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In the Woods

Chapter Text

 

Coming From a small town, Dana Scully was sure she would know everyone who was going to her high school. In her town, there were only two middle schools, and she knew everyone in hers by name and every I the other one by reputation. There would be only sixty people in her grade at her high school and she felt effectively prepared for it. Aged 14, Dana Scully hadn’t seen much of the world beyond the small town of Fort Parburgh. She knew the woods and the mountains and the fields and the river and the lake and of course the town itself. She knew the people and the things they did. She knew all the things that happened, and out of all the things she knew almost all of them were boring.

 

On the first day of high school, she snook out early in the morning, hoping to avoid her parents and siblings getting excited about her starting high school. She headed in the opposite direction of school, as she still had two hours before school. She walked out towards the bridge she often frequented by the river. The walk took around half an hour from her house and was through woods. She was wearing boots, a baggy t-shirt and dungarees, so it wasn’t exactly difficult for her to pass through this terrain.

 

The sun slipped through the trees and lit up the forest as the sun rose, and she breathed in that early morning late summer air that she knew wouldn’t last for much longer. She picked up a soft round stone and twirled it around and around in her hands, perfectly content with herself and the forest and the morning. She reached the bridge that crossed the river. It was over a hundred years old and made of stone that had now turned mossy. If you took off your shoes and rolled up your jeans, as Dana often did, you could wade underneath the arches of the bridge, if the water was going slow enough, and sit on one of the large rocks. It was her favourite place to go alone. Not that she normally went other places with other people. Her mother had described as a girl who mostly kept herself to herself, which Dana saw as an understatement.

 

This morning, however, she didn’t feel like getting her legs wet, so she walked to the middle of the bridge, and sat on it, draping her legs over the edge. From here, she could see the river flowing from the mountains, and all of the little paths that approached the river from the bigger paths on either side. There were little pebble beaches peppered along the sides of the river that these small paths led to, which were quiet now but on the hottest summer days they would be packed with little kids and their parents.

 

Her eyes focused on the furthest away pebble beach that she could see, that must have been several hundred yards away at least, almost out of her line of sight. She checked her watch, and realised that she was going to have to leave now if she wanted to make it to school on time. A thousand clichés about not being late on the first day swirled around her head. Her eyes wandered back to the little beach she’d been looking at earlier.

There was a boy standing there now. He must have been around her age, and she squinted, trying to tell who he was, but she couldn’t make him out. Then he suddenly turned to face her, and she could almost feel them making eye contact even though she couldn’t properly see his eyes. She then realised that this boy must realise that the weird girl was sitting on the bridge staring at him, so she hastily jumped up, grabbed her backpack and ran off.

 

Her cheeks flushed in humiliation a little, and she hoped she wouldn’t run into that boy, whoever he was, at any point in her life. He had been wearing blue jeans, boots, a white t-shirt and he had mid-length brown hair. She tried to associate that image with one of the forty or so boys her age she knew. It could be Ray Shephard, but she couldn’t imagine him being out in the woods and half seven in the morning. Then again, there was no logical reason for her to be out in the woods at that time in the morning either.

 

She sighed, still secretly trying to figure out which boy it was, and if so how to avoid him forever. She wondered why it mattered. She had never liked a boy. Partly, this was because she didn’t have any girlfriends to gossip or giggle with. The second reason was of course that all the boys in her school were disgusting. So, it shouldn’t really matter what this boy thought of her. But she was still feeling a little anxious from the situation. It must be because he was a boy, she decided.

 

After all the time she’d spent pondering and questioning, she found herself approaching the gates of her new school. It wasn’t that scary, really. She’d been in this building many times before, and she knew all the people that were spilling in, so she was unsure why her breathing sped up a little bit and her knees turned to jelly as she crossed the threshold and walked into the playground of her new school. There were a series of benches and tables scattered around the outside, and most of these were filled with groups of people, all greeting each other and asking each other about each other’s summer holidays.

 

She had nowhere to go, and no one to talk to. She could try and find her brother, but she hated his friends and he’d probably just pick on her. She decided to sit on a small wooden bench alone. She only had five minutes before school started, so there was no point in taking her book out. She simply tapped each knee with the correlating hand, one after the other. She tapped her left hand onto her left knee, and then her right and onto her right knee, and so one and so forth. It was a calming way to spend time, and it calmed her unsteady breathing. She remained in this state of tapping and not tapping until the bell rang and she began to move with the crowd into the school.

 

The route to her form room was already etched into her mind, from the months of mental preparation. Dana entered the room, and then looked to the blackboard, which read “Please choose a seat”. She groaned internally, as she hated watching all those pre-established friendship group clot together like blood, leaving her as the lone cell, the one that shouldn’t be there. In order to maintain neutrality, she sat on the second seat along on the second row from the back and nestled her backpack down between her legs. The room filled up with students, most of whom she recognized from her middle school. As they came in, she watched as they formed their own little groups, of the popular kids, and the sporty kids and the music kids. Unfortunately, there was no groups of quiet kids who don’t like talking but do like science, so Dana spent most of her time alone.

 

The teacher, Mrs. Rolland’s, shushed the class, and silence fell. Dana relaxed into the quiet, and carefully payed attention for her name to be called out in the register. She payed attention while timetables were handed out and while notices were given out, but when Mrs. Rolland’s started talking about social activities and sports, Dana’s mind began to drift off. She remembered the boy from the river at this point, and so she began searching the classroom for any boy who matched his description. She couldn’t find anyone, and she breathed a sigh of relief. At least that boy wasn’t in her form group, which saved her from a bit of awkward interaction.

 

Before she knew what was really happening, the forty-five minutes had passed, and it was time for her first lesson. She pretended to consult her timetable, when she knew that she had Biology in Room 13 already.  Although there was no reasonable or scientific numbered to be paranoid about the number 13, there was a hint of anxiety within her about having her first lesson in such an unlucky room. Dana considered herself to be wholly scientific. She didn’t believe in aliens or ghosts or astrology or witchcraft. The superstition around the number 13 she blamed on the Catholic upbringing.

 

She stepped into Room 13 and discovered that it really was unlucky. Unlike the majority of rooms, it didn’t have single seat desks, but double seat desks. This meant she would have to sit with someone else. She checked the blackboard and breathed a small sigh of relief at the fact that seats were assigned. Her seat was in the middle of the second row from the front. Lisa Kelly was sat next to her, which was less of a blessing than the seating plan being pre-designed. She sat at the desk, and began the practice of tapping her knees again, and watching as her class came in.

 

Then there he was. The boy from the river, with floppy brown hair and blue jeans and a white t-shirt. He turned to consult the blackboard, and Dana prayed that perhaps he would not notice her. Maybe if she deliberately failed all of her science quizzes, she’d get out of this class, but then if that was the case, she’d never be able to become a doctor, which she knew was necessary.  However, all hopes of him not noticing her were dashed when he sat down on the table next to her and turned to look at her as he put his bag down on the floor. The bag was light blue and had something drawn on it in a darker blue ink. The boy looked Dana in the eyes, and he conveyed that he recognized her by smiling lightly. She blushed and turned to look at the worn wooden desks. Looking at this boy closer up, she still couldn’t identify him, and began to wonder if she’d ever seen him before. She looked up to check the blackboard to see his name. His name was Fox Mulder. This name was almost foreign to Dana, and she concluded that he must have recently moved to Fort Parburgh. 

 

The teacher introduced himself, and Dana barely caught his name. Mr. Alman. He began addressing the class, leaning on his desk, “You probably all know each other already, from middle school or just from around town. But there’s someone new here,” he said, pointing at the boy sat on the desk next to Scully, “Fox Mulder. He and his family just moved here from… Rhode Island wasn’t it?” The boy nodded silently and looked down at the desk. “Well, you all make sure you make him feel welcome.” He then began handing out new notebooks to the class and explaining what they would be doing in biology over the next few months. Dana’s attention wandered from listening to what Mr. Alman was saying to wondering why anyone would move to this tiny town from Rhode Island.

 

The day passed without event. Dana sat alone at break and lunch and noted that Fox Mulder was also in her history class. She read Moby Dick (again) in-between classes and during lunch, and became thoroughly engrossed in the fictional world, feeling as if she was taken away from the world, she was in. The feeling was intoxicating. Sometimes in middle school, she would question whether climbing the mountain and curling up underneath a tree with a book would be better than going to school.

 

She thought about that as she left school, exhausted. Normally, she would head out to the river or the lake or the woods after school, but today she elected to go straight home. When she got home, she tried to get past her mother who asked about seventy questions as quickly as she could and went into her bedroom. She took off her backpack and placed it at the foot of her chair. She removed Moby Dick from her bag, sat down on her bed and kicked off her boots. She read and turned pages and found herself almost completely gone from her bedroom, until she heard her mother call, “Dana! It’s dinner!” She sighed, put the book down and walked down the stairs to eat.

 

Bill, Charles and Melissa were already sat down, and her father sat down around the same time as her. Her mother placed the tray of unidentifiable food in the middle of the table, and began giving spoonsful of that to everyone, and then dumping a scoop of mashed potato on the plate next to the other food. Incessant chattering about everyone’s day began, and as usual, Dana began to tune out and focus on her own thoughts of Moby Dick and what homework she’d been given that day and Fox Mulder.

 

“Starbuck?” she heard the voice of her father calling out to her.

“Yes?”

“I asked you how your day was?”

“Oh. Sorry. I was just daydreaming.”

“Dana, we’ve talked about this. You need to pay more attention when people are talking,” her mother added. “Sorry.” There was silence.

“How was your day though?”

“Fine. Nothing really happened. There’s a new kid at my school.”

“Are they from St. Margaret’s?” her mother asked.

“No. He’s new in town. His name’s Fox Mulder.” Her mother pulled a face that could be likened to disgust or disapproval. “I heard about his family,” she said, wiping her mouth. “He and his mother just moved here.”

“Where’s his father?”

“His parents divorced.” Everyone looked at the floor for a moment because in their good Catholic household, divorce was not mentioned. “Is that why he moved here?” asked Bill.

“No. I believe his sister was murdered.” Suddenly all of Dana’s insides ached with sympathy. Her father didn’t look very pleased, “Can we please return to a nicer topic of conversation?” he asked. And so, they did, but Dana wanted to know more. Curiosity wasn’t good, especially when it came to those things that people didn’t like to talk about. The conversation had been closed, and she didn’t see any opportunity to re-open it. Dana helped her mother clear up the dishes, and then returned to her room, her mind full of thoughts. They were like flies, swarming around a dead body, buzzing incessantly and impossible to ignore.

 

The homework she’d been given was very minimal. Firstly, there were two placement tests. One for biology and one for maths. She completed them in less than forty minutes with ease. Maths and science were her strong subjects. However, the other piece of homework was a little further out of her comfort zone.

 

Make a short presentation about a part of the history of Fort Parburgh that interests you

 

Unsure of what to write, Dana tried to think of anything remotely interesting about her town. Interesting things had to have interesting things, surely? She racked her brains. A short presentation about the bridge’s history? It seemed a little basic, but it seemed easy enough as she knew her father had a book about all of the bridges that had ever been built across that river. She went to her living room and removed the book from the large bookshelf by the fireplace. The book was less than a hundred pages long, and she quickly located the three-page spread about the West-wood Bridge. Dana began to write about the iron works who provided the metal for the supports of the bridge.

 

Within an hour, she was done. By now it was nine o’clock, and Dana saw it fit to get into her pyjamas. She swapped her dungarees for a pair of pyjama bottoms decorated with small flowers and left her baggy t-shirt from the day on. She then began to read Moby Dick again, sat on her windowsill, which she’d padded with cushions a year ago when she got bored of hurting her back while sitting there. Around half-eleven, she moved from the window to her bed, and by two she was asleep with Moby Dick open on her chest.

Chapter Text

The next week passed much as Dana had expected it to. She awoke early, went off to the river or the lake before school and read. Then she’d go to school, and work alone and sit alone, reading whenever she got the chance. Then she’d do something after school, perhaps buy an ice-cream or go into the woods. Then she’d go home, do her homework, eat, read and then sleep. By Saturday, she had decided that she was bored of high school. Saturday was unusually warm, and so she decided to go swimming in the lake when her mother asked her if she wanted to go along with her siblings.

 

The four kids got onto their bikes and began cycling the couple miles to the lake. From April to September, volunteer lifeguards would watch over a marked-out part of the lake so that kids could swim there. In a few weeks, they would leave, and the lake would become a place of danger for another six months.

 

As they cycled, Dana watched the houses and shops flit by, and wondered about the secrets of all the people in those houses and shops that supposedly had no secrets. Her mother had always chastised her for wondering about those kinds of things, but she had a natural burning curiosity. No one seemed to like it, so she squashed it down inside of her, only ever revealing it to herself in times of boredom. Suddenly, Bill stopped his bike. The others braked and turned to him. “I want some chocolate,” he said, before dumping his bike on the ground and walking into the small corner shop they had just passed.

 

It was implied that the others were supposed to watch over his bike while he was in the shop, so they similarly dumped their bikes and sat down on the grass. Dana watched the door of the shop, waiting for her brother to return. Two old ladies walked out, and then the priest, who, from the two bottles of grape juice in his hand, had clearly run out of grape juice for kids to drink during communion again. The door opened again, and out walked a certain Fox Mulder. Dana was surprised to see him in a context that wasn’t her history or biology class. He was holding a bottle of pop and wearing black jeans and a sweatshirt. The jeans were too skinny on him and the sweatshirt was too big for him. He looked over to where Dana and her siblings were sat. He made eye contact with Dana again and smiled a little. Dana moved her face slightly, hoping that this small change in her features would appear to be reciprocation for his smile.

 

Then Bill walked out of the shop, carrying a bar of chocolate, and the kids began to get back on their bikes. Before they cycled off, Dana turned back to see if she could spot that boy again, but he had already gone. The group began cycling again, faster than before, as they were powered by the small amount of chocolate that Bill had given them. They soon approached the lake, and dumped their bikes again, alongside a pile of around thirty other bikes, which clearly belonged to kids who’d had the same idea as them. Dana was wearing a black swimming costume under her jeans and jumper, and she placed all her clothes and items neatly next to her bike, hoping no one would take them.

Normally, no one would describe Dana as fun to be around. “She’d just not much fun,” was something she heard about herself regularly. She assumed this was in reference to the fact that she was quite serious and didn’t like boys or the same kind of music everyone else did and she read a lot. However, when it came to swimming, Dana Scully was a lot of fun. She would dive down and have competitions of breath-holding and dive-bomb and give shoulder carries and have races. She liked to let loose, feeling as if the cool water was a blanket, and if she was underneath it, no one would know who she was.

 

On that Saturday afternoon, she did all of those things, playing with her brothers and sister for hours, being extremely competitive and having fun. This all came to an end when she began a handstand competition with her sister. She’d been doing a handstand for about fifteen seconds when she decided that she needed to breathe. She stopped doing her handstand and took a breath of air. Her sister laughed at her a little, and then swam off to go annoy her brothers. Dana was annoyed that she hadn’t been able to do a handstand, so she decided to try again. She put her hands down and then kicked her legs up. It was all going fine until she felt the sole of her foot smack into a fleshy mass. She immediately stood up to see what she had kicked.

 

She found herself looking directly into the face of Lisa Kelly.

 

Although Lisa Kelly was supposed to be sat next to her in biology the previous week, she hadn’t been as she was still on holiday when school started. She’d got back last night, and Dana had just kicked her in the face. For context, her and Lisa had a very simple relationship. Lisa hated Dana, and as such, Dana was terrified of her.

 

Now as Dana stared into her face, there was an icy silence. For about twenty seconds. Dana had no idea what to say. Then she realised she should apologise, so she did. Very profusely. Repeatedly. She babbled about how it was an accident and how she didn’t mean to, but Lisa Kelly just continued to stare dead into her face like she might kill her. Eventually Dana’s trail of apologies simmered out and the two stood in silence again. Now Dana realised that Lisa was about half a foot taller than her, and she felt slightly intimidated. She practically flinched waiting to see what Lisa was going to say. For a minute she thought she would just leave her alone, but then Lisa shoved her backwards into the water, yelled “Freak!” and swam away. Dana resurfaced and noticed that at least three people were staring at her.

 

She swam to the shore as quickly as she could, grabbed her clothes, shoved them in her backpack (which she really should have done earlier) and got on her bike. She cycled away as quickly as she could, the hot leather bike seat burning her thighs. The peddles turned faster and faster, and all Dana could do was imagine a life outside of this God forsaken town, and a life outside of all the things that didn’t seem to stop. The no friends. The people that called her a freak. The loneliness. The fact that her legs became weak at the tiniest amount of fear. The fact that she had never properly liked a boy. The way she didn’t like speaking and the way she knew she was disappointing her parents.

Tears streamed down her face as she cycled, racing to get away from somewhere, not really sure of where she was going. She could go to the river, but she knew it’d be busy today. So, she decided to go home, but she didn’t want to talk to her parents. When she arrived home, she put her bike in her garden, and then climbed the tree beside her window. She coaxed her window open, which wasn’t too difficult as her house was old and not very well maintained. Sliding in through the window, she tried not to make a noise that would alert her parents. She put on her pyjamas and climbed into bed, which is where she stayed until Sunday evening, despite her parents yelling at her, asking her why she left her siblings, asking why she didn’t come in through the door, asking why she didn’t get up.

 

On Sunday evening, she eventually crawled out of her bed, and moved to sit on her window ledge. She watched the people passing by, which happened every couple of minutes. She lived on a relatively busy street, which wasn’t really that busy, but it was Fort Parburgh. There was hardly anyone here to see anyway. No one that passed by way of interest until around 8:30, when that boy, Fox Mulder walked past. That was the second time she’d seen him in as many days, and if she didn’t live in such a small town, she would be paranoid.

 

She watched as he walked slowly past her house, his hands in his pockets. A car drove past at around the same time and shone its lights onto his face. They illuminated his features, and Dana was pretty sure she could see him crying.

 

The next day at school, Dana wondered if she should ask him if he was okay, but considering that she’d never talked to the boy, she thought “Hey I saw you crying last night when I was essentially spying on you,” was not the best introductory phrase. So, she left it alone. In history, the time came to present their homework from the previous Monday. Dana was sent up to do hers second. She gripped onto her neatly written notes, fingers grabbing the edges in an attempt to calm the anxiety. Trying to take herself out of the situation, she simply imagined she was sat under the bridge, in the small nook that the water had borne into a rock. As she imagined that, she simply allowed the words about the people who built the bridge and how they paid for it to flow out of her mouth, unsure whether or not she was saying anything correctly. By the time she reached the end of the speech, she had to shake herself to take herself out of the daydream state she had put herself into.

 

Only the teacher, Abigail Peters (who clapped at everything) and Fox Mulder clapped at the end like they were supposed to. Dana blushed a little, as she disliked this public of a setting to receive praise. Then a few more boring speeches about shops and statues and war “heroes” came, and Dana barely payed attention. She’d heard all of it before and most of it was lies. Dana tried to tune in to listen, feeling a little guilty. Some kid was talking about the Puritans, and said, “So, obviously, the Puritans were fleeing religious persecution…” which made the little know-it all voice inside of Dana’s head want to say, “No they weren’t.” At the exact same time she was thinking this, she heard a small whisper come from the table behind her. “That’s not true,” said the voice. She turned and saw that the sole inhabitant of the table behind her was Fox Mulder. Dana turned around quickly, before he could see that she was looking. She smiled to herself a little. Maybe not everyone in this school was an idiot.

 

‘Fox? Do you want to come and do your presentation now?” He nodded, and walked up to the front, and quickly asked, “Could you just call me Mulder please?” The teacher nodded.

 

 

Unfortunately, this slight respect for Mulder’s intelligence that Dana had just gained lasted for about two minutes, until he was called up to do his presentation. He read out his title – “UFO Sightings in Fort Parburgh” – and Dana immediately wanted to slam her head against the table. Fort Parburgh was something of a “UFO Hotspot”, and UFO enthusiasts believed it had something to do with the military base located about three miles out of the town center. Throughout her life, she’d heard thousands of stories about government conspiracies and UFO crashes and little green men wandering around the military base where her father worked. He had denied all of these stories and told her that it was simply people’s fear of unknown technology that scared them into believing aliens were responsible for the new plane tests that ran out of Fort Parburgh.

 

Dana believed her father because it made sense. New things scared people, especially when they couldn’t understand them. So, they relied on simpler explanations to keep themselves calm and feel safe. She expected Mulder to come up with some bullshit about lights in the sky. Despite that, she still decided to listen to what he had to say.

 

“Unidentified Flying Objects have been sighted in Fort Parburgh as early as 1865. However, objects originally listed as UFOs have since been declassified as such. There are three major urban myths that circulate around UFO sightings in Fort Parburgh. Firstly, the original sightings in 1865. Although at the time, they were believed to be of extra-terrestrial origin, they were simply fireworks let off by the US Army in celebration of the end of the Civil War. In 1953 a diary entry of one of the officers involved with setting these fireworks off was found that corroborates this theory. The lights were described with colourful, fast moving and going in an upward direction. Which is what a firework looks like.”

 

Dana practically sighed with relief when he started to debunk the three stories about UFO sightings, she’d heard all her life. Perhaps she could still retain a little respect for him.

 

“And so that is why the reported 1951 sighting were very clearly fake. However, just because these are all very clearly not encounters with extra-terrestrials, it doesn’t mean that Fort Parburgh isn’t the hotspot of UFO sightings that it has the reputation of being. Since the first recorded sightings in 1865, there have been 231 sightings of UFO. Nineteen of these have been explained by the military. Fifteen can be debunked very easily if you read the story. Twelve have been proven to be fake by historians, and six of the people who ‘saw’ UFOs have come forward and said they lied. That leaves 179 sightings of UFOs that cannot be proven wrong in just over a century. That excludes cases of scorch marks, which are unexplainable by known human technology at the time, which have been recorded eight times. The last person recording going into Fort Parburgh who wasn’t part of the military was a four-year-old girl who went in with her father in 1968. Fort Parburgh hasn’t been inspected by anyone for over twenty years, not even by someone checking on the plumbing. The military refuses to comment on why this is the case. Not to mention that over forty people have gone missing in Fort Parburgh over the last ten years! That’s one of the highest…”

 

 Mulder was interrupted by Miss Bank, the history teacher. “I’m sorry Mulder, but you’re about the go over your allotted time, and I think the rest of the class want to go to lunch. He blushed immensely and muttered an apology. He gathered his papers and began to walk back to his desk. Steven Neilson, chuckled as Mulder walked past and muttered “Fucking psycho.” Mulder turned to him, and Dana could see the tears well up in his eyes. He shoved his things into his bag and ran out of the classroom.

 

Steven was called over to Miss Banks desk and the class filed out. Dana didn’t see either of the boys for the rest of the day.

Chapter Text

The next two days were about as boring as imaginable. Dana couldn’t barely differentiate between them, and eventually life started melting, just as it had done in middle school. On Thursday, Dana walked into Biology. Lisa Kelly still hadn’t shown up to any of the biology lessons, so she felt safe. But then just after the bell rang, Lisa Kelly sat down in the seat next to her and all of Dana’s muscles immediately clenched. She shifted her chair as far to the left as she could and looked down at the ground. She hoped Lisa wouldn’t say anything. “Do I have a disease or something?” she said. Dana turned to her. “No. What?”

“You’re shifting away from me like I’ve got the fucking plague. Its rude.”

“Sorry.”

 

There was silence as Mr. Almon did the register. He then turned to address the class. “So, as you know, we’re going to start our group projects on Monday. But today, we’re going to get the required dissection out of the way before we start on the group projects.” The class groaned. Dissecting a small frog was nobodies’ idea of fun, and it made Dana sick. She’d have to get over that. She knew she would, if she wanted to become a doctor. Mr. Almon started handing out porcelain trays containing a dead frog laying on its back. Dana looked away. ‘You’re a wimp,” said Lisa, putting on her latex gloves. This drew the attention of Mulder, who looked over to see Dana flinching as Lisa picked up the frog by its foot.

 

She dropped it on the porcelain tray with a splat. Dana was visibly uncomfortable to anyone who cared. Her hands were clenched around the edge of her chair and she was breathing a little faster than usual. Lisa picked up the frog again and held it closer to Dana’s face. She squealed in fear. “Stop,” said Mulder, “You’re upsetting her.” He was clearly talking to Lisa.

“What are you gonna do, spooky boy? She shouldn’t be such a baby.” Lisa retorted. She picked up the frog again and dangled the frog so close to Dana’s face that one of its feet touched her face. Dana practically screamed, and Mulder said, with a raised voice, “Hey, knock it off!” Lisa started laughing and the whole class was looking and laughing too. Dana ran out of the classroom as fast as she could. Mr. Almon ran after her, and the class only laughed harder. Apart from Mulder, who simply stared icily at Lisa, and muttered something about her mother, which she fortunately didn’t hear. Dana didn’t return to Biology, and since it was the last lesson of the day, Mulder assumed that she’d just gone home. He wanted to check in on her, but he had no idea where to find her, so he just decided to leave it. He’d check in on her tomorrow.

 

He saw her sat there, under a tree at lunch on Friday. All he had to was walk up to her and ask her if she was okay. And then leave. But she was reading. She looked very interested in what she was reading, he said to himself. Really, Mulder was just afraid to talk to her. He didn’t really talk to anyone after what happened, but he told himself that he didn’t talk to her because he didn’t want to interrupt what she was reading. If Dana hadn’t been so wrapped up in her book, she probably would’ve noticed him walking towards her and then walking back and then walking towards her and walking back. But Moby Dick was a very interesting book and Dana struggled to notice anything other than the words and the feel of the pages under her hands when she was reading it.

 

Mulder decided it would be best to wait until he saw her in Monday’s biology lesson. That would be more natural than approaching her in his free time.

 

So, in Monday’s biology lesson, he walked straight in and over to her. She was sat at her desk. “Hey,” he said, looking a little anxious. “Oh. Hi,” she said. But before Mulder could ask anything, Mr. Almon asked them to all go stand at the back while they went into groups. The two were hurried out of their seats and walked off to opposite sides of the classrooms. “Now,” said Mr. Almon, “I want to let you pick your own partners. But if there’s any messing around, I will put you into groups of my choice, is that understood?” The class mumbled an affirmative. “Right, so we’ll go left to right, and you can pick you partners. I’m sure you’ve all discussed who you want to work with already. Lizzy, who do you want to work with?” A blond girl who Dana vaguely recognised from St. Margaret’s walked over to Lizzy and the pair sat together.

 

Slowly, everyone paired up, until there were four people left. Dana, Mulder, and two boys, both called Joe. “Joe B?” said Mr. Almon, “Who do you want to partner up with Joe?” Joe B mumbled something about not knowing or caring, realised that wasn’t an appropriate answer, and chose the least weird of the three options from his point of view – Joe H. The two went and sat on a desk towards the front. “Okay so that leaves Dana and Fox -sorry, I mean Mulder, together. Take a seat.”

 

The pair sat down next to each other little awkwardly, refusing to look each other in the eye. Mr. Alman started speaking, “So as I’m sure you all know, this group project is an opportunity for you to study the local insect life. You will actually need to go out into nature to find some sort of insect, not just to lay on your bedroom floor waiting for a spider to run past. I’ll give you time to discuss your plans now.”

 

Mulder looked over to Scully’s notepad. She had already taken very neat notes that outlined the project.

 

Our task is to capture an insect, identify it, sketch it and describe it. We must then attempt to gain an accurate number of the population of that insect living in the area. We must then research and write an essay on the insect’s anatomy, behavior and history. Please note that the method used to capture the insect must be detailed, along with the method used to estimate the population size. Do not deliberately harm any insects in your work.

 

He of course, knew all of this already, and had a plan for the type of insect he wanted to capture. Scully turned to face Mulder a little awkwardly. “What were you going to say to me? Earlier, I mean?” she asked, still looking down. “Oh, well, I just wanted to know if you were okay after Thursday.” There was a pause. “I’m fine.”  Silence again.

“Are you sure?”

“Well I’m used to her, so I’ll be fine.” Mulder experienced that horrible crawling sensation of knowing when someone is being hurt and knowing that you can’t stop it. Memories came spilling back into him and he clenched his fists, not wanting to remember. “Did you have any plans for the project?” Mulder snapped out of his panic. “Fireflies. I want to see a firefly.” Dana laughed a little, and then said to him, “There aren’t any fireflies in Montana.”

“Yes, there are. Researchers spotted five sparkles last year.”

“Sparkles?”

“That’s the name for a group of fireflies.”

“Even so. We’ll never find any around here.”

“One of those sparkles was spotted less than five miles from here. We could cycle up there. I know you have a bike.”

“We’d have to go in the night. Fireflies are nocturnal.”

“Would you not sneak out?”

“What? No. I don’t sneak out.”

“Never?”

“Only when I want to.”

“And you’re telling me you don’t want to see a sparkle of fireflies?”

“We could get killed. Or kidnapped. Like you said.”

“We’d get extra credit for finding a rare insect.” Mulder pulled his notebook out of his bag and showed her the one bullet point he’d taken down.

 

Rare = Extra Credit

 

“I don’t want to get kidnapped. You know more of the kidnapping victims were girls under 18 than any other group?”

“You don’t have to tell me that,” Mulder snapped. There was silence.

“Do you know how to use a gun?”

“Yes,” said Mulder, “Do you have one?”

“I have a BB gun.”

“We could take that.” He smiled at her sweetly, hoping to convince her that way. She pulled a sour face at him and said, “I still don’t want to sneak out. What if I get caught?”

“Have you ever snuck out before?”

“Yes. I told you that.”

“Is there an easy way out of your house?”

“There’s a tree by my window. I can climb down it.”

“Ever snuck out at night before?”

“No.”

“You should practice.”

 

This is how Dana Scully ended up sneaking out of her house to see Mulder at 11pm, having stolen her mother’s cigarettes. She wanted to get it right. To sneak out for the actual project, she’d need to sneak out her bb gun, which was kept in the same cabinet her mother kept her cigarettes in. So, to practice the whole maneuver, Dana snook downstairs one night after her parents went to bed, and silently opened the cabinet. She stole two cigarettes from the cabinet, closed it and walked  back upstairs. She slid open the window, and then climbed out onto the tree, shutting the window behind her. She slid down the tree, and ran off, speeding around the corner, where Mulder was waiting for her. He was wearing shorts, running shoes and a sweatshirt with the words “I want to believe,” messily written across it.

 

“That sweater is ridiculous Mulder,” Dana said, handing him one of the two cigarettes. The pair sat down on the pavement, resting their feet on the road. “I mean why would a company even put words on a sweater. And what does it even mean?”

“A company didn’t put them there. I did.”

“Why?”

“I wanted people to know how I was feeling. But I didn’t know how to say it.”

“What does it mean.”

“I want to believe.”

“Do you?”

“Do I what?”

“Believe.”

“Yes. But no one else wants me to.” Dana decided not to push it any further. She’d only known this boy for a couple weeks and he already had her sneaking out to smoke. He pulled a lighter out of his pocket and lit the cigarette. He offered the light to Dana, and she took it. As she realised what she was doing, her heart sped up and her knees turned to jelly. She was terrified. But as she put the cigarette him her lips, she realised she felt excited too. It was the most rebellious thing she’d ever done and the feeling of being bad was almost as intoxicating as getting lost in a fictional universe. She looked over at Mulder, who was already smoking as if he had done it before.

 

“Have you done this before?”

“A couple times. The people I hung out with in Rhode Island were pretty heavy smokers, so I got involved with what they were doing. I never really liked it.”

“Then why are you doing it now?”

“I’m teaching you to break the rules. To have a bit of fun.”

“For the science project?”

“Yep. I just want to get an A.” There was silence between the two. In an attempt to seem cool, Dana tried to breathe in the smoke, but she immediately began coughing and choking on the disgusting taste. “Ewwwww!” she squealed, throwing the cigarette onto the road and stamping on it. “That is gross! Why would anyone ever do that?” Mulder laughed at her reaction, smiling broadly. She hadn’t ever seen him smile before. “That’s almost the funniest reaction I ever saw to a cigarette,” he remarked.

“What was the funniest?”

“A girl I knew was out with me and some people. She always stayed away from smoking. But one night she was so drunk…” he started laughing again at the memory, “She got up on this bench were all sat on, and screamed I, Miriam Cole, have eaten a cigarette and it tasted like pussy!” The two laughed at the reaction. “That was the first and last time I ever saw her smoke.”

“Rhode Island sounds a lot more fun than here.”

“You wouldn’t like it.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because. You like it here.”

“And how would you presume to know that?”

“You go out. You sit by the river and go to the lake and sit in the grass.”

“And? I hate it here.”

“No. You hate the people here. You love it here.” Dana stood up, and pulled her jacket around herself, and said, “You don’t have to be pedantic.” Mulder shrugged. “I’m going to go home now, okay?” she responded, hoping that the shrug implied nonchalance to what she’d just said. “Okay. I’ll see you next Wednesday, right? Same time?” he asked. She just nodded and smiled softly at Mulder, before walking back off to her house.

 

She easily climbed up her tree and slipped in through her window. She looked out of the window behind her, and noticed Mulder stood at the bottom the tree. “I was just checking that you didn’t fall. No one would have found your body until morning, you know.” Scully genuinely smiled, her features melting in a way they rarely did. “Goodnight Mulder,” she said, closing the window and then waving to him. He waved back, turned around, tucked his hands into his pockets and walked away. Scully closed her curtains over. Had she kept them open for a moment longer, she would have seen a certain Fox Mulder turning around, hoping to get a glimpse of her face one more time.

 

Dana got into her pyjamas, still buzzing with excitement. She curled up under her covers, and as she fell asleep, she found that she was looking forward to next Wednesday.