Summary: a Genderbender follow-up…don’t expect any answers…
Originally posted 30 June 2020
Notes: I once received angry feedback on this story that I’d wasted a reader’s time (an entire 2 hours!!!) with the ending of this story. So read it with that in mind.
Author: Circe Invidiosa
Classification: E-muse (Scullyfic) Improv, M/S-UST
Archive: Yours for the asking.
Disclaimer: I make no claims on the characters or the show.
They are property of Fox etc.
Spoilers: GenderBender, lots of little ones for anything up to S6…takes place in S6 after Arcadia
Acknowledgements: where would I be without Carol A.? I don’t even want to think about it! And thanks to wonderful Rain for the support and encouragement!
“Oh my God,” gasped Scully, as she turned to look at him with disbelief. She could feel her face turning red.
“What?” Mulder asked, looking up from the article he was reading to her.
“You can’t be serious.” She hadn’t been paying attention to Mulder until now. It was late in the afternoon and she had been typing away at her laptop, trying to put the finishing touches on an overdue report. Mulder was excited as usual about a potential new case and was trying to present her with the research. He reminded her of a two-year-old whose mommy wasn’t paying enough attention to him. That is, until he started reading to her.
“What?” he repeated with an impish smirk.
“Mulder, I know you’ve been disappointed with the lack of cases since we got the X-Files back. I’ve put up with your shady, less than forthcoming sources. I’ve put up with the tabloids. But this…”
“What’s wrong with this?” he asked, waving the publication at her.
Scully closed her eyes and sighed. “Besides the obvious?”
He raised his eyebrows quizzically as he waited for her to make her point.
“Mulder, you do know that these ‘accounts’ are purely fictional, don’t you?”
“C’mon Scully, next thing you’re going to tell me is there’s no such thing as Santa. I’d like to think there’s a kernel of truth in each of these accounts.”
“I mean, they are so formulaic…”
“Are you saying you read this stuff, Scully?”
“Are you trying to get a rise out of me, Mulder?”
“Although the thought of arousing you is appealing, there is a point to all this.”
“Which is?” she asked, ignoring the innuendo.
“The kernel of truth,” Mulder replied. He began reading again, “Dear Penthouse Forum, I never thought I’d be writing a letter like this, but –”
“You’re going to read the whole thing out loud?” interrupted Scully.
“I wouldn’t want you to miss anything.”
She rolled her eyes. “So help me, Mulder, there had better be something to this, and not just an excuse to bring your extracurricular activities into the office.”
He raised three fingers to his forehead and saluted her. “Scout’s honour, Scully. Now pay attention. There’ll be a quiz after.”
She watched as he read the letter, unable to keep the corners of his mouth from curling upwards. Scully sat with her arms crossed, wearing her ‘clinical detachment’ face.
He eyed her expectantly as he finished. “Well?”
“Weren’t you listening, Scully? We’ve seen this before.”
“You know, Mulder, just because you leave those tapes in the VCR here doesn’t mean I watch them.”
“Scully, you know what I’m talking about. Do I have to remind you of your little encounter with Brother Andrew and the Kindred?”
Scully stiffened with embarrassment. She had felt so naïve after her meeting with Brother Andrew. She almost ended up the same way as the victims that led them to the Kindred in the first place.
She launched back into lecturing Mulder in an effort to cover her discomfort. “Even if I do, it’s completely circumstantial and comes from an extremely questionable if not disreputable source.”
“C’mon Scully, it’s all there: the involuntary attraction, the fantastic sex, the intense nausea afterwards. Then waking to find his clothing stolen, but the woman’s clothing still there.”
“But how are you even going to verify that it’s true? Besides, you only have one account.”
Mulder held his finger up in the air to interrupt. She sat impatiently as he reached under the desk and pulled out a heavy stack of magazines. He dropped them with a thud onto the desktop. Scully got up to look at the pile. She noticed that each magazine had sticky notes poking out to bookmark pages. She pulled at one of the tabs and said, “I can see you enjoyed doing a thorough search. Did you have to requisition these or did you use your own collection? And please tell me these are here to mark your investigation and not your personal research.”
Mulder ignored her. “Thirty-eight similar accounts within the last three years.”
“How do you know these aren’t just recycled stories?”
His eyes widened at her. “Wow. You really do read them.” She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of a reaction and continued to hold her indifferent gaze. Finally, he answered her question. “Give me some credit, Scully. I did do some checking before
showing this to you.”
“All right, Mulder. I’m not going to read all of them, so you might as well tell me what the common thread is.”
“You disappoint me, Scully.” Mulder still hadn’t wiped the smirk off his face.
“Yeah, I’m all broken up, Mulder,” Scully said dryly. “Now spill. What makes you think the Kindred are back?”
Mulder grinned at her. “Location, location, location.”
He walked passed her and reached into a box filled with rolls of paper. He pulled out a roll and took it to the counter where she usually worked and began pushing her things aside. She rescued her laptop from where he precariously shoved it. If she wasn’t already annoyed with him, she was well on her way.
He unrolled a large map across the counter. He took a marker and began circling areas in the Northeastern States… Pennsylvania, Ohio and even into Canada.
“From the ones that actually listed addresses, there’s been an incident in each of these locations. What do they all have in common?”
Scully read off the areas. Lancaster, Holmes, Waterloo… “The Amish?”
“Right ye are, Scully.”
“I don’t understand the connection. What are you thinking?”
“I’m thinking that when the Kindred pulled up stakes five years ago, they couldn’t just reappear in any area. They had to blend in. What better places than where there were people who were similar to them?”
“So you’re saying that they resurfaced in areas where there were prominent Amish settlements in order to avoid detection?”
Mulder tapped his finger to the side of his nose and nodded. “But each time there was an incident they had to move again. And the issue dates of each account coincide with a nearby crop circle event.” Mulder tossed her a file folder.
“Okay, let’s say I’m buying this…”
Mulder made a mock pained look and clutched his chest. “Scully, you wound me.”
She shot him a look as if to tell him she might just do that. “In the account you just read, the person only got sick after intercourse…”
He interrupted, “Actually as he describes it, it was the ‘most mind-blowing fuck’ he ever had.”
She continued unflustered, “My point is that he didn’t die. He didn’t have a coronary. He didn’t even have arrhythmia…”
“Neither did you, Scully.”
Scully leapt to the defensive. “But I didn’t have sex with any of them and neither did that kid we met in the hospital.”
“Yeah, I have a theory about that. Remember the clay the Kindred mined in Steveston?”
“The white clay they used for their pottery? Your theory then was that the clay gave them the ability to change gender.”
“And the ability to produce copious amounts of pheromones,” added Mulder. He sat down and propped his feet up on his desk. He picked up the letter opener and twirled the point on the tip of his index finger. “Maybe their powers aren’t as effective now that they’ve been away from the clay for so long.”
She didn’t bother to argue with him that they hadn’t found anything substantial in the composition of the clay because she knew where Mulder was going with all of this. “So you think they are returning to Steveston which means we’ll be returning to Steveston.”
He pointed the letter opener at her. “Look at that, Scully! We’re finishing each other’s thoughts.” Then added before she could roll her eyes, “Better dust off your bonnet. We’ll be making a stop along the way.”
During the drive to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which was the location of the last letter, Scully read Mulder’s notes on each of the letters that he had discovered. Mercifully, he spared her from reading the actual letters, although he’d occasionally ask her which one she was reading and ask if she wanted the glorious details.
The similarities were all there: a plain, ordinary looking person able to seduce anyone with a mere touch, unbelievable sex, then illness. The illnesses decreased in severity as time went on.
She re-read the contents of the file they made five years earlier that Mulder painstakingly restored after the office fire. She refreshed herself with what they had learned about the Kindred, Brother Martin, the strange appearance of the crop circle and the clay. The clay had some geological abnormalities but nothing to suggest that it could alter human physiology. Mulder, of course, had theories relating to alien crashes and interference in the area.
She studied the composites of Marty as a man and a woman. Only Mulder had managed to see both of Marty’s faces with any clarity. Marty was unremarkable looking as either a man or a woman.
When they reached Lancaster, they first went to the site of the crop circle. For the most part, the circle was still there. Some of the plants had grown back upright, but the outline remained. Scully took some samples and measurements. Then they went into town where they set about questioning the staff and owners in the tourist shops and showing the composite. They would ask if there was a group of people who had been there recently that seemed slightly different from the Amish. Some had noticed, others hadn’t. But none had seen Marty.
They even questioned Amish people going to the local stores. All were polite, but had no information to offer them.
They noticed a group of older Amish men away from the rest, talking amongst themselves. They listened to them carefully.
“Something tells me that’s not English.” Mulder whispered.
She strained to hear. “They’re speaking German.” She started to walk over to them.
Mulder stepped in front of her. “Really? Let me talk to them.” He walked ahead of her.
She called after him, “Mulder, since when do you speak German?”
He glanced back to her and winked and then strode over to the group.
Scully followed sceptically, but stayed behind him. To her surprise, she heard Mulder introduce them both in fairly coherent German. The men seemed as surprised as she was and just nodded silently. He continued and asked if he could ask them a question regarding an investigation. The men made no response. Scully felt Mulder was already treading on thin ice, but he seemed to take their silence as consent. He pulled out the composite sketches. Scully knew Mulder would ask if they had ever seen Marty.
But the words he spoke weren’t what she expected: “Haben Sie je diesen Mann gegessen?” Scully did a double take. She wasn’t sure she heard Mulder right until he repeated the question. Her eyes widened. The group of men all frowned at him and turned their backs.
Scully stifled her laughter as she watched Mulder try to get the group’s attention again. He finally gave up and turned back to her, looking perplexed. His expression caused her to laugh out loud.
“What?” he asked with annoyance.
“Mulder, do you know what you asked them?”
“Yeah. I asked if they’d ever seen this man.”
She shook her head and giggled as she corrected him, “No, that would be ‘Haben Sie je diesen Mann gesehen?’. Now, granted my German is pretty rusty, but I’m pretty sure you asked them if they’d ever eaten this man.”
Mulder cursed and crumpled the paper in his hand. Scully still smiling said, “Hey Mulder, it was a good effort. But you know, they do speak English.”
“Well, there’s no point talking to them now. I’ve already made an ass of myself.”
He started to walk away. She caught up to him and they walked together in silence. But a question nagged at Scully. “I didn’t know you were taking German lessons.”
Mulder didn’t look at her. “I just picked up a couple of books and tapes. Nothing formal.”
“Well, you know you can ask me for help if you need it.”
Mulder just nodded.
Scully still had to ask. “Why are you trying to learn German anyway?”
“Can I just say that I always wanted to learn?”
Scully didn’t look like she was buying it. Mulder snorted and shook his head. “Doesn’t matter. You didn’t believe me the first time I told you.”
“What are you talking about?” she asked in confusion.
“Bermuda Triangle, Scully. It would have come in handy.”
It took a few seconds for the words to sink in. “Oh.”
A long pause ensued. Scully’s mind replayed their conversation in the hospital after he woke up. He had told her she was there with him on the Queen Mary in 1939. She had saved the world from the Nazis. No, Scully hadn’t believed him. He had told her he loved her. She hadn’t believed that either. She still didn’t believe that. Especially with the events leading up to them getting the X-Files back. She shook her head to try to erase the bad memories from her mind. She had paused too long and the moment was becoming awkward. She had to say something to make it pass.
“Do you think you are going to go back to World War II and run into Nazis anytime soon, Mulder?”
He eyed her suspiciously. She put on her best grin and raised her eyebrows in question, trying to alleviate the moment. Finally, he chuckled and answered, “You never know.”
Scully was still smiling to herself when she realized Mulder was no longer beside her. She looked around to see where he had gone and saw him walking towards a chip wagon.
“Mulder, where are you going?” she called to him.
“Getting a snack for the road. You want something?” he yelled back.
She shook her head. She could wait for dinner. Suddenly, she became suspicious of Mulder’s plans. If he was getting a snack for the road, he might not be stopping for dinner or for the evening. This did not bode well.
Scully made her way back to the car alone. Mulder had the keys to the car, so she had to wait for him to return. She leaned against the car and kicked at a rock stuck in the dry dirt. When Mulder appeared again, he was carrying a cardboard container. He walked straight up to Scully. “Want some?”
Scully peered into the box. Mulder had drowned the greasy fries in ketchup. She made a face and said, “No thanks.”
“Your loss.” He unlocked her door and moved around to the driver’s door. She had unlocked his door when she got in the car.
Mulder got in and put the carton on the console between them. The smell of vinegar and grease hung heavily in the stale air of the car. Scully sat staring out the window. She made no move to put her seat belt on. Mulder didn’t notice until he had the car started and was beginning to back out. He stopped the car.
“What?” he asked.
“Are we going to drive straight on through to Steveston?”
“That was the plan.”
“That was your plan,” she corrected him.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Look, Mulder, it’s nearly 6. It’s at least 6 hours to Steveston if there isn’t any traffic and we don’t make stops. Couldn’t we just stay here or drive a few hours and stop somewhere for the night? Maybe get a decent dinner, spend a night without getting a kink in my neck?”
Mulder asked, “Is this part of your ‘getting out of the damn car’ routine?”
“If I said it was, would it work?”
“We’d be losing half a day, Scully,” Mulder complained.
“We know where they are going to be. According to our itinerary, we aren’t even supposed to be there until tomorrow.”
“When has our itinerary ever made a difference? What is with you, Scully?”
“Nothing.” She looked out the passenger window to avoid his heavy gaze that she knew was on her. She wanted to snap at him to get going, but she wouldn’t let him know he was getting to her. It felt like an eternity before the car started moving again.
She reclined her seat and pretended to try to nap in an effort not to look like she was sulking. It amounted to sulking though. But it was better than glaring at him the whole way to Massachusetts.
She sighed. Why was she humouring him? She’d allowed herself to be dragged across the country on hunches, whims, and what he called duty. But her heart wasn’t in it. The remarks he made at the Gunmen’s place still cut her. “Scully, you’re making this personal.” After what was done to her, how could she not make it personal? After learning that Fowley was involved with collecting information on female abductees, how could she not make it personal? How dare he declare that she did not have a stake in the X-Files like Fowley did.
Since returning to the X-Files, she felt like they were just tolerating each other. Or was she projecting? He seemed to enjoy the case at Arcadia even when it didn’t seem like an X-File. When she asked if he wanted her opinion, he had said, “always” sincerely and without a hint of sarcasm. What had he told Arthur Dales about her? That she had a “knack for getting to the bottom of things”.
Maybe it was his way of apologizing or more likely that he wanted things to be the way they were. Pretend that nothing had happened. Pretend he hadn’t hurt her. She wished it were that easy for her.
Unwillingly, she felt her conscious thoughts slipping from her as she fell into an uneasy sleep.
She was definitely dreaming. Her subconscious had taken her on a whirlwind ride that ended up with she and Mulder in an autopsy bay. Dream Mulder was swearing up and down that the body before her was an alien vampire. She asked if he meant a vampire who bit aliens or an alien who was a vampire.
Look at the green blood around his mouth, Scully, Dream Mulder insisted.
Scully looked at the corpse’s mouth and indeed there was a greenish liquid about its mouth. Why hadn’t she seen it before? She stooped for a closer look. She could distinctly smell tomatoes and vinegar.
Mulder, it’s green ketchup.
Ketchup is red, Scully. That’s not ketchup.
No, no. It really is ketchup. My mother used to make us green ketchup for Halloween and St. Patrick’s Day. I have the recipe at home. And since when can you tell the difference between red and green?
I know what I see, Scully.
Mulder, I can prove it. I’ll just take a sample…
Your science can’t tell me what I already know, what I am seeing.
Frustrated, she was about to take a scoop of it and hold it to Dream Mulder’s nose or even wipe it across his mouth when she heard humming. The humming turned to murmured words… something was singing softly. She heard the singing coming from the body. It was softly singing in Mulder’s voice. She watched in fascinated horror. She couldn’t make out the song, but it was childlike and sounded like an old lullaby. She looked up to see if Dream Mulder was seeing this, but he was gone. When she looked back at the body, it had become Mulder and was still singing. Suddenly, the body’s eyes opened and it said, “Hey Scully.”
Scully gasped in her sleep. It sat up then, reached over and shook her arm and said, “Scully, wake up.”
This is too weird, Scully thought, and opened her eyes. As soon as she did, Mulder released her arm. She looked out the window but could only see her reflection mirrored back from the now darkened sky. She realized the car was stopped. She hoped Mulder wasn’t about to ask her to drive her share.
“Where are we?” Her voice was throaty from disuse and but more likely from snoring.
“Somewhere outside Scranton. About two and a half hours from Lancaster.”
She pulled out a map from the glove compartment and quickly located where they were. It wasn’t the route she expected him to take. She was about to ask him about his directions when he answered, “I just wanted to avoid traffic through the major cities.”
She nodded, but didn’t buy his explanation. She looked at the map and traced the rest of the route they would now take to Steveston, but her eye followed their aborted route…
Allentown. That was what he wanted to avoid. She wondered if it was for her sake or his. She put down the map to find Mulder watching her. She suspected that he knew that she knew. Hoping to find a diversion, she remembered that they were not moving.
“Mulder, why are we stopped?”
“Taking your advice and resting for the night. Don’t say I never do anything for ya, Scully.”
“What do you mean? I thought you were hell-bent on getting to Massachusetts tonight.”
Mulder just shrugged. “I’m having a hard time keeping my eyes open and I’m hungry. The snack didn’t cut it. And judging by the way you zonked out as soon as the car started moving, I’m guessing that you’re not in any shape to drive a leg. So dinner’s on you.”
Scully was momentarily speechless. She could only nod.
She glanced out the window again now that she was more awake and able to focus. From what she could tell, Mulder had pulled over in a parking lot.
“Mulder, you aren’t planning on us sleeping here tonight, are you?”
“Have I asked you to give me some credit today?”
“No, that was yesterday.”
“Well, consider yourself asked. We’re in a motel parking lot. Motel’s that way.” Mulder pointed out the rear window. She looked back to see the neon sign in the distance with ‘vacancy’ flashing below it. To her relief, the building was actually quite nice.
Mulder had already unbuckled himself and was collecting his coat from the backseat. He glanced at her and asked, “Ready?”
“Yeah,” she replied and he was out the door. She took a deep breath. Whatever had gotten into Mulder had taken her by surprise, but it wasn’t unwelcome.
She got out to find he had pulled on his coat and already had the bags out of the trunk. He handed her bag to her and they started towards the motel office.
“So were you having a bad dream, Scully?”
“Dream? I don’t really remember.” She tried hard to recall the scene that was playing in her mind before she woke up, but it was no longer within her conscious grasp. “Why?”
Mulder was clearly amused and replied, “You were talking a bit in your sleep. You said something about ketchup and taking a sample.”
Images flashed in her mind. The body. It had green ketchup on its face. Mulder was being a jerk. Then the body was singing. Then the body was Mulder singing.
She ignored his concerns about her dream and turned the tables by asking, “Mulder, were you singing in the car earlier?”
“What?” he asked seemingly caught off guard.
She explained, “I thought I heard singing before I woke up.”
“No. I had the radio on for a bit. Maybe that’s what you heard.”
She eyed him suspiciously, but his face betrayed nothing. “Yeah, must have been.”
Scully was sitting on Mulder’s bed with the phone book. She had shed her suit jacket and her blouse was untucked. She was reading off every entry under ‘Restaurants’ in the town’s yellow pages to Mulder as he changed and freshened up. Nothing appealed to her. She hoped that Mulder would choose.
He popped his head out of his bathroom and said, “What was that second last one you said?”
“Yeah, what kind of food do they have?”
Scully looked at the ad on the same page. It just had a picture of an onion. “Doesn’t really say. Sounds like Italian. You want to go there?” she shouted over the sound of his electric razor.
“Sounds expensive…I dunno. You choose,” he called back to her. She groaned and flipped back to the beginning of the section.
When Mulder appeared again, he was wearing jeans and a T-shirt. He picked up his sweater from the bed and flopped down beside Scully. “Can’t decide?” he asked.
She shook her head and handed him the open phone book. She watched him glance half-heartedly at the pages for a few minutes, flipping back and forth. Finally, he looked over at her and she knew exactly what he was going to say. Simultaneously, they asked each other, “Pizza?”
Scully sat at the small table in Mulder’s room, organizing her case notes from the day, while Mulder munched pizza and channel surfed. She occasionally felt like he was watching her, but whenever she looked up, she found his gaze fixed on the television.
She was quickly losing interest in her notes. The television was slowly tugging at her concentration. But she couldn’t focus because of Mulder’s incessant flipping.
Her attention drifted again and she found herself watching Mulder. He was sitting up on the bed with his back against the headboard. He never did put his sweater on…there was no point in dressing up for her, she supposed. She looked away when he stifled a belch, knowing he would glance in her direction to see if she’d noticed, and would excuse himself regardless.
Her eyes stole back to him when she felt it was safe again. She scanned his face quickly. He was lost in the diversion of the television again. His eyes looked tired. She hadn’t noticed before. Had he ever noticed the fatigue in her eyes too? Maybe that was what his sudden change of heart was about tonight. His hair was getting longer. She wondered if he were letting it grow on purpose or out of laziness.
He was holding the remote straight out from him. Occasionally he’d let his arm rest when he momentarily found something that held his interest. But inevitably his arm would rise again. He must have flipped through all the stations over ten times by now. Just what the hell was he looking for? She nearly laughed aloud. How metaphorical. That was the question indeed. Just what was Mulder looking for? But couldn’t the same be applied to her? Just what the hell was she looking for in following Mulder?
She sighed. Where was this coming from? Either she hadn’t had enough to eat, or she was getting tired. Probably both.
It took her a moment to realize that Mulder was now watching her watch him. “Scully, you’re staring. What is it? Do I have sauce on my face?”
He began wiping at the sides of his mouth. Scully shook her head, trying to cover her embarrassment at being caught. She walked over to the bed. “No, I was just trying to decide whether I wanted more pizza or not.”
She opened the lid to the box and pulled apart the two remaining slices. She turned about to walk back to the table taking a bite out of the rest of her dinner, but Mulder reached over and touched her arm. “Hey, Scully, why don’t you sit a spell and watch some TV.”
She paused, about to argue. She should finish her notes so her final report would be easier to write. She should go to bed now so she could be fresh for an early start in the morning. Or she could just sit down. She had to admit, she was curious about what had gotten into Mulder since she had fallen asleep in the car.
She sat cross-legged at the end of the bed and finished her pizza. Mulder tossed the remote control beside her, allowing her to change the channel herself. He threw a pillow up the end of the bed beside Scully and he shifted himself around so that he lay on his stomach. He propped himself up on his arms.
Scully began to change the channels. She finally settled on a medical documentary. They were about to perform surgery.
Mulder looked up at her with a grimace. “God, Scully, you’re not actually going to watch this, are you?”
She shrugged. “You offered me the remote, Mulder. Besides, you were just surfing before. At least I’m actually watching something and not just the channels going by.”
“Slicing and dicing is not what I consider entertainment, Scully. Watching TV is about being amused, not disgusted.”
“‘Gross’? That’s the best you can do? Look, I have the remote and I want to watch this.”
“We can change that.”
Mulder made a grab for the remote. Scully pulled it away, making Mulder flop into her lap. She held the remote above her head. “Mulder!” she exclaimed, trying to stifle a giggle.
“Yeah?” he replied with a grin. He pulled himself up enough to make another grab at the remote. She tried to pull back from him and lost her balance, falling back onto the bed. Caught off guard, he toppled across her. Scully couldn’t suppress her laughter now.
“Give it up, Scully,” he said, lunging to grab at the remote she still clutched above her head.
“Go to hell, Mulder.” She tried to wriggle away from him.
“If that’s the way you want it.”
“What’s that sup–…” She couldn’t finish. Mulder’s fingertips had snaked up and began to wiggle across her sides. She nearly screamed. Her face screwed up in laughter bordering on pain. She couldn’t even open her eyes.
When he stopped and she could breathe again, her arms came down to protect herself, and Mulder grabbed her wrists. “You BAST–”
“Now, now, Scully,” he interrupted, “You’re in no position for name-calling. You ready to give up?”
She opened her eyes to find Mulder’s nose nearly touching her own. They were both breathing heavily.
Scully calmed herself before she whispered, “You’re not playing fair, Mulder.”
He didn’t move from her. “I didn’t know there were any rules.”
“There are always rules.” She released the remote control, but he didn’t let go of her wrist. “The remote’s yours, Mulder. You can get off me now. You win.”
“I do?” He had stopped smiling.
She was either losing her resolve or losing her patience. She swallowed before slowly answering, “Yeah. Isn’t that what you wanted?”
“I guess it is.” He released her wrists. He moved off her and came to lie down beside her. He propped himself up on one arm, his eyes still locked on hers. He reached around her, his arm enclosing briefly around her waist as he picked up the remote. He dragged his arm back slowly across her middle.
She begged herself to sit up. Sit up before this goes somewhere you don’t want it to. Somewhere a voice argued, but what if I do?
Whoa. Whoa. Get up now.
She sat up, looking away from him. “Well, it’s getting late. I’d better get to bed.”
“Yeah,” Mulder replied.
Scully couldn’t look back. Still flustered, she gathered her notes together and stuffed them in her bag. When she finally did look back at him, he was sitting up against the headboard again, with the remote in hand and his gaze was fastened back on the television.
“Well, good night,” she said once she had opened his door to leave.
“Yeah, ‘night,” he replied, without looking up at her.
Mulder drove the first leg to Steveston. Scully hadn’t slept well. After she had left Mulder’s room, her mind wouldn’t let her rest. She was confused to say the least. Few words passed between them even after stopping for coffee and switching places. To his credit, although he was quiet, Mulder was acting as though nothing happened.
They arrived in Steveston just before noon. As they drove into the main part of town, they found that Steveston had changed a lot. It was no longer the quaint town they left five years ago. It had become a tourist trap. The Kindred’s departure had devastated Steveston’s tourist draw. Judging from the signs down the main street, it appeared that many businesses now used the scandal and mystery of the Kindred to stay afloat.
They parked and made their way around the downtown. “Where do you want to start?” asked Scully
Mulder pointed to a store called ‘Judy’s Pottery’. A sign in the window read ‘Authentic Kindred Earthenware’. “How about ye olde pottery shoppe?”
A bell chimed as they entered. They stood and waited, but no one appeared. Scully could hear a slight commotion in the back of the store and decided to spend the time browsing while they waited for the proprietor to appear. She began to move through the aisles of pottery, noting the Kindred-style pottery was in its own section and quite distinctive. The clay used was very obviously different from the rest of the pieces in the store.
Mulder stood impatiently at the counter. Scully watched him as he tried to peer behind the curtain dividing the back rooms from the front of the store. Mulder called loudly toward the curtain, “Excuse me! Hello?”
Instead of hearing the sound of footsteps moving toward the front of the store, they heard giggling and a whirring sound. The whirring got louder until something hit Scully’s shoe. She looked down to find a toy racecar stopped at her feet. The giggling turned to screeches of delight. Scully picked up the racecar and the wheels spun again. She walked towards the laughter until she had a view behind the counter and found a small boy and girl sitting with the remote controller, laughing madly. She crouched before them and placed the car in front of them. “I believe this belongs to you.” The children grinned up at her shyly.
Just then, the curtain was swept aside and a large woman emerged, yelling, “Justin and Janine Jenkins! You get to your rooms right now! What have I told you about playing in the store?”
Scully looked up at the woman and realized that she wasn’t so much large as she was pregnant. The woman glared at her children and they quickly dashed behind the curtain before she yelled again. The woman began to apologize profusely. “I’m really sorry. I didn’t hear the bell. I was busy trying to put the baby down for his nap.”
Good Lord, thought Scully, just how many kids did this woman have? And she looked like she was expecting twins on top of that.
Mulder said, “Don’t worry about it. Kids can be a handful. Are you Judy?” The woman nodded. Scully stood and pulled out her badge. Mulder was already holding his open as he said, “I’m Special Agent Mulder and this is Agent Scully. We’re with the FBI. We wanted to ask you a few questions about the Kindred.”
“The Kindred? They haven’t been around these parts in a long while. Weren’t the FBI involved when they disappeared?”
Scully answered, “Yes, we were. There have been a number of recent events that have led us to conclude that the Kindred may have returned to this area. We’re just wondering if you or any of the town’s people might have seen some of the members of the Kindred.”
Judy looked as though she suddenly realized something. “I haven’t seen anything myself. But Gordie Clappison might have.”
“Who is Gordie Clappison?” Mulder asked.
“He runs the tours out to the Kindred homestead. At least he used to. He used to get me my clay too in the off-season for the Kindred pottery. Something spooked him really bad last time and he refuses to go back out there. Don’t know what I’ll do now.”
“How long ago was this?” asked Scully.
“‘Bout a week or two.”
Suddenly the curtain fluttered madly, and little Janine ran screaming from the back rooms with Justin in hot pursuit. They squeezed past Scully and knocked against a table full of ceramic figurines just behind her. The table tottered and Scully reflexively jumped to rescue it. Only one toppled over and hit the ground.
For a very pregnant woman, Judy moved fast. She had Justin by the ear and was tearing into him. Scully picked up the two pieces. It looked like a cartoon character. She presumed it was supposed to be Inspector Gadget, since the figurine had long, grey arms and wore a trench coat with roller skates. His outlandishly large head had broken off.
Judy was still shouting at Justin. “Haven’t I told you to be careful? When you break things in the store, we don’t make any money and when we don’t make money you don’t get clothes and toys! When are you going to understand that?”
Scully couldn’t bear hearing Judy yell at the child any longer. “Look, Judy, I’ll buy the figurine. It was partly my fault for standing so close to it.”
Judy seemed satisfied and released Justin. She told him to go and stay in his room for the rest of the day as punishment. Scully handed over the amount on the price tag and Judy relaxed even more. She wrapped the two broken pieces and placed them in a bag.
Scully looked at Mulder and noted his amused expression. She looked away with embarrassment. She picked up the bag and turned to leave, but Mulder remained. What now, Scully thought.
“Judy, how old are your kids?”
Judy looked confused and a bit embarrassed, but answered, “Justin is 4, Janine is 3, Jacob is 21 months and the baby, Jonah, is 9 months.”
Scully’s eyes widened. This woman had even more children than they originally thought. Judy must have seen Scully’s expression. She started to explain, “I really didn’t plan to have so many. They just kinda…well…happened.”
Mulder seemed unsurprised and asked, “And are you due soon?”
Judy replied, “A month and a half. Why?”
Mulder didn’t answer, but asked, “When did you start using the clay from the Kindred homestead?”
“A couple of months after they left. You gonna tell me why you’re asking me all these questions?”
Mulder still avoided her question. “How many kids does Gordie have?”
Judy snorted. “That we know about? That man is incorrigible. So what are you getting at?”
“I have a theory about the clay. I think it has properties that cause people who come into prolonged contact with it to produce chemicals that act as an aphrodisiac.”
Judy’s looked at Mulder in disbelief and laughed. She turned to Scully and asked, “Is he for real?”
Scully smiled sympathetically and exited the store, leaving Mulder to defend himself. Sometimes I wonder myself, she thought.
Scully stood by the car waiting for Mulder to leave the pottery store. She already had an address for where to find Gordie Clappison.
Mulder finally emerged and approached her. “Jasmine if it’s a girl. Jared if it’s a boy.”
Scully just nodded, not finding much humour in the woman’s situation and wanting very much to change the topic.
She handed Mulder the slip of paper where she had written Gordie’s address. “This is where Clappison lives. Locals say if he’s not there we can find him at a bar not too far from there. He shut down his booth where he ran the tours.” Scully pointed to a boarded-up stall.
She walked around to the driver’s side and got in the car. She had the car started before Mulder got in.
“I don’t know how helpful Clappison is going to be, Mulder. According to a few people I talked to, he’s known for hitting the bottle,” she said, backing the car out.
“Yeah, Judy said so too.”
“Judy’s quite the talker.”
“She had some valuable input. You might have found that out if you’d stuck around.”
Fuck off, Mulder, she thought. She threw the car into drive and peeled out of the lot. She couldn’t shake her feelings of frustration and began to justify herself, “Well, excuse me. I thought my time could be used more constructively by questioning
more than one person. I just didn’t think it was necessary to discuss her sex life or the rest of the town’s sex life. Nor did I wish to spend any more time with a person who has more children than she can support, let alone care for.”
She took a deep breath. Damn, she thought, I didn’t want to say that. Feeling exposed, she tried to recover. “So what did she have to say?”
She looked over to find that Mulder’s expression had softened. She rolled her eyes. This was exactly what she wanted to avoid. She didn’t want his pity. “Well?”
Mulder sighed and said, “Scully, I didn’t mean to imply you weren’t doing your job.”
“Don’t, Mulder. Just don’t.”
“Never mind. Just tell me what was so interesting that Judy kept you for nearly an hour.” Please let it go, her mind repeated over and over, knowing Mulder was still watching her.
As if he could hear her thoughts, he finally turned away and said, “As I suspected, she gets a lot of attention when she uses the clay and for days after. She practically has to lock herself away from her husband. His name’s Joey, by the way.” Mulder was smirking at the name.
“Does Joey get ill afterwards?”
“Oddly enough, he doesn’t.”
“And I take it that Judy hasn’t changed gender lately.”
Mulder paused before saying, “You know, patronizing isn’t a becoming tone for you.”
“No, I think you’re on to something. Maybe it’s not only the clay. What if it’s something in the Kindred’s physiology or genetic makeup?”
“Physiology? So you still think they are human.”
“I haven’t seen anything to the contrary.”
Mulder threw his hands up in the air. “The crop circles? Changing gender?”
“Mulder, I can make a crop circle with some rope and a piece of board. And being androgynous doesn’t necessarily make someone an alien.”
“Jesus, Scully! Are you going to deny everything we’ve ever seen?”
“I’m not denying anything! I’m trying to offer some plausible explanations.”
“Androgyny? That’s more than a stretch to explain how a woman becomes a man and vice versa.”
“Fine. I admit that. But it’s more reasonable than to think that this is a cult of aliens living a Luddite lifestyle for at least a hundred years in sleepy Steveston until 5 years ago.”
“We’ve both seen an alien transform into another person.”
“Yes, and we’ve seen a man do it too. But as for this Alien Bounty Hunter, when his kind dies, they dissolve into green ketchup. They don’t get carted off into caverns under the earth to be slathered in white clay.”
“What did you say?” Mulder asked in bewilderment.
Confused, Scully asked, “What? White clay?”
Mulder shook his head. “No, you just said they dissolve into green ketchup.”
“No, I didn’t,” Scully replied with mortification.
“Yes, you did.” He was clearly amused.
Scully pulled the car over. She hated arguing and driving. Her train of thought always got disrupted and she was afraid that one day she would get them into an accident.
“Regardless of what I might have said, you know what I meant.”
Mulder nodded, but he still smirked. “Yeah. Okay. But how do you explain them suddenly appearing in an alley hundreds of miles from Steveston to collect Marty and then vanishing?”
“Well, I can’t. Can you?”
“No. At least we can agree on something.”
She let out an exasperated breath. She was about to argue, but couldn’t see where it would get her. Instead she asked, “Look do you want to hear what I think or not?” Mulder just looked at her expectantly with raised eyebrows. She took it to mean she should continue.
“Granted, we have seen a lot we can’t explain. But we’ve seen a lot we can. We’ve seen genetic abnormalities and mutations.”
“And that’s what you think we’re seeing here?”
“Perhaps. Cults come together because their beliefs ostracize them from society. What if with these people, it was their physiology that drove them out as well? They structured their belief system around it. And with maybe hundreds of years of inbreeding and seclusion that physiology was only compounded.”
“A physiology that can put people in a stupor and kill?”
“They could use some form of reflexology. Brother Andrew touched my hand. The guy who survived Marty said she had touched him and he was instantly drawn to her.”
“Okay. So where does the clay fit into your theory?”
“I don’t really know, Mulder. I’m just thinking out loud.”
Mulder’s eyes narrowed in thought. “Well, it obviously has some effect and not just on the Kindred. If we go with what you are saying, the clay may have a different effect on the Kindred than on the rest of the population because of their genetics.”
Scully suddenly thought of something. “Let me see the file again, Mulder.” He handed it to her and she flipped through the pages until she found the test results on the clay.
“Right here. This was what was odd about the clay: bone ash. This clay has an abundance of it.”
Scully nodded. “Yes, it’s added to bone china to make the china whiter. But according to this, it’s naturally found in this clay.”
“Bone from what though?”
Scully shrugged. “I don’t know. What kind of animal is indigenous to this area?”
“Maybe a deposit of fossils from prehistoric animals…Whatever it was, it must have produced excessive pheromones.” Mulder paused and looked at her thoughtfully. “Wow. That was quite a leap, Agent Scully.”
Scully smiled in spite of herself and put the car into gear. “Don’t get used to it, Mulder
Gordie Clappison was not to be found at home and his wife let the agents know that she couldn’t care less if he was ever found again.
They found him atop a barstool nursing a beer. By the looks of it, it wasn’t his first.
They stood on either side of him as they argued with him. Mulder said, “Look, Mr. Clappison, it would really help us out if you could tell us what you saw. You are hindering a federal investigation.”
Clappison looked at Mulder with bleary eyes. “I haven’t told anybody about it. Why should I tell you? No one would believe me anyhow. Hell, I don’t even believe it.”
Scully intervened, “Mr. Clappison, we are investigating several unsolved murders that we believe involved a member of the Kindred. If you’ve seen anything recently relating to the Kindred, it’s important that we know about it.”
“And like I said, I didn’t see anything that would help you,” Clappison said.
“Sir, why don’t you let us be the judge of that?” asked Mulder.
Clappison pointed at them both. “Unless you wanna hear about ghosts and gremlins and things that go bump in the night, it ain’t gonna interest you.”
Mulder looked at Scully with a smile. She sometimes wondered if Mulder should have brochures made up saying ‘The X-Files: Specializing in Alien Abductions, Government Conspiracies, Bumps in the Night, and All Things Spooky’. It might make it so much easier in trying to explain it to others.
Mulder tried again. “No one is here to judge you, Mr. Clappison. I can assure you that we will take whatever you have to say very seriously. If you are worried that we won’t believe you, don’t be. We’ve seen our share of things we can’t explain and don’t believe.” He was looking at Scully as he spoke.
Scully added, “Yes, you could say Agent Mulder has a knack for that sort of thing.”
Gordie eyed Mulder and Scully suspiciously. “All right. I’ll tell you, but I’m not saying I believe it.”
He told them how he’d gone out to the homestead one evening to prepare the place for tours the next day. He’d noticed that the pit he’d dug to collect clay for Judy had been uncovered and went over to investigate. Someone had dug out his pit even deeper and wider. He found a ladder inside the hole, and against his better judgement, he climbed down.
At the bottom, he saw that the wall of the pit punched through to a lit cavern. He went on to describe the catacombs that Mulder had found as well.
“There were all these holes in the walls. I wanted to see if maybe somebody was stashing any hot merchandise.” Scully looked at him with a raised eyebrow. He sheepishly added, “You know, so I could turn it in for a reward, of course.”
She nodded. “Of course.”
“But I didn’t find anything like that…”
Mulder finished his thought. “You found bodies.”
“Yeah! Every cave had one. How’d you know?”
Mulder answered, “We’ve run into this sort of thing before.”
Clappison continued, “Well, I thought they were dead. So I looked around each cave to see if they were buried with anything valuable. I swear, I didn’t mean any disrespect. But it’s not easy to make a living these days. I got a lot of mouths to feed…”
Mulder asked with impatience, “What happened, sir?”
“I looked around and didn’t see anything. When I turned to get out, the body’s eyes were open and staring right at me. Freaked me right the hell out! It didn’t say anything to me so I got the hell outta there before it could get up and chase me.”
“‘It’?” Scully asked.
“Yeah, that’s the other thing. I couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman.”
Mulder glanced at Scully in triumph. “Sir, we’re going to need you to take us out there to show us what you saw.”
“No way, man! There’s no way I’m going back out there.”
“Mr. Clappison, we need you to help us in our investigation.”
“I don’t give a shit. You just said you needed to hear what I saw. There was nothing about going anywhere. I even closed down my only source of income so that I don’t have to go back out there. What makes you think I’m gonna go out there for you?”
Scully answered, “Maybe a charge of hindering an investigation?”
Clappison looked at her with a leer. “Ma’am, I’d like to think that if you’re gonna charge me with something it would be a little more interesting than that.” Scully rolled her eyes.
Clappison dropped his lecherous grin and continued, “Whatever it was out there knows what I look like and could come after me. I’d just as soon go to jail than go back there.”
Mulder tried to get through to him. “All we want you to do is show us where the pit is. You will be with two armed federal agents at all times. What could possibly happen to you?” Clappison still shook his head.
Scully saw they were getting nowhere and tried a different approach. “You know, Mr. Clappison, I have to admire you for your principles. A more dishonest man would have used this experience to his advantage.”
“What are you talking about?” asked Clappison. Both he and Mulder looked at her with confusion.
Scully answered matter-of-factly, “I just mean, that someone with less values would have promoted his touring business with the story of the bodies and helping the FBI investigate.”
“I never thought of it that way,” Clappison said, carefully considering Scully’s words.
Scully added, “And, of course, an upstanding citizen such as yourself would want to help the FBI with no regards to his personal gain.”
Clappison slowly replied, “Yeah, of course.”
Now it was Scully’s turn to look triumphant.
According to her watch, Scully had been stuck in the tree for about 15 minutes. Her arms were tired from holding the branch she was sitting on too tightly, but she was afraid if she let go, the wind would blow her out of the tree. She was beginning to get stiff from sitting too long, but all she needed was a sliver in her ass from trying to shift. She’d never hear the end of it from Mulder.
Speaking of Mulder, where the hell was he? She was going to kick him until her shoe was a giant sliver in his ass when she got out of this goddamn tree.
Somehow Gordie Clappison was responsible for her predicament too. Although, his only fault was running away and leaving them stranded at the Kindred homestead. But right now, Scully was feeling justified in being angry with everyone.
Clappison had insisted on driving them out there because there were still no roads that led up to the homestead, and he had a 4×4. Mulder suggested they change into proper spelunking attire, and Scully was grateful, remembering her first trip to the Kindred farm leaving her with shoes covered in mud and vomit. She was also relieved that they were giving Gordie time to sober up.
When they arrived, it was dusk. The hike to the farm was easier than Scully remembered. A path now wound its way through the forest, worn by hundreds of curious tourists over the last few years. Clappison went into tour-guide mode and pointed out interesting landmarks and told tales according to ‘local legend’.
The pit Clappison had dug was behind the barn, unseen from the main house. It was still uncovered when they reached the farm. Mulder climbed down to investigate, leaving Scully with a very nervous Gordie Clappison who jumped at every noise. Scully tried to ignore him and peered into the hole with her flashlight, waiting for Mulder to return.
A sudden gust of wind blew in, roaring in her ears and plastering her hair across her eyes.
Clappison exclaimed, “What the hell was that?”
Scully answered, “Just the wind.”
Clappison shook his head. His eyes were wide with fear. “That was no wind. That was a moan.” He was backing away from the pit.
“A moan? Please, Mr. Clappison, it was just the wind blowing through the trees and between the two buildings…”
“Uh-uh. I’m outta here.” Clappison turned and ran.
“Mr. Clappison! Where are you going? Come back!” Scully ran after him, realizing if he left, they’d have quite a walk back to town.
Clappison had the advantage of knowing the property and the way back to the path. Scully gave up when he reached the woods. It would be too easy for her to get lost in the woods chasing Clappison. Her time could be more efficiently used helping
She jogged back to the pit to find Mulder climbing out.
“Where were you?” asked Mulder.
She caught her breath and answered, “Chasing Clappison. He was startled by a noise and took off.”
“Goddamn it,” Mulder cursed. But the look in his eye suggested he was more amused than annoyed. Worse things had happened to them.
They began moving toward the farmhouse. Mulder told her the catacombs and caverns were all empty, but there were fresh footprints in the mud and clay down there. He wanted to check the house now.
The house looked deserted to Scully. Mulder tried the door, but it was locked. Scully looked at the door. “It’s probably a bolt lock on the inside. There’s no keyhole.”
Mulder waved Scully out of the way. He was going to try to break it down. Scully noticed the windows on the first floor were boarded up and called for him to stop. He was already in a hard run as he hit the door and bounced back instead of bursting through. Scully helped Mulder up and said, “On second thought, maybe it’s boarded up.”
He held his shoulder and looked up at the house, scanning for another entry. “Right there. That window.” He pointed to a narrow, open window on the second floor. “Mulder, even if you can get up there, you’re not going to fit through that window.”
“No, but you can.”
Scully snorted and looked at Mulder, but he wasn’t laughing. “Oh come on, Mulder. It’s obvious no one’s been in the place. Besides, how do you propose I get up there?”
“Ever climb a tree when you were a kid, Scully?”
Scully looked at the tree beside the house. “If I say no, will you drop it?”
“I’d find it hard to believe if you said no. Especially considering your mom told me you were a tomboy. C’mere. I’ll give you a boost up.”
Mulder crouched with his fingers laced. Scully sighed in resignation. She placed her hands on his shoulders and her foot in his hand. He pushed her up as she reached for the branch. It didn’t take her long to get the hang of climbing again and within minutes she was at the top of the tree. She stood on the final branch that could support her and reached for the windowsill. Her fingers just grazed it.
“Oh for…Mulder, I can’t reach it.”
“Can you climb higher? Are you stretching?”
“I’m at the top and I’m reaching as far as I can.”
He cursed and then told her to come back down. They’d go out to the barn next.
She started to move off the branch she was balanced on, but froze. She called to him. “Mulder…”
“Uh…I can’t get down.” She couldn’t believe this was happening.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, I can’t get down! I’m stuck! I can’t see my way…it’s too dark.” She shone her flashlight through the branches hoping to find the last limb she used.
“What about now?” Mulder shone his flashlight up at her, trying to aid her. He waved it erratically through the branches under her, but it was no use.
“No! How can I see it with you waving your light like that!”
“We don’t have time for this. Just feel your way down.”
She extended her foot out to test for strong enough limbs, but found nothing. “I can’t feel the next branch.” She was starting to panic.
“I don’t believe this,” he muttered.
She heard him. “Hey! Don’t you give me that sanctimonious tone! I wouldn’t be up here if it weren’t for you!”
“Look, can we not do this right now? Let’s just concentrate on getting you down.”
“Fine. Then call the fire department.”
“That’ll attract too much attention.”
“And the sight of you and a tree yelling at each other won’t?”
Mulder made no reply. She couldn’t see what he was doing through the branches, but she knew he was mulling over the options. Suddenly, he called to her, “Scully, do you think you can stay up there for a bit?”
“What? Mulder, you are not leaving me up here!”
“Scully, we need to get over there and see what’s going on before it’s too late!”
“What the hell makes you think anything is going to happen tonight anyway?”
“Call it a hunch.”
“I call it insanity! Now figure out a way of getting me out of this damn tree so I can at least back you up.”
She could hear the crunching of footsteps. She could see him now as he moved out from under the tree. He looked back up at her. “Scully, I swear, I’m just going to take a look. If nothing’s happening, I’ll be right back.”
“Mulder! You son-of-a-bitch! You get the hell back here right now!”
She just heard his footsteps moving further away. “And what if something is happening?” she called after him.
Mulder called back, “I’ll call for back up and for someone to get you outta the tree. Try to find a way down while I’m gone.”
She swore under her breath, “Bastard!” But he was too far away to hear her.
She didn’t have much choice but to watch Mulder run over to the barn. He’d shut off his flashlight when he neared so she could make out his figure as he crept along the outer wall towards the door. When she couldn’t see him anymore, she assumed he had slipped into the barn.
Now, as she sat contemplating how Mulder would pay, the wind picked up again and the tree began to sway. She held on tightly, praying that he would be back soon. She kept her eyes glued to the barn willing Mulder to reappear. It felt like an eternity had passed when she finally saw him emerge.
“I take it you didn’t find anything,” Scully said when he was close enough to hear.
“And I take it you didn’t find a way down.”
She didn’t respond to his remark.
He spoke before she did. “This has to be the place. They wouldn’t leave again so soon. I just don’t understand it.”
The disappointment in his voice softened the insult she felt. “Maybe they’ll be back. Let’s get me down, and we’ll figure it out.”
“Yeah, I’ll call the fire department then.”
Within minutes, Mulder had the number for the fire department from the operator. The wind was getting stronger and Scully could barely hear him give out his badge number and then describe the situation.
After a pause, she heard Mulder ask in disbelief, “What do you mean you’re not coming?”
Scully groaned, “Oh my God. Mulder, why aren’t they coming?”
Mulder didn’t answer her. Instead he continued to yell into his phone. “No, I did not hear any weather warnings…Look, let me talk to your supervisor… Well, whose jurisdiction is it? …Fine. And how do you propose I get her down?”
Scully could see Mulder just beyond the branches of the tree. Frustrated, she asked, “Mulder, what are they saying? Why aren’t they coming?”
Mulder waved at Scully to be quiet. Mulder pressed his finger against his uncovered ear, listening intently to the voice on his cell phone. She sat back, sighing heavily.
Mulder spoke again in his raised voice. “Yes, I’m an FBI Agent, but what’s that got to do with it? …So what do you expect me to do? Shoot her out? Start hostage negotiations with the tree to release her? Yeah, well thank you very fucking much!”
Scully thought it best not to say anything until Mulder spoke, giving him the chance to cool down.
“Scully, they’re not coming.”
“Yeah, I gathered. Why not?”
Mulder answered, “Something about having to be on alert because of this wind storm and possible tornados. You’re going to have to jump.”
She shook her head. “I’m not jumping, Mulder.”
“There’s not much choice. C’mon. I’ll catch you. Trust me.”
“No? No you’re not jumping or no you don’t trust me?”
“Both!” she blurted out without thinking.
“What the hell did I do?”
“What the hell did you do?! Besides leaving me in this tree? You’ve been acting bizarrely this whole trip! Barely speaking to me while we drove to Steveston, throwing a hissy fit because I don’t think the Kindred are aliens, wresting for the remote, singing in the car, speaking German. On top of it all, you drag me back onto a case where I was nearly assaulted. And don’t even get me started about before we got the X-Files back!”
“Jesus, Scully, are you sure you don’t want to go on?”
“Don’t tempt me,” she yelled down to him, partly out of anger and partly to be heard over the gusts of wind.
“First of all, if you weren’t okay with coming out here, you should have said so. I wouldn’t have ‘dragged’ you out here if I had known you were going to have a problem with it. And I did not have a hissy fit. I was frustrated that you wouldn’t consider my theory, but I thought you have a sound hypothesis. I didn’t talk much during the drive today because you seemed like you were in a bad mood, and it’s not like you were talking much either.”
She didn’t reply to that remark. It was true. She had kept quiet, presuming that he was the one not speaking to her.
Mulder continued, “As for earlier this year, why don’t you just come out and say ‘I told you so’ once and for all. I know you are dying to…”
Before she could reply, he added, “And I was not singing.”
“Yeah, right, Shaft,” she said without missing a beat.
“Okay, fine. I was singing. So what? Do you even want to know why?”
Scully didn’t answer. She still wanted to be angry and didn’t want to hear any explanations for anything. She wanted to hear apologies.
Mulder continued anyway, “You were having a bad dream and you were getting really agitated. You were muttering stuff about a vampire, and green ketchup…When I was a kid, before Sam was taken, whenever we would have a nightmare, my mom would sing that song to us to calm us down. I just thought it might work. That’s what you heard.”
“So, you were singing me a lullaby?”
“I guess I was, essentially…Look, Scully, let’s not make a big deal about this right now. Can we just concentrate on getting you out of the tree?”
“Yeah, fine. But let’s figure out something other than me jumping…Is there a ladder somewhere?”
Mulder snapped his fingers. “Yes! In the pit. I’ll be back in a second. Just hang on.”
Scully watched as Mulder’s shadowy figure sprinted back towards the pit. Her eyes panned out from there to the fields that stretched out from the farmhouse. There was something in the fields, in approximately the same location where they had found the crop circle five years earlier. Correction. There were some things.
Scully was still squinting in the distance when Mulder returned with the ladder. “I don’t know if the ladder is going to reach you.” He propped it up against the tree. Scully couldn’t see the top of it from where she sat.
Mulder swore and then said, “Scully, I’m going to climb the ladder and try to bridge the gap. Okay?”
She didn’t bother with a reply. What choice did she have? She heard him pulling himself up the ladder, but she still gasped when she felt Mulder’s hands grasp around her ankles.
“I’ve got ya, Scully.”
She looked down to find Mulder’s head just between her calves. He craned his neck to look up at her and even in the darkness she could see the mischievous grin on his face. She resisted the urge to kick him.
“How high up the ladder are you?”
She could feel his head knock against her shins as he looked down to check.
“Second last rung. Don’t worry. I’m steady.”
It’s not you I’m worried about, she thought. “How’s this going to work?” she asked.
“I think you should push off the branch enough for you to get your feet on my shoulders. Then you’ll have to let go and shimmy down me until you reach the ladder.”
“Yeah, shimmy. Do you want to get down or do you want to sit there and argue semantics?”
She was stalling. She didn’t like this feeling. She was about to step off into the dark unknown, with Mulder pulling her into it. “Are you sure you’re steady?”
Ignoring her, he tugged her ankles gently. “Let’s go, Scully.”
She took a few deep breaths before she lifted herself off the branch. Mulder guided her feet down until she felt his shoulders under them. She slowly put her weight on him. Mulder’s hands travelled up to her ankles again and held her there.
“Okay, Scully. Bend your knees and try to grab onto my head.”
She was too tense to argue. She started to crouch just as the wind picked up again pushing her backward. Mulder tried to hold her steady by grasping her calves but over compensated and pushed her further backward. His windbreaker provided no traction for her as her feet slipped out from under her.
Scully’s legs came down hard onto Mulder’s shoulders as her feet slipped forward. Regardless of the obvious pain it had to have caused him, Mulder held on to Scully’s legs stopping her from sliding down any further, as she flailed backwards. Her upper body continued to drop backwards until her arm hit the branch behind her. She grabbed and held on to support her back. She thanked God that no one was watching their bizarre slapstick gymnastics routine.
A shot of alarm went through her. She felt movement against the inside of her thighs. She caught her breath and looked down at Mulder who was making muffled noises. She didn’t know whether she was going to die of embarrassment or laughter. In her panic, she had landed on Mulder’s shoulders and slid until Mulder’s head had stopped her. In short, Mulder had a face full of Scully’s crotch.
She pulled herself back towards the branch she held onto to give Mulder some breathing room.
“Mulder, are you okay?”
He released her legs. One arm reached beside her and held onto the branch she used to support herself, while the other came up to rub his nose.
“Yeah…As flattered as I am, this isn’t exactly what I meant by ‘shimmy’, Scully.”
She was torn between the feeling of wanting to kick him again and trying to suppress a giggle. She decided not to dignify him with an answer.
He became serious again. “Scully, the wind seems like it’s died down, but I don’t want to take anymore chances, so a slight change of plans. Do you think you can hold on there and lower one of your legs to my waist?”
“Yeah, I think so.”
She complied and this time things went more smoothly. He linked one arm under her leg and held the branch she held with the other.
“Okay, Scully, now the other leg.” She complied, straddling him.
“Now link your legs around me.” Without argument, she crossed her ankles behind him, bringing her into what in any other situation might be considered inappropriate contact with Mulder.
“Now what, Mulder?” she whispered, suddenly unable to raise her voice.
After a deep breath, Mulder said, “It’s still too far for you to reach the ladder, I’m going to carry you down and when I get to the top rung, I’m going to set you down. Then I’m going to go down to the bottom and hold the ladder for you to climb down.
There was really no point in arguing. She couldn’t see a better way down. “Yeah,” she consented.
Mulder nodded. “Ready? Let go of the branch and hold on to me.”
She reached out with one arm to grab his shoulder. He held steady as she let go with the other and clapped her hands around his neck. He shifted slightly with her added weight, moving his arm from around her leg to wrap tightly around her waist and pull her closer to him.
“Hold on tight, Scully.” It was no time for modesty. She pressed further into him.
“Ready?” he asked again. His voice had become a whisper as well.
“As ready as I get,” she replied into his ear.
He let go of the branch and briefly swayed. Regaining his equilibrium, he stepped down a rung with a heavy thud. Helplessly, she bounced against him, connecting with his groin. She heard him make a noise in his throat and felt him hold very still. She was afraid she’d hit him too hard.
“You okay, Mulder?”
“Yeah. Don’t worry. Just give me a second,” he said with obvious discomfort.
“How much more?” she asked, hoping to distract them both from the precarious situation they were in.
“At least two more rungs, I think…Could you stop doing that? It’s…uh…distracting”
“What?” she asked, dreading the embarrassment of what he might say.
“Pressing your mouth to my ear when you talk.”
“Oh. Sorry. I didn’t know…” Scully said quickly, turning her face from his as she said it.
“It’s okay. I just don’t want to drop you…Ready?”
He climbed down another rung heavily and she bounced again. He groaned. She was sure she heard it this time. She was trying to keep from touching him too much, but if she pushed herself out from him too much, she might throw off his balance and they would both fall. He took another second to try to recover.
She was ready to give him all the time in the world when, without warning, he clutched her closer, practically grabbing her ass to do so, so that she couldn’t move against him as he climbed down. The abruptness of Mulder’s movements made her
grip Mulder tighter between her legs. His proximity made her extremely aware of him and she understood that his sounds of discomfort were not from pain…
Oh my God! Mulder is aroused…Oh my God! I’m aroused…
Unexpectedly, she felt the bar of the top rung under her, but she still held on to Mulder’s neck, and Mulder still had his arms wrapped around her, holding her just as closely as when he was carrying her. His breath was ragged. He buried his face into her neck and pressed his erection against her. Unable to resist, she tightened her legs around his waist and pulled him closer, indulging in a wave of intense pleasure as she pressed back.
They seemed to come to their senses at the same time and pulled back from each other, nearly losing their respective balances. Wordlessly, Scully disentangled her limbs from Mulder. She would have reasoned it all away in her mind, except that Mulder was very slow to move away from her. His fingers caressed her jaw line and his eyes searched hers for a fleeting questioning moment. She wondered what they had found when his gaze became melancholy and seemed to say, we’ll never talk about this, will we?
“I’ll see you on the ground, Scully.” With those words, he climbed the rest of the way down himself.
The ladder jolted with every step down he took until she heard the thump of him reaching the ground. She could feel the ladder become steadier when he yelled up to her, “Okay, Scully, come on down.”
She turned around on the ladder and climbed down. When she reached the bottom, Mulder had already stepped away from the ladder so that no further contact was required between them.
She was going to have to be the one to say something. “Mulder…”
He interrupted, “It’s going to be a long walk back to town, especially if that wind picks up again.” He was deflecting.
She decided to take a different angle. She approached him and touched his arm. “Mulder, I just wanted to say I’m sorry about what I said earlier.”
Relief flooded his face. “It’s okay, Scully. It’s been a stressful trip.”
She let her hand fall away from him. “Yeah, that it has.”
He sidestepped her and looked towards the barn. She could tell he was still trying to put some distance between them. “Maybe we should just camp out in the barn until morning when we’re sure the weather is settled and we can see our way.”
Scully remembered something. “I think maybe we should call for backup, Mulder.”
“What do you mean?” he asked, turning back to her.
“I saw something when I was in the tree. Out in the field.”
“What?! Why didn’t you say something?” He started to sprint out towards the field.
She ran after him and caught up. “I don’t know, Mulder! Maybe I was a little preoccupied at the time! Besides, I didn’t want you abandoning me again. This way.” She took the lead and directed him towards the spot.
“Okay, touché. Now tell me what you saw,” he said, keeping up behind her.
“It was far away and dark, but I think I saw…bodies…”
He stopped running and grabbed her arm. “Bodies? How many?”
“I couldn’t count them all…15 or so, I think.”
“The Kindred! Shit, Scully, we’re too late!”
Scully was the first to hear the crying and rustling and looked towards the long grass. Mulder followed her gaze. A figure was running through the field towards the spot where she had seen the bodies.
“I see him,” he said as he began to move away from her, “I’m going to cut him off. You know what to do, Scully.” Mulder took off in a direction to intercept the figure.
She pulled her weapon and ran after the person. She shone her flashlight at the runner and revealed a male. He turned towards the light that illuminated his back. It was Marty. He stumbled as he turned, giving Scully a chance to catch up. When she was within range, hoping to distract him from a fast-approaching Mulder, she yelled, “Stop right there! I’m a Federal Agent, and I’m armed!”
Marty turned again to face Scully, and cried, “I’m too late! They’ve left without me!”
Before he could turn back to run again, Mulder raced up and tackled him. Scully had him cuffed in seconds.
Mulder turned Marty over who continued to thrash in protest at having been thrown to the ground. “No! I have to get to the circle! You don’t understand!”
Scully retorted, “No, *you* don’t understand. You are under arrest for murder.”
“Wait a minute, Scully,” Mulder said as he pulled Marty to his feet. He turned Marty to face them. “What’s in the circle, Marty?” he asked.
But Marty didn’t answer. Instead he hunched over and plowed head and shoulder into Mulder’s torso, toppling Mulder over. Still standing, Marty kicked Mulder in the gut before he could respond.
Caught off guard by the attack, Scully was about to fire a warning, when Marty whirled around, kicking the gun out of her hand. She dropped to the ground in frantic search of her weapon, but couldn’t find it. Marty was off running again.
Scully crouched down to help Mulder who was slow to get up. He waved her away. “Go,” he croaked.
She took off after Marty who regardless of being cuffed had a good head start. She knew she didn’t have time to search again for her gun and she hadn’t thought to take Mulder’s.
As she ran, she searched her pockets for something to hinder him. She pulled out something hard and roundish. It was the ceramic head of the broken figurine. In her haste getting changed, she had blindly transferred everything from her coat pockets to her jacket. The head must have fallen out of the bag into her pocket. It would have to do.
Keeping Marty in sight, he seemed to take no notice of being followed. She saw him suddenly stop. He must be at the site, she thought. She slowed her run so that she wouldn’t be heard, but she didn’t have to worry. Marty appeared to be too deep in thought or grief, and the wind had begun to pick up again.
Not wanting to take the chance of him running again if she made her presence known, she took aim and threw the ceramic head with all she could muster. Her good aim paid off and beaned Marty off the ear, throwing him off balance. Scully threw herself on top of him to pin him.
It took Scully a second to realize she was not struggling with a man. Marty, if it was Marty, was now a woman. Marty wriggled under her. Before Scully realized exactly what she was doing, Marty’s right arm came up and clocked Scully on the left side of her head, knocking Scully off her. Marty hunched over Scully and strained to pull the other cuff off her left wrist. Once off, she held her ear where the ceramic bauble hit her.
“You are a violent race. This is why we abandoned your ways,” she hissed at Scully.
“But isn’t that why you are attracted to us, Marty?” Mulder’s flashlight shone on Marty’s face. In his other hand, his gun was pointed at Marty.
Mulder moved to stand by Scully while she got to her feet. Mulder continued shouting his questions over the gusts of wind at Marty. “And isn’t that why you choose to kill us? As a punishment? For attracting you, for seducing you, for making your brethren shun you? Because they locked you away when they discovered your desire to be amongst our society of evil. The evil that rejected them for being different. And then your only choice was to escape into that society that rejected you. But your difference couldn’t hide you. So you chose to indulge yourself as much as you could, knowing what the result would be. And when we sought you out and closed in, the Kindred rescued you, taking you back. They even fled their home for you because despite everything you did, you were still one of them. But you didn’t repent as they thought you would, and by then, it was an addiction, and you escaped whenever you could to feed that addiction. Only by then, your powers had waned and your attempts at punishment were pathetic. And if you couldn’t punish anyone, well that just made you a promiscuous whore, didn’t it? With no hope of redemption. And who helped you to escape and bring you back each time? Brother Andrew? Did you use his friendship to further fall into disgrace? Did you bring him down with you?”
Scully was unsure of where Mulder was going or why he wanted to antagonize Marty. It almost made her uncomfortable. Marty seethed. “You presume to know me, man of law, but you do not understand me.”
“Oh, I understand you. You know I understand you. And where did it get you, Marty? Your brethren have found their salvation without you. They wouldn’t wait for you to be redeemed.” Mulder gestured with his arm towards the spot they had all been racing to get to. Scully followed his arm to where he was pointing. Within a flattened circle of grass, lay several bodies robed in white. Scully ran to the closest body to look for vital signs. There were none, and none on the next body or the next. The bodies were cold to the touch.
Scully pulled out her cell phone and dialled emergency. She requested immediate backup and paramedics at the Kindred homestead.
As she called, Marty walked into the circle and went to touch each body. She was crying again and stumbled as she went. She finally stopped and moved no further at the sight of one body in particular. Mulder had followed and shone his flashlight on the face of the body. Brother Andrew.
“You see, Marty, even Andrew wouldn’t wait for you,” exclaimed Mulder.
Marty paid no attention to Mulder anymore and took Andrew’s limp hand. She began to rub the back of his hand between his thumb and index finger in a circular motion with her thumb. “Andrew! Forgive me! I am penitent! Please, don’t leave without me!” sobbed Marty.
Scully felt awkward watching Marty’s contrition. She wanted this to be over. She approached Mulder and asked, “What do you think happened here, Mulder?”
“I can’t really say without some autopsy results, but since there is no outward signs of violence, I’d say poisoning for the purpose of ritualistic mass suicide.”
Scully agreed and said, “Read her her rights, Mulder.”
Mulder nodded. He started to approach Marty and began the recitation. Marty suddenly stood up straight. She raised her arms outstretched over her head. The wind was becoming more and more violent around them until Mulder and Scully could no longer stand but fell shielding their faces from the whipping wind and blades of grass that battered them. They watched Marty through straining eyes.
She cried out, “I am forgiven! They have returned for me!”
The wind swirled around her until it became a funnel around the still standing Marty. It lifted her in the air, then a blinding light flashed, and Marty’s figure went limp. The wind suddenly ceased, and Marty’s body dropped to the ground.
Scully was the first to get to her feet and run to Marty. She wasn’t very shocked to find that Marty was a man again. She felt for a pulse and gave up after several attempts on the neck and wrists.
Mulder came up and pointed excitedly at his watch. “Nine minutes, Scully!”
Unable to comprehend what he meant, she simply said, “He’s dead, Mulder.”
“I know. I mean, I knew he would be. They are all dead…” he said more solemnly. Then he pulled her up and started talking wildly again, “Come on. I think the police and ambulances are here. We’re going to have to instruct them on how we want the bodies transported and what we want done with them for the autopsies starting with X-rays for implants.”
“Mulder, what the hell are you talking about? I thought you said this was a ritualistic mass suicide,” she argued following him towards the forest. She could make out the flashing lights of the emergency vehicles silhouetting the trees from behind. She looked out towards the horizon to see the impending dawn. She looked back to the forest to see the emerging shadows of Steveston’s small force of police officers and paramedics carrying stretchers.
Mulder signalled to them, “This way!”
He turned back to lead the way to the circle walking quickly with Scully chattering at her with no loss of enthusiasm.
“Don’t tell me you didn’t just see what happened to Marty, Scully! In a sense, I guess it can be called a mass-suicide since the Kindred all believed they were going to be saved. But don’t you cheapen it by denying what we saw.”
“Mulder, I can’t even classify what I saw–”
“Oh, here we go! Listen to me, Scully, before you go any further on your scientific high-horse. I looked at my watch just before the flash of light and I looked at it right after. We lost nine minutes. Again. The light, the wind…Scully, it was just like Oregon. The Kindred were all returned dead, just like in Oregon–”
Scully cut in, “Except for Billy Miles and Theresa Nemman–”
“Details!” Mulder cut her off with a wave of his hand.
“Details are what pull a case together, Mulder!” she responded angrily, “Need I point out to you that those kids in Oregon never changed gender? Or killed anyone with sex?”
But Mulder didn’t reply. He had stopped and stood stock still outside the edge of the circle. Scully walked around him to see what had left him speechless. Once again, they stood within an empty crop circle as they had five years earlier.
Scully set the lower half of the broken figurine on the worktable. She had forgotten all about it until she had just found it when rummaging through her attaché for a file.
She was first at the office that morning, their first back from Steveston. She relished these moments when she was there before Mulder. It was then that she felt she had some equal footing; that things could run just as smoothly with only her presence. It was also her time to catch up and make sure that any paperwork was beyond reproach from their supervisors. No sense giving them any more ammunition than they needed against the X-Files.
Her report was finished and only needed Mulder’s sign off of her account. She knew he wasn’t going to be pleased with her version of events. It played down her theory about the Kindred physiology in the face of lack of evidence. Without their bodies, without even one autopsy, she had no proof. But neither could she explain their deaths, nor their final disappearance.
Her version also left out Mulder’s missing nine minutes. It wasn’t that she didn’t believe him…well, it wasn’t that she didn’t believe that he believed that nine minutes vanished. It was a matter of what she could prove. And no matter how many times she explained that to Mulder, he never held any stock in it. He couldn’t accept that it was for his own protection and the sake of the X-Files that she would use this slant. Yes, he would take her report as a bigger slap in the face than finding the empty crop circle.
But she also had to consider Skinner’s reaction. From the scuttlebutt, she knew he was supremely unhappy with the duo over the fiasco in Steveston. There would be a lecture. He would upbraid them about wasting time and tax payers’ money, about sending local law enforcement on a wild goose chase during a meteorological crisis, about embarrassing the FBI yet again, about making sure bodies were actually there when they said they were…She could just hear Skinner launch into his favourite metaphor about Marilyn Monroe’s purse.
She sighed and began chewing a pen while contemplating the future of her headless souvenir. She should just throw it away. After all it would never be reunited with its head. She hadn’t gone looking for the rest of the statue, but she did admit to herself that she had kept an eye open for it when she searched for her gun. She hadn’t developed any sort of attachment to it, but it had served a purpose and was tossed aside. She sort of felt sorry for leaving it behind.
She wondered wistfully if the remaining half missed it; if it didn’t feel whole anymore; if it couldn’t bear to go on without what kept it on the right track…Or did it feel relief? Was it glad to be free of the bulbous melon that just threw it off balance? That just held it back?
She suddenly felt foolish and reproached herself. She threw her chewed pen at the headless statue. The body tottered as the pen hit the rim of the opening. The broken figurine leveled, but the pen twirled in the air, paused, and fell directly down into the hollow body.
“Ha!” Scully cried aloud with satisfaction. She began filling it with various pens littering the tabletop and pencils that fell from the ceiling. She had found a use for her headless figurine and now it claimed the table as her own.
She turned back to her laptop, opened her report, and began adding Mulder’s notes. She smiled to herself as she tried to imagine his reaction when he read it.
“Don’t get used to it, Mulder.”
Author’s notes: Written with the E-Muse (née Scullyfic) Improv
elements received on Oct 1/01:
1. Someone climbs a tree and gets stuck at the top – Emma
2. Mulder reading Scully something smutty – Sybil
3. A pencil holder shaped like a headless man on roller skates – bugs (who peed in her shell with excitement over this one)
4. Mulder or Scully reading a telephone book out loud – Lorri
5. Green or purple catsup – Cindy Poe (who had just gone grocery shopping)
and the latecomers have asked for:
6. Mulder or Scully attempting to learn a new language with bonus points if the other partner knows the said language and has a hard time keeping from laughing at what he/she is *really* saying. . . – J3
7. a remote control race car – Katcorvi
I chose not to use the commercially available ketchup for this story because it didn’t exist yet at the time this story took place. BTW, for anyone interested, you can find a recipe for green ketchup here: How to make Greek tomato ketchup
And please excuse my German.