by Jaime Lyn
All Disclaimers and headers in part 1. This is part 3.
"You stop by again, bringing me money," says Mulder, calling out to her from the bed.
Scully shuffles back in from the bathroom, a pile of plastic bottles and carefully wrapped soaps and a few white towels gathered in her arms. Her nightly ritual, this obsessive stealing of motel accessories, and she doesn't feel ashamed any longer to hide it from him, which he supposes is an improvement. She dumps the toiletries into a shopping bag from the Stop-N-Save, picks up her composition notebook, and jots down some numbers, scribbling for what seems a ridiculous, inordinate amount of time. Mulder sighs. "Come on, Scully," he says.
"I'm listening," she says, scratching a line through something Mulder can't see, her eyes concentrated on the page. She shuts the book finally, gazes up at him. "I bring you money because I'm supposed to be utilizing your services. I'm undercover, even though I've in a sense blown my cover, and I have to keep bringing you money. If I let out that I've slipped, that I've been compromised, I'll lose my job. Or worse."
He shifts on the mattress, making room for her, and Scully crawls up, catlike, from the foot of the bed. She's wearing nothing but his Knick's t-shirt tonight, or again, should he say, because she seems to have confiscated it permanently. He'd promised her last week that he'd take her to a game one of these days, not now, of course not now, but when it's safe for them to go. She wrinkled her nose in distaste at that, and shook her head at him and said it was 'fine,' and 'thank you,' but he didn't need to go out of his way like that for her. Translation: Scully's not interested in basketball, only in stealing his favorite shirts.
"You're distracting me, woman," he says, as she leans slowly down beside him, her breasts swaying slightly beneath the shirt. She tickles his arm with her fingers, pretends not to see him gazing at her chest. She's teasing him now with the promise of later, of fifteen minutes from now, of every night until forever. Her russet hair, longer this year than any other year since the year he met her, dips in front of her eyes and she has to swat it away.
"You finally agree to let me see the papers you stole," she says, ignoring him and pulling up next to him, facing him and getting comfortable. "We've been getting to know each other for a little while, and so far, we've gathered that we get along best when we argue about everything. We have coffee, late afternoons on L Street, discussions about the war, and arguments about the war, and insults upon insults until I bring you money, just as I've been bringing you money every day."
"Almost two weeks now," Mulder says, "Maybe three."
"You let me see your work, some of your files," she continues. "I give you my opinion on some cases, which you snort at initially but jot down afterwards, when you think Im not looking. I tell you about my father, who was a Navy captain, who wanted me to be a doctor, and who was a little disappointed when I decided to work for the government. You tell me about how you used to play stickball with your sister, and how you love the Yankees. And you laugh when I tell you I once owned a dog named Queequeg, and I threaten to break your neck if you ever laugh at me again."
Mulder laughs at that, but not at her, never at her, putting one hand behind his head. " 'You'd do it, too,' I say, almost amused that I actually like you, that I enjoy spending my afternoons with you, because I seem to spend this obnoxious amount of time arguing with you, or wanting to ring your neck. I say, 'You'd slit my throat like a common criminal.'
Scully smiles, her cheeks warm with color. "So...it's a show of good faith, now, that you give me what I was originally looking for, knowing that I'm not going to take it, or kill you for stealing it. We've already had to hide ourselves once, a few days before, to protect my cover. We had to duck behind a dumpster when I realized we'd been tailed, and I thought someone might overhear me, or see me, talking with the enemy. It's Spender who's watching us. I'm sure of it. I think he's suspicious of me now, and you don't disagree with that. Your silence is almost as good as an affirmative, and it's the first time since I've met you that we agree on something."
"I'm almost relieved that someone's spying on the spy," says Mulder, enfolding her palm in his. "If I'm going to trust you, that is, I need to have reason to. And I do want to trust you. But more than that, I want you to read what it is I worked so hard to get, because I want you on my side. I need you on my side. More than that, I want you to believe in me, that this agency you're working for is hiding things not just from you, but from everyone. You don't know much about why I did what I did, and I don't think they expected you to read the papers, just return them. But I want you to read them. I want you to know the truth. They trained you well, engineered you, and then poisoned you against me before you had met me."
"They thought I would just shoot you."
"But you didn't."
"No. I know you now. Matter of fact, I feel I know you better than I know them, and I hardly know you at all. That frightens me."
"And you're a scientist," says Mulder, his hands going a mile a minute. "After the night I first confronted you, I asked some friends of mine to check you out. They're these three, ill-mannered, seedy-looking island boys who work for the census bureau, but do some fancy poaching from time to time, on the side of course. They're a little odd, but they don't mind me too much, and they seem to have their hands in everything; digging up classified information is their forte. So if there was anyone who could look you up, I knew it was them. They were the ones who told me about your science degree, about your background in medicine. I considered that, too. That as a scientist, you would understand all the scientific mumbo-jumbo that I couldn't. I wanted to know exactly what this supposed bomb was, what it could do, if it was Alas Babylon or nuclear winter we were up against, or what."
"So you confront me; you tell me you'll give me what I want if I promise I can be trusted with it. We wait until late, until well past midnight. It's raining," says Scully, eyeing the half-drawn motel room curtains where it is, indeed, raining outside. It seems to rain almost every night, without fail, out here in the Southwest. Buckets of rain, waterfalls of it. The droplets beat a steady rhythm against the window panes.
"There's a storm," she goes on. "Lightning strikes, and the power goes out. You say that it's alright, that you were going to shut off the lights anyway. You have this flashlight, and everything's dark, the walls, the floor, everything except for this one spot of light. Just enough to see the floor in front of us. The light moves as you walk, and we follow it. And you lead me to the back hallway behind your office, where you keep a safe hidden beneath the floor. Another show of faith, that you would lead me to this hiding place."
Mulder nods, chimes in. " 'This doesn't mean I trust you, Criminal,' I say, pulling out the safe. And you kneel beside me, watching me carefully, not sure what to think of all this."
Scully shakes her head. " 'No,' I say. 'No, of course it doesn't. And I don't trust you, either.' The truth is that I'm still not sure, but I think I trust you, or I want to. I want to... so badly." She runs a finger down his neck, breathing into him, tracing the curve of his skin, whispering this as if the longing of dream Scully is her own. "I haven't trusted anyone since I woke up in a hospital a year ago, wondering what the hell happened to me. Besides this, you're the first man I've seen who can actually pull off a fedora." She smiles.
Mulder laughs. "I'm only wearing it because I know you'll be looking," he says.
Scully raises her hands, stick straight, in front of her. "Suddenly, there's a crack of thunder, loud, unbearably loud, and I jump, fall into you by accident. You grasp my arms to steady me, but it's hard to see when it's so dark, and I'm not used to you or anyone else touching me. Not yet. I pull out my gun, ready to strike, certain it's Spender behind us, that he knows I'm betraying my oath to the OSS by being here with you. I'm used to shooting first, asking questions later. I'm gasping--"
"Put the gun down, Criminal. What, are you going to shoot me now? I thought we'd been through this already."
"Sorry. I thought...I'm nervous, and the thunder... I shouldn't be here."
"You said you wanted the truth. If you don't, you can walk away. Or you can kill me in my sleep. You know where I live. I have no doubt you'd do it."
"I'm not going to kill you, P.I." Scully squints, sighs, lowers her hand to his chest. "You've opened the safe now, and you hand me the flashlight with one hand, and then the papers with the other. It's thundering still, and rain is pounding against the roof. You sit beside me, watching me as I read. You don't touch me. You know better now."
"Your eyes," says Mulder, his voice husky, a slight whisper. He turns to her, takes her chin between two fingers and gazes at her. "They're darker here beneath the flashlight, bluer... or something. I like looking, watching you. You've noticed, but you pretend not to, just like you always do when men look at you. And they do look at you. It's something protective I feel, feral, and I don't know how to describe the feeling, so I don't. I try to ignore it because I still don't know that I like you or trust you, but I can't help but want to. And...those eyes--your eyes, even reading, they're--"
He's cut off by Scully's tilted head, her lips, swooping in, pressing against his, her palm over his cheek, her thumb at his ear, stroking. Her mouth moves slowly, methodically over his, for several long minutes. There is this place that they share together, this place without light and sound and setting; it's just the two of them, touching, speaking, and nobody can find them here. The corrupt men, the aliens, the invasion, they can take everything else, but not this. Not love.
Scully pulls away, her hand brushing his jaw one last time. His eyes are still closed, and he hears her. She says, "I spent two days watching you. Just watching you. You didn't know. I followed you home, watched you from the fire escape. You really should close your curtains."
He opens his eyes to see her gazing at him, adoration open and clear in her expression, in her wide, sea-blue eyes. He wants to make love to her now, right now, just clutch her and press her down into the mattress, but he knows that now is not the time. Not yet, anyway. She needs this, this game that they play. She needs the escape. They both do. Making love comes afterwards, and it is languid and slow, like a waltz they dance without music.
She goes on, says, "I needed to know if what they were saying was true, if you were a danger, a menace, a traitor to your country. But I couldn't fathom it. You sat with the radio for awhile, lying on your couch. Then you took off your hat, played with it. Then you spent awhile with an old picture of your mother and sister, and you ran your fingers over it, and you cried. I couldn't imagine that a man so evil, so corrupt, would spend his nights alone, crying over his lost family. That's why I didn't kill you. Why I want so much to believe you."
"And you do," he whispers. "Believe me, that is."
She sighs. "Almost."
"Almost," he agrees. "So you read the documents, and your expression changes." He clears his throat, shifts so that maybe she won't see how aroused he's become, just from kissing her. She knows what he wants, how he feels, and similarly, her pupils are sharp, dilated. She's ready, she's there, feeling this with him. But both of them are so tired, and wary, and not ready to let go of this game: not yet. Soon. After.
The truth is that he could get aroused while watching her blow-dry her hair, and he thinks she knows this about him. She relishes it, even though she pretends not to. But that doesn't mean he's going to throw her over the sink and fuck her with the dryer cord hanging between them. She'd probably beat him with her hairbrush, and he'd probably sprain something useful.
Scully gasps, squinting as if searching for something.
"What?" Mulder asks, concerned, his heart-rate speeding. "What is it?"
"The documents," she says, and he calms when he realizes she's only going back to the game, the story. She's okay. She's fine. He has to keep telling himself this.
She goes on, says, " 'Oh my God.' I keep repeating that, because I can't believe what I'm seeing. I flip through the pages, mostly skimming now because I don't want to believe it's real, but I know it is because I recognize the seal. I've been trained to recognize forgeries, and this isn't a forgery."
"What is it?"
"This is a formula for an atomic weapon." Her voice is breathless, as if she's truly reading the document, and he wonders, for a moment, if it's real for her, if she sees this story in some dark place in her mind, playing it out, living, breathing it. "These are equations, formulas, but this, this last page--" She holds up a hand in front of them, and Mulder follows her fingers as if she has a piece of paper clutched in her hand. They gaze into the air, past her hand, as if reading something that isn't there.
"It's in German. You know German, Criminal?"
"I do." Scully brings her hand back down, lets it rest against his shoulder, stilled. "It's a contract with the Nazis signed by government operatives. Not spies, but operatives in liege with the president's election committe. I doubt he would sanction something like this, but someone close to him has. It's signed here, for fifteen million dollars--"
Mulder snorts. "Only fifteen?" he asks, interrupting her.
Scully turns to him, frowns, annoyed that he's bothered her while she's on a roll. "What, not good enough?"
He shakes his head.
"Okay," she gives, "Thirty."
"Okay, sixty million dollars. Can I continue?"
"So the government is planning to sell this thing to the highest bidder," she continues, and waves her hand for emphasis. "And the Nazis have won the auction. There's a scientist listed here who I've heard of, Thors Hammer. He's the mastermind behind this kind of technology, and it's all mapped out here how they're going to take him, to force his hand. On a ship, in the middle of the ocean; they'll make it look like a siege, when really, it's all been planned, right down to the execution of passengers to make it look hostile. The paperwork, the plans, the agreement, it's all here. The Queen Anne, a luxury liner full of innocent people. And then--God, they could win the war with this. How did you get this, P.I? Where did you get it?"
Mulder tucks her hand in his, turns it over, plays with her knuckles. "The electricity still hasn't come back on, and it's dark," he narrates, "And silent, except for the rain and the wind. You believe me now, but you're also horrified. You feel betrayed by your own government, by the very people you had come to respect. And I know that if I tell you where this document came from, you'll go back and march right up to Capitol Hill, if need be, to look for the people who did this, to try and make it right, and then they'll kill you. But I can't let you die, and that's exactly what will happen if you go after the enemy before you're prepared for the actual fight. So I look at you and I say, 'I can't tell you that.' "
"And I'm angry now. I know you know where this came from, and I have to know, too. We both understand why. I'm positive that the people who drew up these papers are the same people who took me, who left me for dead with three missing months. I ask you, 'Can't or won't?"
"So I stand up, ready to quit this, to leave and not come back. I want to go back to the OSS with this, to my boss, to a man I'd like to trust, whose name is Skinner. I'd like to think that there are still honorable people in this country. I want to believe that my government wouldn't turn on itself like this. That it wouldn't sacrifice thousands of lives over a few million dollars and a promise to rule at the throne of the bloody, Nazi empire."
Mulder nods. "So you turn back up the hallway, but I don't want you to leave. Finally, I have an ally, someone who knows what I know. I don't know who else to trust, and now I'm afraid you'll get yourself killed because of me. No, I think. Not you. I can't let it happen. The Smoker's out there, and he's OSS, and his intentions are questionable at best. So I grab your arm, ask, 'Where do you think you're going, Criminal?' "
"Let go of me, P.I, and quit calling me that."
Mulder inahles slowly. "You need to calm down."
"I need to get out of here."
"I can't believe you, you know that? You'll go to your superior with this. You'll try to be noble and heroic and you'll get yourself fucking killed. You think I'm going to let that happen?"
Scully turns to him and he to her, their elbows propping up their heads, their knees drawn to their chests, an invisible diamond forming between them, symmetrical. "I can handle myself," she says, whispering with fierce determination, more than this game, it is her spirit, loud and consuming, roaring between them.
"Oh yeah, because the covert watching and the lying you handled so well."
"How dare you --You don't know me."
"I know you well enough, Just-Scully. I know you want the truth, but I don't think you're ready for it. I don't think you can handle it yet."
She reaches out an arm and Mulder grasps it, his eyes on her face, his gaze fierce. He grips her tightly. "I said let go," she whispers. He imagines then, for a second, a dark hallway, and a woman who looks just like this woman, with looping red curls tucked behind her ears, a dark blue satin dress, belted at the waist, that sets off her eyes--big, dark, narrowed blue eyes that she uses to pierce him. She's deternmined, furious, and beautiful by flashlight--by any light.
"I won't let go of you," he returns, a promise, and so much more than just the game he's talking about.
"I'll kill you," she says, the whisper barely escaping her. "If you keep me from getting this to the authorities. If more innocent people die simply because you want to keep me alive, or yourself alive, I'll put a bullet between your eyes. Faster than you can blink."
"You won't kill me," he says, pulling closer, shortening the gap between him.
"Really? And why's that?"
"Because you like me. You trust me. You know I'm right."
She laughs lowly, hoarsely. "You're an arrogant, crazy son of a bitch."
Mulder grins, his hands on either side of her face. "We're close now, and I've got your hands," he says, touching her knuckles lightly for emphasis. "Not too tightly, but you don't move. You could, but you don't. You're breathing too hard. I'm not sure what to make of this. You're a pain in the ass. I'm thinking you might punch me, or hit me over the head with your gun, but you don't. Instead, you accidentally drop the flashlight and it hits the ground, pops the batteries out. Now it's completely dark. You jump, I catch you, and then--"
"Thunder," she says, closing the gap between them with a sigh. "Low rumbling, the outside world trying to get in. But you won't let it. So you... It's..." She pauses, frowning, trying to find the words. "Like one of those narcissistic, self-riteuous, neanderthal suitors from the golden age of cinema, who falls in love without even knowing it, and uses his leverage as a man as an excuse for manhandling this woman who's making him crazy. In this case, I could break all your fingers, one by one, but I don't. And you could twist my arm behind my back, maybe even break it, but you don't. There's something, a crack, a spark, what have you. And so you...you kiss me, and I let you do it."
"And damn," says Mulder, pressing his top lip to her bottom lip, nibbling, mumbling, "Damn." He punctuates it with a kiss, "Damn." and another one, this time deeper. "God damn...it's one hell of a kiss."
"Mulder," she said, poking at a slightly runny egg with the tip of her fork. "Do you ever wonder about truck drivers?"
Elevator music filtered into the diner from dusty speakers, something about someone making up for all the times he'd hurt her so-oh-oh-oh.
Certainly, it wasn't the oddest subject for Scully to bring up in the middle of the night, what with them on the run from a rash outbreak of alien/human supersoldiers, and from the bureau, and from an all powerful alien-colonizing force that would make everyone extinct before Christmas Eve, 2012. Truthfully, she could have brought up Madonna's new hair color and it would have been a nice distraction from looking over his shoulder, always wondering everytime she left him to go to the bathroom if someone inside would keep her from making it back out.
"Sometimes I wonder why their pants never fit," Mulder said, and she heaved out a smile, a laugh that was not really a laugh, but more a chest contraction, as if the act was a giant undertaking.
Mulder hated that it hurt her, nowadays, to smile. He'd paint himself green and hop around on one foot while juggling a can of paint, a screwdriver, and a fishbowl, if he thought he could make her smile more easily. But easily was a phrase best left behind in another lifetime, for another set of people who no longer existed in this world. Easily had no place in their vocabulary, now. Even going to a diner, sitting around, eating breakfast at a corner booth, such as they were, was not easy.
Scully sported a baseball cap with the Yankees logo on it, her hair tucked carefully underneath because red-gold hair was always easy to spot, and Mulder wouldn't dare let her dye it any other color. Mulder wore thick black glasses, kept his head down, covered his brown hair with a ski-hat. He'd thought about growing a beard, but Scully wouldn't hear of it. Her with her red hair, he with his clean-shaven face; somethings, he supposed, they needed to suspend with some semblance of normalcy.
"What about truck drivers?" Mulder asked, taking a sip of coffee, peering out the window at the darkned street, the world beyond it, black, hiding. The wall clock read three am, not exactly though, maybe three-oh-two am. Their breakfasts were always everyone else's late night snack.
"They do this everyday," she said, not sad, not wistful, just matter-of-factly. "Eat at odd hours, travel across country, spend most of their time alone. Just driving, driving..."
"They make a hell of a lot of money, too," Mulder noted. "And still they can't afford pants that fit."
Scully eyed him curiously over the syrup holder, studying him as if trying to guage his mood. They'd gotten good at that kind of thing, at that almost-but-not-really-telephathic thing, having spent the last month or so glued to each other out of necessity. Mulder shrugged sheepishly and Scully went back to her food as if he hadn't spoken at all.
"When I was a kid--" She gulped down a swallow of Orange juice, set the glass down, and went on, "We used to take these car trips across the country. Ahab got some time off, and he was big on family, on quality time, you know, because he never seemed to get much of it." She waved a hand, took a breath. "So he was determined to visit every Scully relative up and down the eastern seaboard when vacation time came around. You can only imagine what that was like, my parents, my two brothers, Melissa and I, all shoved into a car with a hundred suitcases for hours on end."
"Please tell me this story doesn't end with your mother painting the car day-glo colors, and all of you singing 'Come On, Get Happy' down the Atlantic Coast."
Scully rolled her eyes. She did this frequently, making faces or rolling her eyes at him. Another reminder of what had been before, and what still passed for normal these days. "No," she said. "Anyway." She nodded to herself. "Charlie would do something to Bill, grab the arm-rest or something, and Bill would scream at Charlie that he'd better move or else. And then Missy would complain because she'd just put her dolls to sleep and all the noise had woken them up. And my mother told us, as all mothers eventually do, that she was going to turn the car around and we would go right back home, where we'd all be grounded for insubbordination--"
"My parents," she explained, "Ran their house like my father ran his ship."
"Ah," said Mulder. "So what about you? Where were you during all this Scully-family insubbordination?"
"I was the youngest," she said, "And I sat in the back of the van, in the third row of seats. But I was usually by myself, reading, or something. Funny thing was, I was close enough to everyone to get annoyed by all the screaming, but not close enough to tell Bill to shut up, or hit him, or kick Charlie, or do anything about any of it. So I'd try to tune out the noise, look out the window, watch the scenery passing by. Anything. I remember those truck drivers who went past, how we'd wave to them and they'd pull on their horns and wave back. And I thought...I thought, how nice to be one of those guys. To be able to have a long stretch of silence, God forbid, and not have to worry about yelling and hairpulling and who did what to whom..." Her brows knitted, she waved her arms, and her head bobbed back and forth as if emphasizing each pet peeve, one by one.
Mulder blinked, almost afraid to speak for fear of destroying the moment. Unguarded Scully admissions like these were rare, given out so sporadically, they were like gifts. Even after nine years with Scully, or eight and a half, or eight, or whatever it was, there was still so much she kept a mystery from him. The order in which she kept her cutting utencils when getting ready for an autopsy, or how she liked her coffee, or which pyjamas were her favorites--these things he knew almost instinctively. But who her first boyfriend had been, what her first kiss was like, what her favorite childhood birthday present was, these things Mulder had no reference for.
Dana Scully the Agent, the pathologist, he knew. Dana Scully the woman he was only just getting to know. And now, with stretches and stretches of nothing lying before them like promises, he found himself constantly wondering, wanting to question her, and yet finding no voice within himself to do it.
"So the secret's out," he finally said. "All these years of hunting the unforseen and my partner's finally leaving me for a truck driver."
She smiled. "What can I say? Those pull-horns, they turn me on."
He gazed at her curiously, smiling, and shook his head at his plate. She was playing with him. That was good. Most breakfasts they spent in companionable silence, or else not-so-companionable silence, or sometimes, when they were just downright annoyed with each other, they glared at one another over eggs and toast. Mulder supposed that, after spending 24 hours a day with a single person, it probably was not uncommon that he started running out of clever things to say. Or that she'd want to shoot him. Or vice-versa.
"So, ah...Maybe you can think of this like one of those long family trips," he said, not really knowing what he meant to say or where he was going with it, but wanting to keep the moment going. "Except now you don't have to worry about hitting or pinching or poking or screaming...at least not until we've really pissed each other off, that is."
"I know," said Scully, moving her toast around with her knife, leaving grease marks on the plate where the butter slid back and forth. "But I suppose, thinking about that...I never had any doubt in my mind, back then, that one day I would be the Mom and my kids would be screaming and I'd turn around to yell at them and my husband would threaten to turn the car around if everyone didn't, didn't---" Her voice broke, and she suddenly stopped speaking.
Mulder closed his eyes then, feeling what she felt, thinking of their son.
In the months he'd spent alone, wandering, searching for the truth, he'd entertained these wild fantasies about he and Scully, but even wilder ones about he and Scully and their son. He imagined baseball games and late afternoon picnics. Arguments about how much homework needed to get done and why Mom couldn't possibly help with it, because whenever there was a science project Mom would just get so bossy, and William would run to him, begging, pleading, Dad, make her go do an autopsy or something. She's driving me crazy. And then sunday afternoons... he'd spend those teaching William how to hold a bat, and then a basketball, and then when they'd return home muddy and sweaty and smelling like a sewer, Scully would walk past them, waving her hand over her nose at them, warning them not to set foot in her house with those shoes on, and that she refused, refused, under any circumstances, to do their laundry. Not that Scully ever did their laundry anyway. Scully was good at dry-cleaning. Everything else seemed to turn odd shades of pink.
Mulder found Scully staring at him over the greasy, five dollar meal, her face awash in shadows from flickering diner lights. She didn't cry, and he didn't either; it wasn't their style, all that crying.
He took a deep breath, feeling how the air hitched in his throat, and reached over the table for her. She found his hand and their fingers danced together, tangled back and forth, thumb over thumb, pinky over pinky, back and up, and down again. "I know," was all he could think of to say. "I know."
And she nodded that she understood. And he believed that she did. And they paid for their bill. Five dollars and fifty cents at three oh five--no three eleven, in the morning.
And so it goes, it goes.