'Remembering the Pain' by phyre

Rating: R (for language only); M/K

Distribution: Archive X, TER/MA and All Things Rat. All others, please ask so I know where to visit.

Disclaimer: I don't own them, I don't make any money off of them but I take better care of them. CC & Co. take note and act accordingly in Season 7.

Spoilers: 'Terma' and 'Tunguska'.

Author's Notes: This is the sequel to 'Shared Pain'. It would probably help to read that short vignette first. You can find that particular piece at All Things Rat, Archive X, my page and a few other places. If you need a URL, just let me know.

Summary: Healing hurts; honesty may very well hurt more.

Many thanks, a dozen virtual roses and a box of chocolates to Imajiru and Karen-Leigh who stepped up to bat for the quick and dirty beta.

Feedback gratefully accepted at phyre@prodigy.net


'Remembering the Pain'
by phyre


"Alex, we need to talk ..."

In less than a heartbeat your eyes go flat black as the wall comes crashing down once more. Just another in a long series of walls. It doesn't take a genius to see it, only someone who knows you well. Watching you now as you turn away, I wonder if I know you at all.

Oh, I know your likes and dislikes. I know how to make you come hard and fast and how to make you beg for more. I know your birthday, how you take your coffee and like your eggs, your favorite color, favorite author and favorite movie. I even know a few little things; how you hold your breath just before the sun crests the horizon, the first time a lover broke your heart and the last time one broke your spirit.

One of these days I'll learn to accept these precious bits of information and treat them as a gift; not a right but a privilege. The fact that we've shared a bed for almost a year doesn't guarantee me any rights at all, does it? I have to earn them. How much longer do I have to wait until I really know you? Will there always be some invisible wall separating us?

There you sit, defensive, angry. Fear dancing just behind your eyes as they narrow; not much, but enough. Enough for me to know this won't be easy.

"No, we don't need to talk, Mulder, *you* do."

Ouch. Direct hit. "You're right, Alex. *I* need to talk. I--"

"Why? Why, Mulder? What do you want me to say?"

Angry words hissed through a clenched jaw. You're pissed off again and I can't answer because I just don't know how. All I can do is look at you and think about how much I love you, how much I hurt for you, even though you don't feel the pain.

"Fuck. Just how many times do you need to hear it? I woke up to hands holding me down. I felt the heat of the knife long before I felt the blade. I remember screaming and after that-- nothing. I passed out and woke to one less body part but I was alive, Mulder, and that's what counted in my book. That's all that's ever counted with me. I *lived*. Everything else was secondary."

There it is. A neat tidy package. Very cold, very clinical. For all the emotion you showed, you could have been reading a weather report instead of giving a blow by blow description of the most devastating time of your life.

Of course that's not how you told me the first time.

The first time you were sitting in an empty, dimly lit bar just before closing time, working your way through the contents of a Stoli bottle, looking like you hadn't seen a bed in weeks, or soap and water for that matter. Gutsy move, giving the bartender my number. I got that call and thought for sure it was a trap; I just assumed you had died in Tunguska. Even so, it didn't stop me from going. Imagine my surprise when I saw you ... and your empty sleeve. I doubt I hid the shock too well but you didn't seem to care, or even notice. A few hours later, I stopped noticing as well.

"It's not about me, Mulder, it's about you. Your guilt. Phantom guilt like the phantom pains I feel in my arm."

What? Where the hell did that come from? "For God's sake Alex, you know that's not true."

"Isn't it? Isn't it? C'mon, you want to talk about honesty? Then start by being honest."

"What are you talking about? Listen--"

"No, Mulder! *You* listen. You wanted me to talk, I'm talking. My gut tells me you'd like nothing better than to have me fall into your arms sobbing and carrying on about the injustice of it all. It would ease your conscience somehow. You could apologize--again--and I could soothe you at the same time you're soothing me. Sort of like killing two birds with one stone. But that's not going to happen Mulder, because it's over, it's done and you, *you* need to get on with your life because I have damn well gotten on with mine. I don't need your pity or your psycho-babble. Shit happens. Get used to it. I told you, I lived and that's all that matters."

I never realized just how loud silence can be, how hollow and empty. From the hallway, I hear the clock ticking off measured increments of time; my heart beating nearly twice as fast.

I never realized how angry you can get without showing an ounce of emotion. How dare you, Alex? How fucking dare you?

"You know I'm right, Fox."

Fox. Fuck. It's serious now. You only call me 'Fox' when all hell's going to break loose emotionally, or when you're about to come and you damn sure don't look like you're getting off on this. You look and sound tired and just plain sick, like something is eating you away from the inside. How can you say this? How can you think I'm not being honest with you?

"Go on." That must have been my voice; the words came from my mouth, it just didn't sound like me. It sounded small, scared. This isn't about me. It's about you.

"That night ... I had nowhere to go. I was scared and angry and hurt and yeah, I guess I held you responsible but only for about a week. I wanted to hurt you, I wanted you to feel guilty. You know why? Because I knew you would. Jesus, Fox, you've been carrying the guilt of the world on your shoulders since the day I met you. Since before that. Everything that goes wrong in your life, in the lives of those you hold close, even in the lives of people you hate, you hold yourself responsible because that's the way you are. That's the way you were brought up. It was a cheap play on my part and I'm sorry about that. I knew it was wrong."

I don't want to hear this. This isn't about me. "Alex--"

"No, wait. Let me finish. Let me get this out before I ..."

I have to let a nod speak for me, I don't trust my voice and I know how it feels to start something and get stuck halfway through, to lose my nerve.

"What happened, everything that came down that night, was a direct result of *my* actions, not yours. *I* made the decision to bail from the truck. Do I regret it? Yeah, sure I do but you know I don't spend my time getting hung up on regrets. We all have 20/20 hindsight, right? If I had it to do over again, I would have taken my licks from you ... I would have won anyway."

There's a quick flash shine of white teeth in the barest hint of a smile. Your eyes are alive again. This is good.

"I thought bailing was a better idea. Obviously, I was wrong. So I ran--back to *them.*"

Yeah. Them. We don't talk much about *them*, do we? Some questions are better left unasked.

"I got a new arm and then I got away. It doesn't matter how, besides, they know where I am."

I know they do. We don't ever talk about that, about the hold they have on you. It's an unspoken law in this place. This is a safe place, the rest of the world can wait on the doorstep. In here, it's just us--no 'them'.

"Fox, don't try to take responsibility for something *I* did. I look at this differently than you. I jumped and you kept driving. We weren't exactly best friends. Remember?"

A snicker escapes with a rueful shrug. No, we weren't exactly best friends.

"This wasn't torture, it wasn't abuse. Those poor misguided, or maybe not so misguided, fools were trying to protect me the only way they knew how. I can't fault them for that, only for their ways. *I'm* the only one who could have prevented this, no one else. You need to believe that and stop trying to assume responsibility for everyone's actions."

"I'm not doing that, Alex. Why are you trying to tell me what I'm feel--" Oh Jesus! Fuck, how could I have been so stupid. The sudden clarity hits me harder than any punch I've taken. It's hard to breathe. Your voice is so soft now, so gentle.

"Why? Isn't that what *you're* doing?"

I can't look at you so I study the pattern of the sheets. I knew this. I knew it all along but I kept it hidden. Buried deep in the back of my mind and I used you. You're right, of course. About the guilt, the need for it. If I could help you, I could help myself but you didn't need any help. You'd already gone beyond it, gone on. I can't do that so I'm left alone. Alone and scared and angry ... and guilty for a thousand things beyond my control. And I used you, oh Jesus, I used you.

"Look, Fox, all I lost was my arm. Don't turn it into Samantha, don't ask me to grieve for it the way you grieve for her, it's not the same. It's not as important. Samantha wasn't your fault, no matter what that fucked-up family of yours told you. My arm wasn't your fault either. I never believed that, not even when I wanted to."

And the hallway clock keeps ticking off lost seconds of my life.

"So much for a good education." Lame joke but you'll forgive me, I know you will. And you'll ignore the catch in my voice, too. I can't admit to too much right now. It's enough that it's out in the open.

"You know, sometimes your education just gets in the way of what's really going on. I don't fit into any mold and you have to stop believing I do. You have to stop trying make me fit. We get along much better that way."

"I don't know if I can get past the guilt, Alex." I just don't know.

"I don't know if I can help you with that, Fox. I think maybe you need someone with a lot more letters after his name. Someone who can be objective, help you figure things out. All I'm going to do is think about how much I love you and that's not what you need. You need to accept the events of the past and work with them. You need to figure out what's important. I did it. I grieved for my arm for about a week and then I realized that I was alive and that's all that mattered. I could go on and still take whatever was thrown at me. I decided it was time to look at things differently, that included how I felt about you. I do know I love you and I don't need two arms to hold you or fuck you and I certainly don't need a fancy degree to tell me that."

It's so quiet. Just the sound of gentle breathing. The pattern of the sheet is blurring and the breeze shifts the leaves; their silhouettes dance on the walls.

The heat from your body warms me as you pull me in closer to your side. I want to kiss every inch of you, sleep in your arms with a sated smile on my face, grow old with you.

For you I can do this, for you I can learn to accept, because you love me and that's all that matters. Everything else is secondary.