Summary: A Pact draws Mulder to Scully's defense.
Acknowledgement: I want to thank my Beta Reader, Kathleen Lietz, for her encouragement and for keeping me on track.
I wake from darkness into darkness.
Her Need sounds the trumpet that calls me out of death.
Danger... *They* come!
Her Need pulls me from my journey across the bridge of souls; compels me back into this body shed not so long ago. Encased in damp earth, buried deep as *they* bury all their secret truths, I pull the earth around my bones and rise up into the night.
I am earthbound; hurtled back into life by The Need that burns inside my bones. Beneath the canopy of summer leaves, I rise up before the ancient oak that has stood sentinel beside my resting place. The air is moist with recent rains. I feel, but cannot smell the dark familiar scent of earth and wood. Cast out of the dream that sailed the sea of darkness between the stars, I am the shadow of death returned.
Here, shrouded beneath the greenwood, the stars are dimmer. They do not dance like living flames to the music of the spheres. The ocean of heaven does not shine with their fire. I raise my vacant eyes to heaven, remembering the warmth of my dream, but see only pale crystals of ice glittering in the somber sky. I reach up to touch my late companions in the dance, to grasp the hem of their robes in supplication, beseeching them to take me back. My hand, more earth than flesh now, cannot reach the sky.
I cry aloud my desolation, the horror of existence within this rotting shell.
My howl of anguish is answered by the frantic howls of distant dogs. Death cries out and all living things howl in fear. I am death's bastard child, a phantom terror that haunts the night. Other ghosts, awakened by my frantic cries, whisper on the wind. They are accustomed to their death. Their empty voices chide my rude disturbance of their rest and smother the echoes of my despair.
"Mercy," I cry to the restless dead.
"Pity," I beg the silent sky.
I hear no answer but the clamor of The Need which has summoned me to this nightmare. I feel the drumbeat of its call, summoning me to fulfill my dying oath.
I offered my life, my soul to her Need. Even now, when the awful Consequence of that oath chains me to this body of putrid earth and bone, my soul still whispers her name in a never-ending litany. In despair, I cry her name aloud.
Rash were the words I spat at my murderers, fear for her feeding my fury.
"If *my* death is not enough."
"If you dare to touch her."
"If I have to, I will rise up from my grave and destroy you."
Brashly I offered Heaven my eternity to her need; never believing her Need could draw me out from Death's dominion. Now I stand twixt life and death, a prisoner sentenced by my desperate pride to this fearful resurrection.
The woods are dark and still, thick with matted vines that claw at me, impede me, but cannot halt my slow march towards the lodestone which has drawn me from my grave. The fire within my soul burns in my hollowed eyes, lighting my way. My eyes have become the foxfire that grows on decaying wood; cold flames that swallow light and feed on death.
Her Need summons me; an undead knight, the revenant striding to her defense.
How can I sleep when the other half of my soul cries out in fear?
How can I rest when she is imperiled by the forces which so callously buried me deep within the earth like some forgotten memory?
Vengeance is mine saith the Lord. I am the sword which shall deliver that vengeance. For this alone I endure the stench of my rebirth. I am more than half earth now. The long weeks of immersion have blurred the distinctions between flesh and earth. My bones are rocks buried deep within the earth; adamantine with the anger that burns within my soul.
Vengeance, not for myself. I knew the costs of the game I played. Knew the ultimate price I might pay. Knew that one day *they* would tire of playing with me and end my interfering ways. I did not know, however, how lonely death could be when buried deep in an unlamented grave.
The truth I sought was bitter comfort in the end. It led me to my death, unmourned and unremarked.
Was the truth I found worth the pain of our separation?
What is the truth? I asked and in my dying found that the truth had walked beside me and made my quest her own.
Not for her Ophelia's pond, but science has its own drowning pools that can swallow an embittered soul. If my absence broke her faith, then I am twice damned. Like Hamlet I will seek out the murderers of her faith and with my teeth tear out their souls and spit them into Hell.
In the darkness beside my open grave, I did not plead for life. Death was too close. I felt his cold hands grasp my soul. Forced to my knees before them, I begged only that *they* tell her of my death. *They* laughed at my plea. Death was the price I paid; the coin of truth. But not that she should hate the sound of my name when I did not return.
As the bullet shattered my heart, I cried out to a silent heaven that she would know I did not desert her. Prayed not for salvation, but that she should know that I kept my word. Others took me where I did not wish to go and parted us. I cast myself into the darkness trying desperately to touch her soul one last time; to say goodbye. Only the edge of a dream did I catch. A fleeting butterfly moment and then I was drowning in the dark ocean of stars.
No tears softened my descent into that cold ocean; no sorrow eased my plunge into the dark dreams of death. Only her anger, then fear, then anger again that marked the death knell of her trust as she believed the lies they left for her to find and thought me faithless.
Vengeance for her.
Vengeance for her despair.
Vengeance for her grief at my 'betrayal.'
I will requite her pain upon their souls. I am the fury that answers her Need. I am revenant, death reborn into life to seek vengeance upon those who murdered me and who now seek to murder her. I am the storm she has summoned to strike down our enemies.
May God have mercy on their souls for I shall have none. I am reborn without pity. They shall cry out to Heaven or Hell and none shall answer them. I will defy the angels of light or dark or whoever seeks to stay me from my vengeance. I am reborn to darkness. Within me rages death and despair. I will visit my despair upon them until their bones cry out for pity.
I will feed upon their souls. Their flesh shall be food for dogs. No bone shall lie connected to another. I will make their deaths a horror that shall echo down to their sons' sons' generation and still it will not be enough to still my vengeance.
My soul burns. I will quench my fire in the lamentation of their souls as I cast them into Hell. Only then will I sleep, either in fiery damnation or back in the dark, drifting dream among the stars; waiting until the wheel turns and her soul calls me out of sleep to dream with her.
The night begins to fade as I reach the edge of the woods. Long fields stretch out before me, rich waves of young wheat swaying in the early breeze. I recognize the distant road. I realize the irony of my resting place. What is one more grave among the hundreds of buried dead that lie beneath the fields of Manassas?
If I had humor left in this rotting shell, I would laugh. The Whispering ghosts I hear among the trees are disturbed by my resurrection; outraged that their honorable graves should be desecrated by a common murder.
Their anger is not for me. I was thrust into their midst by others Who blasphemed this holy ground. My bones have been hallowed by this bloodied earth. Their valor sanctifies my Pact and gives me hope.
"Peace my brother corpses. Go back to sleep. I shall avenge this insult to your valor. Return to the dream and leave to me the nightmare."
The trembling dawn begins to shake the eastern sky and I withdraw back into the shadows under the trees. The sun is my enemy now. Light betrays what I have become. There is time yet. I can feel her, even from this distance. Another night's travel then one more to cross the river and slip silently into the darkness that is gathering around her. While the sun crosses the sky, I will stand under the green shadows. I let my mind drift back to her.
She laughs with me as the lightning blazes around us, drenched by sheets of rain, we take our first journey together into the unknown.
I bask in the light of newly returned life shining in her eyes as she tells me she had the strength of my beliefs.
Lying in the cold darkness of a sinking ship, haloed by the light of our single lantern, she vows that death can not end our partnership.
She blazes with the fire of martyrdom to my cause; defying Congress for my sake, enobling our quest with her honor.
So many memories of her strength, her wisdom, the looks she gave me when I spouted my outrageous theories.
I have gone beyond even what I believed was possible, but she draws me back and the memory of her anchors me fast within this temporary life. The light reflected from these memories brightens the shadows that are my dwelling place.
I remember Scully. I remember life.
Memory is a changling wind. Memory of her is like a cool breeze, but hard upon it comes a dry bitter wind. The memory of myself mocks what I have become. I am not changed in soul or mind, but am so bitterly changed in shape and form. That cannot matter now, I must answer her Need and if this shape will answer to my will, then it must be blessed.
Turning away from the dark shadows that flock like ravens around my soul, I cast my mind back into the pool of memory and draw up the softer moments we shared.
It is the quiet times, when our souls pulsed as one, that I cling to now to remind me of my humanity. Whole conversations were held with a single glance; a light touch was poetry. We did not feel the need for words between us. So often the words we spoke merely echoed what our eyes had already said.
We had the future for words, for making real our silent pledge. Fools we were to squander the present in a passionate belief in the future.
In the blink of a thought, between the bullet's impact and the shattering of my heart, my soul cried out all the unsaid words that were dying with me. So much left unsaid; so much never to be spoken. Our future died with me, pouring out on the earth above my grave in wasted hopes.
Yet, such hope is left to such as I, dares believe the unspoken words were understood between us. I would restore that bond between our souls before I sink back into the earth to lie forgotten once more, except by her.
Night returns to cast its shadow across the land. I am free to move across the earth like a passing plague. No living thing crosses my path as I stride towards the city I once called home. This conjured body I wear moves stolidly but swiftly across the miles. I feel no weariness; I feel nothing except the siren call of The Need pulling me towards her.
The dwellings of living men soon choke out the fertile land and I am forced to slip from shadow to shadow amid the harsh lights they raised to banish the darkness. My passage is marked by the howling of dogs baying in fear of my approach. Men are not as wise to the presence of death walking in their midst. They see only what they expect to see. I wrap the shadows around me and pass without remark; a ghost, a memory of ancient monsters that haunt the dark beyond the firelight.
The night passes swiftly, but I have reached the river's edge before Hell's bells ring out the approach of dawn. I dare not cross with the sun so close to dawning. Frantic now with fear of the revealing light, I search for a place to wait out the day.
I used to be the hunter, marshalling the hounds of law and science to bay at the heels of the monsters I believed in. Did they search as I do now, with fearful hearts, for safe haven from the light?
Like the fox whose name I bore, I seek the earth to give me shelter. Reeking of water-strewn garbage and human filth, the river bank offers sanctuary. I lay me down into the earth. I pull the debris of human existence over me until I lie in a grave of my own making; laying silent and still. I cling to a sliver of sanity and recall all my memories of her while the world of living men passes by me all unknowing.
Her Need, urgent now, pulls me from my grave. *They* are closing in.
Though twilight still holds the fading light, I dare to rise. The evening's shadows are thin, but I cannot wait for the shelter of night. Our enemies are moving. I sense their hunger for another death; to think themselves safe again by silencing any who have known the truth.
Quick furtive darts from shadow to shadow. Trembling pauses as I rein in the impulse to stride openly to her rescue. Cursing the lights that blaze against the sky; I cross the bridge. The harried living scurry past in their cars and do not see me. I am invisible to them; the dead do not walk in their ordered world.
Beyond the bridge lie the welcome shadows of the city. The alleys are my highways as I speed towards the North Star of my universe. As clumsy as this makeshift body is, it moves with ponderous speed. My soul strains to fly to her, but my earthen frame has no wings.
Oblivious to all else but her Need, I charge through the darkened alleys. Too used have I become to the blindness of the living. One man sees me. We collide in the deepest shadows. I start in fear.
A ragged man, who bears the nightmares of a jungle war within his eyes, recoils from my touch. His dark face pale with shock, he shrinks back cowering into the darkness. I feel the ghosts of a war long past gather around him.
"He is ours," they whisper. "Leave him to us."
With no thought but a human desire to comfort, I reach out a hand to reassure him, to calm him. As my fingers touch his arm, he cries out in terror and flees into the darkness, seeking solace among his familiar ghosts.
Am I then a nightmare more fearsome than his haunted dreams? I raise my face to the stars and ask the empty heavens if I am so sorely changed. Her Need answers me; *they* are close. What I am is answer to The Need. It is enough.
That Need drives all else from my mind. I follow the summoning. I can taste *their* presence on the wind. I am too late to forestall their taking her, but not so late that they have ripped away her life.
Foolish men, damned men, who think her without a champion. They cannot move now without my following. I have caught their scent. Fast on the heels of death I run, a hound of war unleashed by *their* own greedy violence.
The radiance of her life shines out in the night drawing me to its warmth. Not for me a sun, but the day star that shines in the waning night. A promise of dawn, but still sheltered by the night. She is my promise, my hope, and my redemption from this second life.
I pause, basking in her warmth, searching for a way to take them unawares. Her Need wars with my fear of her awareness of my transformation. Four men to take a single woman and then only by surprise. Her face is flushed and angry, her hair tousled from her sleep. She walks proudly like a queen surrounded by her guards, not a victim cornered by her killers.
Trembling with the effort to restrain my fury, I follow softly in their wake. Caught on the razor's edge, I watch as they bring her to the quiet park near her home. Here they will commence the drama of her death, the fiction of a random crime written in her blood to conceal the truth.
For her, there will be no hidden grave.
For her there will be completion; a lamented grave lying in the light.
Surounded by the men who would steal her life, she stands defiant. Even in my dead soul, I feel the memory of the pride I felt in being her partner, a friend to this lionness. Three men hold her while a fourth, so black of soul that mine looks merely smudged, taunts her with my death.
"He's dead, you know. Eight months' food for worms and you never guessed."
He laughs at her startled gasp and grins like a carrion-eating jackel.
"Did you like the lies we left for you? Thought they were rather good myself. Especially the one about him and that sultry brunette interested in UFOs."
He laughs at her anger. I hear his words taunt her as he shows her the gun.
"He died on his knees, begging us for mercy."
The truth within a lie. Cruel words that shatter my soul. Her face grows white. I wonder that I can still grieve that she would believe me a coward.
Her reborn trust summons me from out of the shadows. Caution is forgotten as my fury sweeps me into battle. *They* do not know that their death lurks within the shadow that strides out of the darkness.
One of the three sees me and calls out to the others. Leaving her in the care of the other two, he walks towards me, a distant light glints off the gun he holds. Foolish mortal man. You cannot kill one who is already dead.
Her voice, concern for her unknown rescuer more strident than her fear for herself, startles me. She wrestles with the two remaining men, lashing out to turn their violence away from the stranger.
"Run, damn it!"
Her cry, a man's cruel laugh and the flash of gunfire explode together in the silent night. The bullet thuds into my chest, sending up a tiny spray of mud and rotting flesh. I rock back from the impact, then tear my lips apart in a death's-head grin. Three more bullets plow into my unfeeling chest as I advance.
A look of utter shock and disbelief has barely time to cross his face before I am upon him. The gun falls clenched in a hand torn from his arm. A scream of terror and pain is swallowed in a face crushed by a single blow of my fist. Spitting blood and bone and mud, he falls to his knees before me. Grasping his head between my hands, I lift him up to face me.
"Remember me in Hell," I whisper as I crush his neck, half tearing his head from his shoulders. I am lost in the madness of my resurrection. My fury, my fear for her, opens the gates of Hell within my soul.
In the shadows on the edge of my vision, I see her fighting with the remaining thug. One lies at her feet writhing in a fetal ball. I have no balls to feel the sympathetic pain, but my memory is good. I can even spare the bastard a tiny shred of pity. That pity will not stay my hand when his time comes, but perhaps his death will be more of a mercy than the others.
I turn to face the leader. His eyes are wide as he takes in my disfigured form. The slayer knows the slain.
"I am what you created. I swore upon my soul what I would do if you dared raise a hand against her. You should have been satisfied with my death and my dishonor in her eyes."
The rumbling growl of my voice, thick with earth and gravel, is meant for him alone, but I feel her sudden gasp and know some spark of recognition has flared. I must move quickly now, before the horror that I have become is given a name.
She must not know from whence her deliverance comes. I cannot bear her horror atop my own. She is light to my darkness. She must not feel the shadow of my walking death upon her. I want to see her soar upon Heaven's winds. If the price I pay is to sink forgotten into Hell, then it is a coin of my own choosing.
The roar of gunfire is loud and the heat of metal spit out in rapid fire warms the spot where my heart once beat. I stride through the bullets, leaving a spotty trail of mud behind to mark their passage through my body.
Too late he tries to turn and flee. I seize his shoulders and drive him to his knees. The memory of my death springs back clear and crisp. I remember the sharpness of the single stone lodged beneath my knee, the shape and feel of each twig and branch as it pressed against my legs. I can taste the longing I felt for life, for a chance to say goodbye, even a moment to find a faith I had forgotten; all extinguished without a thought.
My fury at my senseless death and her broken trust explodes. I shatter his knees against the hard ground. He screams and writhes in my grasp. I dig my hands into his shoulders and feel the bones crumble beneath my fingers. I exult in his pain.
"I am death, the destroyer of souls."
I whisper this final truth to the fading sanity in his eyes. His terror is water to my thirsty soul.
Her voice, soft, uncertain of the truth her heart feels, shakes my resolve. The faintest breath of fear now touches her voice where none had been before.
This time the voice is sure, aghast with awe, but certain now of what her Need has summoned. I close my ears to her voice, to the storm of memory and grief it stirs within me. My fingers reach into flesh and curl around the soft bones.
A touch. A single feather-light touch of her hand on my arm and I am undone.
Oh God above and Hell below have mercy.
My victim slides from my grasp to lie gibbering at her feet. I have become a statue, immobile with the fear that she will look upon the ruin of my face that so darkly mirrors the ruin of my soul.
I have become a monster in deed as well as body. My soul cries for the death of the man I was. I shake with the force of the tears I cannot shed.
"Mulder, dear God.... how?"
My name tolls from her lips. Her voice demands an answer I dare not give. The Need, which tore me from my grave, has fallen silent, but I am prisoner to her voice.
Her name is ripped from my throat despite my resolve to stand silent. My Pact has damned me to this confrontation. I dread to see the memory of what I was consumed by the knowledge of what I have become.
Helpless I stand, unable to turn away as she moves to face me.
I start to plead with her to let me go. To grant my damned soul this small mercy; to let me slip away unseen, back into the darkness from whence I came.
"Shush, Mulder. It's alright."
No, it can never be alright. I am dead and buried. Let me go back to my grave and sleep. My head bows down against my silent chest. My damnation is waiting and I am impatient to begin to burn; to atone for all the hurt I have inflicted on her.
Again, her hand touches mine. Stronger this time, a firm grip that does not shy away from my decaying flesh. Compelled by that touch, I slowly raise my head. She must recoil, I must be damned. Defying mercy, I lift my eyes to hers.
"Forgive me, Mulder. I should have known. I felt.... but then doubted what I felt."
She is asking my forgiveness? I stare at her in stunned disbelief. I should be on my knees before her, begging her to forgive this profanity of life I have assumed.
I shake my head to deny her need for pardon. I see her eyes fill with tears and realize she thinks I cannot forgive. Horrified, I dare to raise a muddy paw to lightly brush away the single tear that fell.
"You have always had my pardon for anything, Scully. I had not given you much reason to doubt the lies they left."
She smiles at that and raises a hand to press my clumsy hand against her face. My palm leaves a muddy brand where our joined hands rest.
"Let me go, Scully.... back into my grave. I am only the memory of the man you knew.... a shadow if you will.... a nightmare if you must."
As she listens to my plea, her eyes search my ravaged face for some spark of the man I was. I see her nod slowly as she pieces together flesh to bone and strips away the mud, to rebuild the Mulder that she knew.
"We will go together Mulder. You will show me where they buried you and I will carry your bones back to lie in the light with honor. Then you can leave me, for a little while, until it is time for me to follow you."
She smiles through her tears; a radiant smile that scatters the darkness that haunts me. Damnation flees howling from my soul. I feel my reconstructed body lose the fury that has bound it to my bones. I manage a ghost of a smile.
"No need. The grave is empty now. All that is left of bone and flesh, I leave here."
I sink to my knees, feeling my body return to fragments of bone and sinew.
"Then go in peace, Mulder. I will find her for you. I will even believe for you."
With this benediction of faith and trust restored, I shed my conjured form. My soul soars on a whispered prayer back into the dream. The stars dance again around me while her voice sings softly to me as I sleep. Soon we will dream together and the darkness will be comfort to our joined souls.