RATING: PG-13 (Sigh.)
PAIRING: Scully/Fowley (Scully/Mulder, Fowley/Mulder, but then, that's pretty inevitable, yeah?)
TIMELINE: After All Souls, before The End, but with spoilers for pretty much everything (up to Per Manum at least, Amor Fati, Within, Without, NIHT, all things, The Truth, so on, so forth. You know the drill. Hey, it's mytharc!).
LENGTH: 5133 words.
SUMMARY: This time, it's not just one more report.
DISCLAIMER: Oh, the characters? I don't own 'em. The surfer dude with the attitude is probably to blame. I bow down before 1013 Productions and FOX. If you sue me, you won't even recoup your legal fees. I have fair use laws on my side! Morally, the victory is mine. Bwahahahaha!
DEDICATIONS: For maidenjedi — , who requested it in femslash05 — . Many thanks to faith_delivers — for the beta and the "Buck up, li'l camper!" encouragement.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: This is the first time I've written femslash in this fandom, and I have no idea if I've succeeded at being in-character. Still, I branched out--didn't go with the safe fandom--so points to me for that. My apologies for the lateness!
When you learned there was a possibility that your ova were still viable, you were ready to give up the life you built in exchange for another. You were willing to abandon his futile quest for this chance, one you had thought forever lost.
Your calmness was forced when you asked him for what help he could give, and if he noticed he gave no sign. He promised he'd be honoured, that it wouldn't change anything between you, that he would do anything for you.
When the in vitro procedure failed, when your womb remained barren, he took you in his arms. He offered you what solace he could--false comfort from a false belief.
You allowed yourself the relief of tears. Yet, even as you felt his lips soft against your forehead, you knew he did not understand. As if you hadn't found a thousand wonders in a thousand cases, he said: "Never give up on a miracle."
You thought of all the marvels you had lost, and you did not reply, "Folie à deux."
Eyes in the mirror.
A bright blue gaze, challenging, intense. It was the first thing Diana noticed. Strange...she'd spent the last seven years watching women and trying not to meet their eyes. She'd orchestrated this meeting and yet that stare took her by surprise.
The washroom was on the fourth floor of the J. Edgar Hoover building. Executive territory. In this old boys' club, usually the only women up here were secretaries, stenographers, paralegals. Perhaps a visiting lawyer from the Attorney General's office. Rarely, a VIP on a gladhanding tour. Field agents stayed on the lower levels, and Diana had already collected all the gossip there from old friends and older enemies. Dana Scully had taught them not to stare, but erasing the name of Mrs. Spooky from watercooler speculation wasn't that easy. Diana knew that firsthand.
Diana watched Scully, who watched her in return, so on and so on, into reflected infinity. So you're the one who's taken my place. She almost smiled--but it would have come out knowing and bitter, so she held back. She had mastered the careful art of looking past people, of being alone even when forced to respond to pleasantries. Any of her subjects could have passed her in the street and not remembered her. None of them would have believed her if she stopped them and told them more about their lives than they would ever suspect.
No one guessed the cost of her vigil. In a conspiracy of thousands, each conspirator is still alone. The magicians had ushered Diana past the curtain. She had learned the operation of the great machines that bellowed for attention, the projector that threw up faces for people to blame. She had watched the light and shadow show for years; she knew how much was real, how much was fabrication. The women she studied lived in ignorance, and never truly saw her.
Dana Scully was different. Puppet strings bound her hand and foot. They pulled her in so many directions she was nearly torn apart, but time after time she found a place to stand and be strong. She could see that the magicians were charlatans; she was closer than she knew to the secrets. Diana, for her part, had spent too long guarding them. She'd traded too much for knowledge, and the greatest price of all were the days when the bargain seemed fair.
Diana watched Scully's eyes and let her level, evaluating look push past the polite surfaces. She waited while Scully searched her face, almost as if she knew her. That wasn't possible, of course. All the pictures in the earlier X-Files had been destroyed. All the records were sealed. Still, if she had survived five years as Fox's partner, then suspicion must be second nature to her, and any unfamiliar face was a veiled threat. Diana was wearing her badge, but Scully refused to break their mutual appraisal to peer at it.
Diana turned away from the mirror abruptly, to take back the advantage. "I'm Diana Fowley," she said, offering Scully her hand. Direct. Honest.
A single, unimpressed eyebrow told her what Dana Scully thought of honesty. She hesitated for so long that Diana wondered if she was going to ignore the greeting altogether. Finally, with a smooth hint of a frown, Scully extended her hand.
Scully's skin was softer than Diana expected, her grip firmer. "Dana Scully," she replied. Not Agent Scully. Not Doctor. Diana held her surprise close and tight inside. The number of people who called Scully "Dana" could be counted on one hand--and there were fewer still since she had joined the X-Files. Fewer every year. The Consortium saw to that.
"I've seen you around," Diana said. "You work on the X-Files with Agent Mulder." Her tone was calculating and she deliberately verged on intrusive, like a cat batting at a new toy, curious and disinterested at the same time.
Scully bristled and retreated. "Yes." An empty voice. A don't look any further voice. Doubtless, the very fact that Diana knew about the X-Files was a strike against her. No one who knew the X-Files came out clean on the other side.
Diana raised her eyebrows and took the hint. She smiled, as if this meeting didn't mean anything, as if there weren't a thousand plans--hers and others'--that depended on it. Scully was still searching her face, as if she expected a revelation or an identity to be stamped there. Of course, she hated not knowing. Of course, she would follow this up.
Whether she'd tell Fox was a less certain matter.
Diana gave her a second longer, then nodded politely. She turned away and left the washroom without another word.
She heard the in-drawn breath and the start of footsteps, but Scully didn't follow her. She wouldn't pursue this into the hallways of J. Edgar Hoover. There were no secrets there.
That was the year Mulder's faith fell. You told yourself you hated Michael Kritschgau for that; for the twin blows of evidence and certainty. In the long, doubtful nights, you wondered if you celebrated the triumph of science over intuition.
A chasm opened between you, then; and perhaps you were to blame.
You tried to keep the search alive, for reasons that were never his, reasons of lost memory and stolen time. When Mulder's beliefs faltered, you turned back to your own. Your mother smiled and Father McCue blessed you and you lived, you lived after all. The chip in your neck did more than cure you. It made you expect miracles.
You wanted to believe.
But that was also the year of Emily.
Sunday mass in spring: a waterfall of pastels and whites, yellows and pinks and the occasional somber blue. Diana cleaved the congregation in two. They slipped past her on either side, out into the hissing spray of a sunshower. Scully sat in a pew midway up the aisle, paying no attention to the procession of priests and altar boys and the swell of conversation from the departing crowd. Diana genuflected, dipping her fingers in the font near the door, and headed for the altar.
She wasn't Catholic. She had been raised agnostic, with the words of Manitou and Allah and Buddha holding equal weight in her home. For her father, Creation was the story Adam and Eve in the Garden as well as the Big Bang, and every theory in between. He'd told Diana it was so that she could make up her own mind what to believe when she was ready.
Before she was ready, the truth found her. After that, all the stories seemed less substantial than dreams.
Still, those dreams built this cathedral, and filled its seats every Sunday. Diana wondered about that. She thought she understood belief, bright and burning. She could never have stayed with Fox as long as she had if she didn't. She believed in a dozen impossible things herself, knowing them impossible but unable to let go. But the church demanded structure. Believe as we tell you. Accept what we allow, no more. The restrictions were too tight for her, and so Diana took what she wanted from the church and left it behind.
The cathedral was certainly beautiful; the stone vault above supported by the flying buttresses, and the long columns of dark wood, gilded by sunlight through coloured glass. Niches held paintings and carvings, each a delicate reminder of God--not in subject, but in the attention the artist had paid Him. But beauty wasn't the reason she was here--nor was it Dana Scully's. Diana's reports told her that Scully had been attending mass more or less regularly since her remission, and especially since that regrettable incident with the child. What motivated her? Thankfulness? Grief? The promise of a haven beyond this life?
It made no sense, unless Scully was lying to herself in some way--either here, or in all the brave words she spewed to Fox on a daily basis, words of science and hard evidence. Diana couldn't reconcile the two--the Dana Scully who signed off on autopsies performed on mutants, finding nothing she couldn't explain, and the Dana Scully who bent her head over her folded hands as if she was searching for her immortal soul.
Diana took a chance that Scully would look up and see her before she reached the confessionals at the front of the church. She was wearing a soft blouse and skirt, deep red like shadowed blood, not office wear. She didn't want to raise the spectre of the FBI between them, not yet. There was no need for Scully to be suspicious, or at least, no more than she already would be, after meeting Diana twice in a matter of days.
Diana erased her smile before she turned. "Yes? ...Oh, Dana. Hello."
She'd caught Scully off-guard, using her first name. Confused, but icily polite, Scully almost smiled. "Hello."
"Funny I should run into you here," Diana offered.
"Yes." Scully narrowed her eyes as if to say, a little too funny, but left it at that.
Having a conversation with this woman was infuriating. Diana knew how to play with the truth, to say a hundred things that meant nothing and never lie. Scully seemed intent on not saying anything, as if each word was a secret betrayed. She, too, was dressed more casually than at work, in colours that brought out her eyes, the flame of her hair; clothes cut so that they revealed her curves instead of hiding them. She was holding something in her hand, forgotten when she had followed Diana up the aisle. Once again, she was silent, at a loss. Diana smiled, playing the acquaintance, the co-worker, then made as if to walk to the nearest confessional.
"Ms--Fowley, isn't it?" Scully asked.
Diana looked back. "Yes."
"Are you a member of the congregation here?"
Diana shook her head. "I've been out of the country for several years."
"I see." Scully's eyebrows drew together, and Diana knew she'd deflated suspicion. Scully glanced down and seemed to notice the paper in her hand. She coloured, the slightest dusting of pink on her pale cheeks, and made a motion as if to hide it; but there was no where to go. "I'm sorry I interrupted," she said.
"It's all right." What was Scully holding? Too stiff to be a paper...a photograph?
Scully tried to find a polite way to break off the exchange, and as she turned, Diana caught a glimpse of the picture. The girl. Cherub-cheeked and grinning, she sat primly for the camera in front of a birthday cake.
Diana didn't believe in God, but the thought came anyway; and it struck her suddenly breathless. She felt frozen. Her plan--her role--dropped away.
For seven years, she'd watched women die--scienfically, if that meant anything. Wooden within and impassive without, she had seen women face their illnesses, whether short and terrifying or long and brutal. Because they had told her what the tests meant, what they hoped to accomplish, Diana reported on every facet of every disease. Not the medical reasons for death. They had scientists, doctors, for that. The slow flickering of hope as it guttered and died, the battering of spirit...that was Diana's province. Whether her subjects turned to religion, or to family, or to despair...whether they died alone.
No. None of them had died alone. Diana was always there: observant, subservient. Watching. And death was always a relief, of sorts. No more tests, no more abductions. It was a rest, for all of them, in the end.
They planned to let Scully live.
Scully, pretending that girl was somehow hers.
"Is that your daughter?" Diana asked, for no reason she could name.
Scully startled, like a deer, wide-eyed and ready to run. She didn't answer. What answer was there? Yes, and no. No, but almost--this once--almost.
"It's just...she looks very much like you." (They had stolen everything from Scully. Her OB-GYN was locked in by promises and threats. He was loyal enough to fail. Scully would live with that--she would live.) "She's very beautiful."
Scully raised the picture, half-reluctantly, but with a mother's pride. "She is." A moment, a pause to remember. "She was."
"I'm sorry," Diana said. The words were strange and she puzzled over them even as she spoke. She knew why the child had to die. She'd lived in order to die. Words like sorry meant nothing because apologies couldn't change the truth. The girl was a hypothesis, existing solely to be broken.
Scully closed her hand around the photograph and finally found a pocket to conceal it in. "Thank you."
Diana wanted something to hold on to. Scully was calm and beautiful in sadness. Diana had learned control but it felt like for Scully it came naturally, or else these wounds were too deep to touch with words anymore. How could she be that hurt by losing a child that wasn't even hers to lose? "Tell me about her?" she said, a half-question. She sat down in the first pew and watched Scully struggle to master herself. There were no tears, only a shine to her eyes, a tightening of her shoulders. If the reports were right then Scully would excuse herself, politely but firmly, avoid the issue, bury it and never refer to this meeting again.
Of course, the reports had been wrong about Scully before.
"Her name was Emily..."
Long before Skinner gathered his courage to face you, you knew Mulder was gone. The first time, with your bullet in his shoulder, he came to you in dreams and promised to return. This time, he meant to leave you. Knowing the price, he paid it willingly. He stepped into the light. He made his choice. You could face a world without him, hopeless.
But by the time Skinner told you about your loss, the doctors had given you hope, like a burden, like a curse.
"I don't know how, but I'm pregnant," you said, and if that was a lie--if you suspected the smoking man's last kindness--you weren't ready yet for a new despair.
You had accepted childlessness. In the end, you released hope, like a winged thing that soared to freedom without the cage of your control. You confessed your sins, not to Father McCue, but to a woman who became your enemy; you confessed, and purged your soul, and hated yourself afterwards.
You never hated her.
Hope was a terrible thing.
Jeffrey Spender eyed Diana when she was the first into the debriefing room. He fiddled with the video projector, fussy and unsure. Diana ignored him and sat at the back of the room, away from him and his flunkies. He was, by no means, his father's son.
Diana had gathered the notes and field reports, adjusting details when necessary. The high chance of failure made this case no surprise. By its end, little Jeffrey would be under her thumb and the X-Files would be closed again. Fox would never learn what she'd done. It was still a betrayal, but they'd stopped wanting the same things a long time ago. She had power and he had his quest. It was all he had, and if he ever found incontrovertible evidence, he'd probably let it escape. He spied on men with the power of gods, and they turned his allies against him; but he needed the search. After Diana had left, it was all he had.
She corrected herself when Scully entered the room. Fox still had her, for all the good her skepticism did him. Scully's eyes fell on Diana, and she stopped and nodded. She chose a seat halfway up the room, across the aisle.
The church was the last purposeful meeting Diana had arranged. Fox's little basement fort was all his, so running into Scully in the halls wasn't as rare as she'd feared it would be. Whenever their paths crossed, Diana tried to see some difference in her. No sooner than Scully offered her a slight smile and walked on, Diana found herself waiting for the next encounter. That Scully acknowledged her was as much as she could hope for. Whatever mood she'd caught her in on Sunday didn't make them friends.
All the better, since they'd be enemies soon enough. Diana frowned. Her pen drew idle lines on the report. Ahead of her, Scully was paging through the forensics data. Diana could stand up, close the distance between them, say--something. But Jeffrey was still in the room, full of misgivings, not knowing who to trust. It was too early to tell him to trust no one, and he musn't see her with Scully.
Scully turned slightly, until Diana could see her in profile. She wondered how good Scully's peripheral vision was, and had the insane urge to touch her hair, check her make up.
In a sudden boisterous bark of conversation, the bulk of the agents assigned to the case sauntered into the room. Male and mid-thirties, most of them, and so typical: these were men who'd refused to stop playing spy when they turned ten. Scully faced front again, and Diana's hand tightened on her pen.
The briefing played out as she'd planned. They'd given Skinner enough advance notice that he could safely go running to Fox. And to Diana, who'd seen the tape ten times before, Gibson's prescience was obvious.
Scully twisted in her chair and looked back when Diana supported Fox. Diana returned her stare, careful to make it no more than polite on the surface. Scully raised an eyebrow, as if she saw more than Diana was willing to show her. How much had she found out about Diana so far? Had she gone to Fox's friends yet?
Soon enough. Diana tasted the word enemy. It implied something personal, as if they, like Gibson Praise, weren't just playing a game of chess. But then, Diana could see the board, if not all the pieces. Scully saw her as a person, one who could choose which side to fight for.
Diana smiled and enjoyed her free will, even if it was only a figment of Scully's imagination. Diana hadn't let herself get personal with anyone since Fox. Trysts were hard to arrange and desire hard to force when the Consortium's enforcers followed her everywhere. Sordid assignations in hotel rooms, people who didn't care if she used false names. She'd never longed for lovers, for permanency. She only wanted to make love to someone who knew who she was, who knew the truth--someone who was with her because of who she was, not in spite of it.
She tried to focus on Jeffrey, but he'd lost control of the meeting and it soon dissolved. She picked up her papers slowly, and was the last out of the room.
Scully was waiting for her.
Diana pretended a calm expectance, but this time she didn't know what to say. This wasn't part of the plan.
"What are you playing at?" Scully asked, low and intense.
Diana started walking towards the elevator. Scully paced her. "I'm not sure what you mean." Playing for time.
"You worked on the X-Files. You and Mulder..." Scully let that thought trail away. Diana considered the stupidity of marriage and divorce: it left a paper trail. "You were assigned to a counterterrorism unit in Tunisia? Exactly what kind of domestic threat do MUFON groups in Europe pose, Agent Fowley?"
Plane tickets, of course; flight records. Those, at least, Scully had been meant to find. But not yet. "I think you know exactly what threat I was tracking," she said.
Scully glanced around to see who might be listening. "And are you following me for the same reason?"
"No," Diana said, pushing the elevator call button. The answer surprised her and she smiled, almost laughed. "No. Different reasons entirely."
She held the glance long enough that Scully's eyes widened. Scully didn't expect her to admit she'd been following her. Diana hadn't expected to admit the reason she was--her reasons, not the Consortium's. Tell the truth, she thought. It confuses the hell out of your enemies.
If, indeed, enemies was what they were.
"You believe the boy is actually precognitive?"
Diana accepted the new subject easily. "From the tape--"
Scully shook her head dismissively. "Any eight year old in an intense, competitive atmosphere is more than likely to look around--to his parents, maybe."
"His eyeline matches the bullet trajectory."
"You sound like Mulder." There was a sound almost like affection in her voice.
"I don't just want to believe, Dana," she said. The elevator doors opened and Diana stepped on. "I actually do."
The doors were almost closed before Scully thrust her hand between them. "I want to know what the hell you think you're doing."
The elevator dinged and the doors opened. Diana stepped back and looked at Scully--really looked at her, which was more than Fox had ever done, she was sure. "I want that too," she said.
The elevator doors closed between them, and this time Scully didn't stop them.
The boy, Gibson Praise, was the answer you had fought for. When you first saw him, small and pudgy, swimming behind his glasses, pouting at the television, you refused his knowledge. You weren't prepared to catch him, hold him; like some exotic specimen, he fluttered beyond your reach.
When you found him later, choking on dust and heat, sweating and gasping in his cricket-burrow, his leg angulated and pumping blood, he mumbled in his fever and told your secrets to the ghosts he saw.
"He was wondering about both of you," he said, as you splinted the leg and dressed the wound. "But you weren't thinking about him."
"I understand now," he said, and he wasn't speaking of knowing your motives, your intent, your confusion: those he had seen immediately, all those years ago. He meant he understood the reasons. He was old enough for that, and he had Thea to teach him.
"He assumed it was you, but it wasn't," he said, and his eyes closed, and he almost slept. "You were thinking of her."
Diana knocked on the motel room door, sharp official raps. When Scully opened it, she brushed past her to glance at Gibson, asleep on the bed.
"Marshal Stevens is here to relieve you," she said, curtly, and swept out again. She scanned the parking lot. The feeling of being followed never truly left her, but tonight it was intense. It might be real, or it might just be seven years of anticipation: some night, in some city, she would have done the wrong thing or let the wrong word slip.
Scully murmured her report to the marshal, handing over responsibility for Gibson for the next eight hours. Diana shivered. The rooms on either side of the safehouse were empty. A second marshal sat in a car in the parking lot, watching the entrance from the road. All the guards in the world didn't make the motel any safer. Her life was forfeit, and the Consortium's threat acted as a conscience as much as anything. If she acted on instinct...
The touch on her arm startled her badly. She spun around. Scully stood behind her, a faintly amused expression on her face.
"Searching for the boogeyman?" she asked.
"I gave up that job when I left for Berlin," Diana returned. "It's yours, now."
Scully nodded. She crossed her arms and peered out into the night. "You don't think much of my methods. I don't think much of yours."
"You're not prepared to accept what the X-Files have to offer," Diana said. "I suppose Fox told you."
Scully's lips twitched when she said 'Fox'. Of course, he was Mulder to her. That just proved how much he'd changed after she left. "He wanted me to know there was nothing between you anymore."
"There hasn't been, for a long time. I wanted certain things he couldn't give me."
The no vacancy sign hummed above them. Scully tilted her head back, and Diana followed her gaze; the stars were dim and distant through the glaring lights.
"I don't trust you," Scully said at last. "Those MUFON women...I'm certain they all had chips in their necks...and I'm not at all sure you didn't have something to do with that. The men who perform that sort of experiment--"
"They want to be alien so badly they've forgotten how to be human." Diana snorted softly at Scully's astonishment.
She recovered quickly. "And you?"
"I had a choice. I made it. And, even if you don't believe it, we're working for the same ends."
"That doesn't excuse the means."
Diana looked down at her: she was a good six inches taller than Scully, and probably more than that, if they were barefoot. Scully was watching her, carefully. "You're like Fox, that way," she said. "You're too good. It doesn't help you."
Scully stiffened, the only sign of her anger, and Diana felt a wash of some sort of twisted pride--that she could make Scully lose her temper. Irish, she thought, like her hair. "I wouldn't want it to," Scully said.
And what would she do, if--well, if? Scully loved Fox--that was obvious to the woman who'd loved him first. And yet--
"Fight the good fight," Diana said, pushing her. It was risky but she wanted risk; to prove she was still human, and still alive. They hadn't killed her yet, so she had time. "Be the hero. The martyr. Isn't that Fox's job?"
"He's--" Scully stopped before she could say something disloyal, and she turned back to face Diana. The air was dangerous. There were murderers out there, and they wanted to kill Gibson and they wanted to kill Diana and they wanted Scully to watch hope die.
"He's distant. He believes in something as long as his passion lasts, but it never does." Diana smiled to herself. Risk meant nothing if you weren't human. Maybe it was only that--the idea of coming back to her life here in the States, and therefore to herself. "He buries himself in work and has no idea about this--"
Turning in the bleached starlight, to see Scully's eyes wide with surprise (or no surprise at all), and to kiss her: and it was the stupidest thing to do, and there was a U.S. Marshal in a car somewhere in front of them and another in the motel room behind them (they were on duty, and should be watching the road, but Diana didn't trust words like duty so that meant nothing) and for a moment she thought what about Fox and then for a longer moment what about the Consortium and by the time she'd decided she didn't care the kiss was over.
She had time to think I will die for this, I just don't know who will shoot first, when Scully giggled.
Diana blinked, then smiled, slowly.
"I haven't done that since high school," Scully said. She was blushing and watching the sky again. Then, cold and implacable, the surface Scully that most people saw: "This doesn't mean I trust you."
"No," Diana said. "I suppose not."
Scully raised an eyebrow. "You're working for the wrong side. I think you know that. You could--"
"No. I couldn't."
Diana sighed. "Aren't you worried?" she asked.
"I've just been told by a possibly telepathic eight year old that I don't care what people think," Scully said. "Except for you."
"My car is over there," Scully said, and if it wasn't an answer, it didn't need to be.
Diana followed her. In the small hours of the morning, a silent bullet would find her, and if she lived then she would know it was because she was still useful, no other reason. Scully was her enemy. The Consortium had that power, and she would obey.
For tonight, she called her Dana, and let herself be human again.
Now, as you lie in Mulder's arms, your child is a memory and your struggle is futile and forgotten. You will die soon--is there any doubt of that? The arroyos of New Mexico are not enough to hide you. Immortal soldiers hunt you, and if you have this night then it is a gift, a cup filled with joy to be drained with thankfulness, not regret.
You love him: not as your partner, but as a man, and the slow sounding of a drumbeat--your heart and his--reminds you of the first time, sweat like tears on both your cheeks, and the aching knowledge that you shouldn't, shouldn't.
Now, you are free; you have only the eternal space of time between this moment and your death; how long? How long means nothing.
Should you share all the infidelities of heart and mind that came before? Is that what this trust demands?
He loved Diana too. She died for his war, on one side or the other. After the war is won and lost, betrayal means as little as the fight itself.
So you will love him, and you will remember her. They both gave you belief, and strength. You will die, and, dying, you will speak his name or hers into the dark, like a prayer.
When you die, it will not matter which.