Summary: Where might our different choices have taken us?
Fandom: The X-Files
Spoilers: all things
Title, Author and URL of original story: Relativity by vespertanmer
Notes: The title comes from a line in "Millennium". The song in the first part is Three Dog Night's "Joy to the World". There's some dialogue from "Biogenesis", "The Sixth Extinction", "The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati", and "all things". Thanks to zvi_likes_tv for looking it over.
It's an ouroboros ... The alchemists favored it. They believe that it represented all of existence.
She catches his eye from across the room. He's not sure why--petite, with bright red hair, she's not what he usually thinks of as his type. All the same, though, she's striking, and he finds his feet have moved him halfway to her before he'd even consciously decided to start walking.
She's looking at the crowded dance floor when he reaches her; when he pulls out a chair, sits down, and says, "Hello," her look at him is visibly startled. Looking at her close up, he thinks she's very pretty.
"I'm Fox Mulder," he continues, now that he has her attention. "I saw you sitting by yourself, and thought I'd come say hi."
She smiles at him, a big one with all her teeth, and pretty is transformed into beautiful. His breath catches, and he tries not to let it show. How can he find her so captivating before she's even spoken one word to him?
"Dana Scully," she replies, her voice low, smooth, and strong. "You're Samantha's brother, right? She's mentioned you a few times."
He glances at the dance floor himself, immediately locating his sister. She's incandescent in that white dress, her arms around her new husband and her eyes only on him. Mulder smiles to see her so happy, then he looks back at Dana. "All lies, I assure you."
"Oh?" She raises one eloquent, expressive eyebrow. "You mean you're not teaching psychology at Georgetown? She brags about you being a genius, you know."
He contrives to look surprised. "What do you know? She can tell the truth. I never would have guessed." Dana's eyes flash amusement at him, and he grins. "What about you, Dana Scully? You know more about me than I know about you. How did you meet Samantha, and what do you do?"
She takes a sip of her champagne. "We met in college. I tutored her a bit in physics, and we just stayed in touch. As for what I do, I'm a doctor at Georgetown Memorial. Neurology department."
Mulder lets out a low whistle. "Physics and neurology. Pretty impressive." Brains and looks--always the best combination. As well, something about her just feels...familiar. Right.
She smiles at him, cocks her head. "And you're one of Georgetown's youngest professors, after getting a doctorate at Oxford. Not bad yourself, Fox."
He winces. "Mulder, please. I have no idea what my parents were thinking, to name me Fox. Samantha has always taken great joy in taunting me about being stuck with the weird name while she got something normal."
Dana chuckles. The sound fits her, Mulder thinks. No girlish giggles, just a nice, earthy chuckle. He's surprised at how much he likes the sound--though maybe, by now, he should stop being surprised at liking anything about her.
The music changes, going from something soft and slow to something more upbeat. Mulder recognizes it immediately as one of his favorite songs, and stands, holding out his hand to Dana. "Dance with me?"
She grins at him, accepting his hand and rising. They walk with hands clasped to the dance floor, and he marvels at how well hers fits into his own, though she's small and compact and he's tall and lanky. They seem so mismatched, on the surface of things.
It's not a slow song, but he holds her close anyway, and she effortlessly follows his lead. He spins her out and back to him, and they both laugh, and she presses closer to him as he sings in her ear, "Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea, joy to you and me."
He doesn't believe in God, or fate, or any other word that means he has no real choice in his life. Meeting Dana Scully is the closest he's ever come to feeling like he might be wrong. He doesn't know whether it's fate or just serendipity, but he thinks he's just going to be glad that it happened at all.
The patient in front of her is immensely intriguing. A Special Agent with the FBI, working in some sort of weird department she's never heard of before, he has to have been exposed to something, some sort of unknown drug, but she can't isolate the compound. In fact, she can't find anything unnatural except the sedatives they've given him.
Sedatives that aren't working. Dana glances at the screen, where Fox Mulder is pacing furiously in his padded cell, his hands frequently messing up his hair, his mouth occasionally opening to let loose a frantic scream.
Dana has no clue what's going on, though she doesn't put it quite like that to Agent Mulder's superior. "He's got extremely abnormal brain functions, but there are no signs of stroke. We're waiting to run more tests."
Assistant Director Skinner doesn't even look at her; his eyes are on the screen. "Waiting for what?" But making up for Skinner's disregard is another agent, Diana Fowley, who stares at Dana steadily. Dana fights the urge to stiffen, and wonders what it is about Agent Fowley that's making the hair on the back of her neck rise.
"He's extremely violent. With what we've given him, he should be in a barbiturate coma, but there's brain activity in areas we've never seen before." She takes a deep breath, telling herself to ignore Fowley's stare. "Assistant Director, he's clearly been exposed to something. I won't be able to help him unless I know what it is. If there's something you're not telling me--"
"There's nothing." Skinner still won't look at her. "It was a simple murder investigation. There's nothing Agent Mulder could possibly have been exposed to."
Dana holds back a sigh of frustration. She may not be an FBI agent, but she knows when she's being lied to. But she'll let it go, for now. She has a patient to focus on.
Forty hours later, she knows she can no longer let it go. Skinner is here again, alone this time, back to watching his agent, and now Dana is determined to get some answers out of him. "Assistant Director."
He looks at her only briefly before turning back to Mulder. "Dr. Scully. Have you found something?"
"Only enough to know that the activity in his brain is going to kill him." She waits as his attention comes straight to her. "He can't sleep, Assistant Director. The unknown activity in his temporal lobe won't allow his brain to rest or shut down. It manifests in episodes of aggression, sometimes against himself. Sedatives only slow him down long enough for us to take a few tests. His brain is going to die, probably within seventy-two hours, Assistant Director, and I can't do anything to stop it unless I know what started it!"
Skinner's jaw clenches, but at least he doesn't look away again. "I wish I could help you, Dr. Scully. I really wish I could." Then, with one last glance at Mulder, he turns and walks away.
Even in the midst of her frustration, Dana realizes that Skinner never said he didn't know, only that he couldn't help her.
First the reports of Agent Mulder leaving his room--despite the restraints, which meant he had to have help--and now some strange man giving her patient unauthorized injections. Despite how Diana Fowley disconcerts her, Dana's glad that she brought the alert about what was about to happen in this room.
"What is going on here?" she snaps, grabbing the used syringe as Agent Fowley questions the stranger. Assistant Director Skinner is here too, apparently complicit in the affair. Dana knows he's been hiding something--this only makes it more obvious--but she still can't tell what. She glances at the syringe. "And why has my patient been given phenytoin? What dosage is this?"
Skinner keeps protesting that he can explain, but before he can, Mulder starts convulsing. Growling inwardly, both at the mystery and at the fact that any hope she has of saving this patient is rapidly going down the drain--it's not like she knew what to do even before the unauthorized injections--she snaps at the agents, "He's going into seizure. Watch his head. Agent Mulder? Hold him. Hold him!"
By the time Mulder is stabilized again, the unknown man is gone, and both Skinner and Fowley are silent to her questions.
"We've exhausted all medical and scientific evidence. By that I mean nothing we can find--no disease, no hint of disease, only symptoms. The brute fact is he's experiencing so much activity in his temporal lobe that it is effectively destroying his brain."
Dana hates this part--talking to the families, telling them there's nothing that can be done. At least Teena Mulder isn't sobbing; she's dignified even when upset.
"Enough," Mrs. Mulder says, not looking at her. "There's only so much bluntness a mother can take."
"I'm sorry," she says softly, unable to offer anything else.
"All you do is sedate him. You're turning him...into a zombie." With that, she turns her attention completely to her son. Dana feels like she's been summarily dismissed, so she takes the hint and leaves.
Outside the room, she slumps against the wall, brushing a hand across her eyes and forehead. All the stress has been giving her a headache.
There's nothing she can do. It's not the first time this has happened, in her years as a doctor, and she's sure it won't be the last. But it's always upsetting when it does happen. It makes her helpless, and there's nothing she hates so much as being helpless.
A few hours later, despite Dana's objections, Teena Mulder checks her son out of the hospital, and Dana never sees him again.
He hates the cops. Well, this time it's the FBI, but they're close enough. Agent Johnson and Agent Scully of the Violent Crimes Unit, investigating one of his clients as a possible serial killer. What a headache, especially since he knows his clients well enough to know it isn't true.
Cops and Fibbies. Useless at finding Samantha, useless at finding who killed his father, and now so useless at finding this serial killer of theirs that they're suspecting one of his clients.
"I'm sorry," he says again, not feeling sorry, "but I can't release client information without either the signed consent of the client, or a warrant. Come back with either of those, and then we can talk."
Agent Johnson blusters a bit more, but Agent Scully puts a hand on his arm, silencing him with a touch. "Of course, Dr. Mulder," she says, coolly. "We'll be sure to do that. Come on, Daniel."
Agent Scully leads her partner away with no further protest, and Mulder waits for his next client, trying to put the agents and their investigation out of his mind.
Mulder next sees them a few days later. He's with a client when his receptionist knocks on the door and sticks her head in the room, saying, "FBI here to see you again. They're pretty impatient."
"Thank you, Karen," Mulder says, trying not to get angry at the interruption. "Could you tell them that I'm with a client, and I'll be able to see them in--" he checks his watch, "--fifteen minutes?"
"That's what I said," Karen replies, rolling her eyes, "but Agent Johnson insisted."
He smiles, tightly and without humor. Stupid Fibbies. "Fifteen minutes," he says firmly. When the door closes behind Karen, he turns his attention back to his client, who thankfully took the interruption in stride.
Fifteen minutes later, he has FBI in his office again, and this time they brought the warrant. After twenty minutes of letting them look through his folders, of being questioned and insisting that no, his client could not possibly have been the one to kill those women, he's very pleased to see the back of them.
Once they're gone, he slumps into one of the stuffed armchairs in the room, rubbing his temples. He'd known this job wouldn't be easy, when he'd decided to go into psychiatry, but he'd wanted to be able to make a difference to broken people and families like his own, who lost people and didn't know what to do next. He'd just never anticipated being forced to wonder if one of the people he would try to help had been killing people in his spare time. Mulder knows it's not true, but he still doesn't like even entertaining the possibility.
Two days later, he gets a courtesy call from Agent Scully. She says they've caught the killer and it's not his client, but thanks for his time and cooperation. He nobly refrains from saying that he told her so, and goes back to work, glad to be finished with the FBI.
Personal crises are tiring, Scully finds--though Mulder is still talking, the events of the past few days have exhausted her enough that she feels herself falling asleep on his shoulder.
"And all the...choices would then lead to this very moment. One wrong turn, and...we wouldn't be sitting here together. Well, that says a lot." She drifts to the sound of his voice, so familiar and comforting. "That says a lot, a lot, a lot. That's probably more than we should be getting into at this late hour."
Slowly, his voice fades away, and she sleeps.
She dreams of conversations she can only half-remember, fitted with each other like puzzle pieces that aren't quite right, but close enough. Her sleeping mind snatches her last waking conversation from the top of her subconscious, and she dreams of fate, free will, the road not taken, and the innocence and simplicity of childhood. The child luxuriates in the moment, uncaring of the distant future, free to laugh in the sun and savor the blackberries.
She's jostled into not-quite-awakeness when she hears a door close, feels the sudden absence of warmth beneath her cheek. She blearily opens her eyes to find that she's now alone on the couch, the blanket tucked around her, and Mulder gone.
She makes a decision, follows a fork in the path that feels as if it has just been waiting for her to set foot on it. When she stands, slips inside Mulder's bedroom, and shuts the door behind her, she neither fears nor regrets.
"Scully?" he asks, sitting up in his bed; all he's wearing is a pair of boxers. He watches her, but she can't quite decipher the look in his eyes.
"Choices, Mulder," she replies, stepping closer. "I've made mine." His eyes are still on her as she strips down to her underwear, but she doesn't feel self-conscious. This is Mulder: there is no one she trusts more. He doesn't say anything else, but he smiles at her, and she knows that she's welcome here.
There are so many places she could have ended up, she thinks as she slips into bed beside him and turns, his long body now a warm presence at her back. Maybe she would have met Mulder, and maybe not. Maybe they'd be drawn to each other, and maybe just a passing presence in each other's lives. She doesn't know.
And her last thought, as Mulder's arm fits itself around her waist and she drops back into sleep, is that, against all odds, she's happy right where she is.