Scully awoke to the harsh beepbeepbeep of her clock-radio. She slapped the snooze button with her eyes closed and settled back into her bed, pulling her covers around her. Last night. Of course. Three autopsies for Mulder that had turned up nothing interesting. Then they'd gone out for a late dinner. Italian, pasta primavera. Delicious. And then the call had come in that another body'd turned up, which had broken up their evening and wasted another three hours of her life. She hadn't gotten home until almost two in the morning.
Her alarm beepbeeped again and jerked her alert. Time to face the harsh reality. It was morning, and she had to get up, god damn it. She propped herself up on an elbow and after a little searching pressed the button that turned her alarm off. Then she reached for the lamp on her bedside table, a practiced, everyday motion, and grabbed air.
Where the hell was her lamp? Had it fallen in the middle of the night? She sat up and swung her legs out of her warm bed, and squinted at her bedside table through the darkness. Then she felt the tabletop and touched nothing but smooth polished wood and the blocky, almost unfamiliar shape of her alarm clock.
Curious and slightly annoyed, she padded across the carpet and flicked the light switch on her wall. In the sudden brightness, she blinked, and gaped.
Everything was wrong. Her walls were blue, the furniture was different, her bookcase was in the wrong place, and the carpet was not where it had been last night—or even the same carpet. This one she'd bought at a discount at Sears right after moving into her apartment, more than ten years ago. In fact…her whole room had regressed a decade.
Knickknacks that had long since disappeared adorned her dresser, and she walked over to it. There was a flower-filled vase from Melissa, a gift received at some mid-twenties birthday, an embroidered jewelry box she'd bought during a trip to the Bahamas in '87 or '88, and a framed photo of a pretty spot in the woods she'd found hiking with friends. Back when she had friends. Greeting cards, opened slightly so that they stood upright, lined the top of her bookcase. Dazed, she crossed the room, picked up a card, and opened it. A picture of lilies. Happy twenty-fifth, Starbuck. Love Mom and Dad. The next one, a Far Side comic about birthdays. Inside, a half-funny punch line, and Happy Birthday Dana. Hope you're having a great day. Love, Bill. A p.s. inquired about her FBI training, and she remembered how much it had annoyed her that Bill, who disapproved of her career so blatantly, had had the nerve to ask her about it in a birthday card like he was only curious.
She glanced at the other cards. All from family and friends, and all from her twenty-fifth birthday. Then she stumbled back to the bed and sat down hard. Stared at the furniture, ten years too old and yet unworn. She was numb.
So. She forced herself to breathe deeply, to reason this out like she would any X-file. Her room was exactly as it had been not ten, but eleven years ago, down to the very birthday cards she'd received in 1989.
There was no way anyone could have done this while she was sleeping. Not counting the noise and effort required to rearrange everything, half the objects that now cluttered her shelves had been lost or broken or packed away long ago. She'd sold the embroidered jewelry box to an old man at a garage sale less than a year after meeting Mulder. She'd moved the vase from Melissa to her kitchen counter and it had shattered just a few months later.
She pressed her hands to her face. If this wasn't a human act… what was it? An act of God? Time travel? It couldn't be. It was impossible to wake up in a different year. It was March 2nd, 2000, end of story.
If only seven years of X-files hadn't taught her that sometimes, the impossible was the only explanation.
She needed to do something. She needed to get up and figure out what the hell was going on. She could check the TV or the radio. She could explore the rest of the apartment to be sure that everything was as it had been. Then she could decide on a plan of action. She stepped out into the hall. A calendar filled with "nuns having fun" said it was March 1989. She walked past several pictures of family and friends. Then an old mirror caught her eye and she stopped. And stared.
Her face was round and soft and smooth, no fine tired lines around her mouth and eyes. Her hair was brownish and voluminous and bangs covered her forehead. No sleek FBI haircut, and no bright red gray-masking dye. Her body was more lithe, more solid, even in the ugly flannel pajamas she was wearing. She ran her hands lightly over her breasts, her stomach, her thighs, and her absurdly twenty-five-year-old face.
Another wave of disbelief shot through her, and she backed up against the wall and leaned—collapsed—against it. She was twenty-five years old, living in the apartment that had been newly hers eleven years ago. Agent Scully, age twenty-five. No, not Agent. Trainee. Trainee Scully.
She took a deep, shaky breath, and stood up. Now that she was aware of her young body, she couldn't help but feel the difference. She was looser and lither and strong. It was hard to believe this had really been her.
The day squares on the calendar were carefully crossed off, something she hadn't had the time or energy to do for years. According to the calendar, it was March 2, 1989. She fought down the panic that seemed to be trying to claw its way out of her twenty-five-year-old throat. There had to be something she could do. Some explanation for this.
She needed to talk to Mulder. Habit made her glance at the clock on the wall, only it was the old clock that had lost its will to live shortly after, what? The van Blundht case, several years from now. God. It was 6:20. Mulder would probably be up, if not already in the office.
Except the basement office was where they kept the copiers, and twenty-seven-year-old Mulder didn't know or care one bit about Dana Scully. She heard her alarm start beeping again as the snooze function ran out of time.
And yet, she thought, with a strange detachment, as her too-young body staggered back to the chair at the kitchen table, if there was anyone who could help her it would be Mulder. He had to still—still?—believe in the paranormal. That kind of thing didn't, couldn't happen overnight. And he was brilliant and helpful and kind. Wasn't he?
Scully tried to remember everything about Mulder's past with the Bureau, but realized that aside from a few odd dates and names she knew next to nothing about it. He'd worked in Violent Crimes with Reggie Purdue, then the Behavioral Science Unit with Bill Patterson and that guy Jerry LaMana who died in an elevator. Mulder had solved the Monty Propps case with his profile, she knew that, had caught Roche and Boggs and dozens of others. He'd started on the X-files with Diana in 1991.
Scully felt a twist of unease. In 1989 Mulder was still the fair-haired boy wonder of the BSU, Patterson's crack profiler. Patterson, who had watched Mulder lose himself in Mostow's darkness and encouraged it. Told her not to get in his way or hold him back because she wouldn't be able to. She remembered wondering what kind of a life Mulder could've led back then if Patterson saw that darkness as being all in a day's work. What a different person he must have been.
A sob rose in up her so unexpectedly that she could do nothing but let it out. She might never see Mulder again. Not the young Mulder, who was called Spooky because he solved cases and not because he chased aliens, but the man she loved. Her friend and partner and so much more for nearly seven years. It was as if her Mulder was dead, but worse, because there was no way to mourn the living.
She rode out the next sob pressing at the back of her throat until it deflated. Today she would find Mulder, and explain what had happened. Maybe he was the same Mulder that had smiled at her so tenderly last night. Maybe he would help. Maybe not. What else could she do?
The main entrance to the J. Edgar Hoover Building was quiet at 7:30 AM. Scully knew that within an hour it would be bustling with tourists, families on vacation and herds of uninterested school children. She didn't recognize most of the security guards. She handed over her keys and passed through the metal detector, marveling, for a moment, that she hadn't set it off because there wouldn't be a chip in her neck for another six years. If ever.
The realization hit her so suddenly that in her old chunky heels she nearly staggered into the security guard. She gave the man a vague nod of apology and stumbled away to wonder why she hadn't thought this through before. She might never set off a metal detector. She might never get her life back. On the way here she'd been preoccupied with what to say to Mulder to make him hear her out that she'd hardly considered what might come next. And what could possibly come next? She felt as if something had just been kicked out from under her, from inside of her. She couldn't believe this. I refuse to believe that, Mulder. How many times had she said that to him? Or he to her? For all of their obsession with the truth they were experts at denial, and now she wanted to crawl back into the comforting hole of not worrying about how she could possibly return her life to normal.
Because the truth was that unless she could magically will herself back to the new millennium, she would never resume the life she'd had. There was no way that she make the same decisions, set off the same events, even if she tried. She was a different person now than she had been eleven years ago. Today. There were simply too many details, too many things she simply couldn't remember.
And beyond that, she didn't want to relive it all. It had been easy to say flippantly to Mulder that she wouldn't change a thing, that it had all been worth it (well, all but Flukeman) but now, faced with the prospect of actually reliving the last eleven years, the idea was impossible to stomach. There had been too much pain and hardship and uncertainty. She couldn't live through Melissa's death again, through years of fearing for Mulder and her mother, through losing Emily or her abduction or her cancer. No way she could knowingly cause so many people pain just to take the long road home. She'd been wrong. It wasn't worth it.
She felt the urge to cry again and forced it down, breathing deeply and letting her eyes shut for a moment. If there was ever a time for denial, it was now. She had to take this one step at a time, and the next step was finding Mulder. Even if he couldn't help her, he could advise her. He could be wise. He could be comforting. He could make everything better.
Because Mulder always makes things better. She found herself shaking her head. Because Mulder never exacerbates the situation, never fumbles his best intentions, never alienates her or makes her hurt or sad. Still, she could think of exactly one person in the entire world who might be able to help her, and that was where she was going to start.
She went directly to the BSU offices. The thoughts churning through her mind eventually faded to the background as she tried to make sense of her surroundings. Everything here looked almost the same. The computers were older, the phones were bigger, and she recognized areas that had been refurbished in the last eleven years, but the halls of offices and carpet and the bustle of the bullpen were essentially the same. She tried to exude an air of confident belonging, and set her features in their best authoritative but directionless gaze. She was all too aware of the fact that her young soft face was far more suited to, at best, mild petulance. She hadn't really learned to glare, to get what she wanted through pure silent ire, until after Mulder.
The plaque on the first door in the hallway read "William Patterson." She felt something collapse with relief inside her despite her misgivings. She was close. She moved along the hallway past doors marked with names she didn't recognize, heart pounding, until she reached a door with nameplates that read "Jerald LaMana" and, just below, "Fox Mulder."
Before she could knock, the door swung violently inward and she was face-to-face with Mulder. She stared. A moment passed and he stepped back slightly, looking at her. She knew she had to speak but oh, God, this was unreal. This wasn't Mulder. Not her Mulder.
The man who stood before her was gaunt and tired and young. His face was unlined but pale and contoured by the hollows in his cheeks and the dark crescents beneath his eyes. His cheekbones were angular and too prominent, and his nose jutted. His lower jaw was darkened by stubble, and as he turned to face her she could see a healing bruise mottling the skin just below his left eye. His long dark trench coat, hanging open, enveloped his frame but failed to hide the pinched, bony thinness of his limbs. He carried himself with little of the graceful swagger she was accustomed to. It was swallowed instead by the deliberate movements of an exhausted man. His habitual smirk was absent too, replaced by a pained, dour expression that clenched his jaw and deadened his eyes. In that moment he looked at her with no sympathy, no recognition and no interest.
Scully could remember a dozen cases in which Mulder had driven himself to the edge, past the edge, with no one watching out for him but her. Facing the darkness without her, he appeared to be destroying himself. Running on empty when he shouldn't be running at all, pushing too hard and far past the point of reason. Patterson undoubtedly too busy staying out of his way, the bastard, to make sure that Mulder didn't lose it. Her heart went out to him and at the same time wanted with an instinctual fear to pull away because this Mulder was a stranger lost in his darkest, most frightening hell. And yet she'd always wanted to shield him from pain, even when her own had seemed too much to bear. Even now she wanted to wrap herself around him, hold him and let him break down in her arms.
"Can I help you?" he asked.
His voice was different yet the same, low and threatening and angry at this intrusion. He stared down at her with dark eyes. Scully was almost too stunned to respond.
"I—yes," she said. "I mean no." Bit her lip as she tried to marshal her thoughts. To remember the man this gaunt figure would become. "I'd like to speak with you." She hesitated, thinking of the plan she'd conceived in the car on her way to the Bureau. It might hurt him, but she had to make him listen to her. She closed her eyes for a moment. Opened them and said in a flat voice, disgusted with herself before she even began, "I need to talk to you. I can tell you about your sister."
Some of the harshness in his taut face dissolved for a moment, as he looked at her in disbelief. "What?" he asked. Then all of the hard lines and pain returned, and he stood taller, towering over her. His voice was demanding and backed by a pulsing anger that both frightened and saddened her. "Who the hell are you? What do you know?"
"My name is Dana Scully. I'm a trainee at Quantico." She was sweating, and felt a cold bead drip down her back under the ugly blouse she wore. She had his attention all right. "Mulder, I need your help."
She could feel his eyes sweeping up and down her body as he processed her, the information she promised, the use of his name. After a long moment broken only by his deep shaky inhale he nodded back into his office and pushed the door open wide. "Come in," he said roughly.
Scully complied, and thought about how best to admit she could only tell him so much about Samantha, because she was afraid to, afraid of what would happen if this Mulder knew as much as she did. It was just too risky. But would her reticence devastate him? Or enrage him? She realized as he shut the door behind her just how little she knew this old Mulder, and how much that scared her. A wordless thought in the back of her mind was that this was already a bad idea.
Mulder went to lean against a desk, one of two in the room, and stared at her mistrustfully. Trust no one. Right. His eyes were big in his bony, determined face. He seemed to be waiting for her to speak, but interrupted her as soon as she opened her mouth. "What do you know about Samantha? Who are you? Who sent you?"
"Mulder," Scully said, trying to pacify him.
"How do you know me?" He wore the expression of the angry interrogator, the one that usually appeared right before he punched an unwitting prisoner in the face. But she was no Roche, no Krycek. Couldn't be.
Scully hated herself for just a moment, for toying with his emotions, for knowing how to manipulate him to get her way. It hadn't seemed like a bad plan earlier. If she didn't mention his sister—the one thing she knew that even his past self cared about—he might ignore her, disregard her. Does that make it right? Of course not, she answered herself. But there would be time for guilt later. Mulder would understand eventually. She fought down another wave of self-directed revulsion. "What I'm going to say next will probably disturb you," she said. "I know a great deal about you and I need to prove that to you before I go on. I'm just asking you to hear me out."
Mulder didn't move.
Scully took a deep breath and began. "Your sister Samantha was abducted when you were twelve years old and she was eight. The event devastated you and fractured your family. When you were young, younger, you used to close your eyes before you went into a room and hope that she would be there, returned to you." Scully, paused, trying to gauge Mulder's reaction, but his face was frozen. She swallowed went on. "You used to want a peg leg, or at least that's what you tell people. When you attended Oxford you had a relationship with a girl named Phoebe Green, and the two of you had some joke about a…a three pipe problem. You like seeds, sunflower seeds, because your father liked them. You used to listen to him crunching them at night to reassure yourself that you weren't—"
Something reached a boiling point behind Mulder's eyes and he slammed his hand on the desk hard enough to hurt and yelled, "Shut up!" He was rigid with emotion and he snarled his next words. "Stop. Just stop. Either tell me what you're playing at or leave me the hell alone, but stop. I don't know you, Dana Scully, and but I know I sure as hell don't have the time for mind games."
He sounded angry and distraught. But beneath the fury was a profound weariness, and in another irrational moment Scully wanted nothing more than to pull him to her, to offer the comfort of a hug, to stroke his hair and kiss his lips and touch his skin until he was whole again.
"I'm sorry," she said, and noticed that her own voice was wavering, throaty with regret. "Mulder, I'm sorry. I needed to know that you would believe me. I… I mean, don't you, don't you want to know how I know so much?"
Mulder closed his eyes and massaged his forehead for a moment, a movement so familiar that Scully could almost forget this wasn't the man who gave her flowers for her birthday last month, who stopped at Starbucks every morning before work to buy her a latte. "Yes," he said finally, opening his eyes. He was no longer yelling. "I do. Of course I do."
Scully swallowed nervously, aware of how ridiculous her admission would sound. What if he didn't believe her? What if he told her to just get out? Just go for it, G-Woman. This was Mulder, believer extraordinaire but this wasn't her Mulder.
She bit her lip, took a deep breath and released it, and then spoke. "In a few years, Mulder, you will leave the BSU for a project called the X-files. I will be assigned to you as your partner. We'll work together for almost seven years, solving cases like, like this one. We'll be… friends. When I went to bed last night, it was the year 2000, and when I woke up I was here. Today. Eleven years younger than I was last night. Mulder, I don't know what to do. I don't know who else to go to. You have always been such a believer," Scully blinked back tears, "and so I hope you can believe me now. I realize that this doesn't make sense right now, but…"
Mulder was shaking his head and laughing silently.
"…but it's real, Mulder," she finished. "And we can come to understand this."
His eyes met hers and his expression—lips a thin line, one side of his face curled into an near-smile, eyes wide and disbelieving—was almost amused.
"You expect me to believe this bullshit?" he asked. "Listen, Dana Scully, if I had all day I might wait around for you to abandon the science fiction and make a point, but I don't. So either tell me the truth or get the hell out of my office and don't bother me again. I have to go."
The phone on Mulder's desk rang suddenly, and he pounced on it and practically spat his greeting. "Mulder." He listened for a moment, jaw grinding. Then, "Yes, yes, I know. … Of course not. Tell them to wait. … Tell them they're going to have to wait. Shit, Jerry, it's not like he's going anywhere. Yes. I'll be there in a few minutes." He slammed the phone down on the hook and turned his attention back to Scully. "I have to go," he said again, pulling away from the desk and heading toward the door. "So do you."
For a few seconds Scully was too stunned to do anything but state at Mulder—not her Mulder—in disbelief. Mention of his sister, secrets he hadn't shared with anyone in years, if ever, had failed to interest him. Where was that burning desire to seek the ever-elusive Truth? Her Mulder would have been fascinated by a story like hers. She could practically hear his theories in her head—time travel! A psychic! Dream sharing or past lives or déjà vu!
"Get out," Mulder said again. He was holding the door open for her, and had a briefcase in one hand.
"Wait," she said, breathless as if she'd run miles to find him. "At least let me come with you. I can help you, Mulder."
Another humorless smile twisted his face. "Don't make me call security."
Scully clenched her teeth. Think, Dana, think. You know him better than anyone. You should be able to make him believe.
"What case are you working on?" she asked.
"If it's a high-profile case, I might remember it. I might be able to help you."
They stood in the hallway, staring at each other. Scully couldn't read his expression. She remembered, achingly, another hallway conversation, in another building, another lifetime. This one seemed much less likely to end in anything sweet.
Mulder broke eye contact to glance at his watch, and started to stride down the hall. Scully was forced to jog to catch up with him. She looked up at him and found herself repeating a question that he had asked her, seven years ago, to which she had replied with a sigh. "Mulder, aren't you even curious?"
And Mulder snapped. "Am I curious?" he snarled and pivoted so that they were face to face. "Of course I'm curious. Of course I'm fucking curious! I want to know what happened to Samantha, and I want to know how the hell you know about her and me and I would love to have a chat about the intricacies of time travel some time but I can't Dana. I don't have the time and I can't make the time. Every minute I waste here talking to you is one that the son of a bitch I'm trying to catch can stalk and rape and murder more children and I can't let that happen. But you should know that already shouldn't you? Don't you? Well right now unless you are the killer you are not my concern. So no Dana, I am not curious right now because I don't have the time to be curious. Take your stories to someone else."
Note: I wrote the first 40,000 words of this story about five years ago and recently rediscovered it on my computer. I'm currently in the process of editing what I have, and will post new chapters as I do. Then I'll be picking up where I left off.
Reviews are very appreciated!