Title: Coolin' My Heals
Author: Zoonr
Written: September 2002
Category: Vignette, MSR (though Scully's not really in this one)
Keywords: Mulder POV, Mulder/Gibson in Hiding
Spoilers: The Truth, Trust No 1
Feedback: I'd love it, and if you're so inclined, send it to: zoonr@hotmail.com

Summary: Mulder reflects on his time in the desert with Gibson, and what he thinks of as his family.

"You know it's not safe."

"Jesus, Gibson!" Startled, I flinched. The chair that I was sitting on, poised in front of the computer, creaked with the sudden movement, and I stuck my foot out to steady myself. I'd gotten used to it - the boy responding to voices that only spoke inside my head. Well, I'd mostly gotten used to it. But it was difficult to ever really be prepared, especially when you're trying to act covertly. "I was just checking my email. I wanted to see if there was anything from Scully."

I lied. I knew it was pointless, but I couldn't help it.

"You weren't checking your mail, you were going to write something, but that's not what I'm talking about." He spoke in that contemplative, distant tone that only a man twice his age, who has seen far too much - perhaps in battle or on the street - should have. It was the tone of a wise, yet brooding man, not that of a teenaged boy.

Sometimes I felt like he was protecting me, instead of the other way around. Hell. Who was I kidding? Of course he was protecting me. From myself, just as much as from the nefarious forces trying to seduce me out into the open. Wow, I'm starting to talk like a cheap, dime-
store detective novel. Staying alive couldn't be worth that. Of course, now I was stalling.

"I don't know what you're talking about." I barely heard my own voice. My eyes dropped to my lap, and I felt like a child being scolded by their mother for not taking out the garbage.

"You're thinking about going back. To her. To them." There was no therapist's empathy in that voice. He was matter of fact. It would have been unsettling even if I didn't know he could read my mind. But what made it worse, was that he was right.

"I need to go back. I feel like Superman stuck in a lead prison."

"You're not Superman." Finally, his lips turned up into a wry smile. "I'd pay to see you in the tights, though." His cracking voice, and smiling eyes made him seem like his own age in that moment. It was rare, but I knew that just as he wore that melancholy exterior like a second skin, the ironic, dry wit was a part of him too. He reminded me of myself if you take away the telepathic genius and deep scar that stretched across his skull.

"If I could see my family for just a moment, I'd stand on Pennsylvania Avenue in those tights proclaiming I'm the 'king of the world' while riding a unicycle. I feel useless." It was strange how easy it was to open myself up to this child. It seemed ridiculous to speak to him like the boy he was, when he knew every thought I had, whether it was appropriate for someone under seventeen years old or not. So I didn't. We talked together like friends. Like old college buddies, maybe.

In hindsight, I probably opened up to him, more than he did to me. It was easy for him to lead me in the direction I wanted to go, and I found myself following him along. I would never admit it verbally, but without Scully to listen to my endless Ramblings, I felt hopelessly lost. She didn't take my shit, but she never dismissed me. She would roll her eyes at my crazy theory one moment and then be grabbing her coat to chase after me to Timbuktu the next. She validated me- she validates me - and in a slightly different way, so did Gibson.

But I felt even more protective of him than I felt validated. Aside from the fact that he was everything that I'd chased after for the better part of the last ten years, he was allowing me to be his surrogate father. He'd been without his parents for a long time now, and although my son was less than one-year-old, Gibson let me coddle him the way I should be coddling William. We were a symbiotic pair, in a very odd way. Though, in times like this, I think Gibson was the lecturing father, and I was the petulant son.

"You know that seeing them will only put all of you in danger."

"How can I possibly know that?" I jumped up, huffing in an uncontrollable burst of anger. I didn't know a damned thing. I was just sitting out in the desert cooling my heals, waiting for some clandestine note or sign that my son and Scully were okay. That it was safe to go back to them. At least that's how it felt.

"You know it. You think you're useless, but you're not. If they kill you, how much use will you be to them then? To Agent Scully and William?" He turned to leave.

"Gibson?" He stopped underneath the door jam and swiveled back to look at me. "Are you sure? Are you sure you can't hear them? If I could just know they were okay, then maybe..."

"I can't. I'm sorry. They're too far away." He gave me a weak smile, and I returned it. "Don't write any more letters, though. You're not so good with the mushy stuff." He winked at me as he backed out the door, and shut it behind him.

Once I sent a letter to Scully. Well, a modern letter of the electronic kind. It was just before we had to cut off all contact, after the incident on the train with the SuperSoldier. I'd addressed it 'Dearest Dana.' It was my attempt at romance, harkening back to the World War II epic love stories my mother would make me watch with her when I was a boy. The soldier, goes off bravely oversees to fight the Nazi's, writes to his new wife in beautiful script and sweet prose, and comes home a hero to his bride and new baby.

Based on that sentence, I suppose it's not difficult to figure how the letter went.

Although, I hardly ever had called Scully by her first name, I thought that "Hey Scully" just didn't sound all that romantic. And I was right. But at least it would have been me. It would have been us. After I sent that letter off, I heard Gibson snickering in the next room. He hasn't let me forget it either. So kill me for being a sap.

Maybe I'm not so good with the mushy stuff. Though she did reply, telling me she missed me, but neither of us really seemed ourselves when we were apart. It was a little like trying to live as newlyweds and taking your honeymoon on separate cruises.

But that doesn't mean I didn't miss her more than I sometimes thought my heart would be able to bear. I missed William too, but it was a different kind of longing. Something strangely instinctual. I knew I loved him, but I barely knew him. It wasn't really 'missing.' Maybe it was just 'missing out.' With Scully, it felt like a piece of my chest had been ripped out. A sucking wound that took away my ability to draw breath.

I know that sounds wrong. It sounds like I missed Scully more than I missed William, and that's not it. It's just different. Like the difference between losing an arm compared to a leg. Both are tragic and traumatic, and you feel this phantom itch where the limb should be. But when you lose a leg, it limits your ability to walk, compared with losing an arm, where your disability is the loss of touch. Both tear off pieces of the whole, but from different sides of the pie.

I have no idea why I agreed to it. This ultimatum-induced separation from my family was absurd.

"Because you didn't want to hurt her." Gibson interrupted me from my thoughts, again. Somehow I'd managed to pace into the small living room of the trailer without even noticing I was walking. I had been floating through existence my entire time while I was supposed to be BOLDLY SEARCHING For The TRUTH. Gibson was watching television. For him, I was just another character on whatever program he was glued to. His eyes stayed focused on the flickering screen while he spoke.

"Who's to say that my being away from her, won't put her in more danger? We've always been better when we've worked as a team."

"I meant, you didn't want to make her sad." That much was true. My abduction, death and resurrection did things to Scully that I would never have known were possible. I don't think anything would have persuaded me to leave her before understanding that. Certainly not some mysterious threat against my life. I'm not afraid of dying. Well, that's not true. I'm afraid, but it wouldn't let it disable me. But the toll the past year took on Scully made me realize that I would do anything to not cause her that kind of grief again. If she thought I was safer out here in Timbuktu, and it would allow her some kind of rest, then so be it. I'd learn the local language and buy a hut. And that wouldn't mean I couldn't keep searching for answers.


Gibson turned, finally taking his eyes away from the tube. "I know what she means to you. I know what they both mean to you. I know, because it's the same as what you mean to me." I stood there, gaping at him. He wasn't the type who would hold back his thoughts, but he didn't easily give away his emotions. "I wish you were my father."

I should have probably said something besides what I did. I never had another chance to get that moment back. So, instead, I mumbled, "Gibson, you're a great kid." Or something equally uplifting.

"It's for you. He has something you want."

"Who?" As I said it, someone knocked on the door. Shortly after I answered it, I was on my way back east to learn the truth and to change my fate. Or to finally learn it. I hope that I'll see Gibson again someday. If only so that I can tell him what he probably already read out of my mind.

But also, because William needs an older brother who he can learn from and identify with. I need a son who can teach me how to be a father and a husband -- and how to control a toddler. Lord help Scully and I with these two. I know someday, we'll have them both. I guess, right now we'll have to settle for just the one. It's enough, for now.

The End.


Author's notes: Okay, I know the ending is a bit saccharine, and I swore I'd never be that cheesy, but the muse is so fickle that I just let him have free reign sometimes so as not to scare him away completely. I can only hope you didn't need a barf bucket like I did. If you did, I apologize. Also, thanks to my beta Heidi (even if it wasn't actually on this particular story, you know what I'm talkin' about).

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