Exaiphnes VI: Blindsided
Written by Rachel

AUTHOR'S NOTES: The challenge here is to not make the notes longer than the story . . . this has been floating around in my head for as long as the Exaiphnes series has existed. I am a huge fan of Muldertorture and I wanted to get our pair to the point where they could deal with some trauma. The medical stuff is relatively accurate, but I got it off the Internet, so use it with a grain of salt. Please, please let me know what you think.

My writing can only improve with feedback. I also owe a huge debt to the many people who helped me get this baby done. To my trusty beta readers Gerry Hill and Jo-Ann Lassiter - you keep me honest and my Scully from getting too bitchy. To Tara, even though she can't finish a beta in time, I love ya anyway! Finally, to Vali who has become more of a friend than I even knew I needed and to Marti. Even though we share a brain, I appreciate all the little things you do including reading this story about 49 times. Thanks again for letting Sam join our family.

DISCLAIMER: This story is based on the characters and situations created by Chris Carter and owned by the Fox Network and 1013 Productions, as well as by ABC and Steven Bochco. As such, the characters named are the property of those entities and are used without permission, although no copyright infringements are intended.

Fells Point, Maryland
April 7
5:43 a.m.

Mulder rolled over, trying carefully to extract himself from Tim's arms without waking the other man. He slipped out of the bed and walked to the bathroom, quietly undergoing his morning routine, shower, shave. He was just wiping away the last of the shaving cream when he felt Tim's warm body behind his.

"Sorry, I tried not to wake you," Mulder said, turning to greet Tim with a morning kiss. He pulled away and reached for his toothbrush. "I have an early meeting with Scully and Skinner. There's no time for any pre-work activities today." He smiled and shot Tim a quick wink.

"I hate this commute," Tim said, reaching for his toothbrush as well. Mulder spread the toothpaste first on his brush, then Tim's. "We going to go look at those condos in Columbia this weekend?"

Mulder shrugged, his mouth full of toothpaste.

"You think the 'burbs are ready for us?" Tim asked, his voice muffled with the presence of the toothbrush against his teeth.

Mulder just smiled and shook his head, spitting the paste out. "I'm not sure I'm ready for the 'burbs', let alone them for us. Besides I'm not sure I'm ready for another move. The last one nearly killed me." Tim shot him a look, the memory of their ill-fated move still fresh in both of their memories.

"So a 'no' on Columbia. Any better ideas?" Tim asked, reaching past Mulder for the hand towel to wipe his face.

"A bullet train to DC?"

Tim just laughed and pushed him out of the bathroom and toward the closet. "I'll get your coffee, you get dressed. I'll get you on that 6:25 train if I have to drive you down to Camden Station myself."

Mulder smiled and moved over to the closet. It had seemed to make more sense for him to move to Baltimore. Tim's schedule was so much less predictable and he already lived near work. Mulder had simply exchanged a 45 minute commute for an hour and a half. It wasn't that big a deal, it just was a lot harder to get out of a warm bed that he shared than off his old couch where he slept alone. He wondered again how he had spent so many years alone. It hadn't felt like a solitary life, but after he met Tim everything was better. Even his relationship with Scully seemed better.

"Coffee's done," Tim called from the kitchen. Mulder finished tying his tie and headed downstairs. Tim's rowhouse wasn't spacious, but it was comfortable for the two of them. They had moved pretty easily into the rhythm of living together. Tim liked to read his e-mail in the morning, Mulder was a night owl. They both liked Deep Space Nine. Mulder liked to watch Loveline before he went to bed and Tim, although he would not admit it publicly, never missed an episode of Ally McBeal.

"Why do you think we met?" Mulder asked, taking a seat at the kitchen counter. He picked up the cup of coffee Tim offered and reached for the Washington Post.

"Why we met?" Tim repeated, a confused look on his face. He turned around to retrieve a bagel from the toaster oven. "We were on a case together," he responded, handing the buttered pastry to Mulder, then reaching for his copy of the Baltimore Sun.

"No, not that. Why were we ready to meet each other? I think we could have worked that case at any other time in our lives and it wouldn't have gotten us to this point, where we're at today."

"And where's that? Some early morning head-shrinking?" Tim asked, sitting down on the other stool. "I didn't realize that was part of the package."

"It was a deluxe deal. No, for the first time in years I wasn't working on the X-Files, and you'd had a pretty significant experience with your shooting. I think those things made us open for the first time to a relationship like this."

"You mean with a man?" Tim asked, setting his coffee cup down to examine Mulder's face more intently.

"No, I mean any kind of serious relationship. Do you realize how long it had been since I had been really involved with someone? Almost ten years. How about you?"

"Yeah, I guess at least that. So why the big analysis?" Tim asked, getting up to refill his mug. He reached for Mulder's, but the other man shook off the offer.

"I don't know. I'm just happy. You make me really happy, Tim. I . . . I love you."

Tim stopped and set his mug down. It was the first time Mulder had said that. Tim had said it a number of times. He always meant it and knew Mulder probably felt the same, but this was the first time he had ever uttered the words. What would have made Mulder say that, now, over a cup of coffee with the Metro section of the Post lying between them? He glanced up to notice that Mulder had gotten off his stool and moved to the door.

"I don't think I'll be late tonight. Why don't I call you and you can pick me up at the station. We can go somewhere for dinner," Mulder said as he reached into the closet for his trench coat.

"Yeah, that sounds good," Tim said absentmindedly. "We should do that."

He looked up to get Mulder's reaction, but he was gone.


Mulder pulled the door of the townhouse closed behind him and moved down the street. Despite the entrance of spring, there was still a nip of cold in the morning air and a light frost on the tree branches and the sidewalks. The bus was on time, moving smoothly through the streets of Baltimore towards Camden station. He climbed on noting the familiar faces as he took his usual spot on the left side next to the window. His routine seemed like part of his life now. Moving to Baltimore, living with Tim had seemed like such a big decision at the time, but now it was hard to remember what life in Alexandria had even been like.

Mulder climbed off the bus and moved with the sweep of people into the station and onto the train. He pulled the Washington Post from his bag where he had stuffed it that morning. Mulder smiled as he pulled out the orange Tim had stuck in for him. He was so concerned about Mulder's well-being, his health, what he ate. It was nice to be cared for.

Mulder peeled the citrus while he pulled the paper apart. There was a daily routine, rarely upset. He scanned the front page, saving the rest of the section for later. He then reached for the Variety section. A quick scan of the gossip column and then on to the TV listings. He chuckled as he noted once again the high numbers for JAG in the DC market, imagining if Scully's dad was still alive he would be in his easy chair every Tuesday night at eight p.m. along with the rest of the retired Naval-types in the DC area.

He laid the section aside, the fashion report remaining unread even as he quickly scanned the guest list for the presidential dinner held the night before. It appeared that the widow Bono had come with her country western music star boyfriend again and Skinner, a last minute replacement for Director Freeh had taken a Wendy Givner. That name was unfamiliar to him. He would have to ask Scully, she always was more on top of these things.

The last page had the society announcements, weddings and engagements. People in love. He was in love. He had even finally told Tim. He pulled another piece of the orange off and popped it in his mouth, smiling. He should have waited for a reaction. If he was a betting man, he would put his mark on the fact that Tim was standing exactly where he had left him, trying to figure out if he had actually said it.

A pass through the Metro section got him to the Jessup stop, the train filling more now. He turned the page scanning the obituaries. It was a morbid curiosity, one that Scully had teased him about, but he liked to read about people's lives. The things they had done, left undone. It was a quiet day, only four entries. He reached for the sports section. The train slowed down to let several passengers off at the College Park stop. Mulder glanced up as the collection of undergrads, graduate students and professors headed toward the university. They were a motley crowd of backpack and briefcase laden men and women. One couple seemed to be completely engrossed in one another, oblivious to the attempts of the sportcoat attired professor trying to get past them and onto the university shuttle bus.

Finally the train pulled into Union Station. Mulder folded up the paper and exited the car. Life with Tim had taken a fair amount of his free-time away. He chuckled when he thought about the 80 hour work weeks. He still worked more than his share, but he would never again be in danger of losing his annual leave because he had accumulated too much.

He headed for the exit from the station. One of his concessions to the new routine was to walk to work. It wasn't too far and forced him to make sure he got some exercise every day. He walked out into the sunshine. The cherry trees would be in full bloom any day now, the city beginning to fill with Japanese tourists.

Mulder turned down D Street and headed toward the federal courthouse. Things had definitely quieted down since the Clinton grand jury had been disbanded and the news trucks had retreated. He picked up the pace wondering what new assignment AD Skinner had waiting for them.


Homicide Unit
8:15 a.m.

"Bayliss!" Gee called into the squad room. "My office. Now."

Bayliss pushed his desk chair back, looking over toward Lewis' desk. Meldrick shook his head and smiled.

"I don't know Timmy. What you done now?" he responded, his voice filled with a chuckle.

Bayliss shrugged and headed for the shift commander's office. He entered to find a dark-haired woman sitting in one of the chairs in front of Gee's desk.

"Bayliss, this is Diane Russell. She's joining the shift and will partner with you. She spent eight years with the NYPD. I trust you will show her the ropes."

Bayliss moved over to shake the female detective's hand. "Tim Bayliss."

"Diane Russell," the woman responded, her tone clipped, but friendly. She stood up to take Tim's outstretched hand. She was slim, attractive, seemed self-assured.

"We'll try this out for a little while. Bayliss, you be the primary on your next call, but I am certain Detective Russell will catch on quickly." With that Gee invited them to leave his office.

"So, did they find you a desk?" Bayliss asked as they walked back into the squad room.

"Yeah, there was an empty one by the wall," Russell responded, pointing toward Frank's old desk.

"Oh, yeah, I should have figured. That was Ballard's desk, but she went back to Seattle last month. You must be her replacement." Russell nodded. "So, New York. My first partner was from New York. What made you move to Baltimore?"

"I needed a change of scene," the female detective answered.

The phone bleated on Bayliss' desk. He reached over to answer it. "Homicide, Bayliss."

"Hey, how's your morning?" Mulder's voice asked through the line.

"Good, interesting," Tim answered in a nonchalant tone, all the while watching Diane Russell arrange her things on her desk. He noticed her pull out a picture of a young man and run her finger over it before setting it to her right.

"So I'm going to have to take a raincheck," he heard Mulder say.

"Raincheck?" Tim asked.

"Weren't you listening to anything I just said?" Mulder replied, his voice filling with exasperation.

"You met with Skinner and he told you . . . okay, I wasn't listening. What's up?"

"We have to go to Minnesota. Leave this morning. They found a mass grave with as many as 50 bodies, mostly kids. They need Scully's path skills and figure they would take me as a bonus. I should be home by Friday if it goes well. Dinner then?" Mulder asked.

"Minnesota? Did you pack your parka?"

"Tim, it's practically April. Even there the sun has to shine sometime. I've got my travel case packed, so I'm not coming back home before we leave. I'll call you when we get in. We'll be in Rochester, I'm not sure where. How late are you on?"

"Eight. I picked up a new partner, so it could be later. Page me if you can't get me at home."

"He isn't cute, is he?" Mulder asked.

"He's a she and beautiful is the word I would use," Tim said, laughing. "Goodbye. Travel safe. I'll talk to you tonight." Tim hung up the phone and turned to find Russell standing in front of him.

"Someone special?" she asked. Tim nodded, wondering if she had heard him. If she had, she made no indication. The phone rang again and he picked it up. He made some notes and hung the phone up.

"Drug shooting in Highlandtown. You ready to hit the road?" he asked. Russell grabbed her coat as they headed for the garage.


Corner of Highland and Foster
9:25 am

Bayliss pulled the Cavalier over to the side of the street. The patrol cars were blocking traffic from either direction. He and Russell got out of the car and approached the body. It was an African-American male, approximately 18-21 years of age. Griscom had already arrived and was kneeling over the body.

"So, what do we have here?" Bayliss asked as he reached inside his trenchcoat to pull out his notepad.

"I should be asking you the same thing," Griscom responded, leaning back on his heels to take a closer look at Russell. "I don't believe I've seen you in our fine city before."

"Diane Russell, Griscom. He's the ME and generally tries to help us out with these cases. Diane's new to homicide, down from New York," Bayliss answered, kneeling down next to the ME. He poked at the body with his pen. "How many gun shot wounds do we have here?"

"Eight, unless I've missed something. Classic overkill," Griscom said.

"Let's roll him and get a better look."

When they turned him over, his open eyes lolled at them, taunting them to solve the mystery of his death. Bayliss leaned over and eased the lids down.

"I can't stand to have them look at me." He turned to the officer standing nearby. "So, what do we have?"

"The victim is Lance Crosby age 19. He's a runner for the Glenwood crew. According to her," the officer pointed to a woman standing near a tree, "another young man, approximately 5'7", 150 lbs, African-American, ran up and exchanged a few words, pulled his gun and shot Crosby. The suspect fled in a car. We've got a partial plate number. Suarez is running it right now."

Bayliss and Russell looked over at the car where Officer Suarez sat. He responded into the radio and then gave a thumbs up to the detectives. He hung the transmitter up and walked over to them.

"A sector car picked up a speeder matching your description about five minutes ago. They're holding them on a few ounces of coke. No sign of the weapon," Suarez told them.

"Well, let's get back to the squad and see what our suspects have to say for themselves. Suarez, you and Martin canvas the area between here and where they were picked up. That gun has to have gone somewhere." Bayliss turned and walked back to the Cavalier, Diane trailing after him. He pulled open the driver side door and sat down. Diane slid in on her side.

"Is this pretty typical?" she asked, pushing her hair away from her face and reaching around for the seatbelt. She struggled for a moment to get it attached, Tim finally pushing it into the clasp for her.

"Pretty much. It goes in cycles, but it's always the drugs. How about New York? We've worked a couple of cases with detectives from up there, but I don't have a good sense of what the crime's like up there."

"Drugs, domestics, robbery gone wrong. I guess homicide is homicide," Diane answered, turning to watch the neighborhood pass by. After a few moments she turned back to him. "You always live here?"

"Yeah, I mean I went away to school on the Eastern Shore, but I was raised here. What about you?"

"New York. Born and bred. I guess I always thought I would never leave," she responded, turning to look at him. He pulled the Cavalier into the garage and put it into park.

"So, why'd you leave?"

"Memories. It was time to get a fresh start," she responded, getting out of the car, effectively ending the conversation.


Rochester Municipal Airport
Rochester, MN
1:15 pm

Mulder pulled his shoulder bag from the overhead bin, handing Scully her carry-on. They moved out of the plane slowly, maneuvering around the numerous medical cases. It was clear that more than one person on the plane was there to seek medical attention at the world-famous Mayo Clinic. They deplaned and headed for the steps to the main floor of the terminal.

"Well, I guess we don't have to worry about finding the baggage claim," Mulder responded as he looked around the terminal. The Northwest Airlines counter was at one end, the American Airlines at the other. He headed toward the north wall in search of the car rental booth. "Hey, Scully, you think you can wrestle the bags off?" he called over his shoulder.

She sighed and shrugged her shoulders. He was doing it again. He always rushed over and rented the car, usually using some lame excuse about being able to use his charm for a complimentary upgrade. Not that they ever got them and not that it wouldn't be illegal for them to take advantage of.

Mulder pulled out of the airport lot and headed north on the highway toward Rochester. The countryside was gray with melting snow visible in the fields. "I can't imagine living here," he said turning his head to look out over the vista. "It's April for heaven's sake and it seems like winter still has its hold on the weather."

"You've become such a baby. Didn't you have winter up in Massachusetts when you were growing up?" Scully asked.

"Not like this. Never like this. The woman at the car rental place said they're expecting snow tomorrow. Snow! It's unnatural."

They continued into town in silence. Mulder pulled the car into the motel lot. "I know you prefer the ones where we park right in front of the door, but they seemed to all be filled with little old ladies and old men. At least this one has a restaurant."

Scully looked across the parking lot at the Rochester Inn, yet another in a long line of non-descript motels. There was a discount retailer next to it with one of the largest lumberyards she had ever seen. What was it about today's society that made it think bigger was always better? She sighed as she pulled her suitcase from the trunk. Mulder shot her a glance, but she didn't think he would be interested in her latest sociological observation.

"Why don't we get settled, get something to eat and then head into the government center. The task force is expecting us for a meeting at 4 pm.," Mulder said as he closed the trunk and followed her into the lobby. He took her silence as agreement as well as an indication of her lack of enthusiasm for the task ahead of her. Doing autopsies was part of her job, but she never looked forward to surveying the remains of children.


John's Big Steakhouse
Rochester, MN
2:30 pm

"I'll have the beer cheese soup and the salad bar," Scully said to the waitress, handing her the menu.

"And for you sir?" the young woman asked. Mulder looked down again at the menu and pursed his lips. He drummed his fingers against the table for a moment.

"I'll have the steak sandwich. Would you add fries and the salad bar on the side?" The young woman nodded and moved away from the table.

"It seems like every time we go out you eat steak," Scully said, leaning across the table. "Have you developed some sort of obsession?"

"No, I just try to eat vegetarian with Tim at home, but as soon as I get out of there I have to get my hands on some red meat."

"So, how are things going?" Scully asked, pausing to take a sip of her ice water.

"Really well. It was a little weird at first, having somebody around all the time, but now I can't imagine what it would be like to be alone." Mulder reached for the small loaf of bread, cutting himself a slice. "I told him I loved him this morning."

Scully looked at him. They had been through so much together, but more often than not they glossed over the personal things. It wasn't often that Mulder brought up this kind of personal matter.

"I've known it for a long time, but I had never said it before."

"What did Tim say?" Scully asked, helping herself to the bread.

"I don't know. I left."

"You left? Mulder, I just don't get you sometimes. You told him you loved him and then you left." She shook her head.

"He's not a woman, Scully. He knew what I meant. He knew it before I said it."

"But in a relationship with a woman you don't have to wait for them to say it. We wear our hearts on our sleeves. He's probably been waiting and waiting for you to say something and then you left, really Mulder, you are an enigma."

Their conversation was interrupted by the arrival of their food. Mulder grabbed the sandwich off the plate and bit into it. Clearly the discussion was over.


3:30 pm

Tim looked through the window into the Box. The suspect, Willy Carson, was sitting in there waiting for them. He turned to look at his new partner. "You mind if I take the lead on this?"

"Sure, you go ahead. I'll back you up," Diane responded, following him into the little room.

"Hey, Willy. I'm Detective Bayliss, this is Detective Russell. So, you were doing a little joy-riding this morning."

"Never got pulled in for just that before," Willy said.

"Yeah, well we wanted to talk to you about earlier today. Before you got pulled over," Bayliss said, pulling up a chair and sitting across from the perp. Russell continued to lean against the wall.

"Earlier? What about earlier? I was at my momma's."

"And she's gonna verify that if I call her?" Bayliss asked, pulling out his notepad. "What's her number?"

"She don't have a phone," Willy responded.

"Well, then how am I gonna know if you where there or not?"

"She's . . . she's probably at her sister's. She's always over there. That's 555-2549."

Bayliss wrote the number down and tore the sheet of paper off the pad. He handed it to Russell. "Now, Detective Russell here is going to go talk to your mother and see where you were this morning. You don't want to tell us anything else do you Willy?"

"Nah, just talk to my momma. She'll tell you where I was," Carson responded, laying his head down on the table.

Russell and Bayliss exchanged glances before she left the Box to call Willy's mother.


6:23 pm

Mulder pulled back into the lot at the Rochester Inn. Scully got out of the car without a word. Mulder caught up to her as she pulled open the door to the motel.

"You aren't still thinking about our conversation at lunch, are you?" he asked, holding the door open as she walked through.

"No. I actually could care less about the finer details of your love life, Mulder. I'm tired and I'm not relishing the thought of examining pieces of 50 little kids tomorrow. I'm going to go take a shower and see what's playing at the movie theater. If you want to join me, call me in about 45 minutes. Until then I could really just use some time alone." She walked away. She knew she would feel bad later about the way she had spoken to him and quite frankly, she did want to see Tim and Mulder be happy, but right now all she could visualize were the faces of all those parents whose children would never come home again.

He watched her retreat and then headed for his own room. It never ceased to amaze him how Scully could keep all of her feelings so bottled up inside until finally they spurted out like a ruptured artery. He had been the recipient of that treatment before, but he knew it was because she trusted him and knew that he would forgive her for her outburst.


7:34 pm

When Russell knocked on the window to the interrogation room, Bayliss looked up. She jerked her head to indicate he should come out.

"What's up. Did you get a hold of the mother?" he asked.

"Sure did. She gave him up. Seems he had been home with her, but after he left she watched him from the window. Saw him do the whole thing. She felt bad about turning on him, but she's ashamed of what he did. Said she'd give a full statement," Russell answered.

"Well, today is just not Willy's day," Bayliss responded, turning back to the Box to deliver the bad news.


7:15 pm

"Babe, Pig in the City or what?" Mulder asked into the phone receiver, sitting on his bed, the last of a delivery pizza in his hands.

"The Faculty," Scully responded. He could hear the newspaper crinkling on her end. "Those are the only ones that don't start in the next fifteen minutes. What's your pleasure?"

"I guess the pig wins. I hate movies with talking animals, but I really hate movies with aliens. They just aren't very realistic."

"Well, we had better get a move on. The theater is downtown in some shopping mall," she said. "I'll just meet you at the car, okay?"

Mulder agreed and headed for the door. He had tried to call Tim at the squad room twice, but he had been out on calls both times. Mulder hated being out on the road, it amazed him how quickly he had grown accustomed to sharing his life. He considered paging Tim, but Scully had seemed like she could use a friend tonight. He would call when he got back.


9:14 pm

Bayliss walked out of the station house. Diane was standing to the right of the stoop smoking a cigarette. The coolness of the morning was back and he could see his breath as he exhaled.

"So, pretty good first day, huh?" he asked. She turned to look at him.

"Yeah. Not bad," she answered. She dropped her cigarette and ground it out with her foot.

"So, I own the bar across the street with a couple of the guys from the shift, Lewis and Munch. Can I get you a sandwich? A beer or something?"

"No, I'm just gonna go home, get some things unpacked," Diane responded, turning toward her car. Tim reached out to touch her arm.

"Please Diane. You have to eat. Just come over and get to know the rest of the shift," he said. She turned to look at him, her eyes tired, her face worn.

"Yeah, okay. A sandwich would be great."

They walked across the street in silence and entered the warm room. A light cloud of smoke hovered in the air. Billie Lou was behind the bar shining the tap closest to the door, Munch visible in the door of the kitchen. Lewis and Gharty were at a table with Mike Giardello. Tim pulled up an extra chair so they could join them.

"Hey Munch! Bring us a couple of menus, wouldya?" Tim called out. Munch nodded and reached for the requested items. He brought them over to the table.

"We also have a crabcake special tonight. It isn't Meldrick's grandmother's recipe, but they are popular with the regulars," Munch said, handing the menu to the newest member of the squad.

"Definitely get the crab cakes," Gharty responded. "If you're new to Baltimore, you should try that first." Diana nodded at him and looked back at the menu.

"John, I'll have the Caesar salad, double on the dressing and a Natty Bo," Tim said, handing the menu back.

"Double dressing? Doesn't Mulder have you on a program yet?" Mike teased.

"Do I look like I need to be on a program?" Tim asked. "It's not like I'm carrying around Lewis' spare tire."

"What you talkin' about Timmy, these are my luv handles. Women go crazy about them," Lewis responded, pushing back his chair so they could all get a good look at his ample hips.

"I'll go with the crab cakes and a diet cola," Diana said quietly.

"You sure you don't want to try one of our famous micro brews? I could recommend something to compliment the crab?" Munch asked.

"No, the soda will be fine," Diane answered.

"So, Detective Russell, you're from New York," Gharty said.

"Please, call me Diane," she replied.

"What made you decide to move down to Baltimore?" Mike asked.

"It was . . . it was just time to try something new," she replied. Munch came over with Tim's beer and Diane's soda. Lewis pushed his chair back and stood up.

"Well, I'd love to stay and discuss the merits of these two fine cities, but I'm pooped. I'll see y'all in the morning," he said, pulling on his coat.

Gharty and Giardello both got up as well, making their excuses. As they departed, Tim moved his chair around so he sat across from Diane.

"So that's twice you've given the 'something new' story. Anything to that? Were you leaving something or someone behind?"

Diane looked at him, swallowing deeply. She didn't plan on talking about this so soon, but Tim seemed like a good guy.

"My husband died last year," she said quietly. Tim sucked in his breath, his eyes softening.

"And that's his picture. On your desk."

"Yeah. We . . . we worked together, in the same squad. It . . . it was just too hard to be there without him," she said, her voice breaking slightly. She raised her hand to wipe at her nose. "I . . . I just keep thinking it's going to get easier."

Tim reached across the table to take her hand. "It will. Just give it time."


9:25 pm

"It is now official. Rochester, Minnesota has absolutely no redeeming value. Crappy restaurants, small theaters, no coffee houses. There is nothing to do here. Let's wrap this case up and get out of here," Mulder said as they walked back through the Radisson Hotel skyway to the garage where they had parked the car.

"It has the Mayo Clinic. That's got to count for something," Scully responded.

"As I am not currently in need of medical attention, that doesn't count. If I was about to drop from a heart attack I might be willing to reconsider," Mulder replied as they reached the car. He leaned down to unlock her door and then walked over to get in on the driver's side.

"It's only because you want to get back to Baltimore. You're feeling guilty about the 'I love you' and you want to make it up to Tim," Scully said as she pulled her shoulder strap over and buckled it in. "We'll do the work and get out of here. Don't worry about it."

Mulder looked over and smiled at her. She knew him so well. He dropped the car into gear and pulled out of the garage, squealing the tires a bit at the last turn.


Later that night

Tim rolled over to answer the ringing phone. He reached for his glasses, squinting at the clock. He had fallen asleep waiting for Mulder to call and now it was 12:30 am.

"Hey," Mulder said. "Did I wake you?"

"Yeah, but that's okay. I was hoping you'd call. How's Minnesota?" Tim asked, sitting up and resting his back against the headboard.

"A little on the dreary side, but Scully thinks it's just an attitude problem," Mulder responded.

"Attitude?" Tim asked.

"Okay, truth? I miss you. I'm being a bear and Scully called me on it. I just want to get this case over and done with so I can get back to . . . well, more interesting things."

"Such as?" Tim asked. He moved down into the bed a little more. On the other end of the phone he could hear Mulder moving on his bed.

"Well, what are you wearing?"

Tim chuckled lightly. He thought that was where it was going, but he liked it when Mulder made these tentative first moves. Everyone likes to be wooed. "Is this what it's come to?"

"The next best thing to being there. Reach out and touch someone. Something like that, right?"

Tim lowered his voice a notch. "I'd like to reach out and touch you . . . "

"Oh, yeah? Where?" Mulder said it a little belligerently, but Tim could tell he was smiling.

"Mmm . . . well, what if you were asleep, right here, curled up on your side . . . I'd slide over and, um, kiss the back of your neck to wake you up."

Mulder made a low sound in the back of his throat. "Then what?"

"I think I'd have to kiss you a couple of times. Then I'd slide my hand down your arm, down your hip, and keep caressing you until you started to wake up. And I'd pull you over on your back, and you'd be smiling, and I'd kiss you again, hard, on the lips, and then . . . " Tim trailed off. His eyes were squeezed shut, and he could see his lover there in front of him, feel the warm tautness of his skin, smell the musky scent that still lingered on the sheets.

"What? Keep going!"

"It's hard to put all this into words. I just want to be *doing* it!" The force of his emotional and physical need had started to overtake Tim and was precluding any rational thought. "You talk to me. I want to hear your voice."

"All right. Let me show you how it's done." Mulder paused, and Tim imagined him rolling over on his side, propping himself up on his elbow. "I want to kiss you. I want to keep kissing you until you run out of breath. I want to feel your body under me, under my hands, between my legs, against my lips. I want to touch you in all the secret places nobody else gets to touch. I want to feel you break out in a sweat because of the things I'm doing, and I want to taste that on my lips. I want you to be trembling because I'm touching you all over. I want to feel you pulling me down, closer, sliding your hands up in my hair, grabbing the back of my neck. I want to feel you in me . . . " The words came in a hypnotic rhythm, his voice low and thick. He thought he heard Tim's breathing quicken, and he paused to check his progress. "Tim?"

"Yeah?" He was almost beyond words at this point. He was always amazed at Mulder's ability to maintain control while reducing him to jelly. His hand had slid down under the sheets by now, and he imagined that it was Mulder's, exploring all the sensitive spots.

Mulder continued his verbal caress. "I was thinking about you today. I was remembering that time. . ." He halted momentarily to allow himself to take up a position similar to the one he imagined Tim must be in. "That time when I came down to Baltimore and met you at the Waterfront. I waited for you to close up so we could go back to your house. Remember?"

"Oh, yeah." Tim felt a wave of heat wash over him, his erection growing.

"I sat at the bar and watched while you worked. I kept imagining what was going to happen after we left."

"I was too," Tim interjected.

"I thought so, because as soon as I started to follow you out the back door it was like you couldn't wait until we got home. And you stopped just after you stepped out into the alley, and you turned around and pressed me up against the wall with this kiss, and your hands were all over me, and you started to undo my belt, and I couldn't wait for you to get it undone --" He stopped, aware that the words were spilling out in a torrent, no longer adhering to the careful rhythm of his earlier speech, his hand working harder back and forth to make up for the absence of his lover. Now *he* was breathing harder until he couldn't breathe at all. He realized Tim was not making any sound at all, until suddenly he spoke up out of the silence.

"Mulder? You really are pretty good if you can do that from a thousand miles away."

"I'm nothing if not skilled at my special interests," Mulder responded, smiling.

"Oh, is that what we're calling it now?" Tim asked, sliding back down on the bed. He rolled onto his side and clutched the pillow as if it was his missing lover. They hadn't done this very often, but it seemed only right that they follow it up with their usual post-sexual banter. "God, I miss you sometimes. I mean I always miss you when you're gone, but some times more than others."

"Me too, but I'll be home before you know it. There isn't even really that much for me to do here. I would just leave Scully, but it's kids. You know how hard that is." There was silence as the men both thought about the little girls who'd had so much impact on their lives. Samantha and Adena. Their names were rarely spoken,but their presence was always felt.

"How's the new partner? What's her name?" Mulder asked, suddenly changing the subject.

"Diane Russell. She's from New York. Worked as a detective in Manhattan. She seems nice, but a little fragile or something. She lost her husband last year, still seems pretty broken up about it."

"It would have to be hard. I . . . I can't imagine what it would be like to lose you," Mulder said softly.

"Well, we're not going to have to find out, are we?" Tim responded.

"No, not for a long time, anyway."


North of Rochester
8:24 am
April 8

Mulder drove carefully down the highway. He had dropped Scully off at the medical examiner's facility to begin the autopsies before he headed north to check out the scene where they had recovered the bodies. He thought about last night, the phone, Tim and smiled again. Tim, the relationship, none of it was what he had imagined it would be like.

Much like Tim's prediction, winter had not ended for Minnesota and Mulder now found himself with snow blowing across the highway in front of him. He was getting near his exit when it happened. The car in front of him had slowed down to about 25 miles an hour. Anxious to get off the road, he had eased around the slow moving car. The left lane was less traveled and much icier. As he stepped on the brakes he felt the car go into a skid. Time seemed suspended as the car turned 90 degrees and careened toward the edge of the road.

Mulder tried to correct the skid, but nothing seemed to change the course of the vehicle. The embankment raced up at him as he tried to maintain control. The car fishtailed and continued to spin, then bounced against the guard wire and crashed through. Realizing what was happening he flashed back to Tim's face. A silent prayer raced through his mind. It wasn't going to end like this was it?

The car traveled approximately fifty feet down a steep embankment until it came to a violent stop against a tree. The airbag exploded into Mulder's face stunning him. He waited for it to deflate, his heart pounding with adrenaline. Finally cleared of the bag he reached into his pocket for his phone and pressed the power button. Nothing. He wasn't sure if the impact of the accident had ruined the phone, but it was of no use to him now. He threw it aside.

Undoing the seatbelt, he did a body assessment. Other than minor aches and pains, he seemed to have survived the crash unscathed. He followed up his earlier request with a thank you for sparing him. Mulder pushed the door open and stepped into the snow. Looking around he determined that the best route back up to the highway was to bear slightly over to his right where there were a number of trees he could use to help climbing up the hill. He looked down at his wingtips. What he wouldn't have given for some boots. He sighed and began his ascent. This was going to make a good story for Tim later. Scully would be more difficult. She would be pissed he was late and possibly take his story as an excuse until he showed her the damage to the car. Pretty soon even Lariat wouldn't rent to him. Then again, if he hadn't made such a habit of ditching her, she probably would be more understanding in these situations. Fortunately, her Irish temper disappeared as quick as it flared up.

He had gotten about half way up the hill when it began to sharply steepen. He carefully maneuvered on the snowy hillside, his hand on a small scrub pine tree. He moved his right foot up slightly when it slipped. Before he knew what was happening, he began to slide back down the incline. He quickly gained speed, rolling more than once. He felt his ribs bruised by the rough terrain, and then his body hurtled over a drop-off. He flew through the air, the small evergreens tearing at him. They ripped at his body, scratching at his face, his eyes. Finally the fall ended, his damaged body lying against a small boulder at the bottom on the hill. *I'm gonna be stuck in Minnesota a lot longer than I planned* was his last coherent thought before the darkness took over.


Medical Examiner
1:26 pm

Scully looked up at the clock. Mulder was almost an hour and a half late, but she had been running behind on her examinations. It was every bit as awful as she thought it might have been. Matching body parts to descriptions and dental records of children who had been reported missing all over the Midwest in the past 15 years. The cell phone in her jacket rang. She snapped off her gloves and reached for it.

"Scully," she said.

"Agent Scully? This is Captain Glenmore of the Minnesota State Patrol. According to our records you and an Agent Mulder have a blue Ford Taurus license plate FCB 789 rented. Is that true?"

"I know it's a blue Ford Taurus, but you would have to check with the rental people on the plate number. Agent Mulder has the car with him now. Is there a problem?" Scully asked, a sinking feeling causing her stomach to drop out from underneath her.

"Agent Scully, the car I mentioned was in an accident about 4 hours ago. It was called in by someone who witnessed it. My patrol officer discovered the car in a ravine about 10 miles south of Cannon Falls. There was no sign of your partner, although his personal effects were in the car."

Scully sat down on the bench next to the examining table. "Have you searched the area?"

"We've started looking, but the snow is coming down more quickly now. I'll send a patrol out to pick you up."

"Yes, I need to help you," Scully replied. She gave him directions to her location and disconnected the call. She sat for a moment and then pulled her planner out to find Tim's number.


2:35 pm

"Bayliss, Homicide," Tim said into the phone.

"Tim, it's Dana Scully."

"Hey Dana! How's Minnesota? I saw on the Weather Channel this morning that you're getting some weather out there. I hope Mulder found his long underwear," Tim replied, leaning back in his desk chair.

"Tim, there's been an accident. I'm really sorry, but Mulder's car must've hit some ice. They found it in a ravine. I'm so sorry."

Tim instantly tipped forward, his feet both on the floor. "What do you mean they found the car? Where's Mulder? Is he okay?"

"They--they haven't been able to find him yet," Scully answered, her voice breaking.

"I'm on my way," Tim responded. He got up and left without a word to anyone in the squad room, pausing only to offer the barest explanation to Gee.


North of Rochester
1:35 pm

Mulder slowly became aware of his surroundings. It was already dark outside. Pitch black, in fact, no stars or anything. His head was filled with pain, his skin stinging where the pine needles had abraded it. How long had he been there? The ground was cold and wet underneath him. He took this as a good sign that he could still feel the ground. He tried to turn his body, but was instantly filled with pain. He had definitely hurt himself in the fall. He got his arms behind him and carefully sat up. The pain in his rib area signified at least bruised ribs. He got about 20 degrees up and the pain became too intense. He flopped back to the ground. Something bad had happened. He wouldn't be getting himself out of there anytime soon. Hopefully Scully had not assumed he was pulling a ditch and was already out looking for him.


North of Rochester
2:49 pm

The state patrol car pulled over to the side of the highway, and Scully quickly exited. There were about 10 other cars parked along the road, she noticed. Search and rescue from the nearby town had been called out and the state patrol K-9 team had arrived to help. She could see from across the road the break in the guard wire where Mulder's car had gone over the side. She crossed the highway and went to peer over the edge of the embankment. It seemed like a long way down. At the bottom of the ravine she could scarcely make out the shape of their rental. The snow had started to come down more heavily and it was covering the car up.

"Agent Scully," a voice at her shoulder sounded. She turned to look at another state trooper. He held his hand out to her and she took it. "I'm Captain Glenmore. We spoke on the phone."

She nodded. "Have you found him yet?" she asked.

He shook his head. "Unfortunately no and we're going to lose daylight here pretty soon. I just don't know where he would have gone. He must not have been hurt badly in the accident, the air bag was deployed, but there is no sign of blood or trauma. I don't know if he hit his head and wandered off or what happened. We've got a crew of 40 people down there with dogs. They'll find him, Agent Scully. I'm just not sure how soon."

Or in what condition she silently answered. She followed his directions to a safe route to the bottom of the ravine. They had paramedics on site, in addition, the medivac from Rochester was on alert. When they found him, if he was alive, he would be flown up to St. Mary's Hospital, a Level I trauma center.


Scully made her way over to the car and then paused to look around, trying to figure out what Mulder would do. She looked back up the embankment. It was too steep to climb. She looked further, noting a part of the hill that was more heavily forested. She pointed in that direction.

"Have they searched that area?" she asked the trooper nearby.

"I'm not sure they've gotten to that yet. Most of the search has been directed down the ravine," he answered.

"If he had tried to make his way back up to the road, he might have tried to use the trees," she stated. Before the trooper could respond she began to make her way over there. He radioed their new coordinates into the search leader and then followed her.

The snow was a couple of inches deep and Scully silently thanked the lab technician who had lent her a pair of snow boots. The snow had covered up any sign of Mulder, but somehow she felt they were on the right track. She turned to look up the hill. Something seemed off, but she wasn't quite sure what. She turned to her search partner.

"Is there something we're missing?" she asked. She looked up the hill again and then down. Suddenly she gasped. "The trees. Look, there are branches broken, like something's fallen through here." She turned and moved down the hill further into the ravine. She came to a slight ledge and looked over.

At first it looked like a large black bird had crashed to earth, broken and dying. Mulder's coat lay spread out around his limp body, the paleness of his face contrasting with his dark clothing. A smear of blood starkly stood out against the snow next to him. He wasn't moving.

"Ohmigod. Call the medivac. He's down here."


4:36 pm

Tim waited impatiently for the woman in front of him to get her carry-on luggage out of the overhead bin. He would never understand why people felt it necessary to take so much stuff on the plane with them. They had been late getting off the ground in Baltimore because of a last minute passenger with a big bag searching futilely to find space in the bin. Finally the woman managed to wrench her bag free and move down the aisle. As he deplaned he heard someone call out his name.

"Detective Bayliss?" the airline attendant asked. He moved quickly over to where she was standing.

"I'm Tim Bayliss," he replied.

"I have a message from Agent Scully. They found Agent Mulder. He's in critical condition, but he's alive. They took him to St. Mary's Hospital in Rochester. You can get a cab at the stand outside."

He thanked her and took off for the cab stand and the hospital.


Tim jumped out of the cab as soon as it stopped at the entrance to the trauma center. He tossed a twenty at the driver telling him to keep the change as he pulled his bag from the seat next to him. He quickly made his way through the electric doors, scanning the waiting area for Scully. She wasn't readily obvious so he made his way to the admission desk.

"I'm here about an FBI agent, Mulder. His partner Dana Scully should be here somewhere," he said to the woman behind the desk. She began to answer when Tim felt a hand on his back. He turned around to find Scully, her hair askew, her clothes dirty.

"Where is he? What happened?" Tim asked.

"It was a car accident. He wasn't hurt, but he tried to crawl out of the ravine and he fell. It looks like he fell quite a distance over some pretty rough terrain. He's . . . it's pretty bad, Tim." Scully's voice wavered on his name, she was reaching the limits of her control over her emotions.

"Is he . . . will he die?" Tim asked.

Scully gestured toward a grouping of chairs away from the desk. He followed her over and sat down. She took the chair facing him.

"I don't know. They're still working on him. He's got a head injury. There was some soft-tissue damage, internal injuries. He also hasn't regained consciousness. He was out there for about four hours, in the snow so shock is also a concern. They--they're worried about his eyes."

"Eyes?" Tim asked.

"There was a lot of trauma, signs of damage to the corneas. They just don't know. They won't know anything until he wakes up."

Tim leaned over, placing his head in his hands. He sat there for a moment and then looked up. "This is funny in a way."

"How so?" Scully asked, reaching over for one of his hands.

"Last night we were talking about my new partner, Diane. Her husband died last year and we both said how hard that would be, but that we wouldn't have to worry about something like that for a long time. Twenty-four hours. That isn't a long time."


7:52 pm

"I hate waiting rooms," Tim said, breaking the silence into which he and Scully had settled. She looked up at him.

"Last spring, my partner Frank--his wife was having a baby. Complications, so he was waiting outside with me. He said he had never had to wait before. Me, I'm always the one waiting. I mean, not last summer when I was shot, but other times. My dad. He was sick for a long time. We used to take turns sitting up with him, the rest of us out in the waiting room. And I had to wait when Frank had his stroke. I waited with Mary then . . ." his voice trailed off.

Scully looked at Tim more carefully. She had accepted him as a part of Mulder's life, but they had never spent any time without Mulder around. She realized she didn't know very much about this man Mulder cared so much about.

"I haven't been there," she finally responded. "When my dad died, my mom called after it was over and when my sister--when Missy died, Mulder and I were out chasing little grey men. By the time I finally got there, she was gone."

"I'm not sure which is worse," Tim answered, moving over to sit next to her. "I just can't believe that he won't come back to us the way we knew him."


8:37 pm

Scully sat with the latest issue of Newsweek in her hands, looking at it, but not seeing the words on the page. Tim had wandered over to the window, staring blankly into the parking lot. Finally she heard her name being called. She looked up to find a man in blue scrubs in front of her. "Agent Scully?" he asked. She nodded wearily. He took the seat next to her. Tim noted his arrival and moved over to where they sat. "I'm Dr. Samuelson, I worked on your partner."

"This is Tim Bayliss, Agent Mulder's friend," Scully said as Tim sat down. "How is he?"

"They've taken him up to surgery. We wanted to get him stable down here first. They won't know everything until they get in there, but it looks like a small subdural hematoma. It will most likely resolve itself. We'll monitor the pressure on the brain and operate if it increases significantly. We've also bandaged his eyes as a precaution. Again, we really won't know anything until he wakes up. We are concerned about damage to the kidneys, though. He had a positive peritoneal lavage. They're going in to assess the internal damage now."

"Will he survive?" Scully asked.

"It would be too soon to say, but these are very serious injuries. In the case of multiple traumas we just have to wait and see. Why don't I have someone show you up to the surgical waiting room. It's going to be a long wait and it's more comfortable and a little quieter up there. I'll have Dr. Beckman come talk to you as soon as he's through with the procedure."

Scully and Tim thanked him. As he walked away Tim turned to Scully. "I'm assuming you understood that, because it all went over my head."

"He's bleeding inside. They have to go in and figure out why. The head and eye injuries are harder to get a handle on right now. We really just have to wait and see what Mulder can tell us. But, I have to be honest, it's . . . it's going to take a long time, Tim."

"Wait and see? You said that, he said that. How can we just wait?" he responded, running his hand back through his hair. Why was this happening now?


10:24 pm

Scully had finally gotten Tim to go get them some food. They had been waiting almost six hours since Dr. Samuelson had told them about Mulder's condition. An OR nurse had come out one time saying the surgery was progressing well and there wasn't any indication of major kidney involvement. Mulder's vital signs had remained strong and there didn't seem to be any increase in cerebral pressure. About fifteen minutes after Tim left the doctor finally appeared.

"Agent Scully?" he asked. She sat up from where she had been lying on the couch and tried to pull herself together.

"Dr. Beckman," she responded. "Is it over?"

"Yes," he said sitting in the chair near the couch. "He's in recovery right now and we'll move him to the ICU as soon as he comes out of the anesthesia a little more. He did very well. I'm confident that we can expect a full recovery if there aren't any more complications."

"I'm a medical doctor, you can explain to me exactly what you did. I would like to know."

Dr. Beckman nodded, understanding her need for more detail than he usually offered families. "As I believe Dr. Samuelson told you, Agent Mulder has a closed head injury. It seems to be resolving itself so we didn't do any kind of surgical intervention. The internal injuries had caused some bruising and bleeding. We cauterized a number of bleeders and removed a small portion of his spleen. The kidneys look fine, there was some bleeding, but the tests indicate they are functioning normally. He came through the procedure very well."

"What about the eyes? What kind of a recovery do you expect?" Scully asked.

"Dr. Halloway, the ophthalmologist, will be up once we move him to his room. The initial exam showed abrasions on both corneas. We just don't know how significant it is."

"Is he blind?" Scully asked.

"You'll have to ask Halloway about that. I'll leave a message that you should be contacted when she comes up to examine Agent Mulder. I'm sorry I don't have more information than that."

"How long until he's ready to be moved?" she asked. "We're from DC and I think he would feel better being closer to home."

"Agent Scully, I assume you realize the severity of your partner's condition. He's stable now, but until we assess the head injury and the situation with his eyes, it's hard to say. He's just had major surgery. He's not out of the woods yet and until he is, I don't think we should talk about him going anywhere."

Scully nodded and thanked him for speaking with her. He advised her to go back to the hotel and wait until Mulder came out of recovery. She agreed and sat to wait until Tim arrived with their food. How would she tell him that while Mulder was okay for the moment, he most likely would never see again?


"I hope you like cheeseburgers," Tim said coming in with an assortment of fast food. Scully nodded and reached for the bag of burgers and fries. She began unwrapping the food without meeting his eyes.

"Did I miss anything?" he asked. "Did the doctor come out?"

She nodded, her mouth filled with food she wasn't even sure she wanted to eat. She chewed carefully and swallowed. "Mulder's in recovery. They'll come get us when they move him up to ICU."

"Why didn't you say so?" Tim asked. "How is he?"

"He's okay for now, but a lot could still happen," she answered.

"So, he could still die," Tim said, setting his salad down on the table. She shook her head.

"That isn't likely, but Tim--his eyes are . . . " she looked down, unable to continue. He moved over next to her, pulling her toward him.

"We aren't going to think that way until we know, okay?" he said. She started to cry softly.

"He won't." She stopped, and brought her hand up to wipe away the tears. Tim handed her a napkin from the bag and she blew her nose. "Mulder can't be blind."

Tim took her again in his arms and held her as she continued to cry.


11:49 pm

Finally they were escorted up to the ICU. The nurse ushered them into the cubicle where Mulder lay. Tubes seemed to sprout from every orifice. There were leads coming out from his chest monitoring his heart rate, a respirator tube down his throat, an NG tube down his nose. IV's ran into both arms, a pulseox clip on his finger. His body was draped midchest with a sheet covering the surgical site. The visible part of his chest sported several good-sized bruises indicating the broken ribs located underneath. Fortunately none of them had been severe enough to cause a pneumothorax, a collapsed lung. His head was bandaged, a small swath of hair trimmed away. Protective bandages covered both eyes.

Tim and Scully carefully approached the bed. There didn't seem to be a place to even touch him that wasn't covered with some kind of equipment. Tim wondered if this is what he himself had looked like after he had been shot.

Finally Scully walked up to the head of the bed and reached out to Mulder's cheek. She brushed her hand against the stubble that had appeared over the past day. He was warm to the touch. Not feverish, but alive.

"Hey Mulder. It's Scully. I'm here and Tim's here. We know you're resting now, but when you're feeling a little better we'll be here waiting for you." She leaned down and gently kissed him. She motioned for Tim to come over.

"Hey there," Tim said. "I didn't plan on this being our first trip to the Midwest. I just . . . Mulder, I love you and I can't wait to see those hazel eyes." His voice choked slightly as he realized it might be a very long time before he saw Mulder's eyes and even if he did, would they be able to see him? He reached down for the hand without the pulseox clip, gently taking it in his own. "You take your time and come back to us when you're ready. We'll be waiting." He leaned over and kissed his lover on the cheek. A nurse appeared at the door signaling them to come back out.

"He'll appreciate you being here, but right now he really needs his rest. We believe they can sense your presence and in this early stage that can agitate them. Why don't you go get some rest, take a shower and come back in a couple of hours."

As hard as it was to leave him, both Scully and Tim could appreciate the nurse's advice. It wouldn't do anyone any good for them to be too tired when Mulder did need them.


Scully and Tim got into the cab. Tim said he would just take Mulder's room to simplify everything. The cab ride out to the motel passed in silence, both Tim and Scully lost in their own fears and thoughts. As they walked up to the rooms Tim stopped.

"So, you didn't tell me what the doctor said. What did they have to do in the surgery?"

Scully sighed and looked at Tim's tired face. She related what the doctor had said about Mulder's internal injuries.

"And the other stuff? What do we have to worry about?" Tim asked.

"Infection is the biggest problem, but they'll watch him. He could also get a blood clot. There are just things that can happen when you're injured this severely. They'll continue to monitor the intercranial pressure and hopefully that hematoma will resolve itself. But, don't worry, this is a great hospital. They'll take good care of him." She reached over and touched him on the shoulder. He paused for a moment and then reached up to pull his glasses off, rubbing his eyes.

"Hematoma. I've heard of it. What is it?" Tim asked, replacing the glasses.

"It's like a bruise. They just have to see if the blood is absorbed back into the brain or if it starts to cause problems. If it presses on the brain, then it can cause damage."

"And the eyes?"

"There's a lot of damage to the corneas. They just can't really tell anything until he wakes up. But, you were right, let's not worry about the worst case until we have to," Scully said, trying to reassure Tim. She didn't feel particularly reassured herself, but it wouldn't help if they both started to lose it.

Tim pulled her into an embrace. "I know he's going to be okay. He just has to be," he stated.


St. Mary's Hospital
8:24 am
April 11

The next couple days passed uneventfully as Mulder remained unconscious. They were medicating him enough that this wasn't unusual. Scully returned to the autopsies, finding the distraction helpful to pass the time. She discovered an ability to deal with the bodies in a more clinical fashion than earlier, separating her horror at the children's death with the forensic work she was doing. Tim spent his time in the hospital and the surrounding neighborhood, walking the halls and sidewalks between his visits to Mulder's bedside. He had called Gee and explained that he would need some personal time. Gee seemed to accept that. Tim didn't know it, but Mike had explained the nature of Tim's relationship after he had unceremoniously departed from the station house only telling Gee that it was an emergency and he didn't know when he would be back.

Tim walked down the hall into the ICU. He didn't know their names, but the nurses were all familiar to him at this point. Nobody had asked, but it seemed that they understood he and Mulder were together. He had called Teena Mulder the day of the surgery. He knew that she knew about his relationship with her son, but they had never spoken on the phone. He assured her that he and Scully were doing everything necessary and that it would probably be better for her to come out later when Mulder was conscious and would need her support.

He entered the cubicle and saw Mulder on the bed. The staff came in and readjusted him periodically so he wouldn't get bedsores, but otherwise he didn't seem to move. His arms were in restraints to prevent him from disturbing any of the tubes and the side rails remained up to keep him from accidentally falling out of bed. The respirator had been replaced the day before with a nasal canula, but otherwise he remained the same. Tim went to the left side of the bed, pulling the chair up to sit next to him. He snaked his hand through the rail and took Mulder's hand in his own.

"So, I talked to your mom again this morning. She's really worried about you. She'll come out as soon as you wake up, but I told her not to worry about it before. She--she seems really nice, Mulder. I think I'd like her. She said we could come up this summer and visit. She said she'd like to meet me. Wouldn't that be good?"

Mulder remained unresponsive, just like all the other times Tim had sat here.

"I know you needed some time to regain your strength, but its been almost three days and I'm ready for you to come back to me. Can you do that? Can you come back?" Tim asked, almost begging. He leaned forward resting his head on the rail. He heard a noise, like someone trying to clear his throat. He sat up and looked at Mulder's face. His mouth was open and he slowly ran his tongue over his dry lips.

"Hey, you are in there," Tim responded, reaching over touch Mulder's cheek.

"Yeah," Mulder responded, his voice very hoarse. He tried to clear it again.

"Let me call the nurse. Maybe they can give you some water or ice or something," Tim said, getting up and going to get the nurse. She followed him back in.

"Good morning, Mr. Mulder. Good to have you with us. My name is Renee and I've been your nurse the past few days. Do you know where you are?" Mulder shook his head slowly. "That's okay. You're at St. Mary's Hospital in Rochester. You've been here for three days. You were in a car accident. Do you remember that?" Mulder thought for a moment and then nodded his head. "Good. You were injured very badly, but we're taking good care of you. Your friends have been here the whole time. You're very lucky. We've got your eyes bandaged, that's why it's so dark. Don't worry, we've got your hands restrained to make sure you didn't hurt yourself when you were unconscious. We'll take care of that."

She checked the monitors and carefully removed the restraints from Mulder's wrists. She lifted the sheet to examine the surgical site. "Everything looks good down there. I'm going to go get you some ice chips. We've got a feeding tube in you right now, so no liquids, but I'll call Dr. Beckman and we'll see about getting that taken out."

Mulder nodded slowly. He seemed to be drifting in and out, still not totally cognizant of everything going on around him. Tim leaned back in toward his head.

"I'm going to go call Scully. I'm sure she'll want to see you." Mulder nodded again and then seemed to drift off. Only later did Tim realize that he hadn't even asked about his eyes.


"So did he ask about anything?" Scully asked Tim as she came into the ICU.

"Not really. He was pretty out of it. The nurse told him he was in the hospital and he'd been hurt, but he didn't ask what was wrong. She told him his eyes were covered, but he didn't even ask why he couldn't see. Is that okay?" Tim asked, his face filled with concern.

"It's not uncommon. He probably is still so out of it he can't formulate the questions that we would expect him to ask."

"Well, I was glad he didn't ask a lot of stuff. I just figured you could answer it all better than I could," Tim said, leaning his head against the wall. "I just wasn't prepared to tell him what he'll be facing before things can return to normal. Why don't you go in and see how he is doing." Scully nodded and disappeared through the door.

"Hey sleepyhead," she said, greeting her partner who seemed a bit more coherent than Tim had described.

"Hey," he said slowly. "So, I guess you found me."

"Did you think I'd come looking for you?" she asked, pulling up the chair next to his bed.

"Yeah, I knew I could count on you," he said. "What's wrong with me? I keep forgetting to ask when they come in here and I can't tell. It's just too fuzzy."

"It's the drugs. They have you on some pretty lethal combinations of painkillers and antibiotics. You're going to feel pretty out of it for a while, but it's better than the pain. From what we could tell, you got out of the car okay after it crashed into the ravine, but then you fell trying to crawl out. It took us a couple of hours to find you, but fortunately you seem to not have suffered too much from shock or hypothermia."

Mulder nodded. "My phone didn't work."

"Probably damaged in the crash. What is it with you and cell phones, Mulder?" she asked affectionately. When he didn't respond to her teasing she realized that he was waiting for the rest of the prognosis on his condition. She continued, telling him, "you broke a couple of ribs and had internal injuries. Those all seem to be healing well and shouldn't provide anymore complications. There was a small subdural hematoma, but other than keeping you in lala land for a few days, that seems to have taken care of itself."

"What about my eyes?" Mulder asked, reaching up to touch the bandages. She reached over and took his hands in hers.

"There was damage to the corneas," Scully said slowly.

"And they can fix that, right?" Mulder asked.

"They've been waiting for you to wake up so they can assess the damage. The nurse paged Dr. Halloway, the ophthalmologist. She'll be up here shortly and we'll know more."

"So the bandages, they're just a precaution?" he asked.

"Let's wait for Halloway." She pulled her hands away, dropping them in her lap.

"I don't want to wait for her, Scully. Tell me what you know."

Scully looked down at her hands, suddenly very glad that Mulder couldn't see her face. She was not a very convincing liar, but it was usually her expression that gave it away. She took a deep breath, considered what to say and then decided that maybe honesty was best.

"Based on what they could see in the emergency room, it's likely there is significant vision loss. They can't confirm that until they take the bandages off and you tell us what you can see. As a precautionary measure, they listed you with the organ donor bank for a possible corneal transplant. If your vision is compromised, that's the next step. But, we need to take this first step and see what's going on. Okay?" she asked, reaching to take his hand again. He pulled it away.

"Mulder, you're really lucky to just be alive. Let's not borrow trouble about the eyes, okay?"

He didn't respond, lying in the bed unmoving. She reached over and put her hand on his shoulder. He turned his bandaged face away from her. The pain and shock was written all over his face. Finally she opened her mouth and spoke again. "I'm going to go get Tim. He's been waiting outside while we talked. I'll see what's holding Halloway up as well." She got up and exited the room.


Scully found Tim in conversation with a young woman in a lab coat. As she approached them she could make out the doctor's name tag. It was Dr. Halloway.

"Hi, I'm Dana Scully," she said, offering her hand to the doctor. Halloway took it in a firm handshake.

"Agent Scully, I was just telling Detective Bayliss about Agent Mulder's prognosis."

Scully nodded. She looked to Tim, who seemed to be taking this all in.

"Why don't we go in and take a closer look at Agent Mulder? He'll want to hear this as well," the doctor said. She turned and the others followed her into the room.


"Good afternoon," the doctor said, putting her hand on Mulder's shoulder. "I'm Jeanne Halloway, an ophthalmologist here at Mayo. I saw you in the emergency room earlier this week, but I'm doubting you remember that."

"I don't remember much after I got out of the car," Mulder responded. "So, what's the deal?"

"I don't know. Why don't we get these bandages off and then we can know a little more?" She signaled to the nurse who had followed them in to close the curtains and lower the lights. "We're going to darken the room up a bit. Your eyes have been covered for a few days and we don't want to shock your pupils with a swift introduction of light."

She pulled a pair of scissors from her lab coat pocket and carefully sliced the dressing from Mulder's head. Still with great care, she slowly unwrapped the gauze until the two patches were exposed. "Now, I'm going to pull the patches off your eyes. Once they're removed, I want you to slowly open your eyes."

She removed the patches and Mulder did as she had directed. Tim moved over to sit on the edge of the bed, holding Mulder's hand. Scully felt a flash of light-headedness as she realized that she was holding her breath.

"Let your eyes adjust to the light," Halloway instructed. Mulder dropped his head slightly and then turned to Tim. He pulled his hand from Tim's and tentatively raised it up toward his lover's face. He fumbled slightly as he tried to find the familiar profile. Tim moved his head until they connected.

"I can't see it. I can't see anything at all." Mulder turned his face from Tim to the other side of the room. "Scully."

"I'm right here, Mulder," she said, moving to take his other hand. He just needed to be able to feel them, sense their proximity in the inky darkness.

They could clearly see the distress in his expression, and Scully was concerned to realize that it bordered on panic. The calm voice of the doctor continued, however, and Mulder's attention was caught by her voice.

"Agent Mulder, this isn't surprising. Given the amount of damage we were able to observe, it was unlikely that your vision had been preserved. Here's what we're going to do. We'll take you out for more tests tomorrow and see how significant the damage is. Barring any extreme damage to the orbital lobe, we'll place you on the corneal implant list. We'll do the transplant as soon as new corneas become available. We'll need to move with some swiftness. The longer your retina lies dormant, the more likely you'll suffer retinal atrophy," Dr. Halloway said. "I'm going to put the bandages back on, but I'll return in the morning. Please, I know this isn't the news you had hoped for, but we still have a lot of things we can try."

Tim thanked her for coming by and then she left. Tim sat on the bed holding Mulder's hand; he had gotten very quiet.

"Is there anything I can get for you?" Scully asked after they had sat there for a while. He shook his head. "I think I'm going to head back to the hotel." She leaned over and kissed Mulder on the cheek. "It's going to be okay." He turned his head away from her.

"Thanks for everything, Dana," Tim said as he walked her to the door. "He wouldn't make it without you here."

"He's lucky to have both of us," she responded. "Call me later and let me know how he's doing, okay?" He nodded and gave her a quick hug before she left.

Tim turned back to the bed where Mulder lay. He moved to the side of the bed and put the bedrail down. Wordlessly, he put his hand on Mulder's right shoulder and helped him roll onto his left side. Tim toed his shoes off and climbed onto the bed. He wrapped himself around Mulder, carefully avoiding the tubes that still sprouted out from his lover. He put his right arm over Mulder, holding him closely, firmly. He felt Mulder's body shudder rhythmically with tears that couldn't escape the bandages over his damaged eyes. Tim pulled him closer as if his physical presence could somehow ward off the horror that seemed to have invaded their lives without warning.


St. Mary's Hospital
April 18
10:08 am

Scully walked into Mulder's room. He was sitting in a chair by the window with his headphones on. The dressing around his head had been replaced by a smaller bandage. The bandages covering his eyes had also been removed. He was sporting a pair of Raybans. The testing had deemed Mulder suitable for a corneal transplant. They were waiting for a donor to become available and for Mulder's internal injuries to heal fully. Tim had gone back to Baltimore, but Scully had been able to join the task force investigating the case they had originally come out to Minnesota to work on so she could stay with Mulder while he recuperated.

She touched him on the shoulder, trying not to startle him. He pulled off the headphones and smiled. "Scully."

"How do you always know it's me?" she asked.

"Easy. If I hear you coming down the hall, it's the heels. They make a lot of noise. If not, the perfume. I always know that scent. It's peach something, isn't it?" She nodded until she realized he couldn't see that.

"Yeah. Victoria's Secret actually."

"I thought so. Tim--he smells like Dial soap and Speed Stick. It's a good smell, very natural. Dr. Halloway, she smells like saline. I know, you may not think it has a smell, but it's all over her. It's true what they say about the senses. I swear I can hear the guy next door every time he even moves in bed, let alone when he snores or farts. Which he does a lot of, I might add."

Scully laughed.

"Tim called this morning to say they had caught the strangler and he'll be out Friday night," Mulder said.

"Good. You've got a card here from Byers. It says that they miss you and hope you're back up to speed soon. There's a note from Skinner. Your medical leave was approved and they're shifting you from sick leave to disability. He also hopes you'll be feeling better soon. I talked to him yesterday and he asked if there was anything he could do."

"Well, if he has any spare corneas lying around, I'm not terribly picky," Mulder responded. Scully laughed lightly. "I'm just kidding. Try to lighten up."

"I am. It's just . . . " Scully's voice trailed off.

"I know. Somebody has to die for me to see. I think about it too," Mulder responded, dropping his head. He raised his hand to run through his hair.

"Can I tell you something, Mulder?" she asked. She didn't wait for him to answer, but instead pulled over the other chair and sat down. "I'm not sure I believe in transplants. I mean, I understand the science of it and all, but we have to do so much intervention to get the body to accept the new organ. Maybe it isn't supposed to be. But, now--now that you need one, I'm not sure I feel that way anymore. I want you to see again and if it takes a new cornea or two, than that is what I want to happen."

Mulder sat for a moment, then his face lightened. "Why don't we go check out the courtyard. The nurse this morning said the tulips were starting to bloom."


Scully held the door open so Mulder could walk through it into the sunlit courtyard. The spring storm's effects had disappeared as quickly as they had arrived and it was a warm day, almost 60 degrees. She carefully moved in front of him so he could once again take her elbow like the nurse had shown them. It allowed her to guide him more easily. She steered him toward a bench near a statue. The flowers had started to bloom in the bed around the bronze structure. "There's a bench right behind you," Scully said as they stopped. Mulder felt for the bench and sat down. He stretched his sweatpant-covered legs out, his sneakered feet blocking the traffic of anyone who might pass that way.

"This feels damn good," he said, lifting his face up to the sun. He wore sunglasses and a hat to protect his eyes from the light, but the warmth felt very good on his cheeks.

"This is interesting," Scully said, leaning forward to read the plaque below the statue. It was a woman dressed as a nurse.

"What?" Mulder asked. He leaned forward as if to look at what Scully was examining.

"We're sitting by a statue of one of the early administrators at the hospital. Until a few years ago, this hospital was always run by nuns. Say what you will about the Catholic church, but in the early days if you wanted a career, the convent was your best route," Scully responded, sitting back on the bench, her body up against Mulder's.

"So what happened?" Mulder asked.


"It was so great for women, now they think they're oppressed. What changed?" Mulder asked. Scully sat silent for a moment, contemplating the question.

"I don't know. Maybe other opportunities opened up for us, we could be career women and have families. We didn't need to go away to the convent any longer to achieve those same goals."

Mulder sat for a moment and then started to chuckle.

"What's so funny?" Scully asked.

"I'm just trying to get that image of you in a habit twirling around in a circle in a meadow in the Alps out of my head."

"Just glad I could amuse you, Mulder. So, have you changed your opinion yet?" Scully asked.

"About Catholicism? I didn't really have one before, you know how I feel about organized religion."

"Mulder, I'm not sure I know what you think about anything, much less organized religion, but I was asking more specifically about Rochester. Any redeeming value now?"

Mulder chuckled, dropping his head down. "Yeah maybe, but the food still sucks."


1:13 pm

Mulder shifted slightly in his bed. It took so much energy to be blind. It seemed like all he did was lie in bed or sit in the chair, yet he was tired all the time. Even his walk with Scully that morning had been so wearing he had slept for two hours after they returned. He reached over for the bedside stand. The nurses were careful to keep his things arranged in the drawer so he could find them. He stuck his hand in searching for the headset he had put away earlier. His fingers explored the watch (no use), book (no use), a pen (no use) until he finally located the Walkman. He pulled it out and then began the search again, this time for a tape. He usually ended up just playing whatever he laid his hands on first. The occupational therapist had offered to make raised tags for the tapes, but he didn't want that. It was giving in, admitting that he might not see again. He wouldn't do that, he couldn't.

He reached into the corner searching for the familiar plastic container with the ridged edges, but instead his hand found a small leather pouch. It was familiar, but not instantly recognizeable. He pulled it from the drawer. It was his glasses. He dropped them in his lap. Glasses. He had first gotten them at Oxford, eye strain from too many nights in Bodleian Library poring over research material. Would he ever need them again?

Mulder brushed the thought away. He had found himself incapable of thinking about it. His mother had called daily always asking what she could do to help, should she come out? He didn't want her to. He didn't want her to see him this way. He shook his head again. He just had to keep it up. They didn't need to know how much it scared him. Scully seemed to have bought his act earlier. Thankfully she had gone back to work because he could not have kept his game face on much longer. There was a knock at the door.

"Mr. Mulder? May I come in?" a man asked. Mulder waved him in. He heard the man cross the room and take a seat next to his bed. "My name is Gordon Wissman. I'm a chaplain here at the hospital. I saw that you were from out of town and thought you might need someone to talk to."

Mulder sighed softly. A chaplain. He hadn't practiced any faith for so long he wasn't even sure if he believed in God, any god.

"It doesn't have to be about your faith or healing your injuries. We can talk about the weather or the food or how you're feeling about what's happened," the chaplain responded.

"I'm a psychologist," Mulder responded. "I know how I'm feeling. The food tastes like crap and why would I care about the weather? I can barely get out of bed and I sure as hell can't see if the sun is shining." He was shocked at the amount of vitriol in his voice. Is this how he was really feeling?

"This is a hard time. Do you have friends or family with you?" Mulder nodded. "Are you finding that helpful or more stressful?"

Mulder turned his face to the sound of the man's voice. How did he know? His fingers fidgeted over the glasses on his lap. He brought his hand up and rubbed it across the stubble on his chin.

"I know they're trying to be helpful, but sometimes it's just harder. What are the things you can't talk to them about?" Wissman asked. Mulder didn't respond. Wissman waited patiently.

"I just don't want them to get discouraged, lose hope," Mulder said quietly at last.

"Like you have?" the chaplain asked.

"Yeah, maybe. I mean, I know that the recovery rates are good, but I'm the one sitting here in the dark. They're still doing their jobs. If I can't see I'm done. I'll never be of any use," Mulder replied. His voice cracked slightly at the end and he turned to search for the pitcher of water the nurse left on his table. Wissman watched while he carefully felt for the cup and draped a finger in so he could gauge how much liquid had filled it. He set the pitcher back down and reached for the cup. He knocked it slightly with his hand causing it to spill, but Wissman caught it before he spilled any more.

"Leave it," Mulder spat out. He took the cup from the chaplain and drank its contents. He set it back down on the table.

"So you're afraid that this will be permanent, that you'll be a burden. What are you doing about that?" Wissman asked. Mulder's jaw dropped slightly, his body language speaking volumes.

"Doing? I'm sitting here waiting for somebody to die so I can see again. What else should I be doing?"

"Mr. Mulder, you are mad about your situation and that's fine. Do you realize that? It's okay to be mad. This wasn't fair and your friends won't give up on you if you let them know that. But you also need to begin to accept what's going on in your life. Go to occupational therapy, see the counselor. You can't do this alone. That's how you will fail. If you keep it all inside, you will eventually lose. Do you understand that?"

Mulder looked away. He knew that what Wissman was saying was true, but he wasn't ready to hear it. Denial had been policy so long he wasn't sure how to move past it.


Homicide Unit
April 23
8:11 am

"Hey Bayliss, you sleeping in again?" Munch asked as Tim appeared in the squad room late for the third time that week.

"What?" Tim asked, his voice distracted. "Yeah, John. Too much 'Politically Incorrect' or something." While several members of the squad were aware of his relationship with Mulder, he hadn't shared the latest development. Instead he had tried to maintain some semblance of doing his job. He knew he was starting to push the envelope, but his mind was stuck on Mulder.

"Bayliss!" Gee called. Tim looked up from his desk where he had been going through phone messages. The lieutenant stood in the doorway of his office. He signaled the detective over.

"Yeah, Gee," Bayliss responded as he walked across the room and into the shift commander's office. He took a chair across from Gee's desk.

"Bayliss, since you got back from your emergency leave you've been distracted and practically incompetent. Do you plan on this behavior continuing?" Bayliss shook his head. "Good. I expect my detectives to be professional. To do their jobs. Can you do that? Can you do your job?" Bayliss nodded. "Fine. You've cleared the Barth case. Take Russell down and do your depositions and then take the day off. I expect that when you return on Monday you will be the Tim Bayliss that I have known for all these years. Are we understood?" Bayliss nodded again. Gee waved him off with his hand, turning his attention to the unending pile of paperwork covering his desk.

Bayliss made his way out of the office scanning the squad room. Catching sight of his partner he called out, "Russell, did you hear back on those depositions?" He crossed over to her desk.

"Yeah. Danvers wants us down there at 9:30 for our statements," she responded.

Tim looked down at his watch. It was almost 8:30. "Let's go. We can get some breakfast on the way." He waited while Diane pulled her files together and then followed her out of the squad room and across the street to the Daily Grind. The coffee house was filled with the usual mix of cops, artists and neighborhood people. A woman sat reading her morning paper, her collies laying at her feet. Tim smiled as he watched her drop them each a small doggie treat.

He picked up his coffee and bagel and made his way over the table where Diane sat. It was sprinkling outside and the dampness came through the open door to the table where they sat.

"So you wanted out of there pretty badly. Care to talk about it?" Diane asked.

Tim bit into his bagel and chewed carefully before speaking. "I just--I'm sorry. My mind hasn't been on work much lately. Gee just . . . well, he only told me what I already knew."

"What's that?" Diane asked, sliding her chair in closer to let the lady with her two collies pass by.

"That I need to get my act together. He told me to do the deposition and then take off. To come back Monday ready to work."

"It's hard when you have things on your mind," Diane said. "But I haven't sensed that you haven't been doing your job. This was a hard case and you were on top of it the whole time." They had spent the last week investigating the strangling death of Molly Barth, a sophomore at Johns Hopkins University. The murder had occurred in her dorm room and had rightfully caused a great deal of media coverage and pressure on the police department to solve the crime. Tim and Diane had managed to discover that Molly's ex-boyfriend from Ohio had followed her to Baltimore and killed her in a fit of jealous rage.

"Do you want to talk about it?" Diane asked, setting her coffee down and leaning across the table. "It might be easier."

Tim thought for a moment. They had only worked together over the past few weeks. In that short amount of time Diane had proved herself to be an intuitive investigator. He had sensed a general sadness around her, but she seemed genuinely concerned.

"I--I'm worried about my friend," Tim said.

"Mulder?" Diane asked. Tim nodded. "Mike told me you were, that--that Mulder is a very special friend. I'm sorry he's been ill."

Tim looked surprised. He hadn't expected that Mike would have told her about his relationship with Mulder.

"Please don't be upset with Mike. I pushed him for more information. I figured that he must be special to you, the look on your face when you took the call. I knew what that look was. I knew you were upset about someone special, so I asked."

"I'm glad you know. I just--I can't keep explaining it again and again."

"I understand. When my husband, when Bobby was sick, I just couldn't be talking about it every minute of every day. I wanted people to know what was going on, but I just couldn't keep talking about it."

"It's just hard because people don't know about us. I've--I haven't talked about my sexual orientation much. It's--it's just not an easy subject, with cops, you know," Tim said. He looked over his shoulder around the room. Everyone seemed engrossed in their conversations or newspapers.

"Actually, Bobby and I got married without telling anyone. They would have made one of us transfer if they knew. It wasn't until he got sick that the lieutenant knew. I mean, I think people knew we were together, but our marriage--we got married after our shift with the justice of the peace. Not exactly what I had dreamed about when I was a kid."

"Are you sorry? Now, I mean?" Tim asked.

"I wouldn't trade a minute with Bobby for anything. I only wish I'd had more," she responded, her face softening.

"Mulder needs a transplant. That's what we're waiting for. He's--he's blind. I just don't know how he'll make it if he can't see. He's so independent. I can't imagine him having to rely on anyone."

Diane looked away, raising her hand to her mouth. She turned back to look at Tim. "Bobby had a transplant. We found a heart and I really thought it would all be fine, but an infection took him. I curse that heart sometimes, but we had the extra time. We were so lucky to have the time together that we did. Do whatever you can, Tim. Don't waste any time. No time at all."

Tim nodded. They sat for a moment not speaking. Finally Diane reached across and took his hand. She held it for a moment. He looked over at her and nodded. Wordlessly, they got up and headed for the waiting Cavalier.


Minneapolis / St. Paul International Airport
3:24 pm

Tim was headed across the Minneapolis airport to his connecting flight when his beeper sounded. Looking down he immediately recognized it as Mulder's hospital room. He checked his watch and headed for the phone. Dialing the number, he tapped his hand against the edge of the cubicle holding the phone.

"Tim," Scully's voice said.

"I didn't know people actually answered the phones that way," he responded, chuckling lightly. "I thought it was just in television."

Scully chuckled softly herself. "I figured it had to be you, since I had just paged you. Where are you? They got the corneas. They've just taken Mulder down."

Tim sank back against the wall. He knew this was a possibility, but it seemed so amazing now. He straightened back up. "I'm in Minneapolis. Gee chased me out for lack of performance and I caught an earlier flight out of BWI. I'll be down there in about an hour. How was he? Is he okay?"

"I think so. We didn't have much time. It was a local donor and they just came and got him. He wanted to talk to you, but there just wasn't time. I'm so glad you'll be here when he comes out of surgery. He'll feel much better with you here."

"I'm just glad you're there with him now. How were his spirits?" Tim asked.

"Good. He seems very optimistic."

"They just called my flight to Rochester. I'll see you as soon as I get there," Tim said. They exchanged good-byes and he headed for the gate.


St. Mary's Hospital
7:39 pm

Mulder slowly became aware of the room around him. It was still dark of course, but he could tell they were both there. He moved slightly in his bed, licking his lips. They were always so dry after surgery. Someone was there next to him, taking his hand. A small hand.

"Scully," he said, his mouth turning up in a smile. Now the other important person was there, his larger hand taking Mulder's. "Tim."

"How are you feeling?" Scully asked. "Do you need anything?"

"No," Mulder responded. He could hear Tim putting the bed rail down. He sat on the edge of the bed near Mulder.

"The operation went very well," Tim said. "They think it looks good."

"Good," Mulder responded. He was so tired. Hopefully this would be over soon. He heard the door open. Antiseptic. A nurse. He heard her approach the bed, checking the IV, moving the sheets back. Another foley. He would be glad to have this hospitalization with its inconvenient routines and more inconvenient tubes and catheters out of the way. The blood pressure cuff went on and back off again, the thermometer in his ear.

Scully and Tim exchanged looks over Mulder's head. She jerked her head toward the door indicating that she was going to give them some time alone. Tim shook his head, but she picked her things up anyway.

"Mulder, I'll be back in the morning, okay?"

Mulder nodded and she slipped from the room. He was still a little foggy from the anesthetic. It would be another day before they took the bandages off and knew if the surgery was a success.

"Come closer," Mulder said. He heard Tim's shoes drop onto the floor and felt the bed move beneath him as Tim crawled in with him.

"I don't want to hurt you," Tim said, moving tentatively toward Mulder.

"You couldn't hurt me, not here."

"You never know. Are you--are you okay?" Tim asked, smoothing his hand over Mulder's forehead.

"I miss you. I miss our home, our lives," Mulder said, his body curling into a fetal position. Tim tightened around him, putting his arm over Mulder's shoulder and holding him close.

"I miss that too. Do you remember the day you left?" They both knew the day Tim meant, the day Mulder left for Minnesota.

"Yeah," Mulder responded. "It was such a forgettable morning, yet I've replayed it in my head so many times."

"Not so forgettable," Tim said. "You told me something. Do you remember what it was?" Mulder shifted on the bed.

"I meant it."

"So, why don't you say it again?" Tim asked.

"Do you have any idea how long it's been since I told someone I love them on a regular basis? How long it's been since I really cared about somebody that way?" Mulder asked, his voice growing more stressed.

"But did you really mean it?" Tim asked.

"Not now, Tim. Not until we know," Mulder replied. They lay on the bed silent for a moment. "I think maybe you should leave. Please Tim, if you ever cared about me--just go."

"I can't believe that you would say that," Tim said finally. "I'm not going to stop loving you if you're blind. That's not what love is about." He got up off the bed. "I'm going to go, but I'll be back in the morning. We'll talk again then, but you think about what this relationship is about."

He got up and walked out of the room. Mulder heard the door close and rolled onto his back. What had he done?


Rochester Inn
9:15 pm

The phone was ringing as Scully entered her hotel room. After 3 weeks in the same small room she was more than ready to get back to her apartment. She leaned across the bed and picked the receiver up.


"You turned your cell off."

"Mulder," she responded, dropping down onto the bed, her bag and coat landing on the floor. "What's the matter?"

"I've been trying to get a hold of you and your cell was off. Why was it off?" His voice was much more panic stricken than was usual for him.

"I must have shut it off earlier; I'm sorry Mulder. What's the matter?" she asked again.

"I did something stupid," he said quietly.

"Did you hurt yourself?" she asked quickly.

"No, not like that. I--Tim and I--we, we fought. I mean we didn't really fight, but he's mad, I sent him away. God, why did I send him away? What have I done?" Mulder questioned, his voice cracking.

"Just relax. I'm going to come down there. Can you wait until I get there?" she asked.

"Just hurry, okay?" She would. Scully picked herself back off the bed. When was his pain going to end? She had never heard him sound so despondent. She picked her coat up off the floor, grabbed her car keys and headed back out the door.


St. Mary's Hospital
9:57 pm

Scully pushed the door open, the light from the hallway showed Mulder sitting in the chair by the window. She moved through the doorway and into the room.

"Hey, what are you doing over there? You just got out of surgery. You shouldn't be out of bed," she said, walking over to him.

"I couldn't stay in that bed anymore. They came and took the tubes out, so I figured it was okay. I'm going to have to figure out how to get around by myself anyway."

"What do you mean?" she asked, coming over to sit in the chair next to him.

"I'm going to be blind. I'm going to have to figure out how to do this by myself," Mulder said, his voice carrying little emotion. Scully shrugged her coat off and took his hands in hers.

"First of all, we don't know that you are going to be blind. There is absolutely no reason to believe that the transplant didn't work. It's going to take a few months, but you should be as good as new. Second, you are not alone no matter what. You have me and you have Tim. Why would you think you would be alone?"

"Do I? Do I have you? Do I have Tim? Why would either one of you stick by me? I've been lying to you. I'm not all strong about this. I'm scared. This isn't going to work. I know it."

"Mulder, I'm only going to say this once. We're here for you. No matter what, we're both here. You've been through so much the past few weeks. The accident, the blindness, now this transplant. You don't think I've known you were scared? I was just waiting for you to tell me."

"I couldn't. I just, I couldn't think about it myself. How was I supposed to talk about it." He paused for a moment, reaching his hand up to touch the coolness of the window. "I should know better. I may chase bad guys, but I am a psychologist. Why have I fucked this up so bad?"

She reached over to touch his face, pull him toward her. "We all do it Mulder. There are so many things that I keep down there, Emily, the cancer, my dad, Melissa. I can't think about that on a daily basis, it's just too close, too raw. I just have to make it go away. But eventually, if we let those things go, they start to eat at us. I finally started seeing someone about it, a therapist. It's not weakness. It's admitting that you need some help. You're bound to have some strong emotions now. This is just a post-traumatic response. It's going to be better and we can find somebody to help you with all these feelings. Can you trust me?" she asked, moving her hand up his arm. It was important to touch him, so he could sense the emotion in her body.

"I was so awful. He just wanted me to tell him that I loved him again and I wouldn't. I couldn't. I loved Sam and she left. Why won't Tim?"

"Sam didn't leave. She was taken. She didn't choose to leave you. Tim loves you. I've seen it in everything he does, the way he looks at you, how he touches you. You're very lucky to have someone like that, Mulder. But you have to remember that this has been hard for him as well. I don't think he has anybody to talk to about this. I think he was just giving you some time off. If you called him, he would be here in a minute. Do you want to do that?"

Scully looked intently in the darkened room at Mulder. He nodded slightly. She got up and walked over to the bed side table then carried the telephone over to Mulder. "Do you need me to dial?" she asked. He shook his head no and picked up the receiver. He carefully picked out the correct buttons, his memory not failing him even now. He paused for a moment and then set the handset back on the phone.


"Well, then I'll stay with you for a while and you can try again," Scully answered, reaching for the phone. Mulder relinquished it to her. She carried it back over to the table. "Why don't we get you back into bed? You'll be more comfortable there." Mulder reluctantly got up and moved carefully to the bed, Scully gently guiding him with a hand on his back and at his elbow.

"Scully?" he asked, crawling underneath the blankets.


"Stay with me?"

"Of course," she responded, again taking his hand.


Rochester Inn
10:23 pm

"I hope you don't mind--I mean we aren't exactly friends, but . . . " Tim's voice trailed off as he sat down in the chair by the window, the phone receiver tucked between his head and his shoulder.

"No, it's okay, I was just trying to figure out where to put my bookshelves. You didn't really interrupt anything," Diane responded through the phone line. "How's Mulder doing? How did the surgery go?"

"Fine, I think. They won't take the bandages off until tomorrow. What--what was it like afterwards? After the transplant?" Tim asked.

"What do you mean?"

"He's so--he's so angry or sad or something. We--oh man, we fought, he told me to leave and I did and I know that I shouldn't have done that, but I had to get out of there." Tim paused and then realized what he was doing. "Oh god, Diane. I'm sorry. This isn't fair, this is a totally different thing. I'm sorry I--I'll just--thanks for . . . "

"No, it's okay Tim. I don't mind. I want to help, honestly it makes me feel a little bit better. It's okay for you to not be perfect. Nobody is. So tell me exactly what happened."

Tim related the fight with Mulder. Repeating what happened, he felt even worse. He got up and looked out the window into the inky blackness of the starless night.

"It sounds like you are both under a great deal of stress," Diane said after he had finished. "It's pretty hard to deal with all these emotions under the best of circumstances, but your fear and Mulder's depression sound like a pretty lethal combination. Why don't you call and check on him. I'm sure you'll feel much better."

Tim rubbed his hand over his face, pulling his glasses off and pinching the bridge of his nose. "Yeah, I think you're right. I mean, I knew all of this, but to hear it from somebody else. Thanks."

"No problem, partner. That's what I'm here for," she responded, finally feeling like Baltimore could be her home after all.


St. Mary's Hospital
10:53 pm

Mulder hung up the phone. It was busy again. Who was Tim talking to? It had been busy for hours. Finally he had agreed to let Scully go find the nurse and get him a sleeping pill. He hated the way they made him feel, but her persistence had won out over his agitation. He felt for the bedside table to set the phone down when it began to ring in his hand. He picked up the receiver.

"Hello?" he asked.

"It was after hours, but I told them it was an emergency," Tim said, the smile coming through in his voice.

"I'm sorry," they both responded in unison. Tim laughed, Mulder smiling at the sound.

"No, it was my fault," Mulder answered. "I--I was scared and I took that out on you. That wasn't fair."

"We've got to get better at this," Tim replied.

"What do you mean?"

"At some point don't we get past all the mistrust and fear and just realize that we're so damn lucky to have one another? I love you, Fox Mulder. I don't care if you're blind or deaf or piss in your pants. I want you in my life, no matter what. Do you hear that? NO MATTER WHAT."

"Yeah, I get that," Mulder replied softly. "So who were you talking to?"

"Diane. And you?"

"What do you mean, you were the one on the phone?" Mulder asked.

"Yeah, but I know you. You wouldn't come to this new understanding wallowing away in your bed," Tim replied.

"Scully told me that I had better get my act together," Mulder answered, chuckling softly. "I'm lucky to have her."

"We're both damn lucky that Dana's around to keep you in line. I'm not sure I would have made it this far without her."

"So you'll be here tomorrow?" Mulder asked. The doctor was coming by first thing in the morning to take off the bandages.

"Well I sure don't want to take a chance on you seeing something that looks better and losing out now," Tim replied.

"Not a chance," Mulder answered. "Not a chance."


St. Mary's Hospital
April 24
8:34 am

Tim arrived the next morning to find Scully asleep in the lounger chair next to Mulder's bed. They made a pretty good tag team. He had offered to come over the night before, but Mulder said Scully would stay with him. Tim stood at the foot of the bed looking at Mulder's sleeping form. What would the day bring? Would they know Mulder's fate?

Scully opened her eyes and stretched, yawning. She uncurled her legs and started to sit up. "Oh, I had forgotten what it was like to sleep in one of these chairs," she said. Tim helped her to her feet.

"Thanks for being here last night," he said, quietly, trying not to awaken Mulder.

"It was my pleasure," she responded. "I would do anything for Mulder, you know that."

"Yeah, and for that I'm thankful," Tim replied. Their conversation was soon interrupted.

"So are you going to stand over in the corner and talk about me all day long?" Mulder asked from the bed.

Tim laughed and moved over so Mulder could touch his arm. "The nurse said Dr. Halloway would be up in about an hour and a half. How about you take a shower and we take a walk?"

"A shower? How can I do that with the bandages?" Mulder asked.

"With assistance," Tim replied. Scully giggled at the look on his face.

"I think I'm going to adjourn to the hotel for my own beauty regimen, but I'll be back before Halloway gets here," Scully said, picking up her things and heading for the door.

"I think I may have made her blush," Tim said, watching Dana exit the room. "C'mon, let's get you cleaned up. You're getting a little gamey."

Tim carefully helped Mulder from the bed. He slid Mulder's feet into his slippers and handed him his robe. Mulder pulled the terry wrap on. He reached out and carefully took Tim's elbow. Moving slowly, but surely they made their way from the room, down the hall and into the shower room.

"So the nurse recommended this?" Mulder asked as he pulled his robe off. Tim took the robe from his hands and hung it from a hook on the wall. Mulder felt for the bench and sat down so he could remove his slippers and pajamas.

"I might have asked about facilities, mentioned my background as a home health aide," Tim replied, his voice muffled as he pulled his sweatshirt over his head.

"Home health aide?" Mulder said, laughing.

"Well, I didn't think homicide detective or paper boy was going to hold much water with Sister Mary George," Tim answered as he pulled the last of his clothes off. He reached over and took Mulder's pajamas from him. Mulder sat on the bench while Tim adjusted the temperature of the water.

"So, how exactly is this going to work?" Mulder asked, reaching for the wall and standing up.

"The head's adjustable, so why don't we get in and I'll take care of the rest." Tim reached up and pulled the adjustable head off its hook. He ushered Mulder into the shower. Tim stood behind Mulder and carefully ran the shower head over Mulder's shoulders, its pulsing tone relaxing the tightened cords in his neck. He moved the water down lower, luxuriating over Mulder's chest and hips, down his legs. Tim turned and placed the shower head back on the hook, being careful not to direct the spray toward Mulder's head. He reached for the body scrub and poured it on the puff of nylon net. He rubbed it slightly to get the suds going.

"Ready for some soap?" he asked. Mulder nodded, trying not to laugh. Tim reached around with his right arm to rub the puff against Mulder's chest. He pulled the other man against him. The water ran down his back as he moved back and forth across Mulder's chest. They hadn't been this close, naked, for a very long time. Tim felt himself becoming aroused. He pulled Mulder closer, moving the puff lower and lower. He moved down across Mulder's abdomen to his pelvis. The roughened texture of the net abraded Mulder's skin, making it tingle. Tim heard him pant slightly, his own member responding in kind.

"Are you okay?" Tim asked. Mulder nodded. He reached back and put his hand on Tim's ass. He leaned up against the wall of the shower, pulling Tim with him.

"Close your eyes," Mulder responded. Tim did. The water continued to move down his back, softening everything around them, the room warm and moist.

He leaned closer against Mulder, every point of their bodies touching. He felt himself grow hard, rubbing against Mulder's ass.

Then Tim entered him, the net puff dropping from his hand forgotten. They moved in concert, rhythmically rocking against the tile wall. Tim felt himself coming. He had forgotten how sweet it was to share this with someone he loved. He tightened his hold on Mulder. Finally he slipped back. The lack of one sense had made all the others so defined. The sound of the water, the softness of Mulder's skin, the small tracing of hair down his abdomen. It was unlike anything they had ever done.

Mulder turned to face Tim, putting his hands up to Tim's face. He reached around Tim's neck and pulled him closer. As their lips met Tim opened his mouth to allow Mulder to enter him. Mulder's tongue trickled over his teeth, and further into his mouth, exploring all the places it knew, but hadn't visited lately. He moved his arms up and down Tim's back, grabbing and kneading at each point. The embrace became more dynamic as they suddenly couldn't resist being apart another minute. Tim moved Mulder into the corner away from the water's spray and slid down until he was on his knees. He began to run his hands across Mulder's thighs as the other man's erection began to grow again. He leaned in to take Mulder in his mouth, taunting the erection with his tongue, first at the tip and then as it grew, he moved up and down the shaft. As Mulder began to shudder, Tim slowed down, allowing him to climax on his own. He stood up to pull Mulder into his arms so he could feel the full effect of his efforts. As Mulder's breath became more regular there was a knock at the door.

"Mr. Mulder? Are you okay? The doctor is here," came the voice of Sister Mary George, the head nurse on the unit.

Tim dropped his head, trying not to laugh. Mulder put his finger up to Tim's mouth, hoping his lover could maintain his composure.

"Almost done Sister. We'll be right out," Mulder finally managed. He laid his head down on Tim's shoulder, while Tim reached over, turned the water off, grabbed a towel and handed it to Mulder. He dried off in the shower while Tim got dressed. Taking the towel Mulder offered, he handed Mulder his clothes in exchange. Mulder felt along the wall back to the bench.

"You think this shower has seen this kind of action before?" Mulder asked as he pulled on his boxer shorts. Tim laughed as he opened the door to the hallway. He looked either way. The hallway being clear, they made their way back to Mulder's room to wait for the doctor.


9:15 am

"Now you know that your vision won't be perfect right away. It will take a couple of months for it to clear up completely and even then we'll probably adjust the prescription in your glasses slightly," Dr. Halloway said as she began to pull away the bandages.

"Will it correct enough for him to qualify for field service?" Scully asked. She stood next to the bed, her hand on his shoulder. Tim was perched on the bed, near his knees, his hand on Mulder's leg.

"I'm not sure what the exact regulations are, but we should be able to correct the vision to 20/30 or 20/40," the doctor responded. She pulled away the patch over first Mulder's right eye and then his left. The eyes were red and irritated. "Now open your eyes slowly."

Mulder did as directed. Everyone could feel the tension in the room. His eyes open, he turned first to Scully and then to Tim. A smile crossed his face.

"I'm not sure I could pick you out of a line-up, but it's damn good to see you," Mulder said. Tim leaned in and kissed Mulder. "Hey, that's better," Mulder said as Tim pulled away.

The doctor checked Mulder's eyes. "Everything looks really good. I want you to keep sunglasses on while you're awake to protect the corneas and wear the shields at night. It's very important to allow the sutures to heal."

Mulder and Tim said they understood. He could finally leave the hospital that afternoon and after a few more days at the hotel to make sure everything was okay, they would be able to leave for Baltimore. As the doctor left Scully moved in closer. Mulder raised his hand up and stroked her hair.

"I missed the red," he said tracing his hand along her face. "Thank you."

Scully cocked her eyebrow in a silent question.

"You held me together. Both of you," Mulder said pulling them both close to him. Scully hung back for a split second and then matched Tim and Mulder's enthusiasm in the embrace.


Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport
12:45 pm
April 27

"Flight 341 to Baltimore Washington International will now begin pre-boarding. Passengers with small children, special needs and members of our gold club may now board at gate 14."

Tim stood up and held his arm out to Mulder. "We might as well take advantage of it while we can," he said. Mulder smiled and stood up.

"I don't know about you, but I personally can't wait for everything to get back to normal," he replied.

"I don't know about you, Fox Mulder, but since that day in Baltimore when I first met you, nothing's ever been normal again," Tim answered. He turned so Mulder could take his arm and they started the last leg back to their lives.