A Matter of Trust

Date: Thu, 25 Jun 1998

Title: A Matter of Trust
Author: N'kala99
Disclaimer: Mulder, Scully, Skinner and the rest don't belong to me. They
belong to Chris Carter, 1013 Productions, and Fox
Rating: PG-13
Thanks to, um, I guess my mom for helping, and most definitely to my friends
at HHS for introducing me to the X-Files.
Summary: after surviving 6 weeks of torture, Mulder is rescued. his refusal to
talk creates problems as he must recover in time for the trial. but something
goes wrong . . .

A Matter of Trust

Location Unknown

He sniffed, tears spilling onto his cheeks. He felt afraid, alone . . . he
didn't know where he was or why he was there. How much time had passed, he
wasn't sure. He couldn't even remember anything before the pain and darkness.
He wiped his eyes, but more tears broke free, cutting winding paths through
the grime and dried blood still on his face. He gave up all hope of ever
feeling happy, safe, or clean. He wasn't even sure he still wanted to live.

A sob forced its way into his throat, and he made no effort to fight it. Once
the first cry left him, a chain reaction was set off. More and more sobs came
out. He wasn't entirely sure why he was crying; at this point he didn't really
care. As he lay huddled against the wall, a name pushed its way into his
mind. He didn't see a face with the name, but the name meant a great deal to
him.

"S-Scully . . . " he whispered.

At that moment, the door opened and the object of his fear and hatred entered
the room. Fox Mulder huddled farther into the corner, trying to make himself
as small as possible as the man approached.

"I see that you still haven't learned your lesson," he stated. "What did I
say about making noises? Huh? I could hear your pathetic cries out there. I
guess I have to show you not to do it again."

The tall, hefty man firmly gripped a long, metal pipe; the same pipe that
Mulder had become all too familiar with. He covered his head as the man began
to swing the pipe at him. Each blow was unmerciful as the pipe connected with
Mulder's body.

After an eternity, the man ceased the punishment and left the room. Mulder
refused to relax from his protective ball. Choked sobs racked through him,
but he was careful not to utter a sound. The convulsions did little to ease
the pains radiating throughout his entire body.

He felt exhaustion creep into him, but he fought the urge to sleep. In the
Beginning, when it all started, he had slept. But he had punished him for
that.

His stomach rumbled a protest, demanding to be fed. Mulder held his breath,
hoping fervently that he hadn't heard. He hadn't been in to feed Mulder for
some time. The food he was given was old and moldy, and probably not even
safe to eat, but it was better than nothing. When it became clear that his
meals would not be coming in regular intervals, Mulder had taken to saving
each morsel and equally rationing them. His last feeding had been days ago,
and he had eaten his last ration the day before.

Mulder began to shiver uncontrollably. His clothes were torn and filthy, and
offered little protection from the growing dampness of his cell.

An indefinite amount of time passed before Mulder began to hear urgent voices
coming from beyond his cell door. Frightened, Mulder shrank into the shadows.

The door opened, and someone entered. "Mulder? Are you in here?"

Mulder knew that voice. It was the voice that the name belonged to. It was
Scully. Mulder longed to answer her, but he remembered what had happened the
last time he spoke and remained silent.

Speaking was unnecessary. Mulder felt a hand against his cheek, and he leaned
his head into it. He recognized the touch; it held compassion and strength.
He slowly moved to wrap his arms around Scully's neck, feeling safe in her
arms.

Dana Scully held her partner, appalled by his condition. There was only so
much one man could do in the period of six weeks, but apparently Nick Larson
had managed to inflict every conceivable form of torture on Mulder. Poor
Mulder was only there because he traded himself for another hostage.

Mulder sobbed wildly into Scully's neck, trembling violently in her grasp.
Scully rocked him gently, trying to console him. She was furious; Larson was
going to pay for hurting Mulder.

A shadow was cast into the room. The instant Mulder saw it, he wrenched free
from Scully's grip and returned to his corner, bracing himself for the pipe.
He had heard him, he had come back, he was going to hurt him . . .

Scully looked up as Assistant Director Skinner knelt down beside her. "You
found him?"

Scully nodded and lightly touched Mulder's arm. Mulder cringed and curled
tighter. Scully pulled him closer to her and settled beside him as Mulder
hugged her and cried.

"Where's Larson?" she asked.

Skinner shook his head. "We don't even know that it was Larson," he replied.
"SWAT has reported no sign of anyone ever having been in the building."

"Someone had to have done this to Mulder," Scully said. "Besides, who else
could it have been? Larson has had the means and opportunity. It has to be
him."

"Well, when Mulder is able, we'll see if we can have him identify the person or
persons responsible." Skinner stood. "I'll send some medics for him." He
turned and left.

Scully looked down at the frightened figure that was holding onto her for dear
life. She took his face into her hands and looked into his red-rimmed, glassy
hazel eyes. Mulder sniffed and stared back, trying to focus on her concerned
visage.

"Mulder?" Scully asked. "Can you tell me where you're hurt? Can you do that
for me?"

Mulder's eyes watered, and he lowered his head back onto Scully's shoulder.
Scully brushed her fingers through his dark hair. "It's okay," she whispered.
"It's all right. You don't have to."

Two medics carrying first aid kits and a stretcher entered and briskly walked
up to the two huddled forms. As one man set out the stretcher and opened the
kit, a young blond woman with green eyes knelt in front of Mulder and smiled.

"Hi there," she said cheerfully to Mulder. "My name's Jeri. My friend Chris
and I want to take a look at you; see if you're hurt anywhere. Okay?"

At the sound of Jeri's voice, Mulder held Scully impossibly tighter and buried
his face into her neck. Scully rubbed his back comfortingly.

"It's okay," she soothed. "You're safe. I'll be right here. They won't hurt
you. No one's going to hurt you. It's okay."

Mulder glanced shyly over at Jeri. Jeri gave him her best smile and, after
much coaxing, finally managed to get Mulder to release Scully. Scully still
held her arm around his shoulders to calm him.

Jeri cautiously pressed her fingers at several different points on Mulder's
arms, legs, and chest, calling out different things that she had or hadn't
found. Behind her, Chris took down notes, nodding.

"Okay, let's move him to the stretcher. Chris, could you help me?" Jeri
asked.

Chris took one step forward when Mulder tensed. He broke free from the two
women and darted around Chris. The lack of food and sleep caught up with him,
and he dropped to his hands and knees just short of the door.

"Mulder!" Scully crouched down beside him, her hands on his shoulders.
Mulder tore away and huddled against the wall, partially obscured by the
shadows. The sound of choked sobs reached Scully's ears, and her heart broke.

Slower this time, trying to appear less threatening, Scully crept over to
Mulder's side. She gently brushed the hair from his face and stroked his
cheek. Mulder didn't look up as he wrapped his arms around her neck. Scully
held him, silently waving the medics back. She shrugged free of her coat and
draped it around Mulder's shoulders in an effort to preserve what little
warmth he had left.

Finally, Scully heard his breathing slow and his sobs die down. Mulder
slipped into a deep, comforting sleep in the safety of Scully's arms. After a
few minutes of rocking him and making sure of his slumber, she gestured for
the medics to help move him to the stretcher.

end part1/8

A Matter of Trust ( 2/8 )

County General Hospital
11:14 a.m.

Crash!

"Mr. Mulder! Calm down!"

Thump!

"No! Settle--!"

Scully burst into Mulder's hospital room and took in the scene with
astonishment. Three nurses and a doctor were surrounding a very scared
Mulder. Beside the bed lay a fallen tray, its medical tools scattered across
the floor. Mulder was backed into a wall, looking very much like a trapped
animal. The shoulder of his hospital gown was stained with blood was slowly
growing larger.

Scully pushed through the crowd and paused, her hands out before her as if
warding away a dangerous creature. Mulder saw her and hesitated, uncertain.

"It's all right Mulder," she said. "These people just want to help you."

Mulder's eyes flickered to the group behind her, the terror he felt evident in
his expression. Scully held her hand out to him. Mulder stared curiously at
it before grasping it. Ever so slowly, he edged closer to Scully. Scully
smiled and nodded, gently leading him back to his bed.

There was a collective sigh of relief from everyone in the room as Mulder sat
down. They quickly exited, save for the doctor. Scully pushed Mulder's
sleeve up to examine his new wound. Mulder winced and tried to pull away.

"It's all right," Scully said. "I just want to see." To the doctor she
demanded, "How did this happen?"

"When the tool tray fell, one of the tools got imbedded into his shoulder,"
the doctor, Berkley, replied. "I managed to get it out before he could take
my head off."

"Well, it doesn't look as if it needs stitches," Scully observed. "But it
should be patched up." She looked at Mulder's gaunt, too-thin figure and
shook her head. "And let's see what we can do about getting some food into
him."

Berkley nodded and left to find some gauze. Scully retrieved a glass and
filled it with water. Mulder watched the entire process with intense
curiosity as Scully held the glass out to him. When he didn't move, she held
the glass to his lips. Mulder cautiously sipped the cool liquid. Deciding
that he was thirsty, he drank more, holding Scully's hand in place on the
glass with his own. He looked at Scully as he drank, a silent question in his
eyes.

"There you go," she said. "Careful. Not too fast."

Mulder finished the water and looked at the empty glass in dismay. Scully
refilled the glass and gave it to Mulder, this time letting him hold it
himself. Mulder finished the glass and began to cough.

"Told you so." Scully gave him a little more water to settle the coughing fit
and began to clean the blood from his shoulder. She talked with him about
work, her mother's impending visit later that day . . . she was careful to
avoid mentioning anything relating to his captivity. Mulder listened with
rapt interest, attentive to each word, but he never offered a reply. Whenever
Scully asked a question, he looked shyly away until she continued the one-
sided conversation.

Berkley returned to bandage the wound, but, remembering the incident that had
occurred moments before, he let Scully do the job instead. He left quickly,
reminding Scully that he would be back later to check on Mulder's condition.

Once Scully finished bandaging Mulder's shoulder, she gently pushed him back
against the headboard and drew the blanket over his lap.

"Stay put," she ordered firmly. "I'll be right back. Are you hungry? Just
nod . . . " she nodded. " . . . or shake . . ." she shook her head. "Do
you want to eat?"

Mulder slowly nodded his head. Twice. Scully smiled and patted his hand.

"I'll go find you some lunch," she told him. "Don't get out of bed. Okay?"

Mulder nodded, more readily this time. Scully left the room in search of a
nurse.

Mulder watched her go, then looked around the small room. A chair sat at his
bedside, Scully's coat draped over the top of it. A window was behind that,
its curtains pulled back to reveal a sapphire blue sky and lush, emerald-green
foliage. The scene was very soothing. Mulder found himself lost in thought
as he gazed outside. He didn't even notice Scully's return ten minutes later
until she ducked into his line of sight.

Scully glanced out the window, then looked back at Mulder. "You like looking
out there?" she asked. "Well, when you get better, I'll see what I can do
about arranging a little walk around outside. Does that sound good?"

Mulder nodded as Scully continued.

"Lunch will be soon," she told him. "The nurse said that they can't give out
food between scheduled meals." Seeing Mulder's crestfallen face, she dug
through her purse and produced a candy bar. She broke off a small piece and
handed it to him.

"This should tide you over till then," she whispered. "Don't tell them I gave
you that, though. They'd probably kick me out." She bit into the chocolate
and caramel bar.

Mulder popped his piece into his mouth and bit into it. His eyebrows shot up
at the sudden burst of sweetness as he chewed. Scully hid a smile as he
unsuccessfully tried to swallow the piece several times. She handed him a
newly filled glass of water to wash the caramel down. Mulder erupted into his
coughing fit and swallowed some more water.

"Maybe a candy bar was the wrong thing to try to start out on," Scully
commented. "What do you think?"

She didn't expect a reply, and she didn't receive one. Mulder suddenly
shivered and sank down into his bed, pulling the blanket up around himself.

Scully was at his side in an instant. She adjusted a second blanket around
him and smiled faintly, cupping his cheek.

"Get some sleep," she told him. "When you wake up, I'll have some food ready
for you."

Mulder's eyes slid shut, and he was asleep within minutes. Scully smiled and
gently kissed his forehead, careful not to disturb him. Mulder sighed, but
did not stir.

"Pleasant dreams, Agent Mulder," Scully whispered.

end part2/8

A Matter of Trust ( 3/8 )

9:18 p.m.

Hot.

Too hot.

Mulder opened heavy eyelids and saw that the room was dark. A quick glance
out the window told him that the sun had gone down.

Two people stood in the doorway. One was Scully. The other was a short dark-
haired woman who looked very familiar. They spoke in hushed tones, but Mulder
heard the words 'fever' and 'captivity', and he became frightened.

As if sensing the sudden change in the room, Scully went to Mulder's side and
stroked his cheek. "Hey there," she said with a smile. "How do you feel?"

Mulder glanced at the newcomer, who was standing beside Scully and looking
down at him with concern. When their eyes met, she smiled. "Hello Fox,
honey. Did you have a nice nap?"

Mulder looked back up at Scully. Scully was feeling his forehead, gauging his
fever. She held a glass of water to his lips. Mulder drank greedily, despite
Scully's protests. When he finished, he sighed miserably and looked up at
Scully expectantly.

"Do you feel that you can eat something?" she asked softly.

Mulder nodded, remembering Scully's earlier promise. With the two women's
help, he managed to sit up but leaned heavily against the headboard. Scully
turned to the woman and said, "Mom, could you keep an eye on him for me while
I go find some food? I'll be back soon." To Mulder, she said, "You remember
my mom? She'll be right here if you need anything. Okay?"

Mulder watched her go, then turned to Maggie. He studied her carefully, tiny
fragments of memories returning to him. Maggie smiled and squeezed his hand.

"I hear you've had quite an interesting time," she said. "Well, don't you
worry, dear. Dana and I are going to take good care of you."

Mulder nodded, not quite sure why. It just felt like the right thing to do.
He wiped the sweat from his brow, feeling much too hot. Maggie handed him the
glass of water. Mulder sipped, not as thirsty. Maggie tried to strike up a
conversation, mostly to keep him awake. Mulder listened as he had before with
Scully, but refused to answer. Nothing could shake the feeling that he would
come back. He would hear him. He would hurt him . . .

Scully returned, carrying a brown paper bag. The aroma coming from the bag
made Mulder's mouth water. Scully shut the door, turned the lights on, and
set the bag on the tray before Mulder. As she took a large cup of chicken
noodle soup and set it out, she spoke softly to them.

"Stupid nursing staff," she grumbled. She handed Mulder a spoon. "First they
won't give me the food when I ask. I had to smuggle this in my purse. I'm
going to have to have a long talk with the administrator."

Mulder looked at the spoon, then up at Scully quizzically. Maggie looked at
her as well, an amused expression on her face. Scully put her hands on her
hips and huffed, exasperated. She looked at the two of them. "What?"

"Nothing, sweetie," Maggie laughed. "I'm sure you'll have some effect on the
administrator, seeing as how you and Fox always seem to end up here."

Scully rolled her eyes and looked at Mulder, who was trying to figure out how
to eat his soup. Gently holding the hand that held the spoon, Scully used
exaggerated motions to show Mulder how to scoop the soup out.

Clumsily, Mulder spooned some broth into his mouth and looked at Scully and
Maggie. Scully smiled and nodded, brushing his hair back with her fingers.
Mulder returned his attention to his dinner like a child with a new toy.
Scully sighed and sank into the extra seat that had been provided upon
Maggie's arrival.

"He doesn't seem as bad as he was before," she commented. "But the fever's
pretty high. The room we found him in was damp. That's probably what caused
it."

"He seems to be doing okay," Maggie replied. She glanced over at Mulder as he
accidentally spilled a few drops of broth on the tray, chuckling lightly as he
stared down at the tiny mess in surprise. "Although I am a little curious as
to why he won't talk. Has he forgotten how?"

"I don't think so," Scully answered. "It might have something to do with . .
." She lowered her voice to a quiet whisper so that Mulder couldn't hear. "I
think Larson might have done something to him during his captivity which
traumatized Mulder so deeply that he's afraid to talk."

"Poor dear." Maggie gave the oblivious young man a sympathetic look.

The door to the room suddenly opened, startling everyone. A nurse stood in
the entryway, shocked at the sight of the soup sitting in front of Mulder.
She stormed over to Mulder and took the soup. "Where did he get this?"

Scully seethed with fury. Tears of confusion stung in Mulder's eyes as the
nurse wrenched the spoon from his hand. Scully decided that that was the last
straw. She jumped to her feet.

"GIVE THAT BACK TO HIM!" she yelled. "What do you think you're doing? First
you let him hurt himself when there shouldn't have been tools in the room,
then you won't feed him because it isn't noon or six on the dot, and now
you're taking away the first real meal he's had in six weeks! Look at him!
He needs nourishment! Now give him back his dinner before I do something that
we're all going to regret!"

"Fine!" The nurse thrust the soup and the spoon into Scully's hands. "We'll
see what the doctor has to say about this!" She whirled around and left the
room.

Scully glared after her, then set the soup back down in front of Mulder.
Mulder's eyes shone with appreciation as he accepted the spoon and slowly
resumed his meal. Scully wiped a stray tear from his cheek with her thumb and
sat back down.

"I don't believe I've ever seen you so upset," Maggie said. "You really put
the nurse in her place."

"If Mulder wasn't in need of medical care, then he wouldn't even be here,"
Scully replied. "I mean, how is he supposed to feel safe if the hospital
staff can't even take care of him?"

"That's why we're here, sweetie," Maggie told her.

Scully sighed and watched Mulder finish his meal. "I guess you're right," she
said. She stood and took the empty cup and threw it away. Drawing the covers
up to Mulder's chin, Scully smiled and bid him goodnight.

end part 3/8

A Matter of Trust ( 4/8 )

7:58 a.m.

Mulder was startled awake by the sounds of a heated argument taking place just
outside of the room. Maggie was asleep in one of the chairs, and Scully was
nowhere to be seen.

Ever so quiet, Mulder disentangled himself from the heap of blankets covering
him and crept over to the door. He peered outside and saw a man, Berkley,
speaking harshly to Scully. Scully's arms were folded, her expression cross. They
were so deep in conversation that they didn't notice the gathering crowd of
spectators around them.

Mulder's head was spinning too fast for him to make out any words. He
stumbled into the bathroom in time to retch into the toilet. The bile burning
in his throat brought tears to his eyes as he slouched over the porcelain.

"Fox? Are you okay?"

Maggie stepped into the bathroom and knelt beside Mulder. She rubbed his
back, waiting patiently for him to finish vomiting.

Mulder sank back, falling into Maggie's arms. He trembled with shock and
illness, weakened from the sudden expulsion of nutrients. Maggie helped him
to his feet and led him back to his bed. As she was readjusting the blankets
over him, her daughter stormed into the room. Scully stopped short when she
saw Mulder's pale face. "What's wrong?"

"Poor Fox got sick." Maggie nodded at the bathroom. "Made it to the toilet.
Oh- how did the talk with Dr. Berkley go?"

Scully snorted. "That man just doesn't want to get nailed for malpractice."
She went to Mulder's side. Mulder watched her every movement, buried under
layers of blankets.

"I'm sorry Mulder," she said. "I shouldn't have given you the soup to eat."
She sighed. "Try and get some more sleep. You'll need as much rest as you
can get."

Mulder obediently shut his eyes, but sleep would not claim him. He drifted in
and out of light dozes for what seemed like hours until finally awakening to
an empty room. Feeling very alone and afraid, he climbed out of bed and
wandered from the room in search of Scully.

The halls were empty. There were no doctors or nurses in sight. Fear
clutched at Mulder's heart, and he tried to return to the safety of his room
when he realized he was lost. He began to shiver in the cold lonliness that
surrounded him.

He was going to find him.

He was going to hurt him . . .

1:19 p.m.

Scully returned to Mulder's room, massaging her aching temple. She had
finally convinced her mother to go home for a shower, change, and a good
night's sleep. Maggie would be back the next day.

Scully stopped dead in her tracks when she discovered that Mulder's bed was
empty. She ran to the nurse's station, only to find it deserted as well.
Scully took off down the hallway, calling Mulder's name and looking into
each room.

She finally found him, nearly a half an hour later, huddled in the supply
room. When Mulder saw her, he sobbed with relief and hugged her tightly. As
they began to walk back to the room, Scully couldn't hold back her anger.

"Dammit Mulder!" she yelled. "I told you to get some sleep! You're nowhere
near well enough to go walking through the halls! Now when I tell you to do
something, for God's sake, do it! Don't make me chase you down! That is not
my job!"

Mulder paused just outside his room and hung his head, guilt crashing down
upon him. Scully immediately regretted the harsh words as a tear rolled down
his cheek. She reached up to brush it away. "Mulder, I---."

She cut herself off when Mulder flinched at her hand. She drew back,
horrified, as Mulder sniffed and walked back into the room, too ashamed to
meet her gaze. Scully watched as he pushed a chair to the window and sat in
it. He stared blankly outside as more tears fell from his eyes.

Scully sat in the chair beside him and tried once more to apologize. She
found that she couldn't finish a sentence without making Mulder cry harder.
She eventually gave up, resolving to sit by him until he settled down.

Day turned to night, and day once more. Mulder hadn't budged an inch since
sitting down. His flushed cheeks were now wet, stained with tears of guilt
and anguish. Scully's own blue eyes were red from crying.

Maggie entered the room late that afternoon to find them sitting listlessly in
the chairs. Scully stood once she saw her mother and approached her.

"Oh Mom," she cried. "It's all my fault . . . he was just so scared . . . I
yelled at him . . ."

"Shh." Maggie held her daughter in a comforting hug. "It's okay. It's all
right, sweetie."

Scully pulled away. Maggie took a blanket from the bed and wrapped it around
Mulder's shivering body. She knelt beside him.

"Fox, honey? Are you hungry? You haven't eaten for two days. Why don't you
come eat with Dana and me?"

At the mention of Scully's name, Mulder sniffed, a tear sliding down his
cheek. His lower lip quivered, threatening to break into a sob at any moment.
His gaze never wavered from the window. Maggie stood, lightly kissed his
hair, and returned to her daughter's side.

Scully hugged her arms to her sides and sniffed. "I shouldn't have yelled . .
. he hasn't moved since yesterday . . . hasn't slept, hasn't eaten . . . I
can't get him to look at me."

"You're the only one who can get through to him, sweetie," Maggie said. "He
listens to you. You've got to tell him that you don't hate him."

"He thinks I hate him?" Scully's voice became shrill. "How do you know?"

"Mother's instincts." Maggie slipped her arm around Scully's waist and gently
led her to Mulder's side. "Go on."

Scully sniffed and sat in the chair beside Mulder. Mulder didn't make any
sign of acknowledgment as Scully licked her lips and began to speak.

"Mulder . . ." She broke off as Mulder began to cry. This was going to be
harder than she thought. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to yell. I never wanted
to hurt you. Please don't cry. I'm so sorry." She paused to take a deep
breath. "Can you forgive me?"

Mulder turned his gaze to her. His eyes were full of pain and guilt; his face
soaked with tears. Scully's heart ached at the sight. She pulled Mulder
close and hugged him. Mulder weakly hugged her back, sobbing on her shoulder.
Scully began to cry as she held him.

After a long while, Mulder quieted down. His head rested against Scully as he
slept, his arms still around her. Scully continued to hold him, not wanting
to let him go. Behind them stood Maggie. She smiled; Mulder looked adorable
in her daughter's arms, almost childlike. She silently crept from the room
and shut the door, not wanting to disturb them.

Scully heard her mother leave and looked down at Mulder. She would have
preferred to move him to his bed, but she didn't have the heart to wake him.
She leaned comfortably back in her chair and drew the blanket tighter around
Mulder. She'd give him until dinner before waking him.

end part 4/8

A Matter of Trust ( 5/8 )

6:36 p.m.

Scully was never more attentive to Mulder, never leaving his side and always
making sure he was comfortable. She was relieved when his fever broke during
his nap in the chair, but she refused to relax until she was certain that
Mulder felt safe and secure with her and Maggie.

"Ahem."

Scully and Maggie looked in the doorway to find Skinner standing there. He
held a manila envelope in one hand and was watching them. Mulder continued
on with his dinner, completely absorbed in the meticulous process of eating
his meal.

"Yes sir?" Scully stood as Skinner approached.

Skinner held up the envelope. "I have photographs of several suspects that
I'd like for Agent Mulder to see," he replied. "We need him to identify his
captor. Is he capable of doing that?"

Scully looked at Mulder, who had finished his meal and was now staring at the
AD with intense curiosity. Scully handed the empty dinner tray to Maggie and
caught Mulder's attention.

"AD Skinner wants to show you some pictures," Scully told him gently. "I know
that this is going to be very hard, but he wants you to tell him who the man
is that hurt you. Okay?"

Confusion flickered across Mulder's face as Skinner opened the envelopes and
removed the photographs. He stared blankly at the first three pictures, not
responding when both Skinner and Scully asked if it was him.

Upon seeing the fourth picture, however, panic struck Mulder, and he tried to
jump out of his bed. Scully grabbed his arm, trying to hold him down. Just
when she thought she could no longer keep her grip, Mulder whirled around and
threw his arms around Scully's neck, gasping and shuddering. As Scully
silently consoled him, she exchanged a knowing glance with Skinner.

Skinner glanced down at the photo of Nick Larson and nodded. "I'll bring him
in for questioning."

Scully watched Skinner leave, then pulled Mulder back to look at him. She
smiled and brushed his hair from his eyes.

"It's okay," she assured him. "He's not going to hurt you anymore. You don't
have anything to be afraid of. Okay?"

Mulder nodded, calming down at the sound of her voice. He didn't dare to do
anything that would upset her; he didn't want her to be angry with him ever
again. He still felt bad about leaving the room, but that feeling was slowly
dwindling away into nothingness.

"Dana, can I speak with you?" Maggie asked. "In private?"

"Sure." Scully followed her mother to the far side of the room and gave her a
quizzical look. "What's wrong?"

"Sweetheart, I'm no doctor, but I don't think it's good for Fox to stay so
quiet all the time," Maggie stated. "It can't be too healthy, but I'm not
sure how to get him talking again. I'm afraid we might scare him so badly
that he'll never want to talk."

"I know," Scully replied, her voice low. "And you're right; it isn't healthy.
It's going to be hard on all of us, but we've got to get him to talk."

She slowly walked back to Mulder's bedside, fully aware of Mulder's hazel eyes
taking in every step. She sank into a seat beside him and took his hand.
Taking a deep breath, she began.

"Mulder . . . I know that when you were kidnapped, you probably weren't
allowed to talk," she said. "And judging by your injuries, Larson would hurt
you when you did. But now you're here, and Larson isn't. It's okay for you
to start talking again."

Fear danced in Mulder's eyes at the thought of uttering a sound. Memories of
him and the pipe returned to him, and he started to breathe faster, shaking.
When Scully stretched her hand out to touch his face, he involuntarily
flinched, seeing him instead of Scully's kind and compassionate face.

He felt a hand pressed against his cheek, and the frightening vision was
replaced by Scully's and Maggie's concerned faces. Scully's hand moved from
his face to his hair. Mulder looked away in shame.

"I'm sorry Mulder." Scully took him into her arms and hugged him. "It's
okay. You don't have to talk now." She gently eased him down and covered him
with a blanket. Exhausted, Mulder fell asleep almost instantly.

"Poor dear," Maggie commented. "I had no idea it was so bad."

"It's worse than that," Scully said. "If he can't tell a court that Larson
was the one who did this to him, then Larson goes free, able to do whatever he
wants."

"What if he decides to come here and finish what he started with Fox?" Maggie
asked.

Scully gave her a stunned look and pulled out her cellular phone. "I didn't
think of that," she said as she dialed a number. After talking with someone
on the other end of the line, she hung up and sighed.

"They're sending a guard to stand outside Mulder's door," she said. "Mom,
maybe you should----."

"Dana, I know what you're going to say, so forget it," Maggie cut her off.
"Fox is part of our family now, and I'm staying right here."

Scully smiled faintly, too tired to argue with her. "I'm sure Mulder
appreciates that," she said softly.

2:47 a.m.

Mulder awoke suddenly, not quite sure why. He noticed Scully sleeping in the
chair beside him; Maggie was gone.

Not quite tired enough to fall back asleep, Mulder climbed out of his bed and
silently crept to the door, careful not to disturb Scully. He glanced outside
of his room and was startled to see someone standing there.

It was a man, not older than forty, dressed in a neatly pressed black suit.
His raven-dark hair was slicked back, with streaks of silver just starting to
peek through. The man looked at Mulder and nodded curtly.

Mulder backed into the room and shut the door, waking Scully. Scully yawned
and stretched, first looking at her watch then over at him. "Mulder? It's
late. What are you doing up?"

Mulder glanced at the door and looked cautiously outside again. The man was
still there. He looked at Mulder once more, a confused expression on his
face. Mulder tried to shut the door again, but this time the man caught it
and pushed his way inside. Caught off-balance, Mulder stumbled back and fell.
He pushed himself backward into the wall, then held his arms out in front of
him to ward the man away.

"Is everything okay?" the man asked Scully.

Scully knelt beside Mulder and helped him to his feet. "Yes, thank you,
everything's fine Agent Bender. Agent Mulder just got the urge to get up and
walk around."

Bender nodded and returned to his post. Scully led Mulder back to his bed.
"Agent Bender is here to keep you from getting out and nearly everyone else
from getting in," she told him. "Don't worry about him. Just worry about
getting some sleep. It's late."

Suddenly, Mulder wrapped his arms around Scully's shoulders and hugged her. "
. . . thank you . . . Scully . . ."

Startled, Scully hugged him back. She could barely contain her excitement as
she replied.

"You're welcome, Mulder. You're more than welcome."

end part 5/8

A Matter of Trust ( 6/8 )

10:26 a.m.

Scully was speaking quietly with Mulder when Maggie arrived. Upon, seeing
her, Scully stood and hugged her.

"What was that for?" Maggie asked, surprised.

Scully broke into a wide grin. "Mulder spoke to me. Late last night. And
twice this morning. He even seems to be doing better physically."

Maggie smiled and hugged Mulder. "Honey, that's wonderful!"

"There's one problem, though," Scully continued. "He won't talk if there are
other people in the room."

"Take it one step at a time, dear," Maggie said. "At least he's talking.
That's something."

"Larson's hearing is today," Scully said. "Mulder isn't needed for that, but
he does have to go to the trial in five days. I'm working to get Mulder
released into my care till then. The hospital's a little reluctant to release
him, but if all goes well, he'll be out of here by tomorrow."

"I have a better idea," Maggie said. "Why don't you bring Fox to my house?
That way we can both keep an eye on him."

"If it's not too much trouble--," Scully replied.

"Trouble! Of course not," Maggie said. "Taking care of Fox on your own is
too big a job for anyone to handle. Besides, we made it this far together.
Might as well go all the way."

"Agent Scully!"

Scully whirled around to face Skinner as he charged through the door. He
carried a duffel bag in one hand, which he tossed onto the bed in front of
Mulder.

"Get dressed," he told Mulder. "And hurry up. We don't have much time."

"What's going on?" Scully asked as Maggie helped Mulder up and sent him into
the bathroom.

"Larson's escaped," Skinner said. "He killed two men in the process. We've
got to get Mulder out of here before Larson decides to come finish the job."

Mulder emerged a moment later, wearing jeans, an oversized polo shirt, and
untied sneakers. Firmly gripping his arm, Skinner led him out of the room,
Maggie and Scully in tow.

Skinner didn't release Mulder until they reached the parking lot. He pushed
Mulder into the front passenger seat of his car and circled around to the
driver's side.

Scully opened the rear door behind Mulder and turned to face her mother.
"Mom, I'll call you when I can."

"But--," Maggie began to protest.

"No buts!" Scully sat down. "Thanks for everything. We'll take you up on
your offer when this is all over." She shut the door, and Skinner tore from
the lot in a peal of rubber.

Maggie sighed and watched them go. "Good luck."

* * * *

Scully leaned forward in her chair. "Where are we going?"

"Hopefully somewhere that Larson wouldn't think of finding Mulder," Skinner
replied.

"What makes you think Larson would be so obvious as to go after Mulder?"
Scully asked.

"I did some checking up on Larson," Skinner explained. "Apparently he's been
charged so many times for so many crimes, from computer fraud to several
counts of murder in the first degree. Unfortunately, no one's been able to
convict him because all of the witnesses who could send him away seem to
mysteriously disappear, only to turn up dead weeks later. This guy has killed
almost a hundred people. If we can keep Mulder alive until the trial, then
Larson will be put away for good."

Mulder was watching the conversation, still unsure of what was going on. His
knuckles were white from clutching the seat; a result of Skinner's haste.

Scully glanced at the speedometer. "Uh, sir?" she asked. "Maybe you should
slow down, just a little bit. You'll attract less attention if you're not
going eighty miles an hour."

It was an exaggeration, but Skinner slowed to just above the speed limit.
"There's a cabin in the woods about an hour's drive outside of Arlington.
Then it's about forty-five minutes more on foot. Only three people know about
it; me, and now you two. There are supplies already there. All we have to do
is hide out up there for awhile. Hopefully we're just being paranoid, but
with Larson, you never can tell."

11:32 p.m.

Scully stood and stretched her arms high over her head. She had spent the
past few hours trying to convince Mulder that it was safe to go to sleep. He
had been so frightened by the day's events that he hadn't uttered a word, even
with only him and Scully in the room.

Now, with Mulder finally asleep, Scully softly crept from the room into the
den, where Skinner sat tending a fire.

"Have you made any progress with him?" Skinner asked.

Scully sat down in a comfortable armchair. "As a matter of fact, I've finally
managed to get him to talk to me," she replied. "But he won't talk to anyone
else, and now he won't even talk to me because of the situation."

"The trial won't do us any good if he won't testify," Skinner pointed out.

Scully nodded. "I know," she said. "But we have a few days yet. I'm sure
we'll figure something out before then."

They sat in an awkward pause before Scully continued. "What if this isn't all
for nothing?" she asked.

"What do you mean?" asked Skinner.

"Well," Scully said. "What if Larson does find us? What then?"

"Don't worry," Skinner assured her. "I won't let Larson get Mulder. He'll
have to go through me first."

The two agents lapsed into another pause, longer this time.

"It's late," Skinner finally spoke up. "You should try and get some sleep
before Mulder wakes up. I have a feeling that tomorrow is going to be a very
long day for all of us."

Scully nodded and stood, leaving Skinner to tend the slowly dying fire.

8:53 a.m.

Mulder awoke to the sun shining brightly in his eyes. He squinted and looked
away, becoming momentarily frightened when he saw the unfamiliar surroundings.
Awareness set in, and he sighed with relief. He wasn't there.

Mulder climbed out of bed and decided to explore the cabin. He was careful to
be silent, not wanting to awaken everyone else.

The cabin was small, with only three bedrooms, one bathroom, and a den.
Mulder entered the den and was startled to find Skinner sitting there, gazing
out the window. Skinner turned to Mulder and nodded.

"Good morning," he greeted. "Sleep well?"

Mulder nodded and looked away. He felt uncomfortable around the older man.
He sank into a nearby armchair, unsure of what else to do.

Scully entered the room, yawning. She did a double take when she saw Mulder
sitting down. "You're up already? What time is it?"

"Almost nine," Skinner replied.

"Nine?" Scully's eyebrows shot up. "I guess I'll go see what's for
breakfast."

She turned to leave, but stopped when Skinner called her back. Skinner sat in
front of Mulder and looked at him directly into his eyes.

"You can't have any breakfast until you tell Scully what you want," Skinner
said.

"Sir--," Scully tried to protest.

"Agent Scully, this is necessary." Skinner turned back to Mulder. "If you
want something to eat, you have to tell her. With me sitting here."

Mulder looked from Skinner to Scully, a hurt look on his face. He opened his
mouth and moved his jaw as if to speak, but no words came out. Dejectedly,
Mulder looked down at his feet.

Skinner sighed and rubbed his face. "Okay, let's try something else."

Scully knelt in front of Mulder and lightly touched his knee. Mulder looked
at her tiredly.

"Mulder, you have to talk," she said. "Not just to me, and Skinner, but
you're eventually going to be asked some questions in front of a lot of
people. And they're going to want you to answer them. If this wasn't so
important, then we wouldn't be pushing you. But it is, so please. Talk. It
doesn't have to be anything big. Just a name, a color, whatever. Please."

Mulder stared at her, then looked back down at his feet. Skinner sighed and
stood. Scully stood as well, ready to follow Skinner into the kitchen when a
soft-spoken voice stopped them both.

"Corn flakes."

Scully and Skinner exchanged shocked glances and stared at Mulder. "What did
you say?" Scully asked.

Mulder's gaze never wavered from his feet. "Corn f-flakes," he whispered.
"C-could I have some corn f-flakes? Please?"

Scully smiled. "I'll go see if we have some."

The day passed fairly quickly. Scully and Skinner occasionally asked Mulder
questions. Mulder answered them, but his voice wouldn't raise from a whisper.
Whenever he spoke, he would suddenly become very interested in the floor.
Scully tried to catch his eyes one time, but Mulder became so flustered that
he couldn't talk for several hours.

"S-Scully?" Mulder asked as he lay down in his bed.

"Yes Mulder?" Scully said as she pulled the covers up over Mulder. She
seated herself beside him on the bed.

"Why are we here?"

"To get a change of scenery?" Scully tried, smiling.

Mulder gave her a confused look. Scully sighed.

"Larson-- the man who kidnapped you-- escaped from custody," Scully finally
said. "But don't worry. Skinner brought you here just to be safe. By the
time the trial rolls around, Larson will be out of your life for good. Okay?"

Mulder nodded and closed his eyes. Scully waited until she saw the steady
rise and fall of his chest as she fondly brushed his hair back, then left the
room.

A shadow cast itself over Mulder's peaceful form, blocking the moonlight. The
figure looked down on his prey and grinned.

The hunt was about to begin.

end part 6/8

A Matter of Trust ( 7/8 )

Scully had just grown comfortable in the den with a book when she heard the
sound of glass shatter. She tossed Skinner an alarmed look and ran towards
the source.

Mulder was lying on the floor of his room, cradling a bloodied arm. A tall,
hefty man stood over him, brandishing a knife stained with Mulder's blood.
Scully had never seen a more terrified expression on Mulder's face.

"Larson! Freeze!" Skinner and Scully had their guns out and aimed at the
intruder. Larson whirled around, clearly startled.

"Drop the knife and back away!" Skinner ordered.

Larson slowly edged away, allowing Scully to move closer to Mulder. Suddenly,
Larson ducked and rushed Skinner, sending the AD crashing back into the wall.
His gun clattered to the ground. Skinner was on his feet in an instant,
grappling with Larson for control of the knife. Scully tried to get a clear
shot of Larson, but failed.

"Mulder!" Skinner managed to shout. "Run! Get out of here!"

That was all the encouragement Mulder needed. He scrambled to his feet and
stumbled from the room as Skinner kept Larson at bay. Scully joined the fray
and tried to pull Larson off of the faltering AD, but Larson gripped her wrist
and flung her aside. Scully recovered in time to see the knife plunge into
Skinner's thigh. Skinner let out a pained grunt as Larson yanked the knife
out and ran after Mulder.

Scully knelt beside Skinner and began to tie a bedsheet around his leg, just
above the wound. Skinner gripped Scully's wrists, stopping her.

"I'll do it," he gasped. "Find Mulder before Larson does."

Scully hesitated, but Skinner insisted. Finally, Scully gripped her gun and
ran from the room.

Thunder rumbled in the sky above as rain began to fall. Mulder was too full
of terror to notice as he ran through the woods in his bare feet. His right
arm throbbed from where he had cut him.

It wasn't long before his T-shirt and jeans were soaked from the steadily
worsening rainfall. He began to shiver in the chilled air.

He tripped over a tree root, falling face-first into a puddle of mud. Afraid
and aware that he was nearby, Mulder pushed himself to his feet and stumbled
on.

Meanwhile, Scully was completely oblivious to the sudden storm as she raced
through the forest. Getting to Mulder first was the foremost thing on her
mind.

She caught sight of a movement just off to her left, and she headed in that
direction.

Mulder paused in the hollowed trunk of a large tree to catch his breath. His
arms, legs, and face were cut and bruised from tripping on rocks and roots.
The strong rain did little to help. He curled into as small a ball as he
possibly could and remained perfectly quiet and immobile.

The sound of someone breathing heavily reached his ears. Mulder shut his eyes
tightly and held his breath as the person stopped a few feet away. After a
few minutes, the person began to run again.

When Mulder was certain it was safe, he crawled out into the rain and started
to run in the opposite direction when a hand clamped down on his arm. The
vise-like grip whirled him around, bringing him face-to-face with him.

Larson clutched Mulder's throat, lifting him into the air. Mulder clawed at
the hand, but the grip refused to loosen.

Larson grinned viciously up at Mulder. "Thought you were safe, huh?" he
taunted. "Thought that after all our time together, you were finally done
with me?"

Mulder gasped for air. Black spots swam before his eyes.

"After I'm done with you, I'm going to go back and finish off your friends,
like I did with all my other victims," Larson continued. "Good night, Agent
Mulder."

Suddenly, Larson's eyes widened as white-hot pain seared through his chest.
He immediately released Mulder, who crumpled to the ground. Larson looked
down in surprise at the quickly-spreading red stain on the front of his shirt.
He turned around to find Scully, her gun still pointed at him. With as much
strength as he could muster, he opened his mouth to speak.

"I'm . . . not done . . . yet . . ." he gasped. He collapsed onto the ground,
hanging onto thin threads of consciousness. Scully loomed into view above
him.

"Yes, you are," she whispered, an unsettling coldness in her voice.

Satisfied that Larson was no longer a threat, she pushed through the now-
abating rain to kneel beside her fallen partner.

Mulder's lips held a bluish tint to them, and he wasn't breathing. Scully
forced her panic aside and, tilting Mulder's head back, tried to breathe life
into him. His skin was too pale and cold. Scully poised her ear above his
mouth and strained to hear the breathing that wasn't there.

"Come on, Mulder." Scully breathed air into his mouth, then placed her hands
directly above his heart and pumped five steady rhythms. "Come back to me.
Don't give up on me now."

One breath.

Five pumps.

Nothing.

One breath.

Five pumps.

Nothing.

Scully's attempts became more urgent, more furious. Each try brought no sign
of life to Mulder. Hot tears spilled onto her cheeks as she refused to
relent.

"Dammit Mulder!" Scully cried. "Don't you leave me! Not now! Not after
everything else!"

Five defeated pumps.

One shuddering breath.

Nothing.

Then . . .

Mulder suddenly coughed violently, shivering from illness and pain. Scully
let out a cry of relief. She tugged Larson's coat off of the lifeless body
and, wrapping it around Mulder, gathered him into her arms and held him.

"It's all over now, Mulder," Scully assured his sleeping form. "Larson's
gone. He can't hurt you anymore."

end part 7/8

A Matter of Trust ( 8/8 )

Margaret Scully's residence
One week later

Scully sat on the bed beside Mulder in the guest room that Mulder currently
occupied. Mulder was asleep; he had been for nearly a day. But Scully could
not tear herself away from his side. She was still recovering from the fact
that she almost lost her best friend.

They hadn't been in the woods too long before several cops had found them. It
wasn't until later, when she and Mulder were at the hospital, that she had
learned that Skinner had radioed for help. Scully had visited Skinner and was
relieved to find that his wound wasn't serious. He would have to get around
on crutches for awhile, but he was going to be fine.

Mulder's condition was a bit more serious. He'd regained consciousness over
twenty-four hours later, too weak to talk but alert enough to listen to Scully
tell him of Larson's death.

"Honey?"

Scully turned her head and saw her mother standing in the doorway. Maggie sat
beside her daughter and glanced at Mulder. "How is he?"

"His coughing fits are dying down," Scully replied, her voice low. "The cold
he caught is still bothering him, though. I should run out to the store and
buy some more antibiotics."

"You have plenty of time to do that later," Maggie said. "How are you?"

"Me?" Scully said. "What do you mean?"

"Dana, you haven't left Fox's side since this entire thing began," Maggie
pointed out. "Let him heal, but let yourself heal as well."

Scully looked down as Mulder began to cough. She slipped a hand behind his
neck and, supporting his head, held a glass of water to his lips. Mulder
weakly sipped the liquid and fell into a deep sleep once more.

"I can't leave him now," Scully said. "He needs me."

"Maybe," Maggie agreed. "But you'll be more help to him if you're refreshed
and well-rested. Go get some sleep. You look like you could use it."

Scully smiled faintly. "I guess . . ." She trailed off for a moment before
recovering. "Mom, I came so close . . . he almost died out there . . ."

Tears glistened in her eyes. Maggie held her in a reassuring hug.
"But he didn't, sweetheart," she soothed. "He's still alive, and he'll stay
that way for a long time. You can't let that fear run your life, or neither
of you will be able to go on from this point."

Scully sniffed. "I know," she said. "I know that."

Maggie patted her back and pulled away. "Good," she said. "Now get some
sleep before you wake the poor guy up."

Scully let out a little laugh and wiped her eyes. "Thanks, Mom," she said.

Maggie smiled and left the room as quietly as she had entered. Scully watched
her go, then stood and shut the door. She sat back down in the spot she had
just vacated and fondly brushed the hair from Mulder's eyes.

"Mom may be right," she whispered. "But until you're better, I'm not going
anywhere. What do you think about that?"

She softly kissed Mulder's forehead and curled up on the bed beside him.