Time is of the Essence

by Pattie

Title: Time is of the Essence

Author: Pattie

Rated:PG-17

Spoilers: None. Somewhere in Season 5

Category: X-File, Angst.

Summary: Can Scully catch Mulder's shooter in time?

Archive: Gossamer, any other nice home. Please ask first.

Feedback:trish59@444.net

Disclaimer: Mulder, Scully, any characters related to the series, and The X-Files belong to Chris Carter, 1013 Productions, and Fox Studios. I do not make any money from writing fanfiction, and I intend no copyright infringement.

SATURDAY EVENING, 8:00 p.m.

Dana Scully walked out of the elevator in Mulder's building carrying a stack of files that needed to be updated and sorted. She had grown used to meeting with her partner outside of the office now and then. Granted, it was usually done at her apartment, but Mulder decided he would order in some food and have her over to his place for a change, It wasn't that she had ever complained about him coming over. He just decided he had been imposing on her too often, and, of course, some of her neighbours had been overheard chattering one night as he was leaving.

Her knock was met with silence. Perhaps he was in the bathroom. She used her key and walked into the apartment. As she called out to him, she has an overwhelming sense that something was not right. "Mulder! Did you hear me? I have the... Oh my God!" She shouted.

Fox Mulder lay in a puddle of blood in front of his aquarium. There was a note beside the wound on his chest: "Once again we meet. Delver."

As the paramedics were wheeling a still unconscious Mulder out to the ambulance, Scully showed the note to Walter Skinner. "I haven't seen this name in any of our files. Do you hve any idea who this 'Delver' is, Sir?"

Skinner was as worried as Scully was. "Right now, I think you should get to the hospital with your partner, Scully. While you talk to the police and watch Mulder, I'll see if anything comes up from Scotland Yard or VCU. Maybe someone's been released and has a grudge." He could see the worry in her eyes. "Go on. Take care of Mulder."

"Thank you, Sir."


ER rooms were bad enough on a Saturday night in any city, even Alexandria. But Mulder was a Federal Agent, and he had been shot. The penalty for murdering him would be the maximum.

"He may have seen the shooter," Scully told the police. "Before he was assigned to our office, he was with the Violent Crimes Unit. I think this letter should be analyzed by the F.B.I. crime lab. I'll keep you posted. Now if you'll excuse me, I am a doctor, and this Agent happens to be my partner. Call A.D. Skinner if you find anything more, and if you need anything from us."

She hurried into emerge in her scrubs. By then, Mulder was semiconscious and calling her name.

I'm here, Mulder. You've been shot."

"Scully. Look good in green. Delver. Not... not real name. Real name ... " At that moment, he lost consciousness.

"We've got to operate NOW! She called to the surgical team. It's lodged in the ascending aorta... "

Five hours later, tired and worried, Scully left the operating room. She doffed her mask and hurried to the waiting room.

Skinner was in the waiting area of Emergency. "Is he..."

"He has sustained massive blood loss, and there were moments he had us worried, but he should be able to talk some time tomorrow. What did you find out?"

"I was right. This one is from the VCU case he worked on. Delver is a nickname for an extremely volatile man who was released on parole last Monday. His name is Anthony Higby. Extremely violent sex offender. Ring any bells?"

"No. Mulder never mentioned him. He was about to give me the name before he lost consciousness. Oh, my, three in the morning." She rubbed her sore neck. "Sir, go home and get some sleep. I'll let you know... "

"I suggest you do the same, Agent Scully. I think you should handle this case. Not really because you want a piece of the guy, because we all do, but because you have the motivation. And I know you want to get this guy. We want him alive. There are still some unsolved cases he may be implicated in. I know you want to get him."

"You don't know how much," Scully growled. "I'll need to stay the night. Can you do me a favor and pull all the files on him? Maybe I can go over them here till I'm sure Mulder's out of the woods."

"You need some sleep, Agent."

"I can catnap. Please, Sir. I am used to going on very little sleep."

Skinner paused for a moment, weighing the situation. "All right. And as soon as he is stable, you do the work away from here. We need to act fast on this one. He may have other law enforcement officers on his list, and he's extremely clever. And Scully?"

"Yes, Sir?"

"Thank you for being in there with him."

"I think you know me by now, Sir. He's my partner. He's my best friend."

"Yes." Skinner didn't have to hear anything more. He knew how much the agents meant to each other, even if it broke protocol, even if nothing had been made official. Even if they themselves hadn't admitted it openly. They didn't have to.


SUNDAY, 7:32 a.m.

Scully had fallen asleep in the chair at Mulder's bedside. A nurse entered momentarily to check the I.V. and take his temperature. She hadn't wanted to wake Scully, but then, Scully was a light sleeper. The chair was no help, either. "Any change?"

"His temp. is back down, so there's a good sign. B.P. 135/70, and pulse 84. He sure was lucky."

"He sure was." Scully yawned and stretched as the nurse left the room. She glanced out the window and saw torrents of rain. Perfect to fit the mood she was in. She didn't know whether to cry or scream out in rage. Mulder had worked remarkably hard to put this shooter behind bars, and now he was on parole, out for blood, and possibly out for more females to violate. Her eyes were fixed on water, as it swirled down the sewers, when Mulder tried to speak.

His voice was raspy and low, "Sc- Scully."

She rushed to his side, putting her hand on his forehead. "Thank God, Mulder. You're going to be all right. We know who it is. We know who Delver is, Mulder. Just relax and get better."

"You know... know Higby?"

"We know OF him, Mulder. And we know about him. Everyone's on the look-out for him. Don't worry. I'm on the case, too."

"No... " Mulder was still terribly weak. "Not you. Not you, Scully. Stay away from Delver. Stay away."

"Mulder, we've got to get him before he does anything... "

"To you. I think he knows you ... you work with me... will get to you... to hurt me."

"Mulder, Lay back and get some rest. I'm a big girl. I can handle myself. Skinner has everyone he can get on the case, and the P.D. is very much aware of what this guy is capable of."

"I put him away... I profiled him. He's... he's not like... "

"Not like your average rapist? Not like your average violent offender with horrible, horrible fantasies? Mulder... are you telling me he's an X-File type?"

Mulder drowsily nodded. "Yeah... " Then a small, wry smile overtook his face. "Spooky-type."

"Well, at least now I know you're going to live, Mulder. I've got some files to give back to Skinner. Look, you rest. I'll be back to see you later. They're bringing up breakfast. I'll tell them you're awake. I need to go home and clean up, anyway."

"Careful, Scully?" He extended his hand, grabbed Scully's and brought it to his lips. "He's my specialty, not yours. Be very, very aware of everything."

"I will. I will. Now, get some food."

"Sorry about last night... "

"Another time, partner. There'll be another time. I have to go... "

Mulder cast a worried glance at Scully as she closed the door to his room. His partner was a petite female, and well-trained, but... Maybe there was enough manpower out there. He just couldn't get the fear out of his mind. He would never forgive himself if something happened to Dana Scully. Even if justice had been done years ago, and they felt him to be safe enough for parole. There was just this nagging doubt, and Mulder hated the man. Hated the things he had done to innocent young woman. Scully was young, beautiful, his partner... Best friend.

"Please, not her," he whispered. Perhaps he was whispering to God, perhaps to the Devil himself. He wasn't sure. "Not her."


MULDER'S APARTMENT
SUNDAY, 1:30 p.m.

The tape was still on the door advising that his apartment was a Crime Scene, but the tattered tape just hung loosely. Fingerprinting and photos were done, as were blood chemistry. Scully decided to stay here as Mulder's place was closer to the hospital than hers was. She had taken the time to stop at her apartment for a change of clothing and other necessities.

With the files she had, perhaps she could make some sense of the killer's modus operandi. What were his thoughts last night when he shot Fox Mulder? What were HER thoughts, staying at the scene of the crime? She shook that question off, and decided to soak in his tub, then settle in for a nap with the cell phone by her side.

The ringing of Mulder's phone shattered her fitfull sleep.

"Scully."

"Dana, Dear? I've been looking all over for you! Remember we were going to have brunch after Church?"

"I'm fine, Mum. Look... something's happened. Mulder's been shot..." Scully fought not to let her mother hear her worry. She lost.

"Are YOU all right?"

"Yes, yes. I'm fine. Look, I, uh, I have to get to the hospital to check in on Mulder. Please pray for him, okay? I love you. Good bye." She hung up before her tears flowed freely.

Glancing at the VCR, the time read 6:00 p.m., and her watch confirmed the time. She ran a comb through her hair and headed for the door. The phone rang again.

Probably Skinner, she thought. "Scully."

"So, that's the name of his latest beauty? Let's see what she looks like?"

"Who is this?" she sharply asked.

"You'll find out." The man hung up before Scully could identify herself as an F.B.I. Agent.

She hurried to the hospital.


By the time she arrived at his room, Mulder had finished supper.

"You're looking better than when I left you this morning," she said, smiling awkwardly. "I hope you managed to get some sleep. I see here your vitals..."

Mulder read her false enthusiasm. "Stop it, Scully. You're as white as a sheep. See those flowers over there? They're from my secret admirer. Well, actually my assailant."

"Yeah, I meant to bring that up."

"Please do, and now? I'm not as sick as I look, Scully. He contacted you, didn't he? Or you ran into him?"

"He called your place, and I answered... " she replied sheepishly. "He didn't say anything threatening, Mulder. Don't worry about me. Get better, and we'll get this guy."

"Or he'll get someone else first, maybe even you. This guy is hungry to terorize women after 14 years in prison, Scully. He will do anything to satisfy that hunger, and he can sense you right now. Chances are, he knows what you and his next victims look like. Did I tell you he had that ability, Scully? Did I tell you I couldn't put it into the records at the Violent Crimes Unit because it was too "odd-ball" and "spooky" to add to the records?" Mulder was becoming more upset by the moment. With every word, his blood pressure was rising. "I'd rather you kept out of this. Skinner should know better."

"Mulder, calm down." Scully drew a chair up beside his bed. "Look, I'm okay. I even got some sleep today, right in your apartment so I could come here at a moment's notice. Now, if what you say about this guy is true, then thanks for telling me. And now that I'm warned, I'll take extra special precautions..."

"That won't help!" he interjected. "Scully, after all these years, surely you know when I'm right. You MUST know that I am very aware of this guy. I was the one who put him away!"

"Well, let ME do it this time," she softly countered. "I have more on the ball than you're giving me credit for." Mulder crossed his arms and looked away. "Do you really think I'm the only agent on this? Mulder, we have the Police AND the Bureau on this, plus the State Troopers looking for him on the road."

"You just don't get it, Scully. All right, I certainly can't be out there to help you. Just get off of this case. Just for my sake. "His eyes softened. "Please."

"For personal reasons? Not on your life, Mulder. He shot you, and I am going to get my partner's shooter. That's the RIGHT personal reason."

"Please, Scully. Listen, he really can see you in his mind... "

"Then he knows I'm wise to him, Mulder."

"You'd make a convincing lawyer, you know that?" He had to concede that her argument was logical.

Just then a volunteer brought in a bouquet of chrysanthemums.

"From Skinner, I gather, Or the Gunmen... " He yawned. "Sweet fellas."

Scully took the flowers and put them on his bedside table. "To the late... " She gasped in horror.

"Scully?"

"Nothing..."

"Show me the card."

She gave him the card reluctantly. "*To the late Dana Scully. I'll thrill you to death, Delver.* Now are you convinced?"

Sculy was visibly upset, and she was quite aware it showed. "No. I am a Federal Agent. I have my wits about me, my eyes open, and agents all over the place. Just let me get this guy for you, Mulder. Get better, and I will see you tomorrow. I promise you this: I will be careful. Have a good night's sleep."

"Can you?"

"Pfft!" Scully pretended not to care about his warnings. She walked through the door and headed down the hall to the elevator. Skinner was just arriving.

"Agent Scully?"

"He's a lot better, Sir. He should be back in the office in a week or so. I have some files to go over so we can start getting things back to normal as soon as possible." She abruptly left Skinner and just about walloped the elevator button. "See you tomorrow!" she shouted.

Skinner entered Mulder's room quickly. "I know what you told me, Mulder. But she's determined."

"She's being stupid, Sir. And so are you, no disrespect intended. I can't let her get hurt on my account."

"We won't let that happen. I see you got flowers?"

"Yeah. So did Scully. Her card was very nice." Mulder passed the card to Skinner.

"I see. Well, I guess I had better get some protection on her right away. Forgive me for leaving so soon."

"Well, the Knicks are on, anyway," Mulder cracked. "Go on." If there was anything Mulder wanted the most in this world right now, it was his mobility. Not Samantha. His mobility. He needed to get to the Delver before he got to Dcully. The way he saw it, this man wanted to get to Mulder by killing him, and hadn't succeeded. The other way to get to him would be through Scully. "It can't happen," Mulder told the chrysanthemums. "It just can't happen."


FIVE MINUTES AFTER SKINNER LEFT MULDER'S ROOM

Mulder's mind raced as he considered Scully to be in imminent danger. He dialed out, calling Directory Assistance and quickly typing Skinner's cell number.

The man was just reaching the hospital parking lot, and not very far from Dana Scully. "Skinner."

"It's Mulder. Look, please follow Scully. She's going to my place. Just keep an eye on her until you can get somebody out there."

"Mulder... "

"Just... just do it, okay? This guy already has her up for his next escapade. Trust me on this."

"All right. She's just getting into her car, and I'm at mine right now. I'll see to it... Hello? Mulder... "

Mulder had come up with another idea. He quickly dialed the Gunmen. "Frohike?"

"Hey! How's Mojo Man?"

"Knock it off and get down here.I don't need your gutter mind right now. Scully's in danger. I need a gun and some clothes, and I need to get out of here as fast as possible."

"Sure thing. Oh, and is that red head... Hello?"

Mulder was in no mood for Frohike's curiosity about Scully. He desperately wanted to protect his partner from "Delver" Anthony Higby. He knew exactly what could happen if no one was there to stop him. And he knew Higby like the back of his hand. Shrewd, dark, prescient of his victims, and horribly twisted psychologically. This was not going to be. It could NOT be.

Scully pulled into a parking spot and entered Mulder's Building. She was unaware that Skinner had been near her, but she had been extra careful that she hadn't been followed. Skinner had been careful enough to take a slightly different route as he neared Hegal Place. He parked the car, waited and watched.

It was 9:13 p.m., and Scully began to lose herself in the reams of paper almost immediately. Except for the occasional stretch and sip of instant coffee, she was immersed in theories and newspaper articles about this particular criminal. And horrified that anyone could go to such lengths to torture women. Nothing in her training had prepared her for what she was reading.

Skinner hadn't thought of having the rear entrance to Mulder's building covered. But Anthony Higby had thought of entering via that route. He climbed the stairs to Mulder's floor so as not to be seen by anyone in the elevator. The man could taste Scully as he visualized violently kissing her, ripping her clothing off, taking her by force as she gasped for air. Then ripping her apart limb by limb by organ. His twisted thoughts had him salivating as he reached Mulder's door and jimmied the lock.

Scully had put off going to the bathroom far too long. When she went back into the livingroom, the "Delver" was there. "I've been seeing you in various ways, lady. Let's get the party revved up! We'll start with a little duct tape and work our way up... "

"Not if I can help it!" Scully shouted. "You don't want to take on a Federal Agent. Just put the gun and the tape down... "

And that's when he lunged at her and taped her mouth, her hands and her ankles. "The fight excites me more! The thrill of the hunt... I've wanted THIS for quite some time now... and I see Mulder has exquisite taste in the women he surrounds himself with. Too bad he's not able to protect his little prize. Now I win... "

Skinner decided to go up to the apartment. He'd seen the shadow of a man through the window and was suspicious. He kicked Mulder's door open and yelled, "F.B.I.! Freeze!" Shots rang out and he was lying unconscious on the floor. Skinner's bullet had hit a wall and Delver was a crack shot. The Assistant Director sustained a severe chest wound.

Scully's protests were muffled by duct tape, and her frowns went unheeded as Higby made room on the floor for his planned assault on Scully.

"I know you're no stranger to men, but you've never in your wildest adventures met a man like me... pity. Well, at least for you. I think I like being on the outside..."


The Gunmen's Van sped through the streets with Mulder in back.

"I don't think this is a good idea," Byers advised him. "You're losing a lot of blood."

"This is nothing compared to what Scully might be going through," Mulder shouted. "can't you push this thing past twenty?"

"We're going sixty," Frohike shouted. "What do you want? I know. Shut up and drive..."

"Byers is right," Langly said, looking at the drenched shirt and the seat of the van. "You're not in any shape to be out looking for the goon!"

"He's my problem, I brought him upon her, and I should be the one to deal with this!" Mulder had to silently confess he was feeling far from strong at the moment. "C'mon!"

"Five more minutes," Frohike announced calmly.

By the time they arrived at the apartment, Mulder's lights were out.

"You guys stay put. This is my job," Mulder ordered them. He was very weak now, and he knew it. He entered the building and was coherent enough to use the elevator. As he approached his unit, he edged along the wall and slowly approached the door.

Scully was being stripped down quickly, face down on the floor. As soon as Mulder saw Skinner's form lying there, he didn't even think before pulling the trigger. Three shots rand out, when one would have done nicely, and Higby was no more. He fell lifelessly to the floor.

Mulder quickly put a blanket around Scully and unbound her mouth and hands. "Are you okay, Scully?"

"Yeah, thanks to you," she said stone-faced.

"You sure?" He sat beside her on the floor and removed the tape from her ankles.

Tears streamed down her face. "Look at yourself, Mulder. Neither of us are okay," she sobbed.

The gunmen rushed into the apartment.

"Oh God!" Frohike muttered. Byers dialed 9-1-1 and Langly found a clean towel to press against Mulder's wounds, and Frohike attended to Skinner.

Mulder put his arm around Scully. "I told you not to get involved in this one, didn't I?"

"Yeah, Mulder. I wanted to get him for you. I wanted the collar. In cases like this, time is of the essence."

"Never ever do this to me again, Scully. Never. Promise?"

"No," she whispered stubbornly. " We're a team. When one is down, the other picks up the slack."

The paramedics arrived and began checking everone's vital signs.

"We'd better get you to the hospital," a blond paramedic advised them."

His dark-haired parner exclaimed, "This guy's hypovolemic! Let's go! Time is of the essence!"

"I couldn't agree more," Mulder blandly declared. "We're done here."

END

Pattie


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