Rockingham Memorial Hospital
Room 1014
03.13 p.m.

Dana Scully fought to get rid of the nurse trying to hold her back from leaving her room. "Ms. Scully, please," the nurse insisted. "You have a concussion. You're not supposed to be up."

"I want to see Fox Mulder," Scully growled, aware that her insensitive manner was provoked solely by the thundering headache and the inability to think beyond this one goal right now. "Get out of my way," she added angrily, not giving in.

The nurse had counted on wearing down her resistence so she could escort her patient back to bed, but this did not appear to be her lucky day. "Mr. Mulder is still in surgery, Ms. Scully. He won't be out for another hour or so."

Scully stared at her, for some reason certain that the nurse was merely saying this to pacify her. A stab of unbearable pain flashed through her head, making her cringe and almost double up.

"That does it. If you don't go back to bed on your own, I'm going to have to force you," the nurse said sternly. "You are in no condition to walk around, Ms. Scully."

"Don't you think you better listen to the nurse, Scully?"

Skinner's voice broke through the haze in her head and she raised her head a little to stare up at him. "I just want to see Mulder. I need to know how he's doing," Scully said, sounding a little whiny now.

Skinner took a gentle hold of her arm and led her back to the bed. "Go back to bed, Scully. That's an order," he told her.

With a sigh, she allowed him to help her back into bed and pull the covers over her. "Why won't you tell me how he's doing?" she demanded in a feeble voice.

Skinner met her eyes for a moment, then glanced back at the nurse. "I'll take it from here," he told her and the nurse nodded, leaving with relief painted all over her face. Returning his attention to the troublesome patient, Skinner considered what to say and what not and decided that being honest with her would get him the furthest. "The nurse was right. He's still in surgery. Apparently one of his broken ribs penetrated his right lung. The other one very nearly pierced his heart. They're repairing the damage now. All we can do is hope for the best."

Scully looked up at him, feeling tears rising in her eyes. This couldn't be happening. "How bad is it? What's his prognosis?" she wanted to know, trying to focus around the pain in her head.

"You shouldn't..." Skinner began, but broke off again. It was no good to lie to her. She would eventually find out and he disliked the idea of having her mad at him for that. It would hurt enough if this turned out the wrong way. She didn't need to feel betrayed by her friends as well. "It's not good," he finally said. "His right lung collapsed... and his heart has sustained a lot of damage. What the outcome will be is anybodies guess right now."

Biting her lower lip, Scully tried to suppress the feelings of dread. "Will this nightmare never end?" she whispered hoarsely and closed her eyes.

"Get some rest, Scully. You need it. He needs you to be there for him when he gets out of surgery." He knew she was asleep before he had finished speaking. Giving her hand a light squeeze, he shook his head. This could turn out to be one hell of a sad day.

Jezek was sitting on a chair in the corridor when Skinner came out of Scully's room. Frowning, he stopped next to her. "What are you doing up?" he wanted to know, afraid he might have to escort another of his agents back to bed.

Jezek glanced up at him and made a face. Though battered and bruised, she was the one who had gotten away with the least problems. "I'm not supposed to stay in bed," she countered. "I don't have any severe injuries."

Skinner sat down next to her, folded his hands and stared at the opposite wall for a moment. "You should be happy about that."

Staring at the wall, too, Jezek sighed. "Should I? If Mulder dies, I'll... I don't know," she said after a moment, shaking her head in despair. "He's the best friend I've ever had. He's one hell of a knockout. It's not fair that a gorgeous man like him should suffer so much."

Skinner pursed his lips and nodded. "It's not fair. I'll grant you that. But that's just the way of things, isn't it? Besides, Mulder has a knack for getting himself into situations like that. He'll make it. He always does."

Jezek turned her head and looked straight at him. "And what if he doesn't? What if his luck has finally run out? What then? Scully is more or less dependent on him now. I don't know how else to explain it, but I have a feeling that she's not going to take his imminent demise very well."

Skinner sighed deeply and briefly closed his eyes. He was tired, fed up and unhappy about the way things had turned out. He knew a few hides to tan if Mulder did die. He would still tan some hides if he didn't. Just not right now. "Would you please keep an open mind here?" he admonished Jezek. "I have known Mulder a lot longer than you have and he's pulled through some pretty hopeless situations. He's going to pull through this one as well." He spoke with a confidence he didn't feel, but knew that he would have to keep Jezek's moral up. If she hit rock bottom, it was sure to rub off on Scully. And he hated to think what might happen if that became the case. "Just keep an open mind," he repeated.


Room 1013
05.30 p.m.

After nearly three hours of surgery, Mulder was finally put in a room where Scully could be near him. Sitting on a chair on the left side of the bed, she gingerly held his hand in both of hers, staring at him for a long while. He was hooked up to a heart-rate monitor, which sent out a slow but steady ping, a brain-wave monitor, which gave an absolute minimum of oscillation, a nutrition drop and a plasma drop. All hooked up in different places. His right arm was bandaged and so was his chest and the cut on his forehead had been stitched back together. The paleness of his skin combined with the bruises and the fact that one of the nurses had told Scully that he was on the verge of pneumonia didn't make things any better. He was in bad shape and the next twenty-four hours would decide whether he would live or die. Despite her own injuries, which were by far less poignant than any of his, she had decided to stay by his side until that time when he himself decided which way to go. She would make damned sure that he knew how she felt about this whole thing, though.

Leaning back a little, she tried to relax without letting go of his hand. The surgery had gone well, the doctors had told her, but it was a matter of will power and strength on his side whether he got through this okay. The doctor who had informed her of this had made no secret of what he thought. The prognosis wasn't good and according to that doctor, it wouldn't become any better. "You will pull through this," she whispered. "I'll never forgive you if you don't."


February 20
09.35 a.m.

Scully woke up with a start, glancing around her for a moment. Her headache was not as bad as the day before and she figured she had to be grateful for small favors. Leaning forward, she noted that she was still holding Mulder's hand. "Good morning," she whispered. She pressed the back of his cool hand against her cheek, hoping that he could feel her near. Glancing at the various machines watching over him, she noted no considerable change in their oscillation and sighed. "Are you going to pull through this today?" she asked, looking back at his face. The tubes sticking out of him made her feel a little sick to her stomach. This trip had started out as a sort of picnic. It had certainly ended in a nightmare. "Mulder, can you hear me?" she wanted to know. "If you can, squeeze my hand." Nothing. "Nobody said it had to be hard. Just move your fingers a little." Again nothing. With another sigh, she brushed his hair back from his forehead and planted a kiss on his brow. "Please, wake up." When he didn't, she settled back down on the chair, still holding on to his hand. "I'm right here with you," she added.


10.45 a.m.

Jezek walked quietly into the hospital room and stopped short, staring at the scene before her. Scully was asleep in her chair, holding onto Mulder's hand with determination. Jezek smiled a little, but didn't manage to put much happiness into that smile. Walking up to the foot of the bed, she stared at Mulder. "You know, hotshot. You can't do this to us. If you don't wake up soon, I'll throw a fit," she told him quietly and grinned crookedly at her own comment.

"That's not going to help," Scully countered, blinking sleepily at her.

Jezek's grin mellowed into a smile. "Yes, it will," she said. "Anyway, how are you feeling, Dana? You look like shit," she added, inspecting Scully thoughtfully.
"To hell with how I feel," Scully muttered and returned her attention to her partner. "All I care about right now is how he's doing and he isn't doing too good."

Jezek walked around the bed on the right side and looked down at Mulder for a moment. "He'll pull through. He's a tough cookie," she finally said.

Scully, still holding his hand in hers, eyed him thoughtfully. "I hope so," she said quietly and reached out to stroke his cheek. "I really hope so."


February 22
08.34 a.m.

He was stuck in a nightmare, filled with dread of what had happened to him even though he could hardly recall the actual event that had put him in this state. He remembered the feel of the eager little hands that had grabbed him and dragged him roughly along, hurting him in the process. He hadn't been able to see because the light was so bright that his eyes watered. And then the light had vanished and he had found himself on the edge of the upper step of the basement stairs. Before he could do anything to steady his position, something had hit him hard in the back and sent him flying down the stairs. When he hit the floor below, his broken arm had nearly killed him and his ribs... something had happened with his broken ribs. It had suddenly become incredibly hard to breath and his chest had hurt ferociously.

Now he was beginning to hurt again. He could somehow tell that it had been a while since he had been awake and he wasn't yet ready to open his eyes and face the world again. Attempting to swallow, he almost gagged, feeling that something was stuck in his throat. A cool hand touched his brow, causing him to flinch. "Easy. Let the machine do its job, Mulder. Relax." Her voice was calming, soothing. "Shhh," she shushed him. "It's okay. Just take it easy."

Groaning, he wanted to speak, but couldn't due to the tube from the respirator going down his throat. The attempt caused him to gag again. Scully tried to calm him down, but no matter what she said, he became more frantic by the second. Instead of trying to deal with the situation herself, she pressed the call button. Two nurses came rushing in at the same time, called in by the frantically beeping heart-monitor. They shooed Scully away and took over, working fast and professionally. Mainly because his weakened condition at this point could easily cause him to have a heart attack. They gave him a cursory examination, decided that he would be able to breathe without the respirator and went about removing the tube.

"Calm down, Mr. Mulder. Just take it easy. We're going to remove the tube," the older nurse said, smiling calmly at him. She detached the tube from where it was stuck to his cheek, wrapped a piece of gauze around it and nodded to the other nurse, who was keeping his shoulders pressed down against the mattress. "Take a deep breath now," she said and watched him intently as he did, his eyes closed hard against the alien, intrusive feeling of the tube. "Now, when I tell you to, you breathe out hard and I'm going to pull the tube out," she added. "Now." He expelled a breath with fairly little strength behind it, but it was enough for her to removed the tube without hurting him too much. "Very good, Mr. Mulder," she praised him, her tone the same she would use toward an unruly child.

Scully resented the way she talked to him, but said nothing. After the tube was out, Mulder started coughing uncontrollably, gasping for air between coughs. Instead of waiting for the nurses to finish, she pushed in front of the older nurse, blocking his view of her. Smiling weakly, she took his hand and brushed his hair back from his forehead. "Easy now. Try to stifle your need to cough," she urged him. Tears were trickling in a steady stream from the corners of his eyes and she was fully aware of the unbearable pain he was in from his damaged lung and broken ribs. "Would you just give him something for the pain?" Scully virtually snapped at the younger nurse, who instantly complied, looking a little intimidated.

As soon as the sedative kicked in, he started calming down. His breath came in wheezing gasps and for a moment Scully was afraid he wouldn't be able to breathe on his own after all. But he kept on drawing breath after laborious breath into his lungs, putting her worries to rest. The nurses left again, the younger one glancing nervously at Scully before leaving. She wasn't used to patients talking to her like that. She knew Scully was a doctor, but that didn't help her much. Scully once again pulled a chair over and sat down, not releasing his hand at any moment. "You'll be all right," she assured him. "Just take it slow."

After a while, he got his breathing fully under control, well knowing that he wouldn't have been able to do so without the sedative. Finding it difficult to keep his eyes open, he blinked heavily at Scully. "Where..." he managed to whisper, wincing at the grating of his voice.

"Rockingham Memorial Hospital in Harrisonburg. You've been here for three days. You've been pretty far out." Keeping his hand in hers, she gently caressed his palm with her thumb. Reaching out to caress his cheek, she smiled weakly. "Try to sleep some more. You need your rest."

After he had fallen asleep again, she went back to her own room to get some rest herself. Despite everything, her headache was taking its toll and she knew she needed to rest up if she was to be there for him over the coming days.


06.45 p.m.

Mulder woke up again because he couldn't breathe. Gasping, he tried to force air into his restricted lungs, clawing at his throat with no result. Apparently the machine which kept an eye on his vital signs had alerted the nurses, because two of them came rushing in. He didn't know if they were the same as before and he didn't care. The first one, a mousy grey woman, leaned over him, quickly estimating his general state of health. "They took him off the respirator too soon," she announced to her colleague. "We'll have to hook him up again."

The mere thought of having that tube shoved down his throat again made him almost lose it. His throat was sore enough as it was and he was certain that he would suffocate if they forced that thing down his throat again. In his weakened condition and near inability to speak, he found it very hard to make it clear to the nurse that he didn't want that, so he put a lot of physical effort into it.

"Mr. Mulder, you have to stop fighting this," the nurse admonished him, sounding slightly annoyed. "You'll suffocate without it," she added, trying to force him to stay still so she could re-insert the intrusive tube.

A hand grabbed her wrist, forcing the tube back. "Leave him alone," Scully snapped, pushing the nurse out of the way. She leaned over Mulder, felt for the center of the upper edge of his collarbone and applied a light pressure for a second, forcing his cramped up muscles there to relax. When she removed her fingers again, air rushed into his lungs with a pained gasp. Caressing his cheek for a moment, she smiled reassuringly at him. Then she turned to the nurse. "Stay out of here unless I call you," she told her harshly.

The nurse stared at her in surprise. "Ms. Scully, we were trying to save his life," she countered, sounding annoyed, still holding the tube in one hand.

"No, you were not. He was panicking and that was all there was to it. Calming him down is a whole lot better than trying to shove a tube down his throat. Now, get out of here," Scully informed her, waving toward the door.

Both nurses turned to leave, but the mousy one looked back over her shoulder, her expression tight. "Dr. Graham will hear of this," she growled and left.

Scully stared after her for a moment, then sighed. "I sure hope he will," she mumbled, then looked back down at Mulder. "What was that all about?" she wanted to know.

Closing his eyes, he tried to concentrate. "Don't... know," he croaked. "Couldn't... breathe."

She took his left hand and squeezed. "I'm sorry I wasn't here. I won't leave your side again until you're able to fend for yourself," she promised, meaning it. She was going to insist on having a bed moved into this room if that was what it took. The insensitive behavior of that nurse would be something she would take up with his doctor as soon as she could. Right now, she needed to stay with her partner and make sure he was okay.


08.00 p.m.

An hour later, Dr. Graham walked through the door, looking both concerned and angry. "Ms. Scully, could I have a word with you outside?" he virtually demanded, his tone of voice chilly.

Scully stared sternly at him for a second, then glanced back at Mulder. "I'm not leaving him alone for one minute. Not while you have such irresponsible nurses on your staff," she countered, sounding just as cold. Graham raised an eyebrow. "I take it that your nurse forgot to mention that she nearly scared my partner here half to death," she added crisply.

"What on Earth are you talking about?" Graham wanted to know, stepping up to the foot of the bed.

With a sigh, Scully leaned back. "I came into this room an hour ago, finding that one of your nurses was about to shove a respirator-tube down Mr. Mulder's at that point constricted throat. I find it rather irresponsible that she would attempt such a thing without examining him first. She could have bruised or even damage his throat severely by that action."

Dr. Graham looked a little perplexed by that. "I find that rather hard to believe. All the nurses on this staff are very professional."

"That may be, Dr. Graham," Scully countered. "But I know what I saw. The fact that I was able to relieve him of any discomfort simply by helping him relax his throat proved to me that she had not taken the necessary time to make sure that the tube was necessary. I don't want her anywhere near Mr. Mulder until he is able to fend for himself." Glancing over at her once again sleeping partner, she sighed again. "He has been hurt enough," she added.

Dr. Graham eyed the patient for a moment, noting that the man still had a good deal of trouble breathing, then nodded. "All right. I'll tell Nurse Gallagher to stay away from your partner for now. And I will have a word with her about this," he finally said, thereby more or less giving in to what Scully had just told him. He knew Nurse Gallagher's ability to take things into her own hands and he had already thought about moving her to a ward where she could do less to scare the patients. But he just didn't know where.

Scully nodded. "Thank you. And could you please arrange for an extra bed to be set up in here? I'm not leaving him alone any longer than I have to," she added, fatigued.

Dr. Graham eyed her closely for a moment. "Certainly. As soon as I can get a hold of an orderly," he said, then frowned. "You shouldn't be up, Ms. Scully, if you don't mind my saying so. Your concussion can become worse if you don't take care of yourself."

"I don't care about my concussion. I'll survive," she growled, not wanting to discuss her own condition. "What matters to me is that my partner here receives the best possible care and if staying with him around the clock is the only way of assuring that, then I will do it."

"Me, too," a voice said from the doorway. Jezek strode into the room, glanced at Mulder, then turned to Graham. "I suggest that you fire Nurse Gallagher or you will find yourself in the middle of a lawsuit, Dr. Graham," she added, thereby letting both of them know that she had overheard most of their conversation.

Pursing his lips in annoyance, Graham stared at her for a moment. "Ladies," he said curtly, turned and left.

"Tess," Scully acknowledged her. "Where have you been?"

"At home. Under orders from Skinner. But I can't sit around at home and wait to hear news. I'll stay here with the two of you. I can relieve you whenever you need some downtime. How about it?"

Sighing deeply, Scully smiled. "That sounds great. I could use some sleep right about now," she countered and got up. "Keep an eye on him. If anything happens, I'm next door."

"Don't worry," Tess said with a grin. "I'll take care of our Fox here."

Scully left the room again to return to her own bed and get some sleep, well aware that Jezek would look after Mulder with a ferocity she herself wouldn't be able to show at the moment.

Jezek looked after her until she had closed the door, then turned around to face Mulder, who was still sleeping, breathing laboriously. "You are such a mess, my friend," she whispered, staring intently at him for a moment. Heaving a deep breath, she dropped down on the chair Scully had abandoned and leaned back. "You'll be fine," she added.


February 23
06.47 a.m.

Mulder woke up slowly, realizing that something had changed. He was certain that several days had passed because the weight had been lifted from his chest and he could breathe again without having to struggle so much. His broken ribs still hurt badly and so did his right arm. The cast around it was too heavy for him to lift at the moment, a fact he became aware of when he tried to do just that.

"Hey there, hotshot." He looked around at Jezek's voice and managed a weak smile. "How are you feeling, huh? Any better?" She grinned broadly at him.

"Better," he confirmed in a near whisper. "How... long... have I been out?"

"Oh, since last night. I guess you were just a little too hyped when that bitch tried to tube you again... or whatever it's called," she said, smiling to take the edge of her words. She pressed a hand against his brow. "Dana's sleeping. She was about ready to pass out when I came in. I should have been here earlier. I'm sorry about that. Anyway, how's the arm?"

Mulder briefly closed his eyes, then sighed lightly. "It hurts," he groaned, wishing she had not reminded him of the aching limb.

Jezek reached out to touch the plaster surrounding his arm. "Man, that thing looks heavy. How can you move it?" she wanted to know.

"I... can't... and I... don't want to... either," he told her, still having slight difficulty in speaking without losing his breath. "Tess?"

"I'm right here," she said, looking a little concerned at his breathless-sounding voice.

"What about... the ghosts?" he wanted to know. "The... Wilson Estate?"

She carefully sat down on the edge of the bed and took his left hand in hers, squeezing it. "It's gone. The Wilson Estate, that is. According to Skinner, something set it on fire right after we left and the whole spook-central burned to the ground in less than an hour. I would say that the ghosts have been released from their century-long haunting of that place. If it is no more, they can't haunt it, right?"

Closing his eyes, Mulder tried to think clearly. It was so hard when everything hurt as it did right now. "Wrong," he countered and said nothing more. If his assumptions were correct, and he was afraid they might be, the haunting of the Wilson Estate had been no ordinary haunting. The male ghost had been nothing short of a demon and as far as he knew, demons were not bound to a place. It was possible that the female ghost had been released by the eradication of the building, but he doubted severely that the male ghost was gone.

"Wrong?" Jezek asked, raising an eyebrow. "What do you mean, wrong, Fox?" she wanted to know.

"Later," he mumbled. "I... can't..." Letting his eyelids slide shut, he didn't even try to stay awake. He needed to sleep so badly, he could almost taste it.
Jezek eyed him for a moment, then shrugged. "Whatever," she said, gave his hand another squeeze and slipped off the bed again. Dropping back down on the chair, she steepled her fingers, her elbows resting on the arms of the chair, and stared ahead of herself. Unfortunately she had to agree with Mulder. Although she didn't really understand why he would think that the ghosts were still out there, she had to admit that she thought it would be way too easy if they were just gone after the havoc they had created. Hauntings were usually very hard to get rid of, or so she'd heard. "We'll talk about this later," she said quietly and smiled.


Cheat Mountain
February 24
10.00 a.m.

The still smoldering remains of the Wilson Estate were nothing much to look at. For some reason that neither the local police nor the fire department could explain, the fire had not spread to the surrounding trees and bushes. As a matter of fact, the house had virtually been obliterated, but the bushes next to the house were still standing, alas scorched, but still alive.

Parker Wilson stood next to his car, staring at what was left of his home with a surly expression on his old face. "Damn it all to hell," he mumbled, then glanced over at his butler. "How much have I lost here?" he wanted to know.

The butler, who had also been staring at the remains of the house, shrugged. "About a million," he countered, looking like that wasn't a big deal. And, in fact, it wasn't.

"That's all, huh?" Wilson countered. "Ah well. Guess we couldn't have gotten rid of the spooks any other way. Let's get out of here. This place depresses me," he added and climbed back into the back of the big, black Sedan.

"Me, personally, I get the creeps from this place," the butler mumbled, got in the car and drove them out of there toward one of the other houses, that Parker Wilson owned.

A soft breeze rocked the nearby trees gently, but there was no sound after the car had left again. No birds chirped, not sounds from little animals scurrying through the undergrowth of the nearby forest. Everything was quiet. For a brief moment, the complete silence was interrupted by a sound from the remains of the basement, the sound of boards being moved, then everything fell silent once more. In the darkest corner of what remained of the Wilson Estate, two red patches glowed briefly, then vanished again.