We All Die Virgins
by Jaime Lyn
Chapter 17


11400 Commonwealth Dr,
Georgetown, Maryland,
6:47 pm

<The chair,> thought Mulder, squinting on exhale.

<No,> thought Scully.  <Nice try, though.>  Scully hummed into Mulder’s neck, her warm hip wedged into the gap between his right leg and left leg, her head buried in the hollow between his head and chest.  She smelled like coconut shampoo and freshly waxed kitchen tile.  Pine and coconut—a bizarre scent, to be sure, but not an unwelcome one, as the fragrance reminded him just how 'alright' she was.  Dana Scully was alive and breathing and talking… for now.  

“End table,” said Mulder, out loud.  

“No."  Her voice was hoarse, but steady.  "Colder.”

A half hour ago, he’d given her two Klonopin—for the life of him, he’d been unable to find anything labeled Diazepam—all the while humming “Polly-wolly-doodle-all-the-day” to himself like some sort of delusional maniac.  On the one hand, recalling the lyrics to a nonsensical, childhood song had calmed his frenetic pulse; he was starting to wonder whether his entire life had merely transformed into the culmination of some bizarre, twisted, schitzophrenic’s wet-dream. 

“That lamp? The one on the table next to you?” he asked.


Mulder frowned.  “Colder?”

Scully tapped well-manicured fingers on his chest.  “Lukewarm.”

But on the other hand, he thought, if this truly wasn't just a very vivid dream, if Scully truly was reading his mind, then he definitely needed a reasonable direction for his thoughts to travel in.  Otherwise, even in her half-drugged state, she surely would have figured out what ‘I love you Mulder,’ had done to him, both emotionally and physiologically.  And, since he had no doubts that his initial reaction, pinned down and stifled as it may have been, was innapropriate: “I’m in love with you, too, Scully, and I want you more than I want the Yankees to win the World Series, and I’ve been wanting to fuck your brains out for years, and I’ve memorized the shape of your ass through the outline of your suits...” Well, it would have gotten him nothing but a kick in the crotch anyway.

So he'd stuck with barnyard songs until he thought he might throw up.  

"The TV remote?" he asked.  

"Colder," she replied.  

"Colder?" he asked, befuddled.  He pointed at the lamp.  "It's sitting right there.  I thought you just said the lamp was lukewarm." 

"It is lukewarm," she said, defensive.  "The remote's just... sitting on the wrong side of the lamp."  

"The wrong side?" he asked, shaking his head.  "And what side would that be, Magellan?  East?"

She shrugged.  "Hell if I know, Mulder.  I'm just telling it like it is."  The last word escaped on a yawn.  "Keep guessing.  I'll let you know..." Another yawn, "When you're close..."

After he’d dutifully administered the sedatives, he transferred both of them to the living room couch with all the graceful balance of a blind fireman; her legs and arms hung  like wilted stalks from his shaky hold, and lowering her to the couch without dropping her had seemed an almost-miracle.  Following that, he'd tried everything he could think of to help ease her pain; massaging her scalp, whispering nonsense and flowery bullshit into her ear until Scully begged him with her mind to stop speaking altogether. (She said that his darker thoughts kept contradicting his out-loud words, and the confusion he had created in her skull was making her nauseous.)   

So they’d sat in uncomfortable silence for a good long while, Scully’s warm, immobilized body spooned awkwardly in Mulder’s loose embrace. 

By mutual and unspoken agreement, both Mulder and Scully decided to leave Scully’s demolished kitchen as-is, especially considering nothing short of a bulldozer and a construction crew would be able to repair the splintered wood, broken porcelain, and dissected cabinets that had been left to rot like casualties of war from… from whatever entity had ripped through Scully's apartment.  And while Mulder was literally so curious about this he thought his head might explode, he'd refrained from physically asking her what actually went down in her kitchen.

Not that he didn't think about asking her, because he did.  But since she never answered his unspoken question with an unspoken answer, Mulder figured this meant that she wasn’t yet ready to deal with the consequences of sharing the information.  She was, after all, in a good deal of physical pain, still.

First step, he thought, Scully gets used to reading minds.  Second step: Scully tells Mulder what the fuck happened in her kitchen. 

“Window,” said Mulder.

“No,” mumbled Scully, and she traced her nose down the slope of his neck.  His chin tilted to accommodate the almost-eskimo-kiss, his adam’s apple bobbing in a near-tremble. Oh, how he wanted her to just open that soft mouth over his shoulderblade and--

<Horizontal blinds, horizontal blinds, horizontal blinds,> was what he ultimately forced himself to think.  
<No> thought Scully, answering him without speaking.  <Still lukewarm.>

In the end, Mulder had sucked back every tangible emotion he had ever felt for her, and he'd somehow developed a severe headache of his own; he couldn’t remember the last time he’d so wholly focused on farm animals and talking parrots and songs that began with ‘Old MacDonald had a tractor…’  

Mulder sighed, and desperately tried not to smell her hair.  

<Speakers?> he thought to her.  

“Sneakers?” returned Scully, her voice lilting.  

“Speakers,” corrected Mulder.  

“Oh.  No, then.”  Scully yawned, her lashes fluttering against his chin.  “I think… I’m losing you, Mulder…I can’t hear everything so good…”  Her speech was half-slurred.

At this, Mulder breathed a silent sigh of relief.  While he had no idea what was really going on inside Dana Scully’s head, he knew only that she was somehow receiving a line of consciousness from him.  How or why, he still wasn’t quite sure, and he doubted she knew, either.   But both of them figured that sleep would definitely do her a world of good, especially since she’d gotten so little of it in the past few days.

"Coffee table?" he tried.  

"No," she said, "But you're tepid."

Mulder's eyebrows raised.  "Tepid?"

"Very close to the family of lukewarm," she murmured.  

"Ah," said Mulder, and he tried to think to himself without jarring her too badly.  

What worried him the most were those sedatives, even though she'd tried numerous times to reassure him that she would be just fine. After all, how could she possibly be sure of that?  Who the hell knew how her weakened body would react (or had already reacted) to the change in her chemistry and/or biological makeup?  If the sedative knocked her out and her heart rate slowed too considerably, and, as a result, her mind wandered off into a sort of deranged state of REM from which she couldn't find her way back…well, Mulder didn’t even want to think it.  

Which left him with what options?  

Force her to stay awake in this agonized state just so she wouldn't drift away from him?   Unnaceptable.  She'd been in terrible pain, and she needed to be unconscious.  

Move himself to the other side of the country just to keep her from hearing his thoughts?  God, no.  She'd never agree to it and he'd never be able do it.  

Club her over the head to knock her out, yet keep any sort of chemical from screwing with her possibly wounded immune system, and then lock her in a room?  Yeah, that would fly.  

All he could come up with was shuttling her off to the hospital, mainly because he insisted that putting her on heart monitors would probably be for her own good.  But Scully had shot that idea down before he could even voice the words: 

<Whoever’s doing this to me,> she’d thought at him, <if you take me to the hospital, they’ll know about it and they’ll come to finish this off. You bringing me into the ER soused to the gills on sleeping pills will only ruin both of our careers, and that’s what they want.  There’s something not right about this, Mulder, some sort of trap… Don’t ask me how I know, or who it is, but until I understand it, I don’t want to risk exposing what’s happened to me.>  

And so he didn’t press the issue because he trusted her judgment.  Something told him that Scully was seeing a lot more than simply the inside of his mind, and, while telepathy was an amazing sight to behold, the idea of Dana Scully doubling as a human FM radio antenna wasn't exactly comforting him.  Lord only knew what other 'stations' she'd been picking up, or whether her body would just shut down altogether from receiving too many signals.  

Mulder shivered, a thin line of terror cracking him open like a walnut.  

“No hospital,” Scully yawned, scooping up pieces of his thoughts and misinterpreting the meaning.  “Thought we’d been over this already, Mulder…”

“No hospital,” agreed Mulder.  “I wouldn’t dream of it.”

“Yes, you would,” she said, and curled closer into his stomach, pressing her fist around a clump of his shirt.  <Next guess> she thought at him, her small body like a familiar pillow of curves and fragrance and intense, memorized beauty.  

Oh God, he thought. She felt so good.

Or no.  

No, she didn't.  She couldn't.  She was his partner, for crying out loud.  She was Scully.  She felt... well, like anyone's partner would feel, lying on top of him, grazing her nails down the base of his sternum, lower and lower---

Oh, fucking hell, he scolded himself.  Cut that shit out before she hears you thinking it and just say the word, picture frame.  

Picture frame, picture frame, picture frame…

He closed his eyes.  Pretended her touch did nothing for him, nothing at all.  Forced his roaring heartbeat down to the recesses of his subconscious.  Picture frame, picture frame, picture frame.  

“Picture frame,” he said out loud, his hands wandering aimlessly over the plane of Scully’s smooth, warm back. He couldn’t resist the scent of her hair, the pliancy of her skin, and his mouth somehow came to rest at the crown of her head. He pressed a kiss to her russet hair, breathing in coconut shampoo tinged with pine…


<Picture frame,> he tried again.  Picture frame, picture frame, picture frame, picture frame…

“I got it the first time,” muttered Scully.

“Picture frame,” he repeated, more hoarsely this time.  With watery eyes, he glared at the picture on Scully’s end table as if he could bore a hole through it with his gaze.  

Scully shifted atop him, rubbed her palm over his chest in long, tickling, languid circles.  Her breathing changed for a short moment, quickened, as if her lungs had grown suddenly anxious.  Her lips rested in a half-opened ‘O’ right beneath his left shoulder.  “My God,” she whispered into his shirt.  "Your heart, Mulder..." Her mouth moved gently, reverently, over his ribcage, and if he didn’t know better, he would have sworn she was trailing kisses across his stomach.  She murmured, “And your pulse... racing... Jesus.  Maybe... maybe I should--that is, we should--“

“Picture frame,” he repeated, hoarsely.  

Scully's lips stilled against the top button of his blouse.  


<Heard you> she finally thought at him, hard and clipped, <The first damned time.> She sounded annoyed, as if she’d been expecting him to say something else entirely. Out loud, she said, “No, not the picture frame.”  

Mulder shook his head.

Suddenly finding himself on the receiving end of a powerful telepath was a bitch of a problem.  Especially when the person whose mind he communicated with was his very good friend Scully, a woman who he'd been working with, side-by-side, for nearly eight years now.  

Which meant, quite frankly, that all mentions of, “Yes, I hear you, Scully, and yes, I love you, and yes, I want you, and yes, I want to make you scream my name every night until the world ends,” were prohibited and out of the question.  Mulder could only pray that Scully would somehow awaken tomorrow with no memory of having read his thoughts, and that her newfound abilities would dissipate---at least, long enough for him to figure out a better way to block her from reading his every goddamned thought.

“Front door?” he tried.  

“No,” she said.  

“Doorframe?  Light switch?”

“No and no.”

One thing was for sure; Scully definitely wasn't as powerful a telepath now as she had been twenty minutes ago.  If she was, he most certainly would have just embarrassed both of them with his barely concealed preoccupation with wanting to fuck them both comatose.  

But this only meant that... what?  That Scully could only hear some of his thoughts?  Most of them? Just the uninteresting ones?

"The TV?" he asked, shifting his legs so that she didn't crush him.

"No," she said.  "But a little warmer."  

Damn it, they needed answers and they needed them now.  

As far as gathering information on telepathic phenomena went, the Lone Gunmen were Mulder’s first and best option.  If there was a precedent for suddenly being afflicted with strange brain anomalies, that rag-tag trio of computer hackers would surely find it.  Mulder himself had wracked his brain for a possible solution (and Scully had wracked with him, as she had easily dipped into his intellectual file cabinet and tossed out his own ideas before he could even give voice to them.) The problem, however, as far as both of them knew, was that Gibson Praise was the only boy they’d ever encountered who could read minds. But Gibson's case was different from Scully’s, because Gibson had been born with the ability to read minds, while Scully had been about as telepathically gifted as her kitchen table until about sixty minutes ago.  And suddenly coming into such powers for no good reason seemed to make little to no sense, and it left Mulder with a sick feeling in his abdomen.

“Not the kitchen table,” murmured Scully.  

“I'll keep that in mind,” said Mulder.  

It was definitely puzzling, though, he mused, the way her mind worked.  There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the snippets of consciousness that now floated to her and fired upon her brain.  Mulder could only assume that the medication was slowing her down, and that either she was hearing every fifth or sixth word he thought, or else she was hearing only what she wanted to hear.  

“Your file cabinet isn't even in my house,” she added, the spaces between her eyelash flutters growing farther and farther apart.  "Why would you guess that?"

Mulder frowned.  "I didn't."

"Oh."  Scully paused, took a deep breath.  “I'm sorry, I thought I heard you say... Nevermind. Keep guessing.”

Surprisingly, Scully hadn’t argued with him when he suggested his prevalent theory; somehow, Lily Ann Harbor was connected with Scully’s inexplicable bout of telepathy.  

First of all, Mulder postulated, Lily had gone missing around the same time they'd been called out for the OPR meeting—admittedly, the first occurrence of altered memory and/or misplaced mind-set for either of them went down right after the meeting.   Beyond that, however, there was no telling where or why Lily had flown the coop.  

Second of all, Lily’s romp through Scully’s motel room the previous night was suspicious in and of itself, and her assumed ability to move motel furniture suggested an (as of yet, undisclosed) elevated brain chemistry, which fit in nicely with Mulder’s engineered genetics theory. 

So, hypothetically speaking...

If Lily had been in the right frame of mind, and if she’d somehow centered her sights on Scully—perhaps even seen Scully as a substitute sister, Mulder was positive that such circumstances could have opened up some sort of untapped ability in Scully--perhaps some untapped ability that existed not only in Scully, but in all humans.  He wasn't sure if he was right about this, but he had a hunch he was headed in a positive direction.  Not that intuition and 'feelings' and hunches counted much when his partner's life was on the line--  

“I’m sorry…What feelings?” she asked, confused.  

<Nothing,> he returned, startled.  <Just going over some things in my head.>  

<Oh.>  She paused, then: < I feel just… so strange, Mulder…I can’t hear much from you now, and it's...I keep hearing words and ideas and I can't tell what they are, or if it's you thinking them or me or…>  She shivered.  < Everything's cloudy.  Keep talking to me ….Please.>

“Um, your jacket?” he asked, rubbing her arms to return warmth to them.  He tried not to dwell on the fact that Scully sounded scared, and Scully never sounded scared.  

“Mm,” she mumbled in appreciation, adjusting her weight.  “No.”  

"That book under the coffee table?"

She shook her head.  "No."

"The newspaper?"


Mulder bit his lip.

Okay, so what were they left with to go on?

In response to Mulder’s initial theories, Scully had spit numerous possibilities back at him before he could even ask her his questions.  For awhile, she even was so lucid and so clear that he would have sworn she was as fine as she'd been before.  They were just talking, just debating, just clashing ideas like they always did.  He would have sworn to her normalcy… if not for the fact that her body had been so frighteningly cold, and that she’d been unable even to move her head, or do much of anything besides blink.  

 <I don’t know why you don’t remember getting sick this afternoon,> was what she’d thought at him, shooting answers against his skull in rapid-fire. <But yeah, I suppose it is possible that the two events are connected.  I remember fainting at the same time Skinner claims you fell ill, but that doesn’t mean I remember the afternoon correctly, either.  You’re right, Mulder, the fact that you’re having problems remembering could very well have to do with the fact that you can somehow answer me without speaking to me...>  She'd paused and addressed his initial concern before he even realized he'd been thinking it.  <In short, Mulder, the human brain isn’t designed to function this way—there’s no known synapse or chemical that can handle an unconscious flow of information like this.  Individually, the reactions to such outflow could, theoretically, be vastly different, even violent.  And I have no idea whether this...anomaly, is confined to myself alone.  I get strings of thought from you, while your thoughts, your short term memory thoughts, are erased.  I couldn’t even begin to write out an equation that would explain this…>

Guesses, postulations—all they had were theories.  Neither of them had answers.  

“Seratonin,” She suddenly mumbled into his shirt.  

Mulder’s hands stilled and he tried to remember the last thing he’d been thinking about.  “Eh?” he finally managed.  

“You just reminded me,” she went on.   “Ask Skinner…check your seratonin levels.  Could be… like the effects of a powerful psychosis… Or maybe… I really am dreaming…”

Mulder smiled.  That certainly sounded like his Scully.  <Not dreaming,> he thought to her, and realized suddenly how bizarre his life had become in the last half-hour, that he could now perfect the art of directing certain thoughts to her and other thoughts away.  

<How would you know?> she thought back, and he could feel her smiling into his shirt.  <Or would you even tell me if I was dreaming?  You can’t even… can’t even remember which floor of the Hoover building the exit is on…>

“True,” he said out loud, grinning.  Then:  “Floor lamp?”

She sighed.  “No.”   

Mulder groaned.  "For Gods sakes, Scully, will you at least tell me if I'm getting warmer?"

She snorted.  "I have been, but you're no closer than you were before, Mulder."

He pinched her arm lightly.  <I think you're cheating.>

She pinched him back, harder, and he yelped in pain.

<I don't cheat,> she returned, <And I resent the implication.>

<Oh, spare me, Scully.  Especially when you're reading my mind.> He rubbed his arm with a grimace; Scully had sharp little nails. <Speaking of, how could I possibly know if you weren't cheating?  Would you tell me if you were?>

There was a pause, and Scully breathed an airy chuckle, her warm breath brushing against his neck like silk.  She answered, <No, I wouldn't.>  Then, <Hot and Cold is a cutthroat, game, Fox.  Trust no one.>

At that, Mulder tilted his head towards her and glowered.  <Oh, you just go ahead and call me Fox one more time, and we'll see who wins this game and who hobbles back into work tomorrow, Dana.>

That last part got a weak laugh from her, and Mulder was grateful for the musicality of the sound. Laughter was the blissful ringing of faith, of hope, and thus far, they'd not found much reason for either.  
Besides Mulder's vague theories concerning Lily Harbor’s possible involvement, there was Scully's latest revelation that she’d been having strange flashes of things—unfamiliar ideas, objects, places, experiences— disorienting, jarring images that didn’t seem to be associated with Mulder’s flowing string of consciousness, or with her own memories, either, for that matter.  Mulder couldn't even begin to imagine where the excess feedback was coming from, and, ten to one, it wasn't from a source that meant to do Scully any favors.  

<Keep going?> he asked, distracted.  

<Keep going,> came her response, and her fingers closed tightly around his.  

Again, he had to wonder just what it was she heard from him.  

“The Vase on the armoire,” he suggested.  

“Mm, no,” murmured Scully.  

“Oh, come on.  Am I getting warmer?” he asked, growing slowly exasperated.

“A little,” she answered.  In his head, he heard, <Not my fault you suck at this game.>

Mulder smiled faintly.  

“Your weird looking plant thing?” he guessed.

“It’s a ficus,” murmured Scully.  “And no.”  

“Your gun?”


<My shoes?>

“Your Moose?”  Scully’s hand crept up to his shoulder, and she traced her fingers thoughtlessly over his bicep.  “You…You don’t have a moose, Mulder.”

“My shoes,” he corrected.  

“Oh,” she breathed, squirming atop him to get better leverage.  If he didn’t know better, he would have guessed she was angry at herself for mentally misunderstanding him.  “No,” was all she finally said.  


At the very least, the barbituates seemed to be having some sort of effect on her. Only minutes after having given them to her, Scully had regained the scant ability to speak –for which Mulder was eternally grateful – not only because he thought he was starting to lose his mind, but because her returned speech apparently meant a departure from her reading his every waking thought.  Although she didn’t have much energy or mobility, especially with the drug starting to take effect, Scully had said that the stream of noise in her head was beginning to fog and waver, and that she couldn’t hear him as clearly as she had before.  “Only every few words or so,” she’d said, “like a broken radio.”  

Mulder could only guess that her relaxed muscles and slowed heart-rate had somehow counteracted the effects of her wildly over-functioning brain.

 Just so long as her brain doesn’t turn off completely, he mused, everything willl be fine.  

Oh…Jesus, he thought, and a sudden, inexplicable fear almost paralyzed him, catching his breath in his throat.  Scully not waking up was a definite possibility, wasn’t it?    

“Your laptop,” said Mulder, his throat dry.

“Oh, Mulder,” sighed Scully, her voice faint and charred.  “Don’t be dramatic." She paused, searching for words.  "I’m not gonna fall into a coma.”

Mulder frowned.  The air felt constricted all of a sudden, too tight to breathe in, and he strained for a reply.  The silence seemed to stretch like a taut line of floss between them.    

“I know that,” he spit.  He sounded petulant, but he didn’t care.  

<Don’t lie to me,> came the simple, clipped reply.  <Next guess.>

Mulder bit back his retort, his teeth clenching the inside of his cheek.  

“Laptop,” he repeated, grumbling.  

“No,” mumbled Scully.  “But warmer.”  

Mulder sighed and gazed at Scully’s desk, doing a quick mental sweep of all its components and random knickknacks.  A laptop, a cup holder, a blotter, five or six black pens, three pencils, a ruler, a file holder, a kaleidoscope he’d given her last year for Christmas, and the handset for her cordless phone.  

“The phone?” he asked.  

“Cell or house?”

“House,” he said.  

“Warmer,” she said.  

“Hm,” he said, tracing patterns on her shoulders and trying viciously not to enjoy it.  Finally, he had a stroke of brilliance, and asked, “The kaleidoscope?”  

There was no answer for a long moment, and Mulder grinned.  Finally, Scully exhaled onto his neck and said, “Ding, ding, ding.  Hey, you're good, Mulder.  That one only took you… thirty-something guesses.”  Her voice was barely louder than a glorified whisper, but the haughty tone was as familiar as ever.     

He nodded.  “Do you want to play again?” he asked.

“Tired,” she answered drowsily.

“Well, Skinner should be here any minute,” he went on, forcing the nervousness out of his voice.   Much as he wanted her to feel better, he was slightly terrified of what could happen after she fell asleep.

“I’m fine,” said Scully, catching that last thought, her voice wavering out on her own indignant tone.  

“I know,” said Mulder.

They both knew ‘I’m fine’ was a bold-faced lie, that neither of them could truly understand what, exactly, was malfunctioning within Scully's muddled brain.  Further, neither could know for certain whether Scully would even wake back up after she fell asleep.  If the sedative didn’t interfere with her almost certainly altered brain chemistry, she’d be fine.  But if it did interfere with her system, falling asleep would be no less than a death sentence.  

So while Scully pretended otherwise, Mulder knew the truth; she was terrified.  

Mulder, if possible, was even more terrified.  

“I don’t know exactly what Skinner will be able to do for us other than stand around and look indignant, but I figure he’ll do his damndest to try and help you.  Of course, you’ll also be lying here drugged...again... and after the hearing this afternoon, I don’t know how I’m going to talk my way out of that one…” he paused, listening to the evened out hum of her breathing.  She was getting close now, so very close.  He tried not to dwell on the sense of dread that washed over him like poisonous honey.  “But I figure, hey, nothing to worry about, we always come out on top, don’t we, Scully?”  

“Mm- hmm, yeah we do,” she murmured.  

Mulder squinted, tried to think, not too hard or too fast—he didn’t want to hurt her, after all—and settled for slow, straight lined sentences.  Floating waves of thought rushed out from him with the laziness of low tide.  Everything else he tampered down under an invisible tarmac: Fear, anger, desperation, love—he didn’t dare think about them for more than a millisecond.  He didn’t have a choice.  

“I want to call Mark and get his opinion on Lily’s psychological profile,” he said. “And of course, the gunmen should be able to dig up some shit on the Harbors.  I was thinking… we should probably find out if there’s any information available on the girl from that orphanage case, or about the boy from the stripmall case, because, um, I’m not...not entirely sure of their current whereabouts.  If nothing else, we can rule out what this thing isn’t, right?  And Skinner has bureau resources we can utilize, and that’ll come in handy since I’m...you know, blackballed, at the moment.”

“Hmm,” mumbled Scully.  

Mulder went on, his pulse racing.  While he knew that the less painful thing for her, at the moment, was unconsciousness, he wanted nothing more than to keep her awake for as long as possible.  “And on the bright side, Lily’s but one person.  She may be the next step in the evolutionary chain of human genetics, but… she’s only seventeen.  If that were you, where would you go?  Maybe we should post a few all-points bulletins out at the mall.”  He tried to force out a laugh, and it sounded more like a cough.  “I think we’ll find her, Scully.  Then we’ll get our answers and I'll figure out how to help you.  You’re going to be just fine.  As--as a matter of fact, I doubt you'll remember any of this.  You’ll see.  I’m right.  I have to be.  After all, when am I ever wrong?  Almost never.”   He rubbed her back for emphasis and waited for a response.  

“Under tower and balcony,” whispered Scully, her voice faint but un-slurred, as if she’d not heard him at all.  “By garden wall and gallery…”  She sounded as if she were talking in her sleep.  “A gleaming shape she floated by, dead pale between the houses high, silent into Camelot…”

Mulder froze, his palm pressed to the nape of her neck. He recognized the verse, of course, but was stunned to hear it coming from her lips. “Scully?” he asked.  

“You were reciting… a poem.... to me,” mumbled Scully, her voice crackled, yet musical.  “Before,” she added, sensing his confusion.  “When we…when we were...." She seemed to lose her train of thought, and trailed off into a string of evened breaths.

“Oh,” said Mulder, exhaling slowly, running his fingers through her rich, orange-gold hair.  “Was I?”

“Mm-hm,” she answered.  “Under all-a that...that bullshit singing, I think... the fifth time you sang… Wheels on the Bus...it was...you were...”  She sighed.  "Mm...was nice..."

Mulder reddened, remembering how he’d spent three minutes on the windshield wipers going “swish, swish, swish.”  Had he really been thinking of poetry beneath all of that superficial posturing?  

To be honest, Mulder had never before revealed to Scully his guilty indulgence for old literature and mystical poems.  Many he enjoyed because he suspected they were drenched in legend and paranormal visitation.  Perhaps he’d subconsciously fallen back on that because she'd frightened him.  He’d always considered one day reading to her, or perhaps discussing a favorite verse of hers, but not until all the searching and running was over, when they could just sit on a park bench and simply…be ordinary.  Relate to one another not as agents, but as two friends lounging under the comfortable shade of a cherry tree.  

“But Lancelot mused a little space,” she continued, her voice drifting, “He said, ‘she has a lovely face…”

“God in his mercy lend her grace, The Lady of Shalott,” Mulder completed smoothly, closing his eyes and imagining the two of them lying on a hill, him reading to her from one of his secreted volumes of Victorian Poetry.  It was a silly, romanticized notion, he knew, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t entitled to the occasional romanticized notion.  His never-revealed affinity for poetry was one of the few things  Mulder forced himself to make time for.  Mostly, he felt that collecting poetry returned his humanity to him when he misplaced it on a case.  Memorizing Frost and Bronte and Rosetti made him an ordinary human being—normal--and not just “Spooky Mulder,” a caricature of what A.D Kersh called “misguided heroism.”

“Beautiful,” Scully managed, on a breath of air.  And then in his head: <Why ‘The Lady of Shalott?’>

Mulder paused.  “Well… I don't know, the story, for one,” he answered out loud, his pulse beating relentlessly in his ears. “There she weaves by night and day, a magic web with colors gay.  She has heard a whisper say, a curse is on her if she stay…”  He stopped in mid-verse and clucked his tongue. “I think the appeal is obvious, now, Scully, don’t you?  A cursed lady, a mystic land of shadows…dare you even question it?”

Scully hummed into his chest.  <Author?>

<Tennyson,> Mulder answered.  

<Indeed,> Scully returned.  <So you know your poetry....> And the echo of her voice sounded pleasantly surprised.  

<I know a lot of things,> Mulder thought to her, smiling at the shadow of something she’d said to him the day before.  He winked, even though she wasn’t looking.  <You should ask sometime.>   

<Yes, sometime…> came the reply, but it was faint, like an afterthought, like a wind chime tickling his ear.  

<Scully?> he asked, nervous.  



And just like that, she was lost to him, swept from his mind and from his reality on a cloud of digested sleeping pills.

Her body sagged with exhaustion, and Mulder suddenly gripped her tightly to him, surprised by the abrupt violence of his own possessiveness.   He felt abandoned by her, drained, as if the emptiness left by her mind had created a vortex of unoccupied space.  So used to hearing her thoughts had he become, that somehow, in the span of a half-hour, he had forgotten what it was like to hear only his own voice in his head.

<This is ridiculous, isn’t it?> he thought, his teeth chattering despite his better judgment. There was, of course, no answer from her.  Not this time.   

Growing desperate, Mulder added, <Please don’t sleep forever, Scully.  Please.  I’ll give you a few hours, but then you have to wake up, okay?  Promise me you’ll wake up.  Someone has to explain this mess to Skinner, after all.  He’s not going to believe a word that comes out of my mouth.  Don’t you dare fucking ditch me like this…>

Scully murmured unintelligibly in her sleep, and Mulder dared breathe again.

<Scully?  Can you hear me?>

He had to say something, had to keep her tethered to him.  

“On either side of the river lie,” he recited, wondering whether she even heard him, “Long fields of barley and of rye, that clothe the world and meet the sky…”  He swallowed back a stab of fear, searched himself for the next verse, and continued, “And through the field the road run by, to many towered Camelot…”

Christ, he hadn’t recited that poem in years, not since his next door neighbor’s little girl had wandered over to his apartment, and asked him to tell her a story while they waited for her mother to come back.  ‘The Lady of Shalott’ was the only thing that had come to mind, then.  And it was the only thing that came to mind now.  

Shivering with unspoken, barely veiled terror, Mulder murmured, “And up and down the people go, gazing where the lilies blow, round an island there below…” He kissed her earlobe, whispering to her like a promise, “the island of Shalott...”  


Continued in Chapter 18

Author's note:
"The Lady of Shalott" was written in 1843 by Alfred Lord Tennyson.