Sleepy Hollow Inn
Somewhere in Arizona
Another day, another dirty little motel to wake up in. I roll out of bed and stretch. My back cracks a few times, too long spent in a car driving to wherever the hell I am currently. I don’t remember the town, but I suppose it doesn’t matter.
I shower, soaping myself up with a teeny tiny little soap that leaves my skin feeling greasy and unwashed. Patting myself dry with the small scratchy towel, I bend down and pick up my jeans. They could use a wash but they’ll do. I pull on my last pair of clean underwear and the jeans and glance in the mirror as I brush my wet hair off my face. Jesus, is that what I really look like? A gray faced man with bags under his eyes. Dripping wet hair in desperate need of a haircut, bangs in front of lifeless bloodshot eyes.
How in the hell did my life end up like this? Running around the country digging up useless pieces of a puzzle that I’m beginning to suspect no longer matters. What little life I had at one time is gone. My job, my apartment, my friends… Most of my contacts. Scully was the last touchstone I had and she died three months ago. A bullet to the head in an ambush of supersoldiers.
She’s gone. Dead. All those years she faithfully stood by my side. Keeping me honest. Whole. Sane. And how did I repay her? Dragged her off into dangerous situations, and estranged her from her family. She lost her sister, her health, and her fertility. She stuck by me though. Continued to fight with me. Ran off with me when I lost my freedom, forfeiting hers as well. And now she’s paid for her allegiance with her life.
William’s still living but I’ll never see him again. It’s better that way…or at least Scully believed so. He ‘is’ better off. What could I do for him? Even in the best of circumstances I’d be a lousy father. As it is…
So many thoughts swirl in my head - the same thoughts I’ve had for months. They all lead to the same ending these days. This thought directs my gaze down to my gun sitting on the bureau, loaded and ready to go. I trace the muzzle with one finger.
Glancing back up at the mirror I see a large group of people behind me. Scully, Krycek, the Lone Gunmen and many others.
“Is this an intervention? Or a welcoming party?” My voice cracked on the last word and I saw the lamest excuse for a grin on my own pale face.
“You are ‘such’ an asshole, Mulder” Krycek growled, stepping closer, to my right side. Towards the absent minded hand that caressed the butt of the gun now.
“Intervention, I guess. Unless that’s your idea of a welcome, Alex?”
Scully’s image took a step closer towards me but remained within the group. She gave me her most disapproving look. “You’ve come so far. Why would you end it when you are so close?”
Great, go for the jugular, Scully. You always did. Guilt. Go ahead, guilt me into living.
I stare at her without speaking several minutes and then shove the gun into my holster and clip it to my belt. Taking my eyes off of the mirror, I pull a T-shirt over my head. When I look back into the mirror it shows only my own image.
Meetings, endless meetings. Endless red tape and never ending bullshit. A job that once had meaning is now a joke. I tap my pencil on the table in front of me and ignore the frowns of my colleagues. Sometimes the sheer waste of time and energy of these meetings fills me with the urge to scream.
Tap. Tap. Tap. The speaker drones on and on…I listen halfheartedly but I’m also reminding myself of last minute errands and tasks I need to do today and the state of the in box when I left my desk this morning.
I stop tapping my pencil for a minute and scribble down a report that I need to check up on.
Reminder: Notify Agent Walters of case Ja -
HE NEEDS YOU.
I stare at the words that have appeared on my slip of paper. The speaker halts and I glance up, wondering if anyone else has noticed the appearance of the words. Everyone is turning their heads slightly to look at another agent who begins to read a report. No one has noticed. Glancing down at the paper, new words appear.
TIME TO JOIN HIM.
Impossible. Impossible but still true. I touch the paper and find no difference in it. More words appear and I glance around once more at my neighbors before reading it.
COYOTE CACKLE INN
SUMMERTOWN, NEW MEXICO
FRIDAY 10:13 P.M.
The meeting drones on without me and I’m relieved when it is decided to break for lunch. Grabbing the pad of paper, I hurry to my office.
“Kim, hold my calls.” I dash into my office before my assistant can look up from her computer screen. I need to sit down. Take a deep breath and look at the paper again.
Reminder: Notify Agent Walters of case Ja -
That’s it. No strange notes or directions. I flip to the next page of the notepad and find it empty. Tearing out the first page, I hold it to the light. Nothing.
The phone rings and I drop the paper with a start. “Damn it, Kim…” I pick up the phone with a sigh. “Skinner.”
“Go now.” The voice is firm and abrupt. Immediately after, I hear a ringing and the operator answers politely.
Hanging up the phone slowly, I stare at it as if it is alive. I press the intercom button. “Kim, I thought I told you to hold all calls.”
“Yes, sir. There was one from A.D. Jenkins, but I took a message - ”
“Thank you, Kim,” I let go of the intercom button and continue to stare at the phone.
Impossible. I saw the body. Went to the funeral. I know it is impossible and yet it happened.
Sharon was on the telephone.
A bullet zings over my head and I duck further down behind the metal table. A body nearby oozes bubbling fluids. Must be green, though I don’t know for sure. My colorblindness would be the end of me in this war, except I seem to have built a tolerance to the retrovirus. Ever since my abduction. Which is just as well since I’ve had frequent contact with it lately.
Bullets continue to ricochet overhead. Fuck it all. I’m sick of hiding. With a full-blooded battle cry, I stand up, ready to shoot at whatever moves. One man, clad in black armor, is already falling to his knees.
I know I didn’t hit him, yet he clutches at his neck, scrabbling with his fingers as if he is choking. I notice large purple bruises blossoming on his outstretched neck. Around him lie three other men similarly clad, dead. As I stare in shock, he gurgles and falls silent. His body drops face forward and it is silent.
There is no sound or movement, yet I suddenly feel a puff of air on my neck and a cool press of lips upon my cheek. I turn my head towards the feeling, but see nothing.
I keep my gun ready, but there is no other sign of danger. Stepping carefully in between bodies, I look into the tanks that haven’t been punctured yet. Clones. I don’t recognize them, but they are all identical. I take out my small digital camera and snap a few pictures. I fish through the records but there is nothing useful.
“There’s nothing worthwhile here. Get out.” I jump at the voice in my ear. An alarm sounds and I smell smoke. Shit.
I’m in my car, racing down the highway, dessert all around me before he decides to finally appear.
Slouched in the passenger seat in his usual black jacket, T-shirt and jeans, he shakes his head at me. “I told you it was wasn’t worth it.”
“Yeah? And since when do I trust you?”
He manages to look hurt at that. Amazing.
“I had my reasons in the past for what I did, Mulder. But I’m dead now. And my only objective now is to help you. I don’t give a rat’s ass about anything else anymore.”
I find a small grin tugging on my lips. I decide to let it show as I glance over at him again and open my mouth to reply to that but he’s gone.
Eight years ago I wouldn’t be doing this. I’d either throw myself into more work or take a day off and go to the gym. Anything to get my mind off the bizarre episode that happened yesterday.
Instead, I’m packing. Checking the map where I circled ‘Summertown,’ and buying plane tickets. Eight years associating with Mulder has led me to put more stock in the paranormal. Something I’m sure he would be inordinately proud of. Personally, I suspect I’ve gone insane. But if there’s even the slightest chance that Mulder and Scully need my help desperately enough for the dead to contact me…well, I can’t ignore it.
I’ll deal with the consequences some other time. Tossing my first aid kit in along with my jeans and shirts, I wonder for the hundredth time how I can possibly prepare for this. I haven’t seen Mulder or Scully in months. Their last contact was brief and heavily coded; they probably suspected a breach in communications. I’ve been worried, but I’ve had no way of contacting them without exposing their location.
So I waited. And hoped for the best, while I feared the worst. The phone rings and I stop in mid-stride, staring at it. It rings again and I hesitate before answering it.
I can feel myself deflate in embarrassment. “Yes, Kim. What is it?”
“Sir, I received your message about your leave, but I was unable to find your contact number.”
I sigh and rub the bridge of my nose beneath my glasses; I was hoping to leave before she noticed that. Sometimes she’s a little too efficient. “I’ll contact you when I can for messages.”
There’s a silence on the line for a moment before she finally thanks me and hangs up. I’m not giving anyone the chance to track me. No cell phones and multiple plane tickets. I’ll buy the New Mexico one after a later flight with cash.
I’m cutting it close. It’s Thursday night and I’ll be on planes for most of the day tomorrow. The note said 10:13 p.m. and I’m puzzled at the exactness.
Does anyone even use these little blue and pink packets? I shuffle through them and find the last regular packet of sugar and dump it into my coffee cup. Not enough, but it’ll do. I stir the too-strong coffee and watch the non-dairy creamer swirl and blend in. I find myself fascinated with the color it becomes. A kind of sickly gray-brown. Definitely not the best cuppa joe, I’ve ever had. Even worse than Fibbie coffee. Kind of reminds me of the sludge I drank in college while pulling an all-nighter to finish a paper.
The café’s door opens and I glance up to find a smiling young couple enter and grab the booth in front of mine. The woman sits with her back to me and I notice the man assess me ever so quickly before sitting down opposite.
I wonder what he sees. A bum? Not quite, but I’ve got a permanent 5 o’clock shadow and my clothes are in need of a washing, I know. Still, I made an attempt to tame my hair today, so I suppose I pass. Probably just look like an overworked grunt with insomnia. Which is close to the truth. My insomnia is raging. I’m used to skipping a night or two without sleep, or more when on a profiling case, but I’m quickly approaching a new record. I shouldn’t be loading up on more caffeine, but I don’t really care.
My gaze drifts from the couple as they chat and look over the menus back to my own booth. I look at the other occupant and attempt one of my old mocking smiles that used to coax reluctant grins from her. She isn’t amused. I’m tempted to make a joke, but considering the fact that no one else can see my visitor, I’d rather not draw attention to myself. I simply wait for her to give me her message and go.
“You’re not taking care of yourself, Mulder.”
Gee, thanks, Scully, you’re looking good, too. I raise an eyebrow and give her a shrug before taking another sip.
“You should eat something, Mulder. Stop drinking the coffee and have a sandwich and some milk. You’ll feel better.”
I set the cup back onto the saucer with a loud ‘clank’, probably chipping the dish. Grabbing my jacket, I toss a dollar on the table and walk away. Leaving my impertinent ghost behind me.
I’m getting off of the third plane for the day. Last one on, last one off. No tails as far as I can tell. One more ticket to buy and I can find out if I’ve lost my mind or not. As I wait at the counter, I notice a flash of red hair. I try to get another look, but the woman has vanished. I could have sworn it was Scully. I leave the ticket counter and push my way through groups of travelers. No one.
A figment of my imagination.
Getting back in line I find myself looking over my shoulder every two minutes. I’m edgy and impatient.
Five hours later I’m speeding down the highway, approaching Summertown far too slowly for my liking. The clock on the dashboard reads 10:03 local time. I’m not going to make it in time.
I pull up at 10:24 – eleven minutes past the time specified. There’s only one car parked in front of a room on the very end of the building, as far away as possible from the manager’s office. Taking a chance, I cautiously walk up to the room. Voices rumble loudly within, at first I think it’s the TV on too loud, but as I listen I hear it is Mulder’s voice yelling now.
“Just SHUT UP and give it to me! It’s my fucking decision – quit interfering!”
I’m shocked that he’d yell like that to Scully. I reach out and knock loudly. The room is suddenly silent. The door opens suddenly but there is no one at the entrance. The room is dark except for the flickering of the silent TV. Unable to see anyone, I pull out my gun slowly and take off the safety.
“Mulder?” I sweep the room, side to side. I can make out the bed, rumpled, but not like anyone has slept on it, merely creased as if someone sat there for a long time. There’s a pile of clothes on the floor, dirty and unwashed. I sidestep it and continue into the room. The bathroom door is shut, but a thin line of light shines brightly in the dimness. I hesitate, glancing behind me at the empty room before knocking gently on the door.
There’s no answer so I try the knob, unlocked. One hand still holding the gun, I push the door open slowly. I almost flinch at the reflection I see in the mirror first thing. A gray-faced unshaven man with dark rings under his eyes stares back at me angrily. I don’t recognize him right away, but as he speaks I finally realize I’m staring at Mulder.
“Did they get you, too? Decided to join the rest of them and bug me for eternity as well?”
I stare at him without comprehension.
He rolls his eyes and turns around, facing me in the tiny bathroom. He looks me up and down, and then seems to notice my gun for the first time, still pointed at him.
“Well, you’re the first ghost to point a gun at me…”
I hastily put it back in my holster. “I’m no ghost, Mulder. Where’s Scully?” I glance around, but the bathroom is empty except for him.
He chuckles dryly at this and shakes his head. “You’ve come all this way to see Scully? She’s in the corner out there, shaking her head at me.” He pushes past me and I become aware that he is shoeless and shirtless, his grubby jeans hanging a bit on his thin frame. I could count every rib.
I follow him out into the bedroom again and he flops down, glaring at the corner near the door. I look, but it’s empty. “Mulder?”
He continues to stare.
Scully’s shaking her head at me sadly. “I’m sorry…” she whispers.
Sorry? Sorry for what? Abandoning me? For taking that bullet that should have been mine that day? For sticking around only to nag me about my eating habits…and my sanity?
Or for hiding my gun?
That’s the one that’s really irritating me just now.
“Sorry?” I whisper back.
“Mulder? Did you say something?” a low voice asks me worriedly. Skinner. I’d forgotten about him. Ghost or not a ghost? At first I’d thought it was the police when I’d heard the knock on the door. I’d run into the bathroom out of a desperate hope that they’d left my razor alone. No such luck, of course.
Then, when I saw his face in the mirror…I’d thought that ‘they’ had finally killed him. The last person alive that I gave a fuck for anymore.
I was furious – angry that yet another ghost was tailing me – keeping me from my business – but even more furious that he’d fallen as well. The last one to abandon me.
But then I saw his gun. And no ghost would bother pointing a gun at me. A bit of an empty threat – especially since they were all so hell bent on –preventing- my death.
And then he asked about Scully… Well, I guess he hadn’t heard, hm? I’d gone back to my room to confront Scully’s ghost in the corner, but I guess I’m being a very bad host to Skinner, ignoring him as I am.
I finally look up to see him staring at me with concern. A rather common expression these days. I hate it. Pity.
“What are you doing here?” I ask angrily. Maybe I can get rid of him quickly. Get on with what I was doing before I was ‘oh so rudely’ interrupted.
He shrugs at that and looks around for a place to sit down. He ends up on the small rock hard chair by the window and he rubs at his temples. “I’m not sure, actually… I received…a message of a sort.”
“A message?” I look over at the corner again and see that Scully has disappeared. No sign of any ghosts. Cowards.
He tells me, haltingly, of his ghostly message and phone call. I listen with growing weariness and wave him off as he tells me how he came to my motel room.
“Who was in here, Mulder?” he asks suddenly, leaning forward to put his elbows on his knees.
I shrug tiredly and lay back on the bed, sighing. Tired…I’m so tired…
“I heard another voice – more than one. They were shouting and I heard you tell them to shut up and give it back.”
I ignore him and press my face to the pillow. Tired…so tired…
He tunes me out and seems to fall asleep. I let it go, considering how exhausted he looks. I stand up and survey the room by the light of the bathroom. There’s a mess by the side of the bed. An old travel clock has been knocked to the floor. I pick it up to see the face is smashed, the hands frozen in position – it reads 10:13.
I look back over at the wall over the side table and I see a hole, pulling out a pen, I dig into the wall and pull out a bullet.
Panicked, I whirl around looking on the floor, on the bed… Where is his gun?!
“You were late, Wally. Next time you might not be so lucky…”
I look up to see Alex Krycek, sound and whole, and laying in bed beside Mulder. He’s dressed in the same outfit I last saw him in – the day that I killed him. He lays on top of the covers, arms behind his head, casual and cool. As I move forward, he jumps up from the bed, prowling around the side to face me. Mulder doesn’t move, sleeping on.
“I killed you…”
“I noticed. I’m not interested in a reunion here – I told you to be at a specific time and place. You failed – and Mulder nearly succeeded. You’ll find the gun in the trunk of your car. I suggest you hide the other one in there as well. If you’re going to stay, that is.” He sneers at me, showing me just how much he thinks of my abilities if I should stay.
I look back at the subject of our conversation but he is oblivious. I wonder if his sudden sleep has something to do with otherworldly interference.
“Where’s Scully?” I ask finally. Sitting down on the chair once more. I’ll deal with the fact that I’m talking to ghosts later. Right now, I need to focus on the problems at hand.
“Dead. Three months ago – they were investigating a facility when all hell broke loose. They nearly made it to the car when she was shot. There were simply too many…”
His voice sounds regretful. I study him, but he turns away from me, looking towards the bed. I feel an odd emotion rise in me…pity? Jealousy? Maybe an odd mixture of the two. I stand and walk over, gaining his attention once more.
“Why am I here? Why me?”
He looks up at me with another sneer. “Intervention, obviously. You’re the only one left with a chance of getting through to him. He needs a reason to live. The dead aren’t enough. He needs the living.”
I look down at Mulder as the sleeping man mutters and turns in his sleep. When I look up once more Krycek is gone.
“Wh-?” Mulder sits up and looks around the room wildly and fastens onto my face.
“Are you alright?” I ask. I resist the urge to brush the hair out of his eyes. If it weren’t for the lines and beard, he’d look about five.
“I don- I don’t want to sleep…” he whines, struggling to get up. I catch him before he can fall and push him back onto the bed.
“You need to sleep, Mulder. You’re at the end of the line. Come on…get back in bed…” my tone is wheedling as I begin to tuck the covers in around him. He lays down but stares up at me panicked.
“I don’t want to sleep alone…”
I walk around the other side of the bed and toe off my shoes and take off my glasses. “I’m here…” I lay down next to him and he turns on his side and stares at me.
I lay still, waiting. He reaches out a hand and touches my face, cupping my cheek. His eyes glisten with tears and he moves close suddenly, pulling me into an embrace. I’m surprised by his fierce hold and reach around with my own hand, rubbing his back. As his body finally racks with sobs I notice a figure standing in the light spilling from the bathroom.
She smiles and nods.
The next morning - certain that Mulder is asleep and not going to wake up anytime soon, I lock up my own gun and grab breakfast. On the way out of the little cafe, I find a small traveler's stand. Buying a map of Mexico, I return to the motel with a smile on my face.
I think this intervention might be for both of us...