New! The Relapse by Susan Proto
Date: Sat, 13 Jun 98

Category: Story, MSR, M/S/SK friendship, MulderTorture

Rating: PG13 for language and sexual content

Spoilers: Itty bitty ones for the one-liners mentioned from pilot and
fourth & fifth seasons.

Summary: Illness strikes and it takes the compassion and understanding of
Scully and Skinner to help Mulder get through it and his recovery.

Archive: Yes

Disclaimer: Mulder, Scully, & Skinner belong to 10/13 productions and
Chris Carter. I'm just borrowing them. I won't keep them. At the end of
the story you can have `em back, I swear, (unless you *want* to give `em
to me.) All other characters belong to me, and if Mr. Carter wants to
borrow them, all he needs to do is ask. <grin>

Thanks Vickie Moseley for the positive comments and the gentle
suggestions, you were right of course, flashbacks begone!

Vickie also suggested I read Eleanor's "Father of the Bride" story which
can be found on Gossamer. Eleanor's story takes the subject of a
disability in another direction, plus, it's a wonderful MSR!

**Feedback most welcomed! For those who keep up with my "Abah" series, I
hope you find it the new territory I intended it to be.**

The Relapse
by Susan Proto (

Part 1/4

{Sometime in January}
{10:30 a.m.}

"Damn it!" Mulder cursed aloud as he reached for both the ringing phone
and the file simultaneously. "Shit!" he cried out as the file's contents
landed in total disarray on the floor. "Mulder," he said tersely into the

"Mulder, don't you think you should save the more colorful phone greetings
for people who might appreciate them more?" the stern voice asked.

"Damn it! Sir?," Mulder questioned.

"Yes, well I suggest you use something called phone etiquette. Helps to
maintain the FBI image, you know?" AD Skinner cautioned.

"Yes, Sir. I'm sorry, Sir. I'll try to be more aware of protocol, Sir."

"What the hell happened anyway?" Skinner asked curiously.

"Oh, it's typical stupid shi-, stuff, Sir. I tried to walk and chew gum
at the same time and a file, a very large file, wound up on the floor
scattered in a million different directions."

"Well, I suggest you gather it up as best you can and then come up to my
office immediately. There's a couple of items on the expense report you
and Scully submitted from the last case that I need clarification on
a/s/a/p," Skinner stated.

"Umm, Sir? Scully's the one who wrote up the report. She's the one you
should be talking to, and she won't be back in town for another couple of
days," Mulder responded.

"Mulder, I _know_ Scully will be out of town for a couple of more days.
I'm the one who approved the Forensics Seminar, remember?" Skinner

"Yeah, I remember," Mulder replied grudgingly.

"Oh for crying out loud, Mulder, she's only been gone for a couple of days
and she'll be back in two more," Skinner retorted in an exasperated tone.
"It was a great opportunity for Scully to network with other Forensic
Pathologists, Mulder. She deserved to get away for a few days, don't you
think?" the AD asked.

*Away from me, you mean,* he thought to himself. "Yes, Sir," he said
aloud, "I understand it was a great opportunity for her. I've just become
accustomed to having my partner around to cover my back, that's all. "

"You mean covering your ass when it comes to these expense reports, don't
you? Get your ass up here so I can nail it to the wall for a couple of
these claims," Skinner said firmly.

"Yes, Sir. I'll be right up," Mulder said somewhat dejectedly and hung up
the phone. He looked at the file that was scattered all over the floor
and bent down to gather it up.

As he reached for some of the papers, he realized it was happening again.
The tingling sensation. Pins. Needles. Numbness. And then it would
stop, but then it would start again. If Scully were around he'd ask her
about it.

Maybe. Well, probably not. He didn't like to worry her. Shit, he didn't
like to worry himself. Mulder held the "Head in the Sand Philosophy of
Medicine." If he ignored it, it would go away. Sometimes it worked,
sometimes it didn't.

He hoped this was one time it would work. Maybe when Scully got home he'd
mention it. She'd probably say, 'Oh, it's nothing, Mulder. Absolutely

Only problem was he was beginning to think it was something. "Damn it,
Scully, I need you," he whispered aloud to no one but his shadow.

He gathered the papers as best he could and decided he'd rearrange them
later. He knew Skinner was waiting for him.

As he stood up to make the trek upstairs, he thought it probably wouldn't
be a bad idea to check in with Scully at the hotel. He wanted to get a
handle on what Skinner could possibly be questioning on the expense
report. He also realized he hadn't heard her voice since last night.

*Damn! I can't go twenty-four hours, much less four lousy days without
her, can I?* he thought to himself in amazement. *I can't believe how
much I miss her.*

He punched in the New York phone number from his cell and began walking
over to the elevator as he heard the phone ring on the other end.

"Dr. Scully," said the confident voice.

"Whoa! That sounds strange," he said.

"What sounds strange? Mulder?" Scully asked.

"Yeah, it's me. Sorry, I'm just not used to hearing you call yourself

"Well," she said, "you've got to understand with the company I'm keeping,
it becomes kind of a habit. Actually, it feels kind of good," she

"Yeah, well it sounds good on you, Scully," he offered.

"Thanks, Mulder. So, what do I owe to this lovely call in the middle of a
work day?"

"Do I have to have an ulterior motive, Scully? Can't I just call you up
to say hello? Find out how you're doing?" he asked teasingly.

"Umm, well, at one o'clock in the morning, no. At one o'clock in the
afternoon, yes. So, what gives?" she asked in kind.

"Okay, the truth is I'm on my way to Skinner's office. He's got some
questions about some of the claims we made on the expense report. Since
it was your turn to do the report, I wasn't sure what he might be
questioning. Any ideas of what he's calling me on the carpet for?" he
asked seriously.

"Well, it was actually pretty legit this time. Mmmm, maybe the cell phone
you smashed against the wall in a million pieces when you tried to bean
the perpetrator as he attempted to escape?" she suggested. "Other than
that, I don't think the AD has too much to question."

"Okay," he said breathlessly as he walked down the long hallway from the
elevator towards Skinner's office.

"Mulder? Are you having a relapse of that flu you had last week?" she
asked with concern. "You're breathing awfully heavily."

"No, I don't think so, Scully. I dunno, maybe," he replied, panting

"Mulder, do you feel all right?"

"I'm fine," he replied, trying to sound convincing. "Did you ever
consider the idea that perhaps I'm trying to come on to you, Scully?" he
asked in an attempt to lighten her concern.

"No, Mulder. Not this time at any rate. I'm a little worried. You don't
sound so great," she said a little more anxiously.

Mulder heard the concern and worry in Scully's voice, and it didn't make
his own anxiety lessen any. He wanted to ask her about the tingling
sensation he'd been feeling, and the extreme fatigue that actually had him
oversleep this morning.

But she was a hundreds of miles of away in New York City, and there wasn't
anything she could do for him until she returned to the DC area. The only
thing she could do was ask him to go see a doctor, but of course he
couldn't do that because his doctor was in New York and wasn't able to
make a house call at the moment.

So he did what any normal person would do when talking with his best
friend long distance. He lied. "I'm okay, Scully. Maybe I am getting
that cold back. I think I'll tell Skinner I'm going home after I meet
with him."

"That sounds like a good idea, Mulder. I wish you'd go see a doctor," she

"Hrummphh," Mulder retorted. "I'll see my doctor in a couple of days,

"Oh, Mulder, don't forget I'm attending a conference about how to deal
with dead people, my friend," she said a deadpanned voice.

"Yeah. Well, I gotta go."

"Me too, I'm headed out to meet some colleagues to attend this very
interesting sounding conference on DNA replication. In fact one of the
panelists is someone I went to med school with, so I'm really quite
excited. I figured with all of the craziness we deal with, it might not
be a bad subject for me to brush up on," she said.

"Yeah, sounds like a plan. Well, Skinner's waiting. Scully?"

"What Mulder?"

"I miss you."

"I miss you too, Mulder. I better let you go,'' she said hesitantly.
There was something in Mulder's voice that worried her.

"Yeah. I better let you go too. Enjoy the conference. Love you."


"What? Mulder? What the hell did you just say? Mulder!"

{10:52 a.m.}

"Shit!" he said softly to himself. He couldn't believe he'd said it. He
was thinking it, but he'd never meant to say it aloud. Not so she could
hear. What the hell did he do? How could he be so stupid?
He must have been more frightened by his symptoms than he'd even realized.

As he reached Skinner's outer office, he greeted the AD's receptionist,
Kim, in short breathy tones. "Hi Kim, he's expecting me, I think."

"Oh yes, Agent Mulder. He is. Go right on in," she said, but then added
with a slight hesitation, "Agent Mulder, are you okay?"

"I'm fine, Kim," he responded softly.

As Mulder walked into the AD's office, Skinner looked up from the dozens
of files which dotted his desk. The Assistant Director was actually
startled by his Agent's appearance.

He looked disheveled and tired. "Did you get any sleep last night, Agent

"Yes, Sir. Actually, I got more than usual. I'm just feeling a little
fatigued. I think, with your permission, I'm going to pick up some files
from the basement and then go home when we're finished here. I'm not
feeling all that well. Scully thinks I may be having a relapse of the

"You do sound like you have an upper respiratory infection," Skinner

The AD noted the paleness of the younger man's skin, as well as the
apparent shortness of breath. Then he noticed Mulder flexing his fingers
open and closed, first on his left hand and then on his right. He seemed
to be doing it with the toes on his feet too, though it was harder to be
sure since Mulder was wearing leather shoes.

"All right, Mulder. Let's make this meeting quick, and then you can go
home and rest."

"Really? I can do that?" he asked in a bit of a confused manner.

"Yes, Agent Mulder. I'm the Assistant Director. I can make those kind of
personnel decisions. Okay? Now, about this cellular phone that you
willingly threw into the wall? Mulder, these things are not cheap. Now,
here's the file. There's a couple of other items I circled in red for you
to note."

Mulder reached for the file, but his fingers refused to cooperate. He
willed his fingers to close around the file, but they didn't. He felt his
fingers suddenly go numb, and though he wanted to grasp the file securely,
he watched helplessly as the file took a tumble and the contents fell to
the carpet in front of him.

"Ah shit!"

"Agent Mulder, what is it with you and this desire to use every obscenity
possible in my presence? Can't you hold on to a God damned file?" Skinner
asked in exasperation.

Mulder looked up at Skinner and wanted to make a crack back at him
regarding the use of obscenities, but decided it would be best not to push
his luck. Next, he looked down at his hand, and had to wonder. Whose was

It was almost as if it felt like his hand was no longer a part of him.
''Sir? I think I need to go home," he said in a tremulous voice.


"I'm really not feeling well."

"All right, Mulder. Go home. We'll deal with this tomorrow," Skinner

"Thank you, Sir." He stood up on slightly shaky legs and walked out of
the AD's office.

Skinner watched with a little more concern as his agent left his office.
It disturbed him that Mulder had no one to rely on. He knew even if his
mother lived close by, it was futile to count on her assistance in
ministering to his needs. They hadn't been getting along very well of
late, so Skinner knew it was useless to try and count on her to play
nursemaid to her son.

Of course, if Scully were home, there wouldn't have been a question as to
whether he'd be taken care of. Scully watched Mulder like a mother hawk,
and Mulder counted on her to do so. He'd even said Scully thought he was
coming down with a relapse of the flu, which meant he'd recently spoken to

A short time passed and Skinner decided to go check on Mulder. He hadn't
liked the pallor of his skin, so Skinner thought it best to make sure he'd
make it home okay.

"Kim, I'm going to check on Agent Mulder. Would you transfer any urgent
calls down to the basement?" he asked.

"Yes, Sir. Tell him I hope he feels better. He certainly looked a little
shaky," she observed.

Skinner nodded and left the office. He arrived down in the basement,
several minutes later, to see Mulder sitting on the floor in the middle
of the office.

"Mulder! Mulder, what happened?" Skinner asked quickly.

"I'm not sure."

"Talk to me, Mulder."

"First, I couldn't feel my foot."

"What do you mean you couldn't feel your foot ?"

"Well, I could see it, but I couldn't feel it, almost as though it wasn't
a part of me?" Mulder tried to explain.

"Is it still numb?"


Any other numbness?"

"Well, umm, a little,'' he hesitated. When he saw Skinner's questioning
face, Mulder continued honestly and said, "I can feel the other foot and
my right hand, but it's like pins and needles. You know, like when your
hand or foot falls asleep? Only I know they're not asleep."

"How do you know, Mulder?" Skinner asked fearing a little what his agent
would say.

"I've kind of been feeling it off and on for the last couple of days," he

"What? Did you call your doctor?"

"My doctor's out of town."

"Mulder, the woman works on dead people. Don't you have a doctor that
works on live people?" Skinner questioned loudly agitated.

"I'm giving her practice in case she ever wants to change her specialty,

"Damned considerate of you, Mulder, but it's not going to help you now.
You mentioned your right hand. What about the left one? Is that _not_
asleep too?" he asked with irritation over the younger man's stubbornness.

"No, Sir. That one's numb. I tried to reach for a file and it fell. Kind
of the reason I'm on the floor," he whispered.

"Damn it, Mulder. Why the hell didn't you call anyone?" Skinner yelled.

"I didn't know who to call, Sir," Mulder replied in a breathless voice.

Skinner looked at the younger man with some compassion. Without Scully
around, he really did seem to feel alone in the world. "C'mon, I'm taking
you to the emergency room.''

Skinner waited for Mulder to make the move to rise from the floor, and
when he remained still on the floor, Skinner asked him whether he planned
on getting up anytime soon.

"Umm, I don't think so. I can't get up," he rasped out.

"Mulder, that's an old, stupid line from an old, stupid commercial. Now
you're going to the ER if I have to carry you there myself," the AD

"That doesn't sound like such a bad idea, Sir. Oh God, I don't think I
can move. I really can _not_ get up, Sir," Mulder gasped. "Ohmigod, I -
can't - feel - my - legs." He began swaying, and before Skinner could
reach him, Mulder laid down on his side on the basement office floor.

Skinner next noted Mulder had more difficulty breathing and it scared the
hell out of him. "Mulder, I'm calling 911."

"Scul-ly. Call - Scul-ly."

"First 911, then I'll call Scully," he told him and did just that.

{New York Hilton Hotel}
{11: 17 a.m.}

Meanwhile, Scully was going crazy in her own right, and had been trying to
determine how much time should pass before she tried calling the man on
his cellular to find out what the hell he meant by his last words. She'd
been walking with her colleagues to the DNA seminar, but she realized
she'd never be able to concentrate on any of the complicated theories
they'd put forth for discussion.

She had enough complications in her life to concentrate on at the moment.

As she walked back into her hotel room, her mind raced in a thousand
directions. Love you. "Love you, indeed!" she cried out aloud. "Damn
you Mulder, how could you do that to me. What the hell did you mean?
Love you, as in, 'love you like a sister?' or 'love you like a friend,' or
love you as in 'love you forever...' oh, damn it, Mulder! How could you
do this to me?"

She was dying to phone him back, but didn't want to phone him too soon,
since she didn't want to catch him inside of Skinner's Office. But she
had to find out what he meant by those words. Sure, he'd asked her to
marry her when she was on vacation in Maine, but that didn't mean
anything, did it? Of course not. It was a silly tease, a joke. Mulder
was always saying silly, teasing things to her.

*If that's an iced tea in that bag, it could be love, Scully.*

*Scully, you're turning me on.*

*Scully, should we picking out china patterns?*

*Marry me, Scully.*

He'd teased her and she'd even teased him back on occasion. But neither
one had ever before used the words he'd said today. Never. Not even in a
friendly way. But he'd used them today, and it was making her nuts.

Because _she_ didn't mean them in just a friendly way. She didn't mean
them in just a sisterly manner. She meant them forever. But what did he
mean? "Oh Mulder, why don't you call me, you sonofabitch?" she cried out
again aloud.

Almost as if on cue, her hotel phone rang. "Dr. Scully," she responded.

"Scully," said the deep, hoarse voice.

"Mulder? Mulder, what the hell did you mean by that? How could you just
say that and hang up? Are you crazy? Did you want to drive me crazy?
Well, you've succeeded, Mulder. You've succeeded!"


"Mulder, you don't close a conversation with the words 'love you,' and not
expect me to wonder what the hell you meant by that," Scully.

"Scully, wait," the voice said gruffly.

"Wait? Wait for what, Mulder? Another five years before I can hear you
say you feel about me the same way I feel about you?"

"Scully, please."

"Damn it, Mulder, you are not going to deny you said you loved me!"

"Scully, it's not Mulder. It's AD Skinner."

"AD Skinner? Oh shit."

"Jeeze, what is it with you people and your language?" Skinner muttered in
nervous response.

"I'm sorry, Sir. Could we please forget this conversation. Please? Umm,
is there a problem with the expense report? Mulder had told me you were
meeting with him regarding some of the claims we made," she asked
disconcerted. "Is there something you need me to straighten out?"

"No, it's not that. I mean, I'm down here in the basement with Mulder.
But I'm not calling about the report. Scully, something's wrong. He's
not well, and I've called 911. He's having trouble breathing, and he's
complaining of numbness. I don't think he can move. Something is
terribly, terribly wrong. I'm afraid for him, Scully.

"I'm on my way home, Sir."

"I'll tell him."

"And, Sir? Would you do me a favor?"

"A favor?"

"Yes, Sir. Tell him I love him too?"

"Consider it done, Scully."

End of Part 1/4

The Relapse
by Susan Proto (

Disclaimers in Part 1

Part 2/4

{11:40 a.m.}

Skinner had called Kim downstairs to keep an eye out for the paramedics
and lead them to the basement office. He turned to his fallen agent and
saw Mulder's breathing had become more shallow. Just as he was about to
call out to Kim to demand she find out where the hell the EMT's were, the
door swung open and they entered with their equipment in hand.

They introduced themselves as Kenny Lawton and Cindy Chang. They
immediately began questioning Skinner about Mulder's symptoms. Skinner
recapitulated the seemingly odd array of symptoms Mulder had told him he
was experiencing, such as the tingling in his limbs, the numbness, and the
obvious difficulty he was having in catching his breath.

The paramedics tried to elicit some verbal response from Mulder, himself,
but quickly gave up on that tactic when they'd realized the patient was
too busy trying to concentrate on breathing. They immediately put an
oxygen mask on over his nose and mouth. They quickly set up their
communications equipment to their hospital base and relayed the patient's

While all of this activity was going on around them, Skinner looked over
at Mulder and stared into the younger man's eyes. Skinner shuddered at
what he saw.

He saw absolute terror in Mulder's eyes.

Mulder was aware of his surroundings. He was also very much aware of his
limitations at the moment, though he didn't have a clue as to why. The
agent knew he could not move his limbs unless one of the paramedics moved
them for him.

Which is why pure, unadulterated, panic remained fixed in his eyes.

Skinner couldn't understand what had gone wrong. It had happened so fast.
It was less than an hour ago he'd ordered the man to go home to get some
rest. He had watched Mulder as he walked out of his office
independently, albeit a bit wobbly, but it was under his own steam. Now,
however, Skinner saw Mulder wasn't even able to lift his arm up on his
own, much less stand up and walk away.

Neither man knew exactly what the hell was wrong with Mulder. Both men
were feeling a sense of helplessness as they listened to the back and
forth relay of information between the home base and the paramedics.
Finally, they heard the order to transport the patient as soon as

"Excuse me, Mr. __?" began asking Kenny.

"__Skinner. Walter Skinner," he replied.

"Yes, well, Mr. Skinner, we're getting ready to transport Mr. Mulder.
Will you be accompanying him to the hospital?"

Skinner looked quickly over at Mulder. His eyes practically cried out to
him and pleaded with him to come. "Yes__, yes, I'll be riding in the
ambulance with Agent Mulder," he said firmly.

Though total fear had filled Mulder's eyes just moments ago, the rush of
relief was now obvious. Skinner was grateful he'd read his agent

Mulder was rolled onto a backboard and then lifted onto the gurney which
was then raised to a more manageable height. The saline drip which had
been inserted through an IV was now hooked up too. He was wheeled out of
his office, and much to Mulder's chagrin, the hallway was now lined to
capacity with other agents, clerical staff, and anyone else who had become
curious about the commotion in the basement.

On any normal, given day, traffic in the basement was light to

However, like the children's game of "Telephone" gone bad, word had come
down through the various telephone operators on duty that 'Spooky' Mulder
had totally lost it down in the basement. Since everyone had been taking
bets for ages as to when Fox Mulder would totally wig out, everyone
decided to come down for quick look.

Anticipation was running high, especially when the crowd saw the emergency
medical technicians leading the gurney out of the office, with the
Assistant Director of the FBI following closely behind.

But even those not totally familiar with the 'Spooky' legend realized
something was horribly amiss. As Mulder was wheeled out, those crowding
the hallway realized the 'Spookster' was in trouble. Apparently he hadn't
wigged out as they'd been led to believe. No, Mulder was sick, and from
the look of it, very sick indeed.

Moments after they gurney was wheeled into the hallway, Mulder's breathing
became spasmodic. He was simply unable to take in enough air on his own.

"Kenny, we've got to intubate him. Now!" cried out Cindy. "Give me the
scope!" Kenny had anticipated the need and had begun to search for the
instrument. When he'd found it, he immediately handed Cindy the
larynogscope so she could view Mulder's vocal cords. She then put her
hand out and Kenny passed her the endotracheal tube which, with the help
of the viewing scope, she was able to pass in between the vocal cords and
into Mulder's trachea.

Everyone watched in horror as the paramedics worked so hard to help Mulder
catch a breath. Once the tube was inserted and the bag was attached,
Kenny began bagging him, assisting him in filling his lungs with the much
needed oxygen.

"Okay, Mr. Mulder. This should make you more comfortable for now," Cindy
Chang said gently.

George Washington University Hospital
{5:05 p.m. }

They'd been at the hospital for a few hours by the time Scully arrived at
the hospital. Mulder had already been admitted to the ICU.

She was frightened to death. She ran down the hallway towards the ICU,
and when she reached the automatic doors to the Intensive Care Unit, she
pounded on the electronic button that granted her admittance. Scully then
anxiously searched for a familiar face.

When Skinner looked up, he saw her looking about frantically. "Scully!"
he called. Dana looked up and met his gaze. They walked over to one
another quickly and Skinner said, "It's good you're here."

"What's wrong? How is he? What do the doctors say?" she asked all in a

"Wait. One thing at a time. The doctors are still not positive what's
wrong, but they say they're narrowing it down and should have a tentative
diagnosis soon. They've done several tests to help them eliminate certain

"Scully," Skinner elaborated, "he's gone under a lumbar puncture and a CAT
scan. The doctor said he'll be back shortly to talk to us."

"How is he doing now?" she asked.

"Scully, they have him on a respirator."

"Oh, no! Sir, he hates those damned machines. He's going to fight it
tooth and nail," she responded so confidently.

"He's not fighting it, Scully."

"You're kidding," she reacted immediately.

"He can't fight it. He doesn't have the strength to breath on his own,
Scully. He needs the machine right now," he explained.

"How long has he been out?" she queried.

"Out?" Skinner echoed, puzzled.

"Comatose, Sir. How long has he been comatose?" she clarified.

"Scully, he's not in a coma. He's totally aware of his surroundings.
He's awake. And since he's also quite aware of his limitations at the
moment, he's scared to death."

"Limitations?" she wondered aloud.

"He's apparently paralyzed."

"How badly?" she asked.

"It's bad, Scully. He can't move at all," Skinner said gently.

Scully gasped. "Why? What happened?"

"That's what the doctors will hopefully tell us,'' Skinner responded with
little comfort for Scully.

"Mr. Skinner?" called out a third voice.

"Yes. Doctor Sandburg. This is Agent Dana Scully. She is both Agent
Mulder's partner in the FBI as well as forensic pathologist.

"How do you do, Dr. Scully,'' Dr. Sandburg said preferring to use Scully's
medical title to her FBI title. "I think we are closer to making a

"I can tell you we've ruled out Meningitis, Encephalitis, and Reye's
Syndrome. Though the latter condition is usually confined to children and
adolescents, the fact Mr. Mulder had a bad upper respiratory condition a
couple of weeks ago dictated we leave nothing to chance.

"It appears therefore, all the symptoms lead to a condition known as
Guillaine-Barre` Syndrome," Dr. Sandburg informed them.

"What the hell is that?" Skinner asked. "I've never heard of it before."

"It's quite rare, Mr. Skinner. The disease appears most often a couple of
weeks after a bout with the flu. There was a rather large, relatively
speaking of course, incidence of the disease back in 1976. Back in '76,
there'd been a mass inoculation against the swine flu, but no one really
knows exactly what the trigger mechanism is for this disease," Dr.
Sandburg explained.

"What's the prognosis?" asked Scully. "I've heard of the syndrome, but
I'm not all that familiar with it."

"Well, there's good news and bad news. The good news is, it's most
definitely viral in nature, and therefore goes away of its own accord.
The bad news is one cannot create a definitive timetable for the body's
return of functioning," he informed.

"Will he get full functioning back, Doctor?" asked Skinner nervously. If
there was one thing he knew Mulder would not want was to be bedridden for
the rest of his life.

"There is a very good chance, but only if we can avoid any complications
that might arise as a result of his suppressed immune system and
incapacitation," the doctor offered. "We're going to have to make sure he
stays motivated to stay in shape in anticipation of his recovery. That
will most likely be the most difficult for him. To see beyond the here
and now."


{5:30 p.m.}

Scully entered Mulder's hospital room with her best Doctor's face. Now
that she had as much information on Guillaine-Barre` Syndrome as her brain
was capable of retaining, she wanted to share that information with
Mulder. She wanted to let him know his situation was not nearly as
hopeless as he might have felt it was.

So, she walked in the door with the smile plastered on her mouth, but
inside she was screaming in terror. He looked so helpless to her.

Hell, he was helpless.

The only reason he was still breathing was because of the respirator. The
only way he was still getting nourishment was through the feeding tube and
intravenous lines. The only way he could communicate was __.

Scully thought to herself, *Damn it. How the hell is he going to

"Hi partner," she greeted him gently as she leaned over in order to make
eye contact with him. Mulder looked back at her gaze with equal
intensity. "You know, partner," she continued with a forced lightness,
"there are easier ways to get me back from New York. Let's try working
them first from now on, okay?"

Mulder continued looking at his partner. He knew what she was trying to
do, and he loved her for it. He only hoped she would understand how he

"Good," she replied to his muted reply. "Now, has anyone explained to you
what's going on?" He wanted to say _no_, but he didn't have the voice.

"Mulder, can you blink your eyes?" she asked out of the blue. "If you can
blink your eyes, would you blink them?"

He did as requested. He blinked his eyes once.

"Good, now, would you blink them two times?" she asked.

He did as requested. He blinked his eyes twice.

"Okay, Mulder. We now have our communication system. Blink one time for
yes, and blink two times for no. Do you understand?"

He blinked one time.

"Okay, just to make sure we understand one another, is your name Mulder?"
He blinked one time.

"Is my name Walter?" she asked. He blinked twice.

"Okay. Now, has anyone told you what's going on?" Scully asked again. He
blinked twice.

"All right, Mulder. I shall try my best to explain. If I say something
you don't understand, you've got to blink like crazy so I know to stop and
try again. Understand?" she stressed. He blinked once.

"Mulder, the doctors are pretty sure you have something called
Guillaine-Barre` Syndrome. Have you ever heard of it?"

Mulder stared straight ahead without blinking for a moment or two. He
then blinked once, but then the intensity of his gaze spurred her to ask,
"You've heard of it, but you're not sure what its effects are, is that

Mulder blinked once. His eyes shone in appreciation of her ability to
understand his needs and concerns.

"Mulder, Guillaine-Barre` Syndrome is thought to be some kind of a
reaction to an infection you've already had. Remember when you had the
flu a couple of weeks ago?" Mulder blinked once in response. "Well, this
Syndrome is almost like an allergic reaction to that viral infection.

"It damages the peripheral nerves that causes weakness to your legs and
arms. You see, the nerves became inflamed by the roots near your spine,
so your ability to feel and move were affected. It usually starts in the
feet and legs. Did it start in your feet and legs, Mulder?"

He blinked one time, for a very long time.

"Mulder, I need you to listen to me. I mean it. You have to listen very
carefully. This is not the end of your life. Guillaine-Barre` is not a
death sentence, and you will not be laying in this bed for the rest of
your life."

At this comment, Mulder began blinking his eyes in staccato pairs. Scully
knew exactly what concerned him. "Mulder, it goes away. The greatest
danger isn't so much from the syndrome, but from the possibility of
pneumonia that you'll be prone to, or any ulceration that may result from
being stuck in bed, and of course the atrophy your limbs might have due to
lack of use."

He continued to blink his eyes in pairs of two. Scully looked at him and
said what he wanted to hear about most, "Mulder, there is no reason that
with hard work and patience you won't be able to return to work in your
full capacity as a field agent."

He closed his eyes. They stayed closed for several seconds.

"I assume, Mulder, that is your equivalent of the 'Marv Albert, YES!' ?"
Scully asked rhetorically.

Mulder's eyes practically danced.


{7:35 p.m.}

Some time had passed while everyone tried to get some rest. Skinner sat
dozing in the tall backed blue plastic chair, while Scully sat very
quietly in the oversized lounge chair. She took a quick look over at her
partner and noticed Mulder's eyes were tearing.

He was crying.

It was so easy to become depressed quickly when your arms and legs refuse
to move at your will.

Scully moved quickly to get allow herself to be in Mulder's range of
vision. She slowly moved her hand to caress his cheek and spoke softly,
but with a surprising bit of firmness to her voice. She had to make him
understand his condition was only temporary. She had to make sure he knew
_she_ believed it, so he could allow himself to believe her words too.

"Mulder, you are going to get well. It's going to take hard work, but you
are going to get through this. _We're_ going to get through this," she
reassured. Mulder blinked his eyes twice which only forced more unshed
tears to fall down his face.

"Mulder, you have to believe you're going to get well." When he didn't
respond, Scully then said, "Mulder, do you believe _in_ me?"

Mulder paused and stared at his partner. He blinked once.

"Okay, well I'm telling you, I am going to help you get through this. I
promise you." Scully noticed Mulder tried to avert his gaze, but in the
end, he made eye contact with her again. She said, "Mulder, don't you
know how much I believe in you?"

Mulder didn't have any trouble looking at Scully this time. He looked at
her with such an intense amount of love, Scully could only say back to
him, "Oh, Mulder, I love you too, you know."

He blinked once.

Skinner, who had awaken and somehow managed to stay silent during this
entire exchange looked first at Scully, then at Mulder, and then back at
Scully. He finally said, in the most incredulous tone he could muster,
"How the hell do you guys do that?"


End of Part 2/4

The Relapse
by Susan Proto (

Disclaimers in Part 1

Part 3/4

Initially, the passage of time was difficult for Mulder to deal with. It
wasn't so much the months or even the weeks. When Scully considered that
only four weeks made up a month and a mere seven days made up a week, she
understood why the days passed so slowly for Mulder.

It took twenty-four hours to make up one full day.

And on a few of those days, Mulder felt the pain, frustration, and oft
times the humiliation of every single one of those twenty-four hours.
Luckily for everyone concerned, those days were limited in number, as
Mulder was determined to get back to full health and retain his field
agent status.

There were, however, a few days during which he and Scully wondered if
they would endure.

Three to be exact.

{Sometime in late January}
{3:48 p.m.}

The first of the three days was shortly after Mulder's admittance to the
hospital. As a result of the frustratingly meager communication system
and the necessity for him to be on the respirator, Mulder was monitored
practically every waking and sleeping moment since his arrival. On the
particular day in question, Mulder felt the anxiety and anger building to
the point of no return.

Nurses were coming in at all hours of the previous night as well as that
day, to draw blood, check the dreaded Foley catheter, as well as the urine
output, and the numerous IV lines. Next, the physical therapist arrived
several times during that day to do short, but efficient, workouts with
Mulder's extremities as a preventative measure against atrophy and joint

And though he understood how necessary all of these assaults on his body
were, Mulder felt as though he were a carcass of meat, laid up on the
table, being readied for carving. He couldn't remember ever feeling so
helpless and useless. He couldn't remember ever questioning the reason
for his life as much as he questioned it that day.

He tried to think positive as he remembered all of the platitudes
everyone said to him.

'There is light at the end of the tunnel.' He felt surrounded by

'You have to see the forest for the trees.' He couldn't even see the
trees; all he saw was a dense, blinding fog.

'When God closes a door, he opens a window somewhere else.' All Mulder
could think of was how this home felt like it was shut down tight for the
hurricane season, and there was no way he was getting out.

Nor, on that day at least, could anyone get in.

That was what scared him the most.

He felt depressed, but there was no way he could physically talk about it
since he was still on the respirator. Unfortunately, there was no way for
anyone to really know how bad off he was. Except, perhaps, Scully.

But she wasn't around for a good part of that particular day, for whatever
reason. Mulder couldn't even remember why Scully had to be away..
Unfortunately, having Scully missing in action was a major reason for his
sense of forlorn on that day.

Up to that particular day, Scully had been the only person who ever had
the slightest clue as to what his needs were or whether or not he needed
a pep talk. So on that particular day, no one else realized anything was
seriously wrong at first.

No one except Skinner.

Skinner was hanging around his fallen agent and Scully more and more
during his off duty time. He felt some kind of sense of duty that
precluded him from being anywhere else on his off time.

Of course, there had been another reason. Skinner had felt guilty. He'd
thought there must have been a way for him to have prevented Mulder's
predicament, so Skinner had felt it was his obligation to be there for

However, as time passed, Skinner realized there was nothing he, nor anyone
else, could have done to prevent Mulder's illness. So, obligation and
duty turned into want and caring.

He enjoyed their company. He appreciated the intricacies of their
relationship, and Skinner even began to envy them a little. If either one
of the agents ever learned how the AD really felt, Skinner would be

But Skinner got so used to observing Mulder and Scully's silent
interactions, Skinner became pretty good at picking up the nuances of
their expressions. Particularly Mulder's.

During the evening of that particular day, Skinner came by to check on the
patient. He walked into Mulder's room, which at this point was a double,
but the other bed had remained empty. Skinner greeted him with his usual,
pointed, "Agent Mulder, I trust you're on the mend."

Normally, if Scully were there, she would interpret his 'variations on a
blink' and inform the AD of Mulder's response. Sometimes Mulder would
simply blink his eyes once in a simple acknowledgment of Skinner's
presence. Other times, Mulder would blink and keep his eyes closed in a
mildly sarcastic response. Then there were other days Mulder might blink
his eyes twice to indicate no, but Scully would be there to immediately
comfort him and encourage him to the point when he would become more
positive and motivated.

This particular evening, however, Scully was not nearby, and when Skinner
entered and said his usual greeting, Mulder did nothing. He stared
straight up until his eyes began to water, and only when his eyes began to
burn from the strain of not blinking, did he blink his eyes not once, but

*Shit,* Skinner thought. *I can't do this myself. Shit!*

"Mulder," he said aloud in the hopes of turning his agent's attitude
around big time, "you can't do this to yourself. You've been working hard
to get well, even though it doesn't seem like you have. You're body has
been working overtime to get yourself back in the field."

At the mention of being in the field, Mulder searched out Skinner's eyes.
Skinner was amazed when he realized he knew exactly what was on Mulder's
mind. He responded directly to it and said, "Mulder, you know the doctors
expect you to make a good recovery. There's no reason not to assume
you're going to reclaim your field agent status."

At that Mulder acknowledged Skinner and simply blinked his eyes twice.
*No,* Mulder said to himself, *No way I'll ever be in the field again.
Not like this.*

Once again, Skinner found himself with the ability to read Mulder's
expressive eyes. "You will, Mulder. You have to do what Scully says, and
that's to believe in yourself."

And then Skinner said the magic words. "You've got to know by now how
much Scully believes in you." He gained Mulder's attention with that one,
but the younger man responded by blinking in the negative.

Skinner then decided to play his trump card. "Did I ever tell you what
Scully asked me to tell you on the day you got sick?"

Mulder blinked twice.

"Hmm, I guess in all the excitement I never did get a chance to tell you."

Mulder blinked twice.

"Do you want to know?" he asked in an attempt to engage Mulder by drawing
out the suspense.

At least Mulder no longer looked depressed. Now he simply looked angry.
He blinked his eyes just once, but his eyes blinked as furious as he could
make them.

"Oh, of course you do." When Mulder began blinking furiously, Walter knew
he'd better tell him. "She asked me to say, 'Tell him I love him too.' "

Mulder simply stared at Walter, but after a few moments passed, Mulder's
eyes appeared to be glowing. Walter Skinner said just about the only
thing that could have pulled Fox Mulder out of his bout of depression.

Day number two's depression wasn't quite so easily cured.


Washington University Rehabilitation Center
{Sometime in June}
{1:00 p.m.}

Mulder was making excellent progress. He was off the respirator for about
six weeks and began to develop feeling back in his arms and hands. The
therapists were working hard to help Mulder develop some more strength in
his upper extremities. Everyone was thrilled with his improvement.

Everyone except Mulder. And he decided to let everyone know just how
dissatisfied he felt.

"God damn it! Leave me alone!" he screamed. "I don't want to do this
anymore. Just go away. Leave me alone."

"But Mr. Mulder, if we don't do the exercises you won't regain full
strength in your hands and arms. You need to get those arms stronger so
you__," the young physical therapist began.

"__can push myself in my lovely new wheels?" he interrupted while he
pointed with disdain to the black wheelchair that sat in the corner.
"Screw it. I don't want to push myself in a God damned wheelchair. I
don't care. Go away!"

"Fine, Mr. Mulder. I'll go away for now, but I will come back later this
afternoon, and we will do the exercises when you're in a more positive
frame of mind," she declared.

Mulder glared at her as she left the room. "Fuckin' Little Miss Mary
Friggin' Sunshine. Well, fuck her! Just fuck her. Fuck everyone! Every
single fucking one of you! You can all go to hell! Just fucking all of
you go to hell! Go to__!"

"__Damn it, Mulder, I think we get the point!" Scully shouted as she
walked into his room. "What the hell is your problem?"

"Nothing, Scully. Abso-fucking-lutely nothing is my problem, okay?" he
responded angrily.

"Okay, Mulder. What happened? Why were you giving Cara such a tough time
about your therapy session?" Scully asked in as reasonable a voice as she
could muster.

When Mulder refused to respond, she looked at him, exasperated, and said,
"For crying out loud, Mulder, everything's been going so well! Why are
you all of a sudden throwing a temper tantrum any two year old would be
proud to call his own?"

"How can you even say that?" Mulder asked through clenched teeth.

"Say what?"

"Everything's going well. How could you say that?" he repeated angrily.

"Because everything _is_ going well, Mulder. You're making incredible
progress," she said, "and up until about twenty minutes ago, you thought
so too."

"Well, it's bullshit. I can't do squat. I'll never be able to do
anything,'' he replied angrily.

"Mulder, I need you to look at me. Please?" Scully waited several
moments before she addressed him again. "Okay, now I need you to tell me
what happened that's made you so angry. Did someone say something to

"No. Not really."

"What do you mean by 'not really.'"

He had looked at her and then had said simply, "I had a visit from Dr.
Shanker." However, each and every time Mulder heard or said the name of
the hospital's resident psychiatrist, he felt his stomach roll and pitch.

"Mulder, it's his job to come and check up on your mental health. The
bureau requires him to do it and you're required to go along with it. I
don't understand why you make such a big deal of it whenever a
psychiatrist approaches you," Scully said with a mixture of relief and
annoyance. She figured it was just the appearance of the doctor that sent
Mulder's disposition into a tailspin.

"I don't need a shrink to come in here and remind me of my limitations. I
know I can't do shit, so I don't need the good doctor reminding me,"
Mulder responded dejectedly.

"Mulder, you can do a great deal. I'm sure Dr. Shanker did not come in
here and recite a list of your limitations. You've come so far since
you'd first entered the hospital," Scully said hoping to convince him.

"I can hardly walk."

"You will."

"I can't feed myself without making a total mess."

"You will."

"I can't sustain an erection."

"You wi__, what?"

Mulder pointed to some pieces of paper that were on the floor, under the
chair by the window. He obviously knew exactly what was written on them,
since he was obviously the one who flung the brochures under the table.

"The good doctor brought me some light reading," Mulder said with an
angry, husky laugh.

Scully picked up the literature and saw it dealt with the subject of
sexual activity in the paraplegic male. Scully felt appalled. Why would
Dr. Shanker even consider bringing this subject up with Mulder when it was
more than likely he wouldn't have an impotency problem.

He was more likely to suffer from periods of exhaustion than from
impotency. Even now, Scully had noticed how quickly Mulder tired from any
little exercise. No, impotency was not the problem, but worrying about it
certainly would not help.

"Mulder, there is nothing in the research that indicates Guillaine-Barre`
Syndrome patients suffer from impotence. Please, do not give this another

"Yeah, well, it's kind of hard not to think about, you know? And since
the good doctor brought the subject up earlier, it's kind of hard to get
off my mind," he said testily.

And then more gently, Mulder added, "Don't you know since I've realized
how much I love you, the subject has kind of become one of my all
consuming obsessions?" He even attempted a small grin.

Scully smiled warmly at him at this point, as she knew her Mulder was
coming back. "Mulder, you may not believe this, but that does warm my

Mulder chuckled at that, but then turned more serious and said, "Dana, I
love you, and I__, I__. Oh God, this is so hard. It's just that I want
to make love to you so badly, and I'm afraid I won't be able to love
you__, properly."

"Oh, Mulder, you foolish man. You've been loving me properly for over
five years. Why should now be any different? And Mulder, I'm not worried
about you meeting my physical needs. Believe me. For some reason I think
you would find some manageable way of making love to me so that I would be

"But Mulder, that's besides the point. You're going to be fine.
I'm not worried, Mulder. Why the hell are you?" she asked off-handed.

"I'm afraid," he had whispered.

"Don't be," she replied in kind.

"Scully, I love you so much. I don't want you to be, well, you know,
dissatisfied. I don't want you to be _unhappy_ with me," he confessed

"I could never be unhappy in your arms. No matter what, Mulder. No
matter what."

Mulder smiled at that. Scully, once again, managed to say just the right
thing to help him through a crisis.

And then there was the third day.

End of Part 3/4

The Relapse
by Susan Proto (

Disclaimers in Part 1

Part 4/4

{Sometime in late July}
{Fox Mulder's Apt.}
{5:00 a.m.}

"I can't believe you're up already!" Scully said as she lazily watched
him from the bed they'd shared the previous night, and many more previous
nights before that.

"I just want to make sure I've got everything in order, and this way I can
take my time. The doctor told me I would still tire easily. I don't want
to fall flat on my face my first day back," he explained.

Scully heard the tremor in his voice. She saw he was one giant receptacle
of nervous energy. "Mulder, come here," she called to him as she patted
the edge of the bed.

"What?" he asked as he obliged and sat himself next to her still prone
body. He reached over and ran his hand down the length of her body, which
was still covered by the sheet.

"Hmm, that feels nice," she murmured.

"Yes, it does," he replied with a slight leer.

"It felt very nice last night too, Mulder," she said in kind. Mulder
simply nodded in remembrance of their rather passionate love making the
previous night. "Kind of makes me want to laugh over all that worry you
went through over those little brochures Dr. Shanker had brought you.''

"Yeah, well it seemed kind of serious at the time, Scully," he said,
rising off the bed, in a tone that showed he'd taken her remark way too

Scully realized it was still a sensitive subject, and wondered if he was
still worried about his ability to perform and please her. She certainly
hoped not. He proved his prowess quite nicely the night before, and a
couple of nights before that, and before that too. So she wondered if
there wasn't something else on his mind.

"Come back here and let's see how you mutilated that poor tie knot,"
Scully teased in an effort to get his mind off of the subject.

He sat back down and allowed her to begin inspecting the tie when he
gently grabbed her wrists to still them. He started breathing a little
heavier too.

"Dana?" he panted.

Scully knew the next words out of his mouth were to be taken seriously.
Mulder _never_ called her 'Dana' unless it was serious. She also didn't
like the way he sounded. The last time he showed signs of having trouble
breathing, he was taken to the hospital with an intubation tube down his
throat. She looked at him expectantly, but with concern.

"I don't know if I can do this. I mean, I keep thinking about the last
time, and I__, I__," he stammered through his uneven breaths.

"What don't you think you can do? Return to work?" she asked gently in an
attempt to try to calm him by remaining calm herself.

"No, no, it's not that. I'm ready to return to the work," he responded
slowly, as he tried to regain control of his breathing.

"Then what, Mulder? What has you so worried you look like you're about to
succumb to a panic attack?" she asked seriously.

He looked at her and his mind suddenly flashed to the previous night.
While Scully had been in the shower, he'd decided to try and organize
himself for the next day. He recalled getting his suit out of the closet
to hang up on the door in order to air it out. It had been quite awhile
since he had the need to wear one, so it had seemed the sensible thing to
do at the time.

Of course the words 'sensible' and 'Mulder' so rarely mix, and this was
to be no exception. As he'd hung the suit on the door, Mulder had felt
himself begin to gasp for breath. He had been finding it more and more
difficult to breathe, and suddenly remembered what it had felt like six
months ago when his illness prevented him from breathing on his own.

Mulder remembered he'd walked out of the bedroom as quickly as he could to
get something to drink, and by the time he'd gotten to the kitchen, he'd
felt his breathing return to normal.

But now, as he remembered it, he thought it was happening again.

He wasn't able to catch his breath.

He wasn't able to breathe.

He thought he was going to die.

Scully saw his distress and cried out, "Mulder! Mulder, what's wrong?"

"I-can't-breathe-" he gasped out.

"Mulder, look at me. Please, focus on me, so I can check you out," she

Somehow, whether it was through her medical training or her intuition, or
a brilliant combination of both, Scully had been able to determine the man
she loved was not dying, much as he, himself, had believed it.

He was, however, definitely having a panic attack, but she didn't know
what the trigger for it was. Of course she felt fairly certain as to what
was the general cause. After all, it didn't take a rocket scientist to
figure out Mulder was a nervous wreck about returning to work after a six
month absence.

In fact, they both had their doubts about his ability to reclaim his field
agent status. Neither one of them was positive he would qualify on the
shooting range. That was a scary thought, but Mulder had, just moments
ago, said it wasn't the work. And she believed him.

They'd already discussed the possibility of Mulder having to take a
position at Quantico. As much as Mulder didn't want to lose the X-Files,
he was realistic enough to understand he just might not have the physical
ability to remain a field agent. He might have to put his talents to use
elsewhere in the bureau.

No, it wasn't the work. It wasn't even the possibility of losing the
X-Files. Not as long as he had Scully in his life.

"Mulder, talk to me. What has you so worried?" she asked, certain there
was an explanation.

"I__, I don't know," he gasped slightly.

"I think you do know. Please, tell me what has you so upset you're
willing to face a panic attack instead of it," Scully pleaded.

Mulder sighed deeply and then, in barely a whisper, said, " I don't know
if I can face them."

"Face who?"


Scully looked at her partner and tried to figure out what leap he'd made
in his mind from her straightening his tie to feeling panicky about facing
some unknown persons.

"I don't understand, Mulder. Who? Where did this come from?"

"Last night," he began, already beginning to calm himself as he felt ready
to get his fears off his chest to his partner. "Last night I took out the
suit to air it, so I could wear it today."

"Okay, that was sensible. But Mulder, what does that have to do with you
having a panic attack?" she asked.

"It's the same suit."

"As what?" she probed, totally confused.

"I wore it that day. I wore this tie too," he remembered.

Scully still looked lost, so Mulder clarified even more. "This was what I
wore the day I got sick."

"They didn't cut it off of you?" she asked.

"I guess they'd figured since it wasn't ripped or bloodied, they'd save
it for me. Damn nice of them," he said, finally smiling.

"I'll say. Armanni can run into some big bucks, Mulder," Scully agreed.
"Wait a minute. You had a panic attack last night, didn't you," she asked

"No," he responded quickly. "I didn't have a panic attack."

"But you almost had one." She made a statement, not a question.

"Yeah," he admitted quietly. "I guess I did. But I calmed down so
quickly it didn't occur to me to say anything. Honest, Scully, I didn't
think anything of it."

"But Mulder, you nearly paid the price for that this morning. Please,
don't hide things like that from me. Especially now. Listen G-Man,
you've come a long way and I'm so proud of you. But you still have to
consider yourself in a recovery period, and stress is the last thing you
need. Trust me with your feelings and worries, Mulder. Please?" she

"Yeah. Okay."

"Yeah. Okay, my foot. Now, we know the suit and tie were a trigger for
the anxiety attack, but what were they triggering? Mulder," she asked
again, "who are you afraid to face?"

"Everyone," he replied.

"I don't understand. Please, you have to explain it to me."

"You weren't there, Dana. The day I got sick," he began.

"Mulder, don't you remember?" she interrupted in her defense, "I got to
the hospital the same day you were admitted."

"No, Dana, I don't mean it like that. You weren't there, at the bureau.
You didn't see. Everyone. Oh God, Dana, everyone was there."

"Who was where, Mulder?"

"Down in the basement. Everyone had come down to the basement. I
couldn't move, but I could still see and God, I could still hear just
fine. They all came racing down to the basement because they'd heard
'Spooky' Mulder had haired out. Lost his marbles, they'd heard. And they
all just wanted to see it happen.

"Only 'Spooky' hadn't gone nuts, he'd become a vegetable, or at least
that's what everyone was saying. 'He's paralyzed, he's become a virtual
salad bar,' they'd whispered. I could still hear them, Dana. I could
still understand and think.

"I don't know if I can face them all again. All I can think of is what a
loser they thought I was. Maybe they still do. I don't know if I can
face all of that again," he said self-consciously.

"Oh Mulder, I'm so sorry. I never knew. Did Skinner know? He was there,
wasn't he?"

"I don't think Skinner heard anything other than the paramedics and my
feeble attempts to breathe. It was hell for him too, Dana."

"I know. We've taken some opportunities to talk about it during your
recovery, Mulder. If one good thing came out of this craziness, it was
discovering our friendship with Skinner."

"That's the second thing, Scully. The first good thing was discovering
you love me as much as I love you. And then discovering Skinner wasn't
going to have a cow over it," Mulder said, finally relaxed.

"Okay, Agent Mulder, I'd better get my tush out of this bed before I leap
at you and demand you make mad, passionate love to me, and make you late
for your first day back on the job!" Scully said teasingly.

"I'm willing to be late, Scully," Mulder replied with a smile.

"I'll just bet your are," she replied as she finally rose out of the bed.


{The Basement Office of the X-Files}
{8:45 a.m.}

"How does it feel to be back, partner?" Scully asked.

"Like I'd never left, Scully."

"I've tried to keep up with your filing system. Forgive me if you find
some of the files put away according to some kind of strangely odd,
alphabetical order, okay?" she teased with a slightly mocking tone.

"Don't worry, I'll get it back to its old chaotic perfection within a
matter of days," he replied in kind.


"Scully," she answered. "Yes, Sir. I'll tell him right now."

Mulder's ears perked up when he heard Scully say 'Sir.' "Skinner?" he

"Yup. He wants us to report to his office at nine thirty. I guess he
just wants to welcome you back, Mulder."

"Well, I can't imagine I'd be in trouble already, Scully. Hell, I did
just get back," he chuckled.

"Oh c'mon, Mulder! You've been back in the bureau for a whole thirty
minutes already! That's more than enough time for you to get into trouble
with Skinner!" she said, all the while laughing heartily.

"Scully, am I to insinuate from your words that I have some kind of

"Get over here, Mulder. I'll give you a reason to have a reputation__."

Mulder got over there quickly.

{En route to AD Skinner's Office}
{9:15 a.m.}

Mulder took Scully by the hand and led her to the elevator that would take
them up to Skinner's floor. She allowed him to hold it while they were
alone, but both of them knew they would walk with their hands at their
sides when they got off the elevator.

It was one thing to not have to worry about so called official policy.
Skinner had already informed them that was merely a rumor some higher up
had begun to try to keep agents honest and sexual harassment at bay.
However, even if there were no official policy against partners becoming
romantically involved, neither was it necessary to flaunt the relationship
in people's faces.

Least of all Skinner's. He was their most ardent supporter, and both
Scully and Mulder were going to be damned if they were going to allow him
to take any flak because it.

But for the moment, Mulder was grateful no one was around. He needed to
hold onto his partner's hand for support and to gain strength. He needed
to calm his trembling hands. As the elevator climbed higher, Mulder felt
himself taking deep, cleansing breaths.

He hoped by the time the elevator stopped, he would be able to walk
without feeling as faint as he felt right at the moment. He knew there
would be some people who were present in the basement six months ago. He
just hoped they would let those moments become a part of the past.

He didn't want to give anyone any more reasons to doubt his ability. He
did enough of that for himself, he didn't need anyone else's help. So
when the elevator finally stopped, Mulder and Scully each let go of the
others' hand, and Mulder took one last deep breath.

The door opened.

Mulder stepped out first, and Scully followed.

Mulder looked quickly to his left, then to his right, and determined it
was clear. He then looked straight ahead, waited for Scully to catch up
to him, and began walking.

It was almost as if he were walking in slow motion. He felt as though he
were in a movie scene of some sort. Even though, just moments ago, the
corridor looked void of people, all of that changed. The entire hallway
was suddenly lined with people. Totally and completely filled to

And then the noise began, and at first, Mulder didn't know what it was.
He was concentrating so hard on ignoring what he perceived as mocking
looks and snide, whispered comments.

And then he felt something in his hand. Scully's hand.

He didn't understand at first, since they'd agreed they weren't going to
broadcast their relationship, but Scully was now holding his hand, and he
looked at her and saw she was smiling this huge Cheshire cat grin, and
then he took his eyes off of his Scully's and finally, _finally_ looked
all around him.

They were all smiling too.

And applauding.

For him.

They were smiling and clapping for him.

And Mulder began to breathe again.

He arrived at Assistant Director Skinner's office to the continued sound
of applause. As he reached for the door handle, Mulder felt the door pull
open. AD Skinner appeared. He looked at his agents and then took note of
the noise from the corridor and the reaction it received from its intended

Skinner smiled. He offered his hand to Mulder's free one, as the other
hand still held on to Scully's, tightly.

"Welcome back Agent Mulder. It's good to see the partners back together
where they belong," AD Skinner said.

"Thank you, Sir." Mulder then looked at Skinner warmly and added, "It's
good to be back where we _all_ belong."

Skinner took notice of the proffered hand and said, "Indeed, it is."


End of Part 4/4

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