Fevers of the Mind
Summary: Between 'you . . . help . . . me' and Scully coming to Mulder's door in Amor Fati -- a whole lot happened.
Rating: Warning, some sexual content (though fleeting and limited descriptions)
November 17, 1999
Georgetown Memorial Hospital
Scully drew in a breath and watched her partner's body slide slowly into the computerized tomography machine. She glanced at her watch and wondered if it read AM or PM. It had been a long day.
The screen in front of the technician was showing the path of the contrasting dye as it worked its way through the regions of Mulder's brain. So far, so good. An EEG performed just an hour earlier had shown that the frenetic brain activity that had been killing Mulder slowly was now at a stand still. His brain was once more exhibiting normal alpha and beta waves, without the spikes for prolonged periods that had been showing.
For that, Scully had almost relaxed. But during the EEG it was found that there was some slowing of the brain and that worried her. To her relief, Mulder's neurologist had suggested the CT scan, along with a full battery of blood tests.
"We're looking good," the technician spoke from the chair beside her. Of course, he was merely referring to the fact that the dye was not causing the patient any problems, but Scully again let out a small sigh of release. She still had no idea what had happened, but at least whatever had been done, Mulder wasn't too much the worse for wear.
"I got the blood work back, Dr. Scully," Dr. Harriman said, holding out a metal chart for her. "Along with the medications he was receiving while in our care to increase flow of blood to the brain and control his seizures, it's apparent he was given a fairly large dosage of midazolam, IV I would suspect."
"Versed?" Scully asked. "So they sedated him to perform the surgery," she said and Harriman nodded in agreement. "But what procedure did they perform while they were in there?"
"All done," the tech said helpfully. "The dye is in there. You should have a pretty good picture. Do you want me to send these to your office, Dr. Harriman?"
"Do you mind if we take a look here?" Harriman asked and the tech shook his head and got up out of his chair in front of the computer. Harriman took his place with Scully looking over his shoulder.
"I don't see -- " Scully started and then stopped.
"There. I believe something was done there," Harriman said, circling an area with his finger. "But to be honest, the brain looks fine. There is some swelling, but that's to be expected. I can't see where any tissue or growth was removed."
"Or added," Scully said quietly, which earned her a sharp look from the other doctor. They looked through the images for a few minutes and finally Harriman got up, motioning for Scully to follow into the hall.
"I think we'll keep him here under observation for the next 48 hours. The amount of sedative in his bloodstream and the fact that he has undergone some sort of surgery on the Dura matter would make it irresponsible of me to send him home any earlier. There are still complications that can arise with this sort of surgery and we have no idea of the conditions -- "
"The place looked sterile, but I wouldn't put anything past them." Scully had to stop herself again. As much as she wanted to rage against the forces that would kidnap a seriously ill man from his hospital bed, she didn't want to take up Harriman's time on a futile effort.
Harriman flashed her a smile. "Well, we'll take good care of him now," he assured her. "I've put you on his chart as the only person with Agent Mulder's medical power of attorney. I think our lawyers will back me up if his mother comes in again."
"No, I really doubt we'll be seeing her now that he's back. But thank you."
Harriman turned to leave but reached back and touched Scully's sleeve. "You need to get some rest, too, Dr. Scully. I know it's been hard these last few weeks, but the crisis seems to be over. Take some time to regroup."
"I'm fine," Scully replied with a forced smile. "I'll be in his room upstairs if you need me."
Neurology, Seventh Floor
Scully startled awake when she felt a hand on her shoulder. "Sorry," the nurse said, speaking softly. "I just wanted to let you know you have a phone call at the desk."
"Oh, thank you," Scully said, wiping the moisture from the corner of her mouth. She'd fallen asleep in the chair next to Mulder's bed. The last time she'd looked at her watch it had been a little after 3. She'd been asleep just two hours and felt like she'd been run over by a truck. It was all starting to hit her, Mulder's illness, his disappearance, the last four days frantically trying to find him and not knowing how to cure him. She stood up and stretched exhausted muscles. "I'll be outside."
The nurse nodded to her and smiled, keeping her attention focused on her patient. As the woman checked Mulder's vitals, Scully went out to take her call.
It was Harriman again. He'd had his partner, a neurosurgeon, take a look at Mulder's CT scans. The other doctor had come to the same conclusion -- a procedure had been performed but for indeterminate cause and with no apparent damage to the brain. Scully thanked Harriman and looked over at the agent stationed on a chair outside Mulder's door.
"Agent Howard, I'm going downstairs for a bite to eat and a decent cup of coffee. Would you like one?" Howard was the agent Skinner had sent over when Scully had called to tell the Assistant Director that she'd found Mulder. He was a five-year veteran of Violent Crimes who had worked with Mulder and Scully briefly on a case when he'd first joined the DC office. He was professional and dedicated and Scully felt she could trust him at least as far as making sure no one without authorization entered Mulder's room.
"No thanks, Agent Scully. The nurses are keeping me supplied with the stuff the doctor's drink, so I'm good." Howard looked over to the door behind him. "How's Agent Mulder doing?"
"He's still asleep. His tests have gone well. We'll know more when he wakes up," she answered with a smile. "I'll just be a few minutes." She started toward the elevator but the nurse exiting Mulder's room called her back.
"Dr. Harriman left orders to notify you if there was any change, Dr. Scully. I think you need to take a look." The woman handed over Mulder's chart.
Scully read it over quickly and frowned. "His temp is elevated. What was it when we came in?" She really didn't expect an answer, she was speaking to herself. She flipped through the pages of the chart and found the earlier notation. "It was 99.5 on admission, now it's 100.6. It's up a full degree."
"Dr. Harriman wanted to be alerted to any changes, I'll call him now," the nurse said as Scully handed back the chart.
"Yes, I think you should," Scully responded, all thoughts of her hunger now out the window. "I'll be in Agent Mulder's room," she said over her shoulder.
He looked the same, still asleep. Quietly she walked over to the bed and took his hand in hers. His fingers felt warm. She pressed the palm of her other hand against his forehead and then his cheek. Too warm. "Mulder, would you cut this out?" she pleaded. She almost jerked her hand back when he groaned and moved his head.
"Mulder? Mulder, can you hear me?" she asked, dragging the chair over with one hand, never letting go of his fingers entwined with hers. "Mulder, it's me, Scully. Wake up, please."
"Hmmmm," he groaned again, moving his head slowly back and forth. "Ssccu-lll," he tried. She could see him working his eyelids, trying to get them open.
"Keep trying," she encouraged. Finally, she was rewarded with two slits of hazel through the lashes, but he immediately slammed his lids shut and groaned aloud.
"Mulder, what is it?" she asked worriedly.
"light," he rasped out and grimaced as just speaking caused him more pain.
"The light? The light hurts your head?" she inquired. He nodded cautiously, already in great pain and not wanting to increase his own discomfort.
"I'll shut the blinds and turn off the overheads," she told him. She hurried around the room, gradually casting it in darkness with her actions. "Better?"
He lifted his lids slowly, anticipating the pain. "A little," he whispered hoarsely. "Still hurts, though."
"I'm sorry. I was going to ask how you're feeling, but I guess you already answered that. Mulder, do you know where you are?"
He frowned in concentration, his eyes still closed. "No. Hospital?" he offered.
"Yes. You're in Georgetown Memorial. I don't want to tax your system by telling you everything you've been through, but you've been through a rough time." She picked up his hand again, stroking the long fingers.
"Pains to prove it," he quipped back but winced again just after saying a few words. "Tired."
"I know you're tired. You should rest," she told him. He nodded solemnly and soon his fingers were slack in her hand. She took another moment to feel the heat from his forehead before going back out to the nurses' station to look over his chart once more.
Harriman was coming off the elevator as she made her way to the desk. "I had them draw blood at 3, those results should be back by now," he said without greeting.
"Are you suspecting an infection?" Scully asked, biting her lip.
"I was hoping against it, but given the unusual nature of this case from day one, I wasn't prepared to bet against him getting one, either," Harriman told her. He walked around to one of the cubicles left open for doctors and grabbed the phone. "I'll call the lab, see if I can speed things up a bit."
Scully paced the floor while she waited. She heard her name again, this time a familiar voice and looked up. John Byers stepped off the elevator and hurried over to her. "Agent Scully, how's he doing?"
"Byers, what are you doing here?" she asked, looking up and down the hall. Agent Howard stood, noticing her concern, but she waved him back into his seat. "Where are the other two?" she hissed.
"Back at the office," Byers told her sotto voce, walking her down the hall. "We got some information and we thought you'd want to know."
"Information? What information?"
"Agent Diana Fowley didn't show up for work today," Byers said simply.
"She's taken off. Why am I not surprised," Scully intoned sarcastically.
"I wouldn't be so sure, Agent Scully. Her whereabouts are unknown. We didn't want to intrude but -- "
"You tried to locate her? Why?" Scully growled.
Byers found his shoes very interesting. "We just . . . we thought she might go after Mulder . . ." He looked up at Scully again. "It doesn't matter, she's fallen off the face of the planet from what we can tell."
"I can't say I'm all that sorry to hear that," Scully shot back. At his contrite _expression she softened her tone. "Look, thank you for helping me get him here, but we've got a guard and I'm not leaving this place, so he's safe -- for now. Just go back home and I'll call you with any news about Mulder's condition, OK?" She turned and almost ran into Harriman.
"Dr. Scully, I'm afraid we have a problem."
He woke up from a deep sleep, hearing a noise at the door. Groggily he walked over and flipped the lock while looking through the keyhole. When he saw the visitor, he opened the door and ushered her in.
"Diana. What do you want?"
"Fox, you have to come with me. Now. Get your shoes."
He regarded her for a moment. She looked anxious; she kept glancing out into the hallway. "Why? Why should I go with you?"
As quick as the blink of an eye, her _expression changed. She smiled seductively and traipsed over to him, putting her arms around his neck. "Fox, there was a time I didn't need to ask twice," she purred into his ear.
"Mulder." He turned as best as he could to see Scully standing in the doorway. "Mulder, we have a case. Are you coming?"
"He's coming with me," Diana said, tightening her grip around his neck. "Aren't you, Fox? You don't need her anymore. I'm here now. I'll take care of you."
"Mulder, we have to go. The evidence is being removed as we speak," Scully repeated, ignoring Diana's groping.
Diana took the opportunity of his distraction to cup his cheek and bring him to her mouth for a blistering kiss. "Fox. You can have it all. You can have me again. Remember how it was when we were together, how we had everything we needed, you needed. We could have it all again."
"Mulder, are you just going to stand there?" Scully demanded. "What about Samantha? What about the truth? We have to find out what was done to me when I was abducted. Are you just going to forget about the last seven years? Are you going to quit now?"
"Diana, I have to go," Mulder said, pulling away from her, but not before returning one more kiss. "Scully needs me."
"She doesn't need you, Fox. She never did. She was sent to spy on you. Can't you see that?" Diana pleaded, tugging on his neck.
Gently he tried to remove her arms from his neck. When he looked to the doorway, Scully was gone but he could still hear her heels tapping on the floor. "Scully, wait!" he cried out. He finally extracted himself from Diana's clutches, but by the time he was in the hall, the elevator doors were closing. "Scully! Wait!"
Scully stood outside Mulder's room, looking through the window. Unconsciously she'd begun to bite her lower lip, almost drawing blood. How could they have allowed this to happen?
Inside the room, Dr. Harriman and two male nurses were carefully extracting spinal fluid from Mulder's back. Mulder, was lying on his side, curled in a fetal position. He was sedated, as much as they dared given his condition. He'd been combative while they prepped him for the lumbar puncture. The two male nurses had been forced to restrain him while the mild sedative took effect. With a temperature hitting 103, he was delirious and weak, but strong enough to put up one heck of a fight. And through it all he kept calling out to Scully, begging her to come back.
She couldn't take it anymore. She had tried repeatedly to make him aware of her presence but to no avail. Harriman tried to persuade her that Mulder was dreaming that she wasn't there, but Scully was convinced that he was reminding her of his kidnapping, that she hadn't been there to stop it. Fortunately for her, the mask and gown had hidden most of the tears that fell on her cheeks and she left the room so that the doctor and nurses couldn't hear her choked sobs.
She watched Harriman hold up the needle, examining it in the light. His guarded _expression was obvious even from this distance and when all she could see were his eyes. He handed the syringe with the cerebral spinal fluid to the nurse at his elbow and stripped off his gloves. The other nurse was busy placing a gauze pad and adhesive strips on Mulder's back to protect the puncture wound. Carefully, both nurses moved Mulder back into a supine position, no pillow, absolutely flat. They checked the oxygen cannula under his nose to ensure that it was providing the necessary element, covered him gently and pulled up the rail on the side of the bed.
Harriman was taking off his mask as he joined her in the hall. "There was some cloudiness. We'll send it down to the lab and should have an initial assessment within a few hours. Of course, it will be days before the culture comes back -- "
"But by then we'll know pretty much what we're dealing with," Scully interjected dully. "What are you thinking? Initially, of course."
"I refuse to bet my Titlist golf clubs on it, but I'd say meningitis," Harriman spoke thoughtfully. "Let's go down to one of the offices where we can sort this out."
Soon they were seated in a comfortable, if generic, office. Harriman sat behind the desk, in easy reach of the computer, but he had the monitor turned so that Scully could read it as well. "As you probably remember, we had him on Phenobarbital, after the unfortunate incident with the Phenytoin. But, of course, that treatment ended when Agent Mulder, um, left our care."
Scully drew in a deep breath. It aggravated her to no end that Harriman was still tap dancing around Mulder's kidnapping. She understood the 'medical code' and the desire to speak no ill of a colleague, but the men who had taken Mulder and operated on him were more criminal than collegial. "Yes, I understand," she prodded.
"Well, we're putting him back on the Phenobarbital for seizures. To fight the bacterium, I would like to put him on Ceftriaxone. If the culture shows that we're dealing with e. coli, we can change that to Gentamicin sulfate."
"What about the swelling? His brain has been through so much already, I don't know how much more he can take," Scully fretted.
"Nor do I, quite frankly," Harriman admitted. "In light of everything else he's been through, I'm going with Dexamethasone. I know from his chart that he's done well with Mannitol in the past, but given the high chance of disability . . ."
"No, I think you're right. I did some reading on the subject recently." She remembered the 22-hour flight from the Ivory Coast to Washington and the medical journal she'd read cover to cover.
"Well, we have him on oxygen, we'll be taking blood gases at least twice a day for now. I think we might have found the 'golden hour' on our side, Agent Scully. But I do want to caution you -- "
"I know. We might do everything right and he still might not make it," she said dully.
Harriman reached over the desk and patted her hand. "He's a fighter. He's proven that over and over again. I wouldn't bet against him."
"Not even for a new set of clubs?" Scully quipped, heartened by the doctor's sincere words.
"No, not even for that," Harriman said with a wink of his eye. "Now, can I please convince you to at least get something to eat down in the cafeteria? It's almost time for the evening lunch hour and if you don't go now, all the good entrees will be gone."
Scully nodded with a tired smile. She stood up and walked to the door, Harriman close on her heels. "I'll be staying tonight in his room, you know," she said before taking her leave.
"I never thought you'd be anywhere else," Harriman said with a shrug. "I'll be by first thing in the morning. If anything arises during the night -- "
"I'll have the nurse call you. Thank you, Doctor."
"My pleasure, Dr. Scully. We'll get him through this. I'm sure of it."
Mulder fought his way to consciousness with a growl. His head was killing him and he could feel the knot already formed at the back of his skull. Whatever he'd been hit with, it was hard and heavy. He looked around and saw that he was alone.
With effort, he rose to his feet, swaying with dizziness. The black dots faded from his vision and he squared his shoulders. There was a light outside and he headed toward it.
Diana pulled up in a car. She reached over and opened the door, waving him inside. "Fox, quick, we need to get out of here."
"What's going on, Diana?" he asked. He could see the light now. It was far away and up in the sky but it was headed right toward them.
"Get in the car," she demanded. "Fox, we don't have time!"
"No. What's that light?" he asked, now shielding his eyes from the brightness.
"Mulder! Mulder, where are you?" He turned to hear Scully shouting. She was running along the side of the warehouse, but from her vantage point she couldn't see him where he was standing by Diana's car.
"Scully! I'm over here."
"Mulder, they're coming! Get out here now!" Scully called again, but her voice was fading as she ran around the back of the warehouse.
"I have to go," Mulder said, looking in at Diana.
"But Fox, what about them?" Diana indicated the backseat of the car and Mulder hesitated before looking there. In the seat were two small children, a boy and a girl. "They need a father, Fox."
Mulder shook his head and looked again. The children had grown but they both looked like Emily Sim now, the boy could have been Emily's twin brother. "Daddy?" said the little girl. "Aren't you coming with us?"
"Mulder! I see them! Hurry!" Scully's voice was brought to him on a gust of wind. He spun around, searching for her location.
"Scully! I'm coming!" he yelled. He started out in the direction he'd last seen her, but every time he got close, Diana would pull the car in front of him.
"Get out of my way, Diana!" he shouted at her angrily.
"Fox, you have to stop this foolishness! Get in the car!" Diana hissed.
He'd had enough. He dodged her this time, coming out ahead of her. He ran as fast as he could, breaking into an open parking lot. The light was there; it was coming from the underbelly of a massive flying ship. Scully was on the ground, looking up at the structure with an awed _expression.
"Scully! Get away from it!" he yelled with all his might. She turned to look at him, gave him a smile and suddenly a beam of light from the ship flashed down and engulfed her. As he ran toward her, she was lifted up into the ship. He tired to reach for her, but she was too high up. He yelled and shouted but she couldn't hear him. Then she was gone, the light was gone and he was alone.
He sank to his knees sobbing for his loss.
Georgetown Memorial Hospital
Mulder's condition worsened as the night progressed. By midnight, Harriman ordered him moved to a bed in the ICU. Scully was somewhat relieved that they didn't put him in the same room from which he'd been abducted, but it was only a momentary respite. His fever spiked and they worked on him for hours trying to bring down his dangerously high temperature. They'd added a cooling blanket just after 1:30 and his temp had hovered at just under 102 ever since. High, but not brain-frying high, they hoped.
Through it all, Scully hadn't gotten a wink of sleep. She sat by his bedside, stroking his hand, his arm, the patch of forehead not encircled with gauze, any part of him she could reach. He seemed to calm somewhat when she was touching him. On those rare moments when she had to stretch her back and had to walk the small floor, he would be restless, tossing his head back and forth, calling out for her.
The sedative had worn off long ago and Harriman had been reluctant to give him any more. If she could keep him calm without the medication, she would do it. So she stood by his bed, stroking his cheek, talking to him quietly. She told him stories of her days in medical school, some of the crazy doctors she'd had for teachers. She told him of the head of neurology she studied under and the small red pick up truck he drove to the hospital with the sign on the side stating 'Brain Surgery and Light Hauling'. Sometimes, she could almost make herself believe that Mulder was actually listening to her, could understand what she was telling him.
But in reality, he was so very far away. The swelling in his brain, brought on by the infection and the fever, was reaching the point of becoming fatal. As she continued to try and make him comfortable she couldn't help remembering her vigil at her sister Melissa's bedside and how Missy had finally just slipped away. It was everything she could do not to break down in tears.
After hours of standing, she made a decision. Mulder was quieter when she was close, then she'd just get closer. She slowly lowered the bedrail and hopped up to perch on the side of the bed. The cooling blanket chilled her hip to the bone, but she was able to lean over and rest her head on Mulder's shoulder. He let out a quiet sigh and relaxed against her. She couldn't remember her last conscious thought but she understood the emotion. It was relief.
He poised over her, looking down. God, she was beautiful. In the faint light of a half moon she looked luminescent, radiant, alive with all the fire and passion the universe had ever seen. And she was his, his alone. His Scully. She moaned, the seductive temptress between his legs, and stroked him hilt to tip. "Oh, God, Scully if you keep that up this won't last long," he growled.
"Then we'll just have to regroup and try again," she purred and he felt the chuckle bubble up from his very toes.
"Oh, God, I love you," he moaned into her mouth as he captured her lips once again in a bruising kiss.
"You don't believe in God, Mulder," she teased, still stroking him, bringing him closer to insanity.
"I do now," he answered, breathless as he lowered himself to join with her.
The door slammed open and the harsh yellow-brown light from the hallway invaded their private retreat.
"Fox, I'm back," Diana announced, striding into the bedroom as if she were on a military campaign.
"What is she doing here?" both Scully and Diana asked in unison, but there was nothing humorous about their tone of voice.
"Diana, please, get out," Mulder pleaded, jumping off the bed. In his haste, he'd left Scully uncovered and immediately regretted his actions. He reached out to cover her with the sheet, but Scully was already on her feet on the other side of the bed, grabbing clothes.
"Fine, Mulder, fine. If that's how it's going to be, fine! I can play second fiddle to the Truth, I can play Sancho to your Don Quixote, but I'll be damned if I'm going to play 'sloppy seconds'!" Scully seethed from the corner of the bed as she pulled on jeans and a sweater.
"Scully, no, you don't understand! It's not like that," he implored.
She stopped, regarding the other woman in the room as if she were a snake about to strike. "Well then tell me. What is it like?" she asked angrily.
"I'm not . . . I don't . . . I . . . I didn't . . . " As hard as he tried, Mulder could not come up with the words to resolve this crisis.
Scully's eyes narrowed to slits and she'd never looked so cold and heartless to him. "That's exactly what I thought," she said evenly and left the room. When he heard the front door of the apartment slam closed, it sounded like his death knell.
He dropped to the bed, face in his hands, hot tears streaming down his cheeks.
"Fox, forget about her," Diana urged, pulling at his hands to uncover his tortured face. "I'm here now. I'll make it all better."
"I don't . . . I d-d-don't . . . " he stammered.
Diana pulled his head toward her shoulder and wrapped her arms around him. "You don't need her now, I've told you that. I understand that you didn't mean to cheat on me -- "
He pushed her back and looked hard at her. "'Cheat on you'? What are you talking about? I never 'cheated' on you! There was nothing between us to 'cheat' on! You left me, remember?"
She pulled on his shoulders to bring him closer. When he refused and held fast, she caressed his cheek. "Poor baby, so confused. Don't you remember? I left to go make a life for us in Europe. I did just as you asked, Fox. I found us a wonderful little apartment in Berlin; you could see the river from our balcony. It was perfect. But you never came to me. You sent me away, telling me you would follow, but you never came."
Mulder stared at her in total disbelief. "Diana, you're crazy! You told me I had to make a choice -- make a commitment to you or you would leave me. I told you I wasn't ready for commitment, that I'd been married once before when I was quite young and it was a mistake. So you took the first assignment you could get out of Washington and it just happened to be in Europe. There was no 'life for us in Europe'! There was only you, you and your demands, demands that I couldn't live up to. I'm the one who is sorry, Diana, if you were led to believe anything else." Gently, he pulled away from her hands again. He stood and drew in a breath. "Now, please go. I have to find Scully." He tossed on his clothes and left her sitting on the bed.
She stood up, crossed her arms and followed him down the hall. "You won't find her, Fox. She's gone."
He was pulling on his shoes as he searched his pockets one-handed for his keys.
"They have her now."
He stopped dead in his tracks. His eyes widened and he turned to look at his former partner and long ago one-night-stand. "What did you say?" he hissed.
"They have her. Just like before. But this time, they won't bring her back." Diana glared at him, then smiled evilly. "You honestly thought you could ever love anyone, Fox? That the minute you found happiness it wouldn't be snatched away from you like a child's lollipop gets stolen? What a fool you are, Fox Mulder! What an unmitigated fool!"
"No! No, Diana, don't -- " He realized it was useless to plead his case with her, so he ran. Out of the apartment, out into the night. On the distant horizon he could see a bright spot move in a perfectly straight line up into the heavens where it was engulfed in a thundercloud. He was left, searching the sky, calling out her name.
"sccc-u-u-ull-lleeee," he rasped again, tossing his head from one side to the next.
"I'm here, Mulder. I'm right here," she crooned, but just as they had for the last half hour, her words fell on deaf ears. He wouldn't listen, or more frightening to her, he couldn't listen. Deafness was a very real possibility when the brain swelled and the fever grew to such heights. She stroked his face with the damp cloth in her hand. "Please, Mulder. Open your eyes. You'll see I'm right here."
She'd managed to sleep about three hours before his fever spiked again and dropped him into this state of restless movement. The nurse taking his vitals had put in another call to Harriman, but the doctor decided to wait before changing medications. So Scully had asked for a bowl and a face cloth and began the ritual her mother had performed on her and her siblings when they had fevers.
"scully?" The whisper was so soft she thought it was a moan. When she looked at his face, the hazel showing through the slits of his eyelids conveyed a spark of coherence.
"Mulder," she said with a smile. "Hey, good morning."
He blinked and moved his shoulders. "hot," he said. "neck hurts," he added.
"I know, I'm sorry. We're waiting for the good stuff to kick in. Can you hold on for me a little longer?"
He moved his head up and down cautiously; it obviously hurt to move his head much at all. "water?" he asked.
"Sure," she replied and brought a cup up to his lips, moving the straw so he didn't have to lean forward to reach it. He took a few sips and then released the straw.
"You're welcome. Why don't you try to go back to sleep now," she encouraged.
"you're tired, too" he accused, his face taking on a stubborn _expression.
"I'm fine. I slept while you were sleeping. But you need to rest and let your body and the medicine do their jobs."
He had no answer to that, so he closed his eyes with a defeated sigh.
Harriman came by at 9 and announced that he was adding ampicillin to the current antibiotic in the hopes of getting a handle on the infection. Scully was relieved that the doctor was making a change. She told him about the few moments when Mulder seemed to be awake and aware.
"He'll be in and out for a while, even after we get the fever under control. It's the long-term effects that pose the greatest risks right now. If we can avoid the usual complications of this disease, hearing loss, blindness, we'll all count ourselves lucky. At least we haven't had to contend with seizures yet."
Scully prayed that seizures wouldn't be a problem. She knew more than anyone what that would mean for Mulder. Field agent status regulations were explicit on such matters -- no agent with a history of seizures was allowed in the field. They'd had to tap dance around his ketamine incident, basically saying his seizures then were injury related and in no way a lasting condition. She didn't want to deal with the ramifications of a full medical evaluation when this crisis was over.
She took his hand once again. "Mulder, please, hang on."
He'd always loved looking at the lights of the city reflected in the cool depths of the reflecting pool. The headlights of the cars on Independence Avenue made a string of pearls in the distance. He was alone, but his mind was at peace.
He felt her presence before he actually saw her sit down next to him. "Is this seat taken?"
He smiled at the old joke. "It is now," he said with a smile in her direction but not really catching her eyes with his. "What are you doing here?"
"Looking for somebody," she replied.
He tensed, waiting for the inevitable argument. That's all they'd been doing for days -- arguing. Ever since the OPR hearing, ever since she'd all but hung him out to dry before the powers that be, they'd barely said two civil words to each other. He'd come here to find some peace; he didn't want to start the war again.
"Scully -- "
"I'm looking for a friend of mine. See, we've been having a bit of a rough patch and I've said some things and he's said some things and I think we're both really tired and we just want everything to be all right again. You haven't seen anybody with a white flag running around here, have you?"
He couldn't keep the grin off his face. He dug in his pocket and withdrew his cotton handkerchief. "You mean this?" he asked, waving it in the air briefly before dropping to his lap.
She reached over and picked up the hankie, giving it a quick wave. "Gee, it works," she said with a tilt to her head. "Mulder, I wanted to say I'm sorry -- "
"Scully, as you pointed out, we both said some things."
She stared off in the distance for a moment. "I guess I also wanted to ask you a question," she said timidly.
He chewed on his lip. He had a feeling he knew what she was going to ask. The bigger question was did he have an honest answer. "You want to know about Diana," he countered.
She looked over at him and drew in a breath. "Yeah. I need to know -- "
"I'm not in a relationship with her, Scully," he blurted out.
" -- why you trust her and not me?" Scully finished, right over his outburst.
He felt his heart tear right down the middle.
"It isn't like that," he insisted.
"Yes, Mulder. Yes, it is exactly that. You trust her, beyond the evidence, beyond all reason. I want to know . . . I need to know why. Is it something I've done to cause you to lose faith in me?"
He felt all the air leave his body. It was almost as bad as if she'd punched him in the gut. "Scully, I've never lost my faith in you," he whispered, barely able to get the words out because he was so surprised by her question.
"Then why, all the times it has come right down to the line, do you always believe her and not me?" she asked evenly, looking him square in the eye.
He had to look away first and he knew that was the wrong thing to do. She would misunderstand; take it as a sign that she was right. So her grabbed her hands firmly in both of his and swallowed. Please, if I ever needed the right words, I need them now, he prayed.
"Scully, I never told you about Diana and me and I'm very sorry I didn't."
"It's not any of my business what you were in the past, Mulder," she interjected, he noted the tone of bitterness in her words. "Whatever you had together it was before I came along. I'm not foolish enough to think you had no friends before me," she said with a tilt of her head. "But after all our years together, I have to wonder if maybe I was seeing too much into our relationship. If maybe I was just . . . standing in for her. I mean, when we were first partnered, my greatest fear was that I was a substitute for Samantha, but now I think -- "
"Scully, please, please listen to me. This is hard to explain but believe me when I tell you that you were never a substitute for anyone. Your place in my life is yours and yours alone and no one but you can take that place. Now, please, can I say what I was going to say before?"
He could almost see the wheels and gears turning in her head. She was trying to decide if she really wanted to give him another chance. Finally, he knew the instant she found in his favor. He relaxed a second and started to speak again.
"I met Diana when we were both working Violent Crimes. We weren't partners, not officially, but we worked a couple of task forces together. Her expertise is psychology and mine is, or rather was, psychology, so we figured out pretty fast that it made it easier to share the load rather than do the same work twice."
She leaned back in the seat, but allowed him to continue holding her hands.
"You've seen, at least a couple of times, the kind of reaction I got from most of the guys in VCU. Frankly, Tom Colton was tame compared to some of them. So, it was nice to have someone to talk to, who understood a little of what I was going through -- who was going through it themselves. Sort of like it's been for the last 7 years," he added with a raised eyebrow in her direction and a gentle squeeze of her hands. She wasn't about to make this easier on him -- she stared right back at him without acknowledging his gestures. He swallowed and started again.
"Well, I was pretty much a total cad back then, as I'm sure you're heard. I was sleeping my way through the support staff when Diana and I started working together. I don't think I led anyone on, they were all 'one night stands' and no one sent me hate mail or anything, so I was pretty oblivious. We were working late one night, at her apartment and -- "
"Mulder, I really don't want to hear this," Scully said, pulling on her hands to break their connection. He held her all the tighter.
"Scully, please, it's important. Please. Trust me," he begged. That earned him a glare, but she stopped tugging on her hands.
"OK, well, we slept together. And the next morning, we agreed that it was the biggest mistake we ever could have made. So we decided, mutually, to forget it ever happened and go back to being friends."
Scully sat up straight, shock on her face. "Wait a minute. Byers said . . . Frohike called her your 'little chickadee' . . ."
"Scully, I don't tell the guys my exploits. At least not with the people I care about. They made assumptions, big assumptions. And I didn't bother to dispel any of them because, frankly, it wasn't their business."
"Anyway, back to the story. So we got a case, I was the profiler, Diana was helping me out. It was . . . bad. Women, they were all about the same age Samantha should have been -- and I was just starting my work with Dr. Weber. Needless to say, it had a horrible effect on me. One night I was in the conference room that we had set up for the case and it all just overwhelmed me. I was alone when it happened -- "
"Mulder," she said, drawing in a breath. "What happened?"
"I lost it. Completely. When Diana found me, I was, uh, my gun . . . " He couldn't say the word. Not ever after all the years, he couldn't bring himself to say the word 'suicide'. "I had cut myself pretty bad tearing up the room and one window and I was bleeding, I didn't even know it. She got the gun away from me and uh, she got me out of there. She knew of a clinic in Northeast DC," he snorted at the memory. "I was the only male on the premises, except for one other doctor. Anyway, they stitched me up, gave me fluids. From somewhere Diana got a prescription for some sedatives. She took me back to her apartment and didn't leave me for the next 72 hours."
"She should have taken you to a hospital," Scully seethed.
"If she had, it would have ended my career," he said softly. "So, anyway, I slept it off, basically. I took the sedatives for a couple of weeks, they did help. I finally got Weber to give me a prescription, my own prescription for them. And I knew I had to get out of Violent Crimes. Diana convinced me to call in some markers -- she knew that Sen. Matheson was a friend of my mother's from college. I went to him and got reassigned to the X files."
She pulled one of her hands away, but only to wipe at her cheek. He realized she was crying. Then he realized, he was crying too. "Diana was so supportive of me, she just wanted to help. I needed a friend so bad back then . . . " He swallowed and cleared his throat. "So I got to work. Pretty soon, I came across some stuff I couldn't do by myself and Diana stepped in. She wasn't assigned to the files; she could only help me after hours and on weekends. We pretty much took up the whole weekend, every weekend, just sorting through what was in the file cabinets."
"So what happened? Why did she leave?"
He shrugged. "I guess she got a better offer?" he said, trying for the joke but it fell horribly flat. "Seriously, one day she came to me with the news that she'd been offered a chance to go to Europe, something she'd always dreamed of doing. I think, well, it's probably just my ego, but I thought at the time that if I'd asked her to stay, she would have. But I was stronger, I'd grown stronger with her help. So I wished her the best, helped her sell her furniture and clean out her apartment and drove her to the airport. That was that."
He looked down at their hands together. "I have a very hard time thinking that the same woman who could have easily ended my career but didn't -- would do anything to hurt me," he said slowly. "I have no evidence to support such a finding. I know that Diana has done some things, and to be perfectly honest, if anyone should be jealous -- it should be Diana. When she left, I think she figured she could always come back and pick up exactly where we left off. But then she did come back and there you were and things were changed, very changed. I think she felt threatened by that. I think some of the animosity you have against her is a natural reaction to the animosity she has for you."
"You think this is just a silly quarrel of two girls over a boy in high school?" Scully growled, tugging her hands free.
"No, no, not at all!" he was quick to counter and took one of her hands back into his. "I'm just saying the two of you were not going to be fast friends, no matter how you first met. You didn't just read the files, Scully. You _became_ the files. The truth we search for isn't just my truth about my sister; it's YOUR truth about what happened to you, what happened to Melissa, what happened to Emily. And I think, in a way, that's what has Diana so upset. That not only did you step in and take her place in the files, you did so in such a way that she could never get them back, even if she tried. It's not me that she's jealous over, Scully. It's what we found in those files."
Scully pulled her hand away only for a moment, to lay it on his cheek. "Mulder, you are a fool. A sweet, innocent, totally oblivious fool and it's putting you in danger. Diana doesn't want the files. She wants your soul. And until you understand that, there isn't any reason for me to stay and watch your self-destruction." She stood and laid the same hand on the top of his head. "You have some thinking to do."
As she walked into the night, he dropped his face to his hands and sobbed.
Scully was exhausted. Having spent close to 12 hours bathing Mulder's face and chest, his temperature was finally showing some improvement. She dropped to the chair near his bed and closed her eyes for just a second. When a hand clasped her shoulder, she jumped a foot.
"Dana, sweetheart, I'm sorry! I didn't mean to scare you," Maggie Scully apologized hurriedly. "Dana, are you all right?"
"Mom, what are you doing here?" she asked, wiping sleep from her eyes.
"I haven't heard from you in weeks, Dana," Maggie said in exasperation. "I left messages at your apartment -- "
"I was out of town for a while," Scully interjected, but her mother continued as if the younger woman hadn't said a thing.
"-- and finally I called your office. I talked to your supervisor, Mr. Skinner. He told me that Fox was in the hospital again and that you were probably still with him. I came right away. Dana, did you sleep here last night?" The exasperation was quickly becoming concern.
"Mom, Mulder has meningitis. I did stay here last night, but I didn't get much sleep. He's been running a high temp and he's been very restless."
Maggie looked over at the man in the bed with a worried _expression. "Well, he seems to be resting now. Why don't you come downstairs and get something to eat?"
"Mom, I don't -- "
"Dana, please. We go through this every time Fox is in the hospital. You can tell the nurses where you're going, we'll only stay down there a half an hour, tops. You need to eat -- you're running yourself into the ground. And then what good will you be to him when he's ready to go home?"
It was a hard decision, but Amy, the nurse assigned to Mulder's care, encouraged her to go. So it was only a few minutes later that Scully found herself seated in the hospital cafeteria with a salad, meatloaf and mashed potatoes and an iced tea in front of her.
"Their meatloaf is really pretty good," Maggie confided. "Not as good as Grandma Mulligan's recipe, but not that bad, either."
"When did you get to be an expert on Georgetown Memorial's meatloaf, Mom," Dana asked, taking a bite and finding her mother's assessment wasn't far from the mark.
Maggie dropped her eyes to her own plate. "I've been here too many times to count," she said darkly. But the shadow passed quickly and she looked up and smiled at her daughter. "Now, tell me, where have you been for the last two weeks? Even your cell phone was off. Another case?"
Scully drew in a breath and fought the tears that burned her eyes. "Mom, I was in Africa. The Ivory Coast, to be exact."
"Africa! Good heaven's Dana! What in heaven's name were you doing there?"
"Heaven wasn't really involved," Dana quipped bitterly. She looked over at her mother's shocked _expression. "I'm sorry. I'm just so tired right now . . ."
Maggie reached across the table and clutched Scully's hand. "Sweetheart, I know you're worried about Fox, but I know these doctors and he's receiving -- "
"It's not that . . . well, it is, but it's not just that. Something happened in Africa -- I saw something and I need to understand -- Mom, if I could give you solid scientific proof that the God we know, the God they've taught us about all these years in religion class and in the Mass was just a fairy tale, that something altogether different happened millions of years ago, continues to happen today -- would you hate me for it?" she asked timidly.
Maggie's face underwent a thousand emotional changes until she settled on one -- understanding. "Dana, my faith isn't based in science. And to be honest, science never provides all the answers. Every new discovery, every new piece of 'solid proof' just leads to more questions and more discoveries in the future. Science is constantly being shaped by what just happened. Faith, my darling daughter, isn't like that. Faith is an absolute -- because faith doesn't rely on proof and evidence. Faith just is. So, to answer your question, no, I could never hate you. But to go even further, no matter what you showed me, it wouldn't change my faith at all. My faith is stronger than that. It's held fast through so many rough times. It's seen me through so many dark periods of my life. I believe in God, the way He's always been shown to me. How He came to exist, whatever He might be, He's still the same God to me. That's all I need to know."
Scully was openly crying by then. She nodded, and tried to control herself, but the tears just wouldn't cooperate. Maggie sensed immediately what was needed. "Dana, come with me. There's somewhere we need to go." They gathered up their trays and took them to the tray return. Maggie grasped Scully's hand again, leading her through the hallways, up elevators, around corners until they stood in front of an ornate wooden door. The small brass plaque proclaimed simply 'Chapel'. Maggie smiled at her daughter and opened the door. "I know what you've seen has shaken your faith, sweetheart. But know one thing -- no matter where you go, it will be here, waiting for you to come home. Now, let's go say a prayer for Fox, that he'll have the strength to see him through this illness." She reached up and cupped her daughter's cheek. "And that you'll have the strength to understand whatever it is you think you encountered."
Scully nodded, fighting more tears, and followed her mother into the chapel.
This time he knew exactly where he was because he walked there himself. Diana's apartment door stood in front of him. He knew what he had to do, he just wondered if he had the guts to do it. Finally, drawing in a deep breath, he knocked three times.
It took a few seconds for her to come to the door. He thought he heard voices, but it could have been the television. When the door finally opened, she stood before him dressed in a simple v-neck sweater and slacks. Her hair was down around her shoulders and she looked as pretty as she had the first day they'd met.
"Fox! What a surprise. Come in," she greeted him with a bright smile. "I didn't expect to see you tonight."
"Diana, we have to talk," Mulder said by way of introduction and deftly avoided the kiss on the cheek Diana tried to give him.
"Sure," she said hesitantly. "Come in and sit down. Would you like something to drink? I have iced tea, or there might be a couple of beers -- it's been a while since I entertained," she said with a playful wink.
"Nothing, thank you. Could we just sit down?" he asked. His stomach was in knots and his head was hurting. Tension, he knew it was all tension, but it didn't stop the pain. "Please?"
"Certainly," she said and concern lit up her features. "Fox, are you all right? You look pale." She took his arm to escort him to the sofa, but he veered away from her and took a seat on a chair instead. "What is it? What's wrong?"
"Diana, why did you come back from Europe?" he asked bluntly, his _expression cool and steady. Get the facts, just get the facts, he kept repeating in his head.
"Why, I told you, Fox. There were things back home I needed to attend," she said cryptically and dropped her head so that her hair covered her face. She looked up at him through the shield of her hair. "Quite frankly, you were back here."
Mulder nodded, but looking at her, he saw everything clearly. It wasn't the look of a lost love he was seeing. For the first time, it was the look of deception.
"Really?" he asked, his voice taking an edge. "Five years, not even a note, not a card at Christmas. I'd pretty much figured you'd written us off years ago. But all of a sudden, when I come so close to finding the key to everything in the X files, you show up."
"The X files were once mine, too, Fox. Don't forget that," she interjected.
"No, Diana, no. I'll admit you were there for me when I first found them, but aside from 'helping' me on a few occasions, you made it abundantly clear that your interests were elsewhere."
"My interest was in you," she replied, reaching across the few feet of space that separated him to grasp his hand. He allowed it, for a moment.
"We agreed -- "
"No, Fox. You dictated. That morning, after we'd spent the night together, you woke up in a panic. I knew that if I didn't go along with you, I would lose you forever. So you dictated and I acquiesced to your demands. You said it was a mistake, and you were probably correct. It was too early in the relationship for us to -- "
"Diana, you never loved me," he said, cutting her off.
Her head shot up and her eyes took on a tortured grimace. "How can you say that?" she asked, her voice cracking.
"Because it was a job. Your job. There was a time that I wouldn't have believed it, but I know a lot more now. And I know that they were watching me, have watched me since I was a kid. You were sent to make sure I stayed off the right path, that I was dangled just enough bait to satisfy their needs, but never enough to satisfy my own. But you screwed up, you got 'too' involved with your work," he sneered. "And they sent you away and found someone else, a harder nut to crack."
Her face was a mask of confusion. "What are you talking about? Who are you talking about? Fox, there wasn't anyone. We met -- don't you remember? We met shortly after you got out of the Academy -- "
"Oh, yes, Diana. And a very wise man once told me the best place to hide the truth is between two lies. Yes, we met, but it wasn't entirely by accident. You came up to me in the cafeteria. You asked me about a case you had. It was all planned, from the very beginning. You played me for a fool, Diana. Did you laugh about it later? Did you congratulate yourself on how easy it was to sucker in the poor sex-starved sap? I bet you really had a field day over my 'panic' -- as you call it. You didn't falter one step. You just waited until the hook was set to reel me in!"
The slap was a surprise, but a welcomed one. It meant he was getting somewhere.
"How dare you come into my home and accuse me of those things!" she shouted.
He smiled. She'd just echoed his mother's words. More words of deception. She wasn't denying the accusations, she was just angry they had been made.
He heard a noise in the back of the apartment. Someone was back there. He stood up and she followed, tugging at his arm.
"Fox, please, let's talk about this. I don't know where you got these crazy ideas. You have to know I would never lie to you! I love you, Fox, I have always loved you! Can't you see that? I want to help you -- I would be more helpful than she's been with her science and her logic." Her voice had taken on a shrill quality that he found particularly annoying.
"Don't talk about Scully," he growled, but he didn't let her deter him from the closed door at the end of the hall. Finally, he was there and he grasped the doorknob and opened it.
Light spilled into the darkened room, illuminating it just enough to reveal the bed. Someone was lying on the bed and that person turned to face the two people standing in the doorway.
"Diana, you didn't tell me tonight was threesome night," a gleeful Smoking Man said from his position on the bed. Only a sheet covered him to his bare chest. "But I must warn you, I think this might constitute incest -- at least as far as Fox is concerned."
Mulder spun on his heel and stalked to the front door. Diana grabbed at his arm, trying to pull him back. He shook her off angrily.
"Fox, wait, it's not what you think," Diana begged, tears streaming down her face.
"Not this time, Diana. I won't listen to your lies anymore," he said defiantly.
"Where are you going? You're going back to her, aren't you?" Diana accused.
As he grasped the doorknob he stopped and looked at his former friend. "That's the one thing you and Scully never understood. I'm not going _back_ to her. I never left her. Nothing you did made me want to leave what I have with her. It's about time you figured that out." As he strode purposefully down the hall, he muttered to himself "and now it's time to make sure Scully understands that, too."
Scully sat in the recliner, dosing lightly. Maggie had come up and sat with Mulder long enough for Scully to grab a shower in the doctors' lounge and change into some scrubs. When her mother left for home, she'd made Scully promise to eat again at dinnertime and to call if there was any change.
Mulder had slept through it all. At least his temperature showed he was finally responding to the antibiotic cocktail. It was down to a respectable 100. Scully had been thrilled at the news. It gave her the peace of mind to allow her body to find rest. But even as she slept, she kept her hand on his arm, anchoring him to her.
The sound was soft, not more than a moan, but she could hear her name. She pulled herself from her sleep and looked closely at her partner. He was calling for her, but it wasn't as urgent or as frantic as it had been during the night. This time it was almost as if he was just trying to catch her attention at the office or at a crime scene. She smiled and sat forward, moving her hand from his arm to his forehead, stroking along the edge of the bandage that encircled his head.
"Mulder. I'm right here. Wake up. See, I'm right here," she coaxed.
Slowly, he opened his eyes. She'd anticipated his sensitivity to light and had turned down the overheads after the last vitals check. He blinked sleepily and smiled at her, working his throat a time or two. She saw that as his signal that he was thirsty and offered him a cup of water, holding the straw to his lips so he wouldn't have to move his neck too much.
"Thanks," he rasped hoarsely.
"You're welcome," she replied with a smile. "How's your head?"
He thought a while, moving his hand to rub against the bandage. "Sore. Neck is still sore, but not as bad."
She nodded and smiled again. "You've had quite a ride. Maybe it's time to just get better now, huh?"
"Yeah, I think you're right," he agreed readily. "What day is it?"
"November 18th," she told him, watching his reaction.
"Professor Merkmillan was reported missing -- "
"November first. Skinner called us in on November second," she reminded him.
"How long have I been here?" he asked tiredly.
"All total, just shy of two weeks."
He frowned shook his head slightly, wincing at the action. "I missed the premiere of Saturday Night Live," he groused.
"I'm sure it will be repeated this
summer, Mulder. If not on
Comedy Central within a year. You didn't miss much."
"I missed what you discovered," he said, taking her hand. "I heard you, Scully. Asking me to hang on. I wanted to let you know that I understood but -- "
She squeezed his fingers. "I'm just glad you listened. For once."
"I do listen, more than you know. Scully, I need to clear something up that's been hanging between us now for too long. Diana -- what you've tried to tell me -- "
"Mulder," she said, putting a finger to his lips. "Mulder please, I don't want to argue. You aren't in any shape -- "
He moved her finger but didn't let go of her hand. "Scully, I believe you. I believe what you were trying to tell me at the Gunmen's. I know she's dirty. She was . . . she is working with . . . him."
"Oh, Mulder," she sighed. "We don't have to talk about this now -- you need to rest. You're still quite sick and I don't want to risk a relapse -- "
"Scully, please, just listen to me and then I'll go back to sleep. I can barely keep my eyes open but I want to tell you this." He waited until she nodded to continue. "Scully, all those times you thought I was taking Diana's side over yours -- I wasn't. Not really. I know it looked that way, but every time I did check on what you told me, I did look at the evidence. I just . . . it just took me a long time to figure out that I had been fooled."
"Mulder, I'm sorry. I knew you and Diana were close and to be perfectly honest, I was . . . I was jealous of what you had with her."
Mulder smiled and brought her hand to his lips where he gently placed a kiss on her knuckles. "Scully, you were the last person who should have felt jealous." He closed his eyes and she thought he was drifting off to sleep but he tugged on her hand. "So tell me, what did you find in Africa?"
She smiled then, reaching up to stroke his forehead. "Mulder, I want to tell you everything. But for now, we both need to sleep."
"OK, but when we wake up?"
"When we wake up, we'll talk. I promise."