January 27th, 2009 Unremarkable House, Farrs Corner, Virginia
The searing pain that shot through his head upon waking was incredible. Mulder rolled over, snaking his arm out from under Scully’s where she had lain hers over his in the night, and clasped his hands to his head, massaging his temples. A faint noise was growing, almost a chatter, strangely muted as though it was coming from a different room. He groaned and pulled his pillow out from under his head, holding it down over his ears in effort to drown out the sound.
“Mulder?” The groggy tone of Scully’s voice just barely filtered through the downy barrier, but the other noises continued. “What’s up?”
“You left the radio on again,” he grumbled, letting up on the pillow to blink at Scully, who was now propped up on her elbow, hair mussed from the night’s rest.
“Radio?” Her question was garbled, and her nose scrunched up in confusion. Watching her, taking in the grace of such normal movements, Mulder would have smiled if he wasn’t in so much pain.
“Gave me a headache…” Running a hand over his face and rolling over, Mulder tried to even his breathing, to focus on the in and out of the air in his lungs. There was a moment’s silence, before Scully sat up abruptly, as if suddenly wide awake.
“Mulder, there’s no radio on.”
Brow’s quirking, Mulder screwed up his face in confusion. “What are you talking about? Of course the radio is-“
“Oh.” The word fell from his lips dryly, emotionlessly, as he realized what was happening. “Why were you dreaming about the Oxi-clean man? Should I be concerned? Or is this a hint for me to grow out the beard again?”
“Damn it Mulder!” Scully’s words came out a sigh rather than an exclamation. “This is serious.” Whatisthisgoingtomeangoingforward?Whataboutourplans?WhatamIgoingtodo?There’snocureforthis.There’sno-
“There might not be a cure but there is the Phenytoin.”
She stared at him like he’d grown a second head, and that was when Mulder remembered that she’d had very limited exposure to his ability in the past. Scully shook herself suddenly looking awake, and bit her lip. Reaching out a hand towards him, she pushed the hair back from his forehead where it stuck in the clammy sweat from his ill-sleep. Her thoughts were less sentences in that moment, more impressions. Love and fear, anxiousness and determination all flooded over him. And then: WellIguesshe’s-
“Going with you to the hospital today. Yep.”
Scully made a face and Mulder chuckled humourlessly as he sat up. “I’m not really looking forward to it, you know, but probably for a whole different set of reasons than you think. I know I can be a real pain, Scully, but it’s not so bad really, when it’s just you and me, when it’s something physical. But in the future, let’s leave the paid programming personalities out of it. Too many conflicting voices and all that,”
Despite herself, Scully smiled too. “Are you asking me to control my dreams Mulder?”
“Lucid dreaming is a verifiable experience and a state which can be reached through several, scientifically based-“ He heard her mental groan in his head before she spoke.
“Okay, okay Mulder, I get the picture. I’ll get you some pain killers now so that they’ll have kicked in by the time we get there. Hopefully that will help with the headache.”
“It’s not just that…” He trailed off when the worry spiked within her. “No one wants to hear the thoughts of people in a hospital, Scully. They’re not particularly pleasant.” Quickly, sensing the trajectory of her thoughts, he added. “Please don’t feel bad. It’s not your fault and I shouldn’t be complaining. Last time… the way it started…there was no reprieve. I don’t have too much of a headache now; it’s receding.”
It was evident in her expression that she was parsing the information, even if he couldn’t hear her thoughts. She knew that he knew that she didn’t quite believe him, and so she opted out of saying anything.
“You’re learning,” he said. The smile he gave was a sad one. “Let’s hope it doesn’t have to become second nature any time soon.”
The drive to the hospital that morning was interesting from an academic standpoint. Scully had given Mulder as high a dosage of over the counter pain meds as she was comfortable with and they were already kicking in when he started to get interference with his 24/7 Scully exclusive mind radio, which was a conflicting signal of intense worry and a repeating refrain of Jerimiah was a Bullfrog, which, even when sung only in her mind, was horrifically out of tune, and frankly atrocious when layered over one another like a corrupted mp3 file.
They drove past a few single passenger vehicles and he picked up grumblings about the earliness of the hour, another dreading a particular meeting, and one person who was fed up with the news programme they were listening to on the radio, but in that special way that meant that they wouldn't stop listening anyways.
They were manageable. Two people at a time was okay. It was nicer than listening to Scully’s dire mental landscape, which he could filter out from that of the other drivers well enough, and the pills he’d taken were doing their job adequately, considering he’d swallowed them only fifteen minutes prior. Then had come the school bus. Unable to contain his response to the overwhelming sensation of nearly fifty minds, all ages 11-18 with the exception of the driver, exuding a remarkable number of thoughts for the pre-dawn hour (ranging from dead baby jokes to the overbearing phrase ‘why won’t they shut up’) the noise of the chatter devolved almost instantly into a shrill whine. He knew he had cried out when Scully slammed on the breaks. Thankfully, he also knew that there wasn’t a single vehicle behind them.
Realizing that he’d covered his ears – his body’s natural attempt to stem the intolerable sounds – he pulled them away, breathing hard, and glanced at Scully. Her hands gripped the wheel, knuckles white.
“It surprised me, that’s all. I wasn’t prepared,” He tried to assuage her. It didn’t work. They waited, watching until the bus turned down an intersecting road and Scully started the car moving again.
Gradually they reentered civilization and the voices built at his temples in an unending pressure. Mulder tried to temper his reaction, but eventually he gave up, curling into the side of the car, gripping his hand in the door pull. His head lay against the seat rest and his eyes fluttered shut.
“Mulder?” Her voice came to him as if out of a fog and when he finally opened his eyes they were already, miraculously in the hospital parking lot. “Mulder, you blacked out. I’m going to get someone to help bring you in, okay?”
He may have nodded, but he wasn’t sure. Before long, two orderlies were hauling him up out of the car and settling him in a wheelchair. When he next came to, he had an IV in his arm and was lying in a hospital bed. A quick glance at the clock, after his vision came into focus, told him that he hadn’t lost more than twenty minutes, unless he’d lost nearly a whole twenty four hours, which, with his track record, Mulder knew was entirely possible.
The voices were still there, but they were tainted with static, as though the station he was tuning into wasn’t coming in well, so they must have given him some sort of drug. He chuckled darkly at his continuing use of the radio metaphor to describe his brain, wishing at the very least he could manage to find some sports station. Alone, at least for the time being, Mulder allowed his thoughts to stray and found himself thinking of a little boy, though not the one who was most usually on his mind.
Gibson Praise, quiet and reclusive due to his (now their) condition. Frankly, Mulder was starting to see the genius in hiding at a deaf school. Any less noise was better less noise. What he wouldn’t have given to talk to Gibson, to ask his advice. When they were hiding together in New Mexico, Mulder had never bothered to ask. His ordeal was over and, all things considered, he and Scully both had figured the brain surgery would be the end of any and all future he had as a Tangina Barrons. That, above the possibility that he’d end up a vegetable, above the likelihood that he would be driven insane, was what he feared most: not knowing what had caused the resurgence of the ability. The previous time it had been caused by exposure to the artifact rubbing.
This time, nothing.
And if there was no cause, how could there ever be a solution?
Scully came into the room then, an African American doctor at her heels. If he had to guess, Mulder suspected that this was her close colleague Ray Anders, a neurologist who was hired around the same time she was. For many months, Scully confided in Mulder that her only real friend was Ray, simply because he was in the same situation and they both felt…well… a little less than welcomed; Scully because of her reluctance to interact on a personal level with anyone, and Anders because he was from out of town and generally unfamiliar with his surroundings. But while Anders grew into his role, Scully had maintained her distance.
She’d done it all for him, Mulder knew, and it ate him up inside. When they had finally returned to the states after his trial, his very citizenship was questionable and hiding him was at the top of their priority list, which didn’t make for attending staff functions terribly high on the priorities list.
The rest was history.
“You must be Ray Anders. Wish we could have met under better circumstances. I’m a big fan of anyone who’s in Scully’s corner,” Mulder joked weakly.
“I am indeed, Mr. Mulder. It’s nice to meet you too, all things considered.”
He didn’t look as curious as he might have, had Scully not already enlightened him of their relationship. “Dana’s given me a little bit of background on what the circumstances are here, but I would like to hear more from you.”
Mulder looked to Scully, curious, and tried, for once to focus his ability, to read her so he knew what exactly she’d covered, but it was useless, the drug muddling the thoughts all together with that of everyone within what felt like three floors.
“I started getting these headaches several year back. Came on really suddenly and got progressively worse, to the point where I was literally catatonic. My brain’s way of protecting itself, I think. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t speak. It was pretty bad. Then, I was…” He paused, looking for a more judicious turn of phrase. “…taken…by some people who performed an, um, illicit brain surgery on me, and the headaches went away. Turns out they removed part of my brain. Not long after that I was diagnosed with brain disease. They thought that was inoperable, but we’ll just say that all that hasn’t bothered me in years.”
Anders was nodding along as he spoke, as if mentally ticking off everything Scully must have said. “Dana told me that there would most likely be signs of electro encephalitic trauma, but we won’t be able to tell for sure until we perform a scan. And this migraine came on as suddenly as the first ones did, years back? No lead in? No headaches prior?”
“Honestly Doc, more suddenly than before. Without warning.” Mulder sighed. It didn’t really matter, he knew. Whatever regular Doctors could do for him was little more than slapping a band aid on a gunshot wound. Whatever the Syndicate’s doctors had done amounted to little more than the same. Whatever it was and wherever it really came from, it was clear that it wasn’t going away, or that if it did, it might come right along back.
Thoughts of their lost son resurfaced. Mulder remembered the stories he had been told about the extraordinary feats William had performed, mentally summoning the artifact, moving his mobile with his mind. The barest shadow of a doubt as to his true parentage dissipated entirely the moment Mulder realized that the ability returned. Scully had been taken, and they’d both been infected by the virus. His junk DNA had been activated by the artifact. Perhaps that was all it took, no miracle at all, but rather just the perfect combination of abductee and alien-human hybrid DNA.
It made Mulder shudder and yet gave him comfort at the same time.
“Thank you Mr. Mulder. Dana, I’ll let you sit with him a bit while I try and get us scheduled for a scan. We can talk when I get back.”
As Anders exited the room and Scully drew near him, Mulder could finally tell that the drug, whatever it was, was wearing off. “What’d they give me, Scully? It’s like listening to half of the news station and half of the baseball game at the same time through static in here right now.”
Scully sat on the edge of his bed, reaching a hand out to take his, placing it in her lap. “Morphine.” His eyebrows made a valiant attempt to disappear into his hairline at her statement. “It’s helping?” She asked, but he only made a face in response. “Not really, huh?”
“The little guys running around up there are tuning the dial as we speak. It’s helping, but not for long.” Mulder reached out a hand and brushed her cheek. “They can’t help me here, Scully. I need help from people who understand what’s happening to me. Someone for whom this ability was really meant, because I can’t help but think that maybe my body is rejecting it.”
“If we could find Gibson-“
“No, Scully.” He shook his head. “We can’t put him in jeopardy again. If this is the way things have got to be, then we’ll just have to deal with it. And if I’m…if I’m out of commission Scully, we have to do what we can while we can, because you’re going to be the only one left…”
Suddenly, Mulder felt her hand clasp his, tightly. “We do this together, Mulder. We’re making plans. We are going to move, we are going to subvert what’s coming in 2012, and we are going to find our son. And we are going to do it together.” BecauseIcan’tdothisalone.IdiditalonefortoolongandIpromisedmyself never,neveragainandIcan’tandIwon’t-
Mulder sighed as Scully’s thoughts once again became clear in his head. Though the range was still limited, it was expanding more and more each moment.
“We’ll get through this.” I hope. She attempted to reassure him, squeezing his hand more tightly.
“I hope so too.”
Scully eyes widened and the set of her shoulders slumped.
It was only a matter of time.