LANDSTUHL REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER

GERMANY

WEDNESDAY, JULY 7th, 2010

1015

Scully's body clock was completely shot. Pakistan was ten hours ahead of Washington DC, India was an hour behind Pakistan, and Germany was four hours behind India. She hadn't had more than a few hours of sleep since Monday, and she hadn't eaten a regular meal since Sunday morning. That put Scully at six hours behind insanity.

That was why, she assumed, she hadn't felt the need to sleep until early this morning after she had finished briefing Skinner, US Army General Hager, Indian Army General Himmat, Major Calhoun's new commanding officer, and a dozen other individuals whose names went in one of Scully's ears and promptly flew out the other.

The last twenty hours had been a blur of activity, and she was still running on an adrenaline high through most of it. Mulder was brought in to the Ramstein Air Base via a Chinook helicopter. It seemed a little overkill to Scully, dragging a massive, 46,000 lb flying fortress across four time zones to transport one injured FBI agent and his partner. The thought hadn't crossed her mind until later, but it was probably PR that drove that decision.

From the Ramstein Air Base, he and Scully were med-evac'ed to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center where Mulder would receive treatment until it was deemed safe for him to fly. He was moved from the trauma center to a surgical suite, back to the trauma center, up two levels to a temporary room, and then to a semi-permanent room in another suite of the building.

And while this movement went on, Scully couldn't conduct her usual bedside vigil or even sit in the waiting room and stressfully anticipate seeing him. Instead, she was kept occupied on video conference via a secure laptop. It appeared that most of the officials involved in the international mess they found themselves in were not willing to wait for her written report.

She had nearly taken Skinner's head off when he called her cell phone, but then had almost broken down and cried when his first and only question was, "How is he?"

Mulder required surgery to stop internal bleeding from the building collapse, and to internally stitch his right bicep muscle and surrounding ligaments where a shard of glass had been embedded from the Humvee explosion. The building collapse had also left him with a concussion and multiple broken ribs. Both of his shoulders were dislocated and had to be reset after he was hung in a tortured position for nearly two days. His right arm, the doctors believed, was kicked out of its socket and was so severely dislocated that, coupled with the bicep injury, it could lead to permanent damage. The burning torture he endured left second and third degree burns on his back. They were monitoring his heart for tachycardia after he sustained multiple high voltage electric shocks, and he was dangerously dehydrated and malnourished almost to the point of brain damage or death. The short answer to Skinner's question was 'not good.'

He was still unconscious when Scully finally fell asleep at his bedside, laptop in her lap with the video conference window open but no one on the other side. Shortly after that, Mulder's eyes finally opened.

LANDSTUHL REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER

GERMANY

WEDNESDAY, JULY 7th, 2010

1015

His world had been black for so long, he was sure he had gone blind. Ages ago, he was ripped away from the Technicolor, wonder-filled world offered to him while connected to the Bari Trasadi. After making the decision to direct the weapon's energy in on himself and collapse the building, Mulder was thrust from that world of amazement and entered a dark, dusty and pain-filled world where his delirious thoughts confused his view of reality.

He had lived in that world until this moment, when he came back to hear the steady beep of his heart monitor, and see Scully familiarly at his bedside. He smiled. It was the first pleasant sight he had seen in so long. He wanted to reach out and touch her, but his arms were too sore and heavy to move. His right arm was heavily bandaged at the bicep and hung in a sling at his chest. Breathing sent small shots of pain through his chest, but it was dulled by painkillers administered through an IV in his left hand. He carefully tested his boundaries, wiggling his toes and fingers, checking to make sure there wasn't permanent damage.

He cleared his throat and winced. It felt like he had strep throat. He reasoned that the pain was probably caused by the intubation he underwent during whatever surgery they had performed on him. "Scully," he said, his own voice surprising him in its weakness.

She stirred, and looked groggily at him for only a moment before her eyes opened wide and she smiled that brilliant smile he was waiting to see. He returned it. Then they said, not in perfect unison but nearly so, "I thought I lost you…"

They smiled again, Scully chuckling softly and trying not to cry as she slipped her hand into Mulder's. She squeezed, even though Mulder didn't have the strength to squeeze back.

LANDSTUHL REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER

GERMANY

MONDAY, JULY 12th, 2010

1224

"I'll bet you a lunch you miss that shot."

"You keep this up and you'll be buying me lunch every day for the next two weeks."

"We'll see. Take the shot."

Mulder squeezed the small foam basketball in his left hand as the physical therapist had instructed, rotated his shoulder as far as he could despite the near-blinding pain in his ribs, and then lined up the one-handed shot about six feet from the small basketball hoop five feet off the ground. He sat in a chair, still too weak to stand on his own through his PT session but too prideful to sit in the wheelchair the entire time. Especially with Antoine watching.

Antoine Good was a Private First Class in the Army who had been at Landstuhl for the past two weeks. He had been injured in Afghanistan; a roadside bomb had taken the nineteen-year-old's left leg just below the knee. Already walking laps in the indoor track, Antoine was a no-nonsense, competitive, friendly kid, and he and Mulder had PT at the same time of the day. It was right after an 1100 am lunch hour, so Mulder ate light the last two days. The painkillers were screwing with his stomach and that alone was enough to make anyone nauseated, let alone going through the excruciating pain of physical therapy.

Antoine was a news buff and had been following Mulder's ordeal before he ever met him. When the agent arrived and they ended up in PT together, Antoine set out on a mission to get the sullen older man moving as fast as was safe for him. The physical therapist set the goals, and Antoine pushed Mulder to exceed them.

The foam ball left Mulder's left hand and soared the short distance to the hoop, bouncing off the rim and shooting in Antoine's direction. He caught the ball mid-air and grinned at his older friend. "I'll have lasagna with sausage, please. A side of beans, maybe…and ice cream for dessert. Lots, and lots of ice cream."

Mulder rolled his eyes. "I say, I say, go away, boy. You're botherin' me," Mulder responded in his best Foghorn Leghorn voice. He caught the return pass of the foam ball neatly in his lap, and tried again.

Scully walked in at that moment and began to observe from the door frame. Mulder saw her, and this time not only did he miss, but he managed to hit the backboard of the man next to him. His physical therapist retrieved the ball while Antoine laughed.

"Don't you have exercises of your own to be doing?" Mulder asked, slightly annoyed.

"Whoa, chill, dude. You were doing fine till your partner walked in…hell, half the guys in here messed up on their last rep." That apparently was the wrong thing to say, because Mulder's expression led to Antoine's immediate, "Just kidding."

The teenager rose from his seat on the edge of the physical therapy bed, grabbed his cane, and patted Mulder gently on the left shoulder. "Gotta go anyway, my session's over. Keep at it, man. See you tomorrow."

Mulder waved tiredly, and his physical therapist said, "How about we move into cool-down stretches now? Then if you feel up to it today, we can start electric stimulation."

Mulder froze. He could hear the blood rushing past his ears and his vision blurred. The small portable heart monitor he was wearing began beeping furiously. "What did you say?" he asked, his voice almost inaudible.

The physical therapist looked confused. "Agent Mulder? Are you feeling okay? What's wrong?"

Scully ran over in a second and was at his side, kneeling next to the chair. "What's up, Mulder? Talk to me."

He placed his thumb and forefinger on the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes, trying to breathe normally as he realized what had just happened. He couldn't let this start. He had to nip it in the bud. He didn't speak for a moment, but when the heart monitor's beep slowed to a normal beat, he said in a soft voice, "Electric stimulation…yes. I want to start. Today."