Notes: This is only the beginning...
by Lynn Gregg
Oh, God, that smell was the worst--the smell of burnt things, of dead things,
years gone in a night. A panoply of things, all laid waste: heaps of ash that once were files, curled
and blackened photos, the blistered enamel of the file cabinets, the charred oak of desk and table,
the bitter tang of burned leather. And underlying it all, I imagined I could scent the faint, acrid
whiff of Morley smoke.
the scene was wrong, surreal, impossible. The only illumination came
the harsh emergency lights in the hallways and the hypnotic red-blue strobing the source of which
my benumbed brain couldn't begin to identify. I stumbled forward like a sleepwalker, sloshing
through puddles of sodden debris, the blinking glare washing the ruins of my life in grotesque
carnival colors. The bitter reek of Their trump coiled into my nostrils, slinking little adders
poisoning me. My fists clenched convulsively on nothing at all. I turned.
had stopped halfway into the room and now stood, silent and expressionless,
frighteningly blank. In that moment I knew--as if I'd never known before--that all was lost unless
I acted, and quickly. Mulder. All and everything lay in ashes at our feet. Mulder. In the blank
black chasms of his eyes I could see only the dimming death of my last hope--*our* last hope.
Somehow I forced
my legs to move, carrying me across the divide, knowing already that there
was no solace there, either to be given or received--but knowing also, with a certainty that cut me
to my very marrow, that I had to *try*. Moving as if through deep water I closed the distance,
reached him, reached out. My hands closed around his rigid biceps; my head came to rest against
his chest. I no longer had the strength to stand alone. He did not move to return the embrace;
still and chill as granite he remained, as I listened to the too-slow thump of his heartbeat ticking
like a deathwatch beneath my ear.
What might have
been several centuries later Skinner stepped into the room, accompanied
trio of briskly efficient EMTs. One of them gently extricated Mulder from my grasp, prying away
my fingers which had long since locked into position. I staggered bonelessly, separated from my
rock; the EMT, trained to handle swooning survivors, caught me neatly under the arms as Skinner
stepped forward, rasping out my name in what for him passed as a tone of grave concern. I gave
him an I'm-fine flap of a hand and he stood down, face hardened into an unreadable mask, hands
fisted uselessly at his sides. My concerns in this lifetime had narrowed down to my partner, who
was being probed unresistingly by the other two techs. I heard his name spoken aloud; eventually
it registered that I was the one who had spoken it.
"He's in shock,
ma'am," one of the techs informed me, and something in me snapped.
coursed back into my limbs and I wrenched free of my supporter, reaching Mulder in three short
"I can see that, dammit! I'm this man's personal physician; let him go."
The look I gave
my superior could have rekindled the fire. Resigned, Skinner turned
indicating to the techs with the subtlest of gestures that their safest course of action would be to
follow my orders. When the sound of their footfalls had died away down the hall, I returned my
attention to Mulder. Whipping off my coat I draped it across his shoulders, my arm staying around
him as if that pathetic gesture might impart some heat back into him. Those dead eyes fell upon
mine and blinked, finally seeing me. Finally.
"Gone," he whispered,
and his lack of affect chilled me anew. "It's all gone, Scully; there's
nothing left for us here." One hand came up and pulled my encircling arm free. "Take me home,"
he finished simply, and turned his back upon the smouldering corpse of our work.
I hastened to comply.
Back in the motor
pool Crown Victoria, heater cranked to maximum in defiance of the warm
spring evening beyond the closed windows. Mulder huddled in the passenger seat, still wrapped
in my coat, head lolling sideways against the glass. His left hand was in the process of grinding
the bones of my right to powder as I akwardly piloted the ungainly land-yacht one-handed. We
spoke not at all until the time came when I would've made the turn to take us back to Alexandria
and his apartment; then his icy fingers squeezed me even harder as the single negative syllable
emerged from between his bloodless lips.
"Where?" I asked,
coasting to the side of the road. He lifted his head slowly, seeming
desperately trying to jumpstart his flagging intellect.
"It isn't safe,"
he pronounced, voice sounding rusty and distant. "I'm sure the office
only stop on their evening's itinerary. Are you okay to drive, Scully?"
He sank back into the seat, closing his eyes.
"Does it matter? Just drive."
Aiming us roughly south, I drove.
The clock on the
dash read 3:19 as I pulled into the lot of the dilapidated little motel.
slightly, Mulder enquired as to our present whereabouts.
"I don't know.
We're at a motel called--" I scanned around for a sign, "--the Fiesta Pines
"Doesn't look all that festive," he grunted, struggling upright. "You see any pines?"
A straggling shrub
near the rental office was the only object visible that even remotely fit
descriptor. Shrugging, Mulder got out and weaved his drunken, bedraggled way into the office.
He reappeared to clamber back into the car and toss the key--"key", singular--into my lap.
"According to Mr
Bates in there, we're all the way at the far end. I've paid us up
Wednesday. Checkout time is at twelve." He paused. "Think Skinner's gonna mind us taking
a little R and R?"
I passed over that
remark in favor of other, more important matters. "Did you happen
find out where we *are*?"
"Oh, yeah--a little
armpit of a burg with the picturesque and somehow appropriate name of
Enders Switch, North Carolina. However, it isn't quite the remote outpost of civilization that it
appears; Normie assures me that there is a 24-hour Wal-Mart Superstore about six miles up this
road, which can supply all of our basic necessities."
Something in my
face must have registered, because Mulder chuckled dryly and patted my
hand. "Don't worry; I've got my American Express.
"I never leave the scene of a crime without it."
I couldn't have
picked a place more perfectly matched to our dismal moods if I'd tried.
Fiesta Pines Motor Court was a rathole deathtrap even by Mulder's less-than-discriminating
standards. Our suite was lavishly appointed in Early Garage Sale, with mismatched particleboard
furnishings cheaply veneered in chipped faux walnut. Every surface bore testimony to forty-odd
years' worth of condensation rings from glasses, burns made by cigarettes left to smoulder
forgotten, keys tossed carelessly to gouge and scratch. The air was stuffy and stale, ghosted with
the odors of sweat and hopelessness. The color scheme was an appealing melange of yuck brown,
rust and avocado. There was a single, lumpy full-sized bed--complete with Magic Fingers, I
noticed--two unrelated chairs, a hideous credenza, two nightstands--also from different families--
and two lamps, one wall-mounted and one a wobbly torchiere. A television set that was almost
an antique, albeit not a very desirable one, was bolted to the wall across from the bed. A black
rotary phone squatted like a spider on the nightstand nearest the door.
"Nice digs," Mulder
drawled, flopping backwards onto the bed. "From now on you get to
out all our accomodations."
By some miracle
of Providence, the atrocious bathroom actually featured hot running water,
I left Mulder to rest on the bed while I showered. He took my place when I came out, and I
stepped outside and sank into one of the dusty patio chairs that flanked our door.
The night had turned
cooler and seemed unearthly still to my city-bred ears. There were
cars, few lights; a clear black sky arced above me, flung lavishly with stars like diamonds strewn
across a jeweler's black velvet drape. Only the faintest breeze stirred the trees nearby and the
soft rustling sound provided a lush countermelody to the nightsongs of crickets. High overhead
the waning moon cast its cold eye upon me, ;eaching the colors out of the landscape.
As if on cue, Mulder
appeared in the doorway. He gazed up at the moon for a moment before
that rules the night;
removes the colors from our sight
Red is gray and yellow, white
but we decide which is right--
and which is an illusion."
his speech, he dragged the other chair over close to mine and settled in.
Dressed only in his jeans and still damp from the shower, he exuded the faint scent of the
sliver of no-name soap thoughtfully provided by the management. That scent, and his close
proximity, were all but overwhelming. My body was fairly singing from fatigue and nerves;
my earlier adrenaline rush had departed, leaving me jittery and exhausted. I could find no
idea more appealing than crawling into Mulder's lap, pillowing my head on his shoulder, and
hoping that when I woke up this nightmare would be over.
I didn't, of course.
I remained in my chair, staring out at nothing, trying to capture and
articulate at least one of the myriad jumbled thoughts that bounced off the walls of my brain
with all the force and snap of billiard balls after a hard break. Just as at last I caught one,
Mulder apparently did the same; we turned avidly upon each other, and when we spoke the
words, we did so in one voice:
"I'm leaving the Bureau."
And then we just goggled at one another, stupidly, like owls.
"I can't be a party
to this any longer," I said in a rush, recovering. "I won't be jerked
by these bastards, and I'm damned if I'll be partnered with anyone else."
He nodded. He knew.
"All the official
channels are closed to us now--and *I'll* be damned if I'll accept reassignment
to some pissant, jerk-off detail. I refuse to be handed desk-duty as a bad conduct prize."
"You will keep up
the search, won't you?" The answer to that question had somehow become
of overmastering importance.
"We were so close.
I can't give up now. I have to find that boy." He studied his
spoke again in a detached, diffident tone. "What about you? Will you go into private practice
now, do you think?"
I could only stare at him, speechless. Astonishment quickly flared into rage.
What the Hell are you thinking? God--do you really think I can just--just
walk away like the past five years never happened?"
"I should think you'd be only too happy for an opportunity to bail."
I was so furious it was easy to ignore the utter wretchedness of his voice.
"Fuck you, Fox Mulder,"
I hissed, pushing up out of my chair. "If you could think that for
minute then you obviously don't know *dick* about me."
Iron fingers closing
around my wrist effectively prevented me slamming back into the room.
"Don't walk away from me, Dana," he implored, and his low voice stopped me as surely as his
I stopped, but I didn't speak; and I wouldn't look him in the eye.
grip on my wrist relaxed, became more a caress than a restraint.
"You'd do that?
You'd continue on with me?"
"Mulder," I sighed,
looking down into his upturned earnest face. His eyes had lost their
emptiness; they were wide and alight now with something far more terrifying. "This stopped being
just *your* quest a long time ago. I'm in this thing to the end. I want the answers just as badly as
you do. I *need* them, Mulder. I *need* to know the truth."
His hand slipped
down to grasp mine--much as I'd seen him grasping Diana Fowley's hand what
already felt like a lifetime ago. He held me, with his warm hand and his warm gaze, a slight smile
tugging at the corner of his expressive lips, until the intensity of it all became too much and I had
to look away.
"Still partners?" he asked me.
"Always, Mulder," I replied, giving his hand a squeeze. "Always."
We had shared a
bed before. Long late nights in lost lonely places had led us into
more than once. We'd never discussed it; it was never an issue. There was no false modesty between
us, and our trust in each other was implicit. We shared rooms and beds as easily and unremarkably
as we shared apartment keys, desserts, rental cars.
We had shared a bed before, but never under circumstances quite like these.
Having had no opportunity
to pack for out impromptu vacation, I had nothing in which to sleep
but the clothes I was wearing. Correctly assessing the source of my quandary, Mulder wordlessly
tossed me his t-shirt and I repaired to the bathroom to don it. It smelled comfortingly of him, of
detergent and sweat and Mulder. He was stretched out on the bed, clad in plain gray boxers, when
I returned. Grinning at me with a ghost of his usual humor, he fed two quarters into the Magic
Fingers and beckoned me to join him. The ancient bed bucked and rattled, more like a decrepit old
car in its death-throes than a massage unit. Our eyes met and we both began to giggle; within
moments we were laughing somewhat hysterically, the tension and the horror of the day finally
catching up to us and spilling forth in a rush of desperate hilarity. I rolled over, laughing
convulsively, bumping into him inadvertently; he threw an arm around me and drew me to him,
muffling his gasps in my hair as I shook helplessly in his arms.
We got hold of ourselves
by degrees as the bed's motion faltered and stopped. Drawing apart
we remained facing each other in the faulty blue light of the flickering silenced TV. Mulder
reached out and tucked a strand of my hair behind my ear, letting his hand trail lightly across
my cheek as he pulled it back. Another tremor rippled through me, this one unrelated to my
previous giggling fit.
"Quite a pair, aren't we, Scully?"
I agreed, trying hard not to betray my cool exterior under the onslaught
those incredible eyes. To keep from drowning I tipped my head forward, resting my forehead
against his, letting my eyes slip shut. Basking in our shared silence, I had time to let my mind
Despite the efforts
of many, this was not the end--not of our partnership, not even of the
X-Files. I knew Mulder well enough to know that every file, every meaningless scrap of
information once housed in our now-gutted office, had its own cadre of clones, secreted about
here and there. A quick call to the Gunmen in the morning would begin the process of
retrieval. And then--? Our resignations from the FBI would mean certain official doors were
closed to us forever..but also that certain others, still unknown to me, would swing wide. My
spooky partner had his ways, and his sources; and I had all the faith in the world in them, and
in him, and in myself as well. We were, indeed, quite a pair.
I could feel his
breath on my lips, mingling with my own. I paused, considering all
questions I wanted to ask, all the possibilities before us...but in the end, I merely sighed and
reached across him to thumb the TV's off button, leaving us in darkness.
"Never mind. It can wait till morning."
"In the morning," he echoed, drawing the worn sheet tightly up around us.
And then he kissed me.
Note: The lyric that Mulder quotes is the
spoken bridge of the song "Nights In White Satin," written
by the incomparable Justin Hayward and recorded by the Moody Blues.