Title: Floating Free (1/1)
Author: Lisby (lisby@earthlink.net)
Category: MSR
Rating: PG ("Huh? Lisby wrote this and it's PG? Wuh the fuh??")
Summary: This one defies summation, really. Christmas Eve 2003. Leave 
it at that.
Disclaimer: No cash involved.
Archive: Freely
Lisby's homepage: http://www.ioho.org.uk/floating_free.htm
Feedback: Charter member of Feedback Whores 'R Us.
Dedication: For Marley and all the groovy folk of X-OK, a Phile list 
that is not only bucolic, it's paradise on the Web. Join us at 

Written for the 3rd X-OK Fic Challenge. Elements at end of story.


On Monday afternoon, a glimpse of her new therapist's open notebook had

showed Scully a diagnosis of "free-floating" anxiety. Later, she'd 
asked Mulder about the disorder, expecting as a preface some smart-ass

dig like "So, you think I didn't buy that Oxford psych degree after 
all, huh, Scully?" But Mulder hadn't joked. He'd seemed sweaty and 
distracted and had answered by rote, "Free-floating anxiety: Continual

anxiety not attributable to any specific situation or reasonable 
danger; or severe, generalized, persistent anxiety not specifically 
ascribed to a particular object or event and often a precursor of 
panic. See generalized anxiety disorder."

"'See generalized anxiety disorder'? What book are you reading in your


"Ummm...I don't know--uhh..." Mulder had looked off into space and his

pupils tracked from left to right, left to right. "American Psychiatric

Glossary, 7th Edition."

Twenty minutes later, Mr. Magic Memory had been puking in the bathroom.

By midnight, he'd developed a high fever and had been shivering, 
glassy-eyed, and pale. By Tuesday afternoon, with a thready pulse and 
shortness of breath, Mulder had been lying on a gurney parked in the 
corridor of a crowded emergency department while Scully fought for a 
doctor's attention.

Wednesday, Christmas Eve.
The television light flickered light on Mulder's face, letting it
as Scully's Rorschach scrim. The changing colors cast by the screen 
played over the contours of his features, until for a second Scully saw

a skull with dark cheek undercuts and black recessed orbitals. She bit

on her lip and dragged her eyes back to the television, where the 
reformed Grinch and his overloaded sleigh were sweeping down the face 
of Mount Crumpit.

'Stop it,' Scully chided herself. 'Fight the adrenal cascade. He's not

in the ICU where all you can do is watch his IV drip. He's not shot; 
they're not sucking tobacco-beetle larvae out of his lungs; and Skinner

didn't just pry him out of an ice-cold grave. He has influenza type 
A-H3N2 that has led to severe dehydration and respiratory infection. 
He's responding to medication and may go home tomorrow if the hospital

needs the bed. Mulder is going to be fine. He's fine. I'm fine. We're 
fine... Please God, let everything just *stay* fine.'

Scully gripped Mulder's hand more tightly and he answering her by 
squeezing back and lifting his eyebrows to ask what she wanted. Scully

smiled in camouflage ("Dana thought up a lie and she thought it up 
quick..."). "Mulder, all the Whos down in Who-ville are going to eat 
roast beast. You wanna try some of that chicken lo mien?" She nodded 
toward the neglected carryout box on his bed stand.

"It's not chicken lo mien. It's soy-chicken lo mien," Mulder answered,

stressing the offending word. "It takes like sea sponge. Just gimme my

damned fortune cookie."

"Will you please eat the noodles?"

"I'd rather hang myself with them."

Scully warmed to his petulance, her grin genuine now. The crankier he 
was, the better he felt-- a truism gleaned from many hospital stays. 
She fished the fortune cookie out of the paper sack, broke the plastic

wrapper, snapped the shell, and unrolled the slip inside. "It says, 
'Those who hang themselves with noodles will fall on their asses.'"

Mulder blinked then he broke out in the smile she'd aimed to create. 
"Give me the chopsticks, woman."

He tucked into his food, and her anxiety floated further afield as the

Grinch redistributed stolen goods and Boris Karloff proclaimed, "He 
himself-- The Grinch-- carved the Whos' roast beast!" Afterward, a 
circle of hand-holding Whos swayed around the village Christmas tree 
with its primary red and yellow decorations, singing, "Welcome 
Christmas, while we stand, heart to heart, and hand in hand..."

And there it was-- the lump in her throat. The first time she'd felt 
it, Dana Scully, like Cindy-Lou, was surely not more than two. "This 
ending always makes me cry."

"Yeah," Mulder agreed, sounding tight. "Maximum warm fuzzies." After a

pause, he said softly, "Scully, I'm so sorry."

The credits were rolling as she glanced back at him. "For what?"

"For this-- this Christmas Eve, Mulder-style." He gestured with his 
chopsticks to the IV pole then to the greater hospital room. "I wanted

to make our first Christmas worth remembering."

"Well, I *will* remember it. And this really isn't our first."

He frowned. "It's our first *married* Christmas. Not to mention our 
first Yuletide as normal tax-paying citizens with meaningful employment

as opposed to, say, hunted criminals."

Scully squirmed as she fought the impulse to look behind her. "I know,

Mulder. I-- I *know*. But it's fine. You couldn't help getting sick."

"There are lots of things I couldn't help."

"No." She shook her head. "We're not going there. We're not. Listen to

me." Scully took a calming breath, leaned forward, and spoke gently, 
"That part of our life is over. Terrible things have happened to us-- 
things no one would ever believe. But. It. Is. Over. Because of what 
you did. When you start to get hard on yourself, you do what your 
therapist suggested and focus on your achievement, which she can't even

begin to comprehend, which *I* barely comprehend and I was there." 
Scully felt the hot desert wind again, saw the swirling dust. The open

portal to the saucer seemed a black triangular slit. Mulder was 
mounting the ramp to where the Grays were waiting, their attenuated 
hands already grasping for him. Mulder's body jumped and his spine 
arched when they touched him, his arms lifting up, hands open, palms 

Mulder was talking. "...Shrink thinks I have PTED?"

"W-what?" she stuttered. "I thought it was PTSD."

"It is." He sniffed. "I have that, too. But this is PTED. 
Post-traumatic *Embitterment* Disorder. It's only been recently 
identified. The core criteria are exceptional negative life events that

precipitate the onset of a state of emotional embitterment and feelings

of injustice, repeated intrusive memories of the events, impaired 
emotional modulation, feelings of helplessness, self-blame, rejection 
of help, suicidal ideation, dysphoria, aggression, down-heartedness, 
seemingly melancholic depression, unspecific somatic complaints, loss 
of appetite, sleep disturbances, pain, phobic symptoms in respect to 
the place or to persons related to the event, and reduced drive."

She cocked her head. "So I'm anxiety stew and you're alphabet soup?"



"Go fish."

"Nope. Our fishing days are over, Mulder." She leaned back in the big 
padded chair and adjusted the blanket that covered her legs. "We 
trolled for the truth and we found it. And we've paid too much for it.

But now we're cut loose. If we stick to our therapy, we'll get better.

We'll live the life together that we talked about."

His eyes softened and he reached out to stroke her cheek, remembering,

as she was, cheap motel rooms all around the Pacific Northwest or their

camp in the desert, while waiting for the Grays to come. They'd talked

long into those nights, holding each other, whispering into each 
other's ears, speaking of a burden lifted, of floating free.

And after the Grays had drunk all the words and pictures that Mulder 
offered, they had floated his body back to her like a windborne 
feather. She'd been able to hold him while pretending that, for once, 
by her physical size and strength she could support him. She'd sank to

her knees as they'd lowered him, letting his head loll against her 
chest, letting his long body settle on the ground. There had been tears

on her face tracking through the dust, and the same trails marking his.

She'd wiped Mulder's eyes with the hem of her shirt and had called his

name above the hum of the alien ship.

Mulder's lids had lifted a little. "Scully..." his voice was rough and

his words broken by his ongoing fight with unconsciousness. "Crack... 
open ...the ... Dom Perignon."

Scully reached down beside the chair, and lifted up what she'd hidden.

Mulder's brow furrowed as she sat the tall green bottle on the bed 
stand by the open carryout box. "Sparking cider," she announced.

"What? Not even real champagne? Killjoy," Mulder muttered as Scully dug

the two plastic goblets and the corkscrew out of her overnight bag.

The clink of their glasses was more like a click, but the kiss that 
followed was passionate. He smelled of rubbing alcohol and medical tape

and soy sauce, and tasted of salt and ginger. Scully loved him.

She loved him.

Mulder suddenly broke the seal of their lips, gutturally whispering a 
vow into her still-open mouth, "We'll get William back, I promise. I..."

"Hush. Shhhhhhh. No, Mulder. No more quests."


Her renewed kiss silenced him, yet as he relaxed into her embrace, 
Scully's hopes buoyed for a reunion with their son. Surely something 
could be worked out with William's adoptive parents. They were decent 
people, not the type to deny all contact. And now there would be time 
for more babies, too-- William's siblings, who would be born in a world

with no drop-dead date, with no extremis in sight.

As if reading her mind, Mulder pulled away again, asking almost 
giddily, "Whoever thought the Grays would listen to reason?"

"You did, Mulder. You believed." Scully stroked his hair. "I was 
skeptical, but I followed you along."


MaybeAmanda's challenge elements:

The XOK 155-310 Word (or More, or Less)  *I Want to Believe* Festive
Season Fic Challenge

Any Era! Any Pairing! Any Theme!

Suggested inclusions:

1) Someone/thing from the X-Files!

2) Reference to a holiday-- any holiday!

3) Reference to your favorite episode (feel free to make it obscure!!!)

4) The word *red.* Or *white.* *Green?* Okay, some color!

5) Mention of one (or more) of the following:

take-out food