Title: Zombies in a Newer Age
Author: David Stoddard-Hunt
June: June 2001
Category: S, A, MSR
Rating: PG-13 (language)
Spoilers: Three Words
Archive: AXF, Ephemeral, Gossamer fine. All others: sure, but let me know, ok?
Disclaimer: Theirs not mine. Borrowed, dry cleaned, returned.
Feedback: stoddardhunt@earthlink.net

Summary: What kinds of things come back from the dead?

Author's Notes: Thanks to Tess, for comments and beta!


What kinds of things come back from the dead?

No, I mean, think about it.

Plants don't. They may look dead, but their roots are in cryostasis all winter, sprouting new shoots when the ambient temperature gets high enough. Animals? Nope, not even cats. Unfortunately for feline-kind, "nine lives" is just a brand of food, not reality.

In my experience, the only beings to come back from the dead, with the possible exception of Buddhists everywhere, are vampires and zombies. Oh, and Elvis. That is, if you believe he truly died.

Shirley Maclaine, I suppose, and Joan Rivers as well, although there is some disagreement as to whether Joan Rivers has returned from the dead or has been simply dead among us.

You can lump in Jesus Christ with "Buddhists everywhere" if you want, if only because of the religious context and the similarities between resurrection and reincarnation.

Ah, yes. And me.

I haven't had the urge to go for daylight strolls since I've been back, but I do see my reflection in the mirror, much to my chagrin, and I still have a taste for garlic on almost anything. Primarily, though, I haven't had the urge to exsanguinate anything either, at least not for my own nourishment. So, I'm not a vampire.

I could just be me, reanimated, everything just jake, same as always. Except that everything is not "jake." I don't feel like me. Hell, all I do feel is "conscious," not really alive. I don't know what I feel really, if anything, except violated.

So, my working hypothesis is "zombie."

If so, all my prior notions about zombies are being shot to hell. I'm not hungry, even though I'm under doctors' orders to eat high protein to gain weight. I can't drink until I'm off the current course of anti-virals but, even then, I'm not really sure that I'll touch a drop. Dancing? Only to the real Elvis. And I'm not even going near the next part. On that score, my options seem to have been reduced from one to none during my absence.

Maybe I'm a zombie who doesn't have a lighter, gentler side.


Come on, come on, come on. Come. On.

Damn it!

Great. This is just perfect.

Why can't I at least be allowed the dignity of a graceful exit? It's hard enough to be graceful when pregnant. Wedging a belly like mine behind the wheel of a car is a joke. I don't need the indignity of engine trouble on top of it all. But here I sit, like a beached whale in front of his apartment.

Now what? Do I call Triple A or do I call a cab? Either way, if he's watching, it's going to be bad. My forehead and cheeks already feel like they're about to combust. Hell, what's a little more humiliation among "best" friends?

"I prayed, you know, a lot."

Oh, Lord. I should have prayed to be kept from making such a fool of myself.

Why the hell am I crying? Jesus, why? Just because I feel embarrassed, humiliated?

Hormones? Stupid answer, too simplistic.

In truth, I'm not sure that I feel much of anything, and that scares me.

Ok, there's one: frightened, I'm frightened that I've gotten him back, only to lose him. But that's just it; I'm not really losing him. He's walking away.

Just saying that to myself, I know that I should be feeling angry with him. I should be feeling rage. The first time, he was taken from me, against his will. But this time? He's walking away, burning bridges of his own volition. I should be enraged. Should be.

But, I tell myself instead that he needs time, he's been through trauma that would be unimaginable, except for the fact that I dreamt it, lived it nightly for six months, in Technicolor, like my own personal CNN. He just needs time. Time heals all wounds.

I say this, knowing it's a load of crap, and still buy it wholesale. Who better to know what he's been through than me? Who better to know what his real wounds are? Who better to help him find where he fits in?

I do feel rage at moments like these, but it's evanescent, fleeting.

I should scream at him to face it, face his demons, face them with me. But I don't.

I should shake him until his teeth rattle, and snarl "don't you find it the least bit strange that I kept your apartment for you even after everything, Mulder? Doesn't that tell you where the hell you fit in?" But I can't. I can't.

I should rail at his stoic expression when he stares at my belly and asks no questions. "Aren't you the least bit curious about this, Mulder?" I damn well need you to be. But I stay quiet, uncomfortable in the long silences.

I should be taut with high dudgeon, a quivering bowstring, over the fact that he hasn't touched me once since his reawakening. He hasn't even put his fingertips on the small of my back while walking. For Christ's sake, at the very least, he should know that he fits in there.

I should feel. I know that I should. Maybe I'm the one who's dead, now.

I know I should feel anger, rage, fury, all of these things with Mulder, with Them, with the world, with God, but I don't. I don't feel anything, really, except as in the strike of a match, flaring then disappearing without a trace.

Oh, God, I'd hoped for so long, prayed for so long. Bring him back to me. My prayers were answered, all but the part I'd thought unnecessary to add: "so that everything can be fine again." Has the very fulfillment of my hope snuffed it out?

Even when I buried him, the tiniest part of me refused to accept that scientific proof that he was gone. Hope lived. I continued to imagine, if in a way I could only barely acknowledge, that he would find his way back to me. Somehow, Mulder would cross death for me.

And he has. Just not for me.

I am being squeezed, crushed in the gravity of my answered prayer. I can barely force whispers out of my mouth in his presence. I should wail, I should cry. I should soothe. I should demand. I should rage. I should beat on his chest until he lets me in. I should feel. But nothing escapes me. I. Should. Feel. Something. Anything but numb.


I remember everything. Those bastards. Those fucking bastards. I remember every goddamn second.

They didn't even have the common decency to give me a memory-wipe. Common decency? Fuck. They couldn't possibly care for one of us, one of our kind, to ameliorate trauma. They don't have a qualm about inflicting it in the first place. I know now that we're just an annoying sub-species to them, to be studied, labeled, used, eradicated. They weren't even afraid I might be able to divulge this kernel of information about them. Why should they be? I was sent back only to incubate one of their own, a fucking chrysalis for their vanguard.

And there it is.

I was sent back to be a petri dish for another life force, not to become myself again. I'm not one of them. I was spared that hell. But, then who the hell am I?

It's an accident that I'm still human in any sense. Their tests may have ripped into me physically, but their plan was to rid my body of its soul, of its humanity entirely.

They cut me open. They drilled holes into me, seared through bone and flesh. I was a ninth grade lab experiment for them to dissect. Frog, fetal pig, ferret, Mulder. That's the progression.

Those fuckers tried to dissect, manipulate, and indelibly corrupt me. They should have just killed me. Their mistake.

Thanks to Skinner and Scully, they failed. So, now there's someone who knows what's coming, if not when and how it will come. They never shielded their thoughts from me. It was on purpose, I'm sure, to show how unconcerned they were that I could ever do anything with that information. But, I do know. And I'm driven to do something about it.

I will hurt them, too.

I have the weapon, one jam packed hard drive. Now, I just need the password.


A simple errand.

That's all this was; a quick cab ride to the Safeway, the one with the burned out "e." ("Saf-way, Scully, y'see? Nothing's safe anymore.")

The cabbie would have waited for me, that's how simple this was. Just a jaunt to the market. ("I just have to get a few things, Mulder, and, no, it can't wait.")

Three things. Panty liners, frozen Sag Paneer, and a case of Ensure. Four things, if you count a break from the tension with Mulder. But only three things from the store. And the first two things I don't really need, although I can always use some more Sag Paneer, my midnight snack of the week. The first two are just cover for the Ensure, which I'm determined to force down Mulder's throat until he starts eating more normally again.

Three things. Just three.

Just three words.

Doggett. Staking out my apartment, like a character in some bad film noir. What was he going to do if I didn't venture out on a late evening errand? And where has he disappeared? ("At least he's maneuverable.")

"Fight the Future." Damnit. Mulder will suck that crap right up. That's all he's been doing since he revived. Fighting the future, his, mine...ours. He'll be putting his future at risk when I tell him.

If I tell him.

Oh, whom am I kidding? The only time I tried to keep something from him, I could barely stand doing it, and sent him taped accounts of my actions and whereabouts surreptitiously. Even so, that whole thing blew up in my face, nearly ruining things with Mulder.

I've got to tell him, even though I know he's going to go off half-cocked and I couldn't stop him if I tried.

But.

I don't have to let him go alone.

How much do you tip a cabbie you've just called for but are about to send away?


I am obsessed with this, I know. I'm sure it's all perfectly rational, in my position, to have revenge fantasies. I mean I'm sure I read it in one of the many psych journals I get. But, not too many people actually act on these fantasies; much less have the means at their disposal to act on them in a big way. Like I do.

Like I did.

If not for Scully and the Gunmen, aw, who the hell am I really kidding? If not for them and for Agent Doggett, I'd have been reeled in, hooked, caught and skinned as cleanly as a trout from a slow stream.

I have this feeling that time itself is drawing to a close. It's a feeling I can't shake. And, I think you'd have to admit, I've now gotta be as much of an expert as there is on this matter, if I wasn't already.

But, my impatience, my...obsession nearly got me killed last night, along with Doggett, possibly the Gunmen and, worst of all, Scully.

How the hell could I have risked that?

Am I insane?

Let's check the DSM IV. Insanity as a result of alien abduction, hmm. Let's see now; alien abductees, alien abductees. Here's anxiety. No. Anorexia? No. Huh. Mental note: maybe Billy Miles merely has a body dysmorphic disorder? No! Fuck this. Normal psychology just doesn't cover this. Not even abnormal psych was meant for my situation, which is now about as abnormal as you can get.

That's just it. There's no fucking way to tell if I'm acting normally, or whether I'm off my chump. What is the norm for an abductee? Who would best define post-return syndrome, Duane Barry or Cassandra Spender? Penny Northern? Theresa Hoese? Scully? Me?

There isn't a controlled study. Besides, how would you set up your control group? Oh, God. That's goddamned hilarious. What kind of placebo would you use for the things They put me through? Psychology just isn't fit to explain me anymore. Neither sanity nor insanity applies. I've lived them both, I know.

Shit. I'm only trying to justify flying off the handle in Crystal City, last night. But, damnit! No one can put themselves in my shoes, tell me what's right, what's wrong, what's normal, what's over the line. Even Scully was only in a coma when she was returned. She wasn't a carcass left to rot and keep something else warm.

I was.

But look what I put at risk. Look how easily I was led there. I could have gotten Scully killed.

Those godforsaken fuckers. Godforsaken fuckers! Fuckers! Fuckers. God damn them, god damn them, god damn god damn god damn god damn them.


I watch as you labor over the detailed report that Kersh has demanded as penance for your reticence to discuss the incident, last night, at the FSC. For possibly the first time since I have known you, you seem shaken.

I have been where you are, Agent Doggett, not knowing in whom you can trust. Unsure if there is anyone you can trust, even yourself, in your own judgment, which has never failed you quite so spectacularly before.

I have been where you are. As it has for you within the last twelve hours, so for me did the concept of friend and foe blur, become fluid, meaningless. In the emotional chaos of that moment, however, I discovered a trust that was constant, in a person for whom my trust was held sacrosanct, a touchstone in my darkest hours.

Even when that touchstone was stolen from me, constant, it seemed, in all things but death, and I was, for a time, adrift, I discovered something remarkable. A piece of my trust in this touchstone had survived and he, in return, had retained a foothold in me. This was a trust constant even beyond death. And now, though it is bruised, tentative, strained by impossible circumstance and needing to be relearned, it is still there. I had my first taste of that knowledge last night.

You have always been able to rely on your instincts and your investigative skills, and upon an unwavering trust that the system would support you in a just cause.

The X-Files has shaken your instincts, I know, but have not dented your investigative acumen. No one can take that away from you; it is both a great asset to you and a formidable weapon in this struggle the parameters of which you are just now beginning to contemplate. As for your belief in the system, well, after last night, I suspect that no longer holds.

You're aware that a contact, your friend, casually set you up to die, collateral damage in a campaign of state sanctioned murder. It has dawned on you that the Deputy Director of the FBI knew all about last night, in advance. He simply knew one too many details, too quickly. ("No, sir. I said I was following up a lead pertinent to the Absalom incident. I haven't mentioned anything about Agent Mulder being involved. What do you know about that, ...Sir?") You'd had your suspicions about Kersh, but it is a different thing to have them confirmed. Kersh is the system, the system you trusted.

You will find your touchstone, in your own way, and in your own time, of this I am sure. Until then, you might have to act on less than certainty, rely on something only approaching trust. In me, in A.D. Skinner. Who knows where else you might find allies?

Mulder is like you, unsure of his trust. He thought he was sure of you but, after last night, has had that called into question. He is wondering whether it is his mistrust that has been misplaced. He has also begun to regard me differently. I don't know how to explain this, but I think he is doing what I have been doing almost since he revived.

Remembering.

Remembering what it was like to be on this quest alone. Remembering the moment of realization that it was infinitely better to be in on this together. Still later, realizing that that it was no longer possible to do this alone, one without the other.

We cannot afford missteps. I cannot afford them. Missteps happen when we're adrift, inconstant. You will be ok; I'm certain, even if it feels awful, now. I need to feel ok, too.

"I've got to go, Agent Doggett. I'll see you in the morning."


Psychobabble probes at my fringes.

Even as terrible as my captivity was, I should be absurdly grateful to have been returned and to be alive. I'm in near perfect health. And, I have Scully. The person whose presence somewhere out there in the universe helped me endure the tortures without giving up.

Scully. Why am I treating her the way I am?

I retract my initial hypothesis. There is a third being that, along with vampires and zombies, can return from the dead: the putz. Schmuck. Schlemiel. Whatever.

The understanding of those epithets is pretty much the only remnant of my quasi-Jewish heritage. My father was Jewish, Mom was old Scots Presbyterian. Since Presbyterianism isn't transmitted down the matriarchal or patriarchal lineage, and Judaism is only conferred through the matriarchal side, I grew up in no-man's land, religiously speaking.

Actually, I think my father longed to fit in with some religion after Sam was taken, some community, some heritage to give him stability. Mom even tried to cajole him into going to synagogue by promising to go with him. He told me that it seemed that he and Mom had switched heritage; she was immersed in Judaism, he in Scotch. I didn't get it, then. I do now. Pretty fucking funny, old man. *You* were a schmuck.

Have I become you? Scully doesn't deserve that. Of course, when have I ever thought she deserved me?

She kept my apartment for me. In spite of the evidence staring her in the face that I was dead, she continued to believe that I wasn't.

Do I mention how utterly remarkable this is? How magnificent her faith is?

No.

"Missing a Molly."

Putz. Absolute dickhead.


No, no, no, no! The Wilson Bridge can't be "at a crawl," I won't have it. It's only one in the afternoon, for pity's sake. Rush hour doesn't start until 3:30, wake up people! Nuts.

Ok, Dana, think fast. Alternate route to Alexandria, and pronto.

He's gone back there, you know he has. He wouldn't have stayed behind in Georgetown, would he? He was only there because you forced him to stay. Wasn't he? He couldn't seem to get far enough away from me to sleep. Thank God I have a couch by the front door.

Find him. How? Call his apartment. (Why did I keep the damned thing anyway?)

"This is Fox Mulder, I'm not here, and I've probably lost my cell, so leave a..."

Call the Gunmen. ("If he ever finds out we've surveilled his apartment, we're *all* dead, Frohike.")

"Langly, it's Scully. Turn off the tape. Hell, you know what? Leave it on, I don't care. I need to know whether Mulder is with you or is at his place."

"He did. That's where I left him when I was summoned to the Bureau this morning, with Agent Doggett, for an audience with Kersh. No? Well, if he checks in, have him call me on my cell."

He couldn't still be in Georgetown, could he?

Try his cell.

No, first, get turned around and headed home. U-turn on the Wilson Bridge? No problem.

Flashing lights? What the hell do I care? I've got your number eight ways 'til Sunday, officer. I can either play the nine-months pregnant card, or I can trump that with my badge.

Come on Mulder. Answer the phone.

"Welcome to Verizon Wireless. The cellular customer you are trying to reach..."

Shit. You'd better amble over here a little more quickly, officer. I need to get moving, now!


The red leather cover is unfamiliar. I think I'd remember an album or a book like that, even one of Scully's. There isn't much that's unfamiliar in Scully's apartment; it's why I like staying here, well, among other reasons. My place, my stuff, belongs to another Fox Mulder, a virtual stranger to me. There isn't much that's red in Scully's apartment, come to think of it, aside from the obvious. I've always tried to avoid red in my life, with that same obvious exception, of course. Colorblindness takes all of the joy out of red for me. Well, ok. Only most of it.

Still, this isn't to say that the particular shade of gray that is red to me doesn't jump out at me, like it would for anyone. This is a more vibrant gray. Oh, hell. I don't know how to explain this any better. It just is. In the back, it has scraps of things from our career. News clippings, photos of Scully and me. A copy of the motel invoice from Kroner. An unfinished scrapbook?

I turn it over to read a simple gold leaf inscription.

In Memoriam.

A guest book.

Fox William Mulder.

My guest book.

Whew. Welcome to the Afterdeath, Mulder.

Looking before I leap has never been my motto, this I remember. So, without a thought, I turn the first page.


"Hello, this is Dana Scully."

Damnit, Mulder.

"I'm sorry to have missed your call."

My message is way too long. Remember to chop it.

"...after the tone."

"Mulder, it's me. Are you there? Pick up. Come on, Mulder, quit playing around."

Damnit. What's going on here?

"Just sit tight, Mulder. I'm on my way home. I'll be there in five minutes. Mulder, I..."

I what?

"Just sit tight."

Why is it that I *have* to see you, Mulder, all of a sudden? It's been difficult to let you out of my sight since you, you know, but this is different. I need to connect, to break through.

Of course, it isn't like you've shown any corresponding need to break through to me. To the contrary, in fact. We've been creeping around each other like any sudden movement would shatter us both. Like we don't know what to do with each other, but we can't figure out how to do without. Revolving in silent orbit, never intersecting.

That ends soon, today. This afternoon. Now.

Our trust is deathless, Mulder, deathless. Damn you, damn me, but don't damn us.

We will survive the buried emotions that are keeping us at bay. We have to. The alternative is incomprehensible. You've got to know that.

I need my touchstone back, Mulder, as I suspect you need yours, and I'm damned well going to get it back, if I haveto crack you open like a walnut to retrieve it.

Oh, that's good. Threats always work with Mulder. Really good. Why don't I just hold him at gunpoint until he caves? "You're right, Dana. I've been an ass, can you forgive me?"

Alright, smart girl. Come up with something better, then. You've only got a minute now.

Find your keys, and your SIG, just in case.


I thought I heard the phone ring a while ago, but it sounded so far away.

I've done this book some physical damage. I'll have to say something to Scully about it, I guess, but it is mine, isn't it? Or is it hers? A scrapbook for something unimaginable.

Kersh signed this book. Alvin Fucking Kersh, Deputy Director. How could he soil something like this? I didn't think I could hate him more than I did already, but this is a new level of feeling entirely. It's as if the devil's minion has desecrated something holy.

That was the first time I threw the book across the room, scattering the clippings and creasing the vellum pages. Not irreparably, I hope. Because it's not really mine, I realize. It's hers.

There was a service at Scully's church, in Arlington. Separate from the burial, obviously.

Lots of people there, apparently, most of whom I barely know. Did they come to mourn someone they didn't know? One of their own, but not quite? Is that mourning or self-pity? And why does the distinction piss me off? Anger. Is this all I feel anymore?

I've been angry with her. How could she bury me? How could she give up on me like that? He's dead, remembered, memorialized, forgotten. Move on. Easy. Oh, I've been angry about that, pissed as hell, more like. There's a problem with this picture, however.

She never moved on.

She kept up a dead man's apartment. Fed his fish, most of them anyway.

Could I have buried her? I suppose I'd do what I had to do, but that's pure speculation. I've never been faced with that so finally as she was. I've never been faced with letting go for real, forever.

This book is proof that everyone, everything was telling Scully to let go, and she wouldn't.

Could I have done the same? Could I have been that resolute? That strong and unyielding?

Facing life without Scully? I did it before I met her. I can't do it now. I'm a coward. I probably would have "offed" myself, not auto-erotically either, in spite of prognostications in that area.

A second glance at the signatures reveals many kind, even caring notes, none of which, in my anger, I seem to have noticed the first time around.

A second glance at *myself* reveals the same gaffe writ large.

A note from a classmate in the Academy, whom I've not seen since, reads, "you were only "Spooky" to the rest of us because you could do what we could not. I wish I'd told you that I admired your ability."

I scan for Colton, I don't know why. I'm relieved to find that he was a no-show.

Many of the notes are addressed, sensibly, to Scully.

How much harder must that have made things for her, to be seen as the grieving, pregnant "widow," with all its attendant pity? Why haven't I thought of this until now?

The note from Skinner arouses my attention instantly. I wonder briefly whether he wrote this before or after Kersh left.

"Agent Scully, Dana," I can hear him struggling with the emotions he never reveals, "Agent Mulder was the second finest agent I've ever had the privilege to command."

This stuns me. At the same instant, I want to know who ranks first? How ungenerous is that? At any rate, I don't have to wait long to find out.

"The first and finest "agent" I've ever known," Skinner continues, "came into being with your partnership with Mulder. In my esteem, the two of you are the Bureau's finest. I promise you that..."

This final line, and part of his signature, are obscured, blurred either by tears, whether his or hers I may never know, or extraneous liquid, though I doubt that.

The need for vengeance nearly got me killed last night. If Scully hadn't persisted in shadowing me, I probably would have gotten myself and others killed. Without her, I am not the agent I need to be.

Without her, I am not the man I need to be.

Skinner knows this. It was in his expression yesterdaay. I should have known this, but I've been blinded. It's time for the blinders to come off.

This anger will only dissipate fully over time, but that doesn't mean that behavior cannot, should not change and influence emotion and belief. I have to show Scully that I need her, that, even if I don't know where I fit in elsewhere, I can't fit in anywhere without her.

I will only become me again with Scully's help.

If and when I do go off half-cocked again, and I know damn well that I will, I need to have her there to reel me in. I depend on her to be my better half; I've trusted her always to be there.

I've forgotten that I can't do this alone. I could never have gotten this far alone. Only with Scully.

I'm lucky to be alive. Maybe it's true what my father used to say, that God, Scully's God, I hope, looks out over fools and Fox. If that's so, then maybe it's not too late.

All the rest I can work through, if she is there with me.

If I haven't alienated her already. Alienated. Christ, I hate that word.


"Mulder?"

It's not that big an apartment. Where the hell is he?

"Mulder!"

"Scully?"

My bedroom?

"Yes, Mulder, it's me. What are you doing in here?"

"Scully." His voice sounds uncharacteristically plaintive, as a child waking from a bad dream. He is sitting on the floor with his back against the foot of my bed, the memorial service book open between his legs.

Dear God, I didn't want him to find that before he was ready, if ever.

"Here, let's put that away for another time."

"No!"

He snatches the book shut, clutching it to his chest, grabbing at the stray papers that have fallen out. I'm startled upright as quickly as my bulk can manage.

"I'm sorry Scully. It's just that I've been avoiding all of this," a sweeping gesture encompassing the memorial book, the stray papers as well as the stupefying events they document, "and you for too long, I don't want to avoid any longer. I've been angry with you for not feeling like I fit in, as if with you I should just fit in, naturally. But it's my anger that's left me feeling alone. I can't do this alone, Scully. I never could. I just didn't know that until you came along. I don't want to be alone any more."

You never were, Mulder. You never were.

I ease myself down on the foot of the bed beside and to his right, my hand reaching out to stroke the fine hair on the nape of his neck.

I watch in silence as Mulder carefully gathers the content of the book and stows it on the shelf. He turns to me and assures me that, someday, he'll want to hear what it was like for me. He wants to share the burden with me, when he's able.

He sits beside me, his hair still tousled from sleeping on my sofa nearly eight hours before.

Suddenly, his head lifts and he grins, his eyes sparkling with a predatory light.

"I'm hungry, Scully. And not for one of those protein shakes you've been trying to get me to drink. I'd eat almost anything instead of one of them. Hell, I'd eat..."

Ooooh. You'd eat what, Mulder? Tofutti Rice Dreamsicles? The air in my mouth? My eyebrow must be giving my thoughts away because he backs off his earlier declaration.

"Never mind, Scully. I'm hungry and we're going out to eat. Some place nice, with meals that aren't necessarily forced to be Happy. I know that dancing is probably out, and alcohol, at least for the time being, is out as well. But I'm sure we can improvise. Hungry?"

Starved.

Welcome home, Mulder.

-Fin-

 

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