Title: Kiss the Darkness III
Author: Suzanna
Written: 1999
Distribution statement: Gossamer, yes. Everyone else, please ask first.
Rating: R
Content Warning: colonization themes
Category: X, R, A
Keywords: MSR

Summary: Sequel. Post-colonization. Story picks up exactly where part two ended, with Mulder, Scully, and DS84 leaving Wyoming and heading west with the vaccine.

Part of this series:

Notes: This is the third story of the Kiss the Darkness series. You can read the others here. I kept saying I wasn't going to write a sequel, but here it is! I've loosely arranged the story around parts of a translation of the old finnish poem "Holy Blood Holy Grail." The entire poem can also be read at my homepage.

Those who don't know the real darkness never start to look for the light. Those who know the real darkness also find the light. --Holy Blood Holy Grail

Day 44, after midnight

We've been driving for hours in silence. My back aches and my feet are tired of being squished in the back seat of this little car. Even my eyeballs smart from staring at the quickly passing darkness for so long.

"We need to get gas," Mulder says, sometime after midnight. He's already pulling into a deserted gas station. The overhead lights are on, but the little convenience store is dark and empty.

"I hope we can get gas here," Scully says.

I watch as she exits the vehicle at the same time as Mulder. Their movements are oddly synchronized; doors open and shut in tandem. She pulls a medium sized flashlight out of her coat pocket and heads for the store.

Somehow I've always felt the need to protect her. I don't know why, maybe it's part of who I am. So I get out of the car and start to follow her inside. As I exit, I brush past Mulder, accidentally making contact with him as he opens the gas cap. I shudder at the brief touch of his hand against mine. He's in pain from the fall he took when the bounty hunter jumped him as we escaped from the facility. I know him well enough by now to know that he won't say anything to Scully.

I'm right behind Scully when she opens the convenience store door. A wall of putrid air smacks me in the face. She grimaces and puts one hand over her mouth and nose. In a few moments, her flashlight reveals the source: a human body that had been host to an alien, probably at least a month dead, judging by the amount of decay. The body is sprawled out at an odd angle, lying on top of crushed boxes and rotting trash. Broken glass crunches underneath my feet. The whole place has been emptied out, except for the mess littering the floor The electricity appears to be on (I hear the refrigerator in the back of the store whirring away), though for some reason the overhead lights are not working. I think they were smashed.

"Looters," Scully mumbles under her breath. She fumbles around the cash register and then I hear a small click. Scully opens a little window next to the register. "Any gas?" she calls to Mulder.

"Yup," he answers happily.

She slams the window shut and heads for the bathroom. I follow her inside, and even in the dim light, I can see her expression of surprise. "I have to go, too," I tell her. She gives a little shrug, puts the flashlight on the ground, and enters a stall.

I can see well enough with the flashlight to use the toilet. A few minutes later, she emerges from the stall, picks up the flashlight, and washes her hands. I wash mine after hers.

"You shouldn't let Mulder drive," I say, as she's about to go out the door.

"Why?" Even in the dim light, I can see her expression of puzzlement.

"He's in severe pain right now, having broken several teeth when the bounty hunter knocked him to the ground at the facility."

"How do you know that? He hasn't said anything to me." Her tone isn't disbelieving, just curious, and very tired.

"I touched him accidentally when I got out of the car," I state simply.

She accepts the fact without asking anything further. When we get back to the car, she orders Mulder to the passenger side. He complies. She tilts her head back in my direction after adjusting the seat. "Let 84 look at your jaw."

Mulder darts a look at Scully out of the corner of his eye as we speed away from the station, but doesn't protest when I touch him. He won't even look at me, just stares straight ahead as I reach for him from the back seat. It takes little effort to do an easy job like this one, and it's almost a relief when the pain stops, and I feel him slipping into sleep.

We're heading west, always west. Sometimes it feels like the drive will never end. Endless empty highways filled with innumerable vacant gas stations, restaurants, and truck stops. Vacant. It's just how I feel on this never-ending drive where there is nothing to think about except terrible memories. My overwhelming desire to save the world with this vaccine, and the adrenaline that came from it, evaporated about 200 miles ago. I wish that someone else could go on doing the job in my body, while I float somewhere above and to the right.

Around 6am, I know I have to stop. If I don't get some sleep soon I'm going to fall asleep at the wheel and kill us all. That would be a stupid way to die after what we've been through.

I pull off at a deserted rest area. "84, can you keep watch while I sleep for a few hours?" I ask as I push back the seat.

"Yes," she replies. DS84 doesn't talk much. She just watches everything with those big blue eyes of hers. Mulder thinks it's creepy. I just wonder what she's thinking.

I reach into the back seat and pull up two blankets. I cover Mulder with one, and wrap the other around myself. There's something I've been wanting to ask 84 ever since I saw her heal Mulder. I close my eyes for a moment in contemplation, but my weary brain allows me to ask it without prelude. "What does it feel like?"

There's a moment's pause. "What does what feel like?" Her voice sounds like what I hear when I listen to my recorded message in voice mail.

"To heal," I clarify. "What does it feel like?" I open my eyes and turn my head so that I can see her petite form stretched out in the back seat. She's shaking her head.

"I don't think I can explain it," she says honestly. "But I think I can show you."

"Show me?" My befuddled brain cannot wrap itself around this concept. I roll down my window just a little bit and twist around so that I can get a clear view of her.

She reaches for me, and places one cool hand over mine. Carefully, she places my fingertips on Mulder's forehead, while her other hand rests on his shoulder.

Suddenly, I'm aware. There's no other word for it. At first, I'm aware of Mulder's strong pulse thrumming underneath my fingertips, how his respiration is deep and even, how all his muscles are relaxed and that he's drooling a little out of one side of his mouth. Then the sensation deepens. I become so aware of his body that it's like I'm him. My scalp tingles and goosebumps form all over my arms. It's too much to process, and I can't help but jerk my hand away.

"How do you do that?" I'm ashamed at the way my voice trembles. I shouldn't be afraid.

DS84 releases my hand. "It's part of my programming," she says flatly, settling back into the seat. She props her legs up and pulls a blanket over herself. "Go to sleep," she says. "I'll keep watch."

I lean back into the partly reclined seat and close my eyes. It takes a long time for the feeling that I am Mulder to wear off. And when I finally fall asleep, I dream that I'm sitting next to me, watching the sun rise and bleach out the landscape with harsh yellow light.

I wake up with a crick in my neck and a disgusting taste in my mouth. The sun is rising, its rays temporarily blinding me as I sit up and rub my sleep-crusty eyes. Scully sleeps with her neck at an odd angle towards the window, and 84 is wide awake in the back seat, her eyes roaming the empty countryside.

I turn back to Scully. Her mouth hangs open, an almost child-like half snore whispering between her parted lips. Her mussed hair falls every which way around her face with little bits sticking in one corner of her mouth. The sunlight is just beginning to touch her hair, normally so shiny, but dull now from lack of brushing. I catch myself wondering at the change in Scully that shows through even in her sleep. She used to look peaceful and angelic while sleeping, the hardness in her expression reserved only for wakefulness. But now, the wariness was written on her face even while she dreams. It saddens me.

Now that I'm awake, my bladder sends strong first-thing-in-the-morning signals. I look left towards the empty rest area facilities. Maybe they will work. I'm loath to wake Scully, but this can't wait. As quietly as I can, I exit the car and close the door without shutting it completely. Too late. Scully sits up, blinking confusedly in the early morning light. I grimace and close the door all the way.

To my relief, the toilets work. And so do the sinks. I wash as much as possible and refuse to think about how much I want a shower. When I emerge, Scully is standing near what used to be a beautifully landscaped garden, situated in front of the building. Now the garden consists of carefully arranged rocks and brown shrubs and mulch. She stares down at drab bushes and wilted flowers with a look of strange concentration.

"Scully?" I say softly, approaching her from behind, placing my fingertips lightly on her elbows.

She jumps. My hands drop back down to hang at my sides.

"What were you thinking?" I ask. The stillness here, it's almost frightening.

Scully twists the golden ring on her finger with her right hand. "About them," she says simply.

Them. The Gunmen. We hadn't even talked about it since the day we left DC, except for one short conversation at the high containment facility in Wyoming. The last time I had wondered aloud if they were alive was when I found the envelope in my coat pocket. A white and crinkled envelope containing two simple gold wedding bands. I'd seen Byers' ring enough to know that the band in the packet was the same that he'd always worn. The smaller woman's band was an obvious mate. Eerily, the rings had fit both our fingers perfectly. Scully never takes hers off, but she never says anything about them, either. I wonder if she even allowed herself to think about our friends. I can hardly do it now, almost six weeks later.

I hear myself sigh as I lean in close, arms circling her waist, breath whispering over her bare neck. When my palms come in contact with the soft back of her hands, I feel her shoulders shake with an involuntary shudder. Confused, I pull back again, and tug her gently around to face me. "What is it?" Her eyes are wide with something I can only classify as shock, and her hands feel cold against mine.

Her mouth opens and then closes. She doesn't say anything as she tugs her hands out of my grasp. In less than a second I see the expression on her face go from shocked to vulnerable to stoic. "Your turn to drive," she says in an odd voice, turning on one heel and walking towards the waiting vehicle.

What was that all about? Not everything is about me, but this is. I can feel it in her shudder, and the way her voice had stumbled over those few words. Another sigh escapes my lips before I can stop it. Straightening my shoulders, I walk to the car, trying not to think about how much I want a place to sleep horizontally, or how many hours of driving are left before the ocean, or how much I want Scully to tell me what is wrong.

Day 45

Spring is coming in earnest, and the day is nearly perfect. Sunny, breezy, and 70 degrees. Around noon we arrive on the outskirts of Taucoma, about an hour south of Seattle. I know Seattle was hit hard, along with so many other large cities. But even Taucoma, much further south, suffered terribly in the aftermath of the colonists and a one-sided war. The glory of nature arising from winter's rest is stunning in contrast to the city, spring emerging from a husk of death.

I know from reports received at the facility that about 70% of the US population had died directly from the virus, or indirectly from the bombs dropped on big cities. Although we had driven across a good bit of the country and seen hundreds of desolate towns, we had avoided the big sites because of radiation. Seeing the damage in Taucoma made me realize how hard Seattle must have been hit. There are no cars on the road. Houses stand burned to black husks, left abandoned to the elements. Occasionally I see a hawk perching in the ruins, keen eyes searching for its next meal. More often I see crows, their black pinions gleaming dully in the bright noon sun. Once I even see a dog (or maybe a coyote) darting out from behind a battered car. But no people. And not a single sound can be heard besides the rush of the wind that comes from the rolled down window.

Mulder whistles softly, almost reverently. "Who could have imagined?" he says. "Fallen! Fallen, is Babylon the Great! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird..."

I turn my head to look at him. Suddenly I realize his hair is beginning to get long. It blows into his eyes and mouth from the force of the wind. "Revelation 18," I remember out loud. It's somehow appropriate.

We skirt the city and head a little south, but still west. Two more hours of driving put us out of range of the radiation and in range of the pharmaceutical company that I'm convinced could help in manufacturing and distribution of the vaccine. One stop and an hour of driving brings us to Aberdeen, then a half hour more to Grayland, our destination.

"We need to find a place to stay the night," Mulder comments as we slow before crossing the intersection guarded by a non-functional stoplight. He scans the buildings as we pass, eyes restlessly roving the emptiness. Most buildings are empty. A few houses have cars in the driveways. A few even show lights in the windows. But the windows and doors of those houses are all barred. "I'm not seeing anything that looks like a good place to stop," Mulder says tiredly.

I'm about to tell him to pull over so we can sleep in the car for the night when we come upon what looks like an old boarding house. There are lights on inside. We share a look and I shrug. "It's worth a try," I say, and he turns into the lot in front of the house. We park a little to the left and approach warily, though for some reason I'm not really worried that something bad is going to happen.

The whole thing seems a little surreal. The sun is beginning to set, and the house is bathed in golden light. In fact, it looks like something out of a black and white movie. I gaze in growing curiosity at the austere three story stone house. It seems very out of place next to the ramshackle buildings around it. I almost expect a prim matron to meet us at the door.

Hardly. A big woman bursts out the door, pointing a sawed off shotgun straight at Mulder's face. "Hold it right there," she warns us. She's wearing red checked flannel and a garish purple apron, and sports two unruly, black braids on either side of her head. My mind, which never stops categorizing everything around me, says that she's Navajo. I can't say why, but in that moment she reminds me of Albert Holstein.

I stop. 84 is right behind me; I can almost feel her tensing for a fight. Mulder raises both hands in the air at the same time that I do.

"We just wanted a place to stay the night. We're not here to cause any trouble," I assure her, my hands hanging over my head. "We haven't slept anywhere but the car in a long time. Do you know of a place we could stay?"

The woman lowers the gun and eyes me cautiously. "I might," she says after a long moment, and cocks her head to one side, watching me with bright, bird-like eyes. "Where you all come from?" she asks me.

"Wyoming," I reply. It's true, we did drive here from Wyoming. I think it would be best if I don't mention DC for now.

"You three don't look like no trouble. But I pack heat, so don't try nothing." She walks back inside and motions us to follow.

I follow her first, walking up three concrete steps and through the white door. Mulder is so close I can almost feel his breath on my neck. The sight that meets my eyes, though, banishes all my annoyance with his hovering.

The doorway leads almost directly into a common room. The room is filled with people, all sitting at a long table, eating. At first glance I guess there to be ten children and three adults present. My stomach reminds me urgently of the need to eat. I haven't eaten much besides freeze dried army rations in the past 48 hours. One glance at Mulder tells me that he's practically salivating on the linoleum.

She leads us past the common room and up two flights of stairs. "My name's Joanna," she pants, trudging up the last few stairs. She stops in front of the last door on the left. She looks at me expectantly.

"My name's Dana Scully," I offer. "This is Mulder, and my sister Liz."

She nods. "I have one room left, a suite with a connecting door. If you board with me, price includes bread in the morning and a hot meal at dinner."

"What's the price?" Mulder asks. I can already tell what he's thinking. We don't have a lot of cash left, and he's worried about how much this will cost us.

Joanna appraises Mulder for a few moments. "For all of you, $30 a week."

"Thirty dollars?" I squeak.

"I'll not be goin' any lower," she informs me, her lips pursed stubbornly.

"Thirty is fine," Mulder assures her, fumbling in his pockets for the money. He hands the required cash to our temporary hostess.

Joanna fishes out a key from her pocket and hands it to me, stuffing the cash into a pocket in that odd purple apron. "You're free to get whatever's left of dinner once you're moved in. The water here is safe to drink."

Only after the sounds of her steps die away do I speak. "Well," I say.

"Well, indeed," Mulder echoes. "Let's see what we get for the low, low price of $30."

I turn the lock and the door swings wide open. The room is small, but clean. There's a full bed, lamp stand, and one little table with a chair beside it. The neutral colors and plain wood furniture complete the picture of an old boarding house in my mind. 84 walks to the adjoining room and pushes open the door. It leads to an even smaller room with a twin bed. There's a second bathroom here, so tiny that it barely contains the shower and toilet. I'm guessing we'll be quite snug for the duration of our stay.

I see 84 go to the window, then turn to me with a look of wonder on her face. "You can see the ocean from here!" she exclaims.

I join her at the window. She's right. I can just barely see the ocean over the tree tops. It's very beautiful, the dark richness of the evergreens contrasting with a now pink horizon and a huge red sun. I push the window open, and a briny wind darts inside. I blow hair out of my mouth.

"It's beautiful," 84 breaths. I'm astonished to hear her say it, because she's normally so quiet and unemotional. I wonder what other sorts of things she thinks but doesn't say.

"Look at the view later," Mulder chides. "For now, let's eat!"

Dinner is over by the time we get back downstairs. But a woman holding a large pot, who is apparently the cook, is waiting for us. "I saved some," she says before Mulder can even ask a question. She plunks the pot back down on the table and walks into the kitchen. In a moment she returns with three bowls and forks and glasses. "Water's there," she points to a big stainless steel pitcher. "Stew is here, and bread is in that container." She motions with a plastic serving spoon, and walks again to the kitchen.

Two children emerge from somewhere and begin clearing away the dishes from the table. Both gawk at us openly, in the way that only children can. I'm too hungry to care about the staring, but I wonder where the children came from.

The stew is good. Potatoes and carrots float in a pleasant brown broth. There are even little chunks of beef in the mix. I grab what is left of the bread and break it into three generous parts. It's crumbly cornbread, soft and good. Mulder practically grabs his portion and stuffs half of it into his mouth. I almost laugh, but my face feels too tired to make the effort. Soon the food is gone. The only light left in the room is that coming from the kitchen plus one lamp at the far end of the table.

"I'll get the bags," I say, rising from the table and heading for the door. 84 trails silently behind me. We get the three bags from the car, and I put on my coat as well. It may be late spring, but the nights are still cool this far north.

We just get settled into the rooms when there's a knock at the door. I expect it to be Mulder, carrying up the two boxes of vaccine vials from the car. I feel for my Sig and check the peep hole. It's Joanna, carrying an armful of blankets. I open the door.

"I thought you might need these, seeing as the heat don't work too well these days," she tells me.

"Thanks," I reply, taking the blankets from her. They are heavier than they look, and smell of strange detergent. I need to ask a question before she leaves. "Joanna, where do all those children come from?"

For just a moment I see desperate grief cloud her face, but it quickly passes and leaves only a patient sadness in it's wake. "Those are the survivors," she says simply. "No parents, no place to go. I might as well keep them here, and try to keep them safe for at least a while."

I nod, guessing at what terrible things she has seen. "Thank you for everything, Joanna. Dinner was delicious. I don't know how long we'll stay, but thank you."

She nods and I close the door. Mulder arrives just then. "I get the shower first," I inform him. He looks a bit pouty but I don't really care. "I promise I won't use all the hot water."

Twenty steamy, warm, glorious minutes later I emerge, toweling my wet hair, wearing my second to the last clean pair of underwear. "I left a few drops of hot water for you." He rolls his eyes and proceeds to the shower anyway. I peek in the adjacent room. 84 is already asleep. I lay down and wait for Mulder. But a few seconds after I slip under the sheets, I fall asleep.

and darkness who has floated in so many forms and so many times with power and false truth with repeated beat coming and going, that darkness stops... --Holy Blood Holy Grail

I wake up frantically groping the empty space in the bed next to me. My sleepy brain is panicked, thinking that Scully has been taken, and I'm all alone. But one glance across the room reveals her standing by the window, which is partly open. I take deep, even breaths, and eventually my heart rate slows down.

The room is cool against my arms. By the feel of the air, I'm guessing I've slept at least ten hours. The sun isn't up yet, and the morning is very still. I listen. I hear the rhythmic chirp of crickets, punctuated by the occasional cooing of doves. The doves must be close by; their cooing sounds clearly through the open window. Scully stands very still and quiet, like a solemn statue, except that her hair sways gently with the wind coming in through the window.

"What are you thinking?" I ask softly.

She doesn't turn her head. "What if no one believes us? What if we can't find Dr. Linden or he won't help us produce the vaccine? What if we can only distribute what little vaccine we have now?" Her head swivels to face me, eyes glittering in the pre-dawn light.

Those are weighty questions for anytime of day, but especially now, first thing in the morning. I rub my eyes and realize that I'm actually feeling quite awake. Waking up in a start of terror tends to have that effect on me.

I stifle a yawn and she looks at me questioningly. "The darkness, it can't go on forever." I don't know how to explain the feeling, so I don't. Instead, I decide now is a good a time as any to get up. So I leave the warm bed and pad to the bathroom so I can brush my teeth and splash water on my face.

When I emerge, Scully is sitting Indian style on the bed, a thick blanket wrapped around her body so that only her head shows. She looks at me rather expectantly as I lay down on top of the covers.

"I know you've been wanting to ask me about yesterday morning," she says without prelude.

I nod, waiting for her to continue.

"After 84 fixed your jaw, later that morning, she showed me what it was like...to heal."

My mouth is hanging wide open in surprise. I wasn't expecting that comment to ever come out of Scully's mouth. She's watching me intently, trying to gauge my reaction. There are several moments of silence. "What was it like?"

She looks away, silent for a long minute. "It was very intimate," she says softly. "I could feel you...I could almost feel what you were...thinking. I feel like I should have asked permission. I'm sorry."

I shake my head and put my hand on her forearm. "Don't be." I feel the soft hair on her arm prickle into gooseflesh, and she shivers. Only then so I finally understand what's been bothering her all day. "But it didn't go away after that first time, did it?"

She shakes her head slightly. "No, it faded some. I think I can control it a little. But it never went away completely."

"Like now?"

"Like now," she agrees.

I rub my thumb lightly along the edge of her hand, then press a kiss into the center of her palm. Then, I feel it. Or rather, feel her. An awareness of her brushes the edges of my consciousness that quickly fades. It was fleeting, but I know I didn't imagine it.

"I can feel you, too," I whisper. Inwardly I'm trembling.

She lies down next to me, and opens her arms wide, giving me permission to hold her. I snuggle under the blanket and rest my head against her neck, our bodies melding together in all the right places. She cradles me, one hand resting lightly on my neck, the other tracing paths in my hair. "I love you," she says.

For some reason, that makes me want to cry. Actually, I am crying. A little bit of wetness leaks out of my left eye and splashes onto her neck. "Thank you for loving me," I say into her the crook between her shoulder and neck.

She brushes away the tear with her fingertips and kisses the top of my head. Lately, I've begun collecting moments of tranquility into my memory, gathering them into a secret place in my mind, like a beggar who's found many priceless pearls. When the darkness comes again, I want to be able to take out the moment and savor it, holding the memory in my beggar's mind as assurance that beautiful things still exist. I hold Scully and close my eyes, trying to memorize the feel of her skin on my cheek, the cool whisper of the air, the early morning sounds seeping through the window. I memorize the sensations so that I won't ever forget.

Title: Kiss the Darkness III (2/3) Author: Suzanna Post Email: neustrom@omni.cc.purdue.edu Distribution statement: Gossamer, yes. Everyone else, please ask first. Rating: R Content Warning: colonization themes Category: X, R, A Keywords: MSR Summary: Sequel. Post-colonization. Story picks up exactly where part two ended, with Mulder, Scully, and DS84 leaving Wyoming and heading west with the vaccine.

Morning, Day 45

I'm still half asleep when I hear the banging on my door. For a second I think that it's my wife, but then I remember. She's dead. I live alone now, and no one should be banging on my door. I fumble for my glasses and grab a newly acquired gun off the lamp stand as I head for the door. When I peek out the peephole, I don't want to believe what my eyes are telling me. But I open the door anyway.

"Dr. Charles Linden," the man states flatly, blowing out a stream of smoke from the continually present cigarette.

"I wasn't expecting to see you," I say stupidly. I stand there with my eyeballs bugging out and one hand on the doorknob.

"Aren't you going to invite me in?" he says blandly. His doughy lips have always bothered me, and now isn't any different. I don't really want him here, and I hate those cigarettes that he's always smoking. But I have no choice. So I run my hand through my wild hair (reminding myself that I'm way past the starting-to-go-bald stage of hair loss) and let him inside.

My hands shake as I fumble with the coffee maker, throwing out yesterday's grounds and sticking a new filter into the cup. "What do you want?" I say, slamming the cup into place and filling the basin with water.

He regards me with half-hooded eyes. "Nothing more than what I've wanted in the past."

The vaccine. He's here about the vaccine. What he doesn't understand is that all my people are dead or gone. I'm alone. Even if I wanted to continue the work, I couldn't.

"I can't," I blurt out.

"I can give you the people."

People? Unlikely. He'll probably give me some creepy clones, which are much worse than his people. "I don't want clones," I tell him.

"I'm sending you two humans," he says. "They'll know what to do."

"Who?" My brow is furrowed, trying to think of who he could be sending, but my mind is blank. Everyone is dead or gone.

"A tall man with a short red-haired woman. Their names are Mulder and Scully. Scully is a medical doctor. They have the vaccine and will tell you how to make it."

My mouth drops open. "A working vaccine?" My voice is squeaky and pathetic in my ears.

He nods benignly and puffs smoke in my direction. "Just finish the job," he says, his voice suddenly taking on an edge of warning. I shudder, remembering what happened the last time I heard that tone in his voice. People died and there was nothing I could do about it.

He gets up to leave and I don't stop him. I'm left staring at the coffee maker, the last few drops of brown liquid drip-dripping into the pot. It reminds me of blood dribbling off the freshly dead bodies of all the people I knew. Of all the people I loved. I run to the bathroom and throw up so hard that I think my stomach lining ends up in the toilet. I don't know if I can do this.

In less than two months, I've forgotten how hard it is to find my way in an unfamiliar town. We left the boarding house early this morning, trying to find the residence of one Dr. Charles Linden. We left 84 behind to stay with the boxes of vaccine, though Scully always carries several vials in her ever present medical bag. Scully is convinced Linden is the only one who can help us. I'm pretty sure he's alive, but I'm not sure what he can do for us. When I ask Scully why she's so insistent, she just shrugs, and calls it a hunch. Scully's hunches are rare but almost never wrong.

Scully peels an orange and pops a juicy segment into her mouth. I can't resist trying to snag one from her fingers, but it's hard to do while I'm driving.

"Watch the road," she admonishes. "If you're good, I'll peel yours for you."

The oranges are from Joanna. She caught me in the kitchen this morning, trying to get directions to Nirk Street from the cook. She told me that I needed to eat more, and gave me a couple of extra oranges for Scully and her "sister."

It seems to take hours, but I'm sure it's only half an hour at the most, before we find Dr. Linden's house. This neighborhood is empty and silent, like all the others I've seen. But there's a car outside the house, and that gives me hope. I glance at Scully, and her look says I-told-you-so. At least she doesn't say it.

I'm wary when we approach the house, but after only a few knocks, the door opens to reveal a bespeckled, balding little man. Gods above, he looks like the stereotypical mad scientist.

"Dr. Charles Linden?" I ask.

"Yes." He licks his lips nervously and darts glances between Scully and I. I don't think he's ever cleaned his glasses. His hands are shaking and the fingernails are chewed right down to the stubs. "What can I do for you?"

I let Scully speak, content for the moment to listen and observe. She squints through the bright sunlight at our potential allay. "My name is Dana Scully, and this is Fox Mulder. Dr. Linden, we're here to speak with you about a pharmaceutical company called GenCorp."

The little man doesn't look surprised at all, just nervous. "I've been expecting you both. Do come inside."

He's been expecting us? I don't smell cigarettes, but I'd bet my gun that the Smoking Man is behind this.

This time, the smoking man was true to his word. Mulder and Scully arrive about two hours after he left. I have to admit that I wasn't expecting Scully to be a woman, not after all those years I spent listening to baseball games and sports talk shows late at night in the lab.

They are wary, these two, and armed with standard government issue hand guns. I've been around enough government types to have a good feel for the different areas. These two are likely FBI. I wonder what a medical doctor was doing working for the government. Then I wonder what I was doing working for Raush. I mean GenCorp. Ah well. Enough questions. The woman is talking.

"Who told you we were coming?" she asks, sitting at my kitchen table in much the same way the smoking man had done a few hours earlier.

"The smoking man," I say, running my fingers through my hair again. I can't seem to stop it, even though I know it leaves my hair sticking up in all directions. "He said you have the vaccine." My temper isn't improved by the fact that I'm also slightly irritated. I've worked for 15 years on the vaccine, and in waltzes this Nobody with The Answer.

"Yes, we do," she says evenly, perhaps even now detecting my resentment. She takes a vial of amber liquid out of her bag and places it on the table, along with a folder stuffed with papers. "Here are the lab results from the initial tests."

I flip through the papers, trying not to be bothered by the way Mulder stares at me. He hovers behind Scully, standing at her elbow. His body language says he's protective, but I think it's more than that. They're wearing matching gold wedding bands. I'd say they're definitely married to each other.

Perhaps five minutes later, I'm done going through the papers. I'm a fast reader, and I never forget anything I read. "Everything looks in order," I say. "If we can get three people to help us, we can have the vaccine mass produced within the week."

Scully's mouth drops wide open. Mulder's brows pull together in suspicion, his eyes narrowing as he appraises my apparent acceptance. "Only three people?" he asks.

"All mine are dead. This part of the Project was designed with automation in mind. So all I need is three." I frown and scratch my head. "But you'll have to find a way to distribute it."

They share a glance, talking to each other in some strange, silent conversation. A few moments later, the unspoken questions are resolved, and Scully turns back to me. "I'm sure we can do that, sir. How far is it to GenCorp?"

"A ten minute drive," I tell her. "And I'm ready to go now." I haven't driven anywhere in at least two weeks, not since the last time I tried to buy food. I don't want to go outside, but I must. I know the price of disobedience.

Mulder and Scully follow my car to Gencorp. There's no security left at the facility, only an empty guard shack and a broken cross bar. But the parking lot isn't empty. There's a car with two people sitting inside, waiting close to the south entrance. First, I recognize the car, and then the people. And when I pull up alongside it, I see two of my co-workers staring at me with wide-eyed surprise.

My feet hit the pavement almost before I the ignition is turned off. Then I'm hugging Lisa and shaking John's hand, babbling something, and Lisa keeps saying over and over "I didn't know anyone was still alive."

Mulder and Scully hang back, giving us distance. I turn back to them, knowing I need to make some introductions. "Fox Mulder and Dr. Dana Scully, these are my two close colleagues, Dr. Lisa Gimbrel and Dr. John Hannon." Everyone shakes hands and nods. I incline my head in Scully's direction. "They have a working vaccine."

Lisa's mouth falls open in a silent "O" and John looks no less astonished. "We need to get to work right away," Scully says. "Let's talk inside."

I nod, all business again. We have a lot of work to do.

I focus on the plate in front of me. Fork twirls pasta, fork goes into mouth. Suck off noodles and tomato sauce. Fork goes back into pasta. The children at the table are all eating with equal concentration; the only sounds are those of hungry mouths being filled with spaghetti.

Mulder groans and rubs his neck. "I think I'm getting old," he mutters in my ear. "All that work did me in."

He's right. We did a lot of physical labor today. It didn't take long for Lisa and John to agree to help produce the vaccine. So we spent most of the day setting up the mostly automated system. It's up and running now. If we're lucky, the vaccine will be produced in mass by the end of the week.

"Mmmm," I say, and rub the bridge of my nose while simultaneously shoveling more pasta into my mouth. Lately, I've been hungry all the time. An hour after I eat, I'm hungry again. The last few days I've been so hungry that I eat too much at once and then feel sick afterwards. My body must be trying to make up for the last month.

Joanna comes in, bearing a tray of bread with margarine. Then something outside catches her attention, and she sets down the plate, moving to the door in the same motion. I hear car tires crunching over the pavement outside, then the sounds of car gears shifting into park. The cook (Esmerelda, what a name!) is right behind her with that sawed off shotgun. Then both their eyes light up.

"Sheriff Richardson!" she exclaims as the door opens. "Long time no see." A large black man in a police uniform gives her a wide smile and sweeps her into a wide hug.

"Just making my bi-weekly rounds," he says, releasing her and hugging Esmerelda, who grins and goes back to the kitchen. "Things look well with you. You have new boarders, I see."

"This is Mulder and his wife Dana Scully, and her sister Lizzy." Joanna calls 84 Lizzy. Whenever I hear her called by that nickname, I feel like laughing.

"You came just in time for dinner," Joanna declares. He makes to protest but she raises one hand with well practiced authority. "I'll not be hearin' otherwise," she tells him flatly, and goes to the kitchen to get him a plate.

He sits down at the last empty space at the far end of the bench. "How's my special friend Sarah?" he asks the blonde little girl that scoots over to make room for his big frame.

"Hi Sheriff Richardson," she says shyly. "I'm fine." There are smiles and "hi's" from around the table. Apparently the sheriff is a familiar presence, and Sarah is his special friend. She gives him a quick hug, and goes back to eating her dinner.

Joanna comes in with a big plate of spaghetti and greens for the sheriff. "The truck came today. Enjoy the greens while we have 'em."

"Yes ma'am," the sheriff says with another smile, and digs right in.

After a few moments, he looks up at me. "So, where you all from?" he asks, swallowing his first mouthful of pasta.

"Wyoming," Mulder says.

The sheriff nods. "Staying long?"

Mulder shrugs, and I answer. "Maybe," I say. "Not much else place to go right now." He nods again, working away at the mound of pasta. Now that I'm observing him closely, I can see his uniform fits loosely around his waist and shoulders. Recent weight loss, my mind says. I'm guessing food supplies in this area weren't always so abundant.

We chat off and on about the city and ocean and other mundane things, and I realize this is the first chatty conversation I've had in months. It feels odd, but good.

When my plate of food is gone, I notice one of the children (Robert is his name) is eyeing Mulder with particular curiosity. He sits very close to Mulder, his chubby four-year-old hands inexpertly lifting the pasta from his plate to his mouth, watching him all the while. These children all have a story to tell, though maybe not in words. Robert tells me with his action that he misses his father. Mulder finally notices the attention, and glances down at his companion.

"Let me cut that for you," he says, deftly using the boy's knife and fork to cut the spaghetti into smaller pieces that will be easier to eat.

Robert looks at him admiringly with big, brown eyes. "Thanks," he whispers, and pops a forkful into his mouth. He misses and part of it dribbles down his chin. Mulder absent-mindedly wipes it away with his own napkin.

Suddenly, my throat feels constricted and tears prickle at my eyes. I quickly blink and the urge to cry fades. I love this man.

Sheriff Richardson is watching us with interest, eyes flicking between Mulder and I, and then to 84. "Time to clean the table," he declares, apparently familiar with their nightly routine. All the children snap into action, and soon we are left alone as they clatter to the kitchen with their plates and cups.

He looks at me levelly. "What kind of weapon are you carrying?" he asks. He just sits there calmly, fingers laced together, elbows resting on the table

For a moment I'm not sure what to do, but I think honesty would be best. I pull out my gun. "A Sig Sauer," I say, ejecting the clip and checking the action with a practiced motion. The familiar weapon rests comfortably in my hand. Mulder pulls his out as well, and lays it on the table. DS84 just sits very quietly, watching.

"That's standard law enforcement issue," sheriff Richardson observes. "Your weapons are well-used. Where did you get them?"

Mulder pulls out his badge. I'm amazed he still keeps it in his pocket. Then again, mine is also in my jacket pocket. "Special Agents Mulder and Scully, FBI," he says with easy familiarity. The sheriff looks for a long time at his badge, and then mine.

Two children are clearing the table now, staring with big eyes at the guns. I slip my service weapon back into the holster without looking, and Mulder does the same. "Give us a few minutes, Tex and Joe Jr.," the sheriff says kindly. They nod and scamper back into the kitchen.

"What are two FBI agents doing here, on the coast of Washington?" he asks. This man is guileless and honest, I can tell from his gentle eyes and forthright questions. I think we have nothing to fear from him, and a lot to gain. So I decide to take a big chance.

"For the past several weeks, the government has been working on a vaccine to the disease carried by the bees." That part is mostly the truth, but there's no need for details now. His eyes go wide, but he listens without questions. "We have a working vaccine. GenCorp is helping up produce it, but it needs to be distributed nation-wide. And later, world-wide. Can you help us?"

I start counting seconds, watching the sheriff process this information. One, two, three. Mulder shifts beside me. Four, five, six. The sheriff continues to look at me blankly. I get to fifteen counts before he speaks.

"GenCorp is helping you?" I nod. "What about the FBI?"

"I'm sure you're aware that all of the field offices suffered heavy casualties," Mulder says smoothly. "We can't expect any help from them."

It was no coincidence that the heaviest causulaties occuried around government agencies, so that there is very little government left, national or otherwise. I remember how DC looked the day we left, like some sort of Sodom or Gomorrah, burning in the wrath of God. I'm amazed that anyone survived at all.

The sheriff nods again, his eyes full of unasked questions. He opens his mouth, closes it, and opens it again. "All we have is a clinic with one doctor and two nurses, a few blocks from here. There are three of us policemen left from about a 200 mile radius."

"It's a start," I say, trying to be optimistic. "We'll need to talk about transportation. Joanna said something about a food truck. GenCorp has trucks, but we need drivers. Can you help us obtain ground transportation?"

Title: Kiss the Darkness III (3/3) Author: Suzanna Post Email: neustrom@omni.cc.purdue.edu Distribution statement: Gossamer, yes. Everyone else, please ask first. Rating: R Content Warning: colonization themes Category: X, R, A Keywords: MSR Summary: Sequel. Post-colonization. Story picks up exactly where part two ended, with Mulder, Scully, and DS84 leaving Wyoming and heading west with the vaccine.

I yawn and roll over underneath the cool sheets, looping a lazy around Scully's waist, and press myself into her back. "That was smooth work today, Special Agent Scully," I say into her ear.

She yawns and rubs her eyes, tilting her head sideways so that I see the twinkle in her eyes. "Yeah, not bad for one day."

I hug her close. Today was far beyond what I had hoped. Sheriff Richardson took it as his duty to immediately take us to the clinic and introduce us to the one doctor left in this area. The doctor was very tired, and had just sent her nurses home for the day. But Scully must have had some magic in her pocket, because she was able to make the dead-tired woman understand what was going on. A phone call to GenCorp resulted in pick-up truck full of boxes of vaccine, and a promise to start local distribution first thing in the morning. Late that night when we got back to the boarding house, all the children along with the adults and sheriff were vaccinated by Scully. There were no adverse reactions to the vaccine. It seems to good to be true.

She moans a little, breaking my reverie. "What's wrong?" I ask.

"My back has been killing me all day," she replies, rubbing her lower back for emphasis. That's a Scully hint if I've ever seen one.

"Then roll onto your stomach," I tell her, nudging her over gently. I pull up her t-shirt and knead her back, feeling the tightness of the muscles underneath smooth skin. After five minutes my hands are pretty tired, but Scully is a lot more relaxed.

"I think I drooled," she says, her voice muffled by the pillow.

"Drooling is a good sign," I reply smugly, once more reassured of my expert massage capabilities.

She rolls over onto her back, her shirt still hitched up awkwardly under her breasts. I can see the scar on her stomach, a reminder of the wound that almost took her from me. With my forefinger I trace its pink, jagged edge, circling the delicate tissue again and again, as if it's a map and I'm trying to find my way home.

Her hand covers mine, arresting its progress and forcing me to look from her stomach to her face. Her lids are heavy, lips parted, skin soft under my fingertips. Lightly, I brush the familiar uneven curve of her hips, her too prominant ribs, her jutting collarbone. I dip my head and taste her neck. My Scully. My beautiful scarred amazingly perfect-for-me Scully. Shifting, I pull her closer, finding her lips underneath mine. "I love you," I say into her open mouth, stroking her lower lip with my tongue. She doesn't reply with words, but I know that she loves me, too.

Through the walls, through the fear over the crying, over the silence through the dreams, through the time over all the voices, we can hear their Joy we are saved red and black are one --Holy Blood Holy Grail <p> <hr width="70%" align="center" hr="" color="#D0E6FF" /></p> <p>

Day 52

It's noon and I'm tired. Way more tired than I should be, even though it's been a long week. I drink coffee and stare across the table at 84, trying to rest my feet. I swear I'm retaining water, and I feel like I have PMS in a bad way. The odd thing is that I haven't felt this way in at least three years.

We've been at GenCorp all day, just like we have been every day this week, helping Dr. Linden and his colleagues. The vaccine production has proceeded without any problems whatsoever, besides trying to find enough trucks and drivers to distribute it properly. Dr. Linden doesn't like 84, but she's been a big help through all this. She's the one who did most of the local vaccinations, along with the clinic doctor and nurses. They seem to like her, at least. Altogether, things are going much better than I expected.

DS84 is staring at me. "What?" I ask, more impatiently than I intended.

"You need a break," she states flatly. "Why don't you and Mulder take the afternoon off and get out for a while? Go for a walk or something."

Well. That was quite a wordy little statement for DS84. She never says anything unless she really means it. Dr. Linden walks up with a steaming mug in hand. "Yes, things are well in hand here. Go away for the afternoon. Take a walk on the beach." He patters off to the adjacent room, mumbling to himself in the strange way that he always does.

I blow air over my lips and rub my forehead. "I'm not feeling well. Maybe I'll go home and take a nap."

84 looks concerned. "May I?" she asks, offering her hands.

"I don't want to fall asleep at the table," I protest, hands wrapped around the coffee cup. Last time she healed me I slept for ten hours.

"I promise I'll just check to see if anything is wrong," she assures me.

I give her my hands, fighting the urge to pull away as I feel her warm tingling skin underneath my palms. Suddenly, she smiles, and her smile astonishes me. I don't think I've ever seen that particular expression on her face before. "There's nothing wrong with you," she says.

"Then why do I feel so bad?" I complain. My back is still killing me.

"Because you're pregnant."

There's a funny ringing noise in my ears, and I shake my head slightly. "What did you say?"

"You're pregnant," she repeats, enunciating each syllable for clarity's sake. "Though you're not very far along. Maybe a couple of weeks at the most."

My mouth opens and closes soundlessly like a gasping fish, trying to take in air on the beach. "That...can't...be," I pant, trying to suck in oxygen through my malfunctioning lungs.

"Now that I think about it, my healing may have had some unforeseen consequences," she says softly, as if this is the first time she had thought about it.

Here comes Mulder, sauntering in with his own mug of coffee. "Scully, what's wrong?" His voice is laced with sudden concern.

I shake my head. "I think I need some fresh air. I'm not feeling well. You want to take a walk?" He looks at me curiously, trying to figure out if that is what's really wrong. "Dr. Linden says we should get out of here for the afternoon."

"Ok." That's all he says. He goes to the break room and retrieves our jackets. "Let's go."

We park back at the boarding house. "Are you sure you're up for this?" Mulder asks as he turns off the ignition.

I nod. "Yes, I'm just tired, that's all." I haven't been on a walk or done much anything relaxing since we left DC, and I intend to enjoy the beautiful weather, even if my back hurts.

We head for the beach, which is about three city blocks from the house. It rained all week. Today is the first sun I've seen in at least five days, bright and blazing and almost summer. Mulder holds my hand, and I feel a fresh stab of surprise at my new awareness of him as our hands contact.

The little town is quiet in a lonely sort of way. Everything in this section of town has been abandoned, and most doors and windows are barred. I feel sorry for this place, imagining how alive and vibrant this neighborhood once must have felt. We walk past a beautiful old catholic church. "St. Mary's," the sign tells me. The door hasn't even been locked; it opens and shuts in the light breeze. I make up my mind to visit it on the way back.

The beach is nice, with warm brown sand and little pebbles, and a salty breeze blowing off the water. The ocean reminds me of my father and sister and family. There is some pain in remembering them, but it's strange how life goes on, inexorable as the tide coming in before my eyes. This new life growing inside me has helped that, I think. Even in the last few minutes, I feel better than I have in weeks. Mulder squeezes my hand and kisses me lightly. A little laugh bubbles up inside me. I'm going to have a baby! I kick at the wet sand, and a wave breaks inches from my toes. I think it's laughing with me. I'm really going to have a baby. Mom would have been so happy for me.

We walk for about an hour without talking. At first, Mulder throws little questioning glances my way, but for the most part, he just relaxes and enjoys the beautiful day. I rarely see Mulder do that. Suddenly, I realize how much he has changed. There's a quietness about him that is deeper and richer than before, a heavy golden quality in his silence seeps into me like warm honey, comforting and sweet.

After a while I tell him that I want to go back to the boarding house and take a nap. He smiles a secret smile, then surprises me with a boyish hug that lifts me off my feet. He sets me down and kisses me hard on the mouth. I smile up at him, panting a little from his kiss. "What was that for?"

He shrugs, still smiling. "Just because I love you."

I toe the sand and grin so big that I feel a bit foolish, then grab his hand and lace my fingers into his. "Let's go, I want to take a look at that old church before we go back."

And so we end up at St. Mary's. I peek cautiously inside the unlocked door, but the moment I enter, I know that it's empty. Dust lies over everything, and most things that could be carried away are gone. Only the pews and heavy altar are left, still and somber. A sort of sad holiness blankets the place. I'm surprised that the stained glass windows have survived the past few months. Though I don't know much about stained glass, I can tell they're beautiful and very old. These windows seem to be a series of stories, starting with the creation story on the left side of the church, then running through the old testament and the gospels as I proceed towards the right.

The bright sunlight pierces through the glass, spilling heavy colored lights onto the floor. I can see bits of light play over Mulder's face and body as he moves along the windows, puzzling out the stories that they tell. The pictures are vivid and stylized: Adam and Eve with the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Moses parting the Red Sea, Elijah ascending to heaven in the chariot of God. I stop in front of the one depicting the Virgin Mary with the angel Gabriel, staring at it for a long time. The others are beautiful, but the detail in this pane is extraordinary. Gabriel's wings are spread wide, his robes billowing, as if he could fly off the glass at any moment, and the awed expression on Mary's face is so real that I'm awed as well. I wonder what she was thinking when the angel told her, a virgin, that she was pregnant and would bear a son.

It's not long before I feel Mulder's warm presence behind me, close but not touching. We stand like that for a long time, thinking our own thoughts. I decide that now is a good time to tell him.

I turn around, pressing my right palm into his chest directly over his heart, and entwine my fingers around his. "Mulder, I have something to tell you."

I get the strangest sense that the silence around us is listening expectantly. Mulder's forehead creases with sudden worry. "What is it?" he ask softly, his voice rumbling through his chest and into my palm.

He stands quietly, the afternoon light and stained glass colors resting on his still face like water-colored puzzle pieces. His eyes probe me gently, expectantly, hoping for good news, but dreading something bad. My love for him suddenly blooms up inside of me, sending little tendrils of joy from my belly to face. I'm happy that we finally have this one thing, the one thing that I've wanted for so long but thought I could never have.

"Mulder, I'm pregnant."

DS84 looks at the man sitting beside her, trying not to wrinkle her nose with distaste. She dislikes the smell of smoke and cigarettes that hangs about him, but when an Overseer gives orders, she doesn't dare disobey. She doesn't trust him, but he made her come with him to a location a few blocks away from the boarding house. "Watch," he orders, blowing out a trail of smoke absently, his attention completely focused on St. Mary's church, a few blocks away.

A few minutes later, Mulder and Scully emerge, oblivious to their surroundings, walking happily hand in hand. "He knows now," the smoking man says, turning to the hybrid sitting next to him. DS84 is different from all the others, he thinks. Unusally devoted and protective, intelligent and painfully observant, she was the perfect one to send with Scully. "You know your job, and how important she is."

DS84 nods and gets out of the car, satisfied now that she has a real mission, a real reason to exist. Her mind is filled with only one thought: Protect the mother.

~the end~

"I look at you, my love, and I cry for happiness. Hear me world! I have traveled full circle and would do it again if I knew that you would be waiting for me in the end. --Holy Blood Holy Grail

Sequel policy: Maybe. I keep saying I'm going to end the series but I'm having too much fun.

Acknowledgements and an explanation: Originally, this was supposed to be a stand-alone baby story. Then it turned into a colonization *series* and the baby idea got lost in the shuffle. I blame it all on Kia and JW. ;) Many thanks to Claudia and Susan for reading this story and putting up with so many drafts as I wrote out this universe over the last several months. I'd never get a good story out if it wasn't for their wonderful suggestions and patient editting. Hey C, can you believe that you've been reading my ff for almost a year? Here's a big cyber hug for stickin' with me all this time. Susan gets one, too...but soon it will be a real hug. :)

Mulder and Scully don't belong to me, they belong to each other.


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