Title: Chantilly Lace
Firelynx--this one's for you!
Summary: A haunting and recurring nightmare of Mulder's death causes Scully to think she's losing her mind.
Raindrops, and teardrops, and red drops of blood on a chantilly lace gown...
I am losing my mind.
<Oh, life could be a dream....>
Ever get a song stuck in your head?
<....if I could take you up in paradise up above...>
<...if you would tell me I'm the only one that you love...>
<...Life could be a dream, sweetheart...>
<Hello, hello again, Sh-boom and hoping we'll meet again>
<Oh, life could be a dream.....>
It's raining again. I can hear it beating gently against the glass of my bedroom window, soothingly, sleepily. So sleepy. I'm supposed to be asleep now, "resting up" before the big party tonight. But I'm afraid to sleep, afraid of the dream that has tormented me for the past five nights. Every time I close my eyes it's there....
...close my eyes....no, I don't want to fall asleep....
Mulder sent me home. "You've been working too hard," he said. I think he was just sick of me crying. I've been doing that for the past five days, as well--just sobbing uncontrollably whenever he's around. It frightens me so much, for I never cry, never--but I just can't stop. It's been scaring Mulder, too. We'll be working on something together and suddenly I'm bawling my eyes out and he's looking at me like I've lost my mind. And when he hesitantly reaches out to comfort me, I just push him away. "I'll be fine in a minute," I mutter before racing out of the office to the ladies room, where I can sit and cry in relative privacy. And then I go and hide somewhere, anywhere--the breakroom, the stairwell, the research library. I make up the flimsiest of excuses to get away from him...and I have to get away from him...because whenever he's around I'm filled with such unbearable love, and heartbreak... ..and sorrow...sorrow...like I'm going to lose him soon forever...
Raindrops and teardrops and red drops of blood....
...I am wearing chantilly lace...in a ballroom, dancing in Mulder's arms, and he's singing to me....that stuck-in-my-head song....
<...if only all my precious plans would come true...>
<...if you would let me spend my whole life loving you...>
<...life could be a dream, sweetheart...>
A dream...a dream...no, no...I'm dreaming *it* again....Sleep which once so softly held me like a lover, has now grabbed me by the throat and dragged me back into this nightmare....
And the ballroom is gone. Now, there is only darkness...
I'm in a closet, I think, because a thin crack of light is spilling from under a door. And, Oh! It's so hot and black and stuffy...Mulder is here, too, crammed in next to me, back against the wall, hands cuffed together like mine. And I am so afraid, so afraid of the men who have brought us here. It's a choking, omnipotent fear that dominates my soul, so overwhelming and overpowering that I am lost in it. I hate myself for feeling this way, I despise myself because my reason refuses to wake up and assert itself against this fear. But even hate is not powerful enough to loosen the grip of terror that holds me so completely, and all I can do is lean on Mulder's shoulder and quietly, helplessly sob...
...and we are surrounded by chantilly lace. The skirt of my gown, which was a full, airy cloud in the ballroom, is a smothering, itchy blanket now. I have tucked as much of it as I can tightly underneath my bent, numb legs. The nylon crinoline underskirt is scratching me unbearably through my hose, which combined with the pins-and-needles in my feet, would drive me insane if I wasn't already half mad with fear....
The satin bodice of the gown is so white it glows in the dim light of our prison. And, dreamlike, I remember back to the ballroom....no, to the gazebo, where I told Mulder how badly I wanted him, NOW...and how wonderful it felt when he kissed me...soft, passionate kisses on my face, my mouth, my neck...and how my heart started beating triple-time as his hand started to slowly unzip the back of my dress...I was almost faint with desire....we had waited so long, so long for this...every dream of mine was about to come true...and then, and then...I heard the stealthy noise of the men...
I pick aimlessly at a ruffle of lace, my hands chafed and raw from the tight cuffs. Tears slide unnoticed off my face, and join with the sweat of my body, which is making rivulets of moisture that trickle between my cleavage and down my back. Soon I hear the heavy, thudding footsteps of our captors booming across the floor toward us. "Whatever happens," Mulder whispers to me, "It's going to be all right."
Suddenly, the door is whipped open and blinding light rains down upon us. I squint up at the tall silhouettes of men in the doorway. "THEY DIDN'T PAY!" one screams at us, "THEY WEREN'T EVEN THERE! Who does the FBI think they're FUCKING with?"
We just look up at them, mute. God, the light hurts so much...
"Well, they're going to be SORRY!" the man continues to shriek, "SORRY!"
"C'mon, hero," another man snarls, kicking Mulder in the leg, "You're going to teach 'em a lesson they'll never forget."
My heart goes completely cold with dread. "NO!" I wail, before a sharp kick comes my way, knocking me back against the wall.
"Shut up, bitch!" And he kicks me again.
Mulder turns to me then, and despite the cuffs manages to cup my face in his hands. He's bleeding from his forehead where they hit him in the car. But I don't see the cut, only his eyes looking deep, deep into my own. "I love you," he manages to whisper before they tear him out of the closet and slam the door shut again. And I'm left alone in the smothering darkness with the image of Mulder's hazel eyes burning themselves into my soul. I am completely numb with terror...
There's more room now, room enough for me to lie down and curl myself up into a tight, unfeeling little ball.
I hear a gun shot ring out...
...and yet I don't hear it. Its significance doesn't filter through my fear-anaesthetized brain...
I hear a lot of yelling, but I don't understand any words. I just stare at the crack of light under the door and try not to think about anything...
My shoulder starts to cramp after awhile, so I wiggle around and try to sit up, hampered by my bound wrists. My hands brush across the floor and into something wet...
Blood. Blood. In the faint light I can just make out a red puddle of blood leaking in from under the door, staining the front of my dress....
I stare at it dumbly. It *couldn't* be Mulder's because I'd know it--I'd *feel* it if he was dead...wouldn't I?
And I don't feel anything at all...
...except warm, sticky blood all over my hands....
It's at this point, with my famous clinical detachment, I notice half my soul is suddenly missing from deep inside of me. Half of my being has been brutally ripped out by the men in the other room, leaving only a jagged, tattered edge where Mulder's soul and mine connected...
And, OH MY GOD! The pain, the pain, the PAIN! Burning, agonizing, heart-wrenching, EMPTINESS! He's gone, oh God, no, no, he's gone! I start to scream then, and I scream, and scream, and sob and kick uselessly at the door until I finally collapse, exhausted, in the darkness....
....I then awake in a hospital bed, with Skinner holding my hand. He smiles at me gently, sorrowfully, tears in his eyes. "I'm so sorry," he says. "I'm so, so sorry."
I just stare at him, confused. Another man is there, one whom I don't recognize. "We got the guys who did this, Ma'am." he says to me, proudly. "And we saved the state a trial and execution..." Skinner makes a rough sound in his throat and glares at the man, who wisely falls silent.
"They're dead?" I ask.
Skinner nods, reluctantly. "They fired on agents at a road block...and were killed in the resulting shoot out." He looks away from me then, refusing to meet my eyes. "They killed him, didn't they?"
Mulder, he means.
"Did you find him?" I ask, choking back tears.
He hesitates. "All we found at the scene was this." And he hands me the hair comb I was wearing that night, the one Mulder had bought for me to wear to the party. As soon as I touch it I'm engulfed in a scalding hot, unbearable sorrow that threatens to burn me alive. Slowly I turn the comb over in my hand to read the inscription on the back. "Love never fails", it says. Skinner sighs heavily, and I look back up at him. "We couldn't find his body," he pauses, then gives me a gentle, significant look. "And with our suspects dead, it doesn't look like we ever will."
So he is gone forever. Forever and ever. Without even a body to say goodbye to...
<...Hello, hello again, Sh-boom and hoping we'll meet again...>
And I know it's true, I know that they'll never, ever find his body. And I start to sob--it's too much, too unfair, too unbearable...Why didn't they kill me as well, instead of leaving me to face the rest of my life without him? I want to start screaming again, but the comb in my hand stops me. I stare at it calmly. "Love *never* fails," it whispers to my soul in Mulder's voice. "Love *never* fails."
"I will find you," I answer back. "I will find your body--no matter how long it takes, or what it costs me, I WILL NEVER REST UNTIL I FIND YOU......."
<....life could be a dream, sweetheart...>
Thunder explodes outside my window, sending a lightning bolt of adrenaline through my body. I am wide awake now, away from the horror and sorrow of my nightmare. Closing my eyes again, I take a deep breath and try to calm my madly beating heart. Something sharp pricks my hand...
Oh, no. Not again.
It's the hair comb, nestled snugly in the palm of my hand. Again.
I can't decide which is disturbing me more--my nightmares or the fact that I'm sleepwalking. For no matter where I put the comb before I go to bed I always wake up with it clutched tightly in my hand....
It was a gift from Mulder, the comb. A beautiful, old-fashioned, romantic sort of gift. And very, very unlike him. We had been sitting on "our bench" on the Mall, eating lunch and talking shop, when suddenly he pulled it out of his pocket. "I felt compelled to buy you this," he had said, grinning shyly and stammering, "It reminded me of...of...what, well...what we have between us." And he placed in my palm a golden hair comb, with what appeared to be an elaborately carved ivory rose attached to it. I just stared at it in shock and surprise. "Look at the back of it," he said, his eyes shining with adoration.
I turned it over. "Love never fails" was fancily engraved into the gold. Tears pricked my eyes and all coherent thought was washed away in the flood of emotion this gift stirred in me. I looked up at him, speechless. He leaned into me, cupping my face with his hand, caressing my cheek lightly with his fingertips. "It doesn't, you know," Mulder continued softly, "It doesn't fail. Love *can't* fail, Scully. I know that now like I've never known it before. It's kept me going when I've wanted to give up and die. It's what gave me the strength to find you in the Antarctic and bring you home."
Tears spilled over my eyes, then, and I blinked hard trying to control myself. I wanted to take him in my arms and kiss him, and tell him how much I love him too. And, God! How I love him! I love him so much it hurts--a deep burning pain that threatens daily to consume me completely. But the intensity of my emotions was frightening, so I deflected his attention away from me and back to his gift. "Did you have it engraved yourself?" I managed to choke out at last.
He shook his head, no. "It came like this," he said brightly, pulling away, back to his old self again. "It's an antique, I think. I saw it in the window of this shop that does estate sales and such. It just sort of called to me..." He looked at me adoringly again. "I thought you could wear it to the party Friday night." Impulsively, he grabbed the comb and tucked it into my hair. "There," he said, grinning. "You look just like Grace Kelly."
I laughed then. "I do not!"
"Yes, you do." He'd insisted, stroking a curl at the base of my neck.
"Well, maybe..." I conceded, smiling. "If I was taller, and blonder, and had extensive plastic surgery--I just might look like her." And then I grew serious. "Thank you, Mulder." I whispered, and planted the most chaste of kisses on his cheek. After all, this was the Mall, and you never know who might be watching....
And later that night, the nightmares started. Over and over and over again, I saw the ballroom, the gazebo, the closet, the blood. And the next morning, as rain fell from the sky, tears fell from my eyes, splattering and smearing the red ink of my report. Red ink on white paper, like blood on lace. Mulder walked in then, and all I could do was put my head on the desk and cry, cry, cry....
I've said nothing to him about the dreams. I'm scared to tell him, terrified really--not because I don't trust him but because I do. I'm afraid to talk to him about the dreams, about the music and the blood, the choking fear...losing him, losing control, losing my mind.....That's the thing I fear the most. I'm losing my mind. I'm afraid he'll listen carefully to everything I say, then gently take my hands in his and say, "Yes, Scully, you really are losing your mind."
Or worse yet, he'll jump up excitedly and shout "You're having premonitory dreams about my death?" Anyone but Mulder would shiver and quickly change the subject. No, he'll pump me endlessly for information just like he did to Clyde Bruckman...poor Mr. Bruckman... didn't he say something once about chantilly lace?
I'm dressed for the party now. It's hard to imagine going to a party with Mulder, even though it's just a work related dinner-and-dancing affair. We've never been to any of these things in the past. But we both agreed it would be to the benefit of ourselves and our work if we started socializing with our peers more. "We exist in our own little world, Mulder," I had said to him. "Chasing aliens and shadows from one state to the next. People would have a lot more sympathy for us if we at least *pretended* we were normal human beings every once in a while."
"You're right, Scully," he replied sarcastically, spitting out a sunflower seed shell. "Spending the evening kissing ass will definitely win us the sympathy of all our fellow agents." I was tempted to throw the stapler at him, but I resisted the urge. Instead, I gave him my iciest glare. "Well," he mumbled sullenly, "I guess it really won't hurt us, either." Then he got that lecherous grin on his face. "But you've gotta promise to wear that sexy blue dress--you know, that gauzy one with the spaghetti straps..."
It's just a simple chiffon cocktail dress, knee length with princess seams. Conservative, understated, yet elegant. Mulder loves it. When I wore it before, he told me that it made my eyes "look like sapphires". There aren't enough "O's" in the word "smooth" to describe Mulder when he puts on the charm, but it made my heart leap just the same....
The hair comb finishes the dress off perfectly. The ivory rose glows in my hair just above my left ear, tightly holding my freshly curled locks in place. Very tightly. In fact, the teeth of the comb are digging rather uncomfortably into my scalp. But since the comb is so heavy and my hair is so fine, I figure better too tight than too loose. It would break my heart if I ever lost it....
I hear Mulder knock at the front door, then let himself in. "Scully?" he yells. Honestly, that man has no sense of privacy. I eye myself critically in the mirror before going to meet him. My eyes do look like sapphires...
He just stares at me, mouth open, with the strangest look on his face--awe mixed with confusion and...fear? He studies me like I'm some sort of puzzle that he can't figure out. "You look......ethereal," he says at last, in a way that implies "ethereal" isn't a good way to look.
"I wore this just for you, you ungrateful son-of-a--" He stops me with a kiss to the lips--a rich, full, heart-stopping, takes-your- breath-away kind of kiss--that truly leaves me gasping for air when he pulls away.
"You're drop dead gorgeous, Scully, don't you know that?" He gives me his very best Mulder-smile. "I'm sorry, it's just that when I saw you I got this weird feeling, you know, like someone walked over my grave. But, believe me," he says hurriedly, "It's all completely unrelated to the way you look."
Like someone walked over his grave? Dread tugs at my heart....
"Mulder," I say trembling a little, "Maybe we shouldn't go out tonight." He looks at me puzzled. "With the rain and all...and there's supposed to be more thunderstorms...." It's a flimsy excuse, I know, but a plausible one. It has been raining for days and some roads are flooded...and the party *is* out in the countryside...
"But, Scul-ly," he whines, "I've been practising puckering-up for days." He makes obnoxious kissing noises at me as proof. "And besides, I want to show everyone how human and sympathetic I am by dancing with my partner."
I kick him gently in the shin. "Behave yourself tonight, Mulder," I beg. "Please."
And he does. Beautifully. He can be unbelievably charming and agreeable when he chooses to be--emphasis on "chooses". He smiles and shakes hands, and makes small talk without a sulk or sigh. He listens attentively and appreciatively to all the boring stories told at dinner, and doesn't even attempt to steal food off my plate. He's quite the life of the party--a bright, shining, brilliant star. Maybe that's why I feel so dark and dull next to him. And so depressed....
No, not depressed, oppressed. It's oppressive in this ballroom--stuffy and close, and the hair comb is hurting my head so much...There are too many people in here, too many people to talk to and be civil to. And I'm so tired, so very tired...I just keep a smile plastered on my face and nod a lot. Everyone must think I'm so cold and uninteresting...Tears start to rise in my eyes. Oh, God, no, not here! Not in front of all of these people....
Mulder sails over and takes me by the hand. "You owe me a dance, partner," he says, whirling me out onto the floor. "Hey," he asks, pulling me into his arms. "How close do you think we can dance without Skinner having a stroke?"
"Let's find out," I answer, mischievously.
An old, corny Tom Jones song is playing, and God....Here I am...in a ballroom, dancing in Mulder's arms and he's singing to me....
"Pussycat, pussycat, you're so thrillin'....and I'm so willin' to care for you....so go and make up your cute little pussycat eyes...."
He's looking deep into my eyes, now, past all the walls and barricades, right into the still, secret places of my heart. I don't want him in there, I don't want him to know how much power he has over me...but I'm completely captivated...
"Pussycat, pussycat, I love you...yes, I do...you and your pussycat eyes..."
Oh, my God. My legs are turning into jelly. Forget Skinner--*I'm* going to have a stroke. This is a full frontal assault of Mulder-charm and all my defenses are down. Deflect....deflect.....
"My sapphire blue eyes?" I stammer out. Oh, brilliant...
He laughs. "Yes. And I'm really glad you wore the comb tonight." He leans down and whispers seductively in my ear, "That ivory rose sets off your creamy skin. You're a dream come true, Scully."
A dream come true....
<...Oh, life could be a dream...>
No...this is real...
"Pussycat, pussycat, you're delicious...and if my wishes could all come true..."
<...if only all my precious plans would come true...>
I don't want to be a dream come true, Mulder...You don't know what kind of dreams I've been having....
Tears well up in my eyes and suddenly I'm very dizzy. "Mulder," I gasp, "I have to sit down." And instantly, I'm whisked off the floor and into a chair, Mulder's arm protectively around me.
"Look, I know you're fine," he says, his voice thick with concern. "But I don't think you're all right. You've been acting kind of strange all week."
I stare at him a moment, trembling. Should I tell him the truth? No...not all of it anyway. "I'm just tired," I say at last.
He squeezes my knee affectionately and smiles. "You want something to drink?"
I nod, and he's off--glad to be doing something concrete toward making me feel better.
<...if you would let me spend my whole life loving you...>
<...life could be a dream, sweetheart...>
No, not that music again! I clamp my hands over my ears, but it's coming from inside my head....
<...Hello, hello again, Sh-boom, and hoping we meet again...>
A ballroom and music, chantilly lace and blood. I'm going to lose my mind. I'm going to lose it right here in front of all these people.
I've got to get away...
I've got to get away...
I stagger out of my seat and make my way through the crowded room to the dark, covered porch outside. The party is being held at an old farm house turned banquet hall--a very popular place for weddings, if I'm not mistaken. Quaint rocking chairs and two-seated gliders are scattered about, all so guests can relax and gaze at the idyllic scenery in comfort. Not that much can be seen at ten o'clock at night, in the pouring rain, with lightning flashing all around. I sink into the nearest glider and try to regain control of myself, which is hard to do, considering the storm raging around me.
I hear footsteps and look up. Mulder. "Good Lord, Scully!" He exclaims, "It's a monsoon out here!" He plops down next to me and hands me a glass of punch. "You get sick of being normal?"
"No," I answer, flatly. I wish he would go away and leave me alone...just leave me alone...
"Oh." I can feel his eyes looking at me in the dark. "So," he says, "why are we sitting outside on such a dark and stormy night?"
I don't answer him. I just stare out into the storm, watching nature's fireworks light up the night sky. With the next flash of lightning, I notice a gazebo at the end of the immense lawn. It's sitting on a little hill, overlooking the river...
<...Oh, life could be a dream...>
"Mulder," I say suddenly, "do you ever have a song get stuck in your head, and you don't know all the words, but you keep hearing it over and over until it nearly drives you crazy?"
"Oh, yeah," he replies. "I had that stupid 'Titanic' song stuck in my head for months."
I smile at that. "Everybody had that song stuck in their heads. This is different. I don't think I've ever heard this song before."
"I know you can't carry a tune, but for what it's worth, how does it go?"
I don't even try to sing it. "Life could be a dream," I say, "If I could take you up in paradise up above...If you would tell me I'm the only one that you love--"
"Life could be a dream, sweetheart," Mulder finishes, singing. "Sh-Boom. It was a big hit in the early fifties. You've had 'Sh-Boom' stuck in your head?"
I nod at him.
<...Sh-Boom, Sh-Boom. Yadadadadadadadadada-da...>
"Well, I guess it's better than Celine Dion..."
<...Sh-Boom, Sh-Boom. Yadadadadadadadadada-da...>
And suddenly, everything makes perfect sense. I start to laugh. "Sh-Boom! Of course! How could I forget that song?" I turn to him and grab his hand. "Every time I look at you, something is on my mind..."
"You're singing," Mulder says.
"...If you do what I want you to, Baby, we'd be so fine..."
"In tune," he says incredulously.
I stop in shock. "Just what do you mean by that remark, Mr. Smarty Pants?"
"Well, uh...," he stammers.
"Oh, never mind." I stand up, and tug at his hand. "C'mon, let's go." And I'm pulling him off the porch, into the rain, and we're running, running down the lawn.
"Where are we going?" he shouts above the roar of the storm.
"You know where!" I shout coyly back, dragging him toward the gazebo. We arrive at last, and collapse to the floor, soaked to the skin and panting for breath.
"This is perfect." I say, hugging Mulder close to me.
"This is dangerous," he says. "If this place gets hit by lightning....just what possessed you to drag us down here, anyway?"
I nuzzle his neck playfully. "You did," I whisper in his ear. "I want you."
I cup his face in my hands, and press my lips to his forehead. "Five years," I whisper softly between kisses. "I've waited five long years. I can't wait any longer. I want you, now, and I want you right here."
He reaches around and caresses my back with trembling hands. "Okay," he gasps, "This isn't exactly how I imagined our first time, but whatever you want, Scully."
I pull him down to the floor, and he kisses me on my face, my mouth, my neck...My heart starts to beat triple-time before it melts completely into my stomach. God, he feels so good--I never dreamt he would feel so good....
Something he said earlier nags at me...what was it?
"I'm not silly," I murmur into his hair.
"I didn't say you were," he says, kissing my shoulder.
"Yes, you did. You said 'whatever you want, silly.'"
"*Scully*," he says slowly, "I said *Scully*."
I scrunch my face at him. "Why? That makes no sense at all..."
He pulls away from me then, and looks at me for a long moment. "None of this is making sense to me. Am I missing something?" he asks softly. "Why are we here?"
"Now who's being silly?" I retort. "You know why."
"No, I don't."
I sigh, exasperated. "We're getting married here in three months."
He sits bolt upright at that, but says nothing, grinding my hand nervously between his. I sit up, too, and lean against him. "Do you want to wait?" I ask, reluctantly.
"No," he whispers huskily, "but I think we should anyway. I don't want to do anything you're going to regret later."
I sigh heavily. "I guess you're right. I don't think I could keep a straight face, standing here in front of the priest and all our family, knowing this is the spot where I lost my virginity."
Mulder groans softly. "You're starting to scare me."
"I don't want to wait," I continue sulkily. "Good girls are supposed to wait for their wedding nights, but I'm feeling like a very bad girl tonight."
"You know, that doesn't surprise me," he says, laughing nervously. "I'm getting the feeling that you're not yourself at all right now."
Thunder explodes around us, and a lightning bolt of adrenaline shoots through my body.
<...Hello, hello again, Sh-Boom, and hoping we'll meet again...>
The world starts to rock and spin around me. "Mulder, " I whimper, covering my face with my hands. "I'm losing my mind, aren't I? I'm really losing my mind!"
He slips an arm around me and pulls me close. "Shhh. It's okay, it's okay," he soothes, "I don't think you're losing your mind, Scully."
"But I am!" I sob, "It's just a dream! A dream! Dreams don't come true do they, Mulder?"
"Not always," was his comforting reply. "What do you see in these dreams?"
I close my eyes, and jam my fists tightly against them. "Blood." I moan. "Blood. Rain and tears and blood on a chantilly lace gown. And you're gone...gone forever..." I open my eyes and slam my fists hard against Mulder's chest. "WHY?" I scream at him, "Why did you leave me? Why did you have to die and leave me to face a lifetime without you? You were gone forever and I couldn't find you--no matter how hard I looked...I couldn't find you..."
He grabs my wrists and holds them tight. "Scully, I'm right here."
"NO!" I say, tearing myself out of his grip. "NO! I will find you! I will never rest--NEVER REST--until I find you..." I jump up and stagger out the back of the gazebo, running blindly toward the riverbank.
"Scully!" Mulder screams behind me, "SCULLY, NO!"
Suddenly, the ground beneath me disappears and I'm falling, falling....tumbling and sliding through mud and grass and cattails. I land with a splash in the rain-swollen river. Oh, GOD it's cold--much colder than it should be for July...The current is strong, and before I can catch my breath I'm swept away, a prisoner in the water's icy embrace. I try to fight it, try to kick and claw my way to the bank. But it's no use--I'm dragged mercilessly along, scraping and bouncing off rocks, even getting sucked under in places. Then my breath is knocked completely out of me as I slam HARD into something solid and stable. I clutch at it desperately and look up. It's a concrete pylon for an old railroad bridge. I gasp for air, but my chest feels like it's on fire and it hurts too much to breathe...
Five feet. I'm five feet from the shore, a little less than my body's length. The current is pinning me against the pylon, but maybe if I push with my legs against it, I just might make it....just might make it.....
...and I just do. I can feel the gravel in the shallow water grind against my hands and knees as I crawl toward the shore. The bank is eroding badly from the rain and collapses under me as I try to hoist myself up onto it. Mud tumbles all around me as I slither and wiggle and claw my way up the sloping bank under the bridge, out of the rain. Safe, at last, I hope. The ground I'm lying on is anything but flat...God, I hurt so much, so much...and I don't dare move in case I go sliding back down into the river....
"SCULLY!" I hear Mulder shouting nearby, "SCULLY!" At least he had sense enough not to dive in the river after me.
I try to cry out to him, but it hurts too much just to breathe, much less yell. He'll find me, I know...
<...love never fails...>
Lightning flashes and the world is illuminated for one brief second. It's enough for Mulder, though, to see me huddled under the bridge. In an instant he's there, crawling up to me, sending big chunks of mud crashing into the river. He scoops me into his arms, crushing me against his chest. "Mulder, I'm hurt!" I scream in pain.
"Oh, my God, I'm sorry." He lays me gently down again. "Where?"
"Everywhere!" I moan. My head is buzzing, and I'm so tired...I want to rest now...I want to surrender myself to the blessed darkness...
"Okay, okay," He says, barely keeping the panic out of his voice. "I'm going to get you out of here, Scully." Lightning flashes again, and I can see him, biting his bottom lip as he stares at the sloping unstable earth around us. Then it's dark again, and I feel his hand gently stroking my forehead as thunder booms around us.
Booms...boom sh-boom....Oh, God...
Lightning again. And he's still staring at the ground, but this time in shock. Then darkness and thunder. I feel him reach over me and dig into the ground, flinging away handfuls of mud. What the....?
<...hello, hello again, Sh-boom, and hoping we'll meet again...>
Great forks of lightning crackle across the sky. "Holy shit!" I hear Mulder exclaim before I collapse, exhausted, into the darkness...
...I then awake in a hospital bed, with Skinner glaring at me. He's wet and muddy, and furious, I can tell, because that little vein in his right temple is visibly throbbing. "One night," he growls through clenched teeth. "You two can't be normal for one night? And I don't even want to know what you were doing down at the river in the first place..."
"Where's Mulder?" I ask, confused.
"Back at the river." He softens then, and takes my hand. "I'm sorry, Scully."
At the river?
"Sir?" I ask, trembling, my heart pounding with dread.
"I shouldn't be yelling at you. I know it's not your fault. It's just a hell of a night for the Mulder shit-magnet to strike again."
"Sir, why is Mulder still at the river?" I feel like I should know the answer to this....
"You don't know?" He cocks his head at me, surprised.
I shake my aching head. He looks at me a moment, then sighs. "There's been a lot of flooding lately, as you know. It's created a lot of erosion problems, especially at that part of the river. In fact, I'm surprised that old bridge is still standing..."
"What are you trying to tell me?" I choke out.
"As you crawled out of the river, Agent Scully, you unearthed a grave. Mulder and one extremely pissed off forensics team is down there now, trying to exhume the body before the river does."
"The body?" I say stupidly.
"Oh," Skinner continues, reaching into his pocket. "This was found at the scene. Mulder says it belongs to you." And he hands me the hair comb....
<...love never fails...>
Tears spill over my eyes as I take the comb into my hand. "I can rest now...," I murmur before surrendering to the darkness again.
No, they won't let me sleep. Fractured skull, the doctors say. To match my three fractured ribs. And my broken wrist. What else is wrong? Besides being half drowned, I'm bruised inside and out. Bruised kidneys and liver and abdomen. And where I'm not bruised, I'm scraped and cut...
"We've got to stop meeting here," Mulder whispers playfully in my ear. "People are starting to talk..."
Something sharp pricks my hand. The hair comb....I push it away and grope for Mulder's hand, entwining my fingers tightly in his own. I feel a kiss brush softly across the back of my hand, and then the rough warmth of his stubble as he holds it to his cheek. Oh, Mulder...I thought I'd lost you forever....
Two days later, and still in the hospital, I'm sitting propped up in bed, wondering if it will ever *not* hurt to breathe again. Mulder comes bouncing into the room, eyes shining, a brand new X-file clutched in his hand. He seats himself on the bed, and looks at me, bursting with excitement, yet deadly serious just the same. "They ID'd the body we found," he says, "You're not going to believe this."
"Who was it?" I ask.
"*Michael Borman*," he says, with emphasis. "As in the Waters-Borman kidnapping."
I look at him blankly. "I've never heard of it."
"No, you wouldn't have," Mulder continued. "And, believe me, the Bureau is more than happy to keep it that way. But, in 1954 it's all anybody was talking about."
I glance at the folder in his lap. "It was an X-file?"
He shakes his head. "No, but it is now." He opens the folder and shows me a newspaper clipping. 'FBI BOTCHES WATERS-BORMAN CASE' the banner headline screams. "Technically, the case was closed when the suspects were killed in a shoot out. But, it was a mess from the beginning."
<....they fired on agents at a roadblock....>
My heart starts pounding. "Go on," I murmur.
"Michael Borman was a rich kid, you know--from an old Virginia Tidewater family. After serving a tour in Korea, he comes home to marry his college sweetheart, the also very rich Jenna Waters. On the way home from their engagement party they get car-jacked and abducted. The kidnappers send a ransom note, but the FBI goes to the wrong place with the money. Can you believe that?"
<...They weren't even there! Who does the FBI think they're FUCKING with?...>
I sigh. "Yes, I can."
"Anyway, events get kind of vague after that. All that's known is the kidnappers were shot trying to run a roadblock. After combing the countryside for two days, a half-dead Jenna Waters was found stuffed in a closet in some abandoned shack. And with the amount of blood on the floor, Michael Borman was assumed to be dead, even though they never found his body."
<...blood, blood...staining the front of my dress...>
I close my eyes tightly and start trembling like a leaf.
<...love never fails...>
<...I will find you...I WILL NEVER REST UNTIL I FIND YOU...>
Mulder reaches over and takes my hand, gently. "This is the part you're not going to believe, Scully." He takes a deep breath, and exhales slowly. I can see his mind carefully choosing the words he's about to say. "Jenna Waters survived her ordeal and though she never married, she led a happy, productive life. She died about four months ago, and her estate was sold at auction."
<...I felt compelled to buy you this...>
"And...?" I prompt, breathlessly.
He flips to the back of the folder. "This is the last photo of Michael and Jenna together. It was taken at the engagement party...."
I already know what I'm going to see, but I look at the picture anyway.
Jenna. In a chantilly lace gown. She's tall and blonde and looks just like Grace Kelly. Her head is tipped back, laughing, as she gazes adoringly at Michael. And nestled in her hair, just above her left ear, is a carved ivory rose. My eyes fill with tears....
Mulder places the hair comb on the picture. "It's the same one, isn't it?" he whispers in awe.
"Yes." I whisper back, choking on a sob.
Mulder jumps up then, and starts pacing the floor ecstatically. "Do you know what this means, Scully?" he asks excitedly. "We've experienced a haunting! An honest to goodness, old-fashioned haunting!"
I stare at the comb in my hand, the gold and ivory warm and heavy. A teardrop escapes down my face. "Mulder," I say. "Are you suggesting this comb is haunted?"
"Well, maybe not anymore, now that Borman's been found." He grins at me.
"This comb was not haunted," I say firmly.
"Why not?" he insists. "Houses can be haunted. Woods and roads and bridges can be haunted. Why not objects?"
I clutch the comb tightly in my hand. "You don't understand, do you? It's *not* haunted!"
He sits down heavily on the bed, aggravated, glaring at the wall and making his sulky, "Scully doesn't believe me" face.
We are silent. I turn the comb over in my hand and read the inscription for the hundredth time. He really doesn't understand what this whole thing has been about...
Or maybe he does....
I reach out and touch his arm. "Mulder," I say gently. "I'm not disagreeing with you, exactly." He turns and faces me. "But, I don't think you're looking at this situation deeply enough."
I take his hand, then, and place the comb in it, inscription side up.
"Love never fails..." I whisper into his ear.
Love never fails.