It didn’t get perfect overnight, but it did get better in a lot of ways; easier in some ways too.
I saw the doctor that McCoy had recommended, and she was as good as he promised. Efficient, but not brusque, didn’t make me feel like some sort of mutant, and I only had one bad moment when her combination of skill and warmth reminded me of Scully in some motel room in Rhode Island.
She didn’t push for information, and in response I found myself telling her more than I expected to. She was pleased with the weight I’d gained since I’d come home with Walter, and happier still that I was starting to work out some sort of exercise regime. I told her I had always enjoyed running, and she recommended an indoor track that was part of a larger sportsplex that also boasted an Olympic sized pool.
“Maybe I swim,” I said, and for just a moment her dark brown eyes blazed emerald, and I swear I caught a whiff of chlorine.
Then it was gone and she was asking me how I was sleeping.
She had my chart from McCoy right there on the counter so there wasn’t much point in lying. I didn’t give her specifics of my nightly fears, but I did almost get a blush out of her when I mentioned that Walter tended to be a real big help if it got too bad. I was thinking more of the whiskey-laced hot chocolate he would make, or the old sci-fi movies he’d rent, more for me than for him. I didn’t consciously think of the way I could sleep so soundly when he wrapped those big arms around me, preferably after making me cum my brains out, at least, not until I caught the gleam in Dr. Gonott’s eyes, and then I was the one blushing.
She told me that something as simple as a cough syrup could relieve sleeplessness, but based on what I’d told her and what McCoy had given her to work with, she suggested that it might not be an inability to sleep, but rather anxiety during my waking hours that was bleeding into my nighttime thoughts. I was already seeing someone for what basically boiled down to a type of posttraumatic stress disorder, so she recommended Ativan. She wasn’t prescribing it for sleep, per se, but, with another quick glance at something in my file, she explained that in my particular case, my obsession with getting my memory to return. She handed me an Rx sheet and explained that Ativan, or any other anxiolytic, would accomplish enough relaxation to allow me to sleep. She also cautioned that it was just for short-term use, but she thought that my work with Dr McCoy would continue to help me improve until I wouldn’t need anything else.
“I’ve never been much of a sleeper,” I told her, and in that moment realized it was true. And just finding that little fact had me leaving her office in a better frame of mind than any tests or prescriptions.
Any reluctance he’d had for displays of affection had completely disappeared once I verbalized my love for him. He always had kind words, now, glowing smiles, and arms warm and strong, no matter the time of day, no matter what was going on. Whether it was a hug and a kiss before he left for work, or a friendly pat after I came home from a run, or, to my mind, best of all, the unbreakable hold he kept on me at night, warm and safe in our bed, Walter was there, when I needed him, however I needed him.
I continued to see Dr. McCoy, and he began a series of treatments with me that had me dredging up memories on a slow but steady basis, sifting through the increasingly less discouraging muck that was my mind. Sometimes it was something simple, like the laugh we shared over my compulsion for drinking juice right from the carton (and always checking the expiration date after one bad episode), or sometimes it might be something more complex, like a vision of Scully holding a rose petal, looking like she might cry. Those times were harder, trying to make sense of a vision that didn’t have anything to connect it to. I wanted to believe I was getting better, and after most of my appointments it was a simple thing to come home to Walter, share what I had learned, and go about my evening enjoying time with my lover and making new memories to go with the old ones. But on those days where McCoy and I would unearth some new disturbing fact or image, like finding out the Platters made my eyes burn (McCoy had Naomi take out the disc playing Twilight Time softly into the reception area, and even though the NKOTB disc she replaced it with did make me a little nauseous, I don’t believe that was due to any repressed memories), but not knowing why, or suddenly wanting to cry when my appointment ran late and the cleaning lady was rolling in her Princess vacuum cleaner, well, those were the days that Dr. Gonott’s prescription came in handy.
I would go home from those appointments with the images knocking around in my cranium like moths around a light bulb, and no matter what was on my Skinneragenda that day, whether it was Thai takeout and a football game, reading quietly together on the couch, or a mutual desire that had us both naked and rolling around on the bed minutes after he got home from work, none of it would stop the memories from trying to find their place in my head. Sometimes the result was just a headache that I could banish with an aspirin or two and a massage from my lover. Sometimes I could lose myself in a cheesy horror movie courtesy of Netflix and Walter’s equally strong love for such classics as Dawn of the Dead or Motel Hell. But sometimes I couldn’t banish the feelings, couldn’t connect the random puzzle pieces and put them into something cohesive that I could understand, or explain. And it was those times that the Ativan was most necessary.
Walter would tell me he could hear me thinking, and I didn’t doubt it. Whatever new mental slide show I’d discovered that day usually stayed with me in 3D and surround sound, and I couldn’t concentrate. If I tried to sleep it off, I’d toss and turn and even if I did manage to fall into some sort of uneasy doze, I’d usually wind up back in the burning wreck with Dana Scully and wake up with a shout. Occasionally, Skinner would take one on the chin whenever he tried to pull me out of my nightmares. And both of us would look like hell the next morning. On those days that Walter wore a black eye or a knot on his chin, I also discovered I had a great capacity for guilt, misplaced or otherwise, which of course made me feel even worse.
So when I felt that it was going to be one of “those” nights, and I’d already tried anything and everything I could think of to get around it, I’d pop one of the blue tablets with some milk or juice and kiss Walter good night, not wanting to be some kind of zombie around him. His love for me, and our time together was too good to waste being wasted, and the whole point of the prescription, to my way of thinking, was to get the good rest I needed to keep searching for the truth, and bringing it into the light where I could look at it in a healthy way that would allow me to move forward in the terrific life Skinner had brought me back to after the accident.
Sometimes I needed an extra nap in the afternoon, which had already started becoming a habit even before the medication, and that was enough to take any weirdness out of my day.
Or it might be nothing more than a couple of drops of coffee spilled on the counter when I poured out for Walter and I, but I’d be steady as a rock (steady as my partner) when I carried the cups back to the bedroom so we could share our first bit of the morning together in bed, warm under the covers.
Other side effects were more of a challenge, although they appeared less often. There were times when anything more than toast and tea would cause stomach cramps. There were days where Walter would come home from work and find me curled up on the couch nursing an arm or a leg, and he became an expert at working out muscle spasms. Sometimes those occasions led to massages of a more intimate nature, which would totally remedy anything, whether it was the bad dreams and memories I was using the Ativan for, or the side effects of the drug itself. There were only a couple of occasions where it appeared that the night was going to go that way that I found out one of the other, definitely limper, side effects. Walter was gracious and reassuring, but I almost decided the insomnia and nightmares were going to win the first time the medication kept me from my usual reaction to a naked Skinner. He convinced me both times it happened that there was no issue, and of course he was right. The next day he was ready to try again and I was more than able to rise to the occasion, as it were. No harm, no foul.
I knew that Ativan could be addictive, and although all the information I’d gleaned from files, from Skinner and from my own defective memory, along with the current actions I was taking in my life now suggested I definitely had a compulsive personality, I never found myself feeling a physical need for the pills. Hell, my craving for sunflower seeds was stronger than my craving for medication most days. And my compulsion for Skinner overrode all of it.
I didn’t turn into a walking Hallmark card. It wasn’t my nature, and I didn’t need complete recall to know that. But there were times, like over dinner in a small bistro a few blocks from the house, sitting together enjoying comfort food like smoked meat sandwiches and beer while a light rain fell outside; or after Skinner would join me for a run around the neighborhood, a rarity for the man who preferred to do his exercise in a gym with weights, and we’d be stretching out on the porch, sweaty and breathing hard; or on the nights we made love…It was easy to say the words. To tell Walter Skinner that I loved him. And the results were always spectacular. He couldn’t seem to hear it enough, and that made saying it all the more worthwhile.
From my file, I knew I was an Oxford trained psychologist. And an agent for the FBI (I still found that slightly odd). From Skinner’s stories and reports I knew I was interested in the paranormal and had investigated my own sister’s disappearance for years. And from my memories I knew I had a partner in the Bureau whom I had loved as much if not more than that sister, and that something crazy had happened where she had been killed while we pursued this paranormal stuff. So, needless to say, I wasn’t surprised that I didn’t seem to have the stomach for reading the stories of cattle mutilations on the net, or weird lights in the sky in the newspaper. I had no desire to wave around a gun or a badge, although I did get a kick out of watching old cop shows on television, even the really awful stuff from the early nineties, the shows that Walter said were written by monkeys and edited by same.
I liked the idea of being a psychologist, though, especially in light of my good working relationship with Dr. McCoy and my own experiences with the labyrinth that could be the human mind. I began to wonder what my future might hold. I wasn’t a kid, but I sure wasn’t an old man yet, and even though I was secure enough financially that I probably wouldn’t have to work for a long time (and certainly Walter had made no bones about how he felt about me “overdoing” it before I was ready), I suspected that eventually I would need more than just the day to day living stuff to challenge me. I started thinking about the day I would feel fully “recovered” and how that might affect me. How it might affect my life.
I didn’t remember ever feeling so optimistic.