"Scully," she bellowed as she reached for her alarm clock. It read three o'clock in the morning. No one but Mulder would be calling her at this hour. She listened to Mulder on the other end of the phone talking about a mutated deer found somewhere in upper Minnesota. Scully sat up in bed as she listened, running her fingers through her hair.
"You must be kidding me, Mulder. It's January. It's got to be 30 below in Minnesota."
He claimed their presence was needed immediately. A buddy of his from college had tipped him off, and they needed to get up there before the local officials were notified. They hung up after deciding that she would pick Mulder up since his car was in the shop. She got out of bed, showered, dressed in a pair of black pants and sweater. She packed her bags as best she could for winter in Minnesota in January, left her apartment, and walked to her car. After placing her bags in the trunk she drove to Mulder's. As the heat kicked in, she couldn't help but wonder what on earth had excited Mulder so much that he felt the need to wake her up at this ungodly hour. She hoped he would at least do her the decency of waiting downstairs for her so she wouldn't have to get out of the car.
She pulled up in front of Mulder's apartment building about an hour later, where Mulder was indeed waiting downstairs in his building's vestibule. When he saw her car pull up, he left the building and put his suitcase in the backseat before getting in the front seat. "Thanks for picking me up, Scully. Our flight leaves in two hours, so we have a little time before we leave. It sure is a cold one out there tonight."
Scully watched Mulder incredulously as he seemed unaware of the fact she had been sound asleep when he had called her.
"Now explain to me why this deer is an X-File, and why it warranted my getting out of bed at three o'clock in the morning. And since when does the FBI investigate game animals, Mulder?"
Scully knew being called away to assignments at all hours of the night was par for the course, especially with Mulder as her partner. She couldn't understand why this one in particular had gotten him all riled up. It wasn't as if the deer was going anywhere, he had told her it was dead.
Mulder blew on his hands as he adjusted the heating vent so it blew directly at him. He eyed Scully curiously. Driving in the car like this, when it was dark, he could watch her without her knowing how focused he was on her.
"Well, Scully, I can't tell you that until we get there, but something sounded peculiar to me. Like I said, a buddy of mine who works up there called me and suggested I come out. He wouldn't call me if he didn't think it was something at least remotely up my alley. So, we're going. Besides, maybe we can get in some ice fishing. I hear it's great where we're going."
He smiled at Scully, the one that usually worked wonders at softening her up. He wasn't sure exactly what it was that got him excited about this case, but when he heard about it he knew he had to get a leg up on any other officials who might get there. He had a friend who worked for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources who had called him with the tip. Told him it was the most bizarre thing he'd ever seen, and that if Mulder could come right out he'd make sure no one in his department got wind of it until Mulder had left. He would personally sit on the paperwork he had told Mulder. So, Mulder called Scully, and here they were. He couldn't tell her what he didn't know unfortunately.
Scully wasn't amused at all.
"Well, if I had to dig out my snow boots from the back of my closet for nothing, I'm going to be very mad at you, Mulder."
Scully headed to the airport with an uneasy feeling. As much as she hated to admit it whenever Mulder had his feelings he was rarely wrong.
They rode the rest of the way basically in silence, both of them too tired to make an effort at small talk. They parked their car in the long-term parking area after unloading their bags with a skycap and made their way to their gate. Mulder got them both coffees while they waited for the plane to start boarding. Returning to the gate area with the coffees, he sat next to Scully and handed her one of the coffees, opening the other one for himself.
"Well, one good thing, it should be light out by the time we get where we're going. Hopefully the sun will be shining and it won't be quite as cold. My friend said on the phone it was forty below with the wind chill when he called last night."
Scully rolled her eyes and rested her head on Mulder's shoulder, just what she wanted to hear. How cold it was going to be when they got to where they were going. The next thing she knew Mulder was gently tapping her on the shoulder.
"Scully, it's time to board. Come on, you can sleep onboard. I'll even get you one of those horribly uncomfortable blankets."
They boarded the plane wordlessly and took their seats. The plane was surprisingly full for five o'clock in the morning. Business folks commuting for the day Mulder mused. True to his word, Mulder confiscated a blanket and two pillows for them to use on their flight.
"Looks like we'll have to share the blanket."
Scully was too tired to argue. She wouldn't have cared if she had to share the blanket with Cancer Man at this rate.
"Just wake me up when we get to Minneapolis, Mulder."
They both fell asleep, waking up about three hours later to the voice on the airplane's speaker above their seats telling them to return their seats to their upright position. They shuffled off the plane along with the other travelers and worked their way to the baggage claim area. Scully went to the rental car desk while Mulder retrieved their bags.
After their bags had been collected, they found their rental car and Scully let out an audible groan of displeasure when Mulder told her it was a four-hour drive to where they were going.
"A three hour plane ride and a four hour car ride. This better be good, Mulder, or you owe me. Big time."
She had her hands on the top of the car as Mulder put their bags in the trunk.
"Well, Scully, it was either that or sitting in the airport for a couple hours and catching on a flight on a 24-seater plane. If it weren't the middle of winter, I'd have no qualms about doing that, but I really would rather get there in one piece. They also don't have a vast selection of rental cars where we're going. Besides, my friend told me the drive up was a cinch."
They stopped just north of Minneapolis for breakfast; Mulder made some phone calls to book them hotel rooms for the next few nights. He was surprised a town like Bemidji, Minnesota actually had a hotel or two that were full. Maybe it was more popular than the name and location implied. He had looked on a map when his buddy called, and from the looks of it Bemidji was pretty much in the middle of nowhere. He finally got one room his third try, snowmobiling and a dogsled contest being the explanation for the booked hotels when he asked why they were so busy. He returned to the table.
"I'm afraid we're going to have to share a room, Scully. It's the best I could do, unless you want to stay at a dump. On the bright side, they have a pool and sauna."
Scully finished her toast.
"I don't care, Mulder. Just so long as it has two beds and not one king size one." She smiled sarcastically at the look she got from Mulder. "I don't think I could sleep in the same bed as you. Something tells me we'd be fighting over the blanket or something, and if it's going to be fifty below tonight I don't want to be arguing with anyone over who gets the blanket."
They arrived in Bemidji a few hours later, checked into their hotel, and got directions to where they needed to go. Mulder was surprised to find his friend wasn't home, luckily he had given him sketchy information the night before. Mulder hung up the phone, looking out their window at the Kentucky Fried Chicken, which was making him hungry.
"Talk about small town, huh, Scully. I hear the college has a pretty good hockey team, though so I guess it's not that small. It's not even an agricultural college."
On their way out, Mulder left word that if an extra room was to become available that they would appreciate being put on the list. The desk clerk eyed them curiously, obviously wondering why this couple wanted separate rooms. His eyes took in Scully, shifted their attention to Mulder and he shook his head.
If I were in his shoes, I wouldn't even bother searching for another room. She's a looker.
The desk clerk obliged Mulder's request, and they were out the door.
They arrived at their destination; a farm located about twenty miles out of town. They drove right past the driveway at first, having to backtrack to find it.
"Isn't there anything close by around here," Scully asked as Mulder knocked on the residence's door. Mulder shrugged and was about to talk when a short, thin, graying woman answered the door. Mulder and Scully showed their badges to the woman, who identified herself as Trudy and let them come inside. They stood at the door as a short, stocky, burly, balding man walked down the stairs.
"Sorry, was just finishing my supper." He extended his hand and introduced himself as Donald. "Let me get my boots on and I'll take you out to the field." Trudy handed him a parka as he stepped into his boots, "I wasn't expecting the FBI."
He took them out to his field, and as they approached the spot they saw the deer lying on its right side in the snow with its back toward them. There was a pool of blood around the animal's head.
"I've never seen anything like it," the man said. "Not even in my cows. And I've been a dairy farmer for forty years."
Mulder told Donald that they would take over from here, and that they would let him and his wife know when they had finished. Donald shrugged, obviously wanting to return to the warmth of his home it didn't take much to convince him to leave their presence.
Scully glanced at the deer, and then her eyes followed the man as he returned to the house. Mulder walked around the deer, taking its appearance in.
"Scully, what do you make of this?" Mulder pointed at something that was out of Scully's line of vision.
She walked toward Mulder and let out an audible gasp at the vision before her. The deer was male as was apparent by a lone exposed antler. The right antler was normal; the left, however, extended from above its left eye and appeared to be only a nub. A portion of the antler was observed to be piercing through its left cheek. Whether the deer was able to see, out of either eye, Scully doubted it. How he had been able to eat, she had no idea of that either.
She put a pair of gloves on as she examined the deer. She opened its mouth, and the inside of his mouth was even more horrible then she would have imagined. It appeared that its left antler had grown internally instead of externally, piercing right through the roof of its mouth and out the side of its head. Luckily, it hadn't branched off to form a rack.
"Mulder, I have never seen anything like this. How this animal was able to survive as long as it did in the wild I have no idea. I highly doubt it had any vision capabilities at all."
Scully pulled out her dictating tape recorder and began to record notes to herself upon her visual examination of the animal. Its left eye had a white mucus-like layer covering it. Scully assumed this was more indication that the animal had been blind in that eye. Its tongue, she observed as she looked in its mouth a second time, wasn't the normal red color she would have associated with a deer. It had sort of a brownish, yellowish, greenish color to it. It almost appeared to be a bruise. The right ear was fine; the left ear had more growth in it. Her first observation that the antler hadn't branched off to form a rack appeared wrong. While it wasn't much, there was more of the antler in its ear. She couldn't even begin to fathom what was wrong with this deer, or what had caused it. Its cause of death was apparently a gunshot wound. Someone had apparently been hunting out of season, which was why he or she didn't stick around when they realized what it was they had shot. Her curiosity got the better of her, and she was rather intrigued by this poor animal lying in front of her. She hoped that despite the fact she was a medical doctor she would be allowed to observe the autopsy when it was performed. She turned to talk to Mulder, but he had begun walking toward three figures that walked toward them.
As Scully was conducting her external examination of the deer, Mulder observed Donald walking toward them accompanied by two other men.
"Scully, you'd better finish up real quick. Take any specimens you need quickly. I'll be right back. Put your tape recorder away as soon as you're done." He saw the questioning look in her eyes and said shortly.
"Just do it, Scully." Mulder walked toward Donald to delay the men's approach.
Scully glanced up briefly and saw the men having an animated conversation, then observed Donald as he walked back toward the house. She laughed inwardly. Poor man, she thought. He probably just wants the animal off his property. She took what specimens she could. Upon completion of her exam she observed that everything else about the animal seemed normal. Scully removed the gloves after she had sealed her bags, placing everything in her bag as Mulder and the two unidentified men approached her. She was familiar enough with Mulder and his body language to know she should remain quiet until he spoke. She watched the two men wondering who they were.
"I really don't think there's anything here, Scully, so let's just pack it up and go. Probably just an abnormality, until we see more Bambi's coming out of the woods let's just let these two capable gentlemen takeover." Mulder introduced the two men from the Department of Natural Resources to Scully, who shook hands. They said their good byes ending with Mulder and Scully working their way back to the house. Mulder gave Donald his card, telling him should any other occurrences take place to give him a call. He told the couple the state would arrange for the removal of the deer and they made their departure.
In the car on the way back to town Scully turned to Mulder.
"What was that about, Mulder?" She had never seen him back down from something before, and what she had observed about that deer was far from normal.
"My friend, Rick, was supposed to be the person in charge of this case. Well, apparently after he called me he broke his leg snowmobiling this morning and is in the hospital. He was going to give us the whole day, Scully. Well, he obviously can't delay anyone else coming out here. He just felt there was something about this that was up my alley and was doing this as a favor to me. I really didn't feel like ruffling any feathers today, or risk getting my buddy in trouble."
This seemed to satisfy Scully and they rode the rest of the way with Scully filling Mulder in on what exactly it was she had observed. They both agreed that there was something not right and Mulder indicated he would pay a visit to his friend that night in the hospital.
They returned to their hotel room and after perusing the attractions booklet left in the room while Scully showered, Mulder called out when he heard the shower stop running.
"Well, it appears we have our choice of movies or bowling. Take your pick. Of course, there's the vast array of watering holes." He laughed, and eyed Scully as she walked out from the bathroom wearing a robe. "I'm going to learn a lot about you sharing a room with you, Scully." He had to admit he liked what he saw. She was nice looking even with wet hair and no make up on.
Scully toweled her hair dry. "Some things I'm sure you'd rather not know, Mulder." She threw the damp towel at him.
"I'll take a movie. I've been bowling in small towns before and the bowling lanes stink." She plopped down in the chair watching as Mulder dialed the phone. "Please tell me I at least get a decent dinner out of the deal." She picked out some clothes from her suitcase on the floor next to her as Mulder talked on the phone.
"Yeah, Scully," he said as he hung up. "There's a nice restaurant downtown. I'm surprised the town is big enough to have a downtown." He turned on the TV. "At least we get HBO." Scully glared at him, so he shut the TV off.
He went to shower as Scully laid out the clothes that she was going to wear that evening. "Make sure you tell me before you come out of the bathroom, Mulder. I'm going to be getting dressed out here. No wisecracks either." She wore a pair of black jeans, a snug, off white long sleeved shirt, and black shoes. She put on some makeup while Mulder was in the shower. He found her sitting on the bed waiting for him, when he came out of the bathroom a few minutes later donning blue jeans, black shoes, a flannel shirt which was unbuttoned enough to reveal a white T-shirt underneath Scully let out a laugh.
"Well, you're just taking to this farm town life, aren't you, Mulder? You'll fit right in with that outfit." She quipped as she put her black leather jacket on, tossing Mulder his as she noticed him reaching for the remote control. "Come on, Mulder. I'm hungry. And while I doubt we'll get anything similar to a decent meal in this town, I still want to eat."
They went to the recommended restaurant, which turned out to be an old train station renovated into a restaurant. The food was surprisingly palatable; the drinks they consumed went down smoothly. When finished with their meal, they asked their waitress what there was to do for entertainment that evening, and she directed them to a bar just down the sidewalk from them. After Mulder paid the bill, they made their way to the recommended bar. He laughed when he saw that it was located on the top floor of a building full of stores. "Nothing like small towns." He shook his head as he opened the door allowing Scully to go in before him.
Surprisingly, when they got upstairs to the entrance it was packed with people. Mulder scanned the room and spotted a recently vacated table, he tugged on the arm of Scully's jacket as he walked to the table quickly to stake their claim on it before anyone could get it.
"Let's play some trivia, Scully," he said, nodding to the NTN Trivia unit sitting at their table. "We're both fairly smart. FBI agents and all. Surely we can put our heads together and win a game or two of trivia against these people." He gestured to the bar packed full of college aged people.
Scully shrugged as their drinks came.
"Sure, Mulder, whatever you like. It doesn't appear there's much else to do, unless you're going to play me in a game of air hockey."
She nodded toward the old and battered machine she had spotted. Mulder rolled his eyes, and Scully sighed.
"Trivia it is then. You win." She was good at air hockey and would have relished the opportunity of beating him. Another time, she thought, as he picked up the trivia unit and they began to play.
A little while later, music started to play, and the dance floor started to fill. Scully tried to get Mulder to dance, but he had no interest. She expected that from him, but was still disappointed. They continued playing trivia and drinking their drinks. Scully couldn't hide the shock on her face when someone approached her, asking her for a dance. It wasn't something she would normally do, leave Mulder alone, but she was in the mood to let her hair down and have some fun. Playing trivia just wasn't cutting it. After a moment's hesitation, she accepted. Mulder had made it apparent he wasn't going to dance, and after a few drinks she was ready to let loose.
One dance turned into two turned into more, which turned into Scully dancing with two or three of the guys there. It was obvious they were enjoying someone new being among them. Mulder sat at their table trying hard not to watch Scully obviously enjoying herself dancing with these college boys. And boys was being kind, Mulder thought. He'd had enough. Enough of what? he thought to himself. Unable to place his finger on what he was feeling, he finished his beer and went to cut in.
"Excuse me, but I think they're playing our song," he said as he tapped on the shoulder of the guy who was Scully's current dance partner.
Scully opened her mouth to speak. What in the heck was Mulder's problem? It was not like she was going to go home with any of these guys, but when she saw the look on his face she stopped. There was something in his eyes, something she hadn't noticed before. Was he jealous, she thought amusedly to herself?
"Yes, I believe you're right, Mulder," is what she ended up saying instead. The guy looked at the two of them, shrugged and went away. The disappointment in his was eyes apparent.
"He was too young for you anyway, Scully," Mulder said as they started to dance. "Nothing but trouble for you there. Or maybe you go for the type..." He broke off as he noticed Scully resting her head against his shoulder. She hadn't done that with College Boy, he thought. Mulder decided to keep the sarcasm for another day, they danced silently as the song played on, Mulder resting his head gently on top of hers.
He found his arm bringing her closer to him, she responded by pressing her body against him. As he looked down at the top of her red hair, the thought of kissing her entered his mind. He thought about it, for some reason it seemed so natural. They had been together as partners for years. Why hadn't he noticed her as a person, as a woman before now?
She seemed to read his thoughts, as her head lifted from its position on his shoulder. She looked up at him, her pale eyes taking him in. "What's wrong, Mulder? If you don't want to dance, just say so. I'll sit down with you. I was just having fun." She was trying to figure out what he was thinking, to no avail.
"No, Scully, that's just it. I just realized I don't want to dance with you anymore." She pulled back, looking at him questioningly, hurt evident in her eyes. The hurt dissipated when she realized he hadn't stopped dancing. She opened her mouth to speak, but was stopped when he brought his lips to hers in a slow, tender yet deeply passionate kiss.
"I'd rather do that instead," he said as he broke the kiss. They continued dancing, Scully's head resting comfortably on his shoulder. They didn't need to speak; one kiss said it all.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com