Title: The Vardoger
Disclaimer: The characters and situations of the television
"Vardoger"(Norwegian; literally 'forerunner')--the apparition of a living person
She never ceases to amaze me.
She's a miracle, my partner. A living, breathing, walking, talking miracle.
And God, I love her so much.
She's sitting across from me now, in this crowded coffee shop, all wrapped up in my coat, her tiny hand clenched tightly in mine. We just sit here and stare at each other in wonder and awe, each thinking over the impossible events that have taken place tonight. We say nothing. We don't have too.
We do most of our speaking in silences, Scully and I. Angry silences. Comfortable silences. Frightened silences. Even passionate silences, though those are few and far between. All I have to do is look full into Scully's face and I can read every thought that passes behind those crystal blue eyes. We can gaze at each other for minutes on end, looking deep into the other's eyes, reading meaning into every nuance of facial expression. A smile, a frown, a slight arch of an eyebrow--all speak volumes from the quiet places within. Soul communes with soul, anticipating, responding, understanding. A thousand thoughts compressed into the tilt of a head, or the squeeze of a hand.
Our evening has ended like it began, in silence.
Only earlier, she was looking at me from the passenger seat of my car, as we sat in the freezing parking lot outside her apartment building. Her face was soft, almost serenely so, relaxed and in control. It was only her eyes in mine that betrayed the myriad of emotions swirling through her mind. Empathy, worry and doubt, love, admiration and fear, plus a hundred other unreadable thoughts all were sweeping over her like waves crashing on a beach. I saw her hesitate, struggling whether to decide to fight the waves or be overwhelmed by them. She hovered a moment, unsure, then her eyes hardened, her choice made, and I watched in wonder as the waves drained away to leave her standing on the high ground of her strength.
It was her strength that spoke out into the silence. "They may have won this round, Mulder," she said firmly, jaw tight and head held high. "But they haven't beaten us. They *won't* beat us. Ever."
Suddenly I was irritated, and I looked away from her, out across the snowy lot to the traffic in the street beyond. She was right, I knew, but I didn't want to face her strength. I didn't want to climb up and join her on that steely gray rock that had somehow become the foundation of my entire life. I was too tired, tired of being used, tired of always losing. It was easier just to sit there feeling sorry for myself, feeling no one really understood the importance of our work, or gave a shit about our search for the truth. I wanted to give up and run away, solve everybody's problems by taking my sorry ass someplace quiet and putting it, the X-Files and the truth out of their respective misery. I'd have done it, too--hell, I'd have done it a long time ago if it wasn't for Scully and her damned strength. No matter what I do she's always there for me, tenacious as a freaking pit bull. Those silent eyes always turning to mine when I need them most, encouraging me, heartening me, invigorating me. She's my only support, my only security, my one quiet voice of reason in a screeching, unreasonable world.
I looked at her again, drinking reluctantly from the pool of courage in her eyes. "You're crashing my pity party, Scully," I said morosely.
A smile like sunshine burst across her face, and she gave my hand a long squeeze. "Go home, Mulder. Get some rest." She opened the car door and started to climb out, but paused and turned back to me. "It's still snowing pretty hard, so drive carefully. I'll give you a call later on."
I pretended to be annoyed. "Yes, Mom," I said dutifully, teasing her.
She shot me a warning look, then left. I watched her walk up the path and into her apartment before backing out and driving away, feeling so empty and miserable. This last case had completely gone to hell, leaving me with the sincere desire to head south with it. We'd never been closer to the truth this time, never been closer to exposing the web of lies that was entangling and choking the destiny of millions. But, true to form, all our hard earned proof, all our tangible evidence, our witnesses--all suddenly vanished without a trace. Gone. Poof. What had Scully said? "They may have won this round, Mulder, but they haven't beaten us." I smiled bitterly. Of course they haven't beaten us--they don't want too. Who'll do their dirty work for them then? Who will show them where their weaknesses are, or the leaks that need plugging, or the traitors that need to be forever silenced?
Please God, I don't want it to be me anymore.
I pulled into a spot in front of my apartment and threw the car into "park" before it came to a complete stop. I knew this was bad for the transmission, but at that point I was too grumpy to care. Slamming the car door a little harder than necessary, I stomped into the entryway of my building and stopped to retrieve the mail from my overcrowded box. I sorted through it as I got on the elevator. Bills, credit card offers, a magazine discreetly shrink wrapped in brown plastic, a Christmas card from my dentist, and a load of sales flyers. The top one caught my eye. "Nothing says Christmas like a diamond from Carlton's Jewelers!" it declared.
Christmas. Scully. Oh, Crap.
I had no earthly idea what to get her for Christmas. Usually I gave her strange, ambiguous gifts, like that key chain for her birthday. What would she do if I gave her an engagement ring? "Merry Christmas, Scully," I imagined myself saying, as I casually slipped it on her finger. "I bought you a new life." To hell with the X-Files, to hell with the FBI. It would be wonderful--quitting our jobs, marrying, settling down in bliss. She could easily find work anywhere, maybe out west someplace, as a local medical examiner. And I could become famous by writing bestselling conspiracy novels from the comfort of our double-mortgaged home. Maybe we could even adopt...Oh, who the hell was I kidding? As if Scully would ever think about marrying a loser like me. . .
I stepped off the elevator, completely depressed, and fumbled in my pocket for my keys. No, she'd never accept a ring. They're too sentimental anyway. I'd buy her a watch instead. Splurge on one of those nice, solid sporty ones, the type that tells not only the time, but the date, day of the week, phases of the moon--the works. Then she'd be able to keep accurate track of how much of her life was being wasted by being partnered with me. Day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, it would remind her of everything she's lost--her career, her sister, her fertility. It's the perfect gift--one that would keep on giving.
If I hadn't have been in such a fucking bad mood I would have noticed something was wrong right away. But no, I had to tear into my apartment like a sulking teenager, kicking the door shut behind me, tossing the mail on the hallway table. By the time I saw the mess in the living room, and felt the cold barrel of a gun shoved into the base of my skull, it was too damn late.
"Don't move, Agent Mulder." The man with the gun said dispassionately. "Put your hands where I can see them."
I put my hands in the air, and he nudged me forward into the center of the living room. Reaching around my coat, he pulled my own gun out of its holster and tucked it into the waistband of his pants in a smooth, practiced manner.
"On your knees," the cold voice said again.
I slowly sank to my knees, and even though I knew I was going to die, I was surprisingly unafraid. All I could think about was Scully, and how I'd never get to buy her that watch now. And how I once told her I wanted "No Regrets" on my tombstone, which was such a fucking lie because my life was full of regrets. I suddenly wished I'd done so many things differently, especially between the two of us. And then I thought about the watch again, and all the time we had wasted--WASTED--playing stupid games with our feelings for each other. All those things I said to her with the silence of my eyes, all the things I promised someday to say with my voice when the time was right....
And now there was no time left at all.
I promised myself, then, that if I somehow got out of this, I was going to buy her that watch. Not some chunky sports model, but a nice little gold one, with diamonds on the face--to let her know just how precious every second we spend together is to me.
"You've pissed off the wrong people for the last time, Agent Mulder." The gun dug harder into my skull. I wanted to say some smart-ass thing to him, to check out of this world in a blaze of sarcastic glory, but I couldn't think of anything to say. I just knelt there, calmy waiting my fate, and thought of Scully, sincerely hoping they wouldn't make her identify my body.
And then I heard it.
It was just a sound, but it made my heart beat madly with wild, delirious hope. A short lived hope, of course. Because too soon my heart stopped dead in terror as I realized my assassin could hear it as well.
It was Scully.
I could hear her familiar footsteps echoing down the hallway, see her tiny feet in those high heeled shoes as they marched deliberately to my door.
A pause followed. Silence.
Then her soft knock. "Mulder?" she called out.
"DON'T MAKE A NOISE!" My killer hissed in my ear. Believe me, I didn't want to. We were frozen in the darkness, me on my knees with my hands in the air, he with the gun still to my head, as both of us stared in terror at the door.
She knocked louder. "Mulder, it's me. I know you're home."
Christ, Scully, go away! My brain screamed at her. Go away go away go away! Please God please make her leave please make her leave before he kills her, too!
But no matter how much I wished and prayed, no matter how much I *willed* Scully to hear my thoughts and get the fuck out of there, I knew the inevitable was coming. I heard the tinkle of her keys as she pulled them out of her purse, heard the key inserted and twisted in the lock. Then, with what seemed to be agonizing slowness, the door opened and she came in.
I'll never, ever, forget the look on her face. In less than a second she saw the man with the gun to my head, saw me in danger, and instantly reached for her gun.
And that's when he shot her.
Before I could even react to her or move to stop him, he'd fired the gun at her chest. I saw the bullet strike her right in the heart, saw the impact throw her against the wall before she crumpled in a heap to the floor.
Oh, God, she's dead.
I'm not exactly sure what happened next. I remember how my heart had shattered into a thousand pieces as I realized Scully was dead because of me. I know I screamed her name before grabbing the killer's arm and wrestling the gun away from him. And I distinctly recall the fury I felt, struggling with him on the floor, beating the shit out of him and hoping he would die from it. He didn't, but I thought he had when I finally left his bloody, unconscious form on the floor and rushed over to Scully's.
But she wasn't there.
And the door was closed.
I opened it, and looked into the hallway, thinking that maybe the bullet only grazed her and she went for help. But the hallway was empty, too. I closed the door and searched the floor and wall, looking for traces of blood, anything. But there was nothing, nothing....
....except a bullet lodged deep into the wood of the doorjamb, right where she had been standing.
I fingered it, awestruck and puzzled. Suddenly, it hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. She had never been here. Had I imagined it? I was so desperate to see her one last time....But, no, my would-be killer had seen her, too. Impossible. It was impossible. Frighteningly, wonderfully impossible. And I just stood there, in complete shock, staring at my miraculous hole in the wall until the police arrived.
I was standing outside in ankle deep snow, watching the paramedics put my attempted murderer into the back of an ambulance when I was suddenly grabbed from behind in a crushing embrace. Scully. She said nothing to me, and only let go of me long enough to move around to hug me from the front. I thought she was going to crack a rib from clutching me so hard. "You're alive!" she finally mumbled, her face buried in my chest.
"Yeah." Was my inspired answer as I returned her hug. She was a wreck. Her hair was all damp and pulled carelessly into a scrunchie. She was wearing thin cotton leggings, her old battered academy sweat shirt, and her bedroom slippers. And nothing else. "Jeeze, Scully, you're going to catch your death of cold." I scolded, taking off my coat and wrapping it around her shivering frame. She looked up at me, smiling gratefully, her eyes red from crying. God, Scully never cried..."Are you all right?" I asked.
She nodded at me. "I'm fine, *now*. But--"
I grabbed her by the shoulders, suddenly icy cold with panic and fear. "Was someone waiting to kill you, too?"
"No," she said gently, but with an exasperated sigh. She then closed her eyes and bit her bottom lip so hard I expected it to bleed. "Mulder," she said at last, her voice trembling with vulnerability, "I need to talk to you."
"No kidding," I said, with a weak smile. "I need to talk to you, too."
Not wanting to go back into my trashed apartment, we headed to the all night coffee shop on the corner. Though crowded, we managed to find a booth, and ordered decaf. I didn't know about her, but I'd had enough excitement for one night. We sat in silence. I stared at her and she stared at her hands on the table.
"Mulder," she said at last, still not looking at me. "I had something very strange happen to me tonight."
"You too, huh?" I said seriously. She glanced up at me, puzzled, then looked away again. I wanted to reach out and clasp her hands, tell her it's okay, she could share anything with me. But I resisted the impulse, knowing she'd find strength in the power of my silence.
"My mother..." she faltered, and pressed her lips tight, figting for control. "My mother always said the women in her family have a gift for knowing when their loved ones are in trouble. I've heard the stories all my life, but never believed them because....because I have never had those experiences." She bit her bottom lip, and stared unseeing out the window. "Well, that's not true. I saw an image of my father right before I found out he had died."
I looked at her in surprise. I hadn't known that. She looked back at me, trembling, and continued. "And after what happened tonight, I was sure you were dead, too." Tears spilled out of her eyes. She closed them, and breathed deeply, trying to calm herself, regain control.
"What happened?" I asked her gently.
She took another deep breath, and looked directly at me. "I had just gotten into the tub," she said, "when I heard you unlock my door and come inside. And believe me, Mulder, I was pretty annoyed, but puzzled, too, because I was positive I had chained the door. You called my name, and I yelled back that I was in the tub. Well, I didn't hear you moving around anymore, so I yelled for you again. When you still didn't anwer, I got out of the tub to look for you. But you weren't there, and the door was locked and chained. And that's when I knew..." her voice trailed off into a whisper. "That's when I knew that you were dead or dying, and that I'd never get to you in time..."
It was then my turn to stare at the table, debating whether to tell her the truth or not. She won't believe me, I know. She didn't want to believe what she had just experienced, even though it had scared the willies out of her. But I needed to tell her, as a matter of trust if nothing else.
I cleared my throat nervously. "But you did get there in time," I said slowly, tenderly. "Scully, you saved my life tonight." She looked at me, bewildered and confused. And then I told her everything that happened to me, in detail, right down to color of hose she was wearing and the pattern her blood had made when it splattered on the wall.
She listened to me carefully, but only shook her head when I had finished. "I don't know what to think about this. . ." she said simply, reaching out and lacing her fingers tightly into my own.
And we are silent once again.
But I know what to think.
You never cease to amaze me, Scully.
You're a miracle. A living, breathing, walking, talking miracle.
And I love you so much.
Author'S Notes: A vardoger is a Scandinavian term for the ghost of a living person. It manifests itself by arriving several minutes before the person actual shows up. It's supposed to be harmless--most people find them comforting, knowing that a loved one is coming home safely because their spirit has arrived already. Now, a doppelganger, a term more people are familiar with, is also the ghost of a living person, but
it's supposed to be a death omen. So technically, in my story, Mulder sees Scully's vardoger and Scully hears Mulder's doppelganger.