Rating: PG-13

Second campsite
Sometime later

It was the dryness in her mouth more than anything that brought her back to the land of the living. Her eyes felt as if they were full of sand and glued shut and she had a bad taste in her mouth. Her tongue felt like sandpaper and her throat was utterly dry. At some point she figured she had uttered a sound of some kind, because a cool hand touched her brow and a somewhat timid voice said her name.

She didn’t even try to think clearly. Somehow, she knew that she wouldn’t feel better if she did. Instead, she took her time waking up properly and slowly became aware of her body, of the aches and pains, of the memory how she had gotten all those aches and pains. The worst was yet to come, she knew. Her leg. It was probably broken. She remembered that clearly. Who could forget the excruciating pain of having a broken limb set? But for now, she didn’t feel it. Nothing but a slow, not entirely unpleasant throb.

Mulder brushed a stubborn strand of hair off her brow again and regarded her full of worry. “Scully?” he tried again.

Finally, she opened her eyes and blinked up at Mulder for a moment. Then she slowly glanced around the cabin. “Where are we?” she asked hoarsely.

“The second campsite,” he replied, relief washing over him like a tidal wave at seeing her awake and realizing that she was also coherent. “How are you feeling?”

Scully tried to assess her own condition, then sighed and briefly closed her eyes. “Like I’ve been run over by a steamroller. Could I have some water?” she said after a moment

“Sure. Hang on,” he replied and reached out for the canteen he had only recently filled with water from the outside well. “Here you go,” he added and slipped a hand behind her head to help her drink.

Scully however took the canteen away from him. “I hurt my leg, not my back,” she told him somewhat sternly and took a swig of water. “Don’t baby me,” she added and let her head drop back down on the pillow.

“I wasn’t babying you,” he tried to defend himself. “I just figured you might need some help.”

Aware that her attitude wasn’t the best because of the discomfort she was in, she briefly closed her eyes and sighed once more. “Sorry. I’m not feeling my best,” she apologized.

Even though he knew that she wasn’t accusing him, he accepted the blame. “Don’t I know it,” he replied with an awkward smile on his lips.

It took her a while before she was able to gather enough strength to push herself up on her elbows and take a look at her splinted leg. It hurt, but not as badly as she had thought it would. Regarding it for a while, she said nothing. Then she glanced at her partner. “That’s pretty good for someone who has no idea how to splint a leg,” she said.

It made his smile a little more sincere. “Doesn’t change the fact that I caused this, though,” he replied and made a face.

Scully considered her reply to that one very carefully. Sure, she was in pain and there was a part of her that did blame him for her fall, but in the end, it all came down to her losing her temper. By now, she should have known better than to blow up over nothing. “Did you push me?” she asked and looked up at him with a serious expression on her face.

Mulder jerked at that question and met her gaze somewhat unsteadily. “No,” he said, not sure where she was heading with that question.

“Did you trip me?” she asked on, her tone becoming more intense. Again he denied, a little startled. “Then why the hell do you think it was your fault? I was the one who flew off the handle. I was the one who didn’t look where I was going. I should know better by now. You’ve never filled me in and I guess you never will. After six years of being partners, you’d think I’d learned that fact. But I forget sometimes. And then I do something stupid like this,” she tried to explain. “This is not your fault. If anybody is to blame, it’s me. I took a wrong step. You were nowhere near me when I fell. So stop blaming yourself, okay?”

For a moment, he just sat there, that stunned look still in his eyes, and then he nodded. “Sure,” he finally agreed, beginning to see that she was right. “But...” he began, but she cut him off.

“No buts. There’s nothing more to talk about. Did you try the radio?” she asked, waving a hand at him. One thing had started to nag her and she couldn’t quite put a finger on it. It sprang mainly from the fact that she firmly believed a traumatic injury like the one she had sustained should have hurt more than it did.

“Well... yeah, but there was no reply. I’ll try taking it further down the trail. Maybe the reception is better further down,” he said, happily grasping the opportunity to talk about something other than who was to blame for what.

Scully nodded thoughtfully. She wasn’t bemoaning the lack of pain, but it worried her nonetheless. Maybe the nerves in her leg had been damaged, she mused and pushed herself up on her elbows again. Without further ado, she poked her upper thigh and found the skin to be numb. She couldn’t feel the poke on her leg. “Something’s wrong,” she said, worried now.

“What? Does it hurt now?” Mulder wanted to know, concerned again.

“No. That’s what’s wrong. I couldn’t even feel the pressure,” she replied, then suddenly caught on to what he had said. With a frown, she looked at him. “Now?” she asked. “What do you mean, now?”

The somewhat bossy tone to her voice made him worry even more. “Well... I... gave you a shot of that painkiller you carry around with you. So you wouldn’t be in any pain when you woke up,” he said somewhat hesitantly.

That thought had not crossed her mind at all and the thought of having to endure excruciating pain once the shot wore off made her swallow hard as she sank back down on the pillow. “Oh shit,” she mumbled and draped an arm over her face.

“Was that wrong?” he asked, afraid he may have worsened her condition somehow.

“No, not wrong,” she replied after a moment and let her arm slip off her face up over her head. “I just thought...” she tried, but trailed off with a light shake of the head. “I thought the injury wasn’t that bad and that was why it didn’t hurt, really. How long ago did you give me the shot of lidocaine,” she finally continued.

Mulder glanced at his watch. “Oh, about... an hour ago, I think.”

She sighed again and rubbed both palms over her face. “That gives me a few more hours of relative painlessness. I suppose you used the whole thing?” she asked on and looked back up at him.

“No, not the whole thing. Only half of it. Damn, I’m sorry, Scully. I didn’t think... well... I just didn’t want you to suffer when you woke up. I figured if you had that time, it might get better before the painkiller wore off. You know?” He once again looked guilt-stricken, once again feeling that he was to blame for everything.

“I know,” she said and smiled a little. “And I appreciate the sentiment, Mulder. I really do. You’ve given me a little time to get used to the idea. That won’t make bearing the pain any easier, though. But, we’ll deal with that when we get to it. Just don’t give me any more injections until it’s absolutely necessary. I can’t assess the level of pain I’m in if I’m sedated,” she explained. “I need to know if the bone is broken, and if it is, if it’s set properly and I can’t do when I can’t feel.”

“Okay, I get the point,” he said and glanced at the window. “It’s getting light out there,” he added as if on second thought. “Maybe you should just rest a bit. I’ll take the radio down the trail and see if I can’t raise somebody. We should be out of here by midday.”

Scully nodded her consent. “Good idea,” she told him.


The sky was clear blue and there was not a cloud in sight. Birds sang, the underbrush rustled and all breathed peace. If it hadn’t been for the fact that his partner lay inside that cabin with a broken leg, Mulder would have enjoyed this trip to the woods. They’d gone on similar trips before and, come to think of it, those trips seemingly always ended in disaster. Making a face, Mulder pulled the two-way radio from his backpack and started down the trail they should have come in on. “Seems like a hint to me,” he mumbled to himself. “Stay out of the woods,” he added with a grim smile and turned the radio on. “Winter, this is Mulder. Do you read me?" he tried and released the call button. All that answered him was static. "Stan Winter, this is Fox Mulder calling. Do you read?" he tried again while walking briskly along the trail. Again he released the button and again nothing answered him but static.

He walked further down the trail, came to a stop, tried to raise someone again and got only static again. Continuing his trek down the trail, he occasionally stopped to try and raise Winter or someone else, but got nothing. Eventually, he started turning the frequency dial after having jotted down where it had been and tried other channels with the same lack of luck.

After walking for nearly an hour, he stopped again and glanced around him. Time to go back. Scully would be worried and he didn’t want her to be alone when the painkiller wore off. He tried once more and cursed silently when static was the only reply once again. “Shit, shit, shit,” he hissed and mostly felt like tossing the no-good piece of electronics into the bushes. He didn’t, though. Instead he clipped it to his belt, turned around and started back the way he’d come.


Scully had rested, as Mulder had suggested she should, but she woke up a while after he had left with the intensifying throb of her knee filling her world. The lidocaine was wearing off and she just knew she’d have one hell of a time if she didn’t find a way to subdue the pain without the use of drugs.

Gingerly, she sat up and gently massaged her thigh above the fracture, hoping against hope that relaxing the muscle would make it easier on her. But she had no such luck. With every passing minute, the pain increased until it was a fiery inferno throbbing away in her knee, threatening to deprive her of all sense and reason. She would have thought that the pain would have lessened after she had kept her leg still for so long, but then she remembered that she had been out all the time it had taken Mulder to get her to this cabin and onto this bed. She had no idea how much he might have jostled her leg during that trip.

Apart from the distant twittering of birds outside, she could hear nothing. Mulder had said he would go down the trail and see if he couldn’t raise someone, but she couldn’t for the life of her understand why he was gone so long. With a glance at her watch, she gritted her teeth against the pain, which seemed to intensify all the time even though she wouldn’t have thought that was possible.

At that point, she was no longer massaging her leg. She was digging the fingers of her right hand into her thigh while trying to break the frame of the bed with her left. “God damn it,” she hissed through clenched teeth, trying desperately to find a way to circumvent the pain. And then her roaming eyes fell on her med kit lying on top of her backpack, which stood leaning against the wall. On top of the med kit lay the syringe with the vial of lidocaine she made it a point always to have on her. And the whole thing was way out of her reach. “Aw, no,” she groaned. If she moved, she would probably kill herself with the pain. If she didn’t, she would go insane. She opted for a third option. “MULDER!” she yelled, hoping that somehow he would hear her and hurry back. “MULDER, I NEED YOU.”


Mulder briefly stopped to tie the laces of his right hiking boot and once again glanced at his watch. He had been gone nearly one and a half hours. With an odd need to hurry, he got up again and walked on. Scully had said that she would have peace a few more hours before the painkiller wore off, but he wasn’t so sure all of a sudden. She had said that, believing that he’d injected the entire content of that vial into her. He’d only given her half, which naturally would reduce the length of the effect.

But he knew Scully well enough to not blow this out of proportions, so he didn’t hurry needlessly. She would tan his hide if he came barging in, all upset she might be in pain. He didn’t walk slowly, but he wasn’t walking too fast, either.

Eventually, he could see the clearing up ahead with the round stone well in the middle with its little roof and the cabin across from it, looking all cozy and serene in the late morning sun. This looked like taken out of a fairytale. “And it would be, too, if it hadn’t been for that fall,” he told himself quietly and quickened his step. The nagging feeling that he should hurry was still there.

Pushing the door open, he put on an apologetic smile. “Hi, I’m back. I think I walked halfway back to the first campsite before...” he began, but came to an abrupt stop, when she turned her head to face him. Her skin was glistening with sweat and she was pale as a ghost. “Jesus, Scully. Are you okay?” he exclaimed, knowing what a stupid question that was since she obviously was anything but okay.

“No, I am not,” she pressed out. “Give me that damned syringe. Now,” she added, her voice slightly hoarse and breaking with tension. Tears cruised down her face, leaving red streaks on her otherwise pale skin.

He hurried to carry out her demand and quickly injected the remainder of the painkiller into her leg. Then he took her hand and let her squeeze the hell out of it until the medication finally took effect. She started breathing a little more normally and not in those shallow, hollow gasps through clenched teeth. Gently, he brushed her sweat soaked hair away from her brow. “Feeling better?” he asked her quietly when she closed her eyes.

“Yes,” she whispered and opened her eyes again to face him. “Where were you?”

Under any other circumstances, he would have felt utterly hurt by her accusing tone of voice, but he figured he had this one coming. “Sorry. I went down the trail, trying to raise someone. It took a little longer than I thought,” he replied, still holding her now limp hand in his as he knelt beside her cot.

She regarded him as well as she was able to in her exhausted state of mind and then closed her eyes, not wanting to see the truth in his eyes. “Please, tell me you reached somebody,” she begged him quietly.

Mulder swallowed hard. He would love to tell her just that, but that would be lying. “I’m sorry. I tried different channels with no luck. If there’s anybody out there, they weren’t listening,” he said after a moment.

“Oh God,” she groaned. She knew she would need a change of tactics if she was to survive this one without losing her mind completely. It was obvious to her that a nerve inside her leg was pinched. Otherwise it wouldn’t have hurt so badly. A fractured bone hurt, granted, but the level of pain she had just endured had been much too bad for that. To get her partner’s attention, she grabbed a handful of the sweater he was wearing and pulled him closer. “Listen to me,” she said, her voice calmer now. “I think a nerve is pinched in my knee. It can have happened when you... put it back in place. What I need you to do now is pull at my leg. I need you to try and free that pinched nerve. It’s a transverse fracture if anything. It could easily have pinched a nerve when it was put back in place.”

Mulder stared down at her for a moment, then nodded. “Okay,” he agreed without argument. He knew better than to argue with her over something like this. Instead he got busy getting the makeshift splint off her leg, a procedure she watched closely. Once he had removed that, she told him to help her get out of her jeans. He did so somewhat more reluctantly, but was aware that if this whole thing had to be over by the time the second shot of lidocaine wore off, he didn’t have any margin for arguments or silly notions. Instead, he helped her get out of the garment preventing her from seeing for herself that it wasn’t a compound fracture as she had feared it might be after all.

With a little help from Mulder, Scully eventually managed to sit up and stared somewhat darkly at her severely swollen knee, which was black and blue already. And then she chuckled. Mulder raised an eyebrow in surprise at her reaction and felt utterly confused when she started laughing and dropped back down on the cot.

Somewhat concerned about her response to seeing her knee completely discolored and swollen, he picked up the vial and studied the label. Maybe it was morphine he’d given her, he mussed, and then glanced back at her when she stopped laughing again. “I’m glad you think this is funny,” he said somewhat uncertain.

Rubbing the back of one hand over her eyes, she then turned her head a little and looked up at him. “It is. Because that’s not a fracture,” she told him, indicating her knee with one hand.

Mulder glanced at her knee. “It’s not?” he asked, surprised by that revelation.

“If it had been, it would have been a compound fracture. In other words, the bones would be sticking out and the wound would probably be in the process of going septic by now,” she explained. “I had a dislocation. I may have torn some ligaments, maybe the tendons are ripped. But there’s no fracture here.”

Still uncertain, he once again glanced at the vial in his hand, and then back at her knee before meeting her eyes again. “And that’s good?” he asked.

“You’ve had dislocations and fractures, Mulder. You should know,” she claimed, then smiled. “No wonder it hurts like hell when the painkiller wears off. I couldn’t fit it together with a fracture. If it had been a compound fracture, maybe. I’d be burning up with fever by now. But not a transverse fracture. Besides, if I had thought more clearly at the time, I would never have suspected that in the first place.”

Once again, Mulder found that he was puzzled by her words. Making a face, he tried to hide his confusion, but then settled for a frown. “Why not?” he asked her.

“Because of the angle my leg was in. If any bones had been broken, they would have been sticking out of my leg. The only plausible explanation for this one is a dislocation. It fits with the pain, too. My body is reliving the impact which has been subdued first by me being unconscious and in shock and then by the painkiller. When the second injection wears off, it won’t hurt as much,” she said. “Besides, I actually think the splint was too tight and the fabric of my jeans was pressing against the increased swelling. That hurts.”

Mulder finally got the point and nodded. “I see,” he said. “So, what do we do now? I mean, you still can’t walk,” he said.

“No,” she agreed. “And there’s still a certain amount of chance that I may get an infection if there is internal damage, which I think there is. What I need you to do to help me with this is keep my leg elevated and put cold bandages on my knee to bring the swelling down. And... most importantly, I need you to try and raise someone who can get us out of here.”

“Oh, I have no intention of stopping that,” he assured her and rose again. “Well, I guess I’d better find something we can use as bandages. The water in that well should be cold enough,” he went on and started doing all the things she had asked him to.


By the time the sun set again, Scully was as comfortable as she could get. Her knee was pulsing away with a life of its own, making it hard for her to find a good position, her back was aching from lying down so much already and she felt awkward at leaving all the work to Mulder, but had to agree with him that she could do very little.

Mulder, in turn, displayed traits she had never suspected he could have. He managed to whip up a quite eatable dinner for them from what he could find in the well-stocked pantry of the cabin and he even managed to overcome his fear of fire enough to keep them warm. She could tell that he wasn’t happy about it, but he didn’t complain and he never backed down. Scully felt grateful for that he was as stubborn as he was. Otherwise he might not have managed to get a descent fire going.

He continuously tried to reach someone on the two-way radio without much luck. There was nothing but static out there. Standing outside the door, he stared up at a star-filled sky and wondered what would happen next. Things had a tendency to go from bad to worse when he thought they were doing okay, but right now he didn’t think they were doing okay. Scully didn’t complain, but he could tell that she was in pain. He knew that tolerable to bad pain could easily cause a fever and if she got an infection in her leg, too, things would definitely go downhill fast.


The moon was almost full, hanging high in a cloud free sky, accompanied by the brighter stars. Apart from a few rustles in the underbrush now and again, no sounds was heard around the clearing. A faint column of smoke rose from the chimney of the cabin and inside, the only light came from the still glowing embers in the fireplace.

Mulder shifted on his cot, slowly coming awake because something was bothering him and he couldn’t fit it into the restless dream he was having. Running the tip of his tongue over his lips, he grumbled under his breath. Even though he wanted nothing more than go back to sleep, there was an urgent need to pay attention to his surroundings. Only when he came fully awake did he become aware of what had pulled him out of his sleep. Scully was mumbling to herself.

With a frown, Mulder propped himself up on his elbows and looked over at her. “Scully?” he asked quietly. “Are you awake?” His quiet question did nothing to hamper the flow of mumbled words he couldn’t quite make out and it made him sit up to get a better look. It was clear to him by then that she wasn’t awake, but the nagging feeling that her mumbling could stem from something other than a bad dream made him swing his legs over the edge of the cot and get up. “Scully?” he tried again and padded barefoot across the floor over to the side of her cot.

She moved her head and moaned, then continued her mumbling, which turned out to be complete rubbish from what he could tell. She was mumbling words, but in random order, making no sense at all. He eased down on the edge of the cot and placed the back of one hand against her brow. She was burning hot and her skin was moist with sweat. “Oh shit,” he mumbled, realizing instantly what that meant. “Scully?” he tried again with the same result. “I guess I’d better try to cool you down,” he then said, got up again and pulled away the blankets covering her. That made her utter an annoyed sound and grab out for the cover. “Oh no, you don’t,” he admonished her. “You need to cool down.” Set on doing just that, he returned to his own cot, pulled his socks and boots on, slipped his sweater over his head and went to open the door. A chilly breeze hit him and made him shudder for a second.

Then he picked up the water jug and went to the well to get some cold water. He had to drop the bucket onto the thin surface of ice covering the water in the well a few times before he could break it. “That should be cold enough,” he grumbled, already shivering in the chilly night.

He brought the water back to the cabin and proceeded to put cold compresses on her forehead and replace the ones around her knee, too. After donning his jacket, he proceeded to do just that for almost an hour before her temperature finally started to abate.

Her eyes opened and she blinked heavily up at him for a moment, and then hugged herself fiercely. “What are you trying to do, freeze me to death?” she inquired in a shivering voice.

Mulder smiled. “No, I’m trying to bring your temperature down. You were burning up not an hour ago,” he told her and figured it was safe enough to at least cover her up again. He was freezing, himself, his hands nearly numb because he continuously dunked them into the jug of icy water. Copying her posture by hugging himself, he buried his hands under his arms, trying to warm them up again. “How are you feeling?”

“Like I’m running a fever,” she replied, her voice still shaky. “That means my leg’s infected,” she added and raised her head somewhat weakly to look down at it. But she was too dizzy to go further than that. “Damn it.”

“Yeah, you said it,” he replied and sat down on the edge of the cot again. “What now? I’m running out of ideas here,” he wanted to know, his voice nearly as shaky as hers.

Scully had closed her eyes again and just wanted to go back to sleep. “I don’t know, Mulder. Just keep on replacing the compresses. You’re doing a good job at keeping the fever and probably the infection at bay that way.”

“Glad to hear it,” he said, bemoaning the fact that he would have to continue to handle the icy water. But he said nothing. She had enough to worry about without having to worry about him getting frostbite. “Guess I’d better get some more water,” he added and got up again.

He continued his trek back and forth between the well whenever he needed fresh water, but by the time he did it for the tenth time, he had trouble holding onto the jug. He reached the well and nearly managed to drop it on the ground. “Shit,” he hissed, set it gingerly down on the ground and blew whatever hot air he could administer onto his distinctly bluish hands. He allowed himself a moment where he tried to get the feeling back in his fingers, then he wrapped his aching fingers around the rope for the bucket and lowered it into the well.

With a startled gasp, he lost his grip on the rope when Scully suddenly yelped. Swirling around, he hit the jug with his left foot and managed to trip himself over, breaking the jug at the same time as he landed flat on his face. “Ouch, damn it,” he snapped and pushed himself up again. A distinct stab of pain shot up from his left foot when he put his weight on it, but he was too preoccupied with Scully’s possible plight to pay too much attention to it, and hurried back to the cabin.

He expected that something had gone terribly wrong with her leg. He didn’t expect to see a huge, shaggy shadow hovering over her. Flabbergasted because of this odd development, he stopped short between the door and the cot, while trying desperately to make out more of the giant leaning over his partner. That proved to be a nearly fatal mistake, though. The behemoth raised its shaggy head, uttered a deep, guttural grunt and lashed out at him. There was enough power in that lash to sent him flying back out the door. He hit the ground and skittered backward over the hard, frozen ground until he hit the well hard enough with his head for him to pass out instantly. And so he didn’t hear Scully’s muttered complaints as the giant grabbed her and took off with her, leaving behind only a tuft of rough hair on a chip of the doorframe as a proof of its existence.


It was the sun as much as his aching leg that brought him around. When he opened his eyes, he felt like someone had driven red-hot spikes into them and he ripped his right arm up to block out the glaring light. While he lay there and tried to get used to the light, he assessed his body and realized that apart from a pretty damned sore spot on his head where he had collided with the well, the feeling as if he had been hit in the chest by a pile driver and the fact that his left ankle felt like it was on fire, he was fairly okay. With an effort, he finally managed to lower his arm away from his eyes and blink bleary-eyed at his surroundings. Rushing to his feet would do no good. It had still been dark when that thing had taken Scully. The sun was high in the sky now, which meant that he had been out for a few hours at least and that again meant that whatever that thing had been, it was long gone. And so was his partner.

Sitting up proved to be a fairly stupid idea, something which he realized too late. The world started spinning lazily around him and his stomach cramped up, a clear indicator that he had a concussion to top off the beginning of a not so beautiful day. It also very quickly dawned on him that he would have died of exposure if the day hadn’t been uncommonly warm for October.

With an effort, he managed to gain his feet only to nearly lose his balance and put his weight on his injured foot, which in turn intensified the already prominent gag-reflex. He tossed his cookies right there and then, unable to retain whatever little contents there still was in his stomach. When he was done, he felt marginally worse than before and knew he had to lie down. At least for a bit. There was no way he could chase after Scully in his present condition, not that he would know in which direction to go.

Straightening, he looked around, valiantly ignoring his aching self for the moment it took to scan his surroundings. Then the smell of bile invoked another violent upheaval of his innards and he tried to throw up again, finding he had nothing left to throw up from. “Oh God,” he moaned. His mouth felt like the inside of an old, dirty sock and although he had never had the dubious pleasure of tasting said garment, he could fairly well imagine that it would taste just about the same.

With something of an effort, he managed to get back to the cabin where he collapsed on the cot closest to the door. He knew he would have to do something about the headache and get something to eat if he were ever to regain his composure enough to go look for Scully. And he needed to do so desperately. The thought of having lost her to an uncertain fate made him ache even more than he did already. And it wasn’t the first time that he’d lost her, either.

He faded in and out of sleep for about two hours before he became aware enough again to realize that the door was still open and if it got dark again before he woke up fully, he would freeze. “Like I care,” he mumbled helplessly and pushed himself up on his elbows. It took him a moment to get up and he had to hopple over to the door and started to push it shut when he saw a tuft of grayish brown hair hanging on the doorframe. Frowning, his injuries and illness partially forgotten, he reached out and plucked the coarse hair from the splinter. Rolling it between his fingers, he stared at it while realization slowly set in. He didn’t know why he hadn’t thought of it when he had seen that shape looming over Scully, but right there and then, he realized that his partner had probably been taken by what they had come here to find. She had been abducted by Bigfoot.

The irony of that thought didn’t escape him. It wasn’t him they went after. He was the believer, he was the one who accepted their reality without question, both fairytale figures, urban legends and aliens alike. No, they went after the disbeliever, the one who scoffed their existence and called them figments of his imagination. Sometimes it felt as if they were trying to help him convince her. But he could do without the abductions. Couldn’t they just show themselves to her and give her something to think about instead? Did they have to take her away and hurt her?

Coming prepared as always, he reached into the pocket of his jacket and pulled out a small sample bag, put the hair into it and stuffed it back into his pocket. It was evidence. Then he returned to the cot, grabbed the med kit still lying open and rooted through it to find what he needed. Tylenol for his headache and bandages for his foot. He wrapped the bandage around his twisted ankle after dry-swallowing three pills and then settled back for the pills to do their job and to rest his foot for a bit while giving the whole blasted situation some thought.

The more he thought about it, the more depressed he became. The chance to save Scully dwindled with every moment he was unable to go after her and he knew for a fact that even if he did go after her and did find her, he wouldn’t be able to help her in his present condition. He could barely get around himself, let alone help her. And with her injuries and the fever she had developed, he knew for a fact that she wouldn’t be able to walk or help him in any way.

By the time the sun set, he had come to the conclusion that he was utterly and royally screwed. He needed help, there was no way around it. The only option he had at this point in time was to get back to the first campsite and hope he would be able to call for help from there. Considering his inability to walk right now, he figured it would take the better part of two days for him to reach the first campsite and by that time, it was almost time for Winter to return anyway. He decided to set out the following morning and try to get within radio reach of Winter. Maybe the man could meet him halfway so he wouldn’t have to walk all the way back. That decided, he tried to get some sleep, but found that utterly impossible because his mind kept circling around what might be happening to Scully.


He was up before the break of dawn. Inspiration had struck and he had searched the few cabinets of the cabin in search of something useful and had, to his great relief, stumbled across an old crutch. Apparently, he wasn’t the first to ever get an injury up here which required such a device. Uncertain of its stability, he used it carefully at first, but soon found out that despite its aged look, it was quite sturdy. He packed the most necessary things into his backpack to keep it as light as possible, downed three more Tylenol to keep his headache at bay and set out after labouriously chewing threw an old, dry piece of bread. It was the only thing apart from ice water and pills he could stomach at that point.

Before he reached the edge of the clearing, though, he came to a stop and turned back to look in the opposite direction of where he was going. Scully was out there somewhere and he was letting himself be discouraged by a foot injury. Wavering in his decision, he stood there for a long moment, then he hissed an angry curse, shrugged out of his backpack and hoppled back toward the middle of the clearing while leaning heavily on his crutch. “SCULLY!” he yelled, wondering if maybe the giant hadn’t dropped her somewhere along the way and she could hear him. “SCULLY!” he tried again. He would be damned if he would leave this place without even trying to find her. He would still have plenty of time to return to the first camp site. “SCULLY, ANSWER ME!”

With a will stronger than steel, he started toward the opposite side of the clearing, somehow convinced that her abductor had gone in that particular direction, and started into the forest beyond, set on finding her. It didn’t take long for him to come to his senses, though. When the crutch sank into the loose dirt, reminding him of his handicap, he came to a stop before he fell over and hurt himself even more. This made no sense whatsoever. He couldn’t rescue her in his present condition. All he could do was go for help. And he was damned well going to do that.

With his previous resolve trickling out of him like water out of a leaky canteen, he made his way back to the clearing and sank down on a pile of firewood. His head was aching, his foot felt bloated and painful and all he wanted to do was lie down and sleep for a while. Most of all, he wanted Scully to be there, fit and well, when he woke up again. “Wishful thinking,” he mumbled and covered his face with both hands. There was nothing else for him to do than make the trip back to the first campsite and try to get in touch with Winter. That was all there was to it.

Discouraged and disheartened, he decided to stay one more night and then set out at dawn to make as much of the day as he could. He couldn’t very well walk in the dark along the edge of a ravine on a crutch. That would be suicide.


Memorial Hospital

It had taken him the better part of two days to get back to the first campsite and to his surprise, he had found Winter waiting for him there. Because of his stubborn disposition, he hadn’t realized how poorly he was really faring and had caused Winter all kinds of trouble when he had simply passed out on the younger man.

When he woke up again, he was in the hospital in Yellowknife and, under doctor’s orders, he wasn’t supposed to do anything strenuous. A badly twisted ankle with possible ligament-damages because he had walked on it too much and a nasty concussion which should have levelled him a long time ago bound him to his bed.

He was in and out of consciousness, but had somehow been able to inform the nursing staff about his missing partner. Stan Winter supported his ravings and said he had taken two up there, but only one had returned. That resulted in an instant search team being dispersed and the hospital to contact the FBI Headquarters in Washington. One day later, Assistant Director Skinner arrived.


Mulder came awake without opening his eyes. Any contact with light was still pretty painful to his eyes and he felt nauseous and dizzy most of the time. Overexertion and overexposure had very nearly put an end to him and it had been in the nick of time that Winter had managed to get him back to Yellowknife.

When he finally managed to open his eyes, he found his supervisor standing at the foot of the bed, watching him with a frown.

“Agent Mulder. How are you feeling?” Skinner asked, his tone betraying that Mulder’s condition wasn’t foremost on his mind.

Mulder wished desperately that the headache would go away and that he would stop feeling like shit. But since neither of those two wishes came true, he settled for closing his eyes again. “Like shit,” he mumbled in response.

Skinner made a face and inhaled deeply. He had a million things he wanted to say to Mulder and none of them were either supportive or hope giving. It was with an effort that he decided to go easy on the man. “They’ve found no trace of Agent Scully apart from her backpack and whatever you left behind,” he said, forcing his tone into a monotonous drone. “Do you feel up to telling me what happened up there?” he asked when Mulder showed no response to that bit of information.

Mulder kept his eyes closed for a moment longer, then forced his lids open and squinted at Skinner. “You wouldn’t believe it,” he claimed in a hoarse tone of voice.

The distinctly tense expression on Skinner’s face made Mulder almost flinch. He knew he was being blamed for Scully’s disappearance, but he couldn’t for the life of him understand why Skinner held back on what he really thought. That wasn’t really like him.

“You’d be amazed at what I believe at the moment,” Skinner stated and walked over to the window to take a look outside. “It’s freezing up there now. They’ve promised snow,” he went on, his back to Mulder. “Do you know what her chances of survival are?”

Subconsciously, Mulder flinched again. He was all too aware of what her chances were. He had been aware of that the moment he had woken up on the ground up there with his head aching and his foot hurting, cold to the bone.

Skinner turned around again, his expression dark. “About a thousand to naught,” he said. “Do you understand what that means, Agent Mulder? Your wild goose chase for a creature that does not exist may have terminated your partner’s life.” Skinner knew he was cutting close to the bone and he also knew that he wasn’t telling Mulder anything he didn’t know already. But he was angry. Angry and disappointed at how single-minded Mulder could be, at how little regard he had for his partner’s wishes and wants.

Mulder said nothing. What could he, after all, say? Skinner was right. He had once again led her off onto an unknown path and had, although unwillingly, left her to fend for herself. The thought of her made him swallow hard. He wasn’t going to try and justify his actions, but he did feel that he had to tell Skinner what he had seen. Raising his eyes, he squinted at his boss again. “It does exist,” he said quietly.

“What?” Skinner demanded, somewhat taken aback by that comment.

“Bigfoot does exist. That’s what happened to Scully. For some reason, it took her away,” Mulder tried to explain, but he could tell clearly by Skinner’s expression that the truth didn’t wash with him.

Skinner couldn’t really believe that Mulder would continue to cling to that idea in spite of everything and it took him a moment to regain his composure before he was able to vent his indignation. “Do you expect me to tell the people in Washington, to tell her family, that she was abducted by a fairytale figure?”

Gingerly, Mulder slipped a hand behind his neck and squeezed lightly, trying to take some of the tension out of it. “It’s not a fairytale figure,” he said, his voice having gained a little more strength. “I saw it. It knocked me out and took her away. I tried to find her, but I was in no condition to make a thorough search.”

Skinner nodded, utterly unconvinced. “All right. So, what exactly did you see? You saw Bigfoot march into that cabin, knock you down and carry Agent Scully away?” he wanted to know, trying to reserve final judgement until he knew for certain that Mulder had lost his marbles.

“No, I saw a big, shaggy... thing standing over her. Before I could do something about it, it knocked me out and took her with it. I doubt very much that she got up and walked away after I was out cold. She had dislocated her knee. There was no way she could walk anywhere,” Mulder tried to explain. The more he talked, the more ludicrous it sounded even to him. With a quiet groan, he pressed both hands against his face.

“A big, shaggy thing?” Skinner asked, then sighed. “For Pete’s sake, Mulder. What the hell is wrong with you? If you want to go chasing after urban legends like this, do it on your own. Don’t drag Agent Scully into it every time. Things like this keep happening and one of these days, you’re not going to be so lucky to find her again. God forbid this is one of those times.”

“Don’t you think I’ve thought about that?” Mulder growled. “I’ve thought about nothing else. I considered staying up there to look for her. I even tried. But I couldn’t very well help her if I was incapacitated. I opted to get some help instead. I never, ever expected it to go this way. If I had, I wouldn’t have brought her along.”

Skinner stopped at the foot of the bed once again and grabbed the rail with both hands. “You knew that seven hikers have vanished up there and that none of them have been found or heard from since. What the hell were you thinking?” Before Mulder could answer that, Skinner raised his hands in a deprecating gesture. “Never mind. I’ve heard enough weirdness from you to actually believe this. What you have to worry about right now is explaining this one to Captain Scully. He’s on his way here and, let me tell you, he’s not happy.”

That made Mulder pale considerably. He wasn’t afraid of Bill Scully as such, but he’d had enough run-ins with the man to know that he hit below the belt, figuratively speaking. And Mulder doubted severely that he could convince Bill of what had happened. If the other man didn’t kill him on sight, he could consider himself lucky. Not thinking too clearly about it, he grumbled, “Did you have to call him?”

Skinner was annoyed enough as it were. That comment made him bristle, though. “Yes, I damned well had to. I didn’t want to cause her mother any more heartache if it could be helped, so I called her brother instead, hoping that we would find Scully before he came. But the chances are slimmer now than ever. She’s been missing for over four days now. I don’t think I have to tell you what that means.”

Again, Mulder flinched. This time, he did it visibly. The thought of Maggie having to endure another period of her daughter’s absence, and that after Melissa had died, made him want to crawl into a hole and hide. He felt utterly responsible for this, no matter how he turned it.

“I suggest you get some rest, Agent Mulder. Captain Scully is going to be here by tomorrow morning and I don’t think he’s going to pay much attention to your state of health,” Skinner said, his tone a little more mellow. “You’ve really screwed things up royally this time, haven’t you?” he asked, then shook his head and left the room again.

Mulder draped an arm over his face and sighed. Not surprisingly, he felt the hot, thick feeling of tears welling up in his eyes. If he had lost Scully for good this time, he would spend the rest of his life blaming himself. And rightly so. This was not a matter of whether or not she could have stayed at home. He had tricked her into coming with him and he was responsible for her because of it.