We All Die Virgins
By Jaime Lyn
* All Disclaimers and such listed in chapter 1.
December 28th, 2001.
Holiday Inn Express,
Lily sat huddled on the bed, her knees pulled tightly to her chest, her arms twined around her knees. “Are you sure about this?” she asked her sister.
Kelsey sat placidly by the window, her long blonde hair spilling over one shoulder. She gazed out the window and ran a finger down the glass as if tracing one of the gray buildings. Rain fell in messy splatters outside the window, most of it freezing on the glass, some wayward droplets making it to the ground. Those droplets froze on the road: black ice, was what the cab-driver a few days earlier called it. All of New York seemed to be frozen solid, and the sky was the color of flint-rock.
“I’m sure,” said Kelsey, not turning her head. Kelsey had gravitated towards the window after a short time—so she could see the trees sway to the music of a winter breeze, she'd said, with dramatic flourish. Kelsey'd always thought that trees were so much more beautiful when frozen in ice. Frozen in time, she said. Like crystals with emeralds stuck inside.
“Agent Scully’s going to be angry,” said Lily, hugging herself tight. Even with the blanket, the room was cold and there was a draft; the wind bit and stabbed at her arms, her legs.
“Agent Scully’s not going to be a problem when we’re done with her,” said Kelsey, and finally she turned to smile at her sister. Kelsey’s eyes were blue and warm, just as they’d always been, and they cut through the cold. Just having Kelsey by her side made Lily feel as though she could fly. Lily smiled a teeth-chattering smile, nodded at her sister.
“I wasn’t trying to scare you,” said Kelsey, her eyes unfocused, cloudy. “And you know I…I wouldn’t say that about Agent Scully unless it was a necessary evil.”
“I know,” said Lily, shivering in the bed. She pulled the blankets tighter around herself, clutched the comforter to her chin. The fabric was itchy and hard, and she couldn’t seem to get warm enough. “Fox Mulder, he’s a good guy, you know. He told me you'd come back and you did. But these are his partner’s clothes. She gave them to me. That red-head—“ Lily ran a finger over the silk fabric covering her chest. The shirt was small, but comfortable. “I don’t think she’d want me taking her clothes, Kels, knowing that I...at any rate, Fox Mulder seems so attached to her. It's hopeless. I saw what he felt when I--”
Kelsey giggled, a short bubble of a laugh rising up in her chest and spilling out her mouth. “Lily, after what I’ve shown you, you have to stop thinking in the concrete. Fox and Dana, Dana and Fox—not an obstacle. That was my problem. It was forever my problem, thinking about material things and being so concerned and afraid. But we don’t have to be afraid anymore. And it’s all thanks to you.”
Lily bit her lip. Kelsey was either not making much sense, or else her head still hurt from that first time, when Kelsey touched Lily’s forehead and begged her to see, to do the impossible, to transport her consciousness and fly somewhere else. “Fly, Lil,” she had said. “Think of him, close your eyes, and let it go. Just let it go”
At first, Lily had not understood. How to let go of herself, how to slow her heartbeat, how to think so clearly that she was no longer herself, but someone else? The things Kelsey was suggesting, they were impossible. People couldn’t just leave their bodies, they couldn’t read other people’s minds. Or could they?
Kelsey called it flying, or else floating--this sensation of leaving your body and becoming someone else. Kelsey said that flying took an awful lot of concentration, and that it was like holding your breath underwater. That point right before you came up for air, right before you couldn’t take any more darkness, right before you lost bated breath, and colors exploded in front of you from lack of oxygen, and the world opened up to let you in—that was flying.
Kelsey said that she herself couldn’t fly, but she had seen people who had. She said, “These people, they’re practiced. They’re trained. They come back tired, but they get what they want in the end. You can do it, too.”
Lily wasn’t so sure about all this. Kelsey still refused to say where she’d been or how she knew what she knew, and Lily was afraid to ask her. Kelsey’s eyes fogged, her pupils dilated, and her voice lowered whenever prodded. And all she would say was, “I had to go.” That was it. “I had to go.” So Lily quit asking out of fear she’d eventually ask too much, and Kelsey would just leave again. If it was brainwashing, then it could have been like that Lifetime movie, where the girl was forced in the end to shoot her own sister, because her sister had gone crazy. Lily couldn’t do that. She wouldn’t.
“I didn’t do anything great,” said Lily, and she held the comforter around her like a cape.
“You did,” said Kelsey. She turned slowly from the window to face Lily; she leaned her elbow on the window sill and propped her chin on her palm. “I was so stupid, you know, being afraid to leave home. If I’d only known this was possible—I mean, Jesus, Lily. After you get Fox Mulder, we could make money beyond our wildest dreams. You could fly anywhere. Be anyone. You could do it. Think of him as a...as a test.”
“I don’t know,” said Lily, her teeth still chattering from the draft. She felt as if she was trapped inside a refrigerator. “Are you sure that flying is safe?”
Kelsey said that flying was something Lily had always been able to do, but had been beaten and abused into suppressing. Flying was the devil that their mother feared, the evil force behind why Alice Harbor kept her two daughters locked away in an empty house. “She didn’t want you to know about it,” Kelsey had told her. “She was afraid of you. She sent in those terrible doctors to try and cure you, but it wasn’t something that can be cured. You were meant to be this person. It’s in your genes, your DNA. Mother couldn’t wipe it out.”
Lily remembered the nights her mother paced the upstairs hallways, her black sleeves rolled up to her elbows, her blonde hair matted to her sweaty forehead. She’d chant and sob lines from the bible, her footfalls loud on the hardwood floors. The only times Alice Harborever seemed vulnerable, miserable, were those nights after the Men of God left. Lily would stumble down the hall, her arms and legs bruised, and listen to her mother talk to herself. “Suffer the little children,” she said, and banged her fist on the wall. “Suffer the little children.”
Suddenly, Kelsey was up from the chair and excited again, her palms clasped together. “It’s perfectly safe,” Kelsey told her. She crept towards the bed and sat on the edge of the mattress. The soft bedding dipped beneath her weight. Kelsey sighed and smoothed hair from Lily’s forehead, and kissed her cheek. “Leave yourself, Lil. Show Mother what you can do. Show her you’re not beaten. Show her how wrong she was, that you’re not abnormal. You’re just better than normal.”
Lily gazed for a moment at her sister, more than a little unconvinced. Kelsey took Lily’s hand in hers, loosened Lily’s death grip on the comforter, and smoothed out the tension in her fingers. Kelsey's skin, it was still like ice, sold and tingly.
Kelsey smiled, nodded at Lily, and whispered, “It’s okay. It’s okay, Lil. You did it once tonight, just do it again. Close your eyes.”
Lily nodded and did as told. With a deep breath, she let her lashes flutter shut. She tried hard, tried as only Kelsey knew how, concentrating with long, deep, even breaths. After a few minutes, she only managed to give herself a headache.
Lily opened her eyes and shook her head at Kelsey. “I can’t do it,” said Lily, swallowing, banging her fist on the comforter. She felt like sobbing. “I can’t, I just….can’t.”
“Yes,” said Kelsey, “You can.” Kelsey took a breath, ran her fingers over her sister’s eyelids, closing them for her, and placed a hand at Lily’s stomach, just as she had the first time Lily tried to fly and had been successful. Kelsey’s hand was soft, comforting, and she ran cold fingers over Lily’s abdomen in slow, even circles. Lily slowed her breathing, focused on the expanse of dark behind her eyes, and listened to her sister whispering to her.
“Make it so,” Kelsey said. “Close your eyes, align your core, close your eyes, just close them and let it go. Let it go and you’ll know. You know, you do.”
Woodmere, Long Island,
They sat together in the Lexus, stuck at a traffic light, neither of them speaking, the seats vibrating beneath them to the hum of the engine. Scully shook her head. She felt like screaming. She felt like taking a dozen sleeping pills so she could forget, for awhile, exactly what it was she did to earn a living.
“This isn’t over,” said Mulder, his eyes on the brakelights of the Infinity in front of them.
Scully sighed at this. She wasn’t surprised by it. “It doesn’t matter,” she said, her head resting on her palm, her eyes gazing out the passenger window. She suddenly wished that she was a tree, and that her only worries were the amount of rainfall and when the next thunderstorm was going to hit. “This is bigger than the investigation, Mulder. This is bigger than us.”
“No, you’re wrong. It’s the bureau trying to make us look the fool,” said Mulder, edging closer to the Infinity. His fingers tapped impatiently against the steering wheel. His leg jerked rapidly up and down, back and forth, in circles. He looked as if he was on speed. “But we could show them, Scully. We could stay here and laugh at this whole fucking thing and—“
“Get fired,” she finished for him. “Or get transferred. Hey, there’s an idea. Because that stint in the agricultural terrorism department? That was a hell of a lot of fun, wouldn’t you say?”
“Didn’t last long,” mumbled Mulder. “They need us, whether they want to admit it or not.”
“Yeah, they’ve been real thankful so far,” said Scully, her forehead dipping, resting against the cool, glass window. She closed her eyes. “Broomcloset, Mulder. What did I tell you?”
Mulder just shook his head. He said nothing.
Both she and Mulder had been fairly rattled by this newest development in the “What the fuck else can go wrong now?” department.
Impropriety. Sexual indiscretion while on the job. Jesus Christ. How was it possible to get busted for the one deranged thing she hadn’t done, when there were a million and one other deranged things she had done?
Mulder fumed, although Scully found it hard to tell which part he was angriest over: leaving the case or having the proverbial branch of their partnership chopped off behind him. “This is just a scare tactic,” he’d said. “Just something to embarrass us off the road.” He’d of course, spent a few minutes trying to convince her that he wasn’t worried, that she shouldn’t be worried either, but Scully knew better. She knew how tedious a string the X Files division hung by, and she’d seen Mulder’s muscles clench beneath his jaw. His unsteady gaze. The way his face whitened when she relayed the news. “The end of the X Files,” he’d called it, before he could put the on mask of indifference. He seemed saddened but unsurprised, as if he’d expected this all along.
“They’re not shutting us down,” said Mulder, his voice low, his hand moving to the gearshift, and then the steering wheel, and then back to the gearshift again.
“I think it’s doubtful that either of us has a say in this,” said Scully. “If they want to shut us down, that’s what they’ll do. These people don’t like us, Mulder, in case you haven’t noticed. Accounting thinks we’re a waste of taxpayer dollars, and considering we never show up to their budget meetings, I can’t say as I blame them at this point. The rest of the bureau doesn’t give a shit one way or the other what happens to us, so long as we don’t cause trouble, but that doesn’t--”
“But that’s just it, Scully.” Mulder pursed his lips, moved his grip back and forth on the gearshift, and then back to steering wheel, shaking, uneasy. “We haven’t done anything annoying—not this month. We haven’t been in the field, haven’t investigated in weeks. Hell, this is the first real case we’ve taken on since before Thanksgiving, which leads me to believe that someone doesn’t want us nosing around up here. Someone wants us out of Long Island, out of the way.”
“You don’t know that, Mulder.”
“I do know that.” Mulder finally turned to look at her, his hazel eyes bright and piercing. His eyes—that was always what got to her first. His eyes went right through her. “We’re being run out of town, Scully. We’re letting them mow us down. We’re letting them get away with destruction of the truth by abandoning this case.”
Scully raised an eyebrow at that. “All melodramatics aside,” she said, wholly unconvinced by Mulder’s latest theory. “We can’t stick around. I don’t know any other way to make you understand that.”
Holiday Inn Express,
Something happened to Lily that second time. Something stirred deep in Lily’s stomach, tingled her toes and her fingers. Maybe she was relaxed, or over-tired, or washed-out. Whatever it was, though, it worked.
Behind the darkness was Fox Mulder, his voice, his eyes, his smile. Then Lily felt her wings sprouting, invisible feathers carrying her high above herself, floating. A dark blue curtain in the hazy cloud of her mind opened, parting to allow her entrance. Her stomach fluttered as if being pulled upwards on a string, and suddenly she was there. She was with him. She was him. Lily wasn’t just Lily; she was Fox Mulder. She pictured his mind as her mind, his knowledge as her knowledge, and her flight from reality deposited her on the dusty floor of his subconscious.
Lily got to her feet and gazed around. She stood in the center of a conglomeration of forked hallways; each hallway flashed vaguely with images, flickering reels of film as if being shown on a faded projector. The middle area felt like a waiting room—the place between here and there. The waiting room floor was gray, the ceiling white: no doors in this place, no windows, the smell of mildew, as if nobody had waited here in a long time. Lily shivered and considered her options. Recalling the layout of a book, and the natural inclination of her eyes to read from left to right, she gazed off to her left and decided to start there. The beginning, right? Who had suggested that? Ah yes, the nanny Maria, in that one movie about the kids and the hills and the music. That was the best place to start.
"Good call," said Lily, out loud and to nobody.
The first hallway was bright with primary colors, pictures drawn up and down the walls with crayon. There was a blue tricycle wheeling itself along as if by phantom hands and feet, a black and white photograph of a man in uniform taped to the handlebars. On the far wall flashed faded home movies; there was a house on a lake and another house, this one further inland that had a wrap-around porch. A pair of red mittens and a box of crayons littered the floor: a toy truck, and a small, weathered doll with black hair.
A tiny, blue eyed girl with a tutu, a magic wand, and black pigtails twirled down the hallway with her arms akimbo; she fluttered and hopped to her own music. She hummed to herself as she spun, like a doll on a string, past Lily and down to the edge of the hallway, where she faded from view. An older woman with white hair--- hair that had once been the color of the young girl’s pigtails but had gradually faded, worked her way up the hallway, scooping up toys into her arms. She looked cross, motherly.
At the end of the hallway, there was an older man with dark hair the color of Fox’s hair, and an intense grimace pulling his lips taut.
‘What do you mean, she just disappeared?’ this man said to nobody, his back to the hallway entrance. ‘She can’t have just disappeared, Fox. All I asked was that you watch her. You’ve disappointed me, Son.’ The man sighed, and was then silent. He gazed out a blue-curtained picture window, his eyes focused the world outside. When Lily peered over his shoulder, she saw a Universe of blackness. Emptiness. Loneliness. For whatever reason, there was nothing outside the window at the end of this first hallway, and the nothing stretched forever, wrapped around infinity like a blanket.
From this image, Lily ran. She ran as fast as she could, back up the hallway, back to the mildewy waiting room. She had to get away from the nothing. From the hoplessness.
From here, Lily rushed down a second hallway, this one painted white. Pages from coloring books and random comic book stories were pasted to the walls in slapdash patterns, and the ceiling was a black chalkboard scribbled over with numbers and equations. It was quiet down this hallway, alarmingly so. On the floor to the hallway entrance was a wand—glittery, silver, the same wand the little ballerina had been playing with. But here, it lay out of place, forgotten.
Lily walked farther, touching the drawings on the walls and examining them carefully: a spaceship, a horse, a little boy crying, all methodically crafted with bold colors and hard lines. From the ceiling floated the sound of young boys and girls playing, giggling. Footsteps pounded above her as if they were running from one end of the hallway to the other.
‘Foxie Loxie,’ said one boy, clear as day.
‘Stupid Foxie, won’t ever have friends,’ said another.
‘He killed his sister,’ said the last. ‘My father told me so.’
At the end of this hallway stood a young girl in a red jumper, a note in her outstretched fingers. The note said, “If you like me, check yes.” There was a little black box under the word “yes,” and it had been checked with red crayon.
Back up the hallway Lily went, and back into the waiting room. She stood motionless for a moment, and then chose a new path: a hallway made of dark red brick, the grout coming loose and blackening. Rising from the floor, the smell of cigarette smoke permeated the air, breaking through the smell of wax crayons from the previous hallways. There was a flickering of men at a black plastic counter on one side, asking for another round of ‘Long Islands.’ When they laughed, their bodies went so sheer Lily could almost see through them. The man in the apron behind the counter wiped his hands on a towel. He guffawed at the young boys and said, ‘You Yanks and your drinks,’ with a small measure of affection. The men faded like echoes then, and disappeared. The smell of smoke went with them.
Further down this way was a small, cinder-block-walled room, wooden bookcase in one corner, cigarette butts splattered over the tiled floor. Some song about a hotel in California played from a brown and yellow record player in the far corner, and a tall, leggy brunette lounged on the bed, science book propped open in front of her. ‘I’m in the mood for steak tonight,’ said the brunette. ‘How about you? Steak and sex, go well together, don't they, Fox?’ After that the room faded, and then blacked out entirely.
Another two feet down this hallway, a degree appeared on the wall, and then a man with a whistle stood with his back pressed to the rough brick. The man kept yelling for more push-ups. Then he yelled for more aggression, more hard-nosed action. He said, ‘Next time, remember to identify yourself when you make an arrest. You’re a federal Agent, Mulder. And keep your gun-side away from the suspect. You don’t want to be killed with your own gun, for chrissakes.’ The man faded like the others, blinked, and was gone.
At the end of this hallway was an old-fashioned chalkboard. The slate was held down by a wooden easel. Notes were scribbled up and down, sometimes in overlapping patterns, most of them without purpose or meaning: “Monty Propps, obsessive, likes his women young, agile. Bars, frequented, homosexual tendencies, impotent.”
When she got back to the waiting area a fourth time, Lily realized she had but one more path to go.
This last hallway was dark, flickering, noiseless. The walls were gray, and smelled of hospital antiseptic. Gumdrop-shaped lamps hung from the ceiling, but only a few of them worked. Faded, fabric hearts and seven digit numbers that began with the letter “X” decorated the ceiling, covering all available space. Some of the fabric hearts hug, motionless, as if poised for a fall.
A woman with dark hair and an upquirked eyebrow stood at the entrance to this hallway with a file in hand. She seemed to be in conversation with someone Lily couldn’t see, and she asked this person if she could spend the night on his couch. ‘Don’t forget who was here for you, when these files were opened,’ said the dark haired woman. ‘I’ll be at home if you need me, Fox,’ she finished. Then she flickered, echoed, and blinked into nothing.
Lily walked further, and whistled as she took everything in. This last hallway was the longest and most complex. Fox Mulder seemed to keep this later part of his brain like a wide array of file cabinets. On the left side contained cabinets about bizarre people and situations that Lily didn’t understand: aliens, ghosts, angels, viruses, black-oil contagions. Boring, and confusing. No more of that.
But the right side of the hallway…well, that entire side was dedicated to Fox Mulder’s partner, Agent Scully. Rows upon rows seemed to stretch down a path that lead to darkness, to infinity. Lily crouched down beside one row and squinted as she read. One cabinet was labeled “Scully: appearance,” and inside were file-folders with lines and lines of carefully thought about notations on her hair, her eyes, the way she walked. Her lips had two folders, one on softness, another on texture. Another cabinet was labeled, “Scully’s expertise,” and contained file folders on strange medical terms that were only vaguely referenced. Most had barely legible notes in the bottom left-hand corner that said, “note to ask Scully for clarification.” Another curious cabinet was labeled, “Scully’s abduction,” but this cabinet was locked, bolted shut, and Lily couldn’t get in to read the files.
“Damn it,” Lily muttered, and her voice echoed down the hallway.
Frowning, Lily moved to the next cabinet over. This one was labeled, “Related information: Samatha’s abduction,” and this cabinet was also locked. It was all so covert and mysterious, and Lily had to know the reasoning for this, for these two cabinets being bolted shut. She wasn’t yet an expert on flying, but she wanted in—all the way in. Not just part of the way. She wanted in badly, and knew if she tried hard enough, she could do it. Just like breaking into a motel room. Just like Kelsey had taught her.
Lily grabbed the lock on the first cabinet and pulled at it. Upon her repeated prying and yanking, her frustrated groans, she was met with resistance. And a deep rumbling—a dark moaning, like the tide rushing in. Lily paused and listened; it was thunder. She was sure of it.
A second later and there was a gust of wind, the harsh, cold breeze blowing papers out from the files she’d left on the floor. Suddenly, the hallway was cold. Freezing. Lily peered down the way she’d come, alarm bells going off in her head, as saw that it was raining—water pouring, smashing down against the walls and ceilings of the waiting room in loud sheets, in torrents. The scent of mildew spread, permeating the antiseptic odor and tainting the gray walls. Lily took a deep breath. She was obviously not wanted here. And if she stayed long enough, she would die.
“Shit,” she said out loud.
Soon the water would spread, flowing like a river to all the hallways, roaming like a force, like an entitiy, and it would flood everything; Lily would drown. Her consciousness would drown inside Fox Mulder’s memories. She would die. Her heart beating faster at this, Lily’s hands started to shake. She pulled harder at the lock, desperation tugging at her, and was met with more resistance, the force of a mind unwilling, tossing her out. But she was here, she was able, and she was curious. She wasn’t ready to leave. Not yet. She refused to be forced out.
She had just managed to pick the lock, to pull loose the chain holding the cabinet closed, when a voice called to her from behind, yelled to her, said, “Hold it right there.”
When Lily turned, she saw Agent Scully standing at the end of the hallway of cabinets. The small red-head was dressed in a dark suit, and she had a gun in her hand. Her grip was steady, her cold blue eyes focused, trained. “Get out,” she said, cocking the gun. “Get out, now.”
Woodmere, Long Island
Scully felt weary, like a favored shoe that had been worn for too long, now tattered and broken after having been rendered entirely useless. Her ankle hurt, her eye was black and swollen, and she’d never been so embarrassed in her life. First to get injured, and then to be called in by the Assistant Director for improper conduct…It was all too much. And it was the last straw. And as far as Scully was concerned, the further they got from Long Island, the better. If not for this frustrating case, and if not for putting herself in such close quarters with her partner, there would be no photographs. There would be no trouble. There would only be Dana Scully, civilian for the weekend, happily sipping a white champagne in her mother’s living room, all the while waiting for the new year to creep upon her.
Scully recalled Skinner’s voice on the phone, the urgency in his tone when he’d ordered them back to D.C. “They will close the division,” he said. “Don’t underestimate how deep this goes, Agent Scully. If the two of you ignore orders one more time, you will be separated. So I suggest you two get your asses back here, if you want a shot in hell.”
But of course, Mulder was Mulder, and Mulder wanted to stay. Detective Guinness had offered to keep an eye on things, but Mulder wanted to do this first hand. He wanted to investigate, to keep an eye on Lily. If there was trouble involved, even in the most remote sense, Mulder always wanted to stay. In fact, if there was a word in the dictionary that Mulder’s picture used as a headline, it was “Trouble.”
In this case, however, Mulder had gone as far as to suggest that Scully head back to D.C on her own while he kept up with the case. To this, Scully had thrown his suitcase at him and ordered him to start packing. She’d also warmed him to not be “a fucking idiot about this,” but that was only after he’d suggested that perhaps Skinner wouldn’t notice his absence.
Mulder squinted at the road, his hands gripping the steering wheel. He looked transfixed, lost in thought.
Scully sighed. Truth be told, she felt like the bad guy. She felt horrible for Mulder, for forcing him to abandon this case, even with consequences being what they were. Honest to God X file investigations were like Christmas presents for Mulder. He relished them. He lived for the hunt. The thought of him lying alone on the couch, mindlessly watching ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ for the fiftieth time in one night because the division was gone and he had nothing else to do, was heartbreaking. Mulder's loneliness was something that had stayed in Scully’s head all Christmas morning, until she’d finally retreated to her room and called Mulder with some made-up some ghost story just so she could hear his voice, wrap herself up inside his deep baritone. She’d curled up in bed with his laugh, with his playful banter, as a schoolgirl would while talking to a forbidden crush. It was silly, but she'd needed to reassure herself, to make sure he really was alright.
“Mulder,” she finally said, turning to him. “Talk to me.”
Mulder said nothing. Without the radio filtering noise into the car, the space between them felt empty, void. Plus, the air felt cold. The heater was on, and yet the car had suddenly dropped in temperature. The front seat was suddenly like the inside of an ice-cube tray. Scully’s teeth involuntarily chattered, and she gazed at the heater gauge, her brow furrowed. Warm air was filtering out, and the little green light above the button that read “heat” was clearly operational. So, the frion was working. Then why was it suddenly so goddamned cold?
Scully frowned, touched her finger to the air vent. Hot air came out, but it seemed to disappate upon entrance into the front passenger cabin.
"Mulder," she started. "Are you--" She paused. It was then that she realized how white Mulder was—his face was pasty, sweaty, drained, as if all the blood had been sucked from his cheeks. He seemed to be staring through the stoplight, past the road, at some place far in the distance. His hazel eyes were glassy, empty. That was the frightening part. Mulder’s eyes were never empty.
“Mulder?” Scully tried, her voice rising a notch. Her pulse quickened.
Suddenly, a flash of something odd invaded her head:
Have to get in, need to know the truth. Files being yanked out of a cabinet, tossed to the floor. Violent, unabashed, unfeeling. One file, and then another, and then another. Need to know, need to know. Won’t stop here, can’t leave yet. I will have him. I will.
When the flash ended, Scully gasped. Her head hurt. Her eyes darted, disoriented. Her hand went to her throat and she swallowed. What in the hell? Her teeth chattered, and the car grew colder. Something was wrong, here. Someone was trying to hurt Mulder. She didn’t know how, exactly, she knew this; she just knew.
The light finally turned green, and Scully, her heart pounding, leaned over the gearshift. Her breath puffed into the air in shattered bursts. Steeled with conviction, her only thoughts of reaching her partner, she touched a hand to Mulder’s shoulder and squeezed gently. He was warm. Thank God, he was warm.
“Mulder,” she said. “Mulder, it’s me.”
Some cars behind them began honking. Scully let out a ragged breath, stared intently at him, her hand tight on his shoulder. She took a breath, let it out, concentrated. She was warm as long as he was. She was warm as long as she could reach him, as long as she could pull him back from wherever he was. He would hear her, he would. He always did.
The honking grew louder, longer. Finally, after what seemed like a year and a half, Mulder blinked. He shook his head as if trying to shake off a thought, and turned to her.
“Scully?” he asked, slightly disoriented. “What is it? You look pale. You okay? Your eye feeling alright?”
Scully’s eyes narrowed, although the right one throbbed slightly. Ignoring the slight pain, she touched her palm to his face, caressed lightly, studying Mulder’s pupils under the guise of random affection. He seemed alert, concentrated, and fairly amused by the physical contact. His eyes followed her fingers, rapt now, with interest.
Scully let her hand drop, her heart still pounding. “Fine,” she said, shooting Mulder a last, cursory glance. She cleared her throat and gazed back at the windshield, forcing herself to stave off unease. She felt slightly nauseated, dizzy. “The light’s green,” she managed, wincing as the truck behind them screamed once more on its horn.
Mulder said nothing, merely touched the gas pedal and propelled them back into traffic.
Lily shrieked as she felt herself falling, falling. She was going to die. She was going to break into a million pieces.
She was thrown violently back into her body, gasping for air, clawing for her sister. Kelsey pulled her up, patted her back as she coughed. “What happened? Lil? Did you do it? Were you able to do it again?”
Lily gasped harder, sucked in breath after breath, her heart pounding. “I didn’t…” She shook her head, held up a hand to her sister. For a moment, Lily took deep breaths to try and equalize her pulse. Then she spoke again. “I didn’t get in all the way…not all the way. It was different this time. She…she blocked me.”
Lily coughed, shook her head. “Agent Scully,” she croaked.
The truth was that Lily had tried and failed. Dana Scully, she was dangerous. She wasn’t just Mulder’s partner. Dana Scully was apparently the keeper of Fox Mulder’s most intimate thoughts, and she was good at what she did. She’d thrown Lily out, thrown her out good.
“Then we’ll have to go farther than that,” Kelsey said by way of response. She looked thoughtful. “We’ll have to go where it’s personal for him. We’ll have to keep trying to get in. That partner of his can’t keep him bottled up forever." Kelsey snorted. "I doubt she even knows what she’s doing. Not like you.”
“I don’t know,” Lily said. Already she felt empty, abandoned, starved for the companionship another mind afforded her. She wanted back in. She wanted to set up home and live there, flying forever inside Fox Mulder’s brain. “But you think I could really get in? Like all the way?” asked Lily. “Do you think I can do it again? She’s pretty strong, that Scully.”
“You can do it,” said Kelsey, and she smiled “You’ll have him. You just can’t do it here.”
“What do you mean?” asked Lily, and Kelsey pulled her unsteadily to her feet. Lily gasped as a dizzying, warped feeling of being held upside down by her toes overtook her. All the blood rushed to her head and she grabbed Kelsey’s arm, panting for breath.
“It’s going to be alright,” said Kelsey. She held tight to Lily's arm. “But we have to get out of here right now. You have to come with me.”
“Where?” Lily asked.
Kelsey only smiled. “Never-Never-land,” she said. “We’re going to make sure Agent Scully never flies again. Just you wait.”
Somewhere Between NY and Maryland
Mulder received a phone call a little into the second hour of the trip, and Scully was relieved, but mostly because she didn't feel like getting into yet another debate with her partner. Arguing with him was fucking exhausting, and Scully was exhausted enough to begin with.
From the easy nature of his tone of voice, Scully could only guess that it was Mark Guinness on the other line. Keeping Mulder abreast of the situation, she assumed—or at least, she hoped, for Mulder’s sake. Sometimes, when it came to leaving a case early, Mulder could be a lot like the kid who had just been told to go to sleep while all the other kids got to stay up.
For the most part, Scully had been feigning sleep, resting her head against the window, her eyes closed. She tried to forget all about the bizarre incident at the stoplight, fought desperately to put it out of her memory. She tried to tell herself that she’d only imagined being cold, that she’d merely had a chill, and that Mulder only spaced out, and she had overreacted to nothing. But she still couldn’t get the bizarre image of strewn files out of her mind, this feeling of urgency. Every time she tried to figure it out, she felt nauseated and had to stop thinking.
Her head hurt. Pounded. Throbbed. Her sinuses had been screaming in pain ever since the stoplight back in Hewlett. Scully sighed to herself, eyes still closed. She was going to need asprin soon. If she had to rob a gas-station to get it.
Yawing, she turned to Mulder, who was apparently at the end of his conversation.
“No, I get it,” he said. “Yeah. Uh huh. No. Uh huh. Yeah. I’ll tell Scully.” He nodded to himself and said, “Well, keep me updated,” before flipping the phone closed and tossing it into one of the cup-holders. He gripped the steering wheel tightly and returned his eyes to the road.
“Mulder?” Scully blinked and stretched in the seat, trying to block out the pain in her head. “What is it?”
“Lily’s missing,” said Mulder, his voice even. His expression was grim. “She’s gone, Scully. We have to go back.”
To this, Scully could only blink. She had to ask him again to make sure she was hearing him correctly.
“What?” she asked.
“We have to go back to Long Island," said Mulder. He turned to her, fixed her with a serious look. “We have to find her.”
Scully pressed a hand to her skull, wished away the throbbing and suddenly felt the urge to smack her partner senseless. “Are you crazy?” She managed. “We’re an hour out of D.C.”
She waved her hand as if to accentuate her point.
Mulder went on as if she hadn’t spoken at all. “Mark says that she just disappeared. It must’ve happened not too long before we left, when you and Mark and I were still in my room. He wasn’t going to call, but after he’d canvassed the area and still came up with nothing…” Mulder ran a hand through his hair, his eyes alit, sparkling, probably at the thought of looking into this new freak development. “He checked the room with a fine-toothed comb, had his men search the surrounding areas. No sign of a break in, no out-of-place furniture, no Lily. She might have run off, but I don’t think--”
“Good.” Scully closed her eyes and rubbed her temples. She didn't want to hear anymore. “Let her go.”
“Scully!” Mulder turned and gaped at her as if she’d just suggested he go run the Boston Marathon on the way home. “This is serious. If Lily didn’t make a break for it, then someone took her. Probably, the same people who abducted her sister and erased her family’s records. The same people, I’m betting, who couriered that envelope to Skinner. This is—“
Scully didn’t wait to hear anymore. She couldn’t take it. This conversation was like a knife searing through the top of her head, ripping open her skull. His voice was going to kill her. What he was actually saying with that voice was going to result in his death as well. Murder suicide. That’s what it came down to. Murder. Fucking. Suicide.
“Mulder,” she managed.
“Pull the car over.”
Mulder’s brows scrunched and his chin pulled back as if this was the last response he expected. “Excuse me?” he asked.
“You heard me.” Scully sighed, leaned back, and gazed at her partner over the gearshift. “I said pull over.”
Mulder frowned and shrugged, turned his head back to the road. For a moment, neither of them spoke. Then Scully felt the car decelerate beneath her, the engine lowering gears. Just as she had asked, Mulder pulled the car over to the right side of the road, the tires crunching over uneasy, iced ground. Beyond the car, just to the east, was a grassy null of snow and ice, and smoke rising up from the tail pipes of other cars. The traffic moving quickly at their left kicked up water and slush as they whirred down the highway, and the sound was like the constant swishing of rubber against ice water.
Mulder set the car in park and turned to her. Scully took a deep breath and shook her head.
“Get out, Mulder,” she said.
Mulder frowned, taken aback. “Excuse me?”
Scully’s head throbbed harder, that voice of his tearing through her last nerve ending.
“Get out of the car right now,” she repeated, this time at nearly a growl.
Mulder looked at her as if she’s grown a pencil from the middle of her forehead. Their eyes squared off and Mulder seemed to deliberate Scully's words and state of mind for a moment. Either he thought she was crazy or sick or both. And if it was sickness he decided her problem was, she knew he wouldn’t hesitate to let her out of the car. And he’d probably get out with her.
But this time she wasn’t sick, and both of them knew it; this time, Mulder was going to listen to her. He was going to listen to her if it was the last goddamned thing he ever did.
“What are you doing, Scully?” asked Mulder. He sounded cautious.
Amazing. For all the times she had followed him, over cliffs, through tunnels, into the desert, down deserted highways in the middle of nowhere, Texas, into haunted mansions, in and out of jail cells, and all she was asking of him now was that he get out of the car. Just get out of the car when she asked him to. And he couldn't do it.
“Just listen to me,” Scully managed, her head thrumming, her heart racing, anger growing inside her. “For once in your life, just take the keys out of the ignition, get the hell out of the car, and listen to me.”
Mulder narrowed his eyes as if considering Scully, and whether or not she would actually inflict violence on him if he didn't comply. Scully gritted her teeth as she gazed at him, and that seemed to be all the prompting needed. Finally, Mulder got the message and unbuckled his seat belt. With an amused shake of his head, he pulled the keys from the ignition, rose from the driver’s seat, and pushed open the driver's side door. He stood up besides the car and spread his arms wide, keys flailing from his right hand. He looked utterly perplexed.
Scully took the opportunity, unbuckled her own seatbelt, and pulled herself out of the car. Her head felt as if it was on fire, her bruised eye throbbing. The pain was becoming unbearable.
She marched quickly around to Mulder’s side of the car, her breaths billowing out into the frigid air, her feet crunching frozen rain, frozen grass, beneath her. With a swift scoop of her bare right hand, she yanked the keys from Mulder’s grip, shook her head, and started back to the other side of the car to grab her coat. Mulder grabbed her halfway to the other side of the car and whirled her around.
She faced him, his hand gripping her arm, her arms down at her sides. The keys she gripped tightly in her fist. Together, they breathed oxygen at each other like dry ice, both silent for a moment, until Mulder finally spoke.
“Scully,” he said, “What are you—“
Scully yanked her arm free. “I’m driving, Mulder.”
“You’re driving.” Mulder folded his arms across his chest. “Why?”
Scully took a step backwards. “Because,” she said, “If I let you continue to drive, you’re just going to make a U-turn at the next exit and head back to Long Island, and I’m not going to let you do that.”
Mulder gawked at this, as if he believed her to be kidding. “Scully.”
Scully held two palms to him, sign language for ‘this is me with my foot down, asshole.’
“It’s not happening,” she went on. “ I won’t let it, not with this much at stake.”
To his credit, Mulder truly seemed to take that last part in, as if the cold and the dreariness of the afternoon had somehow dulled his sense of purpose. But Scully knew her partner better than that. Mulder, he would chase down the truth at any cost. Even if that cost was their partnership, their friendship, even then. The truth, it was all that mattered to him. And although this was one of the things that had originally drawn Scully to him—his determination, his relentlessness—it was also one of the things that terrified her. That she could so blindly love a man who, at times, held such blatant disregard for her—whether it was disregard for her wishes or for her friendship itself.
Dana Scully and Fox Mulder could never be what the bureau accused them of being, because Fox Mulder would never see past the truth. He couldn’t. And Scully, god help her, she would never let him even if he wanted to.
“Look,” said Mulder, “I know you don’t see this my way right now, but there is something going on back there in Lynbrook. Something that goes beyond the conventional X file. And we need to go back and figure out what the hell it is. We need to uncover the truth. It’s not just to find that girl, Scully, but because I feel as if there are other forces at work, here, people who don’t want us to know what’s really going on. The erased records, the leveled house—come on, now. There’s got to be a reason someone was surveilling us, watching us, sending calling cards to Skinner. Why do it now? Why during this case?”
Mulder moved closer to her, put his hands on her shoulders and bent his head to look into her eyes. “We’re being thrown off track for a reason, and the key to exonerating ourselves and validating our work is finding Lily. She could be it, Scully, the key to everything in the X Files.”
Scully inwardly groaned at this. Again, with the key to everything?
Well, at least he’d considered her for a minute. And in Mulder-regulation-time, Scully supposed a minutes was more than what she’d normally get.
Gazing up at him, Scully fought the aggravating adoration she consistently felt at his single-mindedness, his determination—because that same determination coursed, in some form or another, through her blood as well. Both of them thrived on the search, on the quest, and she knew it. He knew it, too. He counted on it.
Instead, Scully focused on the fact that everything coming out of Mulder’s mouth had the words “bad idea” written all over it. And she would not be a party to the destruction of the X Files, not if she could help it. Not now. Not when she’d invested so much of herself in them.
Scully pushed him away. “No,” she said, her palms again up, her expression resolute.
Mulder bent forward, jutted his thumb at the ground as if making a point to the snow. “Scully, I need you to open your eyes, to see past this charade of a hearing—“
“My eyes are open, Mulder.” She waved her hands in frustration. “My eyes have been open. My and my ears, just like when you said Gibson Praise was the key to everything in the X Files.”
Mulder paused, seeming amused by this. He shrugged. “That was last week, Scully. There’s a whole new key this week. I called the locksmith. You gotta keep up with me. Roll with the punches.”
Scully shook her head. She walked slowly to the driver’s side, behind Mulder, and turned, her hand on the door. “Get back in the car, Mulder.”
Mulder shook his head, turned and faced her. “Are you listening to me? Do you understand what I’m saying here?”
Scully’s head still ached with the power of a hundred banging hammers. She felt like screaming. She felt like killing someone. She felt like killing him. “I understand,” she said though gritted teeth. “Now get in the goddamned car.”
“You’re not. You’re not listening at all.”
Her head was going to explode. Brain matter was going to end up all over the road and it was going to be his goddaned fault.
“Jesus Christ, just get in the fucking car, Mulder. Get in. Get in right now or I swear to God, I will hold you at gunpoint and force you into the car.”
Mulder narrowed his eyes. “You wouldn’t.”
Scully narrowed hers back. “Is that a test?”
Mulder shook his head and began to pace, his feet crunching holes in the frosty grass. His breath smoked out into the winter air, and his coattails dragged behind him as he moved. “This hearing, Scully. It’s bullshit. It’s been designed to throw us off, to keep us occupied. It’s a bump in the road, it’s—“
“You know something?” Scully shook her head, hoping that, for once, she could get through to him. Just once. “I think you’re the one who doesn’t get it. They’re not trying to scare us; they’re trying to shut us down.” She paused and watched him carefully. He had stopped pacing and was facing her, his hands stuffed in the pockets of his overcoat, his expression thoughtful. “Do you understand that?” she continued, her anger picking up where her headache left off. “They’re putting us on trial for impropriety. For deliberately and defiantly breaking bureau protocol by not only missing three budget meetings in six months, but also because they’re now convinced that we’re using out-of-town cases to fuck each other senseless in every state in the U.S. It’s not a bump in the road. It’s not a ruse. This is the real thing; this is what they’ll use to hang us, to shut us down, to ship us off millions of miles away from the x files and from each other if we’re not in the Hoover building by two o clock. Do you get that?”
Mulder licked his lips and nodded. “They’re mad about the budget meeting?” he said, facetiously.
Scully banged her hand against the driver’s side door, wishing that she had a sledgehammer to throw around and not just her hand. “Damn it, Mulder.”
“Scully, if we play their game, we let them win.”
And that was the last straw, the last hurrah. Mulder’s “if we play their game” card. He used that card every time he thought he could get a rise out of her, every time he wanted her to agree with him even though he knew what he was suggesting went against her more basic principals. His using this ace-up-the-sleeve card now meant that Mulder had nothing else left, and now felt he could manipulate her. Or at the very least, that he’d thought about it long enough and was unconsciously using pop-psychology on her to win her over. Either way, it pissed her off. She felt more like a side-kick than his partner, more like an annoyance, a tag-along, an obstacle in the way of his unrelenting quest for the truth.
She closed her eyes for a moment, trying to calm herself. The bureau would separate them, yank apart the division, or maybe close it for good, and he didn’t seem to care. He couldn’t see past the end of his fucking nose to care about any of it. And so, Scully wanted to hit him. She wanted to shove him to the ground, get in the car, and leave him by the side of the road in the hopes he’d come to his senses. But she didn’t do that. She wouldn’t. She couldn’t.
Instead, she steeled her gaze, clenched her fists, and began to speak. “You’re still not processing this,” she said, lowly. “We no longer have a choice in the matter. Or, should I say, you no longer have a choice in the matter. You’re getting in the car and I’m driving us back to Washington. You’re doing this if I have to pull my gun on you, if I have to get the jumper cables out of the trunk and hog-tie you to the seat. If I have to hit you over the head with a tire-iron and drag you into the Hoover building by your hair and tell Skinner that you’ve gone insane, that you’re lost your fucking mind, that you’re no longer fit to defend yourself. If I have to lock you up in a padded cell for the duration of this hearing to keep you in one place, to keep this division from getting shut down, to keep myself from losing my job and losing you and shooting you in the head, then so help me God, Mulder, that is what I’m going to do.”
Mulder blinked, took a breath, and nodded as if she had a point. He began walking towards the passenger side and shrugged. Apparently, threats of violence actually worked.
“Insanity plea wouldn’t work, Scully,” he said, opening the door. “Everyone on the OPR board is already convinced that I scaled Mt. Insanity years ago. I have a cottage on the summit.” He smiled.
Scully did not.
“Don’t fuck with me, Mulder,” she said, slamming herself down onto the seat and thrusting the key into the ignition. “I’m warning you. Just get in the car.”
There was nothing but silence after that, stony, hard silience all the way back to Washington.
Continued in Chapter 14