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Chapter Nine

 

It was that beeping sound again. That smell that she was sure she’d never get used to. An all too familiar lumpy mattress. The comfort of a warm hand holding hers.

Scully opened her eyes to fluorescent lights and dying sunshine. She squinted momentarily, allowing her vision to adjust, before connecting the dots that she was, in fact, in a hospital.

Now what? She wondered.

Then it all hit her. Hard. The nightmare, the skewed memories and the man in shadows. The revelation made her bolt up from the hospital bed, disturbing her guardian’s slumber and inducing a shockingly painful headache.

"Scully?" Mulder mumbled sleepily, before it registered. "Scully!"

Not hesitating even a moment, he placed a long kiss on her forehead. He stroked her face, tracing the contours of her cheekbones and jaw line.

"You’re alive," he whispered.

"That is painfully obvious," she quipped, closing her eyes to shield them from the light momentarily.

"I almost lost you, partner." Mulder sat back down in his chair, smiling but hiding the threat of tears. Almost. "How do you do it, Scully? Power bars? Water from the Red Sea? A ceremony of candles and Koombiyah?"

"So far your record rivals mine, Mulder, so I’d research your own history of mortality before we delve into mine." Scully settled back into the bed more comfortably and reached for Mulder’s hand again. He twined their fingers together, stroking her thumb with his own.

"Jacob didn’t do it," Mulder whispered without prelude. "Actually, he was kind of a victim himself."

Pursing her lips into a frown, Scully scrunched her eyebrows together in confusion. "I don’t understand."

"Amanda and Jacob were lovers, Scully. Her death, aside from fitting the mold, was the consequence of butting into Luke’s, well, business, for lack of a better word."

"So it was Luke," Scully stated with a nod.

"Yeah, it was Luke."

Scully closed her eyes, tight, but turned her head to face Mulder better. "What was the motive?"

"At first, with nothing else to go on according to Jacob, I thought it was a power trip; something he did because he could. We did a background check a few hours ago and it appears his motive was based on his wife–that little detail we overlooked. Her parents died in a plane crash only a few weeks after their marriage, leaving Linda, his wife, practically catatonic for several weeks. She was never able to cope and eventually left him, taking up residence somewhere in Big Bear. I think he loved her so much it pushed him over the edge. Similar experiences from his customers and his co-worker’s customers intrigued him and he focused his anger on them."

"I can’t help but feel he did it out of mercy, Mulder. Yes, he went about it in a twisted way and I in no way seek to pardon him from his crimes, but it’s just this feeling I have."

"I get the same feeling." He squeezed her hand. "I think he saw his wife in the losses these women suffered." She saw him flinch at that, no doubt taking her losses in the last few years into consideration. "At first he may have meant to save them from anymore losses, from losing themselves, but he soon realized the power he had over them and . . . lost his mind."

Scully bit down on her bottom lip, nodding. A tear escaped down her cheek before she added, "Those nightmares, Mulder. God, Luke . . . He planted the worst images in my mind, memories that . . . He knew what would break me and he did. He did."

A sharp intake of air and Scully swiped at the lone tear on her cheek. "It makes sense. How he did it, I mean. People die from broken hearts all of the time, Mulder. They lose the will to live; they give up hope."

"But you haven’t, have you Scully?"

The ghost of a smile crossed her lips and she gave his hand a squeeze of reassurance. "No, I haven’t."

"Good." He brought her hand up and placed a gentle kiss on her knuckles.

Eyeing the pitcher of water on the side table, Mulder let go of her hand, somewhat reluctantly, and poured some into a glass. She sat up and took a sip. "So what are we going to do with him? He’s obviously capable of striking again, no matter the security we put him under."

"He’s dead," Mulder said.

XxX

Scully’s eyebrows shot in the air and she had to keep from choking on her water. "What? How?" she sputtered. "Did you–You didn’t kill him, did you, Mulder?"

Leaning back into his seat, Mulder slipped into agent mode and relayed the events that had taken place while he’d been at the hotel. "No. Luke was found in his apartment by Gavin and Trisha in a ‘meditative state’. Caught by surprise, he lunged at Trisha, provoking Gavin to shoot him; dead. He was escalating, taking these murders to a more physical level. The traces of Rohypnol found in your coffee mug is proof of that, not to mention his attempted attack on Trisha."

Scully elicited a sigh, the wheels almost noticeably turning in her head.

The click of a door opening seemed to shake her from her thoughts, Mulder twisting to see who had come inside. Chief O’Donnell, Gavin and Trisha filed inside the hospital room.

"How are you feeling, Dana?" Trisha asked, concern written in her eyes.

"My head hurts, from the medication I’m sure, and I’m a little woozy, but aside from that I feel fine." She snuck a peek at Mulder with the final words. Somehow, Mulder felt she’d answered that question as much for him as for Trisha.

"Chief O’Donnell here is the one who brought in the paramedics, Scully." Mulder pointed to the man standing in the corner. O’Donnell gave a solid nod and, if Mulder wasn’t mistaken, he even smiled a little. "I ran five miles because of traffic, so I’m still not sure how they got there only minutes after me. I’m not sure I care."

"You ran?" Scully asked.

Mulder tilted his head in confirmation and he saw Scully’s features soften in . . . Gratitude? No, something else shone in her eyes. Love?

"Don’t pay any attention to us. We only *caught* the bad guy," Gavin mumbled. One side of his mouth was turned up, but he bore the expression of a pouting five-year-old.

"Thank you. All of you," Scully replied, her voice soft yet full of emotion.

"That’s more like it." Gavin winked, grinning from ear to ear.

Trisha stepped back and opened the door. "Let’s let her rest up, guys. She hasn’t really slept in four days." She switched her attention to Scully, again. "We just wanted to say hi, Dana. We can only put off our report for so long."

They all said goodnight and left, leaving Mulder and Scully alone once more.

"I guess report duty includes me, too," Mulder grumbled. "And you really do need to get some rest, to heal."

"Hey, who’s the doctor here?"

"Can’t we pretend I am? Just this once?" His bottom lip popped out, quivering slightly.

Exaggerating a sigh, Scully said, "Okay, fine. But just this once. Don’t get used to it, Mulder." She covered her shoulders with the blanket, sinking her head into the pillow.

As he stood, Mulder placed a soft kiss on her forehead. "You sure I don’t need to stick around? Make sure you sleep all right? I know he’s gone, but I’m sure he left a lasting impression."

"I’ll be okay," Scully replied, her voice laden with fatigue.

Mulder had a feeling the medication she was on wouldn’t even allow the most pleasant of dreams to filter through, but only imagining what she’d been through sent chills down his spine and worry in his mind. Taking her at her word, however, Mulder walked to the door. She was asleep before he opened it.

Before stepping out, he whispered, "Sweet dreams." Just in case.