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XPHYLIA: Learning the game.

Title: Learning the game

Author: X-Phylia

Disclaimer: The X-Files are mine because I said so. (OK, I live in a 
parallel world. In this, they belong to 1013 and Fox Network)

Rate: PG13

Category: MT, incipient MS friendship.

Archive: Yes, but please let me know.

Spoilers: fill-in for Deep Throat, minor for The Pilot

Summary: Mulder's ordeal at Ellens Air Force Base leads him to trust 
his partner when he is most vulnerable. 

Thanks to D M for beta-reading this for me!

"Learning the game"
by X-Phylia

"Get in the car, Mulder!" Agent Scully shouted at her confused partner 
while she aimed her weapon at the alleged reporter she had managed to 

Mulder staggered, groggy and unstable on his feet.

"Get in the car!" she urged him again. She let the other man walk away 
as Mulder approached the right side of the car, not paying attention 
to the sharp rebuke about national security he got from the bogus 
reporter, now in full Man-In-Black mode. As soon as Mulder was safe 
inside the car, Scully climbed in and rushed out of Ellens Base. For a 
few minutes she speeded as much as she dared, and only when she felt 
sure nobody was following them, she addressed her partner.

"You okay, Mulder?"

"I think so," he replied, but his eyes were glassy and he still looked 
confused. And his question proved it. 

"Scully... how did I get here?"

Mulder zoned out in the car. Scully didn't even try to explain to him 
what had happened during the almost 24 (hours) he had been missing; it 
was obvious that he wasn't fully alert. This worried her, especially 
because Mulder assured her he didn't remember what had occurred to him 
during that period. 

But as the minutes passed and he grew more alert, his mind started to 
make connections again.

"I saw something, Scully. I'm positive. I saw something they didn't 
want me to see and they erased my memory of it. Just like they did to 
Captain Budahaus," he said slowly.

"Did they erase the part where I told you that what you say is 
technically impossible with our current technology she snorted.

"Current technology being the operative words. No, I remember that. I 
didn't tell you, Scully, but I happen to have an eidetic memory. I 
just don't forget things, least of all aircrafts built with UFO 

"Mulder, if you don't remember, how can you be so sure of what you've 

"Because of what they are trying to protect. And it must be one hell 
of a secret if they dare to kidnap a federal agent and mess with his 
brain! What else could it be, given the circumstances?"

"I don't know, Mulder, but you have no evidence to back up your 

"So you think I've been smoking pot with those kids? I want to talk to 
Budahaus again. Can we drive to his house?"

"Mulder, if you'll pardon the expression, you look like hell. You 
should be resting, we don't even know what they did to you. I'm going 
back to the motel, we'll pack up and then catch the first flight back 
to DC."

"You're right, we don't know what they did to me, and I want to find 
out. They have *no* right to tamper my memory, and Budahaus is the key 
to what they're up to."

His tone was adamant and Scully sighed with resignation.

"All right, Mulder. But if you pull a disappearing act like this 
again, you're on your own."

They stopped at a gas station, where Mulder managed to freshen up a 
bit and look almost human again. But there was a huge difference 
between how he looked and how he felt. His stomach was bothering him, 
his eyes ached, and he was developing a killer headache; not to 
mention the dull pain in his lower back, courtesy of the men in black 
who had intercepted them in the road the day before. However, Mulder 
needed those answers. He needed someone who would corroborate his 
suspicions. Maybe the pilot had recovered part of his memory, and 
Mulder was more than willing to go through regression hypnosis to 
regain his if necessary. 

Then he'd manage to gather some *solid evidence*, or Scully's 
definition of the Holy Grail.

He was understandably upset when Mrs. Budahaus denied them access to 
their house and Scully insisted on their immediate departure. 

Frustration and anger added to the physical discomfort he was 
enduring, and the mix proved to be a bad one.

The minute Mulder got into his room he ran to the bathroom, and a 
second later Scully heard him throw up violently several times. She 
squirmed by the door, wondering if she should go in.

"Mulder? Are you okay?" Stupid question, she thought. He was puking 
his guts out, it was pretty obvious that he *wasn't* okay. However, 
that was not what he answered.

"I'm fine," his voice sounded raspy and weak. He got out of the 
bathroom, barely able to keep himself on his feet, his eyes were 
bloodshot and his breathing shallow.

"Is this your idea of fine, Mulder? Come here," she guided him to his 
bed and made him lie down. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes.

Scully was checking his pulse when she realized he was unresponsive. A 
cold shiver ran through her <back>. What had they done to him to make 
him so sick? And what the hell was she supposed to do now? Take him to 
a hospital? Call the paramedics?

No. After her encounter with that security employee pretending to be a 
reporter and Mrs. Budahaus' suspicious attitude earlier, she had 
enough ground to suspect that trusting people in this place could be 
dangerous. What if they calculated Mulder's sickness and were 
expecting them at the local ER?

Scully shook her head, wondering if paranoia could actually be 

And besides, she was a doctor. Her skills might be a little rusty 
after two years with the Bureau, but she could sure at least examine 
her partner to get a better hold of the situation. She congratulated 
herself for bringing along her medical kit. It had seemed an 
unnecessary burden, but it would prove most useful now.

Mulder remained unconscious while Scully stripped him of his shirt. 
She felt slightly uneasy, but tried to maintain her detachment. 

<He's a patient, Dana. Treat him like one,> she told herself.

She started taking his vitals, which were a little elevated; then she 
proceeded to palpate him for injuries. Mulder was completely out of 
it, with any luck he wouldn't be aware of the intrusion. The first 
thing she noticed were the red marks on his chest and arms. 

His wrists were particularly abraded and bruised, all suggesting he 
had been in pretty tight restraints. Soon after that she found the 
needle punctures in his veins and her worry escalated. Sighing deeply, 
Scully rolled him gently to his right side and was greeted by a nasty 
looking bruise in his lower back, probably due to the blow he had 
received the day before. 

"Damn bastards," Scully hissed, probing the tenderness of the 
discolored skin. Mulder jerked slightly at her touch and she frowned. 

Why in the world didn't he tell her that he was hurting? His kidneys 
could be injured!

"Damn it, Mulder. Now I don't know if your fever comes from your 
injured kidneys or something they did to you at the base." 

She finished several minutes later and put away her instruments to sit 
down beside her partner; smiling when she found herself thinking how 
different he looked when he was asleep. With his passion and never- 
ending energy gone, he had a peaceful expression that Scully hadn't 
seen before.

<He's definitely a looker,> she thought amused. <A little crazy and 
reckless, though. I should be furious at him for ditching me and here 
I am, sitting on his sick bed. Which reminds me that he should be in a 

In spite of her better judgment, Scully was reluctant to take him to a 
doctor anywhere near Ellens Base but Mulder was in no shape to travel 
back to DC either. She decided to wait a few hours. If his condition 
didn't improve, she would call 911. If Mulder's paranoia seemingly had 
no limits, hers had: she wasn't going to risk her partner's health.

She would, however, do something about his fever, it was quite high 
for her peace of mind.

"Mulder," she called him gently. "Mulder, it's me, wake up."

To her utter relief his eyes fluttered open, bringing a grin to her 
face. He produced a weak smile himself.

"You're quite sick, Mulder. I need to take your temperature and give 
you something for your fever. And those pants will have to go."

His smile was bigger this time, and he managed to leer at her.

Scully had to repress her chuckle. This man was unbelievable.

Mulder only got his jeans past his hips before falling asleep again, 
and was barely conscious when Scully made him swallow the ibuprofen 

The thermometer had to go to his armpit instead of his mouth  she 
remembered from school that temps should be taken rectally for greater 
accuracy, but she thought that it would be taking things a little bit 
too far. After a few minutes she retrieved it and frowned at the 
reading of 102.5.

She went for some cool water and a towel to refresh his body; his 
condition was borderline to the criteria she had established was 
necessary for calling for help. 

Mulder was trembling when she came back, and her heart shrunk when she 
realized that he was sobbing in his stupor.

Unsure of what to do, Scully stood back. Watching other people's bad 
dreams was a flagrant invasion of privacy, and she decided to turn 
tail and leave the poor guy alone. God only knew what had been done to 
him in all the time he had been held prisoner.

She was almost leaving when she heard the whimper coming from the bed.

"Samantha... no, daddy, no! Sam! No, dad! No! Saaaaam...!!!"

Mulder's face no longer looked peaceful, but full of pain and 

He was curled up in an upper corner of the bed, clinging to the sheets 
tightly. Then, to Scully's utter bafflement, he started to cry very 

It wasn't so easy now to just turn and leave; in fact, Scully felt a 
curious impulse to comfort him, to lull him back to sleep.

"Shhh... it's okay, Mulder. Shhhh... it's only a dream, partner," 
Scully soothed him. He hand flailed and Scully took it in hers, 
rubbing it gently and progressing to his arm. She smiled when he 
quieted. Once she was sure he was asleep again, she carefully spread 
the cold towels over his burning skin, squeezing his hand every time 
he got agitated.

After a while of refreshing him, Scully re-checked his temperature. 

Mulder jerked and whimpered, but thanks heavens the fever was 

Satisfied with the result of her ministrations, Scully went back to 
her room to take a shower, leaving the adjoining door opened in case 
he needed her.

It wasn't late and although she was tired, the events of the day had 
left her quite wired. She was still trying to decide if she had made 
the right choice about her partner. What if his fever spiked in the 
middle of the night? What if his kidneys were injured? Scully went 
back to Mulder's room and found him sleeping soundly. She placed her 
hand on his forehead and flinched at the warmth she felt. 

His skin was dry and tout, his lips cracked. 

"Mulder?" she called trying to arouse him. 

He opened his eyes a bit, trying to focus. He seemed rather startled 
at the sight of another person in his room while he was sleeping. 

"Wha r'u doin 'ere?" he slurred.

"You're sick, you need to drink some water and take more ibuprofen. 
You're fever has spiked again."

"M'okay..." his eyes were closing again.

"No, you're not. Come on, partner, wake up."

She held the glass and helped him with the water. After a few sips, 
Mulder was more alert.

"What time is it?"

"It's almost midnight. You gave me quite a scare, Mulder. You passed 
out on me."

Mulder noted for the first time that he was almost naked, and had no 
recollection of how he had gotten into bed. He wasn't so ill that his 
brain couldn't add two and two together; suddenly he felt very self 

"Did you undress me, Scully?" his voice sounded upset.

"Yes, I did," she admitted, realizing he didn't remember being half- 
awake earlier. "I'm a doctor, and you were sick. I needed to examine 
you," she explained patiently. When he didn't say anything, she 
lowered her voice a little. "And your fever has spiked again now, so 
I'd like to take a better look at you."

"It's not necessary, Scully. I've had a fever before. I'll be all 
right in the morning."

"Don't be stubborn, Mulder. I saw the needle marks in your arms. You 
say you don't remember what they did to you, so we can't ignore your 
symptoms. Besides, you've got a nasty bruise in your lower back that 
must be hurting a lot. Why didn't you tell me about it?"

Mulder stared at her, confused. He wasn't used to people caring for 
him; he simply didn't see the reason why he should have told his 
partner that he was hurt. 

"Do you always hover over people like this? Because I don't like being 
fussed about."

She was about to ask him about his nightmare, but something in his 
voice made her keep it to herself. She didn't know much about this 
man, after all, and right now he was sick and vulnerable, not to 
mention almost naked before his female partner of two weeks. Scully 
sighed and decided to give him a break.

"Mulder," she spoke very softly. "I'm not trying to invade your 
privacy, I only want to help you. If you don't want me here I'll 
understand, but I'll call 911 then. Otherwise it would be negligence 
on my part."

Mulder felt like crap and it was getting more and more difficult to 
pretend he didn't. He was sore all over and his partner was right, his 
back was killing him. All that he wanted was to be left alone with his 
misery, and this woman was all over him playing doctor. Damn! She 
wanted to call the paramedics, for cripes sake. Didn't she realize 
they couldn't trust anyone in this place?

"I don't feel comfortable about the paramedics, Mulder, and I think 
it's a safe bet to say you aren't either," she surprised him. "But you 
still need medical attention, so you tell me what I should do."

Oh! She wasn't so green after all. She did have a brain. But then 
again, he didn't *trust* her that much. 

He looked at his partner, who was calmly sitting on a chair by his 

She was worried about him, that much was evident. But there was 
something else. Compassion? Interest? He remembered their first case 
two weeks ago when she entered his room wearing nothing but a robe 
over her underwear, scared by those mosquito bites. She had trusted 
*him* then. She didn't know anything about him and yet she put herself 
in a very vulnerable position. And what had she said then?

"I'm not part of any agenda, Mulder. You have to trust me."

Hadn't anyone told her that Fox Mulder didn't trust *anyone*?

But what the hell, he was hurting and a little scared by his ordeal. 
He had a nearly perfect memory. Why then did he have this huge gap? 
What had been done to him?

"Okay, you win," he conceded. "You can examine me, but don't take too 
long. I'm tired, I want to sleep."

Mulder winced as she palpated the swollen and tender zone of his back.

"Have you noticed if your urine is pink or red?"

"Not glossy red, or I would have noticed. Not that I paid too much 
attention anyway," he answered with a certain embarrassment.

"If there's blood in your urine you should be in a hospital, partner. 
I don't like what I'm seeing. Your kidneys could be bruised or 

"Forget it, Scully. *NO* hospitals. End of story."

"Are you always this stubborn? Because I don't like recalcitrant 

Mulder smiled. She had a sense of humor too. That was good.

"So what do you say, doctor? Will I live?"

"For the moment. But make no mistake, this could be serious."

"Are you trying to scare me?"

"Yes. But I doubt that's even possible," she snorted.

Scully admitted to herself that she liked her new partner better now 
that she was getting to see another side of him. Maybe he wasn't 
always so arrogant, in fact, he looked almost fragile lying sick and 
injured in his bed.

"Mulder, I want you to be honest with me: how bad is the pain really?"

Still lying on his stomach, he turned slightly to meet her gaze.

"It's no picnic, but I've been through worse. How... serious do you 
think this is, Scully? And you be honest too."

"Well, your fever's high, you're mildly dehydrated and you have a 
nasty bruise in your lower back. My honest opinion is that you should 
be in a hospital. I can't take proper care of you here."

"Why would you? It's not your job," he shrugged.

His nonchalant words hurt her more than his previous tantrum; not 
because she took offense, but because they implied sheer loneliness.

"You obviously worked alone for too long, Mulder. Partners are 
supposed to care for each other. You were injured in the line of duty, 
so as your partner *and* a medical doctor, it is my job to see that 
you're okay," she stated with compassion, resisting the temptation to 
run her palm over the inviting soft skin of his back. Mulder remained 
silent for a while.

"I'm sorry, I'm usually a pain in the ass, but I get worse when I'm 
sick," he apologized. "I didn't even thank you for saving my ass 
earlier. You took a big risk."

"As I said, that's what partners do: watch each other's back. Mulder, 
before I met you, the only thing I knew about you was your reputation. 
Number one prejudice was *he's crazy*. Number two was *he just can't 
trust people*. I've already called you crazy to your face, but if we 
are going to work together, I need you to at least *try* to trust me. 
I might disagree with you on many things, but I'm not a spy. I have no 
reason to hurt you or do anything wrong to you."

He turned his tired hazel eyes to her and nodded imperceptibly. Mulder 
was touched by her candor, it'd been a very long time since someone 
had showed anything close to concern for him and his well being. She 
put one hand over his shoulder and squeezed a little, a small gesture 
of reassurance that almost succeeded in bringing tears to his eyes.

Dana Scully was smart, honest, and she cared about him. She deserved a 
chance, and he needed her help. His head was throbbing, he felt 
nauseous again, and his whole body felt achy.

"I don't feel so good, Scully," he whispered tiredly.

She placed a wet piece of cloth on the back of his neck and a bigger 
one over the bruise. It felt like heaven.

"About time you admitted it. I'm calling 911, Mulder. I want you to 
know that I'm as wary as you are about this, so I'll stay with you all 
the time. No one will get to you without getting past me first, okay?"

"Okay. Thanks again, Scully."

Mulder woke up the next day surrounded by an unknown environment, 
feeling drowsy and uncomfortable. He turned his head slowly to his 
side and relief washed all over him when he found his partner, 
guarding him as she had promised to.

"Good morning, Mulder. How are you feeling?" she grinned.

"Lousy," he muttered.

"Well, you passed out after I called the paramedics last night. We 
brought you here to give you IV fluids and take a closer look at your 
kidneys. I also ordered a tox screen," she informed him.

Mulder nodded as he took inventory of the treatments his partner was 
describing: a large-bore IV needle in his right arm, more bruises in 
the hollow of his elbows and... damn, why did he feel so uncomfortable 
*down there*? He carefully reached with his free hand and... 

"What is *this*, Scully?" he asked, his eyes wide open.

"A bladder catheter. Don't touch it, you don't want to get an 

Mulder blushed violently and Scully fought to conceal a smile. "Tell 
me you weren't there when they put this thing on."

"Hey, I promised I wouldn't leave you for a minute, didn't I?" she 
deadpanned, then she took pity of his embarrassment.

"Actually, it wasn't necessary for me to be there all the time. One of 
the doctors at the ER happened to be a friend of mine from college, he 
can be trusted. It's a small world, Mulder."

Mulder let out the breath that he was holding.

"Can you get someone to take it off now? It's so... uncomfortable."

"Not yet. But you should be glad, the ultrasound they did last night 
showed that the damage to your kidneys is minimal and you should be 
fine with plenty of rest. They want to keep you on IV fluids a few 
more hours, so you can expect to be discharged this evening. As for 
the tox screen, nothing showed up."

"It doesn't surprise me."

"However, I would have liked to know what caused that selective 
amnesia of yours. As far as I know, we don't know that much about how 
our memory works."

"So, are you willing to admit that current accepted knowledge is 
sometimes not enough, Agent Scully?" he teased her.

"Of course I am!" she retorted. "That's what science is about: 
expanding that knowledge. We don't need the paranormal explanation, we 
just have to keep looking."

Mulder stared at her for a moment and then closed his eyes, grinning. 
Where did Blevins get this woman from? Such a rationalist with a blind 
faith in hard science?

But far from being annoyed by her presence, Mulder found himself 
vaguely comforted by it. It was nice to wake up in a hospital and find 
a friendly face by his side for a change.

So she was sent to the X-Files to debunk his work? Fine, Mulder 
thought. I accept the challenge. I'll show her the best of the 
Twilight Zone. You haven't seen anything yet, Agent Scully. Yeah, she 
deserved the chance. It would be fun.


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