"The Innocent Spring" part 1 of 1by Pellinor
SUMMARY: It began with a choice, and the choice changed the lives of so many. Now, in a world that is not quite as we know it, Scully finds a body at her door, and it could change her, again, forever.
KEYWORDS: "Alternate Universe" (of a very mild variety)
Mulder-Scully romance (yes, really!)
DISCLAIMER: Not mine but Fox's. No profit made from their use.
LITTLE NOTES: Yes, you have read it right. This DOES include relationship stuff. I plead alternative realities. This is set in a world that is exactly the same as the one we know, but for one little tiny thing....
FEEDBACK: Yes please.
For Dana Scully, it had begun with a noise.
Afterwards, she was to scrutinise every second of her memory of that evening, to wonder so intensely if she had _known_, but she would never be able to connect with that life again. It had been a different Dana Scully that night, and for the rest of her life, before. Not her, not now. Different thoughts, different views, different life.
She had been on the cusp, then, though blind, not knowing how life can change in an instant. For some it is a word, a shout, a bullet. For some it is a kiss, a smile in a crowd, a whisper in the dark. For some - for one - it is a bright light and a loss.
But for Dana Scully it was a noise, and a man.
She had been so sure he was dead at first. Just a crumpled heap of bones, skin translucent with emaciation, unconscious. He'd held a torn scrap of paper clutched in his hand, but she hadn't looked at it, not then.
And she hadn't recognised him. How could she? She'd seen him only in pictures, and they were twenty-four years old, flat and lifeless. Afterwards, she was to wonder if she should have known nonetheless - if she should have seen his beautiful eyes through the fluttering lids, have recognised him, and taken him into her arms and held him safe.
Would this have eased the pain, later? To have held him - to have made sure that his first sight was of a smile, not the stare of suspicious strangers?
But _she_ had been a stranger, then. He had been nothing to her. Nothing. Just a problem. Maybe a threat.
And so her hand had shaken as she'd felt for his cold pulse, and her other hand had reached for her gun.
The hammering had been loud, insistent.
She'd been asleep then, her muscles stiff on the couch. Had he been in her dreams even then? The feel of his pulse, weak beneath her fingers; the whisper of his knock pleading for help at her door; the flashing lights that had taken him away....
Strange how she had slept. It was as if her body had known, somehow, that the old life had been shed and there was nothing to do but sleep, chrysalis-like, and await the coming of the new.
She'd opened her eyes, blinking away sleep. Just two hours gone, but she'd felt weak, clouded, jittery like a new-born colt. Unless that, too, was the lying misrepresentation that came from looking back. It would be so hard to tell, afterwards, through the distorting glass of memory.
_That_ had been real, shouting with an urgency that would never leave her. Hammer blows of her partner's fists at the door, and the thousand depths of emotion in the voice.
So she'd opened the door, let her in, taken in the fear that had been in her eyes even as her face had been creased with smiling.
"It's Fox, Dana!"
She'd blinked, swallowed. Serious dark eyes in an old photograph. She'd flashed to them, confused, struggling to make them real.
"Fox?" A whisper, hand rubbing across her face.
"He's come back." Samantha had stepped forward, sinking into a chair. So soon, and already she'd looked drained, even then. "I need to see him. I need...." A deep breath, shaking. "I need your help, Dana. I can't do it by myself."
It had been early then - just the start. She hadn't understood.
For Samantha Mulder it had begun with a bright light and a loss.
"It was as if I was frozen in time, unable to move. When it started again, afterwards, it was different. Everything was different."
The words are without time, without place. Four years since Dana heard them first, but they are still present, still now.
"How?" Her own voice is soft, even hesitant, speaking her uncertainty in the face of a pain that her own childhood knew nothing of.
"Before, I had a brother. Afterwards...." A harsh bitter laugh, full of unshed tears. "Afterwards, I hadn't."
"And you never found out what happened to him?"
"Afterwards...." Samantha continues inexorably, always, though her eyes answer the question better than words. "When Mom and Dad came home, Mom hugged me so tight it hurt." A deep shaky breath. "I can still feel her tears on my neck, and her words.... 'Samantha! Thank God! My baby! They didn't take my baby'. Over and over, whispering on my skin. And she was _smiling_. Fox was gone, but she was smiling. It as almost as if...."
Dana coughs, seeks the right words. "Samantha, I know it's natural for the survivor to...." Another cough, floundering. "You mustn't think...."
"Oh, I don't." Samantha's smile is watery, and her voice speaks her desperate need to believe its own words. "I was only eight. He was older than me. He was looking after me. I couldn't have done anything to save him. I couldn't. Mom and Dad _told_ me...."
She smiles always at that memory - more so, recently, and with a smile tinged with tears. Oh to be eight again, when the assurance of a parent is a life-long certainty.
"Some of it was better, afterwards." Samantha's voice is quick and defensive. "Mom and Dad.... Maybe the worry pulled them together. There was just less... I don't know.... _tension_ afterwards. They had fought so much that summer. Fox tried so hard to protect me from it. He was like that - always the big brother. He thought he could protect me from everything." And then tears, dripping through her confidence. "Couldn't even protect himself, though. He was only twelve, and Mom and Dad...."
Hesitation chokes her voice - almost fear - as if she is scared to look further into the pit of guilt and blame.
"What do you think happened to him?" Dana speaks softly, providing an anchor with her voice.
"I don't know. I was _there_, but it's just.... Just a light, and his cry, and then the feel of my mother's arms. Nothing else." She looks away, retreating, though she continues to talk. "For years I thought there was something there - something important. I tried so hard to remember. I was sure I had the answer somewhere in my mind. I.... It nearly destroyed me."
"What changed your mind?"
"My father. He found me one night, saw I had been crying." A hand reached up absently and rubs her shoulder. "He gripped me so tight I can still feel his fingers. 'Don't try to remember, Samantha. _Don't_. There's nothing there. Don't torment yourself and us by chasing it. The past can't be changed.' He was drinking still, and he smelled of whiskey. 'It's not your fault,' he said. 'Never think that it is.'"
There is a tremor of fear in her voice, but whether it is her father's, or her own fear in the telling, Dana can't tell.
"But now?" Dana leans forward, knowing it may be too soon to push, but needing to try. "How do you feel now?"
"I still remember him, Dana. I get on with my life, but there's still a wound. I hope I find out, one day."
Dana is silent. She needs to offer reassurances, but knows Samantha will be offended if she lies.
Her mind is full of tears dropping onto a twenty year old skeleton.
Her stomach had lurched at his voice, so weak, like dying autumn leaves.
"Fox. You're in the hospital, Fox." She'd touched his hand, absurdly surprised to find it solid beneath her fingers. The skin was like paper. "My name is Dana. I'm Samantha's friend. She asked me to sit with you for a while."
His eyelids had fluttered, struggling, but he'd sunk back, exhausted even by that effort. She'd willed him to go to sleep again, knowing she had no right to be receiving his first words.
But Samantha had gone - gone to Martha's Vineyard to fetch her parents, deciding they needed to be told in person.
"What about Fox? Doesn't _he_ need you too, so much more than them?" Dana had surprised herself with the force of her anger. "He's been through whatever Hell it takes to make a man look like that, while they.... they never even tried to find him. It's his turn now."
"_You_ stay with him, then. After all, someone put him at _your_ door, not mine." Samantha's voice had been so weary, but there was a strange edge to it. Dana hadn't been able to identify it then, but later she knew only too well - knew and understood.
"I don't know why...."
"D... Dana?" Her name on his lips had drawn her back to the present, drawn her back to a pair of dark eyes that were overflowing with loss. "But you're a grown-up."
He didn't know. Oh God, he didn't know.
And _she_ had to tell him.
She had hated Samantha then.
Days passed. Weeks....
At what point had her world narrowed so the white walls of the hospital became more familiar to her than her own apartment? At what point had the uneasiness in Samantha's eyes become outright hostility?
"He leans on you too much, Dana. You're not family." Not family? No. Closer than family. Closer than a mother and father who could hardly bring themselves to look at him. Closer than a sister who had.... who had what? She still hadn't understood, not then.
"He trusts me." She'd taken a deep breath, not saying what she meant, though this too was the truth. "I was there at the start, when he first woke up, when he needed someone...."
"And I wasn't? Is that what you mean?" She'd seen her partner in a thousand emotions, but never this - never this anger. "Damn it, Dana, I've tried to be there for him, but you're always there - always first for him. He barely looks at me when you're there."
Jealousy. God! It was simple jealousy. Understandable. Human.
"It's difficult for him, Samantha. In his mind, in his memories, he's only twelve - you _know_ that." She'd tried to keep her voice calm, understanding the pain of rejection. "When he looks at you he sees a little sister - someone to protect - but he also sees an adult who is so much stronger - who knows so much more than he does. He doesn't know how to deal with it."
"It's difficult for me, too, Dana." Anger and grief had warred in Samantha's voice. "He's my big brother, but he's so.... so vulnerable, so weak, so.... young. I.... God, Dana! I don't know how to talk to him."
"I know, Samantha. I know. But I.... I just see Fox. Right now, I think that helps him."
But not too close - not too much.... Samantha's eyes had been dark with warning.
She'd turned away, pretending not to see.
Weeks passed. Months....
There was nothing but him.
"He has nightmares, you know, Agent Scully. Terrible nightmares."
She had watched him once, biting her lip in silent pain as he tossed in agony, twisting away from the sheets as if they were soaked in acid.
"It's the memory, perhaps. It torments him so much, not knowing. Maybe it comes back in the dreams, what they did to him."
His breathing was deep, now, as he slept the sleep of the drugged. Dana stroked his hair, ignoring the psychiatrist's scrutiny. Tears filled her eyes at the memory of the terrible scars that marred his body. Wound upon wound, scar upon scar, pain upon pain.
"It will never be easy for him." The psychiatrist's voice held a warning - as if he understood what she thought she'd kept secret from everyone, even him. "He was exceptionally bright, obviously. He aged while he was away, of course, and some of that remains, though the memory does not. Intellectually, he's way ahead of most adults already. He soaks up knowledge like a sponge."
There was a 'but' in his voice. She looked away, not wanting to hear it.
"But emotionally.... That's what troubles me." His voice was apologetic but firm. "The not-knowing is destroying him, but...." A sigh. "If a dream can make him scream like that, can he live with the reality of the memory?"
"I'll help him." She turned to face him, straightened her back, defiant. "Whatever happens, I'll help him through it."
He nodded, and she saw the admiration in his eyes, and the relief. "As long as you know what you're taking on, Agent Scully." He touched her sleeve, his eyes earnest. "It could change your life. If you backed out later...."
"I won't back out later." She recited the words like a solemn pledge. "He's changed my life already. I think I.... I love him."
She shut her eyes, looking back at the night when she'd first seen him, but she couldn't connect, not any longer. She had been a different person then. Only now was she truly in the present, in her new life.
But her wings were still damp and crumpled from the chrysalis. She was still nervous, uncertain.
"Love him? You can't Dana. It's.... it's.... obscene."
"What's wrong with it, Samantha?" She'd expected the reaction, prepared her defence, but the force of her partner's reaction drove all reason from her head. "He's not twelve any more. I know he is in your mind, but he's an adult. He has the body of an adult. Intellectually, emotionally he's an adult. He has.... God, Samantha! He's a whole lot more mature than you."
Samantha took a deep breath. She was still trying, then, though not for much longer. "Okay, Dana. I can see how you might feel protective towards him. I can see how that might seem to you like...."
"How _dare_ you patronise me!" She stamped her foot, filled with an anger she had never known. "He's your brother, and you haven't bothered to know him. He's scarred, yes, but he's funny, and witty, and clever, and.... and compassionate. I've known him for months. We've talked about so many things. He has the intelligence of an adult and the.... the lack of cynicism of a child. If you just took the time to see through your preconceptions and _listen_ to him...."
"But you won't let me, Dana." There were tears in Samantha's anger. "I can see it. He looks at me, but all he wants is you."
"No, Samantha." She refused to give in, to back down and offer words of comfort. "At the start, all he needed was someone to be there for him. You.... your parents... any of you could have won his trust, but you were so busy thinking of yourselves. Your parents...." She paused, seeing their faces in her memory, as realisation hit her. "It's guilt, isn't it, Samantha? Guilt and fear. _That's_ why they can't even look at him." She leant forward, ignoring the tears. "And what about you? What's your excuse?"
A tear dropped to the floor, splashed. Their friendship shattered into shards of crystal, each one drawing blood.
Months passed. A year....
She held him as the sobs subsided into occasional choked tremors - held him as the tears dripped down her chest, warm and tickling.
"It's gone, Dana." His voice was hoarse. "I was nearly there, but it's gone."
She blinked back tears of her own, held him tighter.
"I need to know, Dana. Twenty-four years of my life, and I can't.... I need to know.""I know."
Her hand on his hair, stroking, soothing.
"I _will_ find out. Nothing else matters."
Her hand checked for just a moment, then carried on touching him.
"Oh, Dana." He pulled away, twisting round, looking at her. His eyes were puffy, but he was smiling, sad but smiling. "Never think that. It's _second_."
She grabbed a pillow, hitting him, tickling him. It was either that or cry. "Just as well, Fox. I have a gun, remember."
His voice smiled, but he lay back, not resisting. She knew the nightmare still reached out its fingers for his mind - knew it was too soon.
"Go to sleep, Fox," she whispered, touching his face. "I'll watch you - you know I will. I'll stay awake until you're asleep."
He sighed, shut his eyes. "There was _something_...." His voice was scarcely there, still more than half in the dream. "I was in a place. There was.... Everywhere there was the smell of cigarette smoke."
"Who was smoking?" She hardly dared ask, wondering how the truth would affect them, should he ever learn it. His happiness was like a house of cards, shattered by the slightest breath.
"He said my name. I heard my name through the smoke. I can feel his breath...."
Her hand, when it left his face, was damp with his tears.
It was a place to start. But the ending....?
She shut her eyes. That, too, they would face, afterwards.