Title: Eat Me, Drink Me
Author: Maidenjedi
Feedback: texgoddess@yahoo.com or maidenjedi@hotmail.com
Rating: PG13
Category/Keywords: V, MA, MT
Archive: Yes. I'll submit to Gossamer directly. Spoilers: Requiem, Tunguska/Terma, Redux II, Never Again, Ascension
Disclaimer: They just aren't mine. I leave the hard stuff to the big boys.

Summary: The waterglass said "Drink Me" and the mushroom said "Eat Me".

Author's notes: Writing fanfic is like playing with Barbies. You get to make your own rules.

Like my other MulderTorture vignette, "White Rabbit", this story owes a lot to Lewis Carroll for "Through the Looking Glass" and Walt Disney for "Alice in Wonderland".

I also owe a lot to a good friend, who shall remain anonymous, for helping me realize a few hard truths. Thank you. Mulder here owes you his soul.


Part One

Bars on the door, mud and grime on the floor. There is a little window, high up, from which a dull light streams. The man fetally curled in the corner is pale, unshaven, breathing shallowly. He has pock-marked arms and dried blood in his hair. His feet are the only relatively clean portion of his anatomy, probably from lack of use more than anything.

Slowly his eyes blink out the sleep, and his mouth stretches in a silent cry for water. His lips are chapped, his cheeks hollow, all indicating that months have passed since he was granted real nourishment, real human nourishment. He is a prisoner of an unknown species. The way his eyes dart and his arms cross his chest is a give-away of his fear.

He looks around, suddenly confused by his surroundings. He recognizes this place.

Somewhere in the distance, two men are talking. Our hero is lying in the dust, shaking his head. He would swear he hears Russian...but he is certain he has been abducted. He's not on Earth, how could he be hearing Russian?

Unless...

He feels the walls with his hands. A window, not a window, a hole! He gasps in disbelief. It was all a dream? He sticks his hand in the hole and bumps against human flesh.

"Comrade?" says a male voice.

Our hero jumps back in surprise, relief flooding his system. He knows where he is!

"Tunguska," he rasps.

"Yes, American. Tunguska." The man in the next cell says it resignedly, as if it were a curse he is unable to erase.

"Krycek...where is Krycek?" Our hero remembers now! He came to Tunguska looking for...for...for proof! And he dragged someone named Krycek along with him. And they were captured.

"The man you called friend has betrayed you. I told you this."

"Mulder..." the man whispers. He has remembered his name.

"What?" The man in the next cell is confused.

Mulder shakes his head in confusion. The dream had been so real. It had spanned so much time! And in the end he had been taken into a ship, an alien ship, and he remembered Scully crying...

Scully.

"Where is Scully?"

"You are not well, comrade." The man in the next cell doesn't know why his ally has begun to rave like this, but it has to be the black oil. "It is the black oil." Saying it aloud has depressed him further, and all he can do is breathe now.

Mulder, on the other hand, is upset. He cannot remember what happened to Scully, or where she is, or why she isn't here. He can only remember something vague from his dream..."I won't let you go alone".....

But he is alone.

Someone comes to his cell door and pushes a bowl of water through the slot at the bottom. Breakfast is here.

Mulder is overcome, however. Why can't he remember her outside of his dreams? Why is it that he dreamt about a whole four years of his life? And how is it that he is still at Tunguska?

"Friend." He decides maybe the man through the wall has answers.

No sound.

"Friend!"

"What is it, comrade?"

"How long have I been here?"

Silence.

Mulder hitches in breath to ask again, but the man cuts him off.

"Over a year. Drink. It will help."

Mulder is paralyzed. A year? His breath is suddenly ragged and his chest is tightening. A year...a year! How could he suddenly wake up to find he has lost an entire year?

The dreams.

Scully.

The ship.

Mulder looks down at the bowl on the ground. The water in the bowl is murky at best, but perhaps the man is right. There is nothing else he can do, anyway. Not yet.

As he lowers himself to the ground, the room begins to

spin as vertigo overtakes his senses. Voices seem to scream at him and the only thing he can see is menacing and horrible. He screams in agony until he hits the floor with a solid thud.

"Drink, American. Drink!" comes the furious whisper.

Mulder shakes his head. Images flash before him and He is suddenly convinced the Walrus has come to collect.

The dream has not ended.

Mulder looks at the bowl for a moment, then picks it up. Inscribed on the side is a phrase that may ensure him a few precious moments of sanity.

*Drink Me*

Mulder looks around the cell, uncertain of what is happening. Is this still a dream or is he stuck in Tunguska, destined to slave away forever or until the black oil finally kills him? Where is Scully? Where is this?

Mulder looks at the bowl again as doubt creeps into His mind. Maybe he is on the ship. Maybe. But maybe not.

He drinks the water.


Part Two

"Agent Mulder."

Nose being rubbed, eyes blinking once.

"Agent Mulder, wake up."

Deep sigh, head turns as eyes squeeze shut. This is a man awakening as if from a dream.

"Agent Mulder!"

At that, he sits straight up as if shocked and gasps out, "Tunguska!"

The surly gentleman standing before him is in no mood. "Mulder, Scully's been asking for you. The doctors say it could help if you go in." He glares down at the disheveled Agent Mulder, who is looking around in confusion.

"What...why..." He is truly perplexed. He thinks he had been dreaming about Tunguska, and it had seemed so real. But why is he sitting in this hard plastic chair in this bright white hospital corridor, and why is...Skinner...standing over him? And why, dear God, why, are the doctors with Scully?

"Scully is in that room Mulder. She's been asking for you. Wake up. I'll go get us some coffee." He regards Mulder sadly for the first time, a little of the steel in his backbone bending. "I'm sorry this is happening, Mulder. I'm sorry I couldn't do anything to save her." With that, Skinner walks away, leaving a shaking and still thoroughly puzzled Mulder.

Save Scully? What the hell is happening here?

"Mulder."

Mulder looks up, and blinks three times before the man in front of him registers in his mind. Bill. Bill Scully. Her brother. Suddenly its deja vu all over again.

"You are one sorry son of a bitch."

Mulder gapes slightly. He's been here before, hasn't he? Didn't Bill call him that ages ago?

Mulder wonders if maybe this is the reality, the rest a dream. Scully is not cured, it must be that. Her cancer never went into remission, he never found the chip...

"Scully." He whispers it like a prayer, and makes up his mind to go into her room. To see for himself. Are they fucking with his mind or is this really three years ago? What he *perceives* to be three years ago.

Scully is there, in the bed. The room is cold to Mulder and he shakes violently. He realizes as he leans over to touch her cheek, however, that he is really just frightened. He's hurt. it's not cold in here at all.

Scully's eyes flutter open at his touch. "Mulder."

What is this, his mind cries. She's nearly ready for last rites, and I could swear we cured her! This is over, this is the past! It can't be real, it can't be...

Scully is grasping lightly at his fingers, telling him that he mustn't make her his cause, that he must find Samantha and move on.

This makes him think harder. But he found Samantha, he knows what happened to her! She's in the starlight and...

Scully whispers something Mulder can't hear, so he leans over and draws in a breath, relishing her smell and wanting so bad to kiss her. But she repeats what she's said.

"Goodbye, Mulder."

The breath leaves her body, and her chest doesn't rise again. Alarms go off in the room, and Mulder looks up at the heart monitor just as it goes flat.

A nurse walks in the door, shuts off the alarms. "I am so sorry, sir. Would you like a few minutes alone with her before I call the doctor?"

Mulder only nods. He can't breathe, he can't see, and his knees are about to fail on him. Scully...dead...

He begins to sway backward, and the nurse sees him just in time to catch him. "Sir! Are you alright?" But he doesn't hear her. He hears an insane cackling and sees nothing but queen of hearts Bicycle cards floating in front of him. He can't clear his head, so he lets the nurse guide him down into a chair.

"Mulder!" That voice he hears. Skinner kneels down in front of him. "Here, take this." He has a cup of steaming coffee in his hand. Mulder takes it with shaking hands, staring blankly over at Scully, his heart pounding with the insistence that this has to be a nightmare. She survived her cancer, damnit!

Skinner waves the nurse out of the room and stands up. He turns to Scully and leans over. A soft kiss on her forehead and a silent plea for her to be at peace. He turns to walk out.

Mulder still sits there holding the coffee, not acknowledging it and staring at Scully. Tears have begun to flood down his cheeks, getting caught in the beard stubble. Skinner just looks at Mulder for a moment, shaking his head at the utter despair in front of him.

"Mulder, drink the coffee. You'll feel better. It will help."

And with that he walks out of the room.

Mulder feels his heart clench in his chest and thinks of what a mercy it would be to die right this second, to join Scully wherever she's gone. All belief that this might be a dream has gone out of his mind, and then he looks down at the coffee cup in his hand.

Why is there a tea bag in this cup of coffee?

But it isn't a tea bag at all. Mulder squints a little to read the print.

Laughter escapes his lips. It is not the laughter of the amused, but of the nearly insane. Somewhere in the distance Mulder thinks he hears the sound of a jolly walrus.

The teabag tag says, in tiny script, "Drink Me".


Part Three

Author's note: These vignettes are tied together but you can skip part three without missing anything overall.

For those who have been reading this series of MT vignettes (btw, I love you all!!), this part is a little different. In the previous bits, Mulder woke up to find himself in a sort of alternate reality. In this piece, and possibly in future pieces, Mulder simply picks up in the middle of a situation. It's an idea I had for a post-ep that I am simply warping to fit this current creative streak. Beware of the MulderLogic in this piece; it may seem a little off.

Part 3 is dedicated to Shaun, for the circles we've Run in for so long. Also for introducing me to smut and agreeing that it is very hard to see our Moose and Squirrel ever actually doing the deed. I guess since this is an almost-AU I get to have some fun, eh?

**

"Not everything is about you, Mulder. This is my life." Scully looks at him only briefly, fully intending to avoid his gaze lest she be trapped there for eternity.

He shakes his head, trying to clear it. For a brief second, it seemed, he hadn't been in this room; inexplicably, the scent of hospital bed sheets is in his nose and the sound of a heart monitor resonates in his ears. His mind has been wandering. And this is serious, this argument with Scully. Philadelphia, Ed Jerse, that goddamn tattoo...

"Yes, but its my..." She looks at him expectantly and he just can't look her in the eye. How would he finish that statement? His what? Her life, his....

She narrows her eyes and glances away, the worry lines forming in the corners of her mouth indicating a pout.

He feels he knows what's about to happen. The oddest sense of deja vu has enveloped him and he can't quite figure out why. She's going to sigh, she's going to turn to him and offer a small smile, however fake, and together they will leave this office....

She sighs, deeply and resignedly. She turns to him and offers the smallest of smiles, a sign that she's ready to forgive if he is, a sign that maybe they can fix what's wrong with a little work and a little effort.

He stands up and jerks his head toward the door, not wanting to ruin this moment with words. They've each said enough to last an eternity. It is time to try and fix things.

Mulder suppresses the urge to place his hand on the small of her back; it is not yet time for gestures of affection. She's stopped at the door, a pace behind him now, mouth agape, and he knows it, but keeps walking. Scully follows him, trying to hold her head up in a manner that has given her the ice queen reputation.

In Mulder's mind, he can almost see the evening play out, not because this has ever happened before but because of that nagging deja vu. He's felt this betrayal before, he's certain of it, but he can't place it and he ignores it. Still, he can't quite ignore the images flashing in his mind as they wait for this light to turn green.

Over to the grocery store to pick up a frozen pizza or two and a case of Shiner. Scully will decide she wants some wine as well, and she goes for the red. He'll realize he never had her pegged for a red wine kinda gal. Stop at the video store halfheartedly, Scully picks out some foreign film on the claim that he owes her that much (he doesn't know what he's done to deserve "Il Postino").

And they'll proceed to her place and get sloppy drunk and do things they will regret the next morning.

The light turns green and Mulder turns into a well-lit grocery store parking lot. Scully gets out of the car even before Mulder can turn it off. He follows her out and into the store, and they don't even make it to the frozen food aisle when Mulder gasps and clutches Scully's shoulder. He can't see, why can't he see? The world is spinning...

"Scully..."

She turns around. "Mulder!" All animosity flies out the window. What is this? His breathing is hard and he is squeezing his eyes shut.

Mulder can only feel the world spinning around him, images beating against his eyelids of caterpillars and flowers and dancing oysters. He can't fathom what he's seeing...is this a hallucination?

Scully only has a chance to grasp Mulder's shoulders before, all at once, it stops. Mulder's face is red and his heart is beating wildly.

"Are you ok, Mulder?" Genuine concern fills her face, and a touch of regret. The look in her eyes says volumes to the recovering Mulder.

"Yeah, fine," he says it softly and rubs his eyes. He does feel fine, except for the nagging sense that this situation is not happening. Suddenly he almost feels trapped in a dream. He blows it off; its just deja vu.

"Lets get you home, Mulder."

They leave the store without buying a thing. Scully insists on driving, the doctor in her prevailing over anything else. Mulder is struck by the sudden difference in what he was expecting and shakes it off. Deja vu. That's all it was. And the incident at the store? Vertigo. He hasn't eaten in nearly 35 hours.

He ignores the nagging suspicion that this is not right, something is wrong here. It has to be Philadelphia. So much unsaid. Of course things aren't right. Of course.

But why did that happen back there? Fatigue?

Scully drives them to Mulder's apartment in Alexandria. They ignore the dark, thundering sky and the brisk chill that has invaded the air. Scully's only concern is getting Mulder inside, despite his insistence that he is fine. He is fine.

Once in his apartment, Scully makes him sit down on the couch, after a staring contest that she wins without question. Mulder resists the urge to say "Yes Mother".

Scully flies about the kitchen, frustrated that all she can find for him to eat and drink is beer and leftover chocolate cake. She cuts a slice of cake for him, pops open two bottles of Shiner.

She comes into the living room and to Mulder this scene is so surreal. Scully, wet shoes off and in the corner, carrying for him an open beer and a plate of cake. Scully with her hair mussed and faint bruises on her cheeks. He feels the urge to brush those bruises with his lips and wonders where it came from. This is the woman who has stood by him through thick and thin, his best friend, not a lover. Kissing her to comfort her is not an option.

Besides which, he doesn't think its her who needs comforting.

She sits on the couch, careful to sit as far from him as possible, and he takes his beer from her. The cake is set on the table, and neither says a word. If there was a clock in the room, they would hear it ticking. A couple down the hall is coming in from the rain and both Mulder and Scully look toward the door as they pass by it, laughing and teasing each other. The contrast strikes them both hard.

"TV?" Mulder asks. He feels tongue-tied. Scully, sitting in his apartment. Scully, sucking down a beer like it's water and looking almost flushed. Is she as nervous as he is? Is she still upset?

"No." Scully has to swallow before she can speak.

They sit there, silent and trying to avoid each others' eyes. Mulder reaches over to grab the plate just as Scully goes to put down her bottle, and their hands brush. Its enough.

Mulder puts his bottle down on the floor and reaches for Scully's face. If he can't kiss her, he can touch her. If she wasn't blushing before, she is now.

"Mulder, what are you doing?" Her breathing is slightly labored, she closes her eyes as he lets his thumb brush over her lower lip.

He doesn't know what he is doing. Or where this is coming from. He leans in without answering her, bruises her lips with the force behind the kiss. She moans slightly, drops her beer bottle with a hard clank on the floor, and sinks her hands into his hair.

He doesn't come up for breath for nearly two minutes, and when he does she gasps a little in disappointment. Scully immediately scoots closer to him, nearly in his lap, and attacks him with a kiss of her own. Mulder's mind is spinning, the same sense of unreality pricking his senses and numbing his libido. Her kisses are sensational, but why is this happening? He tries to ignore it and starts unbuttoning her blouse.

Blue satin and creamy white skin. Mulder leans her back into the leather couch as he unclasps her bra. She's still kissing him, her hands now reaching around his back and down his pants. A throaty laugh escapes her. "Whitie tighties, Mulder?"

Mulder simply responds by leaning down to nibble the peaks of her breasts. She isn't herself, Mulder thinks. She's not my Scully, she's not here on my couch because she wants to be.

The thought annoys him and he almost pulls away. But Scully has taken to nibbling his earlobe, and his senses are overwhelmed.

Her hands are kneading his ass, and he groans a little as his steadily growing erection strains against those tight cotton briefs. She smiles against his neck and turns her head to kiss him, pushing him back so that she is laying across him.

He pulls back his head, needing to speak, needing to break this moment with the ultimate of mood killers. He can't stand it, it has been digging at him since this began. She looks at him expectantly, her hands coming up to play again in his hair. He dreads her reaction.

Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead.

"Scully?"

"Mmmm?"

His hands reach around to where he knows her tattoo to be. He traces circles there, wondering again how she could do it, and why she felt this wasn't about him.

"You and Jerse." Her eyes snap to him. "Did you? Scully, I have to know."

"Did we what, Mulder?" She pushes herself off him.

"Did you......" He can't say it.

"Did we fuck? Is that what you want to know?" He winces at her vulgarity, so unlike her and so rough.

But she's right.

"Yes. That's what I want to know."

She sighs heavily as she reaches to clasp her bra, put her blouse back on. "No, Mulder. We didn't." She stands up and walks to the door.

"Scully, you don't have to go..."

"Yes I do Mulder. Before tonight, you never would have asked that. You wouldn't have this need to know complex. You would have been happy if we ended up sleeping together, you and I." She slips on her shoes, her jacket, her coat.

"Scully..."

"No, Mulder. Don't. Just don't." She looks at him sadly. "I think its time for us to spend some serious time apart."

She doesn't shut the door hard, nevertheless it reverberates in Mulder's soul.

What just happened?

He can't think.

He sits up, straightens his clothes. Sighs, long and deep. He wants to go after her but doesn't know how. He doesn't think that she'd appreciate it.

Time apart.

Like it had done any good so far.

He picks up his beer, takes a swig. The cake looks good, given that he hasn't eaten in so long, but he doesn't want it. One thing he's learned if nothing else; you can't have your cake and eat it too.

He gets up and walks into the kitchen. There is next to nothing in there. Jar of olives, empty orange juice carton. Leftover Chinese food...

He reaches for that. Nothing in the carton but a fortune cookie. Figures.

Well, hell. Maybe his fortune is good.

He breaks open the cookie, and reads the slip of paper inside.

Walruses, carpenters, oysters....

White rabbits, everywhere, leading him on, cheshire cats smiling and mad hatters taunting....

This did not happen, he was dreaming all along...

"Eat Me."


Part Four

Author's note: These vignettes are tied together but you can skip part three without missing anything overall. Please note the spoiler change; I took out Ascension but this is subject to change again.

There are HUGE spoilers for Pusher in this part, so if by some chance you've never seen it, do not read this part. Part 4 is for Mikey, because I once sold my soul for a cerulean blue crayon! :-P


*cerulean blue is a gentle breeze*

Mulder can't even blink. Modell sits across from him, but for a moment there Mulder would have sworn his name was Ed Jerse.

Who the hell is Ed Jerse?

Modell is talking, some bullshit about Japanese martial arts and something about being a warrior.

Scully. Mulder knows she's there but he can't see her, everything is clouded in a cerulean blue haze.

Modell has put a gun in Mulder's hand. Russian roulette.

He doesn't even think. The trigger is pulled and nothing happens. Modell seems shaken, almost afraid. Is he afraid? It seems to Mulder that Modell should fear this gun. Maybe that's why it's pointed at Mulder's head next.

Shit, no, this can't be happening....

*cerulean blue is a gentle breeze*

The trigger is pulled and Mulder can hear Scully yelling, can hear her protesting and can hear her beg him to stop, to fight Modell.

The world becomes crystal clear for the first time, And Mulder feels the panic pulse through his body. Scully.

*run scully*

His voice or his thoughts?

*mulder no*

*run*

A single tear courses down her cheek. Modell's voice, a voice, someone's voice chanting in his mind pull the trigger, pull the trigger, pull the trigger.

What are the chances that she could survive?

*mulder, fight him*

*scully run*

She turns to flee, inspiration striking her or fear of her partner (*dear god no don't let her fear me*)

*cerulean blue.......*

The world disappears again and Mulder can't see, but he hears things, things he fears, things he prays aren't real.

The sound of a bullet leaving the barrel of a gun.

The sound of that bullet slamming into flesh and bone.

The sound of blood hitting the floor.

The sound of Scully's final protest.

*mulder no*

The sound of suffering leaving his lips.

The sound of triumph from Modell's lips.

The sound of agents and hospital personnel.

*get a gurney*

*get a doctor*

*mulder drop the gun*

Mulder can't see a thing. He can't even open his mouth to protest. Suddenly he is sure that he is not really in this hospital room, that he is laying on a stretcher that is not a stretcher, that his mouth is being held open and that he is screaming.

He is screaming. The final image in Mulder's mind is of Scully, the look in her eyes betraying her fear, and the final sound in his ears is Modell.

That bastard Modell.

*ooo, Mulder, where's the looking glass when you need it?*


Part Five

Author's note: These vignettes are tied together but you can skip part three without missing anything overall. Please note the spoiler change; there are no spoilers for Ascension in this story to the best of my knowledge. This part owes a great deal more to "Though the Looking Glass" by Lewis Carroll and to Disney's "Alice in Wonderland".

Field Trip, on repeated viewing, has become one of my favorite episodes of all-time. And it was partly the inspiration for this fic in the first place. This part will make no sense if you have not seen Field Trip. Part 5 is for Anna, whose enthusiasm for fanfic will ensure its survival with or without a season nine; I will finish "Boys' Club" if only for you girl!


It was nice that she wanted to hold his hand, even thought he was covered in yellow goo.

Well, so was she. No big deal.

It was funny; he couldn't remember a damned thing. He knew where he was, in an ambulance, and he knew it was Scully next to him grasping his hand ever so slightly, but all he could think of was Robert Modell. Pusher.

Cerulean blue....

He wonders if maybe the goo had done this to him. This sense of danger, this sense of confusion. Where is he, exactly? He feels sure he had been here before, but then there were so many times he'd spent a good twenty minutes in the back of an ambulance with Scully clinging to his hand.

*the walrus ate the oysters*

Whispers. He was hearing whispers.

"Scully?" His voice is gone, choked with goo. He coughs.

*off with her head!*

Mulder blinks rapidly. Must be just more goo, dripping in his face, the yellow streaks he's seeing. They escaped the caves, the belly of the beast.

He's just tired. Hearing things.

Yellow streaks running down his face.

*whooooo arrrrre yoooooooooooou?*

Was that a caterpillar perched on that mushroom?

What mushroom?

What caterpillar?

Mulder shakes his head, his movement jerky and unsure...yellow goo still covers his body. But they escaped, he and Scully were rescued....

*tweedledee and tweedledum*

Mulder isn't so sure anymore. But he *knows* they escaped. He blinks as more goo runs into his eyes and even as it does he wonders if what he knows is true. He squeezes Scully's hand...she squeezes back, just enough to reassure him.

"Scully......" Its raspy but its there, his voice. Surely Scully can hear him. She squeezes his hand again and he knows she does.

*momraths...don't step on the momraths!*

Was that Scully?

"Scully?"

She doesn't respond this time.

"Scully?!"

There is so much of the goo in his eyes now that he can't see. And suddenly he's sure of it, sure that he's been here before and has escaped. He can hear the maniacal laugh of the Mad Hatter, who isn't the Mad Hatter but is pretending to be. Mulder has a vision, a glimpse, of himself strapped to some mad scientist's chair, and the drill is coming down...

And he sees his wake...his apartment, full of people, all wearing black and all sad, mournful. This wasn't his hallucination, it had been Scully's; why does he see what Scully saw?

He is not here. He escaped, Scully escaped. He is imagining this.

And as vertigo takes over, Mulder hears only one phrase, whispered by a girl's innocent voice...

*drink me*


Part Six

Author's note: These vignettes are tied together but you can skip part three without missing anything overall. Please note the spoiler change; there are no spoilers for Ascension in this story to the best of my knowledge.

I was about to end this with post-ep for TINH, but I watched Anasazi in anticipation of DeadAlive and was struck with inspiration. Our Mulder...the posterchild for miraculous returns from the dead. Special thanks to Paul Cornell, Martin Day, and Keith Topping for their book "X-Treme Possibilities", without which most of my inspiration from Anasazi would have died out. I took a few liberties with the events of the end of the episode, please forgive me!

**

The New Mexico sun was oppressive and unbearably hot; Mulder was sure that Scully wouldn't want him out here so soon after being so sick. And after being shot.

It was funny. He didn't really recall how he'd gotten out here, in this rock quarry with a Navajo youth. For that matter, while he knew he'd been shot, he didn't recall when or why. He kept thinking of a forest, and skeletons of people laying in a spooning position. Snippets of Russian kept slipping into his mind, and he could almost feel someone reading his mind, controlling his mind.

All of that slipped from his thoughts as the boy he was with brushed the desert sand off what appeared, at first glance, to be a rock. Deja vu all over again, thought Mulder. It was no rock...it was the topside of a buried boxcar.

The boy stood back as Mulder opened it and jumped down inside. Topside the boy hunched over to watch as Mulder dug through a pile of dusty, ancient skeletons. His cellphone was in his pocket, ringing. Scully.

*not human...*

*smallpox vaccination scars...*

*scully...*

*mulder...*

Helicopters overhead. One for sure, and Mulder knew he'd been found out. Found. The boy, in surprise, shut the top of the boxcar, and Mulder scrambled out of site. Oddly, it seemed there should be a way to get out...a hole in the side of the car, with a tunnel into the rocks...Mulder fumbled in the dark, anxious to hide. He buried himself under the alien skeletons as best he could and waited.

He could here a voice demanding the boy reveal Mulder's whereabouts. The voice ordered the boxcar opened, and Mulder cowered further under the pile as a soldier jumped down holding an what might have been an AK-47.

"He's not here!"

"He must have vanished without a trace!"

And then, the first voice, now familiar and haunting.

"Burn it!"

Mulder was shut it, in the darkness, and he knew it was over. He scrambled for cover, trying to find the hole he was certain was there. If he could get into the rock surrounding the boxcar, there was a chance he'd survive, and he'd rather a small chance than none. He knocked his injured shoulder into something hard and unforgiving, and cried out in pain.

The world exploded.


"Ashes to ashes, dust to dust....."

Somewhere, not far away, Mulder could hear the sounds of a funeral. Where was he now? What illusion was this? Scully's funeral, his mother's? Samantha's?

Why couldn't he open his eyes?

"We gather here to mourn the passing of Fox William Mulder..."

Wha...what?

He brought his fists up, or thought he did. He couldn't move, and he couldn't see. It occured to him in a flash of panic that he was trapped...

*but i'm not dead*

....inside a coffin. No, it couldn't be, he was trapped in the rock quarry and this was a nightmare of some kind, he was only unconscious from the blast, from the New Mexico heat, from being sick....he wasn't *dead*!

He heard Scully, he could hear her crying, sobbing to someone that Mulder was the last. That there was no one left. That the real tragedy of all this was that he'd not been given the truth....

The truth.....

No. This was a nightmare. This was not happening.

*this is not happening!*

Scully's voice, ringing in his ears. He couldn't see her and he knew this was his imagination. He could hear her crying, hear Skinner telling her it was alright to let her guard down, that he would hold her. But why does Scully need comforting, why is she crying?

Fox Mulder cried out, but there was no real sound. The only sound was that of dirt hitting a coffin lid.

Fox Mulder is dead.


Part Seven

Author's note: These vignettes are tied together but you can skip part three without missing anything overall. Please note the spoiler change; there are no spoilers for Ascension in this story to the best of my knowledge.

At long last closure! More notes at the end. Blatant spoilers contained within for TINH/DeadAlive/Three Words, so consider yourself warned.


Prologue:

*i can't explain it...i'm pregnant...*

Another hospital, another lifetime. Scully shut her eyes, trying not to see the white walls, and she held her breath, trying not to smell the disinfectant. She stood in the doorway of the intensive care ward, trying to remember that she was seven months pregnant, trying to grasp that Mulder had been buried for three months, trying not to lose her fragile grip on sanity.

He wasn't buried any longer. Behind her back, Doggett and Skinner had exhumed Mulder. What motivated them, she had no clue. And now, Mulder was alive, clinging to life in the intensive care ward.

She felt hurt and betrayal, but that was only underneath the disbelief and the nervous energy. The baby kicked twice, reminding her that she was really standing here, that she was really not dreaming. Unless dreams come to while you're awake. Unless you can't distinguish reality from the nightmare.

"I have to see him," she whispered. There was no one close by to hear. Skinner stood far in front of her down the hall. She shut her eyes and tried not to remember another hospital corridor *the truth will save you Scully...*

A deep breath and she tore off down the hall, as fast as her thickening legs would carry her. "I have to see him!" she all but shouted. Skinner stood there, stopped her from going in. She was shocked. First he would not tell her what he had done, and now this. Now *this*.

Months of uncertainity had slipped into months of despair when Mulder was found dead in Montana. The funeral was a surreal memory that she remembered in black and white. The months since were a tragic scene from a play not written; Pregnant Mother steps into bedroom, has crying fit. Sleeps fitfully and has nightmares. Exeunt.

Vertigo threatened to knock her from her feet, but Scully stood firm, not willing to give up so easily. Mulder was alive, and she had to get to him. She pushed at Skinner, who seemed in a trance.

A door opened behind him, and out stepped John Doggett. His eyes were red with fatigue, and his hair was slightly unkempt. Scully recognized the look on his face as one she had seen on her own so many times: the look of shaken faith and of a non-believer toppling from obstinate skepticism.

The look told her so many things. And as Doggett looked into her eyes, she knew it was true.

Mulder alive.


 

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust....

The steady blip of the heart monitor assured him of a link to reality, to life. He was conscious, but his eyes were shut tight. He wasn't ready to look.

Commotion would follow when he finally blinked, but until then all he wanted was to assure himself that he was indeed alive. Fresh memories of being locked, trapped, and nearly burned alive in New Mexico taunted him....he wondered where exactly he was now. What vision, what cruel twist of fate would they throw at him this time. Would he open his eyes to see Scully tortured for all eternity at the hands of Donnie Pfaster? Would he be forced to relive Samantha's abduction, or his mother's suicide?

Eat me, drink me....

He didn't want to know, not really. His life had come

and gone and if he kept his eyes closed there would be no chance that this was another bad dream.

"Hail Mary, full of grace..."

The soft murmurings of a prayer touched his ears, and he knew without thinking that it was Scully's voice he heard. He tried not to react, not to breathe, lest he disturb her conversation with her God. Why, pray tell, was she whispering Hail Marys at his bedside? Had he survived after all? Was this the proof he needed?

Her voice broke over the words..."and at the hour of our death. Amen."

Silence prevailed for a moment, and Mulder knew she was holding back tears. Where he was remained a mystery as long as his eyes were closed, but in that silence Mulder was suddenly certain this was home. A hospital, but not a dream-hospital.

A warm hand slipped into his, caressing his fingers softly. Scully hummed a little, clearing her throat. "Mulder, its me. Its Scully. You're back, Mulder, you can wake up."

She continued in this vein while Mulder lay and listened.

It was only when he squeezed her hand that she stopped talking.

"Mulder?" An anxious, almost frightened note soured her voice.

He fluttered his eyes open. It *was* Scully, his Scully, not some dream manifestation poised to drive him further into insanity. But he had to test her, he had to know!

"Who are you?" he rasped, his voice tender and not fully functioning.

Scully's eyes widened, hurt filling them. Mulder smiled. He hadn't wanted to hurt her, but now he knew. This was Scully.

"Just kidding." He smiled wider, and Scully's filled with tears and hundreds of emotions. Reproach, relief, disbelief, and tenderness.

"Mulder, you have no idea what we've been through." Her expression told him volumes, and he told her so.

"I know. I can see it in your face."

And she laid her head down on his chest and sobbed, and he held her all the while.

The door opened briefly, and Mulder's eyes fluttered open to see a man standing there. He felt Scully stiffen slightly in his arms, and he knew she had seen the man, but that told him nothing about who the man was. The door closed, and Mulder and Scully were once again alone. But something hung in the air, and Mulder's throat tightened with the realization that he really was home, and home was different, changed.

 

**

Two Weeks Later

Mulder sat in his apartment, alone for the first time since waking up in the hospital. Scully had left only moments before, claiming fatigue and saying that Mulder needed his rest.

Rest, be damned.

He was still absorbing so much. The world had gone on without him, and so much had changed. George W. Bush had been elected president, the Gunmen had a new benefactor, Scully was pregnant, the X-Files had been turned over, and...

Mulder stopped. It was useless trying to avoid it, wasn't it? Scully was pregnant...pregnant! Seven months along, having difficulties of all kinds, urged by her doctor to get off her feet. She was getting ready for maternity leave, she wasn't going to quit the F.B.I.

He sighed and rubbed his forehead with his index fingers. It wasn't simple. They hadn't even talked about her pregnancy, he had gotten the details from Skinner. Mulder wasn't sure what it all meant. He knew he had become more paranoid since his return to the living. And why not? He'd been abducted, returned dead, and came back to join the living how? By infection with an alien virus and the elimination of it.

Over the years, he and Scully had seen everything. Abductions that resulted in cancer, in barren wombs, in catatonia, in death. Why not insanity?

The gossamer wings of panic constantly brushed against his heart. Insanity.

It was possible, wasn't it? After the visions he'd had, the nightmares he still suffered (he'd awoken only last night to the sweaty fear that he was trapped in Morris Fletcher's body once again), and the paranoia creeping into his personality with a fierce and biting vengeance, Mulder was no longer sure that he would survive this. He was home, but this wasn't home. Scully even had...

...a new partner.

John Doggett, former NYPD. A non-believer. Mulder was certain there was something shady in this man's past, something conspiratorial. Why should he trust Doggett, or anyone else for that matter? Even Scully was keeping secrets, pregnant with a child that was likely another pawn for the unseen dangers that still haunted Mulder.

The sound of a police cruiser shook Mulder from his dark reverie. He was hungry, and he needed to sleep. Scully was right, he needed his rest.

"Even after being dead for three months," he said aloud. His voice sounded hollow and shaky with no one else there to hear it. He wished fervently that Scully had stayed, offered to tuck him in, held his hand or his gaze for just a moment longer. Mulder felt it again, the tiny insistent panic in his chest that longed to take over his mind and his heart. He was alone in this place, this world in which he had become an observer.

He forced himself to walk into the kitchen, stepping deliberately and harder than he'd intended. The pounding protest from the tenants below barely went noticed. Into the kitchen, into the fridge. Scully had put some food in there, babbling about the shameful lack of content she had found when she first came here after...after...her eyes had fallen from his to the task at hand and he had wanted to stop her tears but found himself unable. Scully, comfort me, hold me, don't indulge in fear tonight, be my savior.

On the top shelf was a blue Tupperware labeled carefully. Mulder reached for it, not caring what it was, just needing to eat and stop thinking about Scully.

"Eat Me."

Insanity is in the mind of the beholder. What seems to one man to be genius, the next will see as a mind gone mad. In the dim glow from the refrigerator, Mulder read the label on the Tupperware once more, then put it back and shut the door. Panic seized him gleefully, finally triumphant over this soul, this mind. *They* were going to win after all, taking his final glimpse at normality and throwing it in his face, flaunting a pregnant Scully and her new partner in his face. It wasn't enough to have stolen his sister, his father and his mother. It wasn't enough to throw him back into the shadows of a past that might have been. They had to leave him in this alternate reality where the good guys were gonna lose.

Mulder sat down on the tile floor, and cried for man he once was.

 

End of story


Final Notes: Well, here I am at the end of this strange journey and I think Mulder and I are going to take a break after this...he's been nudging me to Skinner, Doggett, and Krycek anyway. Special thanks to Erica, for asking me at least once if I was ever gonna finish this; to Anna and Skinner Box for cheering on Paperback Writer, the story that reintroduced me to my muse; to Mikey, for reading my stuff without knowing what he'd be getting into and still finding something to like about it; to Arianne, who has, from the very beginning, never failed to encourage me and give me reason to smile; and finally to the PURity crew for their continued support and conversation (Anna, Megan, and Fran).

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