By the third day he couldn’t even try to pretend anymore. She walked in, took one look at him and closed the door firmly behind her. He couldn’t hide the flinch.
"What’s going on Mulder? Are you sick?"
"No." He sounded resigned; "I’m not sleeping."
"You never sleep."
"Well, this is worse than normal. It’s a dream, the same dream – over and over."
She sank into the chair across the desk from him, "What do you remember?"
He tried to hide his relief; she was listening to him. "I’m in a room filled with smoke. I can’t see anything. I’ve had it three nights running. After I have it I don’t get back to sleep. You know – fire." She nodded. "I get a little more each night. I just want it to go away."
"Well – " The phone interrupted her and Mulder made a face as he answered it.
"Yes sir. Right away." He stood as he hung up and in answer to her eyebrow, "Skinner. He wants us asap. What have you done to tick him off now?" Her eyes narrowed as he grinned, possibly relieved to be out of this conversation, and she followed him from the room.
The next morning he looked no better. "Did you have the dream again?"
He nodded. "I was moving forward into the fire. There’s something important in the next room – very important – and I have to get to it."
"I’ve been thinking about it Mulder. We were searching through those old files the other day – the ones we rescued from the old office. They still smell like smoke. We’re never going to get that odor out and you know scent is one of the strongest memory provokers. If it’s such an important thing, that’s probably it. Those files represent thousands of hours of your life. You’re trying to rescue them."
He shrugged, "You could be right. It’s definitely not my friend’s house from when we were kids."
"I hope so. Maybe the dream will end. You could use the rest." She turned away to get back to work. The more he thought about it the more logical it sounded. She was right as usual, though he’d never admit he thought that. Now maybe he could get some sleep.
The change was remarkable. She couldn’t help but smile as he grinned at her when she entered the office. "No dream?"
"Nope. You were right. Once we figured it out the dream went away. I guess I’ll avoid those files as much as possible." She chuckled and poured herself a cup of coffee.
The next morning was the same. "Mulder I cannot believe what a couple of nights sleep does for you."
"Yeah, how about that? I’m back to being a prime male specimen."
"Could you write that down for me? I’m afraid I might forget it." He arched his eyebrow at her, but let the comment go. Not having that nightmare for two nights was wonderful. With a little luck it would never come back.
No! He was in that room again. Tears were streaming down his cheeks from the acrid smoke. It was thick, too thick. He couldn’t see anything but there was something here, something he had to save. He moved forward cautiously, his arms extended. They were no help when his thighs knocked against the furniture. His arms came down to catch him and he was finally able to see what he had stumbled against. A couch – Scully’s couch? Scully!
Oh god! He came awake with a gasp. Scully’s apartment! The fire he’d been dreaming about was in her apartment. He was half way to the door before he could truly consider himself awake. He didn’t even try the elevator, vaulting down the stairs. There was little traffic this early in the morning and he took full advantage of that fact.
He could see the flashing lights before he could see her building. It wasn’t a dream, not this time. Scully’s building was on fire. He abandoned his car and raced for the building, skirting the police and firefighters trying to control the crowd. He had to get inside.
They didn’t catch him and hesitated to follow him inside without breathing equipment. There was smoke in the hall but he had no trouble finding her door. One kick and it burst open; he knew this door’s vulnerable point better than most. Her apartment was completely filled with smoke just like in his dream, but he knew this place. He moved cautiously, but as quickly as he could to her bedroom door.
The smoke was almost as thick in there. His hands found her face, she was not responsive, he couldn’t even be sure she was breathing. The crash from another part of the building brought back the realization that he was in the middle of a burning building and he could feel panic try to take over his body. Not this time, this was Scully. Don’t think, just do.
He threw the afghan over her head and face and then all but tossed her body over his shoulder to hurry back to the front door. He was unaware of how badly he was coughing, or the fact that he was stumbling now. He had to get her out and that fact kept him moving.
Then there were hands and arms supporting him, moving him farther from the building. "We’ve got her mister. You can let go."
Let go? Of Scully? "It’s okay. We need to treat her. Please!"
He didn’t know how to respond and they ended up prying his fingers from her body and laying her on the ground. He sank to his knees beside her. He tried to ask how she was, but the coughing made that impossible and suddenly he was breathing through an oxygen mask.
He clawed it off. "Is she . . ."
"We’re giving her oxygen. We’re going to transport both of you to the hospital. Try to relax." She was alive. He felt himself slipping into darkness. She was alive.
Mr. Mulder? Mr. Mulder can you hear me?"
He jerked awake. Where . . .? Hospital – Scully! The man was leaning over him and restrained him as he fought to a sitting position.
"Hey, take it easy."
"The woman you rescued? She’s just down the hall. She’s going to be fine."
"I need to see – " That started the coughing again.
"Not until you calm down. She’s awake. She’s been asking for you too. If you behave and use a wheelchair I’ll take you to her. Do I have a deal?"
Mulder nodded. She was awake; he had to see her for himself. "Slowly, you start coughing again and you’re going back in that bed, with restraints if necessary."
Mulder nodded sheepishly. Whatever it took.
The doctor pushed the door open and wheeled Mulder inside. At the sound Scully turned and saw him. She closed her eyes in relief or a brief prayer, he couldn't tell which, then reached for him. She couldn’t have come to him he noted, she was still on oxygen. The chair was maneuvered as close to her bed as possible and the doctor excused himself.
Their hands reached for each other simultaneously. "They told me you appeared out of nowhere, racing toward the building. You didn’t even hesitate, you just came in and got me."
He shrugged, tightening his grip.
"But how did you know?"
"I had the dream again, but this time it lasted long enough for me to move farther into the room. I bumped into a couch, your couch. At least I got one thing right."
"The most important thing in the world was in the next room." Her eyes widened and she seemed unable to speak. "Think about it Scully, who else would I go into a burning building for?" He grinned down at her.
He turned her hand in his and placed a kiss on her palm. When he looked up tears were running down her face, but he’d never seen a bigger smile. He felt his own smile grow.
This was good, they were good. And, he thought wickedly, he’d finally gotten her out of that damn first floor apartment. A world of possibilities lay before them.