Summary: Injured and trapped inside a freight train car, Mulder depends on Scully and a new four-legged friend to rescue him. Spoilers: Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose, Quagmire


Author's notes: This story was originally planned to be something quite different than it turned out. What it was supposed to be was an insightful look into Mulder's personal thoughts about his life or complete lack thereof. However, what it has become instead is a tribute to my best friend Dynamite, a thirteen-year-old Siberian Husky-German Shepherd mix, who recently passed away. Lots of references to Scully's late pooch, Queequeg. Okay, enough said. Please, read on.

--------------

Thursday, January 8, 1998 Alexandria 5:47 a.m.

He was being followed. For the past mile and a half, Mulder had become aware that his movements were being mimicked as he jogged away from the park back towards his apartment. He picked up his pace and glanced over his shoulder, noting that his shadow had done the same and was steadily gaining ground. Mulder scoured his surroundings for a weapon he could use and paused to snatch up the first thing he saw. He turned and hurled the foot-long fallen tree limb at his follower and watched as it completely sailed over his intended victim's head. The flying wood proved to be in invitation to play rather than a deterrent. Mulder stood with hands on hips and sighed in annoyance when the limb was quickly retrieved and brought instantly back to him.

"Don't you know when someone's trying to take your fool head off?" he asked while backing up a few steps, trying to keep a safe distance between himself and the large canine that wanted to be his friend. At least he hoped that was all it wanted. It hadn't barked or growled at him, only trotted cautiously behind him for the past fifteen minutes. Tossing the stick seemed to have sealed the relationship as far as the dog was concerned. He let it drop from his mouth to lay at Mulder's feet, then looked up hopefully at the tall stranger, tail wagging eagerly awaiting another toss.

"Okay," said Mulder, as he reached carefully for the stick. He wasn't particularly fond of dogs. Over the years, there had been occasional run-ins with snapping jaws and bared teeth, but luckily, he had been able to ward off an attack with either cunning or speed. Most had been fairly harmless, but he knew that even the most gentle looking canine could still bite. This one, so far showed no desire to attack, though it was a frightfully large animal, mostly white and wolf-like in appearance. So far, the dog merely wanted to play, so Mulder decided to oblige. "Okay boy. Go get it!" He chucked the stick with all his might and grinned when the dog took off after it. "Sucker," Mulder grinned, then turned to run in the opposite direction.

Glancing over his shoulder, Mulder checked on the progress of the pooch and noticed that the stick he had thrown had landed in the center of a three-way intersection. He sputtered to a halt and watched with concern as the animal neared its goal with total abandon. It was a residential area with fairly low speed limits and light traffic, still Mulder felt a tightening in his gut as he watched the dog headed at top speed towards the intersection. He had only wanted it to stop following him, he didn't want to see it become roadkill. Quickly pulling off the glove on his right hand, Mulder placed his thumb and index finger into the corners of his mouth and let loose with a shrill, attention-getting whistle. The dog stopped in its tracks and turned back to see his new playmate signaling with a wave for him to come back. The dog was then startled by a fast moving pickup truck speeding through the intersection, snapping the stick in two under its wheels. Mulder blew out a relieved sigh when the animal turned away from the danger and headed back towards him.

Mulder slipped his glove back on and jogged in place to keep warm in the forty-degree weather while waiting for his new four- legged companion to reach him. He had to admit to himself that it was a regal looking animal, though he wasn't sure of its lineage. Its face, chest and legs were solid white, while its back and bushy, turned-up tail were a blend of black and brown. Thick-coated and powerfully built, it looked like it should be the lead on a sled dog team. Mulder was sure he had seen similar dogs in the Alaskan wilderness programs he'd seen on television. It appeared to be healthy and well-groomed, not just a mangy mutt, but more likely a beloved pet that had recently strayed away from home.

"Sorry about that," Mulder apologized to the animal when it came and stood expectantly in front of him. "I don't suppose just telling you to go home would help, would it?" In response, the dog merely sat down on its haunches. "That's what I thought. You wouldn't happen to have any ID on you, would you?" Mulder knelt down and carefully reached his hand out to make contact. He met no resistance or aggression whatsoever as he examined the metal tag that hung from the dog's red, leather collar. He found the dog's name and a phone number to call if lost, engraved into the heart-shaped metal. Mulder grinned as he petted the dog's head and barely avoided a wet tongue against his cheek. "Okay, okay. I'll help you find your way home. Let's go... Pooh."

-----

Mulder was hesitant about allowing the dog into his apartment, but couldn't figure out anything else to do with it for the time being. His paranoia was threatening to surface when he began imagining that the dog would suddenly turn vicious and rip out his throat. He picked up his gun and turned off the safety in preparation for an attack, then went into the kitchen and removed a bottle of spring water from the fridge. He took several swigs for himself then thoughtfully filled a bowl with some of the water and offered it to his guest. As the animal drank, Mulder went to the phone in the living room and placed a call to the number from the dog tag. He waited through eight rings before deciding no one was home. Perhaps the owner was already out searching for his or her missing pet. He'd have to try again later, but for now, it was time for him to get ready for work.

"Listen," he spoke to the dog, "I'm going to go take a shower and get dressed for work. You will behave yourself. You will not tear up anything, you will not pee or crap on my floors and you will not do any barking. You will stay right here and keep quiet and out of trouble. Understand?" If the furry beast did understand any of that, he showed no outward indications of such. All Mulder could do was cross his fingers and hope for the best as he began to shed his sweats and head for the bathroom for a quick shower and shave. He emerged ten minutes later with a towel wrapped about his waist and one draped about his shoulders. He was anxious to see what kind of condition his living room was in and was relieved to see everything just as he had left it. The dog had settled down peacefully on the throw rug in front of the coffee table, and lifted his head up as Mulder made an appearance in the room.

"I see you're still here," said Mulder, toweling his hair dry. He sniffed the air for any unpleasant odors, and thankfully found none. "I guess this means you're house-broken, huh? Good."

Picking up the cordless phone, Mulder dialed the number from the tag again, but was still unable to reach anyone. If he couldn't contact the owner by the time he was ready to leave for work, the only other alternative he could think of was to simply drop the dog off at the nearest animal shelter. He decided to make another phone call, having to wait through only two rings before a smooth, female voice replied, "Scully."

"Hey, Scully, it's me. I might be a little late getting into the office today. I've got a pet project to take care of first.

"What sort of pet project?"

"The canine variety. This big, fury animal followed me home and I'm trying to contact the owner to return it. Failing that, I'll make a detour by the Humane Society to drop it off."

"Mulder, are you saying that you have a dog in your apartment right now?

"Yeah, well, I didn't want to see it become roadkill."

"I thought you hated dogs."

"I never said I hated dogs."

"You certainly didn't have any warm feelings for Queequeg."

True, not that he considered the poor departed Queequeg much of a dog. He had thought of Scully's ill-fated pet as little more than a dust mop with teeth. It also didn't help matters to know that the little fur ball had dined on the remains of its previous owner. He nearly chose to remind his partner of that fact but wisely thought better of it.

"I am not a dog person. I will admit that."

"And yet you're going out of your way to help a stray get back home? What kind of dog is it?"

"I'm not sure. It looks as big as a wolf, but I'm guessing it's some kind of Eskimo dog. It's mostly white and looks like it should be pulling a sled. And get this: the name on the tag reads Pooh. As in, Winnie the...." Mulder snickered at the absurdity of such a wimpy name cast upon a large, adult male dog.

Seemingly reading his mind over the phone, Scully responded, "Mulder, he was probably named by a child when he was just a tiny puppy; a small and cuddly little ball of fur."

"Scully, I've never told you this before, but I really like it when you talk puppy talk," Mulder teased.

"Mulder?"

"Yes?"

"Try not to bring any fleas to work."

--------

Mulder tried one last time to contact the dog's owner before leaving home, still with no success. The dog had remained silently curled up on the accent carpet all the while Mulder was getting dressed. He appeared to be asleep but instantly came to life when he heard the door being opened. He was at Mulder's side ready to go without prompting.

"If you see any of my neighbors, just be cool, okay? And please, no biting."

He didn't understand why he was talking to the dog as if the animal could possibly understand anything he said. Surely, it probably knew certain rudimentary words and commands, and could possibly grasp some comprehension from various intonations, but the odds of it getting the full meaning of complete sentences dotted with slang were not that great. Not being a dog person, Mulder was surprised at how easily he accepted this animal at his side as they boarded the elevator together. When the elevator came to a stop at the next floor to let someone on, Mulder slipped his hand through the red collar to hold the pooch in place. He wasn't sure how it would react around others and he didn't want to create a scene.

When the door opened, an attractive woman dressed in a short- skirted business suit under her opened overcoat prepared to step on board. Mulder had seen her several times before. She had always given him an icy greeting, seeming to have a predisposed dislike for him or perhaps it was a dislike for all men. At any rate, her body language had always screamed, 'Back off!' which Mulder wisely did. She saw him and the mask of distaste was brought forth, then she looked down and saw the dog and registered surprise.

"Is that your dog?" she asked before stepping in.

"No. No, it's not. I found it this morning while out jogging, and I'm going to see if I can find its owner. So you don't have to worry. I know it's against the rules to have dogs here."

She stepped into the elevator and reached her hand out to pet the dog. Mulder was about to warn her to be careful but it wasn't necessary. Pooh obviously appreciated the attention and lifted a paw to shake hands.

"Oh, she's beautiful."

"He," Mulder corrected her. "If my study of anatomy is correct."

The woman smiled up at him, then turned her attention to the dog again, still petting it and speaking in a higher-pitched voice with babying overtones. "You're such a big, beautiful pup-pup, aren't you? Big, sweet baby, yes you are."

Scully's puppy talk had been amusing, but this was almost nauseating. He tried not to let it show when the woman looked at him again with a genuine smile and said, "I never would have pegged you for a dog person. I think it's real sweet what you're doing. I just love big dogs. He looks like a cross between a German Shepherd and a Siberian Husky."

"Yeah, that's what I was thinking too," Mulder lied. The conversation with Wanda -- already on a first name basis -- continued out to his car where they finally parted ways on very good terms. Mulder opened the back door and gently urged the dog inside. After climbing in behind the wheel and starting the car, Mulder looked over his shoulder at his passenger, stretched comfortably out on the back seat.

"You're quite the little ice-breaker, aren't you?" Mulder grinned. "I see now why they call you man's best friend. Try not to get car- sick back there, okay?"

--------

Within a few blocks of reaching the animal shelter, Mulder came upon some police activity that drew his curiosity. Four police cruisers and a couple of unmarked vehicles were parked in front of a private girls' school. Mulder rolled down his window and displayed his badge to a uniformed cop who was directing traffic to move along.

"Fox Mulder, FBI. What's going on here?"

"A fifteen-year-old girl's been allegedly kidnapped. Probably just a run away though. You know how it is with these rich kids. Always doing something to get their folks' attention. She must be the daughter of some bigwig if they're calling in the FBI."

"No, I was just driving by. Looks like you guys got enough manpower on the case already. Good luck with it."

"Hey, nice dog," the cop said, pointing towards the back seat. "Government issue?"

"No, it's a stray I found this morning. Taking him to the animal shelter. There's one around here somewhere, right?"

"Yeah, just go down to the end of the street and take a left. It's a big white building on your right. You can't miss it."

"Thanks a lot." Mulder gestured his appreciation and drove on. As he came to a stop sign at the end of the block, he looked to his right and noticed a young man climbing over the high fence in the back of the academy. The man removed a pair of binoculars from around his neck, then quickly got into a parked, black jeep around the corner. Acting on instincts and nothing more, Mulder proceeded to follow behind the vehicle at a safe distance.

After thirty minutes of driving, which included a stop at a fast food drive-thru, Mulder was beginning to think that he was wasting his time trailing the black jeep. He was all set to give up when he saw the jeep heading into the railroad stock yard. His curiosity further piqued, Mulder continued to follow. The jeep finally came to a stop on a gravel covered area in front of several tracks of engineless freight cars. Mulder parked out of view of the jeep behind a deserted warehouse. "I'll be back in a few minutes," he found himself talking to the dog again and shook his head in disbelief at the ease in which he had accepted the animal into his world. Upon getting out of the car, he gently pushed the door closed, not bothering to make sure the locking mechanism caught.

As Mulder reached the edge of the warehouse and looked around the corner, he saw the young man he'd been following in a crouching position on top of a tubular-shaped, black freight car. Along with several numbers in bold, white paint was the word 'Sugar.' Mulder watched as the man opened the hatch on top of the tank car and dropped something through the opening. Mulder took out his revolver, ready to approach his quarry. He felt that it was quite possible that this was the kidnapper of the teenage girl from the school, and that she was being held captive inside the tank car. His plan was to capture the suspect as he climbed down from the train, but his attention became diverted by something brushing against his leg. He gasped at the sudden, unknown contact, then expelled a heavy sigh when he looked down to see what it was.

"You nearly scared the life out of me," Mulder whispered. "Look, you need to go back to the car and wait for me, okay? Go back to the car." Mulder pointed, hoping that the animal would at least understand the hand gesture, but the dog simply stared at the pointing hand instead. Mulder looked around on the ground for a stick to toss, but found none available. He took off his left glove, pulled it halfway inside out to give it more fullness, then tossed it towards the car. "Go play with the glove," Mulder told him, and the animal did what it was told. Mulder quickly turned to look around the edge of the building again and found the suspect nowhere in sight. "Damn! Where'd he go?"

Mulder moved cautiously forward with his gun poised to fire. He kept his eyes on the move, looking all about himself as he approached the jeep. When he discovered no one hiding inside, he looked towards the trains and considered the possibility that the man may have gone into the freight car with the kidnap victim. Could be he was hurting her at that moment. The thought occurred to Mulder that he should have called for backup, but now that his hand was on the first wrung of the iron ladder leading to the top of the tank car, he didn't want anything else to divert his attention away from his goal. If that bastard was in there hurting her, he didn't want to waste another second getting to them. Silently making it to the top, Mulder positioned himself over the opened hatch and pointed his gun down into the darkness.

"FBI, don't move!"

He couldn't see if anyone was moving or not. It was pitch black inside the rail car. Mulder took out a penlight from his coat pocket and focused the tiny beam into the shadows, bending down on one knee in order to lean in and get a better view. There was a crumbled bag from the fast food restaurant, but other than that, the car appeared to be empty. Suddenly, Mulder heard barking from the ground. He looked over the edge and saw Pooh, the hair raised on his back, his teeth bared and barking viciously up at him. Too late, Mulder realized that the barking wasn't aimed at him. He caught sight of a shadow falling across his path, then the back of his head exploded with pain and he fell forward, dropping his flashlight down into the opened hatch. His gun flew out of his other hand, landing where, he couldn't tell. He felt hands on him, first removing his coat, then maneuvering him towards the opening in the tank.

Despite the stabs of pain in his head and the dizziness he was experiencing, Mulder could still sense what was happening to him. He tried to grab the dark-haired man who was pushing him towards the gaping blackness. Failing that, he tried holding on to the edge to prevent his descent. Something hard jabbed into his side twice in quick succession, causing him to scream out in agony and relinquish his safety hold. The next thing he knew, he was tumbling through darkness. He tried to brace his fall with his hands but upon landing, heard something pop. He cried out as a searing pain tore through his left shoulder. That, added to the dizzying ache in his head and bruising right side was reason enough for Mulder to call it a day. As his world grew darker and he drifted off into a state of unconsciousness, the last thing he remembered hearing were the far away muffled sounds of a dog barking and growling, followed by a single gunshot.

end part 1