Sent: Tuesday, July 04, 2000

Title: No Place Like Home
Author: Agent L
Classification: S, minor Mulderangst, implied MT
Rating: G
Spoilers: Requiem and one well-hidden reference to Orison
Distribution: Archive anywhere, but keep my name and
e-mail attached please!
Disclaimer: To Chris Carter, David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, and Fox:
I know they're not mine, and no money, gifts or even chocolate would be
expected or accepted for this.
Summary: Mulder awakes in a forest with no memory.
Author Notes: This was inspired by Requiem and could certainly be read
as a post-Req, but I think it could also work as a standalone.
Feedback: Yes, please!

No Place Like Home

November 21, 2000
Somewhere in the United States

He awoke in the middle of a forest, with no memory of how he'd
come to be there. It was near dawn, and the pale fingers of the
morning sun slipped through the trees, bathing his pale skin with
golden light. He turned toward the brightness as if he wanted to
soak it into himself, a smile of pure joy on the bearded face.

He tried to remember other sunrises, other forests, the sounds and
smells, but it was as if he had only experienced these things in books,
from far away. The reality was overwhelming -- the scent of pine,
dirt, mildew, water...the feel of the cool morning air on his skin,
the roughness of the ground beneath him, the solidness of the tree
behind his back...the lyrical singing of the birds, the hushed whisper
of leaves and branches.

A magical place. Not like the gray place he had come from.
No colors there. No smells, no sounds. He was glad the memory was
already fading. He liked this place better. Maybe if he was very quiet,
no one would notice him here and he would be allowed to stay.


The sharp voice startled him, and instinctively he began to run --
his arms and legs flailed awkwardly, the movements unfamiliar and painful.
His legs gave out within a few yards and he crashed to the ground,
terrified by the hoarse cries that seemed to come from all around him,
sounds of fear and pain and confusion, until he realized his throat hurt.
He was using his voice.

They would punish him now. They would take away his voice again,
take away the green trees and the smell of the earth. This had simply
been some new experiment to test his docility and cooperation, and
he had tried to escape at the first opportunity. He had failed again and
now he would be punished. But there were methods of escape that
did not involve the physical body.

As soon as a hand touched his shoulder, he removed himself from

November 23

His name was Fox Mulder. He heard someone say that as they
wheeled him down a long corridor. He was lying on a gurney,
with straps over his arms and legs, but when he began to struggle,
someone spoke to him gently and loosened the bindings. The people
who had found him seemed kind, genuinely interested in helping him.
They spoke to him in a language he knew, saying words like hospital, No, he wanted to say, no one is safe, but he had forgotten
how to get the words from his brain to his mouth.

Fox Mulder had an FBI I.D. He had $200 in his wallet, a drivers
license, an ATM card, two credit cards and a card for the "Sinema"
video store. He had a small photo of a young girl with dark hair
and pigtails. There were keys in his pocket, but he had no idea what
locks they might open.

He felt as if he had slipped beneath a stranger's skin. When he looked
in the mirror in the bathroom of his hospital room, his face was not
that of the man in the I.D. His hair was thick, long, and hung limply to
his shoulders. He had a heavy beard and mustache. His weight was
nowhere near what the driver's license specified.

But the differences were more than merely physical. The Fox Mulder
in the FBI ID photo had an air of confidence, of strength. He would not
jump at sudden noises, or flinch at the lightest touch. Fox Mulder looked
graceful and athletic. He would not have to concentrate on the simplest
movements, carefully observing those around him to mimic what they did
so that everyone would think he was normal.

The hospital staff performed tests -- simple procedures, like drawing
blood, taking his pulse and temperature. He allowed them because he
had learned that submission was less painful than fighting -- and even
though they told him sometimes a test would hurt, he felt very little
discomfort. Not like the tests he had been subjected to in the gray place --
tests designed with no thought for the comfort of the subject, administered
with no regard for the pain they might cause. These strangers were gentle
and soft-spoken, and he sensed their tests were meant to help him in
some way, but he couldn't stay here.

He needed to go home.

The license said he lived in Virginia. He wasn't sure if that was home,
but maybe if he could get to Virginia, he could find someone who
remembered Fox Mulder. On the third day of his hospital stay, he put
on the clothes that he'd been wearing when people had found him,
climbed out the window and disappeared into the night.

November 26
8:00 p.m.

He had eaten in the hospital, but hadn't been hungry since then.
He traveled along a small stream, where he could drink whenever
he needed to and wash his face to refresh himself. Although he
wore a watch, the hands never moved, so there was simply daytime
and nighttime, light and dark. Sleep came in the form of small naps,
curled up under one of the trees, whenever he had pushed himself
beyond the point of exhaustion and his body demanded rest.

A few times he had approached a roadway, thinking that perhaps
some driver would offer him a ride, but the roar of the engines and
the speed of the vehicles had inexplicably frightened him and he had
headed back for the shelter of the woods.

He never thought to go into a town, to use the money or the
credit cards in his wallet. They belonged to Fox Mulder.

Language and motor skills had drifted back to him over the past
three days. He still tired quickly, but his coordination improved
with each passing minute. Now he was thinking coherently, able to
recognize and name the things around him.

Memories of Fox Mulder's life returned slowly, often appearing in
vivid dreams and nightmares. When he awoke he always sensed he
had lived these moments -- that his mind had been remembering,
not creating -- but the pictures faded almost immediately. He could
never recall enough to put together a cohesive picture, only snatches
of images and bits of dialogue, like rapidly changing channels on the TV.

He soon learned to push aside the puzzle, tantalizing as it was.
When he was safe at home, he could reconstruct his shattered past.
For now, he needed to stay in the present -- to focus on survival.

The early winter darkness had descended two hours ago, a barely
noticeable change in the damp, slate-gray afternoon, and a fierce
northern wind began to rattle the skeletal trees. His unlined leather
jacket did little to keep out the cold, and the wet grass and mud had
soaked through his shoes, chilling him to the bone.

He wasn't even sure he was going in the right direction, so when he
saw the lights of the house in the distance -- the first house he'd seen
so far on his journey -- he decided to stop and ask where Virginia was.
Maybe if he was quiet and cooperative, they would allow him to lie
down for a while and get warm. By the time he finally climbed the
three stairs of the wide wooden porch and was bathed in the welcoming
yellow light from a big bay window, his teeth were chattering. His
muscles trembled and burned as if he had reached the end of a marathon
instead of simply walked a mile or two. He could barely summon the
energy to knock.

A few moments later, the door opened to reveal a plump, older
woman whose brown hair was liberally streaked with gray. She wore
a purple sweatsuit covered by a white apron with butterflies
embroidered on it. Comical fluffy rabbit faces grinned up at him
from her feet.

She stared at him through the screen as the tantalizing smell of baking
drifted into the cold air.

"Excuse me..." he said, his voice rusty from disuse. "I need -- "

She gave a little gasp and slammed the door. After a glance down
at his disheveled, filthy appearance, he couldn't really blame her --
but when he turned to leave, his weary legs buckled and he sat down
abruptly. As the stars swirled around him, his stomach threatened to
heave up the few berries he'd found that day, and he leaned against
one of the pillars on the porch, taking a few deep, slow breaths.

He gradually felt well enough to move away from the support of
the beam, but groaned wearily at the thought of standing up again,
much less walking. The porch was dry and solid beneath him, if not
as soft as the ground in the forest, and the light from the window at
least gave an illusion of warmth. He was so tired...

Just then the door flew open and a burly red-haired man rushed out,
grabbed him by the shirt and thrust him up against the house.

"Who the hell are you? What do you want?"

Hazy yellow spots drifted before his eyes. He couldn't breathe.
The man's breath smelled of beer and onions, making him sick to
his stomach again and he retched weakly.

Startled, the man let him go, and he slipped bonelessly to the porch
as everything went black.

9:00 p.m.

Whispering. Sounds teased at his consciousness, words he
couldn't understand. He lay still, knowing they would leave him
alone if they thought he was still unconscious. He had learned to
play dead in the gray place. But this darkness was natural, and
when he opened his eyes, he saw a bright half moon shining through
a nearby window. He could feel the softness of a bed beneath him,
and a pillow supported his aching head. As he became more aware,
he remembered the porch, the man who had attacked him. Had he
gotten away from the gray place only to become a prisoner
somewhere else? He could hear the whispered conversation more
clearly now.

" - didn't know he was a fed. Geez, I barely touched him. D'you
think they'll arrest me?"

"He doesn't look like an FBI agent. I thought they were supposed
to be clean cut, well-dressed. They always are on TV. He scared
me to death."

"Maybe he's undercover or something, investigating some
drug ring. Looks like one of those damn junkies..."

"Ssh. I think he's awake."

The voices stopped and footsteps approached. A cool hand
touched his forehead, sparking the memory of someone else's hand,
a soft voice comforting him.

"Feelin' better, hon?" He recognized her as the woman who had
slammed the door in his face, and was confused at her solicitous
behavior. Was this some kind of test? She seemed sincerely concerned,
and he liked it when she stroked the hair off his forehead, like his mother...

Teena. His mother was Teena.

She was dead.

"Mr. Mulder? Are you okay?" The woman looked worried.

"I - I'm not sure..." His voice came out as a hoarse whisper.
"I need to go home."

The woman nodded. "Jake'll drive you to the airport as soon
as you're feeling up to it. You can get a flight back to Washington
from there. I'm sure everybody in the FBI is worried about you."
She stood up. "I'm going to make you something to eat. You
must be hungry."

He shrugged, knowing that eating was somehow important, but
he still had no desire for food. Still, she seemed eager to do this
for him, and he didn't want to risk her anger, so he murmured a
thank you.

After she left the room, he considered what she'd said. He hadn't
thought about people being worried, searching for him. Was there
someone he should call? A friend or relative? His memory remained
stubbornly blank when he tried to recall a familiar face or name.

His wallet was on the nightstand and he leafed through it, but
couldn't find any names or phone numbers other than his own.
The photo of the young girl struck a chord this time, however --
half-remembered laughter, teasing. Childhood. But there was
sadness here as well...a deep longing that tugged at something
deep within him, filled him with an unaccountable sense of loss.


Was Samantha the girl in the photo? Who was she to him?
He tried to focus on the memories that teased the edges of his
mind, to fill in the lines and curves that would complete the picture,
but the effort made his head start to ache again. He was grateful
when the woman came in with soup and sandwich, and to his
surprise, he ate every bite.

The woman, who told him her name was Doris, stayed and
chatted while he finished the meal, apologizing for her husband's
earlier behavior. She chuckled at his obvious delight when he
bit into one of her homemade chocolate chip cookies. "It's nice
to find someone who appreciates my cooking," she said. "Jake's
gotten too used to it." Then she glanced at the wallet on the nightstand
and leaned a little closer. "You look so different from your picture,
with the beard and all. Were you working undercover?" Then she
bit her lip and drew back. "Oh...You probably can't talk about
your job, can you?"

"I don't like it," he said.

"What, the FBI?"

"No. The beard. It itches."

Doris smiled. "Well, hon, we can take care of that in no time."
She reached forward, toward his throat. He tried not to flinch,
but she must have seen the sudden fear in his eyes, because
she hesitated, then slowly put her hand down. "I was going to
take off the necklace, hon. I don't want to damage it."

His hand went to his throat, where he felt the thin strand of metal,
and his fingers traced the delicate chain down to an ornament
of some kind. A cross.

*I won't let you go alone.*

He heard her voice as if she were next to him, her red hair
splayed out on the pillow, blue eyes dark, shadowed with worry.
Worry for him. Instinctively he knew this was not Samantha, but
another woman who had been very important in his life. But in the
next moment, the memory slipped away like a leaf on the
November wind, out of his reach.

Doris put her hand over his and gently tugged at his fingers.
He had grasped the tiny cross so tightly that blood smeared his palm.

About an hour later, in the warm confines of a kitchen decorated
with playful black and white cows, Doris pronounced her work
complete. He had nearly fallen asleep in the chair a few times,
lulled by the gentle clipping of the scissors and the soft music on
the radio, and her voice startled him back to wakefulness.

"I trimmed your hair a little, too," she said, almost apologetically.
"I thought it might be easier to take care of. I used your photo as a guide."

Doris held the mirror up in front of him. His face looked thin and
drawn without the beard, but he liked feeling clean-shaven. She had
more than trimmed his hair, however. It now just grazed the back of
his collar, neatly shaped and combed, except for a few strands that
stubbornly fell across his forehead. He felt a little thrill of excitement
as he recognized this man, even if he still didn't feel quite comfortable
in his skin.

"I'm Fox Mulder," he said.

"Well of course you are," Doris replied.

November 27
10:00 a.m.
The next morning, as Mulder stayed in the shower until the
water began to be uncomfortably cool, Doris sent Jake to town
to get their visitor some new clothes. The jeans were a bit loose,
but didn't hang on him like the others, and the black turtleneck
sweater felt soft and warm against his skin. He kept his shoes and
the leather jacket and insisted on paying Doris and Jake for the
clothes. Doris made a big breakfast of pancakes, eggs and sausages,
with plenty of milk and juice, then stayed behind to clean up the
kitchen while Jake took Mulder to the airport. But she didn't let
him go without a hug and a small bag of chocolate chip cookies.

Jake kept up a running dialogue on the expertise and general
parental background of just about every driver on the road, and
despite a few close calls, they arrived at the airport without incident.
Mulder thanked him and tried to offer him money for gas, but Jake
refused payment, and drove off blaring his horn at the unfortunate
taxi driver who cut in front of him.

Bumped and shoved by busy travelers, Mulder felt the familiar sense
of panic rising up in his chest -- but once he got inside the terminal,
a certainty came over him that he had done this before, many times,
in many different airports. This was a familiar routine to Fox Mulder.
He walked up to the counter and requested a one-way ticket to
Washington, D.C., pulling out his credit card before the attendant
even asked. The next departure wasn't for two hours, so he
wandered around the airport, scanning the magazines and newspapers.

November 27. He tried to remember before November, before
the cold -- but all he could recall was waking up in the forest.
As he recognized some of the faces on the magazines and the
names of some of the bestsellers on the book racks, he started to
feel better, however. The memories would return with time, when
he was home. He bought a newspaper, then wandered back to the
waiting area and dozed until his flight was called.

He was fine until the boarding call, after he handed his ticket to
the attendant and started down the long, white corridor with the
others. The flashback came without warning.

Carried down a long, white corridor, surrounded on all sides,
I can't get free, I don't want to go, don't want to do this -- they have
no faces, their skin is dry and cool when they touch me, sucking
the energy they read my thoughts and tell me there is no escape
no escape from the long white corridor forever in the gray place....


He nearly struck the attendant when she tugged at his sleeve.

"Are you okay?"

"I - I'm fine," he mumbled, embarrassed by his weakness.

She smiled sympathetically. "Bad flyer?"

Actually, he recalled that he enjoyed flying. But he simply nodded,
knowing he couldn't possibly explain what had just happened without
being dragged off to some mental ward somewhere. The attendant
escorted him the rest of the way and got him seated as he tried to
ignore the curious glances and the snickers of some of the other passengers.

The flight was delayed for several minutes and he was nearly
asleep by the time the plane taxied to the end of the runway, lulled by
the quiet conversations around him, floating in a fog of exhaustion.

The sudden roar of the engine jolted him awake. A high pitched hum
reverberated in his head as the plane streaked forward.

Too fast. Going too fast. His heart clutched in his chest and his
lungs froze. He couldn't breathe and still the plane picked up speed.
He closed his eyes tightly and pressed his body back against the seat.

No I don't want to go don't take me --

A hand slipped over his and squeezed gently. The image of a
red-haired woman with blue eyes drifted into his mind, scattering
the fear with her calm demeanor.

He opened his eyes and found himself staring at a sympathetic
flight attendant -- with blonde hair and brown eyes -- who had
buckled in to the seat next to him. She smiled at him warmly and
the terror began to recede, although his heart still felt as if it were
lodged in his throat and his sweater clung to him, damp with cold
sweat. He choked back a protest as the plane lifted off, the feeling
of weightlessness, the uncomfortable pressure in his ears bringing
back painful memories of being taken somewhere against his will.
Unconsciously, his free hand drifted to the cross, seeking comfort
from the small talisman.

Fortunately, once they were in the air, the flight was uneventful.
Although he never completely relaxed, he considered it a victory
of sorts that he didn't run screaming down the aisle when they hit
a bit of turbulence. Sheila, the attendant, checked on him several
times to make sure he was all right. He managed a few sips of
water and had a handful of oyster crackers that calmed his stomach,
so he didn't further humiliate himself by throwing up into one of the
tiny airsick bags.

After surviving the landing, he left the plane on shaky legs and
stopped in the airport bathroom to splash some water on his face,
catching his reflection in the mirror -- a pale, frightened ghost of
the man in his I.D. photo. Despair and hopelessness swept over
him as he wondered if he would ever fully remember that man,
that past life.

He just had to get home. When he got home, there would be
people waiting for him, people who would help him, just as all
these strangers had helped him find his way this far.

Mulder re-entered the terminal and hesitated. He didn't know
if he had a car here, but he certainly didn't trust himself to drive.
Even if he could access those particular skills in his less-than-reliable
brain, he didn't want to risk another panic attack on the crowded
Beltway. After only a moment or two of confusion, he followed
the signs for the shuttle into Washington, once again guided by
old routines that somehow floated up from the depths of his
subconscious mind. The shuttle dropped him off downtown,
where he caught a cab and gave the driver the address.

He began to recognize these streets and landmarks. Sights and
sounds triggered responsive chords in his memory, reassuring him
that he was almost home. He pulled one of Doris' chocolate chip
cookies out of his pocket and munched on it, the fear and loneliness
slipping away with each bite. Excitement and anticipation built inside
him as the cab slowed and stopped in front of a well-tended apartment
building on a tree-lined side street.

Like a child at Christmas, he sensed that the packages were about
to be unwrapped now, as he fumbled with the key to open the
outer door. He knew exactly where to go once he got inside,
and with each step, faces, conversations, and names rushed
into his mind, as if an invisible dam had burst somewhere within
his mind. Fox Mulder was coming home.

He unlocked the door and stepped into the room.

Startled, he realized this was not his apartment. Thinking the cab
driver had made some mistake, Mulder pulled his driver's license
out of his wallet. The address on the license was not the address
he had given the driver. He was in someone else's neighborhood...
someone else's apartment. Yet for the first time in days, he wasn't
afraid. He had the key, after all, and he sensed he had been here
before, many times, and it was a place of safety and healing.

As he looked around, he deduced from the decor that a woman
lived here. The understated yet distinctly feminine furnishings
seemed at odds with the medical and criminal books stacked
neatly on her shelves, however. He ran his hand lightly over the
spines, not surprised that there was no trace of dust, and took a
deep breath. The scent was clean and and vanilla.

As he wandered through the rooms, there were photos here
and there of people and places he didn't know, but also items
that he recognized -- a painting ... the tile in the bathroom ...
the dresser in the bedroom that he somehow knew had been
replaced recently.

She danced along the edges of his consciousness, as if she were
hiding just out of sight, allowing him only tantalizing glimpses of her.
Blue eyes. Red hair, shining in the light. A dusting of freckles across
her nose. Not Samantha. He remembered now that Samantha was
his sister, the girl in the photo... forever lost to him. This woman was
warm and real, and within his reach. He was so close to putting a
name with the face, to finally knowing...

But the more he tried to focus the image, the more distorted it became.
His head began to ache with the effort, a throbbing pain that gradually
increased as if someone was tightening a vise at his temples. With a
soft whimper of frustration at his body's weakness, he lay down on
the soft white couch and pressed his face against a pillow that smelled
of roses.

November 28
7:30 a.m.
"...on my couch. ...couldn't wake him..."

"...six months ago..."


Mulder drifted up through the darkness like a swimmer making
his way through murky depths, needing to take a breath but not
sure what he'd find on the surface. He floated, cautiously testing
the waters, and tried to figure out what was going on.

"He's coming around."

"You said that two hours ago."

*Where the hell am I?*

"He's trying to say something. Mulder..."

A hand slipped over his, and the touch sent an electric shock
up his arm, set off a fireworks display of sensations and recollections
in his head. He gripped the slender fingers tightly and took a deep breath.




"Ssh. Relax, Mulder. Don't fight it. Just open your eyes...."
She spoke to him gently, but then he heard her barking orders at
anyone within hearing distance.

He opened his eyes to see the vision that had so often eluded
his consciousness -- complete and in the flesh. Scully's blue eyes,
Scully's red hair. Scully's hand still clutched in his own, solid and real.

"Welcome back," she smiled, and leaned forward to press a soft
kiss to his forehead, then his lips.

Fox Mulder had finally come home.

The End
Feedback? (Praise and constructive criticism only, please!)