Cooling

Disclaimer: Special Agent Dana Katherine Scully, her apartment, her rental car, her answering machine, the people leaving messages on it, Special Agent Fox William Mulder, his apartment, the little green - sorry, grey - men and probably a whole lot of other things besides belong to 20th Century Fox/1013 Productions/Chris Carter/all of the above. CC is God, etc. etc., I am not trying to steal any of his money by doing this; it is intended merely to give bored X-Philes something to do whilst waiting for the next season premiere. Will that do? ;) Oh and the song 'Cooling', quoted throughout, is by…you guessed it…Tori Amos. I think the lyrics technically belong to Sword and Stone Publishing. There's a gorgeous live version of it on the album 'To Venus and Back' which should ideally be played very loudly through headphones as you read this. ;)

Archiving: I'm pretty new to the whole TXF fanfic thing but if anyone wants to do anything with this fic, you can email me and ask.

'Cooling'

or: 'Musings of a G-Woman' ;)

I've only posted HDM fanfic here so far, so this is my first TXF attempt. Actually, this is the first fanfic of any kind I ever wrote (at least the first one I ever finished), and I did it a little while ago, so forgive me if it is a bit crap. Being an ignorant Brit I really don't get these American censor ratings (what on earth does 'R' mean? Rambunctious? Rip-roaring? Rastafarian?), but I've given this a PG. As for content, it's basically as the subtitle says, and is set at some time vaguely post-Requiem (I haven't seen season 8 yet). I have copped out spectacularly in ignoring the whole pregnancy issue, because to be frank I don't buy it. :p Anyways, this is pretty short, somewhat sentimentally 'shippy and quite random, but I hope you enjoy it. :) Any reviews would be, as always, extremely welcome.

~ Celerity

'Maybe I didn't like to hear

But I still can't believe Speed Racer is dead

So then I thought I'd make some plans

But fire thought she'd really rather be water instead…'

His apartment building, achingly, unbearably familiar in the grey light. So many times I have walked into this lobby, so many times I have gone up in the featureless boxy lift and walked along the hallway. His hallway – our hallway, so ordinary in its dingy tastefulness, yet memories seep from the walls and surround me as I walk down to his door. A cleaner has paused in mid-work, and a sweeping machine lies abandoned on the grey floor as I pass. I take out my keys and clink through them until I find the one bearing his name. The familiar gold number already looks faded and scratched against the dark wood of the door. I open it, then pause for a moment, collecting myself. I can see him standing in the doorway. He is somehow too tall for himself, uncomfortable in his skin, and looking, as always, utterly out of place. One of his hands rests calm on the rough wood of the frame as he regards me with serious hazel eyes. His presence lingers so clearly that I can almost reach out and touch him. And yet he is not there. Where he ought to be there is a blank transparent space, through which I can see the dim ghosts of the couch and the fish tank. I shut the door again and lean against it, closing my eyes and drawing in breath like a diver surfacing. It seems I am not ready.

I leave the building impassively, and return to my car. The day shows no signs of brightening, and it is so cold I can see my breath condensing in the air and misting the windscreen. I switch the heaters on and pull out onto the road. I have to go home.

'Home', when I get there, is as cold and inhospitable as anywhere that has been uninhabited for a few days. I sift through the junk mail, then check my answer phone. A message from Mom telling me to call her. I am reminded that I haven't contacted her for almost a week. One from Skinner telling me there is no reason for me to come back to work yet; and a couple of messages of sympathy from FBI colleagues. I find myself suddenly, inexplicably furious. At the messages, at him for leaving me, and at myself for my weakness. I have always prided myself on my ability to keep calm in a crisis, even where he is concerned. Over the seven years we worked together, he constantly threw himself into the path of greatest danger. I recall vividly sitting at endless hospital beds, waiting and waiting for elusive consciousness, my anger at his recklessness and my fear for his recovery wound and coiled inside me, hidden even from him. What kept me sane during those times was work. As long as I had some remedy to pore over, some corpse to dissect, anything, however morbid, that made me feel I was helping him, that I was bringing him back, then I could continue. And then the joy, the irreplaceable joy of his recovery, in which all anger was forgotten and his return something to be savoured and clung to, until we fell back into our day-to-day routine as if nothing had happened.

But this – what kills me is the uncertainty. The simple fact that I do not know – and that I can do nothing, nothing to help him or even contact him – is what makes this harder than I could ever have thought possible.

I need to get away.

'So then love walked up to like

And said, "I know that you don't like me much

Let's go for a ride…"'

I quickly pack my overnight bag, then go outside into an undecided drizzle. The rental car is like a thousand others. It strikes me that so many of our life-changing, our defining moments have passed in cheap rental cars like this. It was in a car that he first told me, in his half-joking, utterly incomprehensible way, that he loved me. I hardly knew what to make of him in those early days. He was from the start such a mixture of insanity, genius, selfishness and unexpected tenderness that I was always more intrigued than alienated. I was fascinated by him, not in the way that a case or a scientific study fascinates, but in the way only a human being of his individuality can. He took me by the hand and led me into his madness, and he showed me through his bloody-minded, sometimes irritating stubbornness that there was more to life than what we can see, than what we can know for sure. And yet, all the time, inside him, driving him was the small, lost boy who wanted to know what had happened to his sister, what had happened to his childhood, and his sense of himself. This was what made me afraid, when he began subtly to change towards me; even declaring his love, laying himself open to my mockery or my rejection. I was afraid that what he felt for me was not love, but only his fundamental need for someone stronger than himself. I was afraid that I was not who he needed me to be; that I was not capable of looking after him forever.

And then, I cannot recall the exact moment at which it happened, but I realised something. Perhaps it was in a moment of high drama, when the unthinkable possibility of losing him occurred to me; more likely, in the evening at his apartment, slumped with him on the couch watching some old movie. I realised that I could not imagine my life without him in it. It was startling for me, someone who has gone through life making and breaking associations, unconsciously reluctant to make anything lasting, perhaps for fear that I should lose it again, to begin to understand: here, in this bewildering, complex man, was an element of my life which I could not let disappear. I needed him as much, if not as fundamentally, as he needed me.

I drive along the blurry stretch of highway, gripping the steering wheel with cold hands. We were always driving. Over the past seven years a ridiculous amount of our shared time has been spent in these black leather seats, or others very much like them. We had an odd attitude to our little road-trips. Sometimes we would not speak at all, except for a cursory enquiry about where we were going, or a quick briefing on whatever oddity we were to be confronted with. Other times, mainly when the car was still and we were on stakeout, we would talk; endless rambling conversations which touched on philosophy, literature, and invariably, our differing attitudes to our work. I loved him then; watching him as I questioned him, teased him, trying to find him out, and he would pause and consider his answer, then deliver it laconically, deadpan or with the hint of a smile, daring my derision or my laughter. Occasionally we would reach a moment, which would hover between us like a moth as we gazed, and then I would smile, turn away and shake my head, reminding myself that this was a man whose idea of another day at the office was chasing some genetic mutant, or getting lost in the Bermuda Triangle, or facing death at the hands of obsessive-compulsive vampires.

This ocean is wrapped around that pineapple tree

And is your place in heaven worth giving up these kisses?

These kisses…'

The motel is a grubby enough replica of hundreds we have stayed in. The room is blank and indifferent, a dusty border lining the walls and an empty plastic ashtray on the fake grain of a table. I lie in the crisp-sheeted bed and for a moment almost expect his gentle, hesitant knock on the door. I would open it to find him waiting unapologetic, and heavy with a burden which I shared and we would proceed to discharge, sometimes as urgently as if we feared the end of the world, sometimes as if time itself were an illusion that had no dominion over us. It became our unspoken custom for me to lie silent afterwards, staring into the fuzzy darkness while his silhouette moved as he dressed, his barefoot tread on the floor my only reminder that this was a reality. However, more and more frequently he would forget our habit and stay, holding me to him with his arm around me like a lifebelt, and for a while we would both feign sleep, our breathing deep but our eyes wide open in the dark. And sometimes, after a while, before the late-breaking dawn began to filter in through the slit blinds, disturbing our tranquillity, he would whisper in my ear, words which would bring the tears rising in my throat and move me to take his anchoring arm and kiss his hand, and hold it to me, to give him the only reply he expected.

The morning finds me sitting in the dingy roadside café, with a lonely piece of toast and a cup of weak-tasting coffee. The rainswept window, like a bleary eye, looks out onto the pale puddled highway. The mornings were strange at first. Like new acquaintances suddenly thrown into intimacy, we were awkward and unsure of what to say or do, but eventually we worked out our routine – I got up first, showered, dressed and went down to wait for him in the café, ordering us both a sparing breakfast. The mornings would become our most precious time; a time when we could pretend to be any two people, when the terrifying consequences of being who we were could be forgotten, or at least pushed aside, drowned in the cheap black coffee. We talked little, but communication was something we had time for; the silence refreshed us, it prepared us, and above all it protected us from having to acknowledge that whatever we had would be necessarily brief. Occasionally he would look up at me, and I would catch his gaze, and for a moment we were united in our freedom, and happy.

'And Peggy got a message for me from Jesus

And I've heard every word that You have said

And I know I have been driven like the snow -

But this is cooling faster than I can

This is cooling faster than I…'

I give up attempting to sleep, leave the motel and start driving. I no longer care where it is I'm going, or what I'm trying to do. It is still dark, and apart from my car and a few night-travelling lorries, the road is deserted. The rain is coming down afresh, and I open my window to the smell of damp concrete. From a distance I can hear loud country music, which it becomes apparent is emanating from a big van which approaches me, cheerily blasting twanging banjos across the road, its lights flashing. Then it is gone and the noise fades, leaving me alone with the sound of the rain and the tyres swishing on the wet road.

I take the next turnoff. Before long I am driving through a small town - the kind of small town that, not so long ago, was my dream. There was a time when I would have welcomed the kind of quiet, untroubled life which the people lead here in their pebble-dashed utopia, behind their immaculate gardens and proudly painted front doors. He changed all that, of course, just as he changed every other aspect of my life. Or rather he changed the possibility of it. I could dream of an existence in which we lived in some suburban barbeque-fuelled paradise, squalling kids reeling round as we chatted to the neighbours over the picket fence, but it could never be. As long as we were who we were, as long as we did what we did, we could only envy them their permanence, their effortless assurance that their world was unchanging and their future secure.

But during our seven-year partnership I had come to realise something. Happiness was not something which could be defined, which fitted a framework. Happiness could be found in a cheerless apartment, on an endless car journey, even in a miserable motel room, just as much as in any perfect suburban dream. Happiness was something fragile and beautiful which we had built together for ourselves in our little universe of darkness and deceit. It was something that we could not take for granted, something to be cherished while it lasted, before it was snatched away.

I drive on, feeling empty. The gardens are silent, a silver birch oddly lovely in the darkness. I pass a closed-up shop, and a gaudy bar, music drifting out. I am surprised to find that the tears I have denied for so long are ebbing out of me, blurring my vision. I pull over and get out of the car. The night, apart from the faraway sweep of traffic, is quiet. The wind is not so strong as I thought, but it buffets the high building in front of me. I look up. A church, with a neon cross like a beacon, casting a yellow pallor over the damp street before it. I go in. It is deserted and dark, but tall candles burn on the purple altar cloth. I walk slowly up the aisle, conscious of the echoing clicks of my heels, and look up. The ceiling above me is vaulted, and the old wood is full of tiny holes. There is even, bizarrely, a skylight, through which a patch of black star-sprinkled heaven stares impassively down.

I kneel at the altar and cross myself. Then I sit for a while in the glow of the candles, not thinking, drinking in the silence. A strange, unnatural calm comes over me, and I find myself questioning why this curious apathy has chosen to creep over me now. I wonder, almost without involvement, whether he is dead. Then I close my eyes, and take in a deep breath of the musty scented air. I sit there on the polished dark wood for longer than I can tell, and I think of him. His eyes, his voice, his humour, his earnestness, his faith, his vulnerability, his strength. And finally the conviction comes to me. He is not gone forever. And it is up to me to bring him back.

I leave the church with a new sense of calm purpose. I look up at the uncaring pinpricks of stars, and for an instant the enormity of the distance, the vastness, hits me like a thunderbolt. I stare for a while, then leave the sky behind for the inside of the car, and drive home.

* * *

That's it. :) Thank you for reading.

~ Celerity