Lullaby For A Stormy Night
R, The X-Files, Mulder/Scully UST. Last night
she dreamed of Mulder again, in the muted light of her bedroom, windows wide
open to a city of ethereal quiet, serene in its stillness.
“It’s like I have a speciality,” he’s saying, and there’s a cracking
fretfulness in his voice, a note of something faintly unreal, “it’s like
everyone knows about it, whenever you get some perp raping and eviscerating
twelve-year-old girls, they all think of me, time to bring in Spooky and his
spooked-out brain, why do I always, I mean, why is it always me?”
“Spooked-out is right,” Scully tells him crisply. “I can hear your neurones
She deposits him on his desk and steps out to the bathroom. When she gets back,
he’s fast asleep and the room smells of lilacs. She steps delicately in, moving
around the mess, the strewn sheets of papers on the floor and the scattered
sunflower seeds, and breathes it in, casting her eyes around for the source of
the scent. It isn’t Mulder – she stops beside him, lets careful fingers brush
back his hair – who hasn’t slept in thirty-six hours, at least until two minutes
ago, and probably hasn’t had a shower in twice as many. His eyes are tightly
closed, and she pulls the paper from his hands, the pen from beneath his cheek.
He doesn’t wake up. She isn’t surprised.
She thinks she ought to go; get a cab because she is too tired to drive herself,
go to bed and get some sleep and wipe clean her memory of endless roads and
unsolved cases, just for a while; but she finds herself lingering regardless.
Her hand touches Mulder’s head again, a quiet caress in a quiet room, and this
time she is aware of his breathing, a rhythm of movement and sound almost
beneath perception. He shifts beneath the touch, comes no closer to waking. They
are together in silence.
“He’s not yours,” says a voice from the door.
Scully turns on one heel, hand already going for the weapon that isn’t there,
feeling a rush of anger at the intrusion and another at the words, but they
vanish, crushed beneath stiff composure as she asks, primly, “Who are you?”
The woman steps in without being invited, closes the door behind her and perches
on the edge of the desk. “He’s not mine, either,” she continues,
“Excuse me, ma’am,” – Scully can hide anger very well indeed, mask it under
layers of Bureau professionalism – “but unless you have legitimate business
here, I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
Almost lazily, the woman flashes a badge at her, too quickly for Scully to see
the name. “I do have legitimate business here, as it happens,” she says, still
in that conversational tone. “I’m here to tell you that he” – she points to
where Mulder is still sleeping, undisturbed – “is not yours. He’s not who you
think he is.”
“I’m afraid I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about.” Scully is tired,
so tired, and it’s beginning to show through as exasperation.
“How do you know who I am?”
Even as she says it, she knows she shouldn’t snap. She is a federal employee and
there are half a dozen ways anyone could find out her name, and besides, a name
isn’t a weapon. But it’s something else that’s getting at her, something about
her own tiredness, something about the smell of lilacs and the broken shards of
intimacy and most of all, something about this strange woman and her strange
presumption that she can just walk into this room, this space made for just two
“Come on, Scully.” The woman sighs and crosses her legs. “You know who I am.
Just think about it, will you?”
Scully blinks and looks at her again. The other woman is taller than her, but
not much taller; she has short, razor-cut hair that would be a mass of brown
curls if it grew out, she has a gun at her hip and heels that tap; she’s not
pretty enough to be striking, but has large, familiar eyes. Scully opens her
mouth to say I’ve never seen you before in my life, but closes it again
because that isn’t true.
Something must have shifted in her expression, because the stranger nods and
smiles slightly. “You see, you do know. You do. You just don’t want to believe
Scully says nothing, and the woman hands her the badge. Scully looks at it and
says clearly: “That’s impossible.”
“Is it?” The lazy tone has crept back into her voice. “Doesn’t seem impossible
from where I’m sitting.”
Scully tries, through the haze of exhaustion, to think about it scientifically.
She looks at her critically, trying to see someone else in her, and almost
succeeds; there is something familiar, something in her eyes and her gestures
and the ungainly fluidity of her movements. Even the attitude – the quiet
assurance, the believer’s arsenal deployed against Scully’s scepticism – strikes
Almost against her will, Scully nods. “But it’s still impossible,” she persists.
“You’re dead – Samantha is dead! She died more than twenty years ago!”
“Thy pronouns betray thee, Agent Scully.” She chuckles. “Even if you can’t quite
commit to belief, surely you can let yourself hold the simplifying assumption,
just for a minute, that my name is Samantha and that is my brother asleep on his
desk over there.”
Scully sits down suddenly. “I’m very tired,” she says, surprising herself with
her own honesty. “I’m not sure I can deal with this right now.”
“It’s imperative that you do.” Samantha’s voice has hardened. “I said it when I
came in – that is not who you think it is.”
Scully glances across at Mulder, who hasn’t moved at all. She has rarely seen
him sleep so peacefully. “I don’t know what you mean,” she says calmly. “We’ve
been in Ohio, tracking a murderer. Local law enforcement wanted a Bureau
profiler, so we got conscripted. We’ve been gone for three days. In all that
time, I had no reason to entertain any suspicion that that’s not Fox Mulder. My
partner,” she adds, pointedly.
“I’m not disputing that,” says Samantha, thoughtfully, “but there’s something
I’d like you to explain.” Standing up, she strides across the tiny room to his
side and runs her fingers down along the curve of his neck. Dispassionately,
Scully notices that she has no qualms about touching him. In one movement, she
pulls something out from around his neck.
“Answer me this,” Samantha says, with an accurate semblance of Scully’s calm.
“Why is he wearing this” – her fingers uncurl to reveal a perfect gold
cross – “next to his skin, next to his heart?”
Scully’s hands have leapt to her own neck, seeking and finding first the length
of chain, then the pendant, skin-warmed and familiar.
“This is the part where I would explain it,” Samantha goes on, one hand still
resting lightly on the back of his neck. He stirs, hands clenching and
unclenching, and mutters something. “Hush, Fox,” she says gently. “But you” –
this to Scully – “wouldn’t believe it.”
“There’s some explanation,” Scully says breathlessly. “There has to be.” But
there isn’t, points out an inner voice; this is the one thing Mulder doesn’t
believe. She moves to touch it herself, the cross warmed against his Jewish
atheist heart, but she can’t; the room is getting fuzzy, and those few inches of
dark space between her hands and the white lines of his skin are the fuzziest
things in it.
“I have to go,” Samantha says suddenly. “It’s not possible for me to stay long.
I’ll be back.”
Scully blinks, says nothing. She’s tired. She watches as Samantha walks away,
her heels making sharp, painful little sounds on the hard floor. They echo the
short, stabbing pains in Scully’s sleep-deprived head.
“By the way, you didn’t answer my question.” Samantha pauses in the doorway. “I
can answer it for you.”
“What question?” Scully asks.
“Because,” she says, “it’s all that he has left of you.”
She shuts the door quietly behind her.
“Mulder, what was she like?”
“What was who like?” he asks, stretching out. The basement office looks no
different in daylight; Mulder is sitting exactly where Scully left him the night
before. He cracks his knuckles and she winces. “Scully, why do you let me fall
asleep on my desk? If you’d woken me up I’d have gone home to bed.”
Scully sits down and begins to sort efficiently through the day’s paperwork.
“You don’t have a bed.”
“If I did, I might have used it, last night.”
“You were sleeping so peacefully,” she tells him. “And if you had gone home, you
wouldn’t have slept. You would have stayed up all night and watched Invasion of
the Body Snatchers or something.”
“Invasion of the Body Snatchers wasn’t on last night.” He looks sheepish.
“It was Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.”
Scully takes a moment to lament, once again, the unfortunate combination of a
man with an eidetic memory and the TV guide. “So I did you a service by leaving
you here and not letting you make your own brain start dribbling out of your
“You impugn it. It’s a masterpiece. What was who like?”
Scully pauses in her paper-shuffling. “Samantha.”
He looks up sharply, eyes meeting hers through the swirling dust motes in the
room. She holds his gaze and he relaxes, slowly, letting his hands drop back to
the surface of the desk. “Why do you ask?” he says mildly.
“I’m curious.” It isn’t the sort of answer he’ll take at face value, but she
can’t bring herself to tell him about something she is fairly sure she only
dreamed. Mulder believes in dreams like he believes in everything else.
He shrugs. “She was my little sister. She got on my nerves, she stole my candy
bars, she always had to play the boot in Monopoly. She got good grades, she
liked baseball, she was just a regular kid.”
“What would she have been like as an adult? Do you think she would have been
“She wouldn’t have been an FBI agent, if that’s what you’re asking.” He isn’t
looking at Scully, his eyes drifting in and out of focus. “Maybe I wouldn’t have
been, if she hadn’t… you know. I’m a psychologist, not a cop. I don’t know,
maybe I would have gotten as far as Violent Crimes. Hell, she used to pull the
heads off her dolls, maybe she would have too. Scully, why are you asking me
“I’m sorry,” she says, and she really is; these are the questions the men in
shadows ask him, and she doesn’t want to become something else he fears. “I
don’t mean to pry. I just... I just wondered, that’s all.”
“I’ve wondered, too.” He still won’t look at her. “But I really don’t know. She
was very young when she was taken. No one knows what she might have done, what
she might have become.” He smiles wryly. “That’s the whole point.”
Scully nods, slowly. “I’m sorry,” she says again; she’s sorry about a death that
happened decades ago, she’s sorry she asked, she’s sorry about the whole sorry
world, and just so she has something to do with her hands, she starts shuffling
papers again. Beneath the sound there persists a charged silence, the noise of
what they aren’t saying, the alarms that don’t go off when they cross these old,
Scully stares hard at the page in her hand, unseeing, hoping for the sight of
him brandishing an X-File and that this will be a conversation they won’t return
to, at least not in words. She gives it two seconds, and then looks up.
“Scully!” Mulder yells, and he sounds both familiar and unfamiliar at the same
time, rougher and lower, as though he’s taken up smoking again, with the
sharpness that makes her go for her gun without thinking about it. And she
realises he’s crying – his voice has cracked, broken – and his chair is on the
floor, overturned, and the basement lights are flickering madly like candle
flames guttering in a storm.
She steps towards him, fumbling in the sudden gloom, and the dust chokes her,
rising from mountains of files and mess and cobwebs that bear no sign of her
having ever tried to return them to order. He is hidden by the shadows, each
breath he takes audible as tearing paper, and she fights her way through it all
to get to him, pick him up out of the dark where he’s murmuring her name like it
will keep him safe in this dimmed world. Something is shining around his neck,
etched gold against the black, and she presses her hand to it, cold against his
skin and hers, and she holds on.
“Scully? Are you all right?”
Scully blinks. She’s standing up, and her chair has fallen over. Mulder peers
enquiringly at her from below his notice board of UFO clippings.
“Um.” She blinks, takes a deep breath, coughs on non-existent dust. “I’m fine.”
“Are you sure?” He reads her very well, except when he doesn’t; and now he has
the look that says he knows something’s wrong, but won’t ask her about it until
one or both of them is dying.
“You look... different.”
“Really, I’m fine.” She is fine. The room is quiet but not oppressive, stark but
well lit, and Mulder is slipping down in his chair as if he plans to go back to
sleep on his desk.
“Listen, Scully, I’m sorry.” He notices he’s slipping and sits up again. “It’s
okay to be curious, really. I don’t mind talking about her. I don’t want to be
the only person who remembers her.”
Scully nods. “Thank you. I don’t want to make you think about things you don’t
want to think about.”
“It’s probably good for me when you do.” He’s smiling as he says it. Silence
drifts back again, and Scully shuffles papers. There are paper cuts on her
The phone rings and rings, and then stops ringing. Scully listens carefully to
the silence on the other end before saying, “Frohike? Byers?”
Her heels tap down on the frozen sidewalk, tap tap tap, three times before she
hears any answer. She doesn’t stop walking.
“Hello?” The voice sounds utterly panicked, and she sighs. Clearly, they have
stopped answering their phone with actual words in case the electromagnetic
radiation permeates their tinfoil hats, or something.
“Frohike, this is Dana Scully.”
“Agent Scully? Uh… wow. Um. How can I, how can we, uh, how can we help you?”
“I’d better not be on speakerphone,” she warns him.
Something clicks. “Definitely not.”
“Or being recorded.”
Something clicks louder. “No, Agent Scully.”
“Good.” Scully pauses, thinking about it. “I need your help with something.”
“We’re ready and waiting at your service! Um. Not like that. Er. Unless you
wanted us to. Or. Um.”
“I need your help,” Scully continues through gritted teeth, “in a professional
“But aren’t you back from Ohio already? They sent you home, didn’t they?” Now
it’s a matter of factual detail, he sounds competent rather than bumbling. She
doesn’t ask how he knows, because they always know. “Byers guessed it wasn’t an
“It wasn’t. It’s a murder case. VCU brought Mulder in last week.”
“They must be desperate.”
“They are.” Scully realises she’s sinking into digression with unconscious
intent, her mind leading her away from what she’d rather not say. “We were sent
back yesterday night. I’m back in DC. It’s not about that. It’s about, um,” –
she hates her own hesitation – “um, it’s about Mulder.”
“What’s he done to himself now?”
“Nothing, nothing. He’s fine. I wanted to know about… um, when I was gone.
Taken. What was he like, then? I, um, need to know.”
She cringes as she says it. No preamble, no introduction, no explanation,
because she isn’t good at small talk, she needs to know.
But he doesn’t ask her why, and with a soft rush of gratitude, incongruous amid
the bitter chill and crackly cell phone reception, she remembers that they’re
the same, she and Mulder and the Lone Gunmen too; it’s why they work in a
basement with guns and dust, it’s why he falls asleep on desks and why her head
and heart hurt out here in the cold: because they need to know.
There’s a pause on the other end, some swift conferring, and she’s pretty sure
she’s on speakerphone now, but doesn’t care. Finally Frohike returns, and his
voice is low, serious. “He was crazy.” A brief pause, the sound of distant
disagreement. “I mean, he was crazier. He wouldn’t eat, he wouldn’t sleep, he,
turned up here in the middle of the night and took all our salsa. One time
Langly had to sedate him with a baseball bat. He was crazy.”
“Oh,” Scully says. She never asked before because she was afraid of the answer,
and now the fear is bitter in her mouth, sharp and choking. The night is clear,
stars out and bright above, and she feels the stillness of the freezing air,
pressing her into insignificance beneath.
“He used to spend a lot of time here,” Frohike goes on, his words slow and thick
with memory. “I think maybe he didn’t want to go home. All the time you were
gone, he wore your cross.”
“Oh,” Scully says again, looking down from the sky. “Oh.”
“Did you want to know anything else?”
“What? Uh, no, no. Sorry to bother you.”
“No problem. Hey, tell Mulder we’re watching Plan 9 From Outer Space, if he
wants to come. And tell him to bring nachos.” He stops, inhales, and says, with
a studied indifference, “You should come, too.”
“I don’t think so,” she says, but there’s warmth in it. “Thanks anyway. And
thank you for your help, Frohike.”
The receiver thuds down – apparently both opening and closing greetings are now
verboten – and she flips her phone shut. She’s shivering, cold creeping in
between layers of cotton and skin, and she hurries, avoiding ice crystals
beginning to freeze into place along the cracks in the paving stones. Safely in
her apartment, she makes steaming hot tea so she can thaw her hands out on the
mug, but her eyes are closing even before she sips it.
She leaves a message for Mulder – hey, it’s me, the Gunmen want nachos, see
you tomorrow – and gets ready for bed without really thinking about it,
depositing the mug in the kitchen sink, switching off lights, going to the
bathroom without looking up at the mirror. Lights sweep across the ceiling as
cars pass in the street, but she’s slipping smoothly into sleep, aware only of
cool sheets and shifting dark and then nothing, nothing at all except the black.
Hours later she smells lilacs. Her eyes are closed, but she sees livid red as
though sunlight is shining in from behind them. She moves and the colour fades,
becomes black as pitch, and she finds she can feel warmth in the dark. Her hands
reach out for the softness of cotton, of flesh, and she turns over to meet a
parallel gaze, eyes that gleam green, black, colourblind with each passing
She recognises a face through touch, tracing the curve of cheek and jaw, onwards
and upwards to feel the flutter of eyelashes beneath her cold hands. A pause,
while she moves her hands, and she can both hear and feel his lips moving,
shaping words against her palm. It’s Mulder’s voice she hears, low and gentle
and speaking a language she doesn’t know, and this, all of this, the shifting
strata of light, the whispers in her ears, they are a dream she will not speak
of, she will never speak of. Her hands move downwards, and brush against his;
the edged points of his nails leave brief, vivid sense impressions and then she
feels only skin in long smooth arcs, her fingertips gathering sweat and details,
each scar and curve of bone.
She thinks she hears him say, “Help me,” into the whirl of alien words, into the
dark, but that might not be real. She can believe she’s dreaming this because
she can’t do this, taste a human being, taste strawberries in his mouth with
ancient cigarette smoke, she can’t make a man a poem just because she’s held him
naked and profane.
So she hangs on to him, holding him with her, because this is her dream and this
is how it’s supposed to go. Everything is slow, distant, a sepia reel of a
forgotten film, and she isn’t surprised, isn’t afraid to respond to the heat,
the touch. She finds truth in the sweep of sheets on her skin and his as they
come closer together, the scent of flowers diffusing through the dark so she
thinks to feel for the petals crushed between their bodies, between and beneath
in bursts of sweat and perfume and the old, nameless feeling. She feels for him
in her and around and inside her, feels his eyes half-closed and lips bruised by
lust, feels for him to know what she cannot see, a body undone for her when the
dark is too thick to see the warning lines.
He says, “Help me.”
And then every breath she takes is a deep, sharp hiss, once twice thrice and
then something like light floods the scene, holding them both still – wrapped
about each other, a freeze frame of heat, contentment – and suddenly it’s all
over, it’s gone, and she’s shrinking from the inward rush of cold air.
The light creeps in and she’s not sleeping. When the digital clock reads five
thirty, she can still smell the flowers. She gets up and walks around, noticing
the way the sheets crumple along the careful lines of his body in her bed, the
way his eyelids flicker. The room is filled with first light, fading through
purple and grey into overexposed white, the high bright contrast showing up the
mystery, the fact he can’t be in her bed and he is, because he doesn’t ever play
by the rules of the game. He turns over, mutters into the quiet. He’s dreaming,
and she thinks that perhaps she, the ghostly figure padding around his sleeping
form, is the dream; perhaps he will wake up and she will disappear, a melted
snow crystal in a city morning sky. She feels as though the dark has disappeared
and not brought clarity, as though the surrealist whirl persists and the night
continues through the dawn.
All at once she’s tired, and she’s getting cold. She gets back into bed and
feels him against her, shivering into stillness. She’s too exhausted, suddenly,
to do anything but sleep there with him, among the hollows and dips of morning
light on tangled sheets. She falls asleep touching one of his hands, the
fingernails translucent and visible against the soft weave. It is the sort of
detail she never remembers in dreams.
At seven o’clock in the morning, the silence shatters. The sound of her alarm
launches her into consciousness, a visceral shock in her ears, a herald of loss.
She’s missing something with desperation that becomes dispassionate. It is a
dull morning, shadows lingering around the edges of her vision and dripping down
as serpentine shapes across the floor. She sits in the warmth for five minutes,
wrapping the covers around her knees. When her eyes open, the room is unchanged
and she is alone. She is driftwood on the empty sheets, left by the falling
tides of the dream.
“So, do you believe me yet?”
Scully suppresses the shriek of surprise and barely avoids ploughing into the
car in front. Having regained control and shaken off the urge to grab her gun,
she risks a quick glance at her mirrors and is met by familiar eyes. “What,” she
says tightly, fighting the urge to raise her voice, “what the hell are you doing
in my car?”
Samantha is sprawled full-length on the backseat, heels on the window. “I don’t
know,” she says, sounding more exasperated than anything else. “Five minutes ago
I was creeping through DC traffic, getting late for work, and now I’m” – she
peers outside – “still creeping through DC traffic, and getting later for work.”
Scully looks out at the grey morning, at the indomitable chess-players on Dupont
Circle, and comes to a decision. Slipping through the next convenient gap in
traffic, she makes a hundred-and-eighty-degree turn and accelerates more than is
strictly safe at this time of day. She doesn’t speak even as Samantha is thrown
gently sideways, and finally draws to a careful stop outside the nearest
There is a pause as she takes the keys out of the ignition and the noise of the
engine fades, to be replaced by the sound of fresh, driving rain. Scully turns
around properly to see Samantha gather herself up and move a careful hand
towards her holster. “What are you doing, Agent Scully?” she asks, with a
guardedness that is all Mulder’s.
“Getting astronomically late for work,” Scully informs her, and gets out of the
car. “What will you have?”
“Latte, americano, cappuccino, what?” Scully taps her foot.
“Uh, a latte, please.” Samantha gets out of the car. Five minutes later they are
seated across from each other at a small chequered table, both with steaming
mugs of coffee. Rain drips slowly down the window, blurring the view of the
street outside, of colour-splashed umbrellas and puddles reflecting clouds.
“Right,” Scully says, breaking abruptly into the silence. “Now tell me: what’s
“You first,” Samantha snaps back. “What is this, the third degree and associated
interrogation over a civilised breakfast?”
“More or less,” Scully replies, crisply. “I’m not taking you into the office,
and you know why. But I mean to get to the bottom of this. Something strange is
happening, and I think you know what it is.”
“Do I?” Samantha sits back in her chair. “I’m in the same position as you. You
think I asked to be tossed across dimensions without warning at eight o’clock
“Tossed across dimensions?” Scully is getting good at conveying scepticism with
the minimum amount of facial movement.
“Yes, that’s the theory. You see,” she says, and her voice is warming up, “it’s
wrong. Things have happened that shouldn’t have happened. Things will happen
that ought not to. It’s like history is all messed up. Tell me the odd things
that are happening to you.”
The change of tack makes Scully pause; she takes a deep breath, inhaling the
scent of coffee, before speaking. “This,” she says simply.
“Yeah, that’s on my list too.” Samantha grins. “What else?”
“The first night I saw you,” Scully says slowly.
“That’s it?” Samantha looks impatient, and Scully is reminded of someone else’s
impatience. "There are other things. You’re just not telling me about them.”
“I prefer to wait for hard evidence before I start speculating.” Scully licks
the foam off her cappuccino. She realises she can’t remember the last time she
stopped to have breakfast like this.
“Of course you do, of course you do. Okay, let’s get this out there: I blame our
“Our mutual friends?”
“You know them,” Samantha says, with a slight smile playing about her lips.
“Little grey dudes. Big eyes, spindly little legs, kinda lacking in a certain
department if you get my drift.”
Scully nods. “It must be hereditary,” she says, almost to herself.
“Anything at all that needs explaining, and it’s always aliens,” Scully says.
“Why does it always have to be aliens? Why can’t there be a simpler
“That’s interesting.” Samantha clasps her hands together. “You might not agree
with me, but I notice that you’re no longer in doubt as to whether I’m actually
Fox’s sister. Even though she’s dead.”
“It’s what you said the other night.” Scully looks straight at her. “It’s a
simplifying assumption. And I’m willing to simplify things if it means I get an
explanation. That’s all I want, believe me.”
“Something else happened, didn’t it?” Samantha leans forwards. “There’s some
reason why you’re so very committed to that explanation. Something made it
Scully merely looks at her. “Don’t tell me, you studied psychology at Oxford
“Philosophy, actually. What happened, Agent Scully?”
Scully glances out of the window and yawns, bringing one hand to her face. “I’m
waiting for my explanation,” she says softly. “Tell me.”
Samantha raises her eyebrows at the evasion. “Fine. Have it your way. There’s a
hole in the space-time continuum at the end of my bed.”
Scully doesn’t say anything.
“No, I’m quite serious. I’ve taken to sleeping on the couch until I can get it
fixed.” Samantha leans forwards, elbows on the table. “As far as I can gather,
the various universes – wait, you know the theory, right?”
“Let’s assume for a minute I don’t.” Scully is careful to keep her face
“All decisions split off universes like tossing coins – in this universe it
comes up heads, but another universe it comes up tails.” She delivers the
explanation in clipped, abbreviated tones, as if expecting Scully to have heard
it many times before.
Scully sighs; even though Mulder has probably seen that episode of Star Trek
a hundred times, and the Lone Gunmen probably a thousand, it doesn’t make it any
less fantastical. She has a sudden image of herself striding through the
basement office wielding her coffee stirrer as Occam’s Razor, and blinks and
shakes her head to clear it. Staring into her mug, she watches the last of the
foam disappear into a whirling foam spiral galaxy. “That is silly, romanticised
bad science,” she tells it.
“Simplifying assumption, Agent Scully. An assumption, furthermore, which fits
the facts. One of which is how three days ago I woke up, rolled over in bed and
found myself in the ladies’ room of the Hoover Building.”
“What?” Scully asks, for the principle of the thing. She knows she heard
correctly the first time.
Samantha continues, apparently enjoying her discomfort. “And I said to myself,
how strange, I’m sure that the ladies’ room was painted white.”
“It’s green,” Scully says, and realises she’s fallen into the trap. “But in your
universe it’s white, of course.”
“Of course,” Samantha grins. “You don’t believe me.”
“I don’t know what I believe.” Scully leans back in her chair, and her thoughts
bubble to a standstill beneath the comforting murmur of the rain, of Samantha’s
voice, of other people and their clinking teaspoons and rustling newspapers.
It’s warm here, the electric light making a haven against the grey behind the
glass, the air filled with the butter-sweet smell of brioche. “I don’t know what
I believe.” She laughs suddenly. “Agent Mulder. That’s your name, isn’t it?
That’s what you’re asking me to believe?”
“You don’t have to believe.” Samantha frowns at her. “I’m not some crank trying
to proselytise. I can show you.”
Scully considers it. She’s very late for work already, and Mulder is probably
sitting in the dark with a yellow legal pad, thinking about murder.
She says, “Show me.”
It’s easier not to believe in the cockroach that ate Cincinnati.
Scully has a nice mental image of a giant cockroach and a skyscraper
with a comical bite taken out of it, and sometimes even acknowledgement
from her partner that some things are too weird to be true. It’s
different, somehow, when it’s an ordinary city apartment, with large
windows that let in the distant traffic noise. Scully stands in the
centre of the room, avoiding clothes strewn over the floor, and wishes
for some hallmark of weirdness, some rampaging monster or double-parked
spaceships or Jedi hand-waving, or something.
Nothing happens. She takes a deep breath and walks around the room
whilst Samantha perches on the bed and watches her. Their eyes meet.
“What?” Samantha asks, amiable to a fault. “Why are you looking like
“It’s so normal,” Scully tells her, honestly.
“Normal?” Samantha laughs. “Did you or did you not get in here through a
That, Scully thinks, is an unprecedented indicator of imminent
weirdness. She said she’d go along with it and she generally keeps her
promises; that was the only reason she didn’t give up in disgust when
Samantha led her calmly into the ladies’ restroom. She was busy worrying
someone else would come in, or worse, that Mulder had for whatever
reason emerged from the basement and seen them traipsing around the
building, and she wasn’t quite paying attention, and when Samantha leapt
upwards at nothing, pulling Scully behind her, she opened her mouth to
And got a mouthful of pillowcase, rolling over and coming to rest flat
on her back in a bedroom lit by winter daylight.
“Yes,” Scully says hesitantly. “And this is where you live?”
“This is my apartment, yes.”
“In another universe?” Scully persists.
“Well, yes.” Samantha lies back on the bed. “And here’s your proof – I
rolled over in bed and went through the hole we just came through.”
“Not this morning.” Scully is trying to think like a scientist, like an
empiricist. “This morning you appeared in my car.”
“There’s the rub,” Samantha says, contemplatively. “But I have a theory
about that. Come with me.”
“Of course you do,” Scully mutters, but she follows, stepping out of the
room, across a small hallway and into a kitchen. She is sure she has
never seen this apartment before, or anywhere like it, but there are
brief, disturbing notes of familiarity in the details of the place.
Scully picks up a tape off the kitchen table, tugging it out from under
a pile of discarded paper. It’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
She puts it back down.
Samantha is rummaging in a cupboard, muttering to herself. At length she
emerges holding something flat and colourful. “Got it.”
“Got what?” Scully asks.
Samantha shows her a painted glass plate, decorated with crooked,
irregular whorls “Gift from an ex,” she says, frowning. “I always hated
She sets it on the table, and reaching down, takes off one of her shoes.
Before Scully can react, she smashes the stiletto heel into the plate.
It doesn’t shatter. Some toughening property of the glass transforms the
blow into a spider web of cracks.
“What did you do that for?” demands Scully breathlessly. She recognises
the impulsiveness in the movement, the ease with which a single person
can make the world break.
Samantha picks up the plate and points to the point of impact. “This is
the hole,” she says calmly. “This is where you can fall from my bed into
another universe. And these” – her fingers indicate the radial cracks –
“are the fault-lines. These are where he falls into the wrong basement
and you fall into the wrong bed and I fall into the wrong car.”
Scully hates that familiar intuitive logic, the blind thrusts into the
dark that yield the results a scientific analysis of events can’t. She
hates it, but sometimes it works. “What do you mean, the wrong bed?”
Samantha holds a finger to her lips. “I knew something made it
Scully stares at her, says nothing. A noise like an irritated insect
cuts through the silence and with a slight sigh, she reaches for her
cell phone. “Scully.”
“Hey, it’s me. Talk to Frohike.”
Before she can say anything, Frohike comes on the line, sounding
worried. “Agent Scully, we’ve got a problem. Mulder’s here, and um, we
found him underneath our table.”
“So?” Scully’s an expert in Mulder’s behaviour because someone has to
be, and this sounds strange but not entirely atypical.
“So he says he can’t remember how he got there.” Frohike pauses. “As in,
“What? Put him back on,” Scully says impatiently.
“Mulder, what do you mean, you can’t remember? What’s the last thing you
“I’m not sure.” He sounds frustrated, and she can picture him very
clearly, probably pacing up and down fretfully while the Gunmen hover
like unlikely mother hens. “I remember last night. I was in my
apartment, in the shower. The phone rang and I let the machine pick up.
I think I listened to it – did you call me?”
“Yes, I did.”
“Yeah... and that’s it, that’s all I remember. I think I might have gone
to sleep, but then it goes blank. Next thing I remember, I was on the
floor with Langly shrieking at me like a girl.”
“Hey,” says someone in the background in aggrieved tones.
“Mulder, are you saying you drove over there in your sleep?” She’s
already thinking about dosages and tabs, wishing he was here so she
could track his pupils. “Were you drinking? Did you take anything?”
“No, Scully. I know I didn’t.” He sounds petulant, which probably means
he’s telling the truth.
“And he didn’t drive over here either,” Byers reports, apparently giving
in to the urge to put her on speakerphone. “Or if he did, we can’t find
“Public transport? Walking?” Scully snaps.
“No,” Mulder says, in defeated tones. “We can’t find my shoes, either.”
Scully wants for a single horrendous moment to burst out laughing – this
sort of thing never seems to happen to anyone else – but she fights it
successfully and stands up. “Okay, I’ll be right over.”
“Thanks. Listen, Scully – don’t tell Skinner about this just yet, okay?
He’ll have an apoplexy.”
Privately, Scully thinks he’s already having an apoplexy, given that
neither of them have come into work today for no immediately apparent
reason, but she says goodbye and hangs up without voicing the thought.
Samantha looks at her, smiling a little. “Something’s happened?”
“I have to go.” Almost childishly, she adds, “You can’t come.”
“I kind of figured that. I’ll see you soon, Agent Scully.” She sits on
the edge of the table, legs swinging. “Probably whether I want to or
not. You know your way out.”
Scully nods. “Yes, I do.”
This time, she notices an earthenware jug on the bedside table, holding
a small handful of lilac flowers. Scully breathes in the scent, and
trying not to think about it, she sits carefully on the centre of the
bed and falls back through the hole in the universe, thudding feet first
into one of the toilet cubicles. She’s suddenly very grateful that no
one is already in there, and that the room is silent. She waits five
seconds just in case, then moves swiftly outside.
The drive through the rain is unpleasant. Her thoughts are following the
lines of the drops down the windscreen, slowly edging trails of
Samantha, Ohio, the long roads, the dream, blurring into larger puddles
of confused memory: the crushed flowers, the woman who knows too much to
be lying, Mulder half-asleep and half-forgotten, eyes green, then black,
then closed and lost.
She skids to a halt almost with noticing, nearly forgets to lock the
car, runs to the door only to find it already open. Langly is standing
in the archway, his hair thick with raindrops. “He’s gone!” he yells.
“What?” Scully demands, pushing past him. The room is more of a mess
than usual, the low green light failing to hide the nacho cheese stuck
to the nearest keyboard. “I told you not to let him leave!”
“We didn’t,” Frohike says, wandering in. He looks far less hysterical
than Langly. “He disappeared. Right here, in front of our eyes.”
“What?” Scully says again, sensing that the word is beginning to suffer
“Scully, he’s gone. He just... faded away.” Frohike sits down in a
swivel chair. “I think something weird is going on.”
Scully thinks about it for a minute before pulling out her phone. She
dials and he picks up.
“Hey, Scully.” Before she can say anything, he goes on: “Listen, where
are you? Not that I’m not enjoying being Skinner’s blue-eyed agent for a
change, but I’m running out of ways to stall him. Pretty soon I’ll have
to start telling him that you’ve gotten flu or moved to Cuba or
“I won’t be long,” she promises. “I just need to ask you something. What
have you been doing all morning?”
“Sticking pencils in the ceiling, mostly. Eating sandwiches. Getting
into the head of a single white male serial killer from Ohio. Oh, and I
alphabetised one of the cabinets. Why do you ask?”
Scully motions to the others to keep quiet. “When was the last time you
saw any of the Gunmen?”
“Uh, not for a while. I got Langly to do some background checks while we
were in Ohio, but that was by email. Why?”
“No reason. I’ll come in as soon as I can.”
She hangs up without saying goodbye and nods slowly at the Gunmen.
“Something weird is going on,” she concurs.
They nod and blink. And after that she has to leave, go to work and go
home, because weird things aren’t supposed to happen outside of office
In the morning, Scully arrives in the office only five steps behind Mulder, who
is walking with head down and muttering to himself about the rain, the greyness,
and how the day dictates the virtue of throwing oneself into the Potomac.
“I think I’ll pass,” she says out loud, and he turns to look at her, gives her
the rueful grin she recognises as acknowledgement, however brief, that sometimes
she’s right and he’s just being melodramatic. He holds the door open for her and
she steps inside. The room is cold and dim, and Mulder sits down at his desk
without comment, trying absently to get the rainwater out of his hair.
There is something else about him she recognises but cannot place; something
half-distracted, half-feral, where he’s too quick to look over his shoulder and
too slow to answer to his name. The mess the room is in, spread with paper
scraps and pencils stuck perilously in the ceiling, is what reminds her: once
again, he’s sharing headspace with a killer. She could do some work of her own,
but they’re not partners when he’s profiling and she leaves him to it. He
doesn’t look up as she leaves.
Outside, in the rain, she tries to walk off the mood. It isn’t early in the
morning any more, but there are still streetlights shining through the dimness,
making the world into a black and white movie with added sodium glare. She
narrowly avoids stepping in a puddle and tries not to swear. Samantha has no
such qualms. She holds one foot up, staring distastefully at the water seeping
through the sole of her shoe. “Fuck this shit,” she says after a while.
“Good morning to you, too,” Scully replies evenly.
“It isn’t morning where I’m coming from,” Samantha says. “It’s the middle of the
They walk, silently, down the sidewalk, avoiding the recoil splashes of the
passing cars. Maybe Mulder has a point, Scully thinks vaguely; maybe if George
Washington first sailed up the Potomac on a day like this one, he would have
turned right around.
“It’s dreams, isn’t it,” she says, and it isn’t a question.
“Yeah, I think so.” Samantha nods slowly. “When we’re asleep, we’re making the
crossing between worlds. The lines have become too thin.”
“It’s not them.” Scully is definite on this point.
“The EBEs? No, I guess not.” Samantha is chewing on one thumbnail. “Although I
wonder if their presence, or the presence of their technology, contributes to
the weakening of the space-time continuum in some way. Nothing can travel faster
than light, after all.”
Scully ignores this. She is thinking about dreams, about how the mind doesn’t
perceive a curve in space but knows, all the same, that it’s there. Last night
she dreamed of Mulder again, in the muted light of her bedroom, windows wide
open to a city of ethereal quiet, serene in rainwater-wet stillness. With
sunrise came a cool, fresh dawn, full of promise, and he was there into the
morning, just, a half-seen wraith fading into nothing. She wonders where he is
now, why he’s here, freelance profiling, and out there with a cross against his
heart and under the Gunmen’s table and somewhere else in the warmth she’s left
behind, naked beneath her sheets on a wet Washington morning.
“I thought maybe I should just try and stay awake.” Samantha breaks in, her
voice muffled by the rain. “I tried that. But it doesn’t work; I got overtired,
and cranky, and then I started to hallucinate, and got to the same place by a
different route. Even a slightly altered mental state is enough to punch through
into another world. Seems like you can’t ever go home again.”
“This isn’t really happening,” Scully murmurs. “It’s dreams.”
“Define real,” Samantha says sharply. “It’s happening. Whether it’s really
happening, I don’t know.”
She stamps one foot hard on the ground, lifts and holds it in mid-air, then
“What are you doing?” Scully asks, when a suitably long period of time has
“Trying to get the water out.” Samantha stares balefully downwards. “It’s not
working. I need new shoes. Jesus, I need a new life.”
Scully tries hard not to agree aloud. “I think we need expert help,” she says,
and on the way over in the rain, she tries not to think about how she can’t
remember the last time she went shoe-shopping. The rain drips quietly down the
windscreen and Samantha doesn’t talk much, so it isn’t easy, but then nothing
“Who’s the new kid?” Frohike demands as they enter. “She’s hot.”
“She’s a federal agent,” Scully says briskly, without having to add and she
can kick your ass seventeen times before breakfast, and to Samantha, “These
are Frohike, Langly, and Byers.”
They look up at their names, nod politely, but Scully can feel something afoot,
a sense of purpose in the paper scraps and blinking diodes. At length, Frohike
says, “We think we figured it out.”
“You did?” Scully feels oddly like grinning; it isn’t this simple, it’s never
this simple. “You know what’s happening?”
“Something’s making a hole in the space-time continuum,” Langley says without
looking up. “People – and objects – are dropping through the cracks.”
“Bad science,” Scully says, more sharply than she meant to. “That’s the stuff of
“They have to get their ideas from somewhere,” Byers replies, soft-spoken as
ever. “And it’s not a question of hard science, because we’re not at that level
of understanding. This isn’t the truth. It’s a convenient lie.”
“Don’t we get enough of those?” Samantha asks, with a gentleness Scully doesn’t
think she can match at this point. “Do we need another one?”
“An algorithm, then,” Byers tries. “Convenient tool of calculation. A story we
can tell to help us get the results we want.”
“All right.” Samantha sits down on the edge of a table; Scully keeps on pacing.
“How do we get the results we want?”
Langley turns his monitor to face them. “There’s a lot of power involved here,”
he says slowly. “I could go over the full sequence of calculations” – Frohike
coughs significantly – “but I won’t. That hole didn’t come from nothing. It was
created somehow, and to make something like that, and sustain it, requires an
enormous amount of energy. Our first option, then – a device of some sort.”
Scully catches the euphemism, but Samantha is quicker. “This hole, I should
mention, is in my apartment. In my bed. You are not nuking it.”
“You have a hole in the space-time continuum in your bed?” Frohike says
breathily, as though it’s the greatest turn-on ever. For him, Scully thinks, it
“Yes, I do,” Samantha snaps. “And what I want is for there not to be one. Next
“Duct tape.” Langley still doesn’t turn around.
“Please be kidding,” Samantha says earnestly. “Please let me wake up and this is
all some kind of surrealist nightmare brought on from eating too many Pop
Surprising herself, Scully laughs. “And the third option, gentlemen?”
“We wait and see,” Byers says, still softly. He smiles at Scully, and then at
Samantha. “Whoever or whatever is doing this, they’re going to run out of power.
And when that happens, the hole will just collapse as though it never existed.
All we need to do is wait.”
“So that’s the great plan?” Samantha looks discomfited, like she’s missed a step
on an escalator. “We do nothing?”
“Hardest thing to do.” Scully smiles wryly. “Thanks for your time, guys. I’ll
keep you posted, okay?”
“Our pleasure,” Frohike replies, and Scully can tell he’s trying to get to them
stay longer, but she’s ready to go home. Hurry up and wait, she thinks, and
smiles, because it’s never this easy.
On the way out, Samantha says, “I have to go.”
“All right...” Scully begins, but Samantha looks frantic, hands held in front of
her, bones contorting into sharp, savage shapes.
“I have to go, I have to, I really have to go.”
And just like that, she’s gone, vanished without trace on the rain-wet sidewalk.
Scully turns around on the spot, describing a great circle with her feet, taking
in cars and streetlamps and rain and people and silence as the air fills in the
space of a body. She has to go to back to work.
Her phone rings. “Scully.”
At first, no answer other than tight, ragged breathing, and then Mulder’s voice,
“I have to go,” and a burst of static and a clunk, and silence.
Scully tries to go home, but she doesn’t quite make it.
It’s quiet outside, it’s still so quiet, streetlights barely shining through the
cotton-wool gloom. Scully takes two steps forward, pivots on her heel, takes one
step back. There’s a radio a few doors down from where she’s standing, and a kid
in sneakers flicking from crackly station to crackly station, great bursts of
white noise breaking like waves on the street.
On the stoop next door, there is a woman crying. Scully walks another two steps,
then turns back. The woman doesn’t look up, and a car swishes by through the
dark, leaves behind a wake of silence. The air smells of salt, and Scully thinks
about fog rolling in from the Atlantic, leaving a blanket across the miles
She tried to call Mulder back. The first time he answered, he was peremptory –
there had been a breakthrough, he’d call her back – made her feel like normality
was extant somewhere, maybe, somewhere not here; but the second time his voice
was softer, shifting towards incoherence, and the third time there was only the
sound of his breathing, quick and harsh, and the voices calling him back,
distant like the ocean in a shell. Siren-song, she thought, and she let him go.
The kid keeps turning the dial. There are faint strains of music, twanging
country music, sounding like pick-up trucks in faraway heartlands, a splash of
rock, a news-snippet, a brief burble about Ways and Means. A clear voice cuts
through, “There’s a storm brewing in DC tonight,” and sinks back into noise.
Scully wavers. When no one emerges from the house, no one comes, she walks
deliberately through the curtain of fog and sits on the bottom step. “Are you
okay?” she asks, and feels the familiar burst of awkwardness, uncertainty. For a
second she misses Mulder, who demands many things from her but never a filled
silence, never the meaninglessness of words thrown haphazardly into the dark.
The woman is older than her, but has reached her age with grace; there’s a
careful elegance in the lines of her face. “I’m fine,” she says, calm behind the
tears. “I’m fine.”
“Sorry, ma’am,” Scully says quietly, “but you looked like you weren’t fine.”
“I am fine. I saw my husband today.” She smiles, looks up, past Scully along the
dimmed lines of lights.
Scully nods, slowly.
“He was diagnosed with cancer in 1982. He died of it.” She’s still crying behind
the smile, without gasp or sound. “I’m fine. But you’d cry, wouldn’t you?
Wouldn’t you cry?”
Scully nods again, and stands up. She lets her hand brush the woman’s shoulder –
a tiny touch, the sweetness of space and time without the mess of explanation –
and walks the few steps back through the fog. It closes in and for a few
moments, the city is entirely silent around her. Looking across, she isn’t
surprised to see the kid’s gone, with his radio, no marks in the dust to point
that they were there.
Her feet feel heavy as she lets herself into her building, clambers up the many
steps because the elevator would be too bright, too empty, and steps into her
apartment. The place looks normal when she turns on the lights, and when she’s
taken off her shoes, her coat, shed the damp of the night, she belongs to
An hour later, the phone rings.
“A breakthrough of some kind,” Scully says into it, mixing cake batter with her
free hand. “No, I got a call from him today before he left. He knows where the
next murder will be.” There’s a pause as, with difficulty, she breaks an egg
into it. “No, Mom, he isn’t psychic. He’s a profiler. It’s what they do.”
Whisk, whisk, whisk of the batter, and it starts to turn into creamy yellow
fluff. She notices she hasn’t yet switched on the oven to preheat, and takes a
careful step over to turn the dial.
“It’s what he used to do, before we were partners. Yeah, he had a life before
me, who knew.”
Her mother’s laughter drops softly down the line. The batter’s nearly done. “Am
I keeping you away from dinner? Oh, you’ve had it already?”
She stops and looks up at the wall clock, then sighs. She never was that great
at being deliberately ditzy. “Yeah, Mom, I know. I know it’s midnight for you.
“I’m just not sleeping. Worrying about Mulder, I guess.” It’s true as she says
it, but it’s not the reason. She doesn’t want to talk about the fog, the woman
on the street. “How about you?”
There is no answer. Scully stops in the middle of her kitchen, holding a phone
in one hand and the bowl in the other. “Right,” she says. “I get them too. Yeah,
a funny feeling.” A pause, and then, “I love you, too.”
When she puts the phone down, she’s thinking about what might have been and what
never was, what might slip through the cracks and hide in the fog, and Melissa,
who loved the fury of the storm. When she closes her eyes she can feel it, wet
against her skin, sodden leaves getting caught in her hair, the wind whipping
through tree branches all around. “Mulder!” she yells out, hoping to hear his
voice in answer, but her eyes open and she’s shouting at an empty apartment,
getting water on the floor. The apartment smells of warmth and sugar, and she
takes a moment to hate herself for being blind and human, for masking the alien
with the familiar, for baking a cake to hide the smell of the rain.
Samantha wouldn’t have done it, and neither would Melissa, but neither of them
are here. Her mind doesn’t work without a foil, without a citadel to attack –
here, alone, she can’t set out into the mystery alone, theorise and explore, and
The phone rings again at dawn. She answers it, “Scully,” and then knows without
being told who it is, whose voice is that cracking and falling-down bleak; and
as if waking up from a dream she realises, in the silence of her apartment and
the coming of the day, that her bed is empty and she is alone.
The next day, the picture on the front page is a dead girl. Scully carries it
into the ladies’ room at arm’s length, a distasteful thing blurring her fingers
with printers’ ink. The man holding the body is looking away from the camera,
but she knows who it is.
Samantha, in jeans and slippers, looks up as Scully steps into the kitchen.
“Give that here,” she says, biting into a piece of toast. “You want a
Scully peers at her, perched the wrong way round on a chair and reaching
impatiently for the paper, and wonders when her life got so normal. She hands it
over and helps herself to a pain au chocolat. “I baked muffins,” she says
Samantha takes one as she reads it through, checking the date on the paper
before letting it drop. “They call this reputable journalism?” she demand. “I
could write better than this with my hands tied behind my back.”
“Aren’t you curious at all?” Scully demands, almost desperately. “In what it
Samantha looks up, surprised. “I’m reading it, aren’t I?”
“There’s more than what’s there.”
“He phoned me this morning,” Scully tells the floor. “He was… desperate. And
“And then,” Samantha nods, looking more closely at the picture. “And then, and
then.” She lays it down and pours out some more coffee. “You want some?”
“Yes, but aren’t you curious as to how?”
“I think I know already.” She gets up to grab a cup. “Sugar?”
“No, thanks. Samantha...”
Samantha drops the paper. Off Scully’s look, she stands up and sits the right
way on the chair, folds the paper neatly and clasps her hands in her lap. “Is
that better? You want me to tell you the full story that you won’t believe in
“As a simplifying assumption,” Scully tells her, and grins.
“Fine.” Samantha grins back. “I’ll say this: you can only put so much pressure
on something before it collapses in on itself.
“Thank you,” Scully says, sitting back. “That was exceptionally helpful.”
“Yeah, it was, and it’s all you’re getting. It’s all I know. That, and the fact
that soon I’ll be able to sleep peacefully in my own bed again. As will you, I
Scully wants to let that pass, but something stops her, something about the
girl’s eyes, familiar to the last. “You knew about that?”
“I’m guessing,” Samantha says, thoughtfully. “I’m a good guesser.”
“Yeah, I’ll bet.” Scully decides she doesn’t mind, and gets milk for her own
coffee, watching galaxies of white fade into black. It’s quiet here, quieter
than her own apartment, higher still from the street. They sit in silence for a
“Let’s say this,” Scully says after a while. “If the Gunmen were right – and I’m
not saying they were – then whatever was powering whatever was going on has
stopped powering it.”
“Thank you. And now, what? People still slipping through cracks?”
“No, I wouldn’t say that.” Samantha rests her head on her hands. “You’re still
able to come and steal my breakfast for the time being. I think that in a while
it will be as if this never happened.”
“No bad thing.” Scully takes a sip of the coffee and smiles appreciatively:
Jamaican Blue Mountain.
“Yeah,” Samantha says, but she’s wistful, and Scully regrets saying it. She
finishes her breakfast, and the room becomes more comfortable as the quiet
moments tick by, easing away the silence of strangers.
When Scully stands up, Samantha follows her. “Let me come with you. The last
Scully nods. “Okay. That’s the end of the story, right?
“Right.” Samantha nods, smiles, goes to get her coat.
Scully hasn’t quite finished. “But before we go, tell me this: how does a person
come back from the dead?”
Samantha gives her a small, sad smile, and says, “Fox Mulder is dead.”
Scully steps through into the world and there’s nothing more than that, except
the quickening of her heart when Mulder comes in after dark, eyes wide and lips
parted, with dirt and exhaustion and the scent of lilacs clinging to his skin.
Night falls while Scully reads the police reports. She was found after dark,
left by her killer – who was a single-minded sexual obsessive, a loner with
disturbed tendencies, because Mulder is always right – with her tiny body almost
bled out, and picked up by the profiler who’d failed to save her, ducking his
head from the flashbulb.
She was found wandering the woods, freezing cold and alone, talking about a
rainstorm and a song she’d heard at school, and carried all the way home,
Schrödinger’s two worlds blurring into the rain. Those aren’t the words she
reads, but Scully remembers the cloudburst, the way the storm broke, in her
apartment in DC, in those Ohio woods, some parallel place in every parallel
The next report Scully reads is from Martha’s Vineyard in 1973; this was
probably the most exciting case they had all year. She knows the scene without
having to pay attention to the details. It was early evening, board game and
pieces spread over the floor. Watergate was on television. The girl was taken in
the midst of bright white light.
The only witness was the other child, who was found in a glassy, wide-eyed
catatonic state with fingers curling, grasping at nothing. The younger child’s
body was never found, and the elder grew up to exhibit terrifyingly accurate
insight into the mind of a killer.
If she’d been investigating the case – and it pains her to even think it – she’d
have taken that child and put him into protective custody, just for a while.
Just while his story checked out. Just while it was made perfectly clear he had
an off-scale IQ and no autistic disorder to go with; spent the summer playing
baseball but didn’t use the bat for anything else; got straight A’s but didn’t
go in for premeditation. She wasn’t investigating the case, as it happened; but
there was movement behind the scenes, she guesses, shadowy figures in the
federal government who got that child above suspicion.
It was the least they could do, Scully guesses. It would have been one
sacrificial lamb too many.
“Why don’t you hate him?” Samantha asks, with calculated, painful lightness. “I
would hate him, if I were you.”
“Why?” Scully asks, and she’s surprised that she doesn’t sound defensive. She
puts down the reports.
“He’s obsessive, isn’t he,” she says, still so careful, so casual, still with
the undercut of pain. She’s pacing up and down, movements tight and controlled.
She motions at the room, the overflowing cabinets, the posters, the clutter and
the clippings. “He’s like a maelstrom. Everything, including you, gets dragged
down into the dark. You had a brilliant career, I think. You could have been
something so much more than… more than this.”
“It would have been a lie,” Scully replies evenly. She walks to Mulder’s desk,
standing by the poster, beneath the glare of the skylights. The light is always
filtered by the time it emerges here, becoming white and clean. “The truth is
there somewhere, waiting for us to find it.. Sometimes I almost believe it. And
I always know I’m needed.”
She nods, turning slowly, awkwardly. “He needs you. He’d die without you.” She
tries to laugh, but the sound turns sour into thick silence.
Scully watches her, thinking about it. She could do an autopsy on this family,
she thinks; with both of them, maybe she could cut skilfully through the layers
of subcutaneous bullshit to the old scars, find the traces of past abuses like
badly-healed breaks. It’s easier to think that than to think about the living
people. But right now, she thinks she understands what the treatment should be,
and looks up as she says, “Go ahead. This is as whole as he gets.”
Samantha understands. Flustered and awkward, she moves towards where Mulder is
sleeping, almost tripping over her feet. She touches his head, very careful not
to wake him up, and Scully is grateful for that. She wonders if sleeping, he can
feel the touch and the moment, absorb the sweetness and somehow escape the pain
of waking to what’s been lost.
Samantha laughs softly. “He’s rather nice,” she says, with a half-deliberate
childishness. “I wish I could meet him.”
“You never have,” Scully says, sighing.
“He’s not mine,” she murmurs, and the look in her eyes is directed downwards, at
the sleeping man on the desk, and it’s formed by a different face, with softer
lines and longer lashes but Scully recognises it regardless. She shivers, hopes
her voice isn’t shaking as she asks, “What happened to him?”
Samantha walks around the desk, walks back. Her heels tap loudly in the quiet.
“It was 1973. I was eight,” she says at last. “He was twelve, just. Our parents
had gone out, left him in charge, or at least that’s what he said. We were
playing a board game.”
“With blue pieces,” Scully says softly. “Watergate was on TV.”
“You’ve heard the story.” Samantha smiles, slightly. “I wanted to watch some
movie. He wanted to watch...”
“The Magician,” they say together.
“We were arguing. He said he was in charge because Mom and Dad weren’t home, I
called him the rudest things I knew. And then there was the light, and he lost
consciousness and I… I couldn’t move. I was paralysed. I didn’t do anything and
they took him. He was never found.”
She sighs, starts pacing again. “According to you, he’s like me. I’m like him.
Maybe we’d have driven each other crazy. Maybe he’d have been another family
member I never talk to except on Pesach. Maybe it would be like when we were
kids, him and me versus everyone else. The point is that I don’t know, I never
got a chance to find out.”
Scully thinks they’re like each other; that they would have worn away at each
other’s sharp edges; that they would have argued themselves into distraction,
thrust following parry following thrust; that they would yelled at each other
and banged down receivers at each other, that they would have shouted at each
other and screamed at each other and cried for each other. That would have been
okay, she thinks.
“But you don’t believe he’s dead?” Scully says, and wonders why she has to ask.
Samantha frowns, and something changes in her. “I don’t believe it. I know he’s
dead.” She breathes in, breathes out before continuing. “I know they took him, a
child, and I know they hurt him, and violated his mind and body, and when they
had no further use for him, they killed him. And I know the government will
continue to cover it up. No one will ever know the truth about his death, unless
I find it.”
She’s looking straight at Scully, straight into her eyes, and this is a silence
Scully doesn’t dare break.
“And speaking of which,” Samantha says, and the tension drains through the
genuine lightness in tone, “I ought to be getting back to it. The door won’t be
open for long.”
Scully nods. “You should go.”
Samantha walks to the door, but she looks back. “Goodbye, Agent Scully. You
won’t see me again.”
“Hopefully not.” Scully smiles at her, watches her take her last, brief look at
a man who isn’t her brother, and the door clicks neatly closed on the two of
them who are left.
Mulder hasn’t moved. Scully walks deliberately across to him and runs her hands
around his neck, feeling for a chain that isn’t there, and holding still as he
wakes up. “Come on, Mulder. Time to go home.”
“I don’t have a bed,” he mutters, eyes still closed and voice blurred.
“Who said anything about going to bed?” Scully asks. “Come with me and we’ll
watch Return of the Killer Tomatoes.”
“Return of the Killer Tomatoes isn’t...”
“I have it on tape. Come on.”
He laughs suddenly, a snuffling sound through layers of sleep, and stands up
with her. She holds him until it becomes painfully apparent that she’s a foot
shorter than he is, and they settle into each other, the
long-stride-short-step-brief-pause rhythm that comes naturally, like breathing.
They walk out of the basement in silence, up into the bullpen where the night is
creeping in, and out beneath the dome of the sky, cloudy-and-starlit like a
This is not what might have been, what could yet be; this is just the start of a
season, a touch on his shoulder and a hand through his hair; this is just the
quiet moment in the dark when she takes him home, and their footsteps fall
softly through the rain.