Title: False Memories
Spoilers: Up to the beginning of Season 9
Date: Februrary 2002
Archive: Yes, but keep my name on it and let me know where it is,
Synopsis: Two years have passed since Mulder left. And then a woman
walks into a bar.
Disclaimer: Mulder, Scully, and Doggett, are property of Chris
Carter, 1013 and Fox, but it's the actors that I see in my mind.
She's not entirely sure why she decided to walk into a bar.
This bar. Maybe the flowering cactuses lined up in the window
evoked heat and scorching sun. Or maybe the burst of laughter
from within reminded her of a birthday surprise not that many
years ago. Maybe instinct kicked in, a flash of the latent
psychic streak she thought had dried up and turned to powder.
Maybe it was simply the rain, the desire to wait someplace
warm until she could reach her car without getting drenched.
Wet feet wouldn't have bothered her in the past, when she was
splashing through puddles alongside Mulder, but she's tired
these days and lacks the energy for unnecessary grief.
Inside, the walls are painted ochre and blue and blood red in
vaguely Navaho patterns, but otherwise, it's just an upscale bar
with a low soundtrack of jazz piano. A third of the tables are
taken, the after-work crowds kept down by the intermittent
storm. She hangs her coat on the communal rack and swipes at
the large raindrops before adjusting the shoulders of her suit
jacket and crossing the room to a table near the wall. The
waitress appears almost at once with a dish of black olives and
a menu. Scully orders the house white.
By now, her mother would have fed Will, bathed him and
dressed him for bed. They'd be cuddled in the rocking chair,
reading a book about bunnies or tigers, Will pointing at the
pictures and asking why, why, why until her mom would
finally give up and say, "Some things are just because." Scully
regrets that she accepted this autopsy that's kept her in Boston
for two nights, regrets the need to beg for field assignments -
no matter how half-assed - so she has an excuse to crisscross
the country trying to find some clue to the great hole in her life.
Regrets that there are no clues to Mulder's long silence; there's
not even a pretense of "because." She takes her cell phone
from her pocket and lays it on the table.
At the next table a man with a shiny forehead and comb-over
has pulled his chair close to a younger woman. They're both
wearing business clothes, but the man has loosened his tie and
the woman's blouse is unbuttoned to expose some cleavage.
She stirs her drink with her finger and licks it while he talks
about his kids. Her eyes shift to Scully, hold for a second, and
return to the man.
Caught eavesdropping, Scully quickly looks away. Her eyes
skip across the other customers then freeze on a man at the bar
halfway across the room. Her pulse races at the familiar profile,
the strong nose - maybe even a bit too large - and the finely-
carved chin. Without conscious intent, she calculates his
height, needing him to be 6'1" exactly. His legs are bent as he
sits on the stool, but judging from his lanky slouch he can't be
far off her mark. At distance, the face so accurately matches
the picture in her mind that her eyes fill with hot tears and she
The man is stylishly dressed in a black v-neck sweater with
pushed-up sleeves. He's sitting sideways, leaning toward a
young woman who tosses her long blond hair over her bare
shoulders. His hand is on his knee and, given the predatory
incline of his body, it will soon be on hers. The young
woman laughs and shakes her hair again and the man grins
at her and taps one finger on her leg. The blonde sips
her drink and nods with enthusiasm. She turns her
head to catch herself in the mirror behind the bar as she pulls
her fingers through her hair to lift it on top. The man stops
speaking and lets his eyes roam to the other tables, one corner
of his mouth turned up in a boast. Before Scully can look
away, his eyes meet hers and the smugness fades, replaced by a
flat, almost unblinking stare.
Though the blonde is talking, the man continues to look at
Scully until his companion takes his wrist. The woman squints
in Scully's direction, her body pulled up straight and tense, but
apparently finding nothing worth notice, she crosses her legs
and laughs. The man makes a show of listening, but his gaze
keeps shifting over to Scully, who finds that her own numb
trance is a self-inflicted wound. For a bleak moment, she
wonders if she completely misunderstood Mulder's reasons for
silence. Only her dizziness keeps her from fleeing.
The man draws away from his companion and his fingers drum
on the counter. The bartender comes over, but he waves him
away. Scully tells herself the resemblance is nothing more
than the brain's overreaction to a finely cut jaw and a loopy
strand of hair hanging over the man's forehead. It's the power
of wishful thinking or maybe it's midmonth hormones. She
looks down just as the waitress sets a tall goblet, filled almost
to the top, on a sandstone coaster in front of her. She wishes
she'd ordered something hot, something that would burn her
mouth and take away the pain.
The blond woman spins around once on her stool and the man
drains his drink. She steps down, adjusts her top upward a
notch and gestures with her head toward the far end of the bar.
Her hips swing as she walks away from him, but the man
misses the display.
As soon as the woman disappears, he grabs his leather jacket
from the next seat and heads straight for Scully. She reaches
for her wallet, fumbling for a bill big enough to spring her from
this confrontation. But before she finds what she needs, he
stops across the table and shoves his hands in the pockets of his
"Hi, I couldn't help but notice you and..." Up close the
resemblance is even more startling, not diluted the way it
usually is when she catches up with tall dark men spotted out
of the corner of her eye. The sweep of the forehead, the
fullness of the mouth, the day-old stubble on a jaw that is
moving slightly as if he's unconsciously grinding his teeth.
Above all the slightly hooded eyes that now search her face.
But she finds no recognition in those eyes, no guilt, no
remorse, no anticipation, no joy, no panic, nothing but polite
apprehension. It's a face behind a window, a traveler on a train
headed in the other direction.
"I apologize," she says, looking down in embarrassment. "It
was rude of me to stare."
"I thought maybe you recognized me." He snorts softly and
waits for her to look up again. "That didn't come out quite
"You did look familiar, but that's no excuse for my bad
"And now what?" It comes out harsher than she meant.
"Do I still look familiar?" He glances quickly over his
shoulder. "Actually, I'm not trying to pick you up, if that's
what you're thinking. I really thought that we'd met before."
He blows out a breath and looks toward the window. "That
still sounds exactly like a pick-up line, doesn't it?"
Improbably, "Norwegian Wood" starts playing in the
background. The man looks around the ceiling to locate the
speakers and Scully finds herself following his gaze to a dark
corner. When she lowers her eyes, he's searching her face with
such intensity that she feels he's mapping the contours of her
thoughts. He then licks his lips and starts over. "One of the
great old songs."
"Yeah." Her throat is dry. She and Mulder had danced to it
one evening in her kitchen when they'd been too needy to
remember how to cook.
He puts his hands on the back of the opposite chair and leans
forward. "What I really meant to say is that I think you may
know something important about me and I need to know what
that is. Am I making any sense at all?"
She presses her lips together and wraps her fingers around the
glass. It's impossible that she has stumbled across him in a
random bar. Even though his voice is the right cadence and he
carries himself with loose-limbed grace, life doesn't work this
way. So how is she supposed to tell this stranger that every
detail of his face is engraved on her heart?
He continues without waiting for her response. "I can't trust
my memory. I think there's a whole part of my life that's
missing - everything maybe."
"You have amnesia?" She feels a jolt of adrenaline and a surge
of irrational heat. But how many times has she been fooled by
a look-alike, a clone, a shape shifter, a ghost, a body swap?
She bites back her feelings and holds her breath.
"No, that's the thing," he says. "I have a whole life full of
memories, but I don't think they're mine." He pulls himself up
to his full height, puts his hands on his hips and chews on his
lower lip. "You think I'm crazy," he says.
He doesn't seem drunk and his face is too full of frustration
for a tease. And why would he bother with a stupid prank when
he already has the evening locked up? She tries to keep her voice
neutral, clinical. "I think your problem may be very real.
But how could you know if *your* memories aren't yours?"
"That's what bothers me. I shouldn't be able to tell."
Just then the blonde comes out of the bathroom, walks back to
her seat at the bar and looks around with a frown. She sees the
man standing at Scully's table and the frown deepens. Her
heels click against the floor as she pursues her course toward
them. The man turns to face her and he runs his hand through
his hair. Scully's heart stabs at the familiar gesture.
"Hey, I just ran into an old friend," he says.
"So I see," she replies taking his arm possessively. "So
introduce me." Up close, the woman is older than Scully first
thought. There are lines around her neck that her bead choker
can't hide and the circles under her eyes have been glossed with
white concealer. She's wearing a diamond on her right hand
and gold bangles that shift up and down her arm. Despite the
fresh lipstick, the woman's smile is thin-lipped, a stretch across
"Oh, yeah, Sarah this is..."
Scully half rises from her seat and extends her hand, "Dana."
"Dana, pleased to meet you." Sarah says it quickly and
immediately looks up at the man so Scully gets the point that
her existence is a matter of indifference. Sarah lowers her
voice, "I'm all ready, hon."
The man carefully slides her hand off his arm and says,
"There's something I need to talk to Dana about." He
pronounces her name slowly as though he's inspecting it from
all angles. "Just wait for me at the bar. Order yourself another
"But I'm ready to leave now." She bumps her hip against his.
"This is something important."
"I thought we had something important."
"Just let me do this. It's about a mutual friend."
It's been so long since Scully's been the object of another
woman's jealous anger that she's surprised by the intensity of
the once-over she now receives. "I'm gone for a minute and
you start hitting on some other woman."
"I'm not 'hitting on' her." He glances at Scully and raises his
brows quickly as though they're partners in a shared joke. He's
a stranger, her inner voice reminds her.
"Oh, like you haven't been hitting on me?" The blonde's face is
"Look, I'm just trying to be honest here."
"If this is some kind of three-way, count me out. Either you
and me leave now or I leave alone."
He nods as she says this, as though he'd predicted it. "Let me
get you a cab then."
Out the corner of her eye, Scully sees the woman with the
cleavage tap her companion on the hand and point to the pair
with her chin. The other conversations at nearby tables seem to
have died down, too. Scully pushes herself farther back in her
The Mulder look-alike reaches out to touch Sarah's elbow, but
she pulls away and, in a flash, slaps him. "You bastard." She
walks quickly away, her hips no longer swaying, grabs her coat
from the rack and storms out the door. He watches her for a
few seconds, then turns back to Scully and shakes his head. "I
guess I deserved that."
"I'm sorry for breaking up your evening," she says. "I didn't
mean to offend your date."
"My date." He says it with an odd finality. "You're giving me
too much credit. Sometimes I just need to verify that I'm
alive - nothing deep, just a good... just someone who'll let me
touch. The body keeps needing even when the soul is dead.
Hell, that's what makes it easy." He looks older, too. She can
see that now in the creases in his forehead and lines around his
"So," he continues, "I just confessed that I go around to bars
and pick up women for an evening. There's probably not a
chance in creation that you want to continue this conversation."
"I was about to leave when you came over, actually." He nods
again, although she knows that the full glass of wine betrays
her. His eyes glint green and brown when the light strikes
them, but it's not enough to mask their inner darkness.
"Actually, that's a lie," she says. "But the man you remind me
of... When I look at you I see him. How can I possibly listen
to you fairly?"
He waits silently, at her mercy. She needs to hear that voice
again, to close her eyes and listen to him read license plates if
necessary, so she can just pretend for a few minutes that
Mulder's back. She swallows the dust in her throat. "If you
want to talk, sit down."
He surprises her by pulling out the chair next to her rather than
the one across the table. He grins, then flags the waitress and
asks for a glass of water. Turning back to Scully he says, "The
difference is you don't *remind* me of anyone. I'm just sure I
They wait in silence while the waitress returns to the bar, leans
across and tells the bartender something. Gradually,
conversations resume at the tables around them, the drama now
finished. The waitress brings the glass of water, sloshing a
little over the edge.
The man rubs his hand down the glass, then sucks the moisture
off his thumb. "You're actually listening to me. This is more
than I deserve."
"You were saying that you have false memories."
"No, I was saying that I live inside this shell. My so-called
memories are something projected on one of those big
surround screens. They're all around, but they don't touch me.
They look deep, but there's nothing but surface. I don't *feel*
anything for them. I can't remember ever feeling anything."
She recalls the picture of Samantha that Mulder kept on his
desk and the way he read through her diary, reliving each day
of her torture. She remembers how he grieved at his mother's
death and his father's. She remembers the time she almost
walked out of their partnership. The one thing impossible to
say about his life was that he'd never felt anything. She draws a
finger across the table and starts softly, "The fact that you're
telling me this disproves that you have no emotions. You're
expressing fear, anger..."
"Those don't count. There should be something that matters in
my life." He screws his eyes shut and rubs a spot under his
hair. His breathing is suddenly quick, ragged, and then slows.
After thirty seconds, he says, "Tell me about the man I look
Here's the pay-off. Here's what it's all been leading to.
Here's where she's supposed to break down and give away some
secret about Mulder, something she doesn't even realize is
important. She straightens in her seat. "First, I'd like to
know more about the person you're not."
He shrugs and rubs his thumb over his fingertips.
"Him? He's not very interesting. He's got a nice sunny
apartment on the Charles, pricey furniture, a couple of
oriental carpetss, a fully equipped kitchen in which I open
bottles of beer. He works at the Social Security Administration."
The man must pick up her surprise, because he interrupts himself
and says, "What?"
"Nothing. Go on."
"Supposedly he's been there - I've been there - for 12 years as
some kind of supervisor. Good performance reviews; I
checked. Did military service before that. I've got a clearer
memory of boot camp than anyone deserves. But no one at the
office seems to care if I do any work or not or even show up.
So," he shrugs again and studies his hands, "I've been staying
home, lying in my nice bed trying to poke holes in my
memories. When I get tired of that, I watch trashy movies."
"Porn?" She says it before she can stop herself.
He laughs and spins his glass around once or twice. "Good
shot. I read poetry, too, if it that's any compensation. Looking
"Have you found them?"
"I can *see* them very clearly. I know what they look like."
Her instincts tell her it's him. Her instincts also tell her she's
been fooled every which way. There's a reason things happen.
There's a reason this man is telling her this story.
"Look," she says, "lots of people aren't satisfied with where
they ended up in life. Perhaps a therapist..."
"You don't think I've tried that?" His voice rises and there's
suddenly a wall between them. "They fail to understand the
difference between illusion and delusion."
He slouches back in his chair, looking at his glass. As the
silence stretches the table starts to jiggle from the nervous
motion of his foot. Finally he leans forward, picks up the cell
phone and holds it up to her. "You have a life full of things
that matter. You have people who wait for you to call. People
you love, who need you. That's what I'm missing." He takes
out his wallet. There are only a few cards and he moves too
quickly for her to catch what's written on them. She realizes
that he hasn't given himself a name. "Here, can you at least tell
me who this is?" He slides out a cropped picture and passes it
along the table. She shivers when she sees it.
"Where did you get this?"
"Is it mine?"
"How did you get this?"
"It was in the lining of my jacket, probably slipped through a
hole in my pocket. Or maybe I put it in there. I don't know.
It's the only clue I've had, at least until you walked in here."
The story is just odd enough. But what does it prove except
that this man has Mulder's jacket? She pushes the photo away.
"It just occurred to me. Have you been in an accident?
Automobile maybe? There'd be some sort of report."
"I don't think so. The marks on my body aren't like that."
"What are they like?"
"You want me to show you?" Somehow his voice has turned
her question into something she didn't intend.
"I'm a doctor. I have a clinical interest." She hopes it's too
dark for him to see the color flush her cheeks.
"In that case..." His hand hovers for a moment and then he
makes a circle on his left shoulder. "I have a puckering scar
here. It looks like it could be a gunshot wound." He gauges
her reaction. "I've checked pictures in books. Believe me, I've
tried to figure this out."
"I believe that...I do..."
"I have a mark here," he pushes back his hair and rubs a spot
high on his forehead. "It's small, but there's a bump like bone
that healed over. I don't like to think about what it might be.
Under here," he pushes his hands through his hair searching,
"there are ridges almost like my skull was sawed open. Any of
this ring a bell? You have any friends with big malpractice
suits?" She smiles at his sarcasm, then lifts her hand and
He pushes back his hair again. "Go ahead."
Slowly, she touches his forehead, probes the small lump. His
skin is warm and barely damp and it's like electricity to touch
him. "Do you remember what caused this?" She hopes her
voice is steady.
"I don't remember what caused any of them. You think they
stuck something into my brain?"
"I don't know. I don't think this hole explains what they did to
"But you think there is a 'they'?"
For a moment, it feels like a trap. She speaks cautiously. "It's
plausible. A possibility."
"Not inappropriately paranoid, no."
He seems to consider her words for a minute, then turns the
photo around to face her. "So what about this? Does it mean
What's the worst that can happen if she believes a lie? What's
the worst if she turns her back on the truth? She takes the
photo and allows herself to smile. "The man you look like.
The baby is his son."
He takes a pair of horn rims out of his pocket and examines the
picture more closely. His jaw tenses and releases, a small knot
forming as he scrutinizes the face. "Can I meet this man?"
"He's... I don't know where he is."
"Well, we could find him."
"No. He disappeared without a trail. I've tried, been trying, to
"He disappears. I appear."
"You know it's impossible."
"I don't know that anything is impossible. 'A woman walks
into a bar dot dot dot.'"
"A woman walks into a bar and then the alarm sounds and she
"So what happens to me? Do I wake up, too, or do I evaporate
in a puff?" He smoothes a bent corner of the picture. His
concentration is intense. "The story doesn't end that way. It
As she bows her head, her hair swings across her face and he
starts to reach toward her cheek, his hand an open gesture,
then clenches his fist and lowers it to the table.
"Dana, you don't believe it does either."
She keeps her eyes on his long fingers. She's given him
possession by handing him her name.
"Did he ever see the baby?"
"He took that photo and then he held him..." she doesn't want
to continue, doesn't want to walk her way through the memory
of those brave smiles.
"He held him?"
"He held him until he fell asleep."
"And then he disappeared?"
"He *had* to leave."
"What's his name? The baby?"
"William. He's named after my friend's father."
"Maybe he would talk to me."
"He died seven or eight years ago."
There's a heavy sigh. "How old is baby William?"
"He's two now. The picture was taken three days after he was
"And, there's a wife? Did he have a wife?"
He's testing her now, working around the edge of the matter,
trying not to get too close too fast, she's sure of it. "No, not
that I know of."
"Then who's William's mother? Not someone like Sarah. He
wasn't like that, was he?"
"No. William's mother is a friend."
"Did he love her?"
The rhythm of her pulse, normally unheard and unfelt, now
fills every contour of her body. "Yes, I think he did," she says
over the roar. But her words feel disloyal, a failure of nerve,
so she corrects herself. "I know he did."
It's his turn to nod. He has swept her along on his questions,
but now he's silent. She wonders what he sees in his inner
landscape, what he feels, and how he measures this story
against the others he has been told.
"Did she... did she love him?" he asks at last.
"Yes. With her whole heart."
"I didn't used to call you Dana, did I?"
"No," she whispers. "You called me Scully."
He completes the gesture that he started earlier, cupping her
cheek in his hand as she leans into his touch.
"Are you sure? That I'm me?"
"Can't you tell, Mulder?" She puts her hand over his.
"Mulder, huh?" He mouths the name again, as if to test the
possibilities. "Shouldn't this be the moment when Monty
opens the third door and I'm reunited with my old self?" He
strokes his thumb below her eye, wiping away the dampness
"Yes, yes it should." It seems insanely funny and she starts
laughing through her tears.
He watches her, smiling, and then says, "What happens now,
Scully?" Only the way he says it is not really a question and
she knows her answer need not be spoken.
Author's note: I wrote this story in honor of Littljoe's birthday.
Many thanks to LT for quick and helpful beta.
Feedback always welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
Zuffy's other stories at http://Zuffy.tripod.com/index.html