Title: BREAK ON THROUGH (to the other side)
Author: Janet F. Caires-Lesgold
Feedback: Please, to the above address!
Archive: By permission only!
Rating: NC-17 for scenes of sexual activity and implications of child sexual abuse - CAUTION: content may be too graphic for some readers.
Spoilers: None really. This is an AU from some point in season seven, so a lot of mytharc has not happened and will not happen.
Timeframe: Takes place sometime after "We'll Take a Cup of Kindness Yet" in my "Arrows" universe.
Keywords: M/K slash (and M/O)
Summary: Here there be monsters...
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I've tried to be authentic in my characters' behaviors and reactions to extreme circumstances herein. Let me know if I've succeeded.
DISCLAIMER: The characters you recognize belong to Chris Carter, 1013 Productions, and the whole X-Files gang, not to me. Anyone you don't recognize belongs to me only marginally--who can really own someone? This story is just for the entertainment of my online friends and myself, not for any profit.
DEDICATION: For my vast and complicated support network...
COPYRIGHT: (C) May 21, 2001, Janet F. Caires-Lesgold, email@example.com
Please don't redistribute or alter this story in any way without the express permission of the author. Thank you very much.
Since that night that my arm was broken, I had thought of Fox Mulder as the source of my salvation, but until the day I have in mind, I had never thought of myself as filling a similar role for him...
I was driving back from a meeting when the phone mounted on my dashboard rang. The dispatcher knew to disturb me only in an emergency, so I steadied the wheel momentarily with my prosthesis and clicked the "on" button with a finger.
"Yeah," I barked into the speaker.
A hesitant female voice answered, "Krycek?"
"Scully?" I asked, steering the car into a nearby parking space so I could pick up the phone and speak without worrying about driving.
"Where are you? Er, uh, are you somewhere near D.C.?"
"Yes, I am. How did you get this number?"
She paused, sounding like she'd been caught doing something illegal. "I found it in Mulder's wallet..." I was about to ask what she'd been doing going through his wallet when she continued. "We need you to come here. It's an emergency."
At first, I was more puzzled than concerned. "Where are you?"
"You know where Mulder's therapist's office is, don't you?"
I most certainly did. In fact, I was the one who'd insisted he talk to someone about some of the problems he'd been having, and who had set up his first appointment with Dr. Isaacson after I'd done some background checking on him. "What's going on?" I asked, suddenly worried. "Put Mulder on."
"I can't," she replied, with a catch in her voice as if she were going to cry. "How soon can you be here?"
"Wait, Scully," I stalled, my blood running cold. "Is Mulder all right?"
"I don't know," she almost whispered. "Can you get here right away?"
"I'll try. Don't panic, okay?" I added as I hung up, wondering if my admonition were coming a little too late.
Taking a deep breath, I pulled back out into traffic, taking the first right to turn around and go in the opposite direction.
Somehow, I forced myself not to think until I was safely parked in front of the medical building across town and on my way up in the elevator. As soon as the doors opened, I turned to walk to Dr. Isaacson's waiting room, but a familiar voice stopped me. "Here I am, Krycek." There was Mulder's red-haired partner, a tightly-wound bundle of copper wire in the middle of the hallway on the opposite side of the building. It broke my heart a little to see the frustration and upset on her face. My first instinct might have been to offer her a comforting hug, but with our peculiar relationship, I couldn't be sure she wouldn't rip my other arm out if I'd attempted it, so I prepared for a bit of awkwardness when we were within reach of one another.
As I went to meet her, she gave a dirty look to an Asian man who approached her, whereupon I realized she was standing guard over the men's restroom. "Is he in there?" I asked uselessly, cocking my head toward the door.
"He locked himself in there an hour ago, and hasn't answered anybody for some time. They called me right away, but I thought maybe you could get through to him since *I* couldn't..."
I gestured broadly up and down the hall. "Don't any of these people have *keys* to this door?"
"He threw the janitor's emergency lock, and nobody can find the janitor to open it."
Processing this information, I thought of another question. "Wait a minute. If he's in *there*, how'd you get his wallet to find my number?"
She proceeded to pull it out of her jacket pocket and hand it to me. "According to Dr. Isaacson, when he stretches out on the couch for his session, he takes his keys, wallet, phone, and weapon out of his pockets to make himself comfortable."
My sigh of relief wasn't in the least faked. "My next question was going to be if he were armed."
"Thankfully, no," assured Scully. "The doctor said that they'd been getting close to a breakthrough when Mulder bolted for the bathroom, and when he wouldn't answer them, they panicked and called me, since he put me down as his contact in case of emergency."
"And you had the brainstorm to call *me*, I see..." She nodded, but her eyes never left the doorknob. A young guy in jeans tried to nudge past us to reach for the door, but I elbowed him away as politely as possible. "It's occupied right now, okay?" He shrugged and wandered off to the elevator, probably to try the facilities on another floor. "You want me to try to pick the lock?" I offered.
The look of stunned relief on her face would have been comical if I hadn't been as terrified as she was. "Please?" she asked, without thinking.
Fishing my lockpick set out of my pocket, I stepped up to the door and set to work. It made me feel better to be doing something rather than standing there watching her fret. Several tense moments later, the lock gave a satisfying *clack*, and I straightened up to enter the door. She stretched up to try to look over my shoulders at the room beyond the opening, but I turned and held her off gently with an upraised hand, adding, "Let me do this, okay?"
Nodding despite her impatient sigh, she moved back an inch or two, and I entered the washroom cautiously, my fingers grazing the butt of the weapon tucked in the back of my jeans almost instinctively. I scanned the room, which consisted of three toilet stalls with closed doors and two freestanding basins, but didn't spot Mulder at first. My eye fell on the window, but I discovered it to be glass-bricked with a metal vent, so he would have not been able to escape. Bending down, I glanced under the enameled walls of the partitions and spotted nice brogans near the last toilet.
He had to be sitting uncomfortably on the floor between the wall and the porcelain, and I wondered idly if he'd been sick. "Mulder, is that you?" I rapped on the door softly, noting that it was latched from the inside. "Babe, are you okay?" There was no answer. "C'mon, gorgeous--let me in." The stillness in the room frightened me, and I played my trump card. "Fox, I know it's you. Open the door."
A harsh whisper reached my ears: "Don't you *ever* call me that again. That's what *he* called me." The door did not open, and there was no movement or other sound from the dark shape on the floor.
The outside of the door latch was a metal disk with a groove running its diameter, so I took a chance and slipped a credit card out of Mulder's wallet, which I still had in my pocket, and fitted it to the groove and gave it a turn. Sure enough, the latch released, and I tucked the card away as I pushed inside with a knee.
There on the floor was my beloved Mulder, huddled in the corner, cheeks wan and eyes puffy with tears. He wouldn't look at me, so I crouched down to address him at his level. "What are you doing on the bathroom floor?"
"Leave me alone," he growled in a voice that broke on the last syllable. "You don't want to be here."
I stood back up briefly to lock us inside the stall so we could have a little privacy in case anyone came in, then settled with my back against it. "You can't make me leave, Mulder. We were worried about you. You scared Scully half to death. You're scaring *me* now."
"I don't care," he wailed, tears running anew from the corners of his eyes as he stared at a point on the floor somewhere beyond me. "I don't deserve your attention. Just get out."
"No. I don't believe that you don't care. If you didn't care about *something*, you wouldn't be in here crying all alone. Now, I'm not going anywhere while you're like this. I love you, and want to take you home." He gave his head a slow, negative shake, but remained silent. "What's wrong? Are you going to throw up?"
"I did that already," he murmured like a guilty child. "It didn't help."
Careful not to touch him, I bent in a little closer to him. "Do you want a drink of water, or do you still feel sick?"
His only answer was an unhelpful nod.
As quickly as I could, I got up and ducked out of the stall door, fetched a paper cup from a dispenser on the wall, and filled it with water from the sink, then resumed my position near the distraught man. Rather than force him to touch my hand, I set the flat-bottomed cup on the floor within his reach and sat back against the door. "I want you to drink a little bit of that if you can. Can you do that for me?"
Neither one of us moved for a few moments, but I could see his eyes watching the cup steadily. At last, he reached out and lifted the water to his lips, taking a small sip and rolling it around in his mouth, then spitting it into the toilet.
"Does that taste better?" I asked in my best non-threatening voice.
Again I got a shy nod, followed by his taking a genuine swallow from the cup. I was pretty sure he'd stopped crying, so I kept quiet while he sipped at the water. When he'd finished, he set the cup back down on the floor.
"How's that? Okay?" I asked, prompting another nod. Tearing off some toilet paper, I handed it to him. "Here, babe--blow your nose."
He did as I asked, stuffing the used paper into the cup. Finally he looked into my eyes, horror evident just behind his gaze. "Thank you, Alex," he muttered, stirring a prayer of gratitude in my heart.
Assuming a light tone, I teased, "Can we get out of here soon? It's cold on this floor, and I'd bet somebody else might need to use the toilet..." Experimentally, I began to stand up, holding my hand out for his.
Gnawing on his lip nervously, he pushed up from the floor and took my hand. As suspected, it was quite cold and shaking a little. "Did Scully call you?" he asked finally.
We stood awkwardly in the stall holding hands. "What did you expect her to do? You wouldn't answer her."
At that, he looked a little sheepish. "Sorry," he muttered, looking right at me again.
"Don't tell me--tell *her*. Now open the door, babe. I'm a little stuck here," I added, indicating both his left hand holding mine in a vice-like grip and my prosthesis.
He gave me a small grin and reached for the latch. "Do you still love me?" he asked, as if he were unsure of my response.
"Of course, baby. Always."
"Me, too," he admitted as he opened the door and let me lead him back out into the hall.
Scully nearly fell into the room as we opened the outer door, giving her listening position away. "Mulder?" she asked, her eyes all concern for him, not even acknowledging me.
"I left my stuff in the doctor's office," he muttered as soon as he saw her, breaking free of my hand and striding on ahead, as his partner and I scurried along behind him.
The tableau of startled faces in the waiting room of the doctor's office as we trailed him inside was unnerving. A receptionist and a nurse immediately jumped to detain Scully but ignored me, so I followed Mulder.
To my surprise, he stood quietly knocking on the door of his inner office. Holding back a bit, I watched as the door opened.
Dr. Isaacson, a somewhat portly, avuncular man with extremely intense eyes, emerged, shutting the door behind him. "Mr. Mulder? I'm with another patient now. How can I help you?"
"I need my stuff," he answered vaguely.
"I gave it to the receptionist. She promised she'd take good care of it. Is that all right?"
"Yeah," he called over his shoulder as he departed back to the front desk.
Turning to follow him, I felt a hand on my arm. "You're Alex, right?" the doctor asked, sotto voce.
"Guilty as charged," I joked, moving to shake the doctor by the hand. "It's nice to meet you, Dr. Isaacson."
He returned my handshake pleasantly. "Mr. Mulder has shown me your photo. Forgive my informality--he never told me your last name."
"Arntzen," I answered, supplying my usual alias.
"I have advised my staff that your friend is not allowed access to his service weapon. I'm sure you understand..."
Knowing how this order would tick my lover off, I suggested an alternative. "I'm sure you are aware that his partner is also an agent of the F.B.I. Perhaps she could be given responsibility for it in the interim."
"Very well," he replied, buzzing an intercom on the wall and speaking quietly to whomever answered.
When he rang off, I addressed him again. "Do you think that Mulder is a danger to himself or to others right now?"
"You tell me, Mr. Arntzen," he threw back at me, in typical therapist's fashion.
I pondered my response for a moment. "I don't know. Perhaps if I knew what was wrong..."
"Can you bring him back tomorrow afternoon?" he asked suddenly, as if I'd reminded him of something he'd forgotten. "I think with your *relationship*, it would be helpful to have you in the room during his session. I took the liberty of inviting Dr. Scully to join us already. I hope that's all right..."
"Sure, no problem," I answered, running over the list of my appointments I'd need to reschedule in my head and disregarding the extra emphasis he'd put on the word "relationship". "I assume you're going to ask us to keep an eye on him until then?"
"I think that that would be a good idea," Isaacson warned obliquely. "I'll see you at one-thirty tomorrow," he dismissed, returning to his patient with no further word to me.
As I returned to the waiting room, there was an electricity in the air. All eyes made a point to turn away from my lover and his partner, who stood in the middle of the room deep in conversation.
"*No*, Mulder," she said, as finally as she could. "I'll take care of it. You can trust me." I knew without asking that they were discussing his Sig Sauer.
"But, Scully..." he started to wheedle and whine, towering over her like an petulant teenager begging gas money from his frugal mother.
Coming up to his left side, I grasped his wrist firmly. "Come on, babe. We can discuss this in the car. Let's get out of here." Scully, bless her, followed my lead as I began to escort him out of the office. Mulder took the hint and shut up to go home. We had an elevator to ourselves as we went downstairs, so I ventured the question, "So--where to?"
"You're both coming to stay at my place," insisted Scully, who had obviously worked everything out in her head while she'd been waiting for me to get him out of the men's room.
"Yes, ma'am," I replied, only slightly in jest.
"But, why?" tuned up Mulder again, but I was impressed by the way that the small woman at his side silenced him with only a stern glance.
"It's for your own safety, Mulder," she chided in a near-whisper.
Apparently afraid of her reaction should he whine again, he grumbled under his breath, but loud enough for me to hear, "It's like you don't trust me."
Just as softly, she explained, "When you behave like you did this afternoon, I don't know if I *should* trust you." Obviously, he had failed to account for how finely she was attuned to his voice. "Right now, let's take this one day at a time. Is your overnight bag in your car?"
"As always," he answered, stepping out of the elevator into the lobby.
Moving across the lobby and exiting to the parking area, she kept giving orders. "Give Krycek your keys and he can bring it with him in his car. This is a secure lot, I see. We'll leave your car here overnight and pick it up tomorrow. You're coming with me."
At this, he dug in his heels. "I want to ride with Alex." It was nice to see my cowed lover show a little backbone after all he'd been through that afternoon.
Scully stopped suddenly and considered this option. "Fine," she replied, "but in that case, I'll take your bag. Give *me* your keys."
That time we *both* whined, "Why?"
"Frankly, I don't trust *either* of you." She was smiling slightly, but somehow I knew she wasn't quite kidding, so I nudged Mulder to hand over his keys, which he did with a stubborn grunt. "I'll expect you at my apartment within the hour," she flung back at us as she headed for his car.
We stood shoulder to shoulder, watching her departure. "If I weren't intimately attached to my dick, I'd be tempted to hot-wire your car anyway, just because."
As I had intended, Mulder finally let out a little bark of a laugh at my remark. "And if I weren't intimately *involved* with your dick, I'd help you. C'mon--let's get a move on..." Off he wandered to where he could see I'd parked (illegally, of course).
I followed quickly, calling after him, "Hey! Where does *your* dick fit in all of this?"
Once we were settled in my car, we fell into an uneasy hush. I followed Scully's car for a couple of blocks, then intentionally fell back and "lost her" in traffic. At the next light, I hesitated before selecting my lane. "So, what'll it be, gorgeous? Left, we go straight to Scully's place. Right, we take the "scenic route". You call it."
Horns began to sound behind me the second the light turned green, but he still pondered a moment longer. "Right," he answered at last, and I signaled and got out of the way quickly to follow his instructions.
We drove a little while longer in silence until he couldn't stand it anymore.
"Well, what?" I replied, volleying back to him as I'd been trained to do in negotiations. I knew I couldn't let him see how worried I really was, now that we were apparently on equal footing again.
"Aren't you going to ask me what's up?"
Glancing at him, then returning my eyes to the road, I shrugged. "I figured you'd tell me when you were good and ready. Are you good and ready?"
"I don't know," he demurred, suddenly quiet again.
"See? I knew what I was doing." Letting him stew for a little while, I finally asked, "So, what *is* up?"
Staring off into the distance, he finally replied, "I can't really say."
"Can't say, like you can't tell me, or can't say, like you're not really sure?"
His eyes fell shyly into his lap. "A little of both."
After a few more silent blocks, I offered, "You know you can tell me anything, right? Look, I know we both have our secrets, but I'm willing to listen to anything you need to tell me, ever, okay?"
I could feel how earnestly he looked at me as I drove. "I want to tell you what's going on in my head, but I just can't, you know?"
Stopping at a light, I turned to give him a sympathetic look. "That's okay, babe. You will when you're ready. I can wait. I still love you."
"Good," he sighed. "I love you, too. Thanks for understanding."
"Anytime," I replied, turning the car back in the direction of Scully's.
As soon as we were inside Scully's door, it felt like we were crashing at a friend's while the exterminators fumigated our own place, the fact that we did not live together notwithstanding. J.J. was out of the country for a month, so Scully had let the housekeeping go a little to seed, meaning *two* plants were slightly wilted from lack of water, and the bathtub hadn't been scrubbed in four days. Mulder and I tried not to laugh while she apologized for the "pigsty" appearance of her apartment.
Mulder's overnight bag had been tucked in the spare bedroom, so I put mine (which also traveled in my car at all times) alongside it. A very long debate resulted in a delivery of Chinese food, since we couldn't agree as to what to get on a pizza, and our dinner entertainment was graciously supplied by cable TV, though I doubt any of us really could have recalled what we watched. The proverbial elephant on the dining room table loomed at us as we ate, not a one of us brave enough to start asking any of the hard questions about the events of the afternoon.
We excused ourselves to bed before the late talk shows got started, and remained quiet as we turned down the covers and prepared for sleep. A small nightlight's glow made it possible for me to watch Mulder's face as he lay down and settled against the pillows at my side.
"It's been a couple weeks since I've been able to get away and see you," I recalled. "Do you want to...?" I let the question ask itself in the night, sliding my hand soothingly down his t-shirt-clad chest.
His spine stiffened visibly in the low light. "I don't know..." he began, seemingly afraid either to turn into my arms or away from me.
Rolling toward him, I stroked his thigh sensuously, taking my time with my lover as if he were a virgin. "At least kiss me, Mulder." He did so without conviction, then drew fractionally away. "What's the matter, babe? Isn't it happening?"
Pointedly looking away from me, he shook his head. "No. Sorry."
My hand surreptitiously reached for his cock, which lay limply against his leg. "Don't ever apologize about this, love. I thought that this was why you were seeing the doctor."
"I don't know why my regular doctor couldn't just give me a prescription..." he complained.
I moved my hand to cup his chin tenderly. "You *know* that he said he wanted to eliminate all possibilities before he started with that. If there's nothing else wrong, I'm sure he'll give you something to get you through this bad patch." This time I kissed him firmly, not letting him pull away until his mouth responded to mine. Grinning sneakily, I asked, like I had so many months before, "Can you hold me until I fall asleep?"
Hesitantly, he smiled, then obligingly wrapped his arms around me. Enveloped in his warmth, no matter how strained, I was quickly unconscious.
Some hours later, I awoke to note the patterns that the nightlight threw onto the ceiling until I realized that I was alone. Immediately I listened for any sound of Mulder nearby. When I could hear nothing, I hopped out of bed to look for him.
No Mulder could be found stretched out on the living room sofa, staring out the front window, or even raiding the fridge for leftover kung pao chicken. I gave a light knock on the bathroom door, and when there was no answer, I even opened up to find it dark and empty. Keeping panic at bay as best I could, I checked the front door, which was bolted solidly, giving me some comfort until I remembered that Mulder owned a set of Scully's keys.
Wondering if he had in fact swiped back his own keys and escaped, I decided to look in the only room I hadn't dared check yet. On tiptoe, I approached Scully's bedroom, whose door was standing open. There were no voices coming from inside, so I peeked in as unnoticeably as possible. To my surprise, two bodies lay side by side on her bed, apparently sound asleep. True, Mulder's was stretched out on top of her covers, but it was a little jarring to see them together like that. My mind was a jumble of questions as I crept back to my sleeping quarters and stared at the shapes on the ceiling until dawn.
I was the first one out of bed in the morning, though I was still exhausted from lack of sleep, and sat on the sofa looking at nothing in particular. Conversations that I could never have with Mulder, especially considering the events of the day before, echoed in my mind. ("You fucked her, didn't you?" "No." "But you *have* fucked her before..." "No." "Admit it--you couldn't sleep until she'd made you come." "No..." At this point in my narrative, tears would be streaming down his face, and my voice would assume a furious snarl: "Then why did you leave *my* bed?") It hurt someplace behind my breastbone to think of saying these things to my beloved, but they would not be silent.
More than anything, I wanted a left hand right then so I could press the heels of my palms into my eyes and make the pictures in my head go away. Instead, I crooked my elbow on the back of the couch and buried my nose against my warm skin, slamming my eyelids shut tight to hold the wetness inside.
"Alex?" I heard his voice say somewhere behind me.
A hard, deep breath or two, and I could raise my head to look at him. "Hi," I chuffed out, my voice not quite ready for longer sentences yet.
He sat in the upholstered side chair, as far away from me as he could be while still being in the conversational grouping. "I guess you slept okay..."
"Up to a point," I answered, my gaze at him turning accusatory against my better judgement.
Pulling back in his chair, he forcibly glanced elsewhere. "Sorry," he muttered, reading my meaning instantly.
None of the angry words I'd repeated in my head had any right to come out, so my mouth was left saying a lukewarm "You do what you have to..."
Had he been one-hundred percent, my Mulder would have fallen to his knees on the floor in front of me at that remark, explaining every last thing he was thinking and begging me to take him back to bed right then. The sheer wrongness of everything clicked into place when he replied, "Yeah," and stalked off to the kitchen.
Scully's military upbringing was baldly obvious in her regulation cheery entrance moments later. "Good morning, Krycek," she chirruped, still uncomfortable calling me by my first name, though I thought she'd gotten used to it in the two years I'd spent with her partner.
"Scully," I nodded back. "He's in the kitchen."
"Yep--he's a bigger coffee hound than *I* am," she smiled, sitting on the opposite end of the sofa. Suddenly her voice dropped out to address me in a breathless whisper. "Did you guys sleep all right last night? Was he okay?"
Blessed relief washed over me. She didn't know. He'd crept into her bed and fallen asleep beside her without even waking her up. I couldn't help but feel guilty even though I hadn't made the accusations that had been ringing in my ears. "I think he slept at least some. I did the best I could."
She gave me the sweetest smile and patted the back of my hand as it rested in my lap, passing along reassurances that I needed more than I could say. "We don't have to leave until twelve-thirty. If you need forty winks sometime this morning, you've got some extra time."
Feeling like I could face the day again, I returned her smile before she wandered off to help with the coffee. Snagging a tissue from the box on the corner of the coffee table, I dabbed at the corners of my eyes once I was sure no one was watching.
Our morning ablutions were accomplished like a close order drill, getting all three of us showered and shaved and brushed and dressed all while never coming into each other's range of vision. We took turns on Scully's desktop computer, and more than one of us could be found napping on the sofa at some time before we grabbed a light lunch and piled into Scully's car bound for the doctor's office.
Dr. Isaacson's consultation room was a darker, less-threatening version of every office of an authority figure in which I'd ever found myself, from that of my old political science professor to that of Assistant Director Walter Skinner, with a few less-pleasant ones in between and since. Heavy drapes were drawn against the brilliant midday sun, and dust motes drifted in the tiny beams that remained to filter down onto rows of neatly-shelved books.
Mulder was most definitely the center of attention at this gathering, even though he huddled in the corner of a big leather couch. Scully sat beside him, cradling his wallet and phone in her lap like baby kittens in case he felt the need to stretch out full-length. The doctor took up a position before Mulder so he could address him directly, and I sat somewhere behind him so I could watch my beloved as he spoke, adding to my feeling of being an outsider at the party.
I wasn't sure if he were attempting hypnotism, but the doctor asked his questions in such measured and soothing tones that I almost dropped off myself. Lulled by the safe, comforting aura of the room and the therapist, Mulder soon began to spin out sad tales of his younger self, the product of a troubled marriage between an alcoholic operative in the early phases of the consortium that had employed me and a distant, reserved woman whose allegiances were never clear.
"Now, Mr. Mulder, yesterday, before you left me in such a rush, it seemed as if you remembered something very important. Do you recall what that was?" Mulder's eyes were closed, though he sat upright, so he didn't see the doctor's small signal to Scully. She nodded in reply, agreeing, I'm sure, to make a grab for him if he tried to run again.
"Yeah," he sighed, "I had noticed that you used to smoke a pipe, didn't you?" His eyes, almost consumed by his pupils in the dark room, confronted the doctor.
"Yes," he replied, "but not for a couple of years. You could smell that?" he marveled at his patient's investigative skills.
Mulder grinned shyly. "It never leaves these old books. My father's study smelled like this, and he smoked a pipe for awhile, too."
I could only assume that the doctor smiled in gentle recognition. "So tell me what's important about your father's study."
He swallowed defensively and shifted in his seat. "I remember I was afraid to go into it for a long time."
"Why were you afraid?"
"Because there were monsters in there." This made me wonder how much of his work old Bill Mulder used to bring home from the office.
"How old were you at the time?"
"Nine or ten." It seemed a little advanced an age for closet monsters, but I did not interrupt.
"What kind of monsters were they?"
"The kind that eat little boys..." His voice had become thinner, younger somehow. It sounded eerily familiar to me, so I did not laugh at this description as I might have otherwise.
"And the monsters lived in your father's study?" This did not get a verbal response, but only a nod. "So you stayed out of there..."
"Most of the time."
"You mean you went in sometimes." He answered with another nod. "Even though your father warned you not to, or because of the monsters?" There was no response. "Did your father make up a story about monsters to keep you out of his study?"
Still speaking in his younger voice, he shook his head no and replied, "No. They were real."
"You didn't know about the monsters when you first went in?" Another headshake. "But you saw the monsters when you were inside?" He gave the tiniest of nods. "Were you afraid that you would be eaten?"
"He did try to eat me, but I got away." At some point he must have toed off his shoes, because he then drew his stocking feet up onto the couch and hugged his knees against his chest.
"The monster tried to eat you? What did he do?"
"I didn't know right away that he was dangerous. He just looked normal at first. I went in very quietly because he was making a lot of noise. I was hoping he wouldn't notice me, but he did. His breath smelled funny, and he talked like he was sleepy. He told me that my mouth was pretty, and he started kissing me. I didn't want him to kiss me, but he did it anyway."
"Did you try to make him stop?"
"I think I was crying, but it just made him laugh and rub his belly. He told me he wanted to eat me up."
"What happened then?"
I could see tears creeping from Mulder's eyes as they peered over his knees at the doctor. "He took down my pants and touched my penis."
Scully released an audible gasp at this, which distracted me briefly, but suddenly I knew where I'd heard that voice before. My thoughts quickly flew to that night in the apartment in Chicago when I had fondled Mulder as he slept, only to be rebuffed by a childish voice asking me to stop. Monsters, indeed...
In the gentlest of voices, Dr. Isaacson asked, "What did the monster do next?"
The catch in Mulder's voice broke my heart as nothing I'd heard that afternoon had done. "He tried to eat my penis. He licked it and put his mouth on it, and I was really scared."
"I'm sure you were," the older man interjected reassuringly. "What did you do then?"
"I puked on the floor, and the monster got mad, and I ran away."
My vision blurred with angry tears, but I could still see Scully's gaze of sympathetic horror at the knowledge of what had happened to her partner.
"Did the monster leave you alone after that?"
"No. He'd come into my room when I was asleep and wake me up so he could try it again. Sometimes he'd leave me alone if I pretended to have a stomachache or something, but usually even that didn't stop him."
"Did the monster ever do anything else?"
"Sometimes he'd play with his own penis, or tell me to do it for him."
"Did he come into your room a lot?"
"Yeah--he'd have a fight with Mom, and she'd stop speaking to him, and then he'd get really drunk and show up by my bed..."
Scully was sobbing out loud by now, but Mulder didn't seem to notice her, wrapped as he was in the memories of his childhood torment.
"Do you know who the monster was?" the doctor asked, though by now we all had figured it out.
Mulder gulped and closed his eyes, mouthing "It was my father..." almost soundlessly before dissolving into sobs of his own. Isaacson stood and moved to the window, perching on a bench behind me to take a deep breath and absorb all he had heard.
I had wondered if I'd ever hear all of Mulder's story, but I never realized how hard it would hit me once he said aloud the words at which he'd merely hinted that night in Chicago. Weeping openly, I held back from going to his side, letting Scully curl against him on the couch, offering and seeking comfort in a single motion.
The doctor made a few notes in a book on his desk, letting us cry ourselves out for a little while. While I wanted nothing more than to wrap my arms around Mulder and tell him I loved him no matter what, somehow I felt that this kind of reaction might not be received in the spirit it was intended. At last I coughed and found a box of tissues on the table beside me, taking a few for myself and walking it over to the bereft couple on the couch.
"Thank you," whimpered Scully, smiling wretchedly through smeared mascara.
I muttered, "Excuse me. I need to use the washroom," and started to head for the door until the doctor stopped me.
"Mr. Arntzen," he called, making Scully look up, quite puzzled. "I think our session is done for today. My calendar is full tomorrow, but could you and Dr. Scully bring Mr. Mulder in again at the same time on Friday?"
"Sure," I agreed, then turned to Scully. "Do you want to meet me...?"
Isaacson cut me off gently. "Please--feel free to use the quiet room just to the right of this door when you return. You may stay there as long as you like." He included the others in his kindly, magnanimous gaze.
To tell the truth, I wasn't sure when I left for the restroom that I wouldn't end up crouched on the floor myself. Luckily, however, my lunch stayed put, and I composed myself in a stall for awhile before going back. My biggest regret at that moment was that I'd already shot Bill Mulder, making it quick and easy--all I wanted was the chance to kill him again, this time very slowly and painfully. Every time I thought of what he'd done to his son, tears welled up in my eyes again. No wonder Fox hated that name. I could hear the old man's voice beckoning him close in that sloppy drunken voice, and I had to swallow hard to keep from crying out in anguish.
At last I felt well and steady enough to go back and face my lover and his partner, though the mirror tried to tell me otherwise. The door of the quiet room was shut when I arrived, so I knocked on it gently. To my surprise, Mulder himself opened the door, and inside I could see Scully, crying uncontrollably again with her head on a conference table: the exact opposite of the scene I'd been expecting. He only looked haunted, having apparently wept enough for the time being.
Words that would have eased our awkwardness were nowhere near my brain at the moment, and I came into the room stiffly, wishing I felt less unwelcome. "What can I do?" I finally asked, reaching out to rub his arm cautiously.
After a long, thoughtful pause, he closed his hand over mine. "Alex," he whispered, his eyes searching mine for answers, "did you kill my father?"
My lip began to quiver despite my best efforts. "Yes, babe, I did."
"Then you've done everything I could have asked already," he replied, pulling me close and embracing me at last. While I wanted to comfort him, it felt so much better to be held tight in his arms. "I love you," he murmured into my ear, which for some reason made me start to sniffle again.
"Me, too," I answered, my voice a tight squeak, and I squeezed him as hard as I could. I felt myself being steered to a chair and sat, letting go of Mulder reluctantly. He sat next to me, which I discovered was a seat between mine and Scully's.
Taking control of the room through some source of strength I envied at that moment, he reached for her back and petted her like one would a terrified child. In a moment, her head was up off the table and nestled on his shoulder, whereupon he turned and held out his arm to me in a parallel gesture, and I followed her example. We sat like that for awhile, a small warm fortress against the cold realities in our midst.
"Thank you both for being here," he began, sounding raw as a wound. "I hope you know I love you both more than anything in the world, and needed you here so I could tell you what you needed to know. I can't say whether I was truly repressing some of those memories subconsciously, or if I'd chosen to shut them away, but now I feel like I've been lying to you all these years..."
"No," I interrupted, "you haven't lied about anything. Those things were part of a past that was too painful for you to discuss, and you are entirely without blame for that."
"Yes, Mulder," added Scully tremulously. "You were just a little boy. You didn't do anything wrong. You have to know that..."
"I know," he answered, smiling and kissing her on top of the head, making her smile a little in return. "I've got a lot of work I need to do, maybe with some kind of support group, but I think I've made some progress here."
I didn't know if I agreed with his assessment completely, but I had to admit that important steps had been taken. Maybe we'd get through this after all...
In less than an hour, we were ready to head back to Scully's, which seemed like the best base of operations for our continued Mulder-recovery program. We confirmed our appointment for two days later with the receptionist, then negotiated travel there. Scully clucked her tongue at us when Mulder held out his hand for his own car keys, but turned them over to him without much fuss when we promised to appear on her doorstep in the allotted time.
I noted that he'd learned a few things from me, for he faded back in traffic and lost her quite easily. Maneuvering the vehicle onto a secluded sidestreet, he parked in the first available space and turned off the engine, then just sat and looked at me.
"What?" I finally had to ask.
"Come here," he growled, reaching for me hungrily.
Shrugging my acquiescence, I fell happily into his embrace and returned his very eager kisses. His tongue forced its way inside my mouth and tasted every surface therein, which I didn't mind at all. However, his hands soon crept into my lap and started fondling me shamelessly.
As he broke from my lips and began nibbling at my carotid artery, I felt I should lodge a protest. "Babe," I tried to call to him, but he sucked even harder at my neck. My zipper was yanked down, and his nimble fingers snuck into my open fly. "Babe," I scolded him again, though he continued his activities and ignored me completely. Eventually, I had to grasp his hand and pull it forcibly, though carefully, off of my slowly-responding dick and away from me. "Mulder, what the hell do you think you're doing?" I finally asked him.
"Giving you a blow job," he answered, bending immediately from my well-chewed throat and lowering his face to the opening in my pants.
I shoved him back into a sitting position abruptly. "Oh, no, you're not. It's broad daylight, and we're on a city street, dummy. Wait till we get back."
"Don't wanna," he muttered, reaching once again to encircle my organ with his thumb and forefinger. "Gotta make you come..."
Grabbing his wrist firmly, I held him as still as I could. "Stop it, Fox!" I shouted to distract him from his fevered goal.
At once, he let go of my cock and snapped his head up straight. "What did you just call me?" he hissed through gritted teeth.
Disregarding his glare, I put myself back together as fast as I could, then poked a finger hard against his slightly-heaving chest. "In case I need to remind you, *you* are a government agent. If you keep this up, I guarantee you that you will get arrested for lewd and lascivious behavior, *Fox*." Using his given name was suddenly a very different device than it had always been between us.
"Who the hell is going to arrest me, *Krycek*?" he asked, biting off the syllables of my name to leave sharp, stinging edges.
"I'll call up Scully myself and give her a lead. Do you want me to do that?" My voice may have sounded calm and steady, but my heart was racing in my chest at this sudden aberrant behavior in my beloved.
Harrumphing dramatically, he spun in his seat to face the wheel once again. "Okay, I'll leave you alone for now, just as long as you promise to stop calling me by that stupid *name*..."
"No, babe, I can't do that."
"Why not?" he barked, glancing sharply at me before he restarted the car.
"Sometimes it's the only way I can get your attention, stupid."
He looked away from me like he found me disgusting and turned the key in the ignition.
I grabbed his wrist again in an attempt to make him stop and think a moment. "Wait, Mulder. Are you really all right to drive?"
"I'm fine," he announced angrily, steering us efficiently into a driveway on the far side of the street and turning around to head back to the main road.
We got back to Scully's apartment without incident, and without further conversation of any kind. If I'd only been able to get the picture of little Fox being tormented by his cruel and twisted old man out of my head, I might have had the energy to wonder what my beautiful, fucked-up Mulder was thinking in his own.
I'd been sipping at a water bottle ever since lunch, so as soon as I walked in the door, I went off to the bathroom. My reflection in the medicine cabinet still showed me a soul troubled by demons that may have been more than it could handle, so I ignored it for the time being.
Coming back out to the living/dining room, I found Scully skimming through her e-mail alone. "Where's Mulder?" I asked.
"He went for a run," she replied without taking her eyes off of the screen, obviously assuming that it was a reasonable use of his time.
This stopped me cold. "Do you think that was wise?" I quizzed her.
"Why not?" she asked back, turning to glance at me, then back to her messages.
"I'd really rather he not be out of our control for any length of time."
*That* got her to spin around to me. "You don't think we can trust him." I was expecting it to be a question, but it wasn't.
"No, I don't," I answered, finding a chair and pointing it in her direction. Never having trained as a distance runner, I was loath even to consider going after him. "He's been acting strangely lately."
She reached behind her and closed her mail window, then turned her chair to face me. "I can only assume so, since he's been seeing Dr. Isaacson. He didn't seem that much different to *me*..."
"He tried to blow me in the car on the way home," I confessed.
Arching her eyebrow, she joked, "While he was driving?"
"No," I insisted. "He pulled over first. It was just that we were on this little side street with houses everywhere. I didn't think he'd do that in public in the middle of the day like that."
Sighing tiredly, she nodded her agreement. "True, that seems sort of out-of-character for him, but then, you'd know that better than I would..." I didn't answer her, and she didn't seem to expect me to do so. "It might be none of my business, but what made you insist that he seek professional help?"
"At this point, I doubt there's much that *isn't* your business." My comment made her smile and look away, indicating that she was just a little embarrassed, but not that she didn't feel the same way. "Well, how do they say it in the commercials? He's been suffering from a bout of, um, erectile dysfunction."
"Well, he *is* forty years old..."
"Which isn't that old, really," I corrected her. "Trust me, Scully: it was unusual for him--well, for *us*..."
"I'll take your word for it," she assented.
"But you understand that I couldn't rule out something other than a physical cause, don't you?"
"Of course. You sound like his medical doctor..."
"As if you'd have done anything differently!" I reminded her amusedly.
"True!" she admitted, chuckling.
Getting back to my original point, I continued. "Now that he's had this "breakthrough", for want of a better term, I sort of expected things to get back to normal--maybe not right away, but eventually. But the thing in the car... That's got me a little worried."
"He's probably a little desperate that you might stop loving him--you *do* love him, don't you?"
I couldn't remember if I'd ever actually said those words to Scully, so it sounded a little more important to my ears when I answered, "Yes. Yes, I do. More than life itself..."
Her smile gave me a little glimmer of hope, as it had every time I'd received one since this whole ordeal began. "Good. I'm glad. He needs somebody to love him like that, especially now."
A germ of an idea popped into my head. "Have *you*?"
The puzzlement that crossed her face enhanced her smile instead of erasing it. "Have I *what*?"
"Loved him like that..." I finished simply, watching her amused expression.
"I wish I could have," she answered with a little blush. "It wasn't ever what we were about, even before J.J. came into the picture. I've never stopped caring about him, but I think I figured out he was gay before *he* did... That was *your* fault, you know," she scolded playfully.
"Sorry," I interjected with a sheepish grin.
"Don't be," she corrected quickly. "You've been very good for him. You make him smile like nothing else ever has. It's nice to see him so happy, when so much of his life has been so sad."
Suddenly, the reason why we were here came flooding back to submerge the light mood that the room had attained. "What do we do now, Scully--or would you prefer that I call you Dana?"
"Mulder only calls me Scully, but I answer to either."
"I think I'll stick with Scully, too, since I'm used to hearing him call you that. While we're at it, I hope you can call me Alex. It's what Mulder calls me."
I could see her test it out in her mind and give her tacit approval. "Y'know what?" she interrupted herself, breaking into a cute little laugh.
"I think we're bonding here. Doesn't it feel like it to you?"
Even I had to laugh then. "Yep. Scary, ain't it?"
"Completely terrifying. But at least we'll make a unified front when our patient proves difficult. So, Alex, you were asking what we do now. I think we just keep caring, keep supporting him, keep loving him, even if he's impossible sometimes."
"Hey, he's impossible sometimes anyway!" I teased.
"Ohhhh, yeah," she agreed, shaking her head bemusedly.
"How long do you think he'll keep up this acting out?"
At this, she hopped out of her seat and started digging through her work satchel, bringing a pamphlet over to where I sat and dragging her chair next to mine. "I picked up this brochure on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder at the doctor's office. It sounded like what Mulder might be going through--you know: the withdrawal, the anger, the re-experiencing of the trauma. The experts don't give a real time frame here--I imagine each case is different."
"Anything we need to watch out for?"
She scanned it quietly for a moment, then handed the paper to me, reading from it over my shoulder. "It sounds like more of the same. Feelings of detachment from familiar things. Irritability and lashing out. The inability to be loving or trusting. The victim might become self-destructive, trying to numb his emotions with alcohol or drugs..."
Putting her hand on my arm, she looked into my face suddenly. "What is it?"
"It's so strange to think of Mulder as a *victim*..."
Realization drew her gaze inward. "Yeah... Actually, it is, and it isn't... It's like there's always something against him in this world..."
The truth of her words hit me like a fist connecting with my solar plexus, because for some portion of my dealings with Fox Mulder, that something was *me*. Of course, I couldn't tell *Scully* that, so I sat there mutely for a moment, blinking back inadvertent tears that I was sure she wouldn't notice.
I was right. Her own thoughts kept her from glancing back at my face for as long as I required to regain my composure. "He needs us now, more than ever, and we can't turn our backs on him, no matter how much he may reject us or try to hurt us like he's been hurt." She turned huge, brimming eyes to me, adding, "Can I count on you to be there for him, to be strong for him with me, Alex?"
"Always, Scully." Somehow it felt completely natural and *right* to take her in my arms right then and hold her for as long as we both could stand, which was a helluva lot longer than I would have put money on at any time in my past. Mulder might have needed *us*, but to help him deal with his recovered memories and getting back to his everyday life, I could tell that we were going to need *each other* a lot, too.
Later, I was helping her fix a little dinner when Mulder finally came back in. He looked like he'd wrung himself out a little by pushing himself further than he was used to running, which seemed perfectly logical. His t-shirt was dark with sweat, and rivulets of perspiration plastered his sideburns against his face. I caught his eye as he deposited his shoes just inside the door, but he went to hit the shower without acknowledging me.
A freshly washed, shampooed, and cologned Mulder joined us just as we were sitting down to eat, and I liked the way his fragrances mixed with those of the hot food. "Good run?" I asked him hesitantly, reaching out to grasp his closest hand.
"Yeah," he smiled, leaning over to kiss me hello. "I needed some time to think."
"I can imagine..." Suddenly I recalled the night in Chicago when I'd heard Mulder's little boy voice for the first time. At that time, I'd wondered if he ran so much to run away from his memories, but I knew that it was unwise to bring up the topic at the dinner table, so I decided to ask him about it later.
Instead, we chatted lightly about the neighborhood and the headlines in the day's Post--both much more suitable as conversational material.
As I cleared the plates, I mentioned, "You know, I really ought to check in with my employers tomorrow afternoon. Do you two think you can get by without me for awhile?"
Scully's eyebrow made its traditional twitch at the word "employers", but said nothing beyond, "Sure--that should be fine. I called in some sick time for Mulder and me this morning."
"You did?" he said, with a surprised smile. "Thank you, Scully! I hadn't even thought of that!"
She crossed behind his chair and patted him demonstratively on the head. "That's okay. You had *other* things to think about..." she replied, chuckling as she picked up bowls of leftovers.
He smiled after her, then a thoughtful gaze crossed his face. "You're going out tomorrow, Alex?"
"Yep," I answered after draining my glass prior to carrying it away. "You need something?"
"Actually, my overnight bag is only stocked for a couple of days. Any chance I can get you to go by my place and pick up some extra clothes? I mean, we *are* staying here awhile longer, aren't we?" he asked, making quick eye contact with Scully.
"I'd like to keep an eye on you for a couple more days, if that's okay," she answered.
"Sure," he and I echoed, and I added, "I think that's a good idea, too. I need some supplies myself, so I'll make an errand of it." They discreetly avoided asking me where I needed to go to get said supplies, and I didn't volunteer the information.
We got settled once again in the living room, quietly taking turns at the computer while the other two sat on the sofa skimming some magazines.
"So," Mulder began when things got too quiet, "what did you guys do while I was gone?"
Scully and I exchanged a mildly curious look, and she answered, "Not much. Talked, mostly."
Obviously fishing, he pursued, "About what?"
Rolling my eyes, I faced him opposite me on the sofa. "Whaddya *think*, babe?"
"Me?" he asked, feigning surprise. Wordlessly, Scully reached around from the computer chair behind him and cuffed him gently on the shoulder with the back of her hand. "What?" he protested, despite his amusement. "What did I say?"
"You *are* sort of the focal point of everything we're doing right now, Mulder," she reminded him over her shoulder, keeping a close eye on her game of computer Solitaire.
"Yeah," I leaned in to tease, "we've gotta decide where to lock you up when your mind goes entirely," earning me a disapproving glance from Scully.
Completely seriously, my beloved turned to me, scolding, "Don't even *joke* about that, okay? It's just a little too close for comfort..."
His small shudder made guilt overtake amusement in my mood. "Sorry, gorgeous. I didn't really mean it. I know you've had a little experience with that kind of thing," I added, prompting a cluck of Scully's tongue, so I included her in my address. "We've all got to admit that it's been a troubling day, and we've all heard things that are going to take us awhile to get over. I mean, it was scary hearing you talk in that "little-boy" voice again, babe."
The hush that fell between us was startling, but I cannot say that it was entirely unexpected. Scully just stared, shocked, as Mulder's dark eyes fixed me with a frown. "*Again*?" he asked.
Swallowing to moisten my suddenly-dry mouth, I went on as if I weren't afraid one or both of them might shoot me at any second. "Yeah. There was this time in Chicago when I reached for you in the middle of the night, and you told me to leave you alone in that voice."
"What did he say?" Scully interjected, her voice barely holding her horror in check.
"Mulder said something like, "Not tonight--maybe tomorrow"..."
"Did I know it was *you*?" he questioned softly.
Somewhere in my mind, I could hear the click of pistol aimed straight for my head as I replied, "You called me "Daddy"..."
"Oh, my God," whispered Scully. "What did you do then?"
"What *could* I do? I left him alone. I got out of bed and sat in the outer room until he woke up and came out to find me." As I watched his eyes, I could tell the precise moment when he recalled the night under discussion. I would have given up my arm all over again to avoid the vehemence in the gaze he gave me.
"You *knew*..." he accused hollowly. In a split second, he had lunged across the length of the sofa to crush the front of my shirt in white-knuckled fingers. Had he been a bit more reptilian, it would not have surprised me to smell brimstone on his breath. "You *KNEW*, and you didn't tell me..."
When I first signed on for duty around Fox Mulder, I understood that my life would be in danger on a regular basis. At that moment, however, I found myself wishing that someone had given me the same warning when I'd fallen in love with him.
Right before I started reciting a few long-forsaken prayers under my breath, a tiny, perfectly-manicured hand appeared like a soft little crowbar between us and grasped Mulder by the wrist. "Mulder," she challenged in the calmest yet sternest voice I have ever heard in my life, "let go of him. I'm sure he didn't know *what* to do at the time, and chose the path that he thought would hurt you the least."
"But..." he almost whimpered, the fire going out of his eyes a little.
"*Do* it," she ordered, her military background once again coming to my rescue as his hands released my shirt and she seemed to pull him back bodily by one arm. Perching on the edge of the coffee table so that her face was on a level with his, she spoke rationally to bring him back to us. "Alex was probably trying to protect you that night, just like we're trying to do now." With a glance she included me in her circle and sought confirmation of her suspicions, which I supplied with a nod. Mulder's arm was still stiff in her hand, so her voice softened to barely above a whisper. "You didn't tell him everything before today. He might have suspected what happened to you from your reaction, but I doubt he actually *knew* anything." I shook my head illustratively. "What good would it have done to bring it up to you then? You were on vacation together, as you told me once, and he might not have wanted to remind you of anything painful while you were enjoying each other's company. No matter what we know now, killing him because he committed one little sin of omission would be overreacting. Besides, if you kill him on my sofa, *you* have to pay to have it cleaned..."
At last, his muscles relaxed, and she helped him back into a sitting position. He wouldn't look at either of us, though, and just stared at the floor.
"She's right, Mulder," I began. "I had no way of knowing what had really happened to you, aside from a suspicion or two, or how to help you. You have to appreciate that." He didn't respond, so I offered, "I'm sorry, if that helps at all..."
Scully's hair flew out from the centrifugal force of her head spinning to glance at me. "You don't have to apologize for anything. For that matter, *Mulder* should apologize to you. After all, he attacked *you*..." she trailed off, looking to him for conciliation.
After a long, tense silence, he muttered "Sorry," and shook off her hands. Scully sat back a bit, waiting for something, but when he said nothing further, she got back up and returned to her computer chair.
The longest ten minutes of my life (since that night in Tunguska, to be more specific) passed as I sat and watched the man I love seethe on the sofa opposite me, punctuated by no sound other than the clicking of Scully's computer mouse. It would have been so easy to feel angry with him and to lash out in retaliation, but I knew my skills were more than he could handle, especially compromised as he was right then. I kept reminding myself that he was coming to terms with the new knowledge of his loss of innocence for the very first time, and that, somewhere inside that damaged, defensive psyche, he was still my Mulder and I still needed him more than was probably good for either of us.
Eventually, he stood up and announced, "I'm going to bed," then strode off to do so before I even had a chance to ask if he wanted company. Scully's hand was still at her computer as she listened along with me to his feet echoing down the hallway and the door slamming in his wake.
"Oh, dear," she sighed, watching me for a reaction.
"It's okay," I answered, though we both understood that nothing was even remotely okay. "I'll sleep on the sofa, if you don't mind..."
"Not at all," she replied. "Let me know what time you want to go to sleep, and I'll find you a pillow and a blanket."
"Thank you," I murmured, tracing my fingers absent-mindedly over the forgotten magazine in my lap.
"I wish there were something more I could do..."
"Hey," I joked, "you stopped him from ripping my head off. I think you've more than earned your keep for today."
She shut down the desktop and came to join me on the sofa. "Knowing what to expect and actually seeing it are two totally different things, you know?"
"Yeah," I agreed. "If you ask me, things are going to get worse before they get better. We just have to keep hanging in there if we want him back in one piece, which is going to be worth all of our hassles in the long run. It's just tough *now*..."
I basked for a moment in the warmth of Scully's sweet smile, letting her pat my knee comfortingly. "You're strong, Alex. I believe that this will just make us all stronger by the time we get there, wherever "there" is..."
It had been a very long time since a woman had looked at me like that, and for a heartbeat our respective sexual orientations started to seem inconsequential to me. However, before I did something really stupid, like consider even for a *second* making a move on my lover's best friend, I asked, "Could you get my bag out of his room before you go to bed? I have to go out fairly early in the morning, and I don't want to disturb him unnecessarily."
"Sure," she answered, and thankfully, my moment of confusion was gone. She went into Mulder's room, where I heard her speaking softly to him, and, as quietly as possible, she brought me my things and bedding for the sofa, and we retired to our chosen spots without any further ado.
In the middle of a dream where I lay in a hospital bed being attended by angel-faced nurses with clear blue eyes, the sounds of screaming reached my ears. Jumping up from Scully's sofa, I got my bearings quickly and grabbed my weapon before sprinting to the door of Mulder's room, where I met our hostess, who was similarly sleep-tossed but unarmed.
"Is this door locked?" I asked her over the screams in lieu of kicking it down.
"No. You really think you'll need that?" she asked, indicating my gun.
"You never know..." I suggested, motioning with my head for her to turn the doorknob.
She did so, and switched on the light in the bedroom. There sat Mulder, bolt upright in the middle of the bed, shrieking at nothing we could see.
Setting my firearm on the bureau, I sat as close to him as I dared and very calmly addressed him, "Babe?"
At once, his scream broke into full-throated sobs, and he seemed to wake up. When I grasped his shoulder, he looked into my face briefly, then collapsed against me, soaking my t-shirt with tears.
I shushed him and held him tight, rocking him like a little boy as he wept. "Just a dream, love," I chanted carefully, "just a dream..." A glass of water appeared on the nightstand, probably delivered by an unnoticed Scully, and after Mulder slowly stopped crying and pulled away slightly, I brushed his hair off of his forehead and asked, "Do you want a drink of water?"
He coughed a little and sniffed hard, but nodded and reached for the glass.
Meanwhile, I found a box of tissues and used one to dry his face tenderly. "Can you tell me about it?"
All he could offer in response was, "Something big and scary. I don't remember the rest."
"Are you okay now?" I checked.
"Well..." He squirmed uncomfortably.
"I wet the bed."
Once I'd helped him climb out, we started stripping sheets. Scully must have heard the change in noise level, because she peeked in curiously. "What happened?" she mouthed at me silently from the door.
"A little accident," I mouthed back so Mulder didn't hear. She immediately disappeared, but I could hear her digging in the front closet soon afterwards. When we emerged from the guest room, Mulder's sweatpants recruited as emergency pajama bottoms, we found a sleeping bag laid out on the floor on the other side of the coffee table near the sofa. Not many words passed between us, but I rested more easily feeling him in the room with me, and we were soon asleep.
The alarm I'd set on my watch went off as scheduled some hours later, and I tiptoed to the bathroom to get ready for work. I laid out my underwear, a shirt, socks, and my prosthesis, and hopped into the shower. Just as I was dripping shampoo in my eyes, I heard the door open. "Hello?" I called out to my visitor.
A quick draft of cold air signaled that the shower curtain had been shunted aside briefly and closed again. "Hi, babe," greeted Mulder in a sexy morning voice.
"Hey, sugar," I cooed back, rinsing off my hair. "How ya doin'?"
"Not bad. Y'know, my mom used to say "sugar" instead of "shit". Is that any way to address the man who loves you?"
I scrabbled around the tile, and he handed me a towel. "If the shoe fits," I teased.
"Sorry about last night," he apologized, sounding very sincere.
"S'okay," I reassured him, dabbing at my face before putting the towel aside. "You couldn't help it."
"No," he insisted. "I shouldn't have gotten mad at you for not telling me about that night in Chicago."
"No, really," I countered. "You couldn't help it. I forgive you. Gimme a kiss." He obliged, morning breath be damned. After a thorough smooch, I added, "We've got some dealing to do with all of this. It's not gonna be easy, but I love you, and I'm willing to put up with it for your sake."
"Awwww," he groaned for effect. "Since you put it that way, I love you, too..." Reaching for the soap, he worked up a nice lather and scrubbed me like he hadn't done for a long time. I relished the feel of his slippery hands stroking me all over, and one place in particular. He petted my cock firmly, and all I could do was lean against the wall of the shower and enjoy the rising pressure in my balls. Before long, he was kissing me again, and I was coming in short, hard spurts that seemed to melt my spine.
Once he took his tongue out of my mouth and I caught my breath, I sighed, "Thank you, doll. Same for you?"
This seemed to startle him, and he jumped under the shower nozzle and rinsed off quickly. "No, no--no need," he begged off, disappearing from my shower with a muttered "Love you" as he apparently pulled his sweats back on before the door shut behind him again.
I hadn't really been in a position to notice, but I assumed that he'd not even gotten hard and had been too ashamed to admit it. Nobody had ever said that his recovery was going to be speedy...
There was a damp bath towel hung on the back of a chair in the kitchen when I went in to grab a slice of toast after I'd gotten dressed. Mulder was asleep again, or just pretending to be asleep, in the quilted bag on the living room floor, so I chose not to disturb him as I went out for the day.
My meetings went as planned, and it felt good to spend the day doing absolutely normal things again. True, normal for *me* might be completely inconceivable to the average person, but routine is routine. On my way back to Scully's, I stopped to replenish my supply of clean clothes, then went to Mulder's to pack some extra things for him, as well, since I kept my copy of his apartment key, which I'd made to save me from breaking-and-entering charges, with me at all times. What I discovered hidden in his dresser put a dark cloud over my head all the way back.
Scully buzzed me in when I rang her bell, opening the door for me when I got there. "Good lord!" she exclaimed with a surprised smile, noting the luggage I carried. "What's all this stuff?"
I carried everything to the guest room, whose bed was now clean and neatly remade, where I deposited my burden. "My bag," I announced, setting it on the floor. "Mulder's bag," I added, putting it alongside mine. "And a little surprise." In the crook of my artificial elbow, I balanced a wastebasket, which I then dumped out onto the bedspread.
There, scattered across the coverlet, were a few dozen packages of sleeping pills. "What the...?" wondered Scully.
"I found his stash," I stated bitterly.
"Oh, my God! You found these at Mulder's?"
"Yep--all crammed in his underwear drawer." Looking at the evidence before me, my eyes stung for a moment until I blinked very hard. "I wonder when he was going to do it..."
Scully's hand clung to my arm, her fingernails digging into the muscle, but I didn't mind the pain. "You really think he was planning to commit suicide?"
"Why else would he have collected all of these narcotics? Maybe if the therapy didn't work, he was just going to go home from the Bureau one night, go to sleep and never wake up." Putting it into words broke my heart and made me angry at him all at once.
"We don't know that!" she insisted, a swallowed sob choking off her voice. "We need to talk to him, ask him what was going on... He *couldn't* try to kill himself without telling me--he just *couldn't*!" I grabbed her and held her tightly as she succumbed to tears, and my vision blurred as I looked at the deadly bounty on the spread.
"Where is he now?" I asked, my throat raw with trying not to cry.
"He went for a run," she replied in a thin whisper.
"Are you sure? His car wasn't parked where we'd left it yesterday..."
Her eyes flew open wide. "What?" Bolting from my arms, she raced to the front door of the apartment and down the hall to the street.
I left her door standing open as I went to follow her. She stood with her mouth agape, sweeping her gaze up and down the rows of parked cars outside.
"Did he say specifically *where* he was going? Maybe you just misheard him say that he was running an errand," I suggested, praying to God that it was the truth.
Once again I trailed in her wake as she stormed back to her apartment. "No. I think he meant to mislead me into thinking he was just going running. I wonder if he went home." Like a shot, she was at her phone pressing his two-digit speed dial. I was momentarily comforted by the sound of her "Mulder?" into the receiver, but she soon fell silent, obviously having reached his machine. "Mulder, it's me," she recited into the recorder. "I was just wondering where you'd gone. It's Thursday afternoon, and I didn't know that you'd need your car to go running. Call me if you get this before you see me..." The handset rattled as she slammed it into its cradle. "Where the fuck is he?" she muttered to herself.
"Could he have gone to the office?" I offered, fighting to remain calm.
"Doubtful," she sighed, but speed-dialed a different number anyway.
Grasping at straws, I went back to the guest room to look for clues as to my beloved's whereabouts. The colorful assortment of pharmaceutical containers seemed to mock me from their places on the bed, so I scoured the rest of the room, not quite able to look at them any longer. It was then that I spotted it.
Just as I'd inhaled to holler her name, Scully appeared in the door. "They haven't seen him, and there's no answer in the basement."
Suddenly I couldn't speak, so I merely pointed to the small piece of jewelry that lay discarded on top of the dresser.
With a puzzled expression, she picked up the tiny house pin that I'd given Mulder along with my promise to be his forever. "I've seen Mulder wearing this. I guess he forgot to put it on. What is it?"
A horror like the one I'd felt a lifetime before while locked in an abandoned missile silo hit me in the gut. "It's something I gave him. He treats it like a wedding ring..." My throat tightened on my last words, and I searched Scully's eyes for understanding, for I knew no comfort lay there, nor anywhere.
"Oh, Alex," she began, her cheeks devoid of color, and her eyes nearly following suit, "you mean he left it here on purpose?"
"I think so," I croaked out, something hot and wet starting to trickle down my face. "I have to find him. I have to stop him."
"Do you think he took his cellphone?"
"I can only hope..." This time I beat her to the phone and started dialing, which took a couple of tries as I was having trouble seeing the numbers. "It's ringing," I reported in a moment, ready to scream at him once I heard his voice.
It wasn't his voice. "Hello?" said a strange woman.
"Who is this?" I demanded to know.
"This is Debra. Who is *this*?" she asked me.
"It's Alex. Is Fox Mulder there?"
"What's going on? Where is he?" pestered Scully into my other ear.
"Shhh!" I hushed her, listening intently to the handset.
On the other end, Debra was yelling at a distance, as if she'd put down the cellphone. "Marty? Are you coming out of there? There's somebody named Alex on the phone..."
I muffled the speaker on my end to whisper, "He's with a woman who answered the phone. She's calling him Marty."
"Marty?" pondered Scully. "Who's Marty?"
Switching the phone so I could take notes, I informed her, "It's his alias. Quiet!" Back into the receiver, I tried to get the woman's attention. "Debra? Debra, are you there?"
At last she picked up again. "Sorry, Alex. Marty's in the bathroom. I think he's had a little too much to drink. Do you wanna call him back?"
"No!" I barked. "Debra, where are you? I need to come there and get Marty. I don't want him driving home drunk, you know?"
"He's drunk?" boggled Scully.
With my hand over the mouthpiece, I scolded her, "Shut up! Lemme get an address..." A little prompting got me a street address in Alexandria and an apartment number, where Debra promised to wait for us, to let us in when we arrived, and, most importantly, not to let "Marty" leave.
As I hung up the phone, strong, small arms wrapped around me from behind, splaying their little hands across my chest as a head was pushed against my back. I shifted slightly in her grasp so I could pivot to face her, welcoming the way she pulled my head down to rest on her shoulder and let me cry, patting my back reassuringly. Despite my urgent need to go find Mulder, I took the time I needed to wallow in despair, glad that she was there to pull me back out when I was done.
Like a dear old friend, she murmured, "I'm sorry, Alex. Maybe there's a good reason he went home with that woman, one that doesn't have anything to do with him cheating on you."
Feeling a little more grounded, but afraid to examine my own heart right then, I straightened up and chided, "Your faith in him is admirable..."
She gave a morose sigh and cleared her throat before pulling away and reaching to hand me a tissue, taking one to blow her own nose, as well. "Sometimes my faith in him is the only thing keeping either of us alive," she admitted somberly. "We'd better get going. I'll drive your car, if that's all right."
Knowing that I was incapable of arguing with her, I handed over my keys and followed her back out the door, assuming that her plan would make sense when we got there. Very little of the intervening scenery made an impression on me, because all I could see was a naked Mulder pleasuring me in that morning's shower, followed immediately by him drunkenly fucking a faceless prostitute. I kept the passenger side window open in case I threw up.
By the time I'd aged a couple of months, we were there, ringing a perfectly ordinary doorbell on a perfectly mundane street in a perfectly normal neighborhood. On the staircase as we went up, we passed a large silver-grey cat who was very sneakily moving down the steps until the woman's voice I'd heard on the phone shouted, "Tigger! Get back here!" The beast slunk back up the stairs with a guilty look to its tail. We followed our feline escort to an upper story where the door was being held open by a not entirely unattractive brunette woman in a terrycloth bathrobe.
"Debra?" I began, awkwardly wondering if I should shake hands. "I'm Alex. Is Marty here?"
"Yeah," she replied, shutting the door behind all of us. "He's still in the bathroom. Are you his wife?" she asked, eyeing Scully suspiciously.
Before she could answer in the negative, I interjected, "That's what *I* was gonna ask him."
Debra looked at me with extremely confused brown eyes, and I took cold comfort in the fact that she didn't resemble either Scully or me in any way. "You guys want some coffee? I was gonna make some to help Marty sober up if he ever finishes barfing."
"No--no, that won't be necessary," Scully finally said. "Look," she added, digging for her wallet, "what does he owe you, so we can get out of here when he comes back?"
Her shoulders stiffened indignantly. "Say what you will about me, lady: I am *not* a hooker. Just because I agree to take a guy that good-looking home with me as soon as the lunch rush is over *doesn't* mean I'm easy. He's just a real flirt, y'know?"
We both nodded, which sent a message I'm not sure I wanted to convey to this woman, and Scully muttered, "Sorry," as politely as she could.
Debra rubbed at her glasses with the hem of her robe. "I guess I shouldn't get defensive," she explained, putting her specs back on her nose, "since nothing really happened, anyway. I mean, he'd been drinking for a couple of hours, and he wouldn't eat the sandwich I'd brought him. But we got back here and started fooling around, and before we got very far, he was in the bathroom tossing his cookies. I mean, a girl might take it personally, you know?"
"It's okay, Debra," I consoled her. "You haven't done anything wrong. Let me go talk to Marty and we'll be out of your life forever."
She pointed me down the hall, where I saw the light on under a door. In the outer room, I could hear her ask Scully, "So, you guys been married long?"
Tigger meowed at me from a bookcase as I made my way toward the bathroom, so I paused to skritch his ear a little, and to compose my thoughts. At last, I knocked softly on the door, asking, "How many times do I have to come talk you out of a locked bathroom? You planning on coming out anytime soon?"
"Maybe," he snarled within. "Why are you here?"
"I could ask *you* the same thing, "Marty"," I taunted.
"Alex, I'm sorry. I fucked up..."
"According to the lady, you did nothing of the kind. Now if you're done losing your lunch, would you mind coming out here so I can beat the shit out of you?"
"Talk about incentive," he retorted, punctuating his words with a flush of the toilet. A little running water and splashing signaled his impending exit from the facilities, so I stood back to let him out. The opening door revealed a Mulder whose face spoke volumes--in Swahili.
"Are you still drunk?" I asked.
"I wouldn't drive if I were me."
"I thought so. Mulder, what the hell are you doing here?" I pressed, blocking his escape.
His eyes did a hesitation waltz between looking at me and looking anywhere else. "Are you mad at me?"
For so many reasons, I was, but for so many others, I wasn't, though I couldn't tell *him* that. "Why did you come home with Debra?"
"I dunno," he demurred. "I liked the way she smiled at me."
"Fucker!" I yelled at last. "*Every* damned woman you've ever met has smiled at you like that. You're pure hot-and-cold running sex, and they want some. Haven't you ever noticed that?"
"No," he lied. Debra wasn't kidding that he was a flirt, no matter what the circumstance.
"Have you forgotten that you're *mine*, Mulder?" I pestered, fingering the pinhole I found in his shirt collar where something familiar was distinctly missing. "Oh--I see that you have..." Before he could stammer out a protest, I bore down on him. "Don't you say that you forgot it, because I know that you wear my pin every single day. You've told me so yourself. You took it *off*..." I spat, flinging the collar point back down like I could hurt him with it. "You knew full well what you were going to do, so you took it off so it wouldn't remind you of me, didn't you?"
"You're mad at me," he assumed, though this time he was closer to the truth.
"I know what you're doing here... You can't get it up for me anymore, so you were trying to get it up with *anybody*, isn't that right?"
"No," he protested a little more belligerently.
Snatching the button tab of his shirt, I hissed into his face, "Don't you *dare* lie to me! You thought that if you got drunk enough, you could forget your commitment to *me* and go off and fuck the first warm body that would take you home, didn't you? But it didn't work, did it? You couldn't get hard with a stranger, either, could you? Could you?" I panted with the effort of my diatribe.
I could tell that I was hitting close to home when his still slightly-unfocused eyes grew dark and he growled, "Let go of me, you cocksucker!"
Pulling my handful of shirt fabric even closer, I replied, "What did you call me?"
"You heard me, cocksucker!" he grunted back.
Very deliberately, I answered, my voice rising in pitch as I spoke, "Calling *me* a cocksucker is a little ironic, isn't it, considering the fact that *you* haven't even got a cock to *suck*!" Yanking my hand away, I spun on my toe and strode back down the hallway. "Scully can drive you home. Don't wait up."
In the living room, Tigger was determinedly trying to get Scully's attention by rubbing against her leg. However, she was steadfastly ignoring both the cat and the apartment's other resident, who sat on the opposite end of the lone sofa looking as uncomfortable as I felt.
"I'm leaving," I announced to them all, walking towards the door just quickly enough so that Mulder wouldn't try to catch up.
"Alex, wait!" Scully called, attracting my attention from my goal of escape to the real world. Before I could challenge her, she dangled something in the air. "You might need these, " she suggested, tossing my keys gently underhand so I could catch them easily with one hand, a skill I'd been perfecting since my unfortunate accident--no, not that one. The *other* one, that netted me a month's room and board with the unfaithful bastard who was starting to emerge from the hallway.
"Thank you," I replied, heading to open the door, only to have Debra beat me there in order to disengage several latches and locks.
"Sorry," she said, holding the door for me and looking at me more sincerely than anyone I'd spoken to in the past three minutes.
"I'll bet you are," I answered, disappearing down the steps so she could shut the door again before any cats or skunks could get out.
Before anyone could come after me, I got behind the wheel of my car and started driving. I knew that I really shouldn't be around my lover for a little while until I had cooled off, because I was liable to say something I didn't mean, or something that I *did* mean but shouldn't say anyway. The temptation to go get a fifth of vodka and polish it off for fortification was powerful, but common sense kept me sober and driving for awhile. Before long, I found myself back in the District, so grabbed the parking spot of some departing government worker and went to walk around the Washington Monument as the sun went down.
What the fuck could Mulder have been thinking? Okay--I was willing to accept that his thinking processes were not functioning properly right then, but I would never have suspected him of infidelity. I knew that my accusations of trying to plow fresh fields weren't far off the mark, but somehow that wasn't sufficient explanation. Scully's brochure mentioned that the sufferer might try to numb his emotions with drugs or alcohol, so that fit the case, too.
The look in his eyes when he wondered if I were mad at him almost made it seem like that's what he *wanted*... I may not have studied psychology like he did, but I understood a lot more about people, and particularly *him*, just from my line of work and reading the old textbooks on Mulder's shelves. In our pasts, we had covered the ground that he got sexually aroused by anger, both real and artificial, both mine and his. Could that be it? Could he be acting out just to make me mad at him in a twisted attempt to turn himself on?
A cool breeze off the Potomac wasn't the only thing that made me shudder as I looked up at the sturdy white monument. Just then it struck me how Freudian it was that in a search to help my lover reestablish his masculinity, I'd find myself standing in front of the biggest damned phallic symbol in the whole United States. The sheer irony of the image made me laugh out loud, and I'm sure a few tourists, park employees, and at least one passing bag lady stared at me like I was insane as I guffawed my way back to the car.
I gave Scully a quick call to assure her that I was heading "home", and to offer to pick up dinner. Within a half-hour, I rang her doorbell with a large bag of burgers (one without onions or mustard in case Mulder was still queasy), fries, and milkshakes held in my prosthesis. She let me in and helped set the food out on the table, while Mulder was nowhere to be seen.
"He wanted to lie down," she explained, "so I turned down my bed for him, since it was closer to the bathroom, just in case..."
Nodding my understanding, we sat down to eat before stuff got cold, talking about less-consequential things than we usually did at meals, if that were possible. Our voices must have finally awoken our main concern, for before long, Mulder appeared in the doorway from the hall looking a little pale and disheveled. Before he took another step, he fixed me with a frightened, contrite gaze and asked, "You hate me, don't you?"
"Oops," Scully exclaimed, "I forgot napkins!" and disappeared conveniently into the kitchen.
Meanwhile, I turned in my chair to face him. "Is that what you want?" I countered. "Do you want me to hate you?" Interrupting any answer he might try to give me, I added, "Because I don't."
His expression softened marginally, as if I'd surprised him. "You don't?"
"Not at all." Under the table, I kicked the legs of the chair across from mine to push it out as a silent invitation for him to join me. He just looked at it for the time being. "Think about it, Mulder. Would I have come back here and brought you this tasty hamburger if I hated you?" Once again, I answered my own question. "I don't think so." I took a huge bite of my own sandwich for emphasis, and because I was hungry.
Like a starving animal, he cautiously crept into the chair and stared at the burger before him as if he were afraid it was poisoned. With his thumb and forefinger, he broke a small morsel off of the bun and lifted it to his mouth, chewing and swallowing solemnly like he was taking Communion. "I'm sorry," he muttered, reaching for his water glass.
I slurped noisily on my milkshake before reaching for a couple of fries. "Good. You did something extremely stupid today. I hope you realize that."
He nodded, his face tipped down toward his food, but his eyes looking up directly at me. "You're not mad?"
Feeling more and more like his parent than his lover, I answered, "I never said that. I'm angry at your behavior, though--not at you. I *am* extremely disappointed in you that you would go off to have sex with a stranger rather than come home to me. That was foolish and dangerous, but you got off easy this time. Don't ever forget, Mulder: I love you, and I always will. You've opened some doors this week that have left you feeling vulnerable and broken. I'm here for you, for as long as you'll have me, for whatever purpose. If you want me to try to make you come, I'll do anything you want toward that end. If you want to cry, talk, yell, whatever, I'll listen and won't judge anything you say. Hell, if you want to beat the crap out of me for old times' sake, you could probably even talk me into *that*, if you think it would help you stop hurting and heal." Pausing to take another bite, I noted the ghost of a smile hiding in the corners of his eyes at that last mental image.
Shyly, he grabbed his milkshake and took an experimental sip. "You still love me?" he checked again.
"Uh-huh," I garbled around a mouthful of beef, lettuce, and bread. "Never stopped."
"You forgive me for what I did?"
Making a great show of thinking about it, I grabbed another fry and dipped it in the puddle of ketchup on my wrapper. "Mmmm... Okay. Just *don't* let it happen again!" I commanded, waving my French fry in an imitation of scolding. Biting off the reddened end of it, I broke into a broad smile, which I was greatly relieved to note that he returned at last.
"I love you, Alex. Thank you for coming to get me."
"Anytime, babe. Though it might have served you right for me to let Tigger knead you to death..." That made him chuckle a little as he picked up his burger and took a bite.
Scully peeked out of the kitchen door when we'd grown quiet, then sneaked back out to finish her dinner. The rest of the evening was blissfully uneventful, the stereo singing popular tunes to itself, the computer mouse never cooling, and Scully's entire coffee tabletopful of magazines shifting from this side to that and back again.
Fairly close to bedtime, Mulder came out of the bathroom with a sheepish look on his face. "Sorry, babe--I just noticed as I saw myself in the mirror. I forgot to put your pin back on. I think I left it in our room." Nonchalantly, he strolled down the hall, while behind him, Scully and I exchanged a panicked look and sprinted after him.
At the guestroom door, we skidded to a halt in the hall like running cartoon characters trying to stop when we found his silhouette filling the passage, his hand on the light switch. He cast a wary eye over his shoulder at us and asked, "Where did you get those?" as he gestured to the narcotic packages I'd left scattered across the bedspread.
"Uh, yeah," I stammered. "I found them in your apartment. I was gonna ask you about them..."
Cool-headed Scully stepped forward and put her hand on his arm gently. "Mulder, is there something you want to tell us?"
He looked less guilty than I'd have expected, starting to ask, "What do you..." Suddenly his face relaxed and he gave us a sheepish smile. "Wait. You thought I was going to... And why shouldn't you? One of these days I've *gotta* clean out that chest of drawers!" His words almost sounded like they were addressed to himself.
"What are you trying to say, Mulder?" I finally asked.
Sitting on the bed and starting to scoop the packages into a heap, he faced us completely openly. "You *know* how much trouble I have sleeping sometimes, like when I'm on a case, right?"
"Yeah?" Scully answered, her voice laced with suspicion.
His grin seemed ready to burst into a laugh at any moment. "They're samples! I've been to so many doctors out in the field that I've developed a habit of asking for something to help me sleep whenever I have to see one. I keep trying different brands hoping something will help, which they usually don't. When I get home, I just stick the leftovers in my underwear drawer and forget about them."
I sat beside him and put my hand on his knee carefully. "You mean you weren't deliberately collecting them, planning to kill yourself?"
"No!" he scoffed, quickly adding, "though I could see why you might think that. I just always meant to go through them and throw out the ones that had expired, but I just never got around to it. I'm sorry I upset you guys, but I'm innocent this time." His arm slid around my shoulders and squeezed me tightly to him. "Thanks for worrying about me. I knew I could count on you."
Scully picked up the wastebasket I'd left standing next to the bed and suggested, "Let's go ahead and throw away the out-of-date ones, shall we?"
"Sounds good," he agreed, jumping up and helping sort through the mess while I sat there dumbfounded. Maybe three packages hadn't yet expired, and Scully begrudgingly let him keep those, but later, when we turned out the light, he didn't need any of them. It had been another very long day...
Friday dawned grey and rainy, but that didn't keep us from keeping our appointment with Dr. Isaacson. The clouds in the sky looked as unsettled as the thoughts in my head, to tell the truth. Call me psychic, but I had an idea that Mulder's stories of his childhood weren't yet all out in the open.
Even though it was one-thirty in the afternoon, the heavy curtains in the doctor's office shut against the dark skies made it seem as if it were late in the evening. Otherwise, we were seated nearly as we had been two days earlier, though I was beside Mulder as he leaned in the corner of the couch, and Scully had pulled a chair near his other side. The doctor assumed what was likely his preferred distance from the couch, and spoke again in that gentle, vaguely hypnotic voice.
"Now, Mr. Mulder, I've been thinking about what you were telling us on Wednesday. Do you remember how long it was that your father touched you inappropriately?"
Mulder spoke in his own voice, but his eyes seemed far away. "I don't think he did it after I was thirteen or so."
"Are you sure?"
"I don't remember that he did it while I was in junior high school, or after that."
"Do you remember the last time he came to your room at night?"
He thought quietly for a moment. "No. I can't recall right now."
"Was there any reason why he would have stopped what he was doing?"
"I don't know."
"Did someone find out about what was going on?"
"No. It was our secret." My heart crumbled a little further as his little-boy voice returned to deliver this awful answer.
"Did you ever tell anyone what he was doing?"
"No, I didn't."
"Did your father ask you not to tell?"
"I think so..."
"Would you have gotten in trouble if you told?"
The color slowly drained out of Mulder's face. "No."
"Did he threaten to hurt you if you told?" he asked, more intensely but somehow more quietly.
"No," Mulder answered, a distinct quiver in his lip.
"What did he tell you he would do if you told anyone?"
"He said he'd hurt Samantha..."
Scully and I exchanged a look, and I'm sure my face held as much horror as did hers.
"Samantha is your sister?" It made me feel strangely comforted that he referred to her in the present tense, even though we had no idea if she were alive or dead.
"Yes," Mulder whispered in reply.
"So you never told anyone so he wouldn't hurt your sister?"
"I might have said something to my mother once..."
"You told her, even after he'd asked you not to?"
"Not until later, when things were different."
"I don't remember exactly. Dad wouldn't talk to me."
"This bothered you..."
"Well, yeah," he answered, matter-of-factly.
"Did your father talk to you at other times, but not when he was busy with work or something, so it seemed like he was ignoring you, and you missed those conversations?"
"No, that's not it. He wouldn't even look me in the eye when I said hello. I knew something was wrong."
"You've told me that when you were twelve, your parents stopped speaking to one another almost entirely, isn't that right?"
"Yeah... after Samantha disappeared."
"So maybe your father was drawing away from you both..."
"No. This was when Samantha was still there. Nothing had really changed between him and Mom yet, and he was always very attached to Sam. Meanwhile, I wanted Dad to pay some attention to me, too, but he acted like he didn't want anything to do with me."
"Was this a sudden development?"
"Yeah," said Mulder, pausing for breath and reaching for my water bottle. After he'd swallowed, he added, "I thought he loved me, but he treated me like I wasn't even there."
"You hated him for withholding his affection?"
"He wouldn't even touch me anymore. I loved him, and it hurt for him to try to avoid me."
"When you say he wouldn't touch you, do you mean hug you or pat you on the back?"
"No," he swallowed, though he'd already given back my water bottle. "He didn't come into my room anymore."
Even though the doctor had been over this ground before, he backtracked to, "He stopped touching you like he had been doing?"
"Yes, but I don't know why," he reiterated, the tips of his ears turning red in embarrassment. "I shouldn't be admitting this, but it felt good when he came to wake me up in the night, because that was when he'd pay attention to me. I missed it when he didn't do it anymore. I think that's when he stopped loving me. I wondered what I'd done to lose him, how I'd disappointed him..."
"Was that attention the only affection your father ever showed you?" Listening to the doctor's questions suddenly reminded me of the grasping at straws I'd done long before in Mulder's apartment.
"More or less," he replied, suddenly self-conscious.
"And you wanted him to touch you like he'd been doing, only he *wouldn't* anymore?"
"You didn't *always* feel like that, did you? When he started fondling you, you were frightened, so frightened that it made you vomit. You said so yourself."
"But at some time, it changed to something you enjoyed, something you wanted?"
"I don't know..."
"Do you know when it started to feel good?"
"I think it was when I was twelve."
"Was there a specific instance that you remember?"
Once again, he hugged his knees to his chest before him on the couch. "There was a time when I was standing beside my bed, and he was sucking me, when something happened."
It ached not to be able to hold my lover as he visibly searched for the words to express himself. "I had my eyes closed, so I didn't see what he was going to do. Dad surprised me--he put his finger in my bottom, which hurt a little. Suddenly I felt really hot and weird, like I might fall down. For a minute, I thought I was going to pee in my dad's mouth, but it didn't feel like that. I'd never felt that way before."
"What way?" If that question had popped out of my mouth instead of the doctor's, I wouldn't have been a bit surprised.
"Something wet spurted out of me, and it felt so good, I thought I was going to cry." Nothing held back my tears when I realized that he was saying that his father had made him come the first time. A woman's sniffle and a tug on the box of tissues were my only indications that Scully was reacting the same way.
"You didn't know what an orgasm felt like before that?"
"You had never masturbated and brought yourself to orgasm?"
"I'd played with myself a little, but I had never come before that. I was afraid I'd get caught, so I didn't do it very much."
"What did your father do after it happened that night?"
"He pulled my pajamas back up and made me get into bed and went away, and after that, he never came into my room again." I was impressed that he'd remembered all of that, but as I wept, I wished I could forget everything I'd heard.
"Was that when he started refusing to acknowledge you?"
"Yeah," murmured my beloved. "I asked him once if we could do that again, but he turned and walked the other way like he hadn't even heard me."
"How did that make you feel?"
"I was confused. I knew that it was wrong for him to touch me like that, but I didn't understand why when it felt so good. Mostly, I felt guilty and unloved." Of course. If *anyone* could blame himself for terrible things that other people had done to him, it was my Mulder.
"Is that when you spoke to your mother?"
"Yeah. I asked her about the facts of life, as she called them, but when I asked her if there was a word for what my father had been doing to me, she got really quiet and made me leave the room."
"Do you think she confronted your father about your conversation?"
"I don't know, because a couple of days later was when Samantha disappeared..."
My gullet jumped alarmingly, and I looked up at Scully, who was white as a sheet.
Mulder continued, "I never knew if they took her away to punish me for blabbing about my father's abuse, and it has always been a nagging suspicion to me ever since."
Suddenly every chip in the mystery that was Fox Mulder fell into place for me, and all I could do was cry. He did not follow suit, however--just sat on the couch staring at nothing and no one. I couldn't bring myself to catch Scully's eye again, because I knew I'd end up in *her* arms, feeling too queasy and raw even to reach for the man I loved. As it was, I hugged myself, afraid to move for fear of throwing up, though the mental image of Scully's tiny pale hands rubbing my back and soothing my feverish brow made me feel a little better.
Blinking as if he were waking up after a long, dull movie, Mulder glanced at me, practically realizing that I was sitting there for the first time. While I expected open arms into which I would gladly have fallen, instead I got an upraised hand and a newly thoughtful expression. "That's *it*," he said, lights that I didn't like very much coming on in his eyes.
"What?" I asked cautiously.
"What my Dad did to me that last time--that's what you were doing to me the last time that we made love..."
"You mean when you..." I couldn't say the words, as I was very close to committing the act myself.
His hand threaded gently through my hair. "When I ended up on my knees in front of the toilet... It wasn't bad frijoles at all! You just stirred up some memories that I thought I'd succeeded in forgetting..."
*That* did it. Guilt and nausea overwhelmed me, and I found myself dashing down the hall to that selfsame washroom where this whole week had started. It felt miserable to be so sick, but even moreso to realize the part I'd played in Mulder's revelations. Leaning on the wall above the commode for support as the last spasms passed, I prayed for forgiveness for the reminder I'd unwittingly brought upon my only love, and for a settled stomach while I was at it.
I had been so intent on getting there quickly, I had failed to notice that I'd been followed. "It's not your fault, you know," Mulder's voice reassured me lovingly over my shoulder, since I hadn't had time to lock any doors behind me. At his words, I could have sworn I heard a distant angel's choir through the steel vent in the glass brick window. "It wasn't healthy for me to keep all of that blocked away in my memory. You helped more than you will ever know." The hands I *really* wanted to rub my back did so as I finished up, then escorted me to the sink to help me wipe my mouth and get me a drink of water.
When I could finally speak, I looked into his kind, suddenly ghost-free eyes and said as simply as I could, "I love you, Mulder."
He smiled one of his warmest smiles and answered, "If I never believed that before, the events of this week have proved that to me without a doubt." Holding his arms out to me, he crushed me in his famous bear hug and proved everything right back to me as he whispered in my ear, "I love you, too, Alex."
In the car on the way back to Scully's, we decided to stay over one last night, then move Mulder back home after he sat in on an incest survivors' meeting the next afternoon. My lover suggested, and I agreed, that we buy her a swell dinner out to try to repay her for her caring hospitality during his infirmity. We actually had fun laughing over our plates of handmade pasta and rich sauces (somehow *quantity* of food had sounded more impressive to all of us when choosing a location than *price*), and we drank at least two toasts to everyone at the table.
As we were preparing for bed, I discreetly ignored my hostess' goodnight embrace of my beloved, for I knew that if anyone else deserved to be grateful to have him back to almost normal, it was she, his partner and his best friend. While Mulder was performing his evening ablutions, I wrapped Scully in a hug myself.
"Thank you, kiddo," I grunted, giving her a friendly squeeze. "Mulder has always told me that your strength has been an inspiration to him. I'm awed that I got to see it in action for myself."
She pshawed sweetly, replying, "I could take him in three out of five falls, but that's it." Her gaze turned sincere and a little wistful. "Thank you for coming through for him, Alex. It means a lot to me to see him happy again. For a bad guy, you're certainly a good man." A kiss was pressed softly to my cheek, followed by one last hug. "I'd tell you to take care of him, but I know that you will," she assured me before wandering off to her own room.
I had my back to the door while I turned down the bed when I was seized firmly, yet affectionately, from behind. "You feeling better?" Mulder began.
"You're asking *me*? Especially after that heap of fettuccine I put away at dinner?"
"To be perfectly frank," he admitted while he turned me to face him in his arms, "I was too stunned watching Scully eat. I think she must have sent in her spare eating clone after she went to the washroom. *I* couldn't even keep up with her!"
As seriously as I could fake, I scolded, "*Don't* talk about clones, Mulder." He got the most adorable worried look on his face until I added, "They *hate* Italian!"
Realizing I'd been pulling his leg, he proceeded to do the same to me, yanking one of my legs out from under me so I fell gracelessly across the bed. Immediately, he was kissing me, tracing the taste of fresh toothpaste along my teeth with his tongue. He made short work of my clothes, breaking from my lips only long enough to yank my shirt over my head, then peeling off his own with one hand.
"Hey," I protested feebly, "*I* can do that."
His gaze turned bright with passion when he said in complete seriousness, "And I can do *this*..." Grasping my hand that clung to his shoulder, he pressed it against his crotch, where an erection throbbed perceptibly within his boxers.
Choosing my words carefully, I asked, "Are you really ready to make this happen, baby?"
I could feel the effects of his wicked grin in my balls. "I'm more ready than I've been for a long time. Open up, you prick, and let me in."
Lying back on one pillow, I planted my feet on the mattress and lifted up my butt to position myself on another. Mulder found his lube and condoms in his case and prepared himself, while I looked on in eager anticipation. I had wanted to watch the wondrous thing that was his erect cock as long as possible, but when his greased fingers slid smoothly into my ass, my eyes closed in ecstasy.
In his sultriest voice, he purred, "Want me to fuck you?"
Emitting a decidedly unmanly squeak, I answered, "Please?" Chuckling darkly, he paused with his organ just touching my puckered opening until I sighed, "Do it, Mulder."
All of his no-longer-repressed memories couldn't keep him down long, and I groaned in bliss as he filled me once again with his hardness. "God, I love you, Alex," he grunted before he covered my mouth with his and made love to my mouth with the same rough strokes he was using on my ass. Long, sensuous fingers wrapped around my penis, and I relished the feel of being taken, body and soul.
His face too close for me to focus on it, instead I closed my eyes and willed his cock a little harder and the next thrust a little deeper. Mulder apparently read my mind, for he pushed inside me just far enough to catch my prostate on the backstroke, and I hit my peak, shooting out over his hand and my belly with a yell.
"Shhhh," he snickered. "Scully will hear you."
"Like *I* care," I murmured with a satisfied yawn. "In fact, I think she wants to hear *you*..." Without warning, I bore down with my sphincter muscles, and he howled and came at once, making us both dissolve into post-coital giggling as soon as he'd recovered.
"Oh, God," he chortled after he'd pulled out and flopped onto the bed beside me. "I needed that."
"So did I," I affirmed, leaning over and kissing him deeply before snuggling up close to his side. "I daresay you're *back*, gorgeous."
"Yeah," he sighed, rolling off the rubber and tying it in a knot. "I kinda missed me."
"I missed you, too," I agreed, cleaning up with some tissues. "We'd probably better take it slow for awhile, until you're back to normal."
"Normal?" he scoffed. "I'm *never* normal!"
"Yeah," I teased, "but you're *you*, and that's what I love."
"Awww, shucks," he drawled. "You love me, evil tormentors in my past and all, eh?"
All kidding aside, I rebuked him gently. "Hey--you may have had a hellish childhood, but I figure that somehow it all came together to bring you here to love me now."
"Thanks so much," he replied snidely. "If it weren't for my past, you wouldn't love me so much--is *that* what you're implying?"
I kissed him again to shut him up. "No," I began again, more slowly this time. "The forces that shaped you, even old Bill Mulder, child abuser, made you the man you are. They made you into the man I love, so I can't deny that *something* good came out of it all. If it weren't for him, I wouldn't be here right now. In fact, I'd probably be dead, and would never have met you besides. No, I don't regret having done my job, but I'm just a little thankful to him for delivering you to me. Do you appreciate that?"
He was quiet at last, then smiled slowly. "Thank *you*, Alex. Thank you for putting up with me and appreciating *me*. I think we're going to be okay."
"I know *I* am," I smiled back, "and I'm willing to put up with you while you get there. I love you."
"I love you, too. You saved my life, you know..."
"Eh, I'd do it again," I joked mildly, though it nearly brought tears to my eyes to see the smile on his face as he slowly fell asleep.
The next afternoon I took my place next to Mulder in the quiet room at Dr. Isaacson's office, whose table had been folded up and moved out of the way, leaving a circle of chairs that were filling up quickly with patients and friends. The doctor made a small introductory speech, then one by one, people stood up to tell their stories, share their successes, and seek understanding from their peers. I tried to guess which member of a few pairs was the true survivor, and I was surprised how many times my assumptions were totally wrong.
During a short break, Isaacson took us aside to welcome us, assuring Mulder that he didn't have to speak if he didn't wish to do so. We thanked him, then partook of the array of cookies that had been set out for the group. Before I could ask Mulder what he wanted to do, we were seated once again in the circle, listening to testimonials and tales of individual day-to-day struggles.
The session was nearly over when Mulder, taking advantage of a pause in the proceedings, grasped my hand and stood from his seat. "Hi," he addressed the gathering, "my name is Marty, and I am an incest survivor."
Voices around the room greeted him with friendly calls of "Welcome, Marty" and "Hi, Marty."
However, he stopped himself and looked at me for a moment. I wasn't sure what he was going to do, but I tried to reassure him with my gaze.
Smiling back at me, he squeezed my hand tight and said, "No, wait. Let me start over. My name is Fox..."
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Apologies if our hero seemed to get better too quickly. I took a few creative liberties with his recovery time in order to present a complete picture. I genuinely respect anyone who has had to face down this kind of demon in their own lives, and am truly impressed by the hard work they've devoted to getting to a place of peace and strength. My hopes for better things are with you. Thank you for reading. Feel free to feedback, if you like.
ADDITIONAL ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Thanks to Cathy at Chimerical for her earlier article on post-traumatic stress disorder, which I used in part as a reference in this story. Greetings also to Vehemently, whose personal squick did NOT in any way influence the events of this story--much. ;)
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