twenty-five past eternity
She will never see the end of the world. She'll die in prison one year, nine months and two days prior.
Dana won't move heaven and earth to prevent it. She won't have it left in her, and Monica will be okay with that. She doesn't want to see the end of the world -- after all, she wouldn't be able to comprehend it. They made sure of that the first time she was in prison, and she'll never really get better.
They'll all say that she killed Fox Mulder, but Monica will know the truth. And she'll laugh and laugh and laugh herself to death.
Because by that time, no one will be able to kill Fox Mulder.
And even in spite of all that, Dana will never love Monica as much as she loves Mulder. Monica will be okay with that, too, because she'll never love John as much as she loves Dana.
She might tell herself she does.
It will never be true.
Monica won't expect some things. Like the grace she'll receive from Mulder's ghosts. The young girl, his sister, will come most often. Samantha will hold Monica's hand when the end finally comes, and Monica will have something Fox Mulder never could.
John won't take it so well, but there's nothing Monica can do about that. He'll be okay.
After all, he'll have Dana until the end of the world, which is something Monica never could.
dragging baskets full of bones
Often, it hurts to look at her. Too often he gets the eerie feeling he's looking in a mirror. The fall of black hair obscuring her face does nothing to hide her desperation. It is written in the lines of her body; in the hand he can just barely see supporting her head, palm covering mouth. He knows it's written in the lines of his body as well, in ripples of muscle and stretches of limbs.
Her hair shines brightest in cold moonlight. His palms burn with the memory of it fisted in his hands, her mouth trailing over his skin.
She jerks upright, startled. "What?" Her face used to be full and smooth, now it is thinner and worn like his. Sometimes the change contributes to his cognitive dissonance; this is another woman, the Monica he knew was taken away and replaced with this distorted image.
He wants to cross the room to her, take her arm in his hands and slide his tongue over the scars on her inner arms. She refuses to tell him how they got there. One particular scar runs the length of a vein, and he pictures her unconscious, splayed out on a concrete prison floor, bleeding to death. He told her that once, and she smiled softly, sadly, looking right through him.
He wants to slide his tongue over those scars, then continue down her body, over every inch of skin until she's quivering, alive, vital. Until she's the Monica Reyes he knew.
"It's late," he says instead.
She nods, standing and slipping out of her clothes.
Years ago, in the field, the accidental discovery that Monica slept in the nude fueled his midnight fantasies; sticky, sweaty, ultimately inappropriate . Now she sleeps beside him, and they rarely touch each other anymore. Even when they do, it's nothing like making love.
He slides between cool, rough sheets and lies carefully on his back. He keeps his limbs at his sides. He gives her space. She was never reluctant to touch, before. Part of her empathy resided in the pressure of her hands, and she has gone hard and brittle without it.
If given a chance, he is a sprawling sleeper, but chance is not something he can rely on. Indulgence has no place here. Their lives have narrowed and narrowed until finally their scope is too precise to consider anything but this.
Monica's breathing never deepens, and he suspects it's a defense against dreaming. When the tense quiet is broken by a knock on their door, his hand is under his pillow for his gun before he consciously registers the need. Her hand on his shoulder stops him.
"It's Dana." Her black eyes gleam. He stares at her, and she adds, "She's alone."
Still, his hand finds the time-smoothed grip of his handgun, and he moves toward the door cautiously.
When he flings it open, leveling his weapon, the woman on the other side doesn't flinch. She's wide-eyed and pale, long hair dyed a nondescript brown and pulled back in a ponytail. But it's a face he'd never mistake. Dana.
She has a weapon trained on him, but after a moment's recognition, her arms fall to her sides. He lowers his weapon in answer.
She takes a deep breath. "John. Thank God I've found you."
The girls share the bed that night, and when John wakes from a few cramped hours of sleep in a hard motel chair, he notices that Monica curled into Dana as they slept. Something about that is unsurprising.
Dana sleeps in her clothes. He suspects she always has. Any of them might have to flee at a moment's notice, still wiping sleep from their eyes as the ignition shudders to life.
In the pale morning sunlight, Dana looks strange and washed out and very small. He doesn't wonder why she dyed her hair: after all, Mulder's pretty red-head is a conspicuous identity to carry. Her face twitches as the sunlight creeps over her closed eyes, and she wakes, careful not to disturb Monica as she slips out of bed. One hand strays to Monica's face, traces the bridge of her nose before brushing the hair off her forehead.
Dana meets his eyes solemnly. She does not speak.
"I'd started to think you wouldn't find us," John says. "I thought, after we heard about Mulder..."
She blinks. "You know then."
"Word gets around, even among people like us."
He wonders which was worse: the night they took Mulder from her again, or the night, not long afterward, when she realized he'd been returned a different person. A much different person.
John thought he knew Knowle Rohrer, and it was difficult enough to find out he was wrong. He can't imagine what it would be like to find they'd done something like that to someone you loved.
Except that, when he looks at Monica, he thinks maybe he could. Taken, and changed, and a part of them lost. The details almost don't matter.
Dana sits heavily on the room's vacant chair and looks empty. She doesn't look at all like the woman who threw water in his face when they first met. This time, those bastards knew just where to strike.
"They couldn't beat Mulder," she says dully. "They couldn't kill him, and God knows they tried. So they brought him to their side. They didn't give him a choice. And he's still out there..."
John has no idea what to say, not when anything would sound hollow. After a moment, he scribbles a note for Monica and says, "Let's go get some breakfast."
Her brows raise, and she looks at him. The expression in her eyes doesn't change.
"Okay," she says.
They cross the street to a diner, and John wonders what it would take to shake her out of this blankness. He suspects the answer is: a great deal more than he has to offer.
Monica takes a deep breath and slowly turns three hundred-sixty degrees. "North, I think," she says.
John scuffs his boot in the dirt and squints into the distance while Dana looks on. "Yeah," he agrees, "North."
The road today seems especially long and especially dusty. They travel by day and switch cars often because cops are easier to spot in daylight.
Today it is an old Chevy pickup, the vinyl seats cracking and the bed still smelling of grass clippings. Dana didn't have a car and John does not ask how she ended up outside their motel at two in the morning.
Monica straddles the stick shift and it's Dana's turn to drive. John resolutely stares out the window at flat stretches of highway and low, rolling hills. The fields are brown and dying. He does not think about the way Dana looks behind the wheel of the truck: stern, focused, shimmering in the heat. The way her hand brushes against Monica's knee as she reaches for the stick, and it doesn't look like an accident. Does not think about Monica and the way her thigh presses against Dana's or the sweat beading in the hollow of her throat and rolling down between her breasts.
He does not think of it, but his body knows it anyway.
They don't know exactly where they're going. They barely remember where they've been. They're looking for some unnamed objective, but John thinks he'll know it when he sees it. He doesn't think he's out to save the world, but he knows he's out to do something.
And so it seems natural: all that's left is this, speeding down the highway and making stopgap detours on country roads. Travel is not the most dangerous prospect anymore. Travel at least has a goal in mind, that of passing as many mile markers as possible. Getting through the night together is far more perilous than this.
That night the sign in front of their motel promises color tv, though as they watch the news, it flickers between red-orange and black-and-white. Dana buys a cheap bottle of scotch and drinks hers with soda. He drinks his neat. Monica drinks hers straight from the bottle.
The news is almost insulting, it's so mundane. When he switches it off, Dana lets him pin her to the wall. Her breath catches as she lays her palm against his chest, and her hand burns through the worn cotton of his t-shirt. His gut clenches, and he grabs her upper arms in an iron grip. Her eyes are wide, her face tilted just so in invitation, and he takes it. Presses his mouth into hers, his chapped lips scraping her delicate skin. And she responds heatedly, their teeth clacking with the force of her desperation. It's not what he expected, but it's better than that terrible blankness. He knows this is about Mulder, and he can't say he blames her.
Dana lets him pin her to the wall and push into her roughly, right there in the motel room with Monica asleep on the bed. Except Monica isn't asleep; her breathing is too deliberate, too deep and even for that. John hears Monica's breath catch too, and he groans, hitching Dana farther up the wall and driving into her, raw, animal. Inelegant. Dana's teeth find the tendon in his neck and she bites down hard to muffle whatever sound she makes while she comes. He wonders if she can tell Monica is not asleep. Then his body surges, shudders, gasps, and he wonders nothing at all.
They lie low the next day. Dana spends the time circling articles in newspapers and scribbling furiously on yellow legal paper. She buys these at the market down the road; he watches her walk the quarter mile. She moves carefully, trying to hide how sore she must be. When she shifts in her chair, she winces, and John has to look away.
He wants to do it again. Shove her against the wall, or push her into the bed, thrust and arch and quake. There's violence in this act, the same as in this world. But he is a gentleman and does not use ungentlemanly words in reference to ladies. It's the last courtesy he can offer.
Monica sends him dirty looks all day. He can't quite tell whom she's jealous of. Or whom she's more jealous of.
Dana speaks to him only when he speaks first. Mostly, he is jealous that Dana still finds meaning in her life, no matter how futile he thinks it is. There is nothing he can do that has not been done already. Most of the ideas he has he's gotten from movies.
He knows he's never going to be the hero.
At some point that evening, the silence in the room becomes unbearable. Dana quietly, discreetly gathers her bag and leaves the room. She meets his eye on her way out the door, and he's amazed that so much understanding can be communicated in so short a period of time. The door catches firmly behind her, and her footsteps echo as she passes their window.
John's hands find Monica's hair as silky and smooth as he remembers. She cries, tiny trapped sobs, while he's touching her, but she will not let him stop until everything is slick and messy and spent. He's under no delusions anymore about whom she'd rather be in bed with.
Afterwards, he stands for a long time in the hot spray of the shower, and loves them both.
wish that there was something left to say
She pressed her fingers against the bridge of her nose because it was a familiar gesture, not because it gave any relief from her headache. For a few seconds, perhaps she could convince herself otherwise.
A few seconds seemed good enough these days.
"Mulder," she said. "Could we just stop?"
He looked at her from the driver's seat, passing headlights illuminating his face in flickers. "Stop where?"
Years ago she wouldn't have had to explain herself, wouldn't have needed to explain that her request was a what and not a where. "Anywhere," she sighed. "I'm feeling carsick."
Years ago. He was gone the better part of two years, and in that time she started to remember what life was like Before Mulder. It was a strange and unfamiliar time when the world didn't quite revolve around tabloid headlines, and her first name had meaning beyond a legal distinction, like her Social Security number.
He turned back to the road. They'd spent so much time in cars he could drive out of the corner of his eye and she wouldn't even blink. Old patterns started to feel old. Worn out, dried up, less comforting. She remembered a kind of satisfaction that used to blanket her, trundling down the highway with the seat tipped back and Mulder behind the wheel. She remembered it, but she couldn't remember the last time she'd felt anything like it.
There hadn't been any news about William for months, and Mulder's eschatological rhetoric had long since worn thin.
"You don't get carsick," he said, and a note of suspicion crept into his voice.
He was daring her, of course. He wasn't going to be the one to say, "I'm miserable." That was her job. Not this time. She had wanted this for too long, needed him for too long. Misery might just be better than nothing. She didn't want to find out.
"Maybe it was the food at the last restaurant."
Mulder nodded and took the next exit. They pulled into the parking lot of the millionth crappy hotel they'd stayed in together and Scully cleaned out the coffee cups, french fry containers and cellophane wrappers from the floor while Mulder went to check in.
There was a convenience store across the street. Scully walked over and bought a box of brown hair dye. She stuffed it in her suitcase before he noticed. One day, she would come out of the bathroom with brown hair, and if he noticed it would be more than she expected. But that day was not today. She would keep her hair a little while longer. Dyed brown, it would be one more piece of her identity that slipped away.
There was one bed. Always one, now. It spoke volumes, she supposed, but what they said she couldn't precisely express. There was a toddler somewhere with both of their genes and neither of their names, and they slept in a long succession of motel beds when they slept at all. Sex was not an afterthought; it wasn't a thought at all. It just was. She supposed they were making up for all the years they should have been doing this, when it would have made them happy. Now it was just one more thing that wasn't quite enough.
She liked her first name. But there wasn't anyone to call her by it anymore. Not her mother or her hairstylist or her upstairs neighbor. Mulder gave up his "dearest Dana" nonsense a long time ago; it sounded foreign in his mouth anyway. Her name reminded her that she was a whole person without Fox Mulder. Even in the darkest days after she found Mulder cold in a field in Montana, she had some scrap of herself to cling to. But nothing they did made a difference anymore, and running to survive was nothing like the former days. Not at all like heading out on a new case, possibilities unfolding like the next stretch of road.
She'd thrown in her lot with Mulder, and she felt a kind of deep shame that sometimes, on long stretches of highway between one meaningless destination and the next...
Sometimes, she regretted it.
And it was never, ever enough.
One morning, she woke up, and he was gone.
There were no signs of struggle, no evidence of lock-tampering. Not even a callow excuse scrawled on a scrap of paper. Only grey predawn light creeping into the room, and the indentation of his head on a warm, Mulder-scented pillow. She was by no means certain he wanted or needed her any longer. The only thing that convinced her Mulder had not left on his own was that the method seemed uncharacteristically discreet.
And if they could find Mulder, they could certainly find her, wherever she ran. So she stayed, and considered praying, and dyed her hair brown.
The church was small and shabby but held Midnight Mass. They preached a gospel of damnation with a rapturous end. The people were all in love with the idea of apocalypse, and their own reward. It was a story she knew well, though its impact didn't diminish in the retelling. Whether it was the same story Mulder told, she could no longer say.
She spent her days analyzing the scraps of information found in newspapers, but she was only going through the motions. Occupying her mind to keep from going mad.
Then he came back, wild-eyed and in need of a haircut and more energized than she'd seen him in many days. Escape, he said, was a life-changing experience. Enough, perhaps, to change the course of history. Something was different, certainly. He was rougher in bed, always pinning her hands above her head; she later realized he didn't want her to touch him, to run her fingers through his hair and rest on the back of his neck.
They headed north, in search of a new lead. She never really knew what they were doing anymore: if they were trying to avert an apocalypse or if they were just trying to pretend they mattered until it finally came.
It was while standing in a field in South Dakota, watching as Mulder killed a man with his bare hands, that she realized. She shot at him and he kept advancing.
She never did find out why he didn't just kill her when he had the chance.
a million to one outsiders
It had been a cold, gray morning in Wyoming when a nervous teenage boy stopped them outside a gas station and asked if they were Mr. and Mrs. Frohike.
She had looked away. It had fallen to him to take the risk, since it was his risk. His life, at least, but her freedom, and that was no light consideration.
"Yes," he'd said. It had given him a kind of satisfaction that the Gunmen could help from beyond the grave.
The boy had handed him a Wal-Mart calling card with a number scribbled on the back. "Use this once," he'd said, "and then throw it away."
Mulder had clenched his fists to keep from heading to a phone booth then and there. He'd stopped that night, the next town over, while Scully did one of her Scully things. The number he'd dialed reached a commercial messaging service for one Special Agent Skinner, working out of the Denver field office. Mulder had left the number of the phone booth he was standing in.
There'd been a fifteen minute interval when Mulder was certain that every car passing on the highway was the local sheriff. He'd idly wished he still smoked; it would have given him something to do with his hands.
The conversation had been brief when the phone finally rang, and Mulder had barely suppressed a surge of bitterness that Skinner would risk so much for such a fruitless piece of information.
Scully had returned to the car with two cups of coffee and a box of donuts. She'd buckled her seatbelt and handed him his cup without saying a word, without asking anything. He'd begun to suspect she either didn't believe the end was coming, or had finally ceased to care. He was at a loss, because he had finally run out of ways to make her care. He knew she had regrets; he'd wondered in that moment whether she realized she wasn't the only one.
"They let Monica Reyes out of prison yesterday," he'd said. The entire day was made worthwhile then, because Scully had actually smiled.
And that had been enough.