SPOILERS: Prequel to my VS10 story Justice, Interrupted ARCHIVE: Gossamer, Mulder-in-Jeopardy, others are fine, just let me know.
SUMMARY: Portent -- Prophetic or threatening significance
DISCLAIMER: Mulder and Scully belong to Chris Carter and 1013 Productions. No copyright infringement is intended. AUTHOR'S NOTES: Many thanks to dtg and Vickie for beta.
FEEDBACK: Yes, please.
They've been at it for hours now, and she's had enough.
Loaned to Domestic Terrorism in what was essentially a political gesture of good will, they are staked out in front of the dilapidated shell of a factory, waiting for a clandestine meeting between two alleged arms dealers. In four hours of surveillance they've consumed a thermos of coffee, listened to the Yankees beat the White Sox, and debated whether Skinner has an active sex life. In a final act of desperation, she's allowed Mulder to cajole her into a game of Watercooler Trivia.
"My turn." Mulder slips another seed between his teeth, gaze skimming over her before returning to the darkened building. "The category is 'Dirty Little Secrets' for two hundred."
"All right. Fire away."
"Which Hoover building employee's fashionable coiffure is actually a wig?"
She thinks a moment. Frowns. "Clarification, Mulder. A full wig? Because lots of women wear hairpieces."
"Give me a little credit, Scully; I know the difference. I'm telling you, this 'do' is a don't."
She chews the inside of one cheek, sifting through a sea of faces and coming up empty. Who in the hell could he be talking about? Smugly annoying, Mulder spits a seed out the window and begins humming the Jeopardy theme under his breath. She huffs, grasping at straws.
His brow furrows. "Florence who?"
"In Financial Operations. I would think you'd be buddies, Mulder. Among other things, she handles reimbursements."
"Ahh. You mean the older lady with hair like a gray football helmet?"
"I take it she's not the one."
He mimics a buzzer. "Nope. Not even close." He checks his watch, then glares out the window. "This was a waste of time. The action is going to happen around back; I'd bet my life on it."
She tamps down the urge to strangle him. "Mulder?"
"Hmm?" He gives her a blank, uncomprehending look, but she knows him well enough to glimpse the glint of mischief beneath.
"So it's not Florence Dobson. Who is it?"
He leans in, as if about to impart information vital to national defense and not a juicy piece of gossip. "You won't believe this, Scully. I mean, I can hardly believe it. Never in a million years--"
The pop of a gunshot has them scrambling from the car even before the radio crackles to life with the ASAC's shouts for reinforcements. But by the time they make it into the building, it's over. A scruffy-looking street punk in ripped jeans and a leather jacket stands with palms pressed to the cinderblock wall and legs spread. His 'business associate' lies crumpled on the ground in a puddle of blood.
"Always last to the party, huh, Mulder?" Agent Sam Kenilworth, not one of Mulder's biggest fans, smirks up at them as he crouches and disarms the motionless figure. "We were beginning to worry you'd been abducted by little green men."
His partner, Ricky Glassman, snickers under his breath as he frisks the punk. Less than a year out of the academy, Glassman reminds her of an eager-to-please puppy tagging at Kenilworth's heels. She grits her teeth but Mulder, as always, ignores the bait.
"Not a chance, Sam. See, they're airing the intergalactic World Series right now and no self-respecting Reticulan would be caught dead away from his television. Next week--that's a different story." His deadpan delivery is marred only by a subtle wink in her direction before he ambles over to confer with ASAC Griffin.
Kenilworth's jaw drops--she can see the wheels turning as he tries to decide if he's just been had--and Glassman sneaks a few furtive glances from over his shoulder. Squelching a grin, she kneels beside the downed suspect to assess his condition.
"You're going to need a coroner, not an ambulance," she tells Kenilworth. "He's dead."
"That's what the little bastard gets for resisting arrest." Kenilworth zips the confiscated weapon into a plastic evidence bag and stands.
Just as all hell breaks loose.
Scuffling feet, a harsh gasp of surprise, a low grunt of pain.
Kenilworth, eyes huge, diving toward his partner. "Ricky! Gun!"
Glassman doubled over, arms clutching his gut. The punk whirling, face twisted into a snarl and fingers wrapped around a gun.
A distant corner of her mind registers the thud of bodies hitting the ground, Kenilworth's curses, and the smack of fists hitting flesh.
Griffin charges across the room. "Drop it--NOW!"
Glassman's babbling a stream of excuses and apologies.
His partner, furious: "Shut the hell up, Ricky, and give me your cuffs!"
It's only a drone, white noise. All she can see, feel, touch is Mulder as he sways, amazingly still on his feet, a bewildered expression on his chalk-white face and a rapidly growing crimson stain spreading across his crisp blue shirt. His lips form her name and he sinks to his knees.
She eases him down, cradling him in her lap. Blood--warm, wet, sticky--is everywhere, oozing between her fingers, soaking into her coat... His shirt feels spongy under her palms. Wide hazel eyes lock onto hers and he again attempts to say her name.
Catching in his throat, the syllable transforms into a ragged cough. Blood now paints his lips and trickles from the corner of his mouth.
"Shh, shh. Don't try to talk."
His head lolls on her arm as she rips open his shirt, buttons flying to click and roll across the floor. Blinking back stinging tears, she struggles to breathe.
It's bad. Very bad.
Someone--Griffin--thrusts a wad of cloth in her face. She presses it firmly against the bubbling wound with one hand, the other cradled along his jaw to support his head. His eyes are already turning glassy and vague and she swears she feels him drawing away from her. Faintly, in the distance, a siren wails.
"Somebody get those EMTs in here NOW!"
What was meant to sound commanding is shaky and broken. Mulder's eyelashes flutter and he fights to focus on her face. Stubborn to the core, he tries a third time to speak. Lips move soundlessly, but her heart doesn't need to hear the words.
Scully. Love you.
He's saying goodbye.
"Don't you dare give up on me, Mulder. I will kick your ass--even if I have to chase you into the afterlife to do it." Tears blur her vision but she refuses to let them fall, her thumb brushing back and forth across his cool cheek.
One corner of his mouth tries to turn up but his eyes slip shut and his expression goes slack. Suddenly he feels unreasonably heavy in her arms.
A dead weight.
She clutches him closer, pressing her cheek against the softness of his hair, rocking. Not now. Not like this--stupid, meaningless... She dimly hears Griffin call out, directing the EMTs to their location; Kenilworth manhandling a sullen but compliant gunman; Glassman still moaning regrets.
Stifling a keening sob, she prays. Bargains.
Just one more chance. Please, God, I'll do anything you ask of me. Just give him--
"--one more chance."
The sound of her own voice, husky with tears, jerks her out of slumber. Scully bolts upright, eyes roaming the darkened living room, breathing rapid and harsh in the silence. Images clinging like cobwebs, she swipes the back of one trembling hand over damp cheeks and struggles to shake off the dream.
The stakeout. The shooting. Mulder bleeding on the ground. Dying in her arms.
Part dream, part memory. Two weeks have passed since that terrible night. Mulder was discharged from the hospital this morning. A wraith of his former self--too pale, too thin--he's weak as a kitten and utterly dependent upon her for even his most basic needs. But alive.
Psyche still edgy and raw from her dream, Scully rises on shaky legs and pads back to her bedroom on bare, catlike feet. Pale slices of moonlight slip between the blinds, illuminating her bed and Mulder's still form. Propped on a mound of fluffy pillows, one arm curled protectively across his chest, the chuff of his soft, rhythmic breathing soothes her troubled spirit.
She closes her eyes, tension draining out of her body, leaving her limp and languid with relief. The doctors assert that Mulder's stubborn tenacity was responsible for his survival. Mulder insists her unwavering love and belief in him was the tether binding him to life, to her. And she... She remembers a bargain born from desperation.
No matter. The gift of this man in her bed, in her life, is worth any price God might exact. They've both been given another chance, and she doesn't intend to waste it.
She's still hovering in the doorway, absorbed in her own thoughts, when his respiration quickens and becomes uneven. Lips tighten and brow furrows, while limbs shift restlessly beneath the covers. The signs of a nightmare, heartbreakingly familiar now that they share a bed, spur her to action. Mulder's knitting flesh can ill afford the sudden, sometimes violent movements his dreams can provoke.
Easing onto the mattress, careful to jostle him as little as possible, she strokes the backs of her fingers over his sandpapery cheek. Her voice, low and honey-smooth, is pitched to soothe him out of the darkness.
"Mulder, you're dreaming. You need to wake up."
His hair-trigger reflexes dulled by pain medication, Mulder drifts back to her slowly, eyes fluttering open to stare blankly at her face. After a moment, clarity seeps back into his gaze and his lips curve into a slightly loopy smile.
"Hi yourself." She touches her lips to his in a chaste but emotion- filled kiss.
He blinks; sighs. "Want more of that."
She brushes her thumb across the lip she just kissed, smiling. "Me too. Hold that thought."
Lines around his eyes and mouth, and the stiff careful way he shifts position speak volumes about a level of pain he tries to deny. She gets him a glass of water and the little pink pill, and though his eyes communicate frustration, he accepts both without comment. When she stands, intending to return to the couch, he catches hold of her wrist.
He has no idea how deeply she longs to do just that. For two endless weeks she's slept in a cold, empty bed, missing his comforting warmth at her back, the reassuring whisper of his breath on her neck. The thought of curling up beside him is seductive, but pragmatism and a three-inch scar hold her back.
"I don't think that's such a good idea."
The line between his brows deepens and he thrusts out his lip. "Since when?"
She lets him draw her down, placing one hand on his bandage- swathed chest. "I don't want to hurt you."
When exactly did she lose the ability to resist him? Or is it simply that she needs this as badly as he does? "Here. Sit up a minute."
She rearranges bedding and Mulder until she's the one propped against the headboard, his head pillowed on her chest. He relaxes against her with a quivering sigh of contentment, cuddling her like a weary toddler embracing his favorite teddy bear. His fingers slip under the edge of her pajama top, stroking the tender skin just above her waist.
She presses a kiss to the crown of his head, fingers threading through his hair. "Me too." Sleep beckons until memories, sharpened by her dream, remind her of unfinished business. "Mulder?"
"Hmm?" He's already fading, lulled by the pain pill and her soothing touch.
"You never told me who wears a wig."
It takes his foggy brain a moment to make the connection, soft chuckle cut short by a wince of pain. "Shelby Thompson."
Her fingers falter. "In HR? The chesty blonde with the lacquered on make-up?"
He chuffs again; moans. "Scully, stop. You're killing me."
"You were right. Never in a million years..." She cranes her head to see his face. "Dare I ask?"
"She and Janine Christiansen had a falling out." Mulder's words slur, his eyelids drifting to half-mast. "Never piss off a woman, Scully. "'S always gonna come back and bite ya on the ass."
She thinks of Glassman's OPR hearing, mouth forming a hard smile as her fingers resume stroking. "Words to live by, Mulder. You know the old saying about a woman scorned? Underestimating us can land you in a whole world of trouble."
She lets her eyes drift shut, lulled by Mulder's warm weight and soft, rhythmic breathing as he sinks into dreams troubled by blazing headlights, paralyzing fear, and heartbreaking betrayal.