Spoilers: Paper Hearts.
Keywords: XF/My Neighbor Totoro crossover.
Summary: One way for Mulder to solve some of his problems.
Disclaimers: Mulder, Scully, Samantha, and Roche belong to Chris Carter and 1013. And (better late than never!) the totoro and the cat-bus belong to Hayao Miyazaki.
Get On The Bus
Fox Mulder stood alone, in the dark, in the rain, at the bus stop. It had not been a good day. And now the bus was late. Why hadn't he taken Scully up on her offer of a ride home when she left a few hours ago? He could have finished his search from his computer at home. But he was caught up in what he was doing and didn't want to interrupt it, and now with his car in the shop he was reduced to this. The night couldn't possibly get any bleaker, he thought. And then he became aware of a huge shape looming next to him...
"Twice as tall as you, Mulder?" Scully said in her skeptical voice.
"More, maybe. I'm telling you, he was huge!" Mulder shifted the phone to his other hand. "Fur all over, and paws like a bear's. I could barely see up to his face."
"Are you saying you saw Bigfoot?"
"Very funny, Scully. But I think I know what it was."
"Okay, what's your theory?"
"Have you ever heard of a totoro?"
"A totoro. It's the subject of several old Japanese legends, a spirit who lives in the woods and protects small children."
"But Mulder, this is DC, and you're not a child."
"Next to him I could have been one. I could sense that he meant well towards me. He wanted to help."
"So what did this guardian angel do?"
"Nothing. He just waited for the bus with me."
"And no one else on the bus saw it?"
"He left before my bus got there."
"Where did he go?"
"Well, uh...this is where it gets kind of weird..."
"...This, uh, this giant cat came loping up and stopped right in front of us...and then a door opened in its side and the totoro got in...I could see the seats through the windows...and then the cat-bus ran off..."
"Scully, I know it sounds crazy, but that's what I saw."
"Mulder, do you have a thermometer?"
"I don't know. Why?"
"I want you to check your temperature. I think you may be feverish."
"I'm fine, Scully."
Mulder hung up.
Scully's lack of receptiveness wouldn't have kept Mulder from mentioning the totoro again, but an increase in their caseload kept him so busy that he didn't have time to think about it any more.
Then he had a nightmare, and the Roche case was reopened. Mulder found himself left holding a cut-out heart but no conclusive evidence. Scully had told him to go home and get some sleep, but he knew he couldn't sleep yet. He laid the heart down on his desk and went out to the bench by the reflecting pool. When he sat down, he hunched forward, resting his face on his hands. "Sam," he whispered. "Sam, where are you? I need to find you."
He heard a strange sound, soft and rhythmical but immensely powerful. Almost like the patter of giant paws. Then it stopped and he felt a hot breath sweep over him. He lifted his head. The cat-bus sat with its head turned back towards him, looking at him expectantly. The door was open. He stared at it. It inclined its head and blinked reassuringly, so he got up and went to the door. Inside, the bus was brightly lit, though from what source he couldn't tell. The seats were soft and covered in warm colors. Mulder sat down gingerly. The door closed; that is, when he looked it was no longer there. Then he heard a voice, mangled as if filtered through a loudspeaker, but still clear enough for him to make out the words.
"Next stop: little sister."
The cat took off in its loping gait, slowly at first but then rushing faster and faster until the landscape outside the windows was nothing but a dark blur. Mulder felt curiously safe. His mind was no longer formulating questions, only waiting to see what would happen. Finally the motion slowed, and he could see that they were traveling along a country road. A group of low buildings appeared in the distance and Mulder realized that this was their destination.
As they got closer, Mulder saw a figure standing at the fence that surrounded the yard in front of the buildings. A woman with long brown hair. The cat stopped, the door opened, and he got out and threw his arms around the woman. "Samantha," he said with utter certainty.
"Fox," she said. "What took you so long?"
"Come on, Sam." He led her back to the bus. A moment of concern struck him as he turned to see what her reaction to the cat-bus would be, but her face had the calm of one who has seen infinitely stranger things. They sat down, holding each other's hands. "Where do you want to go, Sam?" he asked her.
"Home," she said. And the loudspeaker voice echoed her:
"Next stop: home."