She pulled him closer, shivering as much from fear and reaction as the cold. She had her back resolutely to the raw, new hole in the ground. She knew they had raced away, fallen partially into the hole, then risen up only to slide down and land, hard, on the snow and ice they now lay on. She hadn’t seen what created that hole, not really, not clearly, and she couldn’t think about it now anyway.
They were going to die out here. She had no idea which way to go even if she could carry him. Dying here at least wouldn’t be painful; they’d just go to sleep in each other’s arms, right?
She looked down into his face, not peaceful even though he was only semi-conscious. God, how on earth had he found her; what had he endured?
A second, or was it a fourth, wind came to her. Okay, maybe they were going to die here, but she wasn’t going to just lay here and accept it.
She leaned in closer. ”Mulder, Mulder wake up. We need to move.”
He mumbled something but didn’t open his eyes.
He was cooling rapidly lying here wet. He’d put his waterproof clothing on her. She’d been nude inside that . . . Shoving that aside, she tried again.
“Mulder, listen to me. I can’t do this alone; I need your help.”
His eyes flickered at that, then opened. The sight of her over him brought a relieved sigh. Her expression softened. “You’ve got to get up, Mulder.”
She almost chuckled at that, how Mulder, even now.
He was drifting off again, so she shook him. “Some rescue, Mulder. We need to get moving.”
He grimaced, then attempted to sit up. He collapsed back into her lap.
“Mulder? Are you okay? Were you injured?”
Yes, he had to be. He’d carried her forever inside the . . . inside. But they couldn’t stay here.
“I know, Mulder. Come on, I’ll help you.”
He took a deep breath and managed to sit up.
With him no longer lying across her lap, she forced herself to look around. There weren’t any options. “I guess we need to move to those rocks.”
“What?” She turned to look at him. “Is there something there?”
She just stared at him for a moment. “You have a snowcat?”
“I’m good, Scully, but I didn’t walk here.” He forced himself to his feet and even though he swayed, he held out his hand to help her up. She took it, more the steady him than to help herself.
With their arms around each other they staggered toward the snowcat. She would have panicked when he stumbled and fell to his knees, but she had no adrenaline left either. She helped him back up and they continued on.
She stopped for an instant when the snowcat came into view. She looked up at him, shaking her head.
“It’s not as good as it looks.”
He yanked open the door and helped her up into the seat then climbed in after her. He collapsed down onto the hard bench seat and closed his eyes. It wasn’t any warmer inside, but it was dry.
“Mulder, we need to - “
“It’s not the best rescue.”
“I, I don’t have the fuel to . . . to get back.” She just looked at him, so he opened his eyes. “I, uh, Scully I used more than half to reach here. I only have one full container. It took me . . . more than two to . . .” His eyes slid closed again and he slumped further down on the seat.
“Mulder?” She shook him slightly to wake him up. “What, what if I hadn’t been here?”
“Then it . . . wouldn’t have mattered.”
He was asleep. She just stared at him. It wouldn’t have mattered? Had he been awake when he said that? If he hadn’t found her, he wouldn’t have cared about getting back?
She shuddered deeply. He had saved her life, now how did she save his?
Was she able to drive this thing if she could get it started? She was dead on her feet too, but they could freeze to death in here as easily as outside. She slid over to the driver’s side and opened the door, letting herself out.
There were fuel containers in the back. One full, one about half full, and one basically empty. If it had taken two full tanks to get here . . . She poured the few remaining ounces from the empty one into the half full one and forced the fuel tank opened. She looked around once more at the wasteland that surrounded them, then poured the half full container into the snowcat.
She left the full one alone. She couldn’t lift it by herself and didn’t want to chance spilling any of it. Her hands were numb anyway. She climbed back into the cab. Mulder hadn’t moved.
She depressed the clutch and pressed the starter. After a couple of tries, with fingers crossed that she wouldn’t flood the engine, it coughed to life and sat chugging away. She turned the heater up to high, then looked around to see if he had brought any supplies.
There was a gym bag under the seat and when she investigated she found a change of clothing for him, along with an extra sweater and socks. It must have been the clothes he had been wearing before he changed into the heavy arctic wear. In addition to the clothes was a bottle of water that somehow hadn’t frozen solid and some power bars. Well, if it was a choice between starving and freezing, she’d choose freezing every time.
She pulled Mulder farther up on the seat and made him more comfortable though he didn’t wake. She pulled off his boots and socks, dried his feet with the sweater, then pulled on the dry wool socks. Taking the sweater again, she dried his hair and began to feel warmth coming from the heater.
He seemed settled now. Maybe she should at least start back, following the tracks he had made. She wasn’t really wasting fuel, since they were warm again, but it felt wrong to just sit here.
After a few minutes she had the gears figured out and got moving. She kept a steady 35 mph until her eyes began to droop as well. When she meandered away from the tracks, she finally called a halt and pushed in the emergency brakes. Some rest was essential for her now too. Maybe when they did run out of this tank of gas they would wake up and do something about it. At this point, she could only hope.
At the end of her rope, she stretched out beside him on the seat. Even though he didn’t wake, he made room and pulled her into his arms. She looked up into his face as she lay beside him. How had he gotten that wound on his brow? He had been about to kiss her when, when she’d been stung. She didn’t remember much after that, his panic, an ambulance . . .
She wasn’t ready to die. There were things she needed to do. She studied his face again; more peaceful it seemed, now that she was beside him. She didn’t want to die without experiencing that kiss. To hell with it, she reached up and pulled his face down to her. She brushed her lips against his, then pressed them fully to his. He responded, kissing her back and pulling her closer to him. “Scu . . .” He slept on, but his body was relaxed now. Maybe it wouldn’t be the worse thing, to die in his arms.
The helicopter woke him as it landed nearby. Mulder looked down to see her pressed up against him. It was cold, the snowcat’s engine quiet since the fuel had run out. She protested when he moved away to signal to their rescuers.
“Wake up, Scully. We’ve been rescued.”
Rescued. Both alive. She smiled.