Perchance to Dream
Spoilers: Yes, it's yet another in the endless parade of post-'Requiem' fics. Sorry about that. ;-)
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Summary: An interlude, and a homecoming.
- - - - -
The hardest thing, in the beginning, was the absence of day and night, sun and moon, light and dark -- of the familiar rhythms that had measured out his whole life in the before-time. His watch had been taken away along with everything else he'd had; he had supposed, when he could still remember what a watch was, that it wouldn't have worked here anyway, and so he didn't waste his energy worrying about it. There had been something more valuable than the thing strapped to his wrist, although he couldn't remember anymore what it had been. He only knew that sometimes he woke fitfully from one of his brief snatches of restless sleep, and put his hand to his throat, groping with his fingers for something that should have been strung around his neck.
The cell in which he was held was white, for want of a better word; the endless labyrinthine corridors through which he had been led and then cajoled and finally dragged were white. He might rather have said they were light, for they were so bright that he had squinted at first, until his eyes grew accustomed to it, or until they had perhaps altered him in such a way as to make his vision adapt. He never found the source of this brightness that cast no shadows and never dimmed. He dwelt, in the beginning, on the irony of it: how men had, from of old, named the darkness evil and the light good. As his world narrowed and his memories faded, the irony began to be lost on him.
Because he had no way of measuring time, he didn't know how long it had been until it occurred to him that he hadn't been given any food or water since he'd been taken. He was curiously unsurprised to realize he hadn't missed them. There was no sleep in this place; there was no hunger or thirst. The only constant, the only thing he remembered about his body from the before-time and which still seemed to apply here, was pain.
He had struggled at first, like he'd heard all the rest of them do; he'd screamed and cursed and spit and kicked every time they had laid what passed for hands upon him. It only made the pain worse, but there was almost a kind of satisfaction in it after the fight. He had made himself so difficult that there had been some concern when he had finally surrendered and gone limp and silent and acquiescent in their talons. That was in the time when he could still hear, with that strange new inner ear, the goings-on of the minds around him. That time had passed. He didn't know if the others had found some way to veil themselves, or if perhaps the constant din of suffering all around him had finally deafened him.
Someone had loved him once. He remembered that much. Someone had loved him, and his being here had something to do with that. It was too difficult to puzzle it out, but it was the closest thing he had to comfort, and so sometimes he let his mind rest on it.
He could not say anymore who it was that had loved him so, and losing the memory of her hurt him more than any the procedures that had been performed. But he knew how well and how truly she had loved him by the way the image of her face had remained with him far longer than the sound of the words that had once been his name.
He had stopped trying to remember the before-time now. Remembering was like fighting; it was useless. It hurt. It didn't accomplish anything except to make him realize all over again how helpless he was, and that it was all over. Remembering was bad. It was better just to lie on the floor of his cell and to forget that his life had ever consisted of anything more than this.
- - - - -
After some months, or perhaps a few weeks, or only a hundred years, he was brought again to one of the large rooms where the procedures were done, but there was a difference; instead of a table at the center, he saw some sort of a cylindrical chamber. He was carried unresisting toward it, and set down within it, and the opening whispered shut behind him after they had withdrawn.
He waited. His entire existence now was about waiting. There was nothing to wait for, no beginning and no end; there was nothing to do but wait. He settled himself crosslegged on the floor of the chamber and did so.
The light around him grew brighter and brighter, and he squeezed his eyes shut, but it was not enough, and he lifted his hands to cover his face. He felt as much as heard the high-pitched whine that shrilled through his whole body. He ducked his head, but there was no escape; without knowing what he was doing, he rolled to the floor, writhing. The pain flamed, brighter than the light, and he screamed the way he had when he had first been fastened to the table, screamed until he felt himself being pulled down the familiar whirlpool into unconsciousness.
- - - - -
He woke to the dim realization that he had not been brought back to his own cell. The surface beneath him was not the level floor he was used to; it was uneven, with lumps and hard things and softer patches. Once, he would have been excited, or even hopeful, but he had forgotten those things, and he was only frightened. He lay still, afraid even to open his eyes, waiting as he had learned to do.
There were sounds here. He almost trembled to hear again with his very own ears. Something nagged at him, told him these sounds were ones he ought to know, but he had forgotten how to place them. He drew a deep breath, and the smell of the air was so foreign, so shockingly familiar, that his eyes flew open in spite of his fear. All at once he recognized forest, and cold, and wet, and dark -- and dark!
Now the sounds coalesced into voices; now he saw thin beams of light splitting the night air, coming closer, borne by walking forms that called out as they approached him. A beam of light played across him, and he flinched; then there was excited shouting, the crunching thud of footsteps, an almost unbearable cacophony to ears that had spent such a long time unhearing. The moving shadows leaned over him and reached out to touch him, and he struggled feebly for a moment until he understood what they were. Then he laid still and let them lift him up and bear him away in their warm, soft, human hands.
- - - - -
He had lain in the soft bed for a few days now; there was a window on the other side of the room that showed him the day and the night, and this was how he knew. Faces hovered over him and voices spoke kindly in the language he had long since forgotten. He had been washed and examined and dressed, but the hands had been gentle, and he had not struggled. He had been given food and drink. He spent most of his time drifting in and out of what he took for sleep.
He dreamed again. It had been so long since he had dreamed. In his dreams he felt soft hands holding his own; he heard a voice whose sweetness made something inside him ache. He wished he could remember why.
At last, during what he thought was one of those dreams, he marshalled enough of his strength to open his eyes, and he thought he saw a flash of auburn, and the face whose memory had sustained him for so long. He stared, and as he watched, she looked up and saw, and she spoke, and leaned over him.
His eyes hurt suddenly, and his vision swam; he blinked quickly, and she hovered closer, her mouth moving, the tone of her voice more urgent. His throat constricted, and he took a frightened, hiccuppy breath. She leaned down to him then, her forehead almost touching his, her fingertips gently brushing away the strange stinging liquid that was running from his eyes. Her voice was infinitely tender. The first word he recognized was the one that had been his name.
And he knew, all at once he knew, and he opened his mouth, struggling to form the word. "Scully," he breathed at last. "Scully."
She nodded, and laughed, and sobbed, and laid her head down on his chest, and with all that remained of his strength he raised one of his arms from the bed and wrapped it around her, and he knew he was home.
To die, to sleep --
To sleep, perchance to dream, ay there's the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause; there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
--William Shakespeare, Hamlet