Sun, 27 Jul 97

Title: Abah II: Through His Eyes
Author: Susan Proto
Category: Story, Angst, UST
Rating: PG (for some language)
Spoilers: Through the fourth season
Summary: The experience of Mulder's illness and initial recovery as
basically seen through the eyes of one character and why.

Archive: Yes

Disclaimer: These character belong to 10/13 productions and Chris
Carter. Since I still have these bouts of delusions of grandeur on
occasion and think I know what I'm doing, I am borrowing them. I
promise I won't keep them (unless Mr. Carter would like me to) and I
will give them back at the end of the story. Honest. Promise. For the
Asian sequences, I did refer to USMC Home Page for information;
specifically the Marine corps News Summary> Profiles in the Corps, and
"The Infantryman's Creed." In addition, I did take full advantage of my
copy of the Home Medical Encyclopedia for medical facts.

Introduction: This is the follow-up to my first story, "Abah." I
wanted to explore the "Abah" character more. And no, not *that* Abah,
the good one! If you haven't read the first story you might want to
take the time to do so, since you won't get a full explanation of what I
meant by that last line in this follow-up. If you read this one first,
you might find some holes of confusion, but in a pinch I suppose it
could stand alone.

I did receive some wonderful, ego boosting responses as well as some
very helpful pointers regarding "Abah." Please, Please, Please!!! Help
me out by sending me feedback on this one too. I've only got a few more
weeks till I have to return to school, and I just know my students are
going to put a damper on my time writing! <<giant sigh>> Anyway,
please send comments and constructive criticism (but please, no out and
out flames unless you bring the bar-b-que sauce!) to the following:

All E-Mail to:

Thanks in advance, and I hope you enjoy!

Abah II: Through His Eyes
by Susan Proto

Part 1/5

July, 1972
Fox Company, 2nd Bn, 1st Marine Division
Binh Son, Viet Nam

He felt frozen to the ground. How could he feel frozen to the ground in
this sweltering heat? His uniform was soaked from the perspiration.
Was it from the heat and humidity, or was it from being so scared
shitless that he feared he might piss in his pants, or worse.

The explosions of gun fire were a continuous, nonstop assault on his
ears. He looked around him at the men in his platoon and tried to
emulate their faces; he knew he had to mask his fear! Damn it!! He
*wanted* this! He *chose* this! So why was he so afraid? He was a
marine, damn it! He should be able to deal with this-

"Yo, Greenhorn!"

He looked around, wondering if the Sergeant was indeed talking to him.

"Yeah, you. Get over here." He walked over to where the sergeant was
sitting. He was shuffling some papers on a clipboard, but it didn't
look like he was paying that close attention to what he was shuffling.
"Private Skinner?"

The young man nodded.

"Son, the USMC usually expects its greenhorns to acknowledge a superior
officer with more than just a nod of the head."

"Oh, sorry sir. Yes, sir. Private Skinner, sir."

"That's better. Now, let's see how long you been here? Hmm, according
to the green behind the gills look on your face, I'd say that be
somewhere between too long and long enough. Am I close Private

The sergeant had a slightly bemused expression, but Skinner was unsure
as to how to respond to his superior officer. He certainly didn't want
to admit he felt nauseous in front of the sergeant and everyone else..
but as the gunfire became even more constant (how was that even
possible?) and seemed to become louder and closer every moment that
passed, Private Skinner, who just turned eighteen years old barely ten
weeks ago, felt ready to upchuck, at the very least, every meal he'd
eaten in those last ten weeks.

Before Skinner could find the appropriate and least humiliating words to
respond with, the sergeant said, "Sit down, son." Pointing to the empty
space next to him, "Here. Sit." Skinner moved to the space the sarge
indicated and did as he was told.

"Lovely place, Vietnam, isn't it? Binh Son, the piss hole of Asia.
Right Malavoy?"

"Yes sir, Sergeant Brady, Sir! Piss hole of Asia, Sir!"

"You agree Jackson?"

"Yes sir, Sergeant Brady, Sir! Binh Son is the piss hole of Asia, Sir!"

"And what about you Private Skinner? What do you think?"

"Yes sir, Sergeant Brady, Sir. This is the piss hole of Asia, Sir."
Skinner tried hard to make his statement as boldly and as forcefully as
the other men had, but his stomach continued to turn somersaults making
it difficult for him to speak with any conviction.

Just then, some sniper fire hit some of the equipment nearby causing all
of the men to assume a prone position. After a few minutes when it
appeared that what ever gunfire was sent a short time ago would not
resume at this time. The men resumed their original positions, doing
whatever it was they were doing before some unknown North Vietcong
soldier tried to get himself noticed. Everyone that is, except Private

He could no longer keep his tumultuous stomach in check, and was in the
process of emptying the contents from that sumptuous meal he had over
fifteen hours ago. Sarge looked over at Skinner. Private "eighteen
fucking year old baby" Walter Skinner. A God damned fucking baby! Why
do they keep sending me God damned fucking babies to fight this God
damned fucking war?

Skinner finally finished vomiting. He wiped his mouth with his sleeve
and looked back at the sarge. He started to say something, but then
stopped. Sarge returned the gaze with a question in his eyes, mutely
giving Skinner permission to speak.

"Sergeant Brady, Sir. When do you get used to it? When do you get used
to constant sound of the shooting?" he asked with a slightly tremulous

"Private Skinner, who said you ever get used to it?" he responded
quietly, almost gently. Then he shouted, "Jackson! Are you used to
the damn shooting yet?"

"No Sergeant Brady, Sir, no!" he replied with the same conviction as his
statement about Binh Son being a piss hole.

"Malavoy, are you used to the damn grenades blowing up practically under
your feet?"

"No, Sergeant Brady, Sir, no!" replied Malavoy.

"Donaldson? Baker? Gianinni? What about you guys? Are you used to the
constant sniper fire, the grenades blowing up your latrine while you cop
a squat? Are you?" Sergeant Brady asked.

Three "No, Sergeant Brady, Sir, No!" came in quick succession.

"So you see Private Skinner, you don't get used to it. Don't let anyone
tell you that you ever get used to it, `cause if they do, they're the
biggest mother fuckin' liar on the face of this side of hell. But you're
a marine Private Skinner, and you will deal with it. That's what we all
have to do; we have to deal with it. And son, we help each other deal
with it. Don't you forget that, okay?"

And with that, Sergeant Brady placed a firm hand on Skinner's shoulder.
That small show of compassion and support made Skinner actually feel
safe for the first time since he arrived in this piss hole of Asia.

July, 1997
Washington General Hospital
Washington, DC
1:15 p.m.

"Walter. Walter...wake up, Walter." Walter Skinner felt a light
pressure on his shoulder. "Walter, you need to wake up."

Walter Skinner opened his eyes slowly, adjusting them to the bright
light of the hospital room. It took him a moment to acclimate to the
sudden brightness. Next, he saw Margaret Scully looking kindly at him.
Margaret Scully,.. Maggie. Mother of FBI Special Agent Dana Scully who
was the partner of FBI Special Agent Fox Mulder. Mulder- Fox. Skinner
then looked down to see his arms wrapped around the chest of Fox Mulder.

"Walter, they're going to be taking Fox down for a CAT scan. You need
to get up, stretch, and grab a bite to eat." Maggie said.

"Yeah, I guess, but what if he wakes up?" Skinner asked.

"He'll be okay while they do the test. The nurses are all aware of
what's been going on, and they'll send for us in the cafeteria if they
think he needs you," she replied.

Walter Skinner looked at Maggie Scully and wondered how she managed to
look so calm and in control during this entire ordeal, while he, who
always prided himself on his ability to take charge in a crisis, felt
like he'd been through hell these past two weeks with no sign of
returning to normal. As if she could read his mind, Maggie extended a
hand to Walter and said, "Come along Walter, even Assistant Directors of
the FBI need to take a break once in a while. I'm hungry, so you must
be starved. Come on, even Dana and Elizabeth are going to join us and
get something to eat."

Walter climbed out of the bed, over the still semi-comatose Fox Mulder.
Walter looked at Mulder trying to will him to wake up. At least he was
breathing on his own now, and the fever had gone down to a more
manageable 101.5 degrees. But the bout of bacterial meningitis was
still making its mark. Fox continued to go in and out of
semi-consciousness, waking up from frightening places that only his
"Abah" could save him from.

His "Abah." How the hell did Walter Skinner, Assistant Director of the
FBI, take on the role of Fox Mulder's boyhood savior; a father figure
that made him feel safe and secure in a world that was far from safe or
secure for him as a young boy. As the nurses came in to prep him for
his trip to the CAT lab, Walter remembered back to the day Fox was
brought in by ambulance.

First the paramedics worked so hard to stabilize him for the trip to the
hospital. He was delirious and seizing from the fever. He kept
talking nonsense, or what they had thought was nonsense until Ellen, one
of EMT's translated the word "Abah" for them all. It was the Hebrew
word for father, and apparently Mulder was calling for his father.

He remembered how he and Scully looked at each other with surprised
expressions, since they both knew the relationship between Mulder and
William Mulder was strained at best. The fact that William Mulder was
deceased would also pose a problem.

The doctors and nurses were working on him frantically as his fever
raged above the 105 degree mark. Everyone was working so hard to get
the intravenous lines in place. Each time they thought they were done,
it seemed Mulder would start to seize, and inadvertently pull out at
least one of the IV lines. He continued to mutter out loud the word
"Abah" over and over again, begging this figure from the past to come
and help him to make it stop hurting. Even through the necessary lumbar
puncture, which would help confirm the diagnosis of meningitis, Fox
continued to call for his Abah.

The doctor came out and told him and Scully that it was meningitis,
probably bacterial, and that Fox was one very sick young man. She told
them his family needed to be contacted. Even when Scully questioned the
wisdom of having Mrs. Mulder make a trip that could prove debilitating
for her, the doctor advised her to contact her, as soon as possible.

Scully turned pale at that moment; Skinner wasn't sure if it was because
she didn't want to face the task of calling Mrs. Mulder or because of
the doctor's implication that speed was of the essence, probably both.
While Scully made the phone call to Elizabeth Mulder and her own mom,
Walter remembered what happened when he accompanied Fox upstairs to the

"Abah, make it stop.. Please Abah, where are you? It hurts, Abah."
cried Fox. Mulder's hands started to reach out in front of him,
threatening to pull out any one of the numerous IV's that were in place.
Walter realized that Fox needed reassurance, if only to keep his IV's
intact, so he reached for his hands.

"Everything's okay, Fox. You're going to be okay. The doctors and
nurses are going to give you good medicine to make you feel better."
The entire time he spoke to him, Walter Skinner held onto Fox's hands,
caressing them and holding them, trying to reassure him both with his
voice and his touch.

By the time he got upstairs, Fox had seemed calmer, much to Skinner's
relief. The gurney was wheeled into the ICU cubicle, and placed
adjacent to the hospital bed that would be his home for the
unforeseeable future. Skinner had to extract himself from Mulder's
hands, so he could move out of the medical staff's way. The nurses and
the orderlies proceeded to transfer Mulder from the gurney to the ICU
bed. As they began to lift him, all hell broke loose.

Mulder began screaming and crying and thrashing about. He was delirious
and so frightened in the delirium. The orderlies were ready to put the
restraints on, but one of the nurses stopped him. "He's been having
grand mal seizures. I don't think it's a good idea to restrain him. He
could hurt himself even more." A doctor came in and attempted to hold
Fox down so the nurses could replace the IV's, but Fox continued to
shriek in fear, crying out for "Abah," and trying to climb out of the
bed in search of him.

When the doctor said it looked like they would have to put him in
restraints, Walter remembered he, himself, shouted out "No! I'll take
care of it." At that point, Walter threw off his suit jacket and tie,
and tossed them on the chair. He then toed off his loafers and
proceeded to do something that totally shocked the hell out of everyone,
including himself.

He, literally, climbed into bed with the patient. He climbed to the
head of the bed behind his head. First picking Mulder's head up, he sat
down, and then he pulled Mulder up so that he could use Skinner as a
back and headrest. Skinner stretched his long legs out on either side
of Mulder's body and legs. Mulder's arms continued to whip about like
windmills in search of "Abah." At this point, Walter Skinner did the
only thing he could think of doing; he became "Abah." He reached for
Fox's arms and folded them down across the young man's chest, all the
while Skinner held onto him and embraced him within his own arms.

"Fox, I'm here. Abah's here, Fox. Shhhh, I'm here. Abah's here,"
Skinner whispered soothingly into his ear. Skinner held Fox Mulder
firmly, wanting him to realize that someone was there to watch over him
and to keep him safe. And the most amazing thing happened.

"Abah? Abah, I missed you Abah.. It hurts, make it stop, Abah.
Please?" Mulder whimpered, but then buried his head back into Walter's
chest. He became docile, and his body lost the rigidity that was so
visible just moments before. The nurses were able to lift Mulder's arms
up, and replace all of the IV's.

July, 1997
Washington General Hospital
Washington, DC
1:27 p.m.

"Walter? Walter, are you okay?" Maggie asked, bringing him back to the

"What?.. yeah, just tired I guess," he replied.

"You've been through a lot these last couple of weeks."

"We all have, Maggie," Walter sighed. He noticed Mulder was already out
of the room. "Let's go get that bite to eat."

As they entered the cafeteria, Walter spotted Dana Scully and Elizabeth
Mulder. Dana, wearing a pair of faded jeans and a seafoam colored tee,
somehow looked even smaller than her already petite stature. Her red
hair hung loosely along the sides of her face, though she was constantly
trying to tuck it behind her ears. Her face looked pale, her eyes
circled dark with fatigue and worry. This was one more trauma that she
could have done without. It was hard enough for her to deal with the
cancer that's threatening to invade her brain, now she had to hold
herself together in order to be a support for Mulder.

Skinner always knew there was a special relationship between Scully and
Mulder, but up until this latest crisis, he had assumed it was strictly
professional. He knew better now, though he was fairly certain they
were never physically intimate; no, they were closer than that. Theirs
was a connection he could have only dream of having someday.

"Sir, would you like some coffee?" Dana asked.

"Coffee? No, I don't think so; my stomach's been doing some somersaults

"Dana," said Maggie, "get Walter a cup of tea and lemon. That might
help settle his stomach. And perhaps some toast?" Skinner nodded in

"Okay, Mom. What about you? And Elizabeth, would you like some coffee
or tea?" she asked.

Maggie requested coffee and a tuna sandwich, to which Elizabeth Mulder
echoed the same. Dana excused herself to get the food and drink.
Skinner quietly observed the two women sitting before him. So
different, yet in many ways so much the same. As small and dark Maggie
Scully was, that was how tall and fair skinned Elizabeth Mulder

Maggie reminded Skinner of a bulldog; always ready to pick a fight with
anyone who even looked like they were going to do harm to her children.
She protected them fiercely, and Fox Mulder had been included in her
large brood almost from the day she met him. Walter was becoming quite
fond of Maggie Scully; he appreciated the small comforts she's provided
him within the rather unusual situation they have all found themselves
bound together. When this is all over, he hoped to have the chance to
still see Margaret Scully.

Elizabeth Mulder was another story. Skinner knew so little of her
before this week. He had met her only once before, at her ex-husband's
funeral a year or so ago. She didn't have the feisty personality that
was so indicative of the Scully women, but she did possess an inner
strength that was definitely all her own. She showed a great deal of
courage in coming to her son even though she knew he and Dana were angry
with her.

Fox and Dana knew Elizabeth Mulder was in possession of certain truths
that would help explain some of the pain of Mulder's childhood to him.
But Elizabeth Mulder felt the need to withhold this information from
him in a futile attempt to spare him further pain.

He learned from her, this past week, some of those truths that bore a
hole in her heart. While passing the time, waiting for one crisis after
another to pass during Fox's illness, she told him how her marriage
began to fail shortly after her daughter, Samantha, was abducted from
their home in Chilmark when she was only eight years old. At that time
also, a dear friend of the family's, Jack, disappeared. He was one of
Bill Mulder's best friends and, obviously, very close to Elizabeth as
well. He was, Elizabeth informed him, Fox's "Abah."

As their marital relationship became more strained, Bill, apparently
took his frustrations out on Fox. He became abusive toward the boy,
which caused Elizabeth to withdraw emotionally more and more over time
in a perpetual state of helplessness. Why did she choose to stay with
him? The times were not conducive for her to leave. She feared she
would be proven an unfit mother, due to her relationship with Jack, and
she couldn't chance the possibility that Bill would gain custody of Fox.

The final draw was "an altercation" between father and son that ended
with Fox in the hospital with a concussion and broken arm. While her
son was laid up in the hospital, Elizabeth Mulder packed her husband's
things and demanded he leave the family home in Chilmark. It was
shortly after that that time Bill Mulder bought his home in West
Tisbury. Still close enough to do damage to their only remaining child

"Here's your tea and toast, sir," said Dana.

Skinner murmured his thanks and began to pour some sugar into the tea.
He watched the sugar swirl around in the tea cup.

August, 1972
Mary's Place for Food and Drink
Binh Son, Viet Nam

"GI Joe do not like tea?" the small Asian woman asked.

"What?" Pvt. Skinner looked up, confused. "Umm, no the tea's fine.
Really, it's fine."

"Okay GI Joe, you want more to eat?"

"No, I'm done eating; just the tea." He looked at the person before
him. She was older than her physical appearance would have him believe.
He knew she had at least two sons in the South Vietnamese Army and three
daughters. Hard to believe four children were born from that tiny body.
He knew her as Mary because, as she said, foolish Americans could never
say her Vietnamese name right. Of course, she could never get any of
their names right, so she just called everyone GI Joe. No one seemed to
mind though. The food was decent and they were fairly certain they
would never be served dog meat, so that was cause for a four star rating
right there!

"Walter, when do you get here?" Lin's voice carried across the room.

"A little while ago," he responded. "Not to long."

"Long enough for GI Joe to eat all meat and rice," Mary said wryly. "He
get here early to see daughter."

"Mary, common," Walter said, blushing noticeably.

"Come, Walter. It's pretty day. We go for walk, yes?" Lin asked.

Walter put some money on the table and stood up to join the youngest of
Mary's children. He could imagine that Mary was quite a looker in her
day, because Lin looked astonishingly like her mother. Only the skin
was more like burnished unfinished porcelain, and her long black hair
was free from the worried streaks of gray. She wore her traditional
clothing today; the baggy pajama like outfit looked good on her, but
then again, she would look good in anything. She was close to his age,
he just turned eighteen, she just a couple months shy of it.

"It is quiet today, yes Walter?"

"Yes, it's quieter today than yesterday," he replied.

"You think they go away?"

"I wish. No, Lin, I think they're resting, and waiting, but I don't
think they've gone away," he replied with a sigh.

He'd been here a month and Lin was the only thing that was helping him
keep his sanity. The guys in his platoon were good guys, and the sarge
remained a great source of support. But this place was still a shit
hole, and he wanted to get out of here in one piece. And he wanted to
get out of there with Lin, soon. As soon as possible. Hell, he wanted
to get Mary out of there. He'd even throw in the brothers and sister,
but it had to be soon. Because he didn't know how much longer he could
take it. His only escape to sanity were the moments he snatched with
Lin. God, how he loved those moments; how he loved Lin.

July, 1997
Washington General Hospital
Washington, DC

"Excuse me, Mr. Skinner. I'm sorry, but you asked us to call you...."
Walter looked up from his tea cup, realizing he hadn't tasted a drop.
He saw one of the now way too familiar faces of the hospital staff.
Lin? Linda....her name is Linda.

"Yes, Linda, what's wrong?" he asked.

"He's in the throes of another night terror. He's been crying for Abah,
and I knew you would want to get back to him."

"Where is he?" Skinner asked anxiously as he stood bolt upright.

"He's back in his room. We actually managed to get the CAT scan done
first," she commented, though it was actually to his back since Skinner
was practically out the door before she finished. The rest of Fox's
family followed closely behind.

Skinner entered the room to find two nurses, one orderly, and a very
frightened candy striper trying valiantly to get Fox Mulder to calm
down. While he observed their efforts, Walter took off his shoes and
edged his way to the bed. One of the nurses and the orderly were
familiar with the unique arrangement of Fox Mulder's strange bedfellow.
The other nurse and the candy striper, however, were new to the

Nurse Newbie began very huffily asking what in heaven's name did he
think he was doing? Didn't he realize this patient was very ill?
Didn't he realize they were trying to calm him down? Didn't he realize
how against procedure his actions were?

Poor woman. He didn't know anyone could turn as many shades of red as
she did when he said, in his most Assistant Director of the FBI voice,
"I know about procedure, believe me, I know about procedure. Now, would
you please be quiet."

Walter Skinner then proceeded to assume the position much of the ICU
section had become accustomed and, at this point, relieved, to see. He
climbed to the head of the bed and positioned himself behind Mulder so
that, once again, he became Fox's backrest and security all rolled into
one. Skinner took Mulder's hands and then wrapped his arms around
Mulder's chest. He began the soft, consoling, mantra that all those
familiar with the case have become so well-versed in.

"I'm here, Fox. Abah's here. Shhh, it's okay. You're fine, just fine.
I'm here Fox. Abah is here."

Walter watched the staff that had huddled in the room with him breathe a
sigh of relief. Nurse Newbie even smiled, as she saw the immediate
result. The patient's body became completely relaxed and the relentless
crying and screaming stopped. He returned her smile; he realized how
strange it must have looked to someone new to the situation. The candy
striper still looked a little shell shocked, but she was just a kid, so
that was to be expected. Walter turned his attention to the trio of
concerned family and friends.

"Why don't you ladies go finish your lunch. He's okay, I'm okay. Go

"Are you sure, Walter?" Maggie asked.

"Yes, I'm sure."

"But you didn't eat anything."

Looking at Scully and Maggie, Skinner asked with a glint in his eye,
"What is it about Scully women that feel it's their mission in life to
get FBI men to eat?"

"What is it, Sir, about FBI men that make them forget about the
necessity of well-balanced nourishment when they are in the middle of
crisis situations?" Dana retorted with a wry smile.

"Touch‚ , Scully. I promise, I will grab a bite later, really."

"Yeah, where have I heard that one before?" Scully mumbled. "Common you
guys, let's let the boys get some beauty sleep." When the three women
left the room, Skinner noticed the little green candy striper staring at
him. She quietly inched toward him, and when she was near the curtained
entrance of their cubicle, Walter smiled.

"Hi," he said.

"Hi," she whispered.

"Can I help you?"

"I just... I just wanted.... I mean, I just wanted to say, to tell you,
that was amazing.. I mean I've been a volunteer for two years and that
was the most amazing thing I've ever seen."

Walter wasn't sure how comfortable he felt about receiving these
accolades. "He just needs some extra support," was finally his response.

"You must really love him," she responded softly, but with confidence
that she was stating an absolute truth.

Walter just stared at her. He mouth gaped a bit as he drew in a sharp
breath at her words. How can he respond to that He's an Assistant
Director of the FBI for Christ's sake. Who the hell was this child, who
only moments ago looked like she was going to throw up out of fear, and
is now telling him that he has feelings.... feelings? He hasn't had
any real feelings since since.

September, 1972
Fox Company, 2nd Bn, 1st Marine Division
Binh Son, Viet Nam

The air was so thick. It felt like you were being strangled by it, it
was that hard to breathe. He hadn't noticed him enter the camp. Lin
was in the camp with him today. She'd been earning extra money doing
some of the guys' laundry. They figured they don't have much else to
spend their money on, so why not take advantage of this luxury.
Besides, they liked Lin. They knew he liked Lin. A lot. A real lot.
Sergeant Brady had been teasing him lately. Asking him if the reason
why it was so damned humid was `cause there was love in the air. All he
did was smile. A lot. A real lot.

Franklyn shouted, "It's Miller Time." Everyone's head shot up at once;
that was code for, "Guys, we got a big problem." Skinner looked over to
where Franklyn was pointing.. Skinner remembered the first night he
arrived and how scared he felt. He remembered the sarge's words,
"Everyone's afraid, and don't let anyone tell you different." He was
afraid now. He knew everyone in the camp was afraid.

Standing before them was a small Vietnamese boy. He could have been
seven years old; he could have been twelve years old. It was sometimes
hard to tell how old these kids were. They seemed to grow old before
their time. But this child. He had to keep reminding himself this was a
child. This child was covered in grenades. His entire torso and back
were hidden by grenades. Sergeant Brady called out his name, "Private

Skinner looked over towards the Sergeant. Sergeant Brady looked at him
and simply nodded. Skinner stared back at him. He couldn't believe the
sarge would have him do that, but he also knew there was no way he could
have misinterpreted the command. Skinner didn't want to do this, did
he? But this is what he was trained to do. His mind started spinning;
he remembered "The Infantryman's Creed" that was drummed into him at
Boot Camp-

"This is my rifle. There are many like it but this one is mine. My
rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I master
my life.

"My rifle, without me is useless. Without my rifle, I am useless. I
must fire my rifle true. I must shoot straighter than any enemy who is
trying to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me. I will.."

Skinner raised his rifle. He aimed it toward the enemy, the boy.. the
child that was threatening his life and the lives of his platoon.

"My rifle and myself know that what counts in this war is not the rounds
we fire, the noise of or burst, nor the smoke we make. We know that it
is the hits that count. We will hit..."

Skinner took aim. He held the rifle in his hands steady. He cocked the

"My rifle is human, even as I, because it is my life. Thus, I will
learn it as a brother. I will learn its weakness, its strength, its
parts, its accessories, its sights and its barrel. I will keep my rifle
clean and ready, even as I am clean and ready. We will become part of
each other.

"We will-"

Skinner released the trigger. The bullet traveled as if in slow motion
toward its intended target. He thought he heard someone calling out to
him, calling his name. "Walllllll------tttttttttt-------eeerrrrrrrrr!"
But that too, was in slow motion.

"Before God I swear this creed. My rifle and myself are the defenders
of my country. We are the masters of our enemy. We are the saviors of
my life."

Skinner watched as the enemy, the boy, the child, looked at him for a
split second before the bullet found its target. The next thing Walter
saw was the horror of an enemy's, a boy's, a child's death. Walter
watched as bits and pieces of the child's head blew apart. The blood
splattered a farther distance than any of them could have imagined

"So be it, until victory is America's and there is no enemy, but Peace."

The enemy's, the boy's, child's body did a small dance before it fell.
It was at peace.

Lin came running over, crying Walter's name over and over again. When
Walter went to reach out to her, she passed him and ran toward the
small, mutilated child lying on the ground. "Lin, NO! Don't!! NO!" he
shouted. Everyone started running in the opposite direction, running for
cover. Walter was standing there, staring in disbelief, when Brady
pulled and pushed him to cover.

The explosion was so loud. Many of the men complained of deafness or
ringing in their ears for days, some weeks. Skinner found his hearing
was affected for only a short time, but he didn't seem to care, one way
or another. He continued his assigned duties without complaint or
comment. He continued doing everything without complaint or comment.
Walter Skinner had stopped talking. He stopped feeling. He stopped

July, 1997
Washington General Hospital
Washington, DC
3:45 p.m.

When he looked back up, Skinner saw the candy striper had been called
away for some other duty. He looked down at the sleeping face, who so
easily nestled into his chest as though this was the most comfortable
and natural act in the world. Walter was exhausted. He was not a man
who easily allowed himself to get caught up in the personal lives of

That attitude was one of the major reasons behind Sharon's decision to
divorce him. He just couldn't allow her to become totally dependent
upon him for all of her comfort, support, and needs, and he certainly
could never become dependent upon her for any of those things. It was
beyond his ability to accept positive feelings from anyone that would
require him to reciprocate in kind. That was too dangerous, it would
make it too easy to get hurt. And then he met Mulder. And Scully. And
he's been on a roller coaster ride of hope and hopelessness ever since.

First his divorce. Then Scully's abduction, subsequent return, and
discovery of her cancer. Next, the realization that Mulder really had a
right to trust no one, because every time he found a piece of the puzzle
to his truth, he was thwarted. It was enough to make a man crazy. It
was enough make a man decide to get back into the battle.

So, he became a player in the game in the hopes that he could at least
they could find some peace, even he never could. He didn't think he
would ever be capable of feeling a sense of peace; would he ever be
capable of feeling? Anything besides hollow sense of patriotism?

May, 1973
Fox Company, 2nd Bn, 1st Marine Division
Binh Son, Viet Nam

The company was conducting their routine operations when they
encountered a group of enemy soldiers who were well hidden among the
outskirts of the rice paddies. Sergeant Brady knew if they stayed put
they were sitting ducks. He also knew they would be heading into even
deeper Viet Cong territory if they tried to retreat. He did what he
and his men were trained to do. "Men, it's time to overtake these

Brady's men attacked across the open rice paddies. When they came
within twenty to thirty meters of the trench line, the enemy struck
back. Grenades, gun fire, mortar fire, machine gun fire were heard,
seen, felt within a matter of minutes. Brady's men were falling dead
and wounded into the open rice paddies.

Sergeant Brady looked over at Skinner. Why the hell didn't he send him
state side. He had every good reason to; the kid seemingly completely
lost it the day he shot that VC kid's head off. And Lin.. Poor Lin,
trying to comfort to one of her own. Poor Skinner, wouldn't allow
himself the luxury of receiving comfort after he made that kill and then
lost Lin. He should have sent him back, but the kid begged him not to.
The first time the kid talked after the incident, he was begging the
Sarge to let him stay.

Funny, anyone else would have jumped at the chance to go back, but not
Pvt. Walter S. Skinner. He said he had nothing to go back to, and he
wanted to finish his tour so the corps would pay for him to go to
college. He had plans. He had big plans. If he sent him back on psych
disability, that would delay his objectives. So Sergeant Brady let him
stay. "just to go home in a body bag," he thought.

Skinner remained near him. He knew the sarge would keep him as safe as
he could, but none of them were prepared for the barrage of gunfire and
grenades and mortar fire. It was coming down all around them..

"Jackson! Jackson, how many down?" Sergeant Brady called out.

"So far at least six, including Malavoy and Donaldson, Sir."

"Franklyn, do you have Donaldson and Baker in sight?" asked the Sarge.

"No Sir, but I do see Gianinni. I haven't seen Skinner, Sir," Franklyn

"Skinner's with me, Franklyn. Tell Gianinni to get his ass around to the
right of the field to assist Jackson."

"Yes Sir."

"Well Skinner, it looks like we got some fightin' to do- Ready?"

The last thing Skinner remembered was nodding his head in answer to the
sarge's question. Then after hearing some gun and mortar fire, he
suddenly found himself hovering above the area of the attack. He
couldn't tell which was exactly his body at first, when he realized the
a good portion of the sarge's body was on top of him. He saw the
sarge's arm around his body; Skinner realized that Sergeant Brady was
trying to protect him till the end. He felt a sense of peace that he
hadn't felt in a long time, but he didn't know where this journey was
going to end.

July, 1997
Washington General Hospital
Washington, DC
8:00 p.m.

The EEG was beginning to make beeps and clicks which could only mean one
thing. Fox Mulder was returning to consciousness. The only question
would be in what state of coherency. The last few days saw him return
to a semi-conscious state, with little awareness of his current
surroundings. Mulder began to stir more restlessly and in turn caused
Walter to slowly open his eyes and awaken.

"Well, Fox? Common, if you're going to wake me up, the least you could
do is join me."

Mulder's eyes began to flutter; the shock of the glare was an assault on
his eyes, which were very sensitive to the light that he hadn't been
aware of in over two weeks. He groaned a little as he tried to get a
grip on his surroundings. He began to look around him through squinting
eyes. He was in a bed, but he felt odd. He wasn't alone. What the
hell? He turned around to see the face of the person who shared his

"Oh shit." Mulder's mouth gaped open in shock. "Sir?"

"Welcome back, Fox." Skinner realized he probably shouldn't use the
agent's first name, seeing as how he'd always claimed to have hated it.
But damn it, he was the AD and if Maggie Scully could call him Fox, so
could Walter Skinner!

Mulder looked at Skinner in a state of total confusion. He didn't
understand what was going on; he didn't understand why he was in this
room, though he figured it was a hospital. He'd been a patient enough
times in one to know a hospital room...hell, it's probably the ICU. But
there was something else that was bothering him. Mulder couldn't
understand what his boss just said to him. He couldn't make out the

When Mulder spoke, it sound distorted to himself far away, yet in an
echo chamber. If he hadn't known what he, himself, was saying, it might
have been difficult for him to interpret the words. But when Skinner
spoke, he could barely make out the differentiation in the sounds much
less the words. he couldn't understand.. he couldn't hear. Why
couldn't he hear??

Why was Walter Skinner in the bed with him? What the hell was going on?
Mulder was starting to panic. He couldn't understand what Skinner was
saying to him, and then he saw some nurses come in, and they started to
talk to him, but he couldn't understand them either. They were all
moving their mouths, they were all making incomprehensible sounds.

He was starting to panic more. The more people tried to talk to him,
the more panicky he felt. Mulder's heart started to race, and his
breathing became rapid and shallow. It was apparent he was
hyperventilating and needed to get himself calmed down. Scully, Maggie,
and Elizabeth Mulder came rushing into the room.

"What's going on?" Elizabeth asked. She tried to get closer to her son,
but the nurses were blocking her path at the moment.

"I don't know. He seems to have woken up from the coma, but something's
not right. I heard him speak, but when I spoke to him he didn't
respond. Then he looked at me, and when I spoke he started to
hyperventilate. He seems more upset now then ever; I'm afraid to touch
him." Skinner was visibly becoming unsettled himself.

"Sir," Scully said firmly, "Hug him like you've been doing all along."

"What? Scully, he's like a scared animal. All I want to do is get out
of here before he strokes out on me!"

"No. You're right, he's scared, but we have to find out why. He needs
to know he's safe. You gave him that feeling of security for the last
two weeks. He'll sense it." And then Scully just looked at him and
pleaded, "Sir, please."

Walter grabbed the two hands that were holding on to the side of the bed
for dear life. He crossed them in front of Mulder's chest, and "assumed
the position." Mulder's heart was still racing way too fast, and his
breathing continued to be rapid, but he wasn't fighting Walter's hold on
him like he had anticipated. Skinner was amazed at how well Scully
could predict Mulder's reaction to anything. She was right again. The
nurse held up a bag to Mulder's face in an effort to get him to inhale
more carbon dioxide and slow his breathing down. After a minute or two,
he began to breathe more normally. The nurse removed the bag.

While Skinner continued to hold onto a now limp Fox Mulder, Scully
looked carefully at Mulder. She was observing him from the far side of
his bed while everyone was talking around him. He always seemed to be a
beat behind the conversation; he wasn't following the chatter, as if-

"Mulder. Look at me." Scully said in a soft voice. She noted the lack
of response amid the rest of the jabbering. In a normal speaking voice,
Scully repeated the direction, and again noted no response. "Mulder,"
she shouted, "Look at me." This time Scully noticed him looking around,
as though he heard something from somewhere, but couldn't pinpoint its
location much less its meaning.

"He can't hear," Scully stated softly. Everyone's attention now focused
on Dr. Scully. "Oh God, he can't hear."

Scully walked over to the bed and took Mulder's face with both of her
hands and guided him to look directly at her. When she saw he focused
on her face, she gave him her most famous, enigmatic, Dr. Dana smile.
She then kissed him on his forehead, and then his right cheek, his left
cheek, his nose. His eyes began to well up with tears. She gently
wiped the tears as they began to fall down his cheeks.

Then, not giving a damn that the room was filled to the hilt with people
(including one FBI Assistant Director,) Special Agent Dana Katherine
Scully, MD, gave Special Agent Fox William Mulder, Phd, the most tender,
caring, loving, kiss she could smack dab in the middle of his beautiful
full lips. Mulder, tentative at first, began to respond and return the
kiss, but suddenly stopped when he realized in whose arms he laid.

Mulder turned around and looked at Skinner silently. Walter had tears
streaming down his face, along with every one else in the room. He
didn't say a word, because given Scully's assessment of the situation,
he realized it wouldn't do any good. So, Skinner simply let go of
Mulder's arms and pushed him gently toward Scully's waiting arms.
Mulder smiled, crying, but smiled, and moved to embrace his love in his

Walter climbed out of the bed, and Maggie met him. She placed her arms
around him and he felt comforted by the embrace. He hesitated for only
a second, and then leaned into her for the physical and emotional
support, and embraced her as well.

"Okay, folks, what's wrong with this picture?" asked Elizabeth Mulder
with a hint of a smile on her lips.

"Oh Elizabeth, come here and say hello to your son," Dana said joyfully.
As Elizabeth moved closer to the bed, Fox took notice of who was coming
toward him.

"Mom? Mom, what are you doing here?"

"Fox William Mulder, have you forgotten that I am your mother, and
mothers are supposed to come to tend to their children when they are
ill?" she replied in mock anger.

Fox was confused. Her hands were on her hips, a position he remembered
her taking when she was reprimanding him for something or other when he
was younger. but her face was well it was almost like she was trying to
stifle a .. a smile. Oh God, what's she saying. I don't understand what
she's saying. He looked at her and the tears started to fall again.
Elizabeth stopped and looked at her son in anguish. She hadn't meant to
upset him. She moved to take Dana's place at his bedside.

"Fox," she said as she took his face into her hands, just as Scully had
done, "Fox, I love you." She said it slowly, loudly, and clearly. And
though he didn't quite catch every sound, he understood. He figured out
what she said.

"I love you too, Mom." Elizabeth Mulder did something she couldn't
remember doing in a very long time. She gathered her first born in her
arms and hugging him, and gently smothering him with kisses, tried to
show him just how much she cherished him.

July, 1997
Washington General Hospital
Washington, DC
Over the course of the next 3 days

Mulder was sent to different parts of the hospital for various types of
tests. As the days progressed, more questions were raised than answers.
Results weren't available immediately, but certain tentative diagnosis
were offered.

The audiologist's initial diagnosis showed significant hearing losses
in both ears. It was determined that the hearing loss was sensorineural
and not conductive since it was apparent through the tests that the
inner ear was affected, not the outer or middle ear. The question that
could not be answered was whether the loss was temporary or permanent.
Other tests would hopefully enable the doctors to answer that question.

Mulder received an MRI in the hope that a more definitive diagnosis
could be made as to the nature and permanency of his disabilities. The
neurologist also did some quick assessments and noted problems in gross
motor skills, primarily in Mulder's balance. She noted that his gait
was clumsy and he had difficulty walking in a straight line without a
good deal of support. Mulder complained of dizziness and nausea when he
remained in a vertical position for longer than ten minutes. The
question that could not be answered was whether this state of vertigo
was temporary or permanent.

He was also subjected to some perfunctory tests by the psychiatric
resident. Mulder showed symptoms of excessive fatigue as well as
depression, which also resulted in the display of some pretty extreme
displays of frustration and temper.

"NO!" he screamed. "NO MORE!"

"Mr. Mulder, now calm down," said the audiologist, as she was attempting
to conduct a new hearing test. Mulder couldn't hear what he was saying,
of course, but the audiologist hoped he could keep his face passive and
non-threatening so that his client would see he wasn't trying to harm him.

Scully and Skinner had been waiting for him in the outer waiting room.
When they heard Mulder's scream, they jumped up simultaneously to see
what was wrong. Scully was ready to knock, but Skinner chose to just
barge in. "What's wrong?" he asked.

"Nothing is wrong, sir. Mr. Mulder is apparently just a little
frustrated with all of the tests he's had to go through these last
couple of days. Otherwise, he's fine." The audiologist was peeved that
his territory should be trespassed so unceremoniously, but Mr. Mulder
was a client and these people were obviously very close to this client.
The fact that he was aware of their FBI status and that they each
carried a gun didn't hurt in his acceptance of the situation either.

Mulder's overreaction had become more the norm in the last forty-eight
hours. He complained each time he was brought to the physical therapy
department. He would refuse to stand up and show a passive resistance
to the therapists that tried to work with him. He refused to eat and
sought to sleep more and more. The only problem was when he finally did
fall asleep, he would invariably wake up screaming and in a cold sweat
from the nightmares.

The "family" sat with him in shifts now to give the nurses a break. He
was no longer in the ICU, but he still needed to be monitored fairly
closely because of all the symptoms he was exhibiting. Going to the
bathroom proved to be a challenge since Mulder's balance was so poor and
his ability to stand, much less walk severely hampered his ability to
meet even his most basic needs.

Sometimes it was Maggie and Elizabeth, or Dana and Skinner; it could
have been Dana and Elizabeth or Maggie and Skinner. The pairs were ever
changing, but they were constantly there. Skinner sat in the chair near
Mulder's bed now, though there were a couple of instances when Mulder
was in the throes of a night terror that he wasn't sorely tempted to
climb back into the bed with him and hold him tightly till it passed.

Skinner could tell Mulder felt tentative, almost scared, when he was
around him. He knew he still didn't understand the role he was
playing. Skinner wasn't even sure if Fox remembered there was an "Abah."
Skinner wanted to explain to him what had happened, but he couldn't find
the words or the means to express them. So, he just sat quietly nearby,
offering a silent support that was being accepted tenuously at best.

July, 1997
Washington General Hospital
Washington, DC
The 4th day of recovery

"Okay," the doctor said, "Here's what we're dealing with." Dr. James
Schecter had a clipboard and pen handy to supply communication for his
patient. "I'm going to write down what I say, Fox," he said and wrote
simultaneously, "and I'll also write down your family's questions and
whatever answers I can provide. Is that okay with you"? Mulder nodded
his affirmation. He wasn't comfortable talking because he wasn't sure
how he sounded, so he tended to speak in monosyllables or gesture.

"I think we've got some reason to be hopeful." Dr. Schecter sat right
next to Fox, so he could look directly at the transcript he wrote as he
spoke. Mulder looked at the doctor after reading his last statement and
asked simply, "Why?"

"Because Fox, there's still a slight inflammation of the meninges.
That's the membrane that covers your brain and spinal chord. We were
also able to detect swelling in your inner ear. There seems to be an
infection in the labyrinth of the inner ear. We were able to determine
there is an excess of fluid in the area of the semicircular canals, and
that has a direct affect on your balance." When he finished with the
verbal (and written explanation) Dr. Schecter proceeded to sketch a
rough diagram of a cross section of the ear.

As he described the parts of the ear that were involved he pointed to
the sketch for clarification. "You see, it looks like you've developed a
nasty case of Labyrinthitis. Often, it's the Labyrinthitis that leads
to the meningitis. I don't know if that was the case here or if you
actually developed this after the meningitis. But, you've been on
antibiotics and we'll continue to keep you on them. This should have a
direct effect on the ear infections and clear it up within the next week
or so. We'll keep checking it. There is a possibility we may need to
do a surgical procedure to drain the excess fluid if the medication
doesn't do the entire job."

Everyone began talking at once. Mulder looked from face to face trying
so hard to make sense of it, but he was still confused. Was he going to
remain deaf? Would he be able to walk without assistance? Would he ever
start feeling like he could stay awake for more than a twenty minute
stretch of time without yawning? Would he ever stop feeling so angry,
and frustrated, and scared? He closed his eyes just as the tears
started to overflow.

Skinner was trying to hold back his emotions. The prognosis was good,
but not definite. He couldn't afford to count on this being a temporary
condition for his agent; but it was the most hopeful piece of news he
had heard in a while. He saw Elizabeth thanking the doctor, while Dana
and Maggie were hugging. Then he looked over at Mulder, and realized
the young man was in totally confused and scared to death. Skinner
walked over to him and sat on the side of the bed.

Fox Mulder opened his eyes when he felt the bed roll. His sense of
balance was so off, it could have been for any one of a number of
reasons that he felt unstable. But when he opened his eyes he saw
Skinner gazing back at him. Mulder was so scared; he wanted to reach
out to this man, but he didn't know how. He had, in the past, often
held Skinner in some contempt, yet he also felt there was some mutual
respect between them. However, there was always the fear; the fear he
could never do any good in this man's eyes, fear that he would never
meet this man's high expectations.

Skinner saw the fear in his agent's eyes. Skinner realized the younger
man had no idea as to what lengths he went to comfort him; what a
personal challenge it was for him to climb over that emotional wall he
had put up so long ago.

June, 1973
US Medical E-Vac
Saigon, Viet Nam

He looked up and saw a kind face, wearing a sad smile. "Hey there," he
said. "How ya doin' today?"

Skinner tried to speak, but his throat was dry. He could only croak
out, " `kay,"

"That's good. Ya know, you're finally gonna get shipped out today.
You're goin' home soldier. Ain't that somethin'? You're goin' home!"


"Yeah! Today's your lucky day! You the grand prize winner!" the young
man replied.

You?" Skinner asked.

"Me? Nah, I win the booby prize! I get to go back to the jungle
paradise in a couple of days. I was hopin' my little shrapnel wound
would be enough to get me the hell out of here, but, no such luck."

"Sorry," was all Skinner could say.

"Yeah, I know you are." the young man responded. "I know."

July, 1997
Washington General Hospital
Washington, DC
The 4th day of recovery

"I know." Skinner placed his hands on Fox's shoulders. He looked at him
with such intensity, that he felt Fox shudder under his hands. "I know,
Fox," he repeated.

Fox concentrated on the movement of his boss' lips. He was able to
decipher the words and realized how much this man understood; how much
he really did care. Fox also realized how much he _wanted_ him to care
for him. He had come to admire in Walter Skinner all of the traits that
were absent from his father's character, and he feared, his own. Mulder
realized he cared a great deal as to what this man thought of him. And
he knew. And he accepted it. And it was okay.

Skinner saw the smile in Mulder's eyes before it formed on his lips. He
understood what he was trying to say. He got it. Thank God, he got it.
Skinner gently pulled Fox toward him, and enveloped his arms around him.
Fox returned the embrace, and sobbed quietly as he realized the gift he
had been given. He cried out softly, the words muffled by the older
man's chest, "Abah. thank you, Abah."

Skinner hugged him even closer, and murmured, "You're welcome, Fox.
You're welcome."

The End..

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