by Jaime Lyn
All disclaimers and headers in part 1. This is part 5.
"So tonight's the night," Scully says, folding her arms over her knees. "My deadline, the end of this assignment is tomorrow, and neither of us knows what will happen after that." She rests her head sideways on her hands so that she faces him. She looks very small, almost like a young child at a sleepover party, and the light from the bed-side lamp hits her just so, playing with the shadows on her face.
"There just isn't any convincing you," says Mulder, and he's lying out on his side, straight as a pencil, his elbow on the mattress, his hand propping his head up. "I tried, and I realized it was useless. You're stubborn as a post. And we don't have much choice now, I realize, since you're going back tomorrow, documents or no documents, and either way you're going to Skinner with what you know. So I agree, and I tell you where I got my information--this abandoned tenement building downtown, corrupted after the depression. It's a risk; we could get killed doing this. But the other alternative is that you go back to the OSS, knowing the little that you know now, and they kill you, or else they send you out to the Queen Anne so you can die there."
Scully nods. "You think that if I find my truth, if I come back with actual print outs of Nazi code, I'll leave the OSS and stay with you. To try and fight the government."
Mulder leans over, touches her ankle with his free hand. She's wearing her silk pyjamas tonight--the light blue ones she likes so much, that are worn almost to shreds at the hem. She released the Knicks shirt back to him, but only for a limited amount of time, only for tonight, or at least until she gets tired of wearing silk. "I have these wacked out ideas," he says. "I can't help it. You're a pain in the ass, you have the manners of a common criminal--" She shoots him an eyebrow, and he grins. "And you're the only one I trust now, and I'm afraid you'll choose your country over me. It's so goddamned annoying that you're so honorable, and I could kill you myself. But... I know that if it comes down to the wire, you'll go out there on that ship, on the Queen Anne, if you think you can stop the Nazis and save the world. I hate that but I admire it, and I only have you for this limited amount of time. I can't help but want more."
"So, um, we put our evening into motion," she says, blushing at his words, looking down, pretending she's not embarrassed but rather leaning back to get better leverage. "You went out for a few hours and left me at the apartment. This is how it usually works, from about nine to eleven. You're still pretending to tail Spender, even though we're both suspicious that he's on to us. We're almost positive but you have to make it look like you're doing your job--"
"Except tonight it's different. You go back to my office, throw some files around, break open my favorite paper weights, you know, make the place look ransacked."
"It's my job, and I'm good at what I do," she whispers, her knees bobbing back and forth under her cheek. "And I make sure I'm seen going back to my motel room, even though I haven't spent the night there in a week." She blushes lightly at that, as if this addition to the story has somehow compromised her honor, even though he's made love to her so many times now he could draw her every plane and curve by memory.
"Yes," says Mulder. "You wear black, but you change and dump the old clothes in an outside dumpster, where they can be easily found by the police, whose inquiry will get back to the OSS. The agreement was that I'd call the police the next day, if everything went according to plan. I'd make a big fuss, bang my head against the wall, make sure that everyone within a five mile radius knew you'd done your job. And then...if I really thought you could find a way to prevent it, this bomb from being made...I'd give you the stolen documents instead of going public with them."
Scully nods slowly. "Before you left the apartment that evening--to go tail Spender, you said you trusted me. It was the first time you said it, and I knew how much it meant for you to say it. And I felt guilty about that."
He frowns. "Why?"
She shrugs. "Because I know how much it means to you, the truth, making sure the world knows it. And I know you're only giving me the documents because you think they'll save my life, not because you think they'll save the world. You're hoping that if I can produce results, these men, these people that Spender works for, they won't kill me. And I feel guilty because I should be angry, knowing that you'd put my life before the lives of the American people. But I'm not."
"And so I come back to find you wallowing in guilt," he says. "And you're pacing. You look like...a restless, black alley cat."
"I thought I wasn't wearing black."
"You weren't." He pauses. She's giving him that look again, that look that says, 'you lost me three sentences ago, Mulder,' so he takes a deep breath, waves his hand, and continues, "After you changed out of the black clothes you put on a green dress, green gloves, green heels--"
"Is the green signifigant?"
"No, not really. I just think you'd look good in green."
She swats at his ankles, and he dodges her by pulling back his left leg. "So," he goes on, "You left the motel and made quite a show of it, too. A few men whistled..." She furrows her brow and he waggles his eyebrows. "What can I say? It was a really nice green dress."
"Anyway," he continues, "You circled the block, switched cabs, circled again, and took the backway up to L street. You changed clothes again in the back bathroom of an old corner deli; My friends, the ones from the census bureau, were there, pretending to have dinner. They recognized you from your description, and nodded, and you nodded back. They stayed there to make sure nobody followed you. That you did what you needed to do and got out. The deli's where you put on a seperate set of black pants and a black pull-over that I left there for you. I even attached a note. It said, 'I hear black is in this year, Criminal.'"
"And that's why I'm wearing black," she says, sounding amused. "Did I keep the note?"
"Of course you kept the note."
She shakes her head, unable to hide the grin. "Okay, so you're here now," she says, and reaches back behind her, shutting off the lamp, bathing them both in semi-darkness; the glow from an outside streetlamp bounces erratically on the bed, peeking in, spying on them through half-closed motel curtains.
"When I walk in, the first thing you ask me is whether or not I think I was followed." Mulder waves his hands for emphasis. "You're wringing your hands, anxious. I tell you no, that The Smoker just went from bar to bar, drinking, smoking, doing as he always does, and I followed him right up to his motel."
"Then you go to the window," she says. "You always go to the window first, to see if anyone's watching us from the street. Or maybe from the fire escape. You pull back the curtains, and suddenly there's a bit of light in the room, a glow... from the moon. Yes, it's moon. It's full tonight. I left all the lights out, so nobody would know I was there, and you haven't turned them on--"
"You come up behind me," he picks up, " Put your arms around my waist. Your hands are cold. You're shorter than I am, and your head only comes to the back of my shoulder blades. I'm thinking, you must be scared if you're hugging me. I'm used to you waving your gun around. I'm not used to you frightened. I don't like it."
Scully lowers her knees to the bed, her skin bluish-black beneath dancing shadows. She turns on her side, laying on pillowed arms, facing him. "We have to get going, P.I."
"In a minute, Criminal. I'm fixing my hat. Have to look good for death."
She shakes her head. "Don't say that. We're not going to die."
"You sound fairly confident."
"And why is that?"
Scully's eyes are dark, sparkling, fierce. It's a different kind of fierce now than the spark he'd seen when she hurled all their towels into the burning hot desert. There's something softer now, quieter, but no less passionate. "You won't let me die," she says, reaching out a hand, touching the tip of his nose with her finger. The hand retreats, and she presses the side of her face into her palm. "That's how I know."
"You trust me, then," he says.
"I trust you, P.I." She pauses. "But that doesn't mean I like you."
Mulder scoots closer. Whenever she's nearby like this, he has to touch her, to run his hands down her arms, to rest his fingers on her hip, or to trace the warm skin of her neck. He's gotten so used to her laying next to him, so used to it he's not sure he 'd ever be able to go it alone again, not without her, not ever without her.
"Well...I'm not sure can I trust criminals, lady."
She gazes at him knowningly. "But you trust me."
He nods. "I do."
At nearly forty-one years old, he's already spent a good portion of his adult life lying alone on couches, staring at the ceiling, wondering why it is he's so good at memorizing the exact nature and texture of spackle. This is how he measures his life: Dana Scully and spackle.
Before Scully came to work with him, he'd lie alone and ponder the spackle, but he wouldn't have anyone to discuss the spackle with, anyone to wake up and bother at three am about the specific types of spackle. But after Scully, he finally had a friend to bounce ideas off of, a sounding-board, a person to tease about the spackle coming to life and eating half of Cincinnatti. He was still alone on the couch, alone with the spackle, but her voice, her face, was there with him. And that made it okay. To stare at spackle, that is.
And then later on, one rainy night, when she'd had a long day and a little too much hot tea, and she'd fallen asleep on his couch, he realized he finally had someone to lie there with, to sit with and stare at the ceiling and ponder the spackle. He likes to think of it that way, in terms of spackle. Nowadays, he can't imagine lying on a couch without her, staring at the ceiling. But now it's really okay if he doesn't sleep as well as she does and instead, he stares at the ceiling, thinking about evil, fire-breathing spackle, because the pillow next to him will always smells like soap and shampoo and Scully.
"It's getting late, and so...we um, we get in the car and go," he says, touching a finger to his elbow. "Of course, we have to backtrack a few times, circle the block, make sure we're not being followed. We're always careful about that because we have to be, but tonight we have to be extra careful. No chances."
"It takes us about a half hour to get there," she continues for him. "It's not the distance so much as the backtracking. When we finally get to the building it's nearly eleven thirty, and I have a bad feeling, a shiver. It's not hard to see why. You've taken us to an old brownstone. It's run down, and in a terrible section of town. Burned out buildings down the block, water dripping down sewer drains, no street lamps, no light at all, really, but you have your flashlight. You've always got that damn flashlight. We glance at each other and I pull my gun. You pull yours. No chances."
"No chances," he echoes.
"So how did you find this place, P.I?"
Mulder leans back against the pillow, watches pinpricks of light bump and collide over her silk pyjamas. "We have to whisper now," he says, "The dark makes it worse, the getting inside part, and we walk up the steps, staying close. It's too quiet out here. I'm in front, you're behind. You've got my back--"
"Like always," she says.
He smiles. "Yes." Clears his throat. "I open the door and we slip inside. So far, so good. I don't turn the flashlight on yet, and it's dark as Hell. I feel you grasping my shirt behind me, making sure I'm still in front of you. I say, 'I traced a client down this way because he refused to pay me after I tracked down his pregnant ex-girlfriend. He ran out here, back into the house, and I ran after him. I think he actually ended up...jumping out the window, or something. I'm not sure. I fell through the floorboards."
She laughs. "You fell through the floorboards?"
"Are you teasing me, Criminal?"
Scully smiles, pulls up closer so they're nose to nose. "You're a klutz, P.I. What use are you to me if I have to constantly worry about you falling on your ass?"
He laughs back at her, reaches with one hand over her head, around to the base of he skull, sifting through her red hair, fingering each strand. He pushes a few wayward locks over her ear, and her eyes follow his fingers, her pupils wide, dilated.
"Anyway," he says, a tinge of mock annoyance in his voice, "I'm lucky I didn't break my neck, but I'm glad I amuse you. So...When I got up, I realized I was in the basement. I had no idea where I was, but I knew I had to find the stairs. That son-of-bitch owed me money and I was sick of chasing him down the goddamned street. There was a hallway and I followed it. At first I thought I'd end up lost, or dead, or just a little of both, real quickly. I couldn't see anything, I mean anything, and there was that asshole still wandering around. Lord only knew what the hell else I'd find here--or who, who I'd find. But nobody came down, and when I got to the end of the hallway, I found rows and rows of file cabinets...they looked abandoned, but they weren't. I think someone wanted to make it appear that way. Who would come looking for anything in an old storage locker underground---"
"Nobody." Scully nods, understanding. "So you found those docoments there."
She takes a deep breath, thinks for a moment about this, her brows scrunched in concentration. Scully puts all of herself into this game, lives it out in her head as if she's seeing it all on a stage. The story's only technicolor, after all, because she's here to help him tell it. He could never dream up anything this good. Not without her. She says nothing, perhaps thinking up her next strategy, perhaps trying to get her bearings straight in the darkness of her mind.
"We walk a little further," he says, when she doesn't pick up. "In the dark--no flashlights. Not until we're downstairs. It's just too dangerous. I come across the hole I fell into before, feel the edge of it with my foot. You lean forward, walk too quickly in front of me--"
"And I lose my balance at the edge--" Her hands go wide, her arm in front of his face, straight out like an airplane. "I'm blind in the dark, and I nearly fall in. I gasp, certain I'm about to fall to my death. But you grab me; I knew you wouldn't let me die--"
"Going somewhere, Criminal?"
"I right myself, flustered, annoyed even, that you just played the part of the hero. I hate it when you get arrogant. I say, 'You first, P.I.' And you laugh at that, and I smack you in the side, because I warned you about laughing at me."
Mulder's hand stills at the back of her head, resting there, motionless. "There's a rope ladder that I put at the edge last time I was here, and I have to find it. It's dark, and silent. I have to feel around, but I can just make something out. I tug on it, make sure it's secure. Finally, we climb down, me first, you second. It takes awhile, but we reach the bottom. It's even darker down here than it is up there, if that's possible. You draw your gun, and I tell you I'm turning the flashlight on."
A pause, like silence stretching its legs for a breather. Scully picks back up. "We walk down the hallway, following the beam from your flashlight. Something's dripping water. Like a leaky faucet but not. Almost, almost like... It smells--"
"Like dust. Mold. Or something. I wonder if there are rats running around down here and decide it's probably better not to ask you if you see any. You'd probably just shoot all of them and then we'd be out of bullets."
Scully's upper lip quirks, her mouth an odd shade of navy-blue in the dark. Her toes find his toes by the foot of the bed, and all twenty-or-so of their digits mingle, tickle quietly, first toe to toe, and then heel to heel.
"Alright, where are these file cabinets of yours, P.I?"
"Why?" he asks. "Getting restless?"
Scully smiles. "I shake my head at you. You're being arrogant again, and the worst part is that I think I like you even when you're being a jackass. 'How much further?' I ask you."
"Not much further. Hopefully we can be in and out, if there isn't any trouble. Everything here's in alphabetical order, pretty organized, actually. I didn't have time to find my sister's file last time I was here. I got chased out by someone. I still don't know who. They almost made swiss cheese of me."
"And this is what you're afraid of."
He answers, "Hey, you're good." Then, "The flashlight beam hits something--rows upon rows of cabinets. I'm nervous now. I keep thinking that all the files will be gone, or you won't believe me, or something terrible is going to go down, but I don't know how the hell to say something like that without looking like an ass. So I motion you over, but I find you're already way ahead of me, scouring the cabinets. You're looking for the S's; you're sitting on the floor. So I take the other side, searching the labels for 'M.'"
"Your mother," she whispers. "Your sister. You think it's all here, this truth you've been searching for."
"I want to believe, yeah." He presses closer to her, pulls her wrists out from under her head and stretches both sets of hands in front of them, so they're looking out into the darkness together. Their hands shuffle, both of them silent for a moment, as if looking, probing the air for some hidden secret.
"I found it," she starts, her voice an excited gasp, "Oh my God, Mulder. This is...this is my file. Scully, Dana K. It's a record of... of..." She pauses, breathing hard.
"What is it? Tell me."
"It's...a record of pregnancy, of insemination. How is this possible?"
Mulder is silent for a moment, motionless, paralyzed. He's unsure of this, of Scully's strange, morbid new twist to the puzzle. They've been making all of this up, after all, molding together a necessary fantasy world from a lonely, empty, all-consuming reality that begged them to make something better, something more than this. But so far, it's all been make-believe. He somehow has a feeling though, a sinking, heavy feeling, that she's about to make it all too real.
"You were pregnant?" he asks, trying to keep the hoarseness out of his voice.
She shakes her head. "No, I wasn't. At least... I don't remember being pregnant. But it says here..." She pauses, brings her thumb and index finger together in a pinch and makes as if she's flipping through pages. Her eyes scan the air, pass through nothing; nothing's there to read. Mulder watches her carefully, worried only slightly that she could take all of this too far.
"They did things to me. For three months. It says..." She takes a breath. "It says I've conceived a child, that he was born on August 8th, 1939, six months after I was returned. And it says... Oh my God, it says that you're...that his father is Fox William Mulder. You. You, P.I."
"What?" Mulder's hands flutter. "How? How am I the father?"
"I don't know. They must have used us."
"Used us. What the hell does that mean? And we found each other a year later? By what? Happenstance?"
She ducks, almost shyly. "I don't know. Destiny, fate...You believe in these things, don't you?"
He considers that. "I might. But that's not what this is. They assigned you this case for a reason."
Scully takes a breath, lowers her hands. She touches her palm to his cheek, and then moves it over his mouth, where he takes her fingers in his and kisses her lightly. "We have a child," she whispers, and now there are tears in her eyes, water glistening, threatening to spill over onto her pale, blush skin. Mulder lowers his head, leans in so their noses touch; the tips brush, nudge, and then slide past so his nose rests on her cheek. "Maybe it was fate, I don't think I'll ever know for sure," she manages, breathing out the words. "How two people could find each other, create life like that...Maybe it's a miracle every time two people do it."
He nods, silent.
"But no matter where we are, or what happens from this point, we still created a child, Mulder. He'll always be ours. He will, won't he?"
Mulder nods again, his nose bobbing up and down against her cheek. He's not sure, but he thinks he's crying. Only a little bit though, not too much, not anything that could affect his manhood or his ability to make fire with a stone and two sticks.
Scully pulls back an inch, just enough to look at him again, and she wipes her eyes with the back of her hand. She tries on a smile, taking slow, even breaths, gazing at him with lips pursed, cheek twitching. She slides her index finger along the rims of his eyelids, her fingertip coming away damp. She drops her hand between them and sighs. Neither of them makes a sound for another moment, and Mulder's positive he can feel the room getting darker, closer. The bed is gone, the walls are gone; there is only them, only this.
Scully takes a final breath, gasps, "Shh... do you hear that?"
Mulder frowns. "Hear what?"
"Quiet, P.I. I heard something, something down there...footsteps."
"Oh...I do hear that."
"Get down. I've been trained for this--"
"That's when you get out your gun--"
"And you turn your flashlight off."
"It's defintely footsteps," says Mulder, his breathing quicker. "Someone's coming. Maybe two of them. Or more. Two, at the very least. We've got to get out of here quickly. This is what I was afraid of. I grab your arm, tell you that I think there's another way out, but we've got to hurry. You've got your file in your hand and I tug you, but you tell me to wait--"
"You mother and your sister," she says. "We have to find their files. And the Nazi codes. We can't leave yet. Maybe another minute--"
"We don't have another minute, Criminal. Someone knows we're down here---"
Scully claps her hands together loudly, her voice loud and startling. Mulder yelps like a little girl, jumping about a foot in the air, nearly rolling clear off the bed. He rights himself with his left hand, pushes forward.
Scully lets out a series of breaths that sound suspiciously like stifled giggles. He groans, bangs his palm against the mattress and shoots her an exasperated look. "Jesus, Scully..."
"Sorry," she says sheepishly, rubbing his shoulder, trying not to laugh. "Got carried away for a minute."
Mulder shakes his head. "Alright, so a gunshot," he says, explaining what probably requires no explanation, but feeling embarrassed nonetheless.
"Then there has to be blood," he says. He holds his hands out in the air, examines them, and gasps. The room feels inexplicably cold. "Oh God...Oh God, it's mine. My blood."
Scully blanches. "Mulder, don't--"
But he goes on, "I'm surprised at first, but in a way I expected this. I knew what could happen. I was ready. I didn't know where the gunman was. I couldn't see him. But I jumped in front of you and knocked you to the ground to save you. I had to. But I think he was actually...I think he was aiming for me and not you. And now I've been shot. It...hurts.. Scully. Not as badly as I thought it might, but--"
"Mulder, stop." Scully gasps and turns to him, her hand still at his shoulder. "Don't---don't...Jesus, That's not how it goes. That's not what happens."
"Yes," says Mulder, his voice soft. He nods. "It is."
Scully stammers, suddenly unsure of herself. She's looking at him like he's just grown a third arm made of styrafoam. She takes a few breaths, but doesn't backtrack the story. She can't. She isn't allowed to. That's one of the unwritten rules of the game: Spoken word becomes canon.
"I--I--I turn on the flashlight, trying to gain equal footing with the attacker," she says, her eyes darting, her brain working, processing. "I can't kill something I can't see. But I am going to kill him, whoever he is. I turn around, ready to shoot and it's..." Her breathing hitches and she gasps, as if seeing her horror in reality. Mulder squeezes her hand and she squeezes back, continuing, "It's... The Smoker. I expected him but I didn't want to believe...not a colleague. Not someone I had been instructed to trust. He has a gun in one hand, cigarette in the other--"
"He looks smug," says Mulder. "He says, 'Do you see? Do you see what the truth gets you? Is it really worth that much to you? You're going to go out there anyway, and you're going to die. In the middle of the ocean. You'll watch your P.I Mulder die and your democracy die and you'll go with it. Mr. Mulder, he dies here, but you get a stay of execution.'"
She swallows, as if afraid of going on. He can't blame her. He's gone too far now. Way too far.
But she doesn't back down, says, "But I don't believe him. I don't want to. We're not going to die. We can't. And the truth doesn't kill you. The truth sets you free." She pauses. "But he thinks he's so fucking clever. He thinks he's got me, that I've weakened. But his gun hand twitches and I fire--one bullet, close range, straight between the eyes. He falls to the floor. Instant death, but I don't even care if he's dead. There are other things. You--you--"
"I'm lying on my back, next to the flashlight. I'm losing a lot of blood and I'm losing it quickly. You kneel beside me--"
"You're just...lying there," she says, her voice breaking, "Too still. And you're weak. And the flashlight starts flickering because you forgot to change the fucking bulb before we left, because you always forget to change the fucking bulb--"
"Am I dying yet, Criminal?"
Scully wraps her arms tight around him, as if she believes that real Mulder will die if dream Mulder dies first, and she's shaking now, trembling, trying to steady herself. That it should end this way for them, that it should have to come to this... Why? And how? He should have ended it differently. Goddamn it, he's the writer; he should have known.
"You're not going to die," she whispers. "God, I'm not going to let you die."
"I don't think you have a choice in the matter."
"I always have a choice in the matter! And I say you live. You live, goddamn you. Why does everything always have to be an argument with you, P.I? I'll get you out of here, I'll--"
He interrupts, his fingers tracing her lips, stilling her. "You've finally found your truth, Just-Scully. You found it didn't you?"
She hesitates for a moment, thrown by this. She says, "Yes."
"Then you'll save the world with it," he says. "Someday. I know these things."
Her breathing hitches. "But what about you, P.I Mulder? Did you...Did you--" She stops, takes a breath, starts again, "Did you find your truth?"
Suffice it to say, he's completely lost control of this game, now. Lost it a long time ago, as a matter of fact. And now he's crying and he's not entirely sure why, except he feels that maybe, just maybe, if he lets go of her, even for a second, he really will be dead and she really will blink out of existence for him, and then the nothing that's been following them up and down the southwest will consume him, consume him, and that will be the end of him. Of her. Of the X Files. Of all of it. The end is the end and what is left after that? What is left to believe in?
He turns to her, manages, "You." His voice breaks, and he buries his face in her neck. "You are my truth. You Scully. You are what I believe in."
"Oh... Mulder," she breathes, and her arms go tighter around him when she realizes he's shaking. "My God... are you crying?" Jesus. He's shaking. He's shaking.
"I...died," he manages, although he's not sure what could possibly be gained by uttering this. He died. In fantasy or in reality? The truth is, he's died in both. The thought terrifies him, has terrified him for over a year now. But he never told her, never apologied. But for whatever reason, he now feels he needs to speak these words before this nothing comes, fast and furious, and swallows them both whole.
"I'm sorry I went back to Oregon, Scully. I'm sorry I went and died on you. I'm sorry I wasn't there for you because you thought I was dead and I couldn't--couldn't--"
"Shh," says Scully, and she pulls him tighter, pulls him so close their legs tangle together and her knees cage the backs of his, drawing him in, pinning him down, so he's lying on top of her, trembling. He breathes her in; she smells like coconut. She smells like life. Her mouth is in his hair and she's holding him up, holding him together, just holding him.