"I owe you an apology. For not trusting you when you came to me a year ago." Jesus, shouldn't it take a few more drinks to loosen my tongue this much? I take another swallow and re-evaluate. Ah, hell. It needed to be said.
"I suppose I don't really blame you," she admits, twirling her glass with one finger as a half-smile dances enigmatically around her mouth. "I did lie to you."
"About whatsisface." Whatsisface? Shit, John, either you're getting old or you're drunker than you thought. "He was trying to expose whatever this thing is they did to you."
"So tell me the truth now. Why'd you really kill him?"
Her eyes meet mine evenly and--God help me--I'm reminded so much of Dana...Agent Scully. I always loved her eyes, fearless or terrified. I used to daydream about giving her a baby with those eyes--blue's recessive, or so I've been told, so any kid of ours couldn't have had any color but blue. But Willie had his father's eyes, once they outgrew the baby blue. I should've known that day, the day I first saw how they'd changed, that I'd been deluding myself to think she wouldn't join Mulder at the first opportunity.
I should be amazed she stayed as long as she did, but I guess she felt some sort of obligation. To the X-Files that had been her life and his for seven years, to me and Monica who were still so far in over our heads...
It hits me that Shannon answered my question and I didn't even hear it. I grimace by way of apology and push my drink across the bar for a refill. It's gonna take more than I've had to wash away the memory of those eyes.
"You tell me, John," she says softly, either repeating or finishing whatever she just told me. "What would happen if what I am, what that baby is, became public knowledge."
I feel a cold chill settle in my stomach. Shit, I don't even want to think about it. "Every two-bit crime family and would-be terrorist in the world would be after him."
Again, she nods. "Some things are meant to remain hidden, John. You know that."
I don't know whether to be relieved or infuriated. Much as I want to trust her--God, how could I not want to with what she did for me after Lebanon?--I don't know if she's telling the truth or just playing a chord she knows I'll dance to.
"You did it to protect him." I'm still half-skeptical and I'm sure she knows it, but I'd do almost anything to protect that kid and his mother if it were still in my power. Played or not, I'll be damned if I don't dance that jig.
"And others like him. We are the future, John. And we may be the only thing that will save it."
"Fuck, Shan, don't you go throwin' a bunch of shit at me about aliens and some impending invasion," I almost plead. "I got enough of that from Mulder 'n Dana, and Monica's been startin' to buy into it too."
My dad always said never cuss in front of a lady. But while Shannon McMahon sure as hell is a woman, she's never made any pretense at being a lady. A fact for which a certain young Sergeant on the cusp of a medical discharge was infinitely grateful once upon a time.
"You know, it's hard to fight a war if you don't even admit there's an enemy," she chides me with a sly smile.
"I'll believe it when I see it," I retort. "But so far, I'll admit I've seen some pretty strange shit, but not that goddamned strange."
"Strange shit like a shaman who cures by consuming and regurgitating his patients? I would think once you'd digested that possibility you'd have been a little more open."
My hand tightens on my glass as that cold runs through me all over again, and not because of the lousy pun. Squamish. A man who was barely human to his neighbors and a brush with death that was a little more like tipping the whole paint can over onto a canvas. "How the hell did you know about that?"
Her eyes never waver, though they spark with an angry fire that suggests that sheriff never knew how close he came to taking a permanent swim. "I was there."
It hits me, then. An epiphany, I guess. Suddenly I know why she was in Dana's apartment tonight.
"You've always been there, haven't you?"
That sad smile is all the answer I need. She's been watching over me since the day I joined the X-Files. Maybe longer. Maybe the guardian angel who kept me alive all those years ago never really left me. Maybe she just had to go into hiding because she knew the man I was then could never accept what she'd become.
"Why'd you come back when you did? Because I was lookin' for you?"
"Because you needed me."
Yeah, I'd needed her. I needed her to save my ass, twice. Even if she did almost scare the life outta me first the first time. I needed her to give me something on a case that was eating me alive, something to prove or disprove or just to knock me out of that goddamned single-minded stupor I'd stumbled into. I needed her to make me realize just how blindly I was blundering forward, trying to save the world with one hand tied behind my back. And I needed her to look me in the eyes and tell me I didn't trust her in a voice that made me wish I'd never lost track of her. Cause maybe if I hadn't, neither one of us would've ended up here.
If the fact that I'm only half drunk but already feeling something other than this fruitless pining for a woman I always knew I could never have is any indication, I still need Shannon McMahon. My own Goddamned guardian Hell's Angel.
"Amen to that," I toast wryly, pushing my glass across the bar to tap hers.
She looks at me again, wary now, and I smile to let her know I'm getting on towards okay. I still miss Dana like I'd miss a piece of my soul--speaking as a man who's lost enough pieces to know--but I'm also feeling something I didn't expect to find again for a very long time: hope.
Maybe, just maybe--I tell myself, watching Shannon--maybe the place where you loved her isn't so far away after all.
Maybe you've always been there.