Certain Dark Things
Fandom(s): X-Files Bones crossover
Pairing(s): Mulder/Scully, Brennan/Booth, Scully/Brennan
Summary: In the aftermath of a cataclysmic event, everything changes in Washington.
Notes: AU, post-apocalypse, character death and femslash, hooray! This may just be the first fanfic I have ever written than made me cry while I wrote it. Sorry for the scattered nature of this fic, that's just the way it turned out. This is dedicated to all my friends who get a kick out of the Scully/Brennan crack!pairing, but especially for sezziedee LJ who inspired me to write the pairing with a post-apoc twist. You're mah hero, grrrrl. :)
She'd taken to wearing a cloak over her clothes, despite the threat of the coming summer heat. Two nights ago, picking her way through the abandoned ruins of an old costume and decorations store, she had found it lying on the floor and figured it would serve her purpose. It had a hood, which was the most important part. She couldn't afford the luxury of walking around with her hair showing anymore. Things had grown out of her control over the past few months, until she found herself the story of legends and whispered stories. A healer, a saviour, someone who would bring them all a better life... somehow, she now represented all of these things to a group of survivors who starved for hope in a terrifying new world.
If Mulder were alive, Dana Scully reflected, the entire situation would have amused him thoroughly.
A dry wind blew through the streets, kicking up dust and tossing grit into Scully's face. Wind was not a good sign, it signified a change in weather. The city seemed to degenerate every time the weather changed, and the past several days of monotonous, overcast skies had acted as an unforeseen godsend for everyone. Especially to those caring for the ill. But now, while the overcast skies remained, the clouds rushed across the sky as a brisk breeze scoured the city. It wouldn't be long before rain came. The thought made Scully slightly nauseous. The last time it had rained, the bodies had piled up at an alarming rate. Sometimes Scully wasn't sure if it wasn't just fact that the weather made transmission of the disease more effective, or if the change in weather riled people up, spooked them out so that the infection could finally take hold within their weakened bodies. If only there was some way to dissect the infection. Lord knew she was the person for the job. She just didn't have the time or resources.
Turning the corner, she saw a long stretch of road littered with rubble and abandoned cars. Shops with smashed window loomed like caverns, and she methodically searched through each of them for survivors, people too ill to move to hospitals or shelters. She did what she could, dispensing water and medication from the heavy pack slung over her back, hidden beneath the folds of the cloak. It must have been close to noon before she got to the end of the street, where a large building that had somehow managed to escape the sort of destruction that plagued the rest of the city, with rich brown-red brick and abandoned balconies, stood solemnly. Scully had been sweeping blocks upon blocks of homes and apartments for weeks now; they all tended to look the same, to meld into a generic cityscape. But the resolute survival of this building gave her hope, uplifting her spirits even as the heat sapped her energy.
The dry wind whistled loudly once more, kicking up dust and ruffling at Scully's cloak. She looked up at the murky skies, feeling a prelude of raindrops splashing on her cheeks. She rushed towards the front door of the building, ducking under the alcove just as the sky let loose and the torrent began. Too much rain in too short, harbinger of death and disease. She tried not to think about what the days ahead would be like, sitting down on the steps of the building and pulling a small nutrient bar out of her pack, instead focusing on how the heavy rain changed the look of the street, rivulets running across pavement and concrete. At least the heat was letting up. She tried not to think about what lay before her, and she tried not to think about that rainstorm from so many months ago, the one that had nearly been her own demise...
There was a scratching sound to her left and Scully was jolted out of her thoughts. She turned to see a young boy silently emerging from behind some shrubs, looking at her disapprovingly as water soaked through his clothes and dripped down his darkened skin.
"You shouldn't go in there. No one goes in that building anymore. It's off-limits." His voice was blunt and serious, as only a child could be.
Scully took a final bite of her nutrient bar. "Why?"
"It's cursed. You go in and you come out with death hanging around your neck. That's what momma said."
"You mean the infection?" Scully asked, watching as the boy nodded slowly. "Don't worry, I'll be okay..." She hesitated a moment before tugging her hood aside, red hair falling free and spilling over her shoulders. The boy's mouth dropped open with surprise and she could see his dark eyes spark with happiness. This was the part that always stunned her, how her visage could have such an effect on people, how they looked at her and treated her. She had never asked for this responsibility, but she carried the burden as best she could.
The boy crept towards her, out from rain and under the alcove that was protecting her from the elements, all the while whispering conspiratorially. "It's been in there. The Carrier. No one knows if it's gone now, but we still don't go in. Just in case."
Scully nodded, smiling slightly as she pulled a towel from her pack and gently wiped the rain from the boy's face. "Take this with you and go back to your family. I'll check the building out."
He took the towel from her hands with a look of awe. "If the Carrier is in there, will you kill it?"
"I don't know..." Scully said as she stood up, pulling her hood back over her hair. She didn't say what she was really thinking, that there was already too much death in this new world without her adding to the mess.
The Carrier. Her nemesis. Or so they said.
Scully didn't want a nemesis. But apparently, the people needed an epic struggle between good and evil to keep them warm at night.
She went slowly, moving through each floor of the building methodically and carefully, knocking on doors and looking for ill survivors. Unsurprisingly, the apartments were empty and abandoned, doors ajar and uncared for. Fear had kept the survivors away. Scully took solace in the fact that the building was in excellent living condition, compared to many of the buildings she had searched through in the past. It was possible that after she checked every room, she could go back to a nearby group of survivors and move them off the streets into proper homes. It would be another small victory towards rebuilding society. People would get nowhere if they continued to cling to fear and paranoia, letting vague horror stories of a hideous infective mutant control their lives and actions.
It didn't help that as much as Scully cared for the sick and ill, she damaged her own cause by perpetuating their stories of her invincibility and power. All she knew was that the infection didn't affect her. But she wasn't some goddamned hero, like Luke Skywalker or Neo. Or like what Mulder should have been. He would have done the saviour thing much more justice than she. And he would have got a kick out of it too. Why God had decided to-
She had reached the fifth floor to find one door closed, unlike all the others. For a second, she wished she still had her gun with her. Just in case.
There was no answer when she knocked on the door, and when she turned the handle it gave way silently. Inside, the apartment was disturbingly pristine, reminiscent of homes from before the infection had struck, before chaos overruled order. Scully entered quietly, slowly, creeping like a cat towards the woman who was sitting in the corner of the living room, back to the wall and staring out the window with an expression so blank that Scully thought the woman was dead. But then the woman blinked, rubbed the heel of her palm against her grimy cheek, brown hair tangled and clothes in disarray. She looked like she had been here for a long time, judging from the hollowed, haunted look on her face, a combination of little food and a lot of pain.
"I know you." Scully said with shock. "You're the doctor who left the hospital suddenly, after all those deaths..." Scully sucked in a breath as everything became clear. This woman...
The sound of Scully's voice seemed to rouse the woman out of her trance. She looked up, blue eyes only mildly stunned to see the red-haired woman standing above her. As if she had realized the truth of this moment a long time ago. "I killed him." She said dazedly. "I killed Booth and I killed the all the others too." A pained expression crossed her face before being replaced by the mask of forlorn detachment that she wore so well, and Scully could do nothing more than slide down to the floor and sit next to her in silent company.
When it happened, Brennan was at the Jeffersonian, standing next to the remains of elderly man and arguing with Cam over cause of death. Brennan stopped talking and looked around with a puzzled expression on her face, noticing that everyone else was wearing the very same expression of puzzlement. The ground began to vibrate and they could hear the wind suddenly battering against the building. Without warning, the ceiling shattered and tempest gales hurled their way inside, tossing instruments to the ground and spraying everyone with shards of glass. Brennan held onto the table and managed to stay on her feet, watching Zack get pummelled by the wind and pitch backwards to the floor, head first with a resounding thud. Hodgins and Angela fell to the floor together, arms on each other's elbows. Cam tumbled to her knees, crawling over to where Zack was groaning in pain. The lights flickered before shutting off entirely, emergency lights casting their surroundings into faint shadows. There was a foul smell in the air, unlike anything she'd smelled before, which was startling considering how many repugnant odours she had smelled over the course of her career.
Eventually, the rumbling and shaking subsided, and they became aware of a blaring, klaxxon sound. The contamination alarm. Brennan turned and saw that the doors had indeed been sealed shut, trapping them all inside the lab for reasons that she couldn't predict.
Hodgins was setting a computer back into its upright position when he started coughing. The sound made the back of Brennan's throat tickle and burn, until she couldn't resist coughing herself. Within seconds, everyone within earshot was coughing as well, the sound echoing across the halls and walkways of the lab, passing through like an vocal cascade effect.
The coughing jag passed and they all looked at each other strangely. "That was weird." Angela said, fear in her eyes as they attempted to comprehend what exactly had happened to them.
Brennan leaned against her desk, sliding down to the floor when she found her legs no longer had the energy to support her. She felt like her energy was slowly leaking out of her pores, evaporating into the air and leaving her unable to move. Through the doorway she could see Cam tending to Zack, who was suffering from a concussion. Hodgins and Angela were sitting next to each other up on a table, Hodgins trying to stifle his coughs while Angela crossed her arms with a shiver.
"That's strange; it's not very cold in here. She shouldn't be shivering..." Brennan mused aloud, feeling her eyes grow heavy. Inside she was struggling to stay awake; she knew her physiology had to be imbalanced for her to be feeling the way she was. There was something very wrong with her, something very wrong with them all, and Temperance Brennan never went down without a fight. Even if it was with her own body.
But it was no use. Head resting against her desk, last thing Brennan saw before her eyes drifted shut was the image of Hodgins shaking Angela's shoulders, panic written across his face.
Her sleep was black and dreamless, solid and pervading like she envisioned death to be. A part of her had assumed that when she closed her eyes, she would never open them again, succumbing to whatever illness had gripped them. But she awoke, her consciousness slowly filtering back to reality. She was no longer leaning against the hard surface of her desk; someone had placed her on her couch with a blanket on top. The emergency lighting had turned off, pitching the Jeffersonian into an even more profound darkness than before.
And then she heard it, the muffled sounds of yelling and intermittent banging. What in the world was going on?
Brennan slowly stood up, taking shaky steps out of her office. The Jeffersonian was being lit by a handful of emergency candles, lamps, and flashlights. Shadowed figures milled about the platform, wracked with violent coughs as they tended to those who were lying down incapacitated. Brennan continued to stumble towards the banging noise and found herself facing the glass partition that locked the Jeffersonian up from the rest of the world. She could make out Hodgins, Cam, and Zack standing at the glass with their backs towards her, struggling to to widen a small hole that had been punctured into the glass. And on the other side-
"Bones!" Astonishment eclipsed the weariness in Booth's eyes as he lowered the crowbar he was holding, causing the rest of her team to turn around in shock.
Hodgins gaped. "Dr. Brennan! We thought you were..." He didn't continue, and Brennan wasn't sure if it was because he didn't want to touch upon the subject of her mortality, or if it was due to the uncontrollable coughing fit that seized him. Cam and Zack began to cough too, although not as loudly. The sound made Brennan's stomach turn; it was not a healthy noise. But she knew it would do her state of mind no good to linger on it.
"I'm fine, strangely enough." She turned to face Booth. "What's going on? What are you doing here?"
"I'm getting you out, Bones, what's it look like?" He replied, scowling slightly as he attacked the glass with the crowbar once again. "The government, or at least what's left of it, declared the Jeffersonian ground zero and instructed that it be kept sealed. You squints in here deserve more than being left to die by people who are too afraid to show their fellow man some dignity."
"Dignity and medical care. That's the two things we really need right now." Zack said with a wheeze.
"You've been asleep for almost 36 hours, Dr. Brennan." Cam explained gravely, her breathing disturbingly laboured. "A lot has happened."
Brennan frowned. "Where's Angela?"
"Like the kid said, you guys need medical aid..." Booth said, so softly that she could barely hear him through the glass. Cam looked away with a pained expression as Zack and Hodgins motioned towards Brennan, leading her towards the platform.
Angela was lying on her side, coughing fitfully, but her eyes lit up when Brennan came into view. "My god, sweetie, you look like the picture of health." She took a wheezing breath before continuing. "What are you doing here? Help Booth tear that glass down and get the hell out of here."
Brennan shook her head, feeling slightly overwhelmed by the seriousness of the situation. "I fought off the illness, Angela. You can fight it off too. I can't just leave you here." She looked aside to Hodgins and Zack. "I can't leave any of you here."
"While you were asleep, a lot of people died, Dr. Brennan. The Jeffersonian is, for all intents and purposes, a tomb." Zack mumbled straight-forwardly. "You're healthy; you can help us by going out and getting us what we need."
"Can't fight the system unless you face it head on, baby." Hodgins added with a cough.
"Get out of here, Bren." Angela said with a gasping breath that tore at Brennan's heart but built up her resolve. "Get out of here, take Booth with you, and kick the government's ass."
There shouldn't have been so much death at the hospital. With the initial infective wave coming to an end, people should have been recovering, just as she had. And yet Brennan found herself surrounded by the images of fatal coughs and physiological collapse.
"It's not safe for us here anymore, Bones." Booth's eyes were tired as he sat next to her in the uncomfortable plastic chair. "We haven't been able to convince anyone to offer medical aid to the Jeffersonian, and I for one wouldn't blame them. Things are bad here, really bad. If we stay here any longer, we'll be the ones wheeled out of here in sheets."
"We can't just give up, Booth! They were depending on us to bring them the resources they need to recover and survive." The lack of sleep and stress from the past few days were threatening to send Brennan over the edge as her voice began to climb in intensity. A woman near the nurses command center, a petite redhead that Brennan vaguely remembered to be a doctor, glanced at them with an expression she couldn't quite interpret before walking off to treat another patient.
"I know that, Bones. But we have
Brennan didn't speak for a long time, and when she did her voice was cold and resigned. "They're dead, aren't they? Everyone at the Jeffersonian, gone."
Booth put his arm around her shoulder, leaning his head against hers. "Hey, don't shut down on me now. This hurts me just as much as it hurts you."
A thought came to Brennan through the haze of her sadness, as she leaned against Booth. "Did you ever find Rebecca and Parker's, um...?" She wanted to say remains, but she didn't want to speak so bluntly to Booth. She already had a good idea what his answer would be.
Booth's shoulders sagged a little bit more and it was a long time before he replied. "No. There's no order in this city anymore. They were lost in the shuffle..." The pain in his voice was so profound, and Brennan felt her stoic detachment to the entire situation slowly collapse. There didn't seem to be anything more for them to do except hold each other and commiserate in their pain.
It was only once, but once was all it took and once was all they needed.
In fact, once was all they got.
She should have known. Some part of her probably had, that her miraculous survival was a gift and a curse, that she expirating the contagion just by breathing or talking. Kissing should have been out of the question. Sex, well... should have been very much out of the question.
But there was nothing left for them in the world but each other. When they got to his apartment, after a long day of tearing through the madness and panic in the city, she pressed herself against his body, arms around his shoulders and he gathered her in his arms. She tried to tell herself that it was about comfort, a distraction from the thoughts in her head, but she knew better than that. With her lips grazing across his jaw and her hands tangled in his hair, she knew much better than that.
Brennan thought it was pretty ridiculous that it had taken a catastrophic pandemic for her to finally realize what Booth meant to her.
When she and Mulder had visited the home of the witness (it didn't matter what the woman's name had been anymore), everything seemed fine with the world. They questioned her about her sister's disappearance, where she could have possibly gone to, whether she had any enemies. Mulder asked if the missing sister had dabbled in the occult or not, and had seemed rather satisfied to hear that she had.
"I'm telling you, Scully, this is a classic case of retribution within a coven. Once someone on the inside betrays the coven's secret magics, the other members make sure that person is silenced forever."
Scully was only half-listening as they walked along the gravel driveway towards their car. The skies had filled with ominous yellow-grey clouds and there was a rumbling sound coming from the distance. "Mulder, I think we'd better take-"
She didn't have a chance to continue before the the ground shook violently, screaming winds coming from nowhere to knock them to the ground. The air was filled with a sickly scent that made Scully gag, covering her nose and mouth in vain. She felt Mulder reach out for her arm, shouting for her to get into the car. They managed somehow, against the buffeting winds.
"What the hell was that?" Mulder asked, more puzzled than fearful as he threw the car into reverse and bolted out of the driveway.
Scully grimaced, seeing that she was getting no reception on her cell phone. "I have no idea. And it looks like we'll have to drive back to D.C. to find out."
"Scully, pull over." Mulder's voice was hoarse from the back seat, and Scully did her best to ignore how much the sound frightened her.
"No. We are getting you to a hospital and they will figure out what's wrong." She fixed her eyes on the long, deserted road, hearing him cough once more before taking a deep breath.
"Scully, I don't want to die alone in the back seat while you're too busy breaking the speed limit."
"You are not going to die, stop being fatalistic." Her voice was unrecognizable, cold as ice and hard enough to cut diamonds. She couldn't let it end like this. There was no way in fucking hell-
"Scully..." Mulder whispered, and this time Scully could practically taste the fear and anxiety in his voice. She saw a small farmhouse sitting on the side of the road and pulled over with a jerk of the wheel.
Even though the rational, medical examiner part of her warned her that it was not a good idea, Scully kissed him as his voice began to fail. She kissed him hard, and he kissed her back, pouring out every emotion they wanted to communicate in those last few seconds. And just at that moment, the skies parted and a foul rain began to fall, mingling with the tears that were falling down her cheeks.
Later, she sat there for an eternity, kneeling in the grass and mud while staring at the upturned earth. Her arms and back ached, and the rain that pounded down to soak her clothes was unnaturally cold. But she barely felt any of the physical pain. The emotional pain of loss overwhelmed everything else, numbing her entire body. There was nothing here but a freshly-dug grave, emerald grass, cold rain, a barren highway, and the temptation to just sit there until she could sit no more.
She sat there for an eternity. And after eternity ended, she got up from her penitence and went looking for answers.
Scully hadn't known what to expect, except for the worst. Even then, the magnitude of the devastation paralyzed her. D.C. was in ruins, its people in a panic, without the reassurance that there was somewhere else to go for help. Whosoever was villainous enough to unleash such a fate on an entire population (the news reports were so horrific that they stopped altogether) deserved to burn in hell.
The authorities were no help in clarifying what exactly was plaguing the country. Each government official that she faced had the same non-committal answer. And when she finally tracked down Skinner, it was not the reunion she had been hoping for. He was dying, prisoner to a hospital bed and succumbing to the same disease that had killed Mulder. The same disease that was killing thousands of people around her. Scully sat by Skinner's bed till the very end, watching the once strong man fade away. She made sure his body was not carelessly disposed of like some of the other patients that came into the hospital. There was a marker on Mulder's grave, but it was not enough; there was no way she would let the same unfortunate event happen twice to people she cared about.
And then she was alone. There was no way for her to contact her family; communications were shaky and cities had become isolated as the infection spread. The hospitals were inundated, and Scully found herself wanting to throw herself into helping those at distress. The government clearly wasn't going to be of any help, and it hurt to know that she could not honour Mulder by finding the answers she so desired.
Eventually, after Scully recognized ther gift, she knew there was another way to honour Mulder; by saving as many as she could, saving them in his memory, saving people when the one person she cared about above all couldn't have been saved.
"You didn't kill anyone, Dr. Brennan." Scully handed the brunette a bottle of water and a nutrient bar, which she took eagerly. "At least not in the sense that you're talking about."
Brennan took a sip of water before shaking her head. "I should have known better, put the pieces together sooner. I had no right to be working in a hospital full of immuno-compromised patients, or even being in contact with other healthy individuals. And now..." She took another sip of water, her mind elsewhere. "He thought he was protecting me. Instead, he died because of me. I had to bury him." Brennan tore the wrapper off the nutrient bar and bit it tiredly. "I consider myself relatively desensitized to death, but thinking about that day... I wish there was some way to strike that entire day from my memory."
Scully watched Brennan as she ate the bar unenthusiastically, realizing they had more in common than she had expected. "I had to bury someone too. It was terrible. I almost..." She didn't continue and Brennan didn't press for the story. They sat there, across from each other, lost in their own thoughts for some time.
"So you're not going to kill me?"
Scully sighed. "For the last time, no. I am not going to kill you. But we have to figure out a way to move you to a different location, and what that location would be."
"Well, the location would obviously be wherever you're living." Brennan answered with a mouth full of food, as if the decision were settled. Scully bristled at her assumption, then realized that what the other woman was saying made sense. She was the only one who could interact with Brennan without the threat of death looming over her head. For better or for worse, they were stuck with each other.
Scully let the stories leak out, that she had found the Carrier, who happened to be nothing more than a resolute, intelligent woman like herself, who was merely unfortunate enough to be a human contagion of the deadly infection people so feared. Scully told them about her offer of sanctuary, and that the Carrier was a real person with a name (her name is Temperance, by the way, a little respect for another human being, thanks) and to allow her the dignity to live her life in solitude. It was hard for the survivors to accept, that the threat of illness still lived in the city. But Scully promised that she would hold herself responsible for Brennan, no matter what the cost.
But it was not easy for Brennan. She was used to being independent, and now she found her survival hinged upon a woman who would be gone for days on end. She never knew whether she would run out of food and water before Scully came back, whether something had happened to her and she was once again resigned to starve to death, lest she wander out into the world and infect more innocent people in her search for sustenance. Brennan couldn't do that. So she spent her days sitting and waiting, watching the sun rise and set, examining the packs of survivors that roamed from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, marvelling at how the people of Washington now resembled the nomadic tribes of upper Mongolia in societal structure and composition. She missed being able to speak with Hodgins and Zack about such things. She missed being able to lean on Angela when she needed to talk to someone optimistic. She missed not being able to share her observations with Booth, and the sly remarks he would have made in return, that brilliant smile and the look in his eyes...
When Scully was gone, it was the only time she'd allow herself to cry for everything that was gone.
Brennan was reading a book when Scully finally returned. "You look tired." Brennan stated, a hint of worry lining her features.
"It hasn't been the best of days." She slipped out of the heavy black cloak as quickly as she could, tossing it to the floor with satisfaction and placing her pack on the sole table in the barely furnished room. She stood there for a long time, lost in thought, and Brennan didn't ask what the matter was because she knew Scully didn't want to talk about the suffering she had to deal with on a day to day basis. Finally, Scully came over and sat down on the floor across from Brennan. "What I need is something light-hearted to take my mind off of... everything."
Brennan looked at the packed bookcase thoughtfully. "I think there's a comic book in here somewhere. Aren't comic books light-hearted?"
Scully didn't answer, but looked at Brennan instead. "Why don't you tell me something funny about your friends at work?"
Brennan seemed uncertain. She had played this game before. "What purpose would that serve?"
"Well, if it's a light-hearted story, it'll make me feel better."
Brennan sighed and sat next to Scully. "Okay." She contemplated for a moment, searching for something appropriate, then looked back at Scully with a wistful smile. "I remember when my assistant Zack first moved in with Hodgins, they got into this discussion about the nature of good and evil as preconceived idioms, which somehow degenerated into an argument about exactly how blasphemous it would be to joke about god and the devil having a sexual relationship.
Scully couldn't help but sputter with laughter. "You do realize I'm Catholic, right?"
"Yes." Brennan replied, smiling sadly as something else entered her mind. "Booth was Catholic too."
"And Mulder was atheist like you." Scully murmured, once again pondering over the ways that she and Brennan fit together, in a perverse, opening-up-old-wounds sort of way. Sometimes it seemed as if their commonalities served no purpose other than to remind them of all they had lost.
"If you ever die, I think it would be in everyone's best interest if I terminated my own life."
Scully stopped re-stocking her pack with supplies to turn around slowly, replying to Brennan's statement by quirking an eyebrow upwards in disbelief.
Brennan repeated herself, calm as ever. "Logically, it makes the most sense for me to terminate my own life if you ever die. Or even if we are separated in any way."
Scully stepped away from the table and moved towards Brennan, a resolute look on her face as she reached up brushed her hand across the taller woman's cheek. "You think about death too much."
Brennan's gaze didn't waver.
Their kisses were always soft, as if every tender touch somehow nullified the violent mayhem that often raged outside their window. Always soft, with whispers and quiet sighs, fingers silently grazing across skin. They grasped at the sensation and clung to it, all the while trying not to think about different hands, rougher and larger and impossible to forget.