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Goldengrove Unleaving

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Goldengrove Unleaving

by Darth Nonie

I heard the shot through the trees and thought it came from your gun, God help me. I'd been worried about the odds, since it was my job to keep you alive. So at the time you were shot, I'd just clubbed down the male suspect with a handy oak branch (no reason to use a traceable weapon), and he was lying there breathing raggedly while early yellow leaves drifted down on him like punctuation. I checked his hand--sure enough, there were those stinger channels under his fingernails, just like you mentioned in your phone call to Scully. Yes, of course I listen to those; it's my job. Was.

So I stayed to do a quick search of his pockets, and get some close-up photographs and a venom sample for my employers, just in case. Were you still breathing then?

I knew you might come looking for the suspect at any minute, so I made it quick and took cover in the trees. Then I headed back to where I heard the shot, to see whether I could get anything useful from the dead woman while you went looking for the man.

But she wasn't dead. She was standing there with a shotgun over something dark and bloody. I must have missed a step, because she heard something and turned towards me, grinning. "Hey, Matty, I got him!"

I dropped her before she even had time to realize I wasn't her brother; one bullet through the head, one through the heart, the usual job. But I didn't see her fall; I wouldn't have seen her if she sprouted wings and turned blue. I couldn't see at all.

I couldn't make myself see. Red haze, dizziness, near collapse, as if I'd shot all my strength with that gun. Like a sick kid, I swayed, and only the jarring pain of my head colliding with the treetrunk I'd been hiding behind brought me back to myself.

O God, Mulder, I couldn't look. I had to; you might have just been injured and in need of help. But I knew. Already I knew. Why the hell didn't I feel it when you were hit? How could the world have gone on for me as if nothing had happened?

You weren't just injured. Half your chest was gone in a bloody ruin; you'd spoiled your last Armani suit. Head back, surprised; one long hand still tangled in the gun you hadn't drawn fast enough. Hair merely ruffled, as if you'd run your fingers through it. Hazel eyes drooping half-shut, the way I'd always pictured them, but for a different reason.

I don't know how long I knelt there; I watched your eyes until I couldn't see anymore, blinded by my useless grief. Oh Mulder, why didn't I-- Why couldn't you-- Damn you, Mulder, you fucking let yourself die on me, you son of a bitch! Oh, Mulder...

I might still be there, but the wind tangled a leaf in my hair and and dropped a couple of golden spangles on your shattered ribs. I blinked the tears away and lowered my head.

What could I do? I wanted to just stay here with you until the leaves covered us both. But I couldn't; I knew I couldn't. Scully and Skinner had to learn that you were dead, so your work would be carried on. If they just thought you were missing, they'd waste too much time looking for you, and you'd have died for nothing.

Nothing.

But God, the thought of you in some cold steel drawer, and under the knife-- Locked up and dug under in some tin can with a bad make-up job and some plastic flowers over you; that would be an obscenity.

I'd left plenty of bodies in places like this. Usually a few feet down, of course. And I'd always thought it a mean and narrow grave, deprived of due ceremony and mourners. But now-- Oh, Mulder, I wanted to leave you there. Let the trees bury you in gold and stand bare-branched over you in mourning. Even the flies and animals would be better than that cold and empty handling that men would give you.

But it was too early--September, and only the first leaves falling--and your friends needed and deserved to know that you were dead.

I couldn't stand it, just to walk away and leave you to the cold knife. I wanted so much to keep a part of you and give it the hero's pyre or monument that you deserved. If we'd ever had something together--if we'd exchanged rings, I'd take yours now. But I'd never spoken, and neither had you. Did you want to, I wonder?

If you'd ever been a religious man, I'd have taken your cross. Or star. And if I'd ever been a religious man, I'd have left you mine. But neither of us ever learned to trust some higher power; we'd seen too much power too young, and the scars it left behind.

Should I take your badge? No, its uncaring plastic surface repelled me, and it wasn't your deepest heart.

On impulse, I checked you until I found your wallet. Blood and other things stained my glove, but I didn't care. I'd be getting rid of it anyway. Driver's license, credit cards, family photos-- Here. I knew your deepest heart when I saw it. A tattered grade-school photo, yellowed and cracked from long handling. An almost familiar face, and those long brown braids. I didn't need to read the smudged inscription on the back to know it for your sister.

Tucking it into my pocket, even blood-smeared as it was by my glove, I let your wallet fall. A bitter impulse almost made me take your money as a symbol of my own black and cindered heart. If you'd had thirty pieces of silver, I'd have taken them.

No point in leaving you my money instead; there was nothing in that gesture that you would want. Just spitting on your grave.

Instead, I pulled my glove off with my teeth, tucking it inverted into the pocket of this coat I would be ditching soon. I had to feel your hair against my bare skin as I brushed it gently back from your face.

I didn't close your eyes. What better thing to see than this bright sky, these trees, this quiet place?

Time to go and call in an anonymous tip so they could find you. Lightly, I pressed my lips against your forehead and made myself turn away.

I'd be back. In a month, when the leaves were fully turning and this forest blazed with color like a pyre. I'd leave the picture there, Samantha's face open to the wind and the world as yours should be. But I don't know if I could stand to walk away a second time.