Title: What Tomorrow Holds
Author: XScout
Rating: R
Classification: TA
Keywords: First Person
Spoilers: Duane Berry/Ascension
Summary: Several people in a library are taken hostage, including an FBI agent. When things go wrong, the librarian has to deal with it.

Disclaimer: Mulder and Scully aren’t mine, they’re CC’s and 10-13’s. Some people have all the luck. Everyone else is mine though. No infringement intended, as always.

Author’s Notes: I’m on my knees here. Please PLEASE send me e-mail. Flames are okay but comments are even better. XScout@hotmail.com


What Tomorrow Holds


I like books. I like to read them over and over until their covers are torn at the edges and all the pages have bent corners. I'm the type to hole up in my room and read a book straight through in one day. That's probably why I'm still single, I'm not much of a socialite.

So being a librarian was the most wonderful job to me, though others might find it a bit mundane. I am surrounded by those objects which give me such pleasure to read and by people with the same hunger for knowledge. And it gave an established routine to my life. I knew what tomorrow held for me and that was comforting.

Today started as any other. I opened the library at seven o'clock in the morning and collected all the books in the overnight return bin and checked them in the computer. I then put away all the books behind the counters, pausing more than once to rifle through one that looked interesting. Next I turned on the computers that allowed people to search for specific titles, refilled the scrap paper tray next to each monitor, and sharpened the tiny pencils for them. By the time I had dusted all the tables and chairs, repositioned books sticking out dangerously from the shelves, and made some coffee, it was already eight.

A few people had wandered in and were browsing, while others were arranging themselves in a semi_circle around the raised platform just left of my desk. They were preparing for nine o'clock, when a group of Tibetan monks would conduct a small serenity ceremony. Patty Cambric, the events director for the Kingsville Library, was overseeing the set up of the monks and their meager equipment. No one needed any help and since it was obvious that it would be fairly quiet for a while, I picked up my latest novel and became instantly engrossed.


My head jerked up at the sound of a deep voice. Something told me that it was not the first time I had been spoken to. I found myself face to face with the most drop dead gorgeous man I had ever seen. He was tall and thin, not skinny but lanky like a swimmer or runner. His rich brown hair fell across a high forehead to rest just above a beautiful pair of hazel eyes with lashes any girl would kill for. Of course I spoke with the eloquence earned from years of reading.

"Oh, um, sorry, I was...uh..."

He flashed a row of brilliant white teeth at me. "Sorry to interrupt. Good book?"

For a moment I was confused. Book? What book? I felt a weight in my hands and glanced down to see the object of my confusion. Oh, that book. I looked back up and grinned. "Yeah, it is pretty good. I guess I was kind of into it."

Another flash of white. "I understand."

That low throaty voice sent shivers down my spine. His eyes were full of humor and understanding. Despite my raging hormones, I was able to focus on my job. "Is there something I can help you with?"

He nodded his head vigorously. "I'm looking for literature on psychokinesis and ESP. I would use your computers but they give me motion sickness." He gave me a rather bashful smile at that.

"Me too. I actually threw up after spending two hours on one." Instantly I flushed, realizing what I had said. What kind of idiot was I? That was real smooth.

He just smiled in sympathy. I stood up and walked around my desk to stand next to him. Being just a quarter inch shy of five feet and weighing less than one hundred and ten pounds I barely came up to the middle of his chest. I had to crane my neck to look at him.

Feeling slightly disconcerted by this, I quickly headed for the back of the library, motioning for him to follow. "We keep all the paranormal stuff back here because there's not a lot of requests for that kind of thing. Personally I find it fascinating." I shot a conspiratory grin over my shoulder, "The unexplained is a hobby of mine."

His eyes danced with humor and the side of his mouth was twitching, as if holding in laughter. "Mine too."

As I led him deeper into the old library, I gave him several surreptitious glances. He was wearing a light charcoal suit that blended in with the faint light of the back rooms. A loud tie with purple background and what looked like little green alien heads was the only splash of color.

"Here it is," I stopped in front of a shelf containing several thick copies of UFO sightings. "This is the section. You can find almost anything on everything paranormal back here." I gave the handsome man a warm smile. "If you need anything else, don't hesitate to ask."

He mumbled his thanks and turned to stare at the rows of books. Usually I would have taken more time to chat with such an attractive man, but something about the way he gazed intently at the shelves told me that his mind was elsewhere. Besides, I had work to do. I gave him one last appreciative glance and excused myself.

I strode briskly past the rows of romance novels and western stories to emerge into the now crowded area around the performing platform. I navigated my way around the group and resumed my place behind the large oak desk. The antique grandfather clock chimed nine times and the crowd took their seats.

From the vantage point at my desk I had trouble getting more than a glimpse of the monks. Who needs to be serene anyway? Not like there’s a whole lot of stress as a librarian. I had picked up my discarded book and turned to the page I had almost finished when I heard a resounding 'thump' and several startled exclamations. I looked up and stared in disbelief.

A thin, red haired man dressed in combat fatigues had leapt onto the platform, amid the confused monks, not four feet from the crowd. Clenched in his right fist was a handgun. "Don't move! I've got a bomb!" he screamed, brandishing his weapon and gesturing to an athletic bag over his shoulder. "I want hostages. Do exactly as I say _ or everybody dies!"

People gasped and drew back, trying to find some place to hide. One woman bolted for the door and I watched, the world moving in slow motion, as the red head turned and fired his gun. The deafening crack of the shot echoed in my ears and the frantic woman fell to the floor, red blossoming from her back. My heart was pounding as screams bounced off the walls. When I looked up from the motionless body, I was shocked to find the gunman staring at me.

Despite a scraggly goatee, he had a youthful face, unravaged by time. My God, he was barely more than a boy! But his eyes radiated a crazed, chilling intensity. Not a glimmer of remorse for the killing of that innocent woman.

"You," he snarled, spying my librarian's badge, "get those doors open." He had strapped the gun to his wrist, and now he waved the weapon toward the conference room to my right. "That's where I'm taking my hostages."

I almost fainted dead away right then and there. But I didn't. Something inside of me was stronger than that. Summoning my courage, I strode the ten feet towards the conference room door and opened it with trembling hands. As I did, the gunman turned to the others and told them to pass a sealed envelope, containing his demands, to one of the Tibetan monks. He wanted it sent to a local newspaper. The monk did not understand English, so Patty, always one to take charge, took the letter and said she would deliver it.

I was now well away from the shooter. A corridor of books would shield me from view if I moved towards the staircase. I almost did just that but stopped abruptly. I couldn't run away. That could make him angry and he might hurt other hostages. And I couldn't let that happen. Not in *my* library.

I returned to my desk and stood quietly as he started to sort through the crowd. He separated them into two groups, one comprised of two men and two women, the other was the monks and the rest of the audience. He directed his next comment to the smaller group. "You are my hostages, any attempts at resistance will have deadly consequences." He turned to everyone else, "You can all leave. Spread the word as fast and as far as you can. I want everyone to know what they, the government you all trust, did to me!"

They just stood there, looking wide_eyed and scared. "Did you hear what I said!" he raged, "Get out!"

His scream animated them. They were all running for the door, tripping over each other in their haste. I stayed where I was. This was my library and I was responsible for these people. I was going to stay with them, no matter what. As the heavy door shut on the last terrified person, the gunman ushered the five of us into the conference room.

"Push that table up here," he ordered. The two men moved the large oval table in the center of the room to the wall under the high windows. He took something out of his bag and placed it on the table. It was a rectangular metal canister, slightly larger than an old_fashioned whiskey flask. Wires protruded from it where attached to a curling iron that he held in his left hand.

"My God," I heard the older woman next to me whisper, "he *does* have a bomb."

"Now, all of you pull chairs around the table, but sit facing out from it," he continued, taking a seat at the end of the table with his back to the wall. "That way you won't see the bomb go off."

Oh yeah, that was *really* comforting. Not knowing when we would all be blown to smithereens. The other hostages and I had just taken our seats when the man who had been searching for paranormal books wandered through the door, looking bewildered. I held my breath as the startled gunman whirled and aimed.

The newcomer put his hands out in a submissive gesture. "I don't know what's going on, but you're scaring me with that gun."

The gunman's eyes narrowed. "I'm in control here!" he shouted, keeping the weapon aimed at his new hostage. "Now sit down and be quiet. Who are you?"

"Fox Mulder," the man replied.

"Well, Mr. Mulder, if the police come into this room, I'll shoot you first!"

I prayed Fox wouldn't panic. What I didn't know until later was that Fox Mulder was exactly where he wanted to be.

As Fox took a seat next to me, some of the hostages began asking what the gunman wanted. I wanted to tell them to shut up but I found that my voice didn't work. All that came out was a flimsy squeak.

"These are copies of my demand letter," our captor said as he handed me a stack of photocopies to pass around to the others. I dutifully did as I was told as quickly as possible, careful not to make any sudden movements. Scanning my own copy of the ten page handwritten document, I recognized the ramblings of an angry, disturbed mind:

To: Senior Police Official
From: Peter Nicholas Boyd, Hostage Taker
‘...The necessity for sleep may force me to shoot the hostages and detonate the bomb if my demands are not met within seventy_two hours.'

Most of the letter raged against any and all government agencies and especially the military. 'I am also fighting for my morality, my beliefs, and my heritage.’ Boyd’s statement concluded, 'I will live free or die.'

I looked up from the letter to see Boyd pointing the gun directly at my head. "Library Lady," he said in the exaggeratedly polite tone that he seemed to have reserved just for me, "look out and tell me if you see the SWAT team in the outside room yet."

I walked slowly to the small window in the door and stood on my toes to peer out. I saw the head of one uniformed officer and the silhouette of another by the reference section.

For a second I thought that I'd tell Boyd that no one was there but then good sense took over and I realized that he might shoot someone if he thought I was lying. "I can see them," I said nervously.

"I knew it!" Boyd screeched. "Those incompetent bastards better get out of there, or I'll start throwing out dead bodies!"

I returned to my seat, holding my breath until Boyd's ranting diminished. Glancing around I saw the faces of the other hostages were tight with fear. Except Fox. He looked like he was calm and composed, though I could see emotion in his eyes. However it was not the emotion I expected _ not fear, but anger.

Boyd told one of the hostages to take a small radio from his bag and tune it to a rock n' roll station. For the next half hour he said little, content to listen to the music. During that time he allowed us to converse among ourselves.

At first no one said anything and I began to fidget. I do that when I'm antsy and being held hostage by a madman was definitely making me just that. I felt the need to say something, to calm the others by making conversation. I turned to my right where Fox was seated and took a deep breath. "We already know who you are, but my name is Sara, I'm the librarian." I looked at the others expectantly.

Silence reigned for a few seconds until one of the men cleared his throat quietly and murmured "I'm Phil Rothstein."

Phil was a big man. A person of size to be politically correct, probably weighing somewhere around 250. Dressed in a Hawaiian shirt and khaki shorts he looked like a stereotypical tourist, sans camera. I nodded at him and noticed Mulder do the same, glancing at me out of the corner of his eye as if he knew why I started introductions.

"Stan Glisse."

I glanced over at the speaker. Stan was defiantly glaring at us, as though he had done us a favor by speaking to us. Wearing an expensive suit and his thinning hair slicked back, he was the picture of a successful businessman. Probably felt we were beneath him. I just glared right back.

The woman two seats to my left leaned forward and turned to face me. "I'm Mary Sakura."

Now we all looked at the last woman who was staring dejectedly at the floor. "Sharon," she whispered. "I...I'm Sharon S_Smock." The stutter in her voice was a sign that she was not handling the situation well at all.

I smiled reassuringly at her. "We're going to get out of this."

"How?" she sobbed.

"By working together. It's us against him and I know that if we all just stay calm everything will turn out right." I laid my hand over hers and squeezed gently.

A tiny smile formed on her face and she wiped away the tears, sniffing mightily. "Thank you."

"No problem." I replied. Phil seemed to be reassured by my comment and Mary was nodding in agreement but Stan appeared to be disgusted by our misplaced hope. Fox inclined his head slightly, as though he was telling me I had done well. For some insane reason, I was pleased by his approval. Go figure.

I blushed slightly and glanced away to regain my composure. When I turned back, Fox wasn't even looking at us, instead he was surveying the room, as though assessing it for... what?

The silence began to grow uncomfortable again so I started in on the first topic that came to mind. "So, anybody got kids?"

Phil nodded animatedly, his double chin jiggling. "I have two. Michael and Jerry. Twins. They'll be seven next month. I was planning on taking them to Ireland and thought I'd do some research. Hence my presence here."

We all smiled sadly at that. God, I hoped Phil would be able to take that trip with his kids.

"I have a daughter." Mary said. "She just got married and is already working on my first grand-baby." Her eyes took on that soft quality that all women get when talking about babies.

A grandma? Wow. Hope I look that good when I'm a grandma. Mary's hair was done up in a modern style, not a gray strand showing amongst the brown, and her clothes were the trend setters for adults.

"Sharon?" I shook the woman slightly.

"No. No kids. But my husband, oh God, he'll be so worried." Her bloodshot eyes met mine and all I could do was squeeze her hand again in empathy.

"What about you?"

I jumped slightly at the voice behind me. So Fox decided to join the conversation? I swiveled around and gave him a big grin. "Nope, no children to call my own but I have a cat. She certainly acts like a two year old sometimes."

He laughed at that and even Sharon giggled nervously.

We talked like this for a while, discussing our jobs and our families. Stan ignored us, probably didn't want to mingle with commoners. Stuck up bastard. Fox only contributed a few comments, mostly reassurances or humorous observations that made us all relax a bit. I was almost glad that he had walked through that door on accident. His presence somehow reassured me, made me feel safe _ well as safe as one can feel when their life is being threatened. It was like we had some sort of silent communication concerning our place in this situation, ‘Together we'll keep everyone safe'.

Soon Mary and Phil were absorbed in their own conversation about the trials and joys of parenthood, while Sharon stared blankly ahead of her and Stan sat on his high horse. I was fine with that, it gave me a chance to watch Fox.

'Fox' _ what a strange name. Oh well, that wasn’t really important right then. There was something about him that piqued my curiosity. He was like the eye of the storm, not even breaking a sweat in his designer suit, flipping through Boyd's manifesto as though it would give him some insight into our situation. In fact he hadn't shown a sign of worry this entire time, just reassurance and determination. Now that I thought about it, his quick reply 'you're scaring me with that gun' was said just a little too evenly.

And after mulling over this for a while I decided to call him on it. "Fox."

He looked up from his lap where the papers sat. "Mulder."

My brows scrunched together. "Excuse me?"

"Call me Mulder." He gave me a lopsided grin.

Okay. So the guy didn't like his first name. Don't blame him, probably was a real source of torment growing up.

"Okay... Mulder. What are you doing here?"

He looked at me with a surprised expression on his face then quickly glanced over at Boyd, making sure that he hadn't noticed our conversation. Boyd was oblivious to everything but the music and his thoughts. "What?"

"Don't give me that," I hissed. "You look like you're about to fall asleep from boredom. But your eyes say something else."

Suspicion and then admiration shone in those expressive eyes. "I'm an FBI agent."

"FBI?" I squeaked.


My eyes widened and I looked at Boyd out of my peripheral vision. He hadn't moved. "What's the FBI doing here?" I whispered.

"Working on a case." he replied obliquely.

Then something occurred to me. "Are you armed?"

He nodded.

Anger swelled inside me. "Then why didn't you just shoot him?"

"I couldn't just come in shooting, the bomb could have gone off. My only chance to protect the hostages was from the inside _ by becoming a hostage myself."

Just as quickly as it had come, my anger died. He was right, if he had burst in firing, the chances of us surviving were slim. I sighed in resignation. "Do you think the bomb is real?"

Fox... sorry, *Mulder*, looked over his shoulder at the device and grimaced. "See the bare wires running from the canister to two electrical contact points on the curling iron _ one on the flange and another on the heating bar?" He waited until I inclined my head before he continued. "When squeezed, the iron's spring_loaded handle keeps the two apart. If he ever releases the handle, allowing those contact points to touch, the bomb will detonate. It's home_made obviously, but it is definitely for real."

I stole a glance at the object in question and noticed dozens of lead balls glued to the outside of the can. I pointed them out to the FBI agent. "What are those for?"

"They're designed to shatter with the explosion, becoming lethal shrapnel." He must have seen the fear creeping into my eyes because his next words came out in a rush. "I don't want to alarm you by telling you this, but if anything should happen I want you to know all the potential dangers."

"If anything should happen? Like what? Why me?" It's not like I'm a leader, I'm a librarian for God's sake. Yes, I grew up in a rough rural neighborhood and a 'no fear' attitude had helped me overcome my lack of size. I even made the girls' soccer and softball teams in school. But now the stakes were a hell of a lot higher.

"Because you are the only person here who has shown a speck of rational thinking. You have kept your cool and you have a level head." he explained.

My cheeks reddened at what I felt was undeserved praise. I was about to respond when a noise to my left caught my attention. Stan was standing up and walking over to Boyd, who had snapped to attention, his wild eyes following Stan.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?! I told you to sit there!" Boyd yelled, his ever present gun waving at Stan.

Stan just held his hands up and stopped his forward momentum. "I can help you."

"You?? Help me??" Boyd's eyes narrowed. "How?"

"I'm a lawyer, I have friends in high places." Stan smoothed back his hair with one hand while the other reached slowly into his pocket to emerge with a card. A lawyer _ I should have guessed.

Boyd snatched the card from Stan's outstretched hand, careful to keep his weapon trained on the lawyer. He glanced at the card briefly. "Well, Mr. Glisse, what exactly can you do for me?" he sneered.

"I can get you eighteen months to two years in a minimum security prison. Make appeals, massage the system, all you have to do is give yourself up." Stan looked like he was offering Boyd the world on a silver platter.

But the madman apparently didn't think so. He bolted out of his chair and started screaming, "Give up?! Who do you think you are?! You think I'll go quietly to a prison run by the government?! After what they've done?!" His breathing was fast and angry, his eyes widening so much that white surrounded his irises. Suddenly his right arm swung up and the gun in his hand connected with Stan's head with a sickening smack.

Stan dropped to the floor, unconscious, blood welling up from the gash in his forehead. Sharon started to sob loudly, unable to handle such violence, while Phil and Mary stared in shock at the fallen man. Mulder was halfway out of his seat, ready to tackle the gunman.

"Don't even think about it!" Boyd had seen Mulder and now directed his weapon at the FBI agent.

Oh God. I closed my eyes, expecting gunfire at any second. I waited.

And waited.

Nothing. I cracked open an eyelid. Mulder was standing, facing Boyd with his hands out in supplication. Neither moved.

"Let me help him." Mulder said, his voice steady and forceful, as though his tone would get through to the mad youth.

Boyd appeared to consider this for a moment. "Fine, drag him over there." He waved at the empty side of the room, just across from where we all were now. "But I want you all to go with him. Everybody stays together."

Phil slowly stood to help Mulder carry Stan's limp body over to the designated area while Mary and I were busy trying to calm Sharon down enough so that she would willingly move from her chair.

We managed to get her walking and helped her to sit on the ground just as Mulder and Phil deposited their burden next to us. "Keep his head raised above his feet, if there is any swelling, that'll help keep it to a minimum." Mulder instructed.

Mary crawled underneath Stan's body and laid his head in her lap, careful to position it at an angle. Phil knelt down next to them and used his handkerchief to wipe away the blood from the injured man's face.

The sight of blood was apparently too much for Sharon. She suddenly started gasping for air and her eyes glazed over. I had no idea what to do. While I am well read in many areas, I sadly admit that first aid is not one of them. I needn't have worried. Mulder was there in an instant, whispering softly to the panicking woman. "Put your head between your knees and take deep breaths. That's right, in...out...in...out. Shhh, it'll be all right." He rubbed her back in a circular motion as she struggled to slow her breathing.

When it was obvious that Sharon wasn't going to pass out, Mulder turned his attention back to Stan. He checked the lawyer's pulse, and breathing, frowning slightly.

"Is it bad?" I queried.

Mulder furrowed his brow and shook his head. "I'm not sure. His breathing is good but his heart rate is up. That might just be from the shock but.... Damn! I should know this."

"Why?" Not that it really mattered at a time like this, but I couldn't help it, I'm inquisitive by nature.

"I've had enough concussions in my life to know a mild one from a severe one. Only problem is, I'm usually too out of it to pay attention."

I was about to ask about the dangers of his job when the phone sitting on a small table behind Boyd, rang. He backed up to answer it, keeping his eyes on us.


I couldn't hear the other side of the conversation but I knew that it was the police. I momentarily wondered where they got the number from but then I realized that Patty must have told them. I listened intently to what Boyd was saying.

"You have my demands and unless you meet them within the next seventy_one hours, you can kiss a hostage goodbye....No, I don't think you understand, I want that money, I deserve it after what they did!....I don't care, you have seventy_one hours, no more, no less!" Boyd slammed down the phone and started to pace along the wall.

Money. The bastard just wanted money. What a god damn materialistic world we live in. I watched our kidnapper walk to and fro, hands gesticulating wildly as he mumbled something about the government not caring about it's soldiers. I thought back to my cursory review of the demand letter and remembered that Boyd's brother had been killed on a military mission into Kuwait. Apparently it was top secret or something because Boyd claimed that his family didn't receive any compensation and his brother was denied a military burial.

I can understand why he would be pissed about that but taking a library hostage was not the answer. Boyd kept up his ranting, his gun no longer pointing at us. That was when I saw Mulder reaching for his jacket, going for the gun I knew must be holstered inside. It was now or never.

He never got the chance to pull his weapon. Sharon was standing up, her body shaking with sobs and her fists balled at her sides. "What do you want?! Just let us go!" she shouted.

Boyd pointed his gun at her and yelled back, "Sit down! Sit down or I'll shoot!"

"Go ahead! Shoot me you psycho!" Tears were streaming down her face as she shook off the hands of Phil, who was trying to pull her back down to the floor. I could feel Mulder tense beside me.

"Don't tempt me! Now sit the fuck down!" Boyd raged.

"I can't take this anymore, I have to get out of here!" She broke for the door and the world moved in slow motion once again.

Sharon rushed by us just as Boyd swung his gun and aimed. Mulder launched up from his crouched position and shoved her aside a second before gunfire shattered the silence that had fallen.

The next thing I knew, something warm and wet splattered across my face and both Mulder and the hysterical woman were sprawled on the floor in a tangled heap.

My hand automatically went up to my cheek to wipe away whatever was running down it. I looked at my fingers and was shocked to see that they were slick with blood. Jesus Christ.

I glanced up to see Mulder roll off of Sharon to rest flat on his back, his arms hugging his body. Sharon just lay there, trembling. Both of them were covered in blood.

Boyd just stood there, staring. Then the phone rang, shaking him out of his reverie. As he moved over to answer it, I crawled cautiously to Sharon's side. I laid my hands on her back and turned her over, careful not to jar her too much in case she was injured. She was crying soundlessly but other than being terrified out of her mind she was okay.

But the blood came from somewhere. I scooted over to Mulder who hadn't moved from his previous position. I rested my hand on his and he groaned, his eyes clenched shut. I wrapped my hands around his wrists and slowly lifted them from where they clutched his stomach.

Bingo. Blood was pouring out from a hole in his abdomen, collecting in a pool on his belly. His breathing was fast and shallow, sweat beading on his forehead. Oh.My.God. Now what?

Behind me I could hear Boyd talking to the police _ they must have heard the gunshot. I lifted my chin and cleared my throat. "I think we're going to need a doctor." What the hell was I thinking?! Opening my mouth and telling a madman what I thought. He'd probably shoot me next.

But he didn't. There is a God. Instead he just stared at me then returned to his phone call. "Send in a medic, unarmed. If you try anything, I kill both the doctor and the patient." He set the phone back in it's cradle and flopped down in his vacated chair.

A minute later there was a knock at the door. That was fast. "Open it." I looked up to see Boyd motioning at me with his gun. I glanced at my hostage companions for some support, but Mary refused to meet my eyes, instead staring at the unconscious lawyer in her lap, and Phil just blinked at me. Fine, I can do this, I will not fall apart.

That was when I got an idea. A scathingly brilliant idea. I leaned over and murmured into Mulder's ear, "I'll be right back, help's here."

He grunted. Whether in response or in pain I don't know but it didn't matter. Before I moved away from him, I reached into his coat and pulled his weapon from it's holster, all the while shielding my actions with my body. I shoved the gun into my waistband and covered it with my sweater, praying that the bulge wouldn't be obvious. Now I was armed but where to go from there, I had no clue.

But right then I did know what I had better do _ open the door. I rose up, not moving too fast, shoving down my need for urgency, and walked over to the door. I opened it hesitantly.

"Step away." I did as Boyd instructed and stepped to the left, allowing room for someone to enter. Boyd's next comment was directed at that someone. "Come in nice and easy, your hands in the air. Take three steps forward and stop there." His eyes flicked to me again. "Close the door."

I did. Unsure as to what Boyd wanted me to do next, I stayed where I was and watched the medic walk forward, to stop three paces ahead. It was a woman, only a few inches taller than me, her red hair pulled back into a pony tail underneath the EMT hat she was wearing, a blue bag dangling from her shoulder.

Boyd got up and strode over to her, coming within four feet of the medic. "Library Lady, come here."

My turn again. I inched over to the standing pair and awaited my next orders. I was then told to pat the newcomer down, under Boyd's watchful eye, to be sure that she was unarmed. I've seen enough cop shows to know how it's done but I was still rather clumsy about it. I felt her sides under her upraised arms and then around each leg, asking her silently for forgiveness by gently squeezing her shoulder. When I was done I looked at Boyd, announcing her devoid of weapons.

"All right Doc, there's your patient." Boyd pointed at Mulder and then waved the medic towards the injured man, as if dismissing her. He went back to his seat and turned the music on once again. I took that as my cue to join Mulder and the doctor.

She had knelt next to him and was gently probing the wound when his eyes opened and he gasped, "Scu_"

The medic laid her fingers on Mulder's lips, stopping him from finishing and shook her head. What was that all that about? Then I saw the look in his eyes. He *knew* her. How could that be?

The redhead turned to me when she noticed me next to her. "Who are you?"

I was all composure. "I_I'm Sara. How is he?"

I think she was able to sense that my concern was real because she let me stay where I was, otherwise I had a feeling she would have politely ordered me to back away. "I'm Dana Scully. I need to examine him more thoroughly, but I'll need your help."

"Me?" I almost squeaked again but was able to control my voice.

"Yes, he's in a lot of pain and I need him to hold still while I assess his injuries." Her eyes begged for my help and I found myself nodding.

"Thank you. Now, what's this man's name?" she asked.

"Don't you know? Aren't you FBI too?" I whispered, assuming that the reason Mulder knew her was that she was a 'G_woman' _ so to speak.

Her eyes widened in surprise that I was privy to this information and then she seemed to accept it. Her brows drew together and her head jerked towards Boyd. Oh, I get it. She didn't want him to know that she was FBI or that she knew Mulder. I can play that game.

"His name's Fox Mulder," I said loud enough for Boyd to hear. "But call him Mulder."

Dana smiled at me, a grateful look in her eyes. She leaned over and talked to Mulder in a soothing tone. "Okay Mulder, I have to turn you on your side to look for an exit wound. Sara's going to help. Do you understand?"

He nodded weakly.

"Sara, I'll need you to hold him up while I look, all right?"

Instead of replying, I gripped Mulder's shoulder, ready to assist. Dana counted to three and we turned Mulder onto his side. He let out a God awful moan at the movement and clutched convulsively at his stomach. "Damn it." she cursed under her breath. I looked to see what had caused her comment. What I saw was the smooth gray coat Mulder was wearing _ unmarred. That meant there was no bullet wound and even though I am no doctor, I knew that was a bad thing. It means that the bullet probably bounced around his insides, causing some pretty ugly internal hemorrhages. When Dana was done, we lowered him back down, his pained grunts accenting our movements.

Dana brushed back the sweat soaked locks that had fallen across Mulder's forehead, a tender look on her face that made me think that perhaps they were closer than I had originally assumed. She then sighed and wiped her bloody hands on her jacket. She swiveled around to face Boyd who was still reclining in his chair. "This man needs to get to a hospital. All I have are some bandages and antiseptic, neither of which will do him any good."

"Do I look like I fucking care?" Boyd sneered. "Deal with it or I'll put him out his misery right now."

Dana pressed her lips together and turned without another word. She pulled over the bag she had brought with her and rummaged around in it before emerging with a roll of bandages in one hand and a bottle of hydrogen peroxide in the other. "Stone knives and bear skins." she muttered. "Sara, I need you again."

I raised my eyebrows in askance.

"I need to clean the wound and that is going to hurt like hell so I need you to restrain him." She glanced down at Mulder and I thought I saw tears in her eyes. Probably just a trick of the light.

I shuffled around to sit by Mulder's head and splayed my legs out beside him. Dana reached over and took him by the shoulders, pulling him into a sitting position. He cried out and tried to curl into a ball but by that time I had my arms wrapped around his chest, his arms pressed beneath mine. Thank goodness he was too weak to fight back because I am definitely not what you would call well muscled.

I leaned back a bit until his torso was slightly inclined, raised, but not enough to hinder Dana's ministrations. She poured some of the peroxide on a gauze pad and set to work, dabbing at the ragged edges of the wound. Mulder began writhing in agony, his body twisting in my arms. I held him tighter.

As Dana set about her grim task, my mind began to wander, perhaps in an attempt to distance myself from the situation. I remembered reading somewhere that gunshot wounds to the stomach were the most painful place to be shot because your stomach fluids spilled all over your insides. In effect, you digested your intestines. Something of that nature. I hoped I was remembering it wrong.

It seemed like forever before she was done. By then, my arms were sore from holding a man in the throes of unspeakable pain, my ears hurting from listening to his tortured groans. Dana replaced the cap on the bottle and eyed her handiwork. She looked up and then raised her hand to caress Mulder's cheek, almost lovingly. "Just about done, I promise."

He just breathed raggedly, probably too tired to do anything else. I sat him up a bit more, giving Dana some room to wrap the bandages around his stomach. She talked softly to him as she rolled the gauze around his lower torso. "Mulder, you amaze me. Even when we're working on a safe case, not even remotely dangerous, you manage to get banged up. Taken hostage while doing research? That is definitely a new one for the books."

I could tell by her tone that she was just kidding, kind of like a running joke between them, but I still felt the need to defend Mulder. "He wasn't taken hostage, he sort of volunteered."

"What?" Dana's shocked expression quickly turned to anger and she rounded on _ if my reasoning and knowledge about the FBI is correct _ her partner. "Mulder, why would you do such a thing?"

"Hey," I said indignantly, "he did it to help us. I don't even want to think about what would have happened if he hadn't walked through that door."

Dana sagged back on her haunches, her doctoring finished. Suddenly all the anger seemed to melt out of her, replaced with resignation. "I know." she sighed. "I'm a fool to think he would have done anything else. He's too good for his own good."

She dragged a hand across her face, leaving a red smear on her cheekbone. "I have to go check on the others, I'll be right back. Take care of him." She stood slowly and walked carefully over to the other group, keeping her hands visible at all times.

I looked down at my charge, suddenly struck by a thought. If someone had told me this morning that I'd have a gorgeous man laying in my lap, I would have laughed in their face. Funny how things are. But, truth be told, I'd rather be elsewhere.

"I should have watched more TV, instead of reading books."

Mulder opened his bleary eyes and gazed up at me. "Why?" he croaked.

"Then I would have watched MacGyver and I'd know how to get us out of here using just antiseptic and bandages." I grinned at him.

He smiled back. Then his eyes drifted over to the woman kneeling next to Stan. "She shouldn't be here." he whispered.

"Dana? Why not?" She certainly should be here in my humble opinion.

"She could get hurt." was the hoarse reply.

I snorted good_naturedly. "Look who's talking."

This time I got a chuckle out of him. Then he grimaced as his abdominal muscles quivered and I cursed myself silently. "Sorry."

He nodded, his head pressing against my chest. Dana returned a moment later. "How's Stan?" I asked.

"He's got a concussion but if he stays where he is, he'll be just fine. I'm worried about Sharon though. Her grip on sanity is tenuous at best, anything could push her over the edge. Mary and Phil are holding their own." She tucked a wayward strand of auburn hair behind her ear and sat next to me.

We sat there in silence for a few minutes, Dana stroking Mulder's forehead as we listened to his labored breathing. Then that breathing was interrupted, "Scully."

It was so quiet I thought I was imagining it. But Dana must have heard it too because she leaned her ear closer to her partner's mouth. I strained my ears to hear his next words.

"Sara has my gun."

I had to mentally stop myself from slapping my hand to my forehead. I am such an idiot! I had completely forgotten about the weapon tucked in my jeans. I have a feeling Dana realized I was silently berating myself because she didn't do it for me. Instead she just kept her head down by Mulder's lips.

He spoke haltingly, his words interrupted by small gasps. "I have a plan. We have...to get everyone on this side of the room, next to...the table _ it's solid oak and should provide protection from...the bomb." He paused to catch his breath. "Then we need a distraction. Something that...would give you time to take him out. Once he's hit, everyone...dives under the table, safe from the...explosion."

My mind was racing as I digested this plan. "But what kind of distraction?"

I was looking at Dana so I missed the expression on Mulder's face, but Dana did not. "No way. Absolutely not Mulder. You are in no shape to talk to a gun wielding psychopath, let alone dive under a table."

It took me a second to comprehend what she meant. Mulder intended on distracting Boyd by striking up a conversation. "Are you crazy?"

One side of his mouth curled up. "You'd...be surprised how many people...think so."

"No I wouldn't." I muttered. That elicited a snort of amusement from Dana.

She sobered quickly. "Mulder, even if you are able to distract him long enough for me to shoot him, there is no possible way that you would be able to get under cover before the bomb goes off."

"I know." he sighed.

"You're not crazy, you're suicidal." I regretted the words as soon as they sprang from my mouth. The look Dana gave me could have frozen lava.

Mulder ignored us both. "Better me...than anyone else. No one else has...to get hurt."

Dana gave him an inscrutable look. "Why don't I distract him and you shoot him?"

"With my aim?" Mulder's mouth turned upward in a lopsided grin.

Dana sputtered, "Damn you Mulder_"

"Look. if you have...a better idea, now's...the time to share it." He closed his eyes to signal the end of the discussion.

Dana's eyes also closed briefly, her chest heaving as she sighed deeply. Guess she lost that argument.

"Where is it?"

Her abrupt question caught me off guard. "Huh? It? Oh. It's, um, under him." I cocked my head and squinted one eye in apology.

"All right Mulder, we've got to do this in a way that won't draw suspicion."

His brows drew together in thought for about a minute. Suddenly he jerked and started coughing, jarring my body with their intensity. I panicked, not knowing what had brought on the fit. But Dana seemed to take it in stride, slipping her hands behind Mulder's shoulders and pulling him into a sitting position. That's when it occurred to me. This was a facade, a way to pass the gun to Dana unobtrusively.

I saw Boyd glance our way for a moment, then he dismissed us, as if we were nothing more than a nuisance. As soon as his eyes were off me, I reached under my sweater and pulled out the weapon, it's metal exterior warmed by my body heat. I slid it behind Mulder's back and Dana deftly scooped it up into her jacket in one quick motion. To anyone else it would have looked like she was supporting Mulder's back and side. Brilliantly done.

But Mulder didn't stop coughing. What was he doing? The dry hacking sound had turned into a wet gurgle and I leaned to the side so I could look at his face. There was blood dribbling down his chin, a thin line trailing from his mouth. Dana held his shoulders, comfort the only thing she could offer. Finally the sickening sounds subsided and Mulder collapsed back into my lap, completely exhausted. I could feel his body trembling against mine.

"Move everyone." He whispered shakily.

"Mulder, you can't do this." Dana had his wrist in between her fingers, taking his pulse while simultaneously running her thumb over the back of his hand in a gentle caress.

"Just let me...catch my breath."

The way he was breathing made me think he was never going to catch his breath. Dana capitulated though and got up to confront Boyd. I heard her tell him that she wanted to move Stan next to us so she could keep an eye on both injured men at the same time. Boyd readily agreed, most likely because he didn't like having two groups to watch. Dana retreated to our four companions and conversed with Mary and Phil. The elderly woman helped Phil with the still unconscious lawyer while Scully persuaded Sharon to follow everyone. They settled down next to Mulder and me, approximately a foot away from the conference table.

Dana made sure Stan was resting comfortably before turning back to us. "Mulder, are you sure about this?"

"Trust me." He gave her an unfathomable look before adding, "It's now or never." He struggled to a sitting position, his hands grasping for support when he was overwhelmed by nausea.

Dana raised her hand and laid it on his cheek. "Be careful."

His eyes softened and he returned the gesture, with the words, "I will."

I wondered how he expected to stand, let alone walk over and talk to Boyd, when he could hardly sit up. But he surprised me once again. Grabbing onto the back of one of the chairs surrounding the table, he dragged himself upright, though he leaned heavily on the chair. Then, using any available furniture for support, he slowly made his way over to Boyd.

Dana took the opportunity to fill the others in on our plan. She told them she was an FBI agent and as soon as she pulled out her gun they were to duck under the table and put their hands over their heads like in an earthquake drill.

"What about Stan?" Mary whimpered.

"Phil, do you think you could drag him after you?" Dana queried. When Phil nodded she continued, "Sharon, are you up to this?"

Sharon stared at her blankly for a few seconds, then she shook her head, as though clearing it. "I think so." she whispered meekly.

I laid my hand over hers. "I know you are." She smiled at me in thanks.

Mulder had finally reached Boyd, who had done nothing but watch the injured man's progression. "What do you want?" he demanded.

"Why don't you let the women go Peter? No one has to die here today." Mulder spoke firmly and evenly. Even from a distance I could tell he was straining to keep his voice steady.

"No one goes until I get my money. I deserve it, it's my right. And if a few people die in the process, so what? The government kills hundreds of soldiers for nothing more than monetary gain, so why should I not have the same privilege?" Boyd sneered.

Mulder held a hand out, palm up beseechingly, his other keeping an iron grip on the chair next to him. "I know what it feels like to lose a sibling. I know how much it hurts. My sister was taken from me by the same government that took your brother. I want retribution as much as you, but this is not the way to go about it."

I briefly wondered if what Mulder was saying was true or whether he was just trying to identify with Boyd. I hoped it was the latter.

Boyd rose to his feet, facing Mulder at eye level, his gun dangling at his side, his other hand clutching the curling iron trigger. Obviously he felt Mulder wasn't a threat - physically at least. "You know then? You know the sorrow, the confusion, the rage?"

Mulder nodded. "I know. And I spend every day of my life with those emotions. It takes time, but eventually you will learn to live with it. The pain will never go away but it will get easier, I promise." He began to sway slightly, the conversation taking it's toll.

But it was working, Boyd's weapon was still facing the floor, only suspended by the rope strapping it to Boyd's wrist. I saw Boyd mulling over what Mulder said and I started to feel hope flare anew. Mulder was slowly but surely persuading him to give up.

I don't know what exactly was going through Boyd's mind at that moment but whatever it was, it wasn't surrender. His free hand suddenly lashed out, the gun swinging dangerously around his wrist, and plunged inside Mulder's coat. Mulder was too weak to stop him and probably didn't want to antagonize him more than necessary. Boyd's hand pulled out a wallet, flipping it open with practiced ease.

It is absolutely astonishing the shade of red a person's face can become. Boyd was gripping the wallet so hard that I could see the tendons standing out in his wrist. "You're FBI!" he screeched. "You work for THEM!" He threw the wallet across the room and grabbed the gun dangling from his arm. He had brought the weapon halfway up when a woman's voice echoed throughout the room.

"Freeze, FBI!"

Boyd looked over to see Dana, gun pointed directly at him. She was standing next to me and I had the overwhelming urge to jump away from the target of Boyd's wrath, but I was frozen in place. He swung his arm around in a flash, ready to fire on the female agent _ he never got the chance. She pulled the trigger before he could bring the weapon to bear. I saw red bloom from his chest and his hand flex convulsively.

"Duck!" I screamed. I dove under the oak table, pulling my feet under me and covering my head with my arms. I was only peripherally aware of the others following suit, my mind was too focused on my impending death.

A huge noise, like the clap of thunder, shook the room, heat and wind licking at my feet, a burst of light reflecting off our huddled bodies. Then there was silence.

Any minute now I expected to see a white tunnel appear before me, my deceased parents standing at the end, beckoning me. Instead, I saw the insides of my eyelids. I was alive. I cracked my eyes open a bit and was welcomed by Phil's rather large rear end. I have never seen a more beautiful sight.

When I spoke, my voice was hoarse and low. "Everyone all right?"

I heard Phil and Mary's muffled "yes'" and Sharon's sob, which I took as an affirmative. Then I started to scooch out from under the table, constantly looking behind me for any sign of danger. Finally I made it out from under the table, using the edge to help me to my feet, a bit unsteady due to the adrenaline rush.

I gazed around the room, gaping at the havoc wreaked by such a small object. The chairs that had one surrounded the table were now strewn about the room, in varying degrees of destruction. Scorch marks streaked the walls and table, small pieces of shrapnel were scattered, some still flickering with flames. Then my eyes came to rest on Dana.

I have no idea when she had come out from under the table but I had a feeling that it was sooner than she should have. Her clothes were pock marked by small black holes, several burns standing out brightly on her pale skin. Despite her own injuries, she was busy trying to pull Boyd's lifeless body from her partner. Guilt washed over me _ in my relief to be alive I had forgotten about Mulder.

I scurried over to Dana, ignoring the startled cries from the others who had just seen the extent of the damage caused by the bomb. Pushing down my revulsion I grabbed the blackened legs of our captor and heaved at the same time Dana pulled at his shoulders. The smoldering body rolled to the side, revealing another body beneath. Boyd must have shielded Mulder from the worst of the explosion because he appeared to be relatively intact. There were a couple dozen wounds from flying metal shards, each one dribbling scarlet stickiness, and only a few burns decorated his arms and legs to prove he was almost engulfed in a fiery cloud.

With a sob, Dana knelt next to Mulder and reached out a shaking hand to feel for a pulse, her heart probably pounding as hard as mine. I held my breath, waiting for the verdict.

"He's alive!" Dana shouted triumphantly. As though the words were a trigger, Dana suddenly turned from a frightened partner into a knowledgeable doctor. She grabbed my hands and placed them over the bloody patch on Mulder's stomach, ordering me to press firmly, then started to rip his coat off to gain access to his other injuries. "Get the paramedics in here!" she yelled over her shoulder to the other group of hostages. Let me reiterate _ ex_hostages.

Mary looked at Phil, who was trying to deal with a now conscious and very confused Stan, and then took Sharon's hand, tugging slightly. "Let's get the hell out of here." Together they walked to the door and Mary opened it wide, allowing them all to pass through. I could hear the commotion on the other side of the door, as the SWAT team and other officers realized that the crisis was over.

People started pouring through the opening, police, medics, others I didn't know the purpose of. Suddenly I was surrounded by noise and bodies, their cacophony swirling around me. My hands were pulled off of Mulder and someone helped me to stand, telling me that it was okay, it was over.

But it wasn't. Not yet. Not until everyone was safe. I saw Dana giving orders to the paramedics, one hand still firmly clasped with her partner's. The crowd parted reluctantly at the EMT's shouts of "Make way!" and a gurney was rushed down the aisle of people. Mulder was loaded onto it in one quick heave and they started to wheel him away. Someone tried to keep Dana back but she refused to let go of her partner's hand, snarling, "I'm going with him!" Her fierce demeanor was enough to quell any other attempts to stop her and she strode out the door at the gurney's side.

I began to follow, intent on going with the two FBI agents, when a hand on my shoulder restrained me. I turned to see a tall man wearing a police uniform standing before me. "Are you the librarian?" he asked in an authoritative tone. I nodded. "We need you to make a statement, would you come with me please."

I glanced behind me, past the milling crowd, in the direction Dana and Mulder had gone. My reluctance must have been obvious because the officer shook me roughly to get my attention. "Miss, it is absolutely necessary that you make a statement. Come with me...*now*."

Whoa. That did it. I just spent the last few hours dealing with a maniacal killer, a wounded FBI agent, and hysterical hostages. I dealt with them all and I had managed to keep it together. This self_righteous son of a bitch cop was not going to bully me into anything. "Look," I stood up to my full four foot eleven and three_quarters inches and jutted my chin out, my voice steely, "I was just held hostage, threatened, and almost blown up. You were no help whatsoever in stopping the killer, while I, on the other hand, was instrumental in his defeat. I will give you a statement when I'm damn well good and ready." I jabbed my finger into his burly chest, "You will just have to wait. Right now I am going to get in an ambulance and go to the hospital with the two people who saved my life. Now if you will excuse me."

I left that cop standing there, his mouth open in shock, and stormed through the crowd like a hot knife through butter. Once I reached the exit of the library I was able to see outside and I caught a glimpse of flashing lights to the left. I jogged in that direction to find the ambulance, it's back doors just closing. Oh *no*, they were *not* going to leave without me. I raced up to the vehicle and pounded on the doors. A paramedic opened it a bit to see who it was. For once I was grateful for my size, it was just wide enough for me to squeeze through.

"I'm coming." I stated and sat in the corner, crossing my arms defiantly. Apparently the medic was tired of dealing with pushy women because, after glancing at Dana, he let me stay there, only giving me a curt order to keep out of the way. Dana looked up from her position next to Mulder and gave me a short smile before turning her attention back to her partner.

A siren blasted my ears and the ambulance lurched into motion, the many tools of the trade jingling from their suspended places on the ceiling. I did what I was told, staying as small as possible in the tight corner, watching everything and missing nothing. I've seen 'ER' and I always wondered whether it was always so dramatic in real life. It is. The driver was talking into a radio, relaying the condition of the patient, their ETA, and other pertinent information, to the hospital. Dana and the other medic were busy keeping Mulder alive, their hands flashing back and forth over his bloody form, passing equipment to each other over clipped sentences such as "Needs more oxygen", "BP 80 over 50", and "Pulse at 90". Medical terms that I didn't even pretend to understand were thrown around with ease and the two moved in a symphony of cooperation.

Then Mulder woke up. I thought that a seriously injured person would come awake slowly, groggily. Boy was I wrong in this case. Mulder suddenly jerked up, his arms flailing about, yanking tubes out of their places. "No!" he yelled hoarsely, "Get it off me, I'm burning! No! Scully!"

Dana grabbed one shoulder, the medic mimicking her movement, and used the other hand to turn Mulder's face towards her. "Mulder, it's okay, you're not burning. It's all right, we're on the way to the hospital, you're safe. Everything is going to be fine." Her voice cracked on the last sentence, her eyes matching the fear and sorrow in that voice.

Mulder calmed a bit, laying back down, his eyes wild and his breathing hitched. Dana stroked his cheek, ran her fingers through his sweaty hair, and kept murmuring, "You're safe, I'm here." A tear ran down her face and she wiped it away angrily, as though she was worried it would betray her fear.

And I could tell she was afraid. Afraid of losing him. I could see it in every breath she took, in every move she made. I felt suddenly envious of them both. They loved each other so much and it was the kind of love I only read about. Where one would die for the other _ the kind of love that goes on forever.

Abruptly the ambulance came to a halt and I had to grab onto the door handle to keep from falling off my tiny perch. I shook myself out of my romantic fantasy, wiping away my envy with a thought. I turned the handle beneath my palm, flinging the doors wide and jumping down onto the pavement. I stood by as Mulder was unloaded and pushed towards the emergency room, careful not to hinder any of the doctors who came rushing out to meet us.

I followed the frantic group into the hospital, keeping a safe distance, but not far back enough to be left behind. The trauma room loomed before us and I knew that I couldn't follow any more. Dana held onto Mulder as long as she could, her fingers sliding from his as he disappeared behind the swinging doors.

She stood there, staring after her partner, her hand still outstretched as though she could somehow reach through time and space to help him. I wasn't quite sure what to do now, I'd never been in an emergency situation before and was in no way prepared for it. Dana's unresponsiveness was starting to scare me and I was worried that maybe her injuries were worse than I had originally thought. I laid my hand on her shoulder and spoke her name softly.

She was a statue of grief.

I tried a bit more aggressive approach, shaking her arm slightly and calling out to her louder. I got a reaction this time. She jerked suddenly, as if struck, and whirled around to stare at me with wild eyes. I stepped back a pace, startled by her appearance and demeanor. But her eyes cleared up quickly and she seemed to return to the professional FBI agent I had seen earlier.

"Sara, you're here."

I wasn't sure if it was a question or not and I began to wonder if she had even realized I had been in the ambulance with her, despite the fact that she had acknowledged my presence when I had joined them. Dismissing it as shock, I nodded my head, smiling faintly. "I wanted to make sure you're both all right."

Dana raised a hand to her forehead and rubbed slightly at a blood stained spot, then looked over her shoulder. "I'm fine, just a few bumps and bruises, but," she turned back to me, "Mulder... I just don't know."

"I'm sure he'll..." I broke off when I saw a doctor emerge from the trauma room, turning his head from side to side as though looking for someone. Dana followed my gaze and immediately spotted the man in green scrubs. She jogged over to him, practically sliding to a stop in front of him.

"Are you," the doctor held up a small card, spotted with blood, reading it's inscription, "Dana Scully?"

"Yes, I'm Agent Mulder's partner and emergency contact, how is he?" Her handa were wringing and she was rocking back and forth on her heels, looking like she was ready to strangle the doctor if her didn't get to the point. I was starting to feel murderous myself.

"He's stable at the moment, we managed to stop most of the bleeding and we're taking him up to surgery right now. We have to trace the path of the bullet and determine how much damage it caused." He took Dana's hand and laid his on top. "I won't lie to you, it's a very serious injury, but he's young and healthy, his chances are better than average."

Dana breathed in deeply, her eyes closing as she released the air. She opened them and smiled grimly up at the man who had brought her such uncertain news. "Thank you Doctor..."

"Abrams." he offered.

"Thank you Dr. Abrams." she repeated.

He just nodded kindly. "You look like you could use a little medical assistance yourself."

Dana shook her head, dropping her hand from his. "No, I'm okay, nothing a shower won't cure."

Dr. Abrams frowned. "Are you sure? I could have someone_"

"I'm *fine*." Dana stated firmly. She sighed then, "Look, I'm sorry, I'm a little tense right now."

"Perfectly understandable. I just glad you didn't pull your gun on me." He grinned in acceptance of her apology and I decided not to tell him she wasn't armed, all the weapons had been taken as evidence.

Dana actually gave him a genuine smile at that. "It's your lucky day." Her expression turned serious again. "And yes, I'm sure I'm fine. I'm a doctor myself and all my injuries are superficial, treatable with antibiotics and bandages."

"Ah, I see. I'm glad you'll be able to treat yourself, doctors always make the worst patients." Abrams' lip twitched upwards.

Dana snorted. "Just wait 'til my partner wakes up." All the good humor melted away at that point, as she reminded us all of why we were here.

Dr. Abrams squeezed her arm gently. "I'm sure he'll drive us all crazy. Now, how about I get a nurse to find some clothes for you and you can use the faculty lockers to clean up?"

"Add in a cup of coffee and that would be enough to grant you sainthood." Dana quipped.

"Absolutely. I'll even let you have the stuff the nurses drink, not that black sludge the surgeons call coffee. In fact, there's Valerie." The doctor turned to his right and shouted down the corridor, "Val! Hey Val!"

A plump woman in pink scrubs walked swiftly over to us, balancing a thick stack of papers under one arm and a tray of packaged syringes with the other hand. "Hi Jeff, whatcha need?"

"Would you show Dr. Scully to the locker room and bring her something to change into and a cup of coffee?" Abrams glanced slyly at Dana, "The good stuff."

Suddenly I felt extraneous, useless baggage. I began to back away, hoping to escape unnoticed. Before I moved two feet, a hand wrapped around my wrist and pulled me forward. Dana smiled at me and removed her hand, shaking her head to let me know I hadn't been forgotten.

"Could you make that two of everything?" she asked.

"Sure," Valerie replied happily, "follow me."

Dana thanked Dr. Abrams again and we scurried after the retreating nurse. We reached the end of the hall and stopped in front of a closed door that proclaimed 'Employees Only'. Valerie backed into it, using her body to push open the door, and gestured with the tray. "This is the Nurses' Lounge. You can find some extra scrubs in the closet over there and the coffee is next to the sink."

"I'll get the coffee." I volunteered. For some reason I felt Dana should be the one to go through the closet, as though she had some right since she was a doctor. I filled two mugs with the rich brown liquid heating in the pot on the counter, sniffing appreciatively, while Dana rummaged around for two size small scrubs. When she emerged holding a pile of clothes we both left the room and waited for Valerie to show us to our next destination.

We headed down a corridor to the left and I was fascinated by the ease at which our guide maneuvered around obstacles without dropping anything. It was a skill managed by restaurant employees that I often envied. My lack of grace was just another reason I was glad to be a librarian.

Finally we paused in our journey and Valerie motioned towards the door on her right. "Here's the showers. You two get yourselves cleaned up and I'll be back with some antibiotic cream and bandages. Take all the time you need." She smiled at us with the same exuberance which she seemed to do everything.

We both thanked her profusely before entering the room. Surprisingly enough it was empty. I would have thought it'd be busy during lunch time. I guess the staff spends their lunch break elsewhere _ like sleeping or eating. Dana relieved me of one cup of coffee and handed me a pair of scrubs. She sipped at the steaming mug and groaned in ecstasy. "Now that's coffee."

I tried my own cup and quickly grunted in agreement. Setting the mug down on a bench, I walked over to a wall length mirror to get a look at myself. What I saw staring back at me was shocking. My hair was a mess, brown strands floating in all directions, most of it pushed behind my ears, glued there by dried blood. My clothes were stiff and scratchy, covered in splotches of that deep brown color blood becomes when it's not wet, with a few black marks here and there from stray bomb remains. In other words, yuck.

I saw Dana move up next to me in the mirror and together we just looked. My, but we were a pair _ she had all the same lovely additions to hair and clothes that I did but her fair skin was marred by a checkerboard of black and red, testament to her early departure from the cover of the conference table. All at once, as though of one mind, we began to strip off our soiled clothes, tossing them aside like the garbage they now were. I finished first, probably because Dana had to remove a bulletproof vest, and jumped into the nearest shower, eager to wash off any remnant of the day's events.

I turned on the water as hot as I could stand it and just let the stream run over me, reveling in it's burning touch. I finally decided I would have to actively participate or else nothing would get clean, so I searched for some soap and sponge. Damn, nothing. "Hey," I shouted over the sound of running water, "is there any_" I was interrupted when a bar of soap landed at my feet. Next to fly over the stall, came a sponge, and a towel was folded over the door. "You always this prepared?" I asked sarcastically.

"Always." came the smug reply.

We spent the next few minutes in silence, each washing away the char and blood. I scrubbed my skin so hard it turned an angry pink and several snarled clumps of hair were sacrificed down the drain. I was watching the pink tinged water swirl away when it hit me. I almost died. I was held hostage by a madman with a bomb and could have been killed. In my own library. Oh my God. The tears started to flow, mixing with the water raining down on me. I tried to muffle my sobs but it was impossible, my wretched cries carried over to the next stall.

I heard the water shut off in Dana's shower and I tried even harder to keep quiet, but to no avail. "Sara?" Her voice was concerned and I could tell by the sounds she was making that she was drying off in a hurry. "Sara, are you okay?"

I couldn't answer. All I could do was sob harder. Suddenly her voice was in front of me instead of off to the left. "Sara, I'm coming in all right?" I nodded as though she could see me. Somehow she knew because the stall door opened a moment later and there was Dana, dressed in a towel and her wet hair dangling in her face. Amazingly, I wasn't embarrassed at my nakedness. In fact, I wasn't even aware of it.

Dana turned the water off and grabbed the towel hanging over my door. She wrapped my shaking body in it and helped me to walk over and sit on a bench, crooning to me softly the entire way. Then her arms encircled my shoulders and in some sort of instinctive gesture of comfort, I put my arms around her waist. We sat there for a while, she rocked me slowly and I let my cries come freely now. Eventually I ran dry, nothing but a few sniffles. That's when embarrassment set in.

I raised my head from Dana's shoulder and let go of the death grip I'd had on her. "I'm sorry." My voice was hoarse and I was startled by it.

"No Sara, don't be sorry." She sat back and took my hands in hers. "You're human, you don't have to be strong all the time. In fact, you dealt with the last three hours with more strength and bravery than ninety_nine percent of the population would have. I'm proud of you."

What she said touched me deep inside and I found myself smiling at her. "You really think so?"

"Absolutely. You're FBI material."

Wow. To be put in the same category as Dana and Mulder was an honor. I would live up to it. Taking an extra towel from a pile on another bench, I wiped my face, clearing away the tear stains. "Thank you."

She smiled. "Come on, let's get dressed."

I gratefully took the clothes she proffered and was soon pink from head to toe. I hate pink, why did nurses have to wear pink? Oh well, beggars can't be choosers. I was running my fingers through my hair, trying to gain some semblance of composure when Valerie walked in.

"Don't you two look like a pair." she commented. Considering our similar height, body type, clothing, and drowned rat look, I could understand what she meant. Valerie directed her next statement to Dana, "I prepared exam room five for you so you can bandage up those cuts."

"Thank you. We'll just clean up in here and be right out." Dana started to pick up the discarded towels and I gathered our stiff clothes.

"You can put those in the hamper over there. If you don't want to bother trying to save those clothes, just dump them in the trash." Valerie pointed to a hole in the wall that I can only assume was a laundry chute.

Dana walked over to the hole and tossed the towels into it's dark opening. I looked at the unrecognizable fabrics in my hands and chucked them in the garbage. Dana went back to the benches and picked up the Kevlar vest.

"I can put that in the lounge if you'd like." Valerie offered.

"That'd be wonderful, thanks."

The nurse took the black vest and headed down the hall, towards the lounge. She halted when Dana cleared her throat. "We're sorry to have taken up so much of your time, you've been more than helpful. I can find the exam easily enough, so we'll let you get back to your normal schedule."

Valerie grinned. "Honey, it's no problem at all. And as a doctor I'm sure you know in the ER there is no such thing as a normal schedule. But if you're sure you can find your way, feel free. Just let someone know when you're done, and we'll clear the room for the next patient."

"You're too kind. Thanks again." Dana turned left while Valerie continued on and I followed the redhead. All doctors must have some sort of internal compass that tells them how to get around in the mazes of hospital hallways, because Dana took us straight to exam room five. Inside there were several trays laden with bandages, bottles, and tape. Dana pulled the door shut and I briefly wondered what happened to all the curtains one usually associates with hospitals.

The next fifteen minutes were spent watching Dana treat herself, helping occasionally when one hand wasn't enough. Once done with that she cleaned up her leftover gauze and I managed to snag a passing nurse to let her know we were finished. She thanked me peremptorily and hurried off on some errand. Going back into the room, I found Dana on her hands and knees, crawling about the tiled floor.

"Lose something?" I inquired, my eyebrows upraised.

"My necklace, I can't find it."

Something about the tone of her voice alerted me to the fact that this necklace was very significant. "What does it look like?"

"A gold cross on a gold chain, pretty small."

I knelt down and began a search of the cold ground. I looked under carts, ran my fingers through sheets, and scraped my hands across the tiles, all with no luck. "Are you sure you were wearing it?"

"Yes, I'm sure." Her voice was becoming more frantic and I doubled my efforts. I still came up empty.

"Maybe it's in the showers?" I thought it was worth a try. Dana was out the door in a flash, practically running over several people in her haste. Must be some necklace. I hustled after her, my short legs working hard to keep up. I lost her for a moment and a quick search of my recent memory reminded me I had no idea how to get to the locker room.

I managed to find it after a nice orderly patiently explained to me that I was on the wrong side of the building. How I got there I have no clue. But Dana apparently had no problems because by the time I got to the locker room, she was already hunched over in the shower, her fingers plucking at the drain. Her movements were jerky and her breathe was coming in short staccato gasps.

"It has to be here!" There were tears in her voice now. "It has to be!"

"I'm sure we'll find it." I tried to reassure her but she had begun to cry in earnest. Rather ironic how we both breakdown in the shower. "I'll try the trash where our clothes are."

Digging through a bathroom trash can is not something I would readily volunteer to do but Dana was so distressed I was willing. Moments later I was sitting in the middle of bloody clothes, paper towels, and hygiene products nobody talks about. But no gold cross. I thought back to all our previous actions, hoping to pinpoint the time at which she could have lost her necklace. For all I knew it was laying in the middle of the wrecked conference room, among splintered chairs and bomb shrapnel.

I turned around and saw Dana still in the shower, her arms wrapped around her knees, huddled in a corner of the damp stall. Her face was wet and she mumbled disjointed phrases now and then. "He wore it...needs me...can't die if...faith in beliefs...oh God."

"Dana," I crouched down next to her and laid and arm across her trembling shoulders, "Dana, it's okay. We'll find it. If we have to search through the bowels of the hospital's laundry room, we'll find it." Thankfully my words seemed to sink in and she struggled to get her emotions under control.

She sniffed loudly and then squeezed the hand that was draped over her shoulder. "Thank you."

"Do unto others and all that." I grinned and hugged her briefly before letting go. "Now, let's try one more place before we break out the forensic team."

She smiled. "See, told you you'd make a good FBI agent. So where are you thinking?"

"That Kevlar vest was pretty tight, right?" I stood and held out my hand to help her up. She nodded and took my hand. "Then it's possible it got caught when you took it off."

Hope flared in her eyes and she took off at the same frenetic pace she had arrived here at. This time I kept up. We burst into the Nurses' Lounge, startling several people in the process. I spotted a black shape resting on a shelf and nudged Dana with my elbow. "Over there."

Ignoring the questioning looks from the nurses on break, Dana quickly reached her bulletproof vest and was fiddling with it's velcro straps. "Ah hah!" came her triumphant cry. Her hand shot up and I saw something gold dangling from it, light bouncing off it's reflective surface. She took the precious item and replaced it around her neck. Apparently it had just come off, not broken.

She turned a glowing face my way and thanked me again with her eyes. She opened her mouth to say something when someone coming in the room caught her attention. It was Valerie.

"There you are, I've been looking for you two." She joined us and smiled brightly, evidently pleased at having found us. "Your friend is out of surgery and is now resting comfortably in the ICU. You can go up and see him for a bit."

Dana was gone without a word. I thanked the ever_happy nurse and ran out the door, hoping Dana hadn't already disappeared around the corner. My luck had changed because I saw her red hair just before it vanished down the hall. Catching up with no small effort we made our way to the next floor, dismissing the too slow elevator for the more expedient stairs. When we arrived at the Intensive Care Unit we slowed our pace and Dana flagged down the nearest doctor.

"Excuse me...Oh, Dr. Abrams, it's you." She seemed glad to find a familiar face.

"Agent Scully, Ms..." He waited for me to finish his sentence.

"Curtis. Sara Curtis."

"Ms. Curtis. I assume you're here because you heard Agent Mulder is now a guest? Well, you may go in and see him, but only for a little while." Abrams smiled pleasantly down at us.

Dana was frowning though, like she'd heard that she couldn't see Mulder at all. "Dr. Abrams, would it be possible for us to stay until he wakes? I promise we will do nothing but sit quietly and if there are any changes in his condition we will readily let you do your job."

"Well..." Dr. Abrams looked from Dana to me and back to her. "Since you are a doctor, I suppose it would be all right."

"Thank you, you won't have to worry a bit." Dana hurried past him, perhaps afraid that he'd change his mind if she gave him enough time to think about it. I just shrugged and followed.

There are certain things in life that I really don't want to know. Things like what my parents did under the covers, what the size and frequency of my uncle's bowel movements are, and what it is the government is *really* spending my tax dollars on. Now I had another thing to add to that list _ what the function of each and every one of the tubes stuck in Fox Mulder's body was. I could readily point out the ventilator, the nasogastric tube, the catheter _ ugh, and the heart monitor. But there were so many other machines hooked up to the man, I was surprised we could even see him amidst the wires.

Dana sat in the chair next to his bed and managed to find his hand in the swarm of tubes. She folded his pale hand between her own and leaned down to kiss his fingers. I glanced away, giving her some privacy and noticed another chair in the corner. I dragged it a few feet to rest on the other side of Mulder, gratefully sinking into it.

"Would you hand me his chart?" Dana whispered.

I was loathe to move but I knew she probably wouldn't let go of Mulder unless someone cut off her arms. I pushed myself out of the chair and took the clipboard from the end of the bed, passing it to Dana. She accepted it and ran her eyes over it, her blue orbs flicking back and forth. She grimaced several times but her face didn't take on that grief stricken look I had seen so often over the past day so I assumed it wasn't all bad news.

I had waited by her side until she was finished so I could return the chart on my way back to my seat. Once again resting in the chair I gazed across Mulder's body, catching Dana's eye. "So?"

She took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. "The bullet perforated his duodenum_"

"Hold on there." I interrupted. "In layman's terms please."

A ghost of a smile crossed her face. "Sorry. The bullet bounced around his insides, hitting his stomach, part of his large intestine, nicking his colon, and ending up in his spleen. They stopped all the internal bleeding and stapled everything shut that could be, but they had to remove his spleen and take out a small section of his intestine."

"They can do that?"

She nodded her head. "The acid from his stomach damaged several inches of his intestine and it would no longer function as needed so it was removed. There's plenty left, it's amazing how many feet of intestines that are stuffed in the human body."

"Oh, thanks for *that* picture." I replied facetiously. Growing more serious I asked, "He'll make it though, right?"

"Yes, he'll make it." She turned her eyes to her partner and her face clouded over with sorrow. "But it will be a long and painful recovery."

I had no response for that. What could I say? So, instead, I sat and waited. Fidgeting set in fairly soon after that. Seems my attention span is very short unless it's focused on a book. I needed conversation. I craved it. So I started one.

"Can you tell me why that necklace is so important to you?" I hoped it wasn't too personal because, not only was it a good topic, but I really wanted to know.

Dana's free hand went up to the cross laying on her throat, her fingers softly caressing it. Her eyes took on a glazed look, as though she was seeing into the past. Maybe she was. "A few years ago I was...abducted. I was missing for three months, a time from which I have no recollection, and then I showed up at a hospital in a coma. It didn't look good, my vital signs were low and I was below the criteria I had set in my living will. Everyone thought I was going to die."

Even though it was obvious to me that this story would have a happy ending, since Dana was sitting here before me, I was still on the edge of my seat. She was completely unaware of me, staring ahead in some sort of trance.

"Everyone but Mulder. He never gave up hope. The entire time I was missing, he never gave up searching for me. This cross was found in the trunk of the car in which my kidnapper had transported me. It was a gift from my mother for my fifteenth birthday and I was wearing it when I was taken. Mulder kept the necklace with him, sort of a physical link to me I guess. He actually wore it, never letting it leave his person for three whole months.

"And when I was in the coma, I could feel his anger and frustration, his pain and his need. And I could feel his strength. That's what brought me back. This necklace is a symbol of our bond, a reminder of what we mean to each other."

I knew they were partners and I had seen the deep love they shared but now I wondered whether I was wrong in assuming that they weren't lovers. But this wasn't the time to ask so I just listened to Dana's soft voice.

"When I lost it today, I was afraid. I was so afraid that maybe it was a sign that Mulder was going to... That he wouldn't come back to me because he wouldn't be able to feel me. This must sound absurd but I was so certain that if I lost it, I'd lose him too."

"No," I shook my head, "it doesn't sound absurd at all."

Her eyes focused on me again and I saw the smile in them. We continued to talk for several hours _ well, she did most of the talking really because the life of a librarian is rather boring. Dana's life was anything but. I learned about what she and Mulder really did for the FBI and Mulder's interest in the paranormal book section finally made sense. I discovered that my world was chalk full of mutants, ghosts, and little *gray* men. She actually stressed the gray.

Dana had just finished regaling me with an anecdote concerning frogs falling from the sky, when a loud rumble intervened. Dana's head jerked over to stare at Mulder, her body tense, probably hoping the sound had come from him. Another grumbling tone broke the silence but now it was obvious that it wasn't Mulder who made the noise. I blushed when Dana located the source.

"Sorry." I mumbled. "It's been a while since breakfast."

Dana's left eyebrow inched up her forehead. "Has it?" She glanced at her watch and I could see the surprise on her face. It was heading past five o'clock in the evening. "Why don't you go down to the cafeteria and see if you can find anything remotely edible?"

"Sounds like a plan. Any requests?" My hunger gave me the energy to move from my chair.

"A salad, if it's fairly fresh."

"Will do. I'll be back in a jiffy." I waved at her jovially before I headed downstairs.

A half hour and numerous aborted attempts at trying to find my way back to the ICU later, I walked into Mulder's room and almost dropped the salad and sandwich I was carrying.

Mulder was awake.

The ventilator was gone and perhaps a few other tubes but I couldn't be sure. His bed was inclined infinitesimally, allowing him to look at Dana without straining. He was pale and his hair was slightly damp but he was awake and he was talking to his partner in a hoarse whisper.

Dana looked up and saw me frozen in the doorway. She raised her voice so I could hear her, "Here's someone to see you Mulder."

I quickly moved over to the bed so that he wouldn't have to exert any energy to look at me. "Hey Mulder, I see you decided to join the party."

His dry lips parted in silent laughter. "Sara."

"Yeah, you'd be surprised at all the facets of this librarian Mulder. I've been trying to persuade her to join the FBI." Dana gave me a wink.

"Considering the contrast between my usual day and today, I think I'd have a heart attack after working with you for a week." I gave them a lop_sided grin.

"Can't take the excitement, huh?" Mulder wheezed, his voice slurred from the drugs being pumped into him. He drew a labored breath, "What happened after the bomb went off?"

I opened my mouth to tell him but I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. Dana was motioning to me, warning me to stay away from that specific topic. I got the message. "Wouldn't you like to know?" I teased.

He sighed, realizing I wasn't going to offer any more information. Not that it mattered, his eyes were already starting to droop. He blinked a few times and swallowed before speaking again. "Thank you Sara. Thank you for being there."

He was thanking *me*? This man who saved my life and several others, was thanking *me*? I was shaking my head, "No, thank you. For getting us all out of there alive."

He blinked languidly in acceptance, obviously fighting to stay awake. "Scully?"

"Shhh. Enough talk Mulder. Go to sleep, I'll be right here." Dana cupped his cheek with her hand. "I'll always be here."

He was asleep in seconds.

A sense of completion flooded me and I realized this was what I had been waiting for - confirmation that everything was going to be okay. It was time to go home.

I set Dana's forgotten salad on the table next to her and in a fit of generosity, I placed my uneaten sandwich next to it, knowing she wouldn't leave this room for at least a day. "Dana, I think it's time I got going. I promised the police that I'd make a statement and I better do it while everything is still fresh in my mind."

I was gratified to see disappointment flicker across her features. "Must you? Well, I suppose you must, wouldn't do to antagonize the local officers." She stood up and stepped over to me, grasping my hands in her own. "Sara, I want to thank you for everything you've done. For Mulder and for me. I don't know what I would have done if you weren't here."

Tears sprang into my eyes at Dana's heartfelt words, my throat constricting. I pulled her into a big embrace, trying to convey my emotions with actions. She returned the hug as fiercely as I and I could hear her sniffle.

"Hey, none of that now. I'm sure we'll be seeing plenty of each other over the next couple of days since we'll have to talk to the authorities, corroborate our stories, give testimony and stuff like that. Besides, if Mulder is as bad a patient as you say he is, you might need a little help." I released her and took a step back.

Dana chuckled. "You are welcome to try but don't say I didn't warn you."

I smiled warmly and turned on my heel, walking out the door. I didn't say goodbye, there was no need. I had a feeling the next week or so was going to be interesting. For once, I didn't know what tomorrow held for me. And I liked that.


"Never forget that music is entirely too important to be left up to the professionals." - Robert Fulgham