Classification: MT, H/C
Rating: PG - 13 (violence, language)
Disclaimers: All characters from the series belong to CC, 1013 and Fox Network. The rest of the characters are mine as well as my vivid imagination.
Author's note: though a child plays a role in this piece, this is NO story about child abuse!
Spoilers: up to the 4th season, but nothing specific
Summary: After a narrow escape an injured Mulder finds an almost secure hiding place.
Many thanks to CindyET for beta-reading and converting my German-English into readable American-English! I learned a lot that way.
Comments of any kind (send no flames - I have an extinguisher), please, to: Timmy2222web.de I thrive on feedback!Uninvited
Somewhere west of Des Moines, Iowa
Dark. Some place dark. Darkness around. In him. Flashbacks. He remembered a shock, which drove all air out of his lungs. Then nothing. Sand. A bike. Snorting of a horse. A wheelbarrow and a bucket. Somehow he must have gotten out of the car. He remembered putting his car into gear as all hell had broken loose behind him. His sight was dim, blurred. Slowly he made his way to what he had seen earlier - a house. What a heavenly sight in this cold and frightful night. He climbed, more crawled up the four stairs to the porch. No lights were on, no sound. No barking from a dog or whatever. He wanted to knock, make himself heard, find out if somebody were home, was living here at all. He couldn't reach the door. Unconscious he collapsed.
Sarah reached for the light on the bedside table. She didn't exactly know what woke her up, but she had been in too much trouble for almost three years now that she could not happily ignore any noise around the house and fall back to sleep without checking. She slipped from under the covers, put on her slippers on and grabbed her baseball bat. Whatever made that noise, now the house was utterly silent. Not even a wolf howled - as they usually did on these clear nights. She peered through a slit in the closed drapes. Nothing. Her gaze wandered over the roof of the barn to the left from the house, then further to the gates. No fence was attached. The gate was a relic, older than the building itself, and always open. So the sight of a silver sedan half-crashed into one of the posts looked almost ridiculous. Especially with the lights still on.
"What is it, mommy?"
The sleepy voice of her daughter made Sarah turn and smile - just a little bit, the usual assuring smile for a 7-year old child who couldn't understand what made her mother jump up in the middle of the night.
"I don't know, Roberta," she said calmly. "I'll go down and check, and you go back to sleep. You gotta go to school tomorrow. Get up early." With the bat still in hand, she bent down, gave her daughter a kiss on the cheek and hushed her back to her room. "Stay there, okay? I'll come looking in a minute."
"'kay." Drowsily Roberta went back to bed, drew the covers up to her nose and the little stuffed tiger closer to her small chest. She wouldn't sleep until mom came back and made sure that everything was all right. She could easily remember the last time mom had said 'she just wanted to check'. The next moment she had come running, grabbing her and the blanket and ran for the car.
Sarah waited, until Roberta closed the door behind her. God, how she loved that kid. Every time she saw her, her heart jumped for joy that she had that little baby girl. She'd do everything to keep her safe. From whoever wanted to harm her. With that she took a deep breath, readying herself for the confrontation with probably nothing, gripped the bat tighter and went downstairs into the small living room. Again she checked through the windows, then from the kitchen. Wasn't there something unusual on the porch? Her heart beat faster, and her palms were sweaty when she opened the door. In the dim moonlight she saw a man lying on the wooden porch. He didn't move. 'Charles had played pranks before,' she thought with a wry smile, 'but this hits the roof.' Carefully she opened the outer door. Still no movement. She saw the man's dark, short-cropped hair, his outstretched hands and the dark blue suit, covered with dust and straw. 'Spit-shined shoes,' her mind unintentionally remarked. 'If Charles is behind that, he's gotten to the top.' Carefully she crouched, still ready to hit the man if he tried to touch her. Out here, far west of Des Moines, strange things could happen all the time, and she wouldn't die because of carelessness. Not with Roberta upstairs expecting her mother to tell her everything's all right. Sarah held the bat in her right hand. It was too heavy to swing it one-handed, but she had to check the man's pulse. With her left hand she took his wrist, put her index and middle finger on the soft spot on the inner wrist. His pulse was noticeable and steady, although his hand was cold. So why had he collapsed? She strained her eyes for a closer look. Touched his forehead. When she looked at her fingertips, there was fresh blood. Sarah put the bat behind her inside the doors. That man was down and out for the moment.
Sarah looked back.
"Didn't I tell you to wait?"
"Yes." Roberta avoided her mother's stare. "But I..."
Roberta almost smiled when looking at her daughter in her pink pyjamas and bare feet.
"All right. Get me a flashlight, please."
Roberta was all too willing to oblige. She put the little tiger on a shelf and ran back the short way to the cupboard. Ten seconds later she lit the scene on the porch.
"Who's he?" Roberta whispered.
"I dunno. But we can't leave him here. What would the neighbours think?" Roberta giggled to the fact that there were no neighbours for miles and miles, and Sarah was grateful for it. The sight of a stranger, an unconscious stranger, she corrected herself, was enough to scare her daughter. "I think he hit his head when his car crashed."
"His car crashed?" Roberta repeated in a high pitched tone that meant 'How could anyone be so stupid to crash the only post there is?'
"Yes. He's bleeding from a head wound. We'll take him inside and see what we can do." Sarah raised her eyebrows. "So, Roberta Jenkins, would you be so kind as to move your little butt out of the way, open the guest room door and gimme a hand?"
"In a sec!" Roberta shot from the porch, left the flashlight behind and ran to the adjacent room. It was small - as most of the rooms were - but it had a queen sized bed, a closet, bedside table and lamp and some old books on a shelf. The room had been furnished before they both had moved in and was seldom in use, but Sarah kept it clean, so Roberta only had to fold back the covers, switch on the light, and shut the draperies. Somehow she knew this would be right. When she reached the porch again, the concerned lines on her mother's face had deepened. She had half-turned the man and looked at his middle. "Bad news?" Roberta whispered. Sarah nodded. This was more trouble than she needed right now. She had been happy for half a year with an undisturbed life, but this would go to shreds with this man's appearance. "Bad as Bonzo?" Roberta added referring to a dog that had once bitten her.
"Worse," Sarah answered. She flinched at the frightful look on Roberta's face. 'I shouldn't have said that,' she thought remorsefully, but it was the truth, and didn't everybody say, you should tell your children the truth, even unpleasant ones? "Come on, let's move him inside." Roberta swallowed, bit her lip, but went to the feet of the man when ordered to. He was heavy by all means, and the distance from the porch to the spare bedroom was long and exhausting. She wondered why he didn't even stir at the motion of his body and thought he was dead, but her mom reassured her that pain could do that. He was unconscious and might remain in this state for quite a while. Roberta remembered that the dog bite nearly made her puke and that everything seemed like it was swimming in front of her eyes. She had felt dizzy just looking at the raw flesh and the blood oozing out. Now she took a glimpse at the waist of the man. And his left leg. The pants were ripped open on the thigh and dark blood could be seen. But it was not a cut from a knife. She knew that. She had cut herself when cutting peppers. But that was back when she was five. Now that didn't happen anymore. Girls her age knew how to cut and handle a knife or a pair of scissors. A butcher's knife. She saw herself with a shining knife in hand defending herself against attacking cucumbers and peppers and tomatoes.
"'kay. Careful now." Roberta snapped out of her musing when she heard her mom's voice. They had reached the bedside. Both women were sweating, and Sarah hoped to God they hadn't taken in a traitor, who'd sell her out to her husband the moment he regained consciousness. "Put down his feet. Slowly. I'll get him on the bed." Roberta did as she was told and watched her mother moves the man's heavy weight onto the blankets. First his upper body, then the long legs. On his belt Roberta saw something, a device she had seen before, but she couldn't tell what it was. It was made of leather, that was clear. Sarah let out her breath, and, for a second, put one hand to her hip, the other on Roberta's small shoulder. Though her daughter was considered tall, slender and strong she always thought of her as fragile - in body and mind. And it was her task as a mother to give that girl the chance to develop real strength over the next few years. But that would mean no more escapes, school changes and new cities. She briefly pressed her daughter's shoulder, let go. "I'll get hot water and my first aid kit. Would you mind taking off his shoes while I do this?"
Roberta had never felt so needed, so proud, and so afraid at the same time. She nodded, put away her fear in a far corner of her mind and loosened the shoe-laces while Sarah left the room. The wounds looked ugly, and she wondered if an animal could have done this. A rip through the thin cloth of the pants was one thing, but the same through a suit jacket, dress shirt and T-shirt, which she could see at the collar, was another story. Roberta carefully put down the shoes and struggled with the socks - 'Quite stinky - like a skunk,' she thought - then she found the ankle holster with a gun attached to it. Frightened she stepped back, almost bumped into her mother.
"Hey, watch it!"
"He's gotta gun." Roberta pointed to his pants, shivering. "Down there."
Frowning Sarah put down her bowl of boiled water, some pieces of cloth she had boiled in it, and the rather big bag with bandages and medicine. She had learned a long time ago that when living in a rural area with no doctor around you need to have more in your house than Tylenol.
"Okay." She took the weapon and the holster and stowed it away in a drawer of the closet. "All right, we deal with that later. Roberta, are you okay?" Her daughter nodded and came back, but her face was pale as the moon. Sarah gave her a look of approval and concern. "This might get ugly," she said in her calm voice. "If you wanna leave, it's okay. Maybe get some sleep? I'll be here if you need me."
"I wanna know who he is," she said, and was set aback by her own boldness. "I mean... how he got here and... where he came from. Don't you think..."
"Yes, honey, you're right, but first let me take care of his wounds, okay? Then I'll try to find out who he is." Roberta didn't move. "You decided to stay?" A nod. "If you're gonna puke, use the bucket." She pointed to the corner of the room, and Roberta carried it closer to the bed. Sarah half smiled, then turned to her unknown and uninvited guest. He hadn't moved yet. 'And he won't, if I don't get this done.' She removed his jacket, cut open his shirts to peel them off, and carefully took his pants off. 'Whatever hit him, he was lucky to get away alive.' The wound on his left side, right above the hip bone was almost four inches long. 'No knife, no biting,' she thought when she cleaned it. 'And no adhesive bandages will close this.' She cleaned the wound on his thigh, too, and sighed inwardly. Once - and it seemed a lifetime ago - she had to stitch her husband after he got into a fight with other workers on the road. He hated doctors even if they were female, so she had been confronted with a two inch long knife wound in his upper arm. 'You can sew, so do it!' he had ordered, and she, unwillingly, had obeyed. 'Now here we go again.' She took the needle and the thread and watched her hands tremble for a moment. She didn't invite this. She'd have preferred a doctor, but the telephone didn't work, and the nearest doctor was sixty miles away. And that wasn't sure. As she knew this doctor, she'd have preferred to treat horses herself. 'Calm down,' she ordered herself. 'Do what has to be done.'
When she finished sewing and bandaging both wounds, she realised how awfully calm Roberta had been during that time. She gave her a weary and tired look. Her daughter tried a smile.
"Didn't puke," she said pointing to the empty bucket.
"Good girl." The situation could be messy, but Roberta always made her heart light. Sarah washed her hands. "I'll see to his head, okay? Could you get him a glass of water? - When he wakes up," she answered Roberta's puzzled look, "he'll be thirsty."
"Yep." Roberta was up and away, and Sarah checked the head wound, but it was the least to worry about. The man's forehead was heating up, though. She couldn't tell how old the wounds were, or where he had come from, driving to get away from the enemy who did this to him, but she knew that an infection was likely, even with the appropriate treatment. She rose, stretched her stiffened back and dug her hands into the man's jacket pockets. A wallet. No, two of them. Keys. Some coins. And a bill for a rental car from Des Moines. She flipped open the wallets and was startled. 'FBI. Fox Mulder.' 'A man named Fox - now, if that isn't the joke of the day!' "Who is he?" Roberta asked, and put down the glass on the bedside table.
"An FBI agent. His name's Fox Mulder."
"That's why he has gun." Roberta sighed, and Sarah smiled.
"He's a good guy."
The confidence of her daughter deepened her smile. Seven years old the girl didn't know that not everybody was good because of his uniform or his badge. Roberta's father could have made up a story in order to get the FBI to search for them both. He had a vivid imagination, and he wouldn't stop looking for his family, which had - in his opinion - abandoned him. 'My, my, and he was such a loving and caring and... all the way a pain in the ass,' she mused bitterly. Yes, he would find a way, even if she hid in a rabbit hole with her daughter.
"We'll find that out when he's awake." Sarah looked at her watch. Since she had found the agent on her porch, two hours had passed. She was bone-tired, but sure at the same time, she wouldn't be able to sleep. "Go to bed, honey, there is still some time left to sleep."
"What if he wakes up?"
"I'll take care of him."
"You're gonna stay here?"
"Got a problem with that?"
"Then I'll stay here, too."
"Fair enough. Get your blankets down here." She hadn't finished the sentence, and Roberta was already out of the room.
When she returned Sarah instructed her to wait while she tried to get the rental car into the barn. It was unlikely that anyone would show up here - 'Hey, he showed up, so why couldn't others do that, too?' - but she wanted to be sure everything was done to keep her place quiet and safe. Roberta nodded and settled down on the floor. Sarah got the tiger for her and ran to the car. The motor was working, but it didn't run smoothly. She drove slowly to the barn, opened both doors and parked the car inside. Her hands came off the steering wheel bloody, and she wiped them with a handkerchief. After killing the engine she took a look around if there were any other indications as to why the FBI agent had come to her place. She found his cell phone, which wasn't working, gas bills, a map of the area with marked spots, and, bending over to the passenger seat, she could smell a woman's perfume. Nothing extravagant, just a pleasant aroma. She could recall times when she had used perfume, too, but she quickly shut the memory off and got out of the car, closed the barn doors and hurried back to her daughter and the stranger. Roberta had fallen asleep, and Sarah settled on an armchair she'd brought in from the living room.
Two days earlier
Des Moines, Iowa, on the way west
Mulder put the car in gear and glanced at his partner. He knew he had done it again, and Scully rewarded him with her 'I know you talked me in, now you tell me, what the heck am I doing here?' look. He sighed and concentrated on the road again. Three murders with an unknown weapon - at least not known to the specialists dealing with the case - had made him curious. And due to the fact that it wasn't the time of year for UFO sightings he had decided to help his colleagues in Des Moines with his and his partner's opinion. They had happily agreed, which should have made him cautious, but he had been so eager to leave his dull apartment that any distraction was acceptable.
"Is there anything more to it than the fact of an unknown murder weapon?" Scully asked with a challenging look.
"All three victims were passing through to the west. No residents from this area. Whoever killed them knew it."
"Any religious implications?" She flipped through the pictures of the three dead women, but couldn't find anything more than she had already seen when regarding them before.
"They were torn open , Scully, like a stuffed toy to see what's inside. As if the murderer wasn't satisfied by the killing, but..."
"But needed to see whom he killed." She looked up at him, seeing him nod. "To make sure it was a man, a real human being, he killed."
"Yes. Not a ghost or..." He glanced at her. "...a ghoul, a zombie, a..."
"I get the picture." She stowed away the file. "So - where are we going?"
"The locations where the victims were found." He handed her the map where he had crossed the spots. "It was pure luck that they were found at all."
Scully glanced over the reports.
"The time of death indicates that the murderer didn't take them in for... dealing with them first, but killed them right away. The question is, where. It is clear that they were not killed where they were found." Mulder nodded. "There isn't much around here but farms and gas stations."
"Grocery shops, diners, bakeries, even a Motel Six," he corrected with a smirk, which she returned. "And if the press isn't here first we even might get a room." He loved her for the look she shot at him. "Or two." He tried to control his expression, but had to look outside his window not to laugh.
They spent the afternoon at the crime scene, talked to the local sheriff and finally made their way to town, got two rooms at the motel and, relieved of their luggage, went to the diner. The woman at the counter only needed one look to know that 'foreigners' had arrived in town. The gossip would jump travel over the next days, but she smiled, led them to a table and handed them menus. Scully blew air over her forehead and went for a salad with chicken, while Mulder couldn't decide between hamburger and fries and ham and eggs, so he ordered both, which made the waitress and his partner look at him as if he'd asked for alien eggs - cooked, not broiled.
"Does the word 'cholesterol' mean anything to you?" Scully asked when the meals were served.
"I have a doctor in my circle of friends, so I learn more than I sometimes want to know."
"Which means this is such a time."
"Exactly." He ate heartily, ordered three mugs of coffee and was the subject of table talk by the time they both left the diner. Scully opened the top button of her pants and belched.
"Sorry. Must have been too much."
"Didn't look like you ate enough to get satisfied," Mulder gave back, smiling and tapping his rounded belly. "I'm fine." Scully simply looked at him disbelieving. "I was starved."
"You practically have fries coming out of your ears." She put the key in the lock to her motel room. "Good night, Mulder."
"Good night, Scully. Sweet salad dreams." He entered his own room and closed the door. He was tired. Tomorrow they'd check all the local farms and ask some questions the police maybe hadn't thought to ask.
Mulder knocked on Scully's door. Normally he was the one who slept late, now he was worried. She reacted to his second set of knocks and opened the door still in her dressing gown.
"What's wrong?" Mulder asked, concerned.
"Something was... wrong with the food yesterday."
"Yeah, fine. And you? Should I take you to a hospital?"
"No. I just have an upset stomach. Nothing more. I'd prefer to stay in bed for the day. That okay with you?"
"Sure. Sure, no problem. Can I get you something?"
"Some tea would be nice."
He got her hot tea from the diner and asked the waitress if there had been other cases of upset stomachs around. She gave him a puzzled look which meant she knew nothing, and he left before she could start an apology.
Scully settled in bed with the tea and persuaded him to go.
"Ask the sheriff to accompany you," she told him before he left. But the sheriff was not in, and Mulder didn't want to wait. He looked at the map and drove to the first farm on the list.
Sarah hadn't slept much, only dozed for a few minutes. She woke up Roberta to get her ready for school.
"Did he wake up?" Roberta asked, looking at Mulder still lying on his back with closed eyes.
"No, honey, he didn't." Sarah tousled her daughter's hair. "But that's expected. He's been through a lot."
"But he will wake up, right?"
"Sure." Sarah wasn't that sure. The man's fever had risen, and she didn't know if he might have a concussion from the crash of the car.
"I'll tell the bus driver to hurry home this afternoon," Roberta decided still unwilling to leave the room.
"Go now, please, wash yourself. I'll fix you some breakfast." They both went in different directions. Sarah headed for the kitchen, set up water for coffee and put a bowl and cornflakes on the table. They had no luxury in this house, but they didn't need it. When safety comes first, you don't look for fancy furniture. And they hadn't much money either. Sarah customed draperies and altered clothes for a store in the nearest town, but she didn't make a fortune out of that job. The only thing new was a combined CD and tape player which stood on the kitchen shelf. She loved music, especially by John Denver (her husband hadn't shared this love), so it was a natural she turned on one of the CDs she had brought from her long-gone home. John Denver's wonderful voice filled the air, singing about sunshine on his shoulders, and for the first time since midnight Sarah relaxed a little. Even more when Roberta came jumping down the stairs, almost forgetting that they had a guest - not by free will, but a guest nevertheless - and sat herself at the table. She had dressed in her school clothes, combed her shoulder-length brown hair and put two barrettes on the sides to keep it from falling into her small face.
"You did your homework?" Sarah asked, trying to keep things as normal as possible for Roberta's sake.
Roberta nodded, pouring milk to her cornflakes and adding sugar to sweeten a bowl of lemons. Sarah sat down with her mug of hot coffee, warming her hands on it.
"Yep, did it. It wasn't much. Did it right away, don't you remember?" Big brown eyes looked at Sarah, and she was flooded with love.
"Right, honey. What's up for today?"
"Math, reading - I can do that, y'know. I'm best at it. Though the others had a head start, Miss Calveney said I'm really good."
"You work hard at it." She took a sip of coffee, put down the mug again. Her hands were still cold. The illusion of normalcy was tarnished by the presence of a stranger just a room away. "And, Roberta?" She waited for her daughter's full attention. "Not a word to anybody about the FBI agent. You got that?" Roberta nodded solemnly, crunching on the next spoonful of cornflakes. "I mean it. He's sick. He can't go anywhere, and I don't want anybody to think..." She stopped. Roberta raised her eyebrows - a perfect copy of her mother's gesture when expecting a further explanation. "Just don't tell anybody. Not a teacher and not your friends. And come straight home when school's over, okay?"
"Sure. You think, Mr. Mulder will be up then?"
"I don't know. Maybe." She gave her a feeble smile. "I'm no doctor, y'know."
"Just an assistant ," Roberta stressed, and Sarah asked where she had gotten that from. "Saw it on TV. They said when there's no real doctors available assistants help, too. Somehow." She shrugged. She knew that her mother did it right. She had always helped her when she scratched her knees or cut herself with a knife (a lifetime ago), so she'd know what to do with that Mr. Mulder.
Roberta finished her breakfast, brushed her teeth and got her backpack.
"I'll take you to the bus," Sarah decided, put on her boots and drove her amazed daughter the half mile where the bus waited to take her to school. Relieved she drove her truck back to park it behind the house, and then checked on the agent. She was worried shitless he might die here. Right now her situation was a mess, but she could deal with it. She had had worse. But if the FBI man died here, police would show up, ask questions, put her name on file, and maybe even worse. She gritted her teeth, swallowed and pressed the tears back. She had done what had to be done, but that didn't mean she was happy with it. Automatically she put a hand on his forehead again, checked his pulse. Fever was high and had to be dealt with. Sighing she got a bowl of cold water and some cloths to use as compresses around his calves. It might help a little, but his long period of unconsciousness indicated that more damage was done than she could see. With the compresses done she changed bandages. Last night she hadn't given much thought to anything else but fixing the wounds. Now she wondered what kind of weapon caused the wounds' rough edges. 'A saw?' She dropped that one. Who'd wait for someone to saw him in the side and leg before deciding to do something about it? 'A sharp instrument, but not meant for cutting,' she thought. And since he was a trained officer, he must have been taken by surprise. Still - one wound could be explained that way, but two? Had he been unable to get away? Draw his gun? Sarah glanced at the drawer. Where had his other weapon gone? The holster was attached to the belt of his pants, as well as a pair of handcuffs in a small, round leather case. He was armed. Yet had been hit twice. Sarah frowned. How powerful must his enemy have been to make him flee? She shook her head. Worrying about it was a waste of time. She changed the compresses and went back to the kitchen. John Denver was still singing - 'Wild Montana Skies', a duet with Emmylou Harris - and she took deep breaths. Somehow she would deal with this.
If he survived.