“Mulder, help me. Please, Mulder.”
Relief bubbles up from her very core, escaping in the form of two hot tears slipping down her cheeks. He's alive. She holds him as tightly as she dares for one golden moment, indescribably grateful for his weak but active grip on her shoulder, before the urgency sets back in. She's been so focused on finding him, on getting to him, that she hasn't exactly made a plan for getting him out.
A wild glance around the room reveals, blessedly, a wheelchair parked against one wall. Thank God. Scully is strong, but not strong enough to carry her incapacitated partner entirely on her own. Even transferring him to the chair will be a challenge, but a manageable one. Carefully, she eases him back down to the table, then pulls the ECG leads off his chest; they’re not hooked up to anything, anyway.
“Hold on, Mulder,” she whispers. “I’m going to get you out of here.”
As quickly and quietly as possible, she retrieves the wheelchair and parks it beside him, fumbling to lock the wheels. Adrenaline gives her the necessary surge of energy to sit him up and slide him into the chair, her arms locked fast around his ribcage as he slumps against her. It’s hardly a textbook transfer, but it’s done, and she hurries them both back to the elevator and out of the building. There’s another dicey transition between the chair and her car, but soon enough they are speeding away. She cycles her gaze between the road ahead, the rearview mirror, and his ashen face.
“I’ve got to get you to a hospital,” she murmurs, even as she worries if anywhere will be safe from the men who did this to him.
“No… hospitals,” he croaks, shaking his head dully. “Just… just you.”
“Mulder, you need imaging scans. I have no way of knowing the extent of the damage. Of knowing what’s been done to you.” She reaches over, running the backs of her fingers from his temple to his chin before finding his arm and squeezing. “I won’t let you out of my sight. Not for one second, okay?”
He puts his hand on top of hers, then closes his eyes, nodding. His head lolls back against the seat, and his arm goes slack, his hand falling back into his lap. Scully reaches up again to find his pulse, thready but present, and presses her foot a little harder on the accelerator.
“This is unbelievable.”
The same neurologist who treated Mulder before gestures to the PET scan images on the screen in front of him. On the left is the current reading from the machine; on the right, he’s pulled up Mulder’s scan from the previous week. Scully watches intently over his shoulder, breaking her focus periodically to glance through the window, to put eyes on her partner, needing that reassurance even given the real-time image of his brain on the monitor.
The doctor shakes his head, clicking through the live results as they are generated. “There does not seem to be a single indication of any abnormal activity here. I can’t even begin to explain it. If I didn’t know better, I would say there was no way these scans came from the same patient. A reversal of this magnitude… it’s just unbelievable.”
“His preliminary EEG looked normal, too,” Scully murmurs, standing upright and crossing her arms over her chest. “So whatever was wrong with him before… what, you’re saying it’s over now?”
“For the moment, at least. I can’t speculate as to whether he will suffer a relapse of some sort, not least because I still have no idea what caused his previous condition to begin with. But at this time, I see no evidence of any continued pathology, nor any lasting damage from the trauma his brain has already endured.” He turns around to look at her, his eyebrows raised. “Frankly, I’m more surprised by that than by anything else. He should have severe, permanent brain damage, but there's nothing here. It’s completely baffling.”
Scully nods, unsure how to process the knowledge that Mulder was apparently taken away to be helped, rather than harmed. Given her certainty of who took him, it doesn’t make any sense.
Then again, it’s not as though she’s sorry to see him cured. Rather emphatically the opposite, in fact.
“At any rate,” the doctor continues, “I’d say he can likely go home as early as tomorrow, barring any complications with that surgical wound on his scalp. For now, let’s get him back to his room to rest.”
He’s been asleep for almost eighteen hours. She has left his side only to use the restroom -- the one right in his hospital room -- and even then, she’s locked his door and shoved a doorstop underneath it on the inside. The doctors and nurses, while perhaps annoyed, don’t dare say anything to her about it, not after everything that’s happened.
Skinner came by, once. He only stayed long enough to confirm that Mulder will be all right, leaving with a nod and a curt offer that she take as much time as she needs before returning to work. Even understanding why he surveilled them, why he went to Kritschgau and almost got Mulder killed, why he refused to help after Mulder was taken, understanding that his hands were tied and his own life in danger, Scully finds it hard to feel sympathy for the guilt written all over her boss’s face. Oh, she will undoubtedly forgive him eventually, just as she has after each of the previous times he’s worked against them or behaved in ways that have shaken their trust in him. But right now everything is still too raw. Logical comprehension of his reasons doesn’t automatically equate to feeling good about his actions.
Aside from that interruption, and the occasional visits from hospital staff, it has been a very quiet day, one that she has sorely needed. She can’t seem to stop letting her eyes roam appreciatively over Mulder’s face, relaxed in sleep. He’s still hooked up to an EEG -- his doctors want 24 hours of normal results before they’ll release him -- and she watches the patterns as he cycles in and out of REM. At times, it is difficult to stay awake herself, Mulder’s quiet breathing the only sound in the room for long periods. She doesn’t want to leave him unguarded, though, so she keeps herself alert by telling him about Africa, about what she found and didn’t find, about the locusts and the craft and the vanishing man. She whispers to him until the fatigue recedes again, even though he’s sleeping deeply enough that she probably could speak aloud without waking him.
And then, after twenty hours, his eyes finally blink open, and a smile breaks across Scully’s face.
“Hi,” she says softly. “How are you feeling?”
“Like Rip van Winkle.” His voice is rough from disuse, and he swallows before trying again. “How long was I out?”
“The better part of a day. You’ll probably be running a sleep deficit for a while, yet, after everything you’ve been through.” She stands and gently pulls back the edge of the bandage ringing his head. “No sign of infection, and minimal swelling, considering you’ve undergone a fairly invasive procedure. Outwardly, everything looks good. Remarkably good, in fact.”
“What can I say? I’ve always been a fast healer,” he jokes, as if that alone could explain the astounding nature of his recovery. He closes his eyes, brow furrowed slightly in concentration, then gives an almost imperceptible shake of his head. “Nothing. All quiet on the western front.”
“You mean the voices you were hearing before?”
“Thoughts. I could hear… see… I don’t know how, but the symbols on that artifact gave me some kind of telepathic ability.”
She doesn’t disbelieve him, exactly. She’s fully aware of the extent to which his brain was operating in unprecedented ways. But it’s still shocking. “Mulder, that’s--”
“Kritschgau verified it, Skinner witnessed it. I heard you, Scully. When you came to see me before. When you told me to hold on. I heard the things you didn’t say out loud.”
She looks down, an involuntary flush creeping over her cheeks. She had been so afraid for him, so desperately scared of losing him, that her thoughts had surely been something along the lines of I love you, don’t leave me, I love you, don’t leave me, I love you…
His hand finds hers and squeezes, lightly. When she dares to meet his gaze, he simply nods, the softness in his eyes and smile rendering words unnecessary. With a shaky breath, she smiles back.