Title: Shooting Star
Genre: Post-series, AU, familyfic
Summary: Seventeen years ago Mulder disappeared. Reunited after all this time, Mulder and Scully struggle to make themselves the family they should have been.
“Oh shooting star that fell into my eyes and through my body—
Not to forget you. To endure.”
—”Death”, Rainier Maria Rilke.
===== One =====
Scully woke up as soon as the small body curled itself up next to her. She sat up and reached for the bedside lamp and snapped it on, and hauled her son into her lap. “Benjie? Did you have a bad dream?”
“Yes,” he said and his arms wrapped around her waist.
“Oh, my sweet Benjie,” Scully cooed, and kissed him gently and rocked him against her. “What did you dream, baby?”
“Mommy?” He looked up at her. “What’s a bastard?”
Scully sighed. She’d known that someday this question would come, but she’d hoped it would be later rather than sooner. Five years old was far too young to understand this. But explain it she must.
“It’s a person whose parents weren’t married when he was born. Did someone call you that, Benjie?”
He hesitated, then nodded.
It made her heart ache. It isn’t your fault, baby, she thought, it was never your fault. “What did you do?”
“I hit him.”
Yes, he had his father’s temper. “You shouldn’t hit, Benjie.”
“He shouldn’t call me names.”
That made her chuckle despite herself. “No, he shouldn’t. But just because someone does something bad to you, doesn’t give you the right to do something bad to them.”
“Mommy? Where’s my dad?”
“I don’t know.” She buried her nose in his dark hair. He still smelled like a baby, and his skin was still baby-soft. She’d long ago divided his features between her own and his father’s. He was handsome, like his father, and she knew that by his teenage years he would have the same soulful, “save me with your love” expression his father had often worn. She’d tried. God, how she’d tried. “I don’t know where he is. Bad men took him away before you were born.”
“Because he knew things, baby, dangerous things.”
“Are bad men ever going to take you away?” He looked terrified, and she kissed him and cuddled him close.
“No, baby, never. No one is ever going to take me away from you. I promise.”
“But if they could take my dad they can take you. Can’t they?”
Again she sighed. He was right, but there was no good reason in telling him that. “But they don’t want to, Benjie. I promise, they don’t want to hurt me. Or you. You’re always going to be safe.”
Now they were entering into familiar territory, and he said, “Because I have four guardian angels, and their names are Walter, Melvin, John and Ringo.”
“That’s right. They’re always going to take care of you. And maybe someday they’ll find your dad, and bring him home.”
“Tomorrow?” He looked up at her eagerly.
“No, not tomorrow. Someday.” She looked at the clock. Four a.m. Maybe she’d get another hour before she had to get up for work. “Do you want to sleep with me tonight, baby?”
“Yes, Mommy.” She turned the light back off as he crawled under the blankets and curled himself up against her side. She put her arm around him and kissed his forehead, and stroked his hair until she fell asleep.
It had been so hard, at first. Every day there were new leads that led nowhere. Reports came in that people had seen him in Boston, in New York, in Orlando; later in Topeka, in Los Angeles, in Ontario.
Then the reports stopped being so common, and soon he was just another name on the missing persons list, another picture on a police station bulletin board. Even if he was an FBI agent.
Scully hadn’t suspected she was pregnant until the symptoms began to add up. The odds seemed astronomical—her supposed infertility added to the fact that they’d been lovers for such a short time—but a home pregnancy test and a doctor’s examination confirmed it. Thirty-six, pregnant, and single, and clueless as to where the father was.
The day she found out, she went to her mother and cried in her lap like she hadn’t since she was a little girl. It wasn’t a question of what to do with the baby—of course she would keep Mulder’s baby—but just that he had wanted it and now wouldn’t know. He’d wanted to be a father.
It broke her heart, but she left the X-Files. She couldn’t do it alone, not with her increasing bulk and the stresses of single motherhood. She went back to teaching. It was nine-to-five, it was steady and peaceful, it was rewarding in its way. For months whenever a strange case arose phone calls would come, and the callers would sound genuinely sorry to hear that Mulder was missing. Very few of them made jokes about abductions.
She wished it were that simple. If it were a question of a bright light and a strange noise and lost time, then she could understand it, a little. But it was Mulder going out to get the paper in only his pajama bottoms, not even wearing shoes or a shirt, and never coming back. He wouldn’t leave her half an hour after making love. Not voluntarily. Not Mulder, who loved her beyond reason.
She named the baby Benjamin William Scully. He had Mulder’s eyes.
By the time he was sixteen, Ben was over six feet tall, with the long waist and slim hips of a swimmer. He preferred solitary sports and solitary activities, which worried Scully sometimes. He was articulate enough for the debate team, but he didn’t want to do anything that made him so . . . obvious. He wrote, but didn’t want to join the school newspaper or the yearbook. He studied, he swam, he ran for hours. He played guitar, softly strumming to the radio or to songs only he could hear. He had a few, very few, very close friends.
He was, Scully realized with heavy sighs, exactly like her.
He went through a brief period of rebellion, complete with a dyed mohawk, earrings and a tattoo, but that ended quickly. There was little he could do to shock her. When he came home from getting his tattoo and said, “Hey, Mom, look what I got,” and showed her, she said, “Really? I’ve never showed you mine, have I?” and did. She told him about sneaking her mother’s cigarettes, which shocked him. She told him about working on the X- Files, and when he wasn’t laughing at the ridiculousness of the stories he was wide-eyed with wonder at how long they’d survived.
He sometimes asked her about Mulder. His questions were thoughtful, as if he’d been turning over her stories in his mind for weeks: “Mom, what kind of music did my dad like?” or “Was my dad good at math?”
Only once did he ask, “Did you really want me?” They were fighting, arguing over curfews and grades and friends and all the usual suspects, when he shot that one out: “Did you really want me?”
All the anger left her, and she embraced her tall son tightly. “Of course I wanted you. From the moment I found out about you, I wanted you. I wanted to tell your father about you so badly it hurt. I wanted to tell everyone I knew that I was really going to be a mother. You have always been wanted, Benjie, you have always been loved.”
The hardest times for him, though, were when she went away. Every few months they would uncover another lead, and she would go to Seattle or Springfield or Salem and see if the John Doe might, by some chance, be Mulder.
It never was. She would come back despairing and missing him more than ever, and Ben hated that it made her even more unhappy. “Let the guys find him, Mom,” he said. “They’ll know him.” It was clear to her Ben didn’t think they’d ever find Mulder, that perhaps he thought Mulder wasn’t even alive anymore. She thought sometimes he might be right.
But she couldn’t give up. She just couldn’t.
“Mom?” Ben was sprawled across her bed, his head pillowed on his arms. “Does Walter want to marry you?”
Scully looked up from the notes she was preparing and lowered her reading glasses. “What makes you say that?”
“He spends a lot of time here. He touches you a lot. He looks at you sometimes like . . . I don’t know. I think he’s a man in love.”
“He’s never said a word to me about it, and we’ve known each other over twenty years.”
“If he asked you, would you say yes?”
She laughed with surprise. “I—no. No, Benjie. I don’t love him that way.”
He was silent a long time. “Because of my dad.”
She didn’t know how to read his tone. “You only get one love of a lifetime,” she said at last.
“Even when he’s been gone for almost twenty years?”
“It’s complicated, Benjie. I hope someday you’ll understand.”
He vaulted off the bed and said, “I don’t want to understand why my mom can’t give up on a guy who ran out on her and let her fend for herself.”
“Benjamin Scully, he did not run out. He was taken.”
“How do you know?”
She stared at him, his dear face so like Mulder’s it made her want to cry. “Because your father went to bottom of the world for me, on a slim chance that something a man we had no reason to trust had given him might save me, that he might find me, that we might get out of that mess alive. Your father risked his life for me more times than I can count. We waited so long to just say the words, Benjie. He wouldn’t have run away, he had nothing to run away from. I was—I was his shelter.”
“He’s probably dead.”
“Until I know for sure, I have to believe he’s alive and that he’ll come home someday.”
“And then what, Mom?” Ben said bitterly, and went into his room and slammed the door.
Scully sighed and pushed her notes aside. Half an hour for him to cool off, then she’d talk to him. There had to be some way to make him see that this wasn’t the desperate clinging of a lonely woman—she had to find Mulder because she knew, even after all these years, he still needed her.
Tell me about your dreams, the doctor says.
There is a woman in my dreams, an angel.
Describe the angel.
She looks at me with trust and love.
But what does she look like?
Like fire. Like snow. Like sky. She carries a flaming sword and wraps me in her wings to heal me.
Does the angel speak to you?
She tells me to sleep, to rest my weary body in her lap, and she sings to me.
What does the angel sing?
She sings of joy. Her touch heals my wounds. She brings light to the dark places.
What are the dark places?
He holds his head in his hands and rocks. I don’t know. I don’t know. Leave me alone.
They call him by a name that isn’t his. They give him pills that reduce what he knew was once vibrant and colorful to a grey and dull place. They bind his arms and put him in a room where he can’t hurt himself. He feels his senses as if he were underwater. Everything is muffled, blurry, and he can’t remember, can’t remember anything.
There was something, someone, so important that he faced death for it . . . but who?
The answer is in the dark places and he doesn’t want to go there.
He dreams on, and asks her in the dreams, Where are you?
Looking for you. Help me find you, she says, but when he reaches out to touch her she disappears.
They tell him the angel is only a dream. There is no one here but you.
===== Two =====
When Ben came home from school he was not surprised to see the Lone Gunmen sitting with his mother at the kitchen table. Three or four times a week at least one of them came by, to give her the latest news of the shadowy world they lived in. All three of them was rare, though, and the way they stopped talking and looked at him when he came in told him something more was going on than a friendly chat.
“Hey, guys. Hey, Mom.” He swung into one of the kitchen chairs, straddling the back. “What’s up?”
“Benjie,” Scully said quietly, “the guys have uncovered something. Another lead on your father.”
“Oh, geez, Mom!”
“Benije, listen. This time it may really be him. I’m going to Nashville for a few days, to follow it up.”
“Mom—” He shook his head in frustration. “Every time you go looking for him you come back more upset than when you left. Why can’t one of you guys go? If it’s him then send for Mom. Don’t make her suffer anymore.”
“Ben,” Byers said, and Ben sighed. They knew Ben would rather listen to him than anyone else. “Ben, here’s what’s happening, okay? We think we found a place where Mulder was a few years ago. We’re going to go to see if it was him, and if they know where he went. And maybe the next place will know where he is. We need your mother’s credentials and her investigative ability. We’d like to spare her as much pain as we can, you know.”
“You don’t act like it.”
“Ben,” Scully said, “please, sweetie, don’t make this more difficult. I’ll be back in a few days. Grandma Maggie would like to come stay with you, if you want company.”
Ben looked at them all sullenly. He loved his mother, and he liked her friends, but this was—oh, God, he hated this. “I think I’ll be okay on my own,” he said finally. “I am sixteen, you know.” “We know,” Scully said softly, smiling at him, her thanks in her eyes. “It won’t be long, honey.”
He sat there, frowning, while he listened to them make plans, and he studied them. Langly, with his long ponytail. Frohike, gray around the edges. Byers, his beard starting to go silver. And his pretty mother, her hair still vibrant and red, only a few lines around her mouth and eyes.
He knew what his father looked like. He’d seen pictures. For years there had been one on his night table, in a double frame with a picture of his sister who had died years before he was born. He also knew that everybody said he looked like his father, right down to the oversized lower lip and the size eleven feet. When he was very small he had wanted his father to come back so badly he had run to answer the door every time the bell rang, thinking it was finally him. He’d pictured it in exact detail: his tall handsome father, bearing flowers for his mother and a present for him, and he would swing Ben into his arms and kiss him, and then . . .
Well, he didn’t know what would happen next. He supposed his father would be like his friends’ dads, going to work in the morning, coming to his soccer games, sitting at the head of the table.
As he got older the fantasy faded. His dad wasn’t coming back. And Ben didn’t want him back.
The way he saw it was this. His dad had abandoned them, plain and simple, and he didn’t want to be found. Unless whoever had taken him—and Ben wasn’t sure if he believed that part of the fairy tale—had killed him. Ben thought he’d prefer that, that his mother find Fox Mulder’s grave, than for her to keep hoping on nothing.
“Mom,” Ben said suddenly, interrupting their conversation, “Mom, I want to come too.”
“Oh, honey, I don’t want you missing that much school.”
“I want to come. I want to help you find him. And Mom, if it’s not him, I want this to be the last time.”
“Benjie!” He could see the shock on his mother’s face. Normally he didn’t make demands, but he had to, dammit: this was his mother.
“I mean it, Mom. This is the last time. Don’t you think that after seventeen years you’d find something solid? Tell me this is going to be it, Mom.”
“I can’t give up like that, Benjie.”
“I don’t think it’s giving up, I think it’s letting go. I don’t think you should be chasing ghosts anymore.”
Her lips trembled, and Ben sighed. Maybe it was asking too much. But there was no one to protect her but him. “All right,” Scully said quietly, and all four pairs of eyes looked at her with surprise. “All right. If it’s not him this time . . . this is it. And you’re coming, too.”
Ben nodded. “Okay. So tell me what’s going on.”
The sign read Shady Acres Sanitarium, which was walled and gated. Dana’s hand trembled as she pressed the intercom button, but her voice was steady when she identified herself. “Dr. Dana Scully to see Dr. Mahler.”
The gate swung open slowly, and Scully got back into the car. She had come alone on this leg of the journey: Ben and Byers were waiting for her back at the hotel. Frohike and Langly were doing some independent research in Nashville. She wished she’d brought Ben, though, just so that he could smile and make a joke that would calm her heartbeat down.
rove slowly up the long drive to the main building. All along the lawn she could see orderlies in white and their charges, some leaning on walkers or crutches but most in wheelchairs.
She parked the rental car in a visitor’s slot and got out, and took a deep breath before starting up the steps. Mulder isn’t here, she reminded herself, but that didn’t stop the tremble of excitement that passed through her. Mulder had been here. Probably.
She announced herself to the nurse at the front desk, and waited for a few minutes for Dr. Mahler to come out from his office. The floors and walls of the lobby were a cheerful white, with prints of soothing seascapes on the walls and a large vase of sunflowers on the nurse’s desk. It seemed like a pleasant enough place, if you could afford it.
So how had Mulder ended up here?
Dr. Mahler came out into the lobby at last. He was a tall, slender man in his fifties, with greying hair and a dark beard. He shook Dana’s hand. “A pleasure to meet you, Agent Scully. Come back to my office.” He led her through some glass doors and another hallway, into an office that was lined with books and furnished in dark woods. He gestured her to an overstuffed armchair, and she set her briefcase on the floor. He sat down behind his desk and folded his hands together. “How can I help you, Agent Scully?”
“I’m looking for a former colleague. His name is Fox Mulder. He disappeared several years ago under mysterious circumstances. I was given to understand he spent some time here.” Scully took a picture of Mulder from her briefcase and gave it to Mahler.
He studied the picture, frowning. “Yes, I recognize him. We were told his name was William. William Davis. He was with us for five years. He was in terrible shape when he came to us.”
“What kind of shape?”
“He’d been in some kind of accident—the details were never made clear to us—but we had to teach him everything. How to walk, how to talk, how to dress, how to take care of himself. Everything.”
“What kind of physical trauma did he show?”
“That’s the strange part. When he first came to us he was malnourished, but that was it. There was no head trauma that would cause a reversal of this kind. It was like someone had wiped away his memory, reducing him to a newborn baby. His brother said—”
“I’m sorry. His brother?”
“Yes, his brother. His brother brought him to us, paid his bills, and eventually took him away. To a group home, he said.”
“Can you describe his brother?”
“A few years younger than William, dark hair and eyes, about the same height, same build, a very different face. They didn’t look related, really, but of course I never asked. Oh, and he had a prosthetic arm. I remember wondering if it had happened in the same accident.”
“What was his name?” Scully asked softly. Him. Of all people.
“Alex. Alex Davis. But I guess that wasn’t his real name, since William wasn’t our patient’s name.”
“No. It wasn’t his real name. He wasn’t Mulder’s brother.”
“Well, William always seemed happy to see him. When he finally spoke it was to Alex.”
“What did he say?” Scully asked, and hoped her voice didn’t sound too needy.
“He said, ‘Want to go home.’ Not terribly clearly, of course, he’d barely regained his gross motor functions.”
“So did Alex take him home?”
“Oh, no. William wasn’t ready to leave us.”
“When he did leave you, what state was he in?” “He could speak fairly clearly, walk by himself, feed and dress himself, he was learning to swim—he loved the water—and we were hoping to teach him to read.” He paused. “What was he like before?” he asked quietly.
“Brilliant,” Scully said, just as quietly. “Athletic. Funny and charming and driven.”
The doctor shook his head sadly. “If that was the case, I’m glad he didn’t remember anything. Sometimes the hardest part of recovery is knowing you used to be normal.”
“He didn’t remember anything? Names, faces, places?”
“Nothing. He’d talk about wanting to go home, but he couldn’t tell us where home was. Well, I should amend that—he didn’t remember anything consciously. He’d have terrible, inexplicable nightmares. They were worst at the beginning, when he couldn’t tell us anything. And even when he could tell us what he dreamed about, it didn’t make any sense. Monsters and aliens and people with green blood. Our psychologist couldn’t make it into any kind of sense.” Scully closed her eyes for a moment. Her poor darling Mulder. “So,” she said, opening her eyes, “when he left it was because you’d rehabilitated him as much as you were able.”
“Well, we could have made more progress, I’m sure, but his brother— Mr. Davis—wanted him closer to home, he said. Virginia. I have the address in William’s files, if you’d like it.”
“Just a moment.” He pressed his intercom button.
“Yes, Dr. Mahler?” a voice chirped.
“Jessie, please get me the files on William Davis. It will be in the previous patients section.”
Mahler looked up at Scully sympathetically. “What year did he go missing?”
“That’s interesting. He didn’t come to us until 2003.”
“Is that so.”
“That leaves four years unaccounted for. I wonder what could have happened to him, to leave him in such a state.”
“I can’t imagine,” Scully whispered, although she actually could. He’d been four years in their hands. Possibly tortured, possibly starved. Tested, prodded and poked, locked up, stripped of his dignity, his humanity . . . She swallowed hard.
The doctor’s assistant came in with the files and laid them on his desk. She flashed a brief smile to Scully as the doctor thanked her and left the office again. Mahler flipped through the files, frowning.
“Here we are. I’ll write the address out for you.”
“Could I have a copy of those?”
He looked at her for a moment, then handed over the manila folders. “Keep them. They’re only in storage here. Find him.”
“Thank you.” She put the files into her briefcase, and stood up to shake the doctor’s hand. “I will find him.”
Ben had been pacing the hotel room for nearly an hour. He knew it was annoying Byers, but Byers was kind enough not to say so. He was, instead, typing on his laptop, stopping now and again to go over his handwritten notes.
Finally Ben sat down on the bed, pulling up his long legs and wrapping his arms around his knees. “Was he a good friend to you, my dad?” he asked suddenly.
Byers looked up at him. “Sorry?”
“My dad. Was he really a friend to you?”
“One of the best I’ve ever had, Ben, why?”
“Because . . . because . . . was he really a good guy?”
“Yes. You have to believe that. He was a good man. He didn’t run away, he didn’t abandon you or Scully. For your mother’s sake, Ben, try to believe that.”
“I am trying. It just seems to fantastic to be real, you know? Conspiracies and kidnapings and viruses from outer space.” He saw Byers’s smile and said, “What?”
“Oh, you’re definitely your mother’s son, that’s all.” He got up from the table and sat down beside Ben on the bedside, putting his arm around Ben’s shoulders. “Look. I know it’s been hard on you. I know how hard it’s been on Scully. But try, Ben, try to believe that if he could have been with you all these years, he would have been. And when we find him, we’ll all make up for lost time.”
Ben nodded, though he wondered how this miracle they all seemed to expect would ever come about.
The room door unlocked and opened, and a weary Scully came in. She threw her briefcase on the other bed and sat down at Ben’s other side. He put his arm around her. “So?” he asked quietly.
“He was there. For five years. He was there and he forgot everything, everyone. All of us.” She sighed, and Ben hugged her tighter.
“What next, Scully?” Byers asked.
“I have the address he was transferred to next. It’s in Virginia. We’ll go there. Also, Byers, I need you and the guys to find out
everything you can about what Alex Krycek has been doing for the past fifteen years.”
“Krycek, Scully? Is he even still alive?”
“He was six years ago. If he still is, I want to know. I want to find him.”
“Who’s Alex Krycek, Mom?”
Scully looked at Ben thoughtfully, and said, “The element of chaos in an orderly system.”
The doctor says, We can’t let you go if you keep trying to run away. We’re here to help you. We’ll take off the restraints for an hour tomorrow, but if you start hurting yourself again we’ll put them back on. You’re not helping yourself any by doing this. Are you listening to me? Give me some sign that you understand.
He is not there. He is far away with the angel. She says to him, smoothing his hair back from his face, I’m coming for you. I’m always closer. Can you feel me?
I feel you. I feel you near me. I feel your fire.
Let me keep you warm, the angel says, and embraces him tightly. Let me keep you from the cold.
There was a time when he didn’t have enough to eat or a place to sleep, when he wandered the streets of a vast and ugly city, and he couldn’t find the angel anywhere. He had screamed it to the unforgiving sky: Where are you? Please come for me. Please take me home.
But the other came, who promised someday he’d find the angel again. He’d lied, though, he didn’t know where the angel was. Instead he brought him here, to this place, where the angel found him anyway, in his dreams.
I can’t embrace you. They won’t let me use my arms.
I am always with you, the angel says, and kisses him.
The doctor says, You’re not helping yourself, you know. You’re not going to get better if you never talk to me. There is no angel.
====== Three ======
When the bell rang all the students leapt up to leave the classroom, and the teacher called quickly, “Ben Scully, would you stay with me a few minutes, please?”
Ben glanced at his friend Chris, who shrugged and said, “I’ll meet you at the car,” and left the classroom. Ben slipped his arm through the strap of his backpack and went to the teacher’s desk.
“Is something wrong, Mrs. Olivette?”
“I’m worried about your performance in this class, especially with all the school you’ve missed lately.”
Ben shifted his feet uncomfortably and said, “I made up all my homework—and I’ve never been very good at theoretical stuff—you should’ve seen my grades in geometry—”
“I’ve seen your grades in geometry, Ben. I hope your family isn’t planning on any more trips during the school year.”
“My mom wanted me to come with her on a business trip.”
“Still.” Mrs. Olivette handed him the last test he had taken, the C- bold and red on the paper. “I know you’re capable of better than this. If you need extra help there’s always the math lab.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Scully wouldn’t be happy to see this. But then, his taking calculus had been her idea anyway, he’d told her it would be too hard. He’d put his foot down at physics—biology was as far into science as he wanted to go. She’d been so pleased that he got into AP English she’d let that pass.
“Ben,” Mrs. Olivette said in a more gentle tone, “you’re an intelligent young man. I know your grades in your language classes are high enough to get you into any college you want. I’d hate for some poor math grades to hold you back.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he said again. College. Scully was already talking to him about where he wanted to go—she wanted Ivy League, he was thinking someplace like Bennington in Vermont. Someplace where they’d let him write.
“Promise me you’ll go to the math lab for help when you need it.”
“Ben, everything’s all right at home, isn’t it?”
He hated that question. Sure, everything was all right. His mother and the guys were looking for some guy named Krycek who may or may not know where his father was—then there was the whole issue of his father to begin with. Oh yeah, he wanted to go into that right now.
He said, “Yeah, everything’s okay. Thanks, Mrs. Olivette.” He stuffed the test into his backpack, gave her a quick smile, and left the classroom quickly.
The study labs were on the first floor of the school, and he stopped by the math lab and looked in. There were maybe ten people there, most of them at the end of the room going through a problem together on a white board. Near the door was a sign-up sheet for people in need of tutors. He sighed, and wrote quickly on one: Ben Scully, Calculus, and his phone number.
Though how Scully expected him to keep up with a subject he wasn’t all that interested in with everything else that was going on, he didn’t know.
He sighed again and left quickly to where his friend Chris was waiting in his car. He just wanted to get home and see if there was any news.
“You okay?” Chris said when Ben climbed into the car.
“Yeah. Everything’s okay.”
“You sure? Olivette’s not riding your ass about anything?”
“It’s okay. Olivette’s not so bad. Just the usual shit.” He leaned back in the seat and put his feet on the dashboard. Chris shoved them off.
“Watch the finish, would you?”
“Sorry.” He clipped his seatbelt closed and looked out the window as Chris pulled the car out of the school parking lot.
“You want to come over for a while?” Chris said eventually.
“No. Thanks. My mom needs me to come straight home.”
“You’re not grounded or something, are you?”
“No, just some shit’s going on and she needs me around. It’s complicated.”
“Ben Scully, man of mystery,” Chris said dryly, and Ben smiled though he didn’t think it was very funny.
“It’s complicated,” he repeated.
“Top secret government stuff?”
“Not even. Family stuff.”
“Wasn’t your mom a spy?”
“She was an FBI agent, stupid. She and my—her partner—just about saved the whole fucking world back in the day.”
“The history books don’t say anything about that.”
“The history books don’t know shit.” He thought sometimes the only reason he passed history was because he was good at memorizing facts, though the facts they taught him were vastly different from the stories the Lone Gunmen told. There was the safe, sanitized version that was The Official Story, and then there was the truth.
He thought, I wonder if the people who write the history books are the same ones who took my dad, and shivered. Even the guys couldn’t tell who were the good guys and who were the bad guys anymore.
Chris stopped the car in front of Ben’s house. “See you tomorrow.”
“Thanks for the ride.” Ben got out of the car and slammed shut the door, waved to Chris briefly and ran up the porch steps. The front door was still locked, but it was too early for his mom to be home anyway. He unlocked the door and went inside, locking the door again behind him, and went first to the answering machine. Nothing. Okay. He wasn’t surprised—the guys never left messages and his own friends hated answering machines. But there was a note for him on the fridge:
Remember I’m going to the group home this afternoon. I should be home after 7. Love you.
He sighed and took the note off the refrigerator door and tossed it into the trash. He’d wanted to go, sort of, but Scully had thought he shouldn’t. He didn’t know what sort of thing she thought would be going on there that was too rough for him to see, but she was protective that way.
Ben got a bag of microwave popcorn out of the pantry and put it into the microwave oven, turned on the radio and unpacked his backpack on the kitchen table. If he did his homework now they’d have more time to talk when she got home.
It was a perfectly ordinary one-storey house on the outskirts of Richmond. There was a low front fence with a gate, and a garden. Scully parked the car and turned off the engine, and sat there for a moment, looking at the house and biting her lip.
Though Ben, Skinner, and all three of the guy
s had offered to join her, Scully had decided to go alone to the group home. She’d want their support later, she was sure of it, but for now she thought she could do it alone. It was nothing more than a fact-finding mission. She could handle that.
She opened the car door and got out, and stood on the pavement for a moment, before taking a deep breath and heading up the front path with determination.
The front door opened to her knock, and a baby-faced young man smiled at her sweetly. “Hello,” he said. “I’m Mitchell.”
“Hi. I’m Scully. Is Dr. Bradley here?”
“Uh-huh,” Mitchell said, but continued holding the door and smiling at her.
“Can I see her, please?”
“She’s out in the back. We’re raising carrots,” he said proudly. He finally opened the door wide enough for Scully to enter the house, and he gestured for her to follow him. “This way, Scully.”
She followed him through the house to the back yard, where four or five other people of various ages were working in a vegetable garden. A grey-haired woman knelt in the rows along with them, and looked up and smiled when Mitchell led Scully out to them. “Dr. Bradley, this is Scully,” he said, and Dr. Bradley stood up and shook her hand.
“Thanks for coming, Dr. Scully,” she said. “Will you sit with me in the porch swing? We can talk there.”
“Thanks,” Scully said, and followed her to the back porch of the house. “Did you have a chance to gather some records together for me?”
“I did, I have them in my office inside. I’d like to talk to you some first, though.”
“William wasn’t with us for very long,” Dr. Bradley said hesitantly. “He was . . . difficult.”
“How so?” Though Scully could easily imagine Mulder being a difficult patient.
“We’re a home for people learning to take care of themselves. We’re not equipped for anyone with William’s high level of maintenance. He ran away constantly, he’d refuse to eat or sleep or bathe, he’d have tantrums and nightmares that terrified the other residents. The last time he ran away it took us eight months to find him. He’d been living on the streets in Washington, homeless and begging. When we finally found him it was only because he’d been arrested. We contacted his brother and told him to find another place for William to live. He needed better care than we could give.”
“Where did his brother take him?” Scully asked quietly. She couldn’t bear to say Alex’s name. Not just yet.
“A private asylum outside of Williamsburg. The address is in his files.”
“Asylum? You mean an insane asylum?”
“Dr. Scully, he’d been arrested for assault. He attacked people in the street. He accused them of being monsters, zombies, aliens—all sorts of terrible things. He even said to me once, ‘You’re not who you are,’which is about the strangest thing I’d ever heard.
Scully shivered. He remembered, a little, but what terrible things to remember. Why didn’t he remember her? Why didn’t he remember the way they had loved each other?
“It’s a reputable asylum, very highly regarded,” Dr. Bradley said as Dana’s silence continued. “I’m sure he’s been well-cared for.”
“I’m—” She had to stop for a moment and take a deep breath. “I’m sure he is. It’s . . . I knew Mulder—William—a long time ago. This is the last fate I ever imagined for him.”
Dr. Bradley was silent a moment, then she said, “What happened to him, Dr. Scully? I always got the impression, when his brother came to visit, that he’d been very different once.”
“I’m actually not sure what happened to him. He went missing one day. I think he was hurt very badly, in ways I can’t even begin to imagine.”
“You think someone did this to him on purpose?” Dr. Bradley said, horrified.
“Dr. Bradley . . . a long time ago there were powerful and dangerous men who feared and hated William. I wouldn’t put anything past them.”
“Oh, my God,” Dr. Bradley said after a moment. “You’re the one. It’s you, isn’t it? You and William. You’re the missing pieces in that whole story. You’re the reason—”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Scully said hastily. “I’m just trying to find an old friend.”
“How long has he been missing? I never could get a straight answer from his brother.”
“Seventeen years,” Scully said, and her throat closed. Seventeen years didn’t begin to sum up what it meant to search and hope and despair and wonder and pray. She felt that he was now nearly in her grasp—but sliding away so quickly—
Dr. Bradley said, standing up, “I’ll get his files. The asylum had us send copies to them, of course.”
“I’ll be right back.” She went into the house.
Scully leaned over and rested her arms on her lap. Mulder homeless. Mulder attacking people in the street. She wasn’t sure what upset her more, that he’d had to go through these terrible things or that he’d been so close by for so long and she hadn’t known. Had she walked past him one day, and not recognized him for the grime and the toll the years had taken on him? Oh, God, if she had, if she’d just walked past him . . .
Dr. Bradley came back out with the files and Scully sat up straight and took the folders eagerly. “I can’t thank you enough for this.”
“I hope you find him well,” Dr. Bradley said. “I’m sure he’s fine. Perhaps they’ve been able to make progress that we couldn’t.”
“Maybe,” Scully said, and stood up to shake Dr. Bradley’s hand again. “Thank you.”
The doctor led her through the house again to the front door, and Scully got into her car. She didn’t start it at once, however, but instead flipped through the folder for anything new, a picture, maybe, anything. The desire just to *see* Mulder was so strong she was shaking with it.
But there were no pictures, only the clinical reports she was accustomed to seeing and a handwritten address of the asylum where Mulder—she hoped—was now.
Scully closed her eyes. The weekend, she would wait until the weekend, she couldn’t take anymore personal days this month. She had to get home. She had to talk to the guys and see what they had uncovered on Krycek. She had to talk to Ben.
The desire to see her baby was just as strong as the desire to see Mulder, and she started up the car. She didn’t know, sometimes, how she would have survived the last seventeen years without Ben to care for and worry about. He’d kept her grounded. He’d kept her sane.
And who would turn Mulder from the gentle, concerned man he had been into a man who attacked strangers?
“Mulder,” she whispered to the passing scenery, “what did they do to you?”
He knew what that was, once.
Time passes like a heartbeat.
He knows the sound of his heartbeat. It is his only company.
There are other people who would come and talk to him, but nothing they say matters. There is only time, which is as unvaried as the room he is in.
She is gone.
When the doctors ask him about his angel, he can only weep. He is abandoned, alone. He longs for her, but she doesn’t come.
He sobs, “Where are you? Why did you leave me? I need you. Come back to me. Please come back.” He curls up in the corner of his tiny room and holds himself, paying no attention to anything the doctors say. He wants only her.
But she does not come.
He does not sleep. He does not dream.
===== Four =====
Ben got out of the car and straightened his tie, looking at the subdued face of the Cove Point Institute. “It looks like a retirement home,” he said to Scully.
“And not a cove in sight,” she answered, closing the car door. “Or a point. ” The lands around the institute was serene and wooded, and though there was a wall around the property it bore no resemblance to a prison wall. No barbed wire, no guards in towers. Ben was not sure what he had expected—something out of a war movie, maybe—but this wasn’t it.
“So do we have our story straight?” Ben said as they walked up the front st
“The truth, Benjie. The truth. Or a liberally edited version of the truth,” Scully said and took his arm.
“I’m sure that will go over well with the staff. ‘Hi, I’m the inmate’s former partner and this is his son.’ Like they’ll believe us, Mom.”
“We’re his family, Benjie. We’ll tell them that.” She paused before the door, and Ben looked at her, waiting. She smiled at him nervously. “I’m ready. Let’s do this.”
He pushed open the door and followed her inside. After all the hope and the anticipation, the long drive and the wondering, at last he was going to see his father. He wasn’t sure how he felt. Nervous, worried, calm. Ambivalent—oh, vocabulary, he thought, and smiled to himself.
There was a receptionist’s desk just inside the lobby, and Scully stepped up to it confidently. “Hello, I’m Dr. Dana Scully. I’m here to see one of your patients, William Davis.”
The receptionist nodded and tapped on her computer keyboard for a moment, then glanced up at them again. “I’m sorry, Dr.—Scully, was it? Mr. Davis is not allowed visitors.”
“He’s not,” Scully repeated.
“No, ma’am. On the express orders of his physician.”
“May I speak to his physician?”
The receptionist looked irritated, but said, “I’ll see if he’s in,” and turned to her switchboard. She pressed a button out of dozens and spoke softly into her headset, too softly for Ben to hear. After a moment she turned back to face them. “Dr. Lucas is in a meeting. If you’d like to leave a message I can see that he gets it.”
“A message,” Scully repeated softly. “I see.”
Ben shifted uncomfortably on his feet. A message? To the doctor? That was it? He watched in disbelief as Scully wrote a note in her small neat handwriting, and she handed the note to the receptionist with a steady hand.
“I’ll be in touch,” she said quietly, and took Ben’s arm to lead him out.
“I don’t believe this!” Ben said as soon as they were outside. “We’re right here—we drove all this way—how dangerous could he be in a place like this?”
“Benjamin, hush.” She unlocked the car and got in, but Ben paced impatiently, scuffling his shoes on the parking lot gravel.
“What are we supposed to do? Call him up and make nice? Beg? This is dumb.”
“Get in the car, Ben.”
“Hot damn, Mom!”
“Sorry. I can’t believe you’re caving to this guy!”
She gave a small smile and said, “Is that what you think I’m doing? Caving? Get in, Ben. We’re not through yet.”
He started to smile at her. “We’re not?”
Ben went around the car and got into the passenger side. “So. Are we gonna bust in there, guns blazing?”
“I don’t know how wise that would be,” Scully said as she put on her sunglasses. “But just trust me, Benjie, okay? It’s going to take more than a couple of bureaucrats to keep me away.”
“So what are we going to do, then?”
“*We’re* not going to do anything. You’re going back to the hotel, and I’m going to make some phone calls.”
“But you do have a plan, right?”
She was looking over her shoulder as she backed the car out of the parking space, and she didn’t answer for a minute or two. Finally she said, as she pulled the car onto the road that would lead them to the highway, “Once legitimate avenues are finished, we turn to . . . less traditional methods.”
“You expected to be refused.”
“Be prepared, Benjie,” she answered, smiling at him.
They had dinner in the hotel restaurant, and Ben half-heartedly did some homework while Scully used the phone. He had the TV on for background noise, and Scully took the phone into the bathroom so her voice was just a low murmur. Ben had sprawled on his bed with his books and papers, which was, he thought sleepily, kind of a mistake. He lay down his head on his arm. Five minutes. Just five minutes.
When he opened his eyes again the room was dark and empty. There was a note on the dresser. Ben got up and rubbed his face, flicked on a light and read the note.
“Benjie, the guys are on their way here. I’ve gone back to Cove Point. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know how long I’ll be gone. I hope to bring your father home with me. Don’t worry.I love you. Mom.”
Ben sighed and sat down on his bed. Without a car he couldn’t even follow her to help. And, dammit, he’d wanted to help. She was a trained FBI agent, he knew that, but still he’d wanted to help, to be there, to see his dad.
He lay back. Okay. He’d wait, and he’d try not to worry. When the guys got there, they might explain what was going on.
He can hear them whispering, when he cares to listen. He’s not eating, Doctor. I don’t think he slept last night. He’s unresponsive. He hasn’t moved all day.
He can feel himself shriveling. Had he been strong once? Sometimes he thinks so. The angel would know. The angel could tell him.
But the angel doesn’t come anymore.
Has she ever? Has he only dreamed her, all this time? Has he ever been out of this room?
The room is dark. Night time. He should sleep, but instead he watches the faint shadows play through the narrow barred window. They haven’t restrained him, but he only lies on his bed. He does not know how long he has been lying here like this.
Once he thinks, I want to die, and it doesn’t surprise him. It makes sense. He wants to die. Maybe he is already dead. That must be why all he wants to do was lie here and stare. Why hasn’t the staff realized it yet? Why haven’t they taken him away and buried him?
Is that why the angel won’t come? Because he is in hell?
The door unlocks and opens, but he pays it no mind. The orderlies and nurses are in and out all the time, with pills and food. Sometimes they talk to him. Sometimes they touch him. His reaction is always the same: none at all.
The entrant doesn’t turn on the light, which is different. He is glad, he hates the flickering flourescent light and its harsh shadows. The entrant walks across the floor with soft footsteps, and kneels at the side of his bed.
She speaks. “Mulder?”
That voice. That scent. Is it . . . her?
She takes his hand. She has small, slender fingers. Her skin is soft and cool. She strokes his hand and kisses it and presses it to her face. “Mulder,” she whispers. “Oh, Mulder.”
Why is she calling him Mulder? Is that his name? He can’t remember. There is so much that he can’t remember. She begins to stroke his face, and then she kisses him gently. Her face is wet. Is she crying?Why is she crying?
She is crying. Crying and calling him by that name, Mulder, in a soft whisper that somehow makes him feel the name means a great deal to her. He hopes that name is his.
“Mulder,” she whispers, “I’ve come to get you out of here. I’ve come to take you home. I’ve been looking and looking for you—I’ve finally found you—oh, Mulder, I’ve missed you. I’ve missed you. Mulder?Can’t you answer me?”
When she lets go of his hand it remains suspended in the air, and she gasps, “Oh, Mulder.” She lies her head on his shoulder. “What have they done to you?” After a moment she lifts her head, and gets into the narrow bed beside him. She puts her arm over his chest and pulls him to her carefully. She strokes his face with her hand.
“Come on, Mulder,” she whispers. “I need you to try. I need you to try and surface for me. Try, Mulder. I know you—that you haven’t been yourself for a long time. Please, Mulder. Try. So we can get you out of here. Just so that you can move. I don’t expect you to be fine in an instant. But can you move, Mulder? Can you sit up for me? Can you stand? I’m going to need your help to get you out of here. For me, Mulder?”
He closes his eyes, then opens them. His tongue moves sluggishly in his mouth, to part his lips and lick them. He knows her name. He can say it. He wants to say it, the name of his red-haired angel in black.
He says hoarsely, “Scully.”
Her head whips up and even in the darkness he can see
her smiling. “That’s right, Mulder. It’s Scully. I’ve come to take you home.”
“Mulder,” she answers, and kisses his mouth.
His arm is stiff and sore, but he manages to lift it, to touch her cheek with his fingertips. “Scully,” he says again. “Are you real, Scully?”
“Yes.” She takes his hand and presses it to her breast, where he can feel her warmth and the steady thump of her heartbeat. “I’m real. I’m not a dream. I love you and I want to get you out of here.”
“I dreamed you,” he says. “They told me I dreamed you.”
“I’m really here, Mulder.”
“They told me there are no angels.”
She kisses his hand again. “You used to call me that, do you remember? When we were lovers? You’d hold me to you so tightly and you’d tell me I was your guardian angel. Do you remember, Mulder?”
“I remember my angel.”
“Can you stand up for me, Mulder? So we can get you out of here. I have a car on the other side of the wall. We’ll have to climb a rope, do you think you can do that?”
“You can make us fly.”
She says, stroking his cheek with her thumb, “I’m not really an angel, you know. I’m just a woman who loves you. I can’t fly, I can’t walk through walls. If I could I would have gotten you out of here long, long ago, before they hurt you so much. But I can’t. So we have to sneak out of this building and climb a rope over the wall.”
“I can see your wings, Scully.”
She gives a tiny sob and presses her face against his neck. “Mulder, please try and stay with me. You have to stand up. You have to walk. I can’t carry you, as much as I’d like to. Please, Mulder. Try to stand up.”
He smiles at her. He can’t help it. He knows she is sad and he knows he is making her sad, but he can’t stop the smile. She is so pretty and her voice is so gentle, and her gold and white wings cocoon around them both. He wonders why she doesn’t know they are there.
“There, there,” he says, wiping her tears away with his fingers. “Don’t cry, pretty Scully. I’m ready to go whenever you want me to.”
“Then stand up, Mulder. I’ll help you.” She sits up and puts her hands under his arms. “Sit up, Mulder.”
He does so, groaning. The world swims in and out of focus, but she is still there, shining in the darkness. She has to hold him upright while he catches his breath.
“It’s been a while for you,” she says, and he knows she is still sad even though he is doing better. Maybe she’d be happy when he gets on his feet.
He swings his legs off the bed and she moves to stand up herself. He takes a deep breath and pushes himself up, holding onto her hands, and he sways on his feet and clings to her. But he is standing. He smiles at her proudly.
“Take me home, angel,” he says, and she kisses him again. She is tiny, but he remembers that too, that when he held her he would be filled with the need to protect her. Who from, though? There are bad people who no faces . . . a man who breathed smoke . . .
There are voices and footsteps down the hall, and he hears her gasp. Her arms tighten around him, and she whispers, “Don’t move.”
He holds onto her and closes his eyes. She might make them invisible, so the orderlies will just walk on by.
But instead the door to his room swings open and the light snaps on. He hides his face in her neck and waits for the miracle to come.
But instead she is torn from his arms. He watches in horror as an orderly lead her away and the other two pull him back to his bed, and Lucas already has the needle out—no, not the needle, please not the needle, he wants to remember this—
“Scully!” he screams after her, and he can see her twisting and writhing to get out of the grip of the man who hold her. The orderlies wrestle him to the ground and he fights them, snarling and screaming, “Scully! Scull-leeee!”
He feels the prick of the needle in his arm, and Lucas says, “Hold him, put the restraints on him. Take her to my office. Call the police. Call Mr. Davis. I know he’s in Europe, call him anyway.”
“Scully,” he whispers as he feels the restraints go around his wrists and ankles. A tear or two trickle down his face. “Scully.”
===== Five =====
“What the hell were you thinking?” Dr. Lucas said as soon as he opened the office door. “Who the hell are you? Did you think you could just bust in here like a knight errant and whisk him away?”
“My name is Dana Scully. I am a doctor and an FBI agent.” Scully folded her hands together. She had been looking around the office while she waited, furious and seething, but she restrained herself from doing anything more. She was in trouble. She knew it, and she also knew it would be difficult to extricate herself from it. One thing at a time, though.
Lucas shook his head. “Scully. You came by earlier today.”
“So because I couldn’t see you, you decided to take matters into your own hands. And you’re an FBI agent? You should know, then, that this was a foolhardy undertaking—and highly illegal. As soon as the police arrive I’m having you arrested for breaking and entering and attempted kidnaping.”
“It’s not kidnaping. I’m taking him home.”
“Agent—Dr. Scully, William is not capable of living in the outside. He can barely function—”
“His name is not William. His name is Mulder. Fox Mulder.”
Lucas waved his hand. “Nonetheless, he is not capable of living on his own. He needs constant supervision, medication and care. Even if you are a doctor and an FBI agent, you can’t take care of him yourself.”
“He talked to me.”
Lucas stared at her.
“He stood up of his own volition. I had to encourage him but he stood up. He stood up. He talked to me. Now as I understand it, he’s been catatonic for months. You tell me, Dr. Lucas, do you think it would be a good thing for him to continue seeing me?”
“We had to sedate him when we took you away.”
“I’m sure he thought you were going to hurt me. Or he knew you were going to hurt him.”
“He’s been well-treated here, Dr. Scully. We’ve done everything within our ability to make him comfortable.”
“No. He needs to be with me, that’s the only thing that will help him. He needs to be with people who care about him. He needs to be with his friends and his family.”
“I suppose you’re going to tell me that Alex Davis is not his brother.”
Scully raised her chin. “Mulder has two living blood relatives. His sister, and his son.”
Lucas studied her. “The young man who was with you.”
Scully held his gaze cooly and didn’t answer.
Lucas sighed and shook his head. “I don’t know what to make of this. I was going to return your call in the morning.”
“At which time you would have told me that Mulder isn’t allowed visitors, you’re very sorry, goodbye. And I would be right back here.”
“Dr. Scully, I don’t know how much experience you’ve had with the mentally ill—”
“Mulder is not mentally ill. He’s been abused, tortured, I don’t know what-all, but he’s not mentally ill. He does remember things, but he doesn’t know how to process those memories or put them in context. I can help him remember, I can explain his memories to him.He needs to be with me—at the very least he needs to see me. He needs to—”
“For someone who hasn’t seen him for almost twenty years, you’re very certain of what he needs.”
Scully clenched her jaw, and managed to say, “That was not my doing. If I’d known where he was, I would have been there. I would have been here. Although I can guarantee if I’d been allowed to see Mulder years ago he wouldn’t be in the state he’s in now.”
“Very touching, but make no mistake, we are going to press charges against you. This is serious. You’ve probably set William’s progress back by months.”
“What progress? He was catatonic! Do you even talk to him, doctor? Do you try and understand what he’s thinking, what’s going on in his mind? Or do you just feed him and keep him sedated and restrained?”
“That’s enough, Dr. Scully.” Lucas st
ood up from behind his desk. “You’ll have to wait here until the police arrive.”
“I want to see Mulder.”
“Not on your life.” He started to leave the office.
“Let me see Mulder before the police come or believe me, there will be trouble on your hands.”
“I’ll keep that in mind, to tell the police,” Lucas said, and slammed and locked the office door.
Scully squeezed her hands together, struggling to keep her anger under control. This was not over. Even if she was in jail they couldn’t prevent Ben from seeing Mulder, and the guys had a few more ideas to try—though they’d be so displeased to learn she’d gone ahead without them.
I should have waited, she thought. I could have used some backup.
And Mulder, her poor Mulder, languishing in his cell upstairs—and it was a cell, no matter what they called it—sedated like a mad elephant. Scully closed her eyes and willed him to feel her love, even through these walls.
The fight has just begun, she thought. They’re the crazy ones if they think otherwise.
“You know,” Ben said as he looked at Scully across the table, “I always thought you’d have to bail me out of jail, not the other way around.”
“I haven’t been given bail yet. It’s going to be a large amount, I’m sure, so let the guys take care of it from our account.” She ran her hand through her hair. She looked smaller than usual in the orange jumpsuit the jail had given her, and Ben had to wonder how she was coping.
He said quietly, “Did you really see him, Mom?”
“I saw him.” She pressed her lips together. “I talked to him. He—he needs us, Benjie.”
“Did he know who you were?”
“He remembered my name.”
“Well, that’s good, isn’t it?”
“It’s a good sign, I think. Honey, I want you to go home and wait until everything is settled here, okay? I don’t want you to miss any more school.”
“Ben, I’m serious. Go home with the guys. Call Grandma Maggie and Walter, and call Janine at work on Monday morning. Janine gets the edited version.”
“But what about you?”
“I’ll have to wait until bail is posted to do anything more.”
“I wish you’d brought me with you.”
“The last thing you need is a criminal record.”
“And what about your criminal record?”
She smiled. “Did I ever tell you about the time I was jailed for contempt of Congress?”
“Mom . . . you are nuts.”
“Yes, dear, it’s possible. Be good, okay? Only one of us in trouble at a time.”
“I’ll be good. Did I tell you I’m getting a tutor for calculus?”
“Are you? Good.”
They looked at each other for a moment, then Scully reached across the table to take his hand. “I love you, sweetie,” she said quietly. “I’ll come home as soon as I can.”
Ben nodded, sighing. He squeezed her hand and let it go, and she stood up and followed the matron out of the visiting room.
After a moment Ben stood up too and started out of the police station. He had to sign out, and the officer at the desk shook her head as if to say, What a disgrace, visiting his mother in jail. Ben wanted to say something—”Don’t you dare judge my mother”—but he just glared at her and walked out of the station, his hands in his back pockets.
When she called him from jail, Scully had sounded so calm he thought she was in shock. I broke into the asylum. I’ve been arrested. I talked to your father. As simply as if she were saying, I put gas in the car, or I’m going to the bank later.
He didn’t know what upset him more, that she had been planning this all along or that she didn’t tell him beforehand. It was just so weird to think about his mother breaking into an insane asylum, of all places, as if she expected to not just find his father but to get them both out. But then, really, that was his mom: she made her plan, she acted on it, she adapted it as needs arose. Her outward serenity probably meant her mind was racing towards the next move.
Ben had taken a cab from the hotel, but he decided to walk back. The guys wouldn’t be there for another couple hours anyway, he’d called them as soon as he got off the phone with Scully. There was nothing for him to do until they arrived. He ‘d only gone a block or two when he started getting a weird feeling between his shoulder blades, the same one he got when someone was staring at him in class, that he sometimes got on the street—just before Scully would grab his arm and pull him into a shop, and they would wait until she felt it was safe to go back out. He’d never asked her who they were hiding from. He wished he had.
He also had no desire to duck into a coffee shop and wait his follower out. Confrontation, he decided. Why be a coward, today of all days? His mom had always told him to be brave.
Ben stopped short and whirled around. A few people glanced at him and went on walking, but another man, a tall one with salt-and-pepper hair and a leather jacket, stopped walking too and bent over to look at a newspaper kiosk. Ben took a deep breath and walked up to him.
“Hey,” he said, and was thankful his voice didn’t squeak as it sometimes did when he was nervous. “You’re following me—why?”
The man straightened up. He was maybe fifty, maybe older—it was hard to tell because his face was so worn. Scarred and craggy like he’d spent most of his life getting into and out of trouble. His clothes were far too young for him, the leather jackets and the t-shirt and the jeans and the motorcycle boots. They were all frayed, too, like they were all he’d been wearing for months.
He smiled at Ben and stuck out his hand. “You’re Ben Scully.”
“I know who I am.”
“We have some friends in common, Ben. I’ve been keeping an eye on you for a long time.” He pulled his hand back and said, “The name’s Krycek. Why don’t you and I have a drink?”
“I’ll buy you a cup of coffee. Come on.”
Ben hesitated, then followed him into the coffee shop. They both got large cups of regular, and got a table near the window. Krycek sat facing the door. He drank his coffee black, and Ben decided to forgo his usual sugar. It was a dark roast, more bitter than the stuff Scully got, and he grimaced.
“So,” he said, “You’re the infamous Alex Krycek.”
“In the flesh.”
“So why’d you show up now?”
“Seemed like a good time. Shit’s happening, I figured I should be here.”
“Yeah, my mom gets arrested and you decide to show your face.”
“Actually, I’ve been here a couple days.”
Ben put down his coffee cup. “A couple days? What have you been doing, watching us?”
“Yeah, I had to figure out was going on.”
“You’ve known where we’ve been all along?”
“I could always find you, yeah. Your mom’s kinda . . . important. To me.”
“Do I want to know why?” Ben growled, and Krycek chuckled.
“Don’t get mad. Your mom’s a nice lady, that’s all.”
“She says you know where my dad’s been all along.”
“Is that what she told you?”
“Is it true?”
Krycek nodded. “I’ve been taking care of him, yeah.” He slurped his coffee. “Your dad’s been through some serious shit, Ben.”
“I figured. What’s wrong with him? What did they do?”
“I’m not sure of all the details. I know they did a lot of stuff to his mind. They could pick and choose, you know, what memories they could make you forget. They could make people remember things that never happened. As far as I can figure, they wiped your dad clean.”
“I don’t know. I don’t know what good they thought it would do. He’d already exposed the Project. Your mom knew as much as he did about it. I don’t know . . . maybe something went wrong. Maybe they went too far and couldn’t fix it. I don’t know. But one day he showed up with some men that I knew, and they gave me a lot of money and told me to see to him. So I have been.” He shrugged.
“But why you? Why not my mom?”
“I don’t know. Maybe they figured she had enough to worry about with you.”
“Don’t you blame this on me.”
“Hey, I’m j
ust guessing here. God knows nobody expected you to ever exist. Anyway, they knew I’d take care of him.”
“Why? You weren’t friends.”
“No.” He sipped his coffee. “But we weren’t enemies, either.”
Ben smiled reluctantly. “You know, when I first asked my mom who you were she said you’re the element of chaos in an orderly system. I’m beginning to understand.”
Krycek chuckled again. “Is that what she calls me? Interesting. She’s probably right. She often was. Look, um,” he cleared his throat, “I’m going to go see her. I’m going to tell her what I’ve told you. And I guess we need to figure some stuff out.”
“I don’t know if she’s going to be happy to see you.”
“I don’t know either. Probably not. It’s okay. I’ll talk to you more sometimes, Ben, all right?”
Ben nodded. “All right.” Krycek nodded and stood up, dropped a bill on the table to pay for the coffee, and walked out. Ben watched him go, then quietly and slowly finished off his own cup, thinking.
He gradually becomes aware that his eyes are open and it is day. The restraints have been taken off while he was drugged. He flexes his hands and feet, and cautiously sits up.
The memory is clear and complete. The sight, the sounds, the touches and the scents. He thinks he could even taste her in the air, and he opens his mouth and breathes in, licking his dry lips.
The air tastes the same, but he smiles anyway. It feels strange on his face, and he touches his lips. A smile. He feels . . . happy.
Scully was here. She is real, she is not a dream. She is real and she loves him.
He doesn’t know when she will be back, but he can feel her presence as surely as if she were standing beside him. She will be back. She is Scully, the angel of mercy and the angel of wrath.
He sits on the edge of his bed. She will come again soon, and he will wait.
===== Six =====
Alone in her cell, Scully lay on her cot and stared at the ceiling. It was grey and smooth, without even tiles or spots to count. That annoyed her: She wanted something mindless to do, something to keep herself from thinking anymore.
Or rather, she wanted something to distract her mind from the constant MulderMulderMulderMulder chant going through it, the longing for him that was only stronger for the brief contact, the need for him that was so demanding it was almost physically painful.
Oh, this is pointless, she thought, putting her hands over her eyes, and she gave herself over to remembering.
She had photographs, of course, precious few of them, but there were still pieces of him that had blurred in her memory. His voice, mainly, she had forgotten the exact timbre of his voice. His sweet raspy voice. The way he curled his mouth around her name—no one ever said her name like he did.
She had thought she was prepared for any changes in him, but no amount of planning could have equipped her for how he looked, how he sounded. His hair had gone completely grey, his face was lined, when she held him he felt so thin she could count his ribs. He looked fragile, far older than his fifty-six years, as if the constant pain and fear he lived under were eating him through.
But he had known her. Despite everything, he had known her. He had known her name—known, more or less, who she was. That had to mean something, didn’t it? She was sure that her assessment of his condition was right: he remembered things but couldn’t process them. He needed her to explain his own memories.
And how terrible it was that he could only remember the bad things he had been through, when his body had been invaded or his mind toyed with.
And her. Scully smiled. He remembered her.
. . . MulderMulderMulderMulder . . .
For seven years she had longed for him, all but lived with him but barely dared to even touch him. And then the barriers went down and they indulged in each other—not just indulged, feasted on each other—for exactly seventy-nine days. Seventy-nine days of passion and tenderness like nothing she’d ever experienced; seventy-nine days of making love at every opportunity, of falling asleep to the sound of his breathing, of waking up to his kisses; of teasing and playing and relaxing and making plans; of believing they had a future together, at last.
“Tell me anything,” she’d said to him as they lay on her bed, the first time they made love. “Tell me anything and I’ll believe you.”
“The moon is made of cheese.”
“I believe you.”
“Thunder is actually caused by angels playing baseball.”
“I believe you.”
“You have the most beautiful breasts I have ever seen.”
She had laughed. “I believe you.”
“I want to spend the rest of my life making you happy, Scully.”
He had run his thumb gently over her lips and she whispered, “I believe you,” and pulled him down to her, and they both wept a little and kissed a lot, and their hands shook so badly they could barely unbutton their clothes.
Scully opened her eyes and laid her hands on her stomach. She was never able to pinpoint when they conceived Ben, but she liked to think it was over a particularly indulgent weekend, when they had made love in every room in her apartment, never dressed in more than bathrobes, and decided, after talking about it seriously over and over, that they did want to have a child. She liked to think that once the little Ben-spirit knew he would be welcome, he lost no time in getting himself born. She knew it was sentimental of her, but she still liked to think it.
Days sixty-eight, sixty-nine and seventy. When it had seemed nothing could go wrong and they had the rest of their lives to spend together in any way they chose.
And then it was over. He was torn away from her so completely it almost seemed he’d never been there, leaving her with only a tall, dark-eyed son to prove she’d ever loved a man named Fox Mulder.
She was not going to lose him again. Not without a fight, and she didn’t care who she had to go up against: Lucas, the hospital, the law, Krycek, whoever was paying the bills, anyone else who stood in her way. Mulder needed her. Mulder needed to come home.
“Dana Scully!” the matron barked, and Scully sat up quickly. “You have a visitor.” The matron unlocked her cell door and led Scully out to the visiting room.
She expected it to be Ben again, or perhaps one or more of the guys, but she didn’t recognize the man who sat at the table. He had greying hair and green eyes, which he raised to look up at her lazily from reading a tattered manila folder. “Scully,” he said as she sat down. “You know, for a federal agent you’ve got an interesting record.”
She knew that voice. “Krycek,” she said. “The rats come out of the walls sometimes, don’t they?”
“I think the expression you’re thinking of is rats are the first to desert a sinking ship. How’re you doing?”
“I have an excellent view,” Scully said dryly, folding her arms. “How did you get that?”
“I have connections. You know, you look great. The years have really been kind to you.”
“You look like shit,” she said, and Krycek chuckled.
“That’s living on the run for ya. It could be worse. I gotta know, Scully, what did you honestly expect to accomplish, breaking in there like that? What did you think you could do?”
“I thought I could take him home. Though if you’d told me about his situation seventeen years ago we wouldn’t be having this little tete a tete now, would we.”
“I didn’t know seventeen years ago. He was brought to me twelve years ago, by some people I knew. They told me to take care of him, so I have been. They also told me not to contact you.”
“I don’t know. I didn’t ask. They’re not the kind of guys who take kindly to too many questions.”
Scully felt a tear tumble down her cheek, and she wiped it away hastily. “What did they tell you? Anything at all?”
Krycek shook his head. “Nothing that could help you. Look, Scully, I know you don’t want to hear this, but there’s
no point to this. He’s not going to get better. Everything that they can do for him, you know, they’ve done it. He’s not going to get better, Scully.”
Scully took a deep breath and slowly let it out. “I can’t accept that. I have to believe that I can help him.”
“You can believe it all you want, but it’s wishful thinking. I’m sorry. I really am. You know if I’d thought for a second that you’d help him, that you’d know what to do for him, you know that I’d have brought him to you. But all your hope and your wanting . . . it’ll just wear you out, Scully. I think I can convince the hospital to drop the charges if you agree to not come back. Go home, Scully. Go raise your kid, teach your classes. Forget about Mulder.”
“I can’t.” It was taking all her will to keep control. “You can’t honestly expect me to just walk away, not after I’ve been searching for so long. You didn’t see his face when he realized it was me, that I was really with him. You didn’t see his face when they were dragging me away.”
“And you haven’t seen him when he’s uncontrollable, when it takes four men to hold him down and enough drugs to knock out a bull elephant to get him just to hold still. Do you honestly think you can take care of him, in the state he’s in?”
“Yes. I think I can make him better.”
Krycek shook his head again. “I see.”
They sat there awkwardly for a moment or two. Scully said, looking down at her clenched hands, “I guess I need a lawyer.”
“No,” Krycek said softly, and Scully looked up at him. “It’s not going to come to that. I’ll talk to Lucas, see what I can arrange. I can probably make it so that you and Ben can visit him, at least.”
“I want him out of that place.”
“One step at a time, okay?” He stood up, and Scully sensed the matron had stepped closer to her. “I’ll be back as soon as I have news.”
“If you see him—” Scully began, and her throat closed and she couldn’t speak. Krycek waited, and finally she whispered, “If you see him, tell him I miss him.”
“Okay,” Krycek said, and left the visiting room. Scully leaned her head on her hand for a moment, then stood up and followed the matron back to her cell.
Ben parked the car in the carport and turned off the engine. He sat there for a moment, looking up at the house. Their automatic lights had come on inside, giving it the appearance of hominess—but, he thought, only the appearance. He sighed, got out of the car and his suitcase froa the trunk, and jogged up the front steps. He deactivated the alarm and went into the house.
It was too late to call anyone. He decided to call his grandmother in the morning, and the others could wait until after he’d talked to her.
He took his suitcase up to his room and went back to the kitchen to get something to eat. He opened the refrigerator door and stared at the fridge’s contents for a while, then sighed and shut it. He wasn’t hungry.
He was lonely and worried and pissed off. He wanted to talk to his mom. He wanted to figure out what was going on with this Krycek guy. He wanted to hear the rest of the story, that obviously no one had thought he needed to know before now.
Most of all, he wanted to see his father. He wanted to know that this guy was really his dad.
His dad. Geez. He’d become so used to not having a father that the simple thought was incredible. His dad. His father. The guy who’s slept with his mom to make him—ew.
Ben shuddered at the unwelcome thought and went into the pantry for a bag of popcorn. Scully would hate for him to have popcorn for dinner, so he got a can of Spaghetti-O’s too. A glass of milk and he’d have the four food groups.
He put the popcorn in the microwave and got out a pan for the Spaghetti-O’s, and he noticed the light was blinking on the answering machine.
For a moment he stared at it, wondering frantically who it could be. Grandma? Skinner? Did Krycek have their phone number?
Okay, he thought, okay. It’s probably Chris or Jeff. No big deal. Wondering where I’ve been all weekend.
He pressed Play and poured himself a glass of milk, and nearly spat it out at the voice on the machine.
“Ben? My name is Emma Hicks. I’ve been assigned to be your calculous tutor. I guess you’re out for the night—it’s Friday, by the way—so give me a call, like, tomorrow or something, okay? And we can arrange a time to meet and get started before the quarter ends. My number is—”
Ben slammed the Stop button and stood there, staring at the machine.
“Fuck,” he said aloud, and got a paper towel to clean up what he’s spilled.
Emma Hicks. There had to be a dozen kids in the tutoring program and he got her.
The microwave pinged and he got out the popcorn and poured it into a bowl. It could be worse, he thought. But not by much.
Emma Hicks was pretty. Emma Hicks was popular. Emma Hicks was everything he wasn’t, and then some. Emma Hicks was from a completely different world than he was and there was no way in hell he’d be able to sit not a foot away from her and concentrate on math.
The first time he’d seen Emma Hicks was the first day of kindergarten. He remembered it perfectly: she’d worn a blue dress printed with little white flowers, and there had been a matching blue bow in her curly blonde hair. She’d smiled at him a time or two when she noticed him looking at her—okay, staring, he’d stared—but the first time he tried to approach her she was surrounded by louder and more giggly classmates, and he barely said a word to her through kindergarten, first grade, second grade . . .
No way in hell, he thought. Forget it. I’d rather fail calculus.
Because he could also perfectly remember the first time a kid called him a bastard, and the kid poked and taunted him until Ben ran at him, fists flying. And Emma had been there. And Emma—pretty, popular Emma, who liked everybody and whom everybody liked—had just stood there.
Fuck you, Emma Hicks, he thought, and snatched the boiling pot of Spaghetti-O’s off the stove. I’ll do just fine without you.
He got out a soup spoon, poured himself another glass of milk and went into the living room to eat his dinner and watch some late-night TV before he went to bed.
For the first time in he does not know how long, Mulder is impatient. Where is Scully? Why is she not here? He expects to see her every time the door opens and is always disappointed. A nurse, an orderly, even Lucas, but no Scully.
He hears the door unlock again and he looks up. “Scully?” he says eagerly, but it is not her. It is only Alex, who smiles at him.
“William. You’re up.”
“I want Scully.”
Alex sighs and sits down at his side. “I know you do, buddy. Scully’s going to be a while. She’s in some trouble.”
In his turbulent memories of the past Alex’s face is the only steady thing. Mulder has always been happy to see him before. Alex is his brother, Alex loves him, Alex will always take care of him. But now he thinks, Alex has not told me all of the truth, and he wonders what else Alex is hiding.
When Alex reaches to touch his shoulder Mulder turns away. “I want Scully,” he says again, and lies down, facing away from him. He does not say goodbye when Alex leaves.
======= Seven =======
It was hard to sleep in this place. They had put her separately, of course, several cells away from the two drunk boys who were the other inmates of the jail, but Scully could still hear them mumbling and moving around. The cot was hard and narrow, and the orange jumpsuit itched.
The inner MulderMulderMulderMulder chant would not cease. It’s like a drug, Scully thought. You think you’ve got it out of your system, but one taste and you crave it as much as you ever did.
She lay on her stomach with her head pillowed on her arms. Her worry about Ben was just as unceasing. He was a good boy, she trusted him and knew he would not do anything foolish. Skinner would keep an eye on him, if it came to that, as w
ould her mother, as would the guys.
But he was a sensitive boy, and she didn’t know how this development—his father’s sudden presence in his life, all of it—would affect him. She wanted to talk to him about it, to seriously talk. Ben would open up, if she were patient.
There’s so much to say, she thought. So much I’ve left unsaid, because it hurt too much before.
She guessed it was morning. Dawn, or soon after. Dawn on a Monday morning, when normally she would be getting up in a few hours, preparing for the drive to work, to deliver her first lecture at eight a.m. sharp. Making sure Ben ate a decent breakfast instead of the Pop Tarts and coffee he preferred. He got his eating habits from his father, she’d once said to another parent, and the woman had looked so uncomfortable Scully had never brought it up again.
It would not be any easier to explain Mulder now.
She didn’t care. She wanted him, his state of mind hardly mattered. She was sure she could help him more than any number of doctors, any amount of pills. But even if he never again was the man he had been, she didn’t care. It was Mulder. It was enough.
And she still couldn’t figure out how Krycek fit into it.
She heard the footsteps of the matron coming down the block. “Scully,” the matron said, and Scully sat up quickly. “The charges have been dropped,” the matron went on as she unlocked the cell door. “You’re free to go.”
“They have.” The matron stood there with the cell door open. “Unless you’d rather stay.”
“No, no, I’m happy to go. I’m just surprised.” She stood. Her body was stiff from the uncomfortable cot, and her head swam for a moment. “Why were the charges dropped?”
The matron stared at her blankly. “They don’t tell me the details, honey,” she said. “Now are you coming or aren’t you?”
“I’m coming.” Scully thought as she walked down the block, as glad as she was to be free, it still didn’t bode well. Krycek had pulled some strings, greased some palms, done something that would, no doubt, end up badly for her in the end.
But in the meantime, she would get her things, rent a car, and drive out to the asylum again. She would see Mulder before the day was done. She would call Ben. She would try to find a way to get Mulder home.
When she was dressed in her own clothes and on her way out of the police station, however, she saw Krycek lounging on the building’s front steps. He was eating fast-food hash browns, and he smiled when he saw her and offered her the bag.
“No, thank you.” He shrugged and popped a few more into his mouth.She said, “I suppose I should also thank you for convincing the asylum to drop the charges against me.”
“You’re welcome.” He folded down the top of the bag and stuffed it in his pocket, and stood up, dusting the salt off his hands. “Come on.”
“Where are we going?”
“I’m taking you out to Cove Point. For now Lucas will allow supervised visits.” He grinned. “I convinced him to let me supervise.”
“Oh.” She made no move towards the car parked at the curb even when Krycek held open the door. She said, “I have to call my son before I do anything else today.”
“He’s at school. Or he should be, unless he’s playing hooky.”
Scully sighed. If Ben were playing hooky she’d find out soon enough, and if he wasn’t there was no point in calling now. “All right,” she said, and got into Krycek’s car.
They had driven only ten minutes or so when Krycek said, “I went to see Mulder last night. He’s . . . he’s not good, Scully.”
“What do you mean, not good?”
“He still won’t eat anything. All he’ll say is ‘I want Scully,’ if anything. He’s vague again, he won’t respond to questions. He’s curled up on his bed and he doesn’t want to move. He doesn’t want to do anything.”
“Can’t you see how much he needs me?” Scully said quietly, squeezing her hands together.
Krycek didn’t answer for a while, then said, “I can see it.”
She looked at him for a moment, then looked out the window again.
“I owe you an apology,” Krycek said after a while. “I honestly thought I was doing the right thing, not letting you know what was going on with him. I thought, maybe, I could bring him home to you whole, you know?”
“Why do you even care?”
He looked at her for a moment, then chuckled hollowly and shook his head. “Because I do.”
She looked out the window again, gnawing on her lip.
“I thought after enough time you’d let it go. You know, move on, find somebody else. I guess I should’ve known you wouldn’t ever give up.” He paused. “I know you a lot better than you think I do.”
“Sure you do.”
“Then you also would have known that I couldn’t give up on Mulder until every avenue was exhausted. Until I found him or his grave. And even then I wouldn’t have rested until the DNA tests came back.” She glanced at him. “I need to know that this is the real Mulder. I need to know that you’re not jerking me around.”
“I’m not, Scully.”
“I want proof.”
“Whatever proof you want, I’ll get it for you.”
They drove in silence the rest of the way to Cove Point.
Dr. Lucas did not look happy to see them. “I would like to state,” he said tartly, “that this is a bad idea.”
“Couldn’t get much worse,” Krycek said, taking Scully by the arm, and after an skeptical glance at him, she decided to let him. If Krycek wanted to play a loving family member, she would let him do that too. “How is he doing?”
“Unchanged,” Lucas said, and took them up to the floor where Mulder’s room was. He unlocked the door and held it open for Scully to walk through.
Mulder was curled up in a fetal position on his bed. In the bright daylight he looked even more frail, more thin, more vulnerable. He didn’t move at all when the door opened, and just cringed a little when Lucas said, “William, you have visitors.”
She sat down on Mulder’s bed and ran her hand lightly through his grey hair. “Mulder,” she said softly. “Mulder, it’s me.”
His back was to her, and he didn’t open his eyes. She combed her fingers through his hair and said, “I hear you haven’t been eating much lately. Aren’t you hungry?”
He still didn’t move or answer, and she sighed and rubbed his back. “Mulder,” she whispered. “Mulder, sweetie. There’s so much I need to tell you. But you need to get better first. Don’t you want to get better?” She touched his stubbled cheek, and felt, more than heard, him sigh. “Will you eat something for me, Mulder?”
His nod was hesitant, and he turned, very slowly, onto his other side so he could lay his head on her lap. “Hungry,” he whispered, and slipped his arms around her waist.
Scully said to Lucas and Krycek, who were still standing by the door, “Could you please get me something he can eat? Something simple like applesauce.”
Lucas started to protest, and Krycek interrupted, “If you wouldn’t mind.”
“I will be right back,” Lucas said, looking none too happy about being the errand boy, and left the room.
“Now would be a good time to make a break for it,” Krycek said, with an amused expression.
“Very funny.” She stroked Mulder’s hair and kissed his forehead. She glanced at the door. “How much time do you think we have?”
“Scully, I was kidding.”
“I know. I want to see something.”
“Ten minutes, maybe five. I don’t know.”
“It should be enough. Mulder, sweetie, I’m going to unbutton your shirt, okay? Is that all right?”
Mulder nodded, and moved a little so that he lay more on his back than his side. Scully unbuttoned his cotton pajama shirt and pushed it aside at his shoulder.
Yes. There it was. The familiar white scar where she had shot him once, long ago, to save him. A clone would have his blood type, his fingerprints, his DNA, even his teeth, but only Mulder would have that scar.
“Shit,” Krycek said softly, and she glanced at him. She’d forgotten, for a moment, that he was there. “You actually did it. I n
ever really believed it.”
“I had to,” she said. “He forgave me, eventually.”
“I bet he never stayed mad at you long.”
“No. Not long.” She buttoned Mulder’s shirt, and he curled up against her again. “My poor sweet Mulder,” she said softly. “I’ll get you home. I don’t know how or when, but I will.”
Mulder nuzzled his cheek against her thigh and said nothing. He hadn’t opened his eyes the entire time.
Krycek came over the bed and sat down on the floor. “Scully,” he said hesitantly, “I hope you understand what it will entail, taking care of Mulder on your own. I tried, years ago, when he was a lot worse—”
“Why did you put him in here? That’s what I don’t understand.”
“It seemed like the best thing to do. The courts decided he wasn’t mentally competent, and this place seemed better than the state asylum.”
“It seems like a pat answer,” Scully murmured. “No one understands his situation, so they declare him insane.” She sighed. “Paranoid schizophrenia. Good God.”
Krycek said. “That was the diagnosis.”
“His medication—do you know what that does? Essentially they keep him tranquillized.”
“I’ve seen what it does.”
“But surely the doctors can see he’s not insane at all, that’s he’s just confused.”
“Do you want to try and explain what happened to him, Scully?”
“How could I, when I don’t even know what happened?”
The door to the room opened and an orderly came in with a tray. “Dr. Lucas said William wanted to eat.”
“We’re going to try and convince him,” Scully said. “Thank you.” She helped Mulder to sit up, and took the spoon and bowl of applesauce. “Here, sweetheart,” she said. “Mm, you love applesauce, don’t you?”She circled the spoon around the rim of the bowl, and held the spoon to his lips. “Doesn’t it smell good?”
Mulder parted his lips and allowed her to feed him, though it seemed he had no more interest in eating than he did in speaking. He still didn’t open his eyes.
Scully didn’t know how long she sat with him. He ate only half the bowl of applesauce, and then pushed her hand away when she tried to feed him more. Again he curled up in her lap, and she stroked his hair until he was asleep. She kissed him and slipped carefully off the bed, and whispered, “I’ll be back soon.” She and Krycek left the room, and Lucas locked the door behind them.
“Well?” Lucas said. “I hope by now you’re convinced how incapable William is of functioning in the outside world.”
“I’m convinced that with my help he’ll be able to.”
“Dr. Scully, really,” Lucas began.
“I think,” Krycek said, and the others both stopped and looked at him. He folded his arms over his chest. “I think she’s right.”
“Oh, not you, too.”
“I’m serious. I think Dr. Scully is right. I think she does William good. And I think William is not quite ready to leave, but I think he will be, soon, provided he’s allowed to see Dr. Scully on a regular basis. Once a week, maybe, while school is in session?”
“I can take a sabbatical next quarter,” Scully said. “I could come every day.”
“That sounds good,” Krycek. “I know he’d love seeing you.”
“Wait a minute,” Lucas said. “We have policies. We have regulations. And the state of Virginia still considers him too dangerous to be allowed on the streets.”
“He can be retested. He’s been here for, what, two years? Surely you’d like to prove your treatment is effective. I’d like to see some proof of that, in fact,” Scully said cooly.
Lucas narrowed his eyes at her and said, “Dr. Scully, I’d like to ask you again: what do you know about the mentally ill?”
“I know enough. Alex was kind enough to give me some reading material on the way here. I know your diagnosis and I know your treatment, and I know what it’s been doing to him. You just don’t want to admit that you misdiagnosed.”
“William has no concept of the world around him. He cannot distinguish reality from fantasy. He has inappropriate responses to everyday stimuli. He is a sick man, and a dangerous one, and I cannot in good conscience allow him to leave.”
“I want a second opinion. I want an independent doctor to speak to him.”
“Any psychiatrist worth his sheepskin will tell you the same thing,” Lucas said. “Paranoid schizophrenia. It’s tragic—I understand he used to be brilliant—but it happens. And you can’t change it, Dr. Scully, with all the love and hope and whatever you’re offering. Love is not a cure.”
Scully swallowed and looked away for a moment, and Krycek put his hand lightly on her arm. She said, “Neither is medicating him into a stupor.”
“I can see there’s no convincing you.”
“Dr. Lucas,” Krycek said, “I’d just like to mention something else. I’m still his legal guardian, and I don’t need a court order to transfer him to another facility. If it takes finding a more sympathetic doctor, I will find one.”
“We were good enough for you when you brought him here.”
Krycek smiled, and it didn’t quite reach his eyes. “That was before,” he said, and took Scully’s hand. “We’ll be back.”
Outside of the building, Scully sank down on the steps and put her hands over her eyes. “God,” she whispered. “This is a nightmlare.”
“You know I’ll help you any way I can,” Krycek said, as he sat down on the step beside her. “I’ve got the money for it.”
“From where?” She took her hands away from her eyes and looked at him.
“Oh, here ‘n’ there. Don’t worry about it. It’s clean.”
“Because it’s been laundered, I suppose.”
“Scully,” he said, “you don’t have to like me. Just try to trust me, okay?”
“I’ll try,” she said quietly. “Right now I’d like to go back to the hotel and call my son.”
“My lady’s carriage awaits,” he said, and helped her stand.
It took three tries to get Ben at home, but Scully supposed she had called too early anyway. “Benjie, sweetie,” she said with relief when she heard his voice. “You’re not going to believe what’s happened today.”
“Grandma is furious. Janine slightly less so. Are you okay?”
“The asylum dropped the charges. I’m good. I saw your father again. We’re working on arrangements to visit him, maybe to transfer him closer to Georgetown.”
“When do I get to meet him, Mom?”
She sighed and ran her hand through her hair. “I have to tell him about you first. We haven’t had what you’d call a conversation yet. He’s . . . he’s in really bad shape, Benjie.”
He sighed too. “So when are you coming home?”
“I don’t know. A few days more. Do you need money for food and stuff?”
“Eat some fruit once in a while, not just pizza and popcorn, okay?”
“Did you get all of your homework done?”
“Yes . . . most of it.”
“Mom, the calculus is too hard. I’d rather take an elective—I’ve got all the math requirements I need.”
“Math helps you learn to think, honey. It teaches you logic.”
“I know, I know, I know. That’s also what you said when I started music lessons. I think just fine. I’m very logical.”
“Yes, you are, except when it comes to your grades.”
“Are you going to lecture me or can we talk about important stuff?”
“This is important. What about your tutor? Did they assign you one?”
“They assigned me one,” he said with a sigh.
“She’s not going to work out.”
“Did you talk to her?”
“I don’t have to talk to her, I just know.”
“Why do you know?” Silence on the other end, and Scully said, “Ben, it’s not logical to turn away help when you need it.”
“Mom, she’s . . . she’s *popular.*”
Scully rolled her eyes and said, “So tell me why that’s a problem.”
“We’re not going to have anything to talk about. She’ll be all patronizing.”
“How do you know that?”
“Because I know, okay? I know these people. I’ve spent eight hours a day with them every day, for the past eleven years. I know who she is and I know what she’s like, and I just . . . I wou
ld like to spare myself the humiliation of this girl telling all her little cheerleader friends how dumb Ben Scully is.”
“You’re not dumb, sweetie.”
“Yeah, but I’m not Mr. Popularity, either.”
“You know, you are so much like your father it’s frightening sometimes.”
“Not a ladies’ man, huh?”
“No. That suited me, though. Not every girl wants a smooth, suave ladies’ man. You know, Benjie, nobody says you have to date her. Nobody says you even have to like her. Just let her help you. You need help and she’s willing to give it.” She paused, and chuckled to herself.
“I just realized someone said that to me earlier today. Neither of us trust people easily, do we.”
“So I can blame it on my genes?”
“Consider it an inherited condition you need to overcome. Will you call her back? Make an appointment?”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“Okay. I love you, sweetie. I’ll call you tomorrow.”
“Good night, Mom. Love you too. Hey, um—next time you see my dad, will you tell him—” He broke off.
“I don’t know. Never mind. He wouldn’t know what you were talking about, anyway. Good night.”
“Good night.” Scully hung up the phone and lay on the bed, looking at the ceiling. She would tell Mulder about Ben as soon as she was sure he would understand. “Mulder, we made a miracle,” wouldn’t make any sense to him now.
She had to smile, though. No matter what his state, Mulder would have an interesting reaction to the sudden introduction of a teenaged son.
====== Eight ======
Mulder was fading. Scully could see it in his eyes. The hope of finding her had sustained him; the limbo in which they had placed him now was killing him. He ate only if she fed him, and spent their time apart sleeping or staring at nothing. He spoke to no one. Not even Krycek could coax a word out of him.
Still, they had brought an independent psychiatrist to talk to him, over Lucas’s protests. Scully had worried that an associate of Krycek’s would not be reputable, but she’d heard of Dr. Mecham and read some of his papers. “I approve,” she said softly to Krycek as they waited in one of Cove Point’s conference rooms.
“Thought you might.” In his dress shirt, tie, jeans and leather jacket, Krycek reminded her of Ben when he had to dress up and didn’t want to. He’s an overgrown boy, Scully thought, and wondered, not for the first time, what turns his life had taken to bring him to this point.
The orderly brought in Mulder, and Scully forgot her questions about Krycek in her eagerness to see him. She stood up to help him into his chair, and he smiled feebly and took her hand in both of his.
“How are you, sweetheart?” she said, leaning over to kiss him, and he sighed and lowered his head.
“Tired,” he whispered. “I’m so tired.”
“I know. Did you eat some breakfast today?”
He shook his head. “Not hungry.”
“You need to eat, Mulder.” She touched his scruffy cheek gently.
He sighed again and leaned over to lie his head in her lap. “Want to go home,” he murmured, and she sighed herself and bent over to kiss him again.
“I know you do. We’re working on it. This is Dr. Mecham. He’d like to ask you some questions, okay?”
“Don’t like doctors.”
“I know. But will you please talk to him a little, for me?”
He raised his head from her lap, but kept a tight hold of her hands. “Just a little,” he said.
“How are you doing today, Mulder?” Dr. Mecham asked him, and Mulder shrugged.
“Okay, I guess.”
“Do you know the date today?”
Mulder thought about it. “Wednesday?”
Mecham scribbled on his pad. “How about the year, Mulder? Do you know what year it is?’
“Hm-mm. Do you know who the president of the United States is now?”
“No.” He looked at Scully, embarrassed, and started to let go of her hands.
“It’s okay, Mulder,” she said. “Just answer what you know.”
“Mulder,” Mecham said. “You know Scully here, right?”
At last Mulder smiled. “I know Scully.”
“What is Scully’s first name?”
The smile left as quickly as it had come. “I—I don’t know.”
Mecham nodded, still writing on his pad. “How about her birthday?”
“I don’t know.” His face was starting to flush.
“What’s your birthday, Mulder?”
“I—October. It’s in October.”
“Do you know the day?”
“No,” Mulder whispered, his blush deepening, and Scully wanted to cuddle him and tell him it was all right, he didn’t have to answer any more questions, not to worry anymore.
“What is your first memory, Mulder?” Mecham went on in a gentle voice.
Mulder looked at Scully as if the answers could be found in her face, and he said quietly, “Patrick. I remember Patrick. He was a nurse at the first hospital. He taught me things. He helped me walk.tHe taught me to talk. Sometimes he would read to me, if he wasn’t too busy. He was my friend. He said he wished more people would visit me. When I told him about . . .” he paused, and a smile tugged at the corner of his mouth again, “when I told him about my angel, he said, ‘She sounds beautiful.'”
“Your angel? Who is your angel?”
“Scully is my angel.” He smiled genuinely now, still holding Scully with his eyes. “Scully has always been my angel. Scully saved my life. Scully saved my soul. Scully is everything beautiful in the world, don’t you think?”
Mecham smiled gently too, and said, “Yes. I see.”
The entire interview took almost three hours. As Mulder grew more comfortable he talked more freely, though his words were always slow and carefully chosen. Scully was afraid he would say something that could easily be misinterpreted—mentioning her wings, again, for example—but he didn’t. He did sometimes sound vague and even confused, but with his soft voice and the gentle way he held onto Scully’s hands, she couldn’t believe anyone could find him dangerous.
“Well,” Mecham said at last, “thank you for talking to me, Mulder. Your Dr. Lucas and I have a lot to talk about too.”
“Can I go home now?” Mulder said, and Scully put her arm around him. He sounded so weary and sad. He sounded like Ben sometimes had when he was a boy.
“I don’t think it will happen right away, but soon. We’ll get you home.” He smiled at Mulder paternally and put his notepad away. “Dr. Scully, can I speak to you a moment?”
“Of course.” Mulder gripped her hands tightly and she kissed his forehead. “I won’t be gone long,” she promised him, “and I’ll sit with you while you eat dinner. All right?”
“Okay.” He let go of her hands, and let the orderly take his arm to lead him back to his own room.
“What’s the verdict?” she said to Mecham.
“Whoever diagnosed him as schizophrenic was grossly mistaken.”
“That’s what I like about you, Al, always right to the point,” Krycek said. He had sat at the end of the long table, watching but saying nothing.
Mecham smiled and said, “I’m familiar with Dick Lucas. He’s . . . he’s easily led. If the people who wanted Mulder committed wanted him diagnosed schizophrenic, Lucas was the man to deliver. At worst I would say Mulder is severely amnesiac.”
“He did attack people,” Alex said.
“He was living on the streets at the time, wasn’t he? I’d like to see his records from that arrest, and see if he was tested for drugs. I would guess those attacks were caused a bad trip, more than anything else. The first thing I want to do is get him off the Thorozine.”
“How long until we can bring him home, then?” Scully said.
“I think you’re going to want to find some in-home care for him first, before he gets released.”
“I’m going to take care of him.”
“And work full time?” Krycek said. “And what about Ben?’
“Who is Ben?” Mecham asked.
Scully looked from one man to another, and said, “Ben is my—our—son. Mulder’s and mine.”
“Oh,” Mecham said. “I
see. How old is he?”
“Well, that should be easier than if he were a small child. Still, I think they should get reacquainted before Mulder is released.”
“They’ve never met,” Scully said, and Mecham furrowed his eyebrows. She took a deep breath. “Mulder disappeared before Ben was born—before I knew I was pregnant. “
“I see.” He studied her for a moment. “You hardly look old enough to have a sixteen-year old son.”
Scully just smiled and said quietly, “Thank you. I’m going to make sure that Mulder eats something. Excuse me.” She rose and left the conference room, for the familiar corridor that led to Mulder’s room.
A tray had been brought and left on the floor, and Mulder lay on his bed, clutching his pillow to his chest. He glanced at the door when it opened, and he smiled when he saw her. “Scully.”
“Hi, sweetheart.” She went to him and kissed him, cupping his cheek in her hand. “Are you okay?’
“Are you angry with me, that I brought the doctor?”
She picked up the tray and put it on his bed, and Mulder reluctantly sat up. “We’ve got peaches and a BLT, Mulder, doesn’t that sound good?”
“They only give me things I can eat with a spoon,” he said, taking the bowl of peaches from the tray. “They’re afraid to give me a fork or a knife.”
“They don’t want you to hurt yourself.”
“I could do it, if I wanted to.”
“Mulder . . .”
“I don’t want to, Scully,” he said quietly, looking up at her. “I’m just saying they wouldn’t be able to stop me if I did.”
“Mulder.” She cupped his face in her hands. “I don’t want you to talk like that. I don’t want you to think like that. We’re going to get you out of here.”
“What if you don’t?” She’d never heard him sound so defeated. “Dr. Mecham thinks I’m crazy.”
“No, no, he doesn’t. He thinks Lucas made a mistake. He thinks we can take you home soon, and you can meet some people who have really missed you.” Mulder sighed, and she said, “Mulder, there’s someone I want you to meet. Somebody who is very important to me.”
“You got married, didn’t you.”
She laughed. “No. Nothing like that. I don’t know if you’re going to understand this, Mulder, but we have a son, you and I.”
Mulder’s forehead furrowed, and he started to speak but stopped. He put down the bowl, and put his hands on her waist and pulled her closer to him. He rested his head against her belly. She stroked both her hands through his hair and said, “His name is Ben, Benjamin. He’s sixteen. He’s wonderful, Mulder, he’s smart and he’s funny and he’s so talented. He’s so much like you. He even looks like you. He wants to meet you.”
“When can I meet him?” He looked up at her again, still holding onto her waist.
“I don’t know. Soon.”
“You keep saying that.”
“I don’t know how long we will have to wait, Mulder, and I don’t want to raise your hopes.”
He didn’t say anything for a moment, then whispered, “We had a baby?”
“And now he’s all grown up.”
“Well.” She smiled. “Not entirely. He’s sixteen, hardly a baby anymore but hardly a grown-up, either.”
“Ben,” Mulder whispered, stroking her hip. “His name is Ben.” He looked up at her again. “Scully, bring him to me soon, okay? I want to see him soon.”
“Soon,” she whispered. “Will you eat something, Mulder? Please?”
After a moment he nodded, and she sat down beside him and watched him eat.
Ben shifted uncomfortably in his hightops and straightened his shoulders. The door to the math lab was open, and he had already walked past it a time or two, looking in. Finally he thought, You’re being a moron, and walked into the lab.
Emma Hicks sat at one of the tables, reading and twirling a lock of hair around her fingers. She was dressed simply in jeans and a dark green t-shirt with a deep v-neck. She wore no jewelry and her hair was pulled back by a hairband of the same green. Her skin was like milk in the late-afternoon sun.
Girls don’t get much prettier than this, Ben thought, and sighed as he walked up to the table. “Hey, Emma.”
“Hey, Ben. I’m glad you changed your mind.” She smiled at him and put the book aside as he sat down opposite her.
“What are you reading?”
“Oh . . . it’s ‘Lear.’ You’re good at English, aren’t you?”
“I guess so.”
“Maybe you can explain this to me sometime, because I don’t understand half of what they’re saying, even with the footnotes.”
“Well, you just have to keep in mind that it’s poetry.”
Emma shook her head. “I don’t see how that’s supposed to help.”
“Well, you look at the imagery and the metaphors and stuff. The footnotes explain the connotations things had to Shakespeare’s audience, but you have to work out the whole meaning.”
“Did your class do ‘Lear’ already?”
“Yeah, we did it first quarter. We’re doing ‘Slaughterhouse Five’ now.”
“Is that another play?”
“It’s a novel. Kurt Vonnegut.”
“I never read novels,” Emma said. “I don’t like things that are made up.”
Ben leaned back in his chair and hung his arm over the back. “So you don’t go to movies and you don’t watch TV?”
“I watch TV.”
“That’s all made up. Most of it. Movies too. You don’t like stories?”
“I like things that are real.”
“Stories can be real. Some stories are more real than reality. Of course, my mom says what’s real to you depends on the stories you believe.”
“The truth is the truth, Ben.”
“Not always. Sometimes what we’re told is the truth is just a safe lie, because they think the truth is too dangerous for us to really know.”
Emma looked at him for a moment, then chuckled. “You know, that’s why I like math. Two and two is always four and all it takes is to solve for X.”
“I like fuzzy logic,” Ben said. “It leaves things open to multiple possibilities.”
“You know, if I didn’t know better I’d think you’re trying to freak me out.”
“Maybe I am,” Ben said, and Emma laughed.
“Oh, yeah,” she said. “You’re a scary one, Ben Scully. Nothing’s more terrifying than a guy who plays guitar during lunch and understands poetry. Where’s your calculus text? Let’s get this started.”
Ben put his foot protectively on his guitar case, but opened his backpack and got out his book and notebook. Maybe this would not be as painful as he imagined.
===== Nine =====
Ben knew Emma usually talked with her friends by the north third floor landing in the mornings, before the first bell. She was wearing a dress today, a slim black skirt and a pale grey top, with big clunky shoes that made her look even taller. Her hair fell in a single braid down her back.
Ben hung back on the stairs and sighed. He’d never tried to talk to her in front of other people-he wasn’t sure how she’d take it. Maybe if he just walked past—
“Ben!” She’d seen him. She was smiling at him, leaning over the banister. “Hey, Ben!”
“Hey.” He jogged up the stairs. “I’ve been looking for you.”
“Do you want to do some drills before your quiz today?”
“Uh-no, thanks. I’m ready for it. Um . . . I was looking for you to tell you I have to cancel on you today. My mom needs me to come home right after school.”
“Oh, is she back in town? I know you’ve missed her.”
“Yeah,” Ben said, wondering when he’d mentioned that he missed Scully. Of course he talked about her a lot, but . . . “Anyway,” he said, “I’ll be back by Monday.”
“All right. Oh—and I meant to tell you—I got a ninety on my Lear essay.”
“I think you ought to sign up as an English tutor. You’re really good at explaining things.”
“I—uh—no. I don’t think so.”
“Oh.” She looked disappointed, and said, “Well, have a good weekend. Where are you going?”
“Virginia. It’s family stuff.”
“Oh.” The bell rang, and Emma glanced overhead. “First bell.”
“Yeah. I’ll—I guess I’ll see you
Monday. Bye.” He turned and started down the stairs.
“Hey, Ben, she called after him, and he paused and looked up at her. “Have a safe trip,” she said, and bit her lip.
He smiled. “Thanks. Have a good weekend.” He smiled and gave her a little wave and continued down the stairs. It wasn’t until he reached the classroom that he realized he was still smiling.
“No,” Mulder said, clutching his pillow tightly. “I don’t want you to go, Scully.”
“It’s only for overnight,” Scully said in her most soothing voice, stroking his hair.
“You can’t go, Scully. It’s terrible when you’re not here.”
“But I’ll be back tomorrow, and I’ll have Ben with me.”
He looked up at her for a moment, and his grip on his pillow lessened. “All right,” he said. “If you’re bringing back Ben. I guess that’s not so terrible, if you’re bringing Ben. But you’ll be back tomorrow, won’t you?”
“I miss you when you’re not here,” he said quietly, brushing her fingers with his.
“I miss you too, when I’m not with you.”
“When will I get to go home?”
“We’re working on it, Mulder. It won’t be much longer.”
“And then will I live with you, Scully?”
“Yes. You will.”
“I’m tired of this place.”
“I know.” She looked around the featureless room. “I’m tired of it, too. But do you remember, Mulder, before you came here, how you were and what you were doing?”
“I remember,” he whispered, lowering his head. “I remember a lot of things. I remember more than they think I do.”
Scully tilted her head to one side, curious. “What else do you remember?”
He hesitated, gazing down at his fingers brushing her hand. “I remember a bright, white place, and men’s faces over me. I can’t hear them speak but I know they’re talking about me. They’re saying, ‘Too late, too late.'” He stopped and looked up at her. “I don’t like those memories, Scully.”
“I know you don’t. I don’t either.”
“I don’t know who those men are,” Mulder said.
“It’s all right, Mulder, you probably never will.” She looked at her watch and sighed. “It’s time for me to go.”
Mulder stood as she did, and he put his hands on her shoulders and drew her to him for a brief, tight embrace. “It’s no good when you’re not here,” he said, resting his forehead against the top of her head.
“It’s no good at all, when we’re apart,” Scully answered, but stepped away from him resolutely. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Mulder.”
His smile was unenthusiastic and he turned to the wall again even before she closed the door. She watched him through the window in the door for a moment, then sighed and went to the conference room where Mecham, Lucas and Krycek were arguing over Mulder’s fate.
She supposed that was melodramatic of her, but it summed up the proceedings well. Lucas refused to change his diagnosis and would not authorize any changes in Mulder’s treatment. Mecham was talking possible legal action and Krycek listened to everything and said nothing. So Scully had no idea what plans he might have now. She half-expected, when she returned tomorrow, to find Mulder once again taken to parts unknown.
Stop it, she scolded herself. He’s been supportive and helpful, whatever his motives are. He’s not going to take Mulder and disappear now—he could have done it while I was in jail, if he were going to do it at all.
She lifted her chin and opened the conferences room door, and all three men looked at her.
“Good news,” Krycek said, rising from his seat. “We’re taking him off the Thorozine.”
“That is good news,” Scully said, and took the chair beside him, which he pushed in for her.
“I still want to put him in antidepressants,” Meecham added.
“What about getting him released?”
Lucas sighed. “I can’t in good conscience release him to the outside world—despite Dr. Meecham’s theory. I still say he’s a danger to himself and to others.”
“But,” Krycek interjected, “I can still check him out even if it’s against physician’s orders. I don’t want to, but I will if I must.”
“I think we ought to see how he interacts with the boy before any final decisions are made,” Lucas said, but it was with an air of defeat.
“I would appreciate it if you would not refer to my son as ‘the boy’,” Scully said dryly. “So, assuming Mulder and Ben interact well, you’ll authorize his release?”
Lucas looked at their three faces, and sighed. “Yes. I will. Under protest, but I will.”
Scully could not stop herself from smiling. “Thank you.”
“I expect you’ll bring him back here within two months,” Lucas said, “so don’t thank me yet.”
“And I expect not,” Scully said, “so thank you. I’ll see you all tomorrow.”
Krycek stood up quickly, with an amused expression, and said, “Goodbye, gentlemen. Thanks again, Al.” Mecham waved his thanks away and started gathering up his own papers, and Krycek and Scully headed out to the car.
As usual they were quiet on the drive, until Krycek said abruptly, “I’m seeing a lawyer later today.”
“I want to sign Mulder’s guardianship over to you. So you’ll have his power of attorney and everything. So you can take care of him properly.”
“Oh. Thank you.”
“Because as soon as he’s settled in with you I’m taking off again.”
“Does that mean your life of ease ends?”
“You think I live a life of ease?” He laughed shortly. “I have to make an account of every penny I spend from that fund, and I have to spend it on Mulder—taking care of Mulder or getting to Mulder or transferring Mulder. I live on what I make myself.”
“I guess that’s not much.”
“I’ll be in the States a while.”
“And that answers my question.” Scully smoothed her pants over her knees and looked out the window.
“I’ve done the best I could,” Krycek said after a while.
“But he’ll be happy—happier—with you.”
“I hope so.” She looked at him. “Are you going to come visit when he’s settled?”
“I don’t think that would be smart.”
When he pulled up in front of her hotel he just smiled at her gently and said, “Bye, Scully.” It sounded terribly final.
Ben fidgeted. He played with his tie, rolling up the end and letting it fall straight. His left leg bounced. He leaned over to Scully and said, “Where is Krycek?”
“I don’t know.”
“Will they let us see Mul—my father—without Krycek here?”
“Yes. Someone else will have to be here.”
“And it’ll be that doctor you don’t like, I bet.”
“Or Krycek’s friend. Mecham. He’s a decent person.”
“Hm.” Ben straightened his tie and smoothed it over his chest. He tried to smooth a crease in his pants over his knee, but it wouldn’t smooth out. He drummed his fingers on his knee. He said, “Do you really think he’s going to fit into my clothes?”
“You’re about the same height and weight—actually, he’s thinner than you are, I think. And it’ll just be until we can buy him clothes of his own.”
“Thinner than me?” Ben poked his flat stomach. “He must eat next to nothing.”
“Thereabouts.” Scully tucked her hair behind her ear. “Benjie. I’m not sure if it would be a good idea for you to call him Dad. Or Father, or whatever.”
“I was thinking more like Papa or Pater.” Ben scowled and looked away.
“Benjie, I’m serious. I’m not sure he understands what it means, that he’s your father. I think you both would be more comfortable if you just call him Mulder.”
“Not Fox, either, huh?”
“He always hated being called Fox.”
“Fox,” Ben muttered. “Have I ever thanked you for not naming me Fox Jr.?”
Scully chuckled. “No. But you’re welcome.”
The door to the conference room finally opened and they both looked at it. Ben swallowed hard and clenched his hands, and his knuckles cracked loudly in the quiet room. It was Mecham and Krycek, and another woman. Krycek said, “This is Laurie Boorstein. She’s a local notary public. We’ll sign some papers before we’re done today.”
Everyone quietly said hello,
and Meecham said, “You must be Ben.”
“Must be,” Ben said, and looked away, embarrassed.
“You excited?” Krycek said, sitting down at Ben’s side.
“Nervous?” Krycek said sympathetically.
“All these people,” Scully said. “Mulder’s not going to like that. Maybe the three of us ought to meet alone first.”
“The four of us,” Krycek said.
“Tell you what,” Mecham said. “Why don’t you and Dr. Scully sign your papers, and Ms. Boorstein and I will wait outside.”
“Thank you,” Scully said.
“All right, then,” Boorstein said, and got some papers out of her briefcase. “These allow Dr. Scully power of attorney and legal guardianship of Fox W. Mulder. First, Mr. Krycek, if you please.” Krycek took the pen and signed his name in several places, and pushed the papers over to Scully. She took the pen and signed her name in every blank. Boorstein said, giving Scully another sheet of paper, “This contains the numbers of accounts in Mr. Mulder’s name, for his upkeep and maintenance.”
Scully scanned the sheet quickly. There were names of foreign banks written there, and at the bottom an enormous sum of money. She was tempted to throw it away—but perhaps it meant they could save more towards Ben’s college. She said quietly, “Thank you,” and folded the sheet in half and handed it to Ben. “Hold this for me, would you?”
“Sure.” He tucked it inside his jacket pocket.
“All right,” Boorstein said, “that’s everything. You are now the guardian of Fox W. Mulder, Dr. Scully.”
Scully smiled—it reminded her of when the doctor had lain screaming, bloody Ben in her arms. Congratulations, you have just acquired a full-grown . . . she wasn’t sure of what to call him yet.
Mulder. Just her Mulder.
When Boorstein and Mecham had left the conference room, Krycek folded his hands on the table. “Does Lucas know we’re here?”
“He knows. We’ve been here for almost forty-five minutes.”
“Jerk,” Krycek muttered. “Making you sit here. What’s in the bag?”
“Clothes. Clothes for Mulder to wear home.”
“Well, it’s up to you now.”
“I’m taking him home today. If I have to drag him out.”
Krycek smiled a little, nodding his head. “I thought you would.” His foot tapped on the floor a moment, and he said, “Damn it, if Lucas doesn’t come in here in five minutes I’m dragging Mulder out of here myself.”
The door to the conference room opened and Lucas came in, followed by an orderly, and Mulder. “Well, here we are,” Lucas said, and started to direct the orderly to have Mulder sit across from Ben.
But Mulder had stopped, and he gripped the back of the chair in front of him. “Ben,” he said softly. “You’re Ben. Of course you are. Ben.”
“Hi,” Ben said, and glanced at Scully.
“It’s okay, Benjie,” Scully said, and squeezed his hand.
Ben stood up and walked around the table to face Mulder. “Hi,” he said again. Mulder’s hand rose to touch Ben’s hair, and Ben smiled uncomfortably and glanced at Scully again.
“Ben,” Mulder said. “Ben. I don’t believe it. You’re Ben.”
“And your mother calls you Benjie.”
“Yeah. I don’t like Benny much.”
“Benjie,” Mulder said. “Ben.”
“Yes, sir. Mulder. Dad.”
Mulder’s eyes closed, and he began to cry, very quietly. Scully rose at this, and went to him and put her arm around him. “Mulder, it’s okay. It’s okay, sweetheart.”
Mulder turned his face towards her but didn’t open his eyes. “He’s real.”
“Yes. He’s very real.” She stroked his face. “It’s okay, Mulder.”
He swallowed hard and wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. “Sorry. I’m—you’re Ben. You’re really Ben.”
“It’s okay,” Ben said, and awkwardly put an arm around Mulder too. He hugged them both tight, pressing his lips first to Scully’s hair, then cautiously to Ben’s.
Scully glanced at Krycek in time to see him wipe his eyes with his hand. He stood up and said, “Okay. You guys are good. I’m gonna go.”
“Alex,” Mulder said. “Thank you for bringing my family to me.”
“Sure,” Krycek said. “Goodbye.” He left the conference room and shut the door behind him.
End Part I.