TITLE: "FOCUS" (Sequel to "PhaHks")- Part I/4.

AUTHOR: GeeLady (GenieVB)

RATING: NC-17. MT/ScSkR/MScR/MOR/MAJOR ANGST!, language,

violence, sexually explicit scenes, Slash-violent rape, adult situations.

SPOILERS: "PhaHks" by GeeLady (GenieVB). Various X-Files

episodes.

As a friend commented: "So, basically, it's

about a hurtin' Muld'?"

Yep.

DISCLAIMER: The X-Files series, movie, characters,

and related props: ugly pajamas, anal probes and

rusty urinals are all the property of Chris Carter, Ten

Thirteen Productions and the Fox Network. I don't want

any credit, fame or fortune from X-Files, I only want

to write about your show and characters to entertain

myself and others.

This story is fictitious. If there appear to be people

or places (names of supporting characters & hospitals for

example) bearing any resemblance to actual institutions

or persons, it is by COINCIDENCE ONLY. All names of places

and secondary characters I made up! Therefore no insult is

intended toward the Physicians, Hospitals or Institutions

of America.

BTW: I am not a doctor in any way, shape or form. I've only

read a few books and journals in that field so if, in the

story, the therapist's methods seem a tad unusual, it is MY

lack of knowledge, and not the practices of psychology, that

is to blame.

Although I think this story stands on its own, I do

suggest you first read "PhaHks" even if you don't like

Star Trek, it may help you catch the small stuff in

FOCUS.

FOCUS. Part I

("To adjust the focus of the eye...",

"The point or space towards which light rays

converge or from which they emanate.",

LATIN: "hearth, fireplace. Home.")

Somehow, she steered him toward her building,

and inside to her apartment. Then, once her door was closed

and the lock flipped, right into the bathroom.

Scully was afraid that if she allowed him to sit down

anywhere on the way, Mulder would go to sleep and never wake

up.

Scully had seen her partner in many conditions of illness

or anguish.

Never like this.

After finding him at the bus station, dressed in old,

ill-fitting clothes - clothes that must have fit him at

one time but now hung off his thin frame as if they'd been

sown for a healthier man - his eyes were now dead of

emotion and a phrase had started repeating in her mind:

- Broken to death, broken to death -

Scully ran the bathwater while her silent guest sat slumped

over on the toilet seat. He was trying to untie his running

shoes and being unable to, his fingers fumbling and dropping

the laces.

"Here." She finished for him and pulled the sneakers off. His

feet were bare.

Speaking very gently, "Stand up, Mulder. Let's get

these clothes off."

"I can do it, Scully." His voice was small.

"Mulder, you can't hardly stand on your own. Just let me

help you, okay?"

He nodded. No more arguments came after that.

Scully stripped his shirt off while he leaned against the

sink to keep balance. She had to bite her lip and hold onto

a gasp when she saw his chest, decorated with scars. One

or two were old, ones she was intimately familiar with.

But the others,..especially the long, horrible one on his

abdomen...

Stubbornly blinking back tears, Scully helped Mulder remove

his jeans. No underwear either.

She skipped speculation on how down and out he must have been

to not manage underwear. But maybe he'd been given none. Maybe

his captors had dropped him off in a ditch, naked and bleeding.

Maybe the fuckers had laughed as they drove away, leaving him

to die.

Perhaps this ensemble was all he'd been able to come up with just

so he could be allowed aboard a public vehicle in order to make his

way to her.

One tear rolled and she bent over to test the water's temperature,

wiping it angrily away at the same time. Mulder was upset enough,

in the numbed center of him, that she felt he didn't need to see her

lose it too.

Adding a dab of bath gel to the water, Scully swished it around.

But Mulder had sat back down, hunched over - embarrassed - she

realized, about his nakedness. He still felt some things.

"Come on." She tried to find a middle ground in her tone and

manner - clinical but not cold, familiar but not intimate - to ease

his shame at having to be helped to undress and now bathed as if

he were a baby or a cripple.

But he was crippled, in a terrible way. A new chant invaded

her thoughts:

Dying on the inside. Dying, dying...

Scully helped him balance as he stepped one foot at a time, into

the apartment-typical shallow tub.

The first thing she did was get a pitcher and wet his hair down.

A small dime of shampoo, then lathering - she felt bumps on his

skull. Old injuries or new? She then repeated the shampoo.

Rinsing took only a moment. Not bothering with conditioner, she

started to wash his back with a soapy sponge, it slid over white

skin and washboard ribs. Leaner than she had ever seen him, it was

an unhealthy, neglected thinness.

Then she did his chest, soaped his underarms, both legs, and

finally his feet.

She didn't fail to notice that he kept his knees bent through-

out it all, leaning toward her and at the same time against

the side of the tub. He was hunkered over as if protecting himself

against her and her too much touch. His eyes were focused else

where, somewhere very far away, she thought, as he blinked every

minute or so, even that motion sluggish. Maybe it was a lack of

things seen.

Maybe he was watching nothing, behind his eyes or in front.

However, though still and mute, he was allowing her to wash him,

putting himself into her hands with an almost child-like relief.

He trusted her, she thought. /- That I won't hurt him, that much

at least./

But it was clear he was not liking the physical contact and that

made her uncomfortable also.

And a little sad.

Just a short two hours ago, they had been sharing warm hearts,

hands and words in a public place. Desperate kisses and clutching

had been exchanged. Smiles, tears, promises...

Two souls reunited after eight years. Mulder gone - kidnaped -

with no word, no reason ever discovered and no offering of hope.

Those moments of togetherness in the crowded Greyhound Terminal

had waned the closer she drove the Explorer to her home.

Now it was almost gone, it seemed. Now he appeared ashamed and

cowed at her and everything that was happening. She'd walked him

through the journey from the Station to her small corner of life

and he had appeared at first mistrustful and, soon after, simply

oblivious to all of it.

Mulder was far, far worse off than she had originally thought.

He was way down deep inside himself somewhere. Maybe even deeper

than where he'd been kept physically. In some filthy prison.

Locked away in a windowless basement. Held against his will in a

cold hole that offered neither light, warmth or hope. Eight years

in some second hell where the concept of heaven was never debated.

She'd spent those eight years in her own kind of hell. The hell

of keeping hope in something hopeless.

"Hungry?" She asked, mostly to fill up the silence that hung

painfully in the steamy bathroom. He shook his head.

Scully handed him the soap and the sponge. "Are you okay? Can

you do the rest on your own?"

He accepted them, nodding, obviously glad she wasn't going to

attempt cleaning his privates herself.

Scully closed the vinyl curtain (large yellow canaries perched

on green branches) halfway, and the bathroom door almost all the

way, giving him the privacy he needed.

Running a kettle under the tap in the kitchen, she busied

herself in making tea.

Teabags, sugar, readied the cream and the spoons and the cups.

Took a tray down from the cupboard and wiped off the dust. How

long since she'd had any company?

Mundane, time-killing, infuriating things that meant nothing

except to fill in a gap of time while she listened for him to

finish up yet not knowing what to expect when he did and not

really wanting to face whatever it would be.

The kettle sang.

Scully heard a choking noise coming from the bathroom and

almost went back. It would have done him no good. If he wanted to

sob then she would let him. If he decided to give up the fight

right there in her bathtub and quietly slip away, she had no

right to force him not to.

But she prayed to god he wouldn't. Her own sanity, she felt,

was on the line as well. Certainly her heart was feeling pinched.

Scully forced herself to Stand Still And Prepare Tea to serve

up to a very sick man whom she hadn't seen in eight years while

he sobbed his heart out in her bathroom.

She cried silently herself, wanting to have the tears over with

by the time his tanks were empty and she'd have to find some way

of looking at him, helping him. She needed to be strong so he

wouldn't have to be.

A bath and tea.

/Some prescription! Good start, Scully. "Cookie, Mulder?" "One

lump or two?"/

What does one say to the freshly scrubbed mentally shattered?

/Doctor Scully, clearly, you've been working on corpses too

long/.

Scully listened to his snorts and gasps as his heart spilled

over into the dirty water. Nothing she could do was going to cure

this size of wound.

Finally the sobs subsided but only after she'd consumed three

cups of tea alone at her kitchen table. She hadn't entered the

bathroom again the whole time. Even when she'd heard his crying

transform to choking coughs and moaning sobs.

For nearly one hour, he'd cried.

The kind of sobbing that most people did maybe once or twice in

a lifetime. The kind that tore you in half and left you sick and

feeling like crumpled paper.

She had cried like that once. After her daughter died. After

Emily - her arterial system growing grotesquely malformed and

polluting her body and brain by the unidentified toxins carried

within - stopped breathing and turned cold.

Scully herself had cried those horrible kind of tears.

When the bathroom had been silent for several minutes, Scully

returned to find him slumped against the side of the tub where

she'd left him. He was asleep and he was goose fleshed, the water

barely warm.

Rousing him, she helped him out, wrapped a towel around his waist,

tucking it in place, and towel-dried him down with another before

leading him to her guest bedroom.

"Feel better?" She asked as he slipped in and she arranged the

covers around him. His eyes were red-veined and puffy. "Headache."

He spoke just above a whisper. Didn't look at her.

She nodded and fetched him three pills, two Tylenol and one

Gravol along with a half glass of water. He swallowed all without

any questions.

It was worse, that he was so quiet. She would have preferred

the usual arguments of yesteryear. But wanting him to sleep

undisturbed, she said nothing about the unsolicited sleep aid.

After his eyes closed, he was out in a flat minute.

Scully looked at her watch: eleven-twenty-one AM.

"Director Skinner? Sir?"

Scully had to track him down at home since it

was Saturday.

"Scully." He sounded surprised. She hadn't

called him in over a year, and then it had

pertained to work. Over the last two years

their paths had rarely crossed.

She cleared her throat.

"How are you?" He asked before she had the

opportunity to speak further.

"Ah, I'm fine, Sir,...I ...uh...I need to

see you."

"Well, is it something you can tell me

over the phone?, I have a plane to catch in

two hours."

"Oh. I'm sorry, Sir, but...this is...I,...

I don't think I can handle this on my own..."

She cleared her throat, it was hard to say.

"...it's very important."

Skinner's silence at the other end told her

his "spidey sense" had just activated. "I can

cancel the flight. What's going on?"

Scully, took a breath and let it out.

It was morning. A new day.

Mulder had slept for fourteen hours straight

in her guest bedroom and was now sitting in her

livingroom, slumped on her couch, drinking gallons

of Sunny Delight and idly flipping through the

television channels. She heard "Chicken and Cow".

Looked like he'd finally stumbled upon something

not too emotionally taxing.

They hadn't really talked much that morning when

he'd finally awakened. He had politely asked to use

the washroom and then, declining the bacon and eggs

she'd prepared, she had fed him a bowl of Cherrios.

He'd then eaten bowl after bowl, starving, managing

to put away the entire box. But it wouldn't be enough

to pack meat back on his accordion-like chest.

Nothing much else had been said.

She'd watched him eat and then settle into her couch

like he planned on staying there for a long, long time.

And that frightened her. Mulder back in her apartment,

sitting on her couch like nothing had happened.

So, at the first opportunity, she'd slipped into her

bedroom and dialed a few numbers, speaking quietly

so as not to disturb him. She sensed somehow that,

for Mulder, right now anything other than peace and

quiet would be a bad thing.

Skinner was waiting.

"He's home, sir. He's back." Scully heard nothing for

two seconds.

"I'll be there in thirty."

"Is he awake?" Skinner entered her apartment building.

It wasn't yet noon.

Scully had quietly padded down and met her old boss at

the bulding's entrance, wanting that few seconds of

privacy to bring him up to date on the extraordinary

event of Mulder's return.

"Yes, but he's not okay."

"Are you?" He asked and it surprised her. She'd given

no thought to herself except for the tingle of fear

that had sprung to life and settled down in her psyche,

prompting her call to him.

A stranger with Mulder's face had woke up in her

apartment and ate her food. The Bus Station Mulder

was gone and she didn't know precisely why that was.

Scully did not know who sat in her living room now.

Mulder of yesterday, kissing her and at least somewhat

like the norm was now a silent body sitting in jeans

and faded out, ragged T-shirt denting her furniture.

She'd laundered his meager wardrobe while he'd slept.

Had contemplated slipping out and buying him some things

to wear but was afraid to, not wanting him waking up alone.

He might panic.

One year ago, she'd thrown out the last few items of

Mulder's clothing that had hung unused in her second bedroom

closet. It had been one last painful task. She'd thrust them

into a black garbage bag, quickly tied it and tossed it in

the bin out back. And then cried for an hour and a half.

So, nothing else to wear, he'd dressed in the rags in which

she'd found him. He sat and said nothing. A presence with

empty eyes filling up on cartoons.

Very scary.

Scully re-entered her apartment and stepped aside to

allow Skinner access and a clear first view of his old agent.

Mulder heard the door open and close and twisted around to

greet them both. "Sir?" He didn't stand as he would have

years ago. He just stared, a bit surprised but that was all.

"Mulder." Skinner kept his voice even and pleasant. He

didn't ask for Scully's permission but just seated himself

opposite the man-with-a-problem.

Looking at his old agent while trying to not stare, it

was hard to reconcile this current example with the Mulder

of eight years ago.

Skinner absorbed and recorded the pale face, the dark

bags, the expressionless, far away look in the older eyes,

and, through the holes in his shirt, the ribcage that

looked like it could barely hold the organs inside. "It's

good to see you."

A fucking miracle is what it was.

"You too, sir."

Scully seated herself next to Skinner. It gave her strength

for what they were about to do. Hard things were about to be

said and soon to occur and there was no choice in them.

An overwhelming sadness enveloped her as she sat beside

Skinner's confident control. He'd taken the situation in hand

and thank god because she could barely trust herself to

speak. She wanted to scream.

Because life was so goddamn unfair.

Because she wanted Mulder.

She wanted back Special Agent Fox Mulder and he wasn't there.

Her old partner, she wanted, in their old office in their old

life. She wanted him back in his gorgeous skin draped in Armani

pants hanging sexily from his masculine hips.

She wanted the humor and the smile and the eyes that hurt.

She wanted that old arrogant prick who always thought he

was right about everything.

She wanted anything but the abused and lifeless husk staring

dully at them both from across the coffee table.

"You want to talk about this? You want to tell me what's

happened?"

Scully's chest tightened at Skinner's questions. They were

F.B.I Director's questions and she wondered if they would

carry any meaning to Mulder.

"Why are you here, sir?" Mulder asked the big man.

Skinner glanced to his left as Scully answered.

"Mulder, I think - we think - you should be taken to a

hospital so you can be checked out."

Mulder frowned a little, looked down at himself as if

trying to see what they were seeing, trying to find what

it was that was worrying them.

"I'm okay, Scully. I may be a bit thin but otherwise

I'm just tired. I just need a few days."

"A few days and then...what?" Skinner asked.

Mulder looked at him and could give no detailed answer

to such an open question. "And then Uh-I'll see."

Skinner removed his glasses, rubbed fingers across

his eyes, trying once again to see into the mind of a

man he'd never been able to.

Scully watched the exchange. Skinner had aged as

they all had, but had done so well. Salt and pepper hair

fringe, the slightest thickening of the middle but

otherwise as straight, self-assured and sharp as ever.

"Mulder, you've been gone, vanished, missing for

eight years. Eight YEARS. Then yesterday you show

up, at a bus station of all places, without any

explanation." Skinner pointed out.

Mulder was acting like he'd gotten lost on vacation.

"I need some rest, that's all."

Scully pleaded. "Mulder, no. You are not well. You

don't even sound like yourself."

She found strength enough to crouch before him and

take one of his boney hands in her own, resting both

on his thigh. "Something terrible has happened to you

and we have to find out what it is. We have to find

out who did this to you."

"I'm back, Scully." He spoke it as if he couldn't

understand what all the fuss was about and it hit

her like a hammer. He wanted it to be enough for them.

Clearly he felt it should be. "And you promised me you

wouldn't ask."

"You can't just expect us to sit here and accept that

you're back to pick up where you left off and that

everything's normal." Skinner said.

"All I expect is to be left alone to rest for a few

days. I just need rest and,.." Mulder's words faltered

as his mind did, as it couldn't give them the logical

plans that should have been there, "..just tired. I'll

figure out the rest as I go."

"Mulder..." Scully started, stopped. Felt helpless.

"I'm okay, Scully, really." He pasted on his best

"See? I'm perfectly fine" face.

"No, you're not. You're thin, you look sick..."

"Why are you fighting this, Agent Mulder?"

Mulder threw black pupils at Skinner. "I'm not your

agent anymore." Turned to Scully, intending to ignore

Skinner from that second forward.

"Scully. Let's go away somewhere. I don't care,

anywhere. You pick the place. I meant what I said.

Let's just go. Cash in all our securities, I'll

sell all the properties and we'll leave, we'll

just get out of here."

"Mulder. There is no cash. All your securities

were liquidated. I had to. The taxes on your

parents houses, your mother's medicals bills,...

there's nothing left."

He stuttered in his efforts to convince. "Then,...um,

...I'll get a juh-job."

Scully saw his eyes watering, darting around the

room, getting scared. It was heartbreaking, what

was happening to him. Mulder wasn't himself. He hadn't

even asked her about his dead mother.

That was not like Mulder.

Not at all like Special Agent F.B.I man who looked out

for the innocent and chased the bad guys, trying to make

the world a better place while trying to understand why

things had to be that way.

Her former partner who could remember what kind

of cake he had for his fourth birthday but couldn't

count how many times he had lost his gun.

Her friend who had endured the destruction of his

whole family and had still walked into work each day

like he had a purpose.

The man she loved who used to be.

Her heart was tearing.

Because the sweet little fantasy in which she'd been

indulging for the last twenty hours was now at an end.

The meeting at the bus station, the overwhelming

joy in seeing him, his talk of marriage and her teary,

emotion-blinded answers that had nothing to do with

the deep pain she'd seen behind his eyes, the sharing

in his warm, loving, lips,...all of that was being

replaced by cruel practicalities.

Reality had just brought its fist down.

Mulder was sick in body and possibly in mind.

He was forty-five years old, out of a job and flat

broke.

The obstacles before him, before them both, were

enormous.

She wanted to sob.

"And do what?" Skinner pointed out to him.

Mulder didn't even look at his old boss. "I

don't care, anything. Scully?"

She sensed he was questioning her, asking her:

What's wrong? Did you lie to me when you said

you'd marry me? Was everything a lie? Was I wrong

to come back? Am I crazy?

Scully couldn't stop her own grief then, at his

frightened, needful eyes.

Give me something, Scully. He was saying as her tears

rolled unstoppably.

"Mulder..." Helpless. Mute. Guilty as charged.

Everything she'd said to him in the station had

been swept away by the call to Skinner.

Mulder was very ill. Ill and maybe even dying.

Three souls, one broken. The acknowledgment of it

settled over the healthy two like a Cloth of Mourning.

The guilt. The sorrow. What could she or any have done

for him anyway - really? A few kisses and everything would

be just fine? Is that what she had thought?

How shortsighted. How lovesick. How stupid.

"Do you want our help?" Skinner asked him.

"I was hoping, yeah." Mulder answered, tentatively. He

was unaware of the decisions secretly being made for him.

He did not feel the Grieving Blanket.

"Then I think we should make sure you're really okay."

Skinner answered.

"A physical exam, Mulder? Okay? Just to be sure."

Scully urged.

"That's all?" Mulder asked, suddenly wary, watchful,

mistrustful.

"Yes."

Mulder nodded once. "Okay, but I want Scully to do it."

"Why Scully?" Skinner wanted to know.

"Because that's what I want."

"Okay." Scully shot Skinner a warning look as if to say

it was the least they could do. "Okay, but I'll need help.

Will you let me choose a friend, a practicing doctor? One

who'll keep it under wraps? I can't do that kind of

examination without the proper equipment and somewhere to

do it."

Mulder nodded, once, reluctantly. "But I want to be awake

the whole time."

Of course. He wouldn't want to be under anyone's control

anymore. Did not want to be vulnerable or helpless. Ever

again.

Scully realised this.

She also knew that would be impossible.

Making herself a liar, she nodded. They had to know,

whatever it took, they had to know if he was really all right.

Scully studied Mulder's eyes. They had an alertness within

despite the drug. She'd talked him into a sleeping draught

just to lessen the discomfort he might feel from some parts

of the exam and it had taken her fifteen minutes to convince

him of that. No way was he going to accept anything stronger.

Finally locating Doctor Roberta Nizarhan, an old and trusted

former "what-the-hell-ever-made-us-consider-medical-school?!"

pal, they had set up in her private and well equipped clinic.

Mulder had followed Scully in with tiny cat steps, hugging the

walls and staring suspiciously at Nizarhan.

One bad move on anyone's part and he'd be out the door. Now

he lay shivering in a disposable open-at-the-back gown on the

padded examination table. The clinic was closed for the night.

They hadn't even begun and Scully was already dead tired

just from the constant strain of a whole day of bearing his

mistrustful questions about what would be done to him. The

pressure-cooked anxiety had given her a headache.

Skinner had declined to join the midnight medical duo on

their intended quest and returned home. It was passed midnight

and he had an early day but had insisted more than once that

she phone him on his cellular with the results when all the

tests were complete.

Scully decided she would fill him in, in person. Skinner'd

been there from the beginning, when all this had started.

There when it had begun all those years and years ago. The

day a clean cut, brilliant agent just inching out of studness

walked into Skinner's office and shook his hand.

The A.D.'s newest underling, just escaped from three years

in a purgatory called Violent Crimes where head Devil was bald

and wore a trench coat, had proved an Enigma with a capital E.

And that intelligent, good-looking, smart-as-they-make-'em

former analyst then proceeded to turn Walter Skinner, Deputy

Assistant Director of the F.B.I.'s world upside down. Had

Skinner managed a decent night sleep post-Mulder? Scully

doubted it.

But Mulder'd gotten away with his sabotaging of rules with

suprisingly smooth-sailing. It was some innate ability or an

aura he'd projected that made some people want to ruffle his

hair and all but say "Try to be a good boy.".

He'd limp up to Skinner's pool table sized desk, hand over

the case he and Scully had closed after risking life and limb,

apologize for the lateness of it, ease himself painfully down

into an empty chair and wait for the reaming.

Not very often had Skinner availed himself of that release.

Not very often.

Maybe it was the muted, decades old pain beneath Mulder's

brows that caused people, young and old, to want to either bake

him cookies or nuzzle his cheek. Even some male colleagues,

including one former FBI Assistant Director boss-man, had

done their best to protect him, advise him, lessen the risks

around him, body and soul.

Skinner had been there at the germination of the Mulder/Scully

years and she would keep him in the loop now. Especially since

she knew he was mad as hell at whoever had done this to one of

his.

Because he cared.

And because she needed his support to keep herself together.

Scully prepared the little sample bags and slides they

would need for the exam at a small counter, her back turned

on Mulder. But in the small mirror above the sink, she could

see him now sweating in nervousness, his eyes raking the

ceiling and walls as if looking for an opening, an easy escape

if the walls started closing in, the sky started falling or if

things didn't go as he liked.

Scully'd left the door open hoping to lesson the feel of

claustrophobia in the room, one not meant to hold a patient

and two doctors.

"Oh, damn." She said.

Nizarhan, the dark-haired second physician in question,

looked up from her microscope that she'd been adjusting.

"What?"

"I left something in the car." Scully looked sideways at

Roberta, who knew by long years that the shift in Scully's

eyes said otherwise. It said they needed to talk privately.

Scully touched, very lightly, Mulder's shoulder, "I'll be

right back. Two minutes, okay?"

He only nodded.

One minute later, Doctor Nizarhan left the room and joined

Scully down the hall out of earshot of the patient.

"What's going on, Dana?"

"I want to see him completely under. I don't want him to be

aware."

"But I thought-"

"-I know. But there are some tests I need to do that we

can't if he's conscious, some that would be very distressing

to him. Not to mention uncomfortable."

"Okay. I take it, though, he doesn't want that? That's why

we're out here, whispering like a couple of med-students?"

"Yes. But if you distract him for a second, I can inject

him. He'd be out in about five seconds."

"Five seconds is a long time if he gets violent."

"All we have to do is hold his arms and legs for that time,

he won't be able to move." Sadly, "He's weak."

"He is going to be very ticked when he wakes up."

Scully nodded, cleared her throat. "Yes. But it can't be

helped. We have to know-", /Breaking another promise? You're

getting good at it Dana./ "-there's no choice."

"Well, it may be my arena but it your game. Let's do it."

Nizarhan said.

It hadn't gone as easily as they'd hoped, but after two

curse words and lots of twisting, Mulder had slumped back

like a sack of flour. Nizarhan breathed a sigh of relief.

And was shocked when they peeled back the examination

gown to reveal the man's chest. Someone had sliced him up

like a pie.

Nizarhan watched Dana stroke the drugged man's forehead

with her thumb two, three times. Nizarhan was struck by the

compassion in the gesture. It was old affection she was seeing

and also that this situation was a repeat for both of them.

Scully nodded, as if satisfied that he was under deeply

enough to begin.

"Okay, I want pictures first. External exam, every square

centimeter."

"You make it sound like we're about to autopsy him."

"We are. But without an internal obviously, so I want

X-Rays. I wish we had access to MRI."

"Sorry, can't help you there, I'm just a clinical physician.

I can brew you a kick-ass cup of coffee though."

Scully smiled. "That would be great. I know I'll need it."

Referring to the intended examination, "What else?" Nizarhan

asked.

"I want blood gasses, bone marrow, skin, and hair samples.

Umm, muscle tissue too. And X-Rays, EEG, EKG, liver and

kidney tissue chemical analysis, sperm and saliva samples,

stomach lining,...I want bronchial and lung tissue visuals..."

"Wait, wait, are you kidding me? Do you know how long all

this is going to take?"

"As long as it takes. This is important."

"What are you not telling me?"

Scully pulled on non-latex examination gloves. "Ask me when

we're done."

Nizarhan didn't follow suit. "This is going to take all

night, just the basics even. Getting the samples analyzed

is on your time. Friend or no, Dana, you're gonna owe me big

for this one."

"Name it." she answered succinctly.

Nizarhan kept her mind on the task of preparing a strong

pot of caffeine, but made a mental note: to watch Dana as much

as the patient. She was very curious about Dana's connection

with this man. He was Dana's former partner, yes, she understood

that and that Dana wanted to help out an old friend. But

something more was here, in the background, something very

deep and very important.

The coffee pot was set to brewing and she heard Dana crumple

up the patient's gown.

Nizarhan noted that her friend had laid a clean hand towel

over the man's groin. It was unnecessary as he was out cold but

she understood the gesture of respect for the poor guy's privacy.

Nizarhan pulled on her own gloves and proceeded with her task

of external examination while Scully placed an oxygen mask over

Mulder's nose and mouth.

Christ almighty. The scars. Nizarhan catalogued each and

every sign of foreign penetration of the surface while Scully

handled the overhead photo machine.

He had a nice skin. A smooth, still relatively youthful skin.

But he was thin to the point of skinny and every square foot or

so, Nizarhan would find another old wound marring the perfection.

It was a shame. He was a real looker.

Stark evidence of past cruelties looked back at her as she

made notations of each and every mark or irregularity. But the

scars were what got to her, blunt, stare-back-at-you brandings.

No portion of his body had been left virgin.

Left shoulder, left upper thigh: old bullet wounds.

Right shoulder, outside right lower thigh, right forearm:

deep knife penetrations.

Right side of face: faint scar over brow line. Small white scar

at the left corner of the bottom lip.

Palms of the hands - what looked like severe rug burn

scars - the pads of his fingers had actually been rubbed smooth

on several didgits.

Left side of head: a deep, gouge behind the ear, long healed.

She wondered what the x-rays of his skull would reveal.

But the worst, the scar that made her stomach chill and roll,

was the long, even-edged slice that began to the side of and

slightly below his left nipple, curved down and around, only

ending up just above his groin.

Another two inches and he'd have been divested of his manhood.

It had been an hateful and inhuman assault. It had not been deep,

but it must have bled and it sure as hell must have hurt. Sometimes

those "clean" cuts were the worst.

The perpetrator had given it to this man to carry for the rest

of his days. And maybe to bear the memory of it's infliction each

time he looked at himself after a shower.

These were memories that could only temporarily be hidden and

forgotten about beneath clothing.

"Finished?" Scully's question brought Nizarhan out of her

private, unscientific thoughts.

"Um, yeah, I'm finished."

"Okay, now we flip him and the same for the back."

"All right," Nizarhan crossed Mulder's legs, one over the

other and Scully folded his hands on his chest. "Ready, roll him."

The table was wide and Mulder, limp as cooked spaghetti, was no

difficulty for the two women.

Scully took a moment to ensure he was comfortably positioned.

Nizarhan again watched her friend take the extra time to do

things of which an unconscious man could neither be aware nor

appreciate.

Scully took her samples, this time not of skin and hair, blood

and stomach cells, but of bone marrow, semen and feces. Nizarhan

kept her tone neutral as she watched Scully extract an Anal

Spreader from the utility tray behind her. "You must be checking

for something else in there." Nizarhan commented.

Numbly, "Trauma." Scully said, giving her a look that said

I'll tell you if you want. Nizarhan neither shook her head nor

nodded.

Scully inserted the thin cable of an Optioscope into Mulder's

rectum and peered into the viewfinder. The tissue was covered

with scars. Strange, long dark marks, as if someone had shoved

a metal hairbrush up into him and twisted it around before

yanking it out.

Scully's hands shook as she pulled the Scope out slowly, not

wanting to add to the damage.

"Well?" Nizarhan took the instrument from her friends fingers.

Scully nodded.

"I'm really sorry, Dana."

"It's okay. He's home now. He's safe." She discarded her old

gloves.

"Can I ask what happened to him or is it some Government

secret?" Tried to lighten the atmosphere and watched it fail

miserably when Nizarhan got the answer she hadn't really

expected.

"He was held captive and beaten for years. Tortured maybe,

we think. There may have been some...violent rape involved."

Scully pointed to two curved very faint lines on his upper left

shoulder blade that appeared to be a human bite mark. "I want

pictures of that. Maybe a forensic computer can extrapolate

the form of the bite. Maybe we'll luck out and can get a

dental record."

"Jesus." Nizarhan whispered. /No wonder you wanted him

under./ She swallowed, her gag reflex hinting at an

opposite action, noting on her little pad the bite marks,

then positioning the camera over them.

Pulling on fresh gloves, Scully pulled over another machine

on rollers. "Okay, X-Rays now." Scully took their attention

back to getting it all done. Time was short as the clock

struck five. In two hours, Nizarhan and junior partners would

have a waiting room full of patients, all wanting attention.

An hour later, when the films were developed, Nizarhan saw

what she had expected to see. Several old head injuries and

one newer one which must have concussed. Also clear indications

of a compound fracture of his left Ulna, two fingers of his

right hand and each and every rib. Nizarhan shook her head.

Christ, would the list of injuries never cease?

"Let's clean him up." Scully announced when at last they

were done.

"I can't stay for that. I have a meeting in an hour. You've

got about forty-five minutes to bring him out of it and get

out of here. Here's the keys and the alarm code. Make sure

you're gone before my secretary shows. You can drop the keys

off to me later here."

"I'm sorry this took so long. I can't tell you how grateful

I am for your help."

Impulsively, she hugged Scully. "Take care of your friend,

Dana. You owe me a night on the town. I want to visit every

sleazy bar in this damn city." /I want to forget I ever

participated in this scary shit/.

Scully smiled. "You've got it."

Scully tidied up and, before waking him, gave Mulder a

quick sponge bath to remove the stains of iodine around

the tiny wounds made from the skin and muscle biopsy sites.

She checked the small gauzes she'd taped over them to make

sure they would stay put.

Mulder was still lying on his stomach and out like a light.

Time was short yet Scully lingered over drying him off. Her

small hand towel gently rubbed cheeks, the small of his back

and across his shoulders. Turned him and repeated her minist-

rations.

She had just performed a living autopsy on her best friend.

Just invaded and pilfered pieces of him without his consent

in an attempt to discover the identity of his tormenters who

had pillaged him, body and soul.

The irony of it was not lost on her.

She wanted to touch him with magical fingers and remove the

evidence of her intrusions into his privacy and human rights

which had been repeatedly violated in this room.

"I'm sorry." She whispered into his unconscious ear. Kissed

his shoulder, a light peck. "I am sorry I had to do this to

you, Mulder. I am so very, very sorry."

"So how is he?" Skinner nursed cold coffee

in a Styrofoam cup. He'd shed his trench coat

and they both sat facing each other in the quiet

of his BMG outside her apartment. "I'm running

out of excuses for postponing my meeting."

Scully had phoned Skinner's cellular, waking him up

from a sound sleep late Sunday evening, and requested

his assistance.

Early that morning, after struggling a groggy Mulder

home to her apartment, she'd sedated him again and

left him to sleep the day away while she delivered her

tiny biopsies of him to a pathologist friend. Both had

then worked 14 hours to elicit the results she now

held in her hand.

Scully knew it was time to let common sense lead

and decided a hospital was what Mulder needed. As much

as she hated the idea of him being out of her direct care.

As much as she knew he would hate her for it.

A still unconscious Mulder faced her upon returning

home and getting him out to her own car alone would be

impossible.

Contacting Skinner again seemed the best course,

circumstances being what they were...

Pathologies showing what they did...

Again he'd canceled his flight out for her and came.

When was the day, month and year that Skinner had

become to her more than former superior and colleague?

All she knew was she needed his help and she thanked God

each time Skinner answered his phone; each time he drove

up to her door.

Together they hauled Mulder out once again and now he

lay on his side in the back seat of Skinners brand new

vehicle, long legs curled up, still in drugged sleep.

Without any real agreed-on plan, Skinner started the

engine and started driving more or less in the direction

of Mercy Memorial Hospital.

Scully filled him in. "Physically, the only definite

conclusion that can be drawn is that, due to the number

and nature of the injuries that were inflicted including

multiple broken bones and some very serious invasive

wounds..."

Skinner waited patiently for Scully to complete her

step by step itemization of Mulder's physical damage.

By experience he understood she was maneuvering toward

the worst news.

"...it seems likely he was systematically tortured

or at least beaten on a regular basis during the time

of his abduction."

Her voice was dead-pan. She was reciting the horrors

for him for the first time and the dozenth time for herself.

"There are scars indicating stabbings - deep wounds.

At one point he suffered a broken jaw as well as five

broken ribs somewhere along the way. A fractured arm

and fingers. Numerous head injuries, some which had

concussed..."

"Scully-"

She stopped and looked at him. He kept his eyes on

the road. "He's still alive. What about his mental and

emotional state?"

"Well, you saw, sir. Mentally, I believe he is unstable

but without the intervention of a trained psychologist,.."

She left off. Then swinging it back around, "We did, however,

discover something very disturbing in his blood work."

Skinner's stomach turned over. "What?"

"What appear to be antibodies in his cells. Specifically,

in the DNA, what could be called a fingerprint. Indications

are these antibodies are the result of a viral infection of

some kind the nature of which we thus far have not been

able to identify."

Skinner shook his head. Not a shake of disagreement, but

one of sadness. "Is he dying?"

Scully swallowed - a painful throat lump refused to

move - shook her head. "No. But we can't pin down the

pathology of the infection. Before we put him out, I asked

Mulder about it. He remembers being sick but that's all

he's able to tell us."

"I'd like to know how he made it back at all. That's a

question we haven't asked."

"I don't think he wants to talk about it, either because

it's too painful or maybe because he doesn't remember."

"This is bizarre." Skinner said. "What was the purpose?"

"You mean behind his kidnaping?"

"Yes. No demands were made. If they wanted the X-Files

shut down for good, why not just kill him? Why all this?"

Scully wondered too. About all of it. Mulder had walked

into Chilmark, she knew that much by seeing the black, cut

bottoms of his feet after she'd removed his sneakers.

No one had stopped to give him a ride. No one would.

Seeing a lone man stumbling barefoot along a highway in

the middle of the night?

Mental patient. Loser. Drifter. Nut. Steer clear.

That's what they - what anyone - would have been bound

to conclude.

And she, Doctor Scully, trained pathologist, forensic

scientist, had helped Mulder wash away any trace evidence

(anything that might have existed to give them a clue to

the identity of his abductors and abusers) right down the

drain.

Given him a bath!

Stupid.

All she had thought of last night was getting him home,

somewhere safe. A place she could keep watch over him.

Comfort and help and heal him. Heal herself a little too,

she now recognized.

Gathering evidence had crossed her mind, but it had taken

a secondary position to wrapping him in her arms and hugging

out the Boogie-men.

It had been a serious error, one she had confessed to

Skinner soon after his arrival at her apartment yesterday

morning.

He had huffed, not angrily, but in disappointment, and

then he had understood. This was Mulder, her old friend and

partner. And - Skinner had inferred from the silent

confession of her watery eyes - her love.

She'd acted impulsively, with her heart instead of her

head. Anyone would be forgiven for it once in a career.

"Sir, these antibodies,.. Mulder has been infected with

something. It is unidentifiable. It matches no DNA on record.

Yet it's left behind a fingerprint, it's own genetic string

INSIDE his cellular DNA. One which cannot be classified."

Skinner blinked. "Are you saying his DNA has been altered?

Or what he has may be contagious?" When she didn't answer, he asked

the question they'd both been tip-toe-ing around since the

conversation began. "Are you saying it's extraterrestrial?"

Frustrated, Scully spread her hands. "I don't know. Where

has he been? Eight years. In eight years, wouldn't we have

found something? Some kind of lead? He disappeared without one

trace. No clues what-so-ever. Nothing."

"It happens to thousands of children every year around

the world Agent Scully."

"Those are children. This is a grown man. This is Mulder.

Since when would Mulder not have somehow gotten to a phone?

Sent a message? In a bottle if he had to. Even escaped somehow?"

"We thought he was dead, Scully. Dead people don't send

messages."

Scully remembered dreams. In one such dream - god so long

ago now - she'd dreamed of Mulder whom everyone thought was

dead, a Mulder telling her he was all right.

No such dreams had come to her this time.

Nightmares, yes.

Skinner was talking. "Well, until we can gather evidence

to point us to how or who, I think there's only one question

left: What now?"

Skinner was asking her, she realized, the question not a

rhetorical one. In the case of Mulder's physical and mental

health, Skinner was leaving her in command.

"I don't know. I mean..." Scully shook her head, looked

at her hands, chapped from washing them again and again all

that morning long in between cutting away tiny pieces of her old

partner. "This, this is so much...it's enormous. Do I take

him home? Do I stick him in a halfway house, pay the landlady

and visit every Sunday? Do I let him walk away..." She bit

her lip and choked back the pain, "...and hope for the best?

I don't know. I just... don't know."

Skinner heaved a weary sigh, afraid for the emotional health

of one Dana Scully and not just the rediscovered Mulder

who was, as far as he could see, fast slipping through the

cracks of ever re-establishing a foothold anywhere back in

his old life. Skinner felt sorry for both of them.

Scully clipped her forgotten seatbelt in place. "Let's just

take him to Mercy...we'll figure something out."

It was 10:55 PM on a Sunday and although Skinner could

think of a more appropriate type of institution for Mulder

he didn't argue.

Maneuvering the car through sparse traffic and pointing

its nose in the right direction, they rode in silence for

a while.

"What's going on?" It was a slurred, sleepy voice. Mulder

pushed himself to a sitting position behind them.

Scully stiffened. She readied herself for the verbal lashing

she figured was coming her way for breaking her promise to

him at the clinic.

"You put me out." Mulder spoke quietly, but his voice was

a broken hinge. "How could you do that? - put me out - lie?"

"Mulder-" Scully started.

His tone was accusing and pained. "Now you'll tell me it

was for my own good. Well, you had no goddamn right deciding

for me what was for my own good."

"Mulder-" Skinner was about to explain, in Directors

fashion, Scully's decision.

"This is none of your business!" Mulder spat. He was angry.

Really angry but said nothing more, settling into the back

seat, allowing the silence to return.

There was a momentary truce.

For several minutes they rode that way.

Until Mulder tried his window control and found it didn't

work. "Roll down my window."

"There was an inversion today. It smells like hell out there."

Skinner informed him.

"I don't care. Just do it please. I'd like open air. I don't

want to be closed in."

Scully listened to Mulder's quickened breathing. Skinner

disengaged the window locks and Mulder opened his window all

the way. He seemed to breath easier after that.

Until Skinner auto-locked all the doors.

Mulder jumped when the little knobby on his door frame

dipped down with a click. It was the kind that sat flush

with the door-frame and there was no way to pinch it between

finger and thumb in order to pop it back up. "Why are you

locking the doors?"

"We're in Washington, Mulder." Skinner said, unable to

keep a trace of sarcasm and irritation out of his voice.

Yeah, they were in Washington, but Skinner also didn't

like the idea of a skittish Mulder sitting in his car with

his door unlocked. Bad enough he had his window open.

"Open it. Unlock my door." Mulder demanded. He didn't

make requests anymore.

"We're almost there." Scully said, twisting in her

seat and saw Mulder's chalk white face. He was really

scared.

"Almost where? Just unlock it!" Mulder was trying the

door handle now, jerking at it like if he did it enough

times, the door would miraculously pop open for him.

"What difference does it make?" Skinner made a last effort.

"Do it! Unlock this door, goddamn-it! Open this fucking

door or I'll break it!" Mulder was wide-eyed and reefing

both rear door handles. He wanted out. Any second, Scully

expected him to launch himself out the window and onto the

freeway.

"Okay!" Skinner unlocked the doors then did two more things.

He took an off-ramp into a deserted business suburb and then,

slowed the vehicle right down to a crawl.

When the car slowed enough, Mulder wrenched his door open

and jumped out, running like the hunted down a paved alley.

The BMG's headlights shone eerily on his retreating form

as he quickly disappeared into night shadow.

Skinner had expected it. As well as what occurred next.

Scully also jumped out. "M-U-U-L-D-E-R! Mulder, where are

you going!?"

She was about to run after him, but Skinner stepped around

to the passenger side of the car and took her arm. "Scully.

Let him go. We have no right to detain him."

"What? Sir, the man is sick! He needs help!"

"But he still has the right to refuse that help." Skinner

said what he'd wanted to say to her since this whole business

started. "Maybe you should face the possibility that Mulder

doesn't want our help."

"He doesn't know what he wants, Skinner, he's ill." She

stared defiantly. "Mulder phoned me! I'm going after him."

Scully pulled her arm free and ran down the alley.

"Jesus." Skinner sighed, slammed the passenger door, got

into the drivers seat and followed her at what he hoped was,

to Mulder, a non-threatening distance.

Skinner drove between buildings, searching with eyes straining

into the inadequately lit alleyways until he saw them both. He

parked and got out but didn't approach them.

Mulder was sitting on the lowest step of a back entrance

to a warehouse and Scully was crouched before him, her hands

holding both of his tightly. He was crying. Skinner could

see the glisten on his cheeks and hear the murmur of their

quietly exchanged words.

Scully clasped his hands for all she was worth. She wanted

to hold him but knew he would not allow it. She wanted to fix

him - his hurt - all of it, but she was unable. "Mulder. I'm

sorry."

He was silently weeping. Scully had never seen him cry so

much. In all the years she'd worked with him she'd watched

him cry three times.

The first time was when he was convinced his mother was

dying and, get himself killed though he almost did trying

to save her, he could do nothing to stop it.

The second was when he had failed to unearth his long buried

memories of his sister's abduction, even after the radical

"treatment" he had undergone which was to allow a Quack shrink

drill a hole in his skull. Doc "Tool-Time" would be undertaking

no more such operations from the jail cell where Scully had helped

put him.

The third and last was that late night Mulder came to her in

the days of her cancer and wept at her hospital bedside.

She'd awakened briefly to her hand wet with his tears and

her mattress trembling from his shaking but had been too weak

to comfort him in his display of grief or to even open her eyes

and smile so he would see her gratitude and feel better for it.

"Mulder. I'm sorry. I know you're scared to death about

what's happened to you. I'm scared too, I'm terrified. But I

don't know what to do."

He gently pulled one hand from her grasp and wiped his

eyes, trying to calm himself and pull together. He nodded.

"I'm forty-five years old, Scully." He sniffed.

She pulled a tissue from her jacket pocket and handed it

to him. He took it and wiped his eyes and nose, not looking at

her. "Forty-five years old."

He seemed to think that explained everything.

Scully understood.

He had come back to life only to find himself older. Without

a home. Without family, job, purpose or reason for being. That's

what he meant.

"That doesn't mean your life is over. You still have me."

That just seemed to make him sadder. "Not for long." He

said and looked over to where Skinner was standing by the

car. "The boss is waiting."

Scully would broach his cryptic comment later. For now,

he needed peace and quiet. And more rest. Hospitals and

doctors and more prodding and more tests later. Soon, but

not right now.

"Are you going to let us help you or fight us? We'll do

it your way, Mulder, if you want. If you want to walk away,

you can. If you want our help, then you're going to have

to trust us. You're going to have to trust me, as hard as

that is, even though I've failed you, even though I went

against your wishes."

Mulder nodded and stood up. He was shaky and he leaned

on her. Scully was grateful for the physical contact. It

felt good just to know he trusted her still, that much.

"Let's get you home. Then in a few days, I'm taking you

to a hospital."

Mulder nodded vaguely, sagging into a restless sleep

almost the minute she got him again into the back seat

of the car.

"Take us back home." She said.

Skinner frowned and silently did what she asked. After

getting turned around and back onto the freeway, he broached

the subject. "You know where we should be taking him, don't you?

Right now?"

"Yes." She whispered back.

Skinner dropped his voice right down, following her lead

and her worried expression. She did not want Mulder waking

up. "He needs to be in a place where he can get the proper

help."

"A mental hospital you mean? Absolutely not. If he needs

that kind of treatment, he can get it through a regular ward

or on an out-patient basis." She swallowed. "And he can stay

with me-" Scully looked pointedly at Skinner, "- for as

long as he needs to."

"You're biting off more than you can chew, here, Agent

Scully. And if you had an ounce of sense where Mulder was

concerned, you'd see that I was right. You can't handle

this on your own."

"Mulder is going to be fine." She spoke the lie. Mulder

had seemed to get it together somewhat back there and she

was hanging onto that tiny glimmer of sanity for dear life.

"You ignore common sense when it comes to Mulder. You

always have." Skinner offered. He had often admired her

loyalty to the man. And on not a few occasions indulged

in a bite of jealousy over the close relationship Mulder

had built with the smart, pretty agent and doctor. He'd

often, in fact, wanted to kick Mulder's ass half-way

across Washington for not opening his eyes to what he had

standing right before him instead of racing around half-

cocked after aliens and monsters.

Now here she was still protecting Mulder. Still

taking the risk for no reward other than his continence.

Or was there more between them? Had something more

developed prior to Mulder's disappearance that would

explain her obsession with the man?

As much as he hated to admit it, very probably there

had been. Some kind of intimacy, if not physical, then

something that would explain five years of sacrifices

made for him. Sacrifices that went far beyond duty,

loyalty or even friendship.

In her quiet, private way Scully had grown to love

the man, that much was clear.

Mulder, on the other hand, had been transparent.

He'd loved her from the beginning.

But that's where it had seemed to end. No other forward

steps and none taken in reverse. Either of them.

In Skinner's opinion, Mulder could not be an easy man to

love. Brilliant, yes. Loyal, if you suited his particular

quest, if you proved yourself, if you opened your soul and

displayed your trustworthiness to him on a squeaky-clean

platter.

Skinner knew something of the Mulder family. Powerful and

rich father. Socializing but prim, distant mother.

A sister.

For dozens of years a sister who existed only in Mulder's

memory as a bright, happy girl child which image he kept

wrapped in flowered tissue paper somewhere deep down where

no-one else was allowed to peek.

Not, Skinner was certain, even Scully.

Skinner also knew of Mulder's upbringing. Knew there had

been intellectual encouragement. Had to have been for Mulder

to have done so well as to be accepted into Oxford, graduate

with honors and be recruited into the F.B.I.., quickly shooting

to the top of his specialty by becoming the best analyst in

the field of Violent Crimes at - how old had he been? -

twenty-eight? In any field of law enforcement, that was still

a kid.

All the necessary things for sucess had been inculcated

into the young Fox but also present had been fists, belts

and bruises.

Maybe part of Scully's love for the man had been for the

broken soul she perceived beneath the hooded eyes and the

arrogant middle finger Mulder'd thrust at the world and

all who dwelled there. Maybe she had felt sorry for him.

Maybe underpinning her attraction and sparking feelings for

the tall, handsome agent had been pity. And a doctor's desire

to heal.

Mulder had become her project.

"He needs peace and quiet. I'm going to have to take some

time off work...tomorrow, if he needs it, the hospital." Scully

said.

"You're just delaying the inevitable."

She sighed heavily, knowing he was right. "Thank you for

helping me with him."

"You're welcome."

"I'll probably need it again."

"You'll have it." Skinner drove in quiet worry.

It was 10:00 AM on a Tuesday.

"Get off me! Let go of me you son-of-a-bitches!"

Scully had found Mulder, a ragged, scruffy, thin but

otherwise fairly calm and lucid Mulder, early Friday

afternoon.

Turn your head away and back and the world changes.

Five days can blanket it in ice. The sun, in darkness.

"You bastards, fucking let go of me! LET ME THE FUCK GO!"

Scully felt Earth turn under Sol as it always had for

those days. That is, in between the Friday of Mulder's return

and Tuesday, her perception of how life was now going to go

stayed relatively the same.

But after his dash to freedom from her betrayal at the

clinic and each hour thereafter Mulder had sunk deeper into a

kind of upright unconsciousness. Even the animation behind his

familiarly haunted eyes had slipped away. It had become more

and more difficult to get him to speak. He refused food. Rest

was the one thing at which he did not balk. Where ever it was

he had been, he had certainly learned to appreciate sleep.

But there was no opening now into his hurt like she had found

that first day or so. The gaping wound had closed over and

his infected soul would surely kill him.

The sun seemed to stop in the sky when that good light in

Mulder's eyes died.

Where she was now, in this admittance room, was ice. Death-

like cold. They were not at Mercy Memorial. This was another

place. A hard, unfeeling place she believed. One that would not

treat him with tender compassion as he would be if under her

care nor even if he were in a normal hospital room surrounded by

normal sickness. Here they would look, frown, take notes, shake

their heads. Doctors would ask questions. Terribly painful

questions no one should have asked of them.

No one's friend, partner or lover should ever have to endure

this place and their kind of questions. Their kind of healing.

Yet they were here. She and Skinner together had brought him

here and here is where they would leave him. Scully had spoken

to the doctors, signed the papers and the thing was done.

Her awful deed. Her final kiss.

But Mulder's banishment from life would also be her punishment.

She would feel the mind chilling walls of his isolation room just

as deeply as he would. Of that she was certain.

"Paranoid schizophrenia with delusional psychosis". The

very fat admitting doctor with the bad comb-over had explained

to her. Resident Director. Two hundred, thirty five patients

and twenty-eight staff under him (including maintenance), did not

make for a career rich in free time. He was attentive but to the

point. Painfully so. A short interview with his newest and most

anxious guest and following events had now resulted in that - a

brass tacks diagnosis.

Mulder had remained calm and cooperative until it was suggested

he stay voluntarily for observation.

Shooting venomous daggers at Scully for she had, after all,

brought him to this place, he all but exploded from his seat

at the words "convalescence" and "therapy". Then had come violent

cursing, a run for the bolted, electronic locked double metal

doors leading to outside.

It was her second betrayal if him and he hadn't been eager to

volunteer.

Scully might have let him go.

If he hadn't begun pounding on the doors like a wild bull when

they refused to open. If he hadn't started screaming and threaten-

ing the orderly who tried to stop his assault on the institution's

front exit. If Mulder hadn't wadded up a good fist and broken the

orderlies's nose.

But another orderly had quickly appeared. And then another. And

soon four were trying to hold down the wildcat under them who bit,

punched, clawed and screamed.

She was explaining to Skinner the events of the past few hours

and the few minutes she'd been allowed alone with Mulder before

they came with more of their numbing drugs and white wool blankets

to cocoon him in their sterile cloak, the one stenciled with

invisible ink that said "sick".

"One minute he is calm, apparently rational,..."

She swallowed at the memory of Mulder being forced into

hospital issue white cotton pajamas. Four men, beefy and

perspiring had held him down while another jabbed a needle

into his boney hip. All five then fighting to get restraints

around his long limbs. Then, all the fight gone out of him,

Mulder lay in a colorless room on a standard, single roll away.

Nylon straps, the smell of fevered skin and hospital cleaner

stayed in her nostrils. It was a hated, familiar odor. Too often

in her sojourn as Mulder's partner and friend had she had to wash

out that stink of sanitized humanity from her hair and scrub it

from her skin. Too many needles had she seen slid beneath his flesh.

Too many IV needles snaked into veins and bandages wound to close

pink gashes and immobilize shattered bones.

No iodined flesh here, though. Naked soul however. Aching

soul. Something deeply poisoned by something else.

"...the next he's violent, terrified." She sighed and told

him the last bit. "Now he's withdrawn into himself and won't

even speak."

"Except to you."

"Yes, sir. Except to me. At least for a minute he did."

He had yelled and wept. Not spoken.

Skinner stood and found the nearest refuse bin, dumping his

untouched coffee. He paced one way, then the other before her.

Skinner was ex-military, she knew. His was a soldier's movement.

He was prowling for answers, for a formulation of action. Searching

for the enemy. For someone to make pay maybe.

But there was no smoking man to blame, no conspiracy of lies,

no funny lights in the sky to investigate. There was just a

fallible man who could tell them nothing. Who might never do so.

Scully watched Skinner give up his pacing and sit heavily

beside her as she nursed her own cup of boiling machine java.

Watery. Almost tasteless.

Mulder had screamed and screamed to be released.

/"You don't know what you're doing to me Scully." Crying. "You

have no idea, no idea. I can't believe this. You're killing me.

I'll die in here. You can't do this.." Pleading. "Please, please

don't leave me like this. Help me, Scully!.." Sobbing. "You don't

know, you don't know..."/

/"Know what, Mulder?" At his side, speaking calm words into his

ear when she didn't feel calm. Stroking his dry mussed-up hair when

she felt like tearing out her own. "Tell me, Mulder. Talk to me.

Help me to understand..." Attempting to soothe his pain while

wanting to commit murder upon those who had reduced his human and

beautiful life to this. "Please don't shut me out. Not now. Not

when you need me." Not when I need you. Not when I can't live

another day seeing you like this./

/A keening from his lips only. A mourning of self; a spirit

bemoaning fate and terror; helplessness. Hopelessness./

"Can I drive you home?"

Scully heard Skinner's simple question and nodded. He felt

powerless as well.

"He's going to be all right, sir." She looked at him. Would

she see the same conviction there? "He will. He has to be."

It was not hopeless. Not for Mulder. She wouldn't let it be.

RESIDENCE OF IAN MOSS AND GARY BELHULTZ:

Gary zipped up his black uniform pants, glancing at his partner

seated on the couch. Ian was frowning, an uncommon expression for

his usually good natured lover.

"What's eating you, Ian? You've been doing that all evening."

"What?" Ian asked absentmindedly, his face hidden behind a

magazine.

"That", Gary's dark haired head nodded in Ian's direction, "that

pensive "something's gotta be done" look. Something's up, I can

tell."

Ian thrust the magazine aside and lit a cigarette. The smoke

curled from his nose and haloed his blonde brush cut in a grey

haze. "Just a new patient - well, not new - he's been on my

floor for about a month. But he's not under my care."

Gary fed his leather belt through the pant loops and tucked his

shirt in. He preferred dressing his six-foot-two frame in the

doorway between bedroom and livingroom because the bedroom was all

but swallowed up by their massive king size bed and double dressers.

"And?" Gary knew Ian wanted to talk about it because he always lit

a smoke when he was worried about something or someone. Never

smoked otherwise.

"Poor bastard, that's the "and". Been through some serious shit

from what I can tell."

"If he's not your patient, how do you know?"

"I snooped."

Gary smiled to himself. That was Ian all over. Gary took care of

people in his way by being a cop. And as a care giver working in one

of the saddest forms of institutions ever erected by mankind - Mental -,

Ian cared for them in his.

"I mean," Ian went on, "he's all scarred up. Mind-fucked too, they

say. Schizo, delusional, paranoid, violent,...all the usual. They just

drug the shit out of him and let him sleep in his own drool all day.

Heard he nearly killed an orderly up on Six."

"And now that he's on Four?..." Gary slipped on his tie and pin, hat,

retrieved his badge off the nearest dresser and checked it for smudges.

Clipped it in place above his left breast pocket. Raked fingers through

his thinning crown.

"Well, he's so out of it, he's no threat anymore I guess."

"If he's on drugs, then he must be violent. Sounds to me like maybe

it's a good thing."

"That's just it,.." Ian frowned again, thinking and smoking.

Here it is, Gary thought. This is the part that's bugging him. Funny

thing was, Ian was usually right; about people.

"..I don't think he's violent. Not intentionally. I mean, I'm not

saying he isn't screwed up. But it seems to me like he's been dumped

there as someone's problem child and they can't be bothered dealing

with him anymore. I think he just needs a friend."

"Well, if he's on your floor, he's just found one." Gary had never

known anyone who could reach people like Ian. It was uncanny, that

ability of his just to talk softly, look at folks in the eye and know

what they were feeling. He could reach people and he seemed to do it

with no effort what-so-ever. Including himself. It was spooky. "You

should have been a psychiatrist."

"Too formal. I like to be on hand when the trouble is actually

happening. I like good, vigorous communication. Even if it's yelling.

Sometimes people need that. I think this guy needs to yell."

"Where'd this guy come from?"

"I don't know. Rumor is, though, he's ex-F.B.I.," smiling,

"cute, too."

"Really?" Gary raised eyebrows at that one. "Hmph." He slipped his

weapon into place. "I gotta go. Be home by ten." He meant A.M., not

P.M., he had the night shift for two more weeks. His working partner

hated them more than he did as it kept him away nights from his new

wife. "Cliff hates these."

Ian nodded, eyeing Gary seductively. "Well, night shift or day, I

just love to watch you snap on your shield and polish your gun."

Gary flushed. "Cut it out." He headed for the door.

"Hey. No kiss?"

Gary shrugged into his issue overcoat. "Are you kidding? If I get

within three feet of you, I won't get to work for hours."

"Wait." Ian butted out his smoke. "Do you think you can...'

"I know. Dig up some info on your new guy. I'll see what I can do.

Okay?"

"Okay. Thanks."

Gary stood waiting.

"What?"

"The guys name?"

Ian scribbled something on a scrap of paper, crumpled it and tossed

it to him. "Sorry."

Gary read the name. "You're kidding."

Ian shook his head.

Gary stuffed the paper into his shirt pocket. "Now, I really gotta

go. Later, Sweet."

Ian fell back into his frown as Gary left their apartment. He fixed

himself a coffee, letting his mind wander back to the first few days

of the new patient's life at Walburg.

It had been quite a stir.

WALBURG INSTITUTE, BOSTON, MINN.

"Jesus."

Ian heard Ramsey mutter. "Trouble?"

"Slightly." Ramsey replied. "Did you see the new guy? Crazy as a

mother-fucker. Been here three days. Already redecorated the wallpaper

in his ward with his dinner a few times. Goddamn mess. I hate the

new ones."

"Batting around delicious Walburg food is nothing new here. Even for

the staff." Ian quipped. It was true. Regular Hospital food was a fussy

palette's paradise by comparison.

Ramsey responded with a grin. He didn't like Ian too much, the kid's

touchy-feely way with the patients not suiting his taste, but the

fag had a sense of humor at least. "Yeah, but he's been doing it

projectile-style today. He sprayed that entire fucking room, I swear

to god. They're still moping up in there."

"He's throwing up? Well, maybe he's sick? Did anyone think to call

Munroe?" Munroe was the morning resident practitioner. Five to one P.M..

"What do you think?" Ramsey said.

Ian knew it was best to exit the conversation and returned to his

own duties. Ramsey was civil most of the time but quickly became

irritated at persistence. Unfortunately, he was also the resident

gossip. If there was fresh juice to be had, he was the squeeze.

Ian sought out a more promising if less verbal source in the name

of Janice. She was a sympathetic, overworked nurse with a divorce in

one hand and a sack of children in the other. As far as Ian was

concerned, getting a divorce from that abusive prick of a husband

had been the best decision of her life. She was a great nurse who

treated her patients with all the tenderness she also reserved for

her three children. And she heard things.

"What about this new patient?" Was all Ian had to say. Janice

glanced up from her nurses station and smiled at him the tiniest bit.

They understood one another, both genuinely liking their respective

jobs. "The dark haired one?" She scribbled in her reports as she spoke.

"Take a stab at the name."

Ian shrugged. "Come on."

""Fox"." She said, enjoying his reaction.

"Weird."

"Weird?" Her eyes widened a bit. "Oh, you haven't seen him yet.

Well, if the name fits..."

"I was more interested in why he's been puking up his food. Has

Munroe checked on him?"

"Yup. Must be stomach cramps or something. He got a Pepto and a

needle and he's sleeping like a baby."

"No flu'?"

"Nope."

"Must have been the sawdust in the meatloaf."

Janice stacked her papers and sighed. She could go home now. "I

feel sorry for him. You ought to take a peek in on him, Ian. Keep

an eye on this one this aft' for me, okay? Let me know?"

"Sure."

He did, around four in the afternoon; look in on the unconscious

patient that is.

"The new one" was by himself in the pink room. A color from

bygone days that had claimed it knew everything there was to know

about violent patients and how to soothe them. "Fox" was strapped

down and didn't twitch a muscle when Ian entered.

The first thing Ian noticed was the metal wristband that denoted

allergies to drugs.

No food allergies were indicated.

"Fox" - a weird name for parents to name a newborn because who

knows how a kid is going to turn out. But it did fit. He still

smelled slightly of vomit though he'd been cleaned. Ian ignored it.

He'd smelled worse things by far. All the putrid fluids the human

body can produce and in quantities few had the opportunity to see.

He smelled shampoo also. At least someone had taken the time to

wash and then comb his hair. But it was dull and dry. Walburg was

sadly lacking in humidifiers.

Ian crouched down to take a look at the man's face. A face could

tell a lot about a person, even a sleeping one. But here, Ian saw

nothing unusual. Only tiredness. Circles under the eyes in a thin

face the color of plaster. The guy must have been puking up most

everything, he could use a few pounds.

Suddenly the eyes opened and looked into Ian's with perfect

lucidity. Hazel irises with black cavern-pupils put there by drugs.

Ian inhaled sharply when the eyes blinked, closed and opened

again. No lucidness now. Just holes so deep it made him stagger

just to look at them. Filled as they were with old, long hurt that

reached it's grasp so far into the past he lost sight of it.

Ian searched for a word to describe what he was seeing and came

up empty. His own fingers reach out and touched that face.

It was unique. Angled jaw line joined cheekbone and brow together

in one ancient mold that effortlessly swept away all modern

examples of male beauty. A face borrowed from the Sistine Chapel

ceiling itself. From Solomon's Temple. From the Carpenter. From

something so beautiful and so innocent that it was painful to think

it being imprisoned here. But it was his eyes that took his breath

away. The old, old pain in them. Eyes accustomed to disappointment.

Eyes that knew all the worst of life and had come to expect nothing

else.

The pain itself belonged here. Here in this modern shrine of

wounded people. But not the eyes that contained it. They were as

out of place as a peacock in a slaughterhouse. As removed as

heaven was from hell.

Misery.

That was the word that had eluded Ian. It described perfectly

that first an only wordless communication.

Fox had shut his eyes and did not open them again.

Ian wasn't sure where the idea had come from or why it slipped

out. All he did know was that the words were pure truth.

"You don't belong here."

No more.

It was enough. She'd loved Fox too. At one time, for

him and Dana, she'd even hoped...

But that was history. Except history had a way of

repeating itself by resurfacing to wreak all it's

mistakes and anguish upon a new generation or just

the same old, exhausted one.

"Goddam it!" Margarete Scully caught herself in the

unusual act of swearing. It was not that she was so

old-fashioned she thought it un-lady like, it was just

not her. The words didn't roll off her tongue with the

right pizzaz. But the word vocalized her own feelings

pretty well.

Just when Dana was getting over it - him - just when

she was finally almost herself again and focused on

career, self and perhaps finding someone to share all

that smarts and beauty with -

- he had come back.

Gone and Dead.

Back and alive.

Ta-Dah.

Margrette switched it in her head: Fox, a friend, not

just "he".

Been back for days and, according to Dana with whom

she'd just gotten off the phone, in terrible trouble. Fox

was "sick". Dana had used the euphemism while speaking

stark words with a voice so small it threatened to vanish.

Margrette had heard his name as Dana applied it, not to

a missing, presumed dead partner, but a living, breathing

real person who was back and ready to launch her daughter

into untold new levels of grief and worry, however

unintentional.

Margrette had held onto the receiver so tightly, her

knuckles turned white, the blood pinched from her fingers.

Dana had said words and Margrette had heard them but she'd

also felt an overwhelming urge to scream into the phone: "LEAVE

HIM THERE!" when Dana mentioned the name and type of

institution where Fox was. But she didn't. She made

sympathetic mother noises, helpless against the Fate that

twisted them all cruelly in it's steel wires. "Oh, mom.

Poor Mulder." Her daughter had cried to her through AT&T.

Margrette didn't want to be supportive of this new horrible

twist in their lives. Lives that had returned to blessed

averageness. But she'd said all the right things and even

offered to come up to be with Dana. Dana had refused though

thanking her.

She let fly with every expletive she knew, tearing

the phone from the wall and flinging it against her kitchen

cupboards. A crash of unwashed plates from breakfast was it's

last act as the phone broke them apart in the soapy water.

Cried bitter, angry tears for her daughter. And,

despite her new found hatred that was not against Fox

Mulder but his untimely reappearance, still some of those

tears were shed for him.

Margarete Scully was not an ogre. She had never hated the

man as her son Bill had, who'd blamed Fox for every misfortune

that had befallen the Scully clan since little sis' head been

partnered with him. Margarete knew Dana made her own

choices and had always been willing to live with the

consequences. Always.

Her feelings about Dana's unusual workmate had run

quite the opposite of hatred actually, having grown to care

about him. Especially, as it had become quite plain to her

over the years that, other than Dana, no one else seemed to.

Fox had saved her daughter's life and she had never heard

Dana speak of him with anything other than respect even if

they were in complete disagreement over a case.

But then Fox had been kidnaped - "abducted" Dana had

often corrected.

That was years ago.

Mulder was dead. Eventually that's what they all had

thought.

Margarete had feared for the depth of her daughter's grief,

not for the tears Dana had shed but the lack of them. It was

as though Dana refused to accept it. Denied his disappearance.

Refused the possibility of his no longer being alive, hoping he

might come back.

Teena Mulder with her expensive lace hanky had stood

weeping silently by the memorial stone. A grim Walter Skinner,

silent and respectful, had placed one hand on Dana's shoulder

as the service ended and people in a fashion proper to the

showing of grief slowly migrated to their various vehicles.

For some reason, everyone had looked ashamed. Guilty for

not having sent Christmas cards or remembering to say hello

when they had passed the deceased in the hallway for all those

years.

Dana had shook Assistant Director Skinner's hand and

walked quickly to her own car. She had shed not a single

tear. Was a no-show at mom's home service of buffet

dinner and appropriate dainties.

At her dad's funeral, Dana had cried.

Not at Fox's.

Margarete had cried at the memorial service. For

lots of reasons. Mostly for Fox and for her daughter.

For a man who had brought something to her youngest's

eyes Margarete hadn't seen before. A newness, a sense of

purpose, a ethereal substance that somehow had made Dana

seem so much more than she had been.

Fear, too, had come with that new partnership. Fear and

danger and then grief like she herself had never experienced.

Yet, in the dawn of that pairing, a light had begun to

shine in her daughter's eyes that she couldn't explain.

That's what Margarete remembered. "He's intelligent, kind

of obsessive. Very cute but a little weird." Had been Dana's

summation of her new partner.

Especially in the time prior to Fox's disappearance, had

that light increased. Something had happened to them that

terrible summer. The summer she'd greeted Dana at her

front door and saw the tiny, broken capillaries still visible on

both cheekbones. Dana had looked tired and ill from her

experiences in the Antarctic but underneath a strength had

peered out of those blue, blue eyes that negated all the

pain.

A woman who was content. A happy woman.

Love had come that summer.

So Margarete's heart had cried too, when it was decided

that Fox was dead.

And when Fox had vanished, so, too, did the light.

Margarete had cried for the atrocities and pain that had

come to these two young people. Through no reason that

had been made known to her, terrible deeds had been

perpetrated against them by people Dana had yet to reveal.

For unrealized hopes and dreams she had cried. For a brief

universal moment of peace ripped away one cool September

night when the one was snatched and the other left to mourn

him. For nothing good left behind for either.

For all of that, Margarete's heart had also wept.

It had not been Fox's fault despite what Bill had said.

Any of it.

Now both had to pay all over again as God watched and did

nothing. Her own faith had been on shaky ground ever since

that funeral and each day after as she watched her daughter

sink into a melancholy that had only just begun to lift.

Fox. Dead. Her daughter. Left dying. It had not been his fault.

Fox was back. He was alive. It was not his fault.

It wasn't Dana's fault or her fault and that was the trouble. It

was never anyone's fault.

She supposed she should go and try to visit Fox in the

hospital, never mind that Dana had said not to. His mother

was dead. No other family to speak of anymore.

Dana's his family, we're his family...

The phone in the living room rang. Joyce calling her about

the Craft Fair or because her serving tray was still sitting

on her kitchen counter from the last card game. Joyce's

pecan tarts had been perfect as usual.

Simple, pleasant things that mocked Margarete's newest,

unwelcome source of sorrow.

Margarete balled her fists. Why does it have to be this way?!

"I know something about False Memory Syndrome.

This could very easily be that." Kurtzman flipped

through his appointment book.

Scully wasn't sure what to think about Kurtzman. He

had spent many years in his field. His office wall was

crowded with degrees. His shelves lined with books,

some which he himself had penned.

He would do all that was required of him as Chief

of Psychiatry at Walburg Institute. But would he take

Mulder under his wing? Would he look beyond the

clinical and find the suffering man inside? That's what

Scully wanted. It's what she'd hoped to find here.

Wasn't sure if she had in Kurtzman.

"You haven't even discussed what happened with him,

how can you be sure what it is yet?"

"From what you've told me regarding his memories

about his sister, it's in the report you provided. His history

of mental and emotional disturbances is all right there. Not

a year prior to his disappearance, he was admitted for psychiatric

observation upon claiming the ability to see a monster that

"hides in the light". You made your own statement in that report

regarding his ordeal as a hostage. He was in a confined situation

- beaten during the incident if I remember correctly. He claimed

that only he and certain individuals already dead possessed the

ability to see the monster. His direct superior added a statement

that included what he himself witnessed of Fox Mulder's actions.

Another Illinois field agent stated that his behavior had been

erratic."

"I also submitted an addendum to that report stating my belief

that Agent Mulder was in fact sound of mind and that I myself was

later able to substantiate certain aspects of his claims."

Kurtzman stopped and looked at the woman sitting across from

him. This lady was, also, a doctor, albeit a pathologist. She had

seventeen years under her belt working in a variety of positions as

an agent of the F.B.I.. This new patient was her former partner and

close friend.

Kurtzman wanted to be clear with her.

"Medical aspects, yes, you did. Your report from the hospital room,

however, was vague. You saw a "large, dark form"."

She stared back. Looked away.

"I will do my best with him, Doctor Scully. But I can make no

predictions about how he will respond to treatment."

"I know." There was no choice anyway. It was Kurtzman or nobody.

Kurtzman adjusted his frameless glasses. "The report stated

his memories about his sister's disappearance changed post

hypno-regression therapy under Doctor Verber and that later

he began to doubt his own recollections about what happened

that night. He blamed himself for it, is that correct?" He looked

at her.

Scully nodded. Kurtzman seemed to want to review the facts

with her. Scully knew what that thick folder said. The picture

it painted of a highly intelligent but disturbed man who believed

in the paranormal and who blamed aliens for his sisters abduction

(and now his own as well). Who was so ridden with guilt over his own

perceived inability to act that he could only cope by finding some

kind, any kind, of explanation. Even a supernatural one instead of

the simplest one; that his sister had been taken by a pedophile and

lay in an undiscovered shallow grave to this very day.

Scully knew that's what others saw in Mulder.

She had five more minutes with Kurtzman. Not enough time

to explain how that report was wrong. Not enough time to

convince him with reasonable words that she also had

experienced things and seen things no one else on earth

had. No time. No proof either.

Yet, if Mulder was to come back to her, she had to let Kurtzman

try and help Mulder. She had to trust him.

"Over the years there were other periods of obsessions."

Kurtzman was saying. "There's a whole cauldron of reasons to

suspect he's imprinting or rather painting a picture of what

happened to him instead of actually remembering the facts

for reasons that should become clear, not least of which

would be that it was a frightening, painful and a prolonged

incarceration."

Kurtzman was trying to be sympathetic and show her he was

not an unfeeling guy.

"And from what I've read of his psychological profile and

periodic mandated therapy during his F.B.I. years, Mulder

exhibits Chronic Victim tendencies. He's a lonely individual?"

Scully had to nod.

"And he made a lifetime work out of studying abduction

victims, seeking out proof of the existence of Extraterrestrial's,

trials and UFO's...well,..it's just an educated guess at this

juncture, but I don't believe he's showing us anything new."

She couldn't help herself. "So you're conclusion is that

he's faking all of this? Is that the basis upon which you'll

treat him? The polygraph showed no evidence of deceit or

intent to deception."

"I am not minimizing his symptoms or that he is in a disturbed

state of mind. However, all a polygraph proves is that he believes

what he's telling us."

"He has scars, Doctor Kurtzman, from non-self-inflicted wounds,

some that might have been fatal had someone - I don't know who -

not provided medical aid."

"I didn't say he wasn't held captive, I didn't say he hasn't

gone through something horrific. But I think what he believes

happened and what actually happened are two different things.

With the amnesia he's suffering, a somewhat selective amnesia,

that's not a big surprise."

Kurtzman was wrong. The reports were wrong. She had nothing

to show him that Mulder was not lying or imprinting or selectively

deleting aspects of his eight year absence because they didn't

fit the abduction claim. IF he was, it was because they were too

painful for him, not because they would expose his abduction

claim as false.

Scully wanted to yell: We don't know ANYTHING!

If she were in Kurtzman's shoes, she'd be mouthing the same stuff

he was. She'd be placating and polite but firm in her assertations

that Mulder was mentally ill and that what he said should not be taken

at face value. Her eyebrows would be twitching too at the friend of

Mulder sitting across the desk attempting to convince the doc

that the man brought in for treatment for mental disturbance was

not actually crazy.

She wanted to laugh. She wanted to bend over and laugh at

the top of her lungs. He might not have her committed if she did,

but he would wonder. Kurtzman would certainly wonder.

"His sister was abducted at eight years of age. In the

investigation, was the possibility ever explored that-"

"-Mulder killed her? Yes. And no evidence what-so-ever

was found to substantiate it. He was, in fact, so traumatized

he was catatonic for four days and suffered complete amnesia

about the events of that night for over two decades."

"Catatonic? Amnesia? I see..."

Scully flushed. She'd said those things to support Mulder's

complete innocence in the disappearance of his sister, Samantha.

Now even she had to concede the possibility at least...-No! "Mulder

didn't kill his sister." She knew him too well. Random, unprovoked,

violent act? Not Mulder.

But Kurtzman had enough crap in that fucking file to write another

book with Mulder as the main character.

"But he did live with the guilt for more than twenty years.

Maybe he simply made up his abduction - I'm sorry - the reasons

behind his abduction to allay his guilt. Maybe he just couldn't

live with it any longer. There's no doubt he was kidnaped and that

he's suffered a great deal, but perhaps he feels some sort of atonement

now. Perhaps in his mind justice has been satisfied. I'm not saying that

is so however."

Reasonable. Logical. Made sense.

Wrong.

If Mulder had been walking the edge of some kind of emotional

knife prior to his disappearance, he had showed no sign of it. Which

meant nothing, really. She had seen no sign, but they'd both been

swamped with caseloads and paperwork and she'd been on loan to

Quantico in between. They'd seen little of each other since

Antarctica. Could he have murdered Samantha? She refused to believe

it. Did Mulder hate himself? Very possibly. Self esteem had never

been his watch-word.

None of it, however, answered the question about where he'd

been and with who.

Or what.

"How will you treat him?" Scully asked, leading away from

the conversation that was disturbing her more than she liked

to admit. She didn't know what happened to Mulder. No one

did. But he was not insane (at least, he never used to be),

and he was not lost.

She just knew.

She had the DNA evidence, whatever it really meant. Unidentified

genetic string that had no business being there. /"Fifth and sixth

Base Pair. That is, by definition, extraterrestrial."/

"Meds, and a group that meets four times each week. Each

patient has been through similar traumas and I've found it

has helped them to open up. It's not always easy. Most are

long term. I also give private therapy but that's not covered

under his insurance plan..."

Kurtzman left it open for her to decide which course for Mulder.

She didn't have to choose. There was no money for private

counseling. "The group will be fine. I've provided both Bryant

and Munroe copies of Mulder's medical report and recent psychological

work up." Carefully edited copies. What would any of these professionals

think of her discovery of Mulder's out-of-this-world DNA? "If you

have any questions or need anything from me or if he asks to see

me,...please call me right away."

"Of course."

"I'm going back tomorrow afternoon. I have to see him once

more before I head back to Washington."

Skinner set his jaw at the other end of the phone line. He was

back in Washington and trying to be understanding about his

former doctor/agent's misplaced self-blame.

"You had to do it, Scully. Mulder was on the proverbial edge.

He might have done anything."

"Well, now he's over the edge if I understand Kurtzman's meaning.

They've got him on Thorazine and two or three other drugs. They

want to start him right away on group therapy with Bryant because they

think the sooner, the better. I suppose I should be delighted with how

much good I've done him." Biting sarcasm. "Everything's just peachy."

"What could you have done? Kept him warm and fed? Lock him

in his room at night? Be afraid every minute you're away that you

might come home and find his brains all over your kitchen floor?"

Mulder was insane.

"Gee, don't hold back or anything, Skinner, tell me what you

actually think."

Director Skinner strode around his bigger, more expensively

decorated office. Leather chairs, marble floors, oak desks...the

place was a monument to F.B.I. Old Horses. "I think you should

go visit Mulder, see that he's being taken care of and then take

the first flight back to Washington and your own life."

Mulder was now a ward of Walburg Mental Institute. He would

be in Walburg for a long time. Walburg was in Boston.

It was the best thing for him. It was the best for all concerned.

Skinner was certain it was best for Scully.

He heard Scully sigh at the other end of the too distant conversation.

She sounded defeated and angry. "Thank you for helping

me get him there." At least she also sounded resigned to facts.

Skinner knew Scully had exhausted every last penny of the Mulder's

personal family money to set Mulder up for a year of intense treatment

and therapy at Walburg. He wondered if it would be enough.

"Don't forget. I'm always here if you need anything." Scully would

be returning to Quantico and their paths would again diverge.

"Thanks. That means a lot." Sounding like she meant it, she

hung up.

Skinner replaced the receiver. Nothing had been accomplished

by his call to her except antagonism. Pouring himself his eighth

cup of coffee of the day, he tried to concentrate on work. After

twenty minutes of turning pages of the report in front of him

and retaining not one word of it he gave up and placed a call to

Dulles, arranging a flight out for that afternoon.

It was always best to do these things in person.

"I'm here to see Fox Mulder. I was told Doctor Bryant would clear

my visit." Scully announced to the Receiving Desk nurse who looked

annoyed at the "not-visiting-hours" visitor. "Just a moment." Nurse

pressed a button on her multi-functional phone. "A Ms. Scully to see

Patient Mulder. You cleared this, she says."

After gathering a reply in the positive, Scully was soon stepping

into a private visiting room where Mulder was already waiting.

Bryant had him brought down as soon as he heard she was waiting.

A uniformed Orderly locked the door behind her.

Scully cautiously without being too obvious about it took stock

of Mulder. He'd only been in the place four days. She'd last seen

him two days previous.

He looked normal. Tired. Hair combed and face shaved though.

Hospital issue boring whites rumpled. With the exception that he

didn't look at her he seemed usual.

"Hi Mulder." Start simply. Don't ask how he is. Don't get excited.

Don't judge. Don't find fault, don't place blame, don't try to

figure it all out. That's what Bryant had advised. It was standard

stuff. She'd read it all in a pamphlet he'd given her. She'd read

through it before coming today. She wouldn't hurt him.

"Hey." He answered, looking at her. Not a smile but not tight-

lipped either.

She sat opposite his slump. Stiff-backed, she folded her coat neat

and square in her lap. "I guess,...I just wanted to see you before

I left."

He nodded matter-of-factly. "Standard goodbye visit." He commented.

Scully flushed. Swallowed. Remained calm. It was so hard. "I didn't

know what else to do, Mulder. You...were scary." Don't blame. Don't

hurt. "This is hard for me too."

"Of course. I frightened you. Well, I'm pretty fucking scared too."

He raked his hair with his left hand. His right wrist was encased in

plaster of Paris and remained resting on his knee. "I guess you might

say frightened, petrified, terrified, shaking in my Nut-House slippers.

Do you sense a pattern emerging here, Doctor Scully?" He was being

defensive. Combative. Bryant said he would be. It was expected. It was

on page twenty-three.

/"Mulder might be antagonistic, huh?" She'd asked Bryant

ironically. "Well, I'll keep that in mind."/

"Mulder, look, I'm going to be flying here every second weekend

because I want this to work. This isn't a punishment. We're trying to

help you..."

"You can help me by getting me out of here right now. Today." He

stared at her and for a second or two he looked just like Agent Fox

Mulder of the F.B.I. and not a proclaimed abductee who had two days

before tried to kill another man and then cripple his own arm by

slamming it again and again into a locked, metal door.

"I can't. No matter how much you hate me for this, I can't. I won't

let you destroy yourself." Fuck the Manual. "I won't let you hate

yourself for something you couldn't prevent or change or...escape

from."

Mulder didn't answer and, figuring the conversation was done, Scully

rose. Slipping her arms through the coat sleeves, she gathered her good

intentions and reached down to take her briefcase.

Mulder had his face buried in both hands, the right one awkwardly

because of the cast. His shoulders shook. His whole body shook.

God, she wanted to run away from this; the whole responsibility of it.

If she didn't love him, she would have.

But instead she squatted before his sharp knees, he was still so thin,

taking his hands in hers. "I wish I could make this better. I wish I

could make it all go away, everything, these last eight years, all of

it." His face screwed up tight from the force of his spilling pain, it

was always so hard to watch him cry. She had never gotten used to it.

"Please don't leave Scully."

Shit. That was the last thing she wanted to hear. It was the hardest

request to refuse. "I have to Mulder. You know I have to. I have a job,

I can't ignore it forever." And there are doctors bills to pay.

"Please don't leave me in here. Bars on the windows, fucking padding

on the walls of my "room". I'm wearing white pajamas for Christ's sake.

I sleep on a..a..m-mat!"

Humiliating. "That's only temporary, Mulder. When you stop being a

danger to yourself and others they'll move you to a regular ward. You

almost killed that man - you choked him."

"Because I knew I was being locked in."

"Would you have killed him?"

He stared at her. "To get out? Yes."

"That's why there are bars on your windows and padding on your

walls. Look at your wrist, Mulder."

He sighed deeply. Bone-weary resignation. "I didn't ask for much,

Scully. Just some time. That's all I wanted. It's what I need. I'm

forty-five years old."

Forty-five and being fitted for a straight-jacket. Who wouldn't be

terrified? "I wish it could be different-" Mulder needed a controlled

environment, where he could feel safe.

"-Scully. Don't you get it?" The tears came slow and silent and

without any secondary signs of distress. He was calm but not okay.

"I'll die in here."

"No, you won't." It was her doctor's voice. Assured, rational.

Controlled, calm and convincing. Her best trick whenever Mulder

had appeared to be teetering on the edge of too far "over there".

He laughed but not because he thought it funny. It was a "You

know dick-all" laugh. "Yes, I will."

Scully looked at the scuffed, linoleum floor, yellow from years of

old wax, the grainy walls were in need of painting. She'd done the

best she could. The last of his assets had been sold. His things which

she had kept in storage all those years, his car, his bank accounts.

The Mulder summer house on Rode Island - enough to pay for one year's

worth of intense psychological and medicinal therapy at Walburg. She

prayed to God it was enough.

I'll come visit every day, she had wanted to say but it would have

been a self-comforting lie. Every second weekend was about all she

would be able to manage. As long as work didn't interfere.

"Some of these injuries could have been self-inflicted." Doctor

Bryant had said after reading the edited information she'd provided,

leaving out the blood work-up and what they suspected of his DNA.

Self-inflicted. That had occurred to her of course. It was one of

a whole range of possibilities she'd thought of. One in particular

she didn't like to think about was that Mulder had made no attempt to

contact her or anyone for the very reason that he hadn't wanted to.

That he'd been kidnaped - abducted, taken, whatever - was clear.

But by who was not. And if it had been by your average human, earth-

bound psycho, it was possible that somewhere along the way Mulder

had escaped and then just not come home. He might really have

gone crazy after that, some of the cuttings and the wounds done by

his own hand. The lack of communication with hearth and home perhaps

because of fear or shame. When one takes up a knife and separates

one's own skin and watches as one's own blood flows - well, a

difficult thing for anyone to own up to.

But people get lonely, hungry, cold and tired. So eventually, he'd

come home and guess what? Abduction. Aliens did this to me, Scully,

I was taken away. I've been held captive on another planet for eight

years. They're the ones who cut me.

Of course these things had occurred to her. She'd rejected them.

Some of the wounds had been deep and impossible for him to have

done himself. Especially the right shoulder wound. Very deep. Arteries

had been severed, a fatal wound that would have pumped blood out

in quarts. Whoever had delivered that blow had wanted to see him

die. Yet Mulder was here and still breathing so help must have

gotten to him somehow.

Had he caused the other injuries though?

Believing Mulder had done all this to himself would mean eight

years of her own life had been kidnaped as well. She'd hung on,

thinking as they all had that he had been taken and kept away

against his will. So she'd waited and hoped for most of those years.

Tough but she'd done it.

Believe that he had been taken, escaped and then stayed away

willingly would mean those years had been wasted on a falsehood.

That was so much worse.

Scully had rejected Bryant's words. For many reasons. Some because

she wanted to believe Mulder was telling the truth. Others, known

only to her.

Mulder was home. Maybe he was fighting for life. Whatever the

truth was they would find out or they wouldn't.

He had good doctors. Munroe, general practitioner. Bryant,

therapist. Kurtzman, shrink.

The room was chilly. Walburg reminded her of herself and of Mulder.

Worn out, tired but still functioning. She would hold onto that.

He was mute, beyond hearing. Trying to scare her?, she wondered.

Manipulate her into removing him from this place and taking him

home where he just might lose himself one day and air-condition his

skull with a bullet.

She rose. "Mulder. Take your meds, go to your therapy, talk to

Bryant and Kurtzman. I'll see you in two weeks. You are not going

to die."

Scully knocked on the secured door. The orderly appeared and let

her out, relocking the door by turning a key from his collection on a

ring the size of a hula-hoop. Scully chanced a look back at Mulder

through the wired-meshed window.

Mulder was sitting very still, crying. He looked skinny and white and

sick but he was not shaking anymore.

Mulder was returned to his room and he went immediately to the tiny,

thick-glass window, his only view of outside. The forbidden world.

He wanted to see her.

She was so tiny against the enormous trees that hadn't yet shed

their leaves. A faint dusting of snow softened the late September

landscape. The beauty of the grounds and the parking lot hid the

ugliness of inside.

Her coat fell around her knees, touching her, tickling his senses.

Her soft, pretty hair the color of autumn leaves moved under the

fingers of the wind.

Someone was walking up to her. A man. She turned and walked

over to meet him. Someone she knew.

Mulder squinted. They stood by her car. She spoke to him. They

briefly embraced.

Mulder knew the man too. He stepped back from the window and

curled himself up on the thin mattress, shaking in terror.

When the next shift rotations went into effect, Ian made sure

his and Janice's start-time/quit-time overlapped. It meant he

would see that much less of Gary for the next two months but he

had the feeling it was important that he be there to keep an eye

on Fox during the evenings.

Janice's concern over the troublesome patient had

grown and she fed that concern to Ian through looks

and the occasional crucial conversations they managed

to grab whenever their coffee breaks coincided.

"He hardly eats and throws up most of it. Munroe

just keeps feeding him antacids and gravol. I think

he prefers ordering the gravol 'cause it slows Fox

down."

"What's he been doing?"

"Fox? Nothing. I mean, no fights or anything, it's

just the throwing up and hysterics when anyone touches

him. Problem is, to clean him up, he has to be touched,

y'know? To give a shot, even meds...but those meds

keep him pretty out of it most of the time."

"Why the hell hasn't Munroe ordered some Upper GI's

or something on him to figure out what the hell is wrong?"

"He did and you should have seen that battle. They had to

pump the barium shit in through a tube. He had to be tied down

in each position for the slides. It took forever."

Ian could picture it. Fox was sick and weak but he was a

fighter. "Did they find out anything though?"

"Oh, yeah, he has a hiatus hernia. Nothing major, millions

of people have them and it accounts for the vomiting I

guess..."

"Fucking Munroe is a prick. Maybe Fox really can't stomach

the food. Jesus, he might have allergies to preservatives or

something."

"Hmm, anyway, our little Fox has tricks." Janice raised one

eyebrow and waited.

"Tricks?"

"He has a stash."

"What?"

"A stash of goodies. Food. Someone's been sneaking him in

sweets. Chocolate mostly. And nougat. Barb brought me a whole

wad of wrappers he'd shoved in the bedsprings."

"Caffeine. Sugar. Stimulants. Unhealthy shit. Who'd be doing

that? He only ever gets one visitor and she'd never,..she's a

doctor or something so no way in hell. One of the staff?"

"I dunno." Janice shrugged. "And nobody knows where the hell

he's hiding it. They keep tossing the wards."

"Is he at least eating his oatmeal?"

"Mnn-hum. That and soup. Whenever they make him eat anything

else, either funnel or pump, he barfs!"

"Poor son of a bitch. No wonder he keeps trying to run." Every

few days or so, one staff member or another would catch Fox

trying to pick the lock of the ward doors or his room (if he was

confined in solitary), or trying to smash through the wire-

meshed bathroom windows. No one knew how he was managing

to sneak around unnoticed. Ian knew. The staff didn't watch the

patients nearly so closely as they claimed to. Many hated the work

and put out the minimum. Besides Fox had been FBI, hadn't he? He'd

probably learned to be sneaky. F.B.I.'d wrote the book on Sneaky.

"Well it's a nice place to visit but I wouldn't want to

live here." Janice quipped and rose from her seat in the small

cafeteria.

"Wait. When are you off? Bring me up to date for today."

"Tell you on the way."

After he dutifully had consumed his stew (he did sometimes

cooperate. The dead were experts on knowing when to give in),

it was time for meds and he palmed them. This time it worked.

He could spend the evening looking at and actually seeing the

white layer of frost that had come that morning and stayed. It made

the life outside look strangely alive while stilling it.

Unlike him, beautiful. Like him, dead. He, living or not, could still

appreciate pretty things.

"Hey, Mulder." A voice dropped from above him and, along with it,

something fell in his lap. He was cross-legged in the corner of the

main hall. A sitting area where patients came to sit or watch T.V..

The window sill was just low enough to afford a view of outside

if he craned his neck.

He fingered the Butterfinger as Ross, a frequent bearer of such

gifts, walked quickly away.

Alms.

It was as much association with a corpse as anyone would want, he

supposed. As before he didn't question the gift and tucked it under

his shirt. Such secret repasts hurt less than the kitchen's offerings

and tasted better besides.

Joseph, a fellow patient, resented the little favors Fox was receiving

from the enemy and made it his business - not to snitch because

snitching to the staff was like one chicken complaining about another

chicken to the weasel - but to make Fox's life miserable at every

opportunity.

Joseph choose his left-over grape juice this time and pitched the

half-full plastic cup at Fox's head. It hurt, a little, but the mess

was everywhere and soon Ross was back and escorting him to the showers

to clean up while someone went to lecture Joseph about playing nice.

Eyes at his back, Fox washed up and was given clean pajamas, which

was all he was ever allowed to wear. His repeated escape attempts

had behooved the staff to forbid him anything resembling street wear.

Pajamas were noticeable on the outside.

It didn't stop him from trying though.

That night he got as far as the back fence. He had managed

to steal a small pair of sewing scissors from a new and not

too bright nursing student, picking the locks on three sets of

doors including the chains on the rarely used rear exit before

the dozing night watchman noticed him on the monitors and

punched the claxon.

"It's the norm for him." Ramsey was referring to the patient

who'd been dragged away to the infirmary. Besides his cast,

Fox had a new bandage on his hand and Ramsey had heard that

an orderly, Ross, was sporting butterflies on his temple, though

the injury was minor. Two staff now tagged courtesy of their most

destructive patient.

"Oh. He always like that?" The student asked, a new

nursing assistant. It was her first week. She was in

the Cage with Ramsey, looking over the front desk.

"Mostly." Fox had tried to escape the night before

and been caught, so rebelliously had refused his meds

that morning. It was needle time. And tube time too

because the recalcitrant patient had also refused his

breakfast.

"I wish they'd just give him everything through a needle.

His screaming just gets all the others going. What are you

looking for?"

"My scissors. I heard he used to be F.B.I., maybe it got to

be too tough. I wonder what happened."

"Who cares what happened to a suit. Rich dad - some

government cheese. Old money. Just try working in a place

like this for twenty years. This is tough." To Ramsey, rich

folks in expensive suits were the enemy. "As far as I'm

concerned, he belongs right here in Club Fucked."

The little student nurse stole a peek into the infirmary.

The dark haired patient was strapped down and though he was

bucking like a bronco at his restraints, the drugs were already

taking him down.

"Maybe he just doesn't like the rules."

Ian crouched down beside the table where Fox was, once again,

drugged with a gallon of Thorazine. They'd shot him full of enough

of the shit, Ian figured, to fell an elephant. It was only Fox's

second month.

He studied the man and wondered. Fox was curled up his side,

no need for straps when muscles were sludge and wouldn't obey. His

eyes were open but didn't look at Ian at all. Looked passed him

or through him, drugs blurring reality into something manageable.

Ian spoke softly. He didn't want to startle him or alert any

curious staff who might be wandering passed Isolation's slightly

ajar door.

"I don't know what all hell you've been through to bring you

here, but we've got to get you better."

Ian touched the man's face. It was cool and pale. The drug.

"I see that lady who comes to visit, the one you refuse to

speak to. I think she cares and I think she wants you to

come home." Ian fingered the man's dry, wispy hair. It looked

like someone had cut it with a weed-eater. The staff barber

must have had an off day.

Whether his gesture of kindness made any impact, Ian couldn't

tell. Fox's eyes remained empty. "If I wasn't so insanely crazy

about Gary, I'd go for you myself, you seem about my type. They

say you're here because you're insane. Violent too. I don't know

why but I don't believe that. There's just something about you."

He withdrew his hand, grabbing a blanket bunched around Fox's

feet. "I think you need to get better, Fox, and go home. She's

been here every two weeks like clockwork. She must care about you

a lot to keep coming."

Ian stood and checked him over, being careful of Fox's thin wrist

where the cast used to be and where was now a loose square of

gauze. The flesh of that hand was pebbled and flaky. Arranging the

blanket around the staring mummy, he said "At least think about it."