Title: Zombie Breath, or Four Scenes of Terror
Summary: If you can survive the terror of fending off killer zombies, shouldn't you be able to talk with your partner?
Note: I know, like the world needs another post-Millennium story, especially now when we're all busy with holiday stuff. This is my last-minute Happy New Year for all -- and especially for my dear cyber-friends Lynne and Jamie.
She was drowning in the acrid tang of rotting flesh, a rising tide of the worst stench she'd ever tried to ignore in all her years of autopsies. Gasping for a clear breath, she fell back against the wall, arm raised protectively against the creature's horrible maw. This abomination -- this thing that couldn't and shouldn't exist and yet did -- pushed her arm aside easily and bent its head toward her throat. Unlike other attackers she'd known, there was no eye contact, no glory in the kill. Not that it could necessarily see anything through those opaque ruins of its eyes. Yet it certainly knew exactly where she was.
The moment slowed. She became keenly aware of her own rushing blood, her panting breath, the hum of the morgue air conditioning, the moans of the woman on the floor, all these sounds slower and louder than normal -- and all of it drenched in the consuming odor of decomposing flesh. In some distant analytical part of her mind she was still trying to think strategically, and she noted that it didn't breathe, or sweat, or tremble, or give off heat. There wasn't anything she could do with the information, however. Her desperate efforts to fend it off were entirely without result. Its movements were economical -- and entirely focused on her throat. She heard herself whimper.
As the creature bit into her neck, she thought, Mulder, you were right, damn it. She wished he were here to save her, if that were even possible against something that was already dead and apparently impervious to bullets. But it felt entirely wrong that he hadn't charged in to save the day yet.
There was the tremendous crack of a gunshot at close range, and Scully couldn't hear a thing anymore, could only slide down the wall on legs turned to jelly and eye the creature now sprawled on the floor, its shattered skull oozing something brown and rancid like blood, only thicker. She gagged reflexively and brought her hand up to her throat, instinctively putting pressure on the bleeding gashes there. The man she had seen before stood in front of her, her gun in his hand, and gave her a vaguely apologetic look. Then he threw her gun across the room and ran.
Fox Mulder stood swaying and nauseated in a tiny circle of kosher salt and thought, what the fuck am I doing here? What the hell did I think I was going to accomplish? Did it ever occur to me that four trained FBI agents aren't necessarily an easy arrest, never mind when they're already dead? Did I think they were going to follow me to the car so I could drive them to the local police station? Idiot. So now what?
"So how exactly do you guys plan to bring on the apocalypse?" he called out to the darkened basement.
No answer. The zombies, he had found, were not big on conversation. The three who were left after he blew their colleague's head off had swarmed around him, roaring in apparent frustration, gnashing their teeth and choking him their horrific odor, until they disappeared into their zombie hiding places again.
"You know, you guys don't seem to have much of a plan," he continued. "As far as I can see, all there is to it is huddling in the basement and trying to eat anybody who comes downstairs. I'd expected a little more organization, you know? Maybe even a Biblical quote or two."
Oops, he was swaying. Wouldn't be a good idea to swoon just now, Mulder old boy. He'd lost a pretty good supply of blood before he managed to tie his tie around his arm, and now it was throbbing mercilessly. This situation was about as untenable as any he'd been in recently, though he had to admit lying on some whacked-out consortium operating table while people did things to his brain had seemed like real rock-bottom not all that long ago. Now he'd welcome it. At least then he could just lie down comfortably until Scully came to rescue him.
So where was she, anyway?
Shit, he'd fallen to his knees. Was that a zombie waking up, or just this apocalyptic nut's water heater? Desperately he fought to rise and found that it was just not happening. His vision swam and his stomach lurched. Plainly, any time he'd hoped to spend on his feet was nearing an end.
And then, as his vision cleared, he realized that oh yes, that was a zombie over there staring at him with those horrible white eyes.
With a flush of adrenaline, he scooped up as much salt as he could at his feet and scuttled back toward the wall, where he huddled and spread salt that was now mixed with dirt in a semicircle around himself. It wasn't very impressive looking. He scavenged in his pocket for more crystals and wondered again why the hell he hadn't come armed with at least a saltshaker. Could have pocketed one at lunch, for God's sake.
The other zombies had joined the first and now they were approaching slowly, serenading him with those oh-so-sweet zombie groans. He raised the gun. They stopped. Then they all faded into the background again.
Scully would like this, he thought. See, Mulder, it's not the salt stopping them -- it's your gun. They drew a rational conclusion. Try to reason with them. But he could only hope that when he passed out, as seemed likely to occur any minute, he could rely on the salt.
He rested his head against the back wall, dizzy and nauseated and cold, and couldn't help thinking again -- so where are you, Scully?
She was smiling at him! A tiny little Scully smile, but it would do. "The world didn't end," he said, delighted.
"No, it didn't," she agreed, but her voice turned dry and she turned her face away from him and now it suddenly seemed that he'd screwed up somehow. Maybe she'd expected the kind of kiss that would end the world? Maybe she'd wanted him to say something more romantic? Maybe romance was specifically what she wanted to discourage? He peered at her, trying to figure out what had just happened, but she wasn't giving him any clues.
"Happy New Year, Scully," he said, a bit chastened.
"Happy New Year, Mulder," she said quietly.
Damn. So that was it? A kiss between friends? He thought it had gone on a bit longer than that. Still, he could be cool. He slung his arm around her shoulders, instinctively trying to maintain a connection rather than face the awkwardness and distance that now seemed inevitable. Okay, Scully old pal, he thought, with only a touch of regret. At least I finally kissed you. That should cover my resolutions for the year pretty well.
They had to wait for the elevator. She gently disengaged herself from under his arm while they waited and gave him a little smile that quite didn't reach to her eyes.
"Tired?" he asked.
They got on the elevator and he punched the Lobby button.
"Zombie breath," he muttered.
"Zombie breath. I have it. It's what you get when you've been locked in a basement with four pissed-off zombies for way too long."
She scrunched up her face until that little wrinkle he considered all his own doing appeared between her eyebrows. "Maybe so, but zombies themselves don't breathe," she said.
When he looked puzzled, she said "I got up close and personal with one myself today. You were right, Mulder. I'm afraid the pathologist didn't get my call about leaving those staples in soon enough." Then she pulled down her collar and lifted her chin to show him her scratches.
The elevator opened. She turned and walked out while he was still gaping, his left hand halfway up in the act of reaching up to touch her neck.
"Are you okay?" he asked, catching up with her.
"Yeah, I'm okay."
"Why didn't you tell me before?"
"You were pretty out of it in the ambulance, Mulder. And then I just really didn't feel like getting committed to the psych ward tonight. Do you mind if I get a cup of coffee?" She turned into the nearly deserted hospital cafeteria.
"Let's sit down," he said.
"You should get home and get some sleep," she said. "I can drink it in the car."
"Let's sit down," he begged.
"Are you feeling dizzy?" she asked, suddenly concerned.
"No, I just want to talk to you."
She looked at him speculatively, and he thought, oh God, what did I just say? Now what do I do?
At the service counter she stirred milk into her coffee with shaking hands. Mulder had declined a cup. He was sitting at a booth, waiting. He wanted to talk to her.
Mulder wanted to talk to her.
She walked back slowly, her heart thumping. She eased herself into the seat slowly and calmly, but inside she was a wreck. What if he told her he loved her?
What if he didn't?
He looked at her with an unreadable expression.
She took the lid off her coffee and blew on it. She'd made sure to get the lid in case they needed to make a quick run for the car if awkwardness set in.
"So talk," she said, finding the waiting unbearable.
He took a deep breath and looked terrified, which she found reassuring. "Here's the thing, Scully. If that was our last kiss, I can do better."
It took her a second to figure that one out. Then she grinned. "You think I'm disappointed with your performance, Mulder?"
"I don't know what to think."
"It was very nice," she said.
He looked nonplussed.
"It was very nice," she insisted. "A bit of a surprise after all this time, that's all."
"Takes me awhile to work up to things sometimes," he said.
"Well, I thought maybe it was just a spur of the moment thing, you know," she explained, trying to stay calm. "New Year's Rockin' Eve, and all."
He sighed. "Well, yeah, it was a spur of the moment thing, but I've been thinking about doing it for a long, long time."
He had? A thrill that was half fear, half excitement, coursed through her. "And now that you've done it?" she asked, with just the tiniest waver in her voice.
"Just wondering when I can look forward to doing it again."
She assessed him for a moment, unable to stop herself from wondering about his painkillers, his lack of sleep, his reflexive innuendoes.
He waited calmly, but she could tell he was quaking.
"Anytime," she said simply.
"Really?" he squeaked.
"Well, I wouldn't recommend it during meetings with Skinner." She reached out and grabbed his free hand, suddenly moved nearly to tears. "You have no idea how glad I am that you finally stopped thinking about it and did it."
He looked solemnly at their hands joined together. "You could have kissed me, too, you know," he murmured.
"No I couldn't. You had to be ready for it, not pushed into it. And frankly, I wasn't sure you'd ever be ready for it."
"I am now."
She smiled. "I know you'll find this shocking, Mulder, but I believe you."
That earned her a wide smile. But then he couldn't help yawning. "Ugh, I still have zombie breath," he said.
"So do I," she sighed. "Look, why don't we get ourselves home and take it from there? After all this time, there's no need to rush."
"That's true," he said, standing up as she stood up. She disposed of her cup and headed for the door.
"No rush, huh?" he asked.
"So is tomorrow okay?"
She smiled. "Yeah, tomorrow's fine."
(And then, of course, if we ignore all date stamping, they spent the next two episodes flirting like two happy little love birds. Right, Chris?)
My stories reside, thanks to Beaker, at: http://members.xoom.com/Alelou123
See you in the next century! -- Sandy