Southside Community Hospital
After four hours of sleep, a turkey sandwich, and a can of caffeine- laden soda, Grey had returned to the hospital ready to relieve Dana. Holding a white paper bag containing another sandwich and a coffee, he'd braced himself for an argument. Dana was fiercely protective of Fox on a good day. After three months agonizing whether his brother was dead or alive, prying her from his side would take some smooth talking--or several sticks of dynamite.
Preoccupied with his thoughts, he'd reached Fox's hospital room and placed his hand on the door before noticing the figure slumped against the wall just outside.
She lifted her head, revealing bloodshot eyes and blotchy cheeks. A boulder settled on Grey's chest.
"Did something happen? Is Fox...?"
"Mulder's fine. He's sleeping."
Grey sucked in his cheeks and set the bag down by his feet. "Okay. Then you mind telling me why he's in there and you're out here?"
"We got the test results, Grey. The x-rays, the MRI..."
"And?" When she didn't answer, he grasped her shoulders. "Dana, what is it?"
"I'm sorry. I just...I'm still coming to terms with this myself." She drew in a deep breath and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. "The good news is that Mulder's test results show no implants--no foreign bodies of any kind."
"But they do show something, or you wouldn't be this upset."
"They indicate past trauma, Grey--massive damage. Countless fractures, ruptured organs... I've never seen anything like it. Considering the number and severity of injuries, Mulder should be dead ten times over."
"I don't understand. Past trauma?"
"Completely healed. If I judged strictly by the x-rays, the MRI, I'd believe them to be years old." She shook her head. "I know Mulder's medical records like the back of my hand, every bullet wound and scar. I'm telling you, Grey, none of these injuries existed three months ago."
Grey licked his lips. "But that's...that's impossible."
Scully barked a harsh little chuckle. "Impossible? We're talking about a race of beings that can extract brain tissue without opening the skull."
Sweat broke out on the back of his neck, beading his upper lip. Grey braced one hand against the wall, pulling air past the weight in his chest. "You think they tortured him."
Scully closed her eyes. "Only Mulder can tell us what really happened."
"God, Dana. No wonder he freaked during that test. He must have--"
"He doesn't remember, Grey."
Scully pinched the bridge of her nose. "Mulder woke up while you were at the motel. He was his normal, glib, sarcastic self--with one exception. The past three months are a blank."
Grey blinked. "He can't remember any of it?"
She shook her head. "Finding Paige, seeing the spaceship--it's all like yesterday for him. Learning the truth gave him quite a shock."
"You told him?"
"This is Mulder we're talking about, Grey. The man is a skilled interrogator, not to mention just plain bullheaded. He sensed something was wrong, and I couldn't lie to him."
Grey winced. "How did he take it?"
Scully's lips curved, but her eyes were sad. "The same way he's coped with all the other shit life has thrown his way--a little humor and a lot of sublimation." She stared at Mulder's door as if she could see through it to the man inside. "It's not the gap in his memory that worries me."
"It's him filling in the gap." Grey's voice was soft, pained. "Maybe he'd be better off if those missing pieces stayed missing."
"After seeing those x-rays, I almost agree with you. But it's a moot point. We both know how Mulder's mind works--eidetic memory, remember? Sooner or later those memories are going to surface, and when they do..."
"We'll be there for him." Grey brushed his hand down her arm. "He's a survivor, Dana. God knows we've both seen him shrug off experiences that would bring a lesser man to his knees."
"I'd like to believe that, but, Grey, the test results... I look at those films, and I can't begin to understand how Mulder is still breathing, let alone reasonably whole and cognizant. And Hammond..." She waved a hand, puffing out a short breath. "Hammond just keeps trying to make sense of a situation for which he has no frame of reference."
Grey ran a hand down his face. "Look, I hate to bring up a sore subject, but what about Fox's...abilities?"
"The things Spender insinuated back when Fox so sick with that alien virus, his bragging about genetic manipulation. We've seen evidence that suggests Fox has an unusual ability to heal."
Scully was shaking her head before he'd finished speaking. "You're not getting it, Grey. They broke nearly every bone in his body. There are areas of scar tissue on all of his major organs." Her voice cracked. "No amount of genetic tweaking could explain this."
"C'mere." Grey folded her into a hug. He rubbed one hand between her shoulder blades, feeling fine tremors.
He waited until she'd relaxed, then released her. He placed first the food, then the room key into her hands.
"Eat. Sleep." He ticked the commands off on his fingers. "You look ready to fall over."
She tried slipping the key back into his jacket pocket. "Thanks, but I think I'll stretch out on the couch in the lounge, just in case--"
"Uh-uh. We had a deal--remember? It's my shift now, and I don't want to see you back here for at least six hours. I can hold down the fort just fine."
"Grey, I'm capable of resting here. I think it's best I stay. What if Mulder has another panic attack? I'm a doctor, I--"
Grey snorted. "No offense, darlin', but you and your medical degree weren't much help during that episode, were you?"
"That's a shitty thing to say."
"It is. Even if it's true." Grey sighed. "Look, Dana, Fox has plenty of doctors and nurses taking care of him. If he does freak out again, he won't need another medical professional. He'll need family." He shrugged. "For that, I'm qualified."
She huffed. "I suppose you have a point." Her eyes narrowed. "Six hours? Correct me if I'm wrong, but you've only been gone four."
Grey grinned, backing toward the door. "Inflation."
He slipped inside. With the blinds shut against the fading daylight, shadows cloaked the room. Fox lay on his side, one long-fingered hand curled beneath his chin, the rhythmic whisper of his breath loud in the silence. When his eyes adjusted to the gloom, Grey sat in the empty chair.
It was the first quiet moment he'd experienced since last evening when the rollercoaster ride had begun. Grey slumped back, shivering as reaction set in, his eyes locked on Fox's gaunt face. Three months. He recognized, now, how his hope had dwindled. How close he'd come to believing his brother lost forever. The realization shamed him, tainting the joy he'd felt at Fox's return.
"I'm sorry, Fox."
His brother's even breathing faltered. "Grey?"
Grey winced at the froggy croak, leaning forward to pat his brother's arm. "Right here. Didn't mean to wake you."
Fox rolled onto his back. He ran his tongue over his lips, eyes blinking at the ceiling. "Timizit?"
"About four-thirty in the afternoon. Why don't you go back to sleep?"
Fox turned his head, wrinkling his nose. "Mouth tastes like an old sock. Water?"
Grey reached for the pitcher, hesitating when he saw the length of plastic I.V. tubing protruding from just below Mulder's collarbone. "Uh...hang on a minute."
He got up and strode out of the room, scanning the hallway for a nurse. A sweet young thing set down her clipboard and left the nurses' station when he beckoned.
"My brother's asking for water. Is that all right?"
She smiled reassuringly. "Mr. Mulder? Yes, just make sure he drinks it slowly, his stomach may be a little on edge. Dr. Hammond is coming back to check on him in a bit, and if everything looks okay we'll start him on a liquid diet."
He ducked back inside. "Nurse says it's okay." He poured water into a cup and helped Fox sip from the straw, dismayed by the weakness in his brother's unsteady hands.
"'S enough." Fox pushed the cup aside after several swallows, settling into the pillow with a soft grunt. "This sucks. I can barely move. Everything feels like it weighs about a thousand pounds. Not to mention I hate hospitals."
"Beats the alternative."
"So I hear." Fox chewed on his lower lip. "I don't exactly remember."
"Dana told me. She's at the hotel getting some sleep, by the way. She'll be back later."
"Good. She looked beat." Fox shifted, searching for a more comfortable position. "I guess the last three months have been pretty hard..." He trailed off into a bitter little chuckle. "Three months. I'm saying it and I still can't believe it."
"Yeah, well, it hasn't been easy for us to accept either." Grey looked out the window. "Gotta admit, I was beginning to think you were never coming back."
"Me? Nah. I'm like a bad penny, I always turn up."
"More like a Timex watch."
"Very funny. So...three months. That must mean--" He moaned, a low, distressed sound.
Grey jerked his attention from the window. "What is it? What's wrong?"
"I missed the World Series again, didn't I?"
"You little shit! You scared the hell out of me. I thought you were having some kind of attack, or in pain, or...or something."
"I am in pain, damn it! This is the second time in five years I've missed the Series."
Grey snickered, shocked when his vision blurred. He blinked furiously, swiping at his eyes with the back of one hand.
"Hey." Fox touched his wrist. "I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking. I know this must have been hell for you and Scully."
"It's not that." Grey shook his head, a bemused smile on his lips. "I mean, of course it was rough. We spent every spare moment trying to find you, and--" He stopped himself. "It's just really good to have you back."
"Give it some time, the novelty will wear off." Fox's voice turned pensive. "I wish I could say it's good to be back. But for me, it's as if I never left." His eyes bore into Grey's with relentless intensity. "I have to fill in the blank, Grey. I have to know what happened to me."
They broke nearly every bone in his body.
"Give it some time, Fox. You've been back all of--what? Forty- eight hours?"
"Easy for you to say. You're not the one with a black hole in your memory." Fox punctuated the complaint with a yawn, eyelids drooping.
"Hey, I've been there. Remember when your buddy Cancerman thought he could treat my brain like a magic slate and just erase the stuff he didn't want me taking home? It might not have been three months' worth, but it was no picnic."
"Point taken. But can't you see how frustrating this is? For years I've searched for conclusive proof of extraterrestrial life, battled against a conspiracy to conceal it." Fox yawned again. "I've interviewed victims of alien abduction, listened to hundreds of accounts. Now here I am, one of my own x-files with first hand experience, and I can't remember a damn thing."
Despite the burden of knowledge he carried, one corner of Grey's mouth turned up. "I believe that's called irony, little brother. Now how about you catch up on some more sleep?"
Fox's eyes, which had been drifting closed, snapped open and his body stiffened. "Are you leaving?"
Puzzled by the wary tone and obvious tension, Grey shook his head. "Nope. I'm on duty until Dana gets back. 'Fraid you're stuck with at least one of us for the time being." He leaned back in the chair and propped his feet on the mattress, nudging his brother's leg.
Fox rolled his eyes. "That's my Scully--never trust the medical staff." But his body relaxed, his eyelids immediately sliding shut. Within seconds he was out for the count.
Grey watched him sleep, uneasiness niggling at the back of his mind. For just an instant, when he'd thought Grey might be leaving, Fox had looked...afraid.
Grey didn't want to think about what that might mean.