"See?" Carl pointed to a hole high in the wall where the device had been hidden.
Scully looked up, a delayed reaction. She'd seen the place before. It came and went--the haze and the sadness, the falling. She glanced over at Mulder. He was looking at one room and then the other, gauging how much of his activity had been recorded, trying to maintain his composure---probably for her sake, in order not to disturb her further. But inside, surely he must feel violated.
"I don't suppose we have any idea how long this was here," he said, pursing his lips. He stepped under the doorway into the living room and then back again. His hands rode his hips.
"The recorder was remotely located in a service closet around the corner." Scully took reassurance from the sound of her own voice. It injected her into the reality around her. "The Gunmen have it now."
"Do you use the closet?" Mulder said, addressing himself to Carl.
"I keep a mop and a rolling bucket there--you know, for cleaning the halls," he said. "There's a sink--"
"Let's take a look," Mulder said. He started toward the door and then glanced back at her, catching her eye. "Scully, you coming?" His voice was soft, muted.
"I saw it the other day." She gave him a half-smile, attempting to reassure him. He was worried: about her, about Cancer Man.
Mulder hesitated a moment longer, then turned and followed Carl out the door.
His mind was doing double-time; she knew that. He wanted to take her someplace he knew she'd be safe, but where would that be? How would he keep himself safe until tomorrow morning? Scully shook herself, forced the encroaching haze back a few paces. She stepped through the doorway and into the living room. His living room.
It was a different place now--whiter paint, blinds drawn up, bare--as if he'd never lived here, as if the last six years had never happened. And yet...
And yet there was some intangible part of him that remained. A smile played at the corners of her mouth. It was an essence of him and of the things that had happened here, times they'd spent strategizing, waiting. Holding each other on the verge of sanity, though neither of them would have ventured to say so. She could see the room dark again, herself on the chair next to the couch, Mulder's breathing rapid but steady as he slept. She could feel the heat from his body beside her. She was rising from the chair now, walking to the window and looking out for stars--for hope--searching...
He'd been here before she arrived that night.
He'd found Mulder, stopped him, had stayed with him. Krycek did nothing without a reason, or out of generosity. Cancer Man would never have come here if he'd known he'd be recorded. And the two had been at odds before, Krycek and Cancer Man.
"Scully--" Mulder's voice echoed in the empty room. Now he appeared in the doorway. "Carl went downstairs to get my mail. He said I got a few things." His eyebrows rose. "Probably junk mail. Hey, you ready to go?"
"Mulder, I think it was him," she said softly. She looked up. "I think it was Krycek."
Her words seemed to hover in the air and then drop. His mouth opened; his head tilted almost imperceptibly.
"Think about it, Mulder. He was here that night, the night... a week ago. He must think he can use you for something."
His face was anger, concern, revelation.
"He did this on his own." Mulder's mouth sat half-open in realization. "And now Old Smoky knows. He knows about the tape. Krycek's going to get found out, he's..." Krycek would be desperate. He'd be out to get the tape back, or to get them in order to save himself. And Cancer Man would be after them, wanting the tape.
Scully watched it all register on his face. He took her arm. His hand was insistent against her ribs as they hurried out the door.
Carl met them in the hallway with a handful of papers. Mulder took them quickly and urged her toward the elevator. She pushed the button and they waited.
A rumble and the elevator door yawned open. The got in, Mulder punched the first floor button and leaned back against the wall. The haze was descending over her again; she could feel the thin grayness start to pull at her. She glanced over at Mulder. He was staring at something in his hand.
"What is it?" she said.
"A letter from my mother," he said, and shrugged. "I wonder what she wants. I... I can't remember the last time she wrote to me." He began to slide his finger under the flap. There was a settling, a ding, and the door slid open. Mulder started to slip the letter into his pocket and then stopped.
"Scully, will you hold onto this? I don't want to leave it in my suit pocket and forget it."
Scully took the letter, her fingers curling around it tightly. They crossed the lobby quickly, Mulder pausing to toss his junk mail into the trash can near the door as they passed. Then they were out the door into the abrupt, hazy warmth of late afternoon.
Mulder hurried down the steps to the green door and worked his key in the lock. He needed to grab a few things--anything essential, don't leave anything compromising, anything irreplaceable, who knew how long they'd be gone, and to where, for that matter. He'd done it again, though she'd argued against it, had seen it coming even before he could put words to it: He'd gotten her into this. She'd shouted back at him--No, everything is not your fault, Mulder--had shouted hard enough to make tears come and after that she'd sat there, staring him down, water streaming down her cheeks, refusing to look away, making him feel like shit. But she was right; he'd had to turn away and watch the road, look where he was going.
The flare-up had passed. At least she'd looked alive when she was yelling at him. That in itself was reassuring. But now was no time to get emotional and screw up, because this was both their asses, not just his.
He pushed the door open and went inside.
What to take? He pulled off his suit jacket and opened the closet door to hang it. No need to bring it along. This wasn't going to be a formal trip, more like running as fast and as far as you could, looking like somebody else, some poor couple on a bus--they should take a bus, not Scully's car that could be traced, which might give them away. He unbuttoned his shirt on his way to the desk and pulled out the drawer. Under the pencil tray was the envelope--the ID's--thank God he'd taken Frohike up on the offer--the little troll had Scully's cell number--and he slid out the cards to put them in his pocket.
His mother's letter.
Sitting down on the bed, he pulled the envelope from his shirt pocket and paused. It was strangely thick. The marks where Scully's damp fingers had clutched it still wrinkled the thin paper. He set the IDs down beside him. Sliding his finger under the envelope flap, he pulled out the thin sheets inside. Many pages. He spread them open.
Trudy's... reflection... walking through fire. Disapproval... rebellious... heady. He swallowed and skimmed on. Where was she going with this, anyway? Gradual erosion... no longer anchored...
Mulder closed his eyes. His heart stopped.
Scully sat with her head against the car window, looking up at the tree in Mulder's back yard. The upper leaves swayed gently in a breeze that didn't reach the ground. The sky had begun to yellow, the clouds were breaking up and golden light poured through here and there, shafts that could be clearly seen, as if light itself were tangible, made of shape and bulk.
He'd reached that cliff edge--self-blame--and she'd had to shout him away from it for his own safety, and for hers. Now he was packing. He'd only be a minute, a few minutes, and where would they go? If they took her car they could be traced; if they left it somewhere her mother would be contacted and what would she think? How could she put her mother through that again after what happened to Melissa?
She refocused on the tree, on the sway of the leaves, green with the occasional flash of gold.
He was taking too long.
She sat up and looked at her watch, glanced over at the open door at the bottom of his stairs: no movement that she could see. She reached for the door handle.
Across the pavement, down the stairs, to the door. Mulder was sitting on the bed. She stepped through the doorway but he didn't move or look up. There was a feeling in the room, a strange silence. Palpable. Terrible. Her partner's face was wet, his eyes brimming, but he made no move to turn away, to hide. To speak.
"Mulder?" The word barely formed a sound.
His eyes touched her and then retreated. His hand moved slightly, the thin paper of the letter wobbling in it.
She went closer.
"Mulder, what is it?"
One step closer, up against the bed, in front of him. She reached out, touched his hair. His head came forward, resting against her, warm and damp. Her hand slipped through his hair, behind his neck. His shoulders shook. She could feel him swallow and begin to shake again.
"Mulder, what does it say?"
The hand clutching the letter came up. She took it with her free hand and began to read. His head turned to the side, nuzzling closer against her. Reflection... distant.. .Leland... foolishness... not your father's child... awful realities.. safety may depend... unwitting pawn... not stillborn...
Alex. "Oh, Mulder--"
The haze retreated. The room was suddenly clear, the green paint on the narrow strips of wood paneling shifting into sharp focus, and the shadows between the strips where the edges tapered--a necessary moment of clarity and pain. His breath was warm and damp against her, the quiet laced with the halting tenor of his grief.
Scully glanced around her living room and hesitated, mouth half-open. The scene in front of her was strange and distant, as if some essential element of reality were missing. She shook her head.
"I... I don't know what to take, Mulder, what to bring."
"I'll check out here," he said. "I'll look around." He hadn't said half a dozen words since they'd left his place, his voice thick, his demeanor sobered. "Go on. You get some clothes, whatever else you need."
There was a hand, warm on her shoulder, urging her. She went through the doorway into the bedroom. She was like one of those people in California who suddenly find their houses threatened by gust-driven fires: only minutes to get out, perhaps never to return, all the material markers of their lives to be converted to ash, and what do they take? What becomes the most precious? How do they decide?
She went to her dresser, pulled open a drawer and stared at the contents. Casual. Casual, unobtrusive, anything that would make her blend in. Ordinary. She began to push through the clothes. Underwear. Socks. A pair of shorts. Not too much, Mulder had said. One bag, whatever she could carry. They could pick up more on the way.
This was what he'd gone through days earlier, moving out of his apartment. She was leaving this place--her home--and when would she return? Would she return? Would it be here if she did, or would Krycek burn it, the way he'd burned down the Mulder family's summer home in Quonochotaug? She'd seen the hair--Samantha's braid--in front of the picture on Mulder's desk. He'd looked at it, hesitating, balancing on the edge of indecision. She'd picked it up--it was smooth, strong hair--and put it in his travel bag. He'd seemed relieved.
Scully made piles as she went, setting them on top of the dresser. Then one by one they all went into her bag. She pushed them to one side and went into the bathroom, taking a small zippered cosmetic tote from under the sink--a floral-patterned one Missy had given her. Methodically, she began to fill it with essentials: small bottles, jars, shower cap, toothpaste. Toothbrush. Washcloth, one she particularly liked. She zipped the bag and took it to the bed, set it inside her travel bag and paused.
She opened the door and stood staring at the dark colors hanging in front of her. The green sweater she'd worn the other night, when Mulder had taken her to the park. She smiled momentarily. Her hand reached in.
Strong hands yanked her into the dark, twisted, turned her. Hands clamped around her, over her mouth--her heart pounded loud, wild--her hands were grasped, pinned back. She gasped for air. The hold was vice-like. She knew him even in the dark, his lips close against her ear. She wanted to squirm away but the blade stopped her. Instinctively she went loose, limp. It was the only way, the way to save herself; one slice and she was gone. Mulder was in the other room he was gathering...
"Just relax, Scully."
The words tickled her ear. She didn't want them to tickle--not him--her heart was racing and she wanted it to slow everything was strange, shifted, maybe it was only a dream. Cold steel against her neck: no dream. She could feel her eyes wide in the dark, could feel her body shake in his iron grasp and willed it to stop.
"Out easy, Scully, and you'll live..."
His voice was casual, detached, almost soothing. But there was nothing soothing about him. He was Donny Pfaster, Jerry Schnauz. He was worse: he'd watched her sister die. She could save Mulder; she could help him, but not if she panicked. She willed away her rigidity and let Kyrcek lift her. His hand clamped her mouth, pressing hard against her teeth--it was the fake hand--her hands were free, dangling free, and the blade was nestled against her throat.
"Dyshi, Scully. Breathe."
She took a ragged breath, and then another. His breath was hot behind her ear, against her neck; they were standing, coming out into the light, the grip on her mouth was loosening.
"Call him." The words were clipped and businesslike.
She swallowed, felt the pressure of the blade.
"Come on, Scully."
"Mulder..." It was a strange sound, squeaky, and Mulder had no weapon, she would have to do something, think, signal him...
Mulder's shadow, and then Mulder, appeared in the doorway, saw them and froze. His hand curled around the edge of the door behind him.
"Where's the tape, Mulder?"
"In the car." His voice went out to Krycek, but his eyes were on her, looking into her, gauging her.
"What good's it going to do you, you son of a bitch? You think it's the only copy I've got?"
"Get it." Louder this time. Krycek seemed flustered.
Her arms were still loose; the blade was his leverage. She inched her right hand up almost imperceptibly. Mulder's eyes were on the blade.
"You're just a throwaway to him, aren't you?" Mulder nodded at Krycek, one corner of his mouth curling upward in a hint of a smile. He was gauging him, probing. Stalling. Scully's hand inched upward, smoothly, slowly. "You're nothing more to him than a human shield, Krycek."
"Cut the crap, Mulder!"
The blade tightened against her neck, then loosened and slid slightly, a tiny movement. She gasped. Mulder shuddered, swallowed. It stung suddenly. Not a lot--not a big cut--but she could feel the warm trickle start crazily down the side of her neck, toward her throat, into her collar. Her hand moved upward, to her waist, and rested on her belt.
Mulder's eyes were wild; she could see the panic, her blood almost reflected in them, filling them. Then his eyes, suddenly, on her waistband, wide--too wide--and she was wishing them away, shouting back with her own: look away, look at him, somewhere else, anywhere; Mulder pleading don't do this don't do anything stupid don't risk yourself; she shouting look away, up, anywhere, just away. All just a glance, fleeting and gone.
"No." Mulder swallowed, pain in his face. "Krycek, don't hurt her, don't--"
Mulder was curling--some sudden streak of pain--hand to his eyes, falling to his knees, Krycek behind her moving a fraction, tentative, the knife loosening just enough, Mulder on the floor, grimacing, her hand creeping...
She felt herself falling back with him--yanked back--heard the shot afterward. She was on her back on top of him, ceiling overhead, shaking, weapon still grasped tightly. Krycek wasn't moving, wasn't squirming. The knife lay beside her on the carpet.
Mulder appeared above her, lifting her, pulling her off, upward, his face full of emotion. He swallowed and lay her down to one side, fingers against her neck, checking, wiping away the blood. He paused.
"Breathe," he said, and tried to even his own.
He looked over at Krycek, bit his lip, wiped a hand across his face.
"Scully?" He nodded toward the man on the floor.
She turned to look. Krycek's eyes were glazy, his breathing pained and shallow. Blood brightened a growing circle beside his waist.
Scully sat up and reached past Mulder, rolled Krycek slightly, felt behind him. An exit wound, clean--clean enough. Abdominal wounds were always tricky but it would give him a fair chance, which was more than he deserved. Krycek looked up at her, staring through faraway eyes.
"I think he'll live," she said. Her voice sounded strange, rough in the silence, the only other sound Krycek's hollow breathing.
She sat back on her heels, breathed in deeply, letting welcome air fill her lungs. She closed her eyes briefly and then looked up. Mulder was standing above her, staring. He shook his head. He was pale.
"Shit, Scully--" He reached out a hand, lifting her, and she was engulfed in a hard embrace. "Don't you ever... Don't... Just--"
He rocked her back and forth slightly. She closed her eyes and breathed against him, rhythm against rhythm. Her one hand dangled loose, sticky, full of Krycek's blood.
They had to go.
Mulder stared at Krycek's sprawled form on the floor in front of him. His blood was staining Scully's carpet. Krycek's breathing continued shallow but steady. The prosthetic arm lay at a crazy angle, a detail Krycek seemed unaware of. His good hand reached to cover his wound. Blood seeped from between his fingers.
"Go on, Mulder. Get her out of here," Krycek whispered. His eyes were glassy.
Mulder didn't answer.
There had been no posturing. Krycek had made no taunts. For his own part, he hadn't waved Scully's weapon in Krycek's face and made empty threats to kill him. He only looked at the man on the floor. He couldn't keep from looking, searching the face in front of him for some sign of his mother. Or of Samantha. He was, after all, her full blood brother.
"Mulder, go," Krycek's voice came again. He strained to focus on the man above him.
Mulder turned and left the apartment. He went through the lobby, down the stairs and crossed the street unseeing.
In the car, Scully was curled into the passenger seat against the window, shaking. It had begun when he'd taken her into the bathroom, set her on the counter and had begun to clean the blood from her neck and hand. She'd sat there like a dazed child wakened in the middle of the night and then she'd begun to shake.
He reached over now and rested a hand briefly on her shoulder. Her eyes held something wild, not so very different from the way she'd looked that time at her mother's two years earlier when she'd nearly shot him. But she didn't pull away. She was inside there--he could see that--struggling to come to terms.
Mulder let his head fall back against the headrest and closed his eyes momentarily, letting the moisture under his lids gradually wash away the burning sensation. Then he opened them, reached for the ignition and started the car.
The streets were full of the usual Monday traffic but the scene seemed hazy and not at all like Monday... or any other real day, for that matter. Frohike would be at the bus station waiting to bring Scully's car back and repark it in front of her apartment. Intersections came and went. He focused on the traffic lights, on the brake lights in front of him, on their shape and the tempo that the turn signals beat out. It kept him from seeing Scully, knife to her throat, blood trickling down into her shirt, and Krycek's eyes behind her--hard eyes, cold as death.
The sign for the bus station loomed ahead. Mulder signaled and turned in. A figure appeared from between two cars, waving: Frohike. Mulder pulled into a vacant space and parked. There were bags to gather, keys to exchange, an envelope Frohike handed him that he stuffed into his back pocket. Scully was getting out on the other side, squinting into the late afternoon light, trying to look like she hadn't just been nearly killed, like she hadn't just shot someone. Byers appeared by her side, said something low and pressed a small paper into her hand. A smile flitted across her face and was gone, and then she was beside him, he was shouldering the two bags on one side and she was on the other, her hand on his sleeve and they were heading in to the terminal, on the way to heaven only knew where--anywhere, just away, out of D.C. to somewhere Old Smoky wouldn't think to look.
Krycek's good hand moved shakily toward his right side, inched carefully around the side of his pants and grasped for his back pocket. No luck; he was lying on it. He moved tentatively, curling toward the wound. Hot pain shot through him and he retreated to his former position. Lift. He had to lift up. He set one foot on the floor, then the other, placing them carefully, awkwardly. He held his breath, bit his lip and lifted quickly, just enough to snatch the phone from his pocket, then sank back against the carpet and closed his eyes, panting. Pain strobed in crazy colored patterns, forcing him to open his eyes again and focus on the ceiling. He searched the textured peaks of the ceiling methodically, as if they were mountains, working the pain from the forefront of consciousness.
Score one for Scully. But it would be good cover, this, if he lived.
He might make it. He'd felt worse. He'd call the old man. In the confusion his slip would go unnoticed. He'd tell the old man Scully'd surprised him. The old man would think he was inept. He'd fume. But he'd have him patched together again. Who else would the old man get to do his private dirty work? Mulder would be gone, hidden away, still potentially useable if the right time ever came. He and Scully would keep each other sane.
Krycek tried to laugh but what came out was more of a gurgle. Listen to yourself, durachok. All this planning--for what? You've carried your life all this time and what has it gotten you? Why fight this? Let go. Bow out of the rat race. Let somebody else face the invading hordes when they drop down out of the sky.
The wound didn't hurt anymore. His heartbeat seemed to slow.
There was a chill in the air that he hadn't noticed before. It was the Alberta evening, fall running toward winter. He hurried up the path to the weathered cabin, but before he could reach for the knob, the door swung open. The clone girl stood there, obviously agitated, her eyes pleading with him as if she were a fairytale princess muted by an evil enchantment.
Krycek blinked and watched the room filter back in around him, the autumn hills of Alberta melting away. For a long moment the clone girl's image seemed to linger, dark braids and piercing eyes.
Slowly he lifted the phone from his chest. His fingers shook but he steeled himself, stretching his thumb toward the speed dial.
The last of the afternoon light was fading, coloring the sky outside the bus window with broad swathes of pale yellows and lavender and streaks of gray-blue. Mulder looked over at Scully, apparently asleep, her head vibrating against the window. He'd offered his shoulder but she'd needed space. Finally he'd pulled a sweatshirt from his bag and given it to her to use as a pillow. It seemed to help somewhat.
He hadn't killed Krycek, he wasn't sure whether for his mother's sake or for his own. Think what she went through to write that letter, Scully had said to him in a small moment of clarity. She was right, but it didn't make the absorption of his mother's revelations any less painful.
A baby wailed from somewhere behind them. Mulder glanced over at Scully. He hoped it wouldn't wake her, wouldn't remind her of Emily, or of the other children she'd never have. She seemed peaceful enough now, her face unlined, smooth.
He would have to talk to his mother. He wouldn't call--wouldn't put her in danger in case Smoky'd tapped her line. He'd have to go there and face her. He'd have to, anyway, in the end.
The last of the sun's light flashed suddenly from between clouds, a blinding yellow meltdown searing into the horizon. Mulder closed his eyes, reached for the knob on the side of the armrest and let the seat back down. He shifted slightly in an effort to get comfortable and reached for the dull aching spot at the back of his neck, rubbing at it gently. He opened one eye and glanced at Scully, clear-faced, free. Then he closed his eyes and let sleep take him.
(end 14 of 14)
What happens next? Find out! This tale continues in Part 3 of this trilogy: Sanctuary, available here.
© bardsmaid 2005 |