Blood Ties 10: A Dish Served Cold (19/19)
Asheville Memorial Hospital
Grey paused outside the room, head cocked. Silence. He peeked
inside, quietly wrapping his knuckles on the half-opened door.
Dana startled, a light blanket falling from her shoulders as she sat
up straight in the recliner. Her momentary confusion melted into a
smile when she saw him hovering in the doorway. Motioning him
inside, her sharp eyes cataloged the sling and his stiff gait.
"I didn't expect you so soon; you should be resting," she said sotto
voce, then added grudgingly, "You look better."
"Darlin', I saw how I looked before, and the only direction was up.
But if it makes you feel any better--I stopped by the house to clean
up a bit, and I slept most of the way here. Kristen drove."
Scully peered over his shoulder. "Where is she?"
"In the waiting room, curled up on a comfortable couch--or what
passes for one in this place. After all the driving she could barely
keep her eyes open." He crossed to the bed where Mulder slept on,
oblivious, and laid his hand on his brother's forehead. "Fever's
gone," he murmured, more to himself than to Scully, then turned to
search her face. "How is he?"
She stood, stretching her arms over her head, then gathered up the
blanket and folded it into a neat square. "His condition is much
improved, actually. The surgery went well and the infection seems
to be under control. They moved him down from Intensive Care
right after I got here this morning."
The line between Grey's brows betrayed his doubt. "I can tell he's a
lot better than the last time I saw him. It's just... Fox is the guy with
hair-trigger reflexes. How can he still be sleeping through all this?"
Scully returned to the recliner, motioning for Grey to pull up a
chair. After a lingering look at his brother's pale face, Grey
"He was awake when I arrived at 5:30 this morning, Grey. From
what Kristen and the nurses tell me, he stayed awake all night,
refusing to sleep or accept pain medication until he could be
absolutely certain you and I were all right. That refusal, while
perhaps noble and stoic, made his transfer down from the ICU a
very unpleasant experience. By the time we got him settled in this
bed, he was exhausted and in agony, barely coherent. The nurse
gave him a hefty shot of morphine and he's been out ever since."
"How could he be so stupid?"
Scully arched her eyebrows. "How indeed."
Grey flushed. "That's different. My injury wasn't life threatening.
All I needed was a few stitches."
"THIRTY stitches. And a unit of blood."
"Yeah, well... I had to see Fox, and I couldn't very well do that
from a hospital bed."
"Grey, it's wonderful that you love your brother and that you want
to help take care of him. But you need to take care of yourself, as
well. I'm here, and you know I'm not going to let anything..."
"You don't understand. I HAD to come. I owe him that much,
after... He needs to see that I'm still here for him."
Scully had been kneading the back of her neck but her head
snapped up at his words. Grey evaded her attempts to look into his
"Grey, you're not blaming yourself for any of this--are you?"
Grey stared out the window, jaw clenched. "I dragged him up there
on that stupid camping trip; he never really wanted to go. Jake hurt
him, nearly killed him, because of me. And as if that wasn't
enough, when he was sick and scared and at his most vulnerable, I
left him. I promised I wouldn't, but I did." He swallowed, at last
turning to meet her eyes. "You tell me, Dana. Who else would I
Scully closed her eyes and expelled a long, slow breath, shaking
her head. "You two are incredible. I'm actually starting to believe
there's a gene that controls guilt."
"Hold on a minute..."
"No, you hold on. Your brother"--she jerked a thumb in Mulder's
direction--"has been beating himself up because he didn't tell us
about Jake sooner. According to him, you were injured--and could
have been killed--because he dropped the ball. Are you sensing a
pattern here, Grey?"
Grey's jaw dropped and he struggled for words, frowning. "That's
crazy! He couldn't help..."
"Look, before we become immersed in this game of 'What's My
Crime,' how about we all just lay the blame where it really
belongs--on Jake Preston. He's the killer, Grey. He's the one who
shot Mulder, kidnapped you, and tried to cut you to ribbons. If you
and Mulder would just set aside your overdeveloped sense of guilt
and look at things objectively, maybe you'd both see the truth."
"She's hot when she's angry...isn't she?"
The soft, raspy voice redirected their attention to the bed, where a
pair of sleepy hazel eyes regarded them with amusement.
"Hey." Grey popped to his feet and moved to the bed, clasping his
brother's hand. "It's about time you woke up. You're reputation as
an insomniac is on shaky ground."
Mulder licked his lips; grimaced. "Why do the good drugs...make
your mouth taste like cardboard?"
Grey reached for the cup, only to stare helplessly at the water
"I've got it." Scully liberated the styrofoam from Grey's grasp and
filled the cup with water.
Mulder drank eagerly, eyeing Grey's arm over the rim of the cup.
He drained the liquid, waving off Scully's offer of more and
tipping his chin toward the sling.
"That looks painful."
"It's not exactly a slug in the leg."
Scully rolled her eyes and set aside the pitcher. "I think I'll duck
out for a cup of coffee. Feel free to talk amongst yourselves." She'd
slipped out the door before either could formulate a reply.
Mulder let his head drop back onto the pillows, lips curved. "You
know, I really hate to admit this, but Scully is right."
"That's easy to say from your perspective. Maybe you wouldn't
feel the same if someone with a grudge against you hurt me," Grey
pointed out, bitterness turning his relaxed drawl tight and harsh.
Mulder's fingers clamped onto his sleeve. "How can you say that?
Grey, you were kidnapped because they mistook you for me. I
know what you're feeling."
"You didn't leave me. You ignored your own health, nearly killed
yourself, to find me and bring me home."
"If not for me, you never would have been taken, experimented on,
in the first place."
Grey studied his face, then looked away, teeth gnawing viciously
at his lip. "I didn't want to leave you, Fox. You have to believe
that. It was the only way to give you a fighting chance."
"I know that. Hey." Mulder waited for his brother to look at him.
"I'm sorry for what I said to you. I was half out of my head with
pain and fever, Grey. I don't blame you for going with Jake. You
had no choice."
Tears flooded Grey's eyes, and his voice dropped to a whisper.
"I'm so sorry I brought you into that mess, Fox. I wish to God I'd
never suggested that damn camping trip."
"Hey, at least one good thing came out of it. There's no way
Crittendon can draft me into profiling for him now." When the
attempt at humor fell flat, Mulder sighed. "Look, I'm never going
to be Grizzly Adams, but it really wasn't that bad until Jake
showed up--well, except for the outhouse, maybe. You were right,
it's beautiful up there. I don't have anything against communing
with nature, it's just...maybe next time we could do our
communing on a tropical beach."
Grey's lips quivered and he let out a short bark of laughter. "You
do have a terrible track record with wooded areas." He scrubbed at
his face, fingers rasping over stubble and tears.
"Still in shock, I think. And dealing with his own feelings of guilt."
"Understandable, I suppose. But none of us can assume blame for
the actions of a family member." He chuffed quietly. "I may have
an overdeveloped sense of guilt, but at least I've come to terms
"A fact for which we are all grateful." Scully walked to opposite
side of the bed, a cup of coffee in one hand.
Mulder eyed it, licking his lips. "I don't suppose..."
"Absolutely not. And you'll notice I didn't bring any for you,
either," she told Grey. "You and Kristen both need some sleep. I'm
told there's a hotel just down the street--a nice one, not the type
Mulder usually picks."
Grey touched two fingers to his brow. "Yes, ma'am."
Mulder pressed a hand to his chest. "Scully, I'm hurt."
"I'm told the truth often has that effect, Mulder."
Mulder sustained his wounded expression for a moment longer,
then turned to Grey. "Scully says Kristen was partially responsible
for them coming after us so soon. She was convinced you were in
trouble. I'd say we both owe her our thanks."
Grey smiled. "I owe her a lot more than that."
Mulder exchanged a long look with Scully. "You sound like you've
had some kind of epiphany," he said to Grey.
His brother chuckled. "I'm not sure I'd go that far." He sobered.
"It's not like I figured out something new or unexpected. More like
I finally acknowledged something I've known for quite a while."
Mulder's voice was soft, unassuming. "Did you happen to share
that with Kristen?"
"Yeah. Scared the hell out of me, but...yeah, I did." Grey turned a
shrewd stare at Mulder. "We had a deal, little brother.
Mulder looked at him blankly for a moment, then remembered
their conversation on the way up to the cabin. His eyes darted to
Scully and a slight flush rose in his cheeks. "I remember."
Scully arched an eyebrow but her words were as gentle as the
fingers she slipped between his. "Something you want to share
with me, Mulder?"
He looked at Grey, who gave a slight nod, then back to Scully.
"Not here, Scully. But...yes. I guess I do."
She studied his expression, both determined and apprehensive, and
squeezed his hand. "You know where to find me."
One corner of Mulder's mouth turned up in a weak smile that
abruptly became a yawn. Grey slid off the mattress, wincing a little
as he stretched the kinks from his legs.
"I think that's my cue to find Kristen and the hotel."
"Take Scully with you. You need a bed, not that chair," he told her
"I've got our rental downstairs. I'll go as soon as you're asleep. I
promise," she added in response to his skepticism.
"I'll be back later, when we've all had a nap." Grey stopped near
the doorway. "If you're a good little patient, maybe I'll even
smuggle in some real food."
Mulder perked up considerably. "Thai?"
"Mulder!" Scully's voice held equal parts horror and amusement.
"Soup," she told Grey.
"Sculleeee. I'm much better. How about Chinese?"
"You two complete negotiations. I'll check in with Dana before I
come." Grey took a step, hesitated, his face suddenly open and
vulnerable. "Fox, I..."
"Yeah. Me, too. Now go get some sleep."
Mulder waited until his brother had disappeared down the hallway
before sliding lower in the bed, right hand moving restlessly across
the mattress, his face tense and still.
Observing the searching fingers and perspiration-beaded forehead,
Scully retrieved the button for the PCA pump and placed it into his
hand. "Pain bad?"
"Only when I breathe."
"You should have said something, Mulder. You've been able to
administer another dose for at least a half an hour." Concern more
than anger clouding her tone.
Mulder pressed the button with an audible sigh. "Not while Grey
was here. Scully, he's feeling enough guilt over me getting hurt;
I'm not going to rub his nose in it."
Scully stroked the hair back from his forehead, watching the
tension leave his face and body as the drug took effect. Mulder
sighed, eyes shutting, then slowly opening to half-mast.
"'S it for me, babe. No more sparkling conversation."
"I'll just have to turn on Jerry Springer back at the hotel."
Eyes closed again, he was too far gone to laugh, but his lips
curved. "Ya watch Jerry? Marry me, Scully."
She touched her lips to his forehead, then his mouth, nuzzling his
cheek. "Too late, love. I already did."
Tucking the blanket up around his shoulders, she sank back into
the recliner. A promise was a promise, and she fully intended to
head out to the hotel for some real sleep. But for now--just for a
little while--she'd indulge herself. Seeing the soft, untroubled
expression on his face. Hearing the gentle rhythm of his breath.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Whew! Well, this was another seemingly
simple little tale that took on a life of its own. A huge thank you
goes to Michelle, Vickie, Mary, and Deb for riding this
rollercoaster with me, offering their talent and insights, and to
Suzanne for her expertise in all things medical. Thanks, as well, to
all out there who follow this series and who gently stalked me
throughout the writing of this installment. Your words of
encouragement really kept me going through a time when I feared
the muse had packed her bags and left me--for good!