
"Youíre my doctor?"
"No, no, Mulder." Her smile vanished. "Iím sorry. Weíre partners."
"Partners? What does that mean? Weíre lovers? We live together? What?"
Scullyís face flamed. "We work at the FBI, Mulder. Weíre partners, we work together."
The doctor injected something into Mulderís IV.
"No! I need. . . "
"I am not knocking you out, Mr. Mulder. This is just to relax you. Youíll be awake to talk to us. I donít want you to get upset. Dana, why donít you step outside for just a minute?
"But I. . . " She couldnít leave him, not now.
"Just for a couple of minutes." It wasnít a request; the doctor felt that she was upsetting him. But she needed to be here, Mulder needed her. She locked eyes with the doctor.
Mulder watched her eyebrow arch and he thought she was going to refuse, but at the last minute she squeezed his hand. "Iíll be right outside, Mulder. Iím not leaving."
He nodded, but his eyes looked frightened. She smiled reassuringly and tried to relax a little. As soon as she left the room she grabbed her cell phone and dialed Skinnerís private number.
"Skinner." The sound of his clipped, efficient voice didnít help.
"Walter, he doesnít know me!" Sheíd held it together as long as she could.
"Dana, calm down. What are you talking about?"
"Mulder! There is brain damage. He didnít know his own name."
"Iím on my way. Stay there and try to calm down."
She watched several people enter Mulderís room, but they politely kept her outside. Panic was kept at bay only by the knowledge that he would see her through the glass and that would make it worse. She had to make sure she remained where he could see her when he looked up. She noticed he was doing that more and more often.
Skinner wasted no time arriving at the hospital.
"Walter." He put his arms around her. "What am I going to do?"
She glanced up to see Mulder watching them. She couldnít read his expression. She stepped back and Skinner dropped his arms back to his side.
"Didnít they say there was no brain damage?"
"Yes, but we donít know enough about the brain to state that with complete assurance."
"There are tests, arenít there?" Skinner asked.
"Thereís a neurologist in there now."
"Shouldnít you be in there as well?"
"They asked me to leave. I think I was upsetting him."
"Another reason to calm down, Dana."
She took a deep breath. "Itís not like me to fall apart like this. Iím sorry. But when he didnít know me, itís like the planet tilted."
"Thatís understandable, Dana. Looks like thereís a crowd in there. Iíll wait here, but you need to be in there, for yourself as well as him. Go on."
She nodded and entered the room. Mulder watched her approach.
"Whoís that?" He looked at Skinner, ignoring the doctors in the room.
"Are you together?"
"No, no Mulder. Heís our boss."
Mulder took a shaky breath. "I donít remember him either."
"You will." She smiled softly at him. "Neither he nor I are willing to be forgotten by you. Weíre going to get to the bottom of this, Mulder. I promise." She turned to the doctors assembled. "Bring me up to date."
She listened carefully as they filled her in on the tests they were scheduling. Then rose to her full 5í2", "Okay, Mr. Mulder is getting tired and needs to rest. You can finish this discussion elsewhere."
The other doctors looked startled for an instance then Dr. Charles started to smile. "Donít you hate dealing with doctors, gentlemen?" He looked around the room and moved towards the door.
"Thanks," Mulder whispered to her.
"No problem. I should have done that from the beginning - you caught me off guard. You really do need to rest now. Iíll explain all that medicalese to you later, okay?"
"Are you a doctor?"
"Yes, actually a forensic pathologist. Youíre my only live patient."
"Thatís a good thing?"
"Yeah, it cuts down on those nasty housecalls in the middle of the night." She looked up as Skinner entered the room.
"Mulder, Iím Walter Skinner, Assistant Director of the FBI."
"Assistant Director? Scully, what do we do there?"
"Mainly pester me." Skinner didnít give her a chance to respond. "Look, I just came by to see how you were doing. You donít need a lot of company now, so Iíll leave you in Scullyís hands. Scully, call me."
Skinner placed his hand on Mulderís leg. "You take it easy, do what she tells you to do, and Iíll check in later."
"Thank you, uh, sir." Things were moving too fast. Thank god she had run everyone out of the room.
"I want you to rest now, Mulder."
"Please, I need to know. . . "
"Mulder, I know you do, but not now. Youíve got to rest. Damn it, you were on a respirator an hour ago. You donít need this stress. Let me handle things for awhile. After you go to sleep Iím going to run home, shower and change. I should be back before you wake up. If Iím not, Iíll be here very shortly. Iím ordering you not to worry. Promise me."
"Yes maíam. Just please come back." He felt like a little boy saying that, but he needed her. She was the only one that seemed to really care.
"Oh, Mulder. You canít get rid of me. Rest now. I really need that shower, okay?" She smiled and took his hand again.
He was moving slowly but under his own power when he entered her apartment. She held the door and his suitcase.
"You doing okay?"
"Yeah, fine." He was a little breathless, but not bad, she decided.
"Anything look familiar?"
"Did I spend much time here?" He looked around.
"Yeah, you were kind of a fixture. I changed the locks after what happened. Your key is on the desk."
"I have a key to your apartment?" That look was familiar - the old Mulder leer.
"Donít push it, big guy. Youíre here to recuperate."
"So I donít get to enjoy it?" He grinned.
"Youíre in no shape to enjoy it. So I figure Iím safe." She shot back at him. "Off your feet. Come on, I donít want Dr. Charles giving me that ĎI told you soí look."
He eased himself onto the couch. "You know, I really appreciate this. I needed to get out of there and he wouldnít even listen when I talked about going home."
"You shouldnít be alone yet. And alone in your apartment. . . " She smiled. "You definitely need to be stronger for that."
"Do I at least get to see it sometime?"
"When youíre more ambulatory. Donít push it, Mulder. I want to see you back to where you were. I know youíre anxious but youíve got to trust me on this."
"I trust you. What? What did I say?" He started to rise from the couch.
"Iím okay." She sat beside him and wiped the tear from her cheek. "You, uh, you donít trust people easily and for you to just say it like that when you really donít know me, it felt good."
"Why donít I trust people?"
"Itís a long story, Mulder. And not something we should get into now. We will, I promise."
"You keep saying that, but so far. . . Scully, itís so strange. I have no family, apparently youíre my only friend. What kind of person am I?"
"You do have a family, Mulder. We havenít been able to contact your mother because apparently sheís on a trip. At least thatís what the post office said. Your father passed away a couple of years ago."
"Mulder, Iíll have the guys come over tomorrow night for dinner if you behave. Okay?"
"Byers, Langly and Frohike. Thereís no good way to describe them, so Iíll just let them introduce themselves. But only if you're good between now and then."
"Sure, Mom." But he did add a grin finally. "I am a little tired."
"Okay, letís get you in the bedroom, so you can be comfortable." She let him lift himself off the couch, then took his arm.
"You only have one bedroom. Are we. . . ?"
"Iíll sleep on the couch. It must be comfortable; youíve done it often enough," she remarked dryly.
"I must not be the man I want to be."
"Donít go there, Mulder." Her tone was warning.
He looked down at her. If they werenít lovers, it didnít make sense. He was incredibly attracted to her - everything about her. God, he wasnít gay, was he? No, not the way he felt about her.
The aroma woke him. He got out of bed on his own and headed for the kitchen.
"Mulder! You startled me. Did you have a good nap?"
"Yeah. Anything I can do to help?"
"Yes, there is. Sit right there and keep me company."
"Guess I can handle that." She laid the plates, napkins and utensils in front of him. "Can you tell me about these guys youíre inviting over tomorrow?"
"Oh, Mulder. Thatís not easy. The guys are, well, unique. They publish a newsletter called The Lone Gunman. Itís a radical fringe publication that caters to rather paranoid leanings."
"These are my friends?"
"Yes, Mulder. You have leanings in that direction yourself. Remember I told you that you donít trust easily? Well, you trust these guys, and they have come through for us on many occasions. You have a lot of the same interests."
"What interests are those, Iím afraid to ask?" He looked it, too.
"UFOs, Mulder. Extraterrestrial life."
"Oh god." He hid his face in his hands.
"Do you want me to keep going?"
"Thereís more?" He peeked out at her.
She sank into the seat beside him. "Lots. Thatís why I wanted to wait until I brought you home. Itís not going to be easy to process."
"Do I, by any chance, drink?"
She smiled and looked away. "No, Mulder, you donít drink; and even if you did, you canít now with your medication."
"Then lay it on me, Scully."
She began giving him a watered down version of the X-Files and the paranormal tenor of the cases. He could feel himself becoming fascinated in spite of his reluctance to even hear this. Liver-eating mutants? Flukemen? And they paid him for this?
"Thatís enough for one day, Mulder. Iím sure the guys will load you down with additional stories tomorrow." She stood and began clearing the table.
"You work with me on all of this stuff." It wasnít quite a question.
"Yes." A careful answer, non-committal.
"Do you believe all of this?" He was watching her closely, in a way that felt familiar.
"Mulder, Iíve seen a lot of strange things since we started working together. I was assigned to you because of my background in science. Sometimes there are no good scientific explanations for what we investigate; but I try to keep us grounded."
"Sounds like youíre the most important person in my life."
She could feel the heat on her face. This part of Mulder, this new part, was totally disconcerting. Heíd always leered at her, and thrown innuendoes her way, but now. . .
She discovered that sleeping on the couch wasnít really that bad, and he seemed to sleep quite peacefully in her bed. Alone. Stop it, Dana. Someone had to maintain some control here.