Title: This Life is Not Yet Rated
Author: Rae Lynn
Written: February 2006
Feedback: xraelynn@gmail.com
Rating: PG
Classification: MSR, Mulder POV
Timeline/Spoilers: Mid- to late 8th season
Disclaimer: All characters contained within are the property of Chris Carter and Ten Thirteen Productions. No profit will result from this story and no copyright infringement is intended.
Archive: Inquire within.

Summary: So far, my improbable resurrection from the dead bears an uncomfortable resemblance to a movie trailer: All the critical action is there, but no one is sure how it's going to end. (Mulder POV)

Author's Note: Like many other fanfic authors who would prefer not to go stark raving mad trying to figure out the timeline of the eighth season, I've elected instead to fudge it a little bit, going with the dates that are indicated by clues within each episode rather than those the characters themselves are throwing around. It's nothing drastic, so...just go with it, mmkay? Additional author's notes can be found at the end of the story.

ROYAL: "This illness, this closeness to death...it's had a profound effect on me. I feel like a different person, I really do."
RICHIE: "Dad, you were never dying."
ROYAL: "But I'm gonna live."

They begin and end the same way: fade to black, punctuated by ominous sound and chaotic anticipation. There is the urgent narrator, the flash of white light, the epiphany of true love jeopardized by fate and firestorm.

So far, my improbable resurrection from the dead bears an uncomfortable resemblance to a movie trailer: All the critical action is there, but no one is sure how it's going to end.

"Mulder?" Busted. Even William's lusty hunger cry isn't as effective as the razor edge of Scully's voice at cutting into my reverie (which, in the interest of full disclosure, Scully might be tempted to term a "flashback," but then again, Scully's probably been privy to enough of my digital picture, Dolby surround sound flashbacks to know the difference). Scully's eying me with that look that's equal parts concern and suspicion, and her tone is the distinctive one she reserves exclusively for these particular moments. Newly upgraded from "Lecturing my Lunatic Partner" to "Empathizing With an Undead Mulder," it is 50% "Mulder, I'm so grateful you returned from the grave to be the father of my child," 45% "Mulder, I think you may need psychiatric help to cope with these episodes" and -- if my finely calibrated lust detector hasn't gone on the fritz after three months in the ground -- 5% "Mulder, I could jump you right now."

Death may have dampened my libido, but it hasn't slain my appreciation for irony.

"You're doing it again," she observes, not unkindly, and the best response I can muster is an unconvincing "Oh. Sorry."

She sighs. "Mulder..."

"I'm working on it," I interrupt, a hasty attempt to pre-empt the inevitable rehashing of my death that follows ad nauseum every time Scully thinks I've hazed out on her. For God's sake, I sometimes feel like shouting, I spent three months experiencing the ultimate reverie to end all reveries -- in a coffin - - so can you blame me for getting a little distracted every once in a while?

Apparently Scully cannot, because her expression softens as she deftly plucks William from my arms. "I know you are, Mulder," she says gently. She's always been this efficient, my Scully -- express her misgivings, discreetly remove William from the potential danger of his zombie father's carelessness, then skillfully smooth it all over with that look I once thought I might be fated to carry with me as my last memory of the earth. Point, set, match. As if he agrees with my thoughts, William nuzzles sleepily up to his mother without so much as a yawn to object his transfer from Zombie-Dad to Super-Mom.

"He needs a diaper change," she says quietly; all those years of performing autopsies on rotting creatures from the black lagoon have left Scully much too dignified to wrinkle her nose at the smell. Ah, I think, this could be my cue. From Zombie Dad to Ward Cleaver -- isn't that how it would go in the Paramount Pictures preview? With Harry Chapin's "Cat's in the Cradle" wailing mournfully in the background, no doubt. Abruptly I'm on my feet, reaching out for William with arms that -- for once - - don't tremble upon extension. Point for me.

"I'll take care of it," I say, attempting a smile. These days, it feels more like I'm baring my teeth, and Scully regards me with a split-second change of expression that -- before her own small smile breaks through -- I recognize instantly as doubt. Scully may be a mother on maternity leave, but I've seen that face enough times -- usually while regaling her with one of my lunatic theories -- to be acquainted with it intimately.

It's the only thing I've become acquainted with intimately in the past few weeks, in fact, but I suppose intimacy issues are just another side effect of resurrection the Apostles never mentioned in the New Testament.

"Mulder, are you sure..." she starts to say slowly.

"He's my son," I say breezily, "of course I'm sure."

Scully considers this for a moment with an expression that clearly means she knows "sure" is Mulder-code for "terrified," but a moment later William is in my arms, chubby and soft with a diaper full of fumes and an expression of pure baby bliss on his face. During the deft transfer of William from her arms to mine, Scully takes advantage of our close proximity by wrapping her arms around me as if she can wring the nightmares out of me.

"You just need some time," she says softly, ignoring the stiffness in my stance. Technically, Scully, this is my afterlife, and I've got an eternity ahead of me to get over my death. Which brings up an interesting theological question, I muse as I look from Scully's encouraging eyes to the top of Will's fuzzy head: Does that make this heaven, hell, or someplace in between?

"You like it in there, huh, big guy?" I murmur as I unfasten the straps on his tiny overalls. Half- asleep, William smiles beatifically in return -- I think; I haven't yet mastered the fine distinction between smiles and gas. If it weren't for the inevitable doom and misery that seems to hang over Scully's and my family like a dark cloud, I'd even venture to say that our son has it made: Hot mom, doting grandma, devoted if mildly awkward godfathers in high places within the federal government. Hungry? Breastmilk trumps takeout pizza any day of the week. Dad's returned from the dead? Hey, no problem.

The dead, I think, my son sleeps like the dead -- and then abruptly the blackness is upon me again, swimming over my eyes like the black cancer pinned me down, and William is screaming the cry of the grievously wounded, the one that says a great injustice is being done and I have the wet diaper to prove it.

"Mulder? Mulder!" Suddenly there are hands on me - - hands that dug my grave, I think; hands that held me to a steel chair and drilled holes in my teeth, hands that carved my headstone and forced me underground -- and I know I have to fight my way out of the coffin, up and out of the earth and back to my son, I have to fight against the blinding light and stunning blackness, I cannot let them take me again - -

"Mulder." The voice is commanding and gentle and just a little bit frightened. Scully's voice. Scully's hands. Suddenly it's not the issue of life after death that worries me; it's the terrifying absence of Scully after death I'm concerned with.

"There was nothing," I mumble, clumsily pushing her hand away as it hones in on my forehead. No Scully. No William. Not even the ghost of my father or Deep Throat doing the "Welcome to the Afterlife" greatest hits. I'd been in my grave, in the ground, and there had been nothing.

Scully obviously misunderstands me, because she shoots me the most tight-lipped glare I've seen out of her in a long time. Oh boy. If that was a sneak peek, it's obviously going to be one hell of an opening weekend.

"Mulder, that was not nothing," she says, in a vice that's only beginning to gather steam. The blackness flickers and dims a little -- my flashbacks are never as pleasantly fuzzy-edged as they are in the movies -- and Scully's face swirls into focus. She's holding William against one arm in that casual way that seems instinctive to mothers, and for the first time I notice a tiny New York Yankees insignia on the front of his overalls. Well. She must have decided to start off slow in introducing the kid to his old man's legacy. "Your dad was a Yankees fan, William" goes down a whole lot smoother than "Your dad managed to get himself abducted and killed by alien beings seeking to colonize the planet."

Abducted. Killed. Colonize. Suddenly I can't breathe, and Scully's hands hit my chest like shovelfuls of dirt thumping onto my grave. She must be shouting something at me, I think hazily, shouting to disturb the oppressive silence. Show a little respect for the dead, Scully --

The flashback sputters out into the kind of anticipatory silence you hear in theaters before the movie begins. Experimentally, I crack open one eye, expecting to see Scully preparing to regale me with the latest version of her post-flashback wake-up call. But instead -- looking a little fuzzy and indistinct around the edges -- I see...Skinner?

"I must be in hell," I mumble. Skinner regards me impassively over the lenses of his glasses.

"Scully will be back any minute," he says in what he obviously considers a soothing voice.

"With an armload of pharmaceuticals, I suppose?" I reply sarcastically. By this time the room is in focus enough that I decide it's probably okay to sit up. I'm on Scully's couch, I realize, ignoring the way Skinner is studiously pretending he's not categorizing my every move.

"How long was I out?" I grumble, letting my head flop back against the pillow. It retorts with a loud squeak and I startle like I've been stuck with a pin. Skinner reaches behind me and wordlessly hands me a plastic hippo.

"William's," he says needlessly, but the name hits me like a punch to the gut. William. My son, whose diaper I can't even manage to change without haring out completely.

"And in answer to your question," he continues, "long enough for me to drive over here during rush hour and help Scully peel you off the floor."

"She called you," I repeat in disbelief. Skinner doesn't dignify that with a response. "She usually just drugs me up and calls 911," I mutter. Skinner raises an eyebrow.


In truth, Skinner and I both know perfectly well that Scully does nothing of the sort; in fact, the last person to hold me down and let a paramedic shoot me full of drugs was none other than the Skin-Man himself, and that was years before my recent journey to the other side.

Skinner can't know what I'm thinking, but for a moment we stare each other down in silence, like we're back in 1994 and he's just called me into his office to demand an explanation for one bullshit stunt or the other. Then, improbably, his face softens. Tenderness has always seemed out of place on Skinner, somehow awkward or oversized, and I can feel the muscles in the back of my throat tense and tighten.

"This was a bad one, Mulder," he says.

I can't meet his eyes to confirm the pity there, so I study the blue hippo instead. It's the same size as a fist, what any sixth-grade science teacher will tell you is the size of a human heart.

"Yeah." I don't elaborate. Then suddenly the slow- firing synapses in my brain make an important connection: Scully's gone. Skinner's here. So is the plastic hippo, quite obviously, an object that holds special significance for my son --

Where's William?

I don't realize I've spoken it aloud until Skinner gives me an appraising look, as if he's been clocking the moments until I manage to inquire about my son's well-being.

"He's inside," Skinner says, nodding towards Will's bedroom as I stagger to my feet, strangely weak with relief.

"Is he...?"

Skinner follows me to the doorway of the nursery Scully tells me she and her mother decorated themselves with pale blue- and white-striped wallpaper. I suspect the gender-typing may have been more Margaret Scully's influence than Dana's.

"He's fine, Mulder," Skinner says quietly, but something tells me an unspoken "...this time" hangs at the fringes of his "Don't Wake the Baby" voice.

"Mulder," he says carefully, "Dana called me today because she was worried for you."

He pauses expectantly, perhaps anticipating an argument, but I'm too preoccupied with "Dana" to reply.

Does Doggett call her Dana, too?

"I know you've been having some difficulties these past few weeks," he continues. In fact, "difficulties" is a woefully understated euphemism for whatever it is I've been having, but then I always did appreciate Skinner's talent for creative rhetoric.

He hesitates again, looking away from me to William's bedroom, and I realize with slight surprise that this is trying for him too.

"Scully tells me you steadfastly refuse to talk about it. I'm not suggesting you see a counselor or a psychiatrist. I know perfectly well the reasons you can't. But...as someone who's had a similar experience -- "

"A body bag isn't the same thing as a coffin, sir," I snap, regretting it instantly when Skinner's eyes harden.

"I'm not purporting to know what you went through, or what you're going through," he hisses. "My God, Mulder, I...I *watched* you step into that clearing, and I couldn't do a damn thing about it. I listened to Scully plead with me to help you when you had obviously been dead for days, and I didn't do a damn thing about that either. Mulder...we put you in the ground," he says, his voice betraying a quiet agony.

My own agony has been anything but quiet. Skinner's voice returns in flashes: the clearing, that terrifying drill, the memory of Scully's face. My body, in the ground. Fortunately, my brain seems equipped to trigger only one large-scale freakout per day; I close my eyes against Skinner's words, but nothing is behind the lids but darkness.

"Scully just wants to help you. In any way she can," he finishes.

"What was it like?" I ask suddenly. Skinner's mouth twitches in confusion.

"What was what like?"

"My funeral," I elaborate. "What was it like?"

It's a cruel question. He blanches and his eyes flicker toward the living room, as if he's afraid Scully will walk in on this conversation.

"You've already mentioned 'dead' and 'ground,' I think we're well past the point of trying not to trigger a flashback," I press him. Skinner shakes his head.

"Mulder, you don't want to hear this," he says.

"I need to hear it," I reply. He sighs.

"It's not...it wasn't you, Mulder," he says. "It's not who you were."

Well, there you have it, I guess. "It's a Wonderful Life" in reverse: I have seen what life would be like if I died, and it turns out there's not a whole lot to look forward to. Not even a really kick-ass burial service.

"Please at least tell me Frohike didn't make a fool out of himself."

"Cried like a baby," Skinner rejoins with a straight face.

The sound of a key in the lock interrupts the grudging smile I'm beginning to form. Scully stands there wide-eyed, her eyes performing an unmistakable once-over. It used to be that Scully's sliding up and down the length of my body like that meant we were both about to get some. Now I know she's merely checking me over for damages, though even she must know that thanks to the miraculous healing powers of alien technology, none of my scars are visible.

"You're awake," she says unnecessarily. "How long..." She glances at Skinner.

"About five minutes after you left," he reports.

I nod toward the white bag in Scully's hand. "Presents for me? Scully, you shouldn't have," I say brightly.

Something in her seems to deflate, and she sighs. "You're right, I shouldn't have," she says distantly. She glances at Skinner again and an uncomfortable silence settles in the room.

"I need to get back to the office," Skinner announces tactfully, giving both Scully and me meaningful looks in turn. Somewhere during the time I was missing Skinner seems to have gone from hard-ass boss to auuthoritative parental figure, an improbable cast change that wasn't listed in my re-entry manual.

Skinner and Scully have a whispered, furtive conference in the hallway, and then Scully re-enters, looking pensive.

"Mulder, we need to talk," she begins, her face looking as though she's steeling herself for an argument. "This..." Her eyes flicker tellingly towards Will's room. "...isn't working."

What isn't working, Scully? Which part? The part where I wake up sobbing on the floor or the part where you call Skinner over to play "Welcome back to life, I'll be your tour guide today"?

"I know this hasn't been easy for you," she continues, characteristic understatement intact. "You've been through so much. And if this" -- she indicates the apartment -- "isn't what you want..."

The silence hangs in the air between us. "What makes you think this isn't what I want?" I say thickly, looking down at my shoes.

"The nightmares, the flashbacks, are getting worse," Scully says carefully. "You flinch every time I touch you. You look at William like -- " She stops abruptly, uncomfortably, and looks away.

"Like what?" I challenge her.

"Like you're afraid of him," she finishes, her eyes meeting mine defiantly. My instant protest dies on my lips; my defense is weak, and Scully knows it.

"You *are* afraid of him," she whispers, and something rises bitterly in the back of my throat.

"God, Scully," I choke out. "I'm not afraid of Will. I'm afraid of..." The words clog in my mouth, cutting off my air. "I'm afraid of what I might do to him," I confess.

Bless her, Scully looks positively stunned by this pronouncement, as if she's actually never considered this as a possibility.

"I don't understand," she says finally. "Mulder, you...I know you. You would never hurt William."

She must know I'm concerned about more than accidentally causing him diaper rash.

"Scully, I was missing for six months and in the ground for three. We have no way of knowing what was done to me, other than that it takes a truckload of sedatives to get over. Aren't you at all concerned that I might hurt the baby? Or..." I hesitate. "Or you?" My voice is tight, strangled, not at all like my own.

Scully lifts her head and stares straight through me with those commanding blue eyes, that gaze that can make me believe in anything as long as Scully is saying it. "No," she says firmly. "Mulder, when you were in the hospital, your body was examined for evidence of microchips -- "

"They don't need a microchip anymore to control a man's brain," I point out. Scully doesn't even blink.

" -- and even if you *had* been implanted...Mulder, I know you," she says for the second time today. "You would die before you hurt me or the baby." Suddenly her eyes fill, and I sense the unspoken conclusion: Mulder, you did die. Why can't you be happy that you came back?

"It's not just that," I say after we have both fallen silent. "It's...Scully, I look at Will and I remember when my father went from all-around American dad to someone I didn't know anymore. He had a family and he stumbled into a conspiracy that destroyed everything he had worked for. Scully, my father..." I hesitate, unsure of how to make her understand. "My father went in blindly. He had no idea what his actions would cause. But I can't say the same for myself. How can I be a part of Will's life when we both know what the consequences might be?"

She sits very still for a moment. "Then why," she says stiffly, "did you ever agree to this in the first place?"

I look at her sitting there -- my fierce, luminous Scully -- and I know the answer: Because no price seemed too high for Scully's happiness.

Even now, death seems like a fair trade.

"And what did you expect me to do?" Scully continues softly when I don't answer. "That I would just leave behind all the work we've done all these years? That I would just leave *you* behind?"

"Then what *were* you thinking?" I explode. "Scully, how many times...how many times have you talked about getting out of the car, about building a normal life? I thought...that this could be your chance."

Her eyes are blazing. "Without you," she says flatly. She sighs.

"I was thinking," she continues deliberately, "that there are other people out there who can help. I was thinking that you and I aren't the only two people in the world who can be entrusted with the tasking of saving it. I was thinking that we both deserved a chance at happiness."


I must look like I'm hearing a foreign language, because Scully moves closer to me and grasps my hand.

"Mulder, when the in vitro didn't take, I realized something," she says quietly. "I realized that asking you to help me conceive a child was a mistake."

As if on cue, the room swirls dizzily, and Scully holds up a hand as I open my mouth to protest.

"Please, hear me out," she says. "I realized I was wrong to think I could get back what was taken from me by having a child. And I realized that I was only presenting myself with an impossible choice. That one day..." She takes a shaky breath. "One day I would have to choose between you and my child."

Scully, I would never make you choose, I think, and then I remember the time my partner couldn't even keep her *dog* safe from the harm that inevitably accompanies a routine investigation of an X-File. My chest tightens.

<"Did Dad ever ask you if he had a favorite? Did he make you make a choice?">

Like father, like son.

As if she can read my thoughts, Scully's grip on my hand tightens.

"But then I did get pregnant," she says. "After I had stopped believing it was possible, after I had come to terms with my choice. And suddenly you were gone, Mulder, and I didn't even know where to start. It was almost as if..."

"As if God had chosen for you," I finish in a low voice. Scully looks dismayed, her eyes filling with tears.

"Mulder, I told you I prayed a lot, and that my prayers had been answered," she says. "I don't know what hand God played in this, but I believe He heard my prayer. For both of us." She squeezes my hand. "You're not alone in this, Mulder. Please don't ever think that you are."

She let's go of my hand and slowly gets to her feet. "You're not your father," she says softly. "But you're the only one who can decide if you want to be William's."

"Is that what you think this is about?" I say, finally finding my voice. "That I'm having flashbacks because I'm subconsciously rejecting the idea of fatherhood?" I don't have to add that I think it's the most ridiculous idea I've ever heard; one thing death has not taken out of me is my talent for tonal sarcasm.

She closes her eyes briefly. "I don't know what I think," she admits, and the finality of her tone scares me. If this is the climax of our conversation, the denouement can't be far off.

I've been close to death before. In fact, I've been more than close to death before, and I've always bounced back: back to the X-Files, back to my apartment, back to Scully. This time Scully's had a baby in the time I was gone, my apartment's been rented away to a tenant less likely to trigger murders in the building, and with the "close" taken out of "close encounter," I'm not sure I can bring myself to face an X-File anytime soon. This time there's nothing to bounce back to. This time it's like launching an entirely new life.

What if Scully is right?

A small cry goes up from the bedroom, and Scully automatically starts towards the door, leaving me sitting frozen on the couch. Will busts out his shrillest, most insistent wail, the one that bears an uncanny resemblance to the screaming of sirens, and I can feel my body tense, thinking no, please no, not again --

And suddenly the alarms are interrupted by Scully's soft murmur, the sound of her muted, tuneless voice singing "Joy to the World" to our son.

I think it's the only song to which she knows all the words.

In my mind I picture them in there: Will, scrunchy and red-faced from crying, Scully bouncing him as gracefully as a baby can be bounced, and abruptly I'm careening towards a culminating epiphany that would do George Bailey proud.

I have Scully. I have my son. Hell, I even have a boss who will drop everything in the middle of the afternoon to help Scully drag my sorry ass off the floor.

When a man dies and comes back to find he has everything he's ever wanted, hasn't he wound up in heaven after all?

Scully turns in mild surprise as I enter the bedroom, one hand stroking the top of Will's jiggling head. I clear my throat.

"I'll take your pills," I say in a low voice. "I'll learn to meditate if I have to, I'll even eat yogurt mixed with bee pollen if you think it'll help." I take a step closer to them and William studies me with interest.

"But this is what I want," I tell her as William's hand suddenly lunges for mine, and Scully's face relaxes into a smile.

I guess we do know how it's going to end.

The End

WILLY WONKA: "Charlie, don't forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he always wanted."
CHARLIE: "What happened?"
WILLY WONKA: "He lived happily ever after."

Companion piece: The Deep Untangling

Additional Author's Notes: The last time I wrote a fanfic in Mulder's voice was in 1999 or so, so I consider this piece an exercise. An exercise that, because I am a shameless feedback glutton, I did decide to share with the general public anyway, but an exercise nonetheless: to write Mulder, to weave a conceit (starting with the allusion in the

) throughout the story, and to re-write the story of his resurrection in a way that felt at least passably more acceptable to me than what actually happened on the show. (Sorry, Mulder, your apartment is toast.) In fact, so many fanfic authors have already bested the show itself in terms of the eighth and ninth seasons that I hesitated about writing this story at all, but then I figured if Scully can write a new interpretation of Einstein, I can write a new interpretation of Chris Carter. You'll notice, though, that I chose not to address the whole "Mulder was dying before he died" thing (believe me, I tried, but it just didn't work out). Because honestly, people, there's only so much disbelief a person can suspend before she has to resort to selective ignorance.

Let me know what you thought: xraelynn@gmail.com. The rest of my fanfic lives at http://geocities.com/rae_lynn05/

If you enjoyed this story, you'll enjoy even more the following similarly-themed stories that put mine to shame:

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AU After Existence
Season Eight Missing Scenes Challenge Pack
William's Alternative Outcome Challenge
Season Nine Missing Scenes Challenge Pack

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