TITLE: Blood Ties II: Powerless
EMAIL: sunrise83@comcast.net
ARCHIVE: MTA, Xemplary, Gossamer - others are okay, just let me know
SPOILERS: Mild through season 6
KEYWORDS: AU, Mulder/Scully UST
SUMMARY: A month has passed since the events in Raleigh, and Mulder isn't coping well. At a loss, Scully calls in Grey with the hope he can help.
DISCLAIMER: Mulder, Scully, and the X-Files belong to Chris Carter and 1013 Productions. I'm just playing with them. Grey McKenzie belongs to me.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: This is the second installment in the "Blood Ties" universe. I highly recommend that you read that story first, since elements of this will make little sense otherwise. You can find it archived at MTA, Xemplary, and Ephemeral. I was going to take a break from this universe, but those of you who wrote that you wanted to see more of Grey encouraged me to try this one. As always, many thanks are due my two beta readers, Laurie and Donna. See guys? I can write a short one!

Blood Ties II: Powerless
By Dawn

Hegal Place
2:17 a.m.

"Sara, don't! It's not too late to stop this."

Mulder tugged uselessly at the cloth strips that kept him helplessly pinned to the hospital gurney. The figure approaching was a shadow in the dimly lit room, an outline devoid of facial features. In contrast the large knife seemed to catch the meager light, reflecting it so that the blade glittered.

Ignoring the sparks of pain from his raw wrists, Mulder fought harder. He was unable to focus on anything but the shining weapon as it slowly sank into the tender flesh of his right forearm and in one quick motion was drawn from elbow to wrist.

The pain was tremendous, growing exponentially when the action was twice repeated. Mulder screamed helplessly, biting his lip until he tasted blood. The shadow, unperturbed, glided noiselessly over to his other arm and raised the blade again. Mulder saw that it now sparkled with the crimson of his own blood.

"Sara, no!" he moaned, his tongue feeling thick and uncooperative. "Please, no more! No more!"

He could feel his life pulsing warm and wet, hear it pattering onto the plastic drop cloth that lay beneath him. The three cuts to his left arm were just as agonizing, but he lacked the energy to do more than whimper. As the numbing lethargy relentlessly crept over him he raised glazed eyes, squinting in an effort to make out the muffled face. When it finally slid into focus Mulder found that he could still scream. The person wielding the knife was not Sara Ross. It was his father.


Mulder lunged forward, heart pounding and sweat trickling down his cheek. He leaned his forehead against his knees, his breath coming in short, harsh bursts. Once he was able to slow his breathing rate closer to normal, he lurched to his feet and stumbled into the bathroom. Cupping cold water in his hands, he bathed his flushed face with it for several minutes before grabbing a towel and drying off.

He returned to the couch and stared blankly at the phone, his trembling hand actually reaching out to touch it once before returning to his lap. The images from his dream rose up with horrifying clarity, and he quickly fumbled for the remote control, punching the on button. His eyes locked onto the television with something akin to desperation and he flipped restlessly from channel to channel, not really seeing the screen in front of him but spared the pictures in his own mind. Mulder sighed wearily. There would be no more sleep for him tonight.

Eagle Rock, N.C.
8:00 p.m.


"Hi, Grey. It's Dana."

"Well hey, Dana! How are you doing?"

She grinned a little at his soft drawl. "I'm good, thanks. How about yourself?"

"I can't complain. Things at work have been quiet, but after all the excitement last month I don't mind a bit."

"That's good."

An awkward silence, and Scully finally cleared her throat. "Grey, have you talked to Mulder lately?"

"Actually, I have. We've been trying to call each other about once a week. Why? Is something wrong, Dana?"

The open concern in his voice reassured her to proceed. "No. Well, maybe. I'm worried about him, Grey."

"Is it his arms? He told me they were healing up just fine -- said the stitches came out a couple weeks ago."

Scully sighed. "No, it's not that. Physically he's mending well. Mulder has always had amazing recuperative powers," she said dryly. She paused a moment before continuing. "There's something else going on with him, and I'm not sure what it is. He's not talking about it. Says he's *fine*."

Grey frowned a little at the odd emphasis she placed on the word. "What makes you so certain he's not?"

"Because I've spent nearly every day of the past six years with the man and I know when something is bothering him. He comes into the office looking like hell -- pale, dark circles under his eyes -- yet he insists nothing is wrong. He's not sleeping, Grey. Mulder has always been an insomniac, but this is different. I'm not sure exactly what happened in that basement with Sara, but it's haunting him."

Grey was silent for a moment, turning her words over in his mind. "Why are you telling *me*, Dana? Like you said, you know him better than anyone. If he's not talking to you, what makes you think he'd talk to me?"

"I don't know, maybe I'm grasping at straws. I do know that Mulder has a strong need to protect me from anything unpleasant. Maybe he's afraid to burden me with whatever this is."

Grey chuckled quietly. "So he'd be okay with burdening me?" When she started to protest he cut her off, still grinning. "I'm just kidding, Dana. Fox and I have been kicking around the idea of me coming for a visit. How about if I drive up tomorrow after work?

The relief and gratitude in her voice were plain. "That would be wonderful. Just don't tell him I called you or he'll go ballistic."

"It's a promise. But only if seeing you is part of the deal."

Her smile was evident in her voice. "I think I can arrange that. Thanks, Grey."

"No problem, Dana. See you soon."

Apartment 42
6:08 p.m.

Mulder sagged against the elevator wall, mail clutched in one hand and suit coat over his arm. He blinked uselessly at the gritty feel to his eyes and stifled the yawn that tried to erupt. He was tired -- no, make that exhausted -- but the thought of sleep only made his chest tighten with apprehension. Lately, sleep was synonymous with the dreams, and that was something he wanted to avoid at all costs. He was accustomed to nightmares, having spent the better portion of his life reliving Samantha's abduction in great detail. But these dreams ... Mulder shuddered and pushed himself forward when the elevator doors opened.

His eyes lit on a figure seated on the floor outside his apartment, dressed in jeans, tee shirt, and a baseball cap turned backward on dark hair. Recognition immediately followed and he quickened his pace. The figure looked up and grinned, getting slowly to his feet.

"Hey, little brother. 'Bout time you decided to show up. I was beginning to think you and Dana might have a hot date." His eyes scanned Mulder from head to toe as he noted that Dana had not been exaggerating his condition.

Mulder slid his key into the lock and opened the door, gesturing for Grey to precede him while throwing him a warning look. "Grey..."

"I know, I know. It's complicated," Grey intoned, stepping inside.

"So what are you doing here?" Mulder asked, tossing his mail onto the coffee table and loosening his tie. "Not that it isn't good to see you," he added hastily when Grey feigned a hurt look. "I just wasn't expecting you."

Grey shrugged. "I realized I had absolutely nothing going on this weekend and decided to surprise you. We can just have dinner and I'll drive back tonight if you're busy."

"No, no, this is great," Mulder assured him, flinging his jacket onto the back of a chair. "Just let me change. Can I get you something to drink? I've got iced tea, soda..."

"Tea would be good. I can get it myself while you change," Grey said, ambling toward the kitchen.

Mulder had just turned toward the bedroom when the telephone rang. Veering back into the living room he scooped it up.


Grey returned several moments later to see his brother replace the phone in its cradle, staring at it as a frown of puzzlement contracted his brow. He crossed to the leather couch and sat down, taking a sip of tea.

"You're looking at that phone like it's one of your little green men," he observed. "Who was it?"

"Gray," Mulder said absently, still distracted.


Mulder looked up at his response and grinned. "No, I mean they're gray, not green. And it was Scully. She just invited me -- well, us -- over for dinner."

Grey carefully hid the smirk that wanted to creep across his face. "Great! I'd love to see Dana."

His brother eyed him sharply, but said, "I'll only be a minute."

He disappeared into the bedroom and Grey allowed his lips to curve in amusement. Fox could protest that he and Dana were just good friends, but the truth was as plain as -- well, as the nose on his face. His brother became so territorial whenever Grey allowed his admiration for Dana to show, it was hard to resist teasing him just a little. He knew he should feel guilty, but after all he was the older brother. Sometimes the need to mess with Fox's head outweighed the guilt.

8:35 p.m.

"No way!" Grey's voice was incredulous and his eyes darted between Mulder and Scully's faces, certain he'd catch them winking at each other.

Scully leaned back in her chair, her eyes dancing with amusement but her nose wrinkled in disgust. "It's true, every word. It happened just the way Mulder described."

"A giant slug..."

"Flukeworm," Mulder corrected, his own chair balanced precariously on two legs, his hands clasped behind his neck.

"Whatever. This thing was loose in the sewer system? And it got away?"

"Not one of my favorite cases," Scully admitted, rising to collect Mulder's plate along with her own. She paused. "You know, I'll probably never be able to use one of those portable restrooms again."

"Speaking of which -- I need to use the little agent's room," Mulder said, scooping up Grey's plate and following Scully to the kitchen before disappearing down the hallway.

Grey leaned against the counter, watching Scully transfer the leftover chicken into a plastic container. "You weren't kidding," he murmured. "He does look like hell."

Her eyes automatically checked the doorway before she nodded. "I'm sure he's having nightmares. Mulder has always suffered his share of bad dreams -- most often about Samantha's abduction, but there have been other triggers. Skinner told me that he was in pretty bad shape when I was missing, and I know for a fact that he went through a rough patch when my cancer was in the final stages."

"But he weathered those times. What makes this any different?" Grey asked, studying her face, noting the small worry lines at the corners of her blue eyes.

Scully sighed and chewed on her lip before replying. She turned and began loading plates and utensils into the dishwasher, her movements quick and jerky. "This might sound ... odd, but over the years Mulder began calling me whenever he'd have a particularly bad dream. I don't mind. I encouraged it, really. Hearing my voice, having someone listen to whatever horror his mind managed to conjure up, seems to help him put it aside so that he can eventually get back to sleep."

Grey carefully kept his face neutral at the slightly embarrassed and defensive tone to her voice. He was proud of himself when he managed to avoid rolling his eyes. Obviously, Fox wasn't the only one adept at denial about this relationship.


"Well, the point I'm trying to make is that he hasn't called me in over a month. Not once. Yet I'm certain he's been suffering through some really bad ones. For some reason, he doesn't want to share these with me." She stopped her frenzy of activity and raised her eyes to his. "That worries me, Grey."

Any answer Grey may have had was aborted by Mulder's return. "Bathroom's safe, Scully. Not a flukeworm in sight."

"You've taken a weight off my mind, Mulder," she said, lips quirking in a repressed grin.

"I know *I* feel safer just having him around," Grey agreed with feigned sincerity.

Mulder grinned delightedly at his brother's sarcasm. "Glad to hear it. Hey, Scully, we were going to take in a movie. Care to join us?"

Scully shut the dishwasher and mirrored Grey's pose by leaning against the counter and folding her arms across her chest. She eyed Mulder appraisingly. "No war movies. And nothing with teenagers getting butchered while having sex either."

Mulder stuck out his lip. "Sculleee!"

"It's a deal," Grey said. "No war movies or slasher movies. I get enough blood and gore at work."

Mulder held up his hands in surrender. "All right, I agree. But no chick flicks either, Scully. And you *know* what I'm talking about."

Scully snickered and at Grey's questioning look explained, "I dragged Mulder to see 'Sense and Sensibility' a few years back. He's never forgiven me. I'll get the newspaper and we can see what's playing."

They followed her into the living room and sat down while she ruffled through the paper in search of the movie section. Grey observed the way his brother easily made himself at home, reflecting silently that spending an evening at Dana's apartment was most likely not an unusual occurrence.

"Thanks for dinner, Scully," Mulder spoke up, interrupting his thoughts. "It was great."

Scully looked up from her perusal and smiled. "No problem. I needed to use up that chicken and I figured two more mouths would be helpful."

She dropped her eyes back to the paper before she could catch the slight stiffening of her partner's body, but Grey noticed immediately. He watched his brother lean slowly forward, hands clasped between his knees, to fix Scully with a penetrating stare.

"*Two* mouths, huh?" he said, the casual tone of his voice deceptive as his eyes narrowed. "How did you know there would be two, Scully? *I* didn't even know Grey was coming until ten minutes before you called."

The hand rifling through the pages froze, but she kept her eyes fixed on the print. "I...um..."

"*You* called him, didn't you?" Mulder demanded, his voice quiet but the anger evident. He turned his sharp gaze to Grey's face. "She asked you to come. That's what this little impromptu visit is really all about. Isn't it?"

Grey winced a little at his fury and took a deep breath. "Fox, it isn't like that. I..."

"Don't be angry with him," Scully interrupted, finally looking up and pinning Mulder with her eyes. "If you're going to blame anyone, blame me. You're right, I asked him to come."

To Grey's relief, the hostility in his brother's eyes shifted to frustration. He stood and paced over to the window, running his fingers through his hair. With his back turned and his voice hushed, Mulder's next words were nearly inaudible.

"Why, Scully? I asked you to leave this alone. I told you I was fine."

Scully stood, heedless when the paper slipped from her lap, and walked over to stand behind him. Tentatively, she laid one hand on his arm and he turned slightly in response.

"Mulder, in all the times I used that word did you ever really believe me?" When he just turned back to stare out the window she continued. "I can see you're hurting. Don't be angry that I want to do something about it. I care about you, and so does Grey."

Her words seemed to melt his residual irritation and he sighed heavily. "I know. And I do appreciate that. But I won't be bullied into baring my soul about this." He looked from Scully to Grey and back again. "I *won't*."

"Hey, you're the one trained as a shrink," Grey said mildly. "Don't feel you have to bare your soul on my account. I'd be content with the chance to share some popcorn with a pretty lady while taking in a movie."

Mulder snorted but his lips curved slightly. Encouraged, Scully squeezed his arm.

"*If* my presence is still welcome," she said softly.

Mulder looked down at her, affection now supplanting irritation. "Always, Scully. Always."

Hegal Place
2:32 a.m.

Grey rubbed the sleep from his eyes and stared at the glowing numbers, senses searching for whatever had awakened him. He'd always been a heavy sleeper, until Kate had fallen ill and irrevocably changed those patterns. Now he found himself alert at the drop of a pin.

He'd decided it must be the unfamiliarity of his surroundings and his eyes drifted shut, when a soft whimper from the living room caused them to fly open. He listened, practically holding his breath as his ears strained to catch any further sound. The whimper was repeated, followed by a low moan. Throwing back the sheet, Grey quietly moved across the room. The unfamiliar terrain was treacherous in the near total darkness, and he cursed softly under his breath when he stubbed his toe on a chest of drawers.

The living room was easier to navigate, some light from the street spilling in between the blinds. He easily made out his brother's form stretched on the couch, pausing to watch as Fox twitched and made soft noises of distress. Grey started forward only to hesitate, trying to remember what he'd heard about waking someone from a nightmare -- should he, or shouldn't he? Fox's face, contorted and covered with a thin sheen of perspiration, made his decision for him.

He carefully took a seat on the coffee table and laid a hand on Fox's shoulder, but his intention to impart a gentle shake was abruptly halted by the clarity of his brother's next words.

"Dad, no. Please. Nonononono!"

Horrified, Grey pulled back his hand as if burned. His teeth worried his lower lip and his eyes misted as he watched Fox continue to shudder and mumble. The words were mostly unintelligible, but he repeated his father's name twice. Shaking himself from inaction, Grey had just stretched out his hand again when Fox bolted upright with a scream.


If the situation had been different, Grey supposed it would almost have been funny. He backpedaled so rapidly he nearly fell off the coffee table in his haste. Fox didn't even recognize his presence at first, just rested his head on his knees and panted while shudders wracked his frame. Grey rose silently to his feet, flicked on a light, and went to the kitchen, finding a bottle of water in the refrigerator and returning to his post on the coffee table. When Fox finally raised his sweaty face he handed it to him without comment.

Fox's hands were trembling so badly he had trouble loosening the cap, so Grey reached out to remove it with a deft twist. His brother took a long draught, then closed his eyes and pressed the cool plastic to his forehead. He finally cracked one eye open to regard Grey ruefully.

"Sorry I woke you."

Grey rose and moved to sit on the end of the couch before replying. "No problem. I'd have woken you up, but you beat me to it."

Fox took another long drink and ran a hand over his face. Grey could see him carefully composing his features, pulling himself back together. His brother even managed a small smile, though it was rather weak and sickly.

"No big deal, it was just a nightmare. I'm okay now, you can go back to bed."

Grey stared at him incredulously, his eyebrows climbing up his forehead. "*No big deal?* Buddy, if you consider that nightmare no big deal, I'd hate to see you after one that is."

His brother's face turned into an unreadable mask. "Look, I've been dealing with nightmares my whole life. I can handle this on my own. Without help."

Grey shook his head, scowling in irritation. "You just keep telling yourself that, Fox. But the truth is, no one believes it and probably neither do you. You aren't sleeping and it shows. Have you looked in the mirror lately? You look like shit, little brother."

Fox glared at him and got to his feet, stalking off to the bathroom. Grey heard the water running for several minutes. When he reappeared he avoided the couch, choosing instead to pace the room.

"What do you want from me?" he finally growled, pausing with his hands on his hips to favor Grey with a glare.

"Not *from* you, Fox, *for* you. And the answer is that I want you to look more like the brother who nearly beat me shooting hoops and not the one who looks like a stiff wind could blow him away."

Never predictable, Fox cocked an eyebrow and folded his arms. "Almost? The way I remember it, I had you dead to rights before you walked off the court." With a sigh he returned to the couch and plopped down on the cushions.

"This goes back to the Jackson case, doesn't it?" Grey said quietly. "The nightmares -- are they about what happened in the basement?" When Fox didn't respond he blew out a long breath. "Look, you need to talk to someone about this. If not me or Dana, then you should contact a professional."

His brother grunted. "Not in this lifetime. Ninety-eight percent of all shrinks are hopelessly screwed up themselves. I should know."

Grey leaned back and clasped his hands behind his head. "Fine. I'm all ears."

Fox rolled his eyes. "You're as bad as Scully. You take the expression 'beating a dead horse' to a whole new level." When Grey remained silent he groaned. "Fine. I'll tell you about the dream. Then maybe you'll both get off my back."

Grey smiled beatifically. "A wise decision."

His brother leaned his head onto the back of the couch and flung one arm over his eyes. "It's always the same. I'm back in the basement, tied down on the gurney. Only it's so dark I can barely see. At first I just sense a presence, but then I can see Sara's shadow as she moves toward me. I can't see her face but the knife shines as if there's a spotlight trained on it. I can't seem to take my eyes off it. I try to reason with her at first, then I just beg her not to do it." His voice trembled and he paused, taking several deep breaths.

"I'm not drugged this time, so when the knife slices into my arm the pain is... I can feel the warmth as the blood spurts from my arm and smell it in the air, just like before. It's hard to talk, but I keep trying to make her stop. She won't listen, though, and she cuts the other arm too."

Fox broke off and sat forward, dry washing his face with his hands. His breathing was harsh and shallow and he licked his lips nervously. A warm, reassuring hand lit on his shoulder and he looked over at Grey's pale but encouraging face.

"Go on. I know there's more."

He bit his lip and squeezed his eyes tightly shut, angered by the sudden rush of tears and determined to repress them. "I...I look up, knowing that I'm going to die and wanting to force her to see my face. But when I do... when I do..."

A tear escaped his closed lids and trickled down one cheek. Fox swiped at it angrily with a trembling hand. "I see that it isn't Sara at all," he said, voice no more than an agonized whisper. "It's...it's..."

"Your dad," Grey finished, his own voice a little unsteady.

His brother's eyes darted to his face, then skittered away. He rubbed sweaty palms on his shirt, rocking slightly back and forth. "I talked," he said bitterly.

Grey nodded and stood up. "Let me get you something else to drink. You got any brandy? Anything?"

Fox shook his head sharply, almost violently. "*No.* I watched my father crawl into a bottle and never come out. I don't drink much."

Grey absorbed that and headed for the kitchen. "I'll come up with something."

The time necessary to find ingredients for and heat up some hot chocolate not only allowed Fox to regain some composure, but Grey as well. When he returned with two mugs his brother eyed him with amusement but sipped it gratefully. Grey noticed the tremors in his hands had almost disappeared.

They sipped in silence for several minutes. Grey felt Fox looking at him surreptitiously, but pretended ignorance. What his brother had just revealed -- about himself and Bill Mulder -- was overwhelming. He deserved to set the pace for any further discussion.

"So, aren't you going to state the obvious? Don't you have an interpretation for what it all means?" Fox finally said, the sarcasm in his voice a poor veil for the pain beneath.

"I already told you -- you're the shrink. I'm just here to listen."

Gratitude flicked across Fox's eyes, but he persisted. "Come on. You must have *some* opinion on why I'm having the dream."

Grey studied his face a moment. He seemed to be considering whether to speak, then nodded almost to himself. "I'll go one better. I'll interpret my own dream."

"*Your* dream?"

Grey nodded. "You decide if it's relevant. When Kate was...when the cancer accelerated and we knew that there was no hope, she made the decision to refuse further treatment. I fought her on it -- one of the few real fights we ever had. I see now that I was wrong, that she had every right to some peace and happiness before she died. The drugs that attempted to cure her were as terrible as the disease itself, and she was tired of the constant nausea and pain. At the time, though, all I allowed myself to see was that she was giving up -- that I was going to lose her, and she wasn't doing anything to stop it."

"I started having this dream almost every night. In it, Kate was dying. But unlike real life, there was a cure -- a bottle of pills that had been given to me for safekeeping. At the last moment, when death was imminent, she had only to swallow one of the pills to be well again. But in my dream, when the time arrived and I reached for that bottle in my pocket, it was gone. I'd frantically search the house, ripping open drawers and cupboards and spilling their contents on the floor, but I'd never find those pills. And all the while Kate's voice would be in the background calling for me to help her, getting weaker and weaker until it stopped. Then I'd know I was too late."

Fox looked at his brother's face, which had gone slightly pale during his narrative. "I'm sorry. I can image how terrible that time must have been for you."

Grey smiled. "I know you can. But my point is this -- I know why I had that dream. I was powerless. My wife was dying and there was nothing I could do about it. In my dream it was a missing bottle of pills. In life, it was a decision over which I had no control."

Fox swallowed the last of the hot chocolate and set his mug on the table. "You're saying that what I felt when Sara kidnapped me -- the inability to protect myself -- triggered these dreams. That I felt powerless, just like you."

Grey shrugged. "I'm just telling you my story. The conclusions are your own. But there's more, isn't there, Fox? I get the feeling that this goes a lot deeper than just your feelings of helplessness with Sara. Am I right?"

His brother tried to look belligerent, but there was too much fear underneath. "Such as?"

Grey felt a bit like he was approaching a wild animal, skittish and untrusting. He kept his voice deliberately low and soothing. "Such as the reason why your father is the one holding the knife."

Hegal Place
3:20 a.m.

Fox stared at him, then looked quickly away, his jaw clenched. "I don't think I can talk about this part," he said, voice husky with emotion.

"You don't have to," Grey said carefully. "But do you really think I can't guess the rest?"

Anger flared in his brother's eyes. "What the hell does that mean?"

Recognizing it for the defense mechanism it was, Grey kept his own temper in check. "Fox, you told me yourself that Bill never expressed the pride he felt in you. You've also admitted he was an alcoholic. And now you're having dreams reliving a trauma you suffered, but with your dad replacing the person who actually hurt you -- a person, I might add, who suffered abuse as a child. You do the math."

Fox looked away, blinking rapidly. "What happened to Sara was different. My dad rarely laid a hand on me."

Grey closed his eyes momentarily against the pain in his chest. Suspicion confirmed, he struggled to force his anger towards Bill Mulder aside so that he could concentrate on what mattered. "You and I both know that the only real difference is that the bruises aren't visible," he said gently.

Fox's voice was very soft when he spoke. "I was there when Sam was taken, you know. I was supposed to be watching her. They took her and I couldn't stop it. I think I tried to use Dad's gun, but it didn't matter. What it all comes down to is that my parents trusted me and I failed them. I didn't protect my little sister. Dad never forgave me for that, and I've never really been able to blame him."

Some of the anger wriggled free and Grey scowled. "Then let me," he growled. "Our father, if I understand all that you've told me, chose to involve himself with the men who were ultimately responsible for taking our sister. Knowing all that he did, he had no business leaving a twelve-year-old boy in charge under such circumstances. He screwed up, Fox. And he spent the next twenty years displacing his own guilt onto the easiest target -- you."

Mulder looked startled by his vehemence, then thoughtful. "You want to talk powerless? I spent most of my adolescence feeling that way. It was bad enough the night Sam was abducted. But then I had to watch while the family I had left disintegrated around me. Our parents became enemies, then strangers. I tried so hard to fix things, to be what they needed, but I couldn't do it." His voice broke and he scrubbed at his eyes with the heels of his hands.

"I used to lay in bed at night, listening to them screaming at each other about Sam, about me, and I'd replay it all in my mind. Only in my version I used my father's gun and saved Samantha. So our family was still a family, and I was a hero. And my father was proud of me."

Grey slung an arm around his brother's shoulders, his throat tight. "The funny thing is, I think he was, Fox. He just had a lousy way of showing it."

Mulder used the hem of his tee shirt to swipe at his eyes once more. "Thanks. It's hard for me to believe that, but I need to."

He flopped over on his side so that his head rested on his pillow. Grey noted with satisfaction that his brother's eyes were already starting to droop with fatigue now that the adrenaline from his confession was wearing off.

"I'll put these in the kitchen," he offered, scooping up their mugs. He paused a moment, uncertain, before plunging on. "It's none of my business, Fox. But I think you should tell Dana about this. She deserves to know."

His brother yawned hugely. "I know you're right. I just didn't know how to begin. Scully's family was like something from a Norman Rockwell painting. I guess I was afraid she'd look at me differently if she knew."

"Not likely," Grey replied firmly. "And as for where to start -- I'd guess the beginning is usually a good place."

He took his time in the kitchen, deliberately washing the mugs and pan and leaving them in the dish drainer to dry. He clearly recalled how soothing it was to hear his parents moving around the house, making routine noises, when he tried to fall back asleep after a bad dream.

When he returned to the living room Fox was dead to the world, one leg still hanging off the couch, his arms folded across his chest. Silently congratulating himself, Grey picked the afghan up from where it had landed in a pile on the floor and spread it over his brother. Fox didn't even twitch when he quietly turned off the light.

Unable to suppress his own yawn, Grey padded wearily back to the bedroom and sank gratefully onto the bed. The clock read only 4 a.m., but he felt as weary as if an entire day had passed. He was not foolish enough to believe that he'd cured Fox of his nightmares -- his brother still had a lot of baggage to unpack. But tonight had been the beginning -- of a lot of things. For now, maybe they could both get some sleep.

The End