Title: Serve and Return, Ad Infinitum
Author: Livia Balaban
Written: July 2000
Feedback: Thank you kindly. liviabalaban@hotmail.com
Website: http://go.to/inkspot
Classification: SA
Content: MA
Rating: PG-13 (language)
Spoilers: Je Souhaite
Distribution: Autoarchives: Yes. Others, please ask.
Disclaimer Haiku:
Legal restrictions
Make me sing this harsh refrain:
I do not own them

Summary: There are no shortcuts to great things.

Thanks to: Alicia for the nitpicks, Nikki for the huh?s, Punk for the evisceration, M. Sebasky & SE Parsons for the thumbs-up, and the CoX for the deadline.

Notes: This was written as a response to the Church of X Challenge #2 for June 2000. Mulder and/or Scully make a wish that goes HORRIBLY wrong, Monkey's Paw style. So here we go...light tone, dark story. You can find all the stories for both June challenges at: http://www.geocities.com/churchofx2/fanfic/challengejun00.html


I don't remember when I decided to become God, but I regret it now. I can't be anything else anymore. It's been too long. I couldn't give up this power any more than I could destroy the world.

Well, destroy the world and NOT restore it.

Power is a funny thing. In feeding it, giving in to the hunger, the curiosity, the thrill of knowing all and changing some, I made it a living, breathing thing. Power became a parasite, devouring my conscience and cutting that frail thread of morality I guarded so carefully when I was only mortal.

It's been years since I was mortal.

Well, a full-time mortal, anyway.

If I still had a fully operational conscience, I'd probably feel rotten about what's happened to Scully, but she dug herself in as deeply as I have. Really, she's a lot more powerful than I am. And a LOT more hungry.

She'll never give up that third wish either. Neither of us ever will. We talk and we joke and we pretend we'll do something to end it, but we don't. That third wish is always the same.

It has been for years.

If I look at it hard enough - you know, kind of squint at the truth - it's probably all my fault. But that matters so little right now. It's not worth the effort. When it's my turn next, I suppose I could just turn everything back to the way it was and not even know about it, but what good would that do? I'd just be ignorant and powerless and mortal.

How dull. Really, in a way, this is dull, too. Maybe there's no way out, I don't know. I try not to think about that too much these days.

We both look great, though, so that's some consolation. We've each spent half of the last twelve years not aging, and Scully looks especially good. Tasty, even. Shame it doesn't matter anymore.

I guess it was the *first* third wish that did me in, the one that sealed Scully's fate, too.

Yeah, I believe in fate. I'd rather believe in an unseen, unstoppable force that controls and dictates your every move than think that maybe we could have stopped this before it began.

I guess I could have just NOT told her how much you learn when you have the power. I could have seemed less than benevolent that first time out. Nah, she would've been too curious not to try it out for herself.

We've been playing in the Wimbledon of Djinn Tennis ever since.

Yeah, it was a simple thing at first. I could have just set Jen free. I really thought about it. But I had that stupid curiosity thing going on, and I wanted to know. I asked her about a couple of potential scenarios, and she told me what was possible and what wasn't. Shit, man, she could see everything, and THAT'S what I wanted. Plus, at the time, I was really smitten with Scully and I figured if I could give her two wishes she could use to make herself happy, I'd do it.

So I didn't give Jen her unfettered freedom. No, my third wish had to be complicated and detailed. I told her what I wanted, and she just shook her head. I should have paid attention. I wished to set Jen free, but only on the condition that she transfer her power to me. I figured I could ask Scully to set me free with her third wish.

I also added the condition that the little sparkly thing had to go. No way I was walking around with THAT thing on my face. She said it had to stay, so she said she'd put it somewhere unobtrusive. I really should have been more specific about that, because when I'm not mortal I can't go to the pool anymore. The last condition was that my powers would work only with Scully, and that she wouldn't have to liberate me from some prison in order to get her wishes.

If you're gonna do something, might as well do it right. With that snarky bitch Jen, I wasn't taking any chances.

But she did it, the snarky bitch, and strolled away to do her Otis Redding thing. Haven't seen her since. Don't miss her, either. But I sure understand her better.

Anyway, off I went to Scully and offered her the wishes. Naturally she was resistant at first, but she went along with it. She wouldn't make any wishes for herself, though, and that really pissed me off. I wanted her to wish for her health back, and maybe an end to colonization. Instead, she wanted to wish for things for me.

I told her that if she really wanted to do something for me, she'd eliminate the source of one of my big fears. I was holding her hand, and I must have given her the puppydog face, because she conceded.

So she spent her first wish - begrudgingly at best - to restore her health. I was happy to do that. And as soon as she asked for it, I was able to give it. I just suddenly saw all the inner workings of her body, and BAM, I was able to do it for her. Tiny dormant cancer cells just up and vanished. I got rid of that fucking chip in her neck. I refilled her ovaries with healthy eggs. I lowered her cholesterol a little and got rid of that bit of sagging skin under her chin that she always hated. I checked that mole to make sure it was benign, I reversed the signs of aging on her neural arteries, and I lowered her blood pressure just a bit. I restored the cartilage in all of her joints and reversed the beginnings of osteoporosis. I even fixed her vision. No more need for those cute glasses she used to wear.

By the time I was done, she felt great and I felt great. We both felt great. Look at little innocent us, feeling great over something so simple. What a pair of saps.

She wanted to make her second wish to reverse what had happened to Samantha and my family. Jesus. I had to remind her that the world would have changed completely because of it. We never would have met. Colonization would have progressed earlier without our intervention. Things would be generally worse, I told her.

I was such a moron. Because now that I think of it, if I had told her it was okay and granted that fucking second wish, I wouldn't be here right now, too bored to care about anything anymore, trying to figure out what to do with eternity.

So instead of wishing something big for me, she wished for something little. She wished that my dreams would be pleasant, instead of the nightmares I've had for years. That was so sweet I almost cried. So I did it. I gave myself happy dreams instead of nightmares. Haven't had a nightmare since. Just happy happy visions of a perfect future with her and no colonization and no fucking part-time immortality, and no more goddamn wishes. Just kids and dogs and rosebushes and fucking minivans in the suburbs.

And now that I know I can't have any of that and really enjoy it, those dreams are worse than the nightmares. With the nightmares, I felt better when I woke up and knew that they weren't real. Now I wake up to *this* reality, and know that happiness is just a nocturnal illusion. Good thinking, Scully. Great fucking thinking. Maybe I'll wish for my nightmares again.

Nah. Naked, slimy Tooms is *kid stuff* compared with the futility of waking up knowing you're an omniscience addict and can't give up your vice.

Even so, I think everything would've been okay if she hadn't asked me if something or other had been possible. That's when it all went to hell. Because as soon as the knowledge started flooding my head, she saw it on my face. She saw that the real power was the knowledge.

So Scully did the unthinkable with her *first* third wish: She made the same one I had. And that was the beginning of the end. I should have known it would happen. She's as much a knowledge whore as I am. Granted, I'm more into the understanding-why-things-happen side of it, and she's more into a how-does-this-relate-to-that kind of thing, but the point is we're both total infosluts.

That's when the Genie Tennis began. I made two inconsequential wishes, and wished for the power back with my third. She made two more lightweight wishes, and wished for the power with her third. Back and forth, serve and return, in an endless match.

At first, it seemed kind of fun. I wished that Krycek would wake up the next morning with his left arm grown back and know without a doubt that I was the one who'd given it back to him. Way to fuck with his mind. Scully and I laughed over that one for a long time.

We never had to wish for love or sex. We were giddy as kids right from the beginning, and when we inevitably tumbled into bed, it was perfect and loving and great.

We wished for little things, as we batted the power back and forth during a few well-earned weeks of vacation time and fairly constant lovemaking. But beneath the surface of the wish-making was the growing hunger for the power achieved through the wish-granting. That full-body hit of absolute truth was better than any drug imaginable.

For a while, we got our jollies out of doing crazy things to the world and then putting it right again. "My next wish is to reverse the effects of my previous wish," became something pretty common. After a while, it shortened spontaneously to, simply, "Reversal." We both knew what it meant.

We were experts at short forms by then. "Gimme a number three," was our abbreviation for the serve return. Poof, here comes the nipple spangly, and two more wishes to grant. The third was always the same. It was our Wish Fulfillment Blue Plate Special. One heaping helping of Absolute Power, served with a side of disclaimers and conditions. We tried a few variations. We never cut each other off, though.

We could have, but after a while it just seemed like a bad idea. We were both jonesing for more, and we were textbook codependents. We would have had to go into detox or whatever the hell kind of therapy or support group you have to find to recover from a dependence on omniscience and omnipotence.

I tried to wish for it once, but Scully just shook her head and said there was no such thing. To this day, I don't know if that's true, because she never asked me about it. I can't know anything anymore if she doesn't ask about it.

That's actually okay by me. If I added the "absolute knowledge without the request for same" clause to the Number Three, I'd probably go crazy from all the information that would flood in. As if telepathy wasn't bad enough. Scully would never let me do that anyway. She's pretty much just as jaded as I am by now, but at least she still cares about me enough to keep from further harm.

About the time we tried seeing what the world would be like without humidity (dry), Louis Farrakhan (better), or mosquitoes (all the bats died), we'd been at it for about a month already, and Scully decided it was time to take a break from the whole wish thing. I went along with it at the time, because it was my turn to be immortal. I just kept my shirt on and nobody knew the difference.

And it all might have been okay if it hadn't been for that case we worked on.

We were both just barely acclimating to a life of fairly normal mortality, when Scully made the mistake of asking me a question about the evidence at one particularly gruesome crime scene. POOF, there was everything, right there in my head, and I knew everything about the killer, the location of the murder weapon, and the falsehood of all the wiccan paraphernalia. Bam, just like that, the whole case solved. We put that evil motherfucker away within four hours.

That was, as would seem obvious, it. We had this kind of great absolute power to solve every case that came our way, all without a single wish cast or granted. Just ask the right question, and there was the evidence. It was great. We were nailing violent criminals left and right. Most of the casefiles that crossed my desk ended up in the round file without any investigation at all. We didn't have to go out in the field except to gather the evidence we already knew about and to arrest the "suspect" we already knew was guilty. Piece of pie. Easy as cake. And great for our budget numbers.

It was an incredible high to be able to know everything. My natural intelligence had always made it difficult for me to keep from patronizing those who weren't as smart as I was, but at least I used to try. After the genie thing happened, it was harder to maintain that respect for others when I understood how little they knew of the world. Eventually I didn't see the point in bothering. All that knowledge really went to my head. I found myself appreciating and enjoying the other agents' expressions of awe and fear as we passed through the halls of the Hoover.

Scully was smart to keep us from solving them too quickly so there'd be less suspicion. But in the end there was still that "Oooh, there goes Mr. And Mrs. Spooky, finally pulling their weight, the show-offs," kind of bullshit going on in the hallways at the Hoover.

It didn't stop with our colleagues. Skinner got the greatest freakyface every time we came into his office with another case solved. The poor schmuck.

And although we loaned ourselves out to Violent Crimes and a few other divisions, we were doing so well, we attracted a lot of attention. Too much attention. Scully said we should slow down. That was the genesis of our first real argument about the situation.

I argued that we had the ability to save all kinds of innocent people from gruesome fates, and that we should keep going, and maybe even accelerate our work. With each person we kept from being a victim, we also saved a family from grief.

Scully countered, of course. She said that we were already working faster and better than anyone else in the Bureau. She also argued that human beings had limits, and that we should try to moderate our pace.

I suggested that maybe SHE felt she had limits, but that I was still revved up and ready to go. Bad move.

Scully counter-suggested that I was full of shit, and that she was taking two more weeks off. Without me.

Unfortunately, this genie thing includes the stipulation that the genie needs to be close to Master/Mistress at all times, so I wasn't going anywhere. Under normal circumstances, that was fine by both of us. We'd been happily boinking like bunnies for a while by then, so no sweat. We'd never considered the idea that we'd want some time alone eventually.

So the wishing began again. She wished for two weeks alone. I had to grant it.

Okay, I admit it, I was angry, and it probably accounted for my sabotage of that particular wish. Fine, she wanted to alone for two weeks, great, she got it. BAM, all alone in a little unheated shack in Greenland for two weeks. Just a pile of books, a kerosene lamp, a wood stove, and enough supplies to get by on. Hey, it was her fault for not being more specific.

After only a day or two I felt really guilty about how I'd handled the situation, and by the end of the two weeks, I was a complete wreck. I missed her, but I was also terrified of her return. I was expecting a brawl of epic proportions, so what really pissed me off was that when she did come back, she appeared rested and content. The bitch.

I tried to ignore her good spirits, and when she asked for The Usual for number three, I granted it.

Now I was angry, I admit it. Nothing stokes the fire of indignation better than having one's hostility disregarded. I wanted some time away from her to figure out what the hell was going on between us, so I wished for two more weeks without her hanging around all the time. I figured if it was *me* doing the leaving, she'd miss me the way I missed her. Naturally, she granted the wish without attitude.

I didn't see her once. We talked on the phone a little, but that was it. And I didn't ask her anything about any of the cases I was working on alone.

It was pretty bad. Our solve rate plummeted, and I was miserable. I was such a junkie. I almost wished for us to work it out, but we'd decided a long time before that we would never wish for things we could genuinely accomplish ourselves. We'd managed to do the wild thing without any wishes to that effect, so I was okay with that particular restriction.

At first, when my two weeks were over and we spent our time together again, I was relieved. She just seemed irritated and the boinking ceased, which was a bad thing. She was there all the time, but she wasn't *there*. Man, I missed her, and I wallowed in it. I *might* have gotten a little petulant. It didn't occur to me that she'd push back.

I should have seen that George Clooney wish coming. She always was a defiant little hellion, but I couldn't believe she'd wasted a perfectly good wish on that. Well, I got back at her with a long weekend locked in a cabin with Claudia Schiffer. Scully actually scowled. It was a riot.

It was also, however, the end of the lovin'. From then on, we were Just Friends, with our little celebrity fuck-buddies available on a whim.

I think Scully and I stayed apart mostly because to get together again would have been pointless. We couldn't go back to mortality, and I think we probably would have wanted to if we'd made it to the weepy, hold-me, I-love-you part of sex.

Although it might be worth it now just to feel something for once. I used to enjoy emotional, intellectual sex, but I can't be bothered to keep up my end of the banter anymore. A good mindless roll in the hay is just fine with me these days, so I ask for Claudia. I know a good thing when I fuck it.

A few years ago I might have considered that offensive and misogynistic. Now I just don't care. After being all-powerful for a while, it gets pretty hard to hold on to basic human compassion.

Anyway, in the wake of our little falling-out, Scully and I couldn't come to an agreement over how to handle the work situation. We tried working a few cases, but the challenge was totally gone. It was boring. We were both fairly pissy about it.

To try to lighten our spirits, we did a few things here and there to thwart and eventually out the Consortium that were - well -
*picturesque*. The covers of Time, Newsweek and Life were fucking HILARIOUS. Political cartoons focused on the situation for months. My favorite was one featuring CancerMan as Sweeney Todd, handing over mankind to that meat-pie lady, who was an alien. I stuck it to my refrigerator.

Scully preferred the more intellectual approach, and spent hours watching The McLaughlin Group and Jim Lehrer and Charlie Rose. When I asked her about it she just turned to me and sighed dejectedly. "All they seem to care about is hollering and placing blame. You'd think they'd be more upset about what's still coming."

She was right. The government wasn't handling the threat any better than the press, so we started *really* looking into the situation and made a few choice wishes. At first we were reasonable. All we wanted was a level playing field. Us versus the aliens, in a fair fight. But when the invasion began quietly, and humans started dying, we revised the plan. Fuck the fair game, we agreed. It was us or them. So POOF, no more threat of colonization. Our life's work accomplished. Victory, hurrah, all that.

The talking heads on TV never stopped. We were bored again.

That's when we started to wish for mundane stuff like money. We traveled. We did have a good time in Beijing and Paris and Istanbul. Especially Istanbul. We smoked weed in Amsterdam and sailed off the coast of Aruba. Thanks to the wishes, she could spend all day out in the sun without the fear of a sunburn and I could spend all day on a boat without seasickness. We had a great time.

Still no boinking together, though. I think our little celebrity rebellions made it impossible to go back. We'd both fallen into the George and Claudia habit, for the sake of convenience. It just seemed easier than tense celibacy.

We checked out a haunted house here and a UFO sighting there, but that got pretty boring, too. Somewhere in there we'd called in our resignations to Skinner. Neither of us saw the point anymore.

I gave up on Claudia after a few weeks of traveling. She was always disoriented when she'd appear wherever we happened to be, and it was just too exhausting to have to explain it to her every time. Scully had already ditched George for the same reason. She and I briefly reconsidered the boinking thing, but even that lost its appeal. We were both losing interest in everything.

Since then we've just mostly hung out. We still don't give up the game, though. The maddening limitations of powerless ignorance would be just as dull as invincibility.

I used to think I'd have the house and the wife and the nice comfy life when I accomplished everything I'd set out to do. I thought I'd have it all, and I'd be happy with it. I'd probably have it too, if it hadn't been for that shortcut to erudition I took all those years ago.

This is what I've only now figured out, and it's a cheerless feat to realize it: There are no shortcuts to great things. Satisfaction with vast knowledge and accomplishment comes only as the result of hard, human work.

Scully was right, I am so full of shit. I should call and tell her that. It'd probably be the high point of her week.

Yeah, a quick revelation of truth and another wish.

I wonder what Claudia's doing right about now?

End.


Livia's Ink Spot http://go.to/inkspot Not all gloom and doom. Honest.

Surrealist Evil World Domination Has Begun. Onward and Downward in 2000!

Return to Bump In The Night