Title: LIGHT MY WAY (Follow-up to "Born innocent")
Author: X-Phylia (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Disclaimer: The X-Files belong to CC and the Fox Network.
Category: SA. Angst-Comfort, MT.
Rate: NC-17 (for language, subject matter and situations, but nothing too explicit.)
Archive: Yes, just keep the header and let me know.
Feedback: If you're reading this story, it's because of all the emails I received on my previous ones. So go ahead, write me!
Spoilers: mostly general knowledge until early season 5.
Summary: Samantha's death has pushed a battered Mulder over the edge. Scully desperately tries to bring him back, but the darkness threatens to engulf her too.
Notes: 1) The title was taken from U2's song "Ultraviolet". 2) I did a little research before writing about the medical and psychological issues, but I don't pretend to be an expert. Any mistake is mine.
I'd like to thank Bridget for doing the beta in record time and to all of you who sent me feedback on the previous stories. Thanks for your encouragement and patience.
"Light my way"
The words 'twenty years' floated in the air, ringing in my ears.
Mulder passed out after hearing them, and his mother seemed ready to collapse herself, as if she had realized for the first time the full meaning of those words. I was so stunned that I didn't react. I pulled my partner closer against me, an instinctive gesture to shelter him from a cruel world hell-bent on hurting him. He had resisted all sorts of attacks, bouncing back like a proverbial yo-yo, but I knew he wouldn't come out of this one so easily. I couldn't bring myself to wake him up and force him to deal with reality yet, at least not until *I* had regained my own balance.
I pondered about the woman sitting in front of me, her glassy eyes, full of the guilt of unconfessed sins. What was going through her mind? Had she done this on purpose? Mrs. Mulder had a unique power over her son, a capacity to manipulate his emotions in a way no one else was able to not even me. I guess every mother has it, but how many of them are willing to use it to provoke a nervous breakdown in their
Even though I was ready to knock her lights out a few minutes earlier, what I saw in her eyes the loneliness, the fear - made it hard to stay angry at her. Compared to his mother, Mulder was stability personified. She was damaged beyond repair, and my stomach cringed when I thought that my partner would certainly end up like her if he didn't receive help immediately.
The silence in the room was oppressive. Mulder was still out cold, I covered him with a blanket and petted his hair rhythmically. I wanted him to feel me close when he came to. His mother was watching with a mixture of tender concern and sheer envy. Her arms seemed to ache to do what I was doing, her eyes were full of tears she wouldn't shed in front of me.
Life had made her an emotionally crippled person, unlike her sensitive and volatile son. She seemed desperate to touch him, to gather him against her, but she couldn't. And Mulder wouldn't let her anyway. Had it always been like this for them?
Mrs. Mulder watched silently as I ran my fingers through his hair.
"His sister used to do that," she whispered. "It always seemed to comfort him." I certainly wasn't in the mood to do any talking, but the chance to know something about Mulder through the eyes of his mother was too good to pass up.
"Oh, did she?"
"Yes," she smiled softly. "Samantha adored her brother, and Fox was unusually patient with her. Sometimes she'd convince him to play dolls, and insisted on his being 'her baby'. She'd make him lie down on her bed and tuck him in, then she'd sit, put his head on her lap, and just pet his hair. Those were about the only times Fox would keep quiet for more than five minutes."
I blinked back fresh tears, not for Mulder this time, but for that brave little girl who gave her tormented big brother those precious moments of peace. I couldn't understand how this woman, being their mother, didn't realize back then that her son wasn't just trying to please his little sister, he was seeking comfort and tenderness from the only person in the house that he wasn't afraid of.
Saturday, 7:08 pm
Before her departure to Colorado to meet us, Mrs. Mulder had requested her daughter's body to be transported to Greenwich, where she lived, for proper burial.
Mulder wanted to take the remains back to DC, but his mother refused; her only concession was allowing me to do the autopsy. Unfortunately, the body was too far gone to draw any definitive conclusion.
The autopsy revealed little information; no indication of trauma was found, no trace of illness or toxic chemicals. Mulder knew
how difficult it was to establish a cause of death in a decayed corpse with no obvious signs, but I was frustrated at my inability to give him an answer about what had happened to his sister. It felt like I failed him.
What I could give him, though, was certainty about her identity.
Before she was prepped for the coffin, Mulder asked to see his sister's body, to make sure that it was really her, even if there was not much to be recognized. He needed the closure, to see what was left of her with his own eyes. He traced his fingers over the collarbone that sported a distinct mark and studied the RFLP results that had confirmed that the remains had once been Samantha Mulder.
"Are these good, Scully? Is it really her?" I wanted nothing more than to say no, or at least that I wasn't sure. But you can't argue against DNA.
"Look at these bands here," I pointed at the film with the RFLP results. "This lane is your mom, and this is the body. Can you see the bands matching?"
"Yes, but there are a few that don't match."
"No, a full match would mean they were identical. But these are enough to determine there is a genetic relationship between them. A sample of your tissues would reveal a similar pattern of bands, some would match your mother's, some wouldn't."
"But the clones we've seen couldn't this be one of them?"
"It wouldn't make sense, Mulder. This body is too old for that. I can't imagine a fourteen-year-old clone that has been dead this long."
"Scully, all the clones looked as old as Samantha would have been if she had been alive. How can that be, if the experiments supposedly began when she was eight? And why would this be any different?" Trust Mulder to ask the right questions even when he's half out of his mind with pain. I could almost see a ray of hope in his eyes, and I hated myself for taking it away.
"Fox," the use of his first name never failed to get his full
attention. "Come here. Sit down," I coaxed him. "If this were a clone, it would have disintegrated, like they all did. And more importantly, we don't know how she got here. There's absolutely no evidence of mistreatment."
"That doesn't mean it didn't happen, does it? Besides, can we really trust those tests? How do we know they weren't doctored?" I took his hand firmly and forced him to look at me.
"Mulder don't do this to yourself. I know it hurts, I know how much you wanted to find her alive and well, but remember you once thought this could have happened. I can't explain where those clones came from. If you doubt these tests we can run them again, I can do it myself, with a sample of your blood if you want. But honestly, I don't think the outcome will be any different." He absorbed the words and nodded very slowly.
"I bet that cigarette-smoking bastard was amused when I almost gave up everything just to be with my alleged sister," he said bitterly. Then he pierced me with desperate eyes. "Scully, are you sure it's her?" My ears heard his question, but in my mind echoed the real one, what he was really saying: "If you tell me it's her, I'll believe you."
"I'm pretty sure, Mulder. Her dental records also match, and you've seen the mark in her collarbone. I'm sorry, I know it's not what you wanted to hear but I would never lie to you."
He handed me the papers and carefully took the tiny and fragile bones of his sister's hand in his own. His eyes were full of defeated acceptance and pain, watching the body as if he could still see an eight-year-old brown-haired girl just sleeping over the cold slab of the morgue.
"Oh Sam, what happened to you? I'm sorry, squirt, I'm so sorry, please forgive me, I couldn't save you, I couldn't find you" he sobbed brokenly. "What am I going to do now, Scully? What am I going to do?"
"We'll figure it out, partner."
"I told myself it wasn't true, that it was all another hoax, another lie everything else was a lie, Scully, why *this* has to be real?"
After we left the morgue we checked in a hotel, politely refusing Mrs. Mulder's offer to stay at her house. Once denial was no longer an option, Mulder's grief, anger and frustration were rising to a whole new level. I noticed how tense he was, as well as the numerous times he visited the toilet even when all I had gotten him to pass down his throat was some Gatorade. I felt guilty for having denied him immediate release back in Colorado. When he came to, after a good half hour of blissful unconsciousness, I took him to bed and injected him a massive dose of Valium. I couldn't risk him going crazy on me in the middle of nowhere, I still had to get us both back to the East coast. He was zoned out the following morning, but at least he could function enough to travel. I upgraded our tickets to first class so he could be more comfortable, and Mulder slumbered the whole trip.
The service was brief, but it had devastating effects on my partner. I doubt he got more than an hour of sleep the night before, and he looked terrible even in his dark designer suit that the Gunmen had picked up from his apartment on their way to Greenwich. The air between him and his mother was as cold as everything else was on that dull, rainy day. Mulder spent the whole ceremony staring at the small coffin, as if he expected it to open up and show a little girl playing seek and hide. It was ironical that I was the one crying and not him, but seeing
Mulder there, trembling in the cold and watching how his greatest hope was descended into the frozen ground was too much to bear. The worst part was when he kneeled down, grabbed some soil and dropped it to the lowered coffin. God, he stayed there so long that I was afraid he'd never get up again. He looked lonely and defeated, as if he wanted to
jump down to into the ground himself.
Once the ceremony was over, Mulder shook hands, nodded, even dedicated a small smile to a pretty woman who turned out to be a schoolmate of Samantha - but he never uttered a single word aloud. Maybe he was scared he would start screaming if he did. He couldn't care less for the majority of those people, they were mere acquaintances of his mother, but at least his own friends were there too.
The Gunmen had driven all the way from DC to Greenwich in their battered van in order to pay their respects, and I couldn't say how grateful I felt to them. They took Mulder away from the small crowd and kept him company, leaving me alone with Skinner, who had found the time to attend to funeral as well.
"How is he, Scully?" he asked with concern, watching Mulder with The Three Stooges.
"I don't think he's fully aware of what's going on, sir."
"I'd say he's taking things amazingly well."
"That's my point, he's taking this *too* well."
Skinner offered to drive us back to DC, and I accepted gratefully. We were extremely tired, and I didn't feel like going through the hassle of airports again. The weather was truly awful, it was very cold and rainy, and the wind didn't help. I traveled in the passenger seat, hoping Mulder would take
advantage of the large, comfortable back seat and rest a little. I knew he had to be exhausted, the two previous nights had been terrible for him. Instead, he just leaned over the window and stared at the passing vehicles on the I-95. Tension was almost palpable in his body and face expression. His fists were clenched tightly, his breathing uneven. I grimaced at the kind of memories his mind might be recalling, obviously they weren't nice ones.
About an hour later, the sky was almost completely dark, matching Mulder's mood. Then, all of a sudden, he pronounced his first words in hours.
"Stop the car." His voice sounded thick and kind of distorted.
"What?" Skinner turned slightly to look at him.
"Stop the god-damned car!"
"Okay, I'll pull over in the next rest area."
"No! Stop it now!" I was a little anxious, he looked ready to punch his fist right through the glass, but then I noticed he was sweaty and pale.
"What is it, Mulder? Do you feel sick?" He nodded, and fortunately Skinner managed to reach the lane that lead to the rest area.
The car had barely stopped when Mulder jumped out of it and started to retch. Nothing but bile came up, since he had refused to eat all day, He was trembling all over, and sure it wasn't for the cold. The rest area was seemingly deserted, except for a couple of employees who were inside listening to some game on the radio. Mulder sat down on a bench and tried to regain his composure. Skinner stayed in the car while I went to him. I handed him his trench coat, sat down with him and took his icy cold hand. He didn't push me away, but he was like a turtle withdrawn inside its shell.
The silence was disturbed by the motor of a car that had parked on the driveway. A man got out of the vehicle followed by a young boy. The child, probably ten years old, was whining about something and pestering his father. Mulder looked at them absently, he didn't seem to be paying much
attention. But all of the sudden the man got fed up with the boy's antics and smacked him. I could tell he hadn't hit him so hard, but the kid tripped and fell flat on the floor. When Mulder saw the kid's tears well up in his hurt, innocent eyes, all hell broke lose.
"What the fuck do you think you're doing?" he shouted, pushing the surprised man.
"No, what are *you* doing?" the man struck back.
"You coward! Does this make you feel powerful?" he pointed at the still fallen and now frightened kid. "Do you get your kicks hitting a defenseless child that won't fight back? Huh? Why don't you mess with someone your own size, you son of a bitch?"
"Get off me!" the man fought to get rid of Mulder's grip.
I was upset myself at the sight of a grown man hitting a kid, even if no big harm was done. Mulder's reaction, especially under the current circumstances, was more than understandable; but he had no right to take things in his hand.
This was not the way, and I tried to stop him before he did something stupid.
"Mulder, stop it, that's enough!" He was beyond reason, obnubilated by his out of control fury. The father of the child was a sturdy guy and fought back. He connected a couple of mean hooks in Mulder's stomach and ribs, Mulder had given him a bloody nose in response. At that point it was obvious that none of them would listen, so I went back to the car and called Skinner.
When we came back, Mulder had the other man pinned up against the wall, his forearm pressed against his throat. He was so far gone in his madness that he wouldn't even notice that the very same boy he was trying to protect was begging him not to hurt his daddy.
"Let him go, Mulder!" Skinner shouted. Skinner's voice of command did work and Mulder released him. A woman, presumably the man's wife and kid's mother, showed up
attracted by the hassle.
"Mom, mom!" the boy ran to her.
"What's going on, Danny? Oh my God, Travis! Your nose!"
"That's what he gets for hitting a little boy!" Mulder panted. "I saw it!" The woman stared at him for a moment, but then showed a great deal of common sense by taking the child away from the violent scene.
"You're a crazy asshole! Who do think you are? What gives you the right to tell *me* how to raise *my* son?" Mulder tried to jump over him again, only to find himself restrained by
Skinner's bigger and stronger arms.
"What gives you the right to hit him? He's what? Ten, eleven years old?"
"I'm not about to give you any explanations, what I'll do instead is press charges against you, you psycho!" Skinner dragged Mulder back to the car, I stayed behind to apologize to the man. I briefly explained the reason for my partner's violent outburst, not wanting to go into details with a stranger. Travis Robertson was a reasonable, sensitive man, and his demeanor changed considerably after he heard me. He agreed not to press charges, but insisted in that Mulder needed help.
"Tell him I'd never hurt my children like that, Ms. Scully. Danny is a good kid, but sometimes he needs limits. I'm sure you understand."
"I do, Mr. Robertson, and so does Mulder. You just caught him in a very bad moment."
Mulder's 'bad moment' seemingly wasn't over yet, because now he was wrestling with Skinner.
"What the hell was that about, Mulder?"
"The bastard decked the boy! Ask Scully!"
"And you hit him back! For Christ sake, Mulder! That boy was asking you not to hurt his daddy and you didn't even see him!"
"Well, he must have been scared that 'daddy' might take revenge later!" With Mulder still trapped in his arms, Skinner turned in my direction looking for a clue to my partner's overreaction. I had to avert my eyes.
"Let go of me!" he screamed, writhing like a slippery fish. But instead of releasing his grip, the boss only held him tighter. I felt panic and rage build inside Mulder as easily as if it were happening to me.
"Let him go, sir!" He continued trying to hold down Mulder, who was now screaming really loud. I shouted again. "Skinner! Let him go! Now!" Probably startled by the tone of my voice, Skinner released him immediately. Mulder fell on the damp grass on his knees and lowered the rest of his body to the ground, covering his face with his hands.
It was one moment, just a few seconds. It seemed to me that the world had stopped turning, and the images froze before my eyes. I looked at the three of us, Skinner with shock painted on his face, Mulder slumped and crying on the floor, and myself asking when things had gone so wrong. We must have made a bad turn somewhere along the road that led us here. I realized I had carelessly assumed that Mulder would always break down
in comfortable and safe places, where we could have some privacy. If anything, this was showing me how wrong I was in regard to my partner's ability to control himself. I had seen him fight for that control back in Colorado, and barely keeping it.
No wonder Skinner was astounded; he hadn't seen Mulder deteriorate little by little as I had.
"Sir, have you got a blanket in your trunk we can use?"
Skinner nodded, almost relieved to have an excuse to flee the
uncomfortable scene. I loosened Mulder's tie and felt his pulse, it was racing; his breaths were coming in short gasps too. I tried to soothe him in the usual way, but he was trembling and sobbing uncontrolably. Skinner helped me carry him back to the car and handed me my medical stuff and Mulder's duffel bag. Mulder's suit was wet from lying on the floor and his teeth were chattering with cold, all of him felt cold.
Even though he wouldn't say a word, Skinner was quite upset. He got back into the car, put the heater in full blast and just nose-dived back into the traffic. In the back seat, I was helping Mulder change into more comfortable clothes.
"I'm c-cold," he stammered.
"I know, we'll get you warm in a sec."
"I'm sorry, Scully, I just I saw that kid"
"I understand, Mulder, but he seemed to be a nice man. He asked me to tell you that he'd never hurt his son."
"I feel so stupid"
"Well, you did a stupid thing. You're lucky he won't be pressing charges."
"I could have killed him, Scully. If I had had my gun."
"Shh, it's okay now. You're tired, lie down and try to get some sleep. It's a long way to DC."
He lowered himself on my lap, burying his face on my belly as he usually did when he needed to hide himself from the world. It made me feel a little uncomfortable that he did that in front of Skinner, but Mulder didn't seem to mind; except that he sobbed very quietly, as if not wanting to be heard by the boss.
He didn't last long, though. A few minutes of my fingers caressing the back of his neck and he was out like a light. Skinner put on the radio to break the remaining tension and Mulder didn't even flinch. We made a tacit, unspoken agreement to remain silent. I didn't want to talk, all I wanted to do was think; about how good it felt to have Mulder in my arms like that, and about the guilt that came with such a
feeling. Think about how he was spiraling down and taking me under with him, and whether I was prepared to acknowledge that fact or not.
"You're losing your perspective here, Scully," Skinner said after a while. "I don't think you realize how bad this looks from the outside."
"What do you mean by that exactly, sir?"
"I mean that Mulder is a mess, that he's getting worse by the day, and that you're no longer objective when it comes to him."
I gritted my teeth, swallowed my anger. He was right, of course, but his rather blunt way of saying it offended me. I had to be stupid to miss the unsaid words: he's screwed up and you're protecting him. I chose not to reply, just in case I might say something I would regret later. Besides, I didn't like talking about Mulder as if he weren't there. He might be absent for Skinner, but his sleeping body felt pleasantly heavy against mine.
"I'm not here to pry into your lives, Scully," he insisted.
"However, I'm sure you realize that it would be negligent on my part to authorize him to go to the field in his current condition."
"I appreciate your concern, sir, but there's no need to worry about that yet. Mulder will be on leave for a while, anyway."
An intelligent man, Skinner dropped the subject and drove silently.
As soon as we got home, I went to bed. Not Scully's, the one in her spare bedroom. I wanted to be alone, in fact, I think I mentioned going back to my apartment, but Scully wouldn't even hear about it. It's hard to put down in words how I felt back then. I constantly asked myself why was I still alive, why should I stand all that pain, but I couldn't come up with any good reasons. It got to a point where I couldn't calm down; I cried not just because I was sad, but because I was powerless to do anything else. I don't even want to imagine what it must have been like for Scully. She stayed with me for hours, talking to me or just caressing me when she ran out of words. It was she who dragged me out of the bed to eat, shave and shower, or even walk a little around her apartment. Left to my own devices, I only cried myself to sleep hoping to sleep myself to
death. I'd let Scully hold me from time to time, but not even that seemed to be working anymore. Sometimes it helped, and I ended up asleep in her arms, exhausted. Sometimes it didn't, and she'd just give up and leave me alone.
No matter how big my wish to die had been in the past, my will to live was always more powerful. I'd been relentless, as long as I had my faith, my hope, nothing and no one would stop me. But now there was nothing left. My beliefs were a bunch of lies that had cost the lives of too many people, many of them perfect innocents, like Melissa Scully. My partner, the person I loved most in the world, had suffered horribly because of those lies. But amidst of all the lies, one thing remained true: my sister *had* been abducted, she was still missing, and I still had to find her. I refused to believe that the woman in that diner was the real Samantha. The Samantha I knew would have listened, trusted me. But the Samantha I knew was dead, and she had been dead all the time. I hadn't even moved to England at the time she died, my quest was over much earlier than it had started. And the last, most cruel joke of all, was that it was my mother who found her, not me.
Just thinking about her was painful, even more than thinking about my father. It was strange how mom's indifference hurt more than dad's beatings in the end. At least I always knew what my father thought of me, my eidetic memory couldn't recall the last time he said something nice to me, except for the night he died. I wish I knew what he was trying to tell me. His last words to me were 'Forgive me'. Forgive you for what, dad? For molesting and raping me? For letting my sister go
and putting the blame on me? For not telling me the truth?
I don't know if I can forgive you. I'm not a saint.
And what about you, mom? You come in and out of my life like a ghost, you haunt me even when you're still alive technically, at least. I wonder what are you doing now. Are you watching TV? Playing cards with your friends? Shopping? One thing is for sure, I cannot picture you locked up in the darkness crying your heart out. You don't cry, you just take pills. You can't stand seeing me cry either, you hate me for being so weak.
But I'm not weak, mom, I never was. I survived, and I did it on my own. Now I'm just tired, too damn tired of everything, I'll just go back to sleep.
Friday, 2:13 pm
A week later
A week after Samantha's funeral, I was ready to admit that Mulder was a mess, and that he wasn't getting better. His proverbial resilience, which I had taken for granted, was nonexistent this time; and I found myself resenting Mulder for it. Why couldn't he get over this? Everybody had to face painful loses in their lives. I had lost my father and my sister myself; it wasn't like I didn't know what it was like to lose a loved one.
I felt terrible for him, no one should have to experience what Mulder was going through. It would have been easier for me to drug him out of his misery, but that was pure selfishness; not once had he ask for that kind of relief. I had therefore no other choice but to let him exorcise his demons in his own way and resort to my usual role of comfort-giver. Only this time it seemed that the effect was wearing thin, and more than a few times I simply left him to cry in his room and closed the door behind me. Cruel as it sounds, it was the only way I could keep my own sanity.
I didn't want to leave him alone when he was so unstable, but I
desperately needed to go back to work. I needed some time on my own, a few hours a day where I could interact with other people, get a little normalcy in my life. I tried to talk to Mulder about that and he just shrugged. That hurt a little, I was ingenuously hoping that he'd show some interest in going back to work. Skinner had told me that I was no longer objective when it came to my partner and I had been offended, but watching Mulder in the state he was made me reconsider his words. Honestly speaking, I barely recognized my partner anymore. He wasn't the Fox Mulder I knew and fell in love with. *That* Mulder was strong, passionate, funny I could enumerate at least a dozen of adjectives that described his old
self but didn't remotely apply to the man he was now. It tore me apart when he watched me like saying a silent prayer, maybe afraid that I'd give up on him; but for the sake of both of us, I had to draw a line. I couldn't let the abyss take me too.
"I'm going out for a few hours, Mulder. Will you be okay?" He nodded. Damn, he didn't even speak any more! "Do you need anything?" He shook his head, and I sighed in defeat. Once I climbed into my car, the tears came unabashedly. I drove
aimlessly or not so aimlessly, more on automatic pilot, because when my brain connected with my eyes again I found myself very near the Hoover building. I parked and walked the remaining few blocks, it was a cold but sunny afternoon. The wind was chilly but I didn't mind, in any case, it helped clear the cobwebs inside my head.
I got inside the building and instinctively went to our office. It had been a while since anyone had been there. Paranoid-Mulder wouldn't allow the janitors to clean the place, so it was dusty and smelly. I turned on the lights and left the door open to ventilate it. I walked around, looking at Mulder's things as if I've never seen them before. His files, his poster, his basketball, his ever messy desk everything there reminded me of the Mulder I knew, and it was very comforting. I smiled to myself, obviously the subconscious, intuitive part of my mind had directed me here. If I closed my eyes for a moment, I could even pretend that he was just running an errand and would come back any minute.
Once I promised Mulder that I'd go to him when I needed to cry. Well, I needed to cry. Of course I couldn't go to him, promise or no promise, so my mind came up with the next best thing: the place where we first met, where we practically lived in the past five years. Our story is written in those files. No one would hear me here certainly not a Friday at this hour. So I
sat down in his chair, bent over his desk and cried for him, for both of us. I would have given anything to have my partner's comforting arms around me, to hear his soft voice telling me everything was going to be okay.
By the time I got home previously stopping at Skinner's office to arrange my personal leave - I felt refreshed and ready to drag Mulder to a therapist first thing in the morning. I had suggested it already; but he had refused, arguing that talking only made him worse and that he didn't want other people dissecting his life. I let him be, hoping he'd get better on his own. Clearly, that hadn't been the case. Mulder was displaying many of the
classic symptoms of a major depression. He was moody and irritable, he either slept all day or couldn't sleep at all, and had lost interest in things he used to enjoy, like sports. In spite of all the times I teased him about his taste in entertainment, I would have been happy to see him watch one of his videos; at least it would show that he still had his libido. His health was also deteriorating at an alarming rate. He never fully recovered from the gastrointestinal problems he had suffered in Colorado, and now he also had a persistent cold. He had lost at least twenty pounds since the Dobson case. And then, like a monster lurking in the dark, there was the one thing I was afraid to even think about: Mulder had an extensive history of suicide attempts, he had tried to kill himself for much less.
He had warned me that I wouldn't be able to stop him if he really wanted to take his life, but I wasn't about to make it easier for him. Just in case, I took our guns and locked them away, together with the ammo. I didn't want to repeat my performance of having to identify his body, this time for real.
I found Mulder that night in the very same place he was when I left earlier in the afternoon, curled up in his bed. The room was dark and stuffy and he was crying, clutching to the pillow for dear life. I sat with him in the bed and started to rub his shoulder until he calmed down.
"I'm going back to my place tomorrow," he murmured with a raspy, thick voice. His statement shocked me, but I hid it as best as I could.
"I thought you were comfortable here, Mulder."
"I'm ruining your life, Dana. You don't deserve this."
"Neither do you."
"Don't argue with me. I'm going home."
"To do what exactly, Mulder?" He didn't reply, but his silence was all the answer I needed. That tacit admittance of his dark intentions nearly did me in.
I decided that the subject of the therapist would have to wait, he wasn't exactly in the most receptive mood. I had to change my strategy. I coaxed him out of the bed and into the bathtub, where I prepared a bubble bath. Of course, he'd never admit he liked such girlie stuff, but I knew he secretly enjoyed them. I cringed at the sight of his once well-toned, muscular body; now he was skin and bones and moved with the grace of a ninety-year-old. He moved into the foamy water, leaned back and relaxed. I left him alone, I had noticed that lately he'd rather have some privacy, when not so long ago he was always finding ways to get me into the bathtub with him. I insisted in doing the shaving, though. I tried to make it look like it was a minor detail, but the truth was that I was afraid to leave him
alone with a blade in his hands. He gazed at me with a knowing look, full of hurt.
"First you take all the bottles with pills you had in your cabinet, then you put our guns away, and now you won't let me hold a razor blade. What happened to trust, Scully?" It was a blow in my stomach, but I recovered quickly.
"Then tell me I'm overreacting, Mulder. Tell me that I have no reason to be scared." He took a deep breath and coughed violently.
"So you *are* scared," he gasped.
"Yes, I am," I said softly. "You need help, Mulder. You know that."
I didn't say anything else and neither did he, but he allowed me to shave him. His skin, pale as it was, was soft and beautiful.
After the bath, I insisted that we go out for dinner. Mulder didn't seem too happy with the idea, but he gave in. While he was dressing, I handed him his black turtleneck, which not only looked great on him, but also helped disguise his thinness.
We went to a small restaurant in Georgetown and ordered our food. Not for the first time I noticed the glimpses other women and at least two men - were throwing in Mulder's direction. He looked beautiful, his mixture of unconscious sensuality and vulnerability was simply irresistible.
He was completely unaware of the attention he was attracting, though; his eyes were fixed in our hands entwined over the table. We ate in silence, the food was so delicious that Mulder consumed it with a modicum of enthusiasm. However, as the place was getting more and more crowded, he started to become agitated.
"You okay, Mulder?"
"Can we please go home, Scully? I'm not feeling so great," he asked quietly. He only settled completely when we were both under the covers of my bed, in front of the TV. I cuddled up against him, putting my head on his shoulder and wrapping
an arm around his chest. "I'm sorry, Dana," he mused. "I'm a mess, and I'm turning your life into one."
"Well, I wouldn't call this a mess. It's Friday night, it's cold
outside, and we're here warm and cozy in bed after enjoying a delicious meal."
"Nice try, but you don't fool me. I don't want you to see me like this, Scully. It's bad enough when you're sad, but it hurts too much knowing it's because of me."
"And you think that shutting me out will make me feel any better?" He didn't say anything for a while, but tears flowed down his cheeks.
"Why are you doing this, Dana? How can a woman like you possibly want someone like me in her life? I'm nothing but trouble." I hated it when he talked like that.
"Oh, but it's your money I'm interested in I thought we were clear on that," I replied sardonically. Mulder smiled, then insisted.
"Tell me, Scully." I sighed.
"You can be so dense, Mulder. I'm here because I love you,
simple as that. You make me feel loved, needed, trusted No one ever made me feel like that before." He wiped the tears from his eyes and kissed me softly.
"Thank you. I really needed to hear that."
A few hours later, I woke up to his screams and subsequent run to the bathroom. I heard him retch and cough violently, but then he went silent. Against my own instincts, I didn't go to him; he needed some privacy when he was sick. Ten minutes later he was back, doubled over with pain. He lay down gingerly and curled up on the bed with his arms bent over his stomach, breathing with difficulty. His hair and forehead
were sweaty, and I didn't need much light to see that he was very pale. I allowed him a few minutes to regroup, and when he relaxed a little, I spooned behind him. I passed my hand over his waist and rubbed his belly up and down, but instead of calming down, he started to cry. A little more than tired and upset, I sat up in bed, turned on the light and waited patiently until he was done. This was going too far, too soon.
"Mulder," I called him.
"M'sorry I woke you up"
"Mulder, we have to do something about this."
"I'm tired, Scully. I want to go back to sleep."
"All right, I'll let it pass for tonight, but we're definitely talking
The morning started where the previous night had ended, with Mulder rushing to the bathroom. The vomiting and diarrhea were gradually debilitating him.
"How are you feeling?" I asked him.
"You hardly slept last night." He shook his head imperceptibly and curled up in the bed.
"What are you going to do, Mulder?"
"I don't know."
"You can't go on like this. You're killing yourself, only slower."
"Give me my gun then, I'll speed it up." I flinched.
"I will, if you think that's the only way to end your pain. Never mind that I'll probably be the one to find you; after all, I
already know the drill."
"Don't lecture me, Scully. I'm not in the mood."
"Then stop being so selfish!" He raised from the bed, anger and frustration painted on his face.
"Great! Now you sound like my mother! What is it with you people?" The reference to Mrs. Mulder was intended to hurt me, and instead of remaining levelheaded, I reacted.
"What is it with *you*, dammit? I'm not your mother! I'm not trying to minimize what you've been through, but you have to stop feeling sorry for yourself!"
"See? You're just like her! 'Why can't you move on?', 'It happened over twenty years ago'! Do you want me to repeat the whole fucking conversation? Because you know damn well I can!"
"Then what the hell do you want me to do, Mulder? Look at yourself! Do you have any idea of how much it hurts to see you like this?"
"I didn't ask you to do this, Scully! I knew that you'd end up
"I don't resent you, I'm just tired of seeing you hurting so much."
"And what the hell were you expecting?"
"I expected you to acknowledge that you are sick, that you need professional help. I don't understand why you still can't admit it! Or you have yet another traumatic story that I don't know about?"
Mulder's shocked eyes stared at mine. I bit my tongue, but it was too late. He gasped back a sob, as if he had been hit in his stomach, and then abandoned the room. The next thing I heard was a loud bang from the door of his room. I closed my eyes and took deep breaths, forcing myself to calm down before considering any other action. <So this is how it is: he hurts me, I hurt him back.> I stood by the door to his room. He didn't seem to be crying, all I could hear were steps. I rapped the door softly and opened it.
"Get out of here, Scully," he seethed. "Oops, sorry, this is your apartment. *I'll* get out." In fact, he was packing in his usual style, stuffing the bag without any consideration about order.
"I'm sorry, Mulder, that was uncalled for." My pride protested for the capitulation, but common sense ruled.
"Oh, you're sorry, *mom*, sure," he sneered. "I don't need this shit, not from you, not from anybody. I'm going home."
I remember thinking in Colorado how grim Mulder could be when he was provoked. It hurt to have all that cruelty thrown back in my face, even when I probably deserved it for hitting below the belt.
"Can't you accept an apology? Why, are you so perfect now that you never regret the things you say?" He left the duffel bag on floor and towered me, as if to make it clear that he was taller, stronger and older. I hated it when he did that. Not that he did it often before, but I had grown disused to his being
mad at me.
"You don't have the right to judge me," he fumed, pointing his index on my chest. "You know all this because *I* told you, because I *trusted* you, and now you're using it against me. I've been blind about a lot of things, but I thought I knew you, Dana. I never imagined you could be such a bitch."
It was my turn to choke back a sob. Mulder had never, *ever* called me anything like that, and it felt like a slash in my flesh. A tense silence impregnated the air. I looked at him, but he wouldn't look back. When he finished packing, he simply attempted to leave, but I blocked his path.
"Get out of my way."
"No. I won't let you go like this."
"I don't need your permission. Get out. I mean it."
"Mulder you're upset, why don't you-" I tried to touch him, but he flinched violently.
"Leave me alone!" he yelled, no longer able to hide the tears. I'm sick and tired of everybody hurting me! I don't care if I have to live and die alone like a hermit, but I won't let it happen again, you hear me?!" His eyes went dark with fury and pain. He was shaking all over, and at the same time fighting not to lose control.
"I don't want you to go, Mulder," I said a few minutes later, in a much lower voice.
"Like hell you don't. But I don't blame you, I seem to cause that effect on people. The closer they get, the more they hate me."
"I don't hate you." He looked up at me for the first time, and his hard expression scared me.
I couldn't even believe this conversation was taking place, it seemed unnatural, unreal. Who was this stranger? How could this be the same man that had been crying on my shoulder like a child all this time, begging me not to leave him? I wasn't my usual, rational self. I was hurt and confused, but I wouldn't let him play with my emotions like that.
"Are you sure is not *you* who are resenting me, Mulder? Do you resent me because I'm strong, because I've seen you at your worst?"
"No, I resent myself for being stupid enough to trust you with this. I've been honest with you, Scully. You asked me lots of questions, I answered them even when I didn't want to, and I always told you the truth. If you can't handle that truth, fine, walk away. Just don't throw it back at me."
"I know this game, I know what you're trying to do. You want to make it look like *I* am leaving you, so you'll have a nice little excuse to go back to your place, get your spare gun and blow your brains out, right?" A sour expression clouded his face. "I don't need more excuses, I've cornered the market. Besides, I'm dead already, the rest of my body only has to acknowledge it."
He rushed once again to the bathroom and dry-heaved, then he closed the door, leaving me behind with my heart pounding in my chest like a hammer. <Please Mulder, don't do anything stupid. Not here, not right under my nose, you can't do this to me> But, Jesus, *I* was pushing him, I was pressing all his buttons. He defended himself like a wounded animal, frightened and bleeding, hoping that one lucky strike would shoo its aggressor away. I had my share of bitter fights, having older siblings can make you tough and at the same time sharpen your tongue, since you're not big enough to depend on physical resources. I've also been known to fight with former boyfriends on more than one occasion.But this...There was no way to engage in an argument at this level with Mulder, least of all in the state he was in. He was extremely sensitive to being hurt by the ones he loved and were supposed to love him back. He
had idealized his sister to an almost pathological level probably
because the little girl never had time to be mean to him. He avoided personal relationships because he couldn't deal with them. The only people he called his friends were three paranoid geeks who basically distrusted the human race. Maybe he was right, maybe I was expecting too much from him.
He got out of the bathroom and went back to his room. He contemplated the duffel bag on the floor and walked past it to the window.
"Your brother was right, Dana. I'm one sorry son of a bitch," he said, barely controlling himself. I was slightly off-balanced by his abrupt change of subject. He never mentioned my brother Bill, but I wasn't sick enough when they met not to notice that there was no love lost between them. "Look what I'm doing to you," he continued. "You're not like this,
Scully. You're not this cruel." I couldn't stand the way he was looking at me, as if I had broken something precious and irreplaceable to him; nor the sound of his voice, harsh from the retching and the choked sobs. "I think I think that this is a mistake my being here, I mean. You expect too much from me, you want things you undoubtedly deserve, but I can't give them to you. I'm not a blue prince, Scully, I'm a curse who's making your life a living hell." I wiped the tears from my eyes.
"What can possibly be wrong about loving you, Fox? I don't see a 'No loving here' sign in your forehead. If you had all this inside you, why didn't you tell me?"
"I didn't! But you said that and...."
"Mulder, what I said was out of line, *way* out of line. I apologize, but I didn't really mean it and you know it, just like I know that you didn't mean it when you called me a bitch."
"I'm sorry about that," he mused.
"Yes, I know you are, it's no big deal. Now, Mulder, this argument started over a question, I'm going to ask it again: what are you going to do?" He kept his gaze on the window for a while.
"I think I should go home." I was making every conceivable effort to hide the pain this whole conversation was causing me, but the results were questionable. I wasn't prepared to the idea of losing him, and if Mulder walked out that door, chances were that I'd never see him again alive, at least.
"You're right, Mulder, I expect too much from you, but only because I believe without a doubt that you are up to this. I don't need you to be perfect, to bring me roses, to call me endearments. I wouldn't know what to do with a blue prince, I'd never be able to trust him with my life." He chuckled, but I couldn't detect any humor in his gesture.
"Damn it, Scully, you don't even trust me with *mine*! You think I'm sick and want to cure me. You're a doctor, it's in you. You want to ease the pain and make it all better. But you can't, that's what you don't understand. No matter how much you hold me, how many shots you give me, you can't get inside my mind and extirpate what makes me hurt."
"Then go to someone who can." He whimpered with frustration.
"Let me put this in another way. Suppose we are stranded in some forsaken little town in the middle of nowhere and I get sick with appendicitis. Somehow we end up in the local small hospital where they have all the sharp devices but no drugs of any kind. You only have two choices: either leave me to die or try to save my life by cutting me open, knowing that the pain might kill me anyway. What would you do?"
Cold sweat was running down my back. How dare he put me against the wall like that? I wanted to turn tail and leave, but he put his hands on my shoulders and pinned me with his deep gaze.
"What would you do, Scully?"
"I'd never give up on you, Mulder," I finally answered. He sighed and pulled away.
"I thought you'd say that. I should have gotten myself a lawyer or an accountant as a partner," he grimaced.
"You can't ask me let you to die."
"You can't ask me to go through surgery without anesthesia either. And that's exactly what you're doing here." I took his arm, pulling him to the bed, and sat down with him. I moved
closer, he allowed it, and I placed my cheek against his chest, near his heart. After a while, I put my hand behind his neck and softly kissed his lips.
"It doesn't have to be that way, Mulder. I can be the drugs, I can help you withstand the pain. All you have to do is let me."
|"It might prove to be too much, for both of us."
"For any of us alone, yes. But not if we do this together. Worse things have happened to us, partner, and they could never tear us apart." Mulder nodded slowly, lowering his head.
"I promise that I'll think about it," he said. "But you have to promise me that you'll respect whatever decision I make. I need you to trust me on this, Scully. You dealt with your cancer in your own terms, I want to deal with this in mine."
"Fair enough. We'll talk again whenever you're ready, then."
Mulder seemed exhausted after our extensive talk, but at least it had ended in good terms. We hugged each other tight and he went back to sleep after a very light meal. However, a couple of hours later I heard the sudden noise Mulder made while rushing once more to the bathroom. I put down the book I was reading with a frown.
His symptoms were becoming more serious, it wasn't just a bellyache. Besides, he'd been having GI disorders for quite a while; nausea, vomiting, diarrhea. He often complained of feeling bloated and of colicky pain, coming in bouts. Like right now. Mulder held himself against the frame of the door, an arm pressed against his belly and doubled over in pain.
"God dammmit!!" he yelled. I took him to my bedroom, which was closer, and made him lie down. He curled up tightly and kept groaning until the bout subsided a little. I silently picked my medical bag and started to examine him. He was feverish, his blood pressure was a little high and his pulse was rapid,
the same as his respirations. I palpated his abdomen and he flinched when I got to his left lower quadrant. "What the hell is wrong with me, Scully?" he gasped, still in considerable pain.
"I don't know, Mulder, but this is starting to worry me. I think you should see a gastroenterologist." He made a face that gave away his opinion about seeing a doctor. "Unless of course you're comfortable with these attacks. Every time you eat or raise from bed your symptoms get worse. I should be asking about your bowel habits, but I guess you're not willing to share."
"No, not right now," he said tiredly. I sat down on the bed, placed a pillow on my lap and pulled him on top of it. He lay on his side, I rolled his t-shirt up to his armpits and lowered his boxers a little.
"Planning to take on a decked man, Agent Scully?"
"Yes. Any objections?" He closed his eyes and smiled.
"No, but please be gentle." I smiled back.
"If it hurts, just tell me." Placing my flat hand over his belly, I started a very gentle massage, exerting soft pressure in strategic points, or simply caressing in others. I observed with satisfaction that he relaxed heavily against the pillow and rolled slightly to his back to give me better access. The lines on his face were smooth again, not contorted with pain.
"Do they teach this in medical school, Dana? It feels good."
"No, this particular skill I learned from my mother. She always knew how to cure a bellyache. Is it helping?"
"Yeah thanks. Did you get lots of these when you were little?"
"Not really. But my brother did."
"Yes, and as tough as he wanted to be, he usually turned into a baby when he was sick."
"It's hard to picture him in your mother's arms."
"Well, he wasn't always that big. And speaking of Bill, what happened between the two of you?"
"Mulder" He sighed.
"When you were dying, he pointed out that my quest had
already cost him a sister and that he was losing another. He asked me if at least I had found the little green men I was looking for, and when I said no, he called me a sorry son of a bitch."
I swallowed hard. Unlike Melissa, I didn't appreciate my big brother's over protectiveness. He wasn't a bad guy, and I knew he did it because he loved me and cared for me, but he had no right to take it on Mulder when *I* didn't.
"You should have told me, Mulder."
"Why? He was right. You can find all the attenuating circumstances that you like, Dana, but in the end, we both know it's true."
"Mulder, they *used* you, they used both of us. If I know you, you didn't even try to explain Bill the facts, you just took the blow."
"He didn't exactly look like he would listen. Scully please, let it be. He was civil, after all. If the roles had been reversed, I would have beaten the hell out of him."
*********************************************************************** Light my way part 2