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Ascension

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There was a hole in the world and it was shaped like Dana Scully. He had come home weary to find the red light blinking on his answering machine. He had pressed the button and Scully had screamed while thunder outside shook his life apart at the seams.

+ + + +

Her tidy apartment was cordoned off with yellow tape. Glass crunched beneath his feet. Her blood was on his fingers and he did not want to wash it off in case it was the last he ever had of her.

He had no answers for her mother. He could not say, "I had hoped we might meet under other circumstances." He could not say, "Your daughter is everything to me." He could not say, "I was sorry to hear about your husband." Somehow he thought she heard him anyway. There was something about the Scully women; they saw through falsehoods and illusions and heard unspoken words. Margaret set a hand gently on his arm, lending him strength, and his heart broke.

"Call me if you hear anything, please," she said, and wrote down her number for him on a notepad she found on Scully's desk. He stared at her careful handwriting and wondered when Scully had bought the notepad, if she'd run her fingertips over the paper to feel the quality of it, if she'd liked the colors.

Only Margaret could reach him across the rift in his life. Krycek and Skinner spoke to him and it was just a buzzing in his ears. He had to find her. He had to do something. He would have put his fist through the wall if it would have helped. Krycek drove him home, trying to talk to him, but Mulder just stared out the car window, gnawing on his lip. Krycek's words sounded like so much static, crackling at the edge of this thoughts. Barry was probably in a car right now, with Scully, taking her wherever he imagined he was being called to go. A strange unholy pilgrimage, an unwilling sacrifice, but how strong was the call that it had dragged Barry out of his hospital bed?

This was his fault. Duane Barry had taken her because she meant something to him. Maybe Barry had heard her in his ear toward the end of things. Maybe he knew Mulder had not made the choice alone, that he'd needed Scully to bring him to the final decision: take him. End this.

He had thought, somehow, that he would know if this happened, that he would be drawn to her. He thought that the bond between them would sing like a plucked string. Maybe it was shock that muffled his mind, or maybe something had ruptured when she had called out for him and he had not come. In the moment, he had failed her as he had failed Samantha, and there was no option but redemption. He could not contemplate a Scully-less life. He thought her name desperately into the darkness, but there was no answer.

He did not sleep. He could not even think of sleeping. Every second that went past dragged over him like sandpaper as he relived the last twelve hours over and over. His answering machine gaped empty, the tape turned over to the Bureau for analysis. His fingers twitched at his sides as he paced the limits of his apartment. Barry must have said something that would reveal his purpose and his destination. There had to be a true word in the midst of his raving. As soon as it was light, he went to work and read every word of every file that anyone could find on Duane Barry. He filled himself with thin, scorched coffee and gnawed on sunflower seeds.

The relief he felt when her grainy, terrified face appeared on the monitor undid him; he was amazed he could stand upright. He gazed at her: she was bound and gagged and scared for her life, but there was still iron in her. All she needed was an opportunity. All he needed was a whisper. He touched the printed pixels of her face and sent up a wordless prayer. Even if the heavens were empty, he might find her by echolocation, shouting into the hollow left by her absence until his words bent around the shape of her.

Over and over he listened to the tape of Barry's testimony. Scully had heard it too, nestled in his ear like the angel on his shoulder. Ascending to the stars. Krycek was talking at him again, but Mulder wasn't listening. All of a sudden, he knew, like a string twanging tight. He would follow her to the stars. He would follow her anywhere.

The slur of the wheels on the old highway lulled him. He dreamed, briefly, of stars in Scully's eyes, and woke to find they were headlights. Krycek made him switch places, but Mulder didn't care. His breath was her name.

The ground fell away under his feet but that was nothing, nothing compared to the moment that a light took away part of his soul. Her cross was in his pocket and her blood was on his fingertips and she was gone, ascended to the distant stars where no leap of faith could take him.

He sat with her mother later, and fumbled to explain: Duane Barry, Krycek, the incoherence of his rage and grief, the unrapturous way she had been taken. Margaret believed him. She believed in him. The weight of her faith in him was awful. He wondered what Scully had said to her, that she would gaze at him with this fond certainty, but not all mothers were like his mother. Some mothers had reason to hope.

"When you find her," she said, and he bowed his head in assent, in acceptance, in another hopeless wordless prayer.

+ + + +

He looked to the stars, as if he could pick her out of an infinite crowd of points of light, as if he could climb hand over hand up the thin gold chain that bound them to each other.