Title: Mulder's Creek: 18. Not Bliss
Summary: Mulder finds out that being a big brother isn't exactly what he imagined it would be.
Previously on Mulder's Creek: Reyes learns that she has been tricked by Spender about Fowley's whereabouts and circumstances. Mulder's search for his missing sister ends abruptly on the day of his brother's birth.
Mulder creeps into his brother's room an hour after everyone else has gone to bed. His mother and the baby have only been home for a few hours, so both his parents have fallen into an exhausted sleep, comforted by sleeping in the same room for the first time in days. Mulder supposes that Sam is sleeping as well, since he didn't hear any noise in the direction of the guest-room-turned-Sam's-room.
Price, however, is not asleep. Content to lie awake and wave his hands as his eyes focus on nothing in particular, he's lying quietly under his alien quilt. Mulder is thrilled to catch the baby in one of his rare waking moments, so he carefully picks him up, making sure to gently cradle his head and neck with one hand and the rest of his body with the other. As Mulder settles into the rocking chair that's near the window, he swears for a moment that Price gives him an approving look. The moonlight streams into the room, but neither of them notice.
Mulder slowly rocks the chair back and forth as he thinks about his brother. This is the first opportunity he's gotten to spend any time alone with him, and he's enjoying it. He's overwhelmed by the sense that Price trusts him utterly to be kind to him, and has no reason whatsoever to feel that Mulder has let him down. Though on one level he knows that his brother's thoughts are much more shallow than that at this point in his life, he still worries irrationally about the comparisons his siblings might some day make: The one he could protect, the one he couldn't.
As if summoned by his thoughts, Sam appears in the doorway, looking a little lost. For a moment her long white nightgown, streaming hair, and bare feet make her look like a small woebegone ghost, and Mulder has to stop himself from shivering. He puts Price into his crib and turns to talk to her, but by the time he turns around the sound of light footsteps in the hall tell him that she's gone back to bed without getting whatever it was she was looking for.
Thursday 3pm, Leary home-
Mulder sits at his desk and picks up his pen. He taps the pen against the top of his desk as he tries to gather his thoughts and find a place to begin his letter. At last he starts to write.
The last week has been strange beyond measure. I have a new brother, Price. At first his name seemed strange to me, but no more so than Mulder or Arden, I suppose. Within minutes of meeting him for the first time, though, the symbolism behind his name became glaringly obvious to me. He is the price my parents paid for happiness. By having him, they got what they wanted. I have no proof of this yet beyond half overheard conversations, but I'm sure it's true.
You see, in exchange for having another child, they got back one they'd lost. I don't know how this came to be, but I'm certain that it's the truth that my parents will not make me privy to. My search for Sam is over. She is home. Can you imagine? Instead of gaining one sibling, I got two. The shock was so great I nearly fainted, and that is no exaggeration at all, because sheer will power is all that stood between me and the suffocating grayness of unconsciousness. Though I don't yet understand it, we were wrong about my parents. They wanted her back too. In the end, it seems they did even more than I did to find her again.
But life is not bliss. I'm not sure that I ever thought beyond getting her back, because that alone was so vastly consuming that I didn't have room, or the luxury, to imagine her living with us. My parents claim ignorance of where she's been for twelve years, so they are, or at least act, as perplexed as I am. And she doesn't say anything about it, either. Sam...doesn't talk. At all.
The first couple of days we were so overjoyed to have her home that we didn't quite grasp that fact. I suppose we each privately thought she was just a quiet child, and was speaking to the others out of our hearing. By the third day, though, my parents compared notes and admitted their concern to each other. So the next day Dad took her to the pediatrician, the very doctor I gripe that the HMO requires me to see until I'm eighteen, and had her looked at. The doctor pronounced her hearing to be fine, but she just doesn't speak. I could have told them that, her intelligent eyes tell us that she understands everything said to her. The doctor told my parents to give it time, but they are still worried.
As am I. She's using some signs, but only because we taught them to her. How can you go your whole life not speaking without learning some means of communication? My parents seem worried that she was kept in conditions where no one spoke to her her whole life. A secret that I keep, for a change of pace, is a fear that we're the reason she isn't talking. That perhaps until the very day we brought her home she was a chatterbox, like Doggett's girlfriend Reyes. Some times, when we've approached her too softly for immediate notice, there's fear in her eyes that she quickly tries to mask with a warm look. My parents ignore it, or don't even notice it.
Oh, Arden, she's home, but I still worry about her too much of the time, and she's as much of a mystery to me as she has ever been. But at least...at least now I can give her a hug and know that she's safe perhaps for the first time in her life. Please send her your good thoughts, I think she needs them.
Mulder folds up the letter and sticks it in envelope, planning to mail it before his parents notice it; he tells himself that they're not the only ones with the right to keep secrets.
Friday morning, driving-
Scully, who has just earned the privilege of being able to use her father's unneeded car, picks Mulder up at his house on her way to school. He slides into the passenger seat after a mumbled good morning, then stares fixedly at the dashboard. Scully chalks it up to another sleepless night.
He startles her by saying, "I wrote to Arden yesterday. 'told her about Price...and Sam."
"Oh," she says, waiting for him to say more. But he doesn't. Leaving him to his thoughts, she tries not to sink dangerously deep into her own as she drives. Sam, she thinks. When Mulder first called her a week ago to tell her that his brother had been born, there had been something wrong with his voice. She'd been afraid at first that the baby had been stillborn or born with something wrong with him. Then he told her that Sam was back and she realized that it was shock that had deaden his voice. She'd been shocked too, because until that point she never fully believed that Mulder really had a sister, even though she desperately wanted to believe him.
She met the girl for the first time that night, shortly after the Learys not staying at the hospital had returned home. Mulder's call had ended with a request for her to meet him at the house, so she quickly honored it. When she got there, she watched Sam timidly trail after Mr. Leary as he excitedly explained that the guest room was really intended to be her room, and if she wanted anything else done to the room, she could have it. Then the life drained from his voice when he realized that there weren't any clothes in the bureau. He turned to Scully with a beseeching look, and asked her for a favor for the first time since she met him.
"Scully...I don't know anything about girl's clothes. Could you help us out?" he asked her, sounding slightly desperate.
An hour later Scully found herself with Sam and Mulder in Target, finding clothes for the little girl. Sam didn't express an opinion on anything except sleepwear, so Scully picked everything out, and helped Sam try things on. She had Mulder carry the items they decided on so he felt useful. Mr. Leary decided to make himself feel useful by buying Sam and Mulder several PS2 games. In the end they left with several bags of appropriate clothes for a twelve-year-old, and a number of violent video games. Scully cringed at the total at the register, but Mulder's father paid it with a grin, so she supposed the money wasn't important to him and momentarily envied that.
Sam spent the rest of the night watching Mulder and Scully take turns running people over with cars while playing Grand Theft Auto 3, and shaking her head no every time they offered her the controller. Scully wonders why they didn't figure out she didn't talk that very night, since her silence must have been obvious.
She pulls into the parking space and smiles at Mulder. "Another morning I managed to get us here in one piece. Imagine that." Mulder grins, and gives her an impulsive hug, which surprises her. "What's that for?"
"Just 'cause," he tells her as they get out of the car.
Scully decides to accept, rather than question, his sudden good mood. "You know, any time you have a spare hug lying around that you want to get rid of, I'd be glad to take it off your hands..."
"Oh, really? I'll keep that in mind...Hey, you think those short little legs of yours can keep up?" Mulder asks, racing her to the front door.
4pm Witter home-
Doggett sighs as Reyes once again suggests that they go over and see Mulder's new brother.
"Come on," Reyes cajoles. "He's a week old and we still haven't seen him for the first time yet. He's going to loose that newborn look pretty soon-"
"You say that like it's a bad thing. Newborns aren't cute, no matter what people say. Anyway, why do I have to come? You could go over yourself. I'm not going."
"Yes you are. We'll go over to pay our respects right now," says Sheriff Witter, who startles them by suddenly appearing. "It's about time we go over and congratulate the Learys on their new son."
Sheriff Witter herds them out to his car, because he occasionally likes to drive his own vehicle. Reyes smiles, but Doggett reluctantly gets in the car.
When he thinks back very hard, he vaguely remembers Mrs. Leary being pregnant when she helped out at the end of the year party at the preschool. He has a slightly less fuzzy memory of running into Mulder and his dad over the summer while shopping, and Mulder telling him that he had a new baby sister. But by the time they started preschool again in the fall, there was no baby. Cynical even at four years old, Doggett decided that Mulder made up the whole thing, and continued to believe it until a week ago.
Not that Mulder brought her up to me after the first few times, Doggett reminds himself, because it made him cry to be told he was fibbing. Doggett can't help feeling guilty as they drive.
As soon as they're shown in, Reyes asks Mrs. Leary if she can hold Price. Mrs. Leary smiles and puts the baby in her arms. Though she is cooing about how cute the littlest Leary is, Reyes is also studying the baby quite intently. He doesn't seem to mind the attention, and it's almost as if being held by strangers is already so mundane after a mere week's existence that he takes it as par for the course; he silently and contentedly studies her back.
Making one more comment on the preciousness of the baby, Reyes hands back the baby and suppresses a sigh of relief. She's not sure what she was looking for to mark him as different, but he seems to be a perfectly normal baby.
Although she has been trying for a week to deal with Spender's betrayal, and attempting to understand it, she hasn't been entirely convinced that everything that Spender has told her is false. Even though she's concluded that he's at least insane if not evil, she wonders if he might know something of the truth, since he believes himself to be a product of the experiments he described to her. Price, she thinks as she grins at him, isn't after all.
7pm, The Ice House-
Mulder gives Skinner a grateful look that the other boy doesn't notice. Mulder is thrilled that there is one person this week that is asking him answerable questions, instead of the hard ones that he's been fielding all week at school from overly curious classmates. None of Skinner's questions are about Mulder's feelings or where Sam has been for the last dozen years.
"So what are your parents planning to do about school for the rest of the term?"
"My mom decided that since she's on maternity leave from the station anyway, she'll home school Sam for the rest of the term so she won't be 'the new kid.' There's only a month left, and since she doesn't talk, my parents didn't want to send her to school until the fall."
"So they think that she'll be talking by then," Skinner shrewdly guesses.
"They certainly hope that her first word will come before Price's. Dad took her to a specialist yesterday, and he seconded the opinion that there's nothing physically wrong with her, so she should be able to speak. Whether she will..." Mulder shrugs. "At the moment they are chanting 'give it time' but I figure that it won't be long before they start trying to bribe her to attempt to speak."
"Are you against that idea? And does she make any sounds at all?" Skinner asks with his voice alight with curiosity.
Mulder holds up a hand in surrender. "One question at a time. No, I don't object to them bribing her. I still think that they're to blame at least in part for her disappearance, so they have a lot of making up to her to do. And as for your second question...I heard her laugh once or twice, but that's it."
The look on Skinner's face makes Mulder wonder if he's going to demand an elaboration on elder Learys' suspected involvement, but instead Skinner says, "Wow, I can't remember the last time Reyes was quiet for as much as hour at a time. It must be weird."
"It is, kinda. But I guess it would be weirder if she had talked and then stopped. It is kind of spooky, though, how she can approach you without you hearing her...I don't know how many times this week I've almost screamed when she's suddenly appeared in a darken hallway," Mulder tells him with a sheepish grin.
"Can't be too many times," Skinner observes, "Since you've only had her home for a week."
"You would think so, but she tends to get up in the middle of the night and wander. I wish I knew what she was looking for, so I could help her find it."
"Does she walk down the hall then peer into the rooms?" Skinner asks.
Mulder looks startled. "Yeah...how did you know?"
"Well, I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with your sister, but before Mom went completely off the deep end and had to be hospitalized, she did the same thing. I asked her why once and she told me that it made her feel better to check on us to make sure we were still there. Your sister is in an entirely new place, back with her long lost family, so maybe she likes to reassure herself that you're really there."
"Wow, Skinner, you should major in psych when you get to college, since that makes a lot of sense. She only looks in at me and Price, though..." Mulder trails off looking slightly dismayed.
"Have you or your parents tried getting her to write stuff down to answer questions?"
"We've tried, but all she does is shake her head no. I'm pretty sure that I saw her write in a journal, though, so I guess it's a matter of not wanting to write stuff down rather than being unable to. She reads a lot so my parents aren't too worried about it, and don't seriously worry that she can't. They say it's part of 'adjusting.' I bet you can tell they've been doing a lot of their own reading."
"You've all got to do a lot of adjusting, what with a new baby and a new almost-teenage girl in the house. I wish you all a lot of luck!" Skinner exclaims, smiling.
A customer comes in before Mulder can thank him, so Mulder returns his attention to his burger and fries while Skinner waits on the woman.
Monday night, Leary home-
Scully could have probably predicted it, but Mulder himself is slightly surprised that he's having yet another sleepless night. He supposes that it's not so uncommon a complaint amongst people living with a new baby, but Price sleeps quietly. His parents have already fondly commented a score of times that they finally got an easy baby. Mulder wonders a bit each time they say it in his hearing if he's supposed to feel guilty about keeping them up when he was small, because he doesn't. He figures that it was his job to keep them on their toes, and he's still semi-dedicated to that mission.
No, he repeats to himself as he yawns, it's not Price that's keeping me awake. It's really that conversation with Dad. Because he's too tired to stop himself, he surrenders to the impulse to replay the entire conversation in his head again.
After Scully went home and Sam fell asleep that first night, Mulder asked his father an important question. "Dad, how did we get Sam back?"
"She was dropped off at the hospital a few minutes after your brother was born."
Mulder frowns. "I know that, but I mean... did you and Mom know you were getting her back?"
"Someone called us today and told us that we would," Mr. Leary says, but the look on his face prompts Mulder to think he's being lied to. They had to know before today, Mulder thinks.
"Who was it?" Mulder asked impatiently.
His father stares off into space for a moment, and Mulder thinks he's not going to answer, but then he does. "I don't know."
"You don't know who called, or who dropped her off?" Mulder asks, wishing his question had been clearer to begin with.
"Do you know where she's been for the last twelve years at least, Dad?"
"No, Mulder I don't. I have no idea where she's been between the time she left this house and when she showed up at the hospital earlier today. I didn't ask."
"Dad!! How the hell could you not of asked??"
"Look, Mulder, I was told not to ask questions. That was the condition of getting your sister back. If I asked questions we weren't going to get her back. So I chose not to know the answers and have my daughter again instead," Mr. Leary said angrily. "I don't want you to bring this up to your mother, do you understand me?"
Mulder mumbled, "Yes, sir." Then left the room.
Each time he replays the conversation the more certain he is that his father knows more, perhaps a lot more, than he's shared. But how to prove it? He asks himself with a sigh.
Tuesday evening, McPhee house-
Reyes stares at the blank screen and screws up her resolution. She has finally decided that in her game of cat and mouse with Spender, it's time for her to explore her more feline qualities. She roughly grabs the keyboard and begins to type.
I'm really writing because I'm concerned about you, though. It's been weeks since I heard from you, and I'm really worried. You must have had your baby since you were due before Mrs. Leary...Did they let you keep him or her like they said? They don't seem like the type of people who are likely to keep their word. Is your baby normal? Is it even...a baby? I mean you were talking about the weird things they could do now, so I worry how human the products of this experiment even turn out to be, not that I think your child could be a monster or something. And most importantly, are you ok?
I'm really really worried about you too, not just your baby. I'm...If I
don't hear from you right away, I'm going to go see your grandmother. I
think that you might need more help than I can give you by being
supportive. I'm sure that a woman as wise as she is will be able to think
of ways to get you away from those people, and if she can't, you've said
that your dad has some clout with people too, so... Anyway, let me know that
you're ok, I'm on pin and needles here.
She hits send and wonders how Spender will take the idea of her contemplating going to other people about Fowley's "problem" since he was so adamant that no one else should know about the situation. Though she's usually sweet-natured, she can't help but allowing herself a nasty little smile at the thought of Spender having kittens.
Wednesday night, Leary home-
Scully is lying on her belly on the Leary's living floor with the entertainment section of the newspapers spread out before her. She's propped up on her elbows, and Mulder is tempted to knock her down to see what her reaction would be. Before he can act out his fiendish plot, she pokes the paper with a finger and calls him over.
"It is playing tonight after all. Did you still want to see it?" she asks, still pointing at the black and white ad.
"Sure," he tells her, suddenly realizing that she might have just saved him from her wrath. "I'm always up for a little bit of live action comic book heroes."
Scully sits up and gives him an appealing look, which makes him immediately suspicious. "Mulder... Do you think we should ask Sam to go with us? Most kids like this type of movie, and I'd sort of like to get to know her better."
Mulder slaps his forehead. "I can't believe I didn't even think of asking her... some brother," he says sighing dramatically.
"I don't think you're that bad," Scully tells him, holding out a hand, which he takes to pull her up. "Thanks. She's up in her room, right?"
"Yeah, let's go ask her right now."
Sam nods eagerly when they ask her, and Mulder adds an item to his mental list: Sam likes Spiderman. He's already decided to figure her out even if it kills him.
Since they are inordinately thrilled that Mulder and Scully have included Sam in their plans, Mulder's parents give them an excessive amount of money for the concession stand. Mulder, sitting between the girls, glances over at his sister and smiles to himself because her entire lap is swallowed by a giant tub of popcorn that she's happily munching on. Mulder pops a couple of sour patch kids into his mouth and offers them to Scully and Sam, both of whom decline. Mulder shrugs and decides that they're an acquired taste.
As the trailers roll, Mulder is surprised to see one for a film called "Men in Black 2" since he has never heard of the first movie. It seems sort of neat, but something about it nags at him. Suddenly he realizes what it is with a jolt.
He leans over and asks Scully, "Isn't that the FBI agent we talked to??"
"I don't know Mulder, but it sure looks like him."
"Weird. I wonder if he was just an actor rehearsing for the role or something when we saw him."
"I guess so. That whole thing was pretty strange..." Scully trails off with a shrug.
Mulder is enjoying the movie, and he is content that Scully and Sam are too. It's not exactly what he was expecting, but it's action packed and Kristen Dunst is pretty so he decides that it is worth the price of admission.
Mulder's enjoyment of the movie is suddenly marred as he watches a particular scene in the movie. Parker's aunt is being harassed by the Green Goblin, and it somehow triggers something in Mulder. His stomach roils and a memory swarms up from the depths of his subconscious so fast that it threatens to engulf him. Mulder misses the next few minutes of the movie as he desperately tries to make sense of what he just remembered.
He thinks that he's fine by the time the lights come on at the end of the movie, but Scully gives him a concerned look and asks him if he's all right. He gives her a weak smile and tells her that he must have eaten too much popcorn.
Thursday afternoon, Leary home-
While their father is at work, their mother takes Price to a well-baby check up, leaving Sam and Mulder alone for a couple of hours. Before she leaves, Mrs. Leary pulls Mulder aside to talk to him privately. "Are you ok with being left alone with her? I'm sure she won't give you any trouble, but with her not talking..."
"Don't worry, Mom. If she needs something I'm sure we'll figure it out," Mulder reassures her. Mrs. Leary tries to look like she agrees.
A few minutes after their Mom leaves, Mulder goes into the living room to see what Sam is doing. She's watching one of Mulder's Batman Beyond dvds, and for a moment there's a pain in his chest as he wonders why another teenage hero has so engrossed her attention. To calm himself he decides to ask if she'd like a snack.
Sam grins up at him then twists the fingers of one hand on the palm of the other, and then tilts an "L" towards her mouth. Mulder thinks about it for a moment then asks "Cookies and lemonade?" and is rewarded with a vigorous nod. "Lemonade? Ick. If you want it...I think I'll stick to the more traditional milk as an accompaniment to cookies," he says as he walks out of the room.
When he returns with their snacks, the credits are rolling on the screen. Mulder gives her cookies and the lemonade, and makes a quick decision.
He looks at Sam, and says quietly, "I've finally remembered clearly." She tilts her head to indicate she's listening, but says nothing.
Mulder takes a shuddering breath. "The night you were taken, I mean. I had shadowy memories of it for years, but last night I remembered it all for the first time. You were still sleeping in my room, because the paint in the nursery was barely dry, and mom was afraid there might be fumes. It was a totally ordinary summer night, and I went to bed not long after mom and dad put you in your crib. I suppose I fell asleep quickly. I fell asleep at any rate." Mulder pauses to see if she's listening, and he sees that her eyes are locked on his face.
"I woke up at some point, because there were people in my room. I started to cry out, but a large hand was clamped over my mouth. Another hand pushed my chest down into the mattress, pinning me. I tried to move my head, but I couldn't much because of the hand over my mouth. When I rolled my eyes to the side, though, I could see that there was someone reaching into your crib. I tried to scream at them to leave you alone, but the only sound that escaped under that hand was a muffled keening.
"The person who had you ran out of the room, and I heard him clatter down the stairs. But the other man didn't let me up, still. He leaned down, and his breath was foul as he whispered to me. He told me that they were going to be watching, and if I got out of my bed, they would kill you. I believed him, and once he was sure of that, he left. I lay there, frozen, for the rest of the night.
"I wouldn't get out of bed the next morning, because I thought that they might still be watching. Eventually Dad dragged me out of bed, screaming. I hit him with my fists and kicked, but he was still gentle with me. Finally I told them what had happened, and they already seemed to know you were gone. They told me to forget about it.
"And for the next five years, they kept telling me to forget about it. To forget about you, that there ever was a you. When I was nine I was old enough to know that I shouldn't try to talk about you, but I never forgot about you. Never.
"I don't know how much you trust our parents, and you probably won't tell me, but... I love them and fear them a little bit both. I was never, and still can't, able to understand how they could try to forget about you, like you were a kitten that ran away or something. Their seeming lack of concern has made me suspicious, and I've almost always known if I wanted to get you back I couldn't rely on them for help.
"In fact, this year I tried as hard as I could to find you. I knew in my heart that you were still alive, and that you needed me. That I needed you too. I thought I was getting close to finding you, but I never expected to find you standing in a hospital room.
"I still wonder what happened to you, and maybe to some degree I always will, since there really is no way to recapture twelve lost years. But we have each other now, so even if we've gotten to a late start...I just want you to know that when you're ready to tell someone what happened to you, I'll be ready to listen. I'll always be ready," Mulder finishes, feeling parched from speaking so long.
Sam gives him a long look, and for one hopeful second he thinks she might say something. Instead she throws her arms around his neck and hugs him tight. Mulder decides to settle for that.
Produced by CC, KW and Neoxphile
< Voice Over>
This episode of Mulder's Creek featured music from:
Must ("Free Child")
Marry Me Jane ("Blue Light")
The Verve Pipe ("Hero")
Toad the Wet Sprocket ("Something to Say")
Stay tuned for scenes from the next Mulder's Creek