November 22, 1999
Disclaimer: Sigh. If you know them, they aren’t mine. If you don’t, they are. The ones you know belong to 1013 Productions, and the evil corporate empire commonly known as 20th Century Fox Film Corporation. I appreciate them for not suing me.
Category: MT (well, MulderRecovery is more like it), a bit of angst. M/S Friendship.
Spoilers: For the seventh season episode “6th Extinction II: Amor Fati,” and the 1999 World Series. Be warned. And there’s a tip ‘o the cap to “The Unnatural.” See if you can find it.
Archive: By all means. Please let me know where, though!
Feedback: Is encouraged, cherished, saved, and answered Every last one! email@example.com
Thanks: Vickie, Keryn, Peggy G. Thanks for the encouragement and the friendship.
Author’s Note: In "Amor Fati" we had a brilliant episode fraught with symbolism, literary allusions, and multiple layers of psychological depth and meaning. So what do I fixate on? A baseball cap. But the opportunity to merge two of my favorite things, My Mulder and My Yankees, was too good to pass up. All baseball references are completely accurate. You can look it up, but I didn’t have to. And yes, I happened to have been in section 51, row R of game four. Like I said, too good to pass up.
Summary: Baseball is the key to
At first it was just muffled sounds: indistinguishable, muted, floating into his head from far, far away. Their quiet was a relief, a respite from what he last remembered, so he simply reveled in the peace they brought.
But slowly the sounds took form, one by one. First the sound of his own breathing, In and out, steady, reassuring. Then a persistent beep, a little more than once a second. He knew that sound, he’d heard it so many times; too many times. He dismissed it to focus on the others.
Voices. Hushed, whispering, but voices nonetheless. A man. Skinner. A woman.
She was doing most of the talking, and Mulder tried to listen, but only fractions got through.
“Don’t really know, sir. . . . some sort of surgical procedure. . . . CT scan was inconclusive. . . . said it looked like a stereotactic biopsy. There’s evidence his skull was in a frame.”
Stereo what? Didn’t matter. It was Scully, he could hear her. He could only hear her. Sleep began to reclaim him, and he let it.
+ + + + +
Another voice infiltrated his ears. A man’s. He heard it near his head, speaking quietly.
“Aww, I know man, I ain’t no Yankees fan. But the Braves? They suck. Hate them more. Besides, you don’t leave your league when your team don’t make it.”
Mulder opened his eyes and sought the person speaking. It was a housekeeping guy, talking to someone in the bathroom.
“Is it over?” The sound was so quiet Mulder wasn’t sure he’d actually spoken.
But the man heard him and was clearly startled to find the patient speaking to him. “They told me you were unconscious!” He turned his attention to the person in the bathroom. “Pru, go get a nurse. He’s awake here.” He looked back at Mulder. “Is what over?”
Mulder searched his mind. Why were the words coming so slowly? What was it called? Right, that’s it.
The man smiled. “Baseball fan, huh? No, it’s not. First game’s tonight. Yankees Braves.”
Mulder closed his eyes wearily. “Let’s…go…Yank…ees.”
+ + + + +
“Come on, wake up.”
Scully. Anything for Scully. He opened his eyes. “Hi Scully.” He knew he was whispering. Couldn’t help it. He let his eyes tour the room. A hospital. That’s all he could tell. “What happened?”
“Can you tell me your name?” A man on the other side of the bed was talking to him.
Mulder looked at him, clearly puzzled at the ridiculous question. “Fox Mulder.” He turned to face Scully again. “What happened?” he reiterated.
She smiled. “We were hoping you could tell us. This is Doctor Harriman.”
Mulder turned to look at the man once more. “I know.” The more he spoke, the stronger his voice became.
“But . . . how?” The doctor was clearly surprised. “So you were…?”
Mulder closed his eyes. “Aware. I remember. I remember you.” He paused for a long moment, clearly tired. Finally he spoke again. “What happened.”
Scully waited a moment, to give the doctor a chance to speak first, but he just stood there, apparently dumbfounded, so she answered. “You were taken, Mulder. Taken from the hospital. Something was done to you. Some sort of surgical procedure. To your brain, Mulder. They did something to your brain, but we can’t tell what. We don’t know what they did.”
Mulder took several deep breaths, then opened his eyes. “Well. . . . It worked.”
Those words seemed to rouse the doctor. “It did, Mr. Mulder, apparently it did. We’ve had you on an EEG, and it appears that the abnormal brain function you were exhibiting has ceased.”
“Uh huh.” He closed his eyes again.
“The voices, Mulder. Are the voices gone?” Scully reached out and lightly touched his cheek.
Mulder smiled, but didn’t bother to open his eyes. “Uh huh. All I hear is you. I’m tired.”
“That’s because of the anesthesia they used. You sleep now, Mulder. We’ll talk more when you wake up again.”
Mulder answered with a weary “mmmm,” and settled back to that place between wakefulness and sleep. He could vaguely hear the doctor speaking harshly to Scully, Something about having wanted to do tests.
Later. They could wait. He was tired.
+ + + + +
This time when he woke, the only sound he heard was the insistent beeping of the heart monitor. He opened his eyes and immediately found Scully, sitting in a chair by the window. She had her feet pulled up on the seat, with her knees near her chin, and she was writing in a book. The light coming in illuminated her hair so it almost looked like a halo to him. It was either early morning, or late afternoon. He couldn’t tell which.
“Is it still Saturday?”
Scully looked up, grinned, and walked to his bedside. “What?” she asked as she pushed the call button.
“Is it still Saturday?”
“Mulder, how do you know what day it is? You’ve been incapacitated for. . . .” She let her voice trail off, either unable or unwilling to finish the thought.
“Yes, it is.”
If she’d been impressed by that, he knew he’d really get her now. “It’s Saturday, October 23, right?”
He was right. “How did you know that, Mulder?”
He just smiled. “Heard a guy talking about the World Series starting tonight. Fans always know the date of the first game of the Series.”
Scully just laughed. “And to think Dr. Harriman was mad at me because I let you go to sleep earlier without letting him perform a mental status exam.”
“Yanks’ll sweep. Just watch.” He sighed. “It’s good to hear you laugh, Scully.”
She grasped his hand tightly. “It’s just good to see _you_, period, Mulder. It’s been a while.”
“I know. I’m sorry.” He picked his hand up and paused to look at it when it came up off the bed. “No restraints,” he commented as he touched the bandage encompassing his head. “I have a headache.”
Before Scully could respond the door opened and Dr. Harriman walked in. He nodded curtly at Scully, then looked at Mulder. “Awake again, I see.”
Mulder just nodded warily.
“If it’s all right with you, I’d like to examine you.” Though the doctor was ostensibly talking to Mulder, he was looking pointedly at Scully as he spoke. She nodded almost imperceptibly, and took one step away from the bed. Mulder just watched.
First the doctor checked his eyes with a light. Then he had Mulder follow his finger with his eyes: up, down, side-to-side. Next it was reflexes. Elbows, wrists, knees, ankles, bottoms of the feet. He did the right side twice.
He stood at the end of the bed, and placed his palms against the bottom of Mulder’s feet. “Push down against my hands, Mr. Mulder.” He did. The doctor moved back up the bed, and fitted his hands within Mulder’s. “Squeeze for me.” Mulder did.
The doctor proceeded to test his patient’s hearing with a tuning fork, his vision, his sensation with a pin that he applied to Mulder’s skin from feet to head, asking Mulder to tell him if it was the dull or sharp end touching him. He made Mulder stick out his tongue, smile and frown, move each extremity independently, and on and on. Mulder could do it all, but as the exam proceeded his patience began to wear thin.
“Okay, Mr. Mulder,”
“Either AGENT Mulder, or just Mulder,” the patient corrected sharply.
The doctor’s face showed no reaction to the outburst. “Okay, Mulder, I’m sorry. Just a few more things.”
Mulder closed his eyes and covered them with his hand. “My head hurts, that’s all.”
“And we’ll give you something for that as soon as we’re done here. We couldn’t before, because the drugs might have masked the findings of the exam. Now I want you to close your eyes and touch your nose with your fingertips.”
Mulder did, and with his left hand he touched the tip of his nose perfectly. With his right he was off just slightly, and ended up brushing its side. When he opened his eyes again, he saw Scully and the doctor looking at each other, clearly communicating something between them. “What?” he snapped, managing to break the spell, and causing both doctors to look at him in the bed.
“Nothing, nothing,” Harriman said. He thought for a moment, trying to decide something. “Do you think you feel up to standing for me for a second?”
The suggestion alarmed Scully. “Do you think that’s wise? He’s been virtually bedridden for weeks, he’s had God-knows-what done to him. This isn’t a safe environment.”
The doctor nodded at each question she raised. “I understand all that. But we need to establish a baseline here, and balance and coordination are vital.” Harriman decided to try and circumvent Scully altogether, and turned to his patient. “What do you say, Mulder?”
He shouldn’t have bothered. Mulder looked at his partner. “Scully?”
She sighed. “I don’t know, Mulder. How do you feel? You said your head hurts?”
“It’s pounding.” He didn’t bother to add that the light was beginning to bother his eyes. “But let’s do it.” He wanted to know what it was they were looking for.
“Okay, but we’ll just stand him up by the bedside. No walking.”
“I can walk, Scully.”
She smiled at him. “I know. But not today. You’ve been through a lot.”
The two people arranged the tubes and wires so that Mulder could sit up. He did, slowly, and with each inch closer to upright the pain in his head increased. By the time he was sitting on the side of the bed, it was excruciating, but he didn’t say anything. They were concerned, he could tell. They were looking for something, and he wanted to know what it was.
“Okay, Mulder, just stand up slowly when you’re ready. We’ve got you.” Harriman wasn’t exaggerating. He had Mulder’s right arm, and Scully had his left. Mulder stood. It didn’t add to the pounding in his head, so he sighed with relief.
“You okay?” Scully asked.
“Uh huh.” Mulder was breathless.
“Just relax. You’re tense, we can feel it. Just stand normally.”
Who’d have thought that something as simple as standing would cause so much anxiety. Mulder willed himself to relax. It must have worked, because Harriman and Scully let go, and he was standing on his own. No big deal.
“Okay,” Doctor Harriman continued. “Just stand where you are, and close your eyes.”
Mulder did, wondering how long he’d have to stand like this until they were satisfied. But suddenly he felt the man’s hand grasp his upper arm, and he opened his eyes, startled. He didn’t need them to tell him that he’d started to keel to the right. Harriman silently pushed Mulder back, and within moments they had him settled back into bed.
“What did that mean?” he asked the neurologist.
“We’re not done yet. When I’m finished I’ll go over all my findings with you.”
“NO! That’s not normal. What does it mean?”
Scully touched his arm to try and calm him. “It means your balance is off slightly, Mulder. But it could be from any number of things, and it could be temporary. Let him finish.”
Mulder settled back against the pillows, closed his eyes and nodded.
“Okay, Mulder, I’m just going to ask you some questions and ask you to perform some simple tasks. Then we’ll be done and you can get some rest, okay?” Mulder nodded again.
“Do you know the date?”
The patient didn’t even open his eyes, but he did grin slightly. “It’s the day the Yankees start their march toward their 25th World Championship.”
The doctor looked at Scully, and she was smiling. “Excuse me?”
“October 23, 1999. Saturday, doc,” the patient answered.
“And where are you?”
“Unless you have privileges all over the place, I’ll guess I’m back at Georgetown Memorial. But I don’t know how I got here.”
“You wouldn’t, Mulder. You were completely out of it.” Leave it to Scully to ease his mind.
“I am going to name three objects, and I want you to repeat them back to me when I’m done. Apple, stethoscope, and…. Baseball.”
Mulder grinned at the last one. “Apple stethoscope baseball.”
“Good. Not count backwards from 100 by sevens.”
Mulder never once opened his eyes during this. “100, 93…” he paused for a moment. “86, 79, 72, 65.”
“Okay, that’s enough.”
“I’m much better at my six times tables.”
The doctor allowed a chuckle. “No, that was fine. Now tell me the three words I told you a moment ago.”
“Apple, stethoscope, baseball.”
“And what is this?” The doctor was pointing at his wrist.
Mulder finally had to open his eyes. “A watch. Nice one, too.”
“And this?” He pulled a pen from his pocket.
Mulder looked at it for a second, his face a blank. His eyes widened at his own failure to find the word immediately, then relaxed when it came to him. “Pen. It’s a pen.” He tried to deflect what had just happened by adding, “and with a watch like that you should be able to afford a nicer pen.” He closed his eyes wearily.
“Repeat after me. No ifs, ands, or buts.”
“No ifs, ands, or buts. And Who’s on first, What’s on second, and I dunno’s on third.”
“He’s tired,” he heard Scully tell the doctor.
“We’re almost done, Agent Mulder. Can you look at me, please?” Mulder opened his eyes, and the doctor held out a piece of paper. “Take this paper in your right hand, fold it, and place it on the table.”
Mulder took the paper with his right hand, and put it on the table, but he didn’t fold it. He looked up in time to see the alarm passing from partner to neurologist, but wasn’t sure why, and he didn’t comment. He was beginning to think he didn’t want to know. He looked at the doctor, who was holding another piece of paper in front of him, with writing on it. “CLOSE YOUR EYES,” it said, so he obliged. “Gladly,” he said as he slid them shut.
“Just two more, Mulder.” The doctor pushed the table up closer to the patient and held out a pen. “Can you write a sentence for me on that piece of paper?”
“What do you want me to write?”
Mulder took the pen and wrote “My head hurts.” The pen felt strange in his hand, but he didn’t say anything.
The doctor took the pen and drew two interlocking pentagons on the paper. “Copy that for me.”
Mulder did, and dropped the pen. “That’s two. You’re done. And what’s wrong.”
The doctor pocketed the pen and crumpled up the paper and threw it away before he spoke. “I’ve noted some slight weakness on your right side. Your balance on the right side seems to be affected as well. On the mental status exam you did quite well, but there was that one moment where a word was lost, and you missed a step when I gave you a series of verbal commands. Now, as your partner told you earlier--do remember what she told you earlier?”
Mulder nodded. “You don’t know what they did.”
The doctor nodded. “Right. There are indentations around the circumference of your skull, the same that are caused by a stereotactic frame, a device used for, among other things, keeping the skull stable during surgical procedures. There is what looks to be a large burr hole, Agent Mulder, In the back of your skull, just to the left of midline. This, coupled with the deficiencies noted on your right side, indicate that something was done in there. We did a CT scan last night when you arrived, but there was nothing remarkable on it--just as there was nothing remarkable on the scans done before you were taken.”
Mulder was tired, and in pain. “So what are you telling me.”
He heard the doctor sigh. “I don’t know. Obviously, you are in much better shape than you were the last time you were here.” He paused for a moment. “I’m concerned, about the deficits, as minor as they appear to be. They could be caused by swelling, or by an intracranial bleed. I’d like to repeat the CT scan, this time using a contrast medium to look for a bleed.”
Mulder sighed. “Now?”
“I know you are tired, but yes, now. If there is something going on, the sooner we find it, the better.”
“What time is it?”
Scully looked at her watch. “It’s almost 4, Mulder.”
“Just get me back here by 8. Game starts at 8. And can I get something for this headache?”
+ + + + +
Once more he heard her. Hushed, whispering. Not enough to bring him out from the comfortable zone he had finally arrived in. Not awake, not asleep. Somewhere in between, almost. The tests were done, his head didn’t hurt any more, he was curled comfortably on his right side. He body felt heavy; he felt. . . lethargic, and it was fine with him.
“I think he needs the sleep more than he needs dinner,” he heard Scully say.
He was inclined to agree.
+ + + + +
This time he awoke with a start. It was dark, and deadly quiet. His eyes found only the glow of various monitors surrounding his bed, but there was no sound at all. Deafening silence. He could not remember the last time he heard silence, and it was terrifying.
His attention was drawn by light coming in from the direction of the door. A nurse entered quickly and came to his bedside. “Mr. Mulder, are you okay?”
“Yeah, I think so.”
“We saw your heartrate increase on the monitor at the nurse’s station. What’s the problem.”
“Nothing. It’s, it’s too quiet.” He was beginning to calm down.
“It’s nine at night, Mr. Mulder.”
Nine? He’d slept for almost four hours. And, he suddenly realized he’d missed the beginning of the baseball game. “But there’s not even the beeping.” He nodded toward the heart monitor.
“Someone must have flipped the sound off. It doesn’t have to beep.”
Mulder nodded. “Where’s Scully?”
“Is that the woman who was here all day?”
“She went home. We all thought you’d sleep through the night. She said she’d be back first thing in the morning. But since you are up, we need to keep repeating a neuro check to make sure nothing changes.” She made Mulder repeat many of the tests Harriman had performed in the afternoon, but not all of them. Mulder had no idea how he did on them. He didn’t much care.
When she finished she pulled the blankets back up to his shoulders. “Now try to go back to sleep.”
Here was his chance. “Can you turn the TV on?”
“You need your sleep, Mr. Mulder.”
“I know. But it’s too quiet. That’s what woke me. I can’t sleep in quiet. I always sleep with the TV on.”
The nurse thought for a moment, and got the remote out of the drawer by the bed. “Five minutes,” she said as she turned it on. She was about to put the remote out of reach without any regard for what channel it was on, when he stopped her.
“Sports. I always put on sports.” Now he just had to pray that she hit the baseball game before hockey or something even worse.
She shot him an annoyed glance, and flipped the channel. Mulder settled back contentedly when he saw Yankees first baseman Tino Martinez stepping out of the batter’s box.
“Five minutes,” she reminded him as she left.
+ + + + +
The nurse turned off the TV for the fifth time in an hour. “Mr. Mulder, do I have to take this out of the room?” she asked, brandishing the remote.
“No,” he said defiantly. “I’d just get up and turn it on at the. . . at the. . .” he was gripped with a moment of panic when the word would not come to his lips. “TV.” It wasn’t the word he’d wanted. He knew that, but it would do.
“Look,” Mulder said, trying to win her favor. “I don’t know what you know about me. But I’ve been, I’ve been. . . .” He wasn’t a missing word, it was how to explain where he’d been these last weeks that stopped him. “I’ve been gone, out of it, for a long time. I just want,” he paused again, trying to articulate exactly what it is he wanted. “I just want to do something normal, like watch a game.”
“I am aware of your condition and your history, Mr. Mulder, and that is precisely why I must insist that the TV go off and you get your rest. There will be plenty more baseball games.”
“But it’s the Yankees. It’s the World Series,” he whined like a child fully aware he was losing an argument with his mother.
“I don’t know much about baseball, but I know the Yankees will be in the World Series again. There will be plenty more chances. But only if you get your rest.” She left, and she took the remote with her.
And the Yankees had been down 1-0, too.
+ + + + +
Mulder had finally resigned himself to his fate, hoping that he’d at least be able to catch highlights in the morning, when the door suddenly opened again.
“Are you awake Agent Mulder?” It was a different nurse.
“Yeah,” he replied sullenly. “Now what are you going to do to me?”
“Well, I do have some meds to give you, but I actually came to do this.” She pulled something from her pocket, pointed it at the spot where wall met ceiling, pushed a button, and the television sprang to life. She adjusted the volume so it was barely audible, then handed the remote to her patient.
“I don’t understand,” Mulder said.
The nurse smiled. “Born and bred in Yonkers, New York. Raised on a diet of peanuts and Yankee Franks. Maureen was bitching about you at the desk, so I offered to trade for you. I split time between here and the neuro psych unit,” she continued. “I remember how you were a week ago, and I think you’re right. You deserve all the simple pleasures you want.” She was injecting something into his IV as she spoke.
Mulder watched the drug enter the tubing. “What’s that?”
“It’s a little Mannitol. It reduces swelling in the brain. It’s a precaution. You’re getting Tegretol, too. That’s an anti-seizure med. Also a precaution, until they figure out what’s going on.” She looked up at the TV. “Hey, Jeter got a hit. Tie game. He’s always the guy who gets something started.”
Mulder knew she was deflecting attention away from more questions about his physical condition, and he appreciated the gesture. He looked at the screen. “Bet he’s your favorite player,” he said.
The nurse looked at him sternly. “Why would you say that?” she asked suspiciously.
“Young, cute, butt that actually looks good in pinstripes.”
“Why Agent Mulder! I never would have pegged you as sexist!”
Mulder smiled at her. “You’re right. Sorry.”
“As a matter of fact, he is my favorite Yankee. But because of his attitude, because he always tries to improve his play, because of his natural leadership, because he’s a damn good shortstop.” She paused, giving the impression that she was finished, then smiled broadly and added “and because he’s got a nice ass.” Mulder let out a surprised laugh. “I’ll let you leave it on, but don’t fight to stay awake, okay? And don’t get too worked up, either.” She motioned toward the heart monitor. “You’re being watched. I’ll be in for updates as often as I can.”
She was almost to the door when Mulder stopped her with a question. “What’s your name?”
“Donna,” she said as she headed out the door.
+ + + + +
He wasn’t asleep. He was more or less pretending. His head was pounding again, and he found that if he lay quietly, with his eyes closed, and didn’t move, it wasn’t so bad. He’d kept up the pretense through checks of his vital signs, through IV solution replacement.
But when he heard the unmistakable click of Scully’s ridiculously high heels, he reached his first dilemma. He really was tired. He really could go back to sleep, he thought, if he gave himself half a chance.
“Why is he still asleep?” He hadn’t realized someone else was in the room with his partner.
“Dr. Harriman has a busy day planned for him, and he was up quite late last night. We just decided to let him be.” Busy day? Mulder wondered idly what that meant for a second, but his head pounded worse when he tried to think, so he tried not to.
“I don’t understand, why was he up late? Was he ill?”
Mulder heard the nurse’s smile in her voice. “No, nothing like that. The chart notes make reference to a baseball game.”
“Oh, right. I can’t believe he stayed awake.” Mulder heard the door open and shut, and assumed it had signaled the nurse’s departure. The coast was clear.
“Yanks won, Scully” he said quietly without opening his eyes.
“How long have you been awake?”
“But the nurse told me you’ve been sleeping all morning.”
He dared open his eyes, managing only a squint. “Nope. Can you turn off some lights?”
“What’s the matter?”
When his request wasn’t immediately granted, Mulder covered his eyes. “Headache.”
“Same as yesterday?”
Scully approached the bed quickly, and pulled her partner’s hand away from his face. “Look at me, Mulder. Look me in the eyes.”
He did, and when she finally averted her gaze, he repeated the request. “The light hurts, Scully. Can you turn it off?”
She turned them off. “Is it that bad, Mulder?”
Suddenly, it was. “Yeah.”
“I’m gonna go put a call in to Dr. Harriman, Mulder. It should be getting better, not worse.” She left the room.
+ + + + +
By the time the doctor finally appeared, forty minutes later, Mulder was in agony. He’d been given the analgesics that were ordered for headache pain, but they hadn’t touched it. At his insistence the lights were off and the blinds were drawn, and still he hid his eyes with his hand.
He was just lying there, quiet and still and in darkness, trying to hold the pain at bay. Scully sat by his side, and had her hand resting over his, but she said and did nothing. She merely wanted him to know that she was still there.
The doctor entered and was clearly surprised by what he saw when he turned on the light. Mulder grimaced, but said nothing. His color was bad, there was a thin sheen of sweat on his face.
“What brought this on,” Harriman wondered aloud.
Scully spoke in hushed tones for her partner’s benefit. “We don’t know. He complained of a headache when I arrived about an hour ago, and it has been getting steadily worse.”
The doctor turned his attention to the patient. “Mulder, is it anything like what you were feeling last week?”
“No. No voices. It just hurts.”
“Where? Anywhere specifically in your head?”
“No. Everywhere. I don’t feel good.”
“I need you to open your eyes for me.” Mulder did and immediately regretted it when they were assaulted by the doctor’s small flashlight.
“Are you experiencing anything else? Any weakness, tingling, loss of sensation?”
“Noooo,” Mulder pleaded. “It just hurts. I’m gonna. I think…” Before he could finish the thought, Mulder vomited. On himself, on his bed, on the doctor. He just leaned forward and up it came. The doctor leapt back, and missed most of the fallout. When Mulder was done he just slumped back against the bed, too tired and in too much pain to care.
“We need to do another CT scan,” the doctor decided.
+ + + + +
Having his head strapped to the table for the scan was actually a relief for Mulder. The less he moved his head, the less it hurt. Being strapped down gave him one less thing to worry about.
Scully had come with him this time, an indication to Mulder that she was really worried. He’d heard her whisper “bleed” to the doctor, so he was fairly certain they thought he was bleeding in his head. What was causing it was the least of his worries. He just wanted the pain to stop.
He cursed the doctor for holding off on shooting him full of pain meds. No, actually, he cursed himself. The doctor had offered to load him up, and like an asshole he’d opted to try a lower dose so as not to be knocked out. And when Scully tried to talk him out of it, he’d only become more resolute. But it had been so long since he’d been able to participate in his medical care, he wanted to be the one making the decisions--even the wrong ones.
He listened to the persistent whir of the machine, and tried to let the sound comfort him. It didn’t work.
+ + + + +
He was back in his room, in his freshly cleaned and changed bed, and he felt somewhat human again. His head still hurt, but it was just a bad headache, the kind he’d normally walk around with for hours before finally taking aspirin. They’d given him something for nausea, too, he knew. He’d gotten a veritable pharmacy of drugs already today.
He looked over at Scully, who was studying the floor. She hadn’t left his side, but they’d long ago run out of things to say. It wasn’t a situation for small talk, or for catching up on what he’d missed. He settled his gaze on her, and watched until she felt him and looked up.
She smiled slightly. Wearily. She was worried; he could tell. “How’s your head?” she asked.
“Why don’t you try to get some sleep. I’ll wake you when the doctor comes in.”
He turned on his side, facing her, and closed his eyes. But he was fairly certain sleep would not come.
+ + + + +
He might have slept for a minute, but he was awake when he heard the door open. He opened his eyes immediately, and could tell by the look on Scully’s face that the doctor was coming in, so he turned onto his back as she was standing up. The verdict was in.
“Well?” his partner asked.
The doctor allowed his face to fall into a look of utter confusion. “I’ve had three colleagues look at all the scans. From when he first came here weeks ago up to this morning. It’s not just me. None of us see anything. They all look virtually identical. The one we took today looks exactly like the one we took yesterday. Same with the MRIs.”
“So why does my head still. . . .” He paused, the word that had been on the tip of his tongue suddenly gone and forgotten; or never actually there at all. He allowed his momentary frustration to show on his face, and rephrased the question. “Why is it pounding?”
“Why was your temporal lobe going haywire before, Agent Mulder? We just don’t know. Symptoms. It’s all symptoms and we can’t find a cause. There is one more test, one more thing to look at, though, that might explain the headache. Your white blood cell count is normal, but it could be some sort of infection starting in your brain. Or there could be an increase in the amount of cerebrospinal fluid surrounding your brain causing pressure.”
“A lumbar puncture,” Scully said matter-of-factly.
“Exactly. We can get a measure of the pressure and see if we need to insert an ICP monitor, and we can test the fluid and see what we find.”
“When?” Mulder asked.
“We can do it right now, right here.”
Suddenly Mulder remembered. “You did one of these before, didn’t you?”
The doctor was again surprised. “Why yes, several weeks ago. We thought you were. . .”
Before he could finish, Mulder responded. “I wasn’t. And it hurt.”
“We’ll make sure you’re good and numb this time. You couldn’t tell us that other time. I’ll be right back and we can get started.” He left.
“So, you think they’ll find anything, Scully?”
“I don’t know. But they have to check everything, Mulder, just to be sure.”
+ + + + +
Mulder was on his left side. The doctor and nurse--and Scully--had positioned him for the test, so he was practically curled in the fetal position, with his spine practically at the edge of his bed. He could hear the activity behind him, but had been admonished not to move, so he didn’t.
“What are they doing, Scully?” he asked. He didn’t look at her, because he’d been told to keep his chin against his chest, so that’s what he’d be looking at if his eyes were open.
“They’re about to start, Mulder. Just relax.”
“Okay, Mulder,” the doctor said from behind him, “I’m going to give you two shots of a local anesthetic. Here comes the first one.” Mulder felt the needle prick, but it didn’t hurt much at all.
The doctor waited a moment, and then spoke again. “This second one will be deeper. It might be a little more uncomfortable.” Mulder gasped when the needle hit its mark, but he didn’t move, and after a moment Harriman was poking at a very numb spot on his patient’s spine.
“Okay, we’re going to start now. You will feel pressure, but you shouldn’t feel any pain. Let me know if you do, okay?”
Mulder just nodded and took a deep breath. He heard Scully say “okay” to the doctor. She’d seen him nod, but the doctor obviously had not. He just wanted it to be over. He could feel the needle entering his body, and he imagined that he felt it enter his spine.
Suddenly Scully was talking to him. “Breathe, Mulder. You’re holding your breath.”
What she didn’t know, couldn’t see, was that his eyes and teeth were clenched shut in apprehension. He let a breath out between his teeth and inhaled, following her orders. He could hear the sounds of the various instruments being used behind him.
“Pressure’s normal, fluid is clear,” the doctor said. He sounded relieved.
“That’s good, Mulder,” Scully told him. He nodded slightly again, still tense and waiting for it to be over.
A couple of minutes later it was over. Mulder felt the doctor remove the needle, the bandage go into place over the spot, and he heard the instruments being moved away from his bedside. “All done. We need you to lie flat on your back for at least three hours now. Otherwise, ironically, you might get what is called a spinal headache. You can roll onto your back now.” Mulder did and draped his arm over his eyes as he listened to the doctor. “I’ll put a red flag on the samples, get them tested immediately. Head still hurt?” Mulder nodded.
“Let’s get you something stronger, then. Maybe you can sleep. Don’t raise the head of your bed, though,” Harriman said as he left.
+ + + + +
He heard her, vaguely. And he felt her shaking him. Just not enough to actually do anything about it. If he ignored her maybe she’d stop and go away. He was tired; he wanted to sleep.
But then another voice cut through the gauze enshrouding his mind, a more persistent, authoritative voice.
“WAKE UP!” Scully said sharply. He allowed his eyes to flutter open. When they finally focused he saw both Scully and a nurse looking down at him, clearly relieved.
“You gave us a little scare, there,” the nurse scolded. “Can you tell me your name?”
“You woke me up to ask me my name?”
Mulder didn’t get it. He just wanted to go back to sleep. “Mulder,” he offered tiredly.
“Oh no you don’t,” he said. He heard Scully chuckle, and knew she understood.
“What day is it, Mulder?” the nurse asked.
“How long have I been asleep?” he countered.
“It’s.” He stopped when he realized the word was gone. Again. It was the day after Saturday, but he knew he couldn’t say that. This was one time he couldn’t compensate with a different word. He closed his eyes and shook his head.
“That’s okay, Mulder. Do you know where you are?”
“Georgetown Memorial.” Suddenly the word returned. “It’s Sunday,” he said. He opened his eyes and the nurse was smiling.
“Right. Squeeze my hands for me?” she placed hers within his and he squeezed.
“Okay, good. Go back to sleep.”
Mulder closed his eyes, more than willing to oblige.
+ + + + +
When he woke he was flat on his back, without even a pillow under his head. It took him a moment to remember why, but he finally did and opened his eyes. He was looking straight up at the ceiling.
“You’re awake.” He turned his head toward Scully’s voice, and found her smiling at him. “How do you feel?”
How did he feel? His back was sore, but that was about it. There were only the tiniest vestiges of his headache left; just a slight dull ache. A reminder. “Pretty good,” he decided.
“How’s your head?”
“Fine. How long have I been out?”
Her smile widened. “Not counting when they woke you to check on you, six hours. It’s four in the afternoon.”
He didn’t remember anyone waking him. “Wow. What did they give me?” he mused. “Did they find anything in the. . . .” Once more a word was lost. He wondered at what point this was going to stop. He gave up his struggle to finish the sentence after only a moment, and just pointed at his back.
“Results aren’t back yet. At least they weren’t the last time I checked.”
Mulder nodded. “Can I sit up now?”
Scully nodded and raised the head of the bed slightly. “Just a little, Mulder. The flatter you stay the better right now.”
“It’s almost time for dinner.”
Just then the door opened and a nurse popped her head in, but didn’t enter. “Dr. Scully, Dr. Harriman just called. CSF was negative.” Then she saw Mulder awake and came in. “Mornin’ sleepyhead,” she said to him kindly.
Mulder let out an exasperated breath. “Hardly morning, Donna. Just four hours to game time.”
The nurse smiled. “True. But I’m getting heat, Mulder. Seems some people think your bad day was caused by your late night. How’s your head now?” She was checking his vitals.
“It’s fine.” He turned to Scully. “Donna here is the only other Yankees fan in this whole Godforsaken place, and she’s my nurse,” he said happily. He turned back to the nurse. “It wasn’t your fault. I don’t think the two had anything to do with each other.”
Donna smiled. “You’re just saying that because there’s another game tonight.” She unwrapped the BP cuff from his arm. “We’ll see what we can do,” she said with a wink as she left.
+ + + + +
“I remember when Sunday games were played during the day,” Mulder said.
“Well,” Scully countered, “If this game had been during the day today, you’d have slept through it.”
“True.” He was staring up at the set, watching the “Team of the Century” being introduced. “This is just some lameass marketing stunt, but it’s really cool that all these players are in one place,” he told his partner.
“Uh huh.” Scully was trying desperately not to sound as bored as she actually was.
“Ted Williams, Scully. Probably the greatest hitter in the history of the game. And that’s saying something coming from a Yankees fan.”
God, she didn’t understand anything. “Because he played for the Red Sox, Scully. God, my dad loved Ted Williams.”
“Oh. . . . Mulder, I know about that rivalry. What’s a Massachusetts boy like you doing a Yankees fan?”
Mulder smiled at the memory. “When I was 14, in the summer of 1976, I was at war with my dad. The quickest way I could come up with to hurt him was to change my allegiance from his Sox to the Yankees. He’d challenge me, to see if I really was following the Yankees, so I had to check the box scores. Then they made it to the World Series right around my 15th birthday. They lost, but they won the next two years, and before I knew it, I was a fan for real.”
Scully nodded, and muted the sound on the TV. The team thing had obviously finished. Mulder frowned at her action, but didn’t say anything. His partner stood up.
“Okay, Mulder, it’s 8 o’clock and I’m going to go home now. Please promise me that you won’t stay up all night watching baseball. Your problems today may have been caused by overstimulation, There’s no way of knowing. Best to be careful.”
“But I’ve been sleeping all day, Scully. I’m not tired.” He looked up at the set. “Pete Rose, Scully, They’re interviewing Pete Rose. Turn on the sound!”
Scully didn’t. “I’m serious, Mulder. You’ve got to rest and take it easy. Please, promise.”
Mulder was getting annoyed at her, agitated that she wouldn’t release her hold on the remote. He looked helplessly at the set as the interview ended, and a commercial began, freeing him to turn his attention back to her. “Yeah, yeah, okay. I will. Can you turn the sound on now?”
He was like a little boy. Scully smiled and turned the sound on. She handed the remote to him with one hand, and with the other she patted the top of his head. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Mulder. I have to go to the office, but I’ll be by in the morning some time. Be good, be well.”
+ + + + +
“What can I do for you, Mr. Mulder?”
“She’s in with another patient. Is something the matter? Why did you call?”
“Nothing. I’m okay.”
The nurse glanced up at the television. “It’s late, Mr. Mulder.”
She wasn’t gonna pull that crap on him. “It’s 8:30,” he replied.
“Almost 9. You need your rest. I don’t understand why they have TVs on this ward at all.” She flipped off the TV at the set. “Get some sleep,” she said, and she left.
Well, fuck, that hadn’t worked as he’d planned. He figured Donna would come when he called, and he could give her an update. Now he was even afraid to turn it back on.
A minute later the door opened a crack, and Donna slid through the opening, as if she was sneaking in. He knew she had every right to be in here, so he knew she was doing it for his amusement.
“You called?” she said secretively.
He smiled and flipped on the TV. “Yanks scored three in the first. Five hits, all singles. Including your little shortstop.”
She actually ventured to take a seat. “I told you. He’s always in the middle of it when something good happens.”
Mulder nodded. “They’re lighting that Millwood kid up.” A thought passed through his mind and he shook his head.
“What?” Donna asked.
“I was just thinking. I can’t seem to remember the days of the week, but I know the Yankee lineup from every year since 1976, and I know the ERA of a Braves pitcher I’ve never seen pitch before.”
The nurse stood, smiled at him warmly, and then rested her hand on the top of his head for a moment, much like Scully had done earlier. “That’s the human brain for you. It’ll come back. I’d bet on it. Don’t worry.” She looked at her watch. “Hey, it’s my dinner hour. Would you mind some company?”
+ + + + +
Donna looked at her watch again. Her 45 minutes were up, her patient was asleep, and their team was up 5-0 after just three innings. With Cone on the mound, she knew they had this one. Mulder did, too, obviously, because he’d turned on his side and drifted off during the space of one commercial break.
She contemplated for a moment, then decided, and turned off the TV. But she left the control on the bed beside him in case he woke up.
+ + + + +
“Come on. Open your eyes for me.”
Mulder stirred, and slowly woke up. “I hate the way you do this,” he mumbled.
Donna chuckled. “I know. It’s a form of torture, but a necessary one.”
“Name rank and serial number?”
She chuckled again. “Uh huh.”
“Mulder, Fox. Special Agent. Badge number JTT” She cut him off.
Mulder sighed loudly. “It’s probably Monday by now, and it’s still this same damn hospital.”
“We are wasting our time with you. Just go back to sleep,” Donna suggested.
“How’d we do?”
“Knew it,” Mulder said as he rolled over and went back to sleep.
+ + + + +
“This is a waste of time,” Mulder told the woman. “Just get me a New York Times and I’ll show you.”
The woman smiled indulgently. “Humor me,” she said, and she turned to the next flashcard.
“House. I’ve been reading since I was three.” She flipped to the next card.
“Christmas. I’ve even read War and Peace.”
“Believe. The whole thing, not just the Cliff’s Notes.”
The therapist was smiling at his commentary as she flipped each card. “Okay, now read the word and then use it in a sentence for me.” She held up a new card.
“Candle. There were too many candles on my last birthday cake for me to be playing with flash cards now. How’s that?”
The woman was trying not to laugh. “Very good. Next.”
“Watch. Would you like the noun or the verb? Perhaps both. The patient watched his watch, waiting for the stupid test to finish.”
+ + + + +
“How’d it go?” Scully asked when she entered the room and found the speech pathologist packing her cards away.
“Not bad,” the woman said brightly.
“Not good,” Mulder weighed in sullenly.
“Just the slightest touch of aphasia. Trouble articulating the names of objects. Nothing that would really affect him.” She turned back to her patient. “Don’t get discouraged.” She picked up her supplies and approached Scully, who had remained in the doorway. “He’s a little bummed; frustrated,” she explained.
Scully nodded. “He prides himself on being extremely articulate.”
The therapist let out a slight breath of laughter. “He’s still more articulate than most of us.”
Scully approached her partner as the woman left. “You okay?” she asked simply.
“I look at something, I know what it is, and there’s no word for it. Then five minutes later, BAM! It comes to me. Volcano.”
“That’s good, though, Mulder. The words aren’t gone, they’re just misplaced.” She was trying to make light of it. “How’s your head today.”
Mulder refused to be comforted. “Fine.”
“Nothing a couple of Tylenol didn’t cure.”
“That’s good. Hey, your Yankees won.”
“I know. I fell asleep, though.” He was clearly in a bad mood.
Scully smiled. “And you said you weren’t tired. What else is planned for you today, do you know?”
Mulder nodded, studying his hands as they strangled a piece of his blanket. “Physical and Occupational therapy. See what else I can’t do.”
Scully freed one hand from the blanket and took it solemnly in hers. “Mulder, look. When you consider what could have happened. What they could have done to you, or even how you were before, you should be thrilled. If forgetting a word for five minutes, and maybe having a little weakness on one side is the price you have to pay, it’s a small one. Just consider the alternatives for a moment.”
She paused, considered saying something, started to, stopped herself, and then finally decided to continue.
“When you woke up, we didn’t know. We weren’t sure you’d be you. Do you know what I mean? But you are you, Mulder. All the things that make you who you are--your wit, your sarcasm, your intelligence, your entire personality--it’s all there. You’re back, and you’re gonna be okay. You’re gonna be great, even if you can’t remember the word volcano.”
Mulder raised his eyes to look at her finally, and was surprised to see her close to tears. She was right, she was always right, and he gave her hand a squeeze.
+ + + + +
“I was expecting worse,” the physical therapist said as he was removing the electrodes from the muscles on Mulder’s legs. “I know we didn’t get a reading yesterday, but based on Dr. Harriman’s note, I was expecting a much bigger discrepancy between your right and left sides.”
Mulder was seated on the padded exercise table. All he’d done was contract the muscles in his legs while those things were attached. “Meaning?”
The therapist smiled. “Meaning I don’t think we’re going to be spending a whole lot of time together. Want to try walking?”
The man was helping Mulder transfer from table to wheelchair. “Try? I’m pretty sure I remember what to do.”
The therapist rolled him over to a set of parallel bars. “I’m sure you do. But you do have some weakness on your right side, and you do have some problems with balance. You may have to concentrate on what you are doing for a bit. Come on, Up.” He stood Mulder at the beginning of the bars. “I’ll be right beside you. Try to walk the length without holding the bars, but they are there if you feel dizzy or weak. Use them if you need to.”
Mulder looked at the man for a moment, hating the parental tone in his voice. He looked down at his feet, and took a step. The man stopped him immediately. “Do you look at your feet when you walk?” he asked.
“You told me to concentrate on what I was doing.”
“Look where you are going.”
Mulder turned his head defiantly, looked straight ahead, and walked the length of the bars. He got to the end, and only then grabbed on.
“Great,” the therapist said. “How did that feel.”
“What did you notice.”
“What do you mean?”
“It wasn’t as automatic as it always has been, was it.”
How did he know that? “No. I was, I was aware of picking up my right leg every time I did.”
The man nodded. “And you didn’t pick it up as high as the other, either. But you did remarkably well. You supported your weight on your right side just fine. Now turn around and go back.”
Mulder did it four more times, each time more confidently. Finally the therapist stopped him. “Okay, great. Now this time, I want you to hold your hands over the bars,” he placed his patient’s hands just over them, but not touching, “and walk the length with your eyes closed. I’ll be right beside you.”
Mulder took a deep breath. He remembered what had happened when he closed his eyes a couple of days ago. But he closed them, and took a step. He got about halfway when he felt unsteady. He placed his open palms down on the top of the bars for a second to steady himself, never opening his eyes, and then continued to the end. When he got there he grabbed the bars and allowed his body to slump somewhat. “Shit,” he muttered.
“No, Mulder, it’s okay. You didn’t actually lose balance, you just felt like you did. Your gait remained true.”
He looked at the man for a moment. “If you feel off-balance, you’re off-balance. Whether you actually are or not.”
“No, it’s just a matter of confidence. You’ve been through a lot. Come on, enough. Let’s go see how your fine motor control is. You’re not too tired, are you?”
+ + + + +
The quiet ‘click’ of the door closing woke Mulder from his nap. He waited a minute, and when no one tried to wake him, and no one was fussing with his IV, he figured it had to be Scully, so he opened his eyes.
He was wrong. He pushed himself up on one elbow as the woman quickly approached him, and enveloped him in a hug.
“Mom,” he uttered into her shoulder.
“Fox. I can’t believe it. I was so, I was so afraid, Fox.”
He hugged her back. “It’s okay. It’s okay, mom. I’m fine.”
She let him go and gently caressed the side of his face. “I didn’t know what to do. They said you were. They said you were. . . .” Her face collapsed, unable to say the word.
“Dying, mom. I was. You did the right thing.”
Her shock registered in her eyes. “You know?”
He nodded. “Scully told me. I would have died, mom. You did the right thing. I’m grateful.”
He watched as his mother rebuilt her composure--the process clearly showing on her features. Close her eyes, take a deep breath, set her lips, open her eyes. He’d watched her do this all his life. Confession avoided, crisis averted, all forgiven, business as usual.
“How are you, Fox?” she asked succinctly. This was more like it.
“I’m good. Better.”
“Did I wake you?”
“It’s okay. I sleep a lot.”
“You must need it then. Go back to sleep.” She reached out and touched his face one more time. The tenderness in her touch was not reflected on her face.
He watched her sit down in the chair by his bedside, and placidly settle her gaze on him. He put his head back on his pillows, still looking back at her. But he knew there would be no more conversation between them this time, so after a moment he closed his eyes.
+ + + + +
When he opened them again, Scully was sitting in his mother’s place.
“Where’s my mom?” he asked sleepily.
“Yeah,” he said through a yawn. “She was here earlier. What time is it?”
“It’s almost five. I didn’t see her, Mulder, I’m sorry.”
“She must have just left.”
Scully shrugged. “Did you two talk?”
He smiled wryly. “For us? Yeah, you could say so.”
“Did she shed any light on what happened?”
“No, Scully. She doesn’t know. I’m sure she doesn’t know what happened any more than we do.”
“But she made a deal with the devil, Mulder.”
“Yeah,” he agreed. “And lucky for me, too.”
Scully understood that for what it was--an indication that this conversation was over. She’d never understand Mulder’s relationship with his mother, so it wasn’t worth the effort. It was time to change the subject.
“I read your therapy notes while you were asleep.”
“Yeah?” Mulder tried to sound disinterested.
“Yeah. They’re good, Mulder. Particularly the physical therapy. The therapist thinks it’s all temporary.”
“I know. He told me. That occupational therapy was a disaster, though.”
“How do you mean?”
“Scully, I could tell him, down to the minutest detail, the steps involved in cleaning my weapon. Every detail, without a pause. Then he put a shoe in front of me, and I couldn’t tie it.”
“Yes you could.”
He cocked his head and looked at her. “The notes are that detailed? Okay, I could. But I had to think about it, Scully. I had to think about every step involved in tying a damn shoe.”
Scully got up and sat on the edge of his bed. “It doesn’t matter, Mulder. How can I get you to understand this? It’s not that these things are gone from your brain. They’re there. I wasn’t kidding earlier when I said they were misplaced. They are. But it’s all still in there.”
“So you are saying they scrambled my brain?”
His partner allowed a smile. “I guess so. But even if these things were gone, they are incredibly minor, things you can relearn in minutes.”
“That’s not what the speech pathologist said, Scully. She said I might search for these words forever; over and over.”
He saw her shaking her head. “What day was it yesterday?”
“Sunday,” he said without hesitation.
“You didn’t know that yesterday. She’s used to working with people who have had strokes, people whose CAT scans you can look at and say ‘There, that’s where the injury was.’ That doesn’t apply here. None of the rules apply here. I think . . . what I think is happening to you is that every time you find a word or something that’s been misplaced, you are putting it back where it belongs. It might take some time, Mulder, but these things will come back.” She stuck her hand in the pocket of her jacket and pulled something out. “What’s this?”
“A pen,” he said with a smile. “I’m mobile now, Scully. Let’s go for a walk.”
+ + + + +
Mulder watched placidly as Donna injected yet another something into his IV.
“Mannitol, or Tegretol?”
"You’re off the Mannitol, smartypants. And you’re on a tapering dose of Tegretol. Look forward to an EEG tomorrow.”
Mulder looked at the nurse and saw her staring at him with an amazed look in her eyes. “What?”
She shook her head to clear it. “I was just remembering what you looked like before. It’s miraculous, the improvement.”
“You don’t have to tell me,” he agreed.
“Were you really aware of everything that was going on?”
He shrugged. “Sometimes,” he lied.
The nurse shuddered at the thought. “Must have been terrifying.” She looked at her patient and he was staring in the other direction, clearly uncomfortable. “I’m sorry. You probably don’t want to talk about it.”
Mulder shook his head. “I want to forget about it. What I want to talk about is baseball.” He turned back to face her after he’d put the gleam back in his eyes.
Donna laughed. “Travel day, Mulder!”
“I know. But I missed the end of the season. People weren’t talking baseball around me, that’s for sure. I don’t even know who we played in the playoffs.”
“Texas and Boston.”
“Oh, Fuck, we played Boston to get to the Series and I missed it?”
Donna looked at her watch. “Tell you what. I’ll spend dinner with you again. Get you all caught up. How’s that?”
“What would I do without you?” Mulder asked.
“Better figure it out. Wednesday’s my day off!”
As soon as the nurse left, Mulder picked up his phone and dialed.
“Frohike? It’s Mulder. . . . . Yeah, yeah, it’s really me. I’m fine. . . . No, don’t. Okay, put me on speaker. Hi guys. . . . She said what? Bullshit, guys. You can come visit. Look, I need a . . . .” Fuck, the word was gone, and he’d just said he was fine. He knew he’d have to get better at compensating if he didn’t want people to notice. “I need you guys to do something for me. I need a couple of World Series tickets. For Wednesday. No, not for me. I’m not that nuts. They’re a thank-you for someone. I know you can get them. I don’t care where they are; they can suck. Just a pair of tickets.” Mulder listened to the three men bicker over the best way to get what he asked for, and just smiled. It was good to be back.
+ + + + +
Mulder ran his hands through the hair on the top of his head. “Christ, I can’t believe I missed it. They booed him that badly?”
Donna nodded solemnly. “I didn’t feel too bad, though. I can’t stand Clemens, either. It was a bad trade.”
“Yeah, Wells had, I dunno, he had style”
“He’s a better big game pitcher.”
Mulder nodded his agreement. “And there was a near riot at Fenway. Wild.”
“Well, I don’t know that it was that bad. But it was ugly for a bit. I couldn’t believe it.”
“Wished I coulda seen it.”
“Well, next time.” She smiled. “If not for that damn Pedro Martinez, we’d be undefeated in the playoffs so far.”
“Ah, but he is the best. Amazing season. I remember that game he pitched. What was it? Seventeen strikeouts? At Yankee Stadium? All you can do is tip your cap and say ‘too good.’”
“I suppose so. God, I miss going to the Stadium. I go see them play Baltimore a couple of times a year, but that fake old stadium. It’s nice and all that, but it’s not Yankee Stadium. You can’t make something historic just by making it look old-fashioned.”
“When’s the last time you went?” Mulder asked.
“It’s been years. I only have an aunt up there any more. I don’t get up there much at all.”
“You should go back,” Mulder suggested with a smile. “Soon.”
The phone rang, and the nurse bid goodbye and left as he answered it.
“Yeah? . . . I knew you could. Left field bleachers? That’s okay. I told you, doesn’t matter. Might even be better. I need one of you to drop them off tomorrow. Has to be before, like, three, okay? Thanks, guys. I owe you.”
+ + + + +
Mulder was feeling rather optimistic as he was wheeled back to his room. The physical therapy session had gone particularly well. His limbs felt almost fine; normal. He had a cane lying across his lap; the therapist suggested he carry it with him for a while, to steady himself in case he lost his balance. He didn’t see that happening, but he’d taken it anyway.
The orderly opened the door to his room and Mulder wheeled himself through, only to find Frohike and Byers waiting for him. He couldn’t help but grin. It had been a long time.
He particularly enjoyed Frohike’s reaction. He looked like a puppy seeing his master after he’d been gone at work all day. Byers just let his face spread into a warm smile. Mulder suddenly realized he was sitting in a wheelchair, and didn’t want the guys to get the wrong impression. He stood up easily, unhooked his IV from the stand on the chair, and walked back to his bed, hooking the cane on the back of the chair as he passed. He was showing off.
“Hey guys,” he said casually. He hooked the bag onto the stand by the bed, climbed up and sat casually, Indian-style, in the middle. “How ya doin’?”
He wasn’t prepared for Frohike to throw a bear hug around him, and he laughed as his friend did so. “Down, boy,” he said as the man finally let go.
“Mulder, man, it’s a freakin’ miracle!” Frohike exclaimed. “They wouldn’t let us see you, of course, but we checked. We checked up on you. You were in a bad way, and now look at you!”
Mulder merely arched his eyebrows. “I’m cured. Langly wouldn’t come, huh?”
Byers shook his head. “You know how he is about hospitals. He said to tell you he’d drop by when you got out.”
Mulder nodded. He understood. He actually felt quite similarly about hospitals.
“But man, he’s gonna wish he’d seen this!” Fro added. “How you doin’?”
“Great. You got the tickets?”
Byers pulled an envelope from the inside pocket of his jacket, and handed it to Mulder. The man in the bed pulled them out and looked at them. “Section 51, huh? Row R? Can’t say I know where that is. But it doesn’t matter. What do I owe you guys?”
Byers shook his head, but Frohike spoke. “Nothing. Consider it our ‘Welcome back to the world of the living’ gift. Who are they for?”
Mulder continued to inspect the tickets, but smiled at the name his friend gave the gesture. “A nurse here. Made the last few days bearable. Let me watch the games.” He looked up at his friends again. “I know you’re Orioles fans, but you guys didn’t by any chance tape the Boston series, did you?”
They both shook their heads. “But I can track it down for you if you want, Mulder,” Frohike offered.
“No, it’s okay. Ancient history by now. Just a thought.”
Ever pragmatic, Byers turned the conversation to more serious matters. “So physically, you’re fine Mulder? That’s amazing.”
Mulder thought for a moment, wondering how much he wanted to tell them. “For the most part, yeah.” He reached up and touched the back of his head, over where he knew the incision was located. “They apparently didn’t do too much damage. Excedrin headache, and I forget some things every once in a while. Words. That’s about it.”
“Freakin’ incredible,” Frohike mumbled.
Mulder took his hand down. “Yeah.” He unfolded his legs, stretched them out in front of himself, and lay back against the pillows. He still got tired; his showing off could only last so long, it seemed. Byers saw it immediately.
“You’re tired,” he proclaimed. “We should go.”
“No,” Mulder protested halfheartedly. “It’s just that I was at physical therapy for an hour. Stamina. That’s something I need to work on. You can stay.”
Byers smiled again. “It’s no wonder you’re tired after everything you’ve been through. We’ll go. Call us when you get home, we’ll come over and play poker or something. Hope your friend likes the tickets.” The bearded man was shooing Frohike toward the door as he spoke.
“Thanks again, guys,” Mulder said as a farewell. As he was allowing his eyes to shut he heard Frohike mutter “a freakin’ miracle” one more time before the door closed, and he smiled.
+ + + + +
As was becoming customary, Mulder awoke from a nap to the sound of whispering. He slept so damn much he wondered why they even bothered. He knew both of these voices: his partner and his doctor.
“Speak up, kids, I can’t hear you,” he said without opening his eyes.
“Mulder, how often do you lie there awake and eavesdrop?” Scully’s voice was laden with good humor.
He opened his eyes. “Last time I checked, this was my room. Impossible for me to eavesdrop in my own room. If you want to keep secrets, talk out…” This was a new one. Lost it in mid-word. But he recovered quickly. “. . . there.” He motioned toward the door. He rolled onto his back and sat up. “What’s up.”
Scully smiled. “We’re making plans for your release tomorrow.”
He’d heard the rumor, but hadn’t let himself get too excited. “No shit.”
“No shit,” Dr. Harriman repeated. “We never found anything physically wrong with you anyway, your headaches are controllable with over-the-counter medication, the EEG we did this morning is normal, your neurological deficits are improving every day. There’s no reason for you to stay here any longer.” He was smiling.
Mulder took a deep breath. “Wow.” It seemed unreal almost. “There was a time,” he started. But then he decided not to finish. There was a time when they all thought he’d never go home. He didn’t need to say it out loud. He just shook his head.
“Yeah, I know,” Scully agreed.
“There will be conditions, Mulder,” the doctor continued. “I want you to continue with the physical and occupational therapy, and with the speech pathologist for a bit. A couple of times a week. I want to be sure that you continue to improve. I want see you for follow up CT scans and EEGs every two weeks for a while. We don’t know what caused this, we don’t know what made it go away. It could come back for all we know.”
“It won’t, but okay.” Mulder was sure it wouldn’t.
“And you have to rest. You see for yourself how much sleep you need. Don’t deprive yourself just because you are home. Take it easy. Stay home. Sleep. You’ve been through a lot.”
Mulder just nodded. He knew all this.
+ + + + +
Mulder waited for Donna’s first check on him after Scully left to spring his gift on her. He hadn’t told Scully about it, and didn’t plan to.
She came in the door and looked up at the TV. “How are we doing?”
“I’m doing great. The Yankees, however, are another story.”
“Why, what’s happening?” She was attaching a new sterile cap onto her aural thermometer as she asked. She went to stick is in Mulder’s ear, and he flinched and grimaced as she did so.
“Youch. Double, two runs in. That makes it 4-1 Braves and it’s only the 3rd.” Donna looked up at the TV.
“Pettitte still pitching?” She pulled the thermometer out when it beeped.
“Yeah, but not for long, I’d venture.”
“He’s my best friend’s favorite player. God knows why. Too inconsistent for me.” She looked at the reading on the thermometer, ejected the cap into the trash, and stuck the instrument back into her pocket.
She looked up at the TV again, just in time for one of the majestic overhead shots of the stadium from the Goodyear Blimp. “God, look at that place. That’s where baseball is meant to be played.”
Mulder actually squirmed with excitement. “What are you doing on your day off tomorrow, Donna?”
She looked at him, rather surprised that he was asking a personal question. “Nothing special. Why?”
“I have a suggestion.” He handed her the envelope.
Puzzled, Donna took it and stuck her hand inside. When she pulled the tickets out it took her a moment to realize what they were for, and her eyes went wide. “They’re not!”
Mulder chuckled. “They are. Crummy bleacher seats, and you have to see Clemens pitch, and from the looks of tonight it won’t be the deciding game, but they are.”
Donna was still staring dumbfounded at the tickets in her hand. “Where did you?” She looked up at him. “I can’t. I can’t accept these.”
“Sure you can.”
“But how?” She looked at the tickets again, and then at him. “Why?”
“Someone got them for me, and I can’t go. That’s a given.” He’d decided not to let her know he’d sought them out just for her. “And you were the first person I thought of.” He paused for a moment, composing his thoughts.
“If not for you, and them,” he looked up to the TV, where the Yankees were at bat, “I don’t know what I would have done this past week. I can’t tell you how important it’s been. Just to shoot the,” he realized the word wasn’t going to come, and let out a resigned half-laugh rather than get frustrated. “Just to talk about something mundane, normal, like baseball. Not brain surgery and cat scans and neuro deficits and what happened and who did it and blah blah blah. Just baseball. A very wise man once told me that baseball was the key to life. This week, it’s been the key to mine. It kept me sane. You kept me sane.”
He moved his gaze up from the tickets in Donna’s hand to her face. She was again looking at the pieces of paper in her hand, as if they were two diamonds. “Please take them. Please go. For me.”
She finally looked at him, her eyes glistening with unshed tears. “I don’t know what to say.” She suddenly shook herself. “What am I saying? Of course I know what to say! Yes, of course I’ll take them. Of course I’ll go. It’s the WORLD SERIES! I’m going to the World Series!”
She contained her excitement after a moment, and looked at him solemnly. “I think I need to hug you.” Mulder smiled and opened his arms. Their embrace was short, but heartfelt, and as they separated Mulder started to laugh. “What?” his nurse asked.
“Breeze,” he said as he shook his head. “Shoot the breeze.”
+ + + + +
Mulder opened the door to his room and peered out. He didn’t see her, so he approached the nurse’s station. The woman sitting there looked up. “What are you doing up?”
“I’m not sure. You need to get back to bed.” The woman stood up, prepared to walk him back to his room.
“I’m going. But send Donna to my room when you see her? It’s important.” He went back to his room and sat on the bed, staring up at the TV. He wondered what the heart monitor would be registering now if he was still hooked to it. What a game.
After a moment Donna opened the door. “What?”
“Tie game, Donna! Knobbie hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the 8th!”
“No way!” She entered the room and looked at the TV, needing to see the score for herself.
“Look, I gotta run, but keep me updated, okay? I’ll drop in.”
+ + + + +
Mulder watched the ball drop over the left-center fence, and let out a loud “YESSSS!!” of excitement. It was only after the exclamation had left his mouth that he remembered where he was.
Oh, what the hell. He didn’t care.
The door opened quickly and Donna entered excitedly. “They didn’t?” she asked.
“They did!” Mulder exclaimed. “Walk-off homer for Chad Curtis in the bottom of the tenth! Yanks up three games to none! You might be at the last game of the World Series tomorrow! Hell, if Clemens pitches like he’s supposed to, you’ll be at the last ballgame of the century!” Donna spun around and pumped her fist in excitement. She didn’t care if she made a fool of herself.
Then she remembered where she was, and regained her composure. She looked at him with excitement sparkling in her eyes. “You, sir, have to go to sleep now. You’re going home in the morning!”
Mulder smiled. “Yeah. A good day for both of us, huh?” He stuck his feet under his blankets and rested back on the pillows.
“Absolutely,” Donna said. She squeezed the top of his hand where it lay on his chest. “You keep getting better, understand?”
“Absolutely. Have fun tomorrow.” He was amazed at how quickly the rush of adrenalin was leaving him, and he was suddenly exhausted.
“Thank you, Mulder,” the nurse said when she got to the door.
“No, thank you.”
+ + + + +
This, he definitely would not miss. “Can’t you let it go, just this once? I’m going home,” he mumbled at the nurse who woke him to take his vitals.
“What time is it,” he asked.
“Little after six.”
He opened his eyes. “Couldn’t have waited an hour,” he observed sullenly. The nurse finished what she was doing and left, and Mulder suddenly realized that his head didn’t hurt. The slight headache he’d had since the whopper last Sunday was finally gone. He smiled at that, and then noticed the bag sitting in front of him on his tray table. It hadn’t been there when he fell asleep. He pulled the table toward him, and pulled off the note attached:
Too embarrassed to give this to you in person after the gift you gave me.
Every once in a
while a nurse meets a patient who reminds her why she got in the business in the first place.
Thank you for that. As for what’s in the bag, well, you need to keep your head warm. Call
it a good luck cap for now, call it a victory cap after tonight. I’ll be cheering for you.
Mulder opened the bag and pulled out a regulation Yankees cap with the World Series logo embroidered on the side, just like the players on the field were wearing. He tried it on, and it fit perfectly.
+ + + + +
Mulder checked his duffel bag one more time. The cap was safely tucked in the bottom. He hadn’t shown Scully, hadn’t told her. He didn’t know why.
“All set?” his partner asked with a smile.
He looked up at her and nodded. He picked up his cane and hitched it over his forearm. “I don’t think that’s how those are supposed to work, Mulder,” Scully admonished him. “Besides, you have to ride.”
“No, Scully, not this time. I’m walking out of here. I’ll sign something if I have to, but I’m walking.”
She smiled at him. “I don’t think that will be necessary. I understand. But I’m carrying the bag.” She held out her hand, and he gave it to her.
+ + + + +
Mulder looked up when he saw motion at the door. He was sitting on his bed, leaning against the headboard, with his knees bent up and his forearms resting on them.
“Game over?” she asked.
“Almost. Come on in.” Scully entered the room and perched herself next to him on the bed’s edge. He scooted over slightly to accommodate her, and she turned slightly, lifting one knee up so she, too, was facing the television.
“Yankees still winning?” she asked.
“Uh huh. Three more outs.” His attention was clearly on the game.
“And this is it? They win?”
He looked at her with a grin. “Yeah. This is it.”
They watched in silence as one out was made.
“It must be exciting to be there, huh?” Scully said. “Maybe you’ll get to go to the World Series some day.”
He looked at her for a second. “I sorta feel like I am there,” he offered cryptically. He looked back at the set. Two outs.
Scully started to say something, but her partner shushed her. She obliged, and they watched in silence as the third out was made and the Yankees piled on top of each other in one gigantic mass of happiness. Mulder reached around his partner’s shoulders and pulled her close.
“That’s it,” he said with a squeeze. “We win.”
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