This wasn't the way it was supposed to have happened.
Dana Scully sat quietly in Walter Skinner's office, her hands clenched hard together in her lap. He had taken off his glasses and was wiping them carefully, looking at them, at the desk, out the window. Never once, over the past several minutes of their conversation, had he looked at Scully.
"I'm sorry, Scully." His voice had gentled but he still
didn't look at her. "I wanted to spare you this, but when Doggett
and I went to pick him up yesterday he refused to come with us. I
thought you might get a better response."
Scully nodded slowly, her mouth held so still and tight it hurt. She had to peel her lips apart to speak, and even then it was hard to move them. "It's all right, sir. I can handle it."
And she could handle it. She knew she could. She'd seen him three days dead, and three months not-quite-dead. She'd seen him bloodied and broken and mangled, frozen, shot, bruised and broken-hearted.
But she didn't want to see him like this.
She'd sent for him six weeks ago. Finally, after months of investigation and work and a final, painful, bloody confrontation with the forces endangering him, it had been safe for him to come home. She'd sent him the prearranged message, then waited at the train station.
He'd never come.
With no idea what had happened to him, she'd initiated an investigation. Skinner had assigned Doggett and they'd worked for the past month and a half looking everywhere. The only people who had any idea what his latest location might have been were the Lone Gunmen, so they'd been drawn in, as well.
And finally, yesterday, they'd found him.
And finally, today, after months of heartache and loneliness, she would see him again.
But this wasn't the way it was supposed to have happened.
She stood just far enough away that she was sure he couldn't see her, and stared until the tears stopped burning behind her eyes. Behind her, Skinner held her elbow.
"What happened to him?" she finally managed.
"We don't know for sure," said Skinner. "He wasn't treated at any hospitals. He showed up here a month ago and has been working here ever since. No one's even sure where he's been living."
"Are you ready?" Skinner asked.
She pressed her lips together and swallowed hard. "I'm ready."
She led the way.
He didn't look any different, not at first. The same tousled brown hair, the same beautiful face. But it was so strange to see him in the blue pinstriped fast food uniform. And when she walked up to the counter he looked at her and she looked into his eyes and saw nothing.
"May I help you?" he said.
"Yes." She forced herself to look right into his face. His beautiful, blank face. "Some men came by here yesterday to speak to you. They asked me to speak to you today."
He frowned, the familiar little furrow forming down the center of his brow. "I remember them." Then he looked at her harder, and the frown deepened. "I remember you."
Her heart gave a stutter of hope. "Do you?"
He gave a slow nod. "Yes. I remember you. But
I don't remember your name."
He agreed to talk to her, which was more than Skinner and Doggett had managed yesterday. He left her alone with him in the restaurant's break room. A few employees lingered curiously, trying to find out what was going on. Skinner flashed his badge and shooed them away.
He watched her warily across the small table.
"What do you remember?" she asked.
"I don't remember anything at all before about two months ago."
"Do you have any idea what might have happened? Were you hurt?"
"Not that I know of. I just . . . woke up. It was like my entire life started that moment."
She blinked hard. She had no idea how she was holding the pain at bay, pain that ripped at her insides like metal claws. "You said you remembered me."
He squinted and nodded. "I think I do. You look like someone I've met before, but I don't know where."
That was something, anyway. "You don't belong here, Mulder. I'd like to take you home, if you'll let me."
"I'm sorry. That's your name."
He put his face in his hands, rubbing his forehead in frustration. "I didn't remember that, either. I just told them to call me Bill."
"Your middle name is William. It's your father's name." Your son's name, but she couldn't tell him that, not yet.
"I see. And my first name would be . . .?"
"Fox." He made a face. "I don't like that."
She couldn't help smiling. "You never did."
"Fox William Mulder." His voice was little more than a breath. "It sounds right." He hesitated, then looked at her. "And what's your name?"
"Scully. Dana Scully."
He nodded again, seeming to take a moment to absorb the information. Finally he said, "And you say you want to take me home?"
"All right. I'll go."
At first she wasn't sure where to take him. And as she unlocked the door to her apartment, she still wasn't sure she was making the right decision. But she pushed the door open and let him walk ahead of her into the living room.
"This is where I live?" he said.
"You lived here for a while. Not very long." The truth seemed like the best course. He'd always valued the truth.
"This doesn't look like a place I would live."
"It's my apartment. It was ours for a few weeks."
He turned around slowly and looked at her, measured her up and down with his eyes. "We . . . lived together?"
"For a few weeks."
And then, dammit, a tear rolled down her cheek. She sniffed quickly and blotted it with her sleeve, but he had seen it.
"Scully," he said softly, and moved toward her. It was the most natural thing in the world for her to walk into his arms, let him cocoon her in his embrace. To listen to his heartbeat against her ear and smell his smell. It brought back so much, so many emotions, so many memories. None of which, she had to remind herself, he could share anymore.
But he had cupped the back of her head in his hand and laid his face against her hair, exactly the way he always had, and she was no longer physically able to hold back her tears.
"Scully," he said again. "Scully, I'm so sorry."
He held her until she quieted, and then, gently, she moved back. He looked down at her as she looked up at him, and for a moment the warmth was there in his eyes and it was almost as if he knew her again.
"I remember this," he said softly. "I remember holding you."
She smiled a little, because she didn't know what else to do.
She'd left William at her mother's for the day, feeling it was the most prudent thing to do. Later, while Mulder was in her shower, she called and asked if William could stay the night.
"How is he?" her mother asked. "How's Fox?"
"It's not good, Mom." Her voice shook, but the tears were gone for now. "He doesn't remember anything."
"I'm so sorry, Dana."
"Thanks, Mom. I'll be by for William in the morning."
He came out of the bathroom a few minutes later in his underwear, scrubbing his hair with a towel. His eyes sparked as he crossed into the living room.
"When I lived here," he said, "we slept in the same bed."
It wasn't a question. Scully nodded.
"Where will I be sleeping tonight?"
She looked at him and thought about all the scenarios she'd thought up about his first night home. Passion and fire and naked bodies tangled in the sheets. Carefully, gently, she let them go.
"You can sleep in my bed if you like."
"Will you be there?"
"Would that be all right with you?"
He tossed the towel over his head, scrubbing his scalp and obscuring his face at the same time. Gaining some privacy for himself, she thought. Finally he finished, lowered the towel, and said, "Yes."
So she put on her pajamas and crawled into her wide bed, and he combed his hair and climbed in after her, his body still chilly from his shower. She flipped off the light and cuddled down into her pillow. Next to her, he lay very still.
After a time she felt him turn over, and his hand cupped her shoulder. "Scully?"
She fought down the heat of her body's response to his touch, clenching the sheet in her fist. "Yes?"
He moved closer, until he was spooned against her. "We used to lay like this, didn't we?"
A tear fell as she squeezed her eyes shut. "Yes."
"Is this all right?"
"Yes. It's fine."
He put his nose against her hair, and she felt his breathing against
her back, until it softened into sleep.
The phone rang in the middle of the night, awakening her from a dark dream. She'd turned off the ringer on the bedside phone, to keep it from disturbing William, but she heard the ring from the kitchen. Mulder still lay next to her, one arm draped over her waist. It had been a common position for them. Apparently his body remembered things his mind didn't.
Carefully, she extricated herself and tiptoed into the kitchen, wondering what had happened with William to cause her mother to call at this hour.
But the voice on the other end of the line wasn't Maggie Scully's.
"I know what happened to Mulder," the woman said.
Scully straightened, off guard. "Who the hell is this?"
"Meet me outside. I need to talk to you."
The connection broke off. Scully stared at the phone a moment, then turned it off and headed back to the bedroom.
Silently, she dressed, watching Mulder to be sure he didn't wake up. With him still sleeping soundly, she slipped out of the apartment and downstairs.
She didn't know if she was surprised or angry to see the woman waiting for her on the stoop.
"Marita Covarrubias," she said.
Marita nodded. Scully noticed then the dark circles under her eyes. Tired, or sick, Scully wondered which, then decided she didn't care.
"You said you knew what was wrong with Mulder. Tell me."
Marita pushed blonde hair back behind her ear. Her fingers trembled. "This has been a process. It started with the operation, when Mulder nearly died from the effects of the alien artifact you found in Africa."
"Yes." That had been as bad as this. They'd lived through it. The thought gave her some hope.
"You know Mulder was operated on, that some tissue was removed from his brain."
"That wasn't all. There was an implant, designed to be used in case of extreme emergency."
Scully pushed back all her emotional reaction to this. How much damage had these people done to him? To her? It seemed to never end. "Go on."
"The neurological disorder detected in him later that year was caused by this procedure. It didn't go as planned. When he went through the transformation initiated by the aftereffects of his abduction, the disorder was cured. But the implant remained."
"What exactly was this implant?"
"As I said, it was to be used in case of extreme emergency. To disrupt part of the memory retrieval system in Mulder's brain. It was intended to stop him if he continued his quest."
"How was it to be triggered?" It amazed Scully that she could answer these probing and cogent questions. It amazed her she could be even partially coherent.
"So who decided to trigger it?"
Marita looked at her squarely. "I did."
Scully stared at her. It occurred to her that she'd never wanted so much to rip a person apart with her bare hands. "Why?"
"To protect him. I thought if he forgot everything he knew, he could come home. I thought--"
To Scully's surprise, Marita was crying. She fought the tears for a time, then put a hand over her mouth and drew herself back together. "I lost Alex. I'm not sure I ever loved him, but it hurt so much when he died. I thought if he could come back to you-- I thought it could make up for what we did to you, and to him."
Scully ground her teeth together until her jaw ached. "Nothing could ever make up for this. Nothing." She turned and started back up the stairs.
Marita took a step toward her. "I just thought--"
Scully wheeled on her. "He was safe. We eliminated the threat. He could have come home and been perfectly safe. Now my son has a father who doesn't even know his own name."
She stormed up the steps, barely hearing Marita's choked, "I'm
sorry. I'm so sorry."
She stripped off her clothes and put her silk pajamas back on, then carefully slid back into the bed, under the covers. Into Mulder's waiting arms.
He drew her to him and kissed her, long and deep. She melted into him, reveling in the taste of his mouth, his tongue, all the familiar textures.
Finally, he drew away and peered down at her through the darkness. "I remember this," he said. "I can barely remember my name but I remember this. I remember holding you, lying here with you. I remember making love to you. I remember what it feels like to be inside you."
"Mulder," she managed, no longer fighting the tears.
"Thank you," he answered. "Thank you for bringing me home."
There was one more thing to deal with, one more thing to spring on him before she could feel safe again. The next morning she left him alone in her apartment while she went to pick up William.
When she came home he was poking through her kitchen cabinets, pulling out cereal boxes and looking at them, then putting them back. Gently, she closed the door behind her, maneuvering William's carrier out of the way.
He turned. "Do I like any of this cereal?"
"You'll have to try it and find out, I guess." She set the carrier on the couch, then carefully extricated the baby. He was awake, but just barely, his eyes drooping. Mulder came slowly across the room, his attention riveted to William's drowsy face. She held him up where Mulder could see him.
"This is William," she said. "My son."
"William," he repeated. "You said my father's name was William. And my middle name is William."
He peered closer, then touched the baby's cheek with his finger. "He looks like me."
She waited with her heart in her throat, wondering if this had been too much. It was one thing to return to a strange life where a woman was willing to take you into her bed and her heart, but it was quite another to discover a child was part of the equation.
William's eyes brightened a little and he grabbed Mulder's finger in his little hand. Mulder smiled. He looked at the baby for a long time, then turned his eyes to Scully.
"My brain doesn't remember very many things," he said slowly, "but my heart does."
Scully swallowed tears as he gently took the bundle of blanket and baby from her arms, cradling it against his chest. William cooed as Mulder started to hum.
She thought about the keenly intelligent man who'd befriended her, then loved her. Who'd challenged her at every turn, and who'd shared so many strange adventures with her. She thought about all the ideas she'd had about what her life would be like with him.
Carefully, gently, she let them all go. The story would be different, but it could still be a good one.