TITLE: In the Bleak
AUTHOR: Teanna E
SITE: http://www.gatefiction.com/teanna
ARCHIVE: Gossamer yes , Ephemeral yes, everyone else please ask, or feel free to link to http://www.gatefiction.com/teanna/bleak.txt
CLASSIFICATION: S, Post-colonization
DISCLAIMER: Chris Carter, 1013, bla bla not mine

SUMMARY: In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan/ Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone

NOTES: This is not a happy story. Think twice before reading, if you usually avoid bleak stuff. More notes after story.

Three times a day, Mulder walks past the corpse of Lance Aldrin. Three times; going to work, going to the hospital, going home.

In the morning, on his way to work, he's usually not thinking about it; it's been a night between, and so many other things (so many other deaths), that it's nearly always a surprise to suddenly walk past the corpse, it lies just off the trampled road, Lance bites the dust one final time.

In the morning, Lance looks his worst. Worse every day, and Mulder thinks, one fleeting thought he's had before and will have again, he thinks he should ask Scully how long it'll take Lance to become one with the roadside. But by the time he sees Scully, at the hospital, that thought is a thing of the past.

Because when he sees Lance Aldrin's corpse for the second time on any given day, he's tired from hard work outdoors, he's hungry and feels sorry for himself. Also, the children usually gather around the corpse at that time, it's where they hang out, the children, waiting to grow just a bit taller so they can get their hands on one of the guns.

So then, the thought upon seeing Lance Aldrin's corpse in the dust, is one of indignation.

"Because," he says to Scully, as they eat their sandwiches in the mess, "children, hanging out where there is a corpse. Little kids. Myra Barron's just five, I saw her there yesterday."

Scully, who's heard it all before, shrugs. She used to be so careful about children, it was all that mattered to her, children were what mattered. She's seen too many dead children now. Maybe.

"Lance was a kid, too," she says, and her voice is cold. Lance raped Laura Burchardt before he blew her brains out.

"Yeah. Sixteen, the week before."

They've had this same conversation for three weeks now. Their eyes meet, in understanding.

"Where did we sign up for this, eh?" says Scully, smiling but it doesn't reach her eyes.

"Signed on and didn't know it."

The third time, it's night and he's done his shift at the hospital. He waits for Scully, most of the time, even if it means sleeping on a sofa until she can take off. There are very few doctors in Jabber's Creek (most people these days call it Land's End) and if Scully isn't busy with patients she's busy training people.

When they leave, finally, it's cold outside, and he'll button his coat, it's a dark coat from his Washington days, he sometimes remembers how much he paid for it. Mostly, if he thinks about it, he thinks about how it doesn't go with his workman's clothes.

Scully, escaping Washington DC and the inferno that was her apartment - building on fire, is wearing what she's been given. In the hospital, it's all white and sterile; outside of the hospital it's warm sweaters and jeans, and the warm boots she loves because of the sheep - fur inside.

Her hair, it's never been this long (that he knows), she keeps it in a braid mostly and he thinks, when he remembers such things, that she looks more like her sister Melissa now. But he has trouble remembering his mother's face, and so he might be wrong.

She doesn't actually take good care of herself, anymore. Clean, yeah, because of work, but not neat, not groomed, not... Scully. Not so much.

And they walk past the corpse of Lance Aldrin, in the dark, and Mulder doesn't think about it much, that third time. Because they have to eat, and then they will sleep.

In bed, most nights, she slaps at his hands and it hurts. And so he keeps his hands to himself, and in his sexual fantasies she looks like she used to look in DC, short hair and smart suits and all.

It's been four weeks, and one day when Mulder walks past the corpse of Lance Aldrin, on his way to hospital, the kids are there and so is the Sheriff. Doggett.

Doggett. They say he shot the kids down in Talla, the kids that ran around wild, in packs. Wolflings, they call them now; kids that survived when their parents, their whole family, their community, were wiped out. Wolflings don't come to Land's End, it's too well protected, but there used to be a lot of them down in Talla.

But that might all be old wives' tales; because Doggett came from nowhere and then he was suddenly the Sheriff, and so people will talk about him. Mulder stays clear of all that, he lies low waiting for what he hopes and prays will happen, what he works for every day and most nights. What he plans for when he's been slapped away by Scully and he's lying next to her, hurting.

And. He doesn't tell her this, not anymore. So that's a secret he's got from her. That's a secret.

So, Doggett is there, he's standing with his deputies and Willy K., Willy used to deal drugs to schoolchildren in Ohio, then the world went to hell fast and out of all the people in Ohio, so few survived, and Willy K. did.

"Strike one for humanity," says Scully, about that.

As Mulder walks by, he's struck with pity for the corpse of Lance Aldrin, and he comes to an awkward halt. Because he should keep a low profile, really he should. But. It's been four weeks. He walks up to Doggett, and the Sheriff looks at him with that cold blue stare of his.

There's a scar running down his left cheek and he smells of hooch. Not a lot of alcohol around these parts, not anymore, but Doggett must've gotten hold of a never ending supply, because he's always smelling of it.

"Mr. Aronson," says Doggett, nodding. Aronson is the name on the ID Mulder was carrying when they got to Land's End, a year ago. He doesn't look like an Aronson, Mulder knows this, but the name has stuck to him, like his old coat. Scully's Dr. Aronson. Mrs. Dr. Aronson. They hadn't planned on being married but she lost her false papers in the fire. And then, after that, it was useless trying to find new.

"Sheriff," says Mulder, "about Lance here, the body."

Mulder is looking down as he talks to the Sheriff, his shoulders hunched. Stay low, don't draw attention to yourself. Stay down.


"It's been four weeks."

Mulder looks up, finally meeting Doggett's eyes.

"The kid needs a decent burial. Besides, it's unhealthy."

Doggett makes a sound, something between a laugh and a sigh.

"Unhealthy, as if the air and the waters weren't polluted, you mean? As if, as if the kids weren't going to die from the Plague, you mean, like that?"

Mulder doesn't reply, just looks at Doggett. Doggett shrugs.

"I've left him as a message to the kids. Make sure they don't rape any other women. Who knows what could happen to the fine women of Land's End, else."

Fine women. There is no doubt in Mulder's mind that Doggett's talking about Scully. His wife, in this matter she is his wife, yes.

"There is no decency in this," says Mulder, to Doggett, and his voice is full of, overflowing with, contempt. It's his old Washington voice, he realizes.

Doggett does not take such things lightly, which Mulder should have known, must have known really. And so Doggett grabs his shirt and pushes him away, hard. Mulder stumbles, falls, falls into the dirt on the roadside, rolling and ending up near the corpse of Lance Aldrin. Lance stares at him with dead eyes.

Mulder remembers that it was Doggett who executed the kid. He shot him, three times, and Lance died there.

Doggett leans over him, whispers:

"Don't play games with me. Spooky."

Then, like that, he's gone.

Mulder gets up from the ground, brushes off the dirt on his jeans, wipes away blood from his lip.

Over lunch, Scully's chewing her sandwich, writing notes with one hand, her eyes far away. Mulder leans over the table, whispers:

"Doggett's FBI."

She doesn't react, and he wonders if he didn't really whisper that, maybe he just thought it. Or if she's stopped hearing his words, if she's gone too far into herself, if she's forgotten what they were. What they meant to each other.

It's been five weeks, and the rain turned the roadside into a field of mud, and only the face and right hand of Lance Aldrin is visible. The face, the corpse is grinning now, and most of the kids have moved away and gather elsewhere. Some kids still stay, Myra Barron is there. Myra Barron is just five, and when she smiles, sometimes, there is hope. But Mulder knows her sister died just last month, and Myra has a nasty cough.

The right hand of Lance Aldrin is pointing straight at Mulder.

Spooky. And Mulder, by night, next to Scully, who has taken to kicking him whenever he turns to her in his sleep, Mulder lies awake, going through every person he ever met in the Bureau. One by one. One by one.

One morning, as Mulder is walking by the pointing hand and grinning face of Lance Aldrin, Myra Barron's waiting for him. She's not been awake long, her hair is messy and there are marks from her pillow still on her face. But her eyes are alert.

"There's some new wood over at Waller's Pond," she tells him, "Ma says you should get over there in a day or three."

She coughs, then, and Mulder bends down, squats next to her.

"Let me take you to see the doctor, Myra," he says. But she shakes her head.

"Ma says to hurry." And then she runs away, but not home, her home is the other way, and Mulder doesn't want to guess where she's going.

New wood. News. Finally.

That night, Scully's writing by candlelight, and Mulder keeps her company, mending a shirt. He mends all of their clothes; she's got a neater stitch but doesn't have the time or patience anymore. Too many things to mend at work, for Scully.

"I got some news today," he wants to say but doesn't, because, while he trusts her with his life and more, he does not trust her with this, not yet. Instead:

"Myra Barron's coughing bad."

She looks up, and there is something in her eyes.


"Yeah. Like her sister did."

"Like her sister," says Scully. Then she stands up, pulls on her jacket.

"Where are you going?" He asks, and then he feels stupid, for asking, for her making him have to ask.

"Just out. I'll be fine. Just... out."

She leaves and he's alone and there was a message, news, this morning. Two days. Two more days.

But two days later, in the early morning, someone bangs on the door to their cabin. Mulder pulls on his jeans and opens the door. Scully is already out of bed, but she sits by the fire and ignores the banging.

It's Doggett.

"Sheriff," says Mulder, running a hand over his stubble. He tries to smile. Unless Doggett says something about the Bureau, Mulder will pretend he never heard that "Spooky". "What can we do for you?"

"There's a woman, a -" Doggett stops. "She was shot last night, shot and raped."

"Ah, you'll be wanting Dr. Aronson, then," says Mulder. He gestures in Scully's direction. He can tell, from small movements she makes (he knows her that well) that she's listening. But she doesn't speak, doesn't turn around.

"I'll 'be wanting'," Doggett's voice is heavy with sarcasm as he repeats Mulder's idiom, "both of you, Agent Mulder."

Doggett steps over the threshold, so Mulder can close the door behind him .

There is a sound, over by the fireplace. Then Scully stands, and she's holding her gun and pointing it at Doggett. She's looking very professional, very much like she knows what she's doing.

And Mulder can't help thinking that this is the first time she's been like her old self in more than eight months.

"What," says Doggett, "you gonna shoot me right here?"

"You killed those children," says Scully, and her voice is so calm, "down in Talla."

"If I tell you I didn't, you gonna believe me?"

Scully looks like she's about to say 'no', but Mulder is the first one to talk.

"I believe you."

Both Scully and Doggett look at him; Scully with anger, Doggett with surprise.

"I finally remembered you. John Doggett. You're with the Bureau."

"Lots of *them* were with the Bureau," says Scully, "Mulder, I swear you'd listen to fucking *Krycek* if he knocked on the door."

"No, I wouldn't."

They look at each other. There is that look in Scully's eyes, again. And Mulder thinks, he can't help but wonder if he knows her all that well, anymore.

But then she looks down, and says:

"No, you wouldn't," and she's not lying.

"Put the gun down, Scully," says Mulder, and just being allowed that, to call her by her right name, it's a wonderful feeling. Too long since.

She puts the gun down, and Doggett, who has kept a vary eye on the gun all this time, he nods in the direction of the door.

"Marla Hemmings was raped and murdered last night. She left the bakery around midnight, crossed Main, and then someone got to her."

"Shouldn't be too hard for you to track the killer down," says Scully, "it took you all of three hours to find Lance Aldrin and execute him."

Lance Aldrin, again. And Mulder wonders why they aren't all discussing the fact that three FBI agents all ended up in Land's End.

Doggett shrugs.

"These are hard times, Ma'am. Me, I survived Los Angeles. Aldrin was crazy."

"Says the professionally trained psychiatrist?"

"I didn't kill those kids, Agent Scully, but I saw them. Half - crazy, not quite human. Aldrin would not have stopped after killing Laura Burchardt. He wouldn't have stopped there."

Scully's lips are thin and white from being pressed together; her teeth are showing, and Mulder thinks she's looking pretty feral, just now.

Doggett suddenly turns, walks to the door and opens it.

"I'll wait for you outside. We should find this person before he kills again."

Mulder puts out a hand, tries to touch Scully, but she steps back and starts to collect her things.

"I'm sorry we have to put up with him," says Mulder, wanting a reaction, a word, something.

"Yeah, well, it's how it is these days, isn't it? FBI agents shooting kids."

"There is no FBI anymore."

It feels weird saying that, but he's been telling himself the same thing for a long time, now.

"I had hoped -" Scully cuts herself off abruptly. "Never mind. Let's go."

Mulder wonders what she was hoping for, knows it's futile to ask.

Someone has put a blanket over the body of Marla Hemmings; a rare gesture of kindness, these days. Marla is lying a ways from the corpse of Lance Aldrin. His hand points accusingly at her; Mulder thinks, morbidly, that he's commenting on the fact that he's obviously not the only rapist-murderer Land's End ever had.

Scully huddles down next to Marla, pulling on gloves. She's one of few people allowed plastic gloves, they have to ration them and most people just scrub down several times a day. Marla was shot in the chest, at a close distance. Her mouth is round and her eyes opened, she looks surprised. Mulder knows that however he will look, dead, it won't be surprised.

Leaving the body for Scully to tend to, he turns to Doggett.

"Are you doing a door - to door?" Or door - to shed, more like, but figures of speech, Mulder has realized, stay the same for the longest time.

"Trying for a head count," says Doggett, "but there is the whole crowd over at Miller's Field, lots of young men there and no one knows them yet."

Doggett has told the Town Meet several times that they should close off Land's End, for safety, but the fact is that too many people die every day, and they need the newcomers. Apart from the fact that you don't abandon people in need; but these days, that's not really a valid argument.

Still, here they are, trying to help Marla Hemmings (in a way, anyway).

Scully is standing up, directing two deputies to carry the body to the hospital. She turns to them, then she sees Lance Aldrin's corpse, and she frowns. Looks straight at Doggett.

"Bury him, today. No more corpses rotting in the streets, Sheriff. No more."

Doggett shrugs, but he says nothing so Mulder assumes he'll do it.

He sees people, by the edge of the woods - going to work - and he remembers (not that he ever forgot, not this no) that this evening, he's supposed to meet someone.

And also, he really shouldn't be here.

"I'm leaving," he tells Scully and Doggett, and Scully nods.

And as he turns to leave he has a flash, a memory, and he sees his sister, playing the piano. Her hands move along the keys so easily, there doesn't seem to be any effort involved.

"Mulder?" says Scully, only her voice almost breaks and so she says "Mul - der" and this his name, that she forgets herself like that, and with the new image of his sister (it may not be a true memory but) and it all comes together and is a blessing, of sorts.

Miller's Field used to be just like its name - there was a mill, a stream, and a field with a road through it, a road that had taken people to and from the mill for a hundred years. They had tried to get it to work, again, but the millstone was lost and the stream to narrow and the road full of tents, huts - and cardboard boxes just the right size for a child.

If you survived Miller's Field, you could move into Land's End when some poor family died and you got a say in the Town Meet and you could carry a gun if you could reach (if on tip-toe, you could reach) the name Tom Harold Ericson on the War Memorial. The gold paint on the name has faded, so many eager hands have reached for it - Mulder sometimes wonders if Tom Harold Ericson could have pictured this, and maybe he could have, maybe he did picture something like this as he died in the mud on the beaches of Normandy.

Mulder, he should have gone to his work, but he used to be an FBI agent, when there were FBI agents, and that work takes precedence. It's what he does best, after all.

And so he makes his way along the muddy road toward the mill, and he observes the people he passes and they observe him, or, they look at his weapon and his coat and his boots. A woman who has lost several of her teeth smiles at him.

He smiles back. An invitation if ever he saw one.

"Could you help me? My name's Aronson, I'm looking for the people - the person - in charge here."

She shrugs.

"Not much order around here, but there's a man named Butch sleeping in the mill - warmest place around here, so he gets to be in charge. That what you needed?"

"Yeah, thanks." He makes as if to leave, but she moves, suddenly.

"Only I have my daughter, she's real pretty..."

"No, no." He turns away, wants to escape before she can tell him her daughter's age. Because.

Two men guard the mill, one of them has a shotgun. But Mulder's from Town, and it was a long time since he feared men with shotguns (Marla Hemmings had reason to fear), and so he nods.

"I want to speak to Butch. Do you think you can find him for me?" He smiles, shrugs. He's not in any hurry. One of the men - he's got hair down to his waist, and it hasn't been washed for a long time - leans over and shouts for "Butch". There is no door.

After some time, long enough so as to make sure Mulder knows Butch isn't in any hurry, either, the man comes to the doorway. Mulder has seen him before - he's been denied a home in Town, by the Meet, a couple of times.

Scully looked at him, once, and said "sailor," and Mulder wonders, for a second, how a sailor ended up in Land's End. No sailing in this town, no.

"A woman was murdered, raped and murdered, last night. You know anything, Butch?"

"What's it to you?"

"The Sheriff has asked for my help in finding the person who did this."

The man with the long hair, leaning against the doorway next to Butch, spits on the ground.


Butch shrugs.

"Ain't no cops no more. You're..."


"The Doc's husband."

"Do you know anything about what happened to Marla Hemmings? Or were you all asleep last night?"

Butch shrugs again. And indeed, he's got nothing to gain by talking. Doggett's "shoot first, ask later" policy paying off.

"All right." Mulder backs down. He has plans, and Marla Hemmings is dead and beyond rescue.

He turns and walks away, but stops as Butch says, loudly:

"You'd do well to ask your fine Sheriff where *he* was last night, Officer Aronson. Maybe you should be more careful about who you let into your town, eh?"

Mulder starts walking again. Move along. Move it along.

He finds Scully at the hospital, working with those who still live. He tells her there is nothing to tell.

"Did you find anything..."

"No." She makes an impatient gesture with her hand: but if it's impatience with him or with the whole thing, he doesn't know.

"Oh. Well, back to work, I guess. I'll see you later."

"Yeah." She looks pale, sick. He wants to help her but there's nothing he can do here, that will help. Only...

"I'll be home late, tonight - will you walk home with someone else?"

She wipes a tired hand across her face, and then, it sweeps down her chest and lands on the butt of her gun.

"I will get home by myself, Mulder."

And he longs, desperately, for the night to fall.

A child has led me to these woods, he thinks, and like so many times before, like so many times since They came, he doesn't know if he is quoting someone or if he made it up. The words are heavy and they don't go well with what he remembers of himself, of what he was like - his words were lighter, before.

But no child walks with him this night, as he walks up to three people, huddled together at the edge of the creek. Two women, tall and thin and tired women, both with long hair, like Scully's. And a man, and if Mulder hadn't lost the ability to be surprised a long time ago (he has seen too much, now) he would have been surprised that he knew the man.


And Mulder thinks, how glad I am that it was Langly and not Byers or Frohike. For I carry them in mine heart, too close.

Langly is still tall and thin but he has almost no hair; it's cut close to the scalp. Scully has had to teach many people these past years about lice, but Mulder doesn't think Langly has had trouble with lice.

"Well. Been a while."

Mulder nods, carefully. He does not forget that the Others may take on any form, and face. Also, it's been a while, indeed.

Langly's fingering some sort of gun; his fingers drum out a message Mulder can't understand.

Langly sees what Mulder's looking at.

"It's a cattle prod, believe it or not." He smiles, then, and Mulder wishes he hadn't, because of the missing teeth. And this is ridiculous, but to Mulder it's proof that this surely must be Langly. And he smiles back.

One of the women moves, impatience radiating from her. And Langly stops smiling his toothless smile and tells Mulder:

"It's going to happen. We're getting everyone together."

Mulder lets go of a breath he didn't know he was holding. Finally. It's going to happen.

"You need to leave with us, though. They are coming this way. One, maybe two weeks, and this place is gonna be gone."

One of the women coughs, softly, and Mulder thinks of Myra Barron. Then he thinks of Scully, and of Marla Hemmings and Doggett and of Scully, of Scully, Scully, Scully.

Of the people of Land's End.

"If They are coming this way, where do we...?"

"We're heading North, then back South," says one of the women, suddenly.

Mulder thinks of the road ahead. Of how little time they have left to find Marla Hemmings' murderer, and then he knows that it doesn't matter if they don't.

"You alone?" asks Langly, and Mulder realizes that no one knows Scully is alive.

"No, another person with me." He nods, carefully, at Langly. Yes, Dana Scully is alive.


"I found someone... From Before."

Langly of old would have asked, yes, but Langly of today does not ask. Mulder suddenly knows he doesn't want to know if Byers or Frohike are alive. It's unfair, too; Doggett is only from Before due to being an FBI agent.

"No one you knew. But he was in the B -"

A sound, a twig breaking. The women draw their guns. Time to break up; no time for talk, this. No time.

It's nearly midnight when Mulder returns home, but the cabin is cold and dark, and the fire unlit. He wants to fall into bed with his clothes on and pile the blankets on top of himself and sleep, sleep, but instead he walks to the hospital and looks for Scully.

She's sitting by a bed in a small room, and as he walks up to her he sees that Myra Barron lies in it, her face red with fever. She coughs, softly, in her worried sleep. Scully smoothes her hair, like a worried mother would.

It's their last morning in Land's End, but only Mulder knows that. Scully is sleeping, at the hospital, tired after tending to Myra Barron for three days and nights. Myra's condition is steadily deteriorating; Mulder sees this in Scully's eyes, even if she does not speak the words. Sometimes Scully puts a hand to her back, wincing, and Mulder wonders if her bones ache. That's the first sign someone's got the Fever. But Scully doesn't speak much now, and she wouldn't tell him if he asked. He knows her that well.
But he has to tell her; they have to leave today. Join the Resistance for real, see if the rumors about Europe are true, and fight. For the sake of the children they will never have, and the children who are dead, and those who are dying.

For Myra Barron.

He puts a hand on Scully's shoulder: shakes her gently. She's sleeping in a chair, her hand holding onto Myra's even as they both sleep.

"Scully, it's time."

Her eyes open, her head snaps up.

"What? Myra?" Worried. But the child still lives.

"It's time," Mulder repeats.

"Time? What..."

Scully's eyes finally meet his, and then they don't need words: she knows. She lifts a hand to her hair: slowly she puts a stray tendril in place. She is very pale.

"Time to leave," she says, and it's not a question but he still answers it.


There is a slight tremor beneath his feet, like the beginning of an earthquake. A glass pitcher of water, standing on a table near them, falls over. Shards of glass fly across the floor - water everywhere. Scully makes a move as if to try and stop what's already happened.

Mulder, a thought in his mind, walks over to a window, looks out. The tremor abates. Scully coughs, softly.

Steps, someone coming for them. Scully is leaning over Myra's bed, checking her pulse. Mulder doesn't think the child stirred at all when the ground shook.

Doggett, it's Doggett that's coming for them, not, as Mulder had (he realizes just then) feared, some ghost from the past. Not that time yet.

Doggett has his gun drawn, and his eyes are oddly excited.

"Someone saw a group of strangers, just north of Waller's Pond. Been here a few days, it seems. Armed. I'd say we've found our killer."

The ground shakes, slightly, again. Scully shifts to keep her balance. Doggett doesn't seem to notice.

"Your killer," says Mulder. "I don't think you'll find the time to worry about Marla Hemmings' killer, Sheriff."

Doggett isn't listening. Scully coughs again.

"I always said we should close the town off."

Mulder shakes his head. He wonders if maybe the stories were true, about Doggett. The man is oblivious to the fact that the ground beneath his feet is moving.

Maybe they are all crazy, now.

Mulder looks out the window again. The sky looks darker than it should, but he can't be sure. Time, more time than he thinks, must have elapsed here.

Doggett gestures with his gun, impatiently.

"We must go. We'll catch them if we hurry."

"You won't catch them," says Scully, and both men look at her, surprised to hear her speak. She's very pale.

"They're friends," says Mulder. "I know them. They can get us out of here."

Doggett is blinking, as if he's trying to clear his vision. Scully coughs again.

The ground hasn't stopped shaking. Doggett suddenly seems to notice this.

"Earthquake," he says. But Mulder has looked at the sky again.

"No. Not that."

And he points. At the sky. At the darkening sky.

Scully coughs, over and over. Mulder wishes she'd stop.

"We must leave now," he tells Scully and Doggett, "there's still time."

But Scully is shaking her head. No. She's holding Myra Barron's hand again.

Doggett, on the other hand, is finally awake. He joins Mulder by the window, squints.

"They're coming."

Mulder doesn't know if he said it, or Doggett, or if they said it together. In his head he maps out the route to Waller's Pond, and then further North. He knows Langly won't wait, but they can catch up with Langly.

Scully shakes her head.

The ground shakes. Outside, a woman starts screaming.

Scully coughs.

"I'm not leaving her," she says, gripping Myra Barron's hand hard - her knuckles are white. Mulder thinks Myra may already be dead, but he doubts Scully could tell, just now.

Doggett turns to Mulder.

"Can you save me?"

Save him? Can Mulder save anyone? How can Mulder save anyone, now?

"Waller's Pond, then North. They'll be ahead of you, but you can catch up with them. There's a man, Langly -"

Langly may be dead already.

"Just tell them I sent you. Tell them Mulder sent you."

Doggett nods.

"You're... not coming?"

Mulder finds he can smile again, and so he does that.

"You should."

Scully, over by Myra's bed.

"You should go with him, Mulder."

He should. He knows things. He should. And not so long ago, he would have, with or without Scully. He thinks he would have. Thinks he should have.

"Yeah, not unless you come, too."

He smiles at her. The look in her eyes tells him his smile isn't very reassuring. Well, it's been a while since something really great happened to him, hasn't it? He's not had to practice smiling.

Doggett, one last look at Scully, at Myra, at Mulder himself, takes off.

Scully coughs, shaking her head meanwhile.

"I'm dying, one way or the other," she tells him. "You should leave, too."

Mulder thinks about running, about running out the door and catching up with Doggett. And then he thinks that maybe Doggett raped and murdered Marla Hemmings and Laura Burchhardt. Maybe Lance Aldrin was innocent.

Maybe even those kids down in Talla, maybe even them. And Mulder gave them Doggett.

That's when he hears the sound of gunfire. Ratatata-tatatata. It seems someone has got an automatic weapon - he hasn't heard that sound since DC.

"Too late," he tells her. It's already too late.

"No," she coughs, and she's his old Scully again, sure of herself, stubborn. She's herself again.

It's hard to see anything outside, now. Darkness at noon, just like in that book.

Gunfire, relentless. He draws the curtains. Walks over to the door and closes it.

"Not too late," she tells him, again. And coughs.

"You're right," he says, because there is nothing more to say. He helps her onto Myra's bed. She lies down and cradles the girl in her arms. He sits down in the chair she just vacated. Takes her hand.

Outside darkness falls.

Endnotes: This Isn't What We Meant by Savatage is the soundtrack, inspiration, and world, to this story.

Many thanks to Leea, for a first beta that was extraordinary. We make a helluva team, galpal.

Many thanks also to CGB, for the final careful beta, and for being ass-tastic.

This story is for Rache, who is a Peach and way way the cutest. Just like her Ma.

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