He woke slowly, stretching. He’d slept well. He finally opened his eyes and realized this wasn’t his bedroom. But when the hell had he fallen asleep in Scully’s bedroom? For that matter, when had he come over to Scully’s apartment?
He glanced down, he was only wearing his boxers, but he saw his jeans and t-shirt over the chair. The last time he’d woken in her bed he’d been sick, drugged by the water in his apartment building. And he’d assaulted Skinner. He didn’t remember doing that again. But why was he here?
He rose from the bed, testing himself. He wasn’t dizzy, or sick. He couldn’t hear Scully in the next room, but he was pretty sure she wouldn’t appreciate him wandering around undressed. He slipped on his jeans and headed for the kitchen.
There was no sign of her. Had she gone to get some breakfast? Gone to work without him? She hadn’t taken his gun this time; he’d seen it on her dresser. The bathroom door had been open and the light out. Okay, she wasn’t in the apartment, but she had been here, right?
Well, she’d probably be right back. In the meantime she wouldn’t mind if he took a shower. He didn’t want to leave and miss her. He really wanted to know why he was here and what was going on. A shower should help him wake up.
He took a long, hot shower, using her shampoo and towels. That felt very good, and the scent was . . . stimulating, but once he was out he hurried to dress again. Maybe she was back.
The apartment was still empty except for him. He pulled out his cell phone and pressed number one on the speed dial. He heard the phone ring in her briefcase beside the desk. Great, now what? He wasn’t exactly dressed for work, but he decided to head there anyway. Why hadn’t she left a damn note?
He stepped outside and stopped instantly. Her car was there, so was everyone else’s - parked or stopped in the middle of the street. Not a single car was moving on the road. There was no sound either, no bird or insects, not even a squirrel.
What the hell? He hadn’t heard this much silence since . . . Hell, he’d never heard this much silence. He didn’t like it nearly as much as he’d always thought he would.
So what was going on? He decided to move ahead with his plan to check out the office, if the car worked. It turned over immediately and he eased out onto the semi-deserted street.
Maybe it was the ‘rapture’, he smiled grimly to himself. It would make sense that Scully was gone, but surely he wasn’t the only one left . . .
At least equipment was still working. He had no trouble entering the parking deck. The elevator came at his summons, but he sent it on down empty. If he was the last man on earth, he didn’t want to spend his final hours in a stuck elevator.
No sound or movement on any floor, though the elevator waited for him in the basement.
He booted up his computer and was pleased to see emails waiting for him. Then he saw that there were none after midnight. The last one was from Frohike at 11:42, reminding him that he had promised to bring over a video.
Maybe he was asleep and this was his most elaborate nightmare yet. Yeah, that had to be it, so he could just sit and wait to wake up. There was no way this was reality. So what should he do in the meantime?
He sent a couple of emails. They didn’t bounce back, but of course he had no way of knowing if they were received by anyone. He rose from the desk and headed upstairs, again taking the steps.
All of the offices were empty and most were locked. He stood in the outer office of Skinner’s suite. Kim’s area was neat and Skinner’s door was locked. Hell, it was a dream, right? He quickly picked the lock on the door and let himself in.
There were files on Skinner’s desk, in a neat pile. Mulder sat and looked through them. They were cases he’d heard about for the most part, not ones that involved him or Scully. Some of them were interesting, so he leaned back and read the files, making notes in the margin of several of them.
Hunger caught his attention. Should he be hungry in a dream? Whatever, he was going with it. He headed down to where the cart was stored and grabbed a bag of chips and a canned drink. Strange, he could taste the chips and the diet Coke was cool in his throat.
After a second bag of chips, he wandered back upstairs. For the fun of it, he ducked into a few cubicles of some of his more vocal detractors and decided to mess with their minds. It didn’t take long to get into their files and rearrange a few notes. Nothing that would compromise a case, but . . . the face of Tom Colton appeared to him. Now that could be fun.
He was careful, but he screwed with the Tom’s files, just enough so that man would wonder. He smiled as he started to leave the cubicle, then his shin connected with the trashcan and pain flared.
He limped to a chair. It probably served him right, but . . . Hey, that hurt. He wasn’t supposed to hurt in dreams. He pulled his pants leg up to expose his wound. He’d broken the skin, but it wasn’t bleeding. He was probably going to get a pretty good bruise out of it though.
He leaned back in the chair. What the hell was going on? Where was everyone? The humor of the situation was fading fast.
He wanted Scully. Hell, he’d been in her bed when he woke up. Scully’s bed but she was no where to be found. No one was anywhere to be found. That would please him if she weren’t included.
Okay, he’d wasted enough time. He needed to find out what the hell was going on.
He began on the top floor and searched every office, breaking into the ones that were locked. He did no further mischief, but he checked every room, even the ladies’ room on each floor. He was completely and totally alone in the building.
To be honest, the quiet was getting to him. There was more than one person he didn’t ever want to see again, but some of them weren’t total wastes of skin. Skinner, where was he?
Mulder pulled out his cell phone and tried Skinner’s home number. It was unlisted and there was no reason to let the man know how he had obtained it. It rang five times before the machine picked up. Mulder didn’t leave a message.
Okay, where was someone most likely to be? He headed out of the building and turned west toward the White House. The quiet was eerie, he had never realized how much he took things like traffic for granted. He startled visibly and actually reached for his gun at the sound of a bird chirping. It took him a moment to realize it was the crossing signal for the handicapped.
Taking a deep breath, but keeping his gun in his hand now, he moved on at a faster pace. The White House looked as deserted as everywhere else. He walked up the driveway without anyone stopping him.
He entered through a side door, where the tours had been held in previous, safer times and began wandering through. He didn’t call out or announce his presence; getting shot didn’t seem like a good idea.
The door upstairs to the living quarters was unlocked and he hesitated, but then continued on. The entire house was empty as far as he could find. He didn’t pick any locks here, but no one appeared to challenge him even though the lights shown red on the surveillance cameras.
He’d always wanted to see the Lincoln bedroom. With a slight grin he headed in that direction. Once there he sat gingerly on the bed, still expecting someone to come in with either April Fool on their lips or a gun aimed at his heart. When neither happened, he bounced slightly on the bed, and then stretched out on it. It was long enough for his frame, but not nearly as comfortable as the bed he’d awoken in this morning. His smile disappeared. Why was he playing when he needed to be finding Scully?
He left the bedroom and hurried toward the exit. He jogged back to the Bureau and took his car. He headed immediately toward the Gunmen’s apartment. He should have done this sooner, but the very bizarre-ness of the situation had clouded his judgment. And he’d rarely had this much freedom of movement in a dream.
He parked right outside the building and knocked on the door. Now this would be a challenge. With all of those locks and security measures, if the guys weren’t inside . . .
There was no answer. After a few minutes he moved around to the loading dock. It too was locked securely, but . . . Looking around the alley he spotted a garbage truck and moved in that direction. He hoisted himself up into the cab and looked around. The keys were in the ignition.
Okay, now could he figure out these gears? The truck lurched forward and he grabbed the seatbelt. He cinched it around himself and pressed on the gas. Even braced for impact, the collision stunned him.
He shook his head to clear it and after a moment shoved the door open. Good thing this was a dream, otherwise he’d be damn sore tomorrow.
Climbing through the ruined door of the loading dock, Mulder jerked away as metal sliced through his slacks. He saw blood seep through the rip. Okay, that wasn’t exactly dream like. Damn it!
Fortunately the door from the dock wasn’t as formidable as the outside door and he was able to break through it fairly quickly. He hurried to their bath to check out his wound.
The cut wasn’t terribly deep. In the real world he might need stitches; here butterfly bandages would have to do. He used their first aid kit to disinfect the area and bandaged it. His jeans were ruined as well, but in this dream he could just stop by and pick up a new pair of 34/34’s at the nearest store.
For now he wanted to see what kind of information he might be able to glean from here.
An hour later, he shoved back from the desk. He was more than willing to cede that his ‘kung fu’ didn’t compare with that of his friends. It didn’t help that he didn’t have a clue what to look for. However he was aware that he was hungry again and that his leg hurt.
He limped out the front door, leaving it unlocked but shut, for easier access next time. He turned toward his apartment then. It was dark now and even though the street lights were on, it felt very dark.
At his apartment he treated his leg again; wouldn’t do to get an infection now and changed into sweats. He ate his left over Chinese and flipped on the television. Static greeted him on all networks. There were a few stations running movies but they were obviously on tape and as he watched one of them ended and static took over that station as well.
He took a deep breath, this was seeming less like a dream and more nightmarish with each occurrence and damn it, his leg hurt! Just in case he returned to his medicine cabinet and swallowed a couple of antibiotics left over from some previous injury.
He slept in fits and starts that night. By morning’s light the hope that he’d wake to a normal world with Scully in it was pretty much gone. Nothing had changed except he needed a shave and all channels now showed static. The radio stations as well. The power was on, his computer still worked, but nothing had been updated since midnight of the night before. Where the hell was everyone?
He wasn’t hungry, but he needed to do something. How long would food last if there was no replacement? The fresh stuff wouldn’t last long, but with only him, the canned and dry food would last forever. Now that was a pleasant thought. He could grow old alone, but be well fed. He shuddered at the thought.
Was this really real? Was he really the only person on the planet? He dressed and packed a few things. Today he was going to do a grid search, starting in her building. He probably should have stayed there last night but he hadn’t been thinking clearly.
He checked her building quickly. No one had appeared and all of the apartments were empty. With a growing depression, he moved to the next building and then to the next. After that he returned to his car. There were other people; damn it, all of this made no sense!
Mrs. Scully’s house was his next stop. He had no relatives of his own, so looking for hers seemed the obvious thing to do. As with the buildings downtown, there was no sign of life. The neighboring houses were empty as well.
He returned to Mrs. Scully’s house and collapsed onto her couch. His anger was leaving him again and fear was growing. The cycles between were getting shorter each time and fear lasted longer. How far would he have to go to find someone? Could he live alone? He’d always thought that would be for the best; no one around to ridicule him, ride his ass . . . but not this. He’d never dreamed of something like this. The real question that kept coming back was, could he live without Scully?
His mind wouldn’t shut off. He thought about returning to Scully’s apartment, but finally decided to stay where he was. He raided Mrs. Scully’s refrigerator. He was hungry now and her leftovers were good, but there was a tasteless quality to everything. He’d never eaten alone here; there had always been conversation and warmth . . . and Scully.
That’s what it all kept coming back to, lack of Scully.
He took off the next morning. He headed west, stopping periodically to search for signs of life. He’d never missed bugs before, he’d hated them. Now he craved the sound of a cricket, even a damn bee.
He’d traded his car for a Mercedes SUV he’d found in Brunswick, Maryland. The keys had been in it. It had been sitting on I-70 and had a full tank of gas, not that he was worried about that. Now when he had to go off road to get around stalled traffic he could do it in style. That joy lasted nearly 15 minutes before the quiet, the absolute aloneness got to him again.
He took his time, swinging up into Pennsylvania. He alternated between the country roads and the highways. It didn’t matter, nothing else ever moved. He stopped occasionally to check out a filling station or a restaurant. After breaking into one house, he found that too difficult. The family pictures of the people who had lived there, apparently happily at one time, haunted him from their dusty frames.
He slept in a Super 8 near the Gettysburg battlefield that night, more shaken then tired. He just felt the need to have walls around him. After a less than restful night he was up again and continued his trek west.
He followed Route 30 for a little while, then turned south into West Virginia at Salem. Nothing changed, but he dutifully checked out several places and forced himself to eat and stretch. In several places the road was blocked so that he had to turn around and go another way. He stayed on I-68 after that, he could drive in the median then and finally called it a day at Morgantown. He chose the Radisson that night, but avoided the elevators again. He raided the mini-bar that night to try to get some sleep and drown out the quiet. Between that and the sound of the movie playing on the VCR in the background, he got most of a night’s sleep.
What he remembered, what he knew about his life was beginning to feel like the dream. There had been other people, he had looked for his sister and worked in the X-Files, there had been Scully. He would never have been able to imagine someone like her.
When he woke that morning, a destination had settled in his mind.
Columbus, Ohio was as empty as everywhere else. He had chosen it in his sleep, basically on the way to nowhere. But Charlie lived here, or used to. He’d never met this brother, but Scully had assured him on more than one occasion that he was totally different from Bill. Hell at this point, he’d have thrown his arm around Bill and maybe plastered a big old wet one on his lips.
He’d started out talking to himself, out loud, just to hear something. Now he usually addressed his comments to Scully. If he didn’t look to the right as he drove he could sometimes pretend. He had all the CDs he wanted but his craving for a live human voice was overwhelming at times. When he daydreamed before sleeping, she was there - they no longer spoke of cases, but of what she meant to him, that she was his life.
He found Charlie’s address in the phone book at the student center at Ohio State and headed that way. He wasn’t surprised to find the house empty, the contents already accumulating dust. What did surprise him was the depth of his depression that this man, this family he had never known was gone.
He wandered around this comfortable home. There were bikes in the garage, a basketball hoop over the door. The family pictures on the wall held his attention for a long time. He could see his Scully in Charlie’s face. Mary had dark hair and looked warm and happy. He had no trouble imagining them interacting with their sons.
The boys were obviously brothers, but the older one, Will, was a perfect mix of his parents with darker hair and eyes. Sam had a lighter complexion and hair, more touches of red and Scully’s blue eyes. For the longest time he couldn’t drag his eyes from the boy. Would Scully’s son look like Sam or more of a mix of the two of them? He blinked as that thought processed. They would never have a child together. Then he spotted her picture, taken with her mother at some holiday, sitting on a nearby table.
He wanted to touch Scully so much he ached. It took him a moment to realize tears were streaming down his face. He sank to the floor, all of his hopes collapsing completely. He had no concept of time, but he was stiff when he finally attempted to rise to his feet.
Wearily he made his way to the kitchen. Some things had gone bad in the refrigerator, so he cleaned it out, finally finding a frozen dinner and popping it in the microwave. He ate because his body demanded it, but he didn’t taste it. Afterwards he trudged upstairs and eventually fell asleep in Charlie and Mary’s bed.
When he woke, he showered and then stood looking at himself for a long moment in front of the mirror. He reached for Charlie’s razor. He hadn’t bothered to unpack his small bag of essentials last night, but stopped. There was no need, no one would see if he had a beard, or needed a haircut or clean clothes.
There was no reason to do anything. No reason to continue looking. The only person he wanted to find wasn’t out here, she wasn’t anywhere. He could crawl back in Charlie’s bed and never get up again.
No, no if he was going to do that, it should be in Scully’s bed.
He stood in the doorway of her bedroom. He’d returned, driving until his eyes closed. On one occasion stopping only when he’d fallen asleep and driven off the road. He would sleep until he woke, then drive some more. He didn’t remember his last meal or bath for that matter. This was the only place he felt even partially sane. The memories of her drew him; he could almost feel close to her. Her scent had faded with time and there was thick dust over everything here as well. He’d woken up here that morning. He still had no memory of coming over, but it made sense to be here, as much as anything made sense in the world he lived in now.
His beard, his shaggy hair, his weight loss; all of these showed him the true passage of time. This was beyond nightmare. It had blown away his carefully constructed façade as loner. Loner, hell he’d welcome Kersh’s company right now. But Scully . . . He knew now that living without her was not just undesirable, it was unbearable.
He’d come here to finish this existence, or rather non-existence. He wasn’t going to be close to her, he knew that even if he didn’t understand anything else. That had finally penetrated his feeble grasp on reality. Scully was gone as surely as Samantha. Okay, everyone was gone, but Scully mattered.
He wasn’t strong, not anymore, not without her. He never really had been, but the act had been well practiced. There was no reason to wait any longer. This was where he had awakened in this strange reality. Now it was as close as he could get to her.
It was the best place to do this. He didn’t believe in heaven or an afterlife as she had, but if there was one and he could be close to her . . .
He pulled his gun out of the holster and examined it again. It was clean, in good order. It was the one thing he had maintained with this always somewhere in the back of his mind. It was time, she wasn’t coming back.
He took a seat on the side of the bed and brought the gun to his temple. “Scully, I’m sorry, but it’s the only way. I don’t know where else to look for you. Please, help me to find you now.”
He closed his eyes the better to see her in his mind. “Please.”
He squeezed the trigger gently.
The pressure of a hand against his almost didn’t register. But the sound of the shot echoed loudly in his ear.
Was he dead? There was no pain, but . . . He slowly opened his eyes to see the horrified, panic stricken face of Dana Scully. Heaven? Was he in heaven? She was here, finally here. The world went dark.
She’d woken from another nightmare, but just lay there getting her breath under control, her eyes still closed. As always her first thought was of him. Wherever he was she had to find him. He’d been missing for weeks now. The lack of clues was the worst part. No one had seen him leave his apartment. He wouldn’t have just walked away, not from his work, his life . . . not from her. They were more than partners, more than friends, and the lack of him in her life had taken a toll that she had never dreamed it could. She couldn’t eat, she hadn’t had a full night’s sleep since he left.
Someone had taken him from her, as she had been taken from him. She could understand why he had never given up on finding Samantha. She would never quit looking for him.
She was jolted from her thoughts as she felt someone sit on the bed beside her. What the hell! Her eyes flew open. There was a homeless man on her bed, how the hell had a stranger gotten into . . . “Scully, I’m sorry, but it’s the only way. I don’t know where else to look for you. Please, help me to find you now. Please.”
Scully? That was Mulder’s voice! That honey rasp sounded unused somehow but it was him. She spotted the gun then. Oh god! She jerked in that direction knocking his hand away. The bullet splintered the doorframe of her bedroom and she was standing in front of him as the gun slipped from his hand and onto the floor.
He opened his eyes and locked on her face. He went limp then, losing conscious as he crumpled into her bed.
She froze for an instant. What had so nearly happened paralyzing her mind as well as her body. Mulder? Where the hell had he been? He was emaciated, his hair was long and dirty and he had a full beard. If he hadn’t spoken she would never have recognized him in time. That caused a bone-deep shudder and she forced herself into doctor mode.
He had passed out. His heart beat was rapid and his breathing shallow. What had been done to him? What had he endured? She should call for an ambulance, but something stopped her. He had come here, when he had escaped, here was where he wanted to be.
She was able to get him more comfortably on the bed and stripped his worn and dirty jeans from him. He’d been commando, but in her relief to have him here, she hadn’t even blushed. His t-shirt came off as well. She knew he hadn’t bathed recently, but the scent of him was more than welcome. She covered him with a sheet.
She left his side then, to get juice and a washcloth. His pulse was stronger now, slower and he seemed to have slipped into sleep. She sat beside him on the bed and bathed his face, talking softly to him. It took a moment to realize his eyes were open.
“Mulder.” She managed a trembling smile. “I want you to drink some juice.” She lifted his head and held the glass to his lips. He drank a few sips silently, his eyes never leaving her.
When she eased him back against the pillows and started to rise, his hand shot out and grasped her forearm tightly. “Are you here?”
His voice was rusty from disuse, and the question frightened her, but she let her free hand caress his face and beard. “Yes. I’m here. So are you, Mulder.”
He closed his eyes for an instant, though he didn’t release his grip on her arm. They flew open when she shifted, and his hand tightened. “It’s okay. I’m not going anywhere. Just relax.” He didn’t acknowledge that, watching her.
She had a million questions, but it was his state of mind that was scaring her. Too much, too soon and it looked like he’d snap. “It’s late. May I sleep here, with you?”
His eyes widened, then he nodded. She didn’t hesitate, slipping under the covers. She was wearing pajamas, but even if she had been nude she would have done this. He pulled her against him, holding her in a fierce grip. She cuddled into his side, a little startled at how well she fit and how right this felt. Her plan was to watch him as he slept, but the countless sleepless nights, the untold hours of searching had taken their toll. She was asleep in minutes, her arm over his chest, anchoring him to her.
He lasted little longer, resting his chin on her hair, holding her close.
There was no scientific explanation that she could come up with that matched the facts as she knew them. He was finally able to let her out of his sight for more than a couple of minutes, though she didn’t push it. She was just as anxious to keep him within arms length. He had stayed at her apartment, though he had accompanied her to his place to pick up some clothes. He no longer jerked violently when he heard other people, and he had yet to completely fill out his jeans, but he was doing better.
This vacation was his idea and if she found the destination strange, she kept it to herself. He drove unerringly to the house, asking no directions from the airport. She kept quiet, watching but not questioning him.
When he parked in front of the house she turned in the seat. He held out his hand and she took it, squeezing it slightly. “Come on, Scully. Introduce me to this brother Charlie.”
She smiled, nodding and they got out of the car.
Happy Birthday and thank you, David!
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Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunman and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter, 10-13 and Fox. No infringement intended.