Chapter Nine

Georgetown Memorial Hospital

10:22 a.m.

ogod three of them. more in the hall. fowley too.

too tired. okay. too tired. juice. maybe for the best. scully would be here if she could. tiredsofuckingtired. not the juice not the juice. she'd be here if she could. something happened. godogodogod. not scully. shell be here. shell be here.

i sing in my head.



"Yeah," Byers answers and then is quiet for a moment. "Yeah, she's back. We're on our way to the hospital." He turns to me and hands me the phone. "Langley wants to talk to you."

I grab the phone with a trembling hand and bring it to my ear. "Yeah."

"Scully." He sounds breathless, worried. "The floor guy, the one we have on the inside. He says Mulder's on the ECT schedule for twelve-fifteen. I don't know what that is, but they haven't taken him out of that room in six days."

ECT. ECT. What the hell is that? Think, think. Oh Jesus. Electroconvulsive therapy. Oh God. Gotta stop that. Gotta get to him. Abnormal brain activity. The God module. Jesus, they know. Gotta stop it. Stay calm. Stay calm.

"It's electroconvulsive therapy." The calm in my voice surprises even me. "We're on the way, Langley. We'll be there in fifteen minutes, max." I disconnect and hand the phone back to Byers, meeting Frohike's eyes in the rearview mirror.

"Electoshock?" he asks and I nod. "Like in Cuckoo's Nest? Jesus."

"Just hurry, Frohike. We can stop this. Just hurry."

I've got to get to Mulder and I've got to get him out of there. Then what? Don't think that far ahead. You've got to get him away. They want him, just like Gibson. They'll do to him what they did to Gibson. Stay calm, stay calm. Get him away. We need stuff. Mulder doesn't even have clothes. Get him away.

"Byers." He turns and looks at me. "You got a notepad? Frohike and I are going in to get Mulder out. We'll send Langley down and then we need you to get some stuff. Clothes. Gotta buy new ones and a suitcase. Get a suitcase."

He's writing furiously in a small spiral notebook jotting down sizes and what I tell him to get.

"Also, other IDs, whatever ones you have for us. Secure, usable credit cards. Cash, whatever you've got on hand. Weapons and clips. We've got to get Mulder out of there and disappear him ourselves. Drop us off, get the stuff and get back here as soon as you can. And you guys have to keep the artifacts with you. Do not let them out of your sight."

Frohike reaches the hospital in twelve minutes. He and I both hop out of the van and run for the door, while Byers runs around the front of the vehicle for the driver's seat to wait for Langley. Frohike stops me at the door with a hand on my arm, and I pull away. I have to get to Mulder.

"Scully, calm down. We can't go running in there like a couple of lunatics. They'll have security on us in nothing flat."

He's right. Calm down, take a breath. Can't help Mulder if security detains us and tips them off that we're here. I nod and he gives my arm a gentle squeeze before releasing it. We manage to walk in and make it to the elevators without drawing too much attention to ourselves.

We emerge from the elevator on the second floor and go directly to the monitor room. I need to see Mulder, make sure he's okay, then I can talk to Dr. Buchanan. There is an orderly before the bank of monitors and he looks startled as we burst into the room.

"Hey," he cries. "You're not supposed to be in here." He rises to his feet.

I look at the monitors, all of them, but I don't see him. The screen for the room where Mulder was shows an empty cell. "Where is he?"


"Mulder. Fox Mulder, where is he?" Don't panic, don't panic.

"Took him a few minutes ago for ECT," the orderly replies.

"He wasn't supposed to have it till twelve-fifteen," I insist. "What's going on here?"

"Don't ask me, lady. I don't make the schedules. I just take 'em where they tell me to." He looks at me suspiciously. "Hey, who are you? You haven't been here before."

I ignore him. "Where is he? Where did you take him?"

Langley's lanky form hits the doorway just then, with a hand to the jamb to stop his movement. "Thank God I heard you, Scully. Come with me. I know where he is."

He leads us down the corridor.


cant move cant move cant move paralyzed wires wires no not wires again dont do this not again not again cant move move




save me scully save me scully save me scully

"Sa...Scu... Sa...Scu..."

"Ssshh, Mr. Mulder. It's going to be all right. Just close your eyes. Let the medicine do its work. You'll be fine."


no no take it out choking cant breathe god cant move cant breathe

more voices in the hall. dont hear scully. cant hear scully. diana. diana thinks shes in the clear. cant move. can't move. langley was here. where is langley.


Diana is sitting in a chair outside the ECT room paging through a magazine. She jumps up at our approach and I can see the surprise on her face, but she recovers quickly.

"Agent Scully, thank goodness you're all right. We thought something had happened to you." She moves to stand in front of the door Langley has directed us to.

"Out of my way." I try to push her aside but she stands her ground.

"You can't just go bursting in there. You don't know what's going on here."

"Oh, I know what's going on here. Out of my way!" I push her hard and she slips on the floor, landing soundly on her left hip.

He's on a bed against the far wall of the room and a man is attaching EEG leads to his head. His face is thin and gaunt and his eyes are shut. Somehow I'm across the room and I'm pulling wires off of him. Get the electrodes. Both temples. Bilateral ECT. The rest of the wires are just monitoring equipment. Get the electrodes.

"What the fuck are you doing?" The man is screaming and grabbing for me.

I struggle and break free. IV line, stop the IV. EEG wires are the next to go, then EKG. I look down at him. His eyes are squeezed shut. Bite block in his mouth. Take it out. His eyes are squeezed shut. He's not asleep. He's supposed to be asleep when they do this. His eyes are squeezed shut. He's scared. He doesn't move.

"Lady, what are you, crazy?" The technician is trying to pull me away. No way, no fucking way. "Do I have to call security?"

"Do that!" I scream. "And Dr. Buchanan, too. I want him in here now!"

I turn back to Mulder. He hasn't moved but his eyes open briefly, wide with terror, and he squeezes them shut again. He doesn't move. What did they do to him? Think, remember. Atropine. IV line for methohexital for sleep, then succinycholine for muscle paralysis. That's why he can't move. He doesn't know. He's scared. His eyes are squeezed shut. He's scared.


breathe can breathe again shes here and i can breathe she helps me breathe see her see her shes not really here cant hear her shes here shell stop it shes not here cant hear her just see her god god hear everyone else too many dont hear her dont hear scully see her too many too many

too many


A hand on my shoulder, turning me around. Frohike jumps in and grabs Dr. Buchanan, refraining him from touching me. "Stop it. Right now! Ms... Dr... You're interrupting treatment."

"No!" I'm still yelling. "I'm *stopping* treatment." I look at Buchanan's face and see that Diana is standing behind him. When did she come in? I want to claw her eyes out, tear at her hair. And I can see in her eyes that she expects it somehow, wants it to happen. She'll be the rational one, I'll be the lunatic who attacked her.

And suddenly I'm calm. I'm calm and she can see it and I think she knows she's busted. I reach behind me for Mulder's hand, but I don't think he can feel it. He's scared but I'm calm. I can feel his hand.

Dr. Buchanan releases my shoulder and Frohike releases his and we all stand there for what seems like an eternity, breathing hard, watching one another. Finally, Dr. Buchanan speaks. "Look, I'm sorry but I don't remember your name. Dr..."

"Scully, and I..."

"But what do you think..."

We're talking at the same time. One of us has to stop. I can wait.

"...doing? You can't just come in here and stop treatment."

"I think I can. I have Mr. Mulder's Power of Attorney. In the event of his incapacitation, any treatment authorization comes from me." Frohike hands me a copy of the Power of Attorney form and I give it to Buchanan, who reads it with a confused expression.

"I don't understand, Dr. Scully. Why would he give you his Power of Attorney when his wife..."

I can't stand to hear the word out loud. "She's not his wife!" As I hand the doctor a copy of the divorce decree, I look over at Diana. She, at least, has the grace to look sheepish. Not ashamed, mind you, just busted. "She hasn't been for four-and-a-half years." I watch him read, his lips moving slightly. He hazards a strange look at Fowley, then turns to me. "Now things are going to change quickly or I'm going to teach you a whole new meaning for the word lawsuit."

"Dana, let me explain..."

"Ms. Scully, let's not..."

They're both talking at the same time. "Shut up!" And they must have understood that I meant both of them, because they both fall silent. "Listen to me. Dr. Buchanan, is Mr. Mulder to be detained here for legal reasons? Is he in formal custody?"

"No," he admits. "We have not been informed that his wife..." He sees my threatening glare. "...Ms. Fowley has pressed charges. Look, Ms. Scully..."

"Dr. Scully," Frohike reminds him.

"Dr. Scully," Buchanan corrects himself. "Ms. Fowley told us she was his wife. Showed us a marriage certificate. There's no way we could have known... She signed him in."

"Then if no legal charges are pending, you can't detain him. I want him released."

"That's not advisable," he replies. "We've watched him for almost a week, he needs treatment."

"Electroshock? Is that what he needs?" I can feel myself getting angrier, and I turn away to look at him for a moment.

"Electroconvulsive therapy. It's widely used, Dr. Scully, and a perfectly accepted form of treatment for the symptoms Mr. Mulder is displaying. It's endorsed by the National Institutes of Health and..."

"I don't care if it's endorsed by the Pope," I say, interrupting him. "You said yourself that he has shown abnormal brain function. And I would think that might contraindicate use of ECT here. Plus, what do you know about his medical history? What about informed consent?"

"Ms. Fowley said..."

I interrupt him again. "Ms. Fowley hasn't known anything about Mr. Mulder for eight years or more."

"But we didn't know..."

"You do now," I reply. "Listen, I have no interest in suing this hospital. I just want him out of here. I know it's against your recommendation. I'll sign a waiver, I'll release you and the hospital from obligation. Just get something written up. Make it short, make it legal, make it easy to understand. Just see to getting him released . We'll wait right here until our friends can come and bring him some clothes and then I'm taking him out of here."

He shakes his head. "You can't just wait here. It's a treatment room."

"Right now it's a waiting room. Just because I don't want to sue this hospital doesn't mean I won't, doctor. And I think I can pursue federal charges for unlawful restraint since Mr. Mulder is a federal agent. Please get started doing whatever it is you have to do." He must believe that I'm serious because he turns without a word and goes to the door and the technician follows him.


juice. no juice. can hear them. can't hear her. can't hear scully. can't move. open your eyes. open your eyes. red hair. red like scully's. can't see her face. look at me. look at me. can't hear her. can hear her in my ears but can't hear her. all the others. all the others. not her. can't move.


"Agent Scully... Dana, look, somebody had to make decisions for him. You weren't here..." I can't believe she has the gall to try and justify herself.

"Shut up!" Fists, I'm making fists. Want to hurt her. Want to hurt her bad. No. Not important right now. He's important. Only him. "Get her out of here, Frohike."

He hears my tone and knows it for what it is. We exchange looks and he knows, he knows what we need to do. He ushers her out of the room and she goes with him, casting a worried look toward me as she leaves.

I turn to Mulder and meet his eyes. There's fear and panic there and it's as if they see me and don't see *me.* He doesn't move. He can't move. Of course he's afraid, he can't move. I sit on the edge of the bed beside him. Touch him, touch his face. He can't move, but can he feel? Succinycholine. I can't remember.

"Mulder, Mulder, it's okay," I whisper and I turn his head to look at me. "You're going to be okay. It's just something they gave you. It'll wear off in a few minutes. You'll be fine. You'll be fine." I stroke down the side of his face and feel the adhesive they used to attach the electrode to his temple.

His eyes. His eyes. He sees me, I know he recognizes me, but the look of terror has been replaced by confusion, doubt.


voices in the hall. i hear them in the hall. i hear them outside my head, i hear them inside my head. she's here. i see her. i hear her but i can't hear her. touches my face. can't move. can hear her. *you're going to be okay. it's just something they gave you. it'll wear off in a few minutes. you'll be fine. you'll be fine.* fine-fine or scully-fine? her voice. *shut up mulder. i'm playing baseball.* her. its her but i can't hear her. everyone else but not her. i made her up. that's why i can't hear her. but she's here. touching my face. scully. scully. she's beautiful. she's tired. she should rest. she's here. she stays with me. it's okay. she says its okay. can't hear her. her eyes. can see her eyes. it's okay. her eyes.


His eyes. He's better. He understands, knows who I am. Oh, God, look at him. So tired, so thin. How did he get so thin? His eyes, they're red, glazed. But they're his. I can't stop touching his face. Stubble, more than stubble. Almost a beard. Smiling at me. He can feel this. I'm glad. "Mulder, don't worry. I'm going to get you out of here."

He knows. He nods. Must be wearing off. Does it wear off so quickly? I take his hand and he squeezes a little. "Feet. Move your feet for me, Mulder." His toes wiggle. Okay, this is going to be okay. I look back at his face and he smiles at me. Has he always been so beautiful?

His eyes. He's smiling at me but there's pain in his eyes. He hurts. Of course he does, there are voices in his head. I sit on the bed beside him and lean toward him. Cradling his head in my arms, I massage his temples where the hateful electrodes were. He sighs in relief and brings his hand up, trying to reach mine and not quite able to aim with the lingering effects of the anesthesia.


she said i could move. i can move a little. she said so. smiling at me. so beautiful. loves me. loves me. don't need the voice. can see it in her eyes. never needed the voice. toes. i have toes and it makes her smile and i smile. her eyes. nothing else in the world. no pain. no juice. just her eyes. still hurts. its okay. its okay. fingers. fingertips. on my head. and its nice. nice. warm. juice. no. like it but not. nice. quiet. quiet. quiet. her fingers. her hands. i feel... i feel...

...better. I feel better. It's quiet. Mine is the only voice here. Oh God, I made her up. She can't do this. Maybe they gave me the juice. And I forgot. I forgot last time. And that's why it's quiet. And I made her up because she's all I have. No. She's here. She's real. Ask her, she wouldn't lie to me. Ask her if she's real. Can't talk. My mouth's stuck. Thirsty. I'm thirsty. Need to tell her she makes it quiet.


His eyes slip shut with his sigh and he seems to relax for a while, his face slackening. His face. I can't stop looking at his face. Suddenly his brow knits. He looks confused. Of course he's confused. He's been awake for so long. His face relaxes again and I can see him trying to move his mouth, to speak. But he can do no more than make gummy smacking noises. Thirsty. He's been without water at least twelve hours--they would have done that for the ECT. I have to get him something to drink. Shouldn't have water on top of the anesthesia. Just a little, just a bit. I'll watch him. He needs water.

I try to move his head from my arms and back onto the pillow and he looks at me with panic, alarm. He thinks I'm leaving. "Mulder, it's okay," I whisper, hoping to soothe him. I touch his face and his eyes meet mine. He's with me. "There's a sink across the room and I'm going to get you some water. I'll be right back. It'll make you feel better. You want some water?"


Scully. Water. All I need. Which more? When she brings me water, I'll know she's real. She has to go to bring me water. Don't go. Please bring me water. Stay with me. I'm so thirsty. She's gone and I watch her and she doesn't disappear. I hear the water running. . Water. She's coming back. Scully has water. She's bringing me water. Of course. She's Scully. Right next to me. She holds my head again. *Slowly, Mulder. Let's take it slow. Just a little. That's it*


Bending the rim of the paper cup to make a spout, I touch a few drops to his lips to moisten them and his head instinctively pulls forward, eager for more. I hold his head still, the hand holding it stroking his hair, heedless of the remnants of the EEG adhesive clinging to it. He relaxes into my touch. I bring the cup back to his lips and tilt a few drops into his mouth. His eyes meet mine briefly, then close in a look of such ecstasy and gratitude that it nearly breaks my heart. How long for him without water? At least twelve hours, but more than that? His mouth moves around the water and he looks at me, seeking more. Gotta be careful. Don't want him to aspirate. But he needs more water, his eyes are begging me for more. "Slowly, Mulder," I say. "Let's take is slow." A few more drops and I watch his Adam's apple bob as he swallows. His face contorts a little, as if it's painful for him. I give him a few more drops. "Just a little. That's it."


Her hand in my hair. Nice. Cold cold cold. I forgot how wet and cold. Just a little. Can't be this cold and wet. Just water. It's only water. Oh God, I made her up and she brought me this wonderful stuff. No, she's real. She saves me. A thousand times over. But if I'm nuts and I made her up, that's okay, too. I made her up good. She's Scully. She'll tell me if I ask.



"...ully." His voice is ragged and barely registers above the sound of a breath. And it's like music to my ears.

But it hurts him. I can hear it, see it on his face. Don't let him talk. I press the cup to his lips again, offering another sip. "SShhh. Don't talk. You're going to be okay. Just relax and don't worry. We're getting out of here just as soon as the guys get here." I feel tears streaming down my face. When did I start crying?

He accepts the offering and he swallows a little easier this time. I expect him to grab for the cup to get more but to my surprise, he pushes it away, shaking his head. "No, wait," he whispers. His mouth keeps moving but his voice has stopped briefly. "...real? You real?"

And the hope in his eyes tears at my heart. He thinks he's imagining me. Oh God, where has he had to go in his head to have been able to last this long? Where would I have gone? To anyplace in my head that he was. He thinks he's imagining me.

"Yeah, Mulder." Setting the cup down, I try my best to gather him in my arms. Hard to do since he outweighs me by seventy pounds, but it's close enough. "I'm real, Mulder. I'm here."

"Mmmm." His voice sounds a little stronger and he manages to throw an arm around me with a sigh. Suddenly he pushes away, his eyes wide and alert. "Hold it. I'd make you say that."


Doubt begins to cloud his expression. "If I made you up..." His voice fades again and he motions for more water. I bring the cup to his mouth again and his hand covers mine, shaky but there. He begins again. "If I made you up and asked if you were real, I'd make you say yes."

"I'm real, I promise." I gather him closer and for a while he is compliant. Until he pulls away to look at my face.

"But how do I know?"

"You want proof?" I ask him softly.

"Gotta have proof," he whispers. "Learned that from you."

Even over a sob, this brings a smile to my face. "I don't know how to prove I'm real, Mulder."

"Tell me something you've only told me," he suggests, but then shakes his head. "No, that won't work. I'd make you tell me something you only told me. No. Wait, I know, I know. Tell me something you've never told me."

His face in inches from mine and I look into his eyes. Tired, he's so tired and so am I. Even in his exhaustion, his eyes glitter with apprehension, fear, doubt of his own sanity. But there's something else there as well. In his eyes I can see who he is--the need, the sheer desire to believe. In me. He wants to believe in me because I'm who he believes. I can see it in his eyes and I think it's been there a long time. He waits for me to tell him something I've never told him. Something true, something he can be sure he'd never make up.

"I love you, Mulder." It's all the truth I have right now. And I tell him with my voice and my eyes and my heart. And tears fill both our eyes as I watch him believe.

"Oh, Scully," he whispers and pulls me close, his face nuzzled in the crook of my neck. "Love you, Scully, so much, so much. I knew you'd come. Knew it. I knew you'd be here if you could. Glad, I'm so glad you're all right. I was so scared. You were gone for..."

I'm crying and he's crying and I hold him to me, feeling the relief roll off him in waves, and I love him so much I think my heart will burst with it. My mouth has found his hair and I press kisses into it and I raise his head a little so I can touch them to his skin, his forehead, the bristly stubble on his cheek. His head lolls back a little and he gives me a smile so brilliant it nearly takes my breath away. His eyes are drifting shut, dispelled anxiety finally replaced by sheer exhaustion, and I feel my eyes droop in unconscious imitation. Tired, so tired. Everything's okay now...

...Everything's not okay! I have to get him out of here. Where the hell are the guys? Mulder's falling asleep. We need him awake enough to get him out of here.

"Mulder." I try to push him away but he's not helping me. "Mulder," I repeat and tap his face a little.

"Ow, don't hit me." He's not quite awake, exhaustion making him whiney, like a kid. He feels safe enough to rest and I wish with all my heart that that were true because he needs it so badly. But he has to stay awake right now.

"That wasn't a hit, Mulder," I rub his cheek and he gives a soft chuckle, his eyes still closed. "I need you to wake up now, stay awake for just a little longer. Can you do that for me, Mulder?" I finally manage to push away enough to free my arms. I need to try and get him to sit up, wake up.

"I can wake up," he whispers in return and I see his eyelids flutter as he strains to open his eyes. He's trying so hard, and I kiss his forehead and he chuckles again. "'t's nice."

I slide off the bed, hoping to get some leverage to help push him to a sitting position. He's helping now, a grin still plastered on his face. I check around me for the control to raise the head of the bed, and find that it's not a standard hospital bed. It's a treatment table and the head is not adjustable. I'll prop him against the wall behind the bed. I don't think he can sit up on his own. Between the two of us, he somehow ends up where I hoped he'd be. But he's still waging an intense battle to keep his eyes open.

I cross back over to the sink and get another cup of water and wet some paper towels with cool water. Climbing back up on the bed, I kneel beside him and pull his head away from its resting place against the wall. One hand behind his head, I use the other to shake out one of the paper towels and begin to wipe his face and he turns toward my ministrations. I grab another and press it gently to his closed eyelids and feel him shiver a little beneath my hands at the coolness on his skin.

When I pull it away, I find his eyes open and alert and locked to mine with an intensity and intimacy I find almost too much to bear. Almost but not quite because I can't look away, either. His eyes--they're a thousand shades of green and gray and gold and brown. I must have known that before now.

"Can I have some more water, Scully?" Has he always said my name like that? Like a benediction, like a poem? I nod and turn to retrieve the cup from the table behind me, my other hand still cradling the back of his head. Somehow without my realizing it, his hand between us has found a place at my hip.

I bring the cup to his lips and tilt it slightly. "Not too much, Mulder. Just little sips till you're used to this again." His other hand covers mine on the cup, not trying to take the cup away, just covering mine. He does as I ask, drinking slowly until about half the water is gone. This time he moves our hands on the cup, moving it away from his mouth and toward mine. I tip my head back a little as we pour the water into my mouth. It's cool and I swallow it gladly. I was thirsty, too. When the cup is empty, we crush it between our hands as our fingers interlace and it falls away somewhere that I don't see because I can't look away from his eyes. Our faces are mere inches apart and all I can see are his eyes.

And I know this feeling, this quickening of my heart, though it feels brand new. I know this feeling from last summer and I know what it felt like to think I'd missed the chance forever. And I can't bear that, not again. I move toward him, my eyes open until I see his slip shut. I close my eyes just a fraction of a second before I touch my lips to his.


Sitting up, I think. Room spins, even with my eyes closed. Scully asked me to wake up. Wake up for Scully. She's never asked me for much, I can do this. She loves me. The wall is hard against my head, but that's okay. It helps me know where I am. I'm up, I'm up. But my eyes won't open even though I'm up.

I sense her moving away from me and I force my eyes open to watch where she goes. This time, I'm not afraid she'll disappear--I just want to watch her. She loves me. But the room spins and I can't look at her for long enough. I close my eyes and tilt my head back so the crown of my head presses against the wall and wait for the spins to stop.

The mattress shifts and suddenly she's there beside me. I try to open my eyes again but she's spinning, and I put my hand on her hip to keep her in one place. I feel her hand slide in behind my head, so small and soft, and I've lost where I am again. But that's okay, it's okay. I'm wherever her hand is and it's warm. Warm. Cool. Her other hand is cool and gentle and she wipes my face. She loves me and it's warm and cool.

She sets a cool cloth over my eyes and presses gently. I could cry with how perfect this feels as the spinning slows and stills. Now I need to see her and it's like she understands because she moves the cloth away. My eyes open and hers are right there. The room starts to spin again but it's okay because I'm anchored in her eyes. I try to swallow to see if that will start me breathing again, but my mouth is too dry.

"Can I have some more water, Scully?" And she has it there, she doesn't have to leave, doesn't have to take her hand from my head. Yes. Little sips. Not Dr. Scully, just my Scully. My Scully loves me. I touch her hand, hold the cup with her.

I can see her concentrate--little sips--and I smile, dribbling a drop of water down my chin. Her tongue darts out quickly over her lips as if to catch a mirrored drop on her own chin. She's thirsty, too. She lets us bring the cup to her lips and she tips her head back to drink, draining what's left in a couple of swallows. Her eyes close as her head tilts and I don't think she even realizes that she's smiling. I didn't remember her beautiful enough while she was gone. I need to see her closer and I move my head forward a bit and when she opens her eyes, our faces are close. So close all I can see are her eyes. Blue, so blue, and warm and cool. And I feel her breath on my lips and her eyes are like home. And she's close and we're gonna and I close my eyes so I can only feel it, taste it. And our hands are laced together, how did that happen, and her thumb traces circles on my palm.

I'm aware of it the instant her lips touch mine. It's light, barely a graze. Almost like a dream about a kiss. And she stops there, not moving away, but not moving toward. Just resting there and it's incredible and I need more of this. But careful, don't shatter the dream, press in, soft, soft. She exhales and her breath is on my lips, then her lips are on my lips gliding. The hand laced in mine leaves. No! But then it comes to rest again on my face and it's soft and cool and her other hand pulls my head toward hers. And heaven couldn't be better than this--nobody's heaven.


Closer. Mulder, I'm kissing Mulder. He's kissing me and I need him closer and the hand at my hip reaches around my back to pull me to him. He knows I need him closer. Of course he knows. I pull away slightly to change the angle and he makes a sound in his throat at my leaving. Or is it me who makes the sound? His other hand is in my hair now and his fingertips caress my scalp and his mouth under mine becomes more insistent and I need that, too. Oh God, this is bliss! This is what they tried to take away from me, what I never would have known frozen away at the end of the earth. I'd have spent eternity not knowing this. This. But he came for me. He came and brought me back so that we could have this. And it's everything, everything. Soft and gentle and indescribably tender. And I'm breathing his air and he's breathing mine. And I'm dizzy, light-headed, and it's our first kiss and it's wonderful, and it's right, so right. And I feel infused with wonder and joy, pure joy, and I feel laughter bubbling up inside me. No other outlet for such delight, such bliss. And I'm laughing against his mouth and pressing him closer and laughing with a joy I've never known.

"What's funny?" he asks, never moving his lips from mine. His hands run up and down my spine and it's a delicious sensation.

I whisper against him and try to pull him closer still. "Our first kiss."

"Mmmm, yeah." I can taste him tasting me and he plunges both hands into my hair to hold me to him.

"We're..." His tongue is probing and exploring and I can barely stand how superb it is. Rational thought is being shattered, but I have to tell him. "We're having our first kiss on an electroshock table."

And he understands. I feel him laugh against my lips, and the sound is low and pleasing. He pulls his mouth from mine and trails hot wet kisses along my face until his mouth is at my ear. "That should seem more wrong than it does," he says softly, sending a new set of chills down my spine. "Maybe someday we can go on the Newlywed Game and tell the world about this."

"Mmmm," is the best answer I can give because his mouth is doing incredible things to my ear and all I can think of is how to get him never to stop this. "But you'd have an unfair advantage. You know what I'm thinking."

And suddenly he's gone. He's pulled away from me and I look into his face to find confusion and an inexplicable sadness. "What is it?" I touch his face and he leans into my hand.

"I don't know what you're thinking, Scully. I don't hear you anymore. I did, though, I did."

"The voices are gone, Mulder?" Oh God, was I too late? "Did they do something to you before I got here?"

"No, no." He sounds so sad, so tired. "The voices are still there. All of them. I can hear everybody and they never shut up till you think you could go fucking nuts."


He goes on as if he doesn't hear me. "One or two is okay. But sometimes there are so many and I can't tell one from another and it becomes... there's a hiss like static, but not. And everybody is there. Everybody but you. I can't hear you, Scully. The only one I want to hear. But I did, I heard you before. You blew me a kiss."

I nod and pull him close to me again and his arms come tightly around my waist. "That's why you thought I wasn't real. Because you couldn't hear me." He nods against my shoulder and a small sob escapes him. "It's okay, it's okay," I soothe, stroking the back of his neck. "We'll figure it out, Mulder. We'll get you out of here and get some rest, then we'll figure it out."

He pulls away and looks into my eyes, as if for reassurance that I believe that this will happen. And I see such profound belief and trust on his face. He has absolutely no doubt that I can explain this, that I can fix this.

And I will somehow--we will--because he needs this, we both do. I lean in and press my lips to his with a promise, and I'm relieved to see him smiling when I pull away.

"Frohike and Byers are coming in." The words are barely out of his mouth before the door opens. Byers looks uncomfortable to find us wrapped in each other's arms, but Frohike greets us with a smug smile as he pushes a wheelchair through the door. I kiss Mulder's cheek again before disentangling myself from his grip to slide off the edge of the bed.

"You got everything?" I ask and Byers nods.

"The doctor is outside with the paperwork," Frohike informs me. As I head for the door, he grabs my arm. "Diana's still out there, too."

A flash of anger, hot and intense, flares in me. "I don't care who's out there. We're getting him out of here. You guys help him get ready and I'll go sign the paperwork. Be careful, he's probably not too steady on his feet."

"You don't look too steady either, Scully." He gives me a friendly smirk I can't help returning his smile as I head for the door.

As Frohike said, Dr. Buchanan and Fowley are waiting outside the door as I enter the corridor. Ignoring her, I approach the doctor, who has a clipboard and pen ready. The release forms clearly state that I'm removing Mulder against the recommendation of his doctor and that I release him and the hospital from any obligation or consequences resulting from the release. I give them a cursory read through, sign them, and return the clipboard to him.

"I still think you should reconsider, Dr. Scully. Mr. Mulder..."

"I know what you think, doctor," I reply. "We'll be going now." He nods and walks away from me.

Turning, I see Diana standing in front of the door again, like a bizarre replay of what happened before. "You're making a mistake, Agent Scully," she says. "He needs treatment. You haven't seen what he's been like for the past week."

I can't look at her. I'll kill her if I do. Just push past her, just get to Mulder.

But she won't let me. "All right," she says. "I shouldn't have lied, but you weren't here. Somebody needed to make decisions and it looks like somebody still does. He needs treatment..."

"Shut up," I whisper through clenched teeth. "Just shut up and get out of my way."

She shakes her head. "I could press charges for assault. He went berserk, he tried to kill me. I could press charges and they'd keep him here where he can get some help."

Charges? She could press charges? I can't believe she has the unmitigated nerve to stand here and say such a thing. For the first time, I take a good look at her and realize she has no idea what I know and I want to slap that look of fake concern right off her face.

"Charges," I repeat unbelievingly. "After what you did."

A brief look of worry crosses her face. "What did he tell you? He's not exactly in a position to give a reliable account of what happened. Look, I'm just worried about him."

And this is more than I can stand. "Let me worry about him, Fowley. You've got enough to worry about right now."

"What do you mean?" She eyes me suspiciously.

"I'd think you'd be worried about why your *associates* didn't tell you about the surveillance equipment in Mulder's apartment." It's so gratifying to see her eyes widen briefly in shock. "Or why you needed a stun gun and drugs to get what you wanted from a man in bed. That would worry me. Or why somebody left the tape for me. With my name on it. Right on top of the pillowcase with the drops of what you injected him with. I'd worry about that. You really should have bled the syringe into a cotton ball, Diana. Leaving trace evidence like that was just plain sloppy. You just don't seem on top of your game right now, but then that's what happens with age I guess." Sarcasm drips from my voice and I feel better with each word that leaves my mouth. "So I'd think twice about pressing charges."

She tries to smile and it actually works pretty well for her. "So, Agent Scully, if you have all that proof, how come you're not pressing charges?" She's trying to call my bluff without holding any cards.

"Because I have important things to do. I'm getting him out of here. Besides," I say with a smile. "I don't think the justice system would deal with you nearly as effectively as your *associates* will after they've seen how monumentally you've screwed this up. I'd be worried about that, too. I bet Jeffrey Spender could have told us something about that, but nobody seems to know where he is right now. I think you do, though."

She blanches visibly as I glide past her to go back to Mulder. "We're getting out of here, *Agent* Fowley, and let me give you a message for your friends. Anybody they send after us had better be expendable because nobody is taking him away from me. Understand that and make sure they do, too."

Mulder is dressed in jeans and a t-shirt and sitting in the wheelchair when I enter the room again. He's so thin and there are dark circles under his red-rimmed eyes and he's so exhausted he can barely sit up. But still he smiles at me when I stoop down to meet his eyes and he's never been more beautiful to me. "Wow, G-woman," he says. "I wish I could have heard both sides of that conversation. Whatever you said scared the piss out of her." His eyes fill with tears and he reaches up to touch my face. "Scully, I'm so sorry."

I cover his hand with mine and press it to my face. "Ssshh. Not now, Mulder. Let's just get out of here. We'll figure everything out later." He nods, his eyes drooping again, and I kiss the palm of his hand before standing up to face the guys.

"Langley's waiting downstairs in the van," Byers says. He pushes Mulder's chair to the door and Frohike opens it for us. In the hallway, Diana is nowhere to be found.

People pass us as we make our way to the elevators, and with each one that passes, I see Mulder's eyes widen, his breaths coming short and irregular. He can hear their thoughts. Everyone. How must that be for him? I reach for his hand and he squeezes mine gratefully.

We're waiting before the bank of elevators and the one directly in front of us opens, filled with people. Mulder's eyes widen in terror and pain and he can't suppress the low groan in his throat. "We'll wait for the next car," I say and the elevator doors shut. Even with them gone, Mulder shakes with the force of their thoughts in his head.

I stoop to be at eye level with him and see the tiny beads of sweat that have broken out on his forehead. "So many," he whispers and there are tears in his eyes.

I turn back to Byers and Frohike. "Guys, I didn't think of this. He hears everyone's thoughts--God, I can't even imagine that--and it hurts him. I don't know how we're going to get him through the lobby. There are hundreds of people down there. He can't take that."

Byers nods. "There must be a loading dock somewhere. Probably lowest level in the back of the building. Get and elevator and wait for an empty car, then take it to the basement. I'm gonna take the stairs to the first floor, go get Langley and we'll meet you in the back. You should be able to avoid a lot of people down there." He takes off in a run toward the door marked "Stairs" and Frohike hits the elevator button again.

I turn back to Mulder. "See? No problem."

He laughs and his head lolls slightly. "The celebrity treatment. Back door stuff. Ladies and gentlemen, Mulder has left the building." He giggles and I try to smile back at him.

Suddenly his eyes fill with tears again. "Oh Scully," he says, reaching out to touch my face. "You're so tired. You need to rest, Scully. But you're still unbelievably beautiful." With a strength belying his exhaustion, he pulls me down to sit in his lap.

"We're both tired, Mulder," I say, holding his face and looking into his eyes. "I just need you to hold it together a little while longer, okay? Then you can rest, I promise. You can sleep as much as you need. Just a little bit longer, okay?" He looks at me and nods and I can see that he's with me, that he's trying. His sudden mood changes worry me. He's running on less than empty and I try to recall what I read about sleep deprivation and its long-term effects. But I can't remember because he's right. I'm exhausted, too.

The elevator door opens and, mercifully, the car is empty. Frohike pushes the wheelchair into the elevator with me still in Mulder's lap, and pushes the button for the basement. I'm standing by the time the car reaches the ground floor, and we exit looking for signs to the loading dock. An occasional maintenance person walks past us, but no one so far has questioned why we're in the basement. Maybe this is the way they get celebrities out of here.

We find the door to the loading dock and I stay back with Mulder while Frohike goes to check out the best way for this to work. He comes back a short time later. "There's about six guys working out there and no trucks being loaded or unloaded now. Langley and Byers should be here in just a couple of minutes. We'll zip open the back door, load Mulder inside and then take off. What about us? Can he deal with all of us?"

"I don't know. I don't know anything about this." I crouch down to talk to Mulder. "How 'bout it, sweetheart? You still doing okay?" Sweetheart? Did that come from me?

"Sweetheart. That's nice. Better than Poopyhead." He nods and tries to smile. "I'm all right. But hurry, okay?"

Byers and Langley arrive a few minutes later and we push Mulder's wheelchair out onto the loading dock. One of the dock workers comes up to us. "Hey, this isn't a patient pickup area."

My badge is out of my pocket before I even know I've thought about it and I flash it before the man. "Protected witness," I say in my best professional law enforcement officer voice. He backs away and I chance a look down at Mulder. He's leaning forward, holding his head in his hand, and I can see him struggling to control his breathing.

Byers runs to open the back of the van and Langley comes up to help us get Mulder to the vehicle. There's a thin mattress there and some blankets and pillows, along with a good-sized suitcase. "We got these when we got the clothes and stuff," Langley says. "We thought Mulder would need to lie down."

My eyes fill with tears again, and I feel one roll down my cheek. "I didn't even think of that. Thanks guys." Maybe I should start worrying about my own mood swings.

We get Mulder loaded into the back and I crawl in beside him and we take off with Langley driving. Byers is sitting shotgun and Frohike is in the back seat directly in front of us. He turns and looks at me expectantly. "What next?"

Next? There's a next? God, I don't know. I have no fucking idea. Dante images start to swirl in my mind again and I shake my head to dispel them. As we pull into traffic, Mulder starts rolling on the mattress, holding his head and groaning. Other cars? He can hear them in other cars? His moaning is heart-wrenching and I move over to where he is. Propping myself against the side of the van, I pull him across my lap, hugging him close.

"I've got to get him away from population. Someplace more isolated," I tell Frohike. "Just take us to my car. I'll find someplace."

Byers turns to us, shaking his head. "You can't drive like this, Scully. You've been awake almost as long as he has. You both need to rest."

"I'm okay," I insist. "I have to get him away someplace." I look down at Mulder. He's quieter, but pain still etches his forehead.

"You won't do either of you any good if you run your car off the road falling asleep at the wheel," Frohike says.

"I know," Langley chimes in. "I play D&D with this guy who has a cabin in Asheville. It's about a hundred miles west of here. He says I can use it any time I want to. It's in the woods and nobody is closer than a mile. I'll swing by and get the key. We'll drop Byers off at your car and he can follow us there. You can probably stay as long as you want to."

They're right. I'm in no shape to drive and no position to turn down a viable idea I didn't have to think of. Frohike sees my nod and seems to understand that I can't look at him because I'm crying again. I have to get some sleep. This is just not how I operate.

Mulder shifts on my lap, turning his face toward me and wrapping an arm around my legs. I see that he's fallen into a light doze, still making faint moaning sounds in his throat. His tongue peeks out of his mouth as he tries to wet his lips. He's thirsty.

"Guys," I say. "We need you to stop at a 7-11 or something and get a couple of bottles of Gatorade--cold--and a paper cup. I need to get fluids in him as often as he'll take them."

Frohike smiles at me. "No problem, Scully. But it's a couple of hours to Asheville. Why don't you try to get some sleep, too."

I shake my head. "I'm okay. I need to take care of Mulder." I stroke his hair and find myself smiling at the little snoring sounds he's starting to make. "He'd take care of me."

"Yeah, he would." Frohike agrees.

An hour later, we're heading west. I've gotten Mulder to drink some of the Gatorade and he's sleeping soundly, still draped across my lap, his even snoring lulling me. My feet are starting to fall asleep under his weight and I shift him around so that I can pull my legs out. He makes a protesting noise in his sleep until I stretch out beside him. I just need to rest for a bit, I won't fall asleep. His arm comes across my waist and pulls me to him and I reach behind us for one of the pillows to prop under our heads. This is nice. I won't fall asleep.