TITLE: Almost Home (26/?)
AUTHOR: Shoshana
EMAIL ADDRESS: shoshana1013@excite.com
DISTRIBUTION STATEMENT: Gossamer, Spookys site, Xemplary,
etc.
SPOILER WARNING: Seventh season episodes through Requiem.
RATING: NC-17 (Most of the story is rated R, NC-17 parts will be
clearly marked)
CONTENT STATEMENT: MSR
CLASSIFICATION: SRA
KEYWORDS: Mulder/Scully Romance
SUMMARY: Post ep for Requiem. Mulder comes back... but he's
missing something.
DISCLAIMER: These characters do not belong to me.
NOTE: Thanks to my great beta readers Amy, Keleka, Lisa and Sallie!

Almost Home (26/?)
By Shoshana

Friday
March 2nd, 2001
J. Edgar Hoover Building
9:22 a.m.

Scully brushed more imaginary lint off Mulder's Armani suit, the
third time since they'd taken their seats across from the hearing
room. He reached over and grabbed her restless hand, lacing their
fingers together.

"Don't be nervous, Scully," he advised.

She gave his hand a little squeeze. "I'm not nervous, Mulder. I'm
anxious to get this over with."

"I am too," he responded, leaning closer so he could lower his
voice. "Just remember what we agreed last night--nothing they can
say, nothing they can do--short of locking us up for perjury or
insubordination--and I doubt they'd be bold enough to do *that*--can
prevent us from achieving our goals. We're going to find out what
happened to me and all those other abductees, whether the Bureau
cares to employ us or not."

Scully fingered the material of her maternity dress, a classically
tailored navy blue number her mother had insisted could be altered
after the baby was born. She'd protested the price tag until Maggie
had offered to pay for it herself. Scully wouldn't allow her to do
so--her mother had already shelled out a lot of money for their
small, impending wedding.

"You look nice," he whispered, repeating the compliment he'd paid
her that morning. "I don't think they'll fire you."
 
She smiled at the lopsided smirk on his face and replied, "They're
not going to fire you either, Mulder. You haven't done anything
wrong. Skinner will testify to that. He may not want to tell the
board he saw a flying saucer, but I know he'll vouch for your sanity
the day you disappeared."

"Ha! One of the few times he can!" Mulder jested, winning another
quick smile from her.

"Agent Scully?" The meeting secretary was standing outside the door
of the conference room, facing the two of them.

Scully nodded at her, then allowed Mulder to help her rise from
their bench.

"Behave," she admonished.

She knew both Deputy Director Kersh and Assistant Director Cassidy
were on this Professional Review board and she wanted him to tread
lightly during his testimony. The other members were relatively
unknown to them, in spite of Mulder's propensity to get pulled in
front of OPR committees. They had a good chance of keeping their
jobs *and* the X-Files if Kersh and Cassidy could be swayed toward
their side. The auditor had been unable to find misuse of funds last
year--that was why the X-Files had remained open during Mulder's
absence. All she and Mulder had to do today was justify the
expensive manhunt last fall for the missing agent.

Scully believed she had enough evidence from Dr. Werber's
hypnotherapy session and Mulder's recent hospital visits to
corroborate some minor changes in his physiology over the last five
months. They hadn't been obvious at first, but the neurologist had
finally reviewed tests from before and after his traumatic brain
surgery of October 1999. He'd then compared them to recent scans
done in the last week. Someone had been experimenting on Mulder's
brain--his massive amnesia had been the most obvious side effect.

Scully was prepared to disclose that to the committee today if it
would disperse the cloud hovering around his disappearance last fall.
She knew this revelation could result in permanent desk duty but they
might have to chance it--he was better off employed at Hoover than
not at all.

She'd considered his offer to become 'Mr. Mom' seriously, weighing
his complete lack of experience in the area of child care against his
fierce determination to protect his child. She wanted Mulder to have
a choice, even one he wasn't altogether thrilled about--a desk job.

They'd discussed that possibility last night and he agreed to
disclose the extent of his amnesia and his episode of seizures. It
was not definitive proof he'd been held captive, but it had to give
the board food for thought. Mulder had been kidnapped once before by
Spender--they had well documented proof of that. It wasn't a giant
leap for intelligent minds to make that he had been used for similar
purposes again.

Scully gave Mulder a parting smile, then tried her best to make a
graceful entrance to the hearing room. Her new outfit helped--it was
modest--with an empire waist and white collar. She looked more like
a schoolgirl than a Federal Agent, at least from the waist up.
Beneath the neatly gathered tucks, she was a very pregnant woman. A
male agent she didn't recognize pulled a chair out for her, then
receded to the back of the room. Blushing slightly, she clenched her
hands into fists underneath the table, willing herself not to be
nervous and not to let her hormones get the best of her.

Jana Cassidy was apparently the chairperson of the committee,
addressing Scully first, "Good morning, Ms. Scully. I'm happy to see
you again. We've spoken to your supervisor, AD Skinner, and we have
just a few questions for you today. I'd like to inform you right
away that this hearing will not result in the closing of the X-Files.
Their role in the organization has already been proven by an
extensive audit and we are not here to debate their viability. We do
need to question you about your partner's absence. As his doctor,
you are well qualified to give an opinion about his past and present
health problems and how they may be related to the time he was
missing. Please tell us what you have found out since he returned
home last week."

Scully opened the file folder she had been clutching since leaving
the bench outside, took a deep breath and said, "My partner, Fox
Mulder, was abducted from a forest near Bellefleur, Oregon last
September. His supervisor, AD Skinner was with him and I'm sure he
has already told you the details of that event. I, and my temporary
partner, along with AD Skinner have been using the resources of the
bureau to search for him after an initial agency-wide manhunt came to
a dead end last fall. We did not discover any new leads, but were
able to monitor hospitals and organizations around the country, and
distribute to them Agent Mulder's physical description. Fortunately,
he was returned by his captors to the Oregon woods, relatively
unharmed. He does have certain health problems--treatable ones--
which should have no impact upon his duties as a Federal agent. I
believe that he will be able to return to full duty status within six
weeks time."

"What kind of health problems?" Deputy Director Kersh asked.

Scully swallowed the lump in her throat and responded--she really
had no choice now. "He is prone to seizures, treatable by a drug
used primarily for epilepsy. The seizures are a result of some form
of brain experimentation by his kidnappers. We cannot determine
precisely what was done to him, but we do know how to control the
resultant seizures. He has also undergone hypnotherapy once to try
to remember the circumstances of his captivity. It's possible he may
do so again, but only after seeing a therapist for several months
time."

"So he is in reasonably good health otherwise?" AD Walker asked.
Scully knew him by sight, but not by name.

"Yes. He's slightly underweight, but that isn't a problem. We've
run extensive tests on him and his neurologist thinks he has the
seizures under control. I have no doubt he will be able to do every
activity he was able to do before in the field."

"Does the bureau have copies of these medical records we can look
through?" AD Cassidy asked.

"Yes, of course. They have all been forwarded to his personnel
files," Scully responded.

"Agent Scully, you are on maternity leave. Do you foresee returning
to work on the X-Files after your leave is over?" asked AD Chen.

"I haven't made a decision yet. I may take a leave of absence until
my child is older."

Scully knew the board would never ask about her marital status in a
public forum such as this. AD Chen's question was reasonable, but it
made her nervous. What if they were planning on separating Mulder
and her when they both returned to the X-Files? They would be
married by then, subject to bureau rules and regulations.

"That will be all, Ms. Scully. Good luck with the baby," AD Cassidy
concluded.

"Thank you," Scully replied, fairly stunned that she was free to go.
It hadn't been that bad, she reflected. And she hadn't revealed a
thing about Mulder's amnesia. Of course, the board could peruse the
medical documents and discover any details they wished. She was
willing to bet this would be the end of the busy bureaucrats'
interest in Mulder's medical condition.

She pushed herself away from the table and stood up, still feeling a
little unnerved by the whole experience. She grabbed her file and
was escorted to a seat in the back of the room by the administrative
assistant who had summoned her to the conference room. Apparently
there would be no problem if she remained during Mulder's testimony.
She had spotted Skinner earlier, sitting thoughtfully in a far corner
of the room.

Mulder entered the hearing room, his eyes flitting around the room
for a glimpse of Scully. He smiled briefly when they made visual
contact, then sat down in the chair behind the witness table. His
finely tailored suit felt a little too large for him and he shrugged
his shoulders to adjust the length of his woolen sleeves.

Jana Cassidy allowed him a minute to get comfortable in the 'hot
seat,' pretending to shuffle through a file folder full of Mulder's
medical records. She'd already scrutinized all the materials therein
earlier that morning--she just wanted to allow her witness to relax a
bit.

She remembered Mulder well from his OPR hearing in 1998. Although
she found his extraterrestrial theories hard to believe, she
respected much of the work he'd accomplished on the X-Files. He and
his partner had more triumphs than failures over the past eight
years, apprehending some of the most elusive criminals ever pursued
by the bureau.

In preparation for this meeting, she'd found herself playing devil's
advocate, championing Mulder's point of view in an argument with
Deputy Director Kersh. It was a calculated risk to engage in verbal
conflict with the higher ranked bureaucrat. In essence, she had
nothing to lose--she was one of the few highly respected female ADs
in the bureau, with fifteen years tenure in her position.

Cassidy's stance for Mulder was one of the reasons Kersh had been
relatively quiet during Skinner and Scully's testimonies. She hoped
he remained so; from what she'd heard so far there were no grounds
for either closing the X-Files or censuring Agent Mulder. Both
options had been tossed out by DD Kersh during their preparatory work
session. Fortunately, he'd backed off when he'd seen Skinner's
account of Mulder's disappearance in Oregon and the extensive medical
records from Mulder's recent hospitalizations.

The hearing itself was a formality--the committee was prepared to
reinstate Mulder as an agent if no contradictory evidence was
uncovered during their proceedings. Naturally, this was a well-kept
secret among them. Skinner suspected as much, but had been reluctant
to approach either Mulder or Scully with that information.

He'd been burned too many times trying to interfere with bureau
matters, and he was fairly sure he'd done everything in his own power
to legitimize Mulder's adventure to Oregon and subsequent mysterious
disappearance. Skinner knew his agent well enough by now--he had
confidence he'd hold his own in front of these bureaucrats. Plus, if
Kersh gave Mulder crap in the hearing, the newly energized AD would
intercede on his behalf. He owed it to Mulder--and to Scully--after
feeling he'd lost one of his best agents in a Pacific Northwest
forest five months ago.

AD Cassidy began the proceeding: "Hello, Agent Mulder. We're here
to discuss your reinstatement to active duty. For the record, we'd
like to hear a personal account of your ordeal the last five months.
We've reviewed your medical records and noted the testimony of both
your supervising AD and your partner, Dana Scully. Please tell us
whatever you can about the time you were missing."

Mulder was a little taken aback; he'd thought for sure this was a
disciplinary hearing--one which would result in some level of penalty
against him. He expected to either lose the X-Files or be thrown out
on his ass. The summons he'd received by courier the other day
certainly implied that. Maybe he did have a friend in the FBI, he
thought to himself with immense relief.

"Would you like me to tell you what I *believe* happened to me or
what I can *remember* happened to me?" Mulder asked, still unsure
what the committee desired from him.

"A little of both would be fine, Agent," Deputy Director Kersh urged.

Mulder bowed his head, pressing his fingertips to the tabletop in an
intense moment of concentration. Finally, he pushed against the hard
surface, in imitation of the beginning of a clocked race.

"I don't remember very much of the last five months. One session of
hypnotic regression last week didn't yield much--in fact I question
any memories recovered at that time. I believe I was held against my
will in an institutional setting. I don't think I was mistreated,
but I do think I was studied by my abductors. I don't have any
concrete evidence of what was done to my mind, but I did have what
can be described as a series of seizures last weekend in Rhode
Island. Fortunately, I have recovered and the prognosis is
optimistic--I don't think I will experience any more episodes in the
future. I'm willing to wait a reasonable period of time to prove my
medical fitness. I'm sure Agent Scully has gone into that and I
won't repeat her findings."

Mulder paused, biting his lip in concentration. He continued,
gesturing with the palms of his hands, "I don't know what else to
tell you. I'm planning on seeing a therapist, to explore ways of
recovering my time lost and cope with any possible post traumatic
stress. I may take a leave of absence in the near future, but I'd
like to reserve the right to continue on the X-Files."

"Your partner also mentioned a leave of absence. Would yours
coincide with hers by any chance?" AD Cassidy asked.

Mulder became slightly flustered. He hadn't wanted to get into this
in a public setting. If they wanted to separate them after their
marriage, he'd have to live with that, but he didn't relish drawing
attention to Scully's pregnancy and her currently unwed status in
front of this audience.

"I think there's a good chance mine will begin immediately after her
maternity leave is over," he said.

It was most the most diplomatic thing he could think to say. He was
under no obligation to provide more personal information, but he felt
the committee should know that either he or Scully would have
guardianship of the X-Files in the near future. He could manage the
division from behind a desk until Scully wanted to return to work, if
at all. One of them would be taking care of the baby, he knew that
for a fact.

"I'm sure everything can be worked out to everyone's satisfaction,"
Cassidy replied with equal tact.

"I hope so," Mulder responded as confidently as he could.

He knew they wouldn't have to face the married agents dilemma for
months, perhaps a year. Maybe never, if he could justify it. There
were more important issues in their life that took priority until
then--they had to find out why he had been abducted and what the
aliens had planned for their world. Mulder certainly couldn't tell
the committee about those questions today; he didn't want to be held
up to ridicule if he could avoid it.

"I think we've covered all the items on our agenda today, Agent
Mulder. I don't see any problem with your reinstatement at the
moment. We will be reviewing the findings of this committee and
sending them to the Director. I'm sure you will hear from the Bureau
soon," AD Cassidy concluded. "We'll adjourn the hearing now."

With that pronouncement, all present slowly came back to life.
Chairs squeaked as they were pushed back from conference tables and
muted conversation began in all corners of the room. Mulder raced
over to Scully's side, grinning widely. He had to restrain every
muscle of his body that wanted to take her into his arms. Her face
reflected his relief this ordeal was over, but he knew how
undignified an overt display of affection would seem to her.

Instead, he helped her rise from her seat, then guided her with one
hand toward the still seated figure of Skinner across the room. He
was conversing with someone beside him and excused himself as soon as
he saw his agents coming toward him. He rose and extended his hand
to Mulder, who reciprocated the gesture with a smile.

"Thank you, sir. I'm sure your testimony was crucial here," Mulder
told his supervisor.

"I owed you, Mulder. I owed you both all the support I could come
up with. Why don't you come to the office and we'll start the
paperwork. I'd like to see you back whenever you feel comfortable,"
Skinner replied.

Mulder looked over at Scully for approval. He had no idea what she
had planned for their afternoon; he would have been pleased to go
back to one of their apartments and blow off the rest of the day.

"That sounds like a good plan, Mulder. That, and a corned beef
sandwich from the deli down the street."

"See, sir... from bee pollen to corned beef sandwiches in just six
months--" Mulder quipped.

Scully swatted him with her file folder and scolded, "Mulder!"

She then turned to Skinner and said, "Thanks, sir. For today and
every day you helped me out since last fall." She tossed her head
toward Mulder and commented, "Maybe you can send him to a training
seminar while he's desk bound--one for headstrong, insubordinate
agents--"

"Not me!" objected Mulder.

"I think the gentleman doth protest too much," Skinner parried back.
"Come on, you two. It will be nice to have you back in the office."

fin

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