Reflections as the Light Begins To Fade

by Amy L. Hull

ooo

Written for memories_child in the Femme_fic spring '09 ficathon

Prompt: Scully/Mulder, Twilight's last gleaming

Set just after "Paper Clip," spoilers for "Deep Throat," "Squeeze," "Ice," "Darkness Falls," "Tooms," "The Erleynmeyer Flask," "Duane Barry" through "One Breath," "Irresistible," "The Blessing Way," "Paper Clip," and some general S1 & S2

Thanks to Amy R. for beta and the incredibly needed structural suggestions, to Constance and Emily D. for betas, and to Jill for making me tighten it up much more than I had in ways that improved it dramatically.

ooo

There is familiarity this morning in the slight resistance of the tumblers against her key, the need to tug the doorknob to get the bolt to slide free, the snick of the light switch. The familiarity is not at all comforting, any more than the hard surface of her office chair is comforting. When she told Mulder she needed something to put her back against she'd meant it metaphorically, but some part of her still hoped that the solidity of the wood behind her would make her feel ready to battle for answers, even with her sister dead.

It doesn't.

Things spun out of control from almost the first moment they met.

For a time, she believed he had the upper hand in their partnership. Slowly, quickly, she realized neither of them had any kind of upper hand. The whirlwind into which he'd stepped willingly controlled their fates, and no matter how she tried to stay back, the swirl of that spiral drew her inevitably into a realm of dangers, secrets, and betrayals, into conspiracies she laughed at.

That night in Idaho when he'd stumbled through the gate in the chain link fence, shirttail hanging out, tired and dirty and confused in the glare of the car's headlights, she'd known she should leave. Joining his quest would be only dangerous and costly and she should pack her briefcase and go back to Quantico, should forget everything about Agent Mulder except that he was a crackpot who worked in the FBI basement.

But she didn't. She was too curious, too convinced that there were logical, rational, scientific answers, that, in just a short time, she'd find and prove his crazy theories wrong. Then he'd come back to real investigations, bring his intellect back to serious cases rather than incessantly chasing shadows.

Instead there were months of clenching her jaw, of bailing him out and chewing him out, of writing reports...creatively, of explaining away to herself things that went bump in strange places.

It was in the late hours of the night, as she lay in the dimness while the streetlights outside her window cast strangely-shaped shadows on her bedspread. It was then that she saw monsters. Elongated fingers. Aliens come to dissect and mutilate. Lipless cows. Worms crawling into brains. Government-issue cars of men with guns aimed at her as if she were the enemy.

She'd known him for only two months when she found herself contemplating buying a night light she'd never needed before in her life.

Most of that first year, he nodded when she left for the evening, greeted her in the mornings with his rumpled shirt and mussed hair, and smiled knowingly. He slept in the basement at the FBI. He knew he wasn't safe there, but he slept.

She slept, but roughly and ever less, even though she said she didn't believe in his bogeymen.

He always knew what seemed like everything and the smile...that smile was like condescension she couldn't escape. Not a condescension of smugness or disdain, but one that she knew meant he was quietly, patiently waiting for her to get it, for her to be fully on board and believing in crazy paranormal conspiracies.

Now, though, now she is fully on board. Not, she amends, staring at his UFO poster, for the crazy paranormal conspiracies. But the government conspiracies she had thought crazy, those are real, and she has questions about them.

Like him, she intends to unearth answers if she has to dig in the desert, the forests, the mountains, or the U.S. Senate. Even if it changes everything.

Everything changed for her already in Washington. She knew in that forest that darkness was never again going to be anything but the enemy. They fought the darkness with generators, with fire, with electricity, with everything in their power, and still, she found herself trapped in a car that was not at all airtight, suffocating on bugs. The darkness was punctuated only by glowing swarm humming around them.

She woke in a sterile room, all white. The darkness was replaced by lights and glare so bright they hurt her eyes, and as she looked to her side and saw Mulder there, also still breathing--air and not bugs this time--she realized her last thought, her very last thought, had been, "Now he'll never know."

Their search for the truth led inexorably to more questions. Like her, he believed there were answers out there, but her definition of answers involved absolutes and a benevolent, just government, while his were decidedly "out there." He didn't believe there was justice in this tangle of lies. He had suffered for the truth, and tried to warn her she would too.

She was undone by her own hubris and her belief in the system and now her sister is dead. She grips the edge of the chair until her hand hurts. It is older, but not so unlike the hospital chair where she sat yesterday. Her chest feels emptier than her dry eyes. Guilt and sisters who died in their places are things she and Mulder now share.

Once her belief that Mulder's conspiracies were founded on hyperbole led her to shrug off the Duane Barrys of the world as just as harmless as he was. As usual, it was in the spaces of the oncoming dark that the truth found its way to her. It was in the airless space of a car trunk, her head ricocheting off a plastic toolbox, that she saw how little light was needed to illuminate the whole of everything she thought she knew.

That white light people talked of, the one that should be from the final gasp of the synapses of the brain as it shuts down, she saw it. Then it was gone, and there were other lights, and her mother and her sister. Later, the glimmer of light was reflected off her cross, dangling from Mulder's hand. She'd held onto his beliefs, he to hers. They'd traded places as she'd seen her life end, thinking this time how neither of them would ever know any of the truths they sought.

Her mother doesn't understand why she continued to work for the FBI after her disappearance, why she continues to work with Mulder, poking at a dark spot that wants to stay hidden. But she keeps going because there are facts. Clear, indisputable facts that everyone knows. Gravity works. The government serves the people. The speed of light is 186,000 miles per second. These facts could add up to a truth that could be laid open for all to see.

Mulder deals in none of these. Mulder skulks around unlit buildings, and she follows, voicing her reluctance and questioning his sanity all the way.

She has never shared the times she questioned her own sanity.

She never told Mulder she'd seen her own face in Donnie Pfaster's file. That wasn't a fact. It certainly had no paranormal meaning. She did not think about her mother knowing she'd gone missing, or about Melissa's claims to have the sight of their Irish forebears. Her abduction by Duane Barry was still recent, even if he had been a different kind of nutjob. The delusion was just jumpiness: her own fears thrown back at her.

Running from Pfaster in his house, the darkness that was in him, in her, in the world, telescoped in on her. When pinpricks of light penetrated, it was Mulder, there, armed with just a flashlight against the darkness, bringing the truth that she was safe.

That was what broke her, she thought later. That she wasn't safe. That none of them were safe, not ever. Reality as she'd known it was bent and warped. Things that couldn't be taunted her, just past the edge of her vision. She was no longer sure they'd find a truth that could see the light of day even once she'd explained it with plain scientific fact. She was sure that truth would bring no justice or closure and any answers were likely to be real monsters, unvanquishable by a flashlight, full sunlight, or universal exposure and scrutiny.

The doorknob turns and the familiar squeak of the door heralds his arrival. She is grateful that he is only now arriving, that he spent last night away from the office, that she has been able to settle into the office in her own way, in peace.

She hated him as he sat with her, his arm around her shoulders an arm's length from the neatly-made hospital bed that had been Melissa's. It mocked the truth with its perfectly white sheets, folded back in perfect perpendicular lines across the mattress, tucked in with perfect hospital corners. Neat and tidy, and entirely unlike the real world, real politics, the government that was to protect its people but instead got her sister dead.

This morning she busies herself with a folder in which she reads nothing. He does not greet her or speak, merely sets one hand on her shoulder.

Her sister is dead and he still hopes his might be found, though she knows he knows better. But Melissa will never be back. Melissa died because someone wanted her--Dana--dead, because she did not turn her back on Mulder's crazy, right ramblings, because she looked for his precious, crazy version of the truth, the same truth she is planning to chase until she cannot run any longer.

It is his fault. And he is there, offering sympathy in his way because he, too, has lost his sister, and knows that it was part of a plan, the choice of "good" men elected to do the will of the people but who sacrificed individuals for those people. His hand on her shoulder carries all the weight of his rightness...no matter that he does not say a word, no matter that he would not say "I told you so." He knows and is unsurprised and her sister is dead.

She resists the urge to shrug his hand away, even knowing he would not resent it in the least. She hates him for being right, for being there, for Melissa being dead, for refusing to stop asking questions in that persistent way he has. Melissa is dead and it is his fault. And her fault. And no one else can understand any of that because no one else knows what they know.

She hopes fervently that he won't leave or move his hand.

ooo

ooo