THE MASTODON DIARIES
By aka "Jake"
[STORY FINISHED: 7/27/03]
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Prologue/Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven Chapter Twelve Chapter Thirteen Chapter Fourteen Chapter Fifteen Chapter Sixteen Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen Chapter Nineteen Chapter Twenty Chapter Twenty-One Chapter Twenty-Two/Epilogue
The Mastodon Diaries Dictionary
The Mastodon Diaries is the winner of the following
2002 Spooky Awards:
* Unfinished Work
* Fic Set Outside Washington DC
* Mulder Torture
* Scully Characterization
* Original Character (Gini)
* NC-17 MSR
* Mulder Characterization
* Original Character (Klizzie)
Rating: NC-17 (Violence, Language, Graphic Sexual Content)
Classification: X; MSR; Post Ep; “/O” (specific scenes are marked)
Spoilers: “The Mastodon Diaries” takes place between “Folie A Deux” and “The End.” It contains spoilers from throughout the series and is “canon compliant.”
Summary: Mulder and Scully are thrown back in time…12,000 years.
“Although common sense may rule out the possibility of time travel, the laws of quantum physics certainly do not. In case you forgot, Scully, that's from your graduate thesis. You were a lot more open-minded when you were a youngster.” -- Mulder in “Synchrony”
Disclaimer: Do these characters really belong to Chris Carter, FOX and 1013 Productions? If so, no copyright infringement intended. Fun, yes. Profit, no. Also, Chapter 10 contains a nod to "Dances with Wolves," one of my favorite movies.
Special thanks to betas mimic117, Dr. Guts, Jean Helms, jeri and xdks. Without their skilled assistance, I would sound like an idiot. They are awesome -- sharp-eyed, enthusiastic and sooooo dang generous with their time. I love you, sweeties!
["The Mastodon Diaries" is rated NC-17 for Violence, Language, and Graphic Sexual Content. Chapters containing sensitive material are clearly labeled. Some readers may find the situations represented in this novel disturbing or offensive. Reader discretion is strongly advised.]
THE MASTODON DIARIES
By aka "Jake"
“Survival is the ultimate ideology.” -- WMM, Fight the Future
Hill Air Force Base
Box Elder County, Utah
May 13, 1998
Scully crouched on all fours, mimicking Mulder’s low profile. She whispered into the dark, “I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but we’re breaking the law.”
“Shhhhh.” Mulder pointed a cautionary finger at her. His hand glowed like a disembodied specter in the waning moonlight, while the rest of him remained cloaked in shadows. He wore black, as did she. Jeans, turtleneck, leather coat. Charcoal-colored face paint camouflaged their cheeks. A faded Baltimore Black Sox baseball cap, circa 1932 and borrowed from Mulder, hid Scully’s bright hair.
She listened to the snip-snip of his wire cutters, followed by the rattle of chain-link as he pulled aside a section of fence. He slipped through the breach like a cat burglar, then turned to help her trespass onto government property.
Jesus, what had she been thinking when she agreed to come here with him? This was foolhardy...not to mention illegal.
“Mulder, if we get caught--”
“Shhhhh,” he hushed her again.
His fingers gripped her arm and drew her through the fence. Once on the other side, she knelt next to him…close enough to smell his antiperspirant, which to be honest was giving up the ghost. The hike from the car had been a long one, over rough terrain, and Mulder set a strenuous pace, jogging almost the entire way. She’d worked up a sweat trying to keep up and probably smelled equally sour.
“Look,” he whispered.
She followed the point of his finger to where runway lights illuminated a triangular-shaped aircraft to the east. Mulder was right. The ship was unlike anything they’d ever seen before.
Of course, that didn’t make it extraterrestrial. Not in her book.
“Here they come.” Mulder flattened himself in the desert weeds, stretching out on his stomach while he peered at the runway through a pair of high-powered binoculars.
Crickets whined in the scrub around them. Human voices drifted across the desert from the tarmac. The air smelled like dry grass, sage and ten thousand years of wind-scoured sand.
“What are they doing?” Scully asked, squinting at the uniformed men who circled the craft. She crouched on hands and knees, hunching low, but refusing to lie on her belly the way Mulder was doing. The ground chilled her palms and she found herself wishing she’d worn gloves.
“I think they’re gonna do it.”
“Fly.” He adjusted the focus of his binoculars. “Uh-oh.”
“What’s the matter?” Goosebumps sprouted on her arms at his tone. Unable to make out anything from this distance, she had to rely on his eyes, trust his instincts.
“I recognize one of them.”
Lisa Ianelli -- girlfriend of time traveler Jason Nichols. What was she doing here?
“Hang on, Scully--” Mulder dropped his binoculars and grabbed her arm.
A chugging rumble emanated from the aircraft, causing the uniformed onlookers to scurry away. When the ship rose from the ground, it floated straight up, like a Harrier jet. It hung there, forty feet in the air, for ten seconds or so. Black and shaped like a shallow pyramid, it carried no insignia, no markings of any kind. Each of its triangular sides looked to be about thirty feet long. The bottom was flat and had a light at each point and a circular depression in the center. Six lights, arranged in a hexagon pattern, glowed around the inner circle.
The mysterious craft suddenly shot straight up, vanishing against the backdrop of stars, while causing an aftershock that rippled the sky. Sand and debris blasted the surrounding landscape. A stinging wind howled past Mulder and Scully, pinning them to the desert floor, while a sonic boom vibrated their bones.
Scully covered her head as the wind siphoned oxygen from her lungs. The last thing she remembered before losing consciousness was the feel of Mulder’s fingers clutching desperately to the sleeve of her jacket.
* * *
Sun straight overhead. Painfully bright. Buzzing deerflies. Sweet smell of fresh grass...mixed with the musky odor of livestock.
Mulder groaned and tried to get his bearings. He was lying face down on the ground. Jesus, his head ached. His mouth felt bone dry and tasted sour, like...vomit. Oh, Christ, he’d thrown up at some point. He wiped his lips on his sleeve, and, blinking against the bright sun, looked around for Scully.
She was stretched out on the grass six feet away and appeared to be unconscious.
“Sc-scully?” He coughed and swallowed, trying to moisten his mouth.
She didn’t move, so he pushed himself into a sitting position. Every muscle pained him as he scooted closer and tapped her arm.
He could see dried blood caking her hairline, drawing flies. It pissed him off to see them there. What had happened to her cap? His head swiveled stupidly as he searched for it.
“Scullee-scullee-scullee,” he chanted, patting her hand. He felt queasy and lightheaded. How long had they been lying like this? he wondered. Where the hell was the Air Base? And the desert...?
Clearly, they weren’t in northwestern Utah anymore. They were on a broad, grassy meadow.
About ten yards away, six scrawny vultures formed a semicircle around them. The birds watched him with cautious eyes. One hopped closer.
“Get the hell outta here!” he yelled, causing the buzzards to flap their wings and retreat.
In the distance, where the field met the forest, there was a herd of large, wooly...what exactly were those things? Too big for cows. Buffalo maybe? No, they had...tusks! Elephants?
He searched for his binoculars. Quickly locating them in the grass, he lifted them to his eyes and focused on the animals.
Somewhere in Northwestern Utah
Late Spring, Midday
Mulder removed his jacket, folded it in half and tucked it beneath Scully’s head. Then he sat down beside her, prepared to wait as long as necessary for her to regain consciousness.
He passed the time by peering through his binoculars at the herd of mastodons, shooing flies from Scully’s pale face, and chucking stones at the persistent vultures.
He and Scully were in a hell of a predicament, and although he considered himself an able and brave man -- FBI-trained, with almost a decade of field experience -- he had to admit that the sight of Scully lying there as motionless as one of her cadavers scared the crap out of him.
Watching over her, feeling utterly helpless, he was reminded of that terrible night when he was a kid, sitting beside the charred ruins of his boyhood friend’s burned house. Would safeguarding Scully from a flock of hungry vultures give him years of nightmares, too? A phobia of buzzards, maybe, to go along with his fear of fire?
And what if he lost her...?
Please, Scully, he pleaded silently. Open your eyes, pleeease.
The gash in her temple looked nasty -- ragged and oozing blood. A purple-black bruise the size of his palm darkened her forehead on the left side of her face, discoloring her skin from her hairline to her cheekbone. The size of the swelling unnerved him. He wished he’d been hurt instead of her, not just because he wanted to take away her suffering, but also because, with her medical knowledge, she would know how to patch him back together. As it was, he had no idea how to treat a head injury. And this one looked serious.
He was wallowing in feelings of ineptitude when the mastodons began plodding west across the grassland, disappearing one-by-one into the far off valley. The damn buzzards remained where they were, eyes trained on Scully’s motionless form. Mulder hated their presumption, and considered shooting a couple of them with his gun.
Common sense prevailed. His clip was full, but every bullet might prove precious later on.
Mulder picked up another stone and pitched it like a fastball at the second bird from the end. He caught the buzzard dead center in its chest, causing it to squawk and hop away.
Take that, you fucking son-of-a-bitch.
The afternoon ticked slowly by. The sun beat down, intense and fiery hot. Mulder rotated his position as the sun moved, trying to keep Scully in the shadow of his body to shield her as much as possible from the sun’s harsh rays. Her unprotected skin would burn easily out here in the open.
Should he pick her up and carry her into the shade? he wondered. The meadow merged into woodland about 500 yards to the north. He worried that moving her might cause some sort of internal damage. It was possible she had a neck injury or a broken bone.
Chiding himself for not thinking of it sooner, he began to check her for breaks. He gently patted her arms and legs, and then unzipped her jacket to run his palms carefully over her ribs. Everything seemed fine. But what did he know? Maybe it wasn’t possible to feel a rib fracture.
For the next four hours he continued to lean over her, his back bearing the brunt of the sun’s rays. The dark fabric of his turtleneck soaked in the heat, making him sweaty and restless. The vultures seemed to sense his discomfort and inched closer. In a fit of irritation, he yanked his shirt up over his head and flung it at them, only to become more aggravated when it fell short of its mark.
Thank God, a steady breeze puffed across the open meadow, helping to cool his temper along with the sweat on his bare back. He plucked a blade of grass and chewed it, feeling like some hayseed from East Bumfuck, but thankful for the brief distraction of its tart flavor.
Late in the afternoon Scully finally stirred.
Gently, he stroked her hair, combing it back from her bloodied forehead. Her eyelids fluttered and opened. Relief prickled his skin when her eyes focused on his face and she appeared to recognize him.
He smiled at her and said, “Hey.”
She offered him a feeble smile in return, and then looked past him to the field of fresh grass and the semi-circle of vultures.
“Where are we?” she asked.
“Not ‘where,’ Scully -- ‘when.’ *When* are we.”
She rose on one elbow and winced from the effort. The vultures backed away, beating their wings and clucking with almost human disappointment over her apparent recovery.
“Mulder, what are you saying?”
“How’s your American History?”
Deciding it might be best to ease into the truth, he gave a small shrug and tried to look unconcerned. “It’s possible we might have...um...traveled back in time.”
“Traveled--?” Now she sat bolt upright. “How far back in time?”
He wanted to tell her that everything was going to be all right and there was nothing to be overly concerned about. Her physical condition was the most important thing right now, and she needed to be careful not to injure herself any more than she already was. On the other hand, he knew she wouldn’t tolerate being kept in the dark; she didn’t like being coddled any more than he did. So instead of saying more, he offered her another shrug.
“70s? 60s? 50s?” she asked.
“Jesus, Mulder.” She gazed at the meadow, the forest, and, farther away, the snow-covered mountain peaks.
No airplanes flew overhead, no traffic passed by, no buildings stood anywhere within view.
“Turn of the century?” she asked.
“More like...Late Pleistocene.”
“I don’t believe it. It isn’t possible.” She tentatively prodded the bruise on her forehead as if her injury was the cause of her confusion. “People can’t travel back in time.”
“If you want, I can quote your graduate thesis. ‘Although common sense may rule out the possibility of time travel, the laws of quantum physics--’”
“I know what I wrote,” she snapped. “I was barely out of my teens at the time. What the hell did I know?”
He didn’t want to make her angrier by saying he agreed with her youthful hypothesis, so instead he kept his tone even and applied the practiced calm he usually reserved for reluctant witnesses. “We’ve seen something like this before,” he reminded her gently. “And Lisa Ianelli was at Hill Air Force Base.”
The weight of his words sunk in and Scully’s shoulders slumped.
“Tachyons,” she said, understanding the implications.
He nodded. “Subatomic particles that can travel faster than the speed of light and go back in time--”
“But only for a few seconds and only at a temperature of absolute zero,” she interrupted. “Mulder, in case you hadn’t noticed, we were never frozen.”
“I can’t explain that, but it’s possible Lisa Ianelli discovered another method, a way to travel through time that doesn’t require freezing.” He reached out and stroked her cheek, careful to avoid the bruise there. “I saw something, Scully.” He knew this was going to sound ridiculous. “I saw...mastodons.”
“Mastodons?” She looked as if she might actually laugh. “Okay, Mulder. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that we’ve somehow traveled back in time...to the Pleistocene...or whenever...not that I believe that. But *if* it were true, then how do we get back?”
Well, that was the sixty-four-thousand dollar question, wasn’t it?
Now it was his turn to study their surroundings. The sun was low in the sky. It would be dark in another couple of hours, and no magic doorways to 1998 seemed to be presenting themselves.
“I’m...I’m not sure we can get back.”
Arching an eyebrow, she waited for him to say more. No doubt she expected him to launch into one of his typical numinous theories, but this was one X-File that had him stumped. It didn’t help that he was too thirsty and too hungry to concentrate on gravitational anomalies, event horizons, or para-physics.
“We need to find drinking water before the sun sets,” he said, rising to his feet. His knees ached from sitting for so long. He reached out a hand to help her up, and hoped she was feeling fit enough to travel. “Do you think you can walk?”
She nodded and took his hand, allowing him to pull her to her feet. Swaying on unsteady legs, she asked, “Which way, Mr. Indian Guide?”
He pivoted, considering the possibilities. Did it make sense to head toward the mountains? Snowmelt would mean freshwater streams, right? But which mountains? There were mountains on every side. The mastodons had headed west. They would be looking for water, wouldn’t they?
Or were mastodons like camels?
“West,” he said, going with his gut and the wisdom of the mastodons.
* * *
Peach-colored clouds striped the evening sky, promising a spectacular sunset. The sun appeared wedged between two mountain peaks, which Scully guessed were part of the Newfoundland Mountains...assuming she and Mulder were still anywhere on or near Hill Air Force Base in Box Elder County, Utah. Unfortunately, they’d left their map in the car, which would be in the opposite direction, if anywhere at all.
She tried to picture what the map had looked like. She knew Hill was a large backward z-shaped parcel of land located between Great Salt Lake to the east and the Great Salt Lake Desert to the west. The Base included the southernmost region of the dry Newfoundland Evaporation Basin, as well as the foothills of the Newfoundland Mountains. Squinting at the tallest rise, she guessed it might be Desert Peak, the range’s highest point.
Or not. The grassy meadow they were crossing bore no resemblance to the desert they’d been in last night.
Mulder was walking several paces ahead of her, leading them along a broad trail of trampled grass. She concentrated on the relentless swing of his jacket, which dangled from his left fist. He had slung his binoculars around his neck so that the strap crossed his back from right shoulder to left hip. His shirt was tied loosely around his waist.
Not feeling as warm as he seemed to, she kept her coat on and hugged it tightly across her chest. In the back of her mind, it occurred to her that she might be in shock, a result of the blow to her head.
The meadow sloped gradually downhill. Mulder’s elongated shadow stretched out behind him, reminding her of Dr. Chester Banton, the dark matter scientist with a lethal shadow. She didn’t fear Mulder’s shadow; to the contrary, she kept herself purposely inside it, feeling it somehow tethered her to him. If she happened to stumble or fall, it might pull him up short, alerting him to her trouble. Crazy idea, she knew, but she refused to step outside it in any case.
“Watch out for the prairie pies,” he warned, pointing to an enormous mound of fresh dung. “Told you I saw a mastodon. That ain’t no cow patty.”
Had he really seen mastodons?
No, it was impossible; this was just a bad dream, it had to be, and she was going to wake up any minute in her own bed. Maybe she would tell Mulder about her nightmare over coffee and Danish at the cart outside the second-floor bullpen tomorrow morning. He would tease her and then, after they returned to their office, he would pull out a stack of mastodon-related X-Files. “Mastodon Footprints Discovered on Mars” or “Woman Gives Birth to Boy With Tusks and Trunk; Father Was Mastodon in Former Life.”
“You okay, Scully?” He was suddenly beside her, one arm gripping her shoulders, holding her up. She felt dizzy. Had she stopped walking? “Do you need to rest?”
“I’m fi--” Her knees buckled.
He lowered her gently to the ground. “Sit for a minute. Your forehead’s bleeding again.” He untied the shirt from his waist and gently blotted her temple with it.
“I know. Me, too.” He held her tenderly. “We’ll find water soon.”
She leaned into him, thankful for his company and his care, and wanting more than anything to believe him about the water. Her throat ached for a drink. Then the edges of her vision began to fray, as if her eyes were falling victim to a too-early sunset. Mosquito-sized flecks floated between her and Mulder’s worried expression. The flecks swarmed and thickened until Mulder became lost in a gray snowstorm that made her think of all the grainy television sets in all the sleazy motels where they’d stayed over the years. Like the two-room hotel in Home, Pennsylvania, where she watched Mulder rotate the TV antenna, trying to bring its picture into focus. Wild animal sounds came from the staticky set. Not mastodons, but jackals or wolves. Predatory creatures. She’d left Mulder alone in that room, which couldn’t be locked because he’d let her have the safer room, the one with the lock that worked. He’d risked his life for her.
She suddenly felt as if she were being bent in half and lifted off her feet. Blood rushed to her face as her head hung lower than her heart. Her hands weighed a thousand pounds, it seemed, and she let her arms dangle there, above her head...or below her head, whichever. Someone embraced her legs a million miles away. She guessed she was being carried, not like a fairytale princess, but in the undignified position of a fireman’s carry. Was it Mulder who stole her away?
Blinded by her lightheadedness and the drape of her upside-down hair, she wanted to cry for help, but her voice wouldn’t cooperate.
Again she thought of Home, Pennsylvania. Not the Peacock brothers or their bizarre, over-protective mother, but Mulder’s romantic notions about country life.
//Only place you had to be on time was home for dinner. Never had to lock your doors. No modems, no faxes, no cell phones.//
Like here…the Pleistocene, according to Mulder.
//If I had to settle down, build a home...be a place like this.//
Had he brought them here on purpose, in search of a simpler life? No, that was ridiculous. He was a city boy, despite his protestations. That day in Home, he’d been high on “eau de baseball.”
She took a sniff. No smell of cowhide. Eau de Mulder? He was right under her nose. Or maybe she was underneath him? God, everything was topsy-turvy.Usually she hated feeling so muddled. But right now, she felt inexplicably calm. Breathing in his familiar scent, she allowed herself to fall deeper into the safe haven of his shadow.
* * *
"Hopes are dashed
Forget they’re hiding.//
Was Mulder singing?
//In a tachyon flux
Tachyon flux -- it’s a put on
Come on join the party...//
Yes, Mulder was singing...a butchered rendition of The Who’s “Eminent Front.”
“That isn’t how the song goes,” she murmured.
She felt herself slide from his shoulder. His fingers gripped her hips as he lowered her feet to the ground.
“Yes, I’m awake.” She put a hand on his arm for balance and looked around. Only the barest hint of sunlight remained, outlining the far-off mountains. A quarter moon rose in the east, brilliant white against a purple-black sky. A spray of stars glittered overhead. Trees dotted the meadow, their leaves whispering in the evening breeze. The landscape was storybook beautiful. “How long was I...?” She gestured at his shoulder.
“We’re not going to find water tonight, are we?”
A smile tugged at his lips. “Don’t be so pessimistic.” He pointed past her, and she turned to see moonlight on water at the bottom of the grassy slope.
The prospect of a drink drew her forward. She began to walk, and then run. Water! Thank God! Sprinting down the hill, she suddenly felt as giddy as a child. The cool evening air rushed past her ears, swept her hair away from her overly hot forehead, filled her eyes with a blur of tears. Each breath ballooned her chest with fresh energy. The ground was spongy beneath her feet, making her feel weightless, as if she could fly, and she could smell the sweet scent of fresh grass with every step.
Fifty yards from the river, she pulled up short. Something was moving at the water’s edge. Several somethings. She heard the splash of water, a muted thud, a chuff of air from large lungs.
Mulder caught up with her, and stopped, too, his skin shiny with sweat in the moonlight. He raised his binoculars to survey the riverbank.
“What are they?” she asked, trying to steady her breathing. “Mastodons?”
He lowered the binoculars and dovetailed his fingers with hers. “No. Just horses. Not even very big ones. Come on.” He tugged her toward them.
As all trace of sunlight vanished from the western sky, stars multiplied in the heavens and a mirror image of the moon floated on the river’s inky surface. Scully could smell the water, and the sharp, dusty odor of the horses.
The horses caught wind of them, too, and moved downstream. At the water’s edge, she released Mulder’s hand and dropped to her knees on the grassy bank. She filled her cupped palms. The water was cold, numbing her fingers, but tasting delicious. She scooped handful after handful into her mouth. Mulder knelt beside her and drank greedily, too, before plunging his whole head beneath the surface to rinse his hair and scrub at his neck.
Raising his head, he waggled his eyebrows and asked, “Wanna go skinny dipping?”
As far as she could tell in the dark, the river was about a hundred and fifty yards wide, and curved in a giant oxbow. Its current appeared to be slow moving. There were no exposed boulders and no whitewater rapids.
“We don’t know what’s in there.”
“Nothing, I hope, since we just drank a couple of gallons.”
“No, I mean like snapping turtles or the equivalent of Pleistocene piranha.”
“As long as there are no flukemen.”
He stood, untied his shirt from his waist, and let it drop to the ground on top of his jacket. Was he really going to--? He removed the binoculars from around his neck and set them beside his clothes.
“No peeking,” he warned as he toed off his shoes and unfastened his pants.
Socks and shorts off, he released a bloodcurdling Tarzan yell, and then bulldozed naked into the water.
Well, that was Mulder for you, jumping in feet first. Good to know he hadn’t changed, even if the rest of the world was unrecognizable.
“Whoa! Water’s cold! Come on in.”
“Don’t know what you’re missing.”
He dove beneath the surface as if to prove his point. When his head popped back up a moment later, he shook water from his hair, and then swam in a leisurely circle several yards out from shore.
Scully wrapped her arms around her knees and watched him roll onto his back to float with arms outstretched, his skin gilded by moonlight. Fireflies blinked all along the riverbank, dancing above the tall reeds. Bullfrogs harrumphed, marking territory with their deep base voices. A nervous horse whinnied somewhere downstream.
Had they really traveled back in time more than ten thousand years? Or was this place a 20th Century Garden of Eden, an untouched oasis in an otherwise modern world? Mulder claimed to have seen mastodons. But did he know the difference between a modern day elephant and a prehistoric one?
Suppose an elephant or two had escaped from a local zoo, like the time Ganesha escaped from its cage in Fairfield, Idaho... Wasn’t that a more likely explanation than time travel?
Scully suddenly missed her comfortable apartment. A hot bubble bath would feel wonderful right now. And some take-out Thai food would hit the spot. She mentally added Ibuprofen for her headache, scented candles for her nerves, and an interesting novel -- maybe Jose Chung’s newest thriller -- to take her mind off air bases and time travel.
Out in the river, Mulder swam lazily toward shore. He waded the last few yards, rising from the river like a merman. Water poured from his glistening skin as he returned to her. Silhouetted against the moonlit water, liberated from his everyday attire, he looked extraordinarily handsome -- lean, graceful, even a little dangerous.
Blood rose in her cheeks as a pleasant heaviness settled into her pelvis. The sight of him was arousing her, she realized, and she quickly looked away, averting her stare and feeling voyeuristic and a little ashamed of herself. Mulder was her partner. Their relationship was based on professional respect. She had no right to ogle him.
Hand raised to her temple, she worried she was losing her mind. She was feeling dizzy and acting irrationally. Her head was pounding.
She heard him drop down on the grass beside her, and she glanced in his direction, being careful to keep her eyes leveled above his shoulders. He used his shirt to briskly dry himself.
“No piranha,” he said.
“Your teeth are chattering.”
“But I smell better.”
He began to dress, so she moved away -- to give him privacy, and to wash her face.
Crouched at the water’s edge, she removed her jacket, and rolled up her shirtsleeves. Again she filled her hands with cold water, but this time she used it to gently clean the gash at her hairline. Her forehead felt tender where it had been cut. She gently rinsed away grit and dried blood, careful not to reopen the wound.
“Can I help?” Mulder appeared beside her, fully dressed and carrying a handkerchief in his hand. “It’s clean, I promise.” He dipped the handkerchief into the water and then used it to dab at her wound.
She marveled at the fact he carried something as old-fashioned as a handkerchief. It made her realize she knew almost nothing about his upbringing. The handkerchief brought to mind an image of a well-mannered little boy, dressed and pressed like a gentleman, which contradicted her earlier impression of him as a hellion -- a daredevil who would jump feet first and buck naked into an Ice Age river.
As always, Mulder was difficult to peg.
“How does it look?” she asked.
“Not too bad.” He stroked the area, pushing her hair away from the wound. “The mark of an experienced G-Woman.”
She startled when a pair of yellow-green eyes caught her attention on the opposite shore. They peered back at her from behind a veil of tall weeds.
She lowered her voice to a whisper. “Mulder, look.”
“I see it.”
She heard him release the snap on his holster and pull out his gun.
“Let’s go,” he whispered.
“Uphill. Away from here.” He gripped her arm and hauled her to her feet.
She glanced across the river. The green eyes had vanished. She grabbed her coat.
Then a growl sounded -- a large cat of some kind. A splash of water told her it was coming after them. Her heart began to hammer in her chest. Her legs felt rubbery, her feet numb.
Mulder yanked hard on her arm. “Hurry! Unless you want to become cat food for a saber-toothed tiger.”
Saber-toothed tiger?The cat suddenly roared, and Scully ran for all she was worth.
* * *
Mulder sprinted up the hill, clutching Scully’s arm. He could hear her gasping for breath. God, please don’t let her pass out, he thought. How far back was the damn cat?
As soon as they reached the woods, he began searching for a tree to climb. He selected a tall, straight evergreen, not too big around, but with lots of stout branches.
“Up,” he ordered Scully, shoving her through a veil of lower limbs. Unsure of the cat’s location, he quickly grabbed a branch and hauled himself up after her.
“Mulder, I can’t see.”
He heard her scrambling for footholds.
Grasping her hips, he propelled her higher.
“Watch your head.”
He scaled several more branches.
“I think I’m about as high as--”
The cat roared beneath them.
Three, four, five more branches. They were nearing the top; he could feel the tree beginning to sway.
Below them, the cat growled. Mulder pushed Scully higher.
Finally, they could go no further and Scully settled on a sturdy branch. He perched next to her and dug his flashlight from his pocket. Aimed down the trunk of the tree, the light reflected in the cat’s yellow-green eyes.
Jesus, the animal was huge -- it looked twice as heavy as a modern day lion, although not any taller or longer. Its tail was stubby, like a bobcat, but what it lacked on the rear end, it more than made up for on the front, where foot-long fangs protruded from its enormous upper jaw. No doubt they could rip open a man’s belly with one swipe.
It was an honest-to-fucking-goodness saber-toothed tiger.
“Must be the kitty chow,” he commented.
Scully sat shivering between him and the tree trunk. He wrapped his gun arm around her to secure himself to her and the tree. With his other hand, he kept his light aimed at the cat.
“Can it climb up here?” Scully asked.
“If it tries, it won’t get past *this*.” He waggled his gun.
She glanced at the weapon. “Don’t drop it.”
“When have I ever dropped my gun?”
She said nothing. After a few moments of silence, he angled his flashlight at her face, revealing her skeptical expression. She arched one graceful eyebrow.
“Never,” he argued.
Her other eyebrow climbed to join the first.
He turned the flashlight back on the cat. “Not while sitting in a tree.”
Suddenly the cat lunged upward and positioned itself on the bottommost branch. The tree shook, and Mulder and Scully both gasped.
He leveled his gun at the cat. The motion put her off balance, and she caught herself by latching onto his thigh, squeezing hard.
“Not that I’m objecting, Scully, but now may not be the best time,” he whispered, indicating her hand with a tilt of his head.
“I just...I didn’t want to fall.” She released him.
They watched the cat balance on its hind legs, while it searched with its forepaws for a higher perch.
“You won’t fall,” he assured her, hugging his arm around her again. “I won’t let you.”
The cat jumped back to the ground and resumed its pacing.
“There. You see? Nothing to worry about.”
“We could still fall out of the tree in our sleep,” she said.
“I won’t be sleeping.” He tracked the cat with his light.
“Maybe you should sing,” she suggested. “That way, I’ll know you’re awake.” She leaned into him. Her trembling seemed worse.
Okay, he’d sing. Just to keep her mind off their predicament. Hell, to keep *his* mind off their predicament. He cleared his throat.
“Mulder and Scully, sitting in a tree, “K-I-S-S-I-N-G.”
He shined his light at her to see her reaction.
She shook her head. “In your dreams, Mulder.”
He smiled, and continued his sing-songy rhyme, “First comes loooove...”
He lightly tapped the tip of her nose with his flashlight, making her frown. She batted his hand away.
“Then comes marriage...”
She still refused to smile.
“And then comes Mulder with a baby carriage,” he finished quickly.
“Isn’t that supposed to be ‘and then comes *Scully* with a baby carriage?’”
“I’m a man of the 90s, Scully.”
“Ah.” After a minute of silence, she asked, “Mulder, are you afraid?”
“Nope,” he lied.
“It doesn’t worry you that we may be thousands of years from where we’re supposed to be?”
Oh yeah, there was that pesky time travel thing. “Who says we’re not supposed to be right here?”
“In a tree? With a tiger waiting to devour us the moment we fall?”
“I told you, we’re not going to fall.”
Tucking her more firmly into the crook of his arm, he decided to sing some more. Something appropriate for the occasion. Something like...
“I see a bad moon rising. I see trouble on the way--”“Oh, brother.”
Continued in Chapter Two