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Intrigues in the Dark

Chapter Text

 

 

 

It stings

In the shower

And the sad part is

You know exactly what

I’m talking about

-M.R.

 

 

Thursday, February 11th 1999, 10:15 PM

Crescent Beach Trails

Cannon Beach, Oregon

 

                The smoke was rising and mingling with the fog layer as the flames mimicked the rhythm of swaying bodies in a circular pattern in the sand. Bare feet, gooseflesh covered arms and legs, salt kissed hair, and the twinge of alcohol in the air as laughter mixed with a hum of hedonism. None of them were more than nineteen. None of them old enough to buy that cheap beer they were drinking like it was going out of style. None of them were concerned with the possibility of being caught or told to break up the party as the flames licked higher and reached for the sky as the illumination of shadows against the cliffs became that much brighter. The air went electric with the sounds of drunken teenagers as they tossed another warped log onto their enormous bonfire. Irresponsibility be damned; none gave a shit as the stereo was turned up to cover the blasting of the nearby Lighthouse horn as it warned a passing ship.

                Wouldn’t want to come too close to the cliffs and be another casualty to the crags and curves of the coastline. She’d be just one of many that had thrown herself against the jagged edges and ripped herself apart in the process.

                “Yo, this cooler is almost empty!” One of the guys shouted as he held up the last beer, the remnants of melted ice dripping from the can as he staggered his footing. “Do we have any more to replenish the supply?”

                A blond with her hair in a messy bun, an oversized hoodie, and athletic shorts raised a glass bottle into the air, spraying the contents of her beer in the process as she captured his attention. “Mack, we got a box over here!”

                “Bring it over, Susie,” Mack snapped his fingers as he continued to sway to the music, letting the alcohol flow through his bloodstream a little more as he tipped his beer back, swallowing enough to initiate a hiccup.

                Susie wasn’t any more capable of walking a straight line, but she did her best to carry the case of beer around the bonfire to the open cooler, doing her level best to not break every bottle as she refilled it. “I shouldn’t have started the pre-party antics quite so early. I’m not even going to be able to crawl home after all of this.”

                “Who says we’re goin’ anywhere, doll?” Mack tapped his beer can against the bottle in her hand as she stood up, giving a proper cheer as he kept it in the air. “Fuck every single one of the adults! We’re staying out all night and sleeping in the sand. Tonight is our night, and we don’t have to be anywhere or answer to anyone for the next twenty-four hours.”

                The amassing group cheered in agreement as the sand became increasingly displaced with the movement of feet and chairs as their numbers seemed to grow. Stragglers began to accumulate from the edge of the shoreline as the trail lit up with the flickering lights of flashlights and swinging lanterns from several latecomers carrying towels, blankets, chairs, and more accouterments. They looked like fireflies in formation weaving down the pathway as they neared the bonfire. Debauchery was on their minds as they weaved their way down the narrow, well-worn trails with the dwindling lights of the nearby town in the distance acting as nothing more than a silent reminder that they were under a semblance of a watchful eye. Not one of them seemed to notice or care as the tide was at its highest, the salty foam of the rolling waves moving close enough to nip at toes as they meandered too close.

                It was their taste of danger as the chill surged and met the heat of flames while the stereo blared.

                Mack wandered toward the gap between the sunken sands and the line in the water as he watched his sister’s feet disappear into the waves while she squished her toes into the bubbling remnants. “Fel—you’re a stick in the literal mud. Why aren’t you drinking and partying with the rest of us?”

                “I am drinking, dumbass,” Felecia, Mack’s twin sister, jiggled her beer bottle at him and kept her other arm tucked in the front pocket of her hoodie while the white caps crashed in the distance and sent the salt spray into the air. “Your definition of partying and mine are very different…just because we’ve been given a free pass to have fun doesn’t mean that I want to wake up in the morning and not know what I did the night before.”

                “I’m just living it up and letting it fly, sister,” Mack put his arm around her and sprayed his beer as he talked, the sloppiness setting in with every swallow. “Taking advantage of every last moment of freedom we get.”

                “You’re just guaranteeing that I pay a penance for the spots you decide to let it fly, brother,” Felecia tilted the bottle, shaking her head as the sand hummed with the movement of ordinarily well-behaved teenagers as control became absent. “Go have fun racking up my future sentence.”

                “You’re such a drama queen, sister,” Mack swatted her across her shoulder blades and caught a sideways glance as he danced his way toward a little circle of girls as they drank. “Live a little and let it go.”

                Live a little.

                Felecia rolled her eyes at the concept as she felt the warmth of the bonfire at her back while the salty, foggy air kissed her face. This was her definition of living a little as the sand weaved between her toes and the tide came up to her Achilles, fully enveloping her feet before slipping back to the sea. Sure, the sound of laughter and poorly executed crooning was great but there was nothing better than the perfection of a wave rolling and crashing, over and over. It was paradise and she was living so close to it every moment of her life. Tonight, though, would have to be about the drunken rager behind her as she spun around and watched her twin as he rubbed up against three different girls before settling to dirty dance against Iris. The sloppy, drink laced giggle carried across the smoke and fog as Felecia rolled her eyes and took a step closer toward the flames as a couple of boys tossed another log into the center.

                Felecia shook her head as she noticed that Iris just might’ve been drunker than Mack as she stumbled, nearly taking him down in the process.

                “I love this song!” Iris’s hair was up in a ponytail and swayed in the breeze as she moved her hips to the beat while she tugged Mack’s hands around her waist. “Crank it up!”

                The new synth-pop, new wave beat was striking against the backdrop of firelight, the clinking together of glass, and the reverberating roar of the ocean as she sang right along with the music. The rhythm was alive and thriving as the group mellowed, paired up, and flickered like the blaze that centralized them. It was hypnotic and even had Felecia feeling the vibe as the fluid sound of the keyboard blended with the strumming of the guitar while Rod Stewart’s unique vocals reverberated against the cliffs. It touched every note, every sweet melody, that sung to their hopes, desires, and dreams as every teenager on that beach contemplated running away. The song spoke of happiness, seeking out unfulfilled dreams, and freedom.

                We got just one shot of life, let’s take it while we’re still not afraid.

                Because life is so brief and time is a thief when you’re undecided.

                And like a fistful of sand, it can slip right through your hands.

                They’d listened to this song a thousand times before, but it never held profound meaning until the alcohol flowed and the flames licked skyward while they tasted a moment of liberation. It was no longer an air of celebration as the catharsis began to set in and Felecia finally allowed the electricity to seep into her veins as she reached for the clouds. The lyrics were so much more than an anthem. She sang along and danced with her friends as her feet kicked up a sweeping line of sand as she skipped around the blaze. It was liberating as she grazed fingertips with the drunk, touch-hungry teenagers that she made eye-contact with.

                “I love you all so much!” Felecia raised her beer, shouting over the top of the music, briefly capturing the attention of the group as they made the same motion. “Tonight, my sisters and brothers, we drink to our freedom!”

                Her toast earned a resounding cheer before the dancing resumed in a collective swaying and rubbing together, a scene that would’ve turned every parental unit’s hair gray.

                Young hearts gotta run free, be free live free

                Time is on, time is on your side

                Time, time, time, time is on your side

                The timing had been right and their patience had paid off as tension finally eased—leaving the previously weary group nothing but each other to enjoy an extended duration of depravity. Most of the teenagers had not been paying attention to their surroundings beyond scoping for parents along the furthest edges of the beach as a few stray stones took a tumble down the side of the cliffs. Rounded stones and pebbles tumbled down, past her field of vision, but didn’t quite register as anything out of the ordinary. The change in the atmosphere slapped Felecia with the bitterest sting of reality as she tilted her chin up as a streak of billowy satin white and long, silken strands came tumbling toward the sand. She hesitated as her eyes glanced up at the top of the cliffs, at the gap in the grass, and heard an icy wailing that lasted no more than a moment as it carried in the wind.

                The air went out of her lungs as the thud shook the sand beneath her feet and pulsed above the music.

                “Did anyone see that?” Felecia had already sobered up as she approached the direction of the boom, not taking her eyes off the disturbance in the sand.

                “See what?” Mack turned, frustrated and confused over the interruption in his partying as he watched his sister walking toward the dark. “Felecia, come on, stay by the fire! You’re going to get me in trouble!”

                “Something fell over here, Mack,” Felecia had tunnel vision as her heart thudded in her throat, the shades of darkness gathering along the beach as the satin white stood out amongst the rocks and slopes of sand. “I’m just going to check it out, brother, it’ll be fine.”

                “Goddammit, you’re not going over there by yourself,” Mack hated being the twin of someone so determined but he wasn’t going to let her go exploring falling objects alone as he bounded through the sand in her direction.

                Felecia wanted it to be her imagination running wild or a trick of the wind as it played with her fear but the soft, shiny material lined with a delicate, lacy edge barely concealed the figure beneath. Felecia’s eyes fell on the splayed out fingers before tracking up to the profile of a slender, elegant face beneath a head full of wavy, raven hair. Felecia swallowed the shriek as the streak of blood from her ear passed down the porcelain cheek, etching a trail like a tear past the streaky, red lipstick. The woman didn’t move but her eyes told the story as they stared straight ahead, void of feeling but showing the signs of the soul that had resided there as the color began to fade from her flesh. Felecia felt the emotions surge as the contorted parts of her body started to take shape, telling the story of the jump that led her to this point.

                It wouldn’t have taken much of an imagination to stretch for something horrific to formulate as the face took shape; the familiar eyes a shell.

                “Oh my God,” Felecia had her hand over her mouth as the face finally registered and the reality kicked her in the gut. “Mack, we know her.”

                “Holy fuck!” Mack turned away, shouting toward the group while the pumping of his heart sobered him up just a little. “Someone’s gotta go back up the trails for help!”

                The group of teenagers weren’t much of a help as the screaming set off the line of dominoes as they began to run, leaving their gear behind while the fire raged on. Felecia took her eyes off the white satin as Iris nearly knocked her onto the body to flee. Absent fear, an emotional impulse clicked into place as she perched in the sand, tucking a single strand of hair behind the woman’s ear. It was the least she could do as chaos unfolded and melancholy claimed the shore. Mack skidded past his crouching sister, leaving her caught in the vacant stare of eye-liner stained brown eyes as a single tear streaked down the curve of her nose and blended into the trail of vermillion at the swell of her lip.

                Young hearts be free tonight

                Tonight, tonight, tonight, tonight, yeah

 

 

 

 

If you reveal your secrets to the wind,

You should not blame the wind

For revealing them to the trees.

-Khalil Gilbran

 

Friday, February 12th, 1999, 6:45 AM

X Files Office – Basement Level

FBI HQ – Washington DC

 

                “Mom, I don’t know what I have planned for Valentine’s Day or if I even want to do anything for it, but I have to let you go, okay?” Scully rattled the keys in the door while she balanced the phone between her cheek and her shoulder, wincing as the lock refused to give. “I’m already at the office, and I have things to do…I’ll call you later…Love you, too…Bye.”

                Scully hung up, nearly dropped the phone, and gave the door a bit of a kick while jiggling the keys loose, swinging the door on its hinge. The scent of familiar dust and trapped air wafted along her nostrils, bringing with it the potent, overwhelming odor of jasmine, cedarwood, blackberry, and violet. Scully squinted as she placed it and sighed audibly as the presence of Diana surrounded her like an unrelenting ghost, although she hadn’t died. She was still ever-present and lurking around, weaving in and out of every space that Scully would’ve rather she’d stay far away from.  Scully heaved a heavy sigh and tossed her things into the adjacent chair while she stared at the poster for a long moment.

                “Just get through the day and stop focusing on this bullshit,” Scully mumbled and waved her hands around, knocking a thick stack of files across the top of the empty desk. “Are you kidding me?”

                They hadn’t been touched. Not one signature had been placed and the thin layer of dust on the edges indicated more than enough for Scully that Jeffrey Spender and Diana Fowley had done little to nothing with any of them. Scully tucked a single tendril of her hair behind her ear as she glanced at the first two and noted the preliminary recipient dates of both; they were over eight weeks old. Scully scoffed and gathered them, the frustration swelling as she took the time to put more care into potential casework than prior occupants had even thought to attempt. It was enough to make her sick to her stomach as she turned to push each file into the cabinet with a label marked unread.

                “Oh, you are here,” Mulder’s voice was an unwelcome presence as he walked into the office carrying two coffees just in time for a resounding slam of the drawer. “Jesus.”

                Scully turned and stared him down, burning a hole through him as she straightened out the front of her shirt and pushed her hair out of her face. “I’ve had a lot on my mind, woke up over an hour before my alarm, and just decided to come in early. Is that a problem?”

                “I just wanted to make sure I hadn’t missed an important meeting,” Mulder extended the coffee in his left hand, offering it to her after taking a sip of his own, a chilly tone hovering between them. “One sugar, light on the cream…”

                “Thanks,” Scully watched as he sank into the chair and made a face, adjusting it after it dropped down almost all of the way to the floor. “Is this really how it’s going to go?”

                “What do you want me to say?” Mulder looked up at her as she cradled the coffee, her eyes distant as she stared at the poster behind him. “We’re back on the X-Files and everything is right with the world again.”

                “That’s easy for you to say,” Scully had a defensive posture as she took her first sip of the coffee, shocked that she’d let those words spring free as Mulder did a double-take to look at her. “I don’t want you to say anything that you don’t want to say. There’s been enough placation, hasn’t there?”

                “It sounds like you want to be direct but have not turned the corner enough to do so,” Mulder took a figurative swing at her as he shoved a drawer shut and fluttered a cloud of dust into the air, renewing the scent of Diana’s perfume right along with it. “Enjoy the coffee, Scully.”

                Scully would’ve liked to have said he was being childish but it was something else entirely as his emotions went cold and the empathy went dry. He was unapologetic and stood at the edge of unfeeling as he narrowed his eyes at her before looking back down at a stack of papers in front of him. He didn’t want to know what was burrowing underneath her skin enough to make her so irritable, but he wouldn’t even have to wager a guess as he saw her glance at a box with Diana’s name on it sitting in a chair next to the door. It wasn’t enough that they were back in their office; Scully was preoccupied with so much more, and he couldn’t fix it.

                Not that she was in any mood to let him.

                “Am I…interrupting?” Diana’s sixth sense for bad timing was becoming second nature and it instilled a sensation of pure, unrelenting anger in Scully as she made eye contact with her as she stood in the doorway.

                “Not at all,” Mulder could see the pensive stare from Scully in his periphery as he straightened out his spine and captured Diana’s attention. “We’re just getting in for the day.”

                “Glad to see you back on your feet and in this office again,” Diana wasn’t the greatest at small talk but her focus was entirely on Mulder as Scully leaned against the file cabinets, her coffee in her hand. “There are a couple of files that I transferred over to Assistant Director Skinner that might fall into the category of an X File. I’m sure he’ll be bringing those by later.”

                The unmistakable odor of cigarettes and black coffee permeated off of Diana as Scully shook her head in disbelief. “Did you come down here for something or were you just on your way to make small talk?”

                “Not everything has to be a business visit, Scully,” Mulder furrowed his brow, shoving Scully’s face in the figurative pile of mud as he lit the fuse for her to begin building the wall between them, brick-by-brick. “It’s completely fine for Diana to come by and say hello.”

                “We do have work to do, Mulder,” Scully was pointed with him as she pursed her lips together and burned a hole through him with a stare. “I’d like to get back to that.”

                “A few minutes isn’t going to put a damper on the day’s progress,” Mulder didn’t hesitate with his retort as the tension rose.

                Scully swallowed her pride and her dignity right along with it as a smug grin inched its way across Diana’s lips. She didn’t want to hear their small talk and she didn’t have the patience to be their third wheel all over again as she let the hot coffee burn the back of her throat, jolting a nerve that nearly elicited a rush of tears. She wasn’t granting them satisfaction. Not here, not now, and not when that fucking woman’s expression was taking shape into amusement over the fire she had just set. It wasn’t hate that Scully was feeling, though, as she averted her eyes at the floor. It was unrestrained jealousy and a growing seed of inequality that had her doubting every decision she’d ever made.

                It had her doubting the partner that was doing his best to give her the cold shoulder from just feet away.

                “I just came to get this box of my personal effects and wish you both good luck,” Diana was saccharin in her approach but the thought behind the words was sincere as she picked up the box, doing her best to avoid bodily contact with either of them as she aimed the oversized container in front of her. “I’ve got a new assignment and a plane to catch.”

                “Already?” Mulder stood and followed her toward the door, a half-smile perched on his lips as Diana glanced in Scully’s direction. “Where have they got you running off to, this time?”

                “That’s classified, Fox,” Diana inspired a cringe from Scully as she over-pronounced his first name and reached for Mulder’s arm to give it a final squeeze. “You know how it goes. Expertise is interchangeable and dispensable at a moment’s notice. Must set myself apart from everyone else somehow. Maybe I’ll see you around sometime.”

                There was more than enough sexually charged energy wafting from Diana’s goodbye and Mulder’s affirmative au revoir that Scully felt like an intruder, even after her presence had left the room. She looked up from her fingers folded around the cup between her palms and caught the glacial stare from his hazel eyes as he signed a document in front of him. The silence carried, swept through the room, and heightened the mental strain between them. He was going to punish her for that comment and his expression hinted at him holding a grudge to boot. For the first time, they refused to take notice of each other’s insecurities and weaknesses, hardening their hearts once more.

                It was safer that way.

                The hurried, evenly paced steps coming down the hall kept them from focusing on each other. They recognized the tapping as belonging to Skinner’s distinctive gait before his pensive expression was visible in the doorway. It was a welcomed interruption for the tightly wound dynamic within the office. Scully sank into the adjacent chair, mildly relieved at the concept of a distraction that didn’t have long legs, dark hair, and feminine curves. Her eyes darted toward Mulder, scrutinizing his features, even as Skinner walked through the open door with a file between his fingers.

                “It’s like a wake in here,” Skinner couldn’t help himself as the wall of anxious energy smacked him in the face as he stood at the side of the desk. “You got what you wanted and it’s looking more like you’re still stuck upstairs in the bullpen.”

                “Only three sips into the coffee, Skinner,” Mulder was only partially lying as he held up the cup and bent it to his lips, avoiding making eye contact with Scully. “Try not to go right for my throat before I can even finish my first cup.”

                It was radio silence from Scully on the subject as she shrugged her shoulders and crossed her legs before straightening her back against the chair. There was nothing more elusive and anger-inducing than one of Scully’s stone expressions. It had Mulder questioning himself on more days than he’d ever want to admit, but he couldn’t let his safeguards crumble at his feet.

                “Don’t get cozy,” Skinner held out the file and dropped it in front of Mulder, kicking up a cloud of dust in the process as his perked expression looked out of place between them. “The Portland Bureau had an interesting request for assistance on a case from one of their smaller, coastal towns involving the suspicious deaths of three women.”

                Mulder opened the file and skimmed the page, his furrowed brow intensifying with every word he read. “These are being ruled suicides? How would they need the assistance of the X Files?”

                “Ruled a suicide, yes, but the red flag would be multiple suicides within a short period that all share more than three similarities,” Skinner pointed toward the paperwork and adjusted his stance as he lifted the first page. “The same location, clothing was nearly identical, and they were all dolled up similarly…complete with red lipstick.”

                “Sounds like ritualistic suicides or homicides meant to look like jumpers?” Scully reached across the desk and pulled the small scale photographs from the inside of the manilla, thumbing over each angle of the crime scenes. “I’m assuming no one is doing much talking?”

                “The agents in charge are Hayes and Whittaker. They’ve had little success prying information out of the people in town, down to the witnesses that saw the third woman fall,” Skinner crossed his arms and watched the disjointed partnership in front of him become increasingly severed as they ignored one another.

                “So, we’re on the next available flight to Portland, huh?” Mulder looked up at Skinner and pushed the file toward Scully after perusing through the contents of the second page, barely absorbing enough information to get the general gist of things.

                “Pack a rain slicker and your umbrella,” Skinner knew that Mulder was already visualizing the case as an adventure in the pedestrian. Still, a glimmer of interest was at least hidden on Scully’s face as he moved toward the door. “Try not to set fire to an entire town on your first case back.”