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Scully was still shaking by the time they made it to the motel.  Mulder pulled up in front of the lobby, parked the car, then placed a hand over both of hers, which she had in a ball in her lap.  Though he had moved slowly, and his touch was gentle, Scully still flinched.

"Will you be okay in the car?" he asked, his voice low, steady.  It was the voice you would use with a wild animal.  She nodded.  "One room or two?" he went on.

If it had been even an hour or two later, no doubt she would have shook her head at him even offering such a thing.  Two, of course, she would have said.  I'm fine.  Really, I am.  I was just shaken up there for a bit, but he's gone now, he's in custody, they probably won't even need me to testify so I never have to see Donnie Pfaster again, so it's fine.  I'm fine.  But it wasn't an hour or two later, and her fingers were still trembling, the back of her throat still ached, and she could remember what his fingers had felt like on her skin.  So Scully whispered, to herself, to her clasped hands in her lap, "One."  After a pause, she added, "A double."

"Of course," Mulder replied, that voice still like warm honey, and she closed her eyes as he took his hand away from hers.  The sounds of his exit: seatbelt, door, the dinging from the keys left in the ignition.  The door closing again, his footsteps away.  Once she didn't hear him anymore, Scully let herself inhale again.

The motel had a double, and she wondered if Mulder had booked another room, too, just so it would look on the up-and-up to whoever went over their receipts in Accounting.  She was too tired to ask.  The queen beds were topped with plain, dingy bedspreads, the carpet was classic late 70s, but the room looked clean, and even if it hadn't, she probably wouldn't have minded.

"I have to take a shower," she croaked, finding her bag, which Mulder had brought with him; it had been in the trunk of the rental car Donnie had forced off the road. 

"I won't yell if you take all the hot water."  He attempted to smile at her; she couldn't even manage a grimace in return.  Scully did crank the water dial over as hot as it would go, scalding her skin, and washed herself as quickly as she could.  She didn't take the time to run conditioner through her hair, and once out of the shower, she certainly wasn't going to worry about blow drying it.  Or even combing it out, for that matter.  She found herself wanting to touch her own hair as little as possible, and had to bite her lip to keep from succumbing to another sobbing jag.

Mulder had turned her covers down.  He had prepared a cup of ice water on the nightstand, had her phone beside it, along with her gun.  Scully wanted to say something, even just a simple "thank you," but fatigue suddenly hit her like a wave crashing into the starboard side of a ship, threatening to drag it right under.  She just climbed into bed, did her best to pull the covers up over her, and waited to sink underwater.

Where she had just been on the verge of passing out, now she seemed wide awake.  Mulder clicked off the lamp, and for a moment she listened to his sheets rustle, listened to his breathing.  But even that couldn't distract her for long.

Despite herself, she couldn't help but imagine Pfaster standing in the corner of the room.  Just standing there, watching her.  A smile grew on his face, and he was enjoying himself greatly, waiting for her to finally panic and turn on the light.  He wanted to see her in the moment when she saw him, he wanted to capture her shock, her terror, her horror.  Pfaster was feasting on that anticipation as much as he would everything that came after.

She hadn't looked at the clock when she climbed into bed, so Scully wasn't sure how long she lasted, but she doubted it was much more than ten or so minutes.  Certainly Mulder was still awake when she sat up, groped for the lamp, and turned it on.  There was nothing in the corner of the room, of course.  There wasn't even a coat tree to throw a suspiciously-shaped shadow; if there had been, Scully wouldn't have seen it - she'd been too afraid to even open her eyes.

She could feel Mulder's eyes on her but couldn't meet them.  He was waiting for her to ask, and God knows she wanted to.  She flipped off the lamp and laid back down.

This time, she became certain that Pfaster wasn't in the corner by the door at all.  That was out in the open; that was no place to hide.  No, he had to be in the bathroom.  Which made sense, of course; he would need to prepare his things.  His shampoos, his scissors.  It was odd, how directional night-time fear could feel.  Scully had always been very sensitive to that, especially as a child.  She rolled to her side to face the bathroom, so that no part of her back was exposed in that direction.  Before too long, though, she felt a creeping, prickling sensation run up her spine, along with a very strong sense that she was being watched.  Her paranoia and her fear competed with her fatigue, leaving her feeling on the edge of nausea.  A scream started building in the pit of her stomach.

"Mulder?" she whispered as quietly as she could, not wanting to wake him if he'd already fallen asleep.

"Yes?" came back almost immediately.

"Can you..."  She paused, wishing she hadn't said a word.  Maybe if she stayed quiet, he'd think she'd just been talking in her sleep.

She heard the creak of his mattress as he sat up, and then as he got out of bed.  She scooted herself over.  Mulder climbed into the bed and spooned up behind her; the relief of it, the safety of it, was enough to make her weepy again.  He just tightened his arms around her even more, putting one of his legs up over her own; he was so much taller than her that it was as though he were wholly enveloping her.

Scully fell asleep within minutes, and didn't move at all for nearly ten hours.

January 2017

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