I wasn't really up to dinner, but Scully insisted and I didn't have the heart to turn her down. But I was in introspective mood, definitely not good company. I replayed our morning fight, the things we said to each other. We'd never fought like that beore, at such a personal level; and although I would have died before admitting it, her words still bothered me in some background level. Not what she had said specifically, but the thought that it had been *her* saying such things.
I had broken up relationships for far less; at any other time in my life I would have run to never return. had stayed this time, but was that good or bad? Did it prove that I was finally growing up and accepting that people can hurt me and still love me? Or just showed how shattered and needy I was, unable to survive without her?
That kind of thoughts didn't exactly help my condition, and eating almost invariably triggered the pain and the nausea. The urgency only afforded me a few seconds to reach the toilet, I was really scared that one time I'd end up soiling myself.
While I was in the bathroom losing all I had eaten by both ends of my gut, I felt sick and dizzy, but mostly angry. When the hell was I going to have a break? The pain in my lower abdomen was so bad that it made breathing difficult, I couldn't get up. I only reached out to flush the toilet with my foul effluviums and lowered my body over my legs, hoping that the nausea would recede.
Scully came in a few minutes later to find me exposed in all my vulnerability, half naked, trembling and crying from the stabbing pain.
"Here, let me help you," she said, covering my body with a big towel. Somehow she dragged me to her bed, where I curled up into the tightest ball my frame allowed, praying that if the urgency hit again, I'd be able to make it to the bathroom first.Scully sensed it was bad this time, because she didn't even try to rub my belly like she had before dinner. She brought a damp cloth and put it on my forehead, and then placed my head on her lap. I rolled a little to my stomach, giving her access to my back, and she got the message. My lower back was killing me and her skilled hands were doing wonders. The pain in my guts owever, was getting worse. I bolted violently to the bathroom again and I was lucky to sit on the toilet on time, but I was so nauseous that I couldn't help vomiting all over my bare chest.
Something snapped and I started to cry. Frustration, self-pity, anger, so many emotions raged inside of me that I couldn't take it. cully came after me once again and filled the bathtub while she helped me out of my soiled underwear and cleaned up the mess I had made. I never felt more humiliated in my whole life,
I wanted to just disappear from the face of Earth. She understood that I needed some space; she closed the curtain and left me alone, I could never thank her enough for that. If she had tried to help me or even touch me while I was in the tub, I would have hated her. I let the hot water relax my frayed nerves and only then I walked out. I found another fluffy towel and clean underwear, and there were no traces of my previous distress. Oh, Scully I'd be so lost without you,so dead, indeed. How can you love me this much?> Move by her tact and instinctive wisdom, I crashed into her waiting arms, forgetting any grudge I might have carried against her.
"I'm sorry," was all that came out of my mouth.
"Don't be. It's okay." took a deep breathe and let it out slowly, basking in the comfort she offered. Her touch was soothing, feather-like fingers tracing the line from behind my ear to my shoulder, up and down. I was amazing how such a simple thing could give me so much peace and reassurance.
"I guess I'll never be Mr. Emotional Stability, Scully, but at least I can promise you won't get bored around me. Angry, yes; frustrated, maybe, but not bored." he chuckled.
"I take it you're feeling better."
"Physically, yes. Otherwise, inadequate kind of describes how I feel."
"Don't be so hard on yourself. You're sick."
"It's good to have you hold me, but sometimes I feel guilty about it. I was more mature when I was twelve. I wanted my mom to hug me, but I could refrain myself from asking. I mean, look at me: I cry all the time, sleep all day now I even vomit all over myself. The next thing I'll know, I'll be sucking my thumb and wearing diapers."
I supposed those were the kind of things you shared with your therapist, but I wasn't trained to give an answer to such statement. Then again, if Mulder wanted a therapist, he would have gone to one. He was talking to me about very private and personal issues because I was his friend, if nothing else. I oulnd think of anything suitable to say to him, so I did what *he* would have done: I deflected the matter with humor.
"Diapers are not a bad idea, Mulder. You wouldn't have to worry about making it to the toilet."
"Yeeek! Scully!" he grimaced.
"You'd look cute, especially if you pout your lips like that! Hmm, will I get to change you?" I raised my eyebrows and gave him a predatory smile. Mulder's face was priceless.
"Geez, Scully! Hasn't anyone told you that you have a sick sense of humor?"
I couldn't help marveling at the fact that this man, even sick, depressed, damaged, was still sexy in my eyes. I wanted him so much, I needed him desperately, but I was afraid of how he might react if I tried to push him. He hadn't lain a hand on me since Colorado.
Sex drive is one the first things to go during a bout of depression. People who are depressed often don't have the urge, or even the strength to sustain a sexual intercourse.I could refrain myself from touching him, but there was no way I'd push him away if he touched *me*. I gladly welcomed his hands unbuttoning my shirt, I collaborated with my bra and jeans. Since he had taken the first step, I allowed him to do what he needed. The ghost of a smile lightened his eyes as he undressed me, the gossamer of his touch was slowly doing me in. Since we were in a playful mode, I made a mental note to tease him later about the source of his surprising abilities in this field.
I was ecstatic. God, he was *so* good at this, it was easy to relinquish control over him. Mulder was right, being around him was like having a non-stop ticket to a roller coaster. He felt things so deeply, he was always going to extremes. It shouldn't surprise anyone that he was so good at solving X-Files, he was an X-File himself.
"Scully?" His voiced startled me back to reality. He stared at me questioningly, and maybe a little hurt by my lack of attention.
"Hey, you can't blame me for taking my time to come down from such high," I teased him. "You're exceptionally good at this, partner. I won't ask how you learned all those tricks."
His cheeks blushed to a delicious red and I couldn't help laughing. "Okay, I think that just about answers my question!"
I was very pleased with myself, despite her off-color remark. My self-esteem had suffered a major blow earlier, so her praise about my ability to turn her own was like a balm to my bruised ego. As wonderful as I felt about pleasing Scully, I wasn't so sure about letting her do the same to me. I had become self-conscious and insecure about my body, and the last thing I wanted was to embarrass myself even more if I couldn't 'function'.
My body was tense under her hand and I willed myself to at least pretend, if only not to hurt her feelings. I must have zoned out at some point, and a while later I realized that Scully was touching me in a different way. She wasn't interested in eliciting a sexual response any more, but in trying to soothe me. I should have been grateful for her insight, for knowing me and my moods too well, but instead I was utterly mortified. I batted her hand away and recoiled, giving my back to her.
"It's okay, Mulder. You're tired, and you're still running a fever."
"Spare me, will ya?"
"Please, don't make a fuss over this. It's nothing to worry about."
"Scully, just drop it. I don't want to talk." She shut up, but obviously had no intention of leaving things like that. She scooted closer and caressed my hair first, then my shoulders. Damn her, why couldn't she leave me alone? "Don't touch me!" I yelled. I half expected her to snap back at me, but to my surprise, she didn't seem in the least angry or hurt by my rejection.
"Yes, I do touch you," she defied me. "See? I'm touching you," she threw her body over mine, immobilizing me under the comforter. "Are you angry? What are you going to do about it?"
"Dammit, Scully, get off me!" I tried to shake her away from me, but she was better positioned, and I practically couldn't move.
We ended up rolling and wrestling on the bed, then on the floor. I was amazed by her physical strength, every time I almost caught her she managed to free herself; and only my being bigger prevented her from effectively blocking my movements. We killed a pillow and a couple of cushions during the fight, laughing hysterically. I remember thinking that if Scully's neighbors were as nosey as mine, the police might as
well kick their way in any minute. She finally managed to restrain me and stared at me with wild excitement.
"So you won't let me touch you, huh? Let's see what you think of this." She started to tickle every inch of my body with surgical precision. Her knowledge of the human anatomy was paying off as I wriggled, screaming and fighting, while she cleverly pinned me down. I lost myself to the not entirely unpleasant sensation, in fact, it *was* turning me on.
No one had ever tickled me like that before, not even when I was a kid. I used to do it to Samantha, but she was too small to get away with doing the same to me. In the Scully family, however, it must have passed from sibling to sibling. Poor little Charlie! My partner's relentless hand kept assaulting every vulnerable point for another few minutes, until I started to cough violently.
I was a puddle of trembling muscles, unable to move by myself, Scully had to pull me to a sitting position to help me catch my breath. It took a while, and all the time she held me to prevent my body from falling back to the bed. My midsection hurt, both from the previous cramps and from so much laughing. It had been ages since I laughed so heartily, and it felt incredibly good. Once my breathing was back to a slower pace, Scully fluffed the surviving pillow and cushions and laid back, pulling me with her. I rolled to my side and closed my eyes, sighing with pleasure at the slight touch of her fingers over my sensitized skin. When she suddenly stopped I whimpered with frustration.
"Oh, I'm sorry, I thought you didn't want me to touch you," she teased me, her voice thick and a little hoarse from the laughter.
"Sculeeee." With the little energy I had left, I lifted myself and placed my head on her chest, burying my face between her breasts and nuzzling against them like a cat. She let out a gasp and resumed her gentle stroking.
"Are you okay, Mulder?"
"That was fun, wasn't it?"
"Do you think I might be really sick? Not in the head, I know you already think that I am, but in my stomach." She quickly added two and two and knew I had to be hurting to ask such a question.
"You're in pain, aren't you. I'm sorry, I shouldn't have tickled you so hard."
"Laughing felt good, Dana, but it hurts, yes. Not just my belly, all of it. My back, my legs, my head"
"Tomorrow I'll set you an appointment, we'll get you checked out on Monday first thing in the morning."
Sunday was a very long day. As soon as I got up from the bed I was sick again, Scully didn't even bother in telling me to eat. Besides, as if the pain in my gut wasn't enough, I had a cold, and coughing worsened the pain to the point of bringing tears to my eyes.
I was pretty anxious about the appointment with the gastroenterologist. There's a simple fact about doctors: they won't tell you anything until they've poked and prodded you all over. Just trying to imagine the kind of tests they'd want to run in order to figure out what was wrong with me made me even more sick.
And of course, I wasn't disappointed. By Monday morning I was feeling miserable, feverish, and crankier than a three-year-old. Scully was quite tolerant with my sulking, unlike other times we've been through this same routine. I stole a fleeting glimpse at her, wishing I could just go home to her warm bed and hide in her arms. But the waiting room was full of people so I wouldn't even put my head on her shoulder.
"Do you want me to wait here, Mulder?" she asked in a low voice. "You could use some privacy during the examination."
I shivered at the implications of that statement. Sensing my uneasiness, she took my hand and rubbed it gently. Her gestured calmed me a little, but when I heard my name being called, I almost jumped out of my skin. I stood up and looked at her with pleading eyes hoping that she'd understand, so I wouldn't have to make an ass of myself by looking like I was scared of the doctor.
"I think I'd better go with you. The mood you're in, Dr. Kendall will have a hard time taking a proper history." I let out the breath I'd been holding and smiled gratefully.
I thought that Mulder might want to keep his distance while he was being examined, no one enjoyed being seen so exposed and vulnerable, especially in front of strangers. The way he looked at me in the waiting room, however, proved that he'd rather be a little embarrassed than being alone with another man touching him all over.
The memory of the abuse he had suffered as a child, buried for so long, was now too close to the surface and affected his perception of reality. He hated doctors and hospitals in general and had good reasons for it, and now that I was privy to them, I was considerably more indulgent with his sullen mood.
After a brief introduction, Mulder was asked by Dr. James D. Kendall, a forty-something, good looking man, to undress and put on the mandatory gown. In the meantime, and away from my partner's ears, I quickly apprised him to what to expect from his patient.
"He's suffering from depression and hates being around doctors," I explained.
"I thought you said you were one," Dr. Kendall replied with a smile.
"I'm a little more than that to him." I was kind of surprised by my own words, they came so naturally.
"I understand," he nodded, "but he'll probably be more comfortable if you stay out while I take a look at him." Dr. Kendall's tone was polite but firm, and I didn't want to cross the guy. Instead, I simply sat down outside the examining room and waited for what I knew was going to happen, just like in Mulder's first appointment with Dr. Lenzi. I looked at my watch. Ten minutes, tops. Exactly eight and a half minutes later, Dr. Kendall stepped out.
"Dr. Scully, would you please come in?"
Dr. Kendall left us alone for a few minutes. Mulder had been sick again and was sitting on a gurney, his long bare legs dangling, trying to catch his breath. I put a hand on his shoulder.
"Are you okay?" He nodded.
"I'm sorry, Scully, I can't do this. Let's go home."
"Mulder, you're sick," I put my lips on his forehead, his fever was a little higher than earlier in the morning. "You can't keep even water down, you're already dehydrated. Let the doctor do his job, he's not here to hurt you."
"Then stay. You're a doctor too, and you won't see anything you haven't seen before."
I fought the temptation to throw an 'I-told-you-so' look at the doctor. Dr. Kendall seemed a gentle guy, with impeccable bedside manners. He started again by asking Mulder questions, always keeping a conversational, friendly tone, and pretty much ignoring my presence. It was a good thing that he stayed focused on his patient's symptoms and not in the fact that he needed my reassurance, but I knew he kept it in mind. All the time he took careful notes, and I was impressed by his
Mulder seemed to detect that I approved him and relaxed a little. He was positioned for an abdominal examination, laying flat on his back, with his arms stretched along his body. Dr. Kendall pulled up the gown and placed his palms over his dilated belly.
"Tell me if any of this hurts," he said, and then began to apply gentle pressure. He found a tender spot in his lower left quadrant but did not pursue his examination there until he was done with the rest of the abdomen. The doctor moved to Mulder's left side to make a more detailed examination, I stayed on his right, holding his hand.
"I'm going to lower your underwear a little, okay?" Mulder nodded, but his grip on my hand tightened considerably. When the pressure exerted on the affected zone increased, he let out a yelp.
"Your sigmoid seems to be a little tender, Mr. Mulder, but I'm done there," Dr. Kendall tranquilized him. However, his next words were quite disturbing. "I'll need to perform a digital rectal examination now, it's part of the routine."
Mulder's breathing literally stopped, his eyes opened wide with fear and apprehension. Once again, sensing his patient distress, the doctor made himself scarce under the pretense of getting the necessary stuff.
"Don't be scared, it won't hurt," I told him, trying to keep my voice casual.
"I can't let him do that. I can't," he whispered hoarsely.
"Yes, you can," I smoothed his damp hair. "Do you still want me here?" He nodded briefly. "I'm pretty sore down there. Must be flaming red."
"Well, if you behave, I might rub some lotion later," I winked, again deflecting a serious issue with humor. It was *his* technique, after all.
"I'll take your word on that," he replied with a faint smile. If Dr. Kendall was surprised by Mulder's unwillingness to be alone during the embarrassing test, he did a good job hiding it. He worked with diligence, with his patient hiding his face behind his folded arms and me caressing the back of his neck. Mulder choked back a few sobs when the physician's finger delved deeper into him, and it broke my heart. Seeing him like hurting that, so defenseless, filled my mind with images of what he might have looked like when he was only nine years old, frightened and tormented by a man who should have loved and protected him. <How could you do this to him, you bastard? I hope you're rotting in Hell, damned beast!>
As soon as Dr. Kendall finished, Mulder jumped out of the gurney and headed to the small bathroom, the retching immediately followed.
"He was abused as a child, right?"
"The doctor was asking gently and with genuine concern, but I was struck by his blunt honesty. "It wasn't hard to figure out, he has all the tale-tell signs," he continued. "The scars, his unwillingness to be touched, especially by a man"
"You wouldn't believe what he's been through," I whispered. "It was his own father." Dr. Kendall was quite shocked at that piece of information. The uncomfortable silence was broken by Mulder's cough and retching.
"I'd like to admit him, at the very least he needs fluids. His symptoms are quite severe, and before I diagnose them as stress-related, I'd like to rule out other possibilities first."
Despite his protests, Mulder was admitted and now was sleeping peacefully thanks to the sedatives he had been given. By the time the nurses finished taking samples of blood, urine, stool, and setting up the IV line, he was angry to the point of violence. He sat in his bed and accused me of cheating, of tricking him into an innocent 'doctor's appointment' to have him admitted into a hospital. I wouldn't let his frustration get the best of me this time.
"Mulder, you're an adult, you can make your own choices. If you want to leave, then sign yourself out A.M.A. and we'll go home." That quickly got the wind out of his sails and he lay down grabbing his mid-section and coughing. I tried to comfort him, but he turned to his other side to sulk and I left him alone. Soon after that, a nurse came in and injected him a mild sedative to help him rest.
Dr. Kendall explained to me the nature of the next test he wanted to do, a sigmoidoscopy. I think I went pale, but I had decided not to break in front of him, or anyone else except Scully. I liked the guy, he wasn't like other doctors. It was obvious that he had realized what had happened to me if the scars weren't enough of a hint, I was a walking case of post-traumatic stress disorder and not doing much to hide it. But instead of asking questions about the facts, he focused on the consequences.
"You can have your partner here if you think it'll help," he offered. I was tempted to call her, but I didn't. A line had to be drawn somewhere, and this was it. She'd seen me at my worst many times during the past couple of months, but crouching on a gurney in knee-chest position, half naked and with a guy shoving a tube up my bare ass it was too much. Scully didn't need to see that. I shook my head, unable to speak. "Okay, then. Get ready, I'll be right back."
If I have to be honest, I confess it didn't hurt. I was uncomfortable and embarrassed, but it wasn't particularly painful. Maybe it was the fever, or my own apprehension, but having a hard object inserted in my rectum triggered a cascade of memories.
I was back in Chilmark, lying on my father's desk, playing his 'games'. The physical sensations were so real, the cold everything was cold in that room: the desk, the air, my skin The invading object was sinking deeper inside me, pushing, pulling, rotating. Latex-covered hands touching me *there*, spreading me. And I'd listen to the voices inside my head, ordering me to be still, not to move or make a sound. <Shut up! I don't want to hear you, boy. And keep quiet.> <Don't cry, Fox. I will take care of you.> I'm cold, it's cold in here
I don't remember what happened, but the next thing I knew was that I was in a safe place, warm and comfortable again. The pungent smell told me that I was still in the hospital, but no longer in Dr. Kendall's office. As I surfaced back to consciousness, I found myself lying on Scully's lap, my face buried into her stomach, and her fingers running through my scalp. I wanted to cry in relief. That was my hiding place, where I could let the scared little kid that still lived inside me get the comfort he desperately needed. Doing this made me feel horribly guilty and pathetic when I was back to my normal self, but this was one of those times when I couldn't care less. I didn't feel like going back to my adult persona just yet.
"Scully?" I slurred.
"How did I get here?"
"You went into shock during your test, the nurses brought you back too your room."
"The good part is Dr. Kendall said there's no need to repeat it."
"Good, because I'm not about to allow it anyway."
"What happened, Mulder?"
"It felt like *him*, Scully. I was cold" I muffled the whimper against her, "and it was so real"
"I'm sorry, Mulder. I'm sorry that you have to go through this. Just rest now, you'll be okay"
"Damn, I fucking hate hospitals!"
It turned out that everything was fine, Dr. Kendall didn't found
anything suspicious, the lab tests came out clean too. They did a few more tests, an abdominal sonogram and an esophagogastroduodenoscopy or EGDS(even Scully had trouble pronouncing that one!). It feels as awful as it sounds. They knocked me out with some good stuff first; then they put a tube in the back of my mouth and made me swallow it to pass it into my stomach. I retched and gagged until they gave me more drugs that made me sleepy. I didn't take any risks this time, Scully was all the time by my side, holding my arm the other one was in restraints. The end of the tube had a tiny camera that allowed the technician to look inside my guts, but I couldn't look at the screen. Just the feeling of having that thing inside me was bad enough.
Once again, everything was perfect. I was the picture of health, except that I was still vomiting and having diarrhea, and no one could tell me why. I still needed the IV because I was dehydrated and my electrolytes were unbalanced, so they wouldn't let me go home. Oh, and I happened to be a little anemic, which earned me iron shots that hurt like hell.
Being sick is bad, being depressed is worse, but being sick *and* depressed was hell. Dr. Kendall insisted that I stayed in hospital until I could keep food down. The antiemetics they were giving me seemed to be doing their job, but I wasn't hungry enough to eat more than a few spoonfuls of soup. Scully had called the guys and they stopped by, but I wasn't in the mood for The Three Stooges. If anything, their visit depressed me even more. They weren't good at hiding, and their shocked expressions when they saw me probably reflected how bad I looked. Skinner also came to see me, but I simply turned around and pretended to sleep. It wouldn't fool Scully, but Skinner didn't know me that well. He stayed for a while, though, he even offered Scully to watch over me while she went back home to change clothes and grab a bite. To my dismay, she agreed.
"Thank you, sir. I'll only be out for half an hour, though. I'll go home later when my mom arrives," she informed him. I was getting nervous, but then she added, "Oh, and sir, please don't wake him. He's not feeling well and needs to rest." I smiled discretely under the covers, that had been her way to let me know she knew I was pretending but was willing to let me be.
The only other person whose presence didn't make me nervous was Scully's mother, Margaret. She had a soft aura of peace, which I knew Dana would have too when she turned her age. Margaret Scully had been my anchor during the time Dana was missing, and I was her only hope to see her alive again. Unlike my own parents, she never blamed me for losing her daughter; she supported me and gave me the strength I needed to keep searching for her.
When Scully woke up from her coma saying that the strength of my beliefs had helped her find her way back, her mother took me aside and cried in my arms.
"I don't care who took my daughter, Fox," she said, "all I know is that you brought her back, and I'll always be indebted to you for that. If you ever need anything, son, and I mean *anything*, just call me. I'll be there."
I never told Scully about that conversation, it was one of the few secrets I kept from her.
My fake sleep turned into a real one while Skinner was sitting beside my bed, and when I woke up I found Scully's mother in his place.
"Hello, Fox," she smiled.
"Hello, Mrs. Scully. It's nice to see you," I said, I was sincerely glad to see her.
"How are you feeling?"
"Not so good," I whispered. I couldn't lie to her, she seemed to see right through me.
"Do you need anything? I can call a nurse if you want."
"No, thanks. They'll probably want to give me another shot and I had enough for one day." She smiled with sympathy and took my hand. The place where the needle was inserted had gotten a bit swollen, and she rubbed it very gently. She must have done this very same thing for her daughter when she was sick, and it was nice to see she was doing it for me too. The simple intimacy of that gesture broke any resistance I had left and I was overwhelmed by the need to talk to her.
"Mrs. Scully, do you know why I'm here? Has Dana told you?"
"I asked, but she said you might want to tell me yourself. Was she right?" I rolled my eyes.
"Yes, as usual." She smiled and winked, then she got up from the chair and moved to my bed.
"Then tell me, son. I'm all ears."
After a shower, a change of clothes and the a few hours of sleep, I felt human again. I spent some time alone in my apartment, but it felt strangely empty without Mulder there. Not that he had been the most cheerful roommate lately, but something seemed missing. I rushed back to the hospital asking myself how could I possibly miss him so much when it had only been a few hours away from him.
I wasn't at all prepared to see the scene that met me when I opened the door to his gloomy room. Mom was holding Mulder in her arms as he sobbed convulsively and she was crying too.
"Oh, my poor boy, I'm so sorry I'm so sorry, Fox" she kept repeating as she rocked my partner's frail body back and forth. I watched them from the darkness, mesmerized. Mixed emotions danced inside me. Part of me was glad that Mulder accepted my mother's comfort so freely after he had rejected his own mother. Another part felt bad for my mom, I knew how much she loved my partner, and his story must have broken her heart. I hadn't wanted to tell her to spare her the pain, but I knew she'd find out one way or another. At least now I would have someone with whom to share the burden, I wouldn't feel so alone with all this grief.
Mulder spent a terrible night. He woke up a dozen times, be it for the nightmares or the pain that wouldn't go away. I ended up climbing to bed with him to hold him, but by 5 am he decided that he didn't want to sleep.
"Scully, you owe me," he mused.
"You promised me a certain rub with lotion, remember?"
"I do. Want to cash it now, partner?" He rolled to his stomach in response and I undid his gown. I took the tube of body lotion from my purse and spread some in my hands and on his back, then I started to massage his tense muscles. I slowly descended to his kidneys and then to his butt, and it saddened me that I was still afraid to touch him freely, I still needed some reassurance from his part that it was okay.
"Do it, Scully." I gently rubbed my lubed fingers over the irritated and sensitive skin, but I couldn't help feeling a little uncomfortable; and once again, Mulder anticipated me. "Dana, you can touch me if you want, I'm *asking* you to do it, or are you going to make me beg?"
"No, Mulder, I'll touch you all you want. God knows that *I* want it too." I was pleased when he finally relaxed and fell into a deep, dreamless sleep, and I dozed off myself with my head lying on his bed. A few hours later, however, I was awaken by my partner's violent cough. He's had it for days, but was it me or it had gotten worse? I'd get someone to take a look at his lungs later. Mulder coughed again, convulsing on his bed.<Or maybe right away.>
After such a difficult night, Mulder was royally pissed off at being awoken when he had finally fallen asleep. Dr. Reubens, a lung specialist recommended by Dr. Kendall, came to check him and found himself dealing with a barely cooperative patient.After a very thourough physical examination, he ordered chest X-rays, more blood tests and some deep breathing exercises.
"Don't fight the urge to cough, Mr. Mulder. It's necessary to free your lungs from the secretions."
"Yeah, but it's not *your* ribs that are gonna break in the process!" They took him to radiology, to the lab, and then back to his room, but as soon as he slumped on the bed, urgency hit again and he almost loses the IV line in his rush to the bathroom. By the time he came out, he was downright furious.
"Scully, why don't you do me a favor and shoot me again? And aim a little lower this time, please." I didn't take him seriously because I knew he didn't really mean it. If anything, I'd rather see him angry than despondent. "I fucking hate hospitals!" he growled as he lay down again.
Mrs. Scully came back that afternoon as she had promised, and I grinned when I saw her.
"Hi, Maggie," I greeted her, earning me a trademark Scully-look. "Well, she insists on calling me *Fox*."
"I think I'm jealous," Scully said, making a little-girl pout that I'd never seen on her face but made her look adorable.
"Hey, I told that you could call me that too, you just don't do it."
"Come on, children!" Mrs. Scully clapped her hands. "How are you doing, Fox? Have you eaten today?" I smiled at such a motherly concern. My own mother couldn't care less if I ate or not; if she wasn't hungry, she assumed nobody else was either.Scully caught the expression on my face and smiled happily too, she seemed pleased that I felt so comfortable around her mother. "I've got something here that you might want to try," she announced, producing a plastic container. "Maggie's Famous Chicken Soup."
"Hey, I want some too!"
"You look perfectly healthy to me, young lady!" Scully turned to me and explained.
"That soup was the only good thing about being sick when we were little. Charlie would even pretend in order to get some!" I wasn't hungry, but I didn't have the heart to turn them down. I figured I could get past a few spoonfuls without hurting Maggie's feelings. However, the few spoonfuls turned into several, and before I knew it the bowl was empty. And man, I wanted more!
"See?" Maggie said, obviously pleased with herself. "You'll be feeling better in no time, Fox."
"If you keep feeding me that soup, it's a given! Thanks, Maggie, it was delicious."
Scully left for a few hours and I spent some time alone with the woman that was more a mom to me in two days than my own mother in thirty years. It still hurt inside to accept how much I resented her. And in the same way her daughter made me feel like a whole man and not a crippled freak, Margaret was showing me how much I had survived, how far I had gotten just by myself. It was such a warm feeling to know that there were people willing to pick me up and hold me when I was exhausted, decimated by all the tragedies in my life. By the way, the soup stayed where it belonged, in my stomach. And I did feel better, at least until later that night.
Dr. Kendall had concluded that Mulder had a functional bowel disease called Irritable Bowel Syndrome. No anatomical causes could be found to explain his symptoms, but he pointed out that abdominal complaints with no pathological sources were frequent in people with unresolved psychological issues.
I thought that Mulder would hit the ceiling after such diagnosis, but he took it well. They discussed different courses of treatment and Dr. Kendall suggested to put him on antidepressants.
"They will help not only with the bloating and abdominal pain, your diarrhea will also improve. Besides, you'll need to adjust your intake of dietary fiber and avoid certain foods."
"So that's it? Take a few pills and don't eat burgers?"
"Mr. Mulder, your symptoms don't respond to organic reasons, but to the increased sensitivity of the bowel to food, drugs and stress. You're likely to experience more episodes like this, the therapy I'm offering is supportive and palliative. There is no magic cure, but your quality of life will definitely improve if you seek to resolve the underlying problems that cause you stress."
Mulder looked up to me and blushed, Dr. Kendall was all but confirming everything I had been telling him about seeking professional help.
"I'd like you to stay here for the night, Mr. Mulder. You're doing better, and if you keep it up, I'll discharge you in the morning," the doctor smiled, then looked at me. "And Dr. Scully, please tell your mother that she's welcome to come and work in our kitchen any time."
Mulder ate a light dinner and kept it down, and then quickly fell asleep. He'd been complaining of tiredness, to the point that he didn't even bitch for having to stay another night. I should have known that something was wrong, but when I realized what it was, it was late.
By 1 am, Mulder was shaking with chills. An hour later, his fever had spiked to 105ºF, his pulse was borderline 130 and his breathing was rapid and shallow. His nausea had returned with a vengeance and he threw up everything he had consumed earlier.
"Scully I can't breathe... hurts ....help me." His bed was surrounded by nurses who stripped him unceremoniously to apply ice packs on his groin, neck and armpits. Another one adjusted a full mask over his mouth and nose, while someone else was taking his blood pressure. He tried to fight the intruding hands, but he was quickly restrained. I stood by, watching those people torturing him, unable to help him, and
tears came down unabashedly down my face.
He was supposed to go home tomorrow, why couldn't he get a break for once? They took him to radiology again, and I was sure the chest X-ray wouldn't be clear this time: he had all the symptoms of pneumonia.
Dr. Reubens was called in a hurry. He ordered Mulder to be taken to the ICU, and they wouldn't let me see him until they finished setting him up. When I was finally allowed to his cubicle, my heart broke into pieces. He was bucking against the restraints, two nurses were trying to calm him down without success.
"Daddy no no no please."
I stopped cold, wondering how high his fevered had to be.
"Dana Dana help me, help me Dana!" Oh Lord. I charged in and untied his arms before the astonished surprise of the ICU staff. His bed was in semi recumbent position, so it wasn't so difficult to pull him to my arms and embrace him.
"Shh it's me, Mulder. You're safe, it's okay you're going to be fine" he was dead weight against me, and he was burning up with fever. I wasn't sure I was reaching him in the confused mental state he seemed to be. "You have a very high fever, please let us help you cool you down a bit, okay?"
"Hurts" I could barely understand what he was saying under the oxygen mask, but his expression of agony was enough.
"I know, sweetheart. Just lie down, try to relax."
"I won't, Mulder. I'm not going anywhere." When things go completely wrong, sometimes you find yourself counting your blessings for the little things that are right. In this case, it was the unusually quiet night in the ICU that allowed the nurses give the best possible attention to my ailing partner. They kept bathing him, changing his bed, they even got fans placed at his bedside that helped cool his burning body. He was too tired to cough by himself to produce sputum, so they had to suction it out of him. It was quite a disgusting procedure, both to watch and to suffer, but I stayed with him, holding his hand, talking
to him in whispers.
I couldn't believe it wasn't even noon yet. Mulder's fever was still dangerously high in spite of the antibiotics he was being given. Doctor Reuben suspected he had contracted pneumonia, and the X-rays showed he also had pleurisy, an infection in the pleura, the outer membrane covering the lungs. That accounted for the severe pain and symptoms that mimicked those of abdominal distress, but the definitive diagnosis would only be available when the lab tests were back. Once they'd figure out which bacteria was causing the disease, they'd be able to strike with the optimum cocktail of antibiotics.
Due to the growing precariousness of Mulder's ability to breathe on his own, Dr. Reubens was cautious with the administration of sedatives and painkillers.
"They might depress his breathing even further, and then we'd have to intubate him," he explained, as if I didn't know already. Having a tube inserted would be an open invitation for other microorganisms to invade his lungs, and Mulder was in enough trouble as it was. The painkillers he was on were barely enough to keep him reasonably comfortable; so he woke up easily every time a nurse came to check on him, which happened every fifteen minutes.
By 3 pm it was obvious that the antibiotics weren't working, their only effect was giving Mulder severe intestinal cramps. I tried to ease his discomfort by rubbing his belly with my flat palm. I could feel the muscles contracting under my hand, provoking spasmodic movements.
Thanks to the ongoing cooling measures, Mulder's temp was stable at 103.5º, but his condition continued to deteriorate. His heart rate was fast, his blood pressure dangerously dropping. Dr Reubens ordered a blood gas test, and in no time a nurse came in and stuck an large needle in Mulder's left wrist. I knew those were painful, so I held his other hand while he cried in pain.
"Shh I know that hurt, but it's okay now, it's okay."
The doctor also ordered a tray with intubation gear to be kept at his bedside at all times, should they have to resort to it in a hurry, but Mulder was fighting. Drawing strength from who knows where, he was fighting. "I'm so proud of you, Mulder," I whispered in his ear. "You're the most stubborn, obstinate and pigheaded person that ever walked on this planet, and I love you for that."
Mulder spent the rest of the afternoon in and out of consciousness, and all I could do for him was sit by his side and hold his arm. When he was awake, or at least conscious, he'd take my hand too, almost making sure I was still there.He was getting tired of being bothered constantly. He wasn't really used to this, most of the times he'd been in the ICU he was in a coma, unaware of the nurses' attentions. He groaned through the mask every time someone walked into his cubicle with some torture element, he particularly disliked being suctioned.
My mom almost broke down into tears when she saw him. She came in, thinking *Fox* would be discharged and ready to take him home, only to find him in the ICU riddled with tubes and wires.
"You can't keep things nice and easy, can you, son?" Mulder opened his eyes and smiled weakly under the mask. He leaned into her caress as tears rolled down his pale, consumed face.
I would have cried my heart out if I hadn't been so busy trying to catch my next breath. I simply couldn't understand why was I being punished so much. Whoever was choosing this for me, why didn't they just kill me? A nice heart attack, for example. BAM! It's over. I was a coward, I couldn't do it myself, so why couldn't I get a little help for a change? But no, I was going to die anyway, only gasping like a fish out of the water, with Scully and her mother watching. At least I could be at
home, but no, it had to be in a hospital, with people torturing me under the pretense of helping.
Why the hell was I still fighting? Why? WHY????
I had to let go, to let all go. Whatever happens, I'll leave it all to chance.
<Sam? Samantha? Is that you?>
<Fox!> the little girl threw herself into my arms, wrapping her slender legs around my waist and her arms around my neck.
<What are you doing here, Sam? It's so good to see you!>
<What are *you* doing here?>
<Where am I?>
<Where you don't belong. Not yet, at least.>
<But I've been here before. I like it, it's so peaceful.>
<You came here looking for me.>
<I'm so sorry, Sam>
<What for? What happened to me was not your fault. *I'm* sorry, Fox. You are the one who took the worst part. You suffered too much in my name, and you didn't deserve it.>
<Go back, big brother. There's someone waiting for you on the other side.>
<I don't want to come back. There's so much pain, and I'm tired>
<She will help you, Fox. She's the light, just follow it and you'll be okay.>
<Will I ever see you again?>
<No, but you'll know I'm there. And Fox>
<Don't believe their lies, Fox. You've been right all along.>
<What's that supposed to mean?>
<You will know. Soon.>
The vision dissolved into the darkness, and the darkness dissolved into a bright, piercing light. And before I could feel anything else, I sensed Scully's hand on mine.
"He's waking up!" The voice contained such joy and relief that I barely recognized it as Scully's. "Mulder, can you hear me?"
I squeezed her hand with all the strength I could muster, but I'm
afraid it was quite a poor attempt. She must have felt it, though, because she squeezed back. "Thank God!" she ran her hand through my hair. I tried to say something but I couldn't. "Shh you're intubated, Mulder, don't try to talk. Geeze, you scared the hell out of me, partner." I wanted to stay awake and tell her not to worry, that I was going to be okay
Yes, I was going to be okay.
I opened my eyes and found three blurry figures over me. One was Scully, holding my hand and stroking me. Maggie was standing beside her, grinning, and the third was Wait. Stop the press.
The third one was my mother.
Dr. Reubens took Mulder out of the respirator that morning and he'd been sleeping since then. I slept a little too, I couldn't do it all the time he's been intubated. Two days before, all of a sudden, he had lost consciousness and stopped breathing, cold turkey. The nurses put the tube down his throat not one minute later, but instead of waking up, he went into cardiac arrest.
It was a nightmare. They finally managed to stabilize him, but Dr. Reubens called me apart and suggested that I called his family. As a doctor as anyone who's been through something like that - I knew that those words were the closest to a death sentence you can get. I called everybody; Skinner, the Gunmen, but I couldn't get myself to hear Mrs. Mulder's voice. It was Skinner who had the dubious privilege.
To my surprise, she came. And not only she came, she even broke down and cried over her sick son's bedside, holding his hand, whispering, pleading. I couldn't take it, I found my way to my mother's arms and cried much needed tears. It was the first time since Mulder had told me he had been abused that I
had the chance to give free reign to my grief in front of another human being. I was so sad and desperate that I couldn't even begin to imagine what would happen if he died.
Dr. Reubens told me later that Mulder had contracted nosocomial pneumonia, meaning that the bacteria invading his lungs were resistant to common antibiotics. He took his chances and administered vancomycin, usually considered the last line of defense in antibiotic therapy. If Mulder's strain was resistant to it, his prognosis would be poor. We prayed, kept our fingers crossed, and celebrated when Mulder's fever began to recede in the wee hours of the morning. That's how he must have felt when he knew my cancer was in remission.
Despite this new brush with the Lady in Black, Mulder wasn't up to so much cherish yet. He was achy and uncomfortable, sweating profusedly, and still nauseous. His mother's presence had thrown him out of balance, and he was too weak to deal with the tide of emotions. But to her credit, Mrs. Mulder was very gentle with him, maybe acknowledging the fragile mental state her son was in. The only time I saw her express an inch of hurt was when she saw my mom with him. I felt sorry for her, truly sorry. Mulder's room was crowded, and he was growing increasingly nervous. I wasn't surprised when he pulled me near and whispered with his still raw voice.
"Please, Dana, tell them to go. I want to be alone with you."
Now that the respirator was gone, the respiratory therapists made their appearance. They'd put Mulder in different positions and clap his chest, sides and back in order to let loose the infection in his lungs; then they'd make him cough to expel it. It was better than being suctioned but only marginally. He was tired and cranky after the session and didn't want to even see a
nurse or a therapist anywhere near him, so I told the staff that I'd be taking care of his sponge bath.
"Do you want me to do this?" I asked softly. I still remembered my own not-so-distant hospital stay and how awful it felt to be manipulated and cared for by strangers, no matter how polite they tried to be. Mulder nodded weakly and closed his eyes in a clear demonstration of complete trust that warmed my heart.
He allowed me to strip him naked so I could clean him up. I covered his privates with a towel most of the time to preserve at least part of his dignity, something that often came in second place in hospitals. I felt so much love for him during that intimate moment, more than I ever thought I could feel. I touched him very gently, trying not to rub his sensitive skin, not to make him feel uncomfortable for being in such a helpless state.
My reward didn't come from his expressive eyes this time, but from the steady beeps of the heart monitor, indicating that he wasn't pretending, that he was truly relaxed. I finished the job by spreading some body lotion all over him to refresh and moisten his dry skin. It must have been a huge relief, because he was smiling as I did that. Grabbing my hand and pulling me closer to him, he took away the mask and kissed me.
A week later
I guess it's pathetic to say that I knew I was going to be okay when they took off the catheter and I could do something as mundane as peeing without being watched. I hate that about hospitals, how you become an specimen, a chunk of sick meat.
This last stay has been considerably harder than any other I can
remember lately. I was very sensitive, emotional and self-conscious. It's a normal reaction, I learned that at college, but when it happens to you, all that knowledge only makes you feel worse.
Once again I begged Scully to sign me out before time. She humored me, I knew she would. She tends to indulge me when I'm sick. Maggie insisted in taking me to her place, so Dana could go back to work. She only worked part-time, though, so I got to spend late afternoons and evenings with her.
Just like before, they agreed to release me early on the condition that I stayed in bed and not rush recovery. They made very clear that a relapse would surely kill me, so I took my anti-depressants and slept. They still had me hooked to the IV line because my stomach didn't feel right yet. Maggie's soup was working wonders, but I needed some heavy duty nutrition if I was going to get better, and the only way I could receive it was parenterally.
My mother was a little offended when I declined her offer to stay at my place and take care of me. I know she meant well, but I wouldn't have felt comfortable around her, and right now, I need all the peace and comfort I can get. I made Scully promise me that we wouldn't *talk* until I felt better. She must be anxious to have that talk, though, because she's putting great effort in healing me, both physically and emotionally. She took charge of the respiratory therapy and no amount of begging
deters her from administering the torture, but then she makes it up by giving me a full massage that renders me boneless and babbling incoherently. Sometimes I can't believe how much I enjoy being touched like that; when she did it that night in the hospital I almost cried in relief, that feeling alone justified being alive.
I haven't told Scully about Samantha and her mysterious words about not believing their lies. Was I clinically dead when I had vision? That would be one hell of an X-File. I missed the X-Files. I missed my office, being on the road with Scully, working together like a neatly assembled team. Not everything were lies.
I was dwelling in Charlie's old room, since it had a TV and a stereo.
"He was the spoiled child. Charlie was in his teens when I went to college, and being the only one left got him quite a few privileges," Dana told me.
"He has lots of CDs, let's see if I can find something that won't break the glass of the window." She chose three CDs, put one in each rack and hit 'random', then she stretched on the bed beside me. I wish she'd put her head on my chest, but it still hurt so she rested on my arm and ran her hand all over my
belly and chest.
Hmm I knew there was a reason to live. The music played and I recognized the song.
"Hey, that's U2! Listen to it, Scully, it's beautiful."
"Sing it to me," she asked.
<Sometimes I feel like I don't know sometimes I feel like checking out I wanna get it wrong Can't always be strong
And love it won't be long>
Okay, so it was a little close to home. My chest was getting tight and tears inevitably welled up in my eyes. Whenever I found my voice between my hiccups, I'd sing along.
<You know I need you to be strong and the day is as dark as the night is long>
"Oh Mulder, it's okay" she whispered, aware of the effect a simple song was having on my fragile control. I fought the urge to surrender until the part I liked best, the one that said the words that I really wanted her to hear, because I wouldn't find better ones.
<I remember when we could sleep on stones Now we lie together in whispers and moans When I was all messed up
And I heard opera in my head Your love was a light bulb
Hanging over my bed Baby baby baby, light my way>
I finally gave in and cried in her arms like I haven't done in a long time. But these were cleansing tears, and she could tell the
difference. I was, after all, one tough, resilient and stubborn son of a bitch who had the most tenacious, loyal and beautiful woman in the world in his arms.
In a dark the corner of the room, the image of my little sister was waving her hand at me. I smiled to myself; if I was seeing ghosts again, I was *really* getting better. I waved my hand too.
You were right, sis. She was the light. She'll light my way.
Well, folks, that's it. Thanks for staying until the end, I hope it was worth the wait. If not, you can always flame me! :)
For those of you who asked: Part of this story (Mulder's depression and Scully's struggle to drag him out of it) was inspired by real life events. Last year my best friend suffered a major case of depression, and since I was the only person outside her family she was close to, she confided in me a lot. I
listened to her, held her if she needed to cry, and tried my best to be there for her. It was heartbreaking to hear the stories she was telling me (which were sad, dealing with emotional abuse), but that simply wasn't enough. She needed a kind of help I couldn't give her, and when I heard her talking about how she was planning to kill herself, I was out of my mind with worry. I'd always been the strong one, but I wasn't sure I could handle *that*.Fortunately, she decided to seek professional help, and after harrowing sessions of psychotherapy and medication, she did get better. I was so happy, I never missed a chance to tell her how proud I was, how much I admired her courage to fight her demons. It never occurred to me to expect anything in return for being her friend, and yet I received it one day when she confessed that she had actually *tried* to commit suicide, but then thought about me and changed her mind. It was a "thank you" so big that wouldn't fit in two little words. Even today, it makes my eyes sting with tears. A few months later my friend moved out of our country and started a new life in Germany. We email to each other almost daily, but I miss her so much.
I wish with all my heart that she can make it home for Christmas.