“Mulder,” McCoy greeted me with a smile. “Come on in. Right on time, as usual.” He lowered his voice to a conspiratorial whisper. “Naomi was only fifteen minutes late today—you are a good influence on her.”
I laughed, but it felt awkward. If McCoy thought it sounded forced, he gave no indication, but I had gotten to know this man, and despite the warm familial character he displayed, I knew the guy was sharp and missed little.
“Have a seat.” He closed the file—presumably mine—on his desk and stood, waving me over to the chair in the corner. I fell into it easily and, just like every time I came here, I thought about telling Walter that we should get a couple of these soft leather easy chairs. I knew the adjustable back would be great for those days when Walter brought more work home in his shoulders than in his briefcase, and frankly, I always pictured seating for two whenever I let myself slip into the comfy padded seat.
McCoy fussed around me for a moment, making adjustments to the chair and attached foot rests, and despite the inherent comfort of the chair, I appreciated his efforts. It gave me a moment or two to regulate my breathing and push away any unpleasant associations I had with the memories I had garnered from my time in this chair. For every warm fuzzy memory of hugs and puppies, there had been an equally horrific flashback to cheek piercing, snakebites and Scully’s abduction.
But the memories, good or bad, all of them, were coming back, and that was the main thing.
“Okay, Mulder, you know the drill.” McCoy patted my arm and I closed my eyes. Taking deep breaths, I listened to the man as he moved around the room. Blinds slid down windows, and half the overhead lights were shut off. I heard a soft hiss and a hint of cinnamon tingled in my nose. The last thing was music. Not really music (I suddenly felt myself grinning as I imagined working on my subconscious to the tune of Dancing Queen), but rather, muted soft sounds that were there, but almost not there. McCoy called it biofeedback, Naomi called it ‘earth music’, and I thought Skinner would probably just shrug and offer the opinion that if I liked it, he liked it. To me it was a little like a heartbeat, and I found I could use it to relax my own.
“How’s that?” Mc Coy asked quietly from somewhere to my left.
“Fine, fine.” I brushed off his concern and concentrated on my breathing, trying to clear my mind. It wasn’t working as well as other times we had used this passive hypnosis technique. Keeping my eyes closed, I let the soft drumbeats fade out while McCoy’s voice grew sharper.
“…relaxing your legs, relaxing your arms…relaxing your stomach, relaxing your chest…”
His voice was always pleasant, but something in the cadence or timbre, or whatever it was when we were going through one of this exercises always seemed to take me down just a little more than usual.
I knew I wasn’t hypnotized. An earlier session coupled with information from my file had revealed that I’d been in aggressive hypnosis as a child and again as a young man, and this was quite a bit different. When Walter heard what McCoy was suggesting for the first time, he told me that we had used this same technique with Scully when she had been involved with a ritual suicide/alien encounter with someone called Cassandra Spender. He also cautioned me not to get my hopes up. I accepted that and went ahead anyway. And to my delight, it went great the first time. McCoy’s relaxation techniques allowed the filters in my brain to release their stranglehold on my memories and it was a revelation. I came out of that first ‘trance’ thrilled to discover I had stories about my childhood to share with McCoy. Not that the stories were all that great, but the fact that I had them was the exciting part.
And sharing those same stories with Walter had been even better.
Instead of slipping easily into memory, as was the norm with these sessions, I suddenly felt something like a trapdoor springing open on its hinges with a huge slam, and my mind was awhirl with images that made no sense, but were coming so fast I couldn’t control them. Colours and sights and sounds were flooding my thoughts and I was finding it hard to breathe. I tried to find the music, McCoy’s chanting, anything to stop it, and instead found a voice that made me cringe and cry out, a voice that was terribly familiar saying all the wrong things.
Green slime, yellow slime, a mess of branches and dirt, the taste of river water in my mouth, Scully with her hair pulled back in a messy ponytail…
“That's an order, Agent Mulder.”
Ones and zeros, little girls, little boys on fire, an angel, a man who looked like a soldier and a man who looked like a homeless bum….
“Agent Mulder, you disobeyed my direct order.”
A heart, a severed hand, a football game, guns firing, magnifying glasses, newspaper clippings, Scully yelling for help, bright blue paint, Pandora…
“How do you explain yourself, Agent Mulder?”
A South American jungle, a winter storm, a dry field of dead wheat, tall trees, a white wolf, a man with a tattoo…
“You have a lot to answer for, Agent Mulder!”
Fire and human corpses, and something that looked like an orangutan and cows and lightning and snakes, boats and prison bars and bugs, hundreds of them, pouring out of mud and falling off of bodies and boiling up out of buckets to fly around me…
“You're suspended until such time I'm confident your judgment is sound. Give me your weapon.”
Trains and buses and airplanes and horses and men in uniforms and men in prison jumpsuits…
“Agent Mulder, that’s enough! I don’t want to hear another word out of you. If you care about your career, you’ll knock this crap off and apologize to this man because…”
Max, Frohike, Langly, Chuck, Danny, Byers, Phoebe, Diana, Kersh, Spender, Reggie, Jerry, Bruckman, Yappi, Peacock, Krycek, Hartwell, Doggett, Reyes, Folmer, William…
“Agent Mulder, you will leave O'Fallon alone. You will leave Hoffman alone … Best case scenario... you get to keep your jobs. Worst case, … a huge embarrassing lawsuit against the Bureau which will feature you two as its sacrificial lambs.”
Samantha, my mother, my father, bees, clones, black oil, tanker trucks, cornfields, a woman with a hole in her stomach, a blind girl in too small gloves…
“Killer bugs? This is what I'm supposed to tell the Director?”
Twins, triplets, toads, a man with one arm, a man with no legs, a man with no head, a man with shark’s teeth, a man with a bloody heart in his hands…
“You're being paranoid, Mulder. Even for you.”
A smoking man, a neat British man, a doctor with a wild look in his eyes, water skiing and playing stratego and watching the Magician on Friday nights…
“You could bring home a flying saucer and have an alien shake hands with the President … what it comes down to Agent Mulder is … they don't like you.”
Hooks in my face and pins in my arms and something shoved up my ass that wasn’t a boyfriend, a man with a scalpel whose eyes turned black and huge.
“This meeting... is to evaluate your work.”
His words kept slamming into me, over and over. I could see other events playing out like a film in fast forward, but it was that voice, Walter’s voice, without a trace of warmth in it, that was putting all the pieces into place, stuffing them into the holes in my memory with a vehemence that was just shy of bludgeoning.
We had never been lovers. We had never been. What I had given him…I thought it was his, and it had never been…I gave him…he took it, took me….I felt violated, emotionally raped…
What truth I had believed had now become a lie.
I let go.
“I need the bathroom,” I told him, surprised at my calm tone of voice. He gave me one of his sharp looks, but both of us knew that there was nothing more lethal in his bathroom than a Dixie cup. He moved away slightly, hovering just enough to give me a hand up from the chair if I needed it.
I came out of the chair feeling like a puppet, being dragged forward on invisible strings. I couldn’t seem to muster an ‘I’m fine’ smile for my doctor, but my inner puppet master jerked my head in what I hoped was a reassuring nod, and I lurched gracelessly to the bathroom.
I closed the door; no lock, but McCoy was pretty good about giving a guy his privacy. I stood in front of the mirror for a long moment, panting out breaths like an expectant mother and not the least bit soothed by it like I was supposed to be. So I stopped the Kungilini breathing and turned on the tap to wash my hands.
I saw it when I leaned forward to put some soap on my hands. The neckline on my t-shirt pulled forward just enough that I caught a glimpse of the love mark Walter had left on my neck yesterday…just yesterday…
I shoved myself brutally away from the sink, fell to my knees in front of the toilet and everything in my stomach came up in scalding acid chunks.
My first round of retching brought McCoy to the door with a kind knock and my name. He was kind, my doctor, so kind…kind…
I doubled up over the bowl again just as I thought I was getting a grip. Apparently the only thing I’d be gripping for a while would be cold porcelain. My face felt hot and sweaty in contrast, and I was shivering and falling and trying to sit up.
McCoy startled me with a cool cloth on my forehead. I should have known he wouldn’t leave me alone in such a distressed state. The cloth felt good as he brushed it over my heated cheeks and brow.
“Take it easy, Mulder, you’re okay,” he said quietly.
“Leave me alone.” I thought my voice sounded fine, if a little rusty. I also thought briefly that I would probably kill someone for a cup of coffee just then. McCoy handed me one of the Dixie cups full of water instead. I rinsed, spit, rinsed again, and handed the empty cup back.
“Do you want me to call Walter for you?”
I felt my stomach turning inside out and I shook my head furiously, wondering dimly if I was going to give myself whiplash. Probably not, but maybe a good neck strain would drown out the feeling that my guts had been doused with hydrochloric acid.
“I’m good. Just…I need a minute…. Processing…”
“I hear that,” McCoy replied. He handed me the cloth he’d been using on me, gave me one of his special looks, the one that said “I’m worried, but part of my shtick is to let you help yourself, so I’m making a point of backing off now…but not too far back.’ It was a look he had spent years perfecting, I suspected. And then he backed out of the room.
It was only a few minutes before I joined him, but it felt like hours. But my eyes were dry and my mouth only tasted a little like the bottom of a birdcage. The water in my stomach was trying to make a reappearance, but I kept my breathing slow and easy as I sat back in the chair.
“I think I got everything.” I told my doctor, and I was pleased to hear a quiet note of normalcy in my voice.
“Mulder, do you know what you’re saying—what this means?”
“Yes. Yes I do. I think I’d like to go home now.” I almost choked on the word ‘home’.
I got a frankly skeptical look at that.
“Are you sure?” McCoy asked. “Do you want a few more minutes to—?”
“No. I think I’ll set something up with Naomi, maybe next week. And then I’ll go.” I stood carefully, not wanting to show any sort of weakness that might add to his argument. “This is a good thing.” I continued. “It’s what I wanted.”
“If anything comes up, Mulder, call me. I’ll have my phone on 24/7. You’ve worked hard to get here, as hard as any patient I’ve ever had, and I’d hate to see it all go to hell when you’re right on the goal line, you know?”
His kindness had my gag reflex acting up as my instincts to trust and the violations of that same trust that I had just uncovered warred within me.
“Thank you. I—I appreciate it.”
I couldn’t stand to look at his concerned face for one more moment. I turned and walked quickly out of the office. Fortune gave me what I thought might be one last good turn for a while and Naomi was talking to another patient when I walked by her desk, too busy to ask how I was, or how the coffee was, or any other of the many ‘we’re pals, right?’ questions she might throw at me on a visit-to-visit basis. She also couldn’t stop me to set up an appointment, which made me even gladder.
I opted to walk, and didn’t get to the house for a long time.