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Puppy Love
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Title:  Puppy Love
Author:  Waddles 52
Summary:  Running an errand for Skinner turns deadly when the agents are ambushed.  Injured and stranded in the woods, will they find help in time?
Rating:  PG 13
Spoiler:  Beyond the Sea
Disclaimer:  Just for fun.  Not for profit.
Archives:  Yes, but ask first.
Feedback:  I would love to hear from you.  Waddles52@insightbb.com
Thanks:  To Carla for all her encouragement and to Lisa for a top-notch beta job.
 
 
“Scully, remind me to get out of town faster the next time they decide to work on anything in the basement,” Mulder groaned, shifting in his seat behind the wheel of the SUV.
 
“I will, Mulder, and I’ll be sure to book a flight with you,” Scully agreed.
 
“This has been one long, day.”  He sighed and wriggled his sore shoulders.
 
Scully took notice and began to massage her partner’s shoulders gently as he continued to drive.  “Well, we’re just about there.  We’ll get a good night’s sleep and pick up the dog in the morning.”
 
Mulder thought about the events of the day as he continued down the road.  When he had arrived at the office, early as usual, he was quite surprised when he was greeted with the sound of water running and the squish of something liquid under his feet as he stepped off the elevator.
 
Further investigation revealed a broken pipe in the small restroom at the end of the hall.  It had evidently broken shortly after he and Scully left the night before and had been flooding the basement since.  Water was everywhere.
 
After an inspection by the building maintenance team, it was decided to update the plumbing in the basement.  Since it involved removing walls, and making a huge mess in general, the two occupants of the out-of-the-way office who had been looking for an excuse to take a few days off anyway, happily approached their supervisor.
 
Walter Skinner had been more than happy to grant their wish if only they would run an important errand first.  That’s how they found themselves on the outskirts of Charleston, South Carolina.
 
As soon as they picked up one Yorkshire Terrier puppy for Skinner’s goddaughter and delivered it to their supervisor in time for her birthday, they had three days off to do whatever they pleased.
 
“Mulder, our turn-off is coming up in about a mile.”  Scully folded up the map and began to think about how they would spend their days off.  She hoped they could find a comfortable place with no cell phone reception.  She and Mulder had just recently decided to admit the feelings they had long denied.  With that out of the way, they looked forward to any chance to get away from the Bureau’s prying eyes and act like a normal couple in love.
 
Mulder pulled into a Hampton Inn and stopped in front.  “I’ll go check us in.”
 
“One or two rooms?” Scully inquired.
 
“It’s Skinner’s dime and he only gave us enough for one room.”
 
“Very interesting, but I won’t complain.  One room it is, then.”
 
“I like the way you think.”  Mulder leaned over and gave her a quick kiss.  “I’ll be right back.”
 
The next morning, it didn’t take long to find the kennel owned by another of Skinner’s Marine buddies.  Mulder had to admit that the puppy was cute but he knew right away that the little ball of fur would be getting all of Scully’s attention until they delivered him to Skinner later that evening.
 
They hadn’t gone more than two miles down the road when the puppy christened the back seat.  Mulder had to laugh.  Skinner had loaned them his shiny, new SUV for the trip.
 
“Mulder, we should probably stop frequently so I can take him for a walk.  Hopefully we can prevent any further accidents.”
 
Mulder rolled his eyes.
 
“I know you’re in a hurry to get back.  I am too but I think Skinner would be in a much better humor if we return his SUV in good condition.”
 
“All right.  I see your point.  I wouldn’t want him to cancel our vacation, so we’ll take the state roads for a while and have a safer place to take Yip for his walks.”
 
“Mulder!”  Scully slapped him playfully on his arm. 
 
“Would you prefer piss?  Because that’s all he seems to do, yip and piss.”
 
“Hopefully, his new owner will come up with something much more suitable than those two choices.”
 
“I could give her a few suggestions,” Mulder grumbled.  “Let me know when you want to stop.”
 
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
 
At the rate they were going they were never going to get home.  Scully was asking to stop every hour.  They really needed to get back on I-95 soon if they had any hope of making it home before late evening.  Mulder unfolded the map to see if he could figure out where they were.  He had to admit that North Carolina was pretty at this time of year.  He heard the dog yip in the distance and that reminded him that he needed to answer nature’s call too.  He folded the map and went in search of a nice tree
 
Back at the car, Mulder looked at his watch and began to get an uneasy feeling when he confirmed that Scully and the puppy had been gone for thirty minutes.  They usually stopped for ten minutes, tops.  He listened carefully and didn’t hear a thing from the direction of the woods.  It was time to go have a look.
 
Mulder had traveled almost a mile through the woods and still hadn’t seen or heard any sign of them.  Something was definitely wrong.  “Damn it!  Where are they?”
 
He continued to walk, the woods growing thicker.  Suddenly, the silence was broken by the now familiar yip from the little dog.  Mulder hurried off in that direction.
 
He hadn’t walked more that a hundred feet when the puppy burst through the trees, his leash trailing behind him.  Mulder scooped him up.
 
“Where’s Scully?” he asked, not really expecting an answer but still hoping to pick up a clue from the dog.
 
The little Yorkie trembled in his arms, whether from exertion or fright Mulder couldn’t tell.  When Scully didn’t follow behind the puppy, Mulder set out again, hoping that she hadn’t fallen and hurt herself.
 
The dog began to squirm and yip.
 
“What’s the matter, boy?  What is it?”
 
A crack of gunfire was his answer, followed by a blinding pain in his head.  Another shot sounded as he began to fall.  The next thing he knew he was flat on his back, blood spurting from his leg and head with the puppy struggling to get out of his arms.  As he lost consciousness his grip loosened and the dog ran back through the woods in the direction he’d come.  Mulder didn’t move as the gunman began to drag him back on the same path the dog had taken.
 
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
 
Mulder began to regain his senses slowly.  If it weren’t for the encouragement he heard in Scully’s voice he would have gone back to the place where he had been free from pain.  Scully’s voice?  Thank goodness she was okay and she’d found him.
 
“Mulder, wake up!”
 
He wanted to answer her but it was beyond his capabilities at the moment.  The pain in his head and right leg was too overwhelming to permit coherent speech.  He managed a weak groan and passed out again.
 
Scully had noted earlier that Mulder was bleeding heavily from his right leg and head.  She needed to somehow loosen the ropes that bound them to a tree at the edge of the clearing.  Mulder needed her help.
 
She thought back to what had happened in the past hour.  After wandering much too far from the road, she decided to turn back, only to come face to face with an armed man.  She tried to run but he was faster and threw her to the ground.  After determining that she had nothing he could use except a few loose bills and change in her jacket pocket, he tied her to a tree and left.  Several minutes later, two gunshots echoed through the woods.  Hoping it wasn’t Mulder, she began to try and loosen the rope bindings.
 
As she was trying to find the knot that tied the ropes around her and the tree, the puppy ran into the clearing followed by the robber who dragged an unconscious, bleeding Mulder behind him.  After kicking the puppy aside he searched Mulder’s pockets, finding his money and Skinner’s keys.
 
He pulled another length of rope from his back pocket and dragged Mulder over to the opposite side of the tree.  “I don’t think your fella will be goin’ anywhere but just in case I’m going to tie him up tight.”
 
He bound Mulder’s hands together and then looped the remaining rope around the tree, tying it off. The unconscious agent slumped forward when the robber let go.  “Well, I’d like to stay and chat but my ride’s here.”  He jingled the keys and grinned.  “Somebody should be by this way within the next few days.  It’s huntin’ season and these woods are full of deer, but just to show you what a nice guy I am, I’ll leave a note with your location when I get through with the car.  Bye now.”  He began to whistle a happy tune as he walked away.
 
Scully tried to loosen the ropes binding her hands but couldn’t reach the knots.  She felt around a little more and located the knot that looped her partner’s rope around the tree.  Great!  Now, if she could just work it loose and get Mulder to wake up, they might be able to get back to the road.
 
Scully had to stop working on the knot when her fingers began to cramp.  She tried to rouse Mulder again and this time she couldn’t even get a get a groan out of him. 
 
The dog scampered over to Mulder.  Jumping onto his friend’s lap, the puppy stretched and began to lick his face.
 
Mulder began to emerge from the darkness again.  The pain was still there, pounding into his head and leg unmercifully.  He also felt the oddest sensation on his face.  It was wet and it tickled.  Scully?  He groaned again, louder this time, and forced his eyes open.  The blood from his head wound ran into his eyes causing a horrible, stinging sensation, but after blinking a few times it cleared away and he was able to see that the little Yorkie was licking his face.
 
“Get away!” he growled.  The little dog hopped down and scampered back to his place beside Scully.
 
“Mulder!  Thank God you’re awake!  Mulder, can you hear me?”
 
“Mmm, yeah.  Don’t shout.  Hurts!”
 
His words were slurred and she could tell by his abbreviated sentences that he was in pain, but it was music to her ears.  With renewed vigor, she began to work on the knot.
 
“Scully, you okay?” he managed to get out over the roaring in his head.
 
“Yeah, Mulder.  How are you?”
 
“Not good.  Think I was shot.”
 
“Hang in there.  I think I might be able to work this knot loose and free you.”
 
“Great.”  A word or two here and there was the best he could manage for the moment. The pain was too intense for more.  He took a deep breath and shuddered, then tried to assess his physical condition.  One of the bullets must have grazed his head.  Another concussion for sure he thought wearily.  At least, he hoped that’s all it was.
 
He’d felt a similar pain in his leg before too, that time on the docks in North Carolina.  The bullet had nicked an artery and took a chunk out of the bone.  Yeah, it felt just like this.  Must be something about North Carolina. A muscle twitched involuntarily.  “Oh, shit!”  The pain brought tears to his eyes.  He didn’t think he’d be putting any weight on that leg anytime soon.
 
“Mulder, what’s wrong?  Talk to me!” Scully shouted.
 
“Stop yelling.”
 
“Okay, I will if you’ll talk to me.  Can you tell me what’s wrong?”
 
“Had a muscle spasm in my leg.”
 
“How bad is your leg?”
 
“Pretty bad.  Like Raleigh, I think, but not as much blood.”
 
“Broken?”
 
“I think so.”  He leaned his head against the tree and closed his eyes.
 
“Mulder, you still with me?”
 
“Uh-huh.”
 
“Stay awake.  I’m going to need your help when I get this knot undone.”
 
“Okay.  What do you need me to do?”  He hoped it didn’t require any movement on his part, but knew that was too much to hope.  Suddenly the rope loosened and he pitched forward.
 
“Mulder?”
 
“Yeah, Scully?”
 
“I got the knot undone.  Can you pull the rope from the tree?”
 
“Yeah, here goes.”  Mulder did as he was asked and soon found himself free of the tree.  The loosened rope slid from his wrists and with a little maneuvering he was able to push the rope off.
 
“Got it, Scully.  I’m free.”
 
“Can you move?”
 
“Give me a minute,” he answered, breathing hard from the minor exertion.
 
“Mulder, don’t pass out on me.  I need you to untie me.”
 
”I’m on my way.  Might take a few minutes.  Movin’ kind of slow.”
 
Mulder used his good leg to push himself back and he scooted around the tree until he was next to Scully.  He looked her over.  “Thank God.  He didn’t hurt you did he?  I was so worried,” he panted.
 
“Get your breath back then see if you can maneuver around and reach my rope.”
 
After a few seconds he lowered himself until he was lying on his left side.  Propping himself on his left elbow, he was able to reach the knot in her rope.  Luckily, it was a pretty large knot and he was able to work it loose quickly, collapsing onto his side as soon as he was finished.
 
“Mulder!  Stay with me!” Scully ordered.
 
“I’m trying.  Kind of tired,” he rasped.
 
“Just hang in there.”  Scully moved awkwardly over to him.
 
“You sure you’re okay?”  Mulder had noticed her uneasy movement.
 
“Yeah.”
 
“Scully . . .”
 
“All right, all right.  I twisted my knee when that idiot tackled me.”
 
“Bad?”
 
“Bad enough that I don’t think I can walk out of here right now.”
 
“Don’t we make a pair?”  He groaned as another spasm hit him.
 
“Do you have your knife with you?”
 
“Right front pocket.”
 
Scully reached in and found it quickly.  Mulder didn’t even act like he felt her.  His eyes were closed tight against the pain.
 
“I’m going to cut your jeans so I can get a good look at your leg.”
 
“Go ahead.  They’re ruined anyway.”
 
Scully carefully cut the material around the wound.  The entrance wound wasn’t as bad as she’d thought but the exiting bullet had really done some damage.  Mulder yelped as she began to explore it.
 
“I’m sorry, but I need to get a good look.”
 
“Look but don’t touch.”
 
“There.  I’m finished for the time being.  Now, let me take a look at that hard head of yours.”
 
After examining the gash on his head, she removed her jacket and sweater revealing a white tank top.  She pulled it over her head.
 
“Scully, as much as I’d like to take you right here under this tree, I don’t think I’m up for it right now.”
 
“Now I know your head wound isn’t too serious,” she stated as she pulled the sweater back over her head.  “If you can think about sex you’re going to be just fine.”
 
“I always think about sex,” he informed her.
 
“And that’s news?”  She began to tear the tank top to make bandages.  In a few minutes she had cleaned and dressed the gash on his head the best she could.
 
“That takes care of that, but I’m still trying to decide what to do about your leg. You’ve already got some dirt in it and I have no way of cleaning it.”
 
“Before we make any decisions, let me have your cell phone.”
 
“I doubt that you’ll be able to get a signal.  I haven’t seen a tower in quite a while.”  She retrieved the phone from her jacket pocket and handed it to him.
 
He flipped the phone open and prepared to punch in 911.  “Well, it really doesn’t matter whether we can get a signal or not.  It’s dead.”
 
“Damn it!  I meant to let it charge overnight but when we got to the hotel we were thinking about other things.  I’m sorry.  That was really irresponsible of me.”
 
“Hey, don’t sweat it.  I’m as much responsible as you are.  I was so busy trying to distract you that I didn’t let you take care of it.  It’s okay.  Besides, I’m the real irresponsible one.  I left mine in the car.”
 
“No, it’s not okay but thanks for trying to make me feel better.  My gun is locked in the glove compartment of the SUV.  I’m going to catch hell for that.”
 
“Mine is in my overnight bag in the back of the SUV and I left my spare at home.  We’ll both get written up for not securing our weapons.”
 
“There go our sparkling, clean records,” she grinned.
 
“Your sparkling, clean record you mean.  Mine is coal black by now.  So, how’s the knee?”
 
“It hurts.  I may have torn some cartilage, maybe a ligament.  I just know that I wouldn’t get very far on it right now.”
 
“I’m sorry.  What happened anyway?”
 
“He just appeared out of the blue.  I tried to run but he was faster.  He jumped me and I landed badly.  He was able to subdue me rather easily.  It was my fault for straying so far from the road.”
 
“No, it wasn’t your fault.  He didn’t, uh, um, touch you did he?”
 
“No, Mulder.  He didn’t touch me in that way.  Actually, as far as it goes, he was probably the nicest bad guy I’ve run across.”
 
“Humph.  He wasn’t very nice to me.”
 
“I think he saw you as more of a threat.”
 
“Wonder what’s up with him anyway?  Why did he feel he needed to shoot me and take the car?”
 
“From the fit of his clothes and the lack of any tan, I’d guess he was an escaped prisoner.  He had probably been in solitary until just recently.  After he made his escape he stole a gun, some clothes and probably the clothesline too,” she guessed, picking up the rope and looking it over.
 
“And now he has our guns and Skinner’s SUV.  I don’t think I want to be rescued.  Death from exposure might be preferable to facing Skinner,” Mulder moaned.
 
“I’m afraid that infection would probably get to you before it gets cold enough to die from exposure.”
 
“Thank you for that happy report.”
 
“I do have an idea.  It’s not pleasant but it might buy you some time.”
 
“I don’t like the sound of that, Dr. Scully.  What do you have in mind?”
 
“Cauterization.”
 
Mulder winced.  “Isn’t that rather painful?”
 
“Yes, it’s quite painful without anesthesia.”
 
“And doesn’t that require a fire to heat up the utensil used to cauterize the wound?”
 
Scully reached into her pocket and pulled out a box of matches, shaking them to show that there were quite a few.  “After our night in the Florida forest I always carry matches.”
 
“Well, I don’t guess we’ll get cold if we can find enough wood and kindling close by.”
 
Scully looked around and spied all sorts of twigs, branches and dried leaves around the edges of the clearing.  There was also a long-dead tree that had fallen close-by.  “Looks like we have everything we need.”
 
“Except someone with two good legs to carry it over here.”
 
“I can manage by scooting on my butt,” Scully assured him.
 
“Now, that’s a nice visual,” Mulder chuckled, waggling his eyebrows.
 
“So, what are your thoughts on the cauterization?  It was used quite a bit through history on the battlefield to stop bleeding and to prevent infection before modern surgical procedures and antibiotics.  It was somewhat effective.”
 
“Realistically, how long can we wait before we’re forced to make a decision about this?” Mulder asked uneasily.
 
“Unfortunately, we really need to decide in the next hour or two.  I’ll need time to gather wood for the fire and get it going.  Then I’ll need to heat the knife and carry out the procedure before dark.”
 
Mulder reached for her hand.  “Scully, I trust you with my life.  You know that.  You do whatever you think is best.”
 
“There are no guarantees, Mulder.  You can still come down with quite an infection.  It will be incredibly painful and will leave a terrible scar.  There’s a remote possibility that you could loose your leg.”
 
“Scully, don’t sugar-coat it.”  Mulder grinned and squeezed her hand.  “As I said before, I trust you.  Do what you need to do.”
 
“At this point in time, I think it may be your only option.  You can’t afford to lose any more blood or get a rampant infection.  Since I haven’t heard any gunshots, I doubt that any hunters are near.  Neither of us can reach the road right now.”  She sighed heavily.  “I just don’t want to make the wrong decision.”
 
“Scully, go with your gut instinct.  I’ll trust you to do the right thing.  I know the wound is bad. It’s probably already infected.  I can feel the dirt in it from where he dragged me, and I’m getting weaker by the minute from the blood loss.”
 
“All right, Mulder.  Lie back and try to relax.  It will take a while to get the fire going.  We’ll need that no matter what we decide.  Although we’ve had a mild fall so far, it still gets very cool at night.  Whenever I get that taken care of I’ll examine it again then make my final decision.”
 
“Okay, but take your time gathering the wood.  Don’t push yourself to the point where you further injure your knee,” he cautioned.
 
“I won’t.  You know, this should be an interesting recuperation.  I don’t think both of us have been unable to walk before,” she grinned.
 
“You’re right.  I’m sure your mom will lend us a hand.”
 
“That wouldn’t be much fun.  We wouldn’t be able to sleep together if she was around,” Scully pouted.
 
“We’ll see,” Mulder stated, a twinkle in his eye.
 
“Mulder, what are you holding back from me?”
 
“She knows, Scully, and she’s very happy for us.”
 
“But how?”
 
“Remember when she surprised us two weeks ago and you made me hide in the bathroom butt-naked while I froze said butt off?”
 
“Yes, I thought we hid it pretty well.”
 
“Scully, my boxers were peeking out from under the couch the entire time you sat there and drank tea with your mother.  She called me the next day to congratulate us.”
 
“Oh, no.”
 
“Oh, yes.  Relax, Scully.  I told you she’s happy.  She knows we’re sleeping together and she said it was about time.”
 
“I don’t believe this.  I won’t be able to look her in the eye when we get back,” Scully groaned.
 
“Sure you will.  Scully, you think of your mom as that straight-laced Catholic woman who made you go to confession every week, Mass every Sunday and parochial school during the week.  What you don’t see is that she’s changed with the times.  You should take some time to get to know your modern mom.  She’s pretty cool.”
 
“I’ll take that under advisement, Mulder.  I’m sure we’ll end up having a very long talk whenever we get back.”
 
“I’d count on that.  Um, I need to rest for a minute or two.  Gettin’ a little woozy.”
 
Scully helped him ease back.  When he seemed comfortable she began to check his wounds once again.  The head wound had clotted over and just oozed a bit from time to time.  The leg wound, on the other hand, still continued to bleed.  She took a strip of her torn shirt, tied it around his leg and pulled tight.
 
“Ow!  Son of a bitch! That hurt!” Mulder wailed.  “How about giving a guy a little warning the next time?”
 

“I’m sorry, Mulder.  I didn’t think.”
 
“It’s okay.”
 
“You’re still losing too much blood and I needed to get some pressure on the wound.  At least you didn’t have time to tense up.  Is it easing off yet?”
 
“Yeah,” he answered shakily. “More dizzy, though.”  He began to shiver.
 
“You’re going into shock.”  She placed her jacket over his torso.  “There, maybe that will help until I get the fire going.”
 
“Thanks, Scully.”
 
“You rest.  I’m going to start gathering wood.”
 
Scully scooted away from the tree and began gathering anything that might possibly burn.  She threw the wood toward the center of the clearing.
 
After resting for a few minutes Mulder was able to sit up and scoot back to lean against the tree.  His head hurt more when he was sitting but he felt less anxious with Scully in plain sight.  Despite his worry about Scully his body needed rest.  Although he tried to stay awake, he lost the battle.  His head slumped forward and he slept.
 
Mulder was still snoozing when Scully finished collecting wood.  She scooted over to the large pile of flammable material and arranged it in the best configuration to get the fire started easily, stacking the surplus to the side.  She figured there was enough wood for several hours at least and the dead tree would be a steady source of nourishment for the fire during the night.  She set two fairly straight branches off to the side, away from the rest of the wood, intending to use them to splint her knee tomorrow.  Scully had made up her mind to try and reach the road.  She was afraid Mulder wouldn’t last much longer without medical intervention.
 
Although she wanted nothing more than to cuddle up next to Mulder and rest, she knew that she had to get the fire going first.  After wasting only two matches the fire was burning nicely.  Those practice sessions with Bill the last time he was in DC really paid off.  She had vowed to always be prepared whenever a case took her anywhere near a forest, yet, here she was, stuck in the woods with a dead cell phone and a few matches.  Even at that, it was an improvement on that night in Florida several years past.
 
The tired agent finally allowed herself to rest for a few minutes, then scooted over to Mulder.  She noted that the bleeding had slowed quite a bit but he was still losing more blood than she liked from that leg wound.  She would definitely need to cauterize it to close the wound and stop the bleeding.  Yip came to rest beside her.  She stroked his soft coat while she considered the unpleasant task ahead.
 
She suddenly remembered the daypack around her waist.  It was odd that she hadn’t even thought of it until now, and even weirder that the robber hadn’t noticed it.  She opened it with shaking fingers, hoping that she would find something useful.  She couldn’t seem to remember what she’d put in it.  She found her billfold with about $50 cash and her credit cards.  There were also a handful of wet wipes, several alcohol pads, a few small band-aids, some sample packs of Tylenol, a package of peanut butter crackers and a big surprise.  Nestled in the bottom of the pack was a loaded, capped syringe with 150 ccs of Demerol.
 
She remembered debating with herself whether to include it and threw it in at the last moment even though the last thing she anticipated was the situation they found themselves in.  She would be able to give Mulder two, maybe three injections depending on how well he tolerated the pain and the 50 cc dose she planned to give him to start.  She put everything back inside and zipped up the pack.  She had rested long enough.  It was time to wake Mulder and help him move closer to the fire.
 
Mulder was slow to awaken. She should have insisted that he stay awake but she knew that his body was begging for rest.  At least he was oblivious to pain during the short time he slept. 
 
He finally woke with a huge groan and looked around confused, blinking at the last few rays of the late afternoon sun.  “Scully?  What’s up?”
 
“You need to be.  It’s time to move closer to the fire, partner.  The sun will be going down soon and it’s already getting a bit cooler.”
 
“You already got it going?”
 
“Yep, and I only wasted two matches,” she beamed proudly.
 
“I’m impressed.”
 
“To tell you the truth, so am I,” Scully laughed and then winced as it jiggled her knee.
 
“How’s the knee?”
 
“I won’t lie to you.  It really hurts, but I’ll be okay.”
 
“I hate to see you suffer, Scully.  I wish there was something I could do.”
 
“Just knowing that you care helps.  How are you doing, Mulder?” 
 
“I feel like hell,” he sighed.
 
“That good, huh?  Do you think you can help me scoot you over to the fire?”
 
“Yeah, but why don’t we stay here for a while?  You need to rest after all of that exertion gathering the wood and starting the fire,” he shivered.
 
“Still cold?”
 
“Yeah.”
 
“All the more reason to move.  Come on.  I’ve got a surprise for you when we get there.”  She put her arm around his waist.
 
“No hints?” 
 
“Come on.  I’ll hold onto you in case you get dizzy, but I think if we both use our good legs and push off at the same time we can do this.”
 
Mulder looked at the fire.  He was really proud of his partner.  She’d really done a good job but it seemed like an impossible distance away.
 
“Come on.  Daylight’s wasting and we have an important decision to make.”  Scully began to pull him away from the tree as she pushed off with her right leg, trying not to move her injured left knee.
 
By the time the agents reached the fire they were both tired and breathing heavily.  The strain of doing most of the work was visible on Scully’s face.  She helped Mulder lie down on his back then laid beside him on her right side, her left arm across his chest.  They lay there as their breathing returned to normal.  Finally, Scully forced herself to sit again.  She opened her fanny pack and began to pull out the items she would need.
 
“So, what’s my surprise?”
 
“Oh, a little something I found in my pack,” she smiled, pulling out the syringe.  “Just this.”
 
“What is it?”
 
“Demerol.  150 ccs.”
 
“The good stuff, huh?”
 
“Uh-huh.  It should make the cauterization procedure a little easier to handle.”
 
“So, you’ve decided?”
 
“Only if you agree,” she assured him.  “Let me take a good look at that wound again before we decide anything definite.  Would you like an injection before I start?”
 
“No, go ahead.  I can handle it.”
 
Scully put the hypo back in her pack and opened one of the alcohol wipes.  She only had five so she had to use them sparingly.  She gingerly pulled the bandage away causing Mulder to flinch but he didn’t make a sound.  Scully carefully wiped away some of the dirt and dried blood.
 
The sting of the alcohol was excruciating when it mingled with the damaged tissue.  Mulder had vowed not to be a wuss so he put all of his concentration into not screaming.  So far, it was working even though he nearly lost it when Scully began to dab at his leg with one of the larger wet wipes
 
“How’s it looking?”
 
“Well  . . .”
 
“The truth, Scully.”
 
She sighed loudly.  “To tell the truth, Mulder, I don’t like what I see.”
 
“Yeah, I tried not to look but I caught a glimpse.”
 
“I’m already starting to see signs of infection around the edge.  It will need to be cauterized.”  She took the knife she had borrowed earlier and pulled out the largest blade.  Balancing it on a piece of wood, she made sure the blade was positioned over the fire.  “While we’re waiting for that to heat up, I’d like to go on and give you that shot of Demerol and clean that head wound more thoroughly.”
 
“You’re the Queen of Pain today, aren’t you Scully?  While you’re at it surely you could think of a few more ways to inflict torture upon my body.”
 
“You’re right, Mulder.  I probably could.  When was the last time you had a prostate check?”
 
“Uh, never mind.  That was really a dumb, smart-ass suggestion.”
 
“Yes, it was.  Now, which hip do you want this in?”
 
“The closest one.”
 
Scully helped him pull his jeans down to expose enough skin to allow the injection.  Mulder grabbed her wrist before she could deliver the medication.  “Don’t give me all of it.  I want you to save some for yourself.”
 
“But Mulder . . .”
 
“No buts.  Either you promise to save some for yourself or I won’t allow you to use it on me.”
 
Scully reluctantly agreed and administered the injection.
 
“How much Demerol is left?”
 
“I gave you 50 ccs, so that leaves 100.”
 
“What’s your normal dosage, Scully?” he grilled.
 
“Around 35 ccs because of my small stature.”
 
“Do not give me the last 35 ccs, no matter how much I might beg for it.  I know you plan to walk out of here tomorrow and you’re going to need it.”
 
“Whatever you say, Mulder.”  She checked the knife and decided it wasn’t hot enough yet.
 
Ten minutes passed before Mulder indicated that he was getting drowsy.  Scully checked the knife once again and found that it was more than sufficiently heated to do the job.
 
“Mulder, I’m sure you know that this is really going to hurt.  Don’t be afraid to moan, groan, scream or curse.  The only thing I ask is that you don’t kick me.”
 
Mulder smiled.  “You’re just as nervous as I am about this aren’t you?
 
“I won’t deny it.”  Scully was so tense it was visible.
 
“Hey, relax.  You’re going to get a muscle cramp.  You can do this and don’t mind me if I do scream.  You know how much of a wimp I am.”
 
Scully chuckled.  “You can even let loose with a girly scream if you must.  Ready?”
 
Mulder swallowed hard and shook his head yes.  Without wasting any more time, Scully laid the heated knife blade across the larger exit wound.  Mulder’s
screams echoed through the forest.
 
Even though he was hoping to get through the procedure by concentrating on the time he and Scully would spend together when this was all over, his resolve flew out the window when the blade made contact with his skin again.  He screamed for all he was worth.
 
Scully was praying he would lose consciousness, at least until the pain eased off, but no such luck.  He was aware until the very end and then he passed out.  Scully leaned over to kiss his forehead.  He felt a little warm but it could be from the fire.
 
The next few minutes passed slowly.  She ran her fingers through his hair, knowing how much he liked it.  A tear started in the corner of her eye and she swiped it away quickly.  No sense in Mulder seeing her so upset, but it had really hurt her to cause him so much pain.
 
Mulder moaned and opened his eyes.  “Over?” he asked hoarsely.
 
“Yes, and you were very brave.”
 
“Funny, I didn’t feel that brave.”
 
“Trust me.  You were.  How’s the pain?  I can give you more Demerol if you want.”
 
“No, not right now.  How’s your knee?”
 
“I’d be willing to bet that it doesn’t hurt as much as your leg right now.”
 
“Not fair.  There would be no way to prove that.  Level with me, Scully.  How’re you doing?”
 
“My knee will be fine.  It’s not so bad right now.”
 
“I’m sure it will be fine eventually, but try to rest a little.  Quit worrying about me.”
 
“I’ll make a deal with you,” Scully proposed.  “I’ll stop worrying about you when you stop worrying about me.”
 
“I can’t”
 
“There you have it.”
 
“Why don’t you give yourself a little of that Demerol?  I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep for a while.  I can keep an eye on things,” Mulder suggested, yawning.
 
“Why don’t we both stay awake for a while then?  I’ll have to gather some more wood for the fire before it gets really dark.  Then I’ll rest.”
 
Scully checked her partner’s leg wound again, causing a small gasp of pain when she touched his leg.  She knew he must be suffering tremendously from the cauterization alone, not to mention the damage from the bullet.  She smiled at him then carefully moved so that she was lying beside him.
 
“Mmm, you feel nice,” Mulder whispered.
 
She put her left arm across his chest.  “So do you.  Let’s just lie here for a while.”
 
The puppy snuggled up to Mulder’s right side.  “Guess the little guy’s tired.”
 
“Yes, it’s been a very long day for all of us.”
 
Mulder tried his best to keep his eyes open but the combination of blood loss and the sedative effectfrom the drug finally defeated him.
 
Scully grinned when he closed his eyes.  She knew that he wouldn’t be able to stay awake for long.  For now, the throbbing in her knee would keep her awake.  She held him close as the twilight faded into night.
 
After a few minutes rest she put her tiredness and pain aside and reluctantly moved away from her partner and scooted over to the dead tree.  The temperature was dropping and they would need more wood to keep warm throughout the night.  With one last glimpse at her sleeping lover, she began the task of gathering wood.
 
By the time she felt the growing stack of wood would last through the night her injured knee was sending sharp pains up and down her leg.  She managed to crawl back to Mulder and after checking his pulse she dropped down beside him. In the time she was away Mulder’s face had become flushed with fever but on the good side, his leg wound was no longer bleeding.
 
The puppy got up and shook himself off then walked around to Scully.  He looked up at her with sad eyes, his tongue hanging out.
 
“I know, little guy.  I’m thirsty too.”  She reached out and petted him.  He responded with a wag of his tail then sat down beside her.  She snuggled into Mulder.  Although she vowed to stay awake, her need for rest overrode her pain and her promise.  Her eyes closed and she slept.
 
Mulder woke to find Scully plastered to his left side and even that wasn’t enough to stop the shivering that accompanied the aches in every joint of his body.  The pain in his injured leg was excruciating and despite his efforts to keep from waking the small woman in his arms, a groan escaped.
 
“Mulder?”
 
“S’okay.  Go back to sleep,” he urged.
 
Scully rose and pushed a button on the side of her watch.  The Indiglo display lit up and the pale, blue light revealed that it was 2 AM.  She felt Mulder’s forehead and sighed.  He was burning up.
 
“Sorry I woke you.”
 
“It’s a good thing you did.  The fire is almost out.  Just give me a minute or two and I’ll have it going again.”
 
“Good.  I was getting a little chilly.”
 
“I imagine you were.  On the other hand, your body heat was keeping me quite comfortable.”
 
“Guess we finally found a good use for a fever, although I don’t feel like it’s doing me much good.”
 
“Actually, it is trying to help your body, but we’ll save the medical school lecture for some other time.”  The doctor/ F.B.I. agent carefully made her way to the fire.  After throwing on a few good-sized chunks of the dead tree it was soon roaring again.
 
Mulder observed her slow, painful movement back to his side.  “How’s the knee?”
 
“Oh, I’m definitely aware that my knee is injured but it’s not any worse than it was earlier.”
 
“Wish I could say the same for my leg.”
 
“Do you want more Demerol?”  Scully busied herself taking his pulse.
 
“Not yet.  I don’t like the way it makes me feel and it makes me have goofy dreams.”
 
“Mulder, with that fever and the amount of pain you must be in, a few goofy dreams might be a small price to pay for some relief.”
 
“Not yet,” he repeated.  “When are you planning on leaving?”
 
“Actually, I didn’t say anything about leaving.  You did.”
 
“But I know I’m right.  I saw you set aside those straighter branches.  You’re planning to make a splint and hike out of here.”
 
“You are right, Mulder.  I need to get to the road and get some help.  It can’t be more than a couple of miles and I really don’t think you can wait on the chance that a hunter might happen by.”
 
“Of all the dumb times to leave my phone in the car,” he sighed.
 
“It wouldn’t have worked anyway.”
 
“Might have.  Why don’t you look around for something to make another splint?  I’m going with you.”
 
“Mulder, you’re too weak and my knee is too sore to support you.  Face it.  It’s me or wait for a hunter.”
 
“I’ll worry about you,” he protested.
 
“And I’ll worry about you too, but I have to try.”
 
As her partner began to shiver anew Scully lay beside him and encircled him in her arms.  He grimaced as her movement jarred his leg.
 
“Sorry.”
 
“S’okay.  Just the broken bone.  The least little thing sets it off.”
 
“All the more reason to hike out of here and get help.”
 
“It’s easing off now.”  He took a deep breath.  “I’m okay.  Guess I’ll have matching scars.”
 
“This one is a little lower and the wound is already much bigger.  By the time the surgeon goes in to repair and debride, your old scar will pale in comparison.”
 
“You don’t think I’ll lose it?” Mulder choked out.
 
“Your leg?  No, I don’t think so.”
 
“That worries me, you know?  It hurts so much more than that time in Raleigh.”
 
“Mulder, you got to the hospital right away and you were on a morphine high the first 48 hours.  You slept through the worst of it.”
 
“I remember bits and pieces.  Bleeding so much on the dock and having trouble breathing in the ER.  Telling you not to deal with Boggs.  Worrying about you when you were gone so long.”
 
“I’m amazed you remember that much.”
 
“It was a nightmare I’d like to forget.  Ow!  Sorry,” he gasped.  After a few seconds his breathing settled down.  “Another muscle spasm.  Need to lie on my side.  Stayed on my back too long.”
 
Scully noticed that he was struggling.  “Do you need help?”
 
“Yeah, if you don’t mind.”
 
His partner helped him move to his left side, knowing that he must really be suffering if he accepted help.  “Mulder, I’m going to give you a little more Demerol.  Not much.  Just enough to take the edge off.”
 
“You’re saving some for yourself?”
 
“Yes.  Now relax and let me do this.”
 
“This is as relaxed as I get right now.”
 
The doctor/F.B.I. agent carefully injected 30 ccs.
 
“Ow!”
 
“Told you to relax.”  She lay down beside him again and Mulder pulled her into his arms.  “I’m so sorry about this, Mulder.  I should have paid more attention to what I was doing.  I shouldn’t have wandered off.”
 
“Hey, it’s okay.  We just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  No one’s to blame except the guy who did this.”
 
“It was such a pretty day and the puppy was so frisky . . .”
 
“Speaking of the pooch, where is he?”
 
“He’s curled up over here beside me.  He really needs some water.”
 
“We all do,” he sighed.
 
“Well, I managed to bring matches and some cheese crackers with peanut butter but nothing to drink.  We’re so dry now we couldn’t even get the crackers down.  I thought I was prepared.”
 
“Scully, hush,” he whispered.  “You’re feeling guilty about things you have no control over.  Knock it off.”
 
“Thanks.  I guess I do sound pretty pathetic.”
 
“Nah, rather endearing actually.  Just don’t make a habit of it, okay?  Now, let’s get back to sleep.  You need the rest.”
 
“As do you,” she reminded him.
 
The puppy managed to work his way between them, causing Scully to laugh as she moved over slightly to make room for him.  She expected a comment from Mulder but his eyes were already closed in sleep.  She reached over to feel his pulse and was relieved to find it, somewhat weaker but steady.  She kept her fingers on his pulse point as she too gave in to sleep.
 
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Mulder continued to sleep as Scully affixed the splint to her left leg.  Weak, early morning sunlight filtered through the trees letting her know that it was time to start her trek.  Although she hated to wake him, she couldn’t leave without saying good-bye.  She shook him gently.  “Mulder, can you wake up for me?”
 
He was slow to wake and he looked at his surroundings, confused, until Scully came into focus.  “Still here?”
 
“Of course, I’m still here.  I couldn’t leave without giving you a good-bye kiss.”  She placed a tender kiss on his lips.
 
“Mmm, glad you woke me.”
 
“That was your wake-up kiss.  The good-bye kiss will come a little later.  I’d like to take a look at your wounds before you leave.”
 
“Please don’t. Hurts too much.”
 
“Oh, Mulder.”  She hated to leave him like this.  She knew that he was burning up with fever and his pain levels must be off the charts.  She could tell from the sound of his voice and his shortened sentences that he was worse.  “I need to check the bleeding.  I promise I’ll be as gentle as possible.”
 
He sighed and nodded once.  “’Kay.”
 
Despite being as careful as possible, she was unable to check him without causing an anguished groan when she touched him.  There were 70 ccs of Demerol left and she was going to give him the entire amount.  He could fuss at her later.  Mulder was in agony and she wouldn’t let him suffer as long as she could prevent it.  While he was still reeling from the pain she uncapped the needle and leaned over to embrace him, her right hand on his left hip.  When he groaned again as another spasm of pain gripped his leg, she moved her hand under the waistband of his jeans and injected the last of the painkiller.
 
“Scully, damn it!  You needed that!”  Anger shone in Mulder’s eyes when he realized what she’d done.
 
“Not as much as you.  They can shoot me full of painkillers after I get help, but until then I’m your doctor and I thought you needed it more.  Besides, it would have made me very sleepy and sluggish and I can make better time without it.”
 
Mulder didn’t comment but anger continued to blaze in his eyes.
 
“Mulder, I love you so much, and I can’t let you suffer when I can do something about it.  You would do the same thing if our positions were reversed.”
 
“Come here,” he whispered.  He enveloped her in his arms and held her as tightly as he could.   “Love you too and I understand.  I don’t agree but I do understand.  Thank you for loving me.”
 
Scully kissed him hard, smoothing his sweat-damp hair from his temples.
 
“’Zat my good-bye kiss?” Mulder managed when they came up for air.
 
“That was my ‘I love you kiss.’”  Scully pulled herself away from him and pushed herself over to the fire.  She made sure the few remaining coals were covered with dirt.  “It should warm up fairly quickly and I don’t want to take a chance on a stiff breeze blowing embers around.  I don’t think either one of us could outrun a forest fire.”
 
“Good idea.”
 
Scull scooted back over to him.  “I’m going to leave in a few minutes.  Is there anything I can do to make you more comfortable?”
 
“Be careful.”
 
“I will.  I promise, and I want you to rest and hang in there for me.  Can you do that?”
 
“I’ll try.”
 
“Don’t worry,” Scully kissed him tenderly.  “That’s my ‘good-bye until I send help’ kiss.”
 
“Love you.”
 
“I love you too.”  She wiped away the tears that had started with the back of her hand.  “See you soon.”
 
As she pushed herself to a standing position, Mulder blew her a kiss.  She pantomimed catching it and blew one back.  After a long, loving look she limped away.  Her partner kept his gaze on her until she was out of sight
 
Mulder pulled the puppy close and closed his eyes, praying that Scully would be the first thing he saw when he opened them again.
 
Scully found that the pain was much worse than she had anticipated.  More than once she was tempted to turn back and wait with Mulder in the hope that a deer hunter would stumble upon them.  The lack of any gunfire in the area urged her on.  They couldn’t depend on a hunter arriving in time to save Mulder’s leg, or more importantly his life.  That thought alone spurred her on.
 
She found a sturdy branch and used it to lean on.  The support it afforded allowed her to move a bit faster.  Hungry and thirsty, she continued to push past her physical discomfort, her thoughts focused only on reaching the road to get help for her partner.  With loving thoughts of him to keep her moving, she was taken aback when the trees began to thin and she found herself only a few yards from the road.
 
“Thank God!” she exclaimed.  Pushing her body those last few feet, she almost collapsed beside a guardrail hugging a curve in the road.  Scully sank onto the seat it provided and prayed that a car would soon appear.
 
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The puppy cozied up next to Mulder and hadn’t moved for quite some time.  As Mulder continued to endure one hard chill after another, he really appreciated the pup’s company.  Several times he had laid his hand on the young dog, fearing he was dead, but the steady rise and fall of the animal’s chest assured him that he was hanging on.  Somehow, he felt that if the small dog could survive, so could he.
 
Mulder had slept for a while himself thanks to the last dose of Demerol that Scully had sneaked past him.  He was worried about her to put it mildly.  He brought his arm up and forced his eyes to focus on his watch.  She should have made it to the road barring any setbacks.  He prayed that she had made it without any problems.  If she fell . . .well, he tried to keep that thought out of his mind.  She had to make it.  Anything else was unacceptable.  She had to come back to him.
 
Another muscle spasm gripped his leg and he roared with the pain.  The puppy woke with a jerk and looked at him with sad eyes.  “Hang in there, boy.  Scully’s gone for help.  Just a little bit longer and we’ll get you some water and puppy treats, guaranteed.  She won’t let us down.  When she makes up her mind she won’t give up until she gets it done.”
 
The puppy settled down again, snuggling close to Mulder’s side.  “No offense, little guy, but I wish Scully was snuggling up next to me.” 
 
Mulder sighed and then another spasm sent him into agony and this one wouldn’t ease up.  “Scully, can’t take much more of this.  I need you.  Be safe but please hurry.”
 
The fever and the pain overwhelmed him and although he tried, he couldn’t stop the tears from flowing.  As soon as he wiped them away more appeared.  Mercifully, his brain realized that his body couldn’t handle any more.  His eyes closed as he drifted into unconsciousness.
 
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Scully had been sitting on the guardrail for almost ten minutes and hadn’t seen one car.  What luck to stumble through the woods, in unbelievable pain, only to find the road deserted?  What else could happen?  Weariness and pain took over and the first tears started to trickle down her cheek, followed by a torrent of uncontrollable weeping.  She rarely allowed herself to lose control that way, but her body refused to cooperate.  The agony of body and spirit was such that she almost didn’t notice the pick-up truck heading her way.  Just in time she realized that she needed to get the driver’s attention.  She leapt up and began waving and screaming for all she was worth.  The pick-up squealed to a halt in front of her and its two passengers were at her side just as she collapsed.
 
When Scully became aware of her surroundings again, she was inside the truck and the driver was preparing to start the engine.  “Wait!  Stop!  You can’t go!” she managed to croak.
 
“Miss, we need to get you to a hospital.”
 
“No!  My partner!  He’s been shot!  In the woods.  Help him, please.”
 
The driver reached behind him where a cooler sat on the jump seat.  He pulled out and uncapped a bottle of water and handed it to the disheveled redhead.  She drank greedily and then cleared her throat before attempting to speak again.
 
“My partner’s been shot.  We were jumped by someone yesterday.  He’s lost a lot of blood.  Please, you have to help him.”
 
“Okay.  We will.  Let me call this in and get an ambulance out here.”  The driver reached for the mike on his CB radio.  “We’re paramedics in the next county over,” he explained when he saw the puzzled look on Scully’s face.  “We took the day off to do a little huntin’ and it looks like we found more than we counted on.”
 
Scully sipped the water as he called in their location.
 
“Can you give us an idea where to look?” the passenger asked.
 
“About a mile and a half, maybe two miles in.  There’s a clearing.”
 
“I know the place.  Jess, I’m gonna grab the first-aid kit in the tool chest and head on in.”
 
“Good idea.  I’ll stay here until the sheriff and the ambulance gets here.”
 
“I’ll go with you,” Scully offered, starting to move across the seat.  “I’m a doctor.”
 
The driver gently took her arm.  “Now, hang on a minute.  You’re in no shape to head back in there.  Bruce is the best paramedic in this area.  Won a bunch of awards.  Believe me.  He knows what he’s doing.”
 
“Can you give me an idea of what his condition is?” Bruce asked as he opened the passenger door.
 
“One bullet grazed his head.  He was unconscious for over half an hour but he’s been conscious and lucid since.  I think he is concussed but there were no signs of a skull fracture.  The other round hit him in the right thigh, through and through with a possible fractured femur.  The exit wound was quite large and continued to bleed so I cauterized it last night.”
 
“Ouch,” Jess grimaced.
 
“I didn’t have much choice.  I had to stop the bleeding.  He’s febrile and in considerable pain.”
 
“All right, Miss . . .sorry, but you haven’t told us your name.”
 
“Dana Scully.  Special Agent Dana Scully, F.B.I.  My partner is Fox Mulder, but please call him Mulder.”
 
“All right, Agent Scully.  I’m going to carry in the basics along with some saline IV solution and water.  I want to go on and get him started on some fluids but I don’t have anything for pain.  He’ll have to wait until the rescue team gets here, but I’ll try to make him as comfortable as possible.  In the meantime, why don’t you let Jess have a look at your leg?”
 
“Thank you, just . . .please hurry!”
 
“I’m going to jog in.  I promise I’ll take good care of him.”  Bruce jumped out of the truck and opened the tool chest in the back.  He brought out the supplies he wanted and transferred them to one of the backpacks that had been packed for their hunting trip.  He slipped it over his shoulders and jogged toward the trees.
 
Scully watched the man as he disappeared into the woods.
 
“Bruce will find him.  It shouldn’t take more than a half hour or so for him to get there,” Jess assured her.  “Now, why don’t you lay back and let me take a look at that leg?”
 
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
 
Mulder heard someone saying his name.  He was so tired that he could barely get his eyes open.  When he was finally able to focus he saw a large man standing beside him.
 
“Who are you?”
 
“Name’s Bruce Chesser.  Your partner flagged us down.”
 
“Is she okay?”
 
The man removed his backpack and knelt beside Mulder.  “She’s in pretty good shape for what she’s been through.  More worried about you than herself.”
 
“Thank God she’s okay.”
 
“Yeah, my partner’s with her now.  We’re paramedics takin’ the day off to do a little huntin’.  Just happened to be in the right place at the right time.  Here, let me help you sit up and you can have a drink.  I brought some water for you.”  After he carefully helped Mulder up, he twisted the cap off the bottle and handed it to him.  The injured man grabbed it and took several gulps.
 
“Take it easy, man.  You’ll make yourself sick,” Bruce warned.
 
“Sorry, but I was really thirsty.  Got anything we could use to let the pooch have a drink?”
 
Bruce held his hands out.  “This’ll have to do.  Pour a little in here.”
 
Mulder complied.  As soon as the pup smelled the water, he wobbled over to Bruce and drank from his hands.  The puppy lapped up every last drop then sat down as if waiting for more.  Bruce pulled an IV set-up from his pack, along with some alcohol pads.  After cleaning his hands he prepared to start the IV.
 
“Do you have to?” Mulder asked weakly.
 
“Yeah, it’ll make you feel better.  Sorry I don’t have anything for your pain but the rescue unit should have plenty when they get here.  Shouldn’t take too long.”
 
Mulder sighed and offered his left arm.  The paramedic set about cleaning the area he intended to use.  “Gonna be a little stick,” he warned.
 
“Why do you guys always say that when you know it’s gonna be a big stick?”
 
“Sounds like you’ve had one of these before.”
 
“Yeah, one or two.  Just get it over with.”
 
Bruce was efficient and soon had the IV in and flowing wide open.
 
“Man, I’ve got to tell you.  I feel like we’ve met before.  Ever been to Raleigh?”
 
“Yeah, but it’s not one of my most pleasant memories.”
 
“I’ve got it!  You were shot at some boathouse.  Left leg, wasn’t it?”
 
Mulder nodded yes.
 
“I started your IV there too, only I had a much harder time.  You had a bunch of us hoppin’ that night.  You almost bled to death.  Got you to the hospital just in the nick of time.”
 
“Don’t remember much about it,” Mulder admitted.
 
“Probably for the best.  I decided to move to the country not long after that.  Too much violence in the city and here you are, a victim of violence out here in the boonies.  Small world, huh?”
 
“Guess so.”
 
“Buddy, I hate to do this but I need to check your injuries and clean ‘em up a little better.”
 
“Scully did the best she could,” Mulder hedged, not really wanting to endure the pain again.
 
“I know she did.  She told us what she had to do.  You are one strong guy.  I’d probably still be passed out or screamin’ my head off.”  Bruce pulled a bottle of sterile water and a stack of gauze pads from his pack.
 
“It wasn’t pleasant.”  Mulder eyed the supplies warily.
 
“Its just water, Mulder.  Nothin’ that’ll sting.”
 
“Good,” he sighed, relieved.  “Thought it was alcohol.”
 
“Nah, I wouldn’t do that to you, but I really would like to clean you up and put on fresh bandages.  I think your partner would expect me to.”
 
“Yeah, she would.  Go ahead then.”
 
“I’ll work on your head first while you’re still sittin’ up.  I’m gonna pour a little water over the bandage to try and loosen it up.”
 
“You’re the boss.”
 
“For the time being.  I have a feelin’ as soon as we get you back to the road that partner of yours will start giving orders.”  Bruce carefully began to work the bandage loose.
 
“Yeah, you can count on that.  Ow!  Take it easy!”
 
“Sorry.  I’m being as careful as I can.  That partner of yours is somethin’ else, I’ll tell you.”  He kept talking, hopefully, to distract Mulder from the pain he was causing.  “She wanted to come back here with me.  We had a hard time convincing her she needed help herself.  She was exhausted and her knee had to be killing her.  That’s loyalty for you.”
 
“Yes, she is very loyal,” Mulder agreed, beginning to smile.
 
“Is she married, or dating anyone steady?  I wouldn’t mind askin’ her out if she isn’t committed.  All of that loyalty, caring, smart and a looker to top it off.”
 
“She’s involved,” Mulder stated plainly.  “Are you just about finished with my head?  I really need to lie down.”
 
“Yeah, one more piece of tape should do it.  There, let me help you get comfortable.”  Bruce helped him ease back down and started cutting off the makeshift bandage on Mulder’s leg.
 
Mulder immediately tensed up and cried out in pain.
 
“Sorry, man.  This is gonna hurt.  Ain’t no two ways about it.  I’ll be as easy as I can.  Your partner, Dr. Scully, she did a good job on these bandages.  You said she was involved?”
 
“Yeah.”  Mulder forced himself to concentrate despite the pain.  This guy was very interested in Scully and he needed to find a way to clip his wings before it went much farther.
 
“How involved?  Just steady dating or something more permanent?”
 
“Definitely something more permanent.”  Mulder hoped this man would hurry up and get finished.  This hurt more than Scully’s poking and prodding.
 
“You’re the one, aren’t you?”  Bruce began pouring water over the wound.
 
“What do you mean?”  Mulder asked through gritted teeth.  Who knew that plain water would hurt so much?
 
“You’re the one she’s involved with.  You’re one lucky son of a bitch!”
 
“If you only knew,” Mulder mumbled under his breath.  He tensed up again as the paramedic gently cleansed the leg wounds.  “How much longer?”
 
“I’m ready to bandage it up now.  You gonna get married?”
 
Mulder couldn’t believe the persistence of this guy.  “You know, if you want the real scoop on Agent Scully’s love life, why don’t you ask her?”
 
“Guess I should shut up about it, huh?”
 
Mulder nodded tiredly while Bruce put the finishing touches on the bandage.
 
“Just try to hang in there, Mulder.  The rescue team should be here soon and I promise they’ll be able to give you something for pain.  I know you’ve got to really be hurting.”
 
“Yeah, some.”  The physical pain was increasing by leaps and bounds but his worry over Scully and his need to see her was all consuming.
 
Bruce began to gather up the trash, allowing the puppy to move in closer to Mulder, who reached his right arm out to pull him closer.
 
“Cute pooch.  He belong to your partner?”
 
“No, we were bringing him to our supervisor.  That’s kind of the reason we’re in this mess.  Long story.  Scully would like to keep him though.  I may have to find her one like him when we get back.”
 
Mulder found that he couldn’t keep his eyes open any longer.  At first he could feel the paramedic check his pulse, adjust the IV, lift the bandages and heard the man urge him to stay awake.  The little dog began to yip furiously.  The agent thought the barking sounded hollow and farther and farther away and then the noise and pain stopped.
 
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If Scully had been able to pace, she would have worn a path around the ambulance, but Jess had taken over her care as soon as the ambulance arrived, allowing that team and the sheriff to go into the woods to bring Mulder out.
 
Jess had done a thorough job of splinting her leg and starting an IV, thus limiting her movement to the back of the ambulance.  He’d even managed to slip in some morphine when she wasn’t looking.  Damn him!  She wanted to be awake when they brought Mulder out and now she was fighting tooth and nail to stay conscious.  Her knee did feel a lot better though
 
Scully lifted her left arm to look at her watch and found that it took all of her strength.  Her arm felt like it weighed a ton due to her overall exhaustion and the morphine in her system.  The agent did manage to determine that the rescue team had been in the woods for over an hour.  They should be back any minute.  Now, if she could just will her eyes to stay open.
 
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Scully jerked awake when she heard the ambulance door open.
 
“Agent Scully?  You awake?”  Jess called.  “We brought you some company.”
 
“Mulder?”  She looked to her right just as the stretcher locked into place.  Thank God they’d found him!  She forced herself up to her elbows on the bench where she lay but she couldn’t see much through the paramedic who was attaching leads from a cardiac monitor onto Mulder’s chest.
 
Mulder tried to push the man’s hand away.  Those things always got stuck in his chest hair and it hurt like hell to pull them off.
 
“Agent Mulder, welcome back.  You’ve been dozing off and on since we found you.  We gave you a little bit of pain medicine in your IV right before we started to bring you out of the woods, remember?”
 
“Mmm.”  Mumbling was all he could manage for the time being.
 
“Agent Mulder, you need to keep your hands at your side so we can do our jobs.  If you can’t we’ll have to restrain you.  Understand?”
 
“Uh-huh.”
 
“Mulder?” Scully’s voice called.
 
“Z’at you, Scully?  You okay?”
 
“I’m right here and I’m fine.  Let them do what they have to, Mulder.”
 
“Mmm,” he acknowledged before drifting back to sleep.
 
“Mulder?” Scully called again, struggling to see him.
 
“He’s asleep again, Agent Scully,” the driver informed her.  “I’m getting ready to start the rig and head for the hospital.  Now, you need to stay put, all right?”  The puppy peeked over the front seat and yipped.  “And that means you too, little guy.”
 
Scully began to feel very sleepy again.  She looked up just in time to see the paramedic pull a hypodermic out of her IV port.  Damn him!  Must’ve put in more morphine.  She heard the puppy bark again as the ambulance pulled out onto the road.  She finally decided not to fight any more and joined her partner for a nice, little nap.
 
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Mulder became aware of his surroundings gradually.  It seemed like he had been trying to wake up for hours.  His mind began to gather clues a long time before his eyes opened.  First, he realized that he was no longer in the woods.  He’d traded in the scent of wood smoke for the antiseptic smell of a hospital.
 
The next thing he noticed was that the puppy was gone.  He no longer felt the warm, little body next to him and he missed it.
 
The sounds around him had changed too.  The woodland noises had been replaced by the hum of the monitors around him and the voice of the PA system calling out names, codes and numbers.
 
The last clue he put together came as a great surprise.  Scully was there!  Sitting to his left, he could smell the scent of her perfume.  He shifted his body so that he could face her and was forcefully hit with another more unwelcome clue.  Pain!
 
“Ow!”  That was all he could manage for now.  He was able to open his eyes to a slit.
 
Evidently, Scully sensed what he needed.  She rose from her chair rather awkwardly and pushed the control button for his pain medication.
 
Mulder was grateful as the strong medication worked its way through his system.  He’d have to talk to Scully about the pain situation.  He thought she’d jumped the gun on the control button, but he decided a nap was in order first.
 
Scully groaned as she sat back down.  The leg splint was hot and uncomfortable but it was necessary to keep her knee immobilized while it healed.  She had spent 24 hours in the hospital as a patient herself and the only way they would release her was to promise that she would wear the immobilizer until she returned to DC and saw her own doctor.  She pushed the recliner back and made herself as comfortable as possible.  Mulder would probably sleep for another hour or two at least thanks to the morphine she’d sent into his system.
 
She dug into her pocket and found the bottle of Vicodin that the doctor had prescribed.  Although she hated the tired feeling it gave her, she knew that she too needed some pain relief or she wouldn’t be able to stay by her partner’s side.
 
Mulder woke again two hours later and felt a little stronger.  He’d been able to open his eyes all the way this time and he finally located his partner sitting in a recliner on his left.  She appeared to be sleeping and he decided not to bother her.  He took in the forest green leg splint and remembered that she had hurt her knee rather badly.  From the look of it, they would both be on desk duty for a while.
 
Mulder’s leg wound was a raw, itchy, mass of misery.  He debated on whether to push the button and drug himself into oblivion, or to wait for his love to wake up.  The decision was taken from him when a nurse entered the room.
 
“Miss Scully, it looks like you finally have someone to talk to.”  The nurse grinned when she reached Mulder’s bedside and saw that he was awake.  “Hello, Mr. Mulder.  I’m Sharon Gleason and I’ll be your nurse until this evening.  How are you doing?”
 
“Tired.  Leg hurts.”
 
“Sounds pretty normal for what you’ve been through.  I need to do a few things while I’m here and one of them is to check your surgery site.  After that, I’ll need to re-bandage your wound.  It’s going to be pretty uncomfortable so don’t hesitate to push the control and give yourself a dose of morphine.”
 
Mulder tried to smile at the nurse.  He really wanted her to shut up and leave him alone because he wanted to talk to Scully.  He had to be sure she was okay.
 
“You have a wonderful smile, Mr. Mulder.  I’ll bet you’d feel a lot better if you got cleaned up and brushed your teeth.  As soon as I finish up here I’ll send in a patient aide to help you.”
 
Mulder nodded and then felt someone reach for his left hand.  Scully!  “You should be sitting,” he admonished.
 
“I have.  Now, I need to stretch a bit.”
 
Mulder groaned when the nurse began to remove the bandages.  He realized that his leg was in an immobilizer also, navy blue by the look of it.  They sure did make them fashionable these days.  He felt Scully stretch over him to get a better look when his wound was exposed.
 
“It’s looking good, Mulder.  You’ve had some infection but it seems to be clearing up nicely,” Scully reported.
 
“What about you?” he asked.
 
“It’s a pretty bad sprain but nothing that rest and a little physical therapy won’t help.  We’ll probably be able to go to re-hab together.”
 
“I’m all for together.”  He winked at her and then closed his eyes.  This was wearing him out.  Why did he feel so weak when he was only lying in bed?
 
“Mulder, you lost a substantial amount of blood and you’ve had some pretty high fevers.  They replaced your fluids but you’re going to feel tired and weak for a while.”
 
“Damn!  How does she do that?” Mulder thought.  It was almost as if she could read his mind.  Sometimes he thought that they should call her “Spooky” too.
 
“All right, Mr. Mulder.  I’m through bothering your leg for the time being.  Now, I need to check your IV site.”
 
Mulder held out his arm and found that the area around the IV was really sore.  “Ow!”
 
The nurse examined the site and then apologized.  “I’m sorry.  I’ll have to call the IV nurse to start another line.  That one has infiltrated.”
 
Scully checked the site also and agreed.  It was pretty swollen and very painful.  The nurse switched off the IV pump.  “It’s just pumping the medication into your arm, not your vein.  That’s why it’s so swollen and sore.  It will eventually be absorbed by your body.”
 
Mulder nodded that he understood.  It had happened the last time he was shot in the leg so he was familiar with the routine.
 
“While we’re waiting, why don’t I change your urine collection bag?”
 
Scully had to giggle at the face Mulder made.
 
The nurse moved quickly and efficiently to accomplish her tasks.  After she finished taking his vitals she declared that she was finished. 
 
Mulder breathed a huge sigh of relief.  Being in the hospital wouldn’t be so bad if they would just let you lay there and get better, but instead it seemed like there was a revolving door to his room letting in unwelcome visitors and hospital staff, determined to drive him crazy.
 
“Mr. Mulder, I’m going to call the IV nurse and remind her that she needs to get here soon and then I’ll make sure someone comes in to change your bed and help you get cleaned up.”
 
Mulder rolled his eyes, eliciting a look from Scully that warned him to behave.
 
“Do you have any questions before I get out of here and leave you alone?”
 
“Water?”
 
“Good question.  I forgot all about that and that’s not good.  Sure, you can have some.  Just start out slow at first.  We don’t want you to get sick.  I’ll have the aide bring in some ice and cups when she comes in.  Be sure that someone records how much you’ve drank on the input/output sheet.  Anything else?”
 
Neither Mulder nor Scully could think of anything so the nurse left them alone.
 
Scully leaned in to give her partner a quick peck on the cheek.
 
“You call that a kiss?”
 
“Uh-huh.  That’s my glad to see you kiss.”
 
“Come here.”  Mulder pulled her down and kissed her thoroughly.  “That’s my glad to see you kiss.”
 
“I think I like yours better,” she smiled.
 
“Maybe we need to practice techniques.”
 
“We will later.  Skinner mentioned last night that he would be back down today to see how you’re doing and to get his car.  He also said that there was some sort of problem with the dog.”
 
“What?  He’s okay isn’t he?”  Mulder asked, very concerned.  “I really miss the little guy.  He really kept me company while you were hiking through the woods.”
 
“I gathered as much.  He started crying in the ambulance when they wouldn’t let him go to you.  The paramedics really had a time with him, I’m told.  You two really must have done some bonding.”
 
“Well, he is a cute little pooch when he isn’t yipping all the time.”
 
“Maybe we can find one like him when we get home,” Scully suggested.
 
“Thanks, but it wouldn’t be the same.  So, what kind of mood has Skinner been in?”
 
“From what I understand he has handled the whole thing quite well.  He’s been very concerned about you, you know.”
 
“I was afraid he’d be highly pissed.”
 
“No, the car was found in pristine condition.  I think the thief even had it washed; however, there were some fingerprints left behind and they nabbed him at his girlfriend’s house.  The puppy was a little dehydrated but he perked right up, so there was no problem there.  All in all, Skinner has little to gripe about.  He realizes that we didn’t purposely walk into an ambush.”
 
Mulder yawned and tried to stretch.  “Remind me not to do that again, okay?” he stated through gritted teeth.
 
“Oh, Mulder, I’m sorry.  Where is that IV nurse?  You really need some pain medication.”
 
“No, I’m okay now.  I just moved the wrong way.  Any idea what kind of name the pooch got stuck with?”  He wanted to move the subject away from how he felt.  He wanted to talk to Scully without having her fuss over him.  Even though he’d been out of it for the last two days he’d really missed her.
 
“I have no idea.  Every time I mentioned anything about the puppy, Skinner acted rather strange.  I assume he’ll let us know what’s up when he gets here.”
 
The IV nurse arrived and within a few minutes Mulder was the proud owner of a new IV.  Scully pushed the control button and he felt blessed relief course through his veins.  “Thanks,” he whispered, his eyelids growing heavy.  “I love you.”
 
“I love you too.  Now, rest so that you’ll be up for a visit from Skinner and then we can practice those kissing techniques to your heart’s content.”
 
“Sounds like a plan.”  He smiled and closed his eyes.
 
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Skinner smiled as he entered Mulder’s hospital room.  Both of his agents were asleep.  Mulder occupied the bed while Scully’s head lay on the side of the bed, her left arm stretched across her partner’s chest.  He really hated to wake them but he had some urgent business to discuss.
 
“Ahem, agents . . .”
 
Scully’s head snapped up and just as quickly she removed her arm from her partner’s chest.  “Sir!” she squeaked.
 
Mulder came around a bit more slowly, hampered by the large amount of drugs in his system.  “AD Skinner?” he croaked, his eyes sluggishly coming into focus.
 
“Agent Mulder, Agent Scully, I must say that you’re both looking much better than the last time I saw you.”
 
“Thank you, sir.  I feel much better.  Once I had some rest and fluids I was just fine,” Scully reported, smoothing back her messy hair.
 
Skinner eyed her splinted knee skeptically but didn’t comment.
 
“I’m on the road to recovery too, sir.  It may take a few weeks before I’m 100% but I’ll get there.”  Even though he wasn’t on top of his game, Mulder had no problem noticing that his supervisor was standing rather awkwardly and was having difficulty keeping still.
 
“How is the puppy adjusting to his new home?” Scully asked, also noting Skinner’s strange movements.
 
“That’s what I came to discuss with you.”
 
Suddenly, a little, brown and black fur ball shot out from under Skinner’s jacket with a loud, “Yip!” and leapt onto Mulder’s bed.  Scully was able to intercept the puppy just before he would have landed in the ailing agent’s lap.  “Shhh!” she admonished the pup, giggling.
 
Mulder reached out to pet the dog, a puzzled look on his face.
 
“That poor little guy has been crying just about the entire time he’s been out of your sight.  He wouldn’t have anything to do with Erin, who was very disappointed by the way, and he wouldn’t eat.  All he did was mope around and cry.”
 
“Oh, poor puppy,” Scully soothed, bringing him to eye-level where the little Yorkie proceeded to lick her face.
 
“I finally realized that the little fellow had spent enough time with you so that he thought he belonged with you.  I took Erin to the pet store and she picked out a miniature poodle.  She named her Fluffy and they are both extremely happy.  I decided to see if you two were interested in keeping the puppy before I took him back to the kennel.”
 
The little dog scrambled out of Scully’s arms and Mulder scooped him up, carefully avoiding his injured leg.  “What are you proposing?  Some kind of time share between Scully and me?”
 
“I’m not so sure that would work, Mulder,” Scully hedged.
 
“No, I’m not proposing a time share.  I’m asking if the two of you want to keep him.”
 
The two agents looked at each other, surprised that their secret relationship was fast becoming a known fact, and relieved that it seemed to be acceptable to their immediate supervisor.
 
“Uh, Scully?  I’ll leave it up to you.”  Mulder gave in.
 
Scully had fallen in love with the pup at first sight and despite his initial complaints, she knew that the puppy and Mulder had a special bond.
 
“Well, sir, I think we can work something out,” Scully answered, treating Mulder to a big smile.
 
Both Skinner and Mulder breathed a sigh of relief.  Though he would never admit it, Mulder wanted to keep the pup in the worst way.
 
The puppy must have sensed that his future was secure.  He yawned widely and settled down for a nap on Mulder’s chest.
 
“I do have one condition, however,” the petite red head announced.  “I get to name him.”
 
“Just as long as it’s not Fluffy or Muffin or some other cutesy name,” Mulder agreed.
 
“You’ve got a deal.  That leaves only one other thing to settle for now.  Who’s going to keep him until we get home?”
 
“I guess that would be me,” Skinner volunteered.  “Just make sure the pup understands that I’m only his temporary master.  I need at least a few hours of sleep every night.”
 
“We’ll do our best,” Mulder agreed, yawning.
 
“It looks like you need to join your puppy for a nap,” Skinner observed.  “I’m going to leave him with you while I get my car from the impound lot.  The nurses know about him, but please try to keep his presence low-key until I can get back to pick him up.”
 
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Skinner had been gone only a few minutes when Mulder turned to Scully.  “How weird was that?”
 
“Very.  I wonder how long he’s known about us?”
 
“I don’t know.  The important thing is that he’s okay with it.”
 
“I guess you’re right.  Any ideas for a name?” 
 
The dog continued to sleep contentedly on Mulder’s chest.
 
The injured agent reached for his medication control and pushed the button.  “What do you say we sleep on it?”
 
“That’s a great idea.”  Scully leaned over and gave him a peck on the cheek.
 
The pain medication kicked in quickly and Mulder was asleep as soon as his eyes closed.  Scully wasn’t far behind.
 
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When Skinner returned he peeked in the door and found his agents and their puppy sound asleep.  He noted that all of them looked happy and relaxed.  A huge grin appeared on Skinner’s face.  It was about time the X-Files division had something to smile about.
 
The puppy raised his head and took note of Skinner.  The young dog seemed to smile, and with a wag of his tail he settled back down and re-joined his masters in sleep.
 
AD Skinner closed the door and headed for the cafeteria.  He looked forward to a hot cup of coffee and some time to look at the book he’d picked up in the gift shop.  He paid for his drink and sat down at an empty table.  It was intended to be a gift for his agents, but it wouldn’t hurt to glance through it.  He took a sip of what was supposed to be a rich, Columbian brew and opened the book, Popular Pet Names, to page one.
 
 
 
 
 
The End