There was a spoiled carton of milk in the refrigerator.
Not that she really drank milk - she always bought it and opened it and gave it the old college try (one glass, maybe), but it always went bad and she always threw it out. She really didn't know why she bought milk, to be honest.
It was humid, because the air conditioner had been turned off by her frugal landlord. It wouldn't have mattered, except she had trouble keeping her hair up off her neck at the moment.
She kicked her shoes off, shoes that had bloodstains on them, shoes permanently ruined by a foolish quest
for the truth, whatever the hell that meant.
She only had one other pair with her, though, and they weren't even the comfortable kind.
She hadn't expected to stay here. Or hadn't wanted to. One of the two.
Given that her arm was in a sling and she had a bottle of pain meds that a junkie might kill for, and oh yeah, that pesky hole in her chest from a gunshot wound, she figured it hardly mattered what she wanted or expected.
"Diana, hi. We didn't expect you back...."
"Yes, well, I couldn't stand the silence at home. Is he in?"
That kind of statement always shocked people. Blunt, truthful. What do you say when presented with the
Nothing. You just shut up, smile, nod.
Diana had never learned that lesson.
Skinner was sitting behind his desk, frowning over a stack of papers. He was trying to appear distracted,
annoyed, busy. She knew he was pretending; he wasn't wearing his glasses, for one. For another, the papers
were blank. Diana took a seat before he offered it, causing him to look up and scowl.
"Agent Fowley, how can I help you? You're supposed to be on medical leave."
"Sir, I would like to request a transfer."
Skinner sighed, ended his charade. "You can't."
"My medical condition is temporary, sir, and I don't wish to remain here."
"That's a damned shame, but you'll just have to get used to it. My orders...your orders...don't originate in
this office." He glanced at the phone, or what was next to it. An ashtray, freshly used.
Shit. She should have known.
"Fine. Okay. What is my assignment, then?"
"You don't have one, at the moment. That's still being decided."
"What about the X-files?"
"What about them? Agent Spender is handling things. You are not supposed to be here. You're on medical leave."
She sighed. Her chest itched, and the day out was taking more out of her than she liked to admit. Still, she
needed to know.
"Where is Agent Mulder?"
Why be coy?
"That, Agent Fowley, is none of your concern."
"Has he been transferred?"
"Either way, Agent Fowley, his affairs are none of your concern."
She sat back in the chair and sighed. "They never were."
When the building in Dallas blew up, Diana was with her doctor getting a fresh lecture on wound care. She found out about it from a gossip in the elevator, and her first reaction was exactly what it should not have been. She sped back to her apartment, intent on filling a suitcase and heading out on the first flight to Texas.
Of course, she no sooner walked in the door than found someone had anticipated her.
"They are watching." On a Morley package.
She hated cryptic messages left under doors, and decided she did not care what he had to tell her, she did not care if they sent a dozen assassins or trumped up police charges against her. She was going to Dallas.
And it was as she thought that - she hadn't even moved - that she smelled the smoke.
It was a good thing they hadn't shot her in the legs, she managed to think, as the apartment building blew up behind her.
When she first left Washington, and Fox Mulder, she had been filled with a crazy kind of conviction about the righteousness of her new cause. She had no regrets, cast no wistful glance across her shoulder, whispered no feverish goodbyes. She was going to work for the good of humanity, to save it. Wasn't that what Fox had wanted once?
By the time she came back, she had no illusions left. Fox really had wanted to work for the good of humanity, and was probably doing it. Diana, on the other hand, worked as the devil's handmaiden, only she knew she was far less glamorous than even that.
"Why would they blow up your apartment building?"
"To make a point. To offer a sacrifice. I have no fucking clue."
She really did not know. At what point had she become expendable? She thought of Gibson and shut her eyes as she heard him say, "They're here for you."
"They're still watching, you know."
They couldn't stay where they were, talking like this. Both of them were low-profile enough to be killed for no reason at all, just to shut them up. It had taken a long time to learn that lesson, and many scars could be cataloged for accounting purposes.
Alex had, of course, long ceased to have loyalties to anyone, or any cause. He was in this, whatever it was, for himself. She wanted to talk to him for that reason, to have someone validate her.
She should have known better.
"You have to make a decision. Are you with them, or are you going rogue? What is it you want, Diana?"
She looked Alex in the eye. She put her hand on his, on the hand he'd gotten as compensation for his sacrifices.
"I want the truth."
Alex shook his head. "There is no such thing."
The truth. Fox Mulder was out there, searching for it.
Apparently he was coming too close, as usual. Diana envied him that luxury.
Her contacts told her about the Dallas hearing, how it was all going to be laid at Fox's feet, and how he would be crucified finally, shut up and shipped out.
Diana had known Michaud, worked with him on some cases early on, right out of the Academy. She knew, too, that he was an easy mark, and that it would not have taken much to convince him to sacrifice himself for the greater good. It wasn't like he was married (anymore) and not like he had children (who spoke to him).
Of course, Agent Scully was collateral damage. Diana did not envy Scully, she never would. To be caught up in the wake of Fox Mulder's quests was a fate no one should suffer.
Diana scratched the edges of her bandage, and the mirthless laughter that followed would have scared anyone near her. A bullet wound was the least painful of the sacrifices she had ended up making, but it was still only the latest in a long series.
What we suffer for him, for the greater good, she thought. She personally hoped it would all end in a fiery blaze before much longer, and she no longer believed in miracles. She did not know, now, whether she had ever believed there really was a "truth" to be found.
She went to Darius Michaud's funeral, and placed lilies on the dirt.
She was followed.
"You don't honestly believe you're going to get out of it, do you, Agent Fowley?"
His cigarette gave him away, even before she turned to confirm it was him. He had not contacted her in person in a long time, not since before her stateside return. He used to turn up in Berlin, in Morocco, demanding and coercing.
"Get out of what, exactly?"
"You have a duty here, Agent Fowley. Bury it. All of it. They will resurrect the X-Files, and when they do, you need to be there to end it once and for all."
What if I don't want to, she thought. He, or someone, had burned the files. That did not mean there weren't those who knew where to look, what to dig up. Who had the patience to recreate it all for someone who was willing to keep going.
"It isn't like you have much of a choice, Diana." He put out the cigarette, and suddenly looked old, haggard. He frowned. "Even now, Agent Mulder is on his way to recovering what could expose everything. And none of us, not me, not you, not even Agent Spender are safe if Mulder is successful."
Diana felt all the old conviction prickling at her conscience. If the work was exposed, the deal would be off. Even if the next bullet was still not successful, she would have the invasion to look forward to.
As if on cue, a family walked past them, a mom and two little girls, and a father in uniform.
He smirked, though he may not have meant to. "We are the only thing standing between them and the end, Diana. The X-Files project must end. You and Agent Spender must see to it."
"Should you really be drinking, Agent Fowley?"
"Is it any of your business, Agent Spender?" It was amazing, how the word "agent" could sound so demeaning if you wanted it to.
He didn't answer her. He just drank his beer.
"They're going to want to keep the X-Files open, you know."
He still did not answer.
"They're going to need people they can trust."
"How do you know they can trust me?"
She watched him for a minute, made sure his gaze didn't fall back to his beer. His cheap, "I don't know what I'm doing in a bar" beer.
She was drinking scotch. Straight.
"You're protected, Agent Spender."
He did not like that, she could tell. His face soured, and she was surprised it was possible to look more petulant than he already did.
"I do not know what you're talking about." Hand up for another beer.
He probably knew nothing, she thought, but she did not press the issue. He would know, in time. So she took it in a different direction.
"You're a rising star in the Bureau, everyone knows it. If you successfully disprove the validity of the X-Files project, you'd be well-rewarded." She honestly could not believe she was saying any of this. But it had been the condition, and she had been convinced.
"Mulder won't let go that easily."
Diana finished her scotch. She really couldn't have another. She needed to get through this.
"He won't have a choice." Diana took a folder from the bag next to her in the booth, and pushed it in front of Agent Spender as his next beer was placed in front of him. He almost spilled it.
"What is this?"
Inside were grainy photographs, what looked like aerial shots of snow. Circled in red were shapes that looked vaguely human.
"What is this?" he repeated, annoyed but drawn in.
"That's Mulder. And we believe that is Scully."
"No, the...hole. The black space."
The place where all your nightmares came from, she didn't say.
"Ah. That is what we're charged with. Not ever finding out, or letting anyone else find out, either."
She sat in the empty apartment across the street from Fox's building, binoculars in hand.
There were probably easier ways to see him for herself, to know that he was alive firsthand instead of simply through Bureau briefings and newspaper accounts.
Not that it was in the newspaper. Not that his return was noticed at all.
He was alone, which she did not expect, and he was not limping, or outwardly injured in any way. It had been a few weeks since the pictures were taken in the Antarctic, of course, but she was still relieved to see him well.
She waited and watched as the light came on in his apartment. She held her breath when she saw him peering out, knowing he could not see her and yet desperately wishing he would.
She knew, as she watched him stick tape in his window in the familiar "X" pattern, and shine a light on it, that she would not give in to the agenda she had served for so many years. They could threaten. She would play along. And she would end the charade.
It would only take some time, and patience.
"It looks like you're healing just fine, Ms. Fowley. Just a few more days with these bandages. I know they itch."
"When will I be cleared for field duty?"
"Give it two weeks. But you're fine for office work. No heavy lifting yet. Just the menial stuff."
She thought of the crisp new office furniture being delivered, and the stacks of charred files that she and Spender were going to go through. She would have to find a way to coerce him into storing them, instead of trashing them.
Someone would need them, before long.
The doctor left the room, and let the nurse handle the bandage change.
"You're a lucky woman, Ms. Fowley. And you healed remarkably fast, you're clearly very healthy."
Diana Fowley buttoned her crisp white blouse, and slipped on her fashionable blue blazer. She was the very image of the successful, powerful woman that so many would like to have been. It hid a lot of things, her FBI veneer.
"I have things to live for."
The end, such as it is. Feedback welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org