Title: "Requiescat In Pace"
Author: Janet F. Caires-Lesgold
Feedback: Please, to the above address!
Archive: By permission only
Rating: R for language and imagery
Spoilers: everything through Season 7 ("Je Souhaite", "En Ami", "Biogenesis", and "Amor Fati", in particular, in addition to "Requiem")
Timeframe: post-"Requiem" (everybody else is doing it: why not me?)
Keywords: Angst up the wazoo--might qualify as character torture
Summary: Mulder comes back...
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I can see it now--everyone whose post-"Requiem" story I deleted out of my mailbox will be deleting this left and right. The people who want happily-ever-after, fluffy little babyfic endings to the episode will delete it too. Good. However, I've found the writing of this to be tremendously therapeutic. Perhaps it will serve a similar function to others...
DEDICATION: Parts of this story are for Jay. He'll know which parts.
DISCLAIMER: These characters belong to Chris Carter, 1013 Productions, and the whole X-Files gang, not to me. This story is just for the entertainment of my online friends and myself, not for any profit.
COPYRIGHT: (C) September 15, 2000, Janet F. Caires-Lesgold, firstname.lastname@example.org
Please don't redistribute or alter this story in any way without the express permission of the author. Thank you very much.
The first thing you can sense is gravity. From the dark, weightless place where you've been submerged, a surface seems to come up beneath your back, holding you steadily in place. Your head jerks back into softness--a pillow in a smooth white case. Rolling your neck back and forth, you luxuriate in the feel of it against your head, unfamiliar tendrils of hair poking inside the collar of your garment.
Before you dare open your eyes, you take inventory of your physical self. Mouth dry, tasting like the atmosphere in a morgue with an overlay of sugar. The air, however, is fresh by comparison, though a current of disinfectant threads through it into your nose, along with the scent of recently-watered potting soil. Lungs functioning normally, vaguely hungry, some peculiar discomfort further down--oh, yes: a catheter. What the hell kind of life have you lived where a catheter feels familiar?
Muscles stiff though flabby, nerves picking up pins and needles everywhere from poor circulation now restored as you shift slightly in your bed, because it must be a bed. It must be in a hospital, from the crisp linens and the tube up your dick. One hand hurts: oh, an I.V. drip: dextrose in solution, hence the illusion of just-melted candy on your tongue. Toes curl up in response--yup, they're all there.
Present and accounted for, you decide to test your eyelids. *BRIGHT* light! Maybe more slowly this time. Acoustical ceiling tiles, window shades drawn against brilliant daylight, but it's still brighter than you've seen in far too long. Private room, pleasant enough, potted plant, guest.
Wait. That guy sitting in that not-very-comfy chair reading a newspaper looks familiar. Sssssomething... Ssssskinner. Oh, yeah. You know him. Maybe you should say hello. "Sir?" It's almost a whisper. When the hell is the last time you spoke? Why does it feel like the only sounds you've made all your life were screams? "Sir?" you try again, louder this time.
The newspaper rustles abruptly. Maybe he'd been asleep. Brown eyes behind their neat little metal rings peer at you intently, immediately washed over with a flash of excitement. "Mulder?" he asks, as if you could be anyone else. He jumps from his chair, scattering the Washington Post to the floor, and leaps to the side where nothing is jabbed into the back of your hand. Picking up that unpierced hand, he grasps it firmly in his, almost as if he wants to arm-wrestle. He clings to your arm, pressing the back of your wrist to his chest in an uncomfortably intimate gesture, saying nothing except your name over and over. If you're not completely mistaken, he looks like he might start to cry at any moment.
"Are you okay?" you ask, instantly aware of how backwards that sentiment must sound coming from you.
He smiles at once, nudging a tear from one eye at the same time. "It's been a long time, son," he says, squeezing your hand like he's used to doing it a lot, though it's something entirely new to you. Reaching up toward the wall behind you and out of your view, he presses something with his fingers and barks the word, "Nurse!" into what must be an intercom. That sharp, bossy tone makes you feel peculiarly at home.
Soon medical personnel fog into the room around you, and he removes his hand from yours, leaving your arm strangely cold and lonely. Men and women in white uniforms and artificially cheerful printed scrubs tug at you, peer at you, ask you questions for which you wouldn't have an answer in a million years, like "Does anything hurt?", "How many fingers am I holding up?", and "Do you feel dizzy?"
After all of the listening and poking and prodding, the professionals decide to leave the things stuck into you for now. You're sure you could eat and keep the food down if they only asked you to do so, and taking a piss on your own would feel pretty good, but they won't listen. Even though you can't remember doing anything useful for a very long time, you are suddenly too tired to argue with them and protest that you want to sleep so they'll leave you alone. The minute the door is shut, your eyelids follow suit, and your brain succumbs to sleep as if to a long-missed lover.
Some time later an unfamiliar sound wakes you. It's a man's voice, or rather, the murmur of a man making noise to himself. As the cobwebs clear from your mind, the sounds resolve into tones of abject grief: the man is weeping.
Blinking carefully, you note that the sun must have set recently, as the shades are open, but the light outside is almost gone. The guest is in that same chair again, as if he had spent a long time there and it was where he belonged.
"Walter?" you ask, quietly.
He chuffs to himself, yanking out a pocket handkerchief and hurriedly blowing his nose, then rushes to your side. "Mulder, do you need anything?"
"I'm fine. What's wrong?" you ask, understanding that his heart was breaking just a moment ago, and knowing that he is pretending that everything is fine for your benefit.
As he clears his throat, you sense that what he is about to say is only part of the truth. "I thought I'd lost you," he says, his hands white-knuckling the bed rail at your side.
You scrabble through your memories to determine what he means by this. Your removal from the X-Files was too long ago, and he got you back since then. A lot of your more elaborate cases left you laid up in a hospital, near death, and he'd never cried at your bedside before, at least, not that you knew of. "Lost me how?" you ask at last, completely stumped.
"You came back."
"Back? Back from where?"
"I'm not sure. Nobody knows where you've been."
"Have I been gone? For how long?"
"You were taken about two years ago."
"Taken? What do you mean?"
He pulls his chair to your side and sits. Once again he takes your hand, which feels wrong somehow, but it seems to calm him down and connects you to something other than clear plastic tubing. "What do you remember from the last night I saw you?"
You draw a complete blank to the circumstances of that encounter and wonder idly if you'd spent the night together, which is why he's so concerned. "When was that?" you respond, so you have some frame of reference.
"Two years ago, in Oregon, where you were investigating the case of Billy Miles..."
This sounds ridiculous to you. "Wait a minute. That case was longer ago than just two years, and you weren't there. It was..."
He distinctly cuts you off before you can come up with a name. "No, this was a follow-up, much later. I took you to someplace in the woods, and you stepped into a column of light and disappeared."
Your brow creases at this incredible story. "Are you saying I was abducted by aliens?"
Both of his hands cling to yours. It is an unfamiliar sensation, but satisfying for a reason you cannot identify. "I think so," he answers. "Don't you know? What do you remember?"
The landscape of your mind is an empty room. You can recall running through city streets left barren of all human life, but this must have been a dream from long ago. The only memories you can retrieve and claim as having been real are the images from this morning. Nothing else recent remains. "It's like there's nothing *there* to remember," you answer. "How long have I been back?"
Skinner swallows like he doesn't want to tell you. "You were... found. Some kids were camping in the woods near where you disappeared and spotted you wandering in the underbrush. Your clothes, your I.D., everything was still on you, but you were babbling and unresponsive. The authorities called me to come after you, but by the time I arrived, you'd fallen into a coma. I brought you back here, and have been waiting to ask you about your journey ever since."
You search his eyes, which look like a rabbit's frozen in oncoming headlights, but he does not look away. "When did I get here? How long have you been waiting here for me to wake up?"
At that, his gaze drops to the floor. "Three months. Maybe four." He goes quiet, and you let this "missing time" sink further into your consciousness.
Squeezing his hand, you move to let go. "I really could use some more sleep," you suggest, feeling like you are avoiding something big. "Go home."
He stands, taking the chair back to its spot near the window. "Good night, Mulder," he offers. Before you can reply, his hands sweep what must be very long bangs from your forehead and his lips press against your skin there. "Sweet dreams," he chides.
"Yes, sir," you acknowledge, puzzled at his gesture. As he steps to the door, you stop him. "Sir, what was that?"
"You kissed me."
Shaking himself briefly, he shrugs it aside. "I'm sorry, Mulder. I'd just gotten used to doing that while you were unconscious."
He looks embarrassed, then explains, "I missed our conversations, you lying there completely still while I watched over you. Once when I brushed the hair out of your eyes, I thought I saw you smile just a little. I guess I got carried away with touching you in ways that I thought might get a reaction. I won't do it anymore."
His sheepish expression warms your heart. "It's okay. It was kinda nice. It's good to feel another human being again. Thank you for waiting for me, Walter." You know what you want to do, and when he lingers a moment longer, you open your arms to him. He leans over your bed and grabs you gingerly in his arms, careful not to dislodge the I.V., giving you the first hug you can remember for a very long time.
Promising to return in the morning, he leaves you to fall sound asleep in the empty room, though you wonder if you've forgotten something important.
In a few days, you're wearing proper pajamas instead of a hospital gown. You graduate from the catheter to a bedpan to restroom privileges quickly. The I.V. becomes vitamin shots and a liquid diet, as you weren't as ready to eat as you first suspected. It must have been some time since you actually digested food. It takes both Walter and a burly physical therapist to get you on your feet the first time, and you are shaking when you fall into the wheelchair next to your bed. Before long, however, you can shuffle around your private room unassisted, though you rely on the chair for longer trips, such as to the grounds or the gym.
More visitors come after a week: three funny-looking men who must know you very well. They correct you when you mispronounce their names, but their friendly smiles seem nervous, guarded somehow. You get examined by all kinds of doctors, and a steady stream of interns comes around to poke at you and ask you questions.
Unfortunately, your history since you've been gone is as lost to you as you yourself were to everyone else. A hypnotist is brought in, but nothing comes to the surface as he dredges around in the silt of your memories. Your dreams that night are full of faces you once knew, but whose names are hard to recall. One face lingers just out of reach, and it haunts you as you go about your exercises the following morning. You sip at a cup of coffee they have given you for lunch, the bitter fluid reminding you of a thousand different cups of coffee in a basement room, with the person who belonged to that face, and the missing piece of your past falls into place.
When visiting hours come that day, you are waiting for Skinner in his favorite chair. He breezes through your door and stops short when he sees the anger in your eyes.
"Where is she?" you ask, knowing he'll know exactly whom you mean.
He blanches, dropping his omnipresent newspaper on your bed and standing stiffly just inside the door.
"Why didn't you call Scully? Why hasn't she been here?"
He looks afraid of your reaction whatever his answer is going to be.
"It's very convenient that there's no phone in here, and no one leaves me alone long enough to use the payphone down the hall, not that I've got any money on me... Tell me, Skinner: is she dead?"
Straightening, he walks to you and puts his hand on your shoulder, which you shrug off. "No, she's alive. You couldn't have called her, though--her phone's been disconnected. Her mother moved out to California, so you couldn't have reached *her*, either."
"I want to see her." Your jaw hurts from having been held clenched all afternoon.
"That might be difficult. I'll have to pull a few strings..."
You rocket out of your chair as steadily as you can and stand face to face with the man who has been keeping secrets from you. "What kind of strings? I'll do whatever I have to do to see her." The quiver you hear in your own voice surprises you, and your vision clouds briefly, but you do not let yourself cry. Yet.
Skinner leads you back to sit on the edge of the bed, sitting beside you and cautiously putting an arm around your shoulders. "I was starting to wonder if you'd remember her, son. I know she meant a lot to you..."
"I love her, goddammit," you wail, tears trickling down your cheeks against your will. "Where is she? What happened? What's going on?"
"It's a long story. I need to ask you something first."
"Why? Ask me what?" You turn to face him reluctantly.
"Did you and she have a relationship outside the office?"
He swallows and looks away for a few seconds, then meets your eyes again. "Were you and Scully lovers?"
You don't even have to think about your answer. "No. Never. I wanted her so much, but the time was never right. If only she'd seemed like she wanted me, too..." You let out a sob of longing and frustration, and are immediately swept against his chest, held firm in a safe place where you can fall apart for a moment.
Strong fingers card through your hair, stroking your head as you weep helplessly. "I'll do what I can, Mulder. I don't know that she'll want to see you, though..."
Pulling away, you challenge his worried face. "Why the hell not? What's wrong? Did somebody hurt her?"
A calm resolve settles on his features. "I think you'll have to see for yourself."
His lack of answers does not comfort you, but his arms do, and you remain there snuffling for the rest of his visit.
The next morning you find you've had a wet dream during the night, and have little appetite for the runny oatmeal they bring on a tray.
Later, they tell you not to go to physical therapy. Skinner brings some of your old clothes he's been keeping since your disappearance, and your jeans are alarmingly loose. There's a chill outside, so he wraps your coat around you over your sweater. You try to remember the last time you rode in a car, and feel a little queasy, partly from the motion of the scenery past the window, and partly from worry over what you might find at the end of your ride.
You are distracted by the tall trees in the yard when you come to what looks like a small hospital, so that you don't catch the name of the place on the sign as you drive onto the grounds. Skinner stops the car, and comes around to open your door. "Are you going to be all right?" he asks.
"I think so," you reply, fighting your nervous stomach, trying to make your need to see her tantamount to everything else.
Together you walk inside, you clinging desperately to Skinner's sleeve in case you are not as strong as you've made yourself believe. His badge is confiscated, along with his firearm, at the front desk. You wiggle your feet in your favorite old sneakers as you sit nearby, wondering why he's telling the gentleman on duty that you are Scully's ex-husband.
"Tight security around here," you whisper into his ear, as you are walked to a door that is unlocked only to allow your passage.
"You have no idea," mutters Skinner.
You are led to a small meeting room with a viewing window running down one side. Once you have taken a seat, the attendant with a huge ring of keys on her belt turns out the light above you. The vista before you is of a large all-purpose room, painted institutional green with posters of puppies and kittens on the wall. Strangely focused people in robes and simple clothing mill about the sturdy furniture. Someone plays a lovely phrase on the piano, makes a slight mistake, then plays the same phrase over and over while your attention wanders to the room's other residents. A couple of old men argue over a checkerboard, which you notice is missing its checkers. Heads here and there bob restlessly, and hands pick at invisible hairs on clothing.
At last a small figure with wildly disheveled red-brown hair catches your attention. She is holding an animated conversation with a plastic baby doll that she holds at arm's length, apparently scolding it for some infraction. The doll's molded hair has been haphazardly colored red with a marker, and one of its arms is missing. The woman glances up, and you see stunning blue eyes whose image was burned into your memory long before you ever disappeared.
"Scully?" you murmur, unaware that you have risen from your chair and stand with your nose pressed against the two-way glass in horror and fascination.
"Yes, Mulder, that's her," Skinner's voice answers softly behind you.
You can't turn away from the window, but ask, "What's wrong with her? What happened? Why is she here?"
A large, gentle hand spreads across your back, but whether it is meant to show you affection or keep you from collapsing in a heap is not precisely clear. "Do you know where we are, Mulder?"
"Some kind of mental hospital?" you guess, basing your terminology on your judgements of the people on the other side of the glass.
"Close. It's the Moynihan Home for the Criminally Insane." His syllables are clipped with regret and distaste.
"Criminal... But what..." Your question dies on your lips as you turn to face him, your fingers creasing the fabric of his coat front.
"Scully was found insane but guilty of infanticide about a year ago, and has been here ever since."
"What?" you bellow, sinking slowly into the nearest chair where you can keep an eye on her through the window and dragging Skinner down with you.
He grabs the chair closest to you and turns it in your direction, sitting close in front of you. Composing his thoughts for a moment, he begins quietly. "When I got back to D.C. after you had vanished, I learned that her fainting spells and other symptoms were direct results of her being pregnant."
"Pregnant? But how? All of her ova were removed during her abduction. She was barren..."
"That's what I thought, but..."
"Wait! I was always suspicious of what had gone on during those days while she went off with the guy with the cigarettes... I wonder if he... Oh, shit!" For a moment you are sure you are going to vomit, but you haven't eaten anything all day.
Skinner's hand on your arm grounds you through your swirling suspicions. "That thought had occurred to me, too. You *did* say that she told you that while she was on that trip, she'd woken up once in her hotel room dressed in her pajamas when she hadn't put them on herself. Perhaps he drugged her and implanted an embryo while she slept. But she was so happy about her condition when I came back from Oregon, I didn't want to challenge her, and since I wasn't really sure what had gone on between you and her..."
Your mouth goes dry. "That's why you asked me if we'd been lovers..."
"I didn't want to assume anything without you here to corroborate her story. I guess she was starting to lose touch with reality even then. She kept referring to her pregnancy as being your child, so what was I to think?"
A new horror creeps into your thoughts. "But she's *here*. What happened?" you ask, absolutely positive that you do not want to know the answer.
He takes off his glasses, as he always has when he had difficult news to deliver. "She had been saying that the baby was speaking to her from her womb, often stopping in the midst of conversation to listen. I thought she was just so excited about the baby that she was trying to bond with him even then--she must have been hallucinating, even though I didn't realize it. But after he was born, and I drove them home from the hospital, she started calling me, saying that the baby was sending her messages from you."
"Me?" you scarcely whisper. "While I was... wherever I went?"
"I suppose so," he sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose. "So many people had given up on you ever being returned by then. Your three friends had cleared out your apartment and sublet it to someone else. Most everyone assumed you were dead or living under another name not wanting to be found... True, I held onto some things for you, hoping I'd see you again, but here was Scully, telling me things that you had supposedly told the baby to tell her. I thought it was just a charming affectation, even when she started complaining that it was keeping her awake at night. I should have listened to her!" he declares, almost to himself.
You try to reconnect with the only person who apparently never gave up on you. "What did she do, Walter? I have to know."
Squinting at Scully through the glass, where she bounces the doll on her lap and tips her head from side to side as if she is singing a nursery rhyme, he continues his sorrowful tale slowly. "The call came late at night. The baby couldn't have been more than a month old. She sounded so relieved, as happy as she'd been the day she'd told me she was carrying a child. 'I shut him up!' she said on the phone. 'William won't bother me anymore!' I raced over there..."
You swallow hard. "William? The baby's name was William? But that's..."
His eyes fix on yours apologetically. "Yes, I know. It's your middle name. It's also her father's name, and her brother's name. It seemed suitable." A sudden bang of piano keys distracts him momentarily before he proceeds. "When I got there, she was still cuddling the baby in her arms, looking exhausted but exuberant. She was thrilled to show me what she'd done: she'd duct-taped his little mouth shut and suffocated him." He stops, noting the tears rolling down your face. "I'm so sorry, Mulder... I couldn't convince her that she had done anything wrong. I had to call the authorities and have her locked up. The trial took two hours. She's been here ever since."
Something about his posture suggests that he's waiting for you to slump into his arms, but there's something you need to ask first. "Do they know who the baby's father was?"
He reaches out and holds your shoulder firmly. "They did DNA testing and compared it to your records on file. He *was* your son, Mulder. Old Man Spender must have taken samples from you while you were his prisoner and combined them with Scully's stolen eggs. She'd been right about that all along. But now I don't think she even knows that she killed her child--*your* child."
The last shred of your heart breaks, and you crumble against Skinner's shoulder. You accept the comfort he offers, but you are inconsolable. You murmur "Why? Why?" into his soggy shirt collar, remembering the voices you heard in your head in the hospital, wondering if the genetic tampering had passed some kind of similar ability along to your progeny. Maybe she is mentally unstable now, but what if she had been telling the truth about what she had heard? Has the old bastard succeeded in ruining you at last by destroying the one thing you rely upon most in the world: Scully's good common sense and faith in finding the truth?
"Do you want to talk to her?" he asks you quietly.
"Will she know me?" you ask through your tears.
Wiping his own eyes before he replaces his spectacles, he shakes his head in doubt. "It's hard to say. Sometimes she thinks I'm you. Sometimes she knows who I am. Usually she calls me 'Ahab'..."
"...her pet name for her father."
"Yeah," he half-smiles. "I call her Starbuck then, just so she doesn't get upset. You don't have to do this if you don't want to," he suggests.
You cough a little, and he digs out a clean handkerchief and hands it to you. Gratefully, you wipe your eyes and blow your nose. "I have to try. I can't leave without looking in her eyes again and seeing if maybe she remembers..."
Skinner knocks on the door to alert the guard to let you out. The two of you are taken to a private room that is decorated pleasantly, including a doll crib and some smudged baby toys. It hurts a little to see that the place where the woman you love has lived for a year doesn't even contain one medical journal or romance novel.
After a few moments, Scully is brought in, clutching her doll. "Ahab!" she squeals when she sees Skinner. You can't help wondering if she ever shrieked like that at her real father, or covered his face with baby kisses like she is doing to her former boss.
He takes a deep breath, then points you out to her. "Starbuck," he begins, "do you remember who this is?"
She turns a serious and critical eye to you, and you almost expect her to burst out laughing suddenly and give you hell for falling for this elaborate joke. But she finally smiles and answers, "Of course I remember Charlie! It's been a very long time, Charlie!" With extreme gentleness, she hands the doll to Skinner. "Billy, play with Grandpa," she urges, then turns to you for a warm hug.
All you can do is hug her back, relishing how her head fits under your chin, remembering how holding her like this used to turn you on just enough to give you an all-day buzz. Now, though, she is just your sister, or might as well be. Over her shoulder, you catch Skinner's eye and shake your head in disbelief, your lip starting to quiver all over again.
You are introduced to "Billy", and you play along for Scully's benefit, but your heart isn't in it. If only you could prove any of your suspicions that Cancerman had a hand in the despoiling of your partner, your love, your very best friend, you wouldn't feel so defeated. But you can't. There is no evidence, no fingerprints, no paper trail. He could be dead for all you know, but if so, he's gone to his grave a free man, smelling like a rose after all. Meanwhile, there is nothing on this earth anymore that matters to you. You can't make yourself care about ever coming to visit Scully after today, because she's not "your" Scully anymore, and it's clear that she never will be again.
When you finally leave the home, Skinner doesn't talk about what you've seen, what you've really lost. He makes careful conversation about what you can do when you are strong enough to check out of the hospital permanently. He suggests living arrangements, lists possible career options, and offers to help you access your family fortune, which is still tied up in investments somewhere, to get you back on your feet again.
This last item is the only one that really interests you, though. Maybe if you could get your hands on that money, you could get back out to Oregon, maybe cut yourself off from the rest of society, and wait. The aliens might always come back...
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