She heard something. But that didn’t mean that it was anything. It could have been nothing. They’d been chasing something, or maybe nothing, for their entire careers and where had it got them? Nowhere. Or rather Somewhere. Somewhere, Indiana, to be precise. In a rainstorm. Getting wet, listening to something. Or nothing.
“Shh,” he commanded, finger to lip.
She liked the way the pad sat across his plump lower lip. It was…something. That mouth. “Mulder, there’s nothing here.”
“There’s definitely something, Scully.” But her name was lost in a rustle as he bent further into the bush, ass up in the air now. It was…something. That ass.
An arc of light flashed over him, affording her a brighter look through the pattering rain. His pants really were well cut.
“The Sheriff is coming over,” she said, tapping his butt with the toe of her boot. Solid. Well cut.
He crawled back and sat on his heels. There were burrs in his wet hair and she wanted to sweep her fingers through it to dislodge them but Sheriff Maartens arrived and stood too close to her, smiling down at her cleavage.
Well, that was something different.
“Mizz Scully,” he said, as though applying her official title might just afford her some kind of authority that he didn’t have the time for. “Have you found anything?” His flashlight found the V of her collar and she stepped backwards just as Mulder raised himself up.
“Not yet,” Mulder said, filling the space between her and the Sheriff so that his six inches of extra height paid dividends. “But we heard it, didn’t we, Scully?” He flicked his head round to her and a flurry of raindrops fell over her face.
“We heard something,” she said, trying for somewhere between support and non-committal. But really, it just sounded bitchy.
“Something,” the Sherriff said. “Well, if you folks have the time to spare searching for something in Somewhere, feel free to stay here all night. But my men all have homes to go to, wives cooking good food for them,” he said, looking down at Scully and then back to Mulder, “beds to warm up in.”
Mulder’s eyebrows rose a notch and he nodded on an angle. “Right. And we’ll be sure to let you know, if we find anything,” he said. “Or something.”
“Somehow,” she said, folding her arms.
As soon as the SUV pulled away, Mulder dropped back down to the bush. “It’s in there, Scully. I know it.”
Her breath came in puffy clouds now and she wished she’d got her jacket out of the rental earlier. Her nipples were tight with the cold. Or something. The strange wail pierced the night again and set off the local dogs.
“Hear that?” he said.
“It could be a squirrel,” she suggested, hopping from one foot to the other. “But it is not a baby.”
“I know it’s not a baby, Scully. Well, not a human baby. But it’s not a squirrel, either.” He disappeared further into the foliage.
“And how do you know that?” She watched as the branches obscured his shoes completely. Silence filled the frigid air. “Is it because you were an Indian Guide?” she muttered, stepping a little closer and flashing her torch over the spot where Mulder had entered. Nothing. Well, that was something. “Mulder?”
A muffled groan and she dropped to her knees, the cold, damp earth wicking through the nylon of her tights. Of all the nights to choose the skirt suit. “Mulder? You okay?”
The wail rose again, jagged and off-key. She shivered. “Mulder, are you there?”
A rustle and a throaty grumble and he backed out, all feet and legs and bouncing branches. “I’ve got something, Scully.” His voice was at that pitch where excitement cancelled out all reason. “I’ve got something.”
The motel was a dingy and heartless as it had been when they checked in. She wasn’t sure what had changed in the hours spent searching for a baby reported to cry only on nights of a full moon in Somewhere, Indiana. It wasn’t as though The Going Somewhere Motel had gone somewhere else and been replaced by The Welcome To Somewhere Better Motel. No, it was still dark, musty, small and unwelcoming. But at least it was dry.
“Here, help me, Scully.” Mulder said, grappling with his booty and distributing water everywhere.
“I told you to take it to a vet’s,” she said, grabbing a towel from the bathroom and drying her hair.
“It’s not an animal, Scully.” He was grinning. That giant, face-stretching smile that made him look about 18 and she wondered briefly if that was his after-sex expression or if there was an even more swoon-worthy smile hidden somewhere that, perhaps one day, when he extracted his head from his own (albeit damned attractive) ass she might get to see.
“Then what is it? A vegetable?” She dropped the towel on the couch and walked to the tiny table onto which Mulder had placed the thing, covered with his jacket. His white shirt clung to his chest and the dark points of his nipples stood out. He shook his head, his excitement growing. “On second thoughts, don’t answer that.”
“Why Scully, because you don’t want to admit to what you’ve seen?”
“Mulder, all I’ve seen is a small-town, small-minded Sheriff belittling me, the back end of you crawling through the undergrowth and some kind of terrified beast under your wet Armani jacket. And frankly,” she said, as he unwrapped the sleeves from the wriggling shape on the table, “what I want to see, is the inside of my eyelids for about eight hours before I then see the Thanks for Visiting Somewhere, Indiana sign on the highway to the airport.
He put his finger to his lips and shushed her. She stepped forward. The thing stilled as the rest of the jacket fell away, buttons clunking on the formica top. She sucked in a sharp breath and her nipples tingled as amazement shivered the length of her spine.
“Oh my God,” she said.
“Well, that’s something,” Mulder said as the thing looked up at them with wide purple eyes. Three of them, set in a triangle above a flat nose and small round mouth protruding on a short snout. Its coarse, hairless skin was a shade of silver that glowed in the low light of the room. Four limbs, wrapped over its torso, in a sign of fear and protection. It whimpered and the sound was almost synthesised, electronic.
“It’s obviously malformed,” she said. “A shrew or a mole, perhaps? We need to take it to a vet, Mulder. It won’t survive here.”
He sighed and covered it back up. “Scully, this is not a mole or a shrew or a gopher or a weasel or any kind of mammal that might roam the streets of Nowhere, Indiana.”
“Whatever,” he snapped. “This is not a mammal. This is not malformed. This is not a practical joke. This….this is it, Scully.”
The thing’s crying grew louder and it shivered and twisted from side to side. Mulder held it up to his shoulder, patting its back like a baby and if that wasn’t the most goddamned, beautiful fucking thing she had ever seen… He paced back and forth and crooned.
“It’s young,” he said, “perhaps the first time away from the nest.”
“It has a nest?”
He nodded, “I saw it in the bush.”
“This is madness, Mulder! You’re telling me you are currently walking around comforting a baby alien, is that it?”
“That’s it,” he said, softly, in a voice she hadn’t heard before. A doting father’s voice. “There, there,” he added to the creature currently making cute little suckling noises. “And there didn’t seem to be any sign of any other nest mates.”
“Well,” she said, “what are we going to do with ET junior, Mulder?”
It wailed. He glanced over his shoulder and patted its back. “For a start, we can stop with the ET junior, Scully.” It gurgled and shuffled, followed by a rushing noise. Mulder’s face screwed up and he looked down past the end of the thing’s body where a liquid – bright pink – was streaming down his pant leg.
“I think it just peed on you,” she said, trying not to laugh.
He held it out in front of him and she saw its tiny limbs unfurl. There appeared to be ears on the sides of its head and she saw the knots of a spine protruding through that strange hairless skin. It really was quite beautiful. But they couldn’t keep it.
“I’m calling the Sherriff.” She picked up her cell.
“And tell him what? That we found his mystery moon baby? You can’t do that, Scully. That would ruin everything.”
“What’s everything, Mulder? I mean, what are you planning to do with your little spooky buddy here? Pack him in a Baby Bjorn and cart him back to Washington? Buy a crib and rock him to sleep while feeding him Pop Rocks? Build him a flying saucer and fly to Mars on his 18th birthday?”
The creature let rip with a pained wail and Mulder laid it in his arms, rocking it side to side. “Why would you be so mean, Scully? He’s clearly very sensitive.”
“He? He can hear us? He can understand English? He’s got feelings?”
The thing turned its three eyes to her, now puffy with tears and pouted. It actually pouted. In fact, Mulder was pouting too and she flung her arms out in utter disbelief. “So now I’m a bad mother, is that what’s happening here?”
It wailed again and Mulder turned to the window where the giant pale moon was now visible through the dispersing clouds. Rain drops fell from the gutter in silvery streaks. The car park was streaked with pewter puddles.
“You shouldn’t shout, Scully. He’s terrified.”
Swallowing the tirade of curse words that leapt into her throat, she walked to stand next to them. The purple of the creature’s eyes was the exact shade of a silk blouse she wore on a date with Marcus. Back when the world was not confined to evidence and case reports and reigning in your partner. Back when she could wake up each morning and wonder if she might make the greatest scientific discoveries. It blinked with its lashless lids and something about is little lined face nestled into the crook of Mulder’s elbow touched her.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. Mulder looked down at her and smiled gently. His catalogue of smiles was something else. Something quite beautiful. She touched the thing’s head, stroking it as you would the young of any creature. It yawned and snuggled and drifted off. “We have to take it back, Mulder. Its mother might just have been out hunting for food.”
“I know,” he said. “I…just wanted to…I know.”
She touched his arm and he closed his eyes. She swore there were tears in the corner of his eyes.
They passed the Thanks for Visiting Somewhere, Indiana sign and she turned to him. His jaw flexed.
“You did the right thing, Mulder.”
“And once again, we’ll have nothing to show for it.” His elbow balanced on the windowsill and with his sleeve rolled up and she watched the way the muscles in his forearm shifted in the passing shadows.
“What would you have called it?”
He turned to her and gave her a quizzical smile. She loved that one. “What do you mean?”
“You didn’t like ET Junior. What name would you have chosen?”
“I was thinking maybe Memphis,” he said, chuckling. “Uh-huh-huh,” he added in his best Elvis impression and he wiggled his pelvis in the seat. He tapped on the window and looked out at the endless sky.
A black shape hovered over the field adjacent. “What’s that? It’s not the right shape for a plane or a helicopter.” She sat forward, craning her neck.
He looked back at her with that wide smile of wonder and whispered. “Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building.”