Title: Spores
Author: Spookey247
Category: MSR, V, A, Rating: PG (just a little language)
Spoilers: William, The Truth
Archive: Sure
Distribution: No to Ephemeral, I'll do it myself
Disclaimer: Oh, all right. Sheesh. Characters not mine! Making no money!
Feedback: Makes me giddy, in a good way. Spookey247@yahoo.com
Soundtrack: Coldplay, "Parachutes" Notes: A couple at the end

Thanks and Dedication: This story is for Amanda, in honor of her birthday. But there's much injustice in the world: she had to beta and name her own present! Thanks for everything, A. You rock.

Summary: Sometimes inefficient strategies are the only ones available.


The old biology text used to prop up one end of the living room sofa; now it lies open in Mulder's lap. The book is water-stained, smelly. He smoothes the stippled page, glances down at cream-capped Stropharia Ambigua, re-reads the bold-face caption about its umbonate pileus and cottony stipe. The Questionable Stropharia is edible, the caption tells him. Its flavor, however, is very mediocre. The mushroom poses, unaware of its mediocrity.

There's a thump on the wall next to his head. The sound of a box being dragged across the floor. Cursing.

"Guess it's time to clean up," she'd announced, after dinner. She'd taken her plate to the garbage, slammed it once against the side of the can, watched Velveeta-coated shells roll away like whelks at low tide.

It had been his turn to cook. Unfortunate for both of them.

She'd still been dressed for work: strip-mall blouse, consignment slacks, cheap shoes. She'd claimed the boss at the temp job wasn't fooled; in fact, he'd made a point of asking where she went to college. She'd been doing her best to dumb down, but apparently it wasn't working.

When they'd lived in the safe house outside of Fargo, he'd spent two months washing dishes at Denny's. He hadn't seen much of Scully, between the forty-five minute commute and the twelve hour shifts. Paydays, he'd come home with the trunk of the car full of blue plastic shopping bags: Campbell's soup, toilet paper, Deep Woods Off. They'd both learned to split firewood, how to take a bath in a Rubbermaid dishpan. Scully had kept the cabin spotless, figured out that cornbread could be baked in the fire. In the evenings she'd read books he bought her at the Salvation Army.

She'd been slipping, even then.

Cicada wings chafe the air. Mulder shifts on his bed, shirt sticking, looks out the window. Checks the progress of the sunset. Watches the light congeal.

Their new home has a charming concrete-slab yard.

On the other side of the wall, shuffle, crunch, slide. An exclamation of disgust.

Mulder sighs, glances down, tries to read.

'Mycorrhizal fungi, which live in symbiotic partnership with trees, are known to form fairy rings. These rings are called "tethered" rings. A tether is like a leash.'

She breezes past his door, wearing shorts now, a tank top, her hair in its usual high ponytail. Scully's hair has gotten long and rangy of late, untouched as it is by anything but a brush. There's no money for the kind of fruity-smelling hair preparations that used to line the shelves of her bathroom in Georgetown. Mulder studies the picture of the fairy ring, memory straying to spotless white tiles, the potted fern she'd kept on the tank of the toilet. In the book, black-and-white mushroom caps make a perfect half-circle in black-and-white grass.

These days, Scully forgets to cut her fingernails. Doesn't seem to care if her blouse has a stain. She's like a beautiful garden slowly drowning in weeds.

"Are there any more garbage bags?" She's almost to the kitchen when she says it.

"Top shelf in the pantry."

When they'd first been reunited, they'd mourned, made love, made it work. But lately she's become withdrawn. Silence settles like concrete. Mulder wonders if they should make handprints, trace their names before it's too late.

Fox and Dana. Friends 4ever.

She cracks a Hefty-bag whip on her return trip down the hall.

"There's twenty years of moldy crap in that closet. No wonder it stinks."

He swings his legs over the side of his bed. "Any books?"

Her voice rebuffs him. "Sorry, no."

Motionless, he returns his gaze to the page. Words school by, undulating like minnows.

'A spore is typically a cell surrounded by a cell wall; in resistant spores and in the resting stages this wall becomes tough and waterproof.'

In the next room, rattle, crash, smash. She's dragging something heavy-sounding.

Eyes trained on the book, he tries again. "Need some help?"

She could be on the moon. "I've got it, thanks."

A box upended. The distinct sound of dozens of marbles spilling, bouncing, rolling under the bed, through the door, into the hallway.

He can't help it. "How about now? Scully?"

No answer.

He smoothes the page as if trying to push the words into place. Narrows his eyes as the darkness thickens. Night is coming but somehow he can't bring himself to reach for the lamp by his bed.

Instead his pupils dilate, strain to take in bold- face: 'When the Giant Puffball cracks open, the wind carries away its spores. This is not an energy-efficient method of dispersal.'

A light clicks on in the hallway. "Mulder."

"What?" He looks up, startled.

She stands silhouetted in his bedroom door, chin up, porcelain-still. "I wanted to give you this."

She tenders a limp something. Her expression is lost in the shadows.

"What is it?" Mulder sets his fungi aside, rises cautiously from the bed. His path toward her is elliptical. He no longer makes assumptions.

Forcing himself forward, he wishes he could break through, be one with her again. One gentle tap, he thinks, like an egg on the edge of a bowl. One little crack. He'd slide inside her, immerse himself. Risk drowning.

He arrives at her side. "What's the matter?"

"It was in the closet in my room."

When he takes the soft thing from her, he finds it's a book. A baby's book, the kind made of cloth, with no sharp edges.

"Scully - "

"You wanted a book."

"Yeah, but - "

"It's um...The Poky Little Puppy. A classic. Thought you'd enjoy." She turns to go, flesh milk- pale in the scathing light of the hallway.

One gentle tap. He'd mix her grief with his own.

"Hey." He catches her hand.

She closes her eyes. "You know," she murmurs, after a moment, her lips trying to find a way to smile, "all the experts say you should read from day one."

He puts his arm around her waist. "I've heard."

A tear slips free of her lashes. "You're supposed to give them books to play with, teeth on..."

"Uh-huh." His arms make a circle. One tap. Crawl inside. "Did you?"

"We always read in the morning after his bath. He used to laugh at that puppy."

Mulder tries to picture their son laughing, finds his memory too shallow. His throat gets painfully tight. "Did he?"

"But they wouldn't let me...I couldn't send the book." She's starting to tremble. "How will they know to get him a new one, Mulder? He can't talk. He can't tell them."

He strokes her cheek. "Don't worry."

She flinches. "I wanted...Mulder, I had to keep him safe. But I didn't think about - do you think he misses it? The book with the puppy, I mean. He must wonder what happened to it. We read it every morning."

He makes the circle tighter. "He's a baby. He'll adjust."

She's starting to sound panicked. "He used to laugh at it. It made him happy."

Holding on: "They'll get him a new book. He'll be happy again."

But she pulls away, takes the book from his hand. "How do you know? How do you know he won't always be - oh god."

And she doubles. Drops to her knees. Curls into herself on the floor of the hallway. A marble rolls against one of her bare feet.

"Scully - " He starts forward, but something stops him. Maybe it's the fact that he can't feel his fingers and toes anymore, maybe it's the way all the blood has drained from his head.

Crawl inside her. Feel her pain.

Feel his own.

"How do I know he won't always be what, Scully?"

Forehead pressed down, her answer gouges the floor.

"Suffering."

Suffering?

His hand, bloodless, against the door frame. His cheek, bloodless, against his hand. Star spirals, tiny cyclones before his eyes. Half-blind, he is, and half-deaf and half-dumb, sharing absolute zero, the agony of perfect understanding.

As with any catastrophe, his first instinct is to turn and run.

In the wild, a baby animal that loses its mother has an almost zero chance of survival. Surrogate parenting helps, but the interruption of the bonding process almost always causes irreparable harm.

And she's a scientist. A doctor.

She must have known.

Something uncontrollable begins to rise - the rage he's contained for her sake, anguish, long hidden. Love, black and violent as sin itself.

"All I could think about was what they were going to do to him. Not what this was going to do to him. Or to me, or to you."

Don't tell me this, he thinks. Let me believe you thought it through.

Twisted tones. "I was just...I was so scared. There was a man. He tried to...god, I feel so...what if I made up my mind too quickly?"

Black beast inside him. Waking dead things.

"Don't do this," he chokes, turning his back on her. Selfish bitch, the beast says. Killing your heart.

Love is terrible. It makes us do unforgivable things.

He faces her. She's upright, now, staring at him with a look of disbelief.

"Don't do what?"

The beast speaks. "I thought I knew you. Now you're telling me you gave our son away out of some knee- jerk, control-freak..."

"Mulder - "

"I trusted that you'd examined all sides. Made a rational decision. I forgave you because I believed that."

She looks at the floor. "A rational decision?"

"Yes."

Suddenly she's on her feet. "After the kidnapping? After they tried to kill him? You expect me to - "

"Expect you to think about the consequences of a decision? Not lose your head from fear? Yes, I expect that."

She starts toward him. "What, do you think I'm a robot? A computer?"

His blood is boiling. "No, I think you're a fucking FBI agent."

She's in his face, now. "Nerves of steel, right? People threaten my baby and I should suck it up and go on like it's any other X-File? Never mind I don't even know who those people are or when they're coming or what they might do."

"And the new parents? What are they, a couple of certified clairvoyants?"

"Shut up, Mulder. You have no idea what it was like."

"You were 'advised,' I suppose. Who helped you make the arrangements? Skinner? Kersch?"

"Shut. Up." Wild tears. "I had to do something!"

Before he knows what's happening, his fist is crashing through the wall, ancient plaster shattering like glass, his throat scarlet, shouting. "You could have called me home. I could have taken him."

"Oh, right! They were trying to kill you, too."

Drag his hand back out of the wall. White and red. No pain.

"But they didn't, Scully. And they won't. And if we'd all stayed together..."

His face, streaming. His voice, scraped raw.

"If we'd all stayed together..."

His knees buckle.

"Oh, Jesus..."

He turns, stumbles a few feet, lands face forward on his bed. His head hits the wall, the heavy book hits the floor. He hears himself roar.

She's somewhere nearby, chanting, "Sorry, sorry, sorry."

In his mind, he's driving. He's got a road map and a gun and he's going town to town, house to house.

And she whispers, frantically, making a cloud of words, a swarm, a fog. Words burst from sheets and walls, line floor, ceiling, window, door, find purchase everywhere, surround him completely.

And she tells him of his son's beautiful smile, of losing tiny shoes in public places, how Walter Skinner couldn't hold Will without making him cry. And cold nights of walking, both wailing with frustration, then sleeping together, he warm in the crook of her arm. About singing and croup and walks in the park and the hellish first tooth. And the baby book that's lost with the rest of her things in Georgetown - the one she made for William's father, who was coming home someday.

He feels her dare to touch his hand. Fingers lock together. She whispers and strokes his hair.

"Mulder, listen. They meant to use him, just like they used us. To make him an Achilles' Heel. To rip us apart." Her voice breaks. "I couldn't let them do that. Not to him."

Mulder remembers a woman. He read about her in the Post. When her car was stolen with her infant son inside, she hurled herself through the open driver's window. Legs flapping at fifty miles per hour, she pummeled the carjacker with her bare fist until he gave her back her child.

Love defies nature. It overwhelms reality.

It is dark now. He lets go of her hand, rolls against the wall, pulls her to him. They settle on the bed together. Let the real tears come.

"You're a good mother," he tells her.

She cracks then, shatters, falls to pieces. Fists full of shirt, her head slams against his chest like a battering ram. Like she's trying to crawl inside.

"No," she moans, "no, no..."

His circled arms know how her heart is bursting.

"Yes, Scully. Yes. It's okay. It's okay..."

He holds her like a lover, lets the fallout powder his skin.


Notes: I couldn't think about the events of 'William' for a long, long time. Thanks to Sophia Jirafe for writing 'Sweet Season,' the fic that allowed me to face this subject without blowing a circuit in my head.

On a lighter note, for more Fun Facts about Fungi, visit the following sites:

http://www.herb.lsa.umich.edu/kidpage/Dispersal.htm

http://www.mykoweb.com/CAF/species/Stropharia_ambigua.html

http://www.encyclopedia.com/html/s1/spore.asp

Feedback is yummy! spookey247@yahoo.com



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