Displacement

cover

TITLE: Displacement

AUTHORS: The VS11 Producers

EMAIL: vs10producers@yahoo.com

RATING: PG-13

CONTENT: Case file; mytharc; VS11 Season Finale

SPOILERS: Allusions to mytharc episodes prior to

Season 8, specifically Piper Maru, and to

Virtual Season mytharc episodes “Legacy” and

Camarilla.”

SUMMARY: When Bill Scully receives a transfer back to Washington DC, the Scully family is reunited. But reunions don’t always go as planned.

THANKS: To everyone who supports the Virtual Seasons, either by contributing their talent or their feedback, and to everyone who loves The X- files.

FEEDBACK: vs10producers@yahoo.com, thank you!

DISCLAIMER: The X-files, Fox Mulder and Dana

Scully don’t belong to us, they belong to Chris Carter, 1013 Productions and 20th Century Fox. We’re just borrowing them for a while.

DISTRIBUTION: This story belongs exclusively to the Virtual Season 11 site for two weeks; thereafter, please contact the Producers at the above address for permission to archive.

clip_image002

Displacement

By The VS11 Producers

Teaser

The letter came in a standard white number 10 envelope. It was embossed with the return address ‘Joint Chiefs of Staff’ in dark blue raised ink on the upper left hand corner. The addressee’s name was typed directly on the envelope, not typed to a label and stuck on. It was a letter of some importance. The young seaman who was responsible for the base mail that day took little note of the letter. He had several bags of mail to sort through and that was just one with a better address than most. He quickly tossed it in the slot for the executive offices and moved on to the next bundle. A machinist mate who’d been in a bar brawl and was serving out some time picked up the letter with a handful of others and walked the four blocks to the building holding the offices of the senior staff. He saluted the Ensign at the desk, who nodded and took the packet of mail from the  younger man. The envelope, in finer grade paper, caught his attention. With crisp military movements, the young Ensign got up from his desk and walked the letter into the inner office. He handed it to the officer seated in front of a window overlooking the base parade grounds.

“This just came for you, sir,” the Ensign said, saluted and returned to his desk in the outer office.

The officer pulled a long silver letter opener out of the top drawer of the desk and sliced open the letter. Carefully removing the single sheet of watermark paper inside, he unfolded the tri-fold and read the return address.

Joint Chiefs of Staff

The Pentagon

Washington, DC

April 20, 2004

Subject: Letter Orders

TO: Lieut. William Scully, Jr., USN

You will proceed at the earliest possible time by air transportation to Naval Headquarters, Washington, DC in connection with your new assignment with the Joint Chiefs. Priority AAA is assigned.

The officer looked further down the page and a smile grew on his face. It was everything he could do to keep from shouting out his excitement. Dropping the letter to the desktop, he reached for the phone and punched in a few digits. Waiting for the other party to pick up, he impatiently drummed his fingers, continuing to glance down at the letter on the desk.

Finally, someone answered.

“Baby, get all the boxes you can find down at the supermarket. We’re going home!”

Bill Scully laughed aloud at his wife’s screams of happiness. He picked up the letter again and read it to her.

Scully Residence

Baltimore, MD

April 24, 2004

“More sweet potato pie, Fox?” Maggie asked, not bothering to hear the reply as she scooped another piece onto his empty plate.

“I really can’t . . . oh, well, if you insist,” Mulder said in a lame attempt to ward off the calorie laden confection.

“Oh, right, like we aren’t taking the rest of the pie home with us, and I won’t find the empty pie pan in the sink tomorrow morning,” Scully scoffed, but her eyes were alight with affection and humor.

“Fox runs every morning, he needs those calories,” Maggie admonished.

“Listen to your mother, Scully. I need these calories,” Mulder mumbled around a fork full of pie.

“Talk to me when those calories catch up with your slowing metabolism, Mulder,” his partner returned with a quick swipe across his hair, messing it up in the process. She proceeded to load up the empty plates and serving dishes from their meal.

“That was wonderful, Mrs. — ah, Maggie,” Mulder said, remembering just in time that Margaret Scully was tired of him calling her by her formal title.

“Well, I’m glad you two got a chance to join me. It’s been so quiet in this house lately,” Maggie said, taking the last of the dishes into the kitchen. Just as she placed them on the counter the phone rang. Scully started the dishwater and Mulder followed them, retrieving a clean drying towel from one of the kitchen drawers. Secure in the knowledge that the clean up was in good hands, Maggie grabbed the phone on the third ring.

“Hello.”

Not wanting to eavesdrop, the two partners continued to wash and dry, Mulder pointing out invisible smudges of food that Scully’s washing had missed. She, in turn, tossed a handful of soap bubbles on his gray tee shirt. They both stopped short at the squeal that erupted behind them.

“When?” Maggie demanded, almost shaking with excitement. “Oh, I can’t believe this, this is wonderful! Yes, I’ll save the Sunday paper and maybe you can look on line. I’ll get you the web sites for some realtors in the area. Are you looking at Baltimore or somewhere closer to DC? Oh, this is such good news, can I share it? Well, Fox and Dana are here for supper. Oh, good, I’ll be sure to tell them. Yes, sweetheart, I can’t wait either. Give Bill, Matty and baby Clara my love!” When she turned, blue and hazel eyes exchanged a glance before the partners went unobtrusively back to their work. Maggie smiled and walked over to stand behind them. She wrapped an arm around her daughter and Mulder. “That was Tara. She had the best news.”

“What’s that, Mom?” Scully asked, handing Mulder a glass salad bowl.

“Bill finally got the transfer to the Pentagon! They’re moving back here in a couple of weeks!”

The sound of breaking glass startled all three people. They looked down as one at the now shattered salad bowl that had slipped from Mulder’s fingers as he heard the news.

“Oh, god, I’m so sorry, Maggie. I’ll buy you a new one,” Mulder sputtered, fishing pieces of broken glass out of the empty side of the double sink.

“Fox, it’s an old dime store bowl. I have plenty more just like it,” Maggie shooed him off. “Dana, get me an oven mitt so I can get the bigger pieces. Fox, honey, move aside. I’m an old pro at broken dishes.”

Scully handed the oven mitt to her mother, and quickly gathered up a discarded cereal box out of the recycle bin. “Will this work, Mom?” she asked.

Maggie smiled as she placed a handful of glass inside the box. “Just like old times, isn’t it? How many dishes did Charlie break when you two did clean up?” The older woman was so engrossed in her efforts that she didn’t notice the grimace on her daughter’s face. “You two run along. I’ll just be a minute. I want to see that movie you brought. I just love Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton is so much fun to watch.”

No more was said about Bill’s transfer for the rest of the evening. The movie ended and the two agents got their jackets. “Dinner was wonderful, as usual, Maggie. Sorry about the bowl,” Mulder said, giving the woman a peck on the cheek.

“Oh, it’s perfectly all right, Fox. Now you really are part of the family,” Maggie teased, pressing a foil covered pie pan with the remains of the sweet potato pie into his hands. “Drive safely, and call me the minute you get back to the apartment. You know how I worry.”

“I will, Mom,” Scully promised.

“Oh, and Dana, don’t forget to mention to Fox about the plans for the summer,” Maggie shouted as they made their way down the sidewalk to the car. “With Bill coming home, I think we can really make it happen.”

“Plans?” Mulder asked, fishing out his car keys. “I will, Mom. I’ll call you in a bit.” Mulder detected an exasperated tone to his partner’s voice.

“What’s this all about, Scully?” he asked again, starting the car and pulling out of the driveway.

Scully sighed and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “Mom mentioned it earlier, when you were in watching the baseball highlights. She wants to  have a family vacation. Go somewhere, rent a cottage on the beach, all of us together.”

“All of us . . . as in. . .?”

“Bill, Tara, Matty and little Clara, Charlie and his family . . .”

“Scully, you can’t be serious. Besides, you don’t think Charlie would show up for it, do you? I mean, he’s made a point of avoiding all the other family gatherings of late.”

“I know, Mulder, I know. I don’t know what to tell you. Sometimes, when Mom gets on these ‘we’re all one family’ kicks I just want to grab her by the shoulders and shake some sense in to her.”

“She doesn’t understand, Scully. It’s not her fault.”

“Maybe it’s our fault, or more my fault. Maybe I should just tell her.”

“Tell her what?” he asked apprehensively.

“Tell her that her son, her baby, was the man responsible for putting you near death last fall. That he’s connected to a vile network of men who are little more than monsters, who kill and maim and torture at will. That he’s not the golden boy she envisions him to be.” Anger flushed her cheeks when she finished.

Mulder was silent for a while, letting her calm down. Finally, he took his eyes off the road for just an instant to meet her gaze. “It would kill her, Scully. You know that. And we’re not entirely sure . . .”

“You’re not entirely sure? Mulder, how much proof do you need?”

“You’re taking Krycek’s word for this, you know. And he’s not the most reliable person. I can tell you that from personal experience. Me and a bunch of Siberian cockroaches.”

“Krycek didn’t need to tell me that in an airbase in New Jersey my brother shot you, held me at gunpoint and threatened to kill me because I saw that with my own eyes. Krycek, by the way, saved both our lives on that night!”

Mulder just stared at her, the silence weighing heavy between them. She could read his thought easily.

Scully blew out a breath. “I know, I can’t tell her. I can’t tell her any of this.”

“Not to mention how much joy there’d be at any summer cottage where Bill and I were forced to co-exist,” he added.

“Look, Mulder, now that Bill and Tara are going to be living near us, you’re going to have to get used to the idea that you’re going to spend time with them. I know it won’t be pleasant — at first — but I expect you to make an effort.”

“We’re all one big family?” Mulder asked, requoting her mother.

Scully nodded emphatically. “Whether we like it or not,” she said sternly.

Mulder just smiled and shook his head. “Yes ma’am!” he said, giving her an abbreviated salute.

Act I Scene 1

Bill Scully Residence

Fairland, MD

May 16, 2004

12:53 PM

Scully heaved a deep, soul-cleansing sigh. Bill and Tara’s house was gorgeous. In the limited time there’d been to house hunt; Bill had done very well for himself. He’d managed to snag a freshly renovated, three-level Colonial in Fairland, Maryland. It had four bedrooms, one and a half baths, new kitchen and fully finished basement. From the deck out back, the view was both breathtaking and serene, a sharp contrast to the tension-filled aura radiating off her older brother since she and Mulder had arrived.

For the past 3 hours Scully had watched the two men size each other up like a couple of junk yard dogs. The air was thick with testosterone and Scully had sought a few minutes respite before tackling the upstairs bathroom. God, she was tired of her brother’s same old song and dance act. Bill had treated Mulder like last week’s garbage from the moment they had walked in the door. Ignoring him whenever possible and gracing him with Neanderthal-like grunts when forced to acknowledge his presence or instruct him on the destination of a packing crate or item of furniture.

And Mulder, to give credit where it was due, had taken it all on the chin. Scully felt her jaw tighten. Bill could be such a bastard.

“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”

Scully turned at the sound of her mother’s voice and pasted a smile on her face. “I was just thinking the same thing, mom.”

Maggie moved closer to her daughter and wrapped an arm around her shoulders, pulling her close.

“Really? You looked more like you were expecting an audit from the IRS.”

Scully huffed a quiet snort and slowly shook her head.

“Is everything all right, Dana?”

“I was just thinking about Bill.”

“That’s the reason for the sour look on your face?”

Scully smiled and dropped her chin to her chest. “Where are Tara and the kids?”

Maggie laughed softly. “You’re changing the subject, Dana.” She pulled her arm from around her daughter’s shoulders and turned her so they were looking at each other.

“It’s Fox, isn’t it?”

Scully studied her shoes for a second then met her mother’s gaze, pausing only slightly before letting the dam break.

“No, mom. It’s not Mulder. It’s Bill. His attitude. How long do I have to wait before he accepts the fact that Mulder and I are together? I had to force Mulder to come here today because he didn’t want to cause any trouble. Mulder is a part of who I am, mom. And if Bill can’t come to terms with that, then…” Scully thrust her chin forward, defiance flashing in her eyes. “Then he is going to have to exclude me from family gatherings as well.”

Maggie stared out across the back yard. A gentle breeze tickled the treetops lining the rear chain link fence. A bird flew overhead, circled once then disappeared behind the next-door neighbor’s roof.

“Dana, when Bill was a little boy, your father drummed into him the importance of responsibility. He was the eldest and with your dad away so much of the time, Bill was expected to take care of us in his absence. He’s always taken that responsibility seriously. You know he loves you. He only wants to make sure you’re happy.”

“I *am* happy, mom. Mulder is the best thing that’s happened to me and I won’t let Bill jeopardize what we have.”

Maggie smiled, reached out and pulled her daughter into a hug. “I’ll talk to him. I can’t promise anything, but I’ll try. You know how stubborn he gets.”

Scully nodded into her mother’s shoulder.

“Mom? Dana? Is something the matter?” Tara joined the two women on the decking.

“Everything’s fine, sweetheart. Dana and I were just having a little mother, daughter chat.”

“I’ve fed the kids and thought the rest of the troops might be hungry. There’s soup and sandwiches in the kitchen.”

Scully stepped back from her mother’s embrace.

Maggie pushed up her sleeves, squeezed her daughter’s shoulder and headed towards the door, “I’ll just wash up then come and help serve lunch.”

Tara hesitated, eyeing Scully warily. “Are you sure everything’s okay, Dana?”

“Everything is fine. I’ll go let the men know lunch is ready.”

Mulder hauled another box from the back of the van and headed towards the house. Bill met him in the doorway coming from the other direction. The two of them did a quick shuffle, both blocking the other, until Bill finally grabbed hold of the box and shoved Mulder to the side. “That one goes upstairs. Matty’s room.” Without another word, he stepped past Mulder and headed for the truck.

“Ja Herr, mein Kapitaen. Whatever you say.” Mulder muttered under his breath, fighting the urge to rearrange the box over Bill’s head.

He moved into the house and headed upstairs. The house was nice. Big, airy and light but as far as Mulder was concerned it had 2 flights of stairs too many. His back was killing him and he wondered briefly if it was fate that had directed him to always pick up the box for the top story or whether Bill had strategically placed them so that Mulder would grab them first. He smiled cynically to himself. Bill was definitely bringing out the worst in him today.

“Ah, there you are.”

Scully’s head appeared over the top of the box. “Where are you heading with that?”

“Matthew’s bedroom.”

Scully stepped back to let him pass, then followed him down the hallway.

Mulder dumped the box alongside all the others and slowly straightened up, hands pressing against his lower back. He felt another pair of hands join his then gently remove them and turn him around.

“Bill’s really been giving you a work out, hasn’t he?”

In more ways than one, Mulder thought to himself but refrained from voicing his thoughts when a closer inspection of Scully’s face told him she wasn’t just referring to the amount of times he’d hauled boxes up the stairs. He knew she knew how Bill had been treating him. He also knew how much it upset her. Mulder pulled Scully to him, encircled her in his arms and kissed the top of her head.

“Hey, it hasn’t been that bad. I’m still standing and he hasn’t tried to take a swing at me. In fact in Bill terms, he’s been quite amicable.”

“You’re a bad liar, Mulder. I’ve seen the way he’s been acting.”

Mulder felt Scully shudder against him and he pulled back, tipping her chin up with his index finger so she was looking at him. There were tears in her eyes but she tried to hide them behind a weak smile. “Scully, I know Bill hates me. And in a lot of ways he has every right to, but. . .”

Scully’s forefinger over his mouth silenced him. “No.” She shook her head vehemently. “He doesn’t have the right. Ignorance does not excuse bad manners. He’s never bothered to take the time to really understand what you do. What *we* do. I won’t make excuses for him, and I don’t want to hear you making them either. I’m sorry I insisted you come with me today. I’d forgotten what a total ass my brother can be.”

Mulder clasped her face between his hands, gently caressing her cheeks with his thumbs.

“Have I told you lately how much I love you?”

This time when she smiled it was genuine. “A girl can never hear that too many times, Mulder.”

“Good.” Then he leaned down and kissed her on the lips, long and deep and hard.

“Oh for god’s, sake!”

Bill’s voice pulled them apart as effectively as a bucket of cold water. Mulder turned self- consciously towards the man standing in the doorway, and placed his hands discreetly in front of his suddenly too-tight denim jeans. “It’s bad enough that you brought him to my house, Dana, and now you’re carrying on in my son’s bed room like a couple of horny teenagers? What the hell were you thinking?” With a melodramatic flap of his hands, Bill turned on his heel and stormed down the hallway.

Scully stood and stared, mouth gaping and cheeks burning as she tried to process what had just happened. A split second later, her brain started functioning again, sending a heavy dose of outrage coursing through her body. She’d only managed one step towards the bedroom door when Mulder’s hand wrapped around her arm, tugging her back. “Don’t, Scully. It’s not worth causing a scene over.”

Scully glared at the hand encasing her upper arm, then aimed twin blue lasers at Mulder. Yanking hard to pull herself free she said, “The hell it’s not!” And stalked after her brother. She caught up with him in the living room before he could make his escape downstairs. Through a red-hot haze of anger, Scully vaguely registered the presence of her mother and sister-in-law in the kitchen as she passed by. “What the hell was that all about?” Scully hissed, grabbing her brother’s wrist and turning him around to face her.

“You don’t want to go there, Dana.” Bill threatened.

“How dare you talk to me like I’m some kind of recalcitrant child– ”

“Don’t lecture me on how I should treat you. If you have no respect for yourself, then at least try and find some respect for my family. What if Mathew had come in and seen that…” He waved his hands in the air searching ineffectually for the right description. “Seen *him* all over you like a praying mantis.” Bill swiped a hand across his brow and dragged it over his face. “Why did you have to bring *him* with you today? You know how I feel…”

“Yes I do know how you feel! You’ve made it pretty damn obvious to everyone what an ignorant pig you are. Mulder and I are a couple, Bill. How many different ways do I have to explain it? Either you accept him as part of my life or you exclude both of us.”

“Jeezus, Dana.” Bill shook his head in denial then lowered his voice, spitting his words through clenched teeth. “I thought you were a smart woman. How can you let that lunatic pull the wool over your eyes like he has? He’s a fruitcake! He believes in *aliens* for Christ’s sake!”

“Bill!” Maggie Scully appeared from the kitchen wiping her hands on a towel and staring at her eldest son in disbelief. “What’s going on?”

Scully glared at her brother, her chest heaving and pulse pounding in her ears. He glared just as menacingly back at her.

“Dana? Are you going to tell me what the problem is?” Maggie stood beside her daughter.

“You know what the problem is, mom. It’s the same problem there is whenever Mulder and Bill are within shouting distance of each other.”

Scully turned to face her mother but it was the tall figure standing behind her mom that caught her attention.

Mulder looked at Scully, silently pleading with her to let it drop. When he eventually said something, it was to Maggie. “I’m sorry, Mrs….. um, Maggie, I’ve just remembered something I had to have ready for AD Skinner tomorrow.” He dug the car keys out of his pocket and turned to Scully. ” Call me when you’re done, Scully, and I’ll come pick you up.”

Scully straightened her shoulders, thrust out her chest, then looked at her mom and her brother. “That won’t be necessary, Mulder. I’m done now.” She slid past her mother and joined Mulder. “Let’s go.”

“Scully…” Mulder tried to draw her back but she kept walking, jogging down the stairs to the front door. Mulder had no choice but to follow. When they got to the car Scully stood by the passenger side, hands on hips and chewing on her bottom lip, staring along the road.

Mulder unlocked the doors and waited for Scully to say something. But it was her mother’s voice that eventually broke the silence.

“Fox, Dana, wait up.” Maggie Scully stopped beside her daughter. “Don’t go. We can fix this.”

Scully sighed. “No mom, it’s too late. Bill’s had plenty of chances to come around. He just won’t try. Somewhere, I’ve got to make a stand.”

Mulder leaned on the roof of the car, “Scully, there’s no reason for us both to go. I’m the one he doesn’t want here. You stay and I’ll come back for you later.”

Scully’s answer was to give her mom a hug.

“We’re going. Both of us. I’ll call you tonight, mom. I love you.”

Maggie pulled her daughter closer. “Love you too, honey. I’ll talk to Bill and try and make him see reason.” She let go of Dana, and then turned to Mulder. “I’m sorry, Fox. You take care. Drive safely.”

Mulder offered a half-hearted smile and climbed into the car.

They’d traveled nearly 8 miles and neither of them had uttered a word. Scully had always had more staying power than Mulder when it came to maintaining the ‘silent treatment’ and this time was no different. He’d reached the end of his endurance about 5 miles back and now he just had to say something.

“Scully. . . I . . .” But he really didn’t know what he should say. He should have felt guilty, but he didn’t. He’d had Bill Scully up to his eyeballs and it was about time someone stood up to him. In a way he was secretly pleased that Scully had let him have it. But habit dictated that he accept at least some of the blame. “I’m sorry things turned out the way they did.”

Scully didn’t answer right away. She stared out of the side window, her right elbow perched on the edge of the door where glass met upholstery and  her hand cupping her forehead. When she moved it was sudden. She twisted in her seat so she was looking Mulder.

“You know, Mulder. I’m not in the least bit sorry. Bill has to learn he can’t keep pushing me around. Or you for that matter. At least this should get the point across.”

Mulder chewed on his lip briefly, then said, “It must have been a shock when he found out.”

“Found out what?”

“About you and I living together.”

“Mulder, we are not *living* together. You needed a place to stay and I had space.”

“Scully, we *are* living together.”

“You make that sound like a bad thing.”

“No! God, no! Far from it.”

“I sense a ‘but’ coming.”

Mulder drew in a deep breath. “It’s just… maybe till things cool down with Bill, it might be best if I found my own place.”

“Bill’s an asshole, Mulder. His opinion doesn’t matter to me.”

Mulder didn’t believe that for a second. With Melissa gone, and Charlie exposing himself as one of the main players in the consortium they’d been fighting against for the past eleven years, it had to hurt to have her only sibling questioning her wisdom in choosing him as her ‘significant other’.

“Scully, all I’m saying is don’t write your family off on my account.”

“You’re part of my family, now, Mulder. And Bill needs to accept that fact.”

This argument was going around in circles. Mulder had already made up his mind. At the earliest opportunity he’d find himself another place to live. He refused to be the cause of a rift between Scully and her brother.

Act I Scene 2

May 17, 2004

The Pentagon, Washington, DC

8:30 a.m.

Bill loved seeing his family, his mother, and even his baby sister — even if she had dragged along the twisto-strango she insisted on forcing into his life. But the calm order of a military base was really home to him. Floors were polished like glass, a salute at every entryway; yes, he belonged here. He deserved to be here, and it was only a matter of time that he would not be a new transfer any longer, but a respected part of this facility. As it should be.

As he walked down the hall with the ensign to his new office, even the tap of their heels down the corridor sounded neat and clean. Nice, orderly, quiet. “Here’s your office, Commander Scully,” the ensign announced as he swung open the door for his superior. Beyond the open door, Bill could not believe his own eyes. He’d imagined a nice office, a window, big desk, plenty of room in order to go about his daily duties. The kind of office a Commander warranted. What lay before him was nothing of the sort.

It was like Ali-Baba’s cavern, piled high with objects, only not treasures, but stacks upon stacks of files, memorabilia and boxes of random outdated office supplies. It was a complete and utter mess. “Welcome to the Pentagon, Commander,” his companion leered at him. The young man could barely hold the tittering back past his lips. “Looks like Commander Keenan left a little bit of himself behind for you. I’m sure you’ll figure out where to pick up . . . eventually. Scanning room’s down on the first floor when you need it, Sir.”

Bill gaped at him in shocked amazement, then back at the storage unit of a space that was his office. Clearing his throat and tucking his cap beneath his arm, he stood up straighter than the Washington monument. “Dismissed,” he boomed a little more loudly than was necessary. A quick salute and the ensign was marching away dutifully down the hall. Bill didn’t watch him go, but instead waited until the sound of tapping heels disappeared, and he was left alone.

He stepped into the office, carefully tip-toeing around the clutter, to make his way to the small window. He pulled violently at the chord for the wide-slatted metal blinds, slicing the closeness of the office open with the bright morning sunlight. Grumbling inwardly, he threw his cap onto one of the lower stacks of folders and planted himself into the old leather desk chair. Upon landing, a spew of dust motes shot out from the cracks in the leather and danced in the air before him. He sighed heavily in exasperation and immediately sneezed in reaction to the dusty air.

Apparently, he hadn’t left all the moving and organizing at home for the weekend. He rubbed at his eyes impatiently and then began sifting through the first stack of papers.

“What a pack-rat,” he complained, finding that three quarters of the items were expendable fax interactions, newspaper clippings or scribbled illegible notes. Was he meant to decipher all of this? It was going to be a long day.

Act I scene 3

Georgetown

May 18, 2004

6:30 am

Mulder drew in a deep breath, stretching his hamstrings and bending over. It was a beautiful morning in Washington. The azaleas were in full bloom, tulips fought with  waxwing begonias in the front yards of most of the apartment buildings nearby. He finished his warm up and started out at an easy trot, heading for the track just a few of blocks down the street. His mind kept circling back to the conversation he’d had with Scully a couple of nights before. Of course, conversation was the polite way of saying it. In reality, it had more bite to it than a normal conversation. He knew the minute Scully’s mom had announced the impending arrival of William Scully, Jr. on the east coast that his relationship with Scully would end up the worse for wear. Although theirs was a bond stronger than any force in the universe, his own failed family unit had taught him that blood wasn’t always thicker than water. He couldn’t stand by and watch Scully pull away from her family. He couldn’t live with the guilt he’d bear if that were to happen.

The track was empty, as always. It was easy to pick up speed on the cinder roadbed and just let the rhythm of his feet hitting the ground, his muscles stretching and contracting take all haunting thoughts from his mind. He lost himself in the simple endurance test of drawing air into his lungs, keeping his feet moving forward. Sweat stung his eyes, but he wiped at it absently and pushed himself a little harder.

A tiny voice that could have been Scully’s chided him for punishing himself for just being in her life, but he brushed that aside, too. He was running, running from Bill Scully, running from Scully’s anguish over her brother’s inability to accept Mulder in her life, running from all the pain inflicted by caustic comments and dismissive looks.

When his legs would carry him no further, he stopped and bent over, sweat pouring off his hair. His lungs burned, his leg muscles burned, but he welcomed it. Standing erect, he shook out his arms and jogged around the track to cool his overheated limbs. Mulder didn’t need to look at his watch to tell it was time to head back. The chimes at Georgetown University told him it was 7 am and he needed to hit the showers. He wiped his face off on the tail of his Hoyas tee shirt and started down the sidewalk to Scully’s apartment. The sign took him by surprise. “For Rent” it read in front of a quaint duplex, set off from the sidewalk with a wrought iron fence. The trees along the boulevard made the house seem like an shady, welcoming oasis. He stood for a moment, just looking up at the windows.

“It’s a beauty, ain’t it?” a just past middle aged man said suddenly behind him.

Mulder turned his head to address the gentleman. “Yes, it sure is. Are you the landlord?”

“Landlord, owner, interior decorator. At least the parts my wife lets me decide,” the man said with a chuckle. “Jake Timmons, JT Real Estate,” he added, shaking Mulder’s hand.

“Fox Mulder.”

“Are you looking for a place, Mr. Mulder? Hey, you aren’t the new associate professor of history over at GU are you?”

It was Mulder’s turn to chuckle. “Not guilty.  I’m an FBI agent.”

“Oh, well, the Hoover is just four Metro stops up the way. Not even a bad walk on nice days. Want to come in and take a look?”

Mulder looked up at the house. He really should be getting back, taking his shower, getting ready for work. Something about the townhouse was calling his name. He stared off down the sidewalk toward Scully’s apartment and then over at Mr. Timmons, who was standing there patiently, an expectant grandfather look on his face.

“Sure, no harm in looking,” Mulder said with a rush.

Mr. Timmons beamed. “That’s the spirit! C’mon, won’t take a minute. I know you’re probably in a hurry to get to work.”

It was cooler inside and Mr. Timmons flicked on lights as they went. The foyer was small but functional, with a built-in coat rack and mirror off to the side. A living room with a full bow window overlooking the street was through an archway to the right. Straight ahead was the stairway going to the second floor. Next to the stair was a narrow hall that led to the dining room and kitchen at the back of the house. “It’s got two bedrooms, one and a half baths. The laundry room is off the kitchen. Basement is a crawlspace, but there’s plenty of storage room in the attic,” Mr. Timmons rambled on as they walked through the downstairs. The dining room had a wooden chair rail of dark wood and varnished woodwork around the window and doorways. The kitchen had a fairly new stove, a matching dishwasher and a side-by-side refrigerator with ice and water in the door. Two doors were at the back of the room, one leading out to the postage sized back yard and the other to the laundry room, which doubled as a pantry with a floor to ceiling shelving unit along one wall. Mr. Timmons pointed out the half bath off the dining room and then took Mulder on a tour of the upstairs. Inside the first door at the top of the stair, a large claw-foot tub with shower dominated the bathroom. Two bedrooms, one with a window seat that matched the bow window from the living room, finished off the upper story. A pull down ladder gave access to the attic, which was large enough for Mulder to stand. When they had made their way back to the first floor, Mr. Timmons smiled at Mulder. “Well, what do you think?”

“I think it’s very nice, but definitely out of my price range,” Mulder admitted.

“What are you paying now?” Mr. Timmons asked.

Without hesitation, Mulder told the man what he’d been paying for his apartment in Arlington.

The older man beamed. “Would you be willing to go an extra 100 a month?” he asked.

Mulder was caught completely by surprise. “You’re kidding!”

“No, not at all. This place was my wife’s mother’s. It’s paid for, all we pay are taxes. We’re looking for quiet, mature renters.”

Mulder thought back to his last apartment. Somehow he doubted that any of his neighbors or even Mr. Szflarski would accuse him of being quiet. Mature, that was a matter of opinion, too. But the more he looked around the duplex, the more he liked it. It was nothing like his old apartment. If he were honest with himself, it was more the kind of place Scully would pick. But then, that was the real test, if he could get Scully’s approval. It was the only way she’d accept his moving out.

“Mr. Timmons, I’d really like a friend of mine to have a look at it, if you don’t mind.”

“Don’t mind a’tall. I just put the ‘for rent’ sign in the window, last renters bought a place out in Prince Georges’ County. They had twins last month and this place was just a little too small. Say, how about you bring your friend by after work? Give me a call and I’ll meet you here,” he said, pulling a business card out of his wallet. “My office is just up the street on M.”

Mulder took the card and then realized too late he didn’t have a place to put it. Self- consciously he leaned over and tucked the card in the instep of his running shoe. “I’ll give you a call.”

“Sounds like a plan. I’ll see you this afternoon then Mr. Mulder.” Once on the sidewalk, the two men shook hands once more and Mulder trotted off down the street, glancing once more over his shoulder at the duplex. Later that afternoon Scully wandered from the living room to the dining room and completed the circuit through the kitchen. She opened the cabinets, knelt down to inspect the pipes under the sink and peered into the broiler unit of the stove. Mulder felt like hiding his face behind his hand, but Mr. Timmons seemed to take it all in stride. She tested the banister going to the second floor, turned the water on full blast in the bathtub and flushed both the upstairs and downstairs toilets — twice each. The more she did, the more Mulder cringed, but trailed behind her like a toddler after his mother at a sidewalk sale. Finally, when he was just  about to scream, she nodded and headed down the stairs.

clip_image004

“Parking?” Scully inquired.

“Off street. There’s a one car garage in the back, but there’s space for two cars to park off the alley.”

“Are any utilities included?” she asked.

“Nope, that’s the responsibility of the renter,” Mr. Timmons said with a smile. “It’s got a new heat pump in the basement, great fuel efficiency.”

“Monthly heating and cooling costs?” Scully fired off.

Mr. Timmons handed her a printout from the District light company.

Scully nodded as she reviewed the figures. “Garbage pick up?”

“Once a week, from the alley on Thursdays. One can trash, one box recyclables. Standard for the city,” Mr. Timmons added.

“Security system?” At that Mulder blanched, but wisely kept his mouth shut.

“The last renters didn’t see the need, but if you want one, we could have one installed. I’d split the cost,” the older man offered.

“Mulder has friends in the business, they could probably get you a good deal,” Scully countered.

Mulder choked at that, but Scully pointedly ignored him, as did Mr. Timmons. “Couldn’t ask for more,” Mr. Timmons said affably.

Scully led the way out into the growing twilight. “It’s very nice,” she said with a forced smile. Mulder couldn’t read her expression and chewed on his lip. “I think I’d like to sleep on it, Mr. Timmons. Would it be all right to call you in the morning and give you my answer?”

Mr. Timmons smiled at Mulder fondly. “Sure, Mr. Mulder. You two go talk it over. This friend of yours seems to know a thing or two about real estate,” he said with a wink. “Just give me a call in the morning.”

“Thanks,” Mulder said, shaking the older man’s hand.

As they walked down the street, Scully twined her fingers in Mulder’s. “Want to get some dinner?” she asked.

“Not really that hungry,” he said quietly.

“How about grilled cheese?”

He nodded. She squeezed his hand and he squeezed back, finally giving her a weak smile. They were silent the rest of the way to the apartment. Scully got out the frying pan while Mulder pulled the cheese, bread and butter out of the refrigerator. In a few moments, they sat down to eat.

“So, what do you think of the duplex?” Mulder asked with notable trepidation.

Scully chewed her sandwich and swallowed a sip of iced tea before answering. “It’s nice. More room than you had on Hegal.”

“Well, I think the square footage is comparable, but the foyer on Hegal really couldn’t be used for much. The kitchen was bigger.”

She shrugged and continued eating. Mulder pushed his half eaten sandwich aside and sipped his tea.

“It’s closer to the track,” Mulder blurted out suddenly.

She raised her eyes to look at him. “Yes, but the track is only five blocks from here,” she said.

“Scully, this is what we’d agreed on after the fire. My living here . . . with you . . . it was just temporary.”

She bit her lip but nodded in agreement. “The price is definitely a point in its favor,” she said, sidestepping the elephant that had taken a place at the table — Mulder moving out.

“Look at it this way: now Bill won’t rag on you as much,” Mulder offered.

“Bill can screw himself,” Scully said with a pinched expression.

“As long as you and I can screw each other,” Mulder said with a barely restrained smirk.

She allowed a grin to skip across her lips. “Always,” she said, taking his hand.

“This changes nothing between us, Scully. Nothing can change how I feel about you, how much I need to be with you. Part of the problem of the old apartment was the commute between our places. That won’t be a problem now. I can stay over here, you can stay over there, and we’ll still have plenty of time to get ready at our own place in the morning. It’ll be like we’re living together, just not . . .”

“. . .living together,” she finished his thought.

“Yeah,” he agreed. They cleaned up the kitchen together, Mulder putting the dishes away. She wandered off to work on some files she’s brought home and take a long bath, he tuned in the Yankees game on the television. When the game ended, Scully was standing next to the sofa in her robe, her hair freshly shampooed and dried. “Coming to  bed?” she asked hopefully.

“Yeah,” he told her, clicking off the TV and turning out the lights. He locked the front door and followed her into the bedroom. “Are you OK with this, Scully?” he asked, coming up behind her as she shook out her hair and brushed it in front of her vanity.

“Sure. I mean it’s what you want, right?” she asked his reflection.

“Well, yeah. I can’t mooch off you forever,” he said in a lame attempt at a joke.

“You aren’t mooching,” she said softly. “You’ve been paying half the rent.”

“Well, this will give me a chance to build up my vast CD collection,” he said with a shrug.

“And your video collection?” she asked with a raised eyebrow.

“I don’t need one any more,” he said, reaching around to pull the tie from her robe and sliding the terrycloth off her shoulders. He placed gentle kisses at the base of her neck. “Come to bed, Scully.”

Without a sound, she allowed him to pull her on to the mattress. Their lovemaking was gentle, reverent. As the shadows deepened, they fell asleep, holding each other as tightly as they could, as if nothing or anyone could separate them.

In the morning Mulder called Mr. Timmons and made arrangements to sign the lease and move into the little duplex down the street.

Act II Scene 1

The Pentagon

May 20, 2004

Bill was finally making some headway with the flammable flea market that had been Commander Keegan’s legacy. One more file cabinet left. Why couldn’t the old fart build himself a library like Nixon or Clinton or every other flatulent egomaniac in this town, get a crew of flunkies in jumpsuits to crate this crap instead of one of the nation’s soon-to-be military titans? “Get your own freaking curator,” Bill grunted, flipping a photo of Nixon and Keegan, signed “Kick some Commie ass, Donny!” into a wheeled plastic barrel with a file drawerful of Vietnam War memos the Washington Post would have killed for. He peered down into the empty metal drawer and booted it shut. Bill heard a dull thump, and the drawer bounced back to catch him in the shin.

He issued a string of obscenities, and kicked the drawer again. This time, it ricocheted off its track.

The office door clattered open, and an ensign’s buzzed head popped in. “Sir? Everything all right in here?”

“Yeah,” Bill snapped, rubbing his chin. “Stand down, OK? I’m fine, fine.”

The ensign fled, and Bill knelt before the now-gaping mouth of the file cabinet. He spotted a crumpled corner of manila pasteboard ripped back to reveal yellowed pages of textured Corona type. More crap — the forestry policies of the last four presidents had done less to decimate the nation’s woodlands than had the Pentagon. The regulation cabinet was deep, and Bill groaned as he ripped his sleeve on the track’s razor edge. His thumb and forefinger finally closed about the corner of the thick folder, and he banged his forehead on a drawer handle as he tugged it free. After the injury and wardrobe damage Bill had sustained in his effort to liberate the file, he felt obliged to at least leaf through its contents. Had he not been distracted by the pain in his shin and the blood soaking into his uniform blouse, he might have wondered at the lack of dust bunnies or aged track grease on the folder. His eyes nonetheless were drawn to the stamp haphazardly positioned in the corner of each page in oxidized scarlet. Classified to the max. William Scully’s heart began to race as he examined the text on the cover page, and almost stopped when two words emerged from the crisp hand-typed memorandum. Zeus Faber. To the civilian population at large — with the possible exception of a few egghead historians – – the name would have meant nothing. But to anyone above the rank of lieutenant, it was military legend — a dark footnote in the annals of the Navy and an untold epilogue in the blood- soaked saga of World War II.

The U.S. sub Zeus Faber had been carrying an A- bomb — cousin to those dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki — reportedly for airborne delivery to an unidentified destination in Japan. Tragically, the death-dealing technology was still in its relative infancy, and some breach of protocol or a terrible accident had resulted in the mass radiation poisoning of the Faber’s crew. Capt. Kyle Sanford gave his life with 143 of his men; only seven men survived the ordeal. Few knew the rest of the story, and few ever would. Bill had been told in a bar in Miami one night, by a retired admiral half in the bag. Wanting to hedge his bets, Harry Truman had ordered nuclear detonation not only over the two villages now known to every junior high history student who cared. The straight-talking Missourian had decided to make a stronger statement, and millions might have died in and around Tokyo had fate not intervened in the lives of the Zeus Faber’s crew. While the mass destruction of two Japanese villages was a wound that had been slow to heal, the obliteration of such a teeming metropolis likely would have fueled a cultural blood feud that would have led to the eventual deaths of tens of millions more Americans and Japanese and scorched earth on both sides of the Pacific. But that seemingly wasn’t the story Bill Scully now read. He collapsed into Commander Keegan’s well-worn desk chair, scarcely breathing as he scanned the contents of the lost file. Something about “foo fighters” — the phrase came back to him from some long-ago Thanksgiving dinner, when Mom had invited Dana’s asshole partner to supper. Some story of Mulder’s about UFO sightings during WWII, of alien spacecraft being shot down over the Pacific by U.S. fliers. William Scully placed the folder carefully on his blotter, got up, and locked the door. He then settled back into his chair. A name triggered his memory: The memo had been written by a Lt. Christopher Johansen. Johansen had lived down the street from his family when he was a kid on a base in San Diego, and had been good friends with his dad. Unlike a lot of brass, Johansen had never seemed eager to relive his Pacific Theater days, and Capt. Scully had occasionally commented on Johansen’s reticence regarding certain topics. Bill started with renewed interest into Johansen’s narrative, but was interrupted when his desk phone trilled.

“Commander Scully,” he barked. It would take a little time to get used to his new title.

“Hey, Hon — getting used to your new surroundings?” Tara asked lightly.

“The old hairbag — the commander — left it a pigsty, but I’m sloughing through. What’s up?”

“You have a clock in that new office of yours?”

Bill looked up. “Yeah, sorry — guess I got absorbed in Commander Keegan’s memorabilia. Fascinating stuff.”

“Well,” Tara teased, “drag yourself away, if you can. I’ve begun emergency measures on this pork roast, and Matthew wants to know when supper is.”

Her husband glanced reluctantly at the folder, and suppressed a sigh. “Yeah, sure, Babe. Packing it up right now. Go ahead and feed Matthew — I’ll be home soon.”

“I told him we’d wait for his daddy. Love,” Tara sang.

“Yeah.” Bill cradled the phone and eyed the open folder. Sighing loudly this time, he collected the documents and swept them into his briefcase.

Act II Scene 2

Dana Scully’s apartment

May 20, 2004

6:30 pm

The wooden spoon dragged through the thick red gravy, heavy boiling bubbles breaking the surface like lava as she stirred. Scully wanted to make their last night in her apartment together special. She was particularly good at making chicken Parmesan, and knew it was one of Mulder’s special requests when she cooked. It didn’t hurt that it took longer to prepare than other meals, and required an extensive amount of clean-up afterward, which meant Mulder would be hanging around the kitchen, keeping her company. He was in the living room presently, making his last phone calls to the Ryder pick-up station, the furniture delivery guys and the Gunmen. All his bases were covered. Garment bags lay draped over the few boxes of items Mulder had accumulated during his stay. She’d insisted he take the extra care for his suits in transit, knowing full well that he would have been happy to stuff them into black lawn bags with his grubby socks and sweats. She’d forgotten how men’s clothing seemed to wear so much faster than women’s — a fact she’d learned growing up with two brothers and her father. She felt a small pang disturb the inner reaches of her heart. All the men in her life seemed to give her some kind of heartache: Ahab gone from this world, Charlie seduced by the evil of the consortium, Bill wreaking havoc on her emotions and family status, and now Mulder, although with good intentions, leaving her alone in this apartment.

But that wasn’t true, and she knew it. Nothing was going to change between them. He still loved her completely and utterly. Only a few miles were going to be the separation between them. But she was going to miss his presence. She placed the lid off-center over the saucepan so that its contents didn’t boil over, and called Mulder in for help.

“Mulder, I need you to slice the mozzarella, and grate the parmesan.” She heard his heavy footsteps as he entered he kitchen.

“Man, you just side-stepped the oldest joke in the book. I can still keep the joke alive, though. Wanna pull my finger?” Said finger was caressing the back of her neck and making its way up to her ear as she pulled out a bunch of spaghetti from the narrow blue box.

“Not while I’m cooking, Mulder. . .” she grumbled between tight lips. This was not the first time he’d managed to distract her while tending hot food. Despite her protests, she loved it when he did this, even when they were at her mother’s house two winters ago, dangerously close to being caught, she reveled in it. She pushed herself back into him and his arms enveloped her. She tried to reach the pot of boiling water to drop the dry pasta into it to cook, but she was firmly pinned within his embrace.  “Besides, I’m enjoying the smell of garlic and basil filling the kitchen.”

“Garlic? Guess I won’t be kissing you later,” he said nuzzling his cheek against her hair.

“If we’re both eating it, it doesn’t count. Trust me, you won’t notice a thing.” She turned in his arms, holding the bunch of spaghetti tightly like a bouquet of flowers.

He bent down to kiss her, mumbling his lips against hers saying, “Is that a promise?”

She moved her lips in response to deepen the kiss, pressing herself a little harder against his body so that there was a real danger of them playing pick-up sticks with fallen pasta. They separated reluctantly, Scully longing to keep Mulder as close as possible for as long as possible. Yet, practicality winning, she wheedled herself out of his clutches and threw the spaghetti into the water. “You’d better get to work, mister. I’m not letting you slack off on the chores just because you won’t be here anymore.”

The warm pinkish glow illuminating Mulder’s cheeks suddenly disappeared, leaving his skin pallid. He valiantly tried to keep his smile in place, but it just ended up feeling rigid. It was quiet as they worked — very quiet. The only sounds were the bubbling liquids, knife tapping against the cutting board with each slice and the rhythm of hard cheese grating against metal. When they sat down to eat it was the same way. Metal fork tines clinked against Corian as they spun pasta and cut into the delectable meat and cheese. Scully was trying to keep the mood light, offering to pour more wine, passing the bread. She’d even lit candles, which usually served to loosen her mood, especially if she was shooting for certain activities in lieu of dessert. But with each bite, the cheese seem more oily, the sauce more acidic in her stomach.

‘This is not a break-up,’ she kept reminding herself. But while she chewed, warm rivulets trickled down her hot cheeks, and the meat became rubbery in her mouth. She couldn’t pry her eyes away from the plate before her for anything in the world. Maybe if she just didn’t look at Mulder, he wouldn’t notice the distress pushing so hard against her insides that it was ready to explode from her in sobs, had she not been biting her bottom lip to stave it back. She no longer heard the sounds of clinking cutlery. Mulder did notice.

The next thing she felt was his large, warm hand enveloping her tight fist beside the plate. She vaguely registered it invading her peripheral vision as she insisted on studying a particularly melty piece of cheese. “Hey, love, what is it?” he asked in such a gentle and concerned tone of voice that when Scully closed her eyes to cherish it, a new stream of tears retraced the paths that had already branded her cheeks. Scully quickly dropped her utensils and pulled her hand away from his grasp to wipe at her eyes. She blew her nose, and snuffled away the rest of the tears. “It’s nothing. I’m fine.”

“Don’t do that, please.”

She cleared her throat, covering her emotions even further. “Do what?”

“Scully, you’re not fine. You’re crying.” He reached over to her shoulder, squeezed it, then moved down her arm, to once again grasp her hand. “Talk to me. Please.”

She got up from the table, taking her plate with her and emptying what was left of her meal into the garbage. Mulder followed her, but left his plate to cool where it sat. She placed the dinnerware into the sink, and ran the water at top force, both hot and cold spigots thrown open to the limit. Mulder came behind her, reached around and turned them off. The silence afterward was louder than Niagara Falls in springtime.

“This is about me finding a new place, isn’t it?”

She didn’t answer.

“Scully, it’s been fun playing house for a while, and believe me, there’s no place else I’d love to be than with you. But I have to move out of here, you know that. Us being together is everything. But when we can’t have peace of mind, it’s just. . . we need to move a little slower so that everyone can get used to the idea. And. . .”

He caressed her shoulders, felt the tension within them through her sweater. He rubbed at the knots right near her shoulder blades where he knew she held all her stress. “. . .things being what they are right now, family situations, work situations. I want to know that you’re safe, and if there’s a target on my head for whatever reason, I want you to be out of harm’s way. I can’t risk some wacko burning you up with the rest of it.”

“But. . .” she trailed off.

“But what. . .?”

“I’m going to miss you.”

“I’ll be five minutes away, Scully.”

“No,” she turned to enforce her statement, “I mean, I’m going to miss you being here. I feel like *you’re* safe here with me.”

“I’m a big boy, Scully,” he said, kissing her forehead. “I can take care of myself. Besides, I’ll be over here three days a week at least for food. You know what my cooking skills entail.”

He got a chuckle for that.

“Man does not live on Rice Krispies alone, Mulder. You’d better be over here.” She snuggled into his chest.

“Come on, let’s settle down for the night. I’ll take care of this mess in the morning.”

Scully glanced at the messy kitchen and fleetingly thought about the crusty sauce that would be caked onto the plates come morning, then obediently left it all behind. An extra push at the small of her back encouraged the decision further. She went to change into her favorite pajamas while Mulder sought for a good movie on TV. They watched later than usual, Scully lounging out and resting her head on his lap, Mulder stroking the hair behind her ear, making funny comments between lines they knew too well during movies they’d seen a hundred times. At around eleven, Mulder noticed that his partner had dozed off. He moved to lift her up, and carried her into the bedroom. She opened her eyes and yawned when he set her down upon the mattress. “Mmmm. . .. My prince charming.”

He laughed in the darkness, and felt for her lips to kiss her. Then he stripped down to his boxers like he always did for bed, and scooted under the covers with her. She automatically moved herself back against him, and he held her. “Mulder?”

“Yeah?”

There was an awkward silence before she continued. “Do you love me?”

He tensed up a little, his initial reaction to the question one of offense taken. But he relaxed easily, because the answer was not difficult to admit. “Of course I do.”

He felt her turn over. Then, her breath skim across his face when she faced him. It was true, he smelled the garlic, but it was delicious, it was wonderful. It was Scully. Then she used her fingertips to feel his cheeks, his mouth, his chin. “Really?” she whispered.

Then he realized what she was seeking. She was laying it all on the table. She had to know for sure what he felt.

“I love you, Scully,” he whispered like a secret he’d held for a long time. “I love you.” He used his own fingers to feel for her face, then pulled her close and pressed his lips against hers — wordlessly asking for more, giving her more. She pulled him to her in response, as close and as hard as she could get him.

“I love you, too,” she answered softly into his ear, her mouth muffled against his cheek as she wrapped her arms tightly about him. “Just hold me, please. I want you to hold me. Don’t let me go.”

“I have you, Scully. I’ll always have you.”

Act III Scene 1

The Pentagon

May 21, 2004

10:15 am

A week of rummaging through old documents was wearing on Bill’s nerves. He had four paper cuts the day before and was having a difficult time turning pages with both index fingers wrapped in bandages. At least he’d managed to find the flexible fabric bandages in one of the unpacked boxes in the hallway of their new home.

He was no going to come to work with a Blues Clues band-aid on his finger, come hell or high water. Most of the files were worthless and it didn’t take a second thought to toss them into the box for shredding. As he threw whole file folders into the box, the dust cloud they emitted started to cover his briefcase, sitting next to the desk. Bill hadn’t forgotten about his find the day before, he just knew he had to get the rest of the mess cleaned up before he could give it his full attention. But now he was down to the last drawer in the last filing cabinet, and his curiosity was getting to him. He knew he couldn’t put it off any longer. When the last folder was disposed of, he dusted his hands and reached for his brief case. Hefting the thick leather case on to his desk, he opened it hesitantly, as if something might jump out at him. He chuckled to himself. It was a file, nothing more. There wasn’t anything in it that could harm him. He reached in and tugged at the brittle manila folder. As he did so, his ring finger slid along the edge, the stiff cardboard slicing neatly into his flesh. Goddamn it! Another paper cut! He immediately stuck the injured digit into his mouth and winced at the taste of blood. Drawing the finger out for further inspection he saw a deep gash, deeper than the other injuries he’d endured in the newly acquired dangerous job of ‘desk jockey’.

“Shit,” he swore and with his relatively unharmed hand, dug through his top desk drawer for the cardboard box of band-aids Tara had given him just that morning. It was awkward, bandaging his right hand with his left, but he managed to staunch the flow of blood. Shaking his head, he reached more carefully into the briefcase and slowly drew out the file folder. He sighed when he saw the smear of blood across the edge of the folder. His day just kept getting better and better. Still using exaggerated care, he laid the folder out on his desk and put the briefcase on the floor. With one hand, he opened the file folder and started to read. The first few pages, he already had scanned. They contained a number of references to a submarine, the Zeus Faber. He found the name of Lt. Johansson again, and remembered the man fondly. But he needed to know more about the Zeus Faber, so he started to look further into the file. It didn’t take him long to find a transcript of a debriefing of the mission. The hand stamped ‘Top Secret’ in red letters across the top of the page didn’t serve as a deterrent at all. After all, in his current capacity with the Joint Chiefs, there wasn’t anything marked ‘top secret’ that Bill Scully couldn’t access. This gave him the confidence to keep reading. ‘Report regarding Mission 45-08-15B, 1945 August’ was printed in bold type on the top of the page. Bill read about the submarine’s original mission, to patrol the coast of California, looking for Japanese vessels that might be planning on an attack on the United States. The mission was changed when the Captain received orders to go to a specific location and search for some downed aircraft. According to the report, the squadron of aircraft each carried a weapon, an atomic bomb that was headed for Japan. The aircraft were P- 51 Mustang and the pilots had not been located by surface ships in the area. The planes had experienced engine trouble and all four of them had dropped out of the sky like rocks, according to eyewitnesses from a Naval destroyer some 3 miles from the crash. The destroyer had continued on with its mission and the Zeus Faber was tapped to do rescue. The pilots’ fates were unknown and they were all considered dead, not having time to eject from the planes before it went into the sea.

But that wasn’t the real concern of the Department of War at that time. Their primary concern was the atomic bombs aboard the aircraft, and the fear that those bombs might fall into the enemy’s hands before other similar bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in just days. The sub made good time getting to the coordinates of the crash. They were able to find the Mustangs with little difficulty. They were in the process of determining the best course of ‘rescue’ for the payload when a Japanese destroyer entered the area and they were forced into silent running. That is when the trouble began. Before the payload was even brought aboard the sub, the men started becoming ill. First is was flu like symptoms, but then burns, serious burns, started forming on their bodies. Not all the men were affected, but it was discovered that those nearest the aircraft, even through several inches of hull of the sub, were the ones to fall ill. Not long after the men started getting sick, the Captain started acting strangely. Lt. Johansson was a precise man and up until that point, the report was very thorough and very military in its presentation. Suddenly, the report took on the air of a horror movie.

As more and more of the ship’s crew became affected, Johansson begged the Captain to return to port. At first, the Captain insisted that the mission had not been completed. They still had to retrieve the payloads. But when a couple of divers went to the Mustangs, they discovered not bombs in the bays, but something strange and rock-like. They were trying to remove one of the rocks when both divers fell ill, almost as soon as they touched the object, even though they were in full diving gear. Before the men could be brought back on the sub, they were dead. It had only been a matter of minutes, no more than an hour between onset of symptoms and death.

Johansson once again pleaded with the Captain to return the boat to the closest port, which would have been Pearl Harbor. This time, the Captain claimed that they couldn’t move because of the Japanese above them, on the surface. He stayed down there, near those planes for three days.  More and more of the men were becoming ill, some were already dead. On the third day of the stand off, one of the infected men got a gun and held it on the Captain. In the process of disarming the man, the gun went off. Their silence was broken. It would only be a matter of time before the Japanese started dropping depth charges at them. Johansson again tried to convince the Captain that they needed to leave the area immediately. Bill was so amazed by the next few lines that he had to read them twice. Johansson claimed, in a military report, that the Captain’s eyes had been ‘infected’ with a black oil that shimmered across his pupils. Johansson knew that the Captain was not going to listen to reason, and would not leave the area. The young Lieutenant considered his superior to completely insane or possibly possessed. Mutiny was the only answer. Johansson locked the Captain in with the most desperately ill of the crew in a hold near the torpedo tubes. The man who’d fired the gun picked it up again and while the Captain was trying to get Johansson to open the door, he shot the Captain. From a small window in the door, Johansson watched as the same black oil he’d seen in the Captain’s eyes started to flow out of the man’s body and ‘crawled’ across the floor to escape down a drain. It hadn’t acted like any substance he’d ever seen. The oil had seemed alive. Johansson went to the bridge of the ship and set a course for the closest port. The Zeus Faber just barely made it back to friendly waters.

Bill was barely breathing when he finished reading the report. He would have closed the file folder if not for a name on the next page. He blinked when he saw the name, it was so unexpected, and at the same time, it clicked into place. The next report was an interview with surviving crew members. The interview was conducted by two men from the State Department: CGB Spender and William Mulder. Bill wanted to cry. He wanted to throw the file against the wall and forget he’d ever seen it. Somehow, it was fitting that the son of a bitch who was ruining his sister’s life was the son of a man involved in such a disaster. After talking with Spender and William Mulder, all fifteen survivors died within the next 24 hours. Bill was certain, although there was no evidence, that Spender and Mulder were responsible for those deaths. Bile rose in his throat. He could picture the men he’d served with at sea, see them in the place of those dying crew men. What would he have done if faced with the same decision as young Lt. Johansson? Bill wondered if he would have waited the three days to mutiny. He thought back to all the conversations he’d had with Fox Mulder. Fortunately, there were damned few to remember. He could picture so clearly the discussions they’d had when Dana had been dying of cancer. He could see them in the hallway outside Dana’s room, after she’d just agreed to some crazy-ass idea that put a piece of metal in her neck in the hopes of a cure. Bill was certain the treatments the doctor had begun that day were the only reason his sister was alive. He knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Fox Mulder had nothing to do with Dana’s remission.

But beyond all that, he tried to remember what they’d said to each other those six long years before. He’d asked Mulder if it had all been worth it, had he found what he was looking for, his little green men. Mulder had told him no. It had been a small bright spot in an otherwise black day, the idea that Fox Mulder was suffering even a tiny bit as much as Bill. Mulder’s little green men. What if . . . what if they were black? What if they were black and looked like oil? What if they were found not in a space ship, but in a squadron of wrecked P-51 Mustangs at the bottom of the Pacific? Who would believe him if he tried to tell anyone this tale? Not his Commanding Officer. Not anyone at the Pentagon.

Not his sister, he was certain of that.

Only one man would listen to him. Bill choked back the bile that kept rising in his throat. How in God’s name could he ever think to go to Fox Mulder for help? But that was exactly what he had to do. He dug through his briefcase for his planner, flipped a few pages and picked up the phone on his desk.

Act III Scene 2

The District Club

Washington, DC

May 21, 2004

12:00 pm

The club downstairs had been one of Washington’s more malodorous, if elaborately appointed, sausage factories — an abattoir of dark woods, rich leather, and fine Oriental rugs where reputations and fortunes were slaughtered, truth processed into lies, and a nation’s deepest secrets repackaged for the consumption of the mass unwashed.

Amid its alcoves and dining parlors, powerbrokers, politicians, and men whose provenance remained unclear had plotted the  deaths of two presidents and the disappearance of a popular aviatrix who’d unearthed too many federal skeletons, engineered an attack on a U.S. naval port that would engulf much of the world in war, choreographed the ultimately botched assassination of America’s most beloved first lady on a street in Dallas, and tagged the chief patsies for a break-in at a now-infamous Washington residential hotel.

Over the past few decades, the club had opened its doors to a more diverse and less Machiavellian constituency — a move deemed crucial to divert an increasingly omniscient and omnipotent media and the prying eyes of the few honorable men still left in the Beltway. But the club remained the sanctum sanctorum of America’s royalty — the men and, now, women, who made things happen efficiently and invisibly. To the men who congregated on the top floor of the club, those who supped on chateaubriand and prime rib downstairs were bugs — lower organisms that manufactured and fed on the petty carrion of human greed, misery, and weakness. These men upstairs played on a far larger field, for unimaginable stakes. At their command, any of the titans gathered three floors below could be made to vanish with their families and, if necessary, any trace of their earthly existence.

“Gentlemen, the shit’s hit the fan,” Alex Krycek announced as he crossed the threshold into the lushly appointed roomful of somber and powerful men. In any other venue, any of the handful of men here might have answered such disrespect with a bullet to the skull, delivered swiftly and unexpectedly as Krycek slept. But the handsome, smirking young man who sauntered nonchalantly into their august midst at his whim was one of the few humans they feared: Krycek owned too many secrets, and thus owned their grudging respect.

He, along with the sour, furtive man seated by the front window — a chain-smoking shadow of a human being with a sporadic death’s head grin — were among the last living survivors of a holocaust that had claimed their foolish predecessors, a similar collection of powerful men who had thought to deal blithely with the devil. Spender and Krycek obviously shared some barely subcutaneous antipathy, but everyone in this room understood such animosities paled beside the vision shared by the new Consortium.

While most in the room frowned at Krycek’s irreverent greeting, the Scarred Man smiled fondly at the young man’s brashness. The Scarred Man, ensconced in an espresso-colored Barcelona chair, sipping a sherry that would have intimidated the richest of the rabble downstairs, had been a double agent with the Resistance during Hitler’s war, and he appreciated Krycek’s ruthless disregard for class or power. “And what ‘shit,’ if I may ask, do you speak of?” he asked, calmly, unconsciously swirling his liqueur.

clip_image006

“Bill Scully,” Krycek murmured, waving a thick folder in his artfully designed prosthetic hand. Spender turned from the thick drapes, an eyebrow arched.

“Commander Scully?” the Scarred Man inquired. “The brother of the FBI agent, no?”

“Apparently,” Krycek said, looking down at the old man’s disfigured face, “he’s come across some not-so-ancient history. Zeus Faber. Ring a bell?”

The Scarred Man set his sherry on the table beside his chair. “It resonates. How much does our friend know?”

Krycek shrugged. “Somebody did some sloppy housekeeping. Somehow, Scully came across an old file some feeble old Naval commander forgot to shred years ago.”

“Nonsense,” Spender spat, irritation deepening in the folds of his sallow face. He crushed his Morley into a crystal ashtray on the windowsill. “Every piece of documentation, every scrap regarding the Zeus Faber and its mission was destroyed. Commander Keegan oversaw it personally — he was firmly in our pocket.”

“Well, there must have been a ripped seam somewhere, cause the cat’s out now,” Krycek countered, not looking at the Cigarette Smoking Man. Spender’s jaundiced eyes blazed.

“This man, Scully,” the Scarred Man interrupted. “Is he a threat? Can he divine the significance of this information? Could it lead him to us?”

“William Scully’s a fool, a bull-necked Neanderthal,” Spender sneered. “Beyond a certain weasel-like cunning…”

“Even a weasel can rut around enough to do some serious damage,” Krycek said. He turned to the Scarred Man. “We can’t take a chance of him taking this to Agent Scully, to Mulder.”

“He despises Mulder, and despite his abundant shortcomings, Bill Scully is devoted to his sister,” Spender protested. “Too much so to willingly place her in danger.”

Krycek laughed mirthlessly. “You’re suddenly quite the judge of psychological character, aren’t you? Just like you’ve read Mulder all these years?”

The room went silent. The Scarred Man looked to Spender expectantly. Eyes narrow, the man at the window pulled a pack of Morley’s from his jacket, tamped out a cigarette, and placed it between his thin, bloodless lips. The corners of his lips then turned up in a ghastly approximation of a smile.

“All right,” Spender said pleasantly. “Perhaps you should keep an eye on our William, find out what he knows, see if our weasel ruts or runs.” The smile disappeared. “But no violence. Not yet. We don’t want to flush Agent Scully out of the bushes on some family vendetta.”

Krycek glanced at the Scarred Man, who nodded and retrieved his sherry. Krycek half-turned to a grim Spender and offered a two-fingered salute before heading for the elevator that served only this floor. Spender located a match, fingers trembling only slightly, set his cigarette aflame. “And so,” the Scarred Man finally uttered, contemplating his sherry. “Do you think our friend should be apprised of this quite unpleasant new development?”

Rattled by the reference to Strughold, Spender drew deeply on his Morley, blue smoke leaking through the cracks in his sour smile. “Mr. Krycek has far more faith than I in William Scully’s powers of comprehension and inclination to, let us say, rock the boat. No, gentlemen — this is merely a bump in the road. No need to disturb our friend…yet.”

Act III Scene 3

3605 N Street NW

Washington DC

Friday 2:30 pm

“To the left. No, Langly, your _other_ left! Yeah, yeah, now be careful of the woodwork. Geez, have you ever moved furniture before?”

Mulder growled as the wooden cabinet shifted in his hands and suddenly he was bearing the full weight of the object as he moved up the steps and in the front door.

“What’s this thing made of — mahogany?” the blond haired conspirator complained loudly. “Damn it, Mulder, you said you didn’t have much stuff to move!”

“I don’t,” Mulder shot back. “It’s just what I have is heavy. Quit your bitchin’, everything else is clothes.”

“What about the other stuff? Chairs, tables, a bed? You gonna sleep on the floor, man?” Langly asked sarcastically.

“I have a bed, it’s being delivered. And I found a couch at a second hand store down on M Street. I paid an extra fifty for the store to deliver. Other than that — ”

“You’re living at Scully’s,” Langly finished his sentence with a note of disgust. “Man, why are you throwing away all this dough on a place where you’re only gonna keep your fish? We’ll let the fish have our storage closet for half the price your dumping down this money pit!”

Mulder shot him a vicious glare. “It’s not any of your business, Langly,” he warned. It would be impossible to explain to any of the three Gunmen why he felt the need to keep a separate residence from his partner of 11 years. He really wasn’t sure of his reasons and he darned well wasn’t going to put in the effort to make his favorite geeks understand. His favorite bachelor geeks.

“I’m just saying, it seems like you’re spending a lot of money, money you could, say, give as a charitable contribution to the free press,” Langly continued.

“Free press? As in your rag?” Mulder asked with one raised eyebrow.

“Hey, freedom of the press comes at a high price, my friend!” Langly said haughtily.

“Yeah, not to mention all the high tech equipment that you guys keep picking up on Ebay,” Mulder sneered. “Just help me get the rest of the fish tank. I have to get it set up before the fish figure out they’re living in Scully’s punch bowl and decide to stage a revolt.”

“Ewww, not to mention what the G-woman is gonna do to you when she hears what’s been living in that same punch bowl,” Langly said, making a face. “Oh, and remind me next Christmas to avoid the eggnog.”

They placed the fish tank along the wall near the bay window. It looked totally out of place in the otherwise bare room. “You gonna buy a rug, or figure you won’t need one?” Langly asked derisively as he plopped down on the floor and leaned against the wall.

“I’ll get a rug,” Mulder replied. “In due time,” he added tersely.

That comment got Mulder a well-executed snort from his friend. “Keep this up and I’m not sharing the stash of Sam Adams Scully put in the fridge,” the agent warned.

Langly had the good grace to look worried.

Quickly, he hopped to his feet and rubbed his hands together. “So, where’s all the stuff for the fish tank. Can’t keep the little critters in that cramped punch bowl forever!”

Together, they made short work of the fish tank and soon Mulder was busy filling it with buckets of water from the kitchen and adding the de- chlorination drops. Langly looked at his watch. “Well, amigo, I have to split. I promised Byers I’d stop by the cleaners on the way home and they close at 5:00.”

Mulder refrained from making any comments about the domestic chores the guys assigned each other. “Well, take a six pack with you. You earned it,” he said nodding toward the kitchen.

“Hey, thanks, Mulder! See, you aren’t such a prick all the time,” Langly teased. He disappeared into the kitchen and then reappeared with the beer under one arm. “I was just admiring the refrigerator. Probably the last time I’ll see it looking so . . . fungus free.”

“Get out. Now,” Mulder growled, but his eyes twinkled with amusement.

“I’m leaving. Tell Scully I said this is an enormous waste of money,” he called as he reached the door.

“Now, Langly!” He heard the door slam and smiled. “Speaking of Scully, where is she?” Mulder asked the fish as he added them one by one into the tank. “She was just going out to buy toilet bowl cleanser. How long can that take?”

As the last fish dropped from the net and swam happily around the fish tank, his cell phone rang. Mulder grabbed for it in his front pocket.

“If she’s asking my opinion on what brand of toilet bowl cleanser I want, I’m not going to be held responsible for my actions,” he warned no one in particular.

“Scully, did you get lost?”

“Mr. Mulder?” asked the voice on the line.

Unconsciously, Mulder stood up straight. “Bill?” He almost didn’t recognize the man’s voice, it was tight and strained. It sounded like he was whispering.

“Mr. Mulder, I have to speak with you,” Bill said hastily.

“Bill, look if this is about me living with Scully, you don’t have to worry. That was temporary and I have a place of my own now. As a matter of fact, I was just in the process of moving in. So whatever you have to say — ”

“Mr. Mulder, please, I don’t have time for this. I need to speak with you, immediately. I’ve come across something, something I think is . . . of a highly sensitive nature.”

“Why do you want to talk to me?” Mulder asked, confused.

“Look, I found some old papers. They seem to be important. I saw a name in one of the reports. William Mulder. A submarine, the Zeus Faber — ”

Mulder was listening intently now, and heard the line cut out for just a fraction of a second. It was long enough to know that they were not on a secure line.

“Bill, hold up, OK,” he said, interrupting the man in mid-sentence. “This may not be the best way to have this conversation. Why don’t we meet somewhere tonight and talk this through.”

“I can’t be seen with these papers. I have no idea what level of security — ”

Mulder frantically searched his mind for a way to give Bill a meeting place without saying it aloud to whoever else was listening. “Don’t worry about the papers, put them somewhere safe. Look, there’s a bar not far from your sister’s apartment, she really likes the place. They serve great corned beef and cabbage. Do you know it?”

“Yeah, yeah, she took us there, Tara and me, a couple of years ago.”

“Good. It’s quiet, safe. Be there at eight tonight, all right? Till then, don’t tell anyone what you have.”

“Then you think this is important,” Bill said nervously.

“I don’t know,” Mulder admitted. “But you’ve definitely got my attention.”

“I’ll see you tonight, Mr. Mulder. At eight.”

“I’ll be there,” Mulder assured him. “Bill, can I ask — why me? Why not your sister?”

He heard the other man bark out a bitter laugh. “I wasn’t sure she’d believe me,” he said honestly. “Tonight, Mr. Mulder.”

“Yeah, tonight,” Mulder replied and closed down the phone. He wondered if there would ever come a time when his lover’s brother would refer to him as anything other than ‘Mister’. Mulder startled when the door to the duplex opened suddenly.

“You would not believe the number of people who shop at Home Depot on a Friday afternoon!” Scully said in exasperation. “I got some drain opener, too. The tub seemed to be running slow when I was cleaning it this morning — ” She looked up from her inspection of the bag she was holding when Mulder didn’t respond. “I wasn’t gone that long, Mulder. Are you angry with me?”

He drew in a breath and shook his head.

“Nothing like that, Scully.” He took her into a quick hug and led her over to the stairs so they could sit down. “I got a phone call just now.”

She frowned. “From . . .?”

“Your brother. Bill.”

Immediately, Scully’s hackles were raised.

“Mulder, if Bill said something to upset you — ”

“Oh, he upset me, all right, but not in the way you might expect. Scully, somehow Bill has come into possession of some papers, old reports, he said. My father’s name was in those reports, along with a submarine — the Zeus Faber.”

Scully’s eyes grew wide. “Oh my god! Mulder, Bill might have stumbled onto — ”

“Worse than that, Scully. I think someone might have his phone tapped.”

“No! Mulder, we have to get to him, he might not be safe. Tara, the babies, . . . my god, what are we going to do?”

“I told him to meet us at the bar down the street. I didn’t give any names or addresses, I gave him a description of the menu.”

“They only serve corned beef and cabbage,” she interjected.

“Exactly. Luckily he remembered it from a previous visit home. I know the indigestion I get there has always made it a memorable experience for me,” he said, trying to lighten his partner’s worried mood. She gave him a brief smile.

“We’ll meet him there tonight, eight o’clock.”

Scully looked at her watch. “That’s in four hours,” she stated.

“He should be safe for now,” Mulder tried to reassure her. “I really don’t think they’ll try anything in the Pentagon. Too many security cameras.”

“But we don’t know who was listening. Why would anyone be bugging Bill’s office phone? Mulder, what if it was Krycek? Or Charlie?”

“Let’s not count the rotten eggs before they hatch,” Mulder advised, pulling her into a hug. “He’s a big boy. He’ll be OK.”

“I hope so,” Scully whispered into his shoulder.

“I hope so.”

Act IV Scene 1

The District Club

Washington, DC

1:30 pm

Krycek had barely closed the club “service door” that served as the entry to the private elevator when a pair of gloved hands seized the lapels of his leather jacket and propelled him into the alleyway. Only the suddenness of the attack enabled Krycek’s assailant to drag him to a dumpster behind the steakhouse across the deserted corridor.

“The hell you think you’re doing?” Charlie Scully growled, thumping Krycek’s shoulder blades against the bricks. “You brainless ape! You trying to ruin everything?”

Krycek brought up both arms and knocked Charlie’s away. “You touch me again, and I might get a little blood and brain matter on that Tommy Hilfiger ensemble of yours. What the hell are you ranting about?”

Charlie came up nose-to-nose with his foe. “You planted that goddamned file in Bill’s office, didn’t you? Thought you’d screw with all of us, see if you could use my brother to light a few fuses.”

“That’s what you’d like the old Nazi to think, isn’t it?” Krycek said, smoothing his jacket.”What’d you do, Charlie? Send in a crack squad of Kelly Girls to clean out that office? Face it, you screwed the pooch, asshole.”

“Mother–!” Charlie bellowed, throwing a left hook.

Krycek caught his fist, twisted it backward and used it to spin his opponent around. He slammed Charlie into the side of the dumpster, and kicked him in the ribs as he struggled to regain his feet.  Charlie slipped on a rotting lettuce leaf and landed on his ass. “Your girlfriend Strughold’s losing his grip,”Krycek sneered. “He’s lost his control of the situation, as evidenced by this little show of ‘muscle.'”

“That right?” Charlie said from his seat in the mingled waste grease, garbage, and likely human detritus of the alley. “You think the Morley Man up there’s a tower of strength? He’s one pack away from a respirator and a rubber room. You think it’s any coincidence Mulder’s still walking around? Spender doesn’t have the cojones, the stomach. Look, can I get up now?”

“No. And save me the NYPD Blue lingo.”

“Look, Krycek. It all comes down to who’s on the winning team and who winds up in a cloud of radioactive dust. I like my odds right now. You oughtta look at your own odds — that old man’s had it. They know it. Join the winning team, man. We got a spot for you, a good one, varsity, if you’ll just be smart about this.”

Krycek spat on the concrete next to Charlie’s left Italian loafer. “You little pimp. You have no idea what this is all about, what we’re trying to do. To you and the old Nazi, this is all some kind of power grab. Varsity, Jesus. I like my current position, Charlie. Why don’t you think about where you’re sitting right now?”

“You bastard!”

Krycek laughed and headed for the street. “Little club soda oughtta take that crap out, Charlie.”

Act IV Scene 2

The Watergate Hotel

Washington DC South West

2:00 pm

Charles Scully hurried past the red-coated doorman and toward the bank of brass encased elevators. He was late. Not woefully so, but in a business where fortunes changed in a blink of an eye, he could ill afford the luxury of even an overactive traffic signal, much less a run-in with the likes of Alex Krycek. He tapped his foot impatiently as he waited for the polished doors to spilt open and allow his entrance. The elevator chimed and he resisted the urge to push the doors open fast. Once inside the car, he stabbed at the top floor, belatedly remembering the key on his key ring that gave him access to that most secluded of meeting places. With a mild curse, he shoved the key in the slot and hit the floor button again. This time the button glowed a pale orange and the car started its ascent. He’d received the call just an hour before. He didn’t like unscheduled meetings and to make matters worse, the assistant on the phone had denied any knowledge of the agenda. Charles Scully detested not knowing what meetings were about. He was not in a pleasant frame of mind when the elevator car finally ground to a halt and the mirrored doors slid open.

Strughold glared at Charles as he made his way around the room to the only empty chair. “Were you detained?” the old man asked in a raspy accented growl.

“Unavoidably,” Charles answered automatically. “What have I missed?”

Strughold glanced around the table, his eyes falling on the select few men sitting with an air of comfortable interest. “There has been a leak, a possibly damaging leak that has just been brought to our attention.”

Charles looked at each face around the table, trying to discern who had knowledge and who did not. For the most part, the group would have been terrors in Las Vegas. Not a single pair of eyes gave Charles any information, or sympathy.”A leak concerning what, may I ask?” Charles gut twisted at this game of ‘cat and mouse’, but the old man was running the show and there was little the younger man could do to stop his gamesmanship.

“The incident aboard the Zeus Faber,” Strughold bit off the words precisely.

Charles stomach hit rock bottom, but he fought to keep his expression blank. “Are you certain?” he asked.

Strughold seemed to take the opportunity to cough gently. The other men in the room exchanged glances, but said nothing. Charles was aware of how far out on a limb he now was. “We are quite sure.”

Sweat was pooling down Charles’ back as he furtively scrambled for possible responses. He, more so than any other individual in the room, knew what was at stake if such information was made public. Furthermore, he knew exactly how a leak of this magnitude could play out, who might facilitate it. He swallowed the burning sensation at the back of his throat. “How far has it gotten?”

“Our sources seem to think it has not reached its intended destination,” Strughold said mildly.

That gave Charles some small measure of relief, but it was short-lived. “What do you propose?”

Strughold took a drag off the expensive cigar in his hand and smiled. “It’s a simple matter, really. The leak must be plugged. As of yet, no harm has been done. But it is imperative that the matter be resolved — quietly and with due haste, before the leak becomes a deluge.”

The little spark of humanity left in Charles Scully trembled.

“I trust that you are in agreement?” Strughold asked, his eyes never leaving Charles. It was as if the old man was testing him, testing his loyalty. After all Charles had done for this man, for this group of men, to be tested so was a dagger to his confidence. But it was all for the greater good. Eventually, everyone, even his family, would be made aware of that.

“I see no other option,” Charles said flatly.

Strughold smiled briefly. “I’m happy you see it that way. I knew I could trust you, Charles.”

Act IV Scene 3

Starbucks on G Street

Washington, DC

5:00 pm

Bill’s knuckles were bloodless, wrapped tightly about the warm china mug. Had they cast a glance at the hard-looking man in Station 2, any of the latte-sucking yuppies, wired college kids or minimum wage slaves scattered about the excruciatingly hip coffee shop might have feared a sudden shower of porcelain shrapnel and hot liquid.

But William Scully had selected this Starbuck’s, a stone’s throw from Capitol Hill, specifically for the bustling anonymity it afforded. A trio of congressional aides two tables away, stripped to shirtsleeves, ties at parade rest, jackets draped lovingly across chair backs, nattered about some piece of crucial legislation or the hot new intern or some such bullshit — it was all white noise to Bill. Their opposite numbers — a knot of university kids, fashionably disheveled in distressed GAP and Banana Republic — were in animated discourse at a table along the wall, pumped up on Grandes and ranting about Bush or the rain forests or maybe just the latest grunge/rap/pop . Ordinarily, Bill would have felt the temptation to tell the spoiled punks to shove a scone in their foul little Generation Why mouths, the impulse to dump his own steaming java over the head of the most self-important of the congressional Pep Boys.

Fortunately for all, he was light-years away from their universe, encapsulated in his own fear and cunning ruminations. The white knuckles clamped about the cup were the only signs to the world outside that William Scully was dangerously close to shaking apart like a used Yugo with a bad tranny. Those superior Marine jarheads could keep their Semper Fidelis bullshit — Bill knew those who were always faithful wound up always dead, always disillusioned, or constantly clearing tables in some pussy coffee joint. Semper Stabilis — that was William Scully’s credo. Always a rock, always cool, spine straight, hands at 10 and 2. Anyone catching a glimpse of the man at Table 7 would see a spit-and-shine remnant of a once- great society, possibly reviewing his forthcoming testimony before House Appropriations or Senate Intelligence or keeping an eye out for some Arab with a bogus visa and a shoeful of plastique. 9/11 and Navy NCIS had heightened everybody’s sense of military melodrama. Pussy pretty-boy Harmon, Bill had silently sneered whenever Tara watched that piece of crap.

His discovery of the papers had been the razor- sharp boundary between the universe William Scully had known and functioned in with no small proficiency — and, when the occasion necessitated, no small cunning — and a dank, uncertain future. The man who was destined to reign with the lions of the Republic, the soon- to-be-father, the last great scion of Admiral Scully’s family, now cowered in some D.C. coffeehouse. Semper Stabilis, he repeated. He couldn’t let the insanity that had enveloped Mulder start to flirt with his mind. Bill had always hated Mulder — for the slow deterioration of Dana’s sense of rationality and reason, for the emotional and, he was increasingly certain, physical control he maintained over his little sister, and simply for the kind of undisciplined, disrespectful, intellectualized “man” Mulder was. He was everything inimical to William Scully, to men of honor and valor, to men.

But now, Bill understood, Fox Mulder at the least was no coward. For years, Mulder had lived with and been persecuted and pursued for information that shook the very foundations of the world men like Bill Scully imagined they ruled. The revelations that now had Bill scurrying for an escape hatch had merely driven Mulder on into the darkest territory inhabited by the worst monsters mankind had ever spawned. And that made Bill now hate Mulder with a previously unfathomable new passion. The very concept that Mulder drew on some reserve of inner strength, that he possessed a decency and heroism Bill likely could never attain, turned the soldier’s universe upside-down. The knowledge of the true man that lived beneath his uniform would rapidly destroy him, or at least the illusion that had sustained him.

“Semper Stabilis.”

“Sir?”

William jumped, only to find a young nose-ringed man with a rag and spray bottle standing before him.

“You need something?” the boy asked, staring at the brawny gaping man with his paws wrapped possessively about his mug.

He’d said it aloud, unconsciously. “I don’t need shit,” Bill finally growled, loudly enough to silence the congressional butt-buddies and the member of Squirrel Jam over by the wall. “Ah, no, really, I’m cool. Sorry, OK?” The busboy nodded once, a wannabe jerk of the shaved head, and fled as rapidly as his cool would allow. The aides were still staring — Bill glared them back into hasty debate. Squirrel Jam was amused, chortling and exchanging whispered barbs. Bill contemplated violence toward the kids, and the fresh infusion of caffeine-powered testosterone momentarily revitalized him. This was Mulder’s arena, he recognized reluctantly. In fact, had it not been for Mulder, this probably wouldn’t be happening now, Bill told himself. He had to give the letter to Mulder — hell, Fox would get a blue-veiner when he read its contents. Mulder could have his precious proof, get it put in the Post or maybe the Midnight Sun. He had no future, no destiny to fulfill but an appointment with madness in the basement of the J. Edgar Hoover Building.

And if his sister’s partner didn’t make it into print, if the transfer of the letter put the hounds on Mulder’s spoor and he disappeared to Alpha Centauri, all the better for Dana. Bill shoved back from the table, casting one last homicidal glance at the kids on the wall. A titter of ridicule erupted as he headed for the door, but that was all right. A weight had been lifted — or would soon — and the air out on the sidewalk was fresh and clean. William Scully strode back toward his car with a renewed sense of purpose and confidence, his eyes darting only infrequently between the strangers with whom he shared the pavement.

“Hon?”

Bill remembered to exhale as he recognized Tara’s voice on the cell phone. He’d nearly jumped when the phone had trilled, almost creaming a homeless man. “Yeah.”

“Babe, Matthew’s got an ear infection — it’s driving him crazy. I called in a prescription for some amoxicillin at the Walgreen’s — the one near your office. If I’d known you weren’t there, I would’ve called you first.”

“Had some papers to deliver,” Bill grunted, then remembered he didn’t need to alibi himself with Tara. At least he hadn’t lied, not really. Semper Stabilis.

“Can you pick it up, Honey, please? Matt’s really in pain.”

“Sure thing, no problem,” he said, more cheerfully. “Tell the little guy to buck up — cavalry’s coming. Love you, Babe.”

“Love you, too. Lasagna sound good to celebrate?”

“Mm. Later.”

Bill couldn’t have given a rat’s ass if Tara were waiting for him at the door with a platter of equine diarrhea. But the normalcy of his new errand was reassuring, and his chest began to loosen as he looked for a good turnaround. The pharmacist at the Walgreen’s had been excruciatingly slow filling the script, and Bill had stalked among the greeting cards, the Russell Stovers, the insipid D.C. shot glasses and blasphemously unpatriotic T-shirts until his promised 10 minutes had elapsed. When the pencil-necked pill-pusher had launched into some droning monologue about drug interactions, Bill had snatched the antibiotic from the counter and made a beeline for the exit in mid-drone.

The street was lined with the usual cast of losers and miscreants, costumed in doo rags and clown pants and high-rent sneakers. A whiff of hot dog from a wagon down the block normally would’ve tempted Bill’s resolve, but in his current state, it raised his gorge. He studiously ignored the heckling cap-and-tie peddlers, and stepped off the curb.

“Yo, man!” Bill spun, heart leaping. A middle-aged man in a filthy Redskins cap and a stained, open tux shirt held out a wavering palm. “Yeah, my brother, you. You a soldierman, right? You wanna help a fellow Marine. I was in the Persian Gulf, caught me a case of the Agent Orange.”

Rather than correcting the derelict’s breach of branch and obvious fabrication (he was at least a decade beyond serving in the first War on Hussein), Bill turned and headed for his car across the broad avenue.

“They gave it to me!” the man called plaintively. “The space aliens gave it to me.”

Bill’s feet froze to the asphalt.

“Government, they know what they done to me! Hell, brother, you got to know, too. They gonna give you a scorching case of the Agent Mulder.”

Bill’s head ripped around. “Mulder?” he rasped.

“You be moulderin’ in the grave, all right, them space aliens get their hooks in you.”

“Who are you working for?” Bill demanded.

“Useta work with the U.S. Postal Service, but they found out I had the Agent Scully an’–”

Bill’s fingers flexed at his side as he stared at the disheveled assassin. “You leave her out of this, you mother–”

“Naw, man, wasn’t her. It was the supervisor. He says I’m crazy, I’m rippin’ off the TV Guides.” The man looked down the street. “Hey, brother, you might wanna–”

Bill’s muscular neck twisted, and his eyes bulged right before the black Caddy ripped the breath from his lungs with a sick organic thud. His battered body ricocheted off a parked Caravan, shattering what major bones the initial impact hadn’t, and William Scully’s open eyes fixed on the homeless man as his head lolled lifelessly.

The Caddy squealed onto K Street as a streetful of horrified onlookers stood affixed and shocked. The homeless man knelt next to the broken soldier. He started when William’s eyes blinked once and blood burbled from his lips.

“Zeus…” Bill rattled.

“No, man — Calvin, Calvin.”

Bill whispered something else.

“Favor? What you want, man? Ain’t got no money, but if I can, I’ll try.”

The last sparks of electricity faded from William Scully’s aortal node, and his eyes rolled back.

“Well, shit,” the man in the Redskins cap murmured.

**

Mulder folded his cell phone, glancing up at Scully with a look of concern and confusion. Her eyes widened.

“Nobody’s at the house, and Bill’s cell number’s no longer in operation,” he drawled, the phone hanging limply in his fingers.

Scully inhaled sharply. “God, Mulder. Do you think they could have found out? What would they do…?”

“Scully, calm down,” her partner murmured, grasping her shoulders and pulling her to him. “Tara and Bill probably went out to celebrate the big news, and you know how reliable the cell phone companies are. Let’s just drive out to the house and check out the situation. OK?”

Scully clung to him silently, then pulled back and nodded, her eyes filled with dread. “OK.”

The phone sounded as Mulder was slipping it into his pocket. “Muld –. Mrs. Scully? Hey, Mrs. Scully, Maggie, tell me what’s –. Oh, God. God.”

“What?” Scully cried out. “Mulder, WHAT?!”

Mulder looked anxiously at her. “Where?” he asked her mother. “We’ll be right there.” He ended the call and looked up, stricken, at Scully. Her lips moved, but no words escaped. “It’s Bill,” Mulder said tonelessly.

Scully’s legs wavered. “Oh. Oh. Please.”

Mulder stepped toward her.

“No, no, NO!” she shrieked, dropping to the carpet.

**

“It was a hit-and-run driver, they said,” Maggie Scully said, worrying the shredded Kleenex in her hands. Shocked, the red-eyed woman stared somewhere between her daughter and Mulder, toward the emergency ward monitor station. “Upscale car, probably some senator or diplomat not thinking about anything but tonight’s reception or party.”

Mulder glanced at Scully, who closed her eyes and squeezed her mother’s hand.

Maggie sighed. “Your father always said they drove like maniacs in D.C. Bill, your father, he said they had too many crucial things on their minds to worry about anybody’s safety. They’ll probably never catch him, you know.”

“Mom,” Scully begged, eyes overflowing. “Please.”

“They were the ones with their heads in the clouds, you know,” Maggie said, turning to Scully with clear eyes. “Both of them. Important men, full of important ideas and honor and courage and all that bullshit! Bullshit, bullshit!” A nurse, arms full of flowers, turned abruptly to regard the sudden burst of obscenity.

“Mom,” Scully whispered, pulling her to her small form. Maggie collapsed against her, her body racking with sobs. Mulder stood by helplessly, hands dead at his side.

Maggie suddenly stiffened, and her head rose from her daughter’s shoulder. “Oh, God.”

Mulder turned. A familiar figure approached from the end of the corridor, leaning on a doctor in blood-spotted scrubs as she numbly stumbled forward.

The physician passed Tara Scully into Maggie’s waiting arms, and the widowed mother stared ahead with dead eyes as she accepted her mother- in-law’s consolation…

Epilogue

Hopewell Cemetery

May 25, 2004

11:22 a.m.

“May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face…”

The sun was indeed shining warm. It was a gorgeous day, but the mound of lilies encircling the casket emitted a strong perfume with that warm sun, and the beautiful sunny day, along with the grief surrounding the small plot where Bill Scully, Jr. lay, made Mulder’s stomach take a sickening turn.

As the priest concluded his prayers with the Irish Blessing, the group began to break up. Mulder removed himself from the crowd, beneath a nearby tree, so that those who truly deserved to mourn Bill could embrace and speak softly to those that they loved. He peeled the trench coat from his arms, sweating with the heat of the spring day. At this remote location, he truly felt that he didn’t deserve anything Scully had given him — that he belonged in the outskirts. That family over there was a unit, and one that Bill had fought hard to preserve. The moment he’d allowed Mulder to enter into it, no matter how reluctant, it seemed to accept another crack, and he felt like the ice pick.

Maggie glanced his way, curly hair sticking to her forehead beneath a black wide-brimmed hat. Her eyes were watery with grief, but she held him in her gaze, beckoning him for support. His apprehensions instantly melted. He walked the short distance to her and was drawn into her arms.

“Fox, thank you for being here,” she shuddered out, clinging to his waist. Mulder felt the back of his throat become hot, and pursed his lips to keep the sobbing back, unwilling to allow her to feel any bit of concern for him. She was the one who needed comforting the most, not him. She pulled back and wiped her eyes with a mascara-streaked handkerchief. Tara came over to them, children in tow who were cranky, hot and unhappy. She too hugged him and tried her best to keep a brave face for her mother and kids. The strength of this family was amazing. “We’re going back to the house,” Maggie said without pretense. She squeezed his arm, pointedly looked over to the gravesite where Scully stood speaking to the priest, then walked away with her daughter-in-law. It was an open invitation, expected that he follow. Also unspoken was that she expected him to get her daughter over to the house safely, that they were all meant to share this moment together. He was a part of this unit now, and he could feel the crack of sorrow becoming a fissure. Now that he knew he was allowed to care, the real pain was that of his own heart breaking.

When Scully had finished speaking to the priest, she walked over toward the casket one last time, fingering a large lily petal, her eyes red, but dry. Cautiously, he closed the gap between them, placed his hand at the small of her back and stood with her. She leaned into him then, burying her face into his chest and finally released all the pain that had been building up all morning. His dress shirt became wet with her tears, but he refused to notice. He smoothed down her hair, holding her all that much closer, accepting the sorrow she felt as his own. Her sobbing subsided after a moment longer, and she pushed her face gently away, but settled herself closely against him so that he could still rest his arm over her shoulders. Everyone else had gone to their cars by now — only the low murmur of voices, caught from a distance over the wind, lingered.

She shifted her arm slightly, so that she could hold a stack of envelopes more securely against her chest. Mulder had noticed that she was designated to accept all the Mass cards for her mother and Tara. There must have been at least twenty of them. One, however, was at the top, and this she pulled from the stack, crinkled from the force with which she held it.

“This was the only one Mom opened. It’s from Charlie.”

Mulder took it from her, removing the card from the violently torn envelope. Inside the generic Mass card was a telegram informing Maggie and the rest of the family of Charlie’s deep regret at not being able to come to the funeral of his brother. Apparently he was ‘at sea’ and unable to acquire leave.

“Why does he even bother? What right does he have!” Scully rasped out furiously, her mourning disturbed by the harsh reality of her brother’s convenient absence. Mulder rubbed her shoulder, attempting to calm her, but felt the same rage bubbling up within himself. She bowed her head to accept the caress, breathing slowly to tamp down her anger. “Mom’s furious, of course,” she said lightly. “Practically crumpled the thing up herself, but was gracious enough for appearances’ sake to just hand it to me.”

“Wrong choice, I gather,” he said, handing back the mangled envelope.

“Yeah,” she laughed out ironically. “If I had a lighter it would have been ashes right about now.”

They stood staring at the gravesite, sun beating down, birds twittering from the trees, flies and bees investigating the newly arrived bunches of pollen. Nature vibrated all around them — life continued. At length, Mulder took it upon himself to direct Scully away. “Come on, love,” he pressed his hand gently against her back, “they’re waiting for us back at the house.”

Scully obediently followed his lead, so conscience-stricken Mulder could feel it in her hesitant gait. “He’s gone too far this time, Mulder. We can’t let Charlie get away with this.”

Mulder stopped walking. “Scully, we don’t know for sure that it was Charlie. Bill’s phone was tapped. It could just as well have been Krycek. It’s his style. Whoever it was knew that Bill was going to stop by the pharma–”

“Charlie, Krycek — I don’t care! I just don’t want to do this anymore, Mulder! I can’t do this anymore! I can’t!”

The tears were flowing again. God, he’d never seen her cry so much in their whole partnership than she had in the last few days. She wasn’t crying outright this time, but just let the tears run down unacknowledged. She stood still as one of the tombstones in the line of graves stretched out behind her. She was tired. She was distraught. She was vulnerable, and all he wanted to do was let her know that he was there for her, and would always be there for her, but words escaped him.

He reached out to wipe the moisture from her cheeks, gently scrape the matted red hair away from her temples. He drew her closer, bent down to kiss her, nearly crushed her in his arms. She pulled at his back, crushing him just as much in return. Between them both, they could find strength in a single unit, an outpouring of emotion seething through them by osmosis. They had always been each other’s strength, but weakness had finally taken a hold of them both, reached up into their souls and yanked it all out of them. There was always a time to fight back, but as they pressed lips and bodies together, exposed and vulnerable, wishing they were already home, Mulder felt it. It was time to give in. They pulled apart just enough so that they could breathe, but remained clinging to one another for support. Scully lay her head upon Mulder’s chest, listening to the heavy breaths he took, the steady heartbeat, feeling that her cheeks were wet from his own tears as well as hers.

“Scully,” he said in a thick voice. She nodded, still leaning against him. He inhaled deeply, stilling himself against what he was about to say. “Maybe it’s time to stop. This is all too much for us. We have nothing to lose by leaving, but everything to lose if we keep on going.” She pulled away to look up at him. “What are you saying?”

Mulder immediately shook his head, realizing her distress, and caressed her cheek. “We can’t keep putting Maggie and Tara and the kids in danger. My whole family is already gone. We have to protect what remains of yours. They mean too much to you, and… they mean too much to me now, too.”

Still unsure of where this conversation was going, and certainly not of any strength to begin another tirade of emotion, she waited for him to finish.

“The Bureau,” he finally blurted out to clarify, noticing that she still wasn’t getting it, and berating himself for his clumsiness. “I think we should leave the FBI. The X-files, everything. It used to be my whole life, but what’s in my life now it so much more important. We need to survive, and to protect everything else we hold dear, I think it’s what we have to do.”

Scully stood silent. A thousand thoughts ping- ponged inside her head. She exhaled an internal sigh of relief that Mulder was not breaking off their relationship in order to protect themselves. Realizing now that wasn’t at all what he was suggesting, she distressed over the idea that he was willing to give up his whole quest, his life’s work at the FBI for her. *Her* life’s work had become his, and he was asking her to give it up! But it wasn’t just for her; it was for the both of them. “What about the rest of the world? What about the consortium, Krycek, Charlie, your mother’s journal . . .”

“They’ve been there for as long as I can remember,” he spat out. Then more gently, “I don’t think they’ll be going anywhere for a while. If we stop now, it’d only be for the better. We don’t know everything. Never will. Not now, anyway. At least if we’re out of the way for a while, we’ll be safe. The world will be there tomorrow, and I’d be happier if we were both still in it.”

Scully hung her head low, studying the green grass at her feet hiding her toes. “Skinner?” she asked, still staring at the ground.

“Skinner will understand.”

She pinched her eyebrows close together, rubbed her mouth with her thumb. After a long silent moment watching the breeze tickle the blades of grass around her shoes, she nodded. She shuffled the envelopes and looked up at her partner. A conglomerate of expressions melded his face. What resulted was a mirror image of her own: uncertainty, sorrow, but most of all peace. “What do we do now?”

“Now,” he pulled her close again, but began walking toward their car. “Now, we’re going to Tara’s. After that, I want you to come home with me. For good.”

This time Scully stopped them in their tracks. “Mulder?” her voice wavered.

“It won’t be ‘home’ without you, Scully. Will you come live with me?”

It didn’t take her long to answer this time. “Of course.” They strode through the cut grass purposefully toward their car, hand in hand. When Mulder started it up, and slowly navigated through the twisted drives of the cemetery, he said, “So, I guess you’ll take care of all the paperwork for your apartment in a few days, follow-up with Skinner and all that?”

Scully laughed out loud at the thought of conquering a stack of paperwork all by herself. She held down her hair against the wind whipping through the car window as they picked up speed toward the exit and their new beginnings. “Some things, Mulder… they never change.”

The end . . . for now.

Join us for the Virtual Season 12 Opener: Dispensation!

Advertisements

One thought on “Displacement”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s