Date: Tue, 15 Sep 1998
Title: Ninth Circle
Author: Tim Scott
Category: A, S
Summary: Sheer and unadulterated flickfic.
Disclaimer: "By my will, and for the good of the State,
writer has done what has been done. Richelieu."
Sorry, couldn't resist. Actually I had no right to
do this but I did it anyway. Sue me, Big C, for all
the good it will do you.
Dedication: This story is for Jordan.
Date and time undetermined
My last clear memory was Mulder's mouth *finally* moving to
meet mine on
a hot and humid Washington night. Before that there was the dry and
hellish Texas heat, sucking the moisture from my body like God's own
frying pan. Suddenly I was surrounded by ice and I'd never been so cold
in my life. It made no sense. I *hate* it when that happens.
How could it be so cold in the middle of July? I rocked Mulder
arms and tried to get my mind around it. I'd prayed for relief from the
heat on that damn rooftop in Dallas -- was this God's idea of a
The wind came up and I felt ice began to form in my hair.
some kind of goop all over me under the snowsuit, it squished
unpleasantly whenever I moved and made the fabric stick to my skin.
Disgusting, but it probably helped to retain what little heat my body
could generate. Mulder's socks smelled the way wet wool always does and
they were the only aroma I could identify in that horrible place. The
air was painfully dry, my nose would probably start bleeding soon.
Mulder would just *love* that.
I tried to breathe through my mouth but the horrible taste
me vomit. Great. The good news was that it distracted me from the
blinding headache. I hugged my unconscious partner as tightly as my
sore ribs would allow and wished I could let him rest a bit longer, but
we had to find shelter fast or die from exposure. I sighed and shook
No response. The shudders began in earnest, my body shimmied
hospital jello. I shook him harder this time and took the volume up a
couple of notches.
He mumbled, "Five more minutes, mom..." and snuggled into me.
<Terrific. We'll do it the hard way, then.> Wouldn't be
the first time
I'd had to drag the big moose out of danger. I took a couple of deep
breaths, got my hands under his armpits and surged to my feet, dragging
Mulder with me.
That was the plan, anyway. What actually happened was that we
about two inches before my arms and shoulders cramped and the pain made
me drop Mulder. I fell next to him and puked up what felt like several
internal organs as the earth's orbital speed shifted into passing gear.
I hadn't felt that lousy since New Year's morning, or maybe my last
chemo session. <Damn, he's put on weight!> When I could move again I
buried the mess under some snow and tried not to think about its bright
I lay there and panted and thought about what to do next.
we go? <Mulder. Mulder would know, he busted me out of wherever
(whatever?) that place (thing?) was, which meant he knew where here was
and -- presumably -- how to get back home.> I crawled over to him,
began shaking him and shouting in his face.
I scooped up a handful of snow and put it in my mouth to melt.
most sound move, medically speaking, since it dropped my dangerously low
body temperature even further, but maybe it would drive away some of
that awful taste. It must have worked because that's when I got the
idea. I don't like to be manipulative but this was an emergency. After
a couple of deep breaths I leaned over, laid my forehead on his and put
my mouth next to his ear.
"Mulder, I'm scared."
His head twitched and his eyes moved behind the lids so I
allowing some of the terror I'd been fighting off to leak into my
voice. Mulder uses my first name when he wants my attention, maybe the
same thing would work here.
"Fox, please wake up. I need your help."
His hands flexed and his feet moved back and forth but that
was it. I
closed my eyes in resignation. Fine. Time for the heavy artillery.
I'd read about how movie actresses think about sad things when they
needed to cry on cue, and it's not like there's been a shortage of
terrible experiences in my life... How hard could it be? I just opened
the box where I keep those memories and let the images wash over me like
a tidal wave:
<Three *months* chopped out of my life / my sister shot in
my place /
they gave me cancer / they took my babies, ALL of them / they dangled my
dying child in front of me / I'm going to die alonealonealone...>
I came apart, dissolved in tears, wailed like a banshee at the
uncaring sky as I'd wanted to do since long before I'd awakened in that
nightmare out of a Bosch painting unable to move, and my tears fell
scalding hot on Mulder's face.
His eyes popped open and he blinked a few times, struggled to
position and somehow got me on his lap. His arms were around me then
and it was good, so good. Why doesn't that ever happen when I can enjoy
"Scully? Wha's wrong?" His voice sounded rusty. His
automatically cupped my face, turning it so he could see me better and
waited for me to make sense. His hands were as cold as my cheeks but
they warmed me inside, as they always do. Ordinarily I would suppress
such a thought as automatically as breathing, Lord knows I've had enough
practice, but I was too exhausted to care about our Rules of Engagement
at this point.
Eventually I managed to choke out, "We have to get out of here, Mulder."
He looked around in confusion for a moment, then his face
"Right. I'm on it." He lurched to his feet and brought me with him but
we almost fell in the process. He wasn't too steady yet but at least he
was moving. Our chances of survival had just improved markedly. I
tried to maintain a positive attitude while he looked around for a
moment. My patience was rewarded when he pointed to a rise that looked
just like all the others and tugged on my sleeve. I took two steps in
that direction and fell face first into the snow. He got a few more
steps before he noticed I wasn't with him.
<Great. My body won't cooperate and neither will his brain.
have one healthy person between the two of us.> I made it to my knees
before he returned to my side, anger pounding in time with my headache.
I waited and panted and watched his face as he struggled to understand
the problem. It hurt to see. He was the smartest man I knew but his IQ
seemed to have dropped into the low double digits. Then I noticed the
new scar on his forehead. <Wonderful. Someone used his head for a
pinata again. Dammit, Mulder, when will you learn to duck?>
Finally he reached down, grabbed the front of my snowsuit and
upright. I managed to stay that way while he maneuvered himself into
position and helped me climb on his back. I felt ridiculous, like I was
five years old again and my favorite uncle was giving me a piggyback
ride. Still, any port in a storm. At least we were moving. Mulder put
his head down and slogged. The snow was up to his knees and he was
having a tough time of it. I could feel the pulse racing in his neck.
Eventually I noticed he was mumbling something over and over, like a
Per me si va nella citta dolente,
Per me si va nell' eterno dolore,
Per me si va tra la perduta gente.
Lasciate ogni speranza voi ch'entrate!
I leaned forward to listen better. It took several repetitions
realized it wasn't English and by then we'd reached the crest of the
snow dune. I recognized what I was seeing from our trip to Icy Cape and
my head dropped to his shoulder in relief. A Sno-Cat! A huge,
magnificently ugly magic carpet. We were going to live a little while
longer! My shoulders began to shake again.
Mulder stopped and looked over his shoulder. His eyes looked
he'd been drugged. "You okay, Scully?" I nodded, careful not to let
him see my tears, so he returned to his task, trudging down the hill and
being careful not to drop me. His arms trembled as they clamped my legs
to his side. The poor man was exhausted.
"Mulder, put me down. I can walk the rest of the way."
He shook his head and kept going. I didn't need to see his
face to know
he was wearing that damn stubborn look. Well, fine. If he was the
brawn on this trip then I'd have to be the brains, I'd have to think and
start planning ahead so I'd be ready when disaster struck, as it
The three greatest sources of heat loss from the body were
head, hands and feet. I pulled my hood up but that still left hands and
feet. I needed my hands to keep hold of Mulder and check the pulse in
his neck, couldn't afford to stick them in my pockets. I didn't want to
think about my footsicles.
My head was beginning to throb a little less, though, and
thank God the
nausea was receding. My mouth still tasted unspeakably bad but I could
worry about that later. For now, the immediate goal was in sight. I
allowed myself to sink forward and relax into his body. I don't get
many chances to hold him and I was determined to make the most of it.
The way his lower back muscles rippled between my thighs was...
interesting. Not at all the way I'd imagined it might be. It generated
a marvelous warmth. This was no time to be smiling but I just couldn't
help it. <I should be ashamed of myself but right now I'll take any
heat I can get.>
Several centuries later we reached the vehicle. Mulder relaxed
and I dropped to my feet. The snow felt grainy under my soaked socks.
My steed wobbled over to lean against the treads before sinking to his
knees, panting heavily. I stumbled to join him on numb feet and felt
his forehead. It was slick with sweat and shudders racked his lean
frame. I tipped his face up.
His eyes were unnaturally dilated, his face was flushed and
stunk. My own condition was at least as bad. My face was numb and,
considering the way my mouth tasted, I probably had no room to talk
about halitosis. The only perceptible sound was my partner's panting.
It was eerie. The prospect of the ten-foot climb up to the cab was only
slightly less daunting than Everest but I set my teeth and began the
I was exhausted by the time I made the summit. It took the
last of my
strength to open the door and drag myself out of the wind. I lay there
and sobbed in relief for a moment before sitting up to examine my
surroundings. The ignition key was missing and an irrational rage swept
through me. <If that key has fallen out of his pocket somewhere on this
ice plain, so help me, I'll kill him myself.> The anger brought my
headache back, just what I needed.
I closed my eyes, sat back and took a deep breath. <Okay,
about this. Mulder's not an idiot. Where would he have put the key?>
I frisked myself and came up empty. Patting myself down reminded me
that I was naked under the snowsuit. I tried not to think about how
he'd tenderly wrapped me up in it.
No key. Maybe he had it on him. I couldn't face the thought of
climbing back down there. The interior of the cab provided no
inspiration until I remembered his favorite movie. I looked up at the
visor over the driver's seat and grinned slowly. Sure enough, the key
dropped into my hand a second later. I breathed a silent prayer that
the engine block wasn't frozen solid, squeezed my eyes shut and cranked
it up. It started immediately and the roar of the engine in that white
silence was the most beautiful sound I'd ever heard. I cranked up the
heat full blast, opened the door and yelled down at him.
"Mulder, get your Yankee butt up here! We are *leaving!*"
He didn't move. I sat back and thought it over. The eyes and
behavior told me he was in trouble. I riffled through my mental files
and came up with hypothermia, then snorted softly. <Well, it didn't
take the Mayo Clinic to diagnose that one.> I had to get him into the
cab so we could get moving. Manipulation had worked once before. Maybe
I should stick with a winning system?
People in the later stages of hypothermia often experience
altered levels of consciousness. So the textbooks claim. I snorted
again. Most of Mulder's life could be considered an altered state. On
top of that he'd sustained another head injury. Mulder in full rescue
mode had less sense of self-preservation than the average lemming.
<Fine. Assume the worst: he's concussed *and* hypothermic.
confused, that could be useful.> The idea came and I acted on it
immediately -- opened the door and channeled my mother.
"Fox William Mulder, you come in out of that cold this instant!"
The reply was immediate, probably a spinal reflex. "In a
It was difficult not to laugh. The next series of painful shudders
arrived and I was no longer amused.
"Right *now*, young man!"
He grumbled as he made his way up to the cab. I stepped out
tread so he could slide in past me, then I took the driver's seat. <It
could be worse, at least I get to drive this time.> I put the clutch
in, turned the noisy beast around and started following the trail he'd
made getting here, which was not yet buried under wind-blown snow. When
the vehicle was headed in the right general direction I turned to check
He was staring vacantly out the front window. I looked around
something to secure the steering wheel and ended up stealing the belt
from Mulder's pants. It took three tries, due to my frozen fingers, but
eventually I got the wheel lashed to a projection inside the cab. That
should keep us going the right way, not that there was much traffic to
worry about, which freed me to examine my surroundings.
"Mulder, where are we?"
Despair haunted his eyes and voice. "Hell."
This took me by surprise. Could he mean that literally? With
was so hard to know. "You're kidding, right?"
He wiped his face and shivered. "No, this is Scully's
Christian version. This is the Ninth Circle."
I stared at him. "I thought Hell was fire and
brimstone." <On the
other hand, if this *was* Hell, its current temperature would go a long
way toward explaining why he finally kissed me.>
Mulder shook his head, oblivious to my speculations. "No,
up. The very center of Hell is frozen."
It came back to me then. The snatches of Italian that Mulder
repeating to himself were from the sign over the entrance to Hell, from
Canto III of the INFERNO by Dante Alghieri:
"This way for the sorrowful city.
This way for eternal suffering.
This way to join the lost people.
All hope abandon, ye who enter here!"
<Oh, shit.> I was in no condition to handle a delusional
looked around, trying to decide what to do next, and spotted the GPS. I
snatched it up and pressed the button, blessing Mulder's love of
gadgets. I frowned at the result, shook the unit and pressed the
button again but the same numbers came up.
Over the years I'd learned that it was impossible to know
would drag me next so I began reading almanacs and atlases. Best to
know as much as possible, especially considering his aggravating
tendency to omit details. I'd be a whiz at Trivial Pursuit if I ever
went to parties. Still, this couldn't be right.
<Oh, no? The average temperature down there is -70 F and
velocity around 44 mph. Say we got lucky for a change and the wind
speed is only, oh, call it 30 mph. Allowing for the wind chill factor
the temp would be around -150 F. On top of that the air is so dry out
there that every time we exhaled we got more dehydrated. Face it, it
fits the facts.>
I sighed. Just another day in the X-Files section.
Antarctica! What the hell was I doing at the bottom of the
God, I'll be listening to Ice Queen jokes for the rest of my life!>
Then, like thunder after lightning, it hit me and I stared at my
partner. He followed me to *Antarctica*?
Careful to keep my voice level I said, "Mulder? Do you
know where we
He nodded, still gazing into the distance with that thousand
stare. He sounded like a bus driver calling off the stops when he
answered. "Now leaving Judecca, the innermost round. That's where they
keep the Treacherous To Their Masters, you know. The whole top level of
the Consortium will end up there, I expect. Buried in ice, frozen for
all eternity. This round was named after Judas Iscariot. Biggest
fucking traitor of all time. Next stop, Ptolemaea."
<Don't panic. Don't panic.> I turned to rummage around
in the mess
behind the seat while the wind howled outside. Even with the heater
going full blast it was too damn cold in the cabin. It even *sounded*
cold. <Admit it, he's right. You've just had a taste of it -- wouldn't
you like to see those bastards get just what Mulder described?> I shook
myself mentally and tried to focus on immediate problems. There had to
be a first aid kit in here somewhere. Not that it would do us much
good. What we really needed was a facility capable of administering
warm IV infusions to get our core temps back up where they belonged.
<Well, if you can't do what you want, do what you can.>
I blessed my
dad again for passing on such common sense and kept looking. There had
to be *something* useful...
Hallelujah! I sat back and regarded the half-empty bottle of
Daniels with wonder. <Well, it's not antifreeze but it's the next best
thing.> I licked my chapped lips and wished I dared drink it. Given my
condition and the situation it would be nearly certain suicide. Still,
it was tempting. <Well, just so it's not a total waste...> I took a
mouthful, swished it around and gargled before opening the door to spit
it outside. Ahhh! The horrible taste was much abated. A couple more
treatments like that and I might actually survive this. I cast a look
at Mulder. He was leaning against the other side of the cab with his
"Hey, Mulder! Wake up!"
He jerked himself erect, looked around wildly for a threat and
for the pistol he wasn't wearing.
"What? Wha's wrong?"
<Think fast, girl.> "I want you to sing me a song,
Mulder, so I'll know
"Don' wanna sing."
I gave him an Eyebrow. "C'mon, Mulder. It's your turn,
you know. Fair
is fair." This odd bit of logic seemed to satisfy him.
"What should I sing?"
I went back to my search. "Surprise me." It took him
a moment and I
was, in fact, surprised when he started. His voice was better than I
expected, a mellow tenor. Then the words began to sink in.
"You are my Scully, my only Scully.
You make me happy when skies are gray.
You'll never know, dear, how much I love you.
Oh please don't take my Scully away."
"Mulder!" I whipped around to stare at him. He
pressed a finger to his
"Shh. Don' tell Scully I sang that. She'd be pissed."
I blinked at this. Exactly how altered was his state, anyway?
he know who he was talking to? I opened my mouth just as I felt a flush
of heat run through me. Maybe the alcohol had been absorbed into the
tissues of my mouth? <Yeah, you just keep telling yourself that.>
"Mulder, who do you think I am?"
He peered owlishly at me. "Vergil", he said, in a
very matter of fact
tone before continuing, "Which is weird, 'cause you look kind of like
Obi-Wan Kenobi." Mulder shook his head in puzzlement.
<Virgil?> It took me a moment to remember the Divine
*Vergil*! The poet! Well, sure, that makes sense. If he thinks he's
fallen into the poem I ought to be able to make this work for me. Where
did "Obi-Wan" come from, though?> I decided he'd probably been reading
Joseph Campbell again.
"So, I'm your guide, right? You have to do what I say?"
"Tha's how it works, all righty." He nodded sagely.
The effect was
spoiled when we hit a sudden dip and he had to grab wildly for his
<This has real possibilities. I wish I'd paid better
attention in that
literature class.> Well, the main thing was to keep him awake and get
us to a hospital. What we *really* needed was...
"Mulder? Do you have a phone?"
He patted his pockets, came up with one and gave it to me
back to staring out at the bleak landscape. I shook my head and took
it. <Why am I surprised? Of course he has a phone, when does Mulder
not have a phone?> Equally of course, it didn't work. It rattled when
I shook it, he must have bashed it on something. I wanted very badly to
scream in frustration. I settled for taking a really deep breath and
counting to twenty. In German. After eyeing the liquor bottle
longingly for a moment I prodded my partner's shoulder. At least I
could still bitch about it.
"Hmm?" His eyes were still dilated, dammit.
"This phone is broken."
He shrugged. "So use the spare."
I goggled at him. "You brought a *spare phone*?"
He nodded happily. "Gotta get it right this time. Can't
Scully's in trouble. Got a spare an' extra batteries, too!" Pleased
with himself, he turned back to stare out the window some more. I
waited but, when he didn't continue, I finally said, "So where's the
"In the glove box."
I dived across the cabin, jerked the little door open and came
the very latest in mobile personal communications. <Holy Shit! This
thing must have cost a mint. Encrypted satellite phone with the latest
everything, it looks like. And it's not even Christmas! Yesss!> I put
it to my ear, fired off a quick prayer to St. Jude and switched it on.
Amazingly enough, it worked. Now if my head would just stop hurting
maybe I could remember a phone number that would do us some good.
My head thunked back into the side window and I squeezed my
shut for a moment. There had to be a way out of this, both our lives
depended on it. Okay, let's think like Mulder for a minute. What would
he do? <He'd preprogram the phone, that's what he'd do.> I stared at
it. Okay, that felt right. What's the code, though? I looked over at
him and it hit me.
I gaped at the phone, then back at him, and then dialed 411.
immediately began beeping to itself and I counted the tones. It was an
international number. <Oh please, oh please...>
End Part One of Two
I wanted to shriek with joy and do a cartwheel but there was
no room and
I was too tired anyway.
"Hello? Is anyone there?"
I cleared my throat and said, "Langly, turn off the tape."
"SCULLY?" The joy in his voice was touching, I
hadn't thought the
blonde Gunman liked me that much. His voice got fainter, but not much,
as he turned away from the phone and yelled to his comrades, "Hey guys!
It's Scully! She's alive!" Happy shouting sounded in the background.
"Hey, Scully, I'm gonna put you on the speaker, okay?"
"Fine." I waited out the first barrage of questions
but when they
showed no signs of slowing I interrupted. "Guys? I've got a problem
here. I need your help."
Byers spoke first. "What can we do, Agent Scully?" I
since there were no witnesses. I could just picture the dapper Gunman's
serious face, so different from his companions. Byers was always my
"We require immediate medical attention but we're in the
"How's the weather where you are? Mulder said it would be, ah, chilly."
<Ever the paranoid, aren't you, Byers? Well, who knows, you
right. You never know who's listening.> "It's pretty cold, all right.
We had to go out without our mittens and we're both suffering from
severe hypothermia and frostbite. Mulder is kind of out of it right
At least one of them snorted. "Imagine my surprise. We
tried to tell
him he shouldn't go running around like that after being shot in the
head, but would he listen? Nooooo..."
I stared at Mulder, who was starting to nod off again, then
back at the
phone, asked the guys to hold on for a second and poked him again. He
"Sing me another song, Mulder."
He couldn't quite focus on my face. "Not my turn yet."
I smirked at him, pleased to have the upper hand for a change.
is, I just did 'Row Your Boat'."
He weaved bonelessly to and fro on the seat as the SnoCat
dipped. "You did?"
I nodded earnestly. "Yup."
Into the handset I said, "Sorry, guys, now what were you saying?"
Frohicke's voice came through. "Damn, he sounds drunk!"
"Late-stage hypothermic reaction. What's this about a
gunshot wound to
Langly said, "*Mulder* is *singing*? Has he started doing
Greatest Hits yet?"
"No, and I'll thank you not to go giving him ideas. Now,
about the head
Langly continued. "He figured out they were putting the
snatch on you
and tried to stop them. An MIB bounced a slug off his skull."
Unbelievable. Only Mulder would shake off a gunshot wound (to
for God's sake) and hare off into the unknown. *Good thing he keeps his
brains elsewhere...* This was too much to deal with right now. Back to
business. "Okay guys, listen. We aren't going to last long this way.
We have to get to a medical facility that's equipped to handle this sort
of thing. Suggestions?"
Byers was back. "It's all set up on your end, Agent
Scully. All you
have to do is call for evac."
There were some embarrassed shuffling-foot sounds at the far
Finally Frohike said, "We don't know. Mulder was supposed to make those
arrangements before he started on the final leg."
I growled, "Well, could you at least call Skinner and let
what's going on? We could probably use some backup once we hit whatever
passes for a hospital down here."
Byers said, "We'll take care of it. Good luck, Agent
others called out their good wishes and I hung up, but not before they
got an earful of Mulder:
"In the twilight's glow I see her,
Blue eyes cryin' in the rain.
When we kissed goodbye and parted
I knew we would never meet again..."
Marvelous. One more problem to face when we get back. The
Stooges would never let me live this down. I set my jaw and forced my
mind back to the problem. Let's see -- dialing "information" got me the
guys, so by extension... I dialed 911 and waited.
After the fourth ring a man with an Australian accent
Air Freight. How may I help you?"
This was confusing. Things *never* went this well for us in an
emergency. I had absolutely no idea what to say. The voice said,
I cleared my throat and said, "This is Dana Scully
calling for Fox
Mulder. May I speak to the manager?"
The man said, "Well, damn me! He did it!", in a tone
of wonder, then
his voice got stronger. "Half a minute, love, I need to authenticate
this." He rattled papers for a bit before his voice returned. "What
was the name of Mr. Mulder's dog?"
I glared at Mulder, who was still going on in that ridiculous
fake-twangy country-western voice. No help there.
Well, when in doubt, tell the truth. "Mulder never had a
dog, I had the
dog, he was a Pomeranian named Queequeg and he and Mulder hated each
The man sounded satisfied. "Right. What can I do for you, love?"
<Goddamn pilots, they're all the same, the breezy
shitheads. This is
worse than Miramar.> "You can come and get us before we die, that's
what you can do," I didn't quite snarl.
His voice got more businesslike. "And where might you be, then?"
I triggered the GPS unit again and read off the figures, then
to some more paper rattling. Finally the man said, "Right. I should be
able to reach you in a little over an hour and a half. The plane's
rigged out for emergency hypothermia treatment, should do you fine until
we can get you to the McMurdo hospital. Chin up, love, help is on the
I almost asked about the hospital facilities, then I realized
anybody knew how to treat hypothermia and frostbite it would be people
who lived in this hellhole. I hung up and pocketed the phone with a
sigh of relief, then looked over at my partner who seemed fascinated by
something off to our left. I looked but couldn't see anything
"What are you staring at, Mulder?"
His voice held grim satisfaction. "Ptolemaea. Third round
of the Ninth
Circle -- for those who were Treacherous Against the Ties of
Hospitality. That's where they'd be keeping Victor Klemper. He's out
there somewhere with just his face showing out of the ice." Mulder
opened the door on his side and spat, then closed it again.
I shook my head. "Mulder, that was a wonderful gesture
but you just let
all our heat out. Don't do that again, okay?" He nodded glumly. I
grubbed around behind the seat some more.
"Whatcha lookin' for?"
I was folded over the seat by now so I answered over my
"Aren't there any blankets or towels or anything in here?"
I popped up and stared at him. "Where?"
"Under the seat."
I glared at him. "Why didn't you *say* something?"
He looked hurt. "You didn't ask."
I swore under my breath as I dug the blankets out and wrapped
both of us
up. Terrific. Just what I needed, a drunk and stupid Mulder. Then I
<A drunk and stupid Mulder?> A predatory grin swept over
my face. This
was just too good to let slide. I needed a way to pass the time anyway,
right? Somewhere in the back of My mind a wee small voice suggested
that this was not such a good idea. For once in my life I decided not
to listen to it.
"Hmm?" He turned to face me, started to overbalance
but caught himself
and pasted an expectant look on his face.
<Careful, now. Don't spook him. Start small and work your
way up to
the good stuff.> "What's your favorite cartoon?"
He looked confused. "What kinda question's that for a
"Listen, I'm the damn spirit guide around here so we do
things my way,
now answer the damn question."
He leaned back, alarmed. "It's Marvin the Martian, okay? Jeez!"
<Well, duh. Might have guessed that one. Try again.>
"Okay, how about
your favorite color?"
"Black? That's not a color."
"Is too. If white is all colors then black is no colors.
I look good in black."
<You certainly do.> "What's your favorite car, then?"
He looked puzzled. "These are silly questions. Feels like
I'm on a
damn date or somethin'."
I grabbed the opening. "Okay, let's talk about that. What
women do you like? What's your type?"
Mulder shook his head again. "Boy, this is weird. We
didn't talk about
stuff like this last time I died."
"That was then, this is now. We're, uh... we're coming to
some of the unanswered questions in your life, so answer the damn
"Jeez, you sound like Scully." He peered around.
"Where is Scully,
anyway? I'm supposed to be taking her home. She doesn' feel good, I
gotta watch 'er." He started to get up but I grabbed his arm.
"Scully is fine. You did a good job, help is on the way."
"Oh. Well, good. About time I did something right. What
"Women, Mulder. What kind of women do you date? Blondes,
redheads? Tall, short, what? What's your type?"
"All of 'em."
<Why Mulder, you slut!> "What do you mean, all of them?"
"Don't have a 'type'. They're all beautiful, you just
gotta know how to
look at 'em right."
<Why Mulder, you romantic!> "How do you look at them right?"
"Well, beautiful is different than pretty. Phoebe was
pretty and I
chased her and look what that got me. Sometimes pretty on top is ugly
underneath. Can't tell by lookin', but beauty's easy to see."
<God, my kingdom for a camcorder!> "For example...?"
"Well, there was Marti Glenn, the blind woman who killed
She was kinda homely on the outside but proud and strong on the inside.
Didn' want any help from anybody, like Scully that way. Nice person,
too, even if she did try to hide it."
Hmmm. Now why was Mulder chuckling? "What's so funny?"
"Oh, thinkin' of Marti just reminded me of a guy I knew
at Oxford --
Kenny. Kenny was blind. Okay-looking at best, but the girls loved him
'cause he made 'em laugh. He used to reach out for their chest, 'n when
they grabbed his hands he useta say he was tryin' to read their
shirts... braille, you know. Cracked 'em up, about eight out of ten
would go home with him 'cause he made 'em laugh so much." He shook his
head fondly. "Kenny."
Well, would wonders never cease. A happy memory? From
I should get him drunk more often.
"Okay, so if looks aren't the big thing then why do the
women in those
porno videos of yours look like that?" Oops. I'd let some annoyance
creep into my voice. Mulder looked at me funny, then shook his head.
"You're just jealous 'cause you didn't have 'em in the 1400s."
"Whatever. Why do you watch those videos? Is that the
kind of woman
Mulder started to laugh. He laughed so hard he fell over on
and banged his head on the passenger door. "What's so damn funny?", I
Between bouts of giggles he managed to get out, "I
couldn't do one of
them! My dick would rot off! They got diseases that haven't even got
This giggling business was contagious. I fought it as long as
finally gave in and we both whooped for five solid minutes. Every time
one of us began to get our breath back the other would start another
gale of laughter. When I could speak again I said, "Then why do you
"Pressure relief valve."
I blinked. "What, like on a boiler?"
He nodded. "Yup. Gotta let off steam or blow up. Held off
for as long
as I could, but after three years I had to do *something*. Pressure
gets too high, you do somethin' stupid, fuck everything up. Just a
visual aid, is all. Guys are visual, women're audit, um, audos, uh...
Guys look an' women listen. Same difference."
<This will make a lovely argument someday when he's sober.
Best of all,
I already know his position. Like the time Bill stole the other team's
playbook.> I mentally rubbed my hands together in anticipation. In the
meantime let's get back to 'doing something stupid', shall we?
"What kind of stupid things do you think about doing, Mulder?"
Mulder frowned and shook his head. "Don' wanna talk about
idea. Wanna see Scully, make sure she's okay."
Damn. "She's okay, Mulder. Scully's fine."
He looked belligerent. "Yeah, that's what *she* always
says, the little
liar. Can't fool me. Bitch."
<Oh, ho!> "She's a bitch, is she?"
He wiped a hand down his face and sighed in frustration.
"Nah, but she
just makes me so *mad* sometimes. Doesn't trust me any more. Anyway, I
gotta bring 'er home. Her brother'll *kill* me, but that's better than
telling her mom I lost her again. Couldn't do that again. Never again,
not ever." Mulder shook his head in determination. He reminded me of
a dog with a bone he refused to give up.
"Really, Mulder, she's okay." <Guess I better
avoid the "f" word for
awhile.> He looked into my eyes. God, his defenses were gone
completely. His naked soul shone clear as day before me. I'd always
wanted to know the truth about Mulder. I wondered now if I could take
I nodded and crossed my heart. Mulder sighed and looked out
middle distance again. He didn't seem too consoled. Softly I said,
"Why don't you sing a song for Dana, Mulder?"
He shook his head quickly. I could almost swear he looked shy,
was patently ridiculous.
"Oh, go ahead. It might make her feel better."
"Yeah? You think so?" God, he sounded about ten
years old and sweet
I nodded. "Dana likes your voice, she told me so."
As soon as the
words left my mouth I felt like a manipulative bitch. This was
different from earlier, there was no excuse for this. Before I could
stop him, though, he began to sing softly -- probably didn't want to
wake "Dana" up, and didn't *that* just twist the knife I'd inserted in
my own heart.
"Old John Joseph was a man with two first names.
They left him in the railroad yard when they took away the
And only one run a week comes on roarin' down that line
So all he's go to worry about is... time."
The worst part was that I recognized it -- "Corey's
Coming", by Harry
Chapin. Once when I went to feed Mulder's fish while he was off doing
who-knows-what I wandered through his apartment and sampled his music
library. Chapin's epic song about a man who wasted his life on a
fantasy had to be the saddest thing I'd ever heard in my life. God, did
Mulder really see himself this way? It finally hit me that everything
he'd said and sung spoke of sadness and heartache and, above all,
loneliness. I had to stop this somehow so I pointed off to the right.
Mulder broke off (before the saddest part, thank God) and
finger. I held my breath. Sure enough, Nightmares of Classic Lit
"Antenora, round two -- Traitors to Homeland or Party.
is out there somewhere, the prick." He nodded in grim satisfaction.
Apparently Mulder harbored a vengeful streak I hadn't known about. At
least I'd broken that terrible train of thought. <Quick, distract him
before he gets back on it again!>
"Tell me about your first kiss, Mulder."
He smiled softly and rubbed his mouth. "Janice Marsden in
Cut my mouth on her braces." I thought about leaving him to savor the
memory but help was on the way, which meant my time was limited.
"Hmm?" He was still smiling, rubbing his lips. I
hated to do it, but I
needed to know.
"How did you get here, Mulder? How did you find Scully?
after the bee stung her?"
His eyes moved quickly from side to side, seeking escape.
talk about that."
I deepened my voice. "Report, Agent Mulder."
He sat up straighter on the seat. "Sir? How...?"
"Bring me up to speed, Agent Mulder. What happened after
was taken? Details of time and place, please."
"How...? You look like Skinner now. How did you do that?"
"I can look like anyone I want. Would you rather I look
"NO!" He shook his head violently. I couldn't blame
him, I must have
looked like a drowned rat last time he saw me.
"Very well, then. Proceed."
"Sir. I was unconscious for approximately fifteen hours
glancing gunshot wound to the head. The doctors reported only minor
concussion so I snuck out to find my partner. You remember, sir, you
were there for that part. The source who'd helped so much on this case
had disappeared but I found someone else."
"Don't know his name, sir. Old British gentleman. He gave
location and the vaccine to cure her."
<Oh, Mulder. You are *such* a sucker. It worked this time,
"Why did you believe this source, Agent Mulder?"
"Couldn't afford not to, sir. He may be on the other side
given me information before that checked out. Probably some internal
faction fight but who cares? If it works, it works."
<Can't argue with that.> "What happened next?"
"Took me three hours to get the money I needed, then I
caught the flight
to Sydney. When I got there some... friends had several options laid
out for me. I picked the best ones I could, six hours later I was on
the Ice, 'nother eight hours by SnoCat an' I was there. Took two hours
inside the... facility... to find her. Busted her out and ran like
hell. Fifty-one hours total. Sorry for the delay, sir, it won't happen
<And he probably didn't sleep a wink the whole time. That
about three days' worth of beard. I can see it now -- Mulder staring
off into space, torturing himself...> My head hurt again just thinking
"Mulder, is there any aspirin in here?"
"First aid kit under the seat, sir, next to the water bottles."
<Water? There was water *and* aspirin all this time? Why
didn't he... ah. Of course. I didn't ask.> I shook my head and dug
them out. The aspirin was bitter on my tongue but water never tasted so
sweet. After drinking as much as I could hold it finally occurred to
"Mulder, are you in pain? Headache?"
Silently swearing at myself, I handed him four pills and the
bottle. He downed them quickly and thanked me, interrupting a really
good sequence of curses I had going. I sat back, then popped up again.
"What's this about money, Mulder? Why did you need money? And how
"Couldn't use credit cards, they might trace me and try
to stop me. Had
to be cash. Didn' know how much I'd need, and the Bureau would take
forever to cough up, so I called Harry and told him to sell the house."
<Did you, now?> "Who is Harry, and which house did
you sell? The
summer place in Quonochontaug? Your dad's place? Which?"
"Harry Warburton, the family broker. The best lawyer and
thief on the Vineyard. He handles the family trusts and taxes, all that
stuff. I told him to sell the Florida place, we never use it anymore
anyway. Told him I needed half a mil in cash and a letter of credit for
another half. The old bastard soaked me fifty grand for the rush job."
I'd always known that Mulder didn't let his left hand know
right was doing, but this was... "How come you live in such a pit if
you have access to that kind of money? Why don't you use some of it for
your regular expenses?"
He looked at me in horror, like I'd asked him to spit on the
"That's *capital*! You don't touch capital, ever! What's *wrong* with
<Well, excuse me all to hell!> "Well, if you don't
*ever*, then why sell the house?"
Now he looked at me like I was retarded. "For *Scully*!"
I couldn't muster a fitting comment for that, not that it
because Mulder was mumbling on anyway. "... for cryin' out loud. You
save *capital* for emergencies, for a rainy day, and it was fuckin'
pouring out so what the hell else was I gonna do, tell me that, sit
there and just, just..."
"Mulder. Mulder! Calm down!"
"I *am* calm, goddammit!"
"Shh. I want you to take three deep breaths, okay? Can
you do that for
He bitched but he did it. While I was trying to figure out
what to say
next the damn engine sputtered and died. <Terrific. Just what I
need.> I looked at the dashboard and, of course, the fuel gauge read
empty. I glared at Mulder but I knew what the answer would be if I
asked him. I fumbled around for a switch to the auxiliary tank and
found it eventually. I snapped it over and was about to start the beast
up again when I heard the passenger door open and the horrible cold
Mulder had doffed both jacket and blanket and was about to
cabin in his shirt sleeves. My voice cracked like a whip across the
"Where the hell do you think *you're* going? Get back in
here and close
He looked at me in surprise but obeyed. "This is my stop."
My jaw dropped. I couldn't wrap my mind around this latest
Everyone has a point they can't go beyond and apparently this was mine.
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"This is Caina, the first round -- the place for those
Treacherous to Kin. All the Mulders belong here. I'm gonna go join my
dad. He's waiting for me."
He reached for the knob again. I snapped, "You can't go."
<Why not? Let's see, why not? What would make sense to this
idiot in his current state?>
"Scully will be very upset if you get out here. You have
to take her
home to her mom, remember? And her mom will be sad, too. Scully's mom
will let Scully's brother beat the shit out of you."
He looked at me reproachfully. "Mrs. Scully wouldn't do that."
"Hah. That's all you know about it. Where do you think
Scully gets her
He considered this, and smiled a little. "Scully does
have a temper,
doesn't she? Better not piss her off."
<Goddamn right.> I hoped my heart rate would come down
some time soon.
That was too damn close. What the hell was wrong with him anyway? Self
destructive shithead. And if my opinion was so bloody important to him
then why did he treat me so badly all the time? <Hmm. No time like the
present to find out.>
The engine finally started again after three tries. Once we
I turned my attention back to Mulder. After a couple of deep breaths I
took my courage in both hands.
"Mulder, what is Scully to you that you would do all this
<Coward! Ask him the *real* question! It's not like he'll remember any
He looked straight ahead and his face was as pale as the snow
"Dana Scully is the best agent I've ever worked with, the best friend
I've ever had and the best person I know. She's smart, tough and
strong. You'd never know it to look at her, she's so little, but she'll
fool ya. Makes people underestimate her, bein' short like that. Most
guys think being pretty makes her dumb. She fools *them*, too. Fools
Well, I knew he liked me even though we drove each other nuts
to time, but this was a surprise. I guess he wasn't lying to me in the
hallway after all. "Which is she, Mulder? Pretty? Or beautiful?"
"She's both. Sneaky that way. Always knew she was
beautiful but the
pretty part snuck up on me. Didn't notice 'till it was too late. Too
He started rocking and his arms went tightly around himself as
chanted an old tune I remembered from childhood: "... she died of a
fever, and no one could save her, and that was the end of sweet Molly
Oh, God. Tears were rolling down his face, it wasn't hard to
he was beating himself with this time. "... alive, alive-oh..." He
rocked, and rocked, and rocked.
Oh, God. This was killing us both by inches. Time to just get
with. I yelled his name until I had his attention. He wiped his face
and snuffled and waited for me to continue.
"Do you love her, Mulder?" He got that damn mulish
look again and
refused to speak.
It didn't matter because the answer had finally come to me in
a burst of
light. Strange, because Mulder was always the intuitive one. I knew
the Magic Word, and it was "need". I'd argued and pleaded and snarled
at this man for five years and more and it took me this long to see what
was right under my nose. Every time I'd said "Mulder, I need..." he'd
come through for me without another word of argument.
When I told him I *needed* him to learn why my name was in the
from the DAT tape he trotted off and nearly got incinerated. When I
said I *needed* him to bring my clothes to the hospital in Allentown so
I could be tested and by the way would he call my mom and tell her to
meet me there he stopped his investigation cold. Even though he'd been
so excited at what he'd found that the words of his explanation tumbled
over each other. Even though I knew he'd rather be flayed alive than
bring my mother more bad news. Other examples flashed through my mind
but my throat closed up painfully and I couldn't concentrate.
Jesus. Was it this simple all along? How could I be so blind?
there was one way to settle it. I took a deep breath and said, "Mulder,
His eyes widened and he said my name so softly I couldn't hear
could feel it, though, in the blinding smile that shone across the
cabin. He reached out, hesitantly, to touch me. I took his hand in
both of mine and held on.
"How do you feel, Scully?" His face went set, like
he was bracing
himself for pain. I almost said the Bad Word automatically but caught
myself in time.
"Pretty sore, actually. Help is on the way, though. We
should be at
the hospital in another hour or so. How's your head, partner?"
He winced at the mention. "Hurts like a bastard." He
tried to free his
hand, he wanted to touch me, but I hung on.
"Mulder, I need you to tell me the truth." His face
closed up and he
snatched his hand away.
"Not fair. Goddammit, this is *not fair!*" He was
trapped and he knew
it. He glared at his "spirit guide" and his lips wrinkled back in a
primal snarl. Bill told me once that a man will protect his eyes even
before his balls. Mulder's face showed that he was protecting much more
than either as he waited for the question.
"Tell me how you feel about me. Do you love me or not?"
He set his jaw, glared at me and, after taking a deep breath,
the precise enunciation of the irretrievably blitzed), "Dana Scully is
everything to me. Which is why, when we get back, I'm gonna transfer
her ass back to Quantico. I can't do this anymore. No more cancer, no
more alien infections, no more goddamn ice-pick wielding mutants, no
more fucking Donnie Pfasters, *that's it*! She's out of it! She's on
the bench! She's gonna have a real life with a real husband and kids
and everything she wants as far away from me as possible! She's gonna
be *happy*, goddammit! No more fucking collateral damage! End of
I sat there, stunned, and the tears began to flow down my face
continued to rant, I couldn't stop them. "But, Mulder, she can't have
He roared so loud it hurt my ears in that confined space.
FUCKING TELL ME THAT!"
He reeled back, clutched his head in pain, and then continued
flat, determined monotone I'd learned to dread: Mulder at his most
pigheaded. "Everything is impossible until someone wants it bad enough
to make it happen. Flying was impossible, breaking the sound barrier
was unthinkable and space travel was ridiculous. Until they happened."
I tried to interrupt. "But --"
"But nothing! All the pieces are out there. If they
bastards couldn't have made Emily. So TransGen is gone and Lombard is
closed, big deal. They probably reopened in Toledo three days later. I
don't care how many Crawfords I use up, how many Scanlons and Calderons
I go through! It's too late for me and it's too late for Samantha but
it's not too late for her. When we get back, she's out."
<Too late for Mulder *and* his sister? What didn't he tell
time?> I wasn't altogether sure that my shivers were due to cold. I
fought for control of my voice.
"What about what Scully wants? What if she wants to stay
X-Files? What if she wants to stay with you?" In a smaller voice I
said, "What if she loves you?"
He snorted. "Dana Scully is too intelligent to allow
herself to fall in
love with the likes of me."
"You think that, do you?" <You idiot.>
He sighed. "She does, which is more to the point."
My eyes narrowed. "How do you know that? Have you ever
talked to her
He gave a dry chuckle. "Talked to her? What a radical
Scully and I don't talk. Not about real things, only about work."
<Our work isn't real? When did this happen?> "Why
is that, do you
He sighed again and rubbed his eyes wearily. "A
combination of rotten
timing and cowardice. Do you hear something?"
I'd been listening to the faint drone for several seconds.
Dana.> I wrapped the blanket more tightly around me. "It's the plane,
coming for you and... Scully. To take you home."
He nodded shortly. "Good."
I took the clutch out of gear but left the engine running, for
heater. The plane appeared over a line of ice cliffs, waggled its wings
to show that the pilot had seen us and began circling to find the best
approach. I sat back and began to consider the arguments I'd use on my
partner when we got home.
<This isn't over, Mulder. Not by a long shot.>
End Part Two of Two