Mulder awoke disoriented and soaked with sweat. Scully's cool hand was firmly pressing his chest as she shook him gently. It took a few moments for him to realize that she was speaking to him.
" Mulder, calm down, it's okay. We're here, right here, shhh."
"Scully! Get DOWN! ... Scully?"
" Breathe Mulder, just breathe -it'll be all over in a few minutes, I promise." Scully's voice was still sleepy but very close to his left ear. Mulder assumed that she had fallen asleep next to his hospital bed.
He was trembling, but his breathing quieted and his heart rate slowed. He asked, "What time is it?"
In the dark, he heard Scully's voice, "It's 2:40 AM."
He groaned and wiped the back of his hand across his lips and cheek.
"It was a bad one tonight, wasn't it?"
Scully's warm voice drifted over him, and his trembling slowed.
Mulder felt the mattress shift and heard the unmistakable click of a light switch. But why was it so dark? Where were the achingly familiar hospital sounds? There was no pain; in fact no discomfort at all except for the feel of his sweat soaked tee shirt sticking to his skin.
"What are you doing in bed with me?"
He heard a short chuff of laughter, then a small hand cupped his cheek, turning his head toward the sound of her voice.
"I must not be doing it right, if you have to ask."
Something was very wrong here. Her response made no sense to him, and he shook to clear his head.
"Scully, what the hell is happening?" He started to tear the sheets down, when Scully grabbed his wrists, "What the fuck is going on?"
"Mulder, listen to me.."
"Answer me, Scully! Am I in a hospital?"
"Oh Mulder," Scully said gently, "You had another flashback. Try to stay calm."
He was becoming agitated in earnest now, and his voice zeroed in on her. "We were running. There was an explosion, and I know we were too close to be safe from it. You, you were thrown to the ground."
"Easy, Mulder. Just slow down a little." She let go of his wrists, and he twisted away from her, spilling pillows onto the floor.
He sat up forcefully, and, staring straight at her, said, "You couldn't breathe. Christ, Scully, you were choking on your own blood and then there was a huge flash." Mulder began to panic. Beads of sweat began to reappear on his forehead. His recall of the event was now vivid and clear.
"Oh God, Scully! I couldn't see. I tried to get to you, but I couldn't see you." He stopped abruptly, gasping for breath, turning his head wildly.
"Scully, I can't fucking see anything!"
"I know, Mulder. I know." She sat up and began stroking his damp neck and back, all the while repeating, "I know, I know. It's been like this for quite a while." Her soft voice was very close to his ear. "It's OK. The confusion will pass. Try not to be afraid. You'll remember it all very soon, I promise."
"I remember it all now, Goddammit! Please, Scully. Tell me the lights are off, or that it's just very dark in here. Please tell me I'm in a hospital. Oh fuck." Mulder sobbed the last words as his voice trailed off.
Scully was silent for a few moments. He could hear her swallow a few times and knew she must be preparing to tell him something awful. Something he knew he didn't want to hear.
"You're not in a hospital, Mulder. You're home, in your own bed. You've just had either a vivid dream or an actual flashback of the explosion."
Mulder turned away with a sob of disbelief as his hands rubbed at his face.
Scully took his hands away from his eyes and said gently, "Listen to me Mulder. I know what's happening, and I think I even know why. Please trust me, let me talk, and I'll explain. Can you do that? Please?"
The softness in her voice, the gentle touch of her fingers on his eyelids, and the proximity of being in the same bed with her, gave him a brief sense of calm. Mulder always trusted her. He'd have to trust her now.
"OK, Scully," he said in a shaky voice. He took in two deep breaths, then said, "But this better be good."
He felt Scully's chest rise as she took a deep breath herself. She cupped both his hands in hers, then said, "This - confusion - you're experiencing has happened before, Mulder, and I've found it works best if I start from here and work backwards."
"What 'works best'?"
"Sorry, it's what I call 'the drill.' It's the sequence of events that lead up to your life as it is now. As I said, these flashbacks and the...uh...disorientation you're experiencing, have occurred before, but not for some time now. I've found that if I tell you how far you've come and how well you're doing, then you won't have to wait to see how it ends."
"I doubt that I'll 'see' how it ends." Mulder said in a trance-like voice.
"Try me, Mulder. Please."
He nodded in the dark, except then he realized that it wasn't dark to her.
"We're in the midst of profiling a very difficult case. So far this year, three young gay men have been found dead under mysterious circumstances. We've been called in to do the profiling. Because of the strange condition of the bodies, the Violent Crimes Section felt that, because of our unique experiences, the X-Files Division was best qualified to deal with this."
Mulder shifted his weight and said, "So I'm still in the Bureau."
"Yes, you and I are both still in the Bureau, and we occasionally work an X File or two. And we're still partners with an enviable solve rate. Technically, we consult for the FBI, but the paperwork's pretty similar.
"This current case has been taking your mind all over the place. You've been delving deep into those dark places, Mulder. I was pleased to see you actually get some sleep tonight. I don't think you've slept for the past three nights. Of course, there was a price to pay for tonight's sleep. Your mind decided to relive the blast."
Mulder shuddered. He wasn't sure he wanted to hear the re-cap of the event that changed his life. Without thinking, he faced away from Scully and said, "Do I know how to have a good time or what?"
She gave a short hum of agreement before continuing, "The blast occurred while we were still working on Domestic Terrorism. You know how we both hated investigating farmers and questioning them about their supply of fertilizer, but these inquiries led us to find the other nitrogen-based bomb Krycek kept hidden. And if we'd known we were even looking for it, it would have been a perfect position of operation."
"I remember that, Scully. I remember that we found out where Krycek stashed the other device, even though it had been years since we returned from Terma."
"Yeah, but it was a set up. We tipped our hand too soon on that one, and Krycek got wind that we were on his tail. Actually, it was by pure accident that we found it. If we had known that this high explosive device had Krycek's name on it, we would have treaded far more lightly. As it turned out, he *did* put our names on it. We tripped it, and it blew. Weeks later, you said that you could see the countdown timer in your head. Ticking our lives away."
"I could, Scully. If I try, I can still see it." Mulder said with a sigh.
"Then don't try." She ruffled his dark hair gently. He got the feeling that the hardest part of the drill was about to come up, and she took a deep breath to continue.
"The flash from the explosion was so intense that when you looked up...Mulder, I'm so sorry, but when you looked up, both optic nerves were destroyed." She paused and placed her head on his chest. His heart began to pound, and a gasp of disbelief escaped his lips. She paused again, then placed a kiss over his heart and another one on each tear that scrolled down his cheeks. He felt her wet cheeks against his own, and after brushing them dry, she was ready to continue.
"Skinner has always admired and respected your insightful mind and 'unique' thought processes. It was his idea to keep us in the basement. He worked out a deal with the Violent Crimes Section that if you and I could keep the X-Files open, your talent would be on loan to them when needed. You see, Mulder, we found that those incredible leaps in intuition, logic, and poor judgement were actually enhanced by your lack of visual distraction. You are a very successful profiler. Besides, Skinner thought you never looked where you were going anyway."
"Intuition, logic and poor judgement, Scully? How could the VCS resist me?"
"You're very, very good at what you do. Correction, *we* are very good at what we do," Scully added.
Mulder turned his face to her and asked, "How do you fit into all this, Scully?"
"I'm your eyes, Mulder," She said simply. "We investigate the crime scenes, reports, and photos together, and I read and describe them. Because we've been partners so long, I know what details you need and how to convey the facts to you. You're able to see through my eyes, Mulder, and by God it works. We don't always agree as to what I'm seeing, but we still get a paycheck twice a month."
"Why can't I remember any of this?" Mulder lifted his legs over the side of the bed and sat up on the edge. He then realized he'd only been wearing boxers with the tee shirt. His hands came up to dry wash his face for a minute before speaking into his palms, "You're so calm about this, and I'm ready to run out in street, screaming. Shit, Scully, don't you get it? I can't see, I can't remember any of it, and I don't know what you're doing in my bed!"
In a carefully controlled voice, Scully said, "We don't know why this happens. We don't know what happens in that complex mind of yours that would make you suddenly forget. We had you tested by psychologists the last time this happened, and the only thing they could come up with was it was a unique form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder." She paused, and with a smile in her voice said, "Unique only to you, Mulder. But as disconcerting as these episodes are, they usually coincide with a breakthrough on the case you're working on."
"Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?" Mulder said incredulously. "You've got to be kidding!" He felt Scully slip out of her side of the bed and heard her padding over to stand in front of him.
She took his hands in hers and said intently, "I don't know why it happens, but I do know that it means that you're close. Close to finding the murderer, and soon the killings will stop.
"Mulder, your mind is so focussed on taking this killer down, and saving the lives of innocent young men that your own life takes second place. You'll see, Mulder. Soon you'll remember; it will all make sense, and a killer will be brought to justice."
She dropped his hands and, even though he couldn't see her, he knew her eyes were shining.
He waited a few seconds, and with his head bowed, said softly; "Well you've answered two of my three questions. Why I can't see, and why I can't remember. Do you have an answer for the third?" He raised his head to face her. "Why you're in my bed?"
There was a long silence, and for a moment he thought she wouldn't answer him. To lighten the mood, he tried, "Unless blind guys are your thing now? Scully, I wish I'd known before..."
"Shh, Mulder." She placed a finger on his lips, silencing him. "Just give me a second."
A hint of fear crept into Mulder's mind. 'Oh my God,' he thought. 'She feels sorry for me. She pities her blind partner and doesn't know how to say it.'
He felt the mattress dip beside him and knew she was sitting to his left. When she finally spoke, he could tell that she was facing away from him.
"Mulder, it's fine. It's just... it's just that you've never had to ask about this before. About 'us' before."
He heard her take a shuddering breath before she continued.
"You know, when other women see us together, they can't understand why you're with me." Her voice became stronger as she faced him again. "You look very handsome in your sunglasses."
He couldn't understand why she suddenly decided to change the subject, but he brought his head up and patiently faced in the direction of her voice.
She continued, "And the way we walk, I can steer your direction with short verbal cues and holding your hand instead of guiding you by the elbow. It looks like we're out strolling, hand in hand. They truly don't understand what that mysteriously handsome man in shades is doing with a woman who looks like me."
She stopped and shook her head silently, but Mulder heard her hair rustle about her face.
"You say you remember, at the time of the accident, that I was choking on my own blood?" She paused, apparently waiting for Mulder to answer.
"Yes." He said slowly, dreading the end of the story, but not knowing why.
"The choking you heard came from blood running down my throat. My face was pretty well lacerated by the fall I took into the rocks and the flying debris from the blast."
Scully took both of Mulder's hands in hers and placed his fingertips on her face. She lightly ran his hands over the surface of her forehead, cheeks, nose, and lips. He felt a spider web of scars and raised adhesions. Her nose felt misshapen.
"The plastic surgeons did the best they could, and considering what they had to work with, they did a fairly good job. But I look much different now than when you last saw me." She forced a smile to his fingertips as Mulder sadly closed his eyes.
"Oh Jesus, Scully, I'm sorry." He let his hands fall to his lap. "I'm so sorry."
Scully's weight shifted as she faced him and said softly, "Don't you get it, Mulder? I feel like I'm using you."
"What are you talking about?"
"Mulder, to you I'll always be 34 and pretty. You have no idea of what I look like now, but I know exactly what I look like. I look at my face every day in the mirror and see what the blast has done. I had no idea how important it was to me, to be an attractive woman, until it was taken away. Through your eyes, Mulder, I'll always look as I did before. I kind of think it's sick, using a blind partner that way."
There was a long, humid pause. Mulder sat silently with his hand across his forehead. His partner's hitched breathing was the only sound in the room.
"Scully," he said finally, " you've given me a lot to think about. But the first thing I need to ask...what I need you to tell me...Do you really think I'm handsome?"
She chuckled suddenly and released a long breath."If you recall, I believe I said you were, 'a mysteriously handsome man.' And, yes, I've always thought so."
"No kidding? Huh?" He smiled to himself, as a picture of his young, beautiful partner entered his mind. Partner? Wife? He wasn't sure. "So Scully, do you use my name now?"
He heard a simple but smiling, "No."
"Well anyway," he continued, "I think you have a few things mixed up. I don't think it's fair that you'll watch me grow old, gray and, God forbid, possibly bald while you get to stay young and beautiful forever."
He quirked an unseen smile at her, and she replied, "Sounds like you're in it for the long haul. What with this 'old and gray' and 'do you use my name now' talk."
He reached over to her and found her hand. Nuzzling it to his lips, he dropped small kisses along the length of her palm.
"The long haul, is right," he said then dropped his voice to a serious note, "Not only that, but if a miracle occurred and I suddenly got my sight back, it wouldn't matter. I can only tell you, that in my heart I know, Scully, that it wouldn't matter. You will be beautiful to me. Because you always have been. Because you are. I could never see you any other way. They say, 'Love is blind' and my love is."
Scully's watery voice came very close to his ear, "And so is mine."
His lips found hers, salty with tears. Suddenly, there in the darkness, the answer to his third question became crystal clear.
"Double entendre becomes you, Agent Scully." He said, smiling as he kissed her once again for good measure.
And for good measure, she kissed him back. Then he felt as she reached over him to pick something up from the bedside table.
"Here." She handed it to him. "See if you can get some sleep. Maybe things will be clearer to you in the morning, although that's not the way it usually works."
She kissed him lightly on the corner of his mouth, and the sheets moved as she scooted over to her side of the bed. Again he heard the light switch as she clicked it off.
She sighed sleepily as she turned onto her side. After a few minutes she whispered," 'S'okay Mulder, use it. It won't bother me, I turned the brightness all the way down."
<"This is CNN.">
<"And now, for the latest weather travel conditions.">
<"I know, Cher, this beauty product turned my life around.">
|Prologue|In A Flash|Part 2|