We All Die Virgins
by Jaime Lyn
11400 Commonwealth Dr,
Mulder made his way to the front door of Scully's apartment, fiddling with the haphazard conglomeration of trinkets and unused keys which he called a keychain. He'd accidentally dropped his keys in the sink before he left, and now the labels had all washed off, leaving him ultimately and ridiculously screwed with about a million unlabeled, identical keys.
Mulder shook his head, tossing the keychain from one hand to the other, shifty, nervous. Back in the early days, Mulder had proudly sported a man's-man, batchelor-to-the-hilt, utilitarian keychain: two keys, no waiting. How easy those long-ago days had been, when labels weren't needed to identify what belonged to whom. But then after Scully had entered his life, and taken over his office, a drawer in his nightstand, and half the trunk of his car, the number of keys and keyring toys on Mulder's manly-man keychain had upped considerably; Mulder could only describe his new mess of brass and silver as "Scully clutter."
First, there was the house key that Scully had given him shortly after being partnered with him--what she called a "just in case something happens" key. And then after Duane Barry had broken in and abuducted her, there was the new key Scully bestowed upon him following her subsequent move to an apartment down the hall--what Scully joked was a, "this time, come in before the bad guy does," key. Mulder hadn't found her amusing, but Scully thought herself a riot, especially when she was pretending not to be frightened of something. But not long after that key, Scully's sister was gunned down in Scully's new living room, and he'd gotten another key, a "goddamn it, this is the last time I change my locks or move or rearrange my life," key. It was placed gently into his hand at Melissa's funeral, by a Dana Scully so suspended by grief she couldn't even speak to tell him what the key opened. But he knew. He always knew.
Each new key was added to the old keyring, but none were ever taken off. They were mementos of long ago horrors, keys to nowehere that now opened nothing, but remained with Mulder for reasons he refused to contemplate. And on top of those ghost keys were others still, all extensions of Dana Scully; the extra key to Scully's car--another "just in case" key, and a key to her mother's house (which Mrs. Scully didn't know about) but that Scully had given him after Melissa's death--a safety precaution, she'd called it.
And the security guard of his Scully-cluttered keychain was a green, googly-eyed alien she'd given him a few Christmasses ago; "Because you make yourself such a prime target for completely useless gifts," she'd explained.
That last memory made Mulder smile. The googly-eyed alien year was the same year he'd forgotten about Christmas entirely, and in a haste to yank himself out of The Grinch's doghouse, he had run down to the lab on his lunchbreak and wrapped up a box of litmus paper and gram stain analysis slips. He'd awkwardly declared, "Merry Christmas, Scully," and Scully had smiled and opened the gift and said nothing for a moment. Finally, she managed, "Wow, Mulder. How incredibly....thoughtful of you," all the while glancing from him to the box like a woman whose husband had just given her a bowling ball for her birthday. Following that debacle, Scully had swiftly employed the "let's just not exchange gifts from now on" rule, and Mulder had agreed, although Scully eventually made use of the slips and the box of litmus paper, and Mulder eventually found more tasteful things to get for her that didn't require a lab to be useful. After all, Mulder never was much for following the rules. Which, at this point, made his little green alien how old? Five years?
Mulder's cell phone beeped at that moment, jarring him so badly he tripped over his shoes, jerked forward, and nearly toppled over into the wall. "Damn it," he muttered, righting himself.
The phone beeped again, louder this time, and Mulder shook his head. He took a relieved breath and yanked the chirping phone out from his pocket, swinging his keychain back and forth with his opposite hand. He sighed: It was Scully. It had to be. And thank God. What in the hell had she been thinking, making a commotion over the phone and then ignoring him and worrying him like that? .
Mulder jabbed the talk button and leaned against the door to her apartment. "Mulder's house of tawdry, sexual impropriety," he said. "If you're Dana Scully, please press one."
For a moment there was nothing on the other end but breathing, and Mulder wondered whether she was going to laugh at him or slap him. He was about to ask her if she was still there, when finally, the voice on the other line spoke, but not in Scully's normally unamused voice. This was an entirely different, distinctly male, unamused voice.
"If you're planning on digging your own grave this month, I suggest you start shoveling now, Agent."
Mulder grimmaced and sucked in air through his teeth, breathing as if trying to inflate himself through his mouth. A.D Skinner rarely, if ever, found Mulder's jokes amusing. And with the situation being what it was, Mulder wouldn't have been surprised if, after this last joke, a shoot-on-sight order was placed on his head.
"Sir," said Mulder, immediately changing his tone. "How can I, ah, help you?" Trying to shrug off the thin vestiges of embarrassment, Mulder squinted down at his keyring and flipped through the keys. Don't think about the situation with the FBI, he told himself, just go check on Scully... Fuck. Which one was the right key? Damned non-permanent markers...
"Agent Mulder ," Skinner began, "Despite your cavalier attitude, I'm sure you've been made aware of the seriousness of your current situation. And frankly, while I'd rather avoid the migraine headache that usually accompanies these conversations with you, as your direct superior, it is my job to protect the agents under my supervision...even when I'd rather shoot said agents and be done with it."
Mulder nodded, flipping key after key. "Yes, Sir. I understand, Sir," he said.
"Agent Mulder..." Skinner paused, and in the breath before he spoke again, Mulder mused that he sounded a little too much like an angry father. "If you plan on saving yourself, or saving Agent Scully, then you need to be perfectly straight with me on a number of topics."
Skinner paused a second time, as if waiting for confirmation that Mulder had heard and understood this. Distracted still by his over-stuffed keyring, Mulder answered indifferently, "of course, sir."
"Don't brush me off, Agent. I'll have your ass in a sling, I promise you that. As it is, I'd like an explanation."
Mulder frowned at a particuarly shiny brass key, pondering whether it was the second or third key Scully had given him, and said, out of automation, "I already explained the situation from the photographs, Sir. I believe I'm on record for that."
Skinner grunted. "Not just the photographs, Mulder, although I don't for a second buy that bullshit story about drugging Agent Scully. I want an explanation for your bizarre behavior immediately following the hearing this afternoon. Yours and Scully's."
Mulder paused in mid-flip and frowned. He was starting to get the distinct impression that something smelled very rotten. "Sir?" he said, confused. "I don't understand---what behavior?"
Skinner sighed as if Mulder had just stated that purple dragons ate only polka dotted mice.
"Don't dig yourself another hole, Mulder," the other man said, his words clipped. "You've already lied yourself into a corner with that ridiculous fabrication about taking advantage of Agent Scully. If you don't want to make things worse, I suggest you just tell me what the hell you were thinking, leaving the building the way you did this afternoon. Why you turned your cell phone off so nobody could reach you. I've been trying to contact you since three o clock."
Mulder paused, the key to Scully's apartment dangling from his thumb and forefinger. Turned his cell phone off? No, no, no--The Skinman must've jumped the gun on this one. When would he have had the opportunity to do that? And why? Mark had even called him on his cell phone, called right after he'd been kicked out of the building, no less.
"I never turned my cell phone off, sir," he said.
"You most certainly did, Agent Mulder. I didn't even get your voicemail. I got a recording that stated you were out of the area. Would you care to explain this?"
Mulder squinted and tried to remember back to the hearing that afternoon, to what happened after Director Jana Cassidy had suspended him, but the memory was fuzzy. He could recall Scully's defeated expression, Skinner shaking his head, the photographs lying out on the table like obscene playing cards. Then a gavel slamming, the sound cutting through his eardrums, slicing the silence---
But...wait. that last part made no sense; gavels weren't used in conduct meetings or unofficial hearings or any kind of FBI briefings, for that matter, and he'd never heard of any being implemented. But he remembered distinctly that Director Cassidy had slammed her gavel at the end of the meeting. He also recalled an unfamiliar, gray suited agent who had called the meeting "adjourned" right after the gavel slam, and had asked everyone to rise. --Why, exactly, Mulder still wasn't quite sure. He hadn't seen the name on the guy's badge, but he remembered thinking that the guy looked almost exactly like Sam Waterston from Law and Order, which was bizarre, certainly, but not any more than anything else he'd ever seen. Then Scully gave him a sympathetic look and everyone rose to their feet, and Skinner escorted him out of the building. Out a back exit, through a gray door.... past the display case, down that left hallway. It should have been the exit to the stairwell, but it wasn't. It lead directly outside. Which floor had he been on, again?
Mulder swallowed, an acrid taste rising in his throat as he said, "I was suspended, and the board threatened to bring the matter of my conduct to a court of law. Then the meeting was adjourned. We all stood, and you escorted me out of the building--through the door off the side hallway. That's....essentially what I remember happening."
Skinner took a breath. "You don't recall feeling ill," he said.
Mulder blinked, his heart pounding faster. "No."
"And you don't recall Agent Scully fainting as you left the board room, or you leaving before the mess was even cleared away?"
Mulder's breath caught in his throat. "Scully fainted?"
Skinner paused as if considering the question--certainly not the explanation he'd been hoping for. Mulder felt suddenly disoriented, sickened, rooted to the carpet. None of this made any sense. He would have remembered something like getting sick, or Scully fainting. If it had indeed happened. Skinner... he had to be mistaken.
"Mulder, you're not making sense--are you saying you have no recollection of this?"
Mulder shook his head, trying to clear away the haze. "Scully fainted?" he repeated.
"Yes," said Skinner, exasperated. "We've just been over this. I had to flag down Agent Patterson to clean you up because Scully went down right after you did. I returned a minute later and you were gone, Mulder. Patterson said you just got up and left. Not a word out of you." The edge slowly disappeared from Skinner's voice, and instead, the man sounded almost worried. "Scully said she was alright," he added, as an afterthought. "Just shaken. But I have to say, Agent Mulder....her illness and yours seemed to spring at the exact same moment, which is somewhat suspicious considering I could top off a landfill with the amount of information you're keeping from me. So if something's happened that's affected your heath, or Agent Scully's health... if the underlying problem is that you're not well, as Agent Scully contested you were not---"
"Scully fainted?" Mulder repeated, as if he could make the scenario real for him if only he repeated the question a gross number of times. He chewed on his bottom lip, trying to make sense of a situation that ultimately made no sense to him.
Scully had looked at him with sympathy in her eyes, and rose to her feet, still staring at him. Then he'd gotten up, and Skinner lead him out. That was what had happened; he was sure of it. Nobody vomited, nobody fainted. Scully hadn't called him later on and told him she'd gotten sick, and he couldn't imagine her keeping something as medically important as a sudden fainting spell from him. And if he'd known she'd fainted, as Skinner insisted he did, he certainly wouldn't have left the building before knowing whether or not she was alright.
"Before the doors closed?" Mulder asked, trying to understand, and staring at Scully's apartment door as if her brass knocker could help him achieve this end. "Scully fainted before the doors closed?"
Skinner sounded slightly annoyed at having to explain this twice, especially to a man who had supposedly been there, and his voice crackled on his words. "The meeting ended, and Agent Scully got up to address you, but you didn't answer her. Director Cassidy then ordered you from the room, while Scully seemed to experience a sudden bout of...inexplicable pain. I escorted you out when you called for her, and I watched you get sick. Whether or not the doors closed before Agent Scully fainted, I couldn't tell you. Agent Mulder, I'm alarmed that you don't remember--"
"And Scully wasn't concerned about me when she got up? She just left?"
Mulder frowned. He knew he sounded petulant, but he wasn't trying to be. Scully... even light-headed, she would have inquired about him if she'd known he'd become suddenly, unexplainably ill. She might have been cross with him at the time, but her first instincts were that of a trained physician. She would have called him. She would have stopped by. She would have demanded that Skinner find him. She didn't mention any concerns about his health over the phone, however, and if she'd known he'd gotten sick, she most certainly would have.
"I didn't get the chance to tell her," Skinner said. "She got up, told us she was fine, and left... Much the same way you did." Skinner took a careful breath. "Agent Mulder?"
Mulder's head pounded as he tried to force himself to remember the afternoon more clearly. Some pieces came to him in hideous technicolor, and others faded in monochromatic waves of gray and blue, like chalk being washed off the sidewalk by rainfall.
He and Scully talked, Skinner came to get them, they sat down at the conference table, Scully opened the envelope with the photographs, accusations were made, he tried to save Scully by lying, Scully got angry, he became convinced that the OPR board had planned this, and Cassidy suspended him.
Then there were flashes of particulars: gavels, the actual suspension, get him out of my sight, Agent Mulder is not well, You are to turn in your badge and sidearm immediately, this meeting is adjourned. Adjourned.
Scully had tried to force a smile for him, Skinner had lead him out, Mark Guinness called him and he'd answered on the third ring. That agent who looked like Sam Waterston--he grinned at Mulder as Mulder left the room, but otherwise had said nothing but "all rise," and "this meeting is adjourned." He served no purpose. Which made no fucking sense.
The side door, the side door, lead right outside.
And Mark called him and that was why he'd gone down into the basement... To get Scully's backup disk.
Or had he only imagined going into the basement after Scully suggested it over the phone? Was it possible that she'd left the disk in his apartment weeks, even months ago, and he'd only dreamed the phone call with Mark and the subsequent trip downstairs?
Jesus, he was losing it. Either Skinner was lying, or Mulder was losing his mind, and if the latter was true, it meant that, among other things, they'd lock him up for diving off the deep end of insanity.
"Sir," said Mulder, his eyes on the on the chipped, brass lock above Scully's doorknob. He squinted at the deadbolt and tilted his head to one side. The lock, the lock... locked box. Locked door.... locked... something. It all had to do with locks and someone opening something that shouldn't be opened: dreams, memory, the human brain...They'd been talking about genetics and supersoldiers...
A strange vision came to him then; a key dangled in the haze of an endless gray mist, stretching out past a hallway of locked file cabinets. Locks kept intruders out. Locks kept valuables safe. But locks weren't always foolproof and sometimes, locks got broken.
Mulder remembered his dream from the previous night, how he'd felt every sensation so clearly, so vividly, that he'd accidentally punched Scully to defend himself from something that wasn't there. He couldn't explain to her the vision or why he'd suddenly started having waking dreams.
But there was one he knew to be certain:
"Sir," he repeated, his mouth dry, "Tell me the architecture of the Hoover Building miraculously changed since yesterday and someone put an exit on the second floor."
Skinner faltered. "Excuse me?"
"There was no exit, there was no Sam Waterston," Mulder mumbled to himself. His heart dropped into his feet. "Oh my God...I dreamed it...somehow..."
Another thought occurred to him: Scully.
If something was wrong with him, it was possible that something was even more wrong with Scully. Skinner said she'd fainted and then left the building as if nothing had happened. That made little sense. Besides the fact that Scully wasn't prone to fainting spells, she would have agreed to a check-up (as he was sure Skinner had probably suggested one,) and she would have told Mulder about it immediately. Especially after all those doctor's visits the previous months, the exhaustion, the long hospital stay at Dr. Parenti's insistence...
Mulder locked that last thought away, returned to the matter at hand.
Scully would tell him, he thought.... Unless she just didn't remember it. And if someone or something was trying to get inside his head, to alter his perception of the world--and he had a feeling that it was the same 'someone' who had worked similar technology into the heads of Lily and Kelsey Harbor--- then who was to say Scully wasn't next on the hit list?
"Agent Mulder," said Skinner, more insistent. "Where are you?"
His eyes suddenly darting everywhere at once, Mulder turned and looked up and down the narrow hallway, searching for something--he wasn't exactly sure what--feeling as if he suddenly teetered over the edge of insanity. Someone was watching him, he was sure of it, but he couldn't see who it was.
Christ. He had to get to Scully.
Mulder blinked in alarm as he reached for the waistband of his jeans and found his firearm missing. He bent his head, turned in a fast circle to see if he'd dropped it somehow, but then remembered suddenly where it had gone: the suspension. Fuck. He was defenseless, now, fucking helpless.
"Damn it," he muttered.. With shaking fingers, he jabbed his key in the lock, leaning to one side so he could open the door without making himself an easy target.
"Mulder, what the hell are you--"
"I punched Scully on accident," hissed Mulder, trying to explain everything without actually explaining anything, not only because he wasn't sure if he could trust Skinner, but because there was just no time. None at all But he'd have to give Skinner the abridged information, if only because Skinner was there, on the phone with him, and he carried a firearm, and in case another 'waking dream' took hold of Mulder, Skinner could keep him from.... from--
Well, he refused to even think it.
The key jammed and Mulder grunted while trying to twist it. "I never drugged Scully," he admitted quickly, groaning as the key dug into his palm. Shit, that was going to leave a mark. "Scully and I are not involved, nor have we ever been involved. There was no sex, just a goddamned kiss, and it was not premeditated. The bruise happened afterwards; I was asleep and she tried to wake me and I punched her. I didn't realize who she was and I don't remember actually having done it, but Scully insists that I did. Just like you insist that I got sick this afternoon when I have no memory of it. But I do remember leaving the building through a side exit on the second floor." Mulder took a breath. "But there is no side exit on the second floor. Not unless M.C Usher designed the Hoover building."
"But how is it possible that your memory of this afternoon is different from mine?" Skinner asked, sounding as if he was trying to follow this, but failing miserably. He paused. "Perhaps Agent Scully was telling the truth in there. You're not well."
Fucking hell, the key was stuck. It was goddamned stuck.
"I don't know," said Mulder, only half paying attention to the conversation now. His chest felt heavy, as if someone was sitting on him and pushing the air out: Scully. He had to get to Scully. Something was wrong; he could feel it. "I think you'd better stop by Scully's place," Mulder continued, leaning his head into the shoulder with the phone, and gripping the jammed key with both hands. Damn it--this was insane. What the hell was wrong with his key? "Because..." He paused. Because why? Because he was crazy? Because he was a menace, a danger, an unwitting catastrophe waiting to happen? He just didn't know how to finish that sentence.
"I'm on my way," was all Skinner said, and the line went dead before Mulder could reply.
A back room
Lily sat on a closed cardboard box in the corner of the guest room. She pressed her arms around herself, feeling suddenly cold, and gazed at Kelsey, who hummed and stood at the room's only picture window, her blonde head tilted at the road below, her finger tracing fog on the glass. Lily didn't know what to make of Kelsey anymore, which was just as terrifying a thought as Lily not knowing what to make of herself.
Some things, of course, hadn't changed; Kelsey had always felt more comfortable in locked rooms, behind locked doors that kept the world at bay, and today was no exception. With the door bolted safely behind them, Kelsey seemed calmer, more content. She'd always been mousy and quiet, a counterpoint to Lily's boisterous daydreams and determined plans. She'd been a silent reserve of strength that kept Lily alive throughout all those torturous years: the tests and the proddings, throughout all the sin-stick assaults by their Mother and the deepening madness of their Father.
But now Kelsey was different, changed somehow.
Her big blue eyes glowed angrier, harsher, and she seemed to be uninterested in the silly games that had amused them before. She no longer cared about giggling, or having fun, or playing 'psychological profile,' or going out to Hollywood and becoming famous. Somehow, Kelsey had aged twenty years in two days. She had become the strong sister and Lily had become the silly, unhinged sister, and it had all happened in a matter of hours. And the angrier and more determined Kelsey got, the quieter and less convinced of herself Lily got.
Everything felt wrong.
It used to be that Kelsey brought out the best in Lily, but now she only seemed to accentuate the worst: the most hideous, dark thoughts Lily dared to think. How was it possible for Lily's sister, her best and only friend, to turn so suddenly into someone Lily wasn't sure she even liked?
At that last thought, Lily pursed her lips, shook her head. Silly, ridiculous ideas. Of course, there was nothing wrong with Kelsey. She only wanted what was best for Lily, and what was best for Lily was the love of a man like Agent Mulder. Both of them had agreed that Fox Mulder deserved better than Dana Scully. That he deserved to be adored and cherished, and that Lily deserved an equal amount of adoration as well.
Lily's wandering gaze stopped on a half opened cardboard box on the other side of the room. Next to the box laid an unused, blue-footed, button-up baby sleeper--the tags still attached. A small, white teddy bear sat atop the unworn sleeper and the tags had not been taken off of the bear, either. Curious.
At that moment, for the first time in hours, Lily noticed the color of the walls in this particular room; they had been painted pale yellow, as opposed to the utilitarian white of the rest of the apartment. The kitchen, the living room--even Agent Scully's own bedroom was the same, drab, boring white. But this room--the only room in the place that had been securely locked, as if it had not been touched in months--this space had yellow walls and gauzy, pastel colored curtains. It was indulgent, soft, and unlike anything Lily would have imagined for a starched prude like Special FBI Agent Dana Scully.
Unable now to squelch her curiosity over this, Lily squinted, took a deep breath, and allowed herself to travel, to fly out of herself. It was so easy and pleasant now, and Lily wondered how she ever could have found it painful, especially after the fun she'd had playing with the knives and forks in Agent Scully's kitchen.
Agent Scully had deflected that first attack---and deflected well, Lily had to grudgingly admit. But by so doing, Agent Scully had also unleashed her own, untapped power upon herself. And now the woman's mind was open, like the upturned lid of a container, and Lily found she could sift through the contents of it easier than she could sift through even Agent Mulder's quickly churning mind: his organized hallways and rows of file cabinets.
Agent Scully's mind had been hard at first. It was a locked door that Lily had been forced to pick ferociously at just to peek inside. But like Danny Tanner often said on Full House, hard work always paid off in the end, and what had previously been glued shut, chained down, kept behind invisible bars, now spilled into every corner, gushed out like a flash flood. Dana Scully's cup runeth over, and there wasn't a damn thing to be done about it now. As Kelsey had told her to jot down on the bus: since the human brain is simply not meant to function on such elevated levels, not without the proper training, the overstimulated brain will simply self-destruct. Implode on its own electrical impulses.
Lily took long, slow breaths as she thought of this ultimate goal: Dana Scully's destruction. The idea made her smile, made her focus, and the memories she sought from Agent Scully came quickly to her:
Rain outside, a phone ringing. Agent Scully picks it up, speaks softly into the reciever. It's hard to breathe, hard to to feel anything good. Head hurts. heart...heart hurts. After a short conversation, she hangs up, turns to him, to Mulder. She manages to speak: Mulder, that was Dr. Parenti and he said... there was some sort of mistake... But now there's too much air and she feels like passing out; she just might. Mulder looks so earnest, so hopeful. He's beautiful. God. Look at him. What kind of mistake, Scully? he asks. She wrings her hands, nervous. The floor, have to look at the floor. Not at him. He doesn't really want--not this. She wants so much to want this, but he has to want it, too. She says, he told me... he was sorry, but he'd somehow mislabeled my test results and read me another woman's test results by clerical error-- she pauses, unsure, still. How to say these next few words? She smiles: crying, smiling, crying, smiling. Will he be pleased? Or have they just made a huge mistake? It was so easy when she thought there wasn't any hope at all... She stutters: So he called to say...He wanted to congratulate me--us--me-- She looks up, and Mulder stops her with a smile. Of course he knows. He could always tell....And now he's smiling. Jesus. He's smiling. He breathes out words. She can barely hear him -- Scully...We're pregnant? I mean, you--you're-- He stammers over himself, grinning, blushing, rushing to her, hugging her. She laughs, tastes salt on her lips. Yes. She pauses. Mulder, I don't--- His hands in her hair. He smells like fresh soap. Feels so good. So good. Shhh, he says. It's okay. You don't have to say anything. My God, Scully. My God... Happy, she's so happy, so happy, she's going to burst with it.
A flash of something more: drops of blood, blood down where there isn't supposed to be blood, not now, not with the embryo...Oh Jesus, oh God, abdominal pain, contraction of the uterus, God, it hurts so bad, so, so bad, someone help--Mulder, help me, please, my baby--
And with a sudden slam, like a car door being shut, Lily was tossed back out. With a long exhale, she opened her eyes. "There...There was a baby," she managed out loud. "Oh my God..."
At this, Kelsey turned to face her, a glint in her eyes. "Was there really?" she said, and smiled. "Huh... Interesting..."
Lily shivered. A baby, she thought, turning the idea over and over in her head. How could she not have figured that one out? Had Mulder really been keeping the memory tucked away in that locked Scully cabinet of his? The one she'd been unable to unlock? She'd never once felt him think about a baby. Not even a little bit. Strange. She'd never even felt Scully think about it, either. But both of them had locked thoughts, places they kept hidden inside themselves.
But now their secret was out: A baby...
And suddenly, Lily knew exactly how to get Fox Mulder to fall in love with her.
Mulder finally shoved open the door to Scully's apartment, catching the door before it hit the wall, and stepped into darkness. The keys he left inside the lock, dangling against the wood. There wasn't time to pry them back out.
His every sense alert, Mulder blinked quickly to gain his bearings. He could just barely make out the edges of furniture, shadowed objects jagged and hulking and inky in the evening air. Not a single light had been turned on. Not even the hallway light. Could she have left? he wondered. Gone to sleep? What if she'd gone out looking for him?
Deciding finally that skulking in the darkness was patently ridiculous, especially when he had no proof of an actual break in, Mulder leaned against the wall and flipped on the hall light. The foyer flooded with the warmth of soft yellow, and Mulder squinted to adjust to the glow. His hand over his eyes, he peered out into the living room-- couch and table and armoire perfectly straight and orderly, as Scully's living room often was. Her jacket was draped over the couch, and her navy blue pumps lay on the floor, on opposite sides of the room, lying around like afterthoughts. Mulder bent down, touched his index finger to one of the heels.
"Scully?" he called, rising to his feet. "Scully, are you asleep?"
At that last question, Mulder shook his head at his own idiocy; if Scully was indeed asleep, chances were good she wouldn't be answering to tell him that.
He was about to turn down the hallway, to check out her bedroom, when he heard... crunching. Something glass-like crackling almost imperceptibly in the tiled kitchen.
Mulder went rigid. Remembering that he was, of all things to be at this moment, unarmed, he grabbed the nearest object he could find-- Scully's discarded heel--and backed against the foyer wall, holding himself as flat and stiff as a piece of sheetrock. His heart pounded furiously, pulse whooshing in his ears. Scully, he thought. Oh God, not Scully. Please not Scully. Someone was definitely in Scully's house and it wasn't Scully. Was she even alright? She would have answered him by now.
Glancing back at the wall behind him, Mulder quickly killed the light again and tried the only thing he could think of to do: flat out, brazen lying.
"Federal Agent," he caled out, watching the darkness carefully. "I'm armed."
The furniture remained still and quiet, and Mulder waited for an answering movement to pounce upon. Whatever it was that had gotten to Scully and disabled her, he'd find it. He'd find it and then.... and then...what? He'd heel it to death? Or something.
"Don't move," he tried, bending his arm back to strike. "Don't move or I'll be forced to shoot."
With a shoe, he finished silently, forcing down the deliriously terrifying urge to giggle. He was threatening death with one half of a pair of Donna Karan originals. Oh Christ, this was lunacy.
The air was stationary, but charged. Waiting. The air was definitely waiting for something. Then, slowly, as if starting the wave at a baseball game, fine hairs on his neck and arms stood defiantly on end, each strand straining towards the ceiling.
Suddenly, Mulder felt that same sickening dread he'd felt in his motel room on Long Island. Static electricity. The room was filled with static electricity. Again. Jesus. Something unnatural had gotten into Scully's apartment, and Scully was in trouble because of it. He could feel it, he--
< Mulder? >
Mulder froze, for a moment believing he'd only imagined her voice. He was sure he'd heard her everywhere at once. Not just in his head, but in the air and all around him.
< Mulder > She said it again. < Mulder... the kitchen...hurry...>
No--that was definitely Scully. And she sounded weak, far away, as if she was speaking to him from a transistor radio.What if she was injured, sick? Flipping on the lights again, heedless of any danger to himself, Mulder tore across the living room and into the kitchen...
And froze a second time.
"Holy shit," he managed, his voice barely registering above a whisper.
Scully's kitchen had been wholly and utterly decimated. The cabinets had been ripped violently off their hinges, and a few boards laid bare in cracked, wooden heaps, while others dangled ghoulishly from silver anchors, hanging, creaking, waiting like dark brown baby teeth to be ripped out. The drawers were in no better shape than the cabinets; a few luckier ones hung out from the counter as if someone had ripped them open, gutted the contents, and then decided against destroying them entirely. And what had once been the silverware drawer, the neatly organized silverware drawer, was now no longer part of the counter at all. Scraps of wooden splinters covered the white tiled floor in angry brown entrails, and Mulder could only assume that the splatters of wood represented the unfortunate fate of the mutilated drawer. Among the spliters were other items: jagged cuts of glass, pieces of mangled China, spoons and forks and knives splayed from one end of the kitchen to the other.
Two wooden chairs had been overturned in the melee and pushed away from the table. Mulder nearly yelped as a hand shakily came up over the back of one and gripped one of the legs.
His heart somehow lodged in his left lung, Mulder sprinted forward and dropped to his knees before the chair, forcing himself to ignore the crunch of broken glass cutting through his jeans. One sharp piece in particular pierced through, and he hissed through his teeth.
"Scully?" he asked, frantic. "Are you alright?" He carefully removed the chair from between them and bent down to her; he called to her again, but if she heard him, it didn't register.
She crouched low to the floor, huddled as if in shock, pressing down into herself like a rolly-bug. She was trembling raggedly, her teeth chattering, her normally sedate red hair a wild mess of tangles about her pale face. Her cheeks flushed, her blue eyes bright and glassy, she looked almost like a beautiful, wild animal that someone had brought into civilization and tried to tame. Mulder didn't know what to say to her. He didn't even know where to start. Finally, she gazed up at him with unfocused eyes. He swallowed against his racing pulse, against the urge to wrap her up and protect her and slap her back to reality, and instead reached up to push away a stray lock of hair--
And she winced, grunting from the base of her throat as if he'd stung her. Mulder jumped back at the response, a small part of his ego having been bruised that she would ever recoil from him. This was serious. This was fucking serious.
"Scully?" he asked, reaching out to try again. "Scu--"
But her hands went over her ears this time and her eyes squeezed shut, as if a loud noise had threatened to deafen her. She gasped a second time, fought for breath, and shook her head, inching slowly and shakily towards the dissected cabinets until there wasn't anywhere else for her to go. "Don't," she managed, her lashes pressed against the blushed tops of her cheeks. "Don't....Can't--"
Mulder inched closer, his breathing shattered now, stunted. His knees stung with the promise of drawn blood from a hundred shards of glass, and he inched closer still, tracking her with his eyes, terrified beyond belief. "Don't what?" he asked, as gently as he could.
Scully's eyelids finally fluttered open and she breathed in short, punctuated bursts, gazing at him in desperation. "Scully?" he asked, his brows knitted in horror. "Please talk to me."
Her palms lowered to her cheeks and she rubbed, lightly at first, and then harder and faster, as if she didn't know what else to do with herself. Mulder reached forward and grabbed her wrists insitinctively, if only to keep her from injuring herself. He crouched lower before her, so that she would feel taller, more powerful perhaps, and gazed up into her painfully beautiful face. She didn't struggle against him this time and he didn't let go.
Her mouth opening, she tried again: "Too much.... too many....You...I....can't..." Her lips thinned into a purse, and Mulder watched as the fine line between insanity and frustration played out in her desperate expression. For whatever reason, the trail of communication, while clear in her head, wasn't getting past her lips. Finally, she shook her head, gazing up at him, gripping his hands in her own.
His head tingled for a moment, tickling at him, as if he'd opened up his skull and dusted the inside with a feather.
< Mulder, can you hear me? > he heard. Tentative, terrified, as if the speaker thought she was losing her mind.
Mulder gasped, nearly dropped back to the floor, but somehow held on tight to her. Either from fear of losing her or fear of losing himself, he wasn't quite sure. It was Scully's voice he'd heard, he would have bet his life on it, but.... Scully wasn't speaking. Her mouth never moved. They were her words, or else they sure as hell sounded like her words, but how the fuck was he hearing them? In his head? In his fucking head? Or was he even hearing anything at all? Maybe he was just fucking crazy and had been since the beginning of the week, and now he was only hearing what he wanted to hear. Or maybe this was another dream. He'd wake up in the hospital and Scully would be standing over him, looking and acting normal, and she'd tell him that Skinner had found him vomiting on the steps of her building and,Good God, that would make two times in one day and why they hell couldn't he remember any of it?
< Mulder...> he heard again. Oxygen caught in his throat, lodged there. Her face crumpled as she stared into his eyes, searching, desperate to communicate. < Oh God, please tell me you hear me. I think you can hear me. You can hear me, can't you? Oh God. Oh God, of course you can't. Jesus. I think I'm going crazy, Mulder. Everything hurts. I can't speak. There's too much. I need...I can't hear correctly. Too crowded in here.> A tear trickled down her cheek and she gasped, trying to breathe and keep herself from sobbing all at the same time.
Mulder pressed his hand to her cheek and she flinched again, turning her head. < It's like feedback--stings my ears.> When she turned back to him, her eyes flooded with anguish. <You... you don't want to hear me..You're afraid....> she thought. < I don't.... understand...You think... too much...> she leaned her head back against the cabinets. <I can't breathe with you in here. Don't know how to turn it off.>
His mind racing over the possibilities, Mulder's eyes narrowed as he realized, with deranged certainty, just what was going on here.
Scully had to be reading his thoughts.
And not just some of them, she was reading all of his thoughts. And he was reading hers. But somehow, her thought transference to him was filtered, like tea through a strainer, while his line to her was uncensored and filled with unconscious garble. She wasn't just getting the surface trail of consciousness; she was getting all the feedback and background noise he wasn't sure how to quiet. But how? And why?
And Jesus, in the midst of more important questions, Mulder found his cheeks warm with color at the idea that Scully could hear everything in his head.
He swallowed, touched her chin. She was in pain, but she was also in shock: Dana Scully, the rationalist, the scientist, the woman who didn't believe in things like telepathy, must have felt somehow betrayed by her own mind. If he was hurting her by thinking at her, then she was somehow ripping herself apart by adding her own voice to the mix. Which meant he wasn't sure how to help her. He didn't even know how to try. And he was terrified he might split her in two without meaning to.
<Scully> he thought, trying hard to divert all excess energy into a single idea, a single phrase. <Scully, I hear you. Tell me what to do.>
Scully's eyes widened at him and she tilted her head to one side, smiling for the barest of seconds. < Mulder> he heard, a sigh, a whisper.
And then she gripped her ears again, gasping for air, falling back against the cabinets as if bracing for a siezure.
<Jesus,> he thought. <Tell me what to do,> he inisisted, his eyes scanning over her helplessly. He didn't know whether to touch her or back away. <Do you need...> He fought to keep his terror under control, his emotions in check, to keep himself from hurting her further. <The hospital? Asprin? What? Tell me. Scully, tell me what's happening. I don't know how to help you.>
She opened her eyes and her pupils rolled back, focusing first on the ceiling, and then on the wall, and then on nothing at all. Her head lolled to the side as if her neck had stopped working properly. <Don't know what's happening... Diazepam, Triazolam, Klonopin, I forget which one I had...> she ratttled and trailed away. Off his confusion, she finished, <Barbituates, Mulder. Sleeping pills. Medicine cabinet. Orange bottle. Might be able...sleep some of this off. Heart rate...too fast. Need to slow it down... Put me out. Put me out now.>
Unsure of what else to do, Mulder nodded at her, his palms sweaty and shaking over her cheek.
<Stop.... Stop that. It's okay...> she went on. <Not dying....don't know why you think...such things... Going to be fine. You always.... so melodramatic, Mulder.>
Mulder swallowed, forced a smile, tried his hardest to believe her.
<Believe me. Two pills. And tell... Skinner to patch up your knee... when he gets here...You....in pain...I feel but I can't...> Her head lolled to the other side, her mouth half opened in a suspended "O" shape. Her breathing was erratic. <Not going to slip into barbituate coma, either. I'm a doctor...Trust me...I know... you trust me.>
< I trust you,> he told her.
For a moment they breathed together, panting, gasping in tandem, their eyes connected, minds connected, searching one another for answers that weren't there. Struggling to keep his teeth from chattering, Mulder brushed a strand of hair back over her ear, smoothing down the rest of her red-gold locks with the back of his hand. After a final second of gazing, and a last, longing caress, he turned and got up to head for the bathroom.
<I never threw your keys away either,> he heard as he went. He stopped in his tracks. Her voice was a sigh, a caress. <I remember that Christmas. Litmus paper...It was...a bad present, but I...It was so you and I wouldn't have it any other way...> She trailed off, tickling the inside of his skull with her voice. <You worry...too much...>
When he turned back to her, her eyes were glassy, watering over. Moisture beaded down the side of her face in fat rivulets, and still she sat motionless, voiceless, catatonic. Damn it. This was insane. Or else it was a dream. It had to be. She was Scully. She was his Scully, for crying out loud. Things like this were not supposed to happen to her. He choked back a sob and then remembered she could hear him. She could hear everything now.
<Diazepam,> he managed, trying to distract himself. <Orange bottle.>
Mulder nodded and kept going. He was five steps away from the bathroom, hoping maybe she hadn't been listening in on him, trying desperately to pretend he didn't feel what he felt, when he heard her again. Or maybe he only dreamt that he heard it. <Oh, Mulder,> her voice floated, stopping him cold as he opened the medicine cabinet. <That's okay. I understand... You're my partner, my friend, I....>
<Oh Jesus, Diazepam,> he repeated to himself, trying to ignore the words, squeezing his eyelids shut. He scanned each bottle, pushing some bottles back and others forward. <Diazepam, Diazepam, Diazepam...>
But she kept thinking at him, or thinking independently--he wasn't sure which--just repeating the same phrase over and over until he was sure his head would split open: <Love you, Mulder. Love you, too... Love you...>
Continued in Chapter 17.