"his perfect kingdom of killing, suffering and pain
demands devotion atrocities done in his name"
- Trent Reznor, "Heresy"
Sometimes, I almost manage to forget what he's become. I know, in my head, that things have changed, he has changed; he's resigned from the Bureau, for starters, at least until they get a night division. He's started showing up at my apartment at odd hours. He still hasn't gotten the hang of breathing without being reminded. But otherwise, for the most part, he's still just Mulder --painfully bright, oddly charming and fucking annoying. He can talk for hours at a time about things I never knew, most of which I'm not entirely sure I want to know even now. He watches bad science fiction movies on my cable, and does this whole Mystery Science Theater schtick. I’m torn between gutting myself laughing, or putting him in a headlock and hauling him out. He might just let me, if only for old times' sake.
Other times, I'm knocked on my ass by an almost overwhelming awareness of his otherness. It just crawls over me, like ants, makes me itch and squirm. He has these silences, dark and deep and painfully gothic, that he lapses into, can't be pulled from. I'm not even sure why he shows up on those nights; maybe he's afraid that if he's alone, the silence will swallow him whole.
On those nights, I regret every single time I ever wished that Mulder would just shut-up and be still. In all the years that I've known him, his body and mind were constantly in motion; I sometimes thought that he was a little blurred about the edges, like a hummingbird's wings. Even lost in thought he fidgeted and touched and ate those damned seeds and moved in his seat like a six-year old in need of a bathroom. Now, I've finally seen his still, and it scares the hell out of me. It's like he died in that motel room, and nobody bothered to tell him.
Tonight is going to be one of those nights. I can feel it in my bones. I heard him let himself in through the balcony door about an hour ago; he's never told me how he manages that particular trick, and I really don't want to ask. For the last hour I've tried to sleep through him, reminding myself that I've got a real life, a real job to go to in the morning, but instead, I just lie here and feel him, silent and brooding in the living room. At last I give up, get up, and go downstairs to him.
He's sitting on the couch, reading a paperback he left here last week. At least, he's pretending to read. His eyes aren't scanning at all, and he doesn't turn the page despite the minutes ticking by. I shake my head, wander into the kitchen and pour myself a finger of scotch, and wander back into the living room to find him exactly as he was before. I sit down across from him, and sip at the scotch and just try to be there for him.
He hasn't mentioned her, not even once. Until he does, I can't. Despite the twisted intimacy that has sprung us between us, there are places neither of us is ready to go to yet. A lot of places.
I think this darkness, this silence that's grown in him, is where he keeps her.
I can still feel her inside of me. She always will be inside me, in a way. Whatever wrought this transformation passed through her on its way into me. It's like a venereal disease; you only hurt the ones you love.
I wonder if it hurt her when I rammed the stake through her heart. When we rammed the stake through her heart.
He's watching me, his dark, stern eyes surprisingly gentle. I can smell the scotch he's sipping at, I can smell the heat and musk of his bed-warmed body and I find myself closing my eyes, swallowing convulsively. Therein lies temptation; therein lies damnation. It's why I had to kill Scully. It's why, eventually, Skinner will have to kill me.
This whole thing, it's way beyond the consumption of blood. If that were all it was, I'd knock off a blood bank every so often and be done with it. There's so much more to being a vampire than the movies lead you to believe. It's about life as much as it is about death. That's what makes it so fucking deadly; I don't want his blood, I want HIM. And he would break the leg off his coffee table and shove it through me if he ever found out. I might even help him.
Not that I'm falling into some sort of Anne Rice homoeroticism subtext discussion here; I'm not, not really. It's not sexual, or at least, not wholly sexual. It's the hunger to connect, to know, to consume him utterly. I've already fed tonight, fed enough to last me a few days, but it was empty, shallow. It's like eating at a Mr. Tubesteak cart and coming home to a 12 course meal you can only sit and look at. I sit here, and I can feel him along every inch of my skin, taste him when I inhale. It's the pull of his pulse, like a tide I want to drown myself in.
The others, when I take them, it's like little flashes. Their lives flare and sputter in me, but don't amount to anything. It's like a cheap pick-up, an anonymous fuck in a toilet stall in a bar. Satisfying on the surface, for the brief moment of connection, but afterwards -- afterwards, you're more alone than you were before, and messy as hell.
That's the real danger of being what I've become; the only real satisfaction lies in destroying all you ever knew, because it's the only way of keeping it a part of you. It's the only way of anchoring yourself into this twilight world. That's why she lured me in, that's why she took me. It was instinct, a frantic last grab at her mortality, and it didn't work, not really.
It's also probably why I survived this transformation better than she did; I've lived most of my life disconnected, in shadows and half-truths. I don't have that many anchors to begin with. I've always been, pardon the pun, alienated. Being cast adrift from the rest of the human race wasn't as overwhelming for me, since I'd never really belonged.
But Scully, she belonged. She was a part of the world, had fought tooth and nail against abductions and cancer and me to stay connected. She had a life full of family and dreams and prayers that she hid under ice-blue eyes and scientific detachment. An entire world that she surrendered to me on a warehouse roof. An entire world I carry around inside me, that plays out behind my eyes during the torpor of day, replacing the dreams that I lost the moment her mouth breached the last barrier between us.
Her memories have become my penance, replacing the nightmares I had finally grown accustomed to. They remind me that, one way or another, I would have swallowed her whole anyway; she simply sped up the process, brought it to its natural conclusion.
Right now, I'm moving through her memories, seeing them instead of the page before me. Each one is separate, defined, like beads on a rosary. I finger through them, meditate over them, with no hope for absolution. All the while I feel his gaze upon me, hot and human and far kinder than a monster like me deserves. I should leave him alone, leave him out of this, but I've never been good at just walking away when it was the right thing to do. I don't think I can start now.
At last I throw the book aside. "I've found him," I say at last, looking up into the deeps of his eyes. "I've found the smoking bastard's latest hole, and I'm wondering what to do about it." I push through her memories, and find her remembrances of him; they still resonate with rage and revulsion, and perhaps just a hint of fear. I want to make him pay for them, in fear and loss and blood. I want to become his nightmare, just as he became hers.
A silence hangs between us, and I just don't know how to fill it. It's like he wants me to tell him what he should do. "You want my advice? My blessing?" I say at last. "It's a fine goddamned time to start listening to me, Mulder." There is anger and rue and despair in my voice, and more than a little amusement. "What do you want to do?"
His eyes shift in the darkness, gleam, and his lips pull back in a snarl. "I want to paint the walls with him," he growls, and it knifes through me, makes what hair I have left prickle on the back of my neck. I used to have a lot more of it before Blevins passed Mulder off onto me. I relax as the growl softens into a chuckle. "But that would be counterproductive. I know what I have to do; I just want you to come along."
"Bear witness," I offer with sudden understanding. He nods, and his mouth relaxes, but his eyes do not lose their feral sheen. "And when you're done? Am I supposed to chop off his head and stuff his mouth with garlic, to keep him from joining the ranks of the unholy? Because I have to tell you, Mulder, the Bureau still hadn't issued any Van Helsing kits as of the last briefing I went to."
Mulder stands, paces over to the sliding door. "He's been a member of the unholy for a very long time, sir." He smiles at me, a terrible mix of predator and penitent. "But just to be safe, I suggest you stop by Home Depot on your way back from work. They've usually got fence-pickets in good supply." He opens the door, and the cold night air washes over us both. Only I feel it. "Better buy in bulk; if this works, then I suspect we're going to be starting a large-scale urban renewal project." He slips out into the false darkness of the city night, and carefully closes the door behind him.
I sit here, long after he leaves, finishing my scotch; I am completely unable to get warm again.
He's waiting for me; I can smell him, the tang of fear and anticipation and something I haven't yet learned to define marking his sweat. I also smell wood, and Jesus, garlic? I hope that's just leftover from his dinner; I'd hate to disillusion the poor bastard any more. The only time garlic has actually repulsed me in the last few weeks has been when it was a compound in some meal's body odor. And that revulsion was fleeting at best, not enough to put me off my food.
I decide to surprise him, and come through the front door. He's facing the balcony, a large tote bag sitting beside him on the couch; he's a silhouette in black denim and leather, dressed for business. I'm impressed when he doesn't jerk or start, just swivels around slowly. He unzips the bag, pulls out a slender, three-foot picket. "I am now a Home Depot Valued Customer," he says drily, brandishing the picket. "Next time you want me to play Renfield, you supply the damned credit card."
"Did you get them blessed by a priest?" I ask, mock serious, unable to resist baiting him. He just lifts his eyebrows at me, the way he always did when he suspected my latest report was full of shit.
"Mulder, while I doubt it would be fatal, I suspect shoving one of these up your ass would still hurt like hell, so can the comedy. What's on the agenda for tonight?" He puts the makeshift stake back in the bag, and leans into the sofa, waiting for me.
His trust blows me away. Before, I'd always suspected his motives, his allegiance, especially his loyalty. I'd taken what he offered me because it suited my own ends, but I never trusted him for it. But now … now I can smell if he lies, hear it in the layers of his voice, feel it in the rhythm of his heartbeat. And there's nothing there but him. He's a little scared, a little strung-out, a little pissed off by it all, but it's just him. No strings attached. It fragments me and rebuilds me in the instant, and I can only stare at him, open-mouthed.
His eyebrows go up again, and his stern face furrows into a frown. "Earth to planet Mulder," he intones, a touch of annoyance creeping into his voice.
I shake myself, burrow my hands into the pockets of my dark trench coat. "We go to his place, and I get the truth from him." I can feel it shiver over me, feel my teeth sharpen underneath my lips. "A drop at a time, if need be." I smile at Skinner, and I can smell his reaction to it wash over me. The wanting rises up, snarls and claws against the human veneer that holds it in place. Suddenly, Skinner coming along doesn't seem like such a good idea. I open my mouth to say just that, only to be silenced by a scowl from him.
"Don't even think about it," he growls, and this time it's me who shivers. "You even think about ditching me, and I swear to God I'll shove a plank so far up you, you'll burp toothpicks for a week!"
I can't help it; I begin to laugh helplessly. "Christ, sir! If that's the line you use in bars, no wonder you're always home alone when I stop by!"
He begins to laugh, too, albeit a little ruefully. "Just tell me where the hell we're headed, Mulder. And we're taking your car. I refuse to have my vehicle on scene for whatever you've got planned." He stands, lobs the tote to me, then stoops and picks up a second knapsack. I smell garlic, plastic and more wood. "Always be prepared," he shrugs when he sees me glancing at it."That a Marine thing?" I ask, mouth twitching as I heft the tote over my shoulder.
"It's a working-with-Mulder thing," he says, his own mouth twitching. "Now let's get going, before I think better of this and pretend the last few weeks have been nothing more than a stress-induced hallucination."He doesn't ask again about where we are going. He will find out soon enough.
The bastard's living in the suburbs. His neighbours have goddamned garden gnomes. He has those bright plastic windmills in his front garden. The incongruity of it all is beyond reason. If Scully turning to dust before my eyes hadn't strained my credulity to the breaking point already, this would have done it. The man has wind chimes, for chrissakes.
Mulder's eyes are alight with unholy amusement. "The stuff in the back garden is reason enough alone to stake him. He's got bunny sculptures, sir." I groan and flop back against the headrest at the very thought. This whole night is descending into bathos. "Obscene, isn't it?" Mulder asks, his voice shading between glee and disgust. "Here he is, living in their midst, like a cancer hidden in the guts." Disgust wins out, and silence descends again as he parks the car up the block and around the corner.
We separate, Mulder slipping off into the shadows of the alley as I walk down the lighted street, straight to his front door. I ring the doorbell, glancing around and spotting the small camera concealed in the fixture that supports the wind chimes. Ah. Protective colouring, then, as opposed to some sort of bizarre Mr. Rogers' complex. I hear movement after a few minutes, and then the door opens. He stands there a moment, the hall light turning the ever-present wreath of smoke into a wavery halo about his craggy face.
"Mr. Skinner," he says at last in that dry, measured voice of his. "You just happened to be in the neighborhood?" He permits himself a small, desiccated smile.
The smell of him curls up into my nostrils, makes me want to sneeze in reflex. Behind him I see a shadow move, and so allow myself the sneeze to further the distraction. Even as I open my watering eyes, he is pulled back, body arching and jerking in surprise. I follow him in, and shut the door behind us, locking it very carefully.
By the time I reach the living room, Mulder has him pinned to a straight-backed chair. I shrug off my knapsack, reach inside and pull free a set of handcuffs. He catches them neatly, then sets about securing our prisoner.
"This is starting to become a habit with the two of you," he observes blandly; pale, watery eyes flicker over both of us, revealing nothing. "Though there is some novelty in the fact that you've come together this time. What is it you want now?" There is nothing in his voice to suggest that he is anything but in control of the situation.
"Everything," Mulder says simply, and smiles at our mutual nemesis. The older man's face pales slightly, finally.
"I see," he says, and there is only the faintest tremor in his voice. "So that's why you resigned, then." His voice is musing, curiosity satisfied.
"You've seen this before?" I ask, interposing my bulk between the smoking man and Mulder's hunger.
He nods. "Once, a long time ago. We tried to turn it to our advantage, but the experiment was a failure. We had thought it might be a way to deal with out rather insistent partners, but it was, forgive the pun, just another dead end." His mouth curls in a sepia smile at his own witticism. "Apparently you two have found a use for it, however."
I step back, let Mulder come closer. "We have," he says. "I'd offer to let you tell me on your own, but we both know that's not going to happen, so let's just cut to the chase." His voice shifts down, becomes a rasping growl as he moves in, takes the old man's face in a cruel grip. He tips his head high, exposing a wrinkled throat and the pounding artery along the side of it.
"Yes, let's then," he answers. "But please remember, Mulder, that some of the answers you get might not be the ones you wanted to hear. The truth rarely is." His eyes are bright and malicious even as Mulder's head bends down, even when his body jerks in reaction to its violation.
It takes a very long time for him to die, and the smell of his bladder cutting loose is enough to make me wipe my eyes. Mulder clings to him throughout it all, shoulders heaving and twitching, face white and strained as he forces himself to drain the bastard totally. I find my mind wandering in sheer self-defense, begin to wonder about other areas where we could apply this interrogation technique. It would certainly grease the wheels of justice. I shake myself, trying to dislodge the bloodstained image that accompanies that thought.
Mulder rises at last, and though he is flushed with the blood, he is also greenish-white about the edges. For a moment he wavers, staggers a bit towards me, and then he is helplessly sick all over cheap beige carpeting and my black Nikes.
It's too much it's too much itstoomuch. I can't hold it all in, can't hold all of him in. I fall to my knees, heaving helplessly, my body rejecting the bastard's blood even as my brain strives to reject sixty years of memory. He's like a sickness inside, and my body wants to rid myself of him before he poisons me utterly.
After a time, I feel Skinner's strong arms lift me out of the spreading filth, carry me over to the leather couch. I bury my face against his neck, letting the smell of his sweat and the pounding of his pulse eradicate the contamination that makes my guts knot and burn like fire. I realize with a start that I am weeping against him, and once again he offers nothing but comfort.
I pull back, ashamed by my weakness and terrified by the need that rises up, even now. "Well, that went well," I manage to say at last, my voice raspy and thick.
"You owe me a new pair of shoes," he says matter-of-factly, his dark eyes missing nothing at all. He sees my weakness, he sees my hunger, and he accepts it for what it is, what it must continue to be. I think, perhaps, I could kiss him. I might even let him get away with decking me, afterwards. I owe him that, and the shoes, and probably a hell of a lot more.
But I don't think he's keeping score.
At last, when the silence has stretched out as long as he can stand it, he sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose, rucking up his glasses on his forehead. "Well?"
"I owe Krycek an apology," I offer at last. "He didn't kill my father. I did." The old bastard was right, some truths I didn't need to know. I close my eyes against the memory of my mother, young and sweaty and twisted up in floral print bed sheets. I had thought I wanted the answer, but the reality of it turns my stomach, even now.
"How much do you know?" he ventures at last, his voice tentative, both curious and appalled. "Do you really take in…." He gropes for the words, but cannot find them. "Shit, Mulder, this is fucking weird."
I shrug. "In Western folklore, vampires consume blood. In Asian folklore, hungry ghosts consume the spirit. I guess they're both right." I stand up, reach into the knapsack and pull out one of the pickets. A moment later the old bastard is nothing but dust and memory. "I remember everything he ever knew. And he took a lot of pride in knowing, so it makes for a damned good beginning."
Suddenly, he is there inside me, telling me I didn't kill him at all; you can't kill the devil himself. His voice begins to tell me all his stories, even as hers pipes up, chides me for failing her. Its like a goddamned Greek chorus inside my head, drowning out all rational thought. I know I should move, should head out into the night to continue what I've begun. If I don't strike before this is discovered, then they will have a chance to scurry like rats off a sinking ship, and this will have been pointless. Yet for some reason, I can't make myself move; I can only stand there, pressing the dirty stake against my own chest, as his laughter and Scully's tears echo around inside my head.
Shit. One minute he's on his way to leading a stealth strike against the whole consortium, and the next he's just standing there, rubbing the pointy end of the picket along the curve of his breastbone. His face is transfixed, abstracted, like a picture of the Orthodox saints at my grandmother's church when I was a boy. He is lost in misery and rapture, both, as the voices inside his head speak to him, saying God knows what.
I cross over, take his white face between my heavy hands, and shake him hard enough to snap his neck. "You're carrying him around inside you now, aren't you?" He nods silently, his eyes silvered and vague upon my face. I take a deep breath, plunge in where I had vowed not to go. "And she's in there, too." I don't need to even say her name; silver shades to crimson, and his eyes spill dark, sticky tears.
I growl, shake him again. "Mulder, this is not the time to hold a pity party. We've got work to do. You hear me?" He shudders helplessly, overwhelmed by the night inside himself. I swear and sigh and pull his shuddering body against me, pressing his face against the frantically throbbing pulse of my own carotid. It feels familiar, comfortable even, in a twisted sort of way. He is cool as marble, cool as a tombstone against my heated skin, and I feel him nuzzle blindly against my throat, feel his teeth caress me, feel his tongue stroke along my pulse. A moment later his teeth break the skin, surprisingly gentle in their violence. I close my eyes and try to ignore the hot pull of his sucking mouth, ignore the way it turns my knees to water and makes my breath come in ragged pants. Instead, I focus on one memory, one remembrance that he can have, one I can give to him; I hold his cold flesh against me, and offer him a candle against the darkness.
He moans against me, takes his mouth off me, licks the wounds shut. This time he doesn't pull away, doesn't retreat. He just leans into me, as though I am the only thing keeping him anchored in this world. Maybe I am. I can live with that, if he can.
So to speak.
The voices are still inside me, but the taste of Skinner in my mouth, the roar of his blood in my veins drowns them down, makes them small again. I can feel his heat leaching into me, can smell him, taste him, feel him, hear him, see him …I'm goddamned swimming in him, and the beast inside me snarls and snaps in confusion, because this is a gift willingly given, a sacrifice freely offered. The hunger only understands taking, and is almost silenced by the offering.
His pulse slows down, but doesn't quite steady itself, and his smell shifts; that indefinable scent is a part of him again, and I think, perhaps, that I'm beginning to understand what it is. But I won't name it until he does. He's given me more than enough already. I have no right to ask him for this.
Even though I know he isn't keeping score.
I let go of him at last, slide from his bedrock grasp, and pick up the tote bag I'd carried in. There is enough night ahead of us to make a good beginning. There is enough time to trap a few rats. And I know that I can do it, know that I can see the way through this darkness.
I know I can do it because the shadows inside me have been temporarily scattered, illuminated by a single, pristine memory of an unexpected sunrise over a steaming Vietnam jungle. I close my eyes and feel the warmth of remembered sunlight, and hear Scully only faintly, as if from a great distance. I can't hear the black-lunged bastard at all.
I open my eyes, to find him watching me, and I smile at him, a real smile, my teeth pulled in. "Well, sir. Let's go stick it to someone else, for a change."
He winces, and laughs despite himself at the pun. "Jesus, Mulder. An Oxford degree, and that's what you can come up with?" He retrieves his handcuffs, picks up the knapsack and zips it shut. "If this is the beginning of a series of bad jokes, you're on your own, regardless of what's at stake." He is out the door and into the night before I can react. But I can hear his soft puff of laughter as my groan wells up. I've obviously created a monster.
I don't take them often, and as a result, Kimberly is pretty damned stunned when I tell her I'm taking a long lunch, especially when one considers the kind of day we've been having. It seems there have been a rash of break-ins and thefts in government facilities, not to mention several apparent abductions, over the last few nights. A few of our own higher-ups have disappeared off the map. But since I know that there aren't going to be any answers forthcoming, I'm not investing too much effort into it; just enough to look good to the rest of the world. Appearances must, after all, be kept up.
It's a long drive. I'm surprised that I remember the way there; that night has a distinctly blurry quality to it in my memory. Many of my dealings with Mulder are like that; I think it's an in-built protection system. Too much weird shit, and the memories just sort of drift off, become like a faded-out acid trip. It makes them easier to deal with. I make one stop along the way, spending too much money on a token gesture, but it feels right, so I do it.
I climb the fire escape, and it's just as high and just as long and I'm just as winded as last time. Obviously more time at the gym, and less time on stakeouts is required.
Shit. I'm making puns, and he's not even here to hear them. There's not enough therapy in the world.
I stop about twenty paces short of my destination, my mouth suddenly dry and my gut knotting and unknotting a few times before I can move forward. I lay the bouquet of lilies down, but they are not the first flowers there; not the first flowers by a long shot. I step back to appreciate the handiwork.
A six-by-three foot cross is outlined in white roses, all in various stages of decay. The outside border is complete, and it is slowly being filled in. At a guess, I'd say he's been doing it a rose per night. I close my eyes, the image of the cross bright white behind my eyelids, and not even the memory of a red-gold sunrise can blot it out. Not quite a crown of thorns, but close enough.
An end, for now.