Title - Ruby
Author - Aris
Written - February 2001
Rating - PG
Category - NIL
Spoilers - If I could answer that...
Keywords - Alternate Universe.

I'd just like to say that White Star 2 OWNS MY IMMORTAL SOUL. Go read her stuff, because more likely than not if you're a fan of the series, you'll like her stuff more than mine. ;)

Speaking of owning and the series, it's Chris Carter's and 1013 Productions'. Not mine. But then, you know that by now.

Archive - Heh, if you want to, go ahead.

Summary - Well, there's this dead guy, but that's not important. It's the atmosphere, that's all, and Scully's problem, which is what you really want to hear about, isn't it?

Author's note: This is the sequel to a story I like to call "Life Sucks, Bite Me" - which is a horrid name for that story, but better than some I came up with.

I'd write more, but then the intro would be longer than the story.

So there's this office.

It's a nice office, plaque on the door says it belongs to a VP. VIP VP, a Very Important Vice President. You know the type, suits and ties even if it's casual Friday, takes his job *seriously*. Doesn't matter much, though, 'cause he's dead behind the huge polished desk with a day's worth of paperwork spread over him. Blood's already stained the sandy brown carpet a color that'll take the cleaners a month to scrub out when they clear the place for its next occupant. The room's not as still as you'd think, since the window's been smashed in and a breeze is shuffling some of the papers around. They're normal reports, stuff that a lawyer would have, especially the VP of a firm. And this dead guy's both.

The door opens. Freeze frame on who comes through.

Two FBI agents, both wearing gloves since it's a virgin crime scene. You know 'em, since you're reading this, but I'll describe 'em anyway: tall dark and handsome, accompanied by blonde and beautiful. Both have the whole professional demeanor going for them; they're taking this seriously. By the lack of surprise showing on their faces you know they've seen this kind of scene before, maybe too many times.

The sheriff showing them in doesn't look happy. He's thin, gaunt, and his blue eyes are near clear in this light. His hat's pulled down low, maybe to hide a bit of his face. He hasn't shaved recently enough, but his hair's light enough that it's barely noticable on top of his skin. Glance back at the FBI agents, and you know Mulder's perfectly shaved, 'cause that's his image - knows if he looks like a nut, he's treated like a nut, but if he at least looks normal, people can ignore him. Yeah, ignored, you know that. Except by his partner, but right now she's too busy taking a look at the bloody man's bashed-in skull to think about him.

"Was the door locked when you got here?" Mulder's asking the sheriff, who doesn't like the question. Doesn't like the room, doesn't like the FBI being in the room, and doesn't like being made to work with them. But he'll answer anyway because that's his job.

"Yeah, we think they got in through the window. No security here, you understand, this is a quiet town. This was the only law firm we needed, and they serve the entire county." He might have gone too far, and he shuts up then, but Mulder's nodding and looking around the room like the walls'll give him answers. Which maybe they will. It's happened before.

Scully looks up from the dead man and nods at her partner, so Mulder walks over and leaves the sheriff in the door, mumbling to himself. Mulder steps over a couple pieces of paper and squats down next to the body, seeing most of what his partner has in his first glance. "Used the phone to bash in his skull? Well, that's one way to protest solicitations," he mutters, oh-so-collected while staring at all the blood and hoping none of it will rub off on his shoes. You know it will; this isn't really Hollywood, we're just thinking it is because we've seen it so many times before.

"He was shot, too, but I can't find the bullet," Scully says quietly. "The murderer must have come in through the window after he shot him, bashed in his skull, locked the door, and left."

"Stupid, locking the door," Mulder says, glancing that way. Just the sheriff, looking out into the hallway. He looks down at the body again, then around to find the bullet. No luck, but what can you do? Metal detector'd be as useless with all the pens and garbage around as if they were in a submarine. Yeah, sure, not that bad. But worthless enough that they'd need to trust their eyes, and her vision's better than his. No need to go into why right now.

Speaking of Scully, she's stood up while Mulder's looking around, and she's taking a look at the window. It's been punched in, and shards of glass are everywhere. But on the glass that's still there's a long streak of blood. Dark brown, dripped down from the hole, like someone bashed in the glass and got their wrist slashed. Which is probably what happened, come to think of it, and she can imagine the murderer widening the hole they made with the gunshot with their fist to get in and finish the job.

Then she does something you wouldn't see a normal lady FBI agent doing, or even this one if some things hadn't happened. She looks back to make sure the sheriff's still looking away, and he is; he doesn't like the room and wants to be gone, so he's pretending it
doesn't exist. Scully's happy with this, so she rubs her finger along the glass to pick up some of the blood, then licks it off her glove.

Her partner's turned the body over and isn't looking at her, so he doesn't see her wincing like she's bitten into a lemon. Tasted something more than a little hemoglobin, yeah, but we're not going into that, remember? It's almost like a memory hit her, but she's looking down and seeing what her partner saw, that the bullet went straight through the guy without lodging on anything. Managed to get him while he was standing up, otherwise the chair would have blocked the shot. That sort of wound, nasty and festering if he'd have lived long enough to get gangrene. Decent of him to die from the headwound, almost.

The bullet could've been anywhere, but Mulder traced a gash across the desk and to the other chair, which had a dent in it but no bullet. Gone, yeah, probably out the window with the murderer. They trade a glance, and Scully clears her throat, dragging the attention of the sheriff back to the room and the FBI agents and the job he wishes he could leave, because it's seven o'clock and he wants to go get flowers to put on his daughter's grave.

"Whoever did this has bloody knuckles," she says, "since they smashed in the window to get in here. We should get this tested."

The sheriff nods, grateful to have something to do. "I'll get someone over here to take samples," he says. They nod and take another look around, but there's not much else there - except the papers, and they really shouldn't do anything with those. Yeah, the cases are on the computer, filed in triplicate elsewhere, and any incriminating blackmail evidence can be picked up by the police. They're there to think, to put stuff together, not do the busywork, because that's what other people are paid for.

So they go back to their hotel, and the sheriff looks at the room one more time, even though he hates it, then succumbs to temptation and heads for the florist's. And the agents are doing their best to put together a profile, because that's what's been needed, since in this area there've been at least three other murders of high-profile lawyers, all done by someone who's thorough, and amateur, and lucky. That, they know, but he hasn't made any of the normal mistakes that'd let them catch him.

So while Mulder's poring over the files of the dead lawyer and the sheriff's going to see his dead daughter, Scully's thinking about what she tasted in that blood, besides type AB and Rh negative. And she doesn't mention it to her partner, because she's not supposed to be able to do that stuff- it's something she got rid of, right? She was a vampire for a week, and some of it must've stuck with her. How much, though, is what she's wondering, and worrying about. And she knows if she ever tastes that blood again, she'll know it.

"Scully, look at this," Mulder says, and she's jerked back to reality, and looking over at her partner whose face is caught in that weird glow from a computer screen. "Last couple cases this guy handled were all in defense of drunk drivers. Half of them he argued their sentence down to a couple weeks through AA."

"So he was a good lawyer?" she asks, but she's not seeing the relevance. Maybe if he'd gotten off a murderer, or condemned an innocent to death, but nothing so simple as reducing a sentence. Connections and parallels don't quite click in until her partner reveals that the other victims were the same - arguing for truck drivers and such who'd had one too many for the road. Good at their jobs, these lawyers. Innocents dead in every case.

"Some villagante," Mulder says, and she nods, not sure if she should feel sick or not. The whole situation was rotten, but people shouldn't just kill like that, tear down the laws to get
at the guilty. Just like the Thomas More quote, right? Tear down the laws to get at the Devil, and where would you hide? Strong Catholic, More, as if you didn't know, and Scully, too, though if she's ready to die for her faith we don't know. A lot of things have happened since Henry the Eighth, including her meeting her partner face on and starting to believe in things like aliens and posession. And vampires.

And you've seen enough detective movies and read enough books to know what comes next. Seen the series enough, too, if you're reading this. If you've read this far. Throw in a couple suspects, make a jump of reason to the wrong one, then reveal the killer? Expect that since it's X-Files, we'd see one? No luck. It's normal, this time, except for Scully, who's not. But we've gone over that. And you know what's happened and what's going to, so there's no need to rehash it here.

So we're changing the scene. It's a couple days later, no luck, and Scully and the sheriff are in his office, looking at more evidence. A veritable fountain of evidence, none of it worthwhile, because the killer used gloves and left no fingerprints, and the only thing they got off the blood is type AB and Rh negative, and you already knew that and so did Scully. So she's staring at another photo of the scene while the sun's setting through the window and causing glare like you wouldn't believe.

It's the glare that's mixing with the glossies and making it impossible to see, so the sheriff reaches across his desk for one of the pictures to get it out of the light. His room's not much
different than that office I mentioned at the beginning, except half as big with more clutter, because he works harder but isn't paid as much. Dust's leaking down and causing glitter to add to the glare, and they both want to leave so there's this atmosphere that makes it seem hotter than it is. Must be somewhere in the middle of nowhere, this place, but it doesn't matter, because it could just be another Hollywood backlot for all we know or care.

And as the sheriff picks up the glossy and hands it to the agent, her partner comes in, and Mulder distracts him enough that he doesn't notice the papercut he got on the photo, or the blood sticking to it. And Scully does, but again, she's paid for that, right? And she's not paid for this, but she lifts a drop of that blood off the photo and tastes it, because she's curious. And the taste is familiar, not just type AB and Rh negative, which it happens to be.

And she looks up, and the look in her eyes makes Mulder break off whatever he's saying, but she's already moving, and it's probably a shame the sheriff was wearing short sleeves, but she can force the right sleeve right up and over the bandage he'd strapped to his shoulder. And Scully looks into his eyes with a surprised tone in her voice as she says, "You used your *shoulder* to get through the window, not your hand!"

The sheriff starts, and he makes an abortive motion at the door, sort of a half-sprint, but you know he couldn't get past Mulder even if he was desperate. Which he is, but not so much as he needs to leave. So he stops, and shakes his head, and confesses right there.

It's for his daughter, he explains, the girl he adored, who was killed by a drunk driver who got off with almost nothing against him because of a lawyer. The drunk killed himself the next weekend in a crash, but it's not ironic enough for him, who needs to feel vindicated. He was done a wrong, and he doesn't care if the devil turns on him, he's cutting down the laws and the lawyers who let him go unavenged.

And he says this in a dull monotone which says he's thought about this before, and the agents trade a glance as they lead him out. Read him his rights, all the rigamarole, processing. And Mulder knows that something's up, and he's not paid for that, but that's his extracurricular activity, right? Weird stuff, you know, spooky. The thing that drives the thing that drives the fen, that's all. So when they're back in the car he asks her, curious
and just a little worried.

"I don't know," she says. "I just... knew."

"How?" he says again, because that was his first question, no elaboration, just 'how.' Because he needs information, needs it like a drug, it's what puts the light in his eyes. And he was suffering from overdose for a while, and didn't need to ask questions about his partner. But now that dose is gone, and he needs more, and she knows it, and maybe she even respects him for it.

"I... the... there was that dried blood on the window," she says. She doesn't want to tell him the truth, but she couldn't bear lying, because he'd see through her and she knows it. Knows
there's no way out of this conversation, but doesn't like it. Just like the sheriff, who we don't care about even enough to name. Just a plot point, just a way to find out more. Does he see people like that, always? Means to find out more, find out the truth? You think not, but how much is he like them, those faces in the dark that he has to watch?

But Scully's still talking, forcing out the words one after one. "The... it tasted the same as his. He cut his finger on the print, and... instinct, I guess," she finishes, never comfortable
with remembering. Yeah, her own private demons, having to remember being something she'd always equated with the shadows in the dark. It's kind of scary how much they're alike, him and her, on more and more equal footing for different reasons.

But you don't care about that, because you're distracted as he reaches a hand out and takes hers. "Don't worry," he says, and maybe he does care about human beings more than I was accusing a moment before, because at the next red light he takes the time to give her a comforting smile that takes some of the tension out of the air. And they drive out, from one Hollywood set to the other, just as real as you make them, because we didn't do too good a
job, did we?

The End

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