The phone call from Skinner had sent him racing for the airport. He had resisted taking out of town cases, but this one had been impossible to avoid. When the hospital hadn’t been able to find him, they had asked for his supervisor. Where the hell were Maggie and William?
He had used his badge to force his way onto the first flight available and upon landing, had raced to the hospital.
Maggie had accompanied Scully to her last appointment. Even Mulder could see how subdued Maggie was following that. He hadn’t pushed himself on her parents, feeling the guilt of keeping this information from them. Okay, that had been her idea, but he hadn’t argued.
Had he really tried to get her to go to them? Had he just been selfish? No, he had gone along to protect her and to some extent her parents. They had accepted him and he hated that they were in pain. Hell, he was babbling even to himself.
The news that she was in the ICU caused him to falter, then he was on his way up the stairs. Skinner was in the waiting room and rose when he heard Mulder’s voice at the nurse’s station.
The younger man turned at the sound, but didn’t seem to recognize his boss. “Mulder?” Skinner took his arm and led him into the small waiting room.
He resisted automatically. “I need to see her.”
Skinner looked up at the clock. “Ten minutes. Have a seat and get your breath.”
Skinner shook his head. “I’m not sure. Apparently she collapsed earlier. It was a good thing she was here. They rushed her to the ER, then transferred her up here.
“Co-collapsed. I shouldn’t have taken that case.”
“Mulder, you have a job. Don’t feel guilty about doing it. That said, if you need to take a leave, I’ll okay it.”
Mulder nodded, he wouldn’t be leaving town any time soon.
They sat in silence then until the nurse stepped into the small area. “Mr. Mulder? You can see your wife now.”
As much as he wanted, needed, to see her, he froze at those words. Skinner rose to his feet and took hold of Mulder’s arm. That galvanized the younger man and he nodded to Skinner and followed the nurse through the automatic doors.
He followed the woman to the cubicle and finally saw her. He had to stop at the sight. He bent over, his hands on his knees. His mouth was open, trying to get air into his lungs.
“. . . lder? Sir?” He finally became aware that the nurse was speaking to him. He forced himself back upright and ignoring the nurse, moved to her bedside. There were tubes in both arms; blood in her left and a clear fluid in her right. There was an oxygen cannula in her nose and wires leading to monitors that beeped and drew lines and basically scared him to death.
He leaned in to whisper in her ear. “Scully, I’m here. I won’t leave you. Please, open your eyes.”
“Mr. Mulder, you can stay here for ten minutes. I’ll . . . “ She realized he couldn’t hear her and backed away.
He sank into the chair beside the bed and carefully took her hand. He couldn’t remember ever being this scared. Maybe when Samantha was taken, but he didn’t think so. It was too soon, it was happening too quickly. He had to find something to help her. He had to.
One of the nurses started to move toward him when his ten minutes were over. The nurse that had led him back stopped her. She shook her head and the second nurse looked over at the man, then nodded and moved away.
It was later when a nurse finally approached him. He looked up and immediately shook his head. “Has it been ten minutes?”
She smiled softly. “Its been thirty-five, sir.”
His eyes widened and he looked down at his watch.
“We have to run a few tests. You can come back at the top of the hour.” He started to protest but she just shook her head. “I’m sure there are phone calls you need to make.”
He nodded his assent then and reluctantly rose. He gave Scully another kiss, squeezed her hand and forced himself to leave the cubicle.
To his surprise, Skinner was waiting for him. “How is she?”
Mulder shook his head. “I don’t know. I haven’t seen a doctor yet.” He sank onto the small couch. “I need to find her parents.”
“There’s still no answer at their home. I haven’t left any more messages.”
Mulder nodded. “I’ll call Charlie. Maybe he knows something.” He rose again, unable to sit still. He pulled out his cell phone and dialed a number.
“Professor Scully please.”
“He’s in class. May I take a message?”
“This is urgent. Ask him to call Mulder. 201-555-8540.”
“8540, I’ll find him, sir.”
Mulder broke the connection after a quick thank you and looked over at Skinner. “She’s going to find him.”
“You want any coffee?” Skinner asked.
“Uh, yeah. That’d be good.”
“I’ll be right back.”
The elevator doors were just closing when the cell phone in his hand rang. “Mulder.”
“It’s Charlie. What happened?” The concerned voice of his brother-in-law sounded in Mulder’s ear.
“Scu-Dana’s in the hospital. I can’t find your parents. I was out of town; Skinner called me.”
“I know Mom and Dad were talking about going to see Mom’s sister, Connie, for her birthday, but they wouldn’t leave town when you were gone unless - “
“She didn’t tell them,” they said together. “Damn,” Mulder breathed. “How can I reach them?”
“How bad is she?”
“She’s in intensive care. I just got here; I haven’t seen a doctor.”
“Okay, you concentrate on her. I’ll call Aunt Connie. I’d think they’re on their way back by now, but I’ll make sure. If they’re on the road . . . “
“Tomorrow they’ll both have cell phones,” Mulder said decisively.
“Amen. Mulder, do I need to come?”
There was a pause, then Mulder spoke, sounding exhausted. “I don’t know. Let me talk to the doctor. I’ll call you back.”
“Okay. I’ll let you know about the folks.” Both seemed reluctant to actually break the connection, but Mulder saw Scully’s oncologist step off the elevator.
“Gotta go. I’ll call.” He hung up and hurried to the doctor’s side. “Dr. Tucker?”
“Mr. Mulder, I’m glad they found you.”
“Dana had a bad hemorrhage, but she was here and they got her to the ER very quickly. She’s had two pints of blood and is working on the third.”
Mulder winced. “Why isn’t she waking up?”
“I’m sure she’ll be waking up soon. Her vitals were much better when I checked her a few minutes ago. She went into shock, losing blood as quickly as she did, but she’s strong, Mr. Mulder. I’ve known Dana for a while, she’s going to fight this as long as she can.”
Mulder looked past him then. “I need to see her.”
“Sure, go on in. They said you were with her when her vitals strengthened. I don’t mind using you some more.” The doctor smiled at him and moved out of his way. Mulder stared at him for a moment, then shook his head.
“Th-thanks.” He hurried back to her bedside.
When his phone rang, he grabbed it before the nurse had time to scowl at him. He wasn’t supposed to have it on back here. “Mulder,” he was whispering.
“It’s Charlie. I talked to Connie. Mom and Dad left about three hours ago, so they should be home in a couple of hours. I didn’t tell her anything; I didn’t know if she knew Dana was sick. How’s she doing?”
“They say her vitals are stronger. She hasn’t woken up, but Dr. Tucker seems pleased.”
They were both silent for a moment. “You, uh, you with her?”
“Yeah. They’re letting me stay.”
“Good. That’ll do her the most good. I’ll let you get back to her. Mulder, Mulder call me.”
“I will, and I’ll call your parents in a couple of hours.” When they hung up, he turned back to Scully, taking her hand. Almost immediately he felt her fingers curl slightly around his hand.
“Scully? Scully, can you hear me? It’s Mulder.”
Her eyes fluttered but didn’t open. He was already pressing the call button.
A nurse came on the run. “She’s waking up,” he said urgently.
“I’ll get Dr. Tucker.” She smiled at him and hurried away.
“Just take it easy, Baby. You’re in the hospital and your friends are taking good care of you. I’m gonna be right here beside you.”
Her lips curved upwards slightly at that. He leaned down and kissed her brow. Dr. Tucker’s arrival caused him to look away for an instant. When he looked back, her eyes were open and focused on him.
“Hi,” he said softly. Her hand tightened slightly around his fingers.
“Mr. Mulder, we need to check Dana out.”
“I won’t get in your way,” he responded instantly.
“Mulder, it’s okay,” her voice was low but she nodded to him.
His brow furrowed, but there really wasn’t much room. He brought her fingers to his lips. “I’ll be just outside. If they get rough with you, just yell. I’ll hear you.”
She did smile then. “I know.”
Reluctantly he stepped away and her fingers slipped from his hand. He backed out and when she was out of sight, he turned and moved toward the waiting room.
A nurse stopped him at the desk. “Mr. Mulder? The other gentleman left a note for you.” She handed him a folded slip of paper and he nodded his thanks. He made his way back to the small waiting area and took a seat. He opened the note.
“Mulder, I will be in my office if you need me. You also have my cell phone. Please let me know how she’s doing. Skinner.”
Mulder nodded to himself. He should call him and Charlie, but right now he felt paralyzed. He’d know more when Dr. Tucker came out, and when he could look into her eyes again.
He was on his feet instantly when Dr. Tucker appeared at the door. “How . . . “
The doctor gave him a slight smile. “Her vitals are much stronger. We want to keep an eye on her here in ICU for a couple of hours. If she doesn’t have any more nosebleeds, we’ll move her to a regular room.”
“The, the cancer . . . “
“I’ll schedule a PET scan for tomorrow morning.”
“It’s worse, though, isn’t it?”
“Mr. Mulder, I don’t want to speculate. Why don’t you go back and be with her. I know she feels better when you’re close by.”
“You know . . .?”
“She’s mentioned it to me several times.” At the stunned look on Mulder’s face, Dr. Tucker squeezed Mulder’s shoulder. “Go on.”
Mulder lost no time complying.
When they moved her to a regular room in a couple of hours, Mulder placed a call to her parents home. He closed his eyes in relief when he heard William’s voice answer.
“Dad, it’s Mulder.”
“Mulder, what’s wrong?”
“Sc-Dana’s in the hospital. She’s doing a lot better. They’re moving her to a regular room right now.”
“She had a really bad nosebleed, and uh, she’s better now. She’s at Georgetown.”
“We’ll be right there.”
“Take your time, really, she’s a lot better. Be careful. I’ll be here.”
“Son, are you okay?”
“Yeah,” he said nearly steadily.
“Okay. We’ll be there shortly.”
When Mulder hung up, he dialed Charlie. The phone was picked up on the first ring. “Mulder?”
“Yeah. She’s doing better. They’re moving her to a regular room but they’re going to keep her for a little while. And I got hold of your Dad. They’re on the way over now.”
“Thank goodness. I’ll let you get back to her, but please call me if there’s any change.”
“I will. Th-thank you for being there.”
“Mulder, we’re brothers. I’m here.”
Mulder couldn’t speak. A brother? His brother. “I, uh . . . “
“Go be with her, Mulder. I’ll talk to you tonight.”
Mulder nodded though he knew Charlie couldn’t see and listened as Charlie broke the connection. He started moving toward her room then, picking up his pace the closer he got.
His exhaustion and relief that she was at least out of the ICU caught up with him once he was back at her side. He lowered his head to her bed, not releasing her hand.
The sound of the door barely registered, but Maggie’s stifled gasp woke him immediately. Mulder hurried to her side and gave her a hug, then motioned for her to take the chair he’d occupied.
He turned to William then, offering his hand. The hand was ignored as William hugged the younger man to him. Mulder returned the hug, struggling with his composure. Had his own father hugged him in the last thirty years?
“Tell us what happened.” William led Mulder to the other visitor chair and motioned for him to take the seat.
“I wasn’t here. I’m sorry. I was sent out of town on a case. AD Skinner called me when the hospital couldn’t find any of us. I didn’t realize you were planning a trip out of town. I know she didn’t want any of us thinking she couldn’t look after . . . That was one of her biggest arguments against marrying me, that she would hold me back. She doesn’t get that I want . . . “
“This is not your fault, son. We’ll all have to talk to her about keeping secrets from us when she’s a little stronger. What caused her to be admitted?”
“Nose bleed, apparently a bad one. She was in intensive care until just before I called you. They had to give her three pints of blood - "
“Three?” Maggie interrupted. William moved over to her and rubbed her shoulders. She didn’t release Scully’s hand.
“I’m sure Dr. Tucker will be in to see her soon. He can tell you more, but he was pleased with her progress, and he did move her out of ICU.”
Maggie nodded and turned back to her daughter. William moved back over to Mulder. “You look done in.”
Mulder gave him a weary smile. “I was in Wisconsin when I got the call. I don’t have a clue where my luggage might be.”
Before William could respond to that there was a tap on the door and it opened. Dr. Tucker entered. Mulder introduced her parents and the doctor shook hands with them both. “If you’ll let me do a quick exam, then I’ll talk with you.”
Slowly Maggie rose from her chair and they all stepped out into the hall. “Can I get you something, Mom? The coffee’s not very good, but it is strong.”
She shook her head and moved closer to William. “She’ll be okay, won’t she?”
William put his arm around her and held her close. No one answered her.
When the doctor joined them he was smiling. “She’s doing much better. She’s awake and asking for you, Mr. Mulder.”
“Thanks. Do you know when I can take her home?”
Maggie immediately started to protest, but the doctor beat her to it. “Not for at least 24-hours. I want to do an MRI, see how things are progressing.”
“Pr-progressing?” Maggie said quickly.
“You know she’s refusing conventional treatment. I’m keeping an eye on her. I’ll probably release her tomorrow afternoon. Go on in, she needs to see you.” Dr. Tucker touched her shoulder, nodded to the men and moved to the nurses’ station.
Mulder and William followed Maggie inside.
“Mom? Ahab? I thought you went to see Aunt Connie.”
“We’ll discuss that later, young lady.”
“Young, young lady?” Scully smiled at her mother. “I’m in trouble?”
Maggie shook her head and took Scully’s hand. “How do you feel?”
“A little spacey, but I’m fine.” She looked over at Mulder. “I am fine.”
He nodded, but didn’t speak. Her eyes filled with tears and he moved closer. “It’s okay. Don’t, please don’t cry.” He held her against him gently.
“Don’t be angry with me.”
He shook his head. “Never. But you’re not getting me out of town again. Dr. Tucker is too good looking.”
She gave a shaky chuckle then. “Okay. No more sneaking around with Chris. He can’t compare anyway.”
“Good to hear. I’d hate to have to pull my gun.”
“You look tired,” she caressed his face.
“I’m good. I think your Mom needs some time with you.”
“I know. Listen, why don’t you go home and get a little rest.”
“Leave? You’ve already made a date with this Chris?”
“Go on, Mulder. You look like the type to ignore visiting hours anyway.”
“Who me?” He glanced back at his in-laws. They did need some time with her. He gave her a quick kiss and nodded. “I’ll give you guys a little time. But I’m not leaving you alone with this Chris guy any more.” He kissed her again and moved away.
William followed Mulder out of the room. “Mulder, son, Maggie needs this. Go on home and take a shower, get a good night’s sleep. You know I’ll call you if there’s any change.”
The anguished look on the younger man’s face caused the older man to look away. “I’m not throwing you out, son. You need some time away.”
“I, I know. You will call.”
“Of course I will. Take a little time; you know we’re not trying to keep you away.”
Mulder nodded and after another look in the direction of her room, he headed for the elevators.
Once in the car, he realized he couldn’t face returning to their apartment. The very thought of being there without her made him sick. Instead he turned toward his friends’ place.
Langly opened the door and looked his friend up and down. “You look like shit, man. Did you sleep in those clothes?”
Mulder ignored him and moved around the man, not waiting for an invitation. Byers joined them. “Mulder?”
“She’s in the hospital.”
Frohike hurried into the main room when he heard those words. “How bad?”
Mulder looked out the window rather than answer.
“Mulder,” Byers drew his attention back. “You haven’t told us about your trip to Allendale.”
Mulder met his eyes and took a deep breath.
Mulder had his head back on the back of the sofa, his eyes closed. There was a glass of iced tea on the table in front of him, the ice mostly melted. Langly sat looking at his beer bottle. Frohike took another long drink of his whiskey. Byers glanced at Frohike, but said nothing. He reached for his own iced tea but then decided against it and leaned back.
Frohike stared down into the whiskey as though it held all the answers. “So all of these women developed the same . . . disease.” No one responded, there was nothing to say. “And they all developed it after they removed their implants.”
Mulder looked up then, staring at the little man. “Say that again.”
“They got it after they . . . “ Mulder turned to look at Byers.
Byers was already sitting up straighter. “Mulder?”
“They all took it out. If they hadn’t, Byers, if they hadn’t . . . “
“I don’t know.” Byers was thinking frantically. “Do you think that - “
“It can’t be a coincidence,” Frohike interrupted, catching up.
“Put it back in,” Langly said emphatically.
“But if it’s a tracking device,” Byers mused looking over at Mulder.
“That M-O hasn’t come up again in any case since she killed it. Believe me, I’ve checked.”
Byers nodded. That he believed. “Mulder, I don’t want you to get your . . . I mean, it’s a computer chip.”
“It’s something to try. That’s more than we’ve had before. I’ve got to get to the apartment.”
“Mulder, you need a nap and a shower. Yes, go home, but clean up, change. Take a short nap. We’ll wake you in a few hours. You said yourself she’d been moved from the ICU.”
“Byers is right,” Frohike agreed, nodding. “You can’t run yourself into the ground and expect to be there for her.”
“Yeah, okay. I just need to go the apartment. I’ll be fine.” He was already hurrying to the door. He didn’t look back as the guys watched him leave.
“He’s not gonna be taking any nap,” Langly mused.
“Nope,” Frohike agreed. “I just wish we could do something.”
Mulder let himself into the apartment and wondered again where his luggage might be. He’d have to check into that sometime. For now he had more important things to do. He hurried to their bedroom and yanked open her top dresser drawer. He searched around in it for a few seconds, completely destroying the nice orderly stacks of her lingerie. Toward the back of the drawer his hand knocked a small prescription bottle. He snatched it up and looked at it.
Yes, the minuscule disk was inside. His hand closed protectively around the small orange bottle as he moved toward the door, leaving the drawer open and one of her bras trailing out.
When he arrived back at the hospital, he hurried to her room, but stopped just outside to look through the glass panel of the door. Her mother was beside her, in the seat he had used. She was holding Scully’s hand and moving something with her other hand. It took him a moment to realize Maggie held a rosary and was praying.
Scully seemed to be asleep and he didn’t see William. Wait there he was in the corner, watching the two women. Mulder opened the door quietly and both of her parents looked over at him.
William put his hand on Mulder’s arm. “You couldn’t have gotten any rest.”
“No, but I, I need to talk to you for just a minute.”
William looked back at Maggie, then nodded. “Why don’t we go to the cafeteria? Maggie, can I bring you anything?”
Maggie shook her head, so the two men left her alone with Scully. “Mulder - "
“I’m not asking Maggie to leave her side. I found something and, and I need to talk to you, privately.”
William’s brow furrowed, but he led the younger man to the elevators.
There was little activity in the cafeteria at that time of day, so they took their coffee to a table in a quiet corner away from the few other patrons.
“What is it, son?”
Again that word, son, caused Mulder to hesitate for an instant, then he looked his father-in-law in the eye. “I need to talk about Melissa’s murder.”
William blinked. “Excuse me?”
“You’re not going to believe what I have to tell you. I can only hope that you won’t have me committed, but you need to know some background.”
William looked deep into his son-in-law’s eyes and after a moment, nodded. He leaned back, taking his cup of coffee with him. “Okay, I’m listening.”
William was no longer leaning back. Both men were silent and Mulder could feel the older man’s eyes searching his face, trying to get into his mind. Hell, William was probably trying to figure out how many men it would take to get him into a straight jacket. Mulder waited, he’d run out of anything to say. More would only make it worse.
Finally William broke his gaze, looking down at his empty cup. “You’re saying that my daughter killed an extraterrestrial that murdered her sister, saving both of your lives.”
Mulder squared his shoulders. “Yes, sir.”
“May I see the chip?” He held out his hand and Mulder reluctantly placed the vial in William’s hand. William squinted at it, holding the container up to the light. “You think removing this caused her illness.”
Mulder met his eyes and nodded.
“How did she know that the back of the neck - “
“She didn’t. Neither of us did. It was a lucky break.”
“But you knew that it was looking for her.”
Mulder recognized William’s statement was really a question. “Not at first. I was brought in because of the serial nature of the killings. They were all over the country. The men and women had nothing in common in life that anyone had reported, yet they all had that signature wound in the back of the neck, post-mortem. The other agents were . . . convinced it was nothing, but it was all I had.”
“Melissa didn’t have the chip.”
“No, sir. She was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Her resemblance to Scully may have caused a momentary confusion, but he knew he had the wrong woman immediately,” Mulder hesitated then, he was talking about this man’s daughter.
“Go on,” the older man said after a moment.
“There was no way a man could have followed us. Even if he had seen me take Scully to the hotel, we would have lost him at the airport. The rental car we took hadn’t even been cleaned; but he found us in Rhode Island in less than 24 hours.”
William looked at the orange vial again. “If this is a tracking device, what would stop something else from coming for her?”
“The murders stopped when Scully killed it. There hasn’t been another one reported, and believe me, I’ve checked. The M-O is on every data base for police, both here and internationally.”
“I never told you that I recognized your father when we met.”
Mulder blinked at the change in topic. “Uh, no.”
William nodded. “I’d heard of him when I was working at the Pentagon, years ago. He was working on a project there. It was completely hush-hush. In fact they moved him and his team out of the Pentagon not long after I got there. I had a security clearance, not top level but, anyway your father’s was light-years above mine. There were rumors about that team, things people laughed about quietly; that they were part of Blue Book, MJ. I didn’t believe it and kept my head down, did as I was ordered. I’d forgotten about it completely until you introduced me to your parents. He didn’t remember me; there was no reason he should.”
“I don’t know. What I do know is that all of those women in Allentown removed their implant and they all got sick. All of them. I don’t know if there are other people out there, still healthy, who still have the chip in their necks. I wouldn’t even know how to start an investigation on that. But they got sick after it was removed. What if it was put back - that's all I want to know.”
“Are you asking my permission to try this?”
“No, I, well yes, I guess I am. I want to talk to Scully about it of course, but . . . William, I have to try something. I’ve just gotten her in my life. I can’t lose . . .”
The look of anguish on the younger man’s face made William look away. Finally he turned back. “I understand. I don’t think we should mention this to Maggie. Not right away in any case. Let’s do it and see what happens.” He saw the look of hope that blossomed on Mulder’s face and had to look away again.
“Yes, sir. I think that’s a good idea,” Mulder’s voice was husky. This man, whose respect he so wanted had listened, maybe even believed a little.
“I don’t think we should get into a debate with the doctors either. I want you to put it back. You know where it goes. And I know you would never intentionally hurt my daughter.”
“No, sir,” Mulder’s voice was only a whisper.
William nodded. “Come on, I’m sure Maggie needs a break herself now.”
“You, you believe me,” Mulder sounded overwhelmed at the thought.
“I believe you believe; and I want to save my Starbuck. This will be just between the two of us.”
Mulder nodded solemnly. They rose together and started for Scully’s room.
“Mulder, you and I have a lot to talk about, soon.”
“I look forward to it.”
“I’ll get it,” Mulder called back toward the back of the apartment when the doorbell rang. He opened the door and stopped, shocked. The woman stepped inside and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek.
“I know my coming here is a surprise, but I wanted to see you and meet this Scully of yours.”
“You look wonderful,” he smiled back at her, welcoming her inside.
“Mulder, who - “ They turned as Scully joined them from the bedroom. She stopped when she saw the strange woman.
“Scully, this is a good friend of mine, Penny Northern. Penny, my wife, Dana Mulder.”
Scully stepped forward then and Penny saw her hand smooth the fabric over her protruding stomach, protectively caressing the child growing within her.
“I am so please to meet you, Dana. So very pleased to meet you.”