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Beneath the depths of the Earth


Written for April Mulder's Refuge contest: "Act of God"

Author: ?

Disclaimer: Mulder and Scully belong to Chris Carter, Fox and 1013.

Rating: PG

Category: A, MSR, MT 


He was conscious of an intense pain, but he didn’t have strength to open his eyes yet. They felt gritty and sore. He was also conscious of a dreadful thirst, but was unable to move or any had idea where his water flask might be.  Seemingly endless hours, he remained like this in pain-wracked limbo, between clarity and delirium, feverish; too weak to fight the cold, which penetrated all fibers of his body, too incompetent to effectively push back impending death that sought and plucked at him with dark fingers. 

Beneath the depths of the Earth 

Carlsbad National park, New Mexico. 

The day had just risen on the New Mexico's sun parched desert. Beneath the small blue tent, Dana Scully and Charles Burks disconnected the radio that sat on the solitary camping table; the radio signal silent for hours now, offering nothing more but overpowering low hum static. Exhausted, cut down by guilt, shock and sorrow, they looked at each other, seeing nothing but their tired eyes and shared tears of despair. 


Five days earlier. Charles Burk's office Washington DC. 

"It is extraordinary... I can’t believe it... " exclaimed Mulder excitedly while looking at the photographs that Chuck presented to him, smiling at seeing the face of his young friend filled with wonder. He knew that he would be interested in the discovery of his peer of faculty becoming an internationally famous speleologist. Mark Horner, whilst exploring an unknown cave basin in Carlsbad National Park, had discovered some completely new types of cave paintings, ancient pictograms illustrating characters that strangely resembled extraterrestrials and machines, which were synonymous with spaceships. Knowing all too well Mulder’s dedicated passion for this subject matter, he had immediately contacted him and as expected, his reaction had been one of ineffable excitement. He wanted nothing more than to hop on the next plane out, join the place of discovery and to go down into the caves to examine those enticing paintings. 

"We can leave this evening. I called ahead already to let him know to expect us. Mark is waiting for us, and knowing that you would be itching to go down, I pre-empted you on the necessary equipment. I’ve taken the liberty of rustling up all that I will need to better identify those paintings. Mulder, don’t get excited though. They are either well made fake graffiti’s by bored local kids. or they may be the real McCoy." Chuck waggled his brows seductively at Mulder. 

Mulder shook his head, his mind already transported far away from Chuck's office. 

"Doesn’t dampen my enthusiasm, Chuck. I know that it is almost too beautiful to be true but after all, I need a vacation somewhere sunny and this discovery is too tempting to pass up. I’ll meet you this evening at the airport."


Mulder couldn’t stop himself from smiling as he prepared his sports bag; he’d promised Scully that he’d go to the caves and then join her with her family for a few days on the West coast, to take a few days of rest. Equipped for whatever the next few days threw at him; some food, casual clothes, Maglight-- everything he needed except for rest, but he had a distinct feeling that the next few days would incredible and he would get a whole lot of pleasure out of this trip. He could rest later. Thoughts of the caves and their amazing buried secrets flooded out any other thoughts. He buckled his bag, deposited a generous sprinkle of fish food in the tank and closed the door firmly behind him, with light heart and a barely controlled slither of excitement as he headed for his car. 


They arrived on the meeting point after long hours of flight, Mulder’s fidgety demeanor during the flight shouted that he was over eager to arrive even to his own mind, let alone Chuck who smiled with a roll of his eyes at his friend, and rented a jeep for the rough terrain trek out to join the discovery site in Carlsbad National park. Mark Horner welcomed them with a broad smile and a handshake. He was a well-weathered man of Mulder’s build, pleasant face and good sense of humor if his tanned laughter lines were anything to go by. It was obvious why he and Chuck were friends; similar mannerisms and a lighthearted scientific approach. Chuck introduced Mulder to him and the two men clicked immediately. They were about the same age and had that excited Doberman enthusiasm regarding the paintings and subject matter. Mark had an interest in the paranormal too. Like the melding of two like minded souls. A beautiful thing to behold, Chuck mused inwardly. 

Around the bivouac, under the gleam of the stars, which shone like a thousand eyes across the galaxy in a sky stripped of any city pollution, they discussed all the findings during the small hours of the morning, over cold beer and nachos, each postulating their own theories. Mark was a little nervous knowing that Mulder was a beginner in speleology, but with his sporting air a match for the FBI agent’s integrity, he did not doubt Mulder’s capacity to adapt to the hostile environment which awaited them. They then bedded down for some much needed rest to recharge for the next day’s arduous decent into the caves, after having retired to their respective tents. 

Mulder was astonished to see that his cell phone functioned in this backwater site, but then he remembered that the place was very touristy and that some antenna relays had being installed. 

He couldn’t resist calling Scully. The truth was, he missed her voice and even more so missed her beside him to share in his excitement, but this trip had coincided with an already planned visit with her family. He tried to shake off that feeling of a missing limb as he punched speed dial one.  

The communication was not very good, but he smiled at hearing her sleepy voice answer him. 

"Scully, it’s me." 

"Mulder? I can’t hear you all that well, poor reception." 

"You will never guess where I am Scully." 

He heard her stifle a yawn on the other end "Surprise me." 

" Carlsbad national Park, Scully." 

"You are kidding. What are you doing there?  Doing a little sightseeing tour? Oh that’s right, the cave paintings. "  How on earth did that slip her mind?   

" A little funky spelunking actually. I’m going down in the caves tomorrow with a speleologist. Chuck put me onto a fabulous find. His old buddy Mark Horner discovered a set of cave paintings that depict scenes of figures and situations that resemble... " 

"Little green men, Mulder?" 

"You know me so well, Scully." 

"Mulder... You never made speleology... be careful. 

"Mark assured me that the descent would be easy if I follow his lead, Scully. Don’t worry about me."  She sighed and was silent a long few minutes. 

"Mulder, I have reasons to be anxious. You and wild untamed nature never made good bedfellows." 

Mulder felt that it was time to change tack in this conversation. 

"How’s your vacation going, Scully?"  He heard her groan loudly. 

"Oh... I believe that if I have to endure just one more obnoxious remark coming from my dear brother, I will end up joining you... " 

"Good idea, Scully. You could give me one of your logical explanations that I adore hearing.. The kind that makes me tingle….. " 


They both burst out laughing at the same time. The miles keeping them apart, shrinking to nothing with their familiar comfortable banter. 

" All joking aside, Scully, if you want to join us..." 

"Don't tempt me..." 

"I’ll leave my cell phone switched on. If you decide you will be able to join to me later, we will undoubtedly be here a few days. You have plenty of time to get here before the fun starts.  Good night, Scully." ...I miss you, he said silently to himself. 

" I’ll think about it. Good night Mulder " 


Scully took the first flight out next morning. She’d felt a slight unease gnawing at her insides at the though of caves and Mulder mentioned in the same sentence. What could it hurt if she was nearby, just in case? And if the truth be known, hearing his happy voice last night ignited a pang of longing for his company. She had missed him, though had to bite down on the urge to tell him that when they said goodnight. Her brother had been his usual objectionable self where her and Mulder were concerned and she’d had no qualms about flying the Scully coop. With Mulder she felt equal, respected safe, and appreciated. She needed to be near him. That feeling had got much more compelling of late. She’d call him back when she got her flight arranged. 

Mulder had delighted her by meeting her at the airport, a broad smile lit up his entire face. This was a rare Mulder face and it looked so good on him. Something she wished she could see more of. Looking happy in his childlike affable way. He looked like a kid with a new toy and was bubbling over to tell her all about it.  His hand settled on her back in its familiar place and she walked along with him at his relaxed pace, enjoying the warmth of the contact. He was dressed casually in jeans and a green tee-shirt which hugged his lean figure and emphasized his eyes, he was quite simply gorgeous. He embraced her tenderly and she answered his pressure, happy to hug that familiar warm frame to her body. They were outside now and headed towards the car lot where he claimed their jeep for the drive back to the park site camp. On the way, he enthusiastically explained Mark’s discovery and Scully could not be help but enjoy the enthusiasm of her partner. 


They arrived at the bivouac two hours later. Mulder introduced Scully to Mark, who she took a liking to immediately, and began to discuss their new project and safety measures for entering the cave chambers and what the discovery of the pictograms might be, both scientifically and the more celestial implications.. They remained around the camp fire after supper until late into the evening when the stars were high in the pure sky of the desert, and sleepiness forced them all to their respective tents. Scully’s arrival had posed a small problem; IE that not enough tents had been packed for one extra camper. It was no problem at all to Mulder who smiled coquettishly and offered to share his with his partner. To his delight, Scully gratefully accepted. Scully settled in Mulder sleeping bag, still impregnated with his unique masculine scent and smiled, letting it wash over her as she slipped into slumber. He was lying close to her, bundled up in all the clothing he’d brought with him on the trip, to protect himself from the cold, since Scully he’d graciously given Scully the only available sleeping bag, his face turned towards her, looking adorable with his unruly hair and pouting lips. 

"Do you know that the best way of protecting a body from the cold is to be naked in a sleeping bag, with someone else who is also naked, Scully?" 

" I think you mentioned it once before.  I’ll take "in a sleeping bag", but naked is excluded, Mulder. Are you cold?" 

"A little."    The shivering of his bottom lip struck her that he wasn’t being entirely honest. He looked frozen. 

"I don’t think that your sleeping bag is sufficiently large enough for the two of us, but it can be opened up so we can use it like a duvet. And if you promise to be very good and not fidget all night Mulder, I’ll snuggle up against you." 

"Scuullyyy.... Don’t tease me any more... you’re killing me. " She chuffed out a laugh and looked at him indulgently, inviting him over. 

Scully opened the zip fastener and unfolded the sleeping bag on them both like a bed spread.  

Mulder approached her almost shyly and they curled up against each other like baby cats, enjoying the body heat and comfort of each other’s breathing. They remembered a certain night in Florida; where they had slept in each other’s arms and smiled letting sleep carry them away quickly. So tired that even Mulder’s anticipation of the caves and what wonders lay therein, couldn’t fight the ethereal pull of dreams and warm Scully against his chest. 


The early morning found them still warmly intertwined and happy to have shared this waking moment of intimacy. Mulder awoke the first and remained still, just breathing in his partner without moving, savoring this simple and yet so rare happiness. Scully was curled against him, her head in the crook of his shoulder. He gently enfolded her closer in his arms, she stirred and ended up waking, a smile on her lips. She choked back a yawn, feeling his arm release her nicely from his pressure. 

"Sleep well?" he grinned, his breathing close enough to tickle her neck as he chuckled. 

"Like a baby... And you?" 

"It’s a very effective remedy for my insomnia." he answered with a lascivious smile on the lips. 

Scully threw at a pillow at his head while laughing at him. Secretly she enjoyed his flirting banter. 


Two hours later, the three men and the young woman presented themselves at the entrance of the cave of which Mark and Mulder were to go down into. A sliver of concern slid over Scully's face. Mulder, already harnessed for the descent, approached her. 

"Mulder, promise me to be careful. Listen to Mark’s instructions and don’t wander off. I know how you are when you get this excited about something. He’s a professional; he knows his job, the dangers. Take photographs, video and have a good look if you must, but come back up as soon as you possibly can. The idea of knowing that you are down there in those dangerous caverns makes me cold to the bone. "  

They remained a long moment standing together, just breathing, their eyes locked on each others, then she took his face between the palm of her hands, placing a kiss his forehead before gently grazing his lips with her own. She didn’t want to ever let go. For a moment he was entranced with the love she was openly displaying. His surprise warming him right down to the depths of his heart. 

Overwhelmed by all this, he remained a few moments speechless, whereas she gave him her most gorgeous patented kilowatt smile, reserved just for him. 

His voice momentary deformed by emotion, he took her hand and folded it in his own. Their foreheads met by consensus. 

" Wow, You just gave me the best incentive for getting my ass back up here as fast as possible, Scully." She smiled again, though sadly this time at the realization she would have to let go of him. 


Mark's discovery held true to all its promises. With childlike wonder in his eyes, Mulder looked on in awe, amazed at the cave paintings on the walls. During the next few busy hours, they photographed and filmed from every angle of the pictographic scenes of astonishing craftsmanship and beauty. They were stunned by the realism of the characters and the poetry, which emerged from the montages on the cave walls. For Mulder, it was like a dream come true, his personal holy grail. They described what they had witnessed with excitement through walkie-talkies to their companions who remained at the surface, the fascinating spectacle which was held in front of their bedazzled eyes when suddenly they cut off in mid sentence as they were all deafened by a loud ominous rumble of violence from the depths of the earth and the ground shook as if by grabbed by an angry giant’s hand concealed beneath their feet. 

Unbalanced, they were brutally thrown to the ground and they watched with horror as the ceiling of the largest cave chamber disintegrated before their eyes and came crashing towards them. Mulder had only time to roll himself out of the way to try to find shelter in a man-sized crack before huge pieces of rock rained down on them from above. Protecting his head with his arms, it seemed to him that the bombardment of lethal rock lasted an eternity. Finally the earthquake ceased and he dared to raise his head, His eyes squinting painfully through the dust and rock debris before easing himself out of the crack that had saved his life. 

He frowned, wincing at the pain caused by removing the bulkiest deluge strewn all over his body and looking around for his companion with heavy heart. He didn’t think Mark had got to safe cover the way he had been lucky enough to. Then the dust cleared fractionally and he at once caught sight of Mark’s eyes as they stared back emptily at him through the murky soup of dust. A cold chill skittered through his heart and he took a deep breath to steady himself. With the beam of the powerful lamp, which had survived cataclysm, he immediately shone it on the body of his companion, lying motionless under several enormous rocks. His eyes widened to see well in the light. Mulder crawled over the rocky cave floor and sat beside him, but he knew immediately that it was too late. With trembling hands, he sought the radio, intact in spite of the impact of several rocks, and seized the microphone. 

It took him several attempts with his hands shaking like mad before he finally succeeded in getting it to work. 


Scully welcome but feint voice reached him after a short moment, and he thanked the God he didn’t really believe in. He so badly wanted to touch her then. 

“ My God Mulder! Are you okay?  You have to get back up here!  Immediately!”  Her frantic cry drowned out his heaving breath, half choking on all the dust in his lungs. 

“Scully, Mark’s dead…he..err.  The cave is partly collapsed. I don’t know if there’s a safe way out.” 

“Are you injured?” 

“No.”   He heard her utter up prayer of relief, she sounded close to tears. So did he. 

“ Try to find a way up Mulder…please, come up…... ” 

He never heard the continuation. The second jolt took him by surprise. 


Scully felt the jolt and immediately knelt on the ground, terrified.  The ground trembled angrily a few seconds more then subsided into an almost subliminal shiver underneath her, then stabilized.  She sat up and grabbed for the radio. 

 “Mulder!  Mulder answer me!  MULDER!” 

A heavy silence answered her like a stab to the gut. The microphone spit back nothing but mournful static. Her own almost deafening heartbeat wanting to make her scream. Oh God.  Mulder. She looked over at Chuck, who gaped back at her in the midst of his own sorrow and panic, feeling that the worst had happened.  He shook his head dumbly, impotent, desolation etched on his round face. Tears glistening under his spectacles; he had lost one friend to this indiscriminant act of god, possibly another. 

“I’ll call for help.” 


He was conscious of an intense pain, but he didn’t have strength to open his eyes yet. They felt gritty and sore. He was also conscious of a dreadful thirst, but was unable to move or any had idea where his water flask might be.  Seemingly endless hours, he remained like this in pain-wracked limbo, between clarity and delirium, feverish; too weak to fight the cold which penetrated all fibers of his body, too incompetent to effectively push back impending death that sought and plucked at him with dark fingers.


Scully managed to get through to the nearest park ranger station and summoned help with immense relief.  Chuck gave them all the information he had on the topography of the cave and they were located quickly; the majority of the park rescue team were speleologist themselves and knew the caves where Mulder was trapped well. But the quakes and subsequent aftershocks had upset the underground landscape and their faces grew dark with resigned loss as time passed. 

All of them that was, except Scully. That strange connection that she and Mulder shared kept telling her he wasn’t dead. He couldn’t be. She would have felt it. Mulder once joked as he fired yet another pencil up at their abused office ceiling, that it would be like ‘a disturbance in the force’ when he finally shuffled off this mortal coil…She hadn’t found it amusing then and it disturbed her even more now. She hadn’t sensed anything like that.  Not even a tickle over the ever-present dread that clung to her like a second skin. If he was alive it was only a matter of time. He had no food, no water and was now probably injured. He couldn’t have gotten lucky a second time. This was Mulder. He was the epitome of ‘shit happens’. 


He regained consciousness for the first time in hours and at once regretted it.  His left shoulder cruelly suffered, hot pain rods lancing deep into his neck muscles as he tried to move it, and when he turned his head he saw that his left arm was wedged under a stone mass.  He tried to pull himself clear of it but the strain and exertion almost made him pass out again.  He clenched his teeth and tried to push back the rocks, which imprisoned his arm.  Little by little, he managed to pull it clear of their cruel pressures.  When he was finally free, he dared a trepidatious look at his painful member. 

The wrist was bent at an odd angle and he knew immediately that it was broken.  He could see the bone arising through the skin and swallowed convulsively what little saliva he could muster up after hours of thirst and swallowing dusty crap.  The pain was horrible but he succeeded to bandage it through sheer will power and desperation to see and hold Scully again, using a piece of tee shirt he had torn with his teeth.  He caught the lamp which had miraculously survived the second aftershock shower and hefted his aching battered body up to try and find a way out through what remained of the dark cave.  A way back to Scully.  Her face in his mind’s eye the only beacon that kept his shaky legs moving and stumbling towards rescue. Her blue eyes guiding him like a light in his soul.  

Whole parts of the walls were detached in giant granite chunks and boulders, blocking the various entrances and tunnels. Such was the devastation around him that he had no sense of direction for the way they had come in.  He succeeded in locating the radio somehow but it had been badly damaged, smashed completely by the rock falls and lay unusable.  A sob shook him and a wave of panic submerged and threw him to his feet, simultaneously as another lighter aftershock rebounded like a echo up from the bowels of the earth.  He was prisoner of the depths of hell, a rocky granite tomb for the sorry son of a bitch. 

Scully, I’m so sorry. 

He started to shiver; as much from shock of reality as from the cold which was creeping all through him in painful increments, little by little.  The pain in his arm was excruciating now, and seemed to rack up a notch with each faltering step. It seized him in waves and rolled over him like an unseen assailant he was finding it harder to combat against, almost unbearable.  The light of the lamp wavered dangerously.  He looked at it, hypnotized by its faint mocking beam.  When it failed completely, his last hope of survival flickered out with it.  Frozen, spirit cloudy, overwhelmed with pain and fear, he sank to his knees and rolled into a nook, his body pulling into a fetal position on the irregular, rock strewn floor of the cave and started to moan. Desperate.  He was going to die of cold, hunger, and thirst in this icy place. He’d never see Scu…… 

Scully's distressed voice resounded in his spirit suddenly, permeating the fog of death that enveloped him, urging him to not give up. But he was so tired...  He closed his eyes, fear and fatigue claiming their lover and her eyes, so blue and bright with unshed tears were the last memory he had before sinking into blackness.


He regained consciousness and immediately felt a feeling of rising claustrophobia.  He was held in a black abyss, and his whole body was frozen. Cold water had infiltrated the cave's structure and ran down the walls like inky tears onto him, soaking him, as he lay immobile inside his rock priest hole.  He sat up gently, groaning in pain as his body screamed through the abuse it had suffered, and remembered that he had some luminescent torches in his bag, which miraculously was lying under him.  He searched inside frantically and with hesitant shaking fingers succeeded in lighting one of them.  A green phosphorous gleam invaded his obscurity, the constant plop-plop of the cave water falling and the frantic beat of his heart filling his ears.  

He discovered with horror that the water was forming a great big pool and was rising quickly around him; it was almost up to his knees. He no longer felt his cold and tired trembling legs. Must be shock he thought and hypothermia. Great, almost bludgeoned to death by rocks, this hellhole was now trying to drown him or make him freeze to death. He wondered how long he had before a greater water table in cave systems above him would hold before they gave way, or if there would be anything left of him to find if Scully did manage to salvage his flattened worthless ass.  He progressed through the chaos of rocks and found anfractuosities in height where he took refuge, desperate to find a dry space.  

His teeth chattered with cold and pain. The wrist compound fracture was bleeding again and his acutely aching ribs made him sure he had either cracked or broken a few. He needed to find a means of being heated.  He sought out his bag again and found with relief a thin foil survival blanket, which he awkwardly managed to maneuver over his body immediately.  

From his refuge, he watched the water accumulating little by little in the convex bow of the cave.  He delicately examined his swollen forearm and a suffered a stab of pain, a groan escaping his thirst and dust cracked lips when he discarded his watch, the face crunched into a million little glass shards by the repeated shocks.  Back in his bag, his good hand closed over his flask and he felt a surge of giddy euphoria at finding it intact and still half full with water.  He gulped down some mouthfuls of water from his flask, savoring the fresh taste in his mouth and letting the cold balm ease his raw throat, his heart heavy nonetheless as he thanked Mark silently for preparing his bag like a professional. He also found some hi-energy cookies, which calmed his hunger. He put two aside for later. He didn’t know how long he’d been down here. His watch was broken and would never again give him any meaning of time.  

He tried to imagine Scully on the surface, organizing the rescue effort. Moving heaven and earth to save him., he smiled at her feisty image in his mind; she go all out, give 200% of her passion and devotion to pull his ass to safety even if she had to tear the earth up with her bare hands. He let his thoughts slide and tried to picture that kiss she had given him and hovered in that more pleasant reality and let the sensations of that …, when suddenly another jolt, less powerful than the others however, made him practically fall from his precarious shelter.  

Small rocks pelted him, exploding into a vortex of agony as one collided with his cranium.  He protected it as well as he could with his uninjured arm, but felt blood running freely down his face. The earth fell into silent contemplation of its sole captive. At least it seemed that way to Mulder. He felt like he was part of it, belonged to it and it was toying with him the way a cat toys with a mouse.  He was terrified, confused and dizzy, eyes shut tight against the pain. Even without being a seismologist, he knew that many aftershocks could occur during the hours following after the first major quake and that his current respite would not last. His long legs were cramped and spasms of pain traversed his traumatized body. 

Exhausted and barely able to keep his eyes open, he ended up sinking into the arms of heavy demons that pulled him down into nightmare sleep. 


 In his feverish dreams, he was taking a shower and sighing as the beneficial water cascaded over his painful body like a caress. He was enjoying the soothing feeling, washing the dust and blood away, leaving only his Scully by his side, stepping closer to him, her arms outstretched to embrace the rest of his pain away. He could feel her smell, the scent of her ivory soap skin …when suddenly he regained consciousness and opened his eyes abruptly.  An sharp movement jolted his wounded wrist and an involuntary moan tore from his throat leaving him gasping in the dark fetid cave air. 

His head throbbed with cruel intensity and blood had dried over his right eyelid, making it hard for him to see out of it. There seemed to be lighter than he remembered. He managed to make it to a sitting position, gently cradling his injured wrist to his chest, while passing his good hand through his dirty but wet hair. Where was his flask, he was so thirsty. His moth felt full of sand. He raised his eyes, feeling tepid water running down on his face, and opened his desiccated mouth, catching some drops to ease his thirst. 

He spent several minutes like this before realizing that water streamed down from a fault coming from the cave ceiling' and that thin shafts of sunlight were peeking through some gaps and were now warming his face. The water making sunbeams dance on the rock wall suddenly made him sit up straighter, ignoring the pain.  An insane hope grew in his heart.  

He threw back the damp survival cover, somehow scrambled got to his feet and steadied himself, then started to claw his way over and up the rocks to arrive at what now looked like a chimney with a light at the end of it. It was a beautiful sight.  He had to be begin the climb several times, greatly handicapped by his broken wrist.  The fault was sufficiently broad enough for slipping into and there were some natural handholds, so Mulder laboriously continued to climb, howling with pain with each time his wounded wrist smacked against the rock face.  

Centimeter after centimeter, he succeeded in his strenuous ascent towards the top, his clothing tearing against the sharp-edged walls, lacerating his already bruised skin.  At the edge of exhaustion, haunted by the fear of slipping, but animated by a wild will and desire to see Scully’s face, he finally found himself breathing and feeling fresh air on his face, the warm sun embracing him and he scrambled the last few meters. In a last Herculean effort, he broke the surface, crying with joy when he opened his eyes onto the shafts of sunrays and the refreshing feeling of rain-washing his dust coated face as his fingers clung to the outer rim of the stack. 

With trembling legs, he dragged himself up and over the rim, rolling a little before getting upright again and taking a few tentative shaky steps, before collapsing down, exhausted.  His legs didn’t want carry him any more, traumatized by strain that he’d mustered to climb the fault.  His eyes just had time to register the blue tents of their camp on the rocky ground in the distance of Carlsbad 's Park before sinking in familiar blackness, his last groan of despair drowned out by the all encompassing sound of the next minor quake or aftershock. 


 “Agent Scully, I am very sorry.  We’ve tried everything within our power. There’s nothing more we can do.  All known entrances are completely blocked, and with these fresh earth tremors, that becomes too dangerous to begin drilling through the rock and sending more of my men down there. Our guys could also get trapped looking for Agent Mulder.  I have a request from my men to stop the search, at least until the worst of the aftershocks have passed, and even then you know as well as I do that it’s going to be a basic search and body retrieval.” 

The captain told the young woman with a sympathetic but firm voice, hating his words as they left his mouth.  It was always the most difficult moment of their missions. They knew those caves and their systems like the backs of their hands. No way could anyone have survived the total destruction below their feet. He lay a comforting hand on her arm, knowing how hollow and redundant a gesture it was.  

Scully shook her head, her face broken up by sorrow and unchecked tears streaming down her face.  She carried a hand to her lips and choked back the sob, which shook her. Her devastation as unfathomable as the caves below her.  Chuck, who’d been sitting in silent agony as he listened to the rescue team as good as declare both his friends dead, now got up and took her by the shoulders, pulling her tight against him in shared comfort.  

The Ranger in charge for the rescue was diverted elsewhere, leaving them a little privacy for their grief and loss before leaving the tent to gather his team.  

“It's my fault, Scully.  It's me who involved him in this debacle. If I’d never mentioned it knowing how he gets off on stuff like this, like a kid in a toy shop, he’d be..he’d..  I’ll never forgive myself. ”  

Scully's tears flooded her eyes again and ran down her face and her body was shaking with nervous tremors in Chuck’s arms. The pain of loosing Mulder was unreal. After all they had been through, all the times she thought she might lose him before and he was dead because of an earthquake. Was god trying to tell her something? At that moment she felt as if god had snatched him away from her himself. Just when they had accepted a closer bond …when she had been about to tell him that she loved him. She found nevertheless the ability to reassure her friend. 

"You have nothing to blame for in this disaster, Chuck. «  She sobbed, « Mulder always was fired by hopeless curiosity for his passion, his quest. He always jumped in with both feet, despite knowing the dangers. He knew the risks." 

A disturbance in the earth but not in their ‘force’. No way could Mulder have survived, the experts had refuted all her desperate straw clutching. Until she fell silent in a groundswell of grief. Damn Mulder; he’d be wrong. 

They remained a long moment in each other’s arms, being comforted and giving into their tragedy.  Later they started to pack up the various equipment before leaving to fold up the tent, both working on autopilot.  Dana looked one last time at the fateful entrance of the cave, now destroyed, and her tear reddened eyes swept the horizon above it.  The New Mexico sun basking high in the sky crushed the landscape. 

 They loaded the jeep with equipment, now redundant and Chuck took the wheel.  Scully climbed in heartbroken beside him. Her shoulders slumped in indescribable sorrow, but by the time she made her hands move to clip her seatbelt, she happened to look up; It was then that she noticed a dark silhouette in the distance on high ground, a few hundreds meters from their camp, oddly detached and blending in with the colored sands and ochre desert.  Her heart started to beat more quickly.  She grabbed the binoculars on the dash in front of her and glued them to her eyes. 

"My God!  Chuck! Stop the jeep.  I believe that’s Mulder!" 

“ Huh?  Dana, It can’t be, sure you’re not seeing things?”   

She pointed her shaking hand towards the South and Chuck gaped, immediately gunning the jeep in the direction they’d just come from, tearing up the desert floor as they sped towards the wavering form they could just make out until suddenly, it vanished into the desert heat haze out of their view.  In less than a minute, Chuck pulled up to a screeching halt just short yards from the motionless battered body.  

Scully dove out of the jeep before Chuck had killed the engine and ran towards him, her legs collapsing in the red sand beside her partner.  Her joy streaming down her cheeks, dirty with tears and dust. 

Just be alive. Just be alive!! 

 She knelt close to him, cherishing his much loved face, made no less beautiful smeared with mud and blood. She placed her fingers at the hollow of his neck and exploded with joy at feeling the weak pulse she found at his carotid, but his breathing wasn’t good, but at least he was alive, although his lungs sounded watery and congested. He needed help quick.  She slipped her fingers through his dust caked hair and checked him over for other wounds, all the time murmuring words of comfort, hoping at least he could hear her and know that he was safe. Safe in her care, her arms. He would hear those words of love she needed to give him soon. She swore to it. 

"You are going to be fine, Mulder...  I’m here love..." She couldn’t stop touching him as Chuck raced over with medical kit. 

Mulder's eyelids quivered and his eyes opened on a painful gasp. Then he saw her gorgeous eyes and rewarded her with a little smile from cracked and bleeding lips.  


" Shhh love, don’t speak...  Oh my God, just look at the state of you..." 

Chuck had already alerted the Rescue team who were on their way back to their location; they could just about see them in the distance making a half-turn on the dusty road.  They’d be with them as soon as they could and had radioed the local hospital to expect a quake survivor. 

 Scully gave herself over to making a mental inventory report on his injuries.  She immediately noticed the sickening angle of his left wrist, and frowned as she imagined the agony he must be going through with it.  His fingernails and knuckles were all ripped up and lacerated, some bleeding or broken; a brave testimony to his frantic climb from the depths of cave hell.  Under his torn tee shirt, she saw the many fine cuts and scrapes on his ribs covered with dried blood; two maybe three broken ribs.  Footnote: at his hairline, a long deep gash and definitely a high-grade concussion.  His lips were cracked, his cheeks darkened by stubble and his eyelids heavily encircled by ghastly colored bruises.  She imagined the nightmare he had gone through, with no food during these last few days.  Chuck produced a flask of fresh water. 

 He very delicately let some drops slip into his friend’s desiccated throat. After a few more mouthfuls, Scully helped him to sit up a little, mindful of his ribs and other abused places, and he leaned heavily against her shoulder, letting plaintive moans escape his lips but his face had gained back some of its color she was glad to see, although his eyes despite the pupils being dilated with concussion, had found their usual brightness. They were full of love as they gazed at her sleepily.  

"I saved… the digital camera, Scully..." 

He dropped his good hand to his pocket and the small digital video camera nestled there. 

"It was so extraordinary...”  

Scully couldn’t help smiling and took it from his bleeding hands to give to Chuck for safekeeping. His proof, as usual it mattered more than his health. 

"Keep your strength up Mulder. Just rest easy and try not to move too much. Help is coming."

"I couldn’t do anything for Mark.... I am sorry, Chuck I had to leave him down there...” 

Mulder's eyes were tinged with sadness as he sought out those of his friend. "He was so happy to have discovered these paintings. They are lost forever now..." Chuck nodded sadly, and then gave him a small sad smile, tapping the camera as he remembered it.

" The rescuers will seek out and recover Mark's body as soon as you’ve shown them the way which you escaped the cave system. Probably in a few days when the weather is better and the seismic activity has calmed down." 

He nodded and his eyelids finally closed again under exhaustion.  She delicately held him against her, enjoying the contact of his warm live body. 


Twenty-four hours later. 

Scully crept gently in the hospital room.  Mulder was drugged up with pain meds, seemingly asleep, his face turned towards the window.  He was covered from head to toe with bruises, bandages and monitors; his left forearm was plastered up to the elbow, his cheeks still too hollow, and his chest faltered a little as he turned, echoed by the EKG, but even considering what he’d gone through buried alive in the earth she’d never seen anything quite as beautiful as he was. He was alive.  Dehydrated, hypothermic, exhausted, battered, but alive.  He had still miraculously escaped his flirt with death. It had been touch and go the first few hours after they raced him to the ER. Thank god he had pulled through. She needed to tell him something. And not when he was half out his mind on Demerol.  

Even the rescuers, however accustomed with this kind of situation, had been impressed that in his weakened and injured state, he’d managed the presence of mind and limb to climb up the little crack to escape to the surface.  She took a few steps more until she was sat on the edge of his bed, and slipped her fingers into his thick hair, that she had washed herself with the special medicated shampoo kept by the nurses for those patients confined to bed.  

She scrupulously avoided the bandage, which covered part of his face and her fingers gently traced down against his temple, then onto his roughened scraped cheek.  She brushed his full bruised lips, and then withdrew her hand, placing it on his arm.  His skin was warm to touch. He still had a slight temperature but he was definitely on the mend.  

"...  You can continue, you know...?”  He didn’t open his eyes, but his lips smiled. Her cheeks reddened unconsciously. He opened his eyelids and his olive green gaze, so beautiful and intense, fell upon her.  

"Your brother will no doubt be furious with me ...  You were supposed to spend time with your family. Now look; you’re doing the bedside shuffle again. " 

She heard guilt suspiciously laced in his voice despite his cheerful expression. She’d tell him the tale later of why she hadn’t enjoyed her stay at her brother’s, but that could keep. There were other things that could not. She took his hand and held it tenderly. 

"You know, I don’t have another place in the world where I would rather be at this moment.  My place at your side, and here…” She continued as Mulder watched her place her tiny hand right over his heart. His eyes widened in shock, then delight. He broke out into a dopey leer. 

It was in his turn to redden.  He gently took her hand and delicately lifted it to his cracked lips, parting them in a kiss.  

" Do you know there was something that really hurt me the most when I believed that I was going to die, Scully." 

She raised her eyebrows and awaited for him to finish his sentence; for a second or two his expression and the fear in his eyes made her think he was somewhere else, back buried alive in the angry volatile depths of the New Mexico desert. Frightened, alone and facing the terrifying conclusion that he might die alone. Oh Mulder. 

“ That you’d never know how much I love you, really.  I love you, Dana Scully; I love you like I have never loved anyone. I promised myself that I had to fess up and tell you if I got out alive…I love you. "   A single tear eked down his face as he squeezed her hand. 

Her eyes brilliant with her own tears, she deposited a tender kiss on his lips. 

"I prefer this healthy reaction more than that other one you had, after a certain fiasco in the Bermuda triangle." 

Mulder's mischievousness voice resounded around the sun-drenched room and she smiled. 

"And this has nothing to do with all that Demerol that they keep pumping through this IV." 

"Shut up, Mulder, and kiss me."