It was damn cold.
Scully batted her eyes awake, her vision blurred, almost swimming. She picked her head up long enough to glance half-way around the cave. Mulder was standing, staring at something in the corner. He was frowning, but his eyes held something akin to shock. If she remembered the cave layout correctly, he was staring at the mouth of the cave. And, if her fuzzy head was accurate, it should be covered in rocks. One of which was responsible for her pounding headache, and fuzzy thoughts.
She cursed the whole bunch, but didn't waste the energy to turn and see them.
It was probably still Tuesday, she didn't think she'd been out for long, a good sign if she had a concussion. They'd been missing for two days. Saturday morning they'd arrived in the coldest, most miserably isolated section of Upstate New York. They'd taken supplies on Sunday to trek into the mountains looking for missing hikers—presumed alien abductees by Mulder. Whatever happened to them, they were missing, and likely in need of medical help, so she agreed to his plan of action.
No one mentioned the bat-shit crazy colony of survivalists that had claimed this small piece of the Adirondack mountains for themselves. The survivalists that had sniffed out the FBI agents, deemed them a traitorous (read: government) threat, and went about making their trek through the frigid mountains a living hell. Broken radios and stolen supplies in the middle of the night, altering signs so they got lost, and using them as target practice (just to scare, not to maim of course) were among their activities.
They were lost by Sunday night, then a storm blew in Tuesday morning. They had to find shelter, or they'd likely die of exposure. Mulder found the cave, and they set up camp. The survivalists found them shortly after, and proceeded to shoot around the mouth of the cave. After destabilizing it, they ran off. The two exhausted agents fell to the ground, and had a snack. Then a storm came as they were sitting around the fire, which they built just outside the mouth, so as not to kill themselves with the smoke. That was around eleven.
The sheer force of the wind shook the trees, and sent one flying toward them. They'd scrambled into the cave, but not before the tree fell on it, and started an avalanche. The last thing Scully remembered was the sick thud of a stone crashing against her skull, and Mulder pushing her to the floor, while they both tried to cover their heads.
Scully wearily ran through this in her foggy mind, gazing once more toward Mulder before passing out.
"Scully…Scully…Scully!" Mulder's insistent voice pulled her back into the darkness of the cave. Their lantern-flashlight had died, so all she saw was his hazel-green eyes glowing barely inches from her face.
"What?" Her tongue felt too big, and her mouth too small, but she managed to speak.
"You hit your head pretty hard, I was worried about a concussion." She didn't need light to read the expression she knew would be on his face.
"I'm okay." There was a small whoosh as he let go of the breath he'd been holding on her behalf. "You okay, Mulder?"
"Yeah, just wondering how to get out of this mess."
"We're better off in here until the storm dies anyway." Maybe it was the bump on the head, but she didn't much care about leaving. She was too damn tired to move.
"You're right. Local PD hasn't heard from us in days, they must have contacted Skinner; he'll get half the Bureau out here looking for us." She raised an eyebrow at that, and somehow he knew. She saw his teeth when he grinned. "At least for you. I think he's a little sweet on you, Scully."
She managed to roll her eyes, though it felt like her eyeballs were moving through pudding. He grinned again. Her eyelids drooped shut again, trading one darkness for another.
"Scully! Scully! Scully!" Each shouting of her name was like a gunshot inside her skull. He sounded desperate and scared to death, so she allowed him to once again pull her into consciousness.
She immediately gagged, her throat and eyes burning as she added more half-digested protein bar to the pile in front of her face. Realization turned her stomach, and forced the rest of the protein bar up her throat and out her mouth. She gagged and hacked, and dry heaved for a minute before the nausea passed and she rolled away from the vomit, the mouth of the cave now to her right, instead of her back.
That was why he'd sounded so scared, she'd been very close to choking on her own vomit. Oh yeah, she had a concussion, and nausea didn't bode well for her survival.
"You okay, Scully?" He leaned close to her again, his voice almost timid with worry.
"Y-yep." She spit, trying to relieve herself of the vomit taste. "Time?" She asked.
"About 4:30," he said, glancing at the watch on his wrist. Scully nodded, and let her head rest back on the ground.
"I'm sorry I dragged us up here." The hazel had become brown tinged. With Mulder brown meant he was feeling guilty or sad.
"Th-people hurt, o-o-our job." God, that wasn't a sentence was it?
"I should have taken more time to prepare, Scully. We would have known about the survivalists, but the Henleys had already been missing a few days and I wanted to get out here quickly. That has cost us a lot."
"Not your fault." Her mouth felt so heavy, so hard to move.
"Yeah it is, but thanks for saying that."
Her heavy eyelids began to droop again, but she shook herself, sort off. She was moving barely faster than a glacier. She went to reach for him, and missed, getting only a handful of air. She must be bad if she can't even manage to grab a man less than a foot away from her.
"I'll get you out of here, Scully. I promise."
"I know." He always did, didn't he? She managed a half a smile before dropping back off into unconsciousness.
"Scully. Hey Scully. Wake-up for me." His voice was gentle this time, easing her eyes open again to see his beautiful face.
"Wha?" She slurred.
"You're getting too cold, come snuggle with me." A mischievous grin accompanied the spark in his eye.
She tried to raise an eyebrow, but she wasn't sure if she made it.
"I won't try anything, scout's honor, Scully."
"Weren't a boy scout." She'd gained some of her voice back.
"Fine, Indian Guide's honor." She couldn't see, but she'd have bet her next paycheck that he was holding up two fingers. "Come on Scully, the last place I'd make a move on you is some place as cold as this. Cold does unflattering things to the male anatomy."
She managed a strained chortle at that. "Fine."
Then he suddenly disappeared. "Over here, Scully."
She picked up her head, and looked to the side, she saw the whites of his eyes over by the entrance. At least, she thought that was where the entrance was, damned if she really knew where anything was now.
"Why?" She demanded.
"Come over here, it's warmer."
She stared at him for a long minute. Why would it be warmer over there? That didn't make sense, but then she was the one with the concussion, so she probably shouldn't argue logic with him. She wasn't really sure she could figure it out at that point anyway.
She tried to push herself up from the hard ground, but her arms were rubbery from poor diet, lack of sleep, exposure, and her head injury. She quickly fell back to the ground, groaning as she went down hard, even for the small distance she'd made it up.
"Come on, Scully. Come on over to me," Mulder encouraged her. She was tempted to tell him to shove it, but didn't want to waste the energy.
She decided to try and drag herself—humiliating as that might be, he couldn't see her anyway—and that was as unsuccessful. Breathing heavily, her head pounding further, she wondered why Mulder wasn't helping her. Normally, if he saw her struggling or she seemed tired, he'd jump to assist her, but now, he didn't seem to want to move.
"You can do this, Scully. Push yourself, your good at that." He sounded almost afraid then, a little desperation tingeing his voice. Was he injured too? Had he been hiding it? She was suddenly very concerned for him.
Scully reverted then to infancy, and rolled over once in his direction. Her head swam, but she was able to move that way, so she rolled a few more times. Breathing heavily, her head still spinning even as she lay still, body finally planted right next to Mulder's—the fabric of their thick jackets and pants touching.
He was laying on his stomach, so she used her remaining energy to push him up on his side. Bracing him with one hand, she ran a hand over his chest, and finding no injuries there, sighed with relief for a moment. "You hurt?"
"No Scully, I'm good. Just worried for you." His voice was calm again, and it relaxed her.
She shimmied into him, pressing her body along the length of his, curling into him. He wanted to snuggle, she was more than happy to oblige. Not that she'd ever admit that aloud, of course. Rather than stay on his side, Mulder seemed to fall heavily, back down over her, covering her body. Of course, he was exhausted from watching her however long she'd been in and out, but was as determined as ever to protect her, even to wrap her in his body heat. If she wasn't so out of it, she might have argued.
Instead, she closed her eyes.
"It's okay now, Scully. Just go to sleep, help is on the way," his voice poured into the darkness of her head.
She didn't ask him what he meant.
Scully tried to open her eyes, blinking, noting the voice of her boss just before the super-bright lights tried to seer her eyes. She snapped them shut, and groaned softly.
"It's okay, you're in the hospital. You can open your eyes now."
She did as she was told, still grimacing at the lights and the ache in her head. Damn, she'd had enough waking up at hospitals to last her a lifetime…and then some. She forced herself to focus on Skinner, and then she saw her mother beside him, looking terribly worried. Hands were suddenly on her eyelids, prying them open, and waving an even brighter light in front of them.
"Oh Jesus," she groaned, resisting the urge to slap the doctor's hands away.
"Hello Agent Scully, it's wonderful to see you awake. How're you feeling?" The doctor, an Indian woman, smiled at her, and made notations on her chart.
"Head hurts, throat's sore, when can I go home?" She heard her mother's sigh of relief and her boss's chuckle beside her.
"Not yet, I still want to keep an eye on you. Follow my finger, please."
Once again, Scully did as directed, following the woman's finger as it moved back and forth in front of her face. "How's Mulder?"
"I'm not sure who you mean." Before Scully could explain, a thermometer was shoved in her mouth, and she felt her mother squeeze her hand.
"We found the hikers, Scully. You're survivalist friends had them, and they've been arrested by the way—the survivalists I mean." Skinner was looking from the doctor to the walls to his shoes.
The thermometer beeped, the doctor checked it, nodded in satisfaction, and made more notations.
"That's good, I'm glad they're okay," Scully said, distractedly, more concern about Mulder.
"Alright Agent Scully, you seem to be recovering well, but you do have a concussion and were hypothermic when they brought you in, so I want to watch you one more night."
"Okay." Whatever, she didn't care. "Mulder, my partner, the man I was brought in with, did you treat him?"
The doctor frowned. Skinner chose that moment to jump in. "Uh, thank you doctor, we'll take it from here."
She nodded and left. Scully looked between her mother and her boss, their faces revealing little but that they didn't want to tell her something. She couldn't help the tremor in her voice. "Where's Mulder? Why doesn't that doctor know him?"
"Scully, he wasn't brought to the hospital for treatment."
"Then where was he brought?" Her voice was angry, she refused to hear what he was saying.
Skinner shifted uncomfortable, and looked around the room, anywhere but her. Finally, he managed to focus on her. "He didn't make it. Mulder was already dead when we found you. We, we uh assumed you knew that."
"That isn't possible. He can't be—why would I know that?" She struggled to keep her voice steady, her emotions in check. It was all just a colossal mix-up, she had to sort it out.
"When we found you, you were curled up underneath him," he stopped, looking away, regaining his control. "You're a doctor, we figured you'd checked him over, and, and used him for protection, for warmth."
Scully swallowed, mouth hanging open, lips quivering. "He was alive. He was alive when I went over to him. I was talking to him. He was fine, he'd been walking around, his speech was clear, I had no reason to think—I, he can't be dead. He was fine."
"He was cold by the time we found you. Rigor had already started, even with the cold, the ME determined he'd been dead for several hours."
"What, what time did you find us?" Her voice was soft, and on the verge of breaking.
"Around eight, Tuesday evening. The ME said he probably died around one or two that afternoon."
Scully shook her head violently, exacerbating her headache. "That isn't possible. I asked him the time at 4:30. He checked his watch, I remember that. He'd just woken me up, because I was vomiting."
"We saw that. I don't know what to tell you, Scully. You must have dreamt that. Mulder got hit pretty bad with those rocks, he had a giant gash in his head. The ME says he probably lapsed into unconsciousness right after the avalanche got you both, and never came out of it."
"Where is he? I need to see him." Her voice was high as she struggled not to cry.
Skinner sighed. "They already took his body back to DC."
The tears began to slip down her cheeks then, and she couldn't fight them. He couldn't be dead, she'd spoken to him. He'd told her to come snuggle with him, and shot her that naughty smile of his that made him seem like such a scoundrel. He couldn't be dead. He just couldn't be dead. It wasn't possible.
"Scully, I know this probably won't mean much now, but Mulder would have been amused to know that your rescue is a bit of an X file," Skinner admitted.
She looked at him, saying nothing.
"We never would have found you behind that avalanche, but there was this light. It disappeared once we got there, but I'd swear it led us right to the cave."
With that admission, Scully found the truth hitting her square in the face. All her control faltered then, and her body began to shake violently with sobs. Skinner made his exit, and her mother sat beside her, pulling her little girl into her arms.
"I'm so sorry, Dana." Her mother sat and held her, and Scully buried her face in her shoulder.
Mulder was dead.
But, he kept his promise. He got her out of the cave.
Even in death, he protected her.
Don't hate me. I couldn't warn you, it would have given too much away. I hope it didn't bum anyone out too much. Thanks for reading, and please review!