NIGHT RIDE ACROSS THE CAUCASUS
'It's the blaze across my nightgown. It's the phone's ring...' -Hirsch
Two gunshots punctured the morning silence, but she only heard the first. It was the one that slammed a bullet against her spine, throwing her a full seven feet forward. The second bite of lead caught her at an angle and spun her around before she hit the asphalt. It was initially the less damaging of the two, even though it made its target and cracked her skull at the temporal lobe of her brain.
The pavement was slow to meet her, but she eventually hit, splitting a kneecap wide open and spraining her left ankle. Not that it made a difference at that point; Dana Scully would never use her legs again.
She'd escaped death so often in the past decade, her body had been so battered and beaten, that her legs didn't concern her. They didn't even matter.
All that mattered right now was A. D. Follmer shouting for her. It wasn't good news for Doggett that they'd stopped calling his name. Not good news for her, either, as they were still searching the building, unaware that she'd chased Lukesh to an alley, and that this is where he'd tagged her.
She'd answer Follmer's screams with one of her own if her voice was working, but it wasn't. Of course, that was probably the least of her problems. She was sure she wasn't helpless, though, and to prove it, Scully evaluated herself, beginning with her right toes. She focused on sensation and motor ability, and ticked off the parts of her body in a clockwise pattern.
It was a quick assessment.
She had full use of her torso, except her right side, which jerked and quivered spasmodically. She dragged her hand - the one that wasn't convulsing - along the asphalt and touched her head. Her face was icy cold and numb, her hair soaked with blood. She intended to search for the wound, but she was growing very tired.
"Scully!" Follmer yelled. This would look bad for him, and she was sure he realized it as well as she did. She'd bleed out soon if he didn't find her. Not as soon as Doggett, but soon enough. If that happened, Follmer would be retired like a lame horse. She was, after all, an FBI legend.
Or so Monica teased her.
Scenes of a different future ricocheted in Scully's mind. It could very easily have been Monica Reyes lying here. Would have, in fact, if Monica hadn't come down with a nasty case of bronchitis.
"Stake out of a tongue collector by the name of Lukesh," Follmer had explained to Scully. "Has to be today. I'll do it without her; there are other agents."
She knew Monica had been working with Doggett, trying to pin the murderer down. Lukesh was slippery, the opportunity was ripe, and Scully didn't want to risk him being out there another day. She didn't want to risk Monica being out there another day, either. She'd spooked Scully with one of her visions - Reyes' throat slashed, Doggett shot while they were on a case - just the evening before.
Of course, the only reason she was disturbed by the vision was because Monica was due another accurate one. They'd wrestled with her nightmares, vivid but misleading, for the past few months. This time, the vision came while Monica was taking a shower. And though she'd been self-medicating for the oncoming bronchitis, Scully didn't think this was a hallucination.
So, Scully didn't ask Follmer to put her on the case - she demanded it. And whether Follmer acquiesced because she intimidated him or because he needed another agent, he gave her the job.
She was glad Reyes was sick, had told her so before she headed to work.
And Reyes, in turn, had let Scully know that she wasn't worried by the previous day's vision. Why should she be? It didn't involve Scully. Besides, she said, "Nothing bad's going to happen to John unless he's with me."
Monica was even playful. "My hero." She grinned lopsided, dopey from Nyquil. "Rushing in where angels fear to tread."
Scully had felt a bit like Marlene Dietrich then, larger than life and suddenly so small, like a black and white image on a tv set. She was both vainglorious and humble in this love affair. "Where angels are too sick to tread," she murmured, kissing Monica's brow.
What else had she said to her this morning? She concentrated, hoping it was something more memorable. Hoping she'd told Monica that she loved her. Hoping it was a good enough goodbye.
It needed to be.
Somnolence was pulling her down like an undercurrent, its force greater than the weight of the world. When her eyes drifted shut, she tried to remain conscious, but an ocean of waves spilled over her. It was a billowing numbness. She was softly floating, being carried out to sea, far, far from this place. She was dying, she knew.
Dying was always water.
Carole King sang in her stereo. She adjusted the volume and stood back, admiring the effect of her strategically-placed tiny speakers.
New day, new home, the job of her dreams. Monica Reyes' life was suddenly turning better.
Much better. "Scully?"
The door was already ajar, and a pale hand pushed it open. It was followed by her friend and sometime partner. "Hi." Her large blue eyes swept over the room. "How's it going?"
"It's great, great." Did she ever dress down? Beneath her wool coat, Scully was wearing a chambray blouse and a black skirt. "I wasn't even sure you knew I moved. How'd you find me?"
"Your partner told me yesterday. Bass Lofts, number 6." She flashed a droll look. "Not difficult to find." She pressed a sack into her hands. "He also said you like bagels with cream cheese."
"Bagels. Oh, God, that sounds wonderful. I'm starved." She took the breakfast present, noticing another. "If there's coffee in that bag, it could be love."
Scully looked at her strangely and cleared her throat. "Black coffee as a matter of fact. Doggett said if I wanted you coherent, it'd be a good idea."
She grinned. "Coherence and Saturday mornings don't mix in my world. Come on in." She closed the door and led her to the kitchen area.
"It's huge." Scully shrugged off her coat and draped it on a bar stool. "And a little strange."
She knew Scully wasn't referring to her place in particular, but to the building itself. It had been built as a high school in 1923, converted to lofts only recently. Original to the building were hardwood floors, enormous windows, transoms and classroom doors. There were even lockers lining the wide hallways. "Biggest place I've ever lived, and definitely the best. It's still a wreck; it'll take a while to get everything organized." Her hands were trembling as she unpacked the bagels and containers of cream cheese. Scully did that to her sometimes - made her nervous, self-conscious and very, very alert. She was quite certain she could feel the world turning.
"Here. This is yours." Scully pushed one of the cups to her.
"Thanks. Thanks for all of this. Breakfast, visiting me." She blew on the coffee. "It's nice to feel welcomed."
Scully nodded. "It's nice to have an ally in the neighborhood." Her eyes seemed to absorb everything, from Monica's faded jeans to the manic disarray of the place. "Are you going to show me around, or shall I help myself?"
'Pushy,' Monica thought, but then Scully smiled brilliantly and murmured something about being intrigued by what she saw, and she decided that 'pushy' was probably too severe a word. 'Aggressive' was a better word. The kind of aggressive woman that would get up at six a.m. on a Saturday morning, feed and dress her baby, shower and dress herself (pull on her uncomfortable hose and her even more uncomfortable shoes, find the perfect tight skirt from a closet full of black clothing, button the soft blue blouse all the way to the neck, and then unbutton until the look was right), carefully apply makeup, dab light fragrance at her pulse points and trudge outside in thirty seven degree weather, leaving the child somewhere with someone, picking up coffee and bagels along the way, and not just coffee and bagels, but Starbucks coffee and Kleigman's bagels (cinnamon and raisin, her favorite), all to welcome Monica and congratulate her on the purchase of her home.
Then again, Scully was probably just dropping in on her way elsewhere.
"You're staring at me."
"Oh. Oh! I'm sorry. I was just admiring your ability to look so wonderful this early in the morning." It was the truth.
Scully quirked an eyebrow at her, but said nothing.
They left the kitchen. "I finally have a place for my books and my desk." She stopped in an area she intended to make her study. "It's with a friend - it's this enormous, heavy antique; I haven't had room for it until now." She wished she had more of her little treasures unpacked for Scully to see. If she was going to put down her roots here, in this soulless town, she needed a haven. It would feel more like home when she could share her heart and soul - her tiny stone sculptures, Navajo rug, iron candlesticks, pottery, books, photos, the wool tapestry a blind boy had woven for her - with her friends.
"Nice," Scully murmured. She ran her hand along the brick wall, but was staring at a huge painting leaning against it. "That's something."
"My best friend - Stephanie - did it for me. The one that has my desk - she has about half of my life in her house - this was something I couldn't leave behind. In New Orleans." She was babbling idiotically.
Scully eyeballed her. "Some friend."
"My best friend," she repeated.
"Interesting." She pointed a manicured nail toward the top of the canvas, to the women's faces barely visible in the night sky. One looked at the other, who looked down on a mountain. "Who are they?"
"'The Peasant and the Princess Witch.' It's a folk tale about power and greed. Do you know it?"
She shook her head, giving Monica an unfathomable look. "I'm not a person who knows stories. That was Mulder's department." She wrapped both hands around her coffee cup. "I'd love to hear it, though."
It was the only invitation she needed. "The peasant's name was Irina." She touched the lighter of the two women in the sky, the one looking on the mountain. "She was the most beautiful woman in her village, and the most loved. Men came from all over to court her - she was that beautiful. Even the prince of the village loved her. But she didn't return his affection, nor that of any of the men who courted her. All she wanted was to live her quiet life, care for her younger brothers and sing for the princess, Svetlana, who was a respected sorceress." She pointed to the darker image on the canvas.
Scully's attention turned from the painting to her.
"She'd always wanted to perform for the princess, but Svetlana wouldn't allow the peasant in her presence because she was afraid Irina's beauty would eclipse her own.
"Then one day she heard Irina singing, and she was enchanted by her voice. She was so captivated by it that she thought Irina must have magical powers like her own, and that she must have cast a spell on her. So she had her sing for her every day, in part for pleasure, and in part to discover whether or not Irina was a sister witch.
"But it didn't take long for the princess to become jealous of her. Every day that Irina came and sang for her, Svetlana watched her walk the road to the castle. The women of the village always smiled at Irina and called her name. The men simply stopped and stared as she walked by. And children were always in her presence, flitting around her like butterflies. Svetlana became more and more jealous and obsessed.
"In time, Svetlana's brother announced that he planned to marry Irina. The witch locked herself in her rooms for days, not allowing anyone to see her, particularly the peasant. Then one morning she opened her doors. Irina sang for her that day, and when she finished singing, Svetlana canted a hex on her."
Scully raised her eyebrows.
"Its effects were immediate. The prince renounced his engagement to Irina and banished her from the castle, men stopped staring at her, and even her young brothers seemed to become disenchanted with her. Not quite a full moon after the hexing, Irina stole one of the royal horses and fled into the night, sad and outcast. Svetlana watched her leave. Irina's hair blazed like fire, her cape billowed out behind her like a ghost; she was heading for the Caucasus Mountains. It was an image that seemed to burn itself into her soul.
"Svetlana thought of the spell she'd cast and how powerful it had been, and how wonderful a sorceress she was, and she congratulated herself. But she wasn't happy. Even though she was, without a doubt, the most beautiful woman in the village now that Irina was gone, Svetlana was haunted by the peasant girl.
"It seemed to her that not only was Irina more beautiful, but she was also the better sorceress. Svetlana was so disturbed that, once again, she locked herself in her rooms and didn't see anyone. She didn't eat and she couldn't sleep. When she closed her eyes, she saw Irina's face. When she tried to sleep, she heard her voice. Irina was all she thought about.
"After some time, Svetlana realized her mistake, but it was too late to recant the spell. Three moons later, she wrapped herself in her warmest clothing and mounted her strongest horse. And she rode to the Caucasus Mountains so fast that the villagers who saw her leave swore she was flying."
Scully's face was rapt.
"No one saw either of them again until a year later, when some villagers were in the mountains. They spotted Irina and Svetlana on a royal horse. They knew it was the peasant and the princess witch because there was no mistaking their beauty. They called to them, but the women galloped away." She looked at Scully. "Although some say it wasn't the women that the villagers saw, but their ghosts. This was during the time that Russia was invading the Caucasus, so it's a popular belief that they were killed or taken prisoner by their own countrymen.
"There are other versions of the story that suggest that Svetlana never found her - that Irina sang to her like a muse and the princess followed the sound of her voice to her death. Others say Svetlana traveled across worlds - across centuries - to find Irina, and is still looking today."
"What do you think?" Scully breathed.
She winked. "I think if Svetlana was any kind of witch, she would've used her magical powers to find Irina and get the hell out of there. What about you, Scully. Are you an optimist or a pessimist?"
"Neither." Scully stared at the painting. "But I'm curious about the hex."
"Svetlana conjured a spell that no man would ever love Irina again."
Scully blinked. "I guess 'man' is the operative word."
There was a sudden ringing in Monica's ears, a rush that made her dizzy. Then her phone rang. She excused herself and went to the kitchen. She tossed her head over her shoulder just before she picked it up, looking at Scully looking at the painting.
"Hi, Brad." Damn. Just like him to interrupt.
"I hate to call you like this. I hate to be the one to tell you-"
"It's Scully. She's been shot."
"What? No, that's impossible, she's right here."
She turned, but Scully wasn't right there. In fact, Monica could have searched the world and wouldn't have found the Scully she knew.
Scully dreamt she was a dolphin. The water held her, buoyed her up to the sunlit surface, and warmed her as she dove down. She sliced through it with her nose, so streamlined that she sped like a bullet. She smiled happily, and turned to look at her mate, who was close behind. Her girlfriend was graceful and quick, even though she was pregnant with their first baby. They were on a journey to spread the good news to the many relatives and friends that lived nearby. Their joy couldn't be contained.
They turned, circling each other in perfect arcs, and the water enveloped them like love. Her heart was full; she didn't remember ever feeling so peaceful. The pockets of water that were warm at first became colder as they descended; and the further they went, the darker it became. But darkness was nothing to fear. They swam on, happily humming, until someone coughed.
No one should ever cough underwater.
She launched herself out of bed, but moved nowhere. She was weighed down, her body as immobile as a fat rock. She reached for the Glock on her nightstand, but it wasn't there. She couldn't have grabbed it anyway; her arms were lead, her legs useless.
She tried looking around, but even her head was stuck in place. Neck brace. The air was dry, the sheets were stiff and machines hummed by her bed. Not her sheets. Not her bed.
"Hey," someone said, and she knew the sound of her lover's voice. Would know it anywhere.
"What happened?" she tried to ask, but her mouth was closed tight like a clamp, and though she concentrated on opening it, it remained shut.
"You're awake." Skinner stood by the bed.
Monica was behind him. Where was William? She knew she was on a respirator - the sound and the sensation were familiar to her - but why?
"Your doctor had you hyperventilated," Skinner explained. "There's also a tube." He pointed at her head. "You were in a coma. They were monitoring your brain pressure."
Coma was bad news, being hyperventilated - to increase blood flow to the brain and reduce swelling - was good news. At least she had an intelligent physician this time; she couldn't always say that.
"You weren't in the coma long, Scully," Monica said. "A couple of hours."
Skinner's voice was quiet. "You'd come out of it for a little bit, then lapse back. Do you remember? You were shot."
Memories flashed like a slide show. Dirty asphalt. Lukesh. Doggett. Doggett was down! He'd bleed out before they reached him!
"Scully?" Skinner asked. He peered into her face, concerned. "Everything's okay. I'll get your doctor; she can explain things to you. We'll talk about the case later. Okay?"
They locked eyes for a moment, and he was gone. She looked to her lover for comfort, but Monica just smiled tightly. She seemed ill at ease. "I'm glad you're awake, Dana," she said. "I'm sorry for what happened." She looked down.
Brain injury. She'd been shot in the head. What if Lukesh had caught her in the spine as well? What if she was paralyzed? The thought struck her with fear.
"I'm so sorry," Monica whispered, and moved close, taking Scully's hand.
The sensation relieved her.
"I hope you're comfortable. William's with your Mom; she'll be back soon." She studied her face. "Don't be afraid. Things are strange right now, but you're safe."
Damn right, things were strange. Things were worse than strange; they were awful.
"I don't understand, Scully. We need your help to figure it out. The witness says John shot you."
She was confused. Doggett didn't shoot her. She stared at Monica hard.
A physician's assistant came in, followed by Skinner. She was removed from the respirator. Where the hell was her doctor? She needed to discuss her condition and treatment plan, but her mouth still wasn't working. She was paralyzed, at least partially. She tried her fingers and toes and found she had some mobility in her hands, but not much. She dipped her eyes down to her body. Her right arm was still plagued with tremors, though not as severe as they'd been immediately after she was shot.
She tapped her left pinky - Morse code. She was rusty at it, but at least she could communicate.
It was Skinner who noticed. She tried to be clear: 'Doggett dead. Lukesh killed him. Shot me.'
Once she said that, and once Skinner interpreted it accurately, the room began swarming with people, and didn't let up, even when her eyes grew heavy. She heard them around her. Her doctor finally came in and spoke of her treatment plan, or the lack thereof. Nurses checked tubes and bags and machines.
Then her mom came and so did Bill. He took William home with him.
She worried that Mulder would endanger himself by trying to see her, but he didn't come.
Someone brought in a communicating device and placed it within her reach. She practiced for a bit, trying to get the hang of it. She spelled out a couple of paragraphs about the events leading up to her shooting, giving them Lukesh's address and criminal history, details which they should know but seemed to be ignorant of. She was so riddled by this that she couldn't concentrate very well.
Skinner and Follmer were buzzing about the case, and about Doggett. They brought him to the hospital as soon as his plane landed. She was relieved that he was well, but also upset. Could she have suffered brain damage? It was entirely possible.
Of course, no one believed she'd seen John Doggett's throat cut, especially John himself, who charged in, looking worried and sad, but unharmed. There was the strange problem of his gun being the one that was used to shoot her, and the fact that he and his gun were in Louisiana when the crime took place.
All of this case talk should have interested Scully, but did not. Monica had left hours ago.
Her lifeline picked up on the second ring. "Hello?"
"Stephanie." "Hey. How's loft life?"
Monica couldn't answer. She was dazed.
"It's Scully," she managed.
"Oh, no. Is she okay?"
Monica swallowed. "Sort of."
"Did she... she didn't get hurt, did she?"
"She was shot." Her words choked and she coughed.
"Oh my God. Is she okay? I mean-"
"She's paralyzed." She couldn't believe she'd said it. She couldn't believe it was true.
"Oh, God. Oh, baby, I'm sorry. I know you think a lot of her."
She breathed deeply and tried not to cry.
"Was she on a case?"
"Yeah, I guess. I don't understand. Nobody understands what happened."
"What do you mean?"
She shook her head. "She named a guy that shot her, but she's... she's not all there, Steph. She said that Doggett was hurt, too, and he wasn't even with her this morning."
"It happened today?"
"Yeah. I'm so freaked out." She sighed. "Doggett was out of town-"
"That's right," Stephanie interrupted, remembering. "You said he was going to be in my neck of the woods this weekend."
"The weirdest, freakiest thing is that - I swear to you - she was at my place this morning. She came by to see the loft, and I was showing her around when the phone rang and it was Brad telling me she'd been shot in some alley across town."
Stephanie was quiet for a moment. "Okay. She was at your place, she was across town, she says John was with her, and John was in Louisiana. Sounds like to me you've got yourself an X file there."
"Tell me about it. I'm so confused. I don't have a clue what's going on."
"Are you sure what you saw wasn't a vision?"
"I don't have frickin' visions that last twenty minutes! We were talking, I was showing her that painting you did for me and telling her the story. She was wearing this blue blouse and a black skirt and her chunky shoes, and I wondered why she was so dressed up for a Saturday." She took a breath.
"I don't know what to tell you, babe, except I'm sorry. I know you think the world of her."
"She didn't deserve this."
"No, she didn't." Stephanie sighed, and under her breath murmured: "Neither did you."
When she awoke again, she was alone in the room. The clock beamed red 12:47. She thought about all that had happened; about the future and what it held for her and her loved ones. Her mother would have to raise William. She couldn't do it herself.
-No standing, walking, running-
She was horrified at being trapped in her mangled body, furious that she couldn't care for her son. Terrified that Mulder might risk his life and come to her. Angry that it was a half-witted murderer that had maimed her, after all the monsters she'd bested.
-No dancing, stretching, bending-
She couldn't rock William to sleep; she couldn't protect him. She couldn't feed him, clothe him, bathe him. She may never even hold her child again.
-No freedom, no choices, no independence-
And she certainly couldn't be a lover to Monica.
She allowed herself to cry while no one was in the room.
Monica wanted to stay with Scully at the hospital, but it was all she could do to look at her for just a few moments. It was a nightmare that she didn't understand. She needed to know what really happened so that she'd have resolution, both for herself and for Scully.
If Scully hadn't been at Monica's place this morning, if Doggett's gun hadn't been used to shoot her, and if there were no witnesses, she'd have to believe that Scully was remembering things wrong. Brain damage was a definite possibility.
Then again, what of her own memory? It was wrong, too, even if the bag of bagels and Styrofoam cups of coffee that Scully had brought her still sat on her kitchen counter.
In fact, there seemed to be several different stories going on:
Monica believed that Scully had visited her during the time of the shooting.
Scully said she and Doggett were on a stakeout and that the guy they were casing, Erwin Lukesh, shot her.
Erwin Lukesh said he witnessed the shooting, and that Doggett was the one who'd shot Scully.
Doggett said he was in Louisiana while all of this was happening.
Skinner said he didn't know what the hell happened, but they - meaning Doggett and Reyes - had better find out.
Monica worked the facts in her mind while pacing her floors, unpacking, and cleaning. She watched midnight turn to three a.m., three turn to six, and six turn to nine. Her partner called with news. Because Scully had been on target with Lukesh's criminal background, they'd brought him in again. While Doggett was questioning Lukesh, he'd blurted out something about Doggett harassing him days before the shooting took place. This was a crumb Doggett was pursuing. He and Skinner were going to work on Lukesh more, on the assumption that it may have been Lukesh who'd shot Scully with a gun that - for some reason - seemed to be Doggett's, but wasn't.
When nine turned to twelve, she returned to the hospital.
Everyone was there - Dana's mother, Doggett, Skinner, Follmer. They were running questions by the patient and reading her responses as she spelled them out on a computer-type device. It was a painstaking process of communication; Scully formed words by picking letters with a joystick. Monica hung in back of the room, hearing them out, wanting to see what their ideas were, wanting to know where they were with Lukesh.
Scully caught and held her gaze. Was she as angry at her as she seemed? Scully could be a bit hard to know. Not the cold fish that people said she was, but not exactly receptive to strangers, either. And despite all that they'd been through together, Monica felt they were still strangers. She sensed there was a lot more to Dana Scully than she knew, a lot that couldn't fit into the confines of an eight-hour workday.
She wished it was different. She wished she knew why Scully chose the FBI as a career, why she was a loner, why she wore three-inch heels to work. She wondered what Scully was like when she read to William. What she was like in love. She had the idea that Scully loved very few people, but loved each of them passionately. Monica had loved someone once in that way. She knew the heat of desire, the consuming need, the blaze of jealousy. The memory of it still scorched her.
So, she squirmed under her scrutiny for forty- five minutes, wondering if Scully was angry with her or if she was trying to send her some kind of telepathic message. Everyone began trickling out. Margaret Scully was the last to leave, and suggested that Monica accompany her. "Dana needs to rest," she said softly.
She couldn't be anything but compliant to the wishes of someone so concerned and loving. Monica felt Margaret's energy, soothing but weary, and wondered at the woman's resilience. Life had dealt her a number of blows, it seemed, losing her other daughter and her husband, not to mention dealing with Dana's constant perils, but she was still kind, and strong enough not to cry in front of Dana.
Her hand was on the door handle when Mrs. Scully's voice stopped her. "She wants you, dear."
It didn't surprise her; she felt Scully's eyes burning her back. Mrs. Scully left, promising to return soon, and Monica walked to the bed slowly, as if in a dream. "Dana," she said, and forced herself to look cheerful.
Scully's fingers moved the control.
She didn't watch because she was afraid to make Scully more self-conscious than she was. She didn't look up, in fact, until she heard the tap-tap-tapping of Scully's finger, signaling her attention. The screen held three words. 'Talk to me.'
She wet her lips. It was the way Scully stared at her that had her flustered. "I..." She was hit with a wave of emotion and a tear dropped from her eye. Sleep deprivation did it to her every time. Why the hell did it happen? Why Scully?
"Baby." Stephanie's pet name for everyone, but it was Scully's voice she heard. She looked up, startled, and saw that Scully was staring a hole through her. She'd not spoken, of course.
"Look - look at you." Her voice broke. "This shouldn't have happened. Not to anyone. Not to you."
'Be strong. Help me figure it out. Don't want them to think brain damage.'
It took her almost two minutes to spell it out. Monica watched the screen this time, relief washing over her. Scully had been staring at her not in accusation, but because she needed her help. "They don't think that at all."
'I know Doggett was cut. He bled.'
"Okay, let's start there. Doggett wasn't with you, Scully. He told you himself that he was in Louisiana."
"No, he's not. What reason would he have to lie to you? He's just as confused as you are. You said his throat was slashed. You saw him, Scully, he wasn't hurt. He wasn't with you." She wondered if Scully even remembered that she was no longer on the X files. "He wouldn't have been with you anyway, even if there was a case you had to investigate on a Saturday; you're not his partner, I am."
'Yes. Your case.'
She shook her head, puzzled.
'You were sick yesterday. Bronchitis.'
"I don't know what you're talking about."
Scully blinked. 'I'm not upset. Not your fault.'
She frowned. "What do you mean?"
Scully stared at her. 'You were sick. Couldn't help it.'
"I don't understand. I haven't been sick. Believe me, if I had bronchitis, I'd know it. I get it every year." She smiled. "The last time I had it, I croaked like a frog for two weeks."
Scully's hand fell from the joystick.
"Tell me what you mean - I 'couldn't help it'."
Scully remained motionless, staring at her.
She looked at her a long moment before slowly moving the joystick again. 'Where did you wake up yesterday?'
She moved the joystick shakily. 'Where?'
"128 Idlewood, Dupont, a studio apartment. You've been there." She spoke slowly, trying to explain. "You teased me when you saw it; you said it was about the size of your refrigerator."
Panic gripped Scully's face. She tried moving the cursor, but she couldn't grasp the joystick. Her hand was shaking in a sudden spasm.
Monica touched her. "Dana, it's okay, calm down." The trembling was violent. "Dana. Look at me, it's okay. Whatever's going on, we'll figure out."
It took Scully a couple of minutes to relax. 'Going insane.'
Scully was so literal. If she said she was going insane, it was surely how she felt. "Tell me why you feel that way, please. Let me help you if I can."
While Scully worked the joystick - painstaking as always - Monica leaned on the bed, half sitting. She was exhausted. It was only a matter of time before she crashed.
'Yesterday a.m. you were sick. Bronchitis, fever. Fact.'
She shook her head. "I've been moving the past few days, remember? I bought a loft. Yesterday morning I was up at the crack of dawn, giving the apartment the final walk through, making sure I'd moved everything out." She rubbed her neck, memories of her night on the floor making her ache. Her back, in particular, was hurting. "I had a few boxes left. I took everything with me to the loft, and you dropped in around 10. You brought me bagels." She smiled.
Scully was white. Frightened. Her eyes scanned Monica's face and then she stared at her deeply, as if she was trying to see through her.
"What is it, Dana? Take your time, tell me." She rubbed her leg. It wasn't something that Scully could feel, but she could see her doing it, at least. Maybe that would be of some comfort.
'You moved to the loft in June.'
"No." This was really beginning to worry her. Scully's memory was off. Way off. "You were there with me yesterday." Of course, Monica's memory was off, too, because Scully obviously wasn't at her loft the day before. "You brought me coffee and bagels and looked at the place. I told you the story of Steph's painting. But then Brad called and said you were shot, and I turned around and you were gone."
"Yes, Stephanie Laos, my best friend." She was surprised that Scully could remember Stephanie's name from the painting, but could not remember being at her apartment.
'67 Bennett Ave.'
'Bass Lofts 6.'
"Yeah, number 6."
'I was there.'
"Yes." She felt some relief.
'You were in bed. Fever.'
Monica read the screen and shook her head wordlessly, but Scully's attention was on the monitor, and she continued pushing the joystick.
'You took Nyquil, still kept me up all night.'
She kept Scully up all night? What was she referring to? She clutched her arms to her chest, shivering. There was no way around it - Scully's memory was affected. She ground her teeth together to keep them from chattering. Something was wrong with both of their memories. Something was terribly wrong.
"Kept you up? We weren't together Friday night, Scully." She didn't want to hurt her, but she had to. She took a deep, cleansing breath. It didn't help. "I'm sorry," she said as gently as possible. "I don't want to call it brain damage, because I think it's something else. Whatever it is, it's impaired your memory."
Tears shone in Scully's eyes, but she blinked them away. Her hand moved the joystick very slowly. 'Your memory impaired. You don't remember.'
She glanced at the screen. "What?"
Goosebumps traveled up her spine. "Who?"
'You, me. Us.'
Time played out in slow motion. She counted it in heartbeats. "What do you mean, 'us'?"
Scully's hand clenched in another spasm. 'Nothing.'
"It's obviously something." She cleared her throat. "What are you telling me, Scully? You said I kept you up Friday night. You said I was sick." The investigator in her made her ask. It was best not to infer things, although the possessive way in which Scully was looking at her left little room for doubt. "Why were we together?"
Scully simply stared at her.
"I was home," she murmured. "And you were with me, that's what you said. What are you leaving out?" She probed gently. "What's the rest of the story?"
The look on Scully's face became angry. Her fingers were on the base of the joystick, and she pushed it hard, as if she was trying to knock it off the bed. It didn't move, and this seemed to anger her more. 'GO.'
"No. Tell me what's going on." She placed her hand over Scully's and felt it jerk beneath her. She'd hit a nerve, had made Scully mad, and Monica's stomach suddenly hurt.
'Not a story.'
"I didn't mean it like that." She squeezed Scully's hand. "You know I didn't. Your memory and mine are different. I need to know yours. I need to figure out what's going on, because my recollection is off, too. You were with me at the same time that you were shot and I know you weren't a vision."
Her gaze was steely, but Monica suspected that Scully was merely fighting tears. She was frightened more than angry, it seemed. 'I.' She stopped the joystick, appearing to consider her next words.
Monica waited silently.
'I remember love.' Scully lifted her forefinger and pointed at her.
She was so touched by this that she was rendered speechless. She held her breath, wanting to preserve the moment, every detail, so that she could summon it later. She knew she would ponder it again and again, for a long time to come. But she had to say something, and Scully would prefer her to be direct. She swallowed. "You don't...you don't think we're lovers?"
"No, Dana. No." She smiled sadly. Scully's lover? The thought overwhelmed her. "No, I'm not your girlfriend. I'm not anyone's girlfriend. I'd definitely remember if we were... If I was..." She trailed off, embarrassed at her inadequacy, at her inability to say how flattered she felt, or how miserable.
The look on Scully's face was heartbreaking.
"Don't you think I'd remember being your lover?" Monica hugged her arms to her chest. "Yours?" she emphasized. "I'm sorry, that's not my memory of us."
"I believe what you're saying is what you think is the truth."
'But you think brain damage.'
She shook her head. "I don't know what to think, Scully. Your memory's different from my memory. And both of our memories are different from everyone else's. No one knows about a case you were on. You said Doggett was with you and he wasn't. But no one believes that you were with me yesterday morning, either. How could they? You can't be with me and be across town getting shot at the same time." She looked away. "I didn't imagine you," she muttered. She was trying to convince herself of this more than Scully. Monica's thinking was muddied and she needed to sleep.
When she looked again at the screen, Scully was watching her read. 'I didn't imagine you, either. I remember everything.'
Monica didn't reply. The sadness in the room was palpable. She felt she was standing in the middle of a Salvador Dali painting, and that time was melting like tears around her.
'Ask me anything.'
She shook her head. No.
'Mole inside left thigh, on right breast.'
Chills swept over her body.
'Back problems since accident when 7.'
She looked at Scully's face. It must be the coma or the brain injury causing her to "remember" these things that she had no way of knowing. Or maybe she was remembering them like Monica remembered Scully being at her loft. Maybe there were two realities.
'Not uninterested in finding birth parents, just afraid.'
This was too much. Shock gave way to disbelief, and disbelief began turning to pain.
'Scar from 1st time shaving legs.'
She covered her ears with her hands, but Scully's sound wasn't audible, and she couldn't mute it.
'You keep money in ginger jar. Lots, thousands.'
She wouldn't let Scully see her face. She wouldn't let her see the recognition.
She pulled a handkerchief from her jacket pocket - one of her leather jackets, as a matter of fact - and twisted it in her sweating hands. "Yeah," she said shakily. "That's not much of a secret."
'Way you use it in bed is.'
Her head jerked up, her face aflame. In bed with Dana Scully. The vision of it reduced her to ashes. She buried her face in her hands again, hiding her tears. She didn't look up until Scully tapped.
'Told you, Reyes, I remember love. Waited all my life for you.'
"Oh!" It came out as a strangled cry. She stuffed her fist against her mouth.
"No." She rocked back and forth, clutching her sides. "Please stop." She couldn't bear this.
'Reyes. Look at me. Stop looking at screen.'
She looked at her, but couldn't meet her eyes for more than a second. She stared at the monitor instead.
'In love. Couldn't forget anything about you. Wanted to, sometimes. So believe me. My memory isn't impaired.'
"No." She stood up. "It isn't true. It's not the truth I know."
'You still sleep with men?'
"Still? What's that supposed to mean?"
Scully didn't form a reply, just looked at her sadly.
"We're not lovers, Scully." She saw the effect of her vehemence in Scully's eyes. "I've got to go. I'm sorry." She moved to the door. "I've got to go."
The truth was, she believed her. Every word. Maybe it was an alternate universe, maybe it was missing time, maybe it was a parallel life. But she didn't doubt Scully's love. It was the way her eyes consumed Monica's body. It was the way they blazed with need. It was the way they scorched her that made Monica believe Scully's memory more than she believed her own.
Monica hadn't been gone long when she returned. "I haven't slept since Friday night, and I didn't sleep much then," she said, leaning heavily against the door. Her voice was raw, her hair a tangled mess, her eyes swollen and red. She was, as always, beautiful. "All I do is think about you.
"So, I'm going to give you my theory. And I'm going to stay right here to do it. I don't want you telling me anything else about how you feel about me. Okay? I just can't take it right now. Maybe later we can discuss our memories and how they differ."
Scully watched her, admiring Monica's courage and self-preservation. She was grateful she'd come back; she didn't think she'd see her again.
"The problem's that we've got too many memories going on here, and who's to say which is correct? Maybe all of them are. I remember you were with me, you remember John was with you, John remembers being up to his knees in crawfish when Skinner called him with news you'd been shot, and nobody - not one of us - has a clue as to why you were in an alley in that part of town on a Saturday morning. But your story pans out to the extent that the only witness to your shooting is a man you name as John's murderer." She shook her head. "Even though John's not dead.
"The only thing that explains any of it, including our - your - our love affair-" she waved her hand. "Is that you crossed into another world. Or something. You and Lukesh. There's a connection between you; maybe you stepped across the same boundary at the same time. The point is, he's lying and you're not."
She sighed. "I want to be standing on the sidelines so I can sort things out, but I'm caught up in the middle, and it's all I can do to keep my bearing." She smiled wistfully.
"You're not going insane, Scully. I believe you. I believe you're the sister of the Scully I know; a cosmic twin of some sort. You're from a different time or place, maybe a different world, with different events." She stuffed her hands in her jacket pockets. She sounded incredibly tired. "I think the important thing for us to learn here is that there are enormous similarities between your world and this one. That has to be significant. The fact that you and Mulder had a child together in both places..." Monica gave her an odd look. "The fact that you work on the X Files in both places must be significant of something. And the fact that we know each other in both places...
"It makes me wonder if each of the choices we have every day isn't played out in a parallel universe. What if, in another world, I'm the one who goes on the stakeout, and I'm the one who's paralyzed? Or, take it a step further. What if there's another me in another universe who wasn't given up for adoption? What if I'm adopted by someone different in another world? Your mother, for instance? What if you and I are lovers in one world, and sisters in another? What if Mulder's our brother?"
She took a breath. "What if there are a thousand universes? What if our souls traverse freely back and forth? I want to research the idea, to see what's out there. I need to refresh myself on philosophy and religion, because quantum physics is beyond me. If there are parallel universes - two or two thousand - it could explain a lot of things. Like synchronicity, or the experience of deja vous and premonitions."
God, she loved her. Brilliant woman, thinking outside the box. She didn't always believe Monica's theories, but she always respected them.
"I just wanted you to know that I didn't take anything you said to me lightly." She started to leave, but turned back. "I'm going after him." A hard look crossed her face. "It's not just what he did to you physically, but Lukesh took you out of your own world, Scully. He took you away from the one you love. He's going to pay for what he did to you."
Oh, no. No! Lukesh would kill her! She tapped her finger against the box. She struggled to move, to make some sound. She pressed the nurse button rapidly and repeatedly. The light flashed outside her door.
But Monica was already gone.
She did a 180 on Third and parked outside Starbucks. There was a parking meter, but she didn't have change, so she left the motor running and made the call from her car. Stephanie wasn't at home. She checked her watch. Maybe she had play practice, which seemed to be more often than not. She tried her cell.
Steph answered on the first ring. "Hello?"
"You picked up pretty quick. Expecting an important call?"
"Yours. You okay?"
"Yeah. Are you busy?"
"Play practice. We're doing a run through. Blocking."
"For school?" Stephanie took acting and directing work wherever she could find it. Sometimes this got in the way of her teaching, so sometimes she stopped teaching. Those were the times when she leaned on Monica the heaviest.
"What is it?"
"Downstage. Erin! Downstage!" She yelled. "What? Oh, sorry, it's 'The Crucible.'"
"Again? Didn't you just do it?"
"A couple of years ago. It won state, babe. Gotta stick with the winners. Besides, I can't do 'Equus' around here."
"Thank God for that."
"I'm surprised they even let me rehearse on Sundays." She snorted. "Know what I mean? And why do you hate that play so much?" Stephanie sounded wired, like she was on caffeine again. Monica had never known her to be without a vice. "Never mind," she said. "I know why. So, what's up?"
"I need to talk to you."
"No, it's going to be a long story, I think. I'll call you at home later."
"I won't be home later, tell me now. Hang on, let me get some privacy."
She heard her moving.
"Hang on. Give me a minute."
She heard shouting, but it was muffled. A minute later: "Can you hear me?"
"Loud and clear."
"Okay." Stephanie breathed hard. "Balcony, laser pointer in hand. They move wrong, they get it in the eye."
"Just kidding." She sighed. "Well, not really."
"It's about Scully."
"Knew it was. How's she doing?"
"She's... she's hanging in there."
"I guess that's the most you can hope for."
"She said that she's in love with me."
"Whoa." Stephanie whistled. "Wow."
"I just - I just don't understand it."
"Honey, what's to understand? She's fallen for you - why wouldn't she?"
"Don't even say it," she interrupted.
"Don't go there. Don't put your foot in your mouth," Stephanie warned.
"But, I'm not ... I don't ... I can't return that love."
"Why not? You adore her. You've been in Washington how long? Six, eight months? Do you know how much you talk about her?"
"I just admire her. She's practically a legend. She could've been Director, Stephanie. There's not many women you can say that about."
"Look, I know you have a lot of respect for her, but you've got to face some facts at some point."
"What are you talking about?"
"Quit - never mind." Stephanie was moving again - she could hear the swish of a skirt and the clunk of boots - and a door closed. The reception on the phone became a little worse. "Let me tell you something. Do you know what *I* know about her? Her name's Dana Scully. She's drop dead gorgeous, she's brilliant, she's my age. She has a baby boy that you helped to deliver in some backwoods God-forsaken part of Georgia. She's petite, has unbelievable hair." She paused. "She's perfectly manicured and made up every day. She has incredible blue eyes. She's risked her life more times than I've probably run my hose, and everything she does is for the good of our country. I'm in love with her and I've never even met the chick."
"I swear I'd sleep with her in a heartbeat."
She smiled and rolled her eyes. "No you wouldn't."
"Hell, yeah I would. I'm thinking about hopping on a plane right now just to bring her flowers. God damn. I love that woman."
Stephanie wouldn't - couldn't - catch a flight to D. C., she was terrified of flying. Still, it was quite a thought.
"I can't believe your mouth," Monica said.
"You're at school," she admonished.
"I didn't start swearing until I started working with kids. And you know that's the truth." She sighed heavily. "Monica, you need to take a long, hard look at yourself, babe. I don't want to take you to the mirror, but I don't think you're ever going to go there by yourself."
She rubbed her head. "I haven't slept in a long time, Stephanie. Say what you mean."
"Honey, remember how you loved me in college? Remember?"
Of course, she remembered.
"I was so afraid of hurting you. You were so sweet," Stephanie whispered. "You loved me like no one else. I wanted to wrap you up and put you in my pocket and carry you with me everywhere."
"It was a crush," Monica said slowly. "We were experimenting."
"No, baby, you weren't experimenting, I was."
"Stephanie, don't. We were kids."
"Yeah, we were kids, but we weren't children in bed, sweetheart."
She blushed furiously.
"You can't tell me that it's been the same with men."
"You can't. I know all about everyone you've dated, and nothing you've told me comes close to what you and I shared - not the sex, not the love. I don't know why you sleep with guys, I've never understood. Maybe you don't think you deserve to be happy. Maybe you're scared to death to love somebody like you loved me. Do you know how that makes me feel?" Stephanie swallowed. "How I hate myself for hurting you like that? You won't give anybody else a chance. I watched you fall in love with Thea Ellison-"
"What are you talking about? I was with Gary back then!" She was embarrassed, and stared out the window at the traffic, wanting to escape this conversation. Tears burned her eyes. Damn Stephanie and Scully both for forcing memories on her.
"Yeah, you were with him, but you were in love with her."
"No!" She was crying now.
"Linda. What was her name? Linda Something. She was a lawyer. And that other lawyer, Brynn."
"No," she sobbed. "Stop. Stop." "I always liked the ones you fell for. They were always the same: smart, quiet, strong. Not like me. Not like me at all. I was-" Her voice broke, but she gathered herself. "I was so glad they weren't like me. I didn't want them to hurt you like I did. But you never even gave them a chance, Monica."
They were quiet for a few moments, Monica crying softly, Stephanie sighing a lot. Then Stephanie continued. "Baby, you've been in love with Dana Scully for fifteen years. Sometimes she was a blonde, sometimes a red head, sometimes short, sometimes - " She paused. "Always short. And sometimes she was even beautiful like me." She waited a beat. "You were supposed to laugh at that."
Monica swallowed hard. She could keep on crying if she let herself, she was so tired. This wasn't the time or place to have this conversation - she had work to do. But, oh God, she wanted to go home and crawl under the covers and cry until she was empty.
"I don't blame you. I wouldn't have laughed, either." Stephanie was quiet for a moment. "But you can take heart in this, babe - you've got good taste. In women, anyway. Horrid taste in men."
"I'm not bisexual," Monica finally said.
"Oh, no, no you're not. You're a dyke, babe. And a hell of a gorgeous one, too."
She shook her head angrily. "Where do you get off-"
"Hey, hey. Easy there, easy."
"I don't believe I'm listening to all of this."
"You can be mad at me, but I'll tell you something, every single woman you fell for - every crush you had, sweetheart - they all loved you right back. And so I'm not surprised that Dana Scully is in love with you. You just don't understand. You have a way of showing people that you love them. You treat your friends like we're the most special people in the world."
She lit a cigarette with shaky fingers. "If you think I'm gay, why did you wait so long to say something to me?"
"Because you needed to find your own way. I shouldn't have said anything now, but I guess I just feel bad for Dana. After all she's been through, she needs you to be there for her." She paused. "Why don't you see things through her eyes for a minute? She's paralyzed and she tells you she loves you, and you run away to - where are you?"
She sniffed. "Starbucks."
"You run away to Starbucks and call me to complain that this beautiful person that you admire so much has fallen in love with you."
"Stephanie - "
"Cripes!" She covered the phone and spoke to someone else for a moment. "Look, sweetie, the monsters have found me. I'll call you tomorrow."
Monica sniffed again.
"Don't worry about things too much, okay? Feel how you feel. Be sweet to this chick. Let everything else blow right through you, babe. Dana probably shared her feelings because she came close to dying. She may have thought that she'd better tell you before it's too late. Sometimes it takes that kind of situation to tell somebody how you really feel, you know? So don't be scared, baby, but don't have regrets, either. Just bend with the wind."
"Go with the flow," she muttered.
"Ride the slide. And damn you and your Starbucks, anyway," she grumbled. She lived in a fairly rural area, compared to D.C. "Love you, babe."
"I love you, too." She clicked the phone off, but it rang before she could put it away. "Monica Reyes." She wiped her face. She'd done enough crying for a lifetime.
"Monica, this is Margaret Scully."
A pain shot through her stomach. "Is she okay?"
"Yes, but she's asking for you."
She squeezed her eyes shut and forced herself to be firm. "I'll see her soon, but I'm on a case right now." She hung up rudely and whispered an apology under her breath.
Doggett met her half an hour later. Follmer was there, too, and back-up. They'd all had dinner, she imagined. It was past seven o'clock, and she hadn't eaten since eleven that morning. She was starving and exhausted.
It was Doggett that had stayed on Lukesh while Monica was at the hospital, and it was Doggett who found Mrs. Lukesh dead, her tongue cut out. It was Doggett who'd arranged the stakeout, and Doggett who took the lead.
But it was Monica who killed the bastard.
Of course, she didn't want to kill him. But, in an eerie series of events, he rushed at Doggett - stabbed him, but not seriously - took his gun and came after Monica. She shot him twice, her gun moving of its own volition, angling toward his head instead of his torso. Both bullets found their target and took him down in a slow motion display of splintering skull and twisting legs. She was sick immediately afterwards.
Because of paperwork and procedure, it was well into the next morning before she left for home. She stopped at an all-night joint and grabbed dinner. She had to force it down, even though she'd been starving earlier.
The loft was a landscape of boxes and it smelled like paint and coffee. She remembered Scully, touching the painting, wondering about Svetlana.
Nostalgia swept over her, but she threw it off like her clothes, which made a trail from her bedroom to the bathroom. A hot shower might cleanse her mind.
"You can't tell me it's been the same with men," Stephanie had said.
It hadn't even come close. Nothing compared to her relationship with Stephanie, but it was Monica's first real love, and nothing ever compared to that, did it? She thought she'd just been unlucky with the relationships that followed. Not that she'd been very lucky with Stephanie. She hadn't returned Monica's love as intensely as it had been given; still, it was better than anything with any guy.
But Monica wasn't attracted to women. Not many women, anyway. Scully - she supposed on some levels she was attracted to her. But who wouldn't be? The woman was stunning, strong, brilliant and brave. She was someone she admired. She just wanted to know her better, that's all.
She wanted to hear Scully's stories about the X files, to know everything she'd seen and experienced; Monica wanted to see life through her eyes, just to know what it was like to be her. Mostly, she wanted to know what it was that Scully seemed to have bottled up inside her all of the time.
"What do you think?" Scully had whispered about Irina and Svetlana.
Monica wondered if the Scully of her world was gay, too.
She pretended it didn't matter, but it did, of course. If the Dana Scully that had been in her home Saturday morning was gay, what did that mean for her? Probably nothing. The Scully that was here now seemed to have replaced her friend.
And she would die. She was bound to the bed, unable to care for herself in even the most elementary of ways. Her doctor warned them that it wouldn't get better, and that it was highly probable Scully would slip back into a permanent coma. The damage may be more serious than they realized. Even though it was the bullet to her spine that was initially more harmful, it was the one that had grazed the temporal lobe of her brain that could come back and haunt them.
She needed to return Scully to her own world. She didn't want to see her die like this, paralyzed, unable even to speak. She deserved more dignity than that.
She let the water rush over her until it turned cold, and she wrapped herself up in a heavy robe. She needed to sleep, God how she needed it. But she wanted to look at something first. She dug around in the boxes labeled "BOOKS: COLLEGE" until she found a slender volume of Russian folk tales. She sat on the box, flipping pages.
She found the story almost immediately. She hadn't read it since college, but it had made a huge impression on her then. She read it slowly.
Then re-read the last stanza.
'No man would love Irina again, Though she remained ever so fair. But, oh! How foolish she'd been To seal the spell there.'
How foolish she'd been to seal the spell there. Svetlana was wrong to think she could prevent Irina from being loved. She'd limited her spell so obviously, and yet she'd been blind to her mistake until it was too late.
Maybe Monica had been blind, too.
She pondered this while standing in the light of her refrigerator, which was so bare it contained only a bottle of tea.
Had she been as foolish as Svetlana?
She drifted to her bedroom. Moonlight and streetlight poured through her tall windows, spilling across the thick duvet and fat pillows on her bed. She'd made sure the bed would be ready for her first night here, which would have been last night. But last night came and went.
Her closet had been a cloak room in another time, when this building was still a school. It was about the size of a standard walk-in closet, but it seemed smaller. Maybe it was because miscellaneous boxes were stacked amongst her clothes. She traded her robe for a soft blue sweater and jeans. She had no reason for dressing; she had nowhere to go. Except to the hospital, but it was three in the morning, very late or very early for visiting hours. Even if she slipped in, Scully would be asleep.
Monica stared at her bedroom again. She'd sleep on her sofa tonight. The empty bed made her sad, not because it reminded her of her empty life, but because it reminded her that Scully was alone in this world.
Maybe Stephanie was right. Maybe Monica had missed out on a lot of love. She'd prided herself on her open mind, but when it came right down to things, she'd closed herself off to what she didn't want to know.
She wondered if the Scully of her world - wherever she was - was interested in her. What if she was in love with her? Monica couldn't believe that to be possible. She'd have seen some signs. She'd know.
Besides, she argued with herself, there was nothing to be done about it at this point. Maybe love was the lesson Monica was supposed to learn, and maybe she learned it too late.
But was it too late for Scully?
She began worrying about the impact, if any, Lukesh's death would have on Scully. Would it have killed her as well? Would his death have taken her back to the world from whence she came?
She needed to sleep tonight, but this last thought filled her with such urgency that she poured herself a tumbler of iced tea and hit the road again.
It had been forty-five hours since she'd last slept.
She wasn't sleeping when Monica came in, but her eyes were closed. She opened them, knowing already that it was her lover; she recognized her scent. Gratitude flooded her.
"Hey," Monica whispered. She was close to her, as close as she could get, and she touched her arm. "You doing okay?"
She blinked once, yes. Blinking was a code she'd worked out to begin with. Of course, it was limited to 'yes' or 'no,' but her hand was so damned sore that she reverted to it with growing frequency.
"I got him, he's dead. Lukesh." Her brow furrowed. "I was worried that his death would have an adverse effect on you."
She blinked twice. No.
"I'm sorry, Scully." Her voice sounded fragile. "I haven't been the best support system for you." She shook her head wearily. "I pride myself on being a free thinker, and I've come to realize that I've limited my scope." She stifled a yawn. "I'm probably not making any sense. Maybe I will in the morning." She checked her watch. "Maybe not." She smiled. "It is morning. I've lost track of time. Do you care if I stay here a while?"
She blinked once - yes, she cared, Monica needed to sleep - and reached for her control.
Monica caught her hand and bent her head to it. "You can't send me away."
Scully's heart pounded.
Monica's lips were on her fingers. "I'm your girlfriend, after all." She smiled self- consciously.
Even though Scully was delighted to see Monica smiling again, she pulled her hand away and touched the joystick. 'Not in this world. Friends. Co-workers. But -' Her hand was slower than normal. The more she used it, the worse it became. 'Can't understand,' she typed.
"I don't understand everything either," Monica sighed, shaking her head.
No. That's not what she meant. 'Me, straight.'
"Oh." Her eyebrows rose. "So." She cleared her throat. "You've always... you... In your world, you had always been with women?"
She blushed. "Were we happy?"
Scully considered her carefully before replying. 'Yes.'
"What... how did it start? Us? Did you just call me up one day and ask me out?"
If she could laugh, she would. 'No. You invited me - loft-warming.'
"Wait a minute. You said I moved there in June in your world."
She blinked her eyes, yes.
"But that was right after William was born," she said softly. "About the time that Mulder left. Is that how it was?"
"So, at this party... did you make a pass at me? Is that what you're telling me?"
"No, no, no. See, somebody's always the instigator." She grinned. "You're not wanting to take the fall for corrupting an innocent mind."
'You took my coat. Your hands.' She paused and wiggled her fingers a bit, trying to flex them. 'Everywhere.' She was already pink, and turned a darker shade. "No, Dana. I don't buy it. I most definitely would not make a pass at you like that. Out of the blue." She reached for her glass of tea and took a swallow, sucking a piece of ice into her mouth. "Had my hands all over you." Her words were garbled by the ice. "Right."
Scully was moving the cursor as fast as she could, wanting to tease Monica before things became serious again. 'Swear. You kissed me.' She looked at her, but Monica was staring into space.
Monica dipped her hand in her tea and pulled out another piece of ice. "You want some?" she asked softly.
She slowly closed her eyes and reopened them - as fervent a yes as she could make it. Something wet in her mouth sounded wonderful. Some sensation other than itchy eyeballs and cold, painful fingers.
Monica leaned over the bed. "Start blinking if it gets too cold or if I need to stop." She parted Scully's lips with the cube of ice, rubbing them with it lightly. She pulled it away, looking into her eyes. "Is it okay?"
She blinked once and then she felt it on her tongue, so cold it brought tears to her eyes. Oh, God, it was wonderful. Monica continued her ministrations with devotion, sliding the cube over her lips and softly pushing them open, inserting the ice and swirling it around before removing it, over and over. When Scully's mouth became too cold, she blinked her eyes.
"This shouldn't have happened to you," Monica said hoarsely. "You were in love with me there." She removed the melting ice from Scully's mouth, dropped it into her tea, and set the tumbler aside.
Scully moved the joystick. 'I thought you were open to things.'
'Then why are you embarrassed?'
"By what? By you being gay? By - by us in your world?" She looked down. "I'm not embarrassed, Dana. It's just a lot to think about. It's hard to imagine."
But it wasn't, she could tell. Monica was afraid. 'Hard for me to imagine,' she typed. 'Not loving you.'
Monica stared at the screen and at her, her eyes brimming with tears. They spilt, and she wiped at them.
'Beautiful,' she typed.
"Scully," she softly protested. She looked away.
Scully tapped on the keypad. If she'd had full use of her arm, she would've jerked Monica around, forced her to look at her. All she could do now was tap for attention. It worked, though. Monica looked at her. 'Disco.'
"Disco? Well, I've got the cds for it." She looked at the monitor, but seemed to stare beyond it. She was drifting off.
'You're tired. Go home.'
"No. Well yes, I am tired, but I was just thinking. It's hard for me to imagine the Scully I know coming to a party of mine."
'Maybe she just needs invitation.' Her damn finger was becoming calloused.
"Touch‚. So, why did you come?"
'Thought about you all the time."
"No way." She grinned, embarrassed.
'I'll never forget it.'
"Yeah?" 'Every song. You dancing.' She was laughing inside, even though her mouth didn't move. 'Hustle.'
"No way." She bent, laughing, slapping her knee. "I was not dancing the Hustle. You're pulling one over on me." She was bright pink.
'Sounds corny. But beautiful. Couldn't take my eyes off you. Special night.'
"So. So, did we... Did we dance?"
'Yes. Way you felt in my arms, incredible.'
Her hand was cramping, so it took longer to form the next sentence. 'I fell in love a dozen times that night, every time with you.'
"Oh." Monica smiled sadly, her eyes shining.
'I remember your hair, shorter than now. Way you touched me.'
Monica smiled softly, and her eyes got a faraway look in them. Presently, she returned her gaze to the monitor.
'Remember the way you smelled. The way you tasted.'
"Oh, God," she whispered, and bent her head into her hand.
'Don't want to embarrass you.' Her words were formed as slowly as always, but Monica wasn't looking at the screen; she was crying. She continued anyway. 'But you need to know your worth, Reyes.'
Monica finally looked up at the monitor. "What am I supposed to say to that?" Her face was wet and red. "I can hardly look at you, Scully." But she did look at her then. "What am I supposed to say to you?" She wiped her face and stood up. "Nothing I can say would be enough. Nothing I can do would be enough. I would change it all if I could. I pray to swap places with you."
She was watching her lover's heart breaking. No, not her lover - her friend, her co- worker. She moved the cursor over the letters. The trembling began again, worse than before. 'Say nothing. Know you're special. Leave, don't come back. Please.'
She wanted Monica to understand that it was okay that they weren't lovers in this world. It was better than okay, if it meant Monica would grieve for her less.
After all, she would die soon.
She couldn't go. "I'm not leaving. I can't leave you here, when you..." She paused, suddenly realizing. "No." She shook her head. "No, Scully. Tell me..." She rubbed her forehead roughly, pushing the hair from her face. "When you said it wasn't my fault. You took my case." She looked at her incredulously. "I wouldn't have missed work over bronchitis. I get it every year, I know what it does to me. It doesn't keep me in bed - it wouldn't. If I was on a case and I had work to do, it wouldn't stop me. If you know me at all, you know that."
Scully merely stared at her.
"What'd you do? You told me something to make me stay home, didn't you? You used my respect for you against me."
Scully's hand was moving the joystick, but Monica didn't stop. She was outraged. "What'd you do? Influence me to miss work so that you could go on the stakeout? If we were lovers, I assume you knew all about the case. What did you do?"
Scully met her eyes. 'You had fever, didn't need to work.'
She didn't acknowledge Scully's words. "You took the case from me! Why? Did you worry I'd be hurt?" Monica threw her hand out, pointing her finger at Scully in accusation, even though she was the one who felt guilty. "You're lying in this bed because of me! You're paralyzed because of me!"
Scully moved the cursor back over the letters again and added more. 'You're here with me. That's all that matters.'
The time it took Scully to spell out her words calmed Monica. "It's not all that matters." She looked down. "What matters is that you gave your life for mine."
'Worth it. You'd do same for me, even now. Even though you don't love me here.'
Monica shook her head. Biting her lip, forcing back feelings she couldn't voice.
Pain clouded Scully's expression. 'My mistake.'
"Yes." The words fell from her mouth and she had no control over them. "Yes, it is your mistake, if you think I don't love you."
She'd planned to say something less dramatic, but there it was.
Scully blinked once slowly, and then again. She didn't believe her. 'Monica, don't. I don't need that.'
"You don't know what I feel."
'Been awake 2 days affecting you. Respect, admire, not love. Listen to me.'
She waited impatiently.
'You fell in love with me there. Enough love for both of me. Is that how it works? 2 of me? I need to know more.'
"I don't know, Scully. You'd know more about quantum physics than me. If you slipped from your world into a different dimension, I think the other you must be around here somewhere, outside our abilities of detection. As weird as it sounds."
'Do you really believe that?'
"I don't know."
'Yes or No.'
"I don't know, Scully. How can I?"
She ran the cursor over her words again. 'Yes or No.'
Monica rubbed her forehead, thinking. "Yeah, I-" She stopped short. "Why is it important?"
'2 of us can't be in same world,' she responded. 'Fix it.'
She shook her head. "I don't know what you mean. How?"
Scully stared at her. She swept her eyes over to the controls of her respirator and back again.
"Scully." Her heart sunk. "No. I can't." She shook her head slowly. "I can't do that."
She pushed the joystick. 'Not a question. Fix it.'
"I can't. I won't."
'Bring back mother for William. At least in one world he'll have me.'
"Oh." She was too tired to cry. Her face was sensitive from all the wiping of her tears. Her nose was red and sore and her eyes were swollen and the skin around them tender. So she didn't cry, but she grieved just the same.
They sat in silence for ten minutes, then Scully finished writing. 'Lost ability to breathe twice - will happen again. Not quadriplegic - paraplegic. Brain injury causing these problems. Torso limited movement will get worse. Motor function deteriorating. If you love me, help me. Get me out of here.'
"Dana." She closed her hand around Scully's and pressed her face to it. The tears returned, spilling out of her eyes. She was tired of wiping them away, so she didn't. When she sat up, she couldn't seem to sit up straight. The pain in her stomach was worsening, and her back was aching. "I want you to come home with me." Her eyes ran over Scully's face. "I want to care for you."
She couldn't believe what she was hearing. But again, she could.
"I'll care for you and William," Monica said with certainty. "Your mother will help."
'No.' She didn't spell it, just blinked her eyes. It wasn't a viable choice even if she wanted it.
"Yes," Monica said firmly. She ran a hand along the side of Scully's face. The sensation made Scully weak, made her close her eyes. And so she didn't see the kiss coming.
Monica's lips were emotive. Her uncertainty, her fear, her gratitude and her love were all a part of the innocent kiss. This Monica was very much like the one she'd left in bed several days ago.
It was their initial connection - sexual - that had kept them together long enough for Monica to fall in love with her. Their first few months together had been explosive, needy and greedy. They'd been friends whose sexual attraction and sexual chemistry were perfectly matched. Both were athletic and expressive lovers, praising and worshipping each other with lips, hands and tongues. But Monica's ability to let her emotion express itself through touch amazed Scully.
She remembered one evening early in the relationship. Monica was straddling her, running her hands over Scully's breasts. She enjoyed Monica's caresses as always, and closed her eyes in pleasure. But that night something different was happening. Monica's fingers traced her nipples, danced across her ribs, her clavicles. She touched her with something more than passion, something gentle and sweet, caring and adoring. Scully had opened her eyes, and the look on Monica's face stole her breath away. It was then that she knew Monica was in love with her. Her face was soft with emotion, her gaze intense, as if she was staring right through Scully. She was focused on Scully's body, on her hands trying to make music by touch, on her mouth trying to sing her love in kisses. Their eyes had locked and they shared the same knowing stare. Then Monica's hands wrapped around her, and she pulled Scully up suddenly and passionately, and they'd kissed forever. Just kissed.
After that night, Scully seldom closed her eyes during sex. Or ever thought of sex again merely as sex, kisses as mere kisses. Monica had the most loving kisses in the world. This world, that world; they were the same.
Now, when she most wanted to, she couldn't kiss Monica back. She couldn't express the love she felt. Monica didn't seem bothered by this, didn't seem to notice it, in fact. She kissed Scully once chastely on the lips, and then again on her cheek. Scully wanted her to stop. Monica couldn't do this to herself. She couldn't become so emotionally involved in a dying person.
But it seemed to be too late for that. Monica touched her face, her fingers trembling. "You can't leave me," she whispered. "No one's ever loved me like you."
She closed her eyes until Monica pulled away. 'Moving me not an option, dr. will tell you same, I'll die in transit. On brink, give me push. Help me.'
"I can't do that, Scully." She wiped her face with both hands, rubbing her eyes.
'If coma, you must. If you love me, do it. Do it for William.'
She was silent, staring at the monitor.
'If put on respirator again, do it Monica. I need this from you.'
"But you're putting all of your faith in my theory. What if I'm wrong? What happens then? I'll lose both of you."
'Not wrong. I believe you. Living will anyway. Don't want Mom put through decision.'
Monica sat, staring, her eyes red. Tears seemed to be everywhere - on her chin, in her hair, on her jacket. Scully could kick herself. Why did she bring on all this sadness? Why did she tell Monica anything to begin with?
Because she had to. Monica had to know how much she loved her. She had to know how valuable she was. It was something she should know in this world as much as the other. 'Your Scully needs you.'
'Save her like you saved me.'
"What do you mean?"
'Love changed me, will change her.'
She sighed. "Maybe the Monica in your world is different. Maybe she's tough enough to do something like this, but I can't."
'Not toughness, heart.'
"Scully." She stroked her hand, looking drained. Her voice was hesitant. "If I did this, what would I tell your mother? What would I tell Doggett? Skinner? What would I tell Mulder?"
'Don't care what you say, care what you do.'
Monica stared at her, holding her hand. "What do you imagine would happen," she said softly. "If you went back to your world? Do you think your lover would find you? Would you be in the hospital? Would I - would she - find you? Would you make it back, Scully?"
She'd tell her anything to make it happen. She was going to die, anyway; she wanted it to be on her own terms. She blinked once, yes, she would make it back to her world. 'Promise you'll send me back.'
Monica pressed her lips together and looked away before answering. "I'll try."
That would have to do.
Monica was in a chair close to the bed, dozing, not sleeping. She kept having the sensation that she was falling; it always happened when she was too tired. It made her nauseated and dizzy, and she jerked awake each time she came close to falling asleep.
The third time she jerked awake, the resident on duty was adjusting the respirator. He saw her sit up. "Her brain's swelling again. We'll keep her hyperventilated and continue to monitor the pressure."
"Is she conscious?"
"No, comatose. She keeps going under when the intracranial pressure increases."
"What can you do about it? The pressure?"
He shook his head. "Not much. Give her a cocktail of diuretics and hyperventilate her."
She took a chance. "What's the possibility of moving her home?"
He looked annoyed. "None. We're having to monitor her brain pressure around the clock. We're struggling to keep her stable." He instantly seemed to regret his tone of voice, and became gentle. "It's amazing that she's done this well. The severity of her injuries makes it impossible to predict a positive outcome. The only thing we can do that we haven't done yet is remove a portion of her skull, so that her brain doesn't push against it and cause further damage."
She was aghast and sat quietly until he left.
She continued sitting quietly for a long time. The memory of Calisto surfaced quite suddenly; he was the cat she'd put to sleep seven years ago. She used to read to him from Winnie the Pooh story books. She'd been there, stroked his head while the vet administered the shot, whispered to him something that must have sounded silly to those around- "If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day, so I never have to live without you." Her baby had been riddled with cancer; he was in pain and slowly dying. She remembered burying her face in Cal's fur afterward, grieving openly. She wasn't forced to put Calisto down, but she chose to.
She'd put him to sleep, killed him.
She continued sitting quietly, staring at Scully. Finally, she locked the door and moved to the side of the bed closest to the respirator. It had a safety alarm that she disengaged.
She sighed loudly, trying to expel the tension and sadness that had been with her the past few days. She inhaled deeply and exhaled again. "Okay," she whispered. "I know this is what you want, but it's hard to do." Grief hit her full force and she choked on her tears. "I don't want to." She buried her face in her hands and cried. "What if I'm wrong?"
She practiced more deep breaths. It was what Scully wanted, so it's what she had to do.
The respirator was a simple machine, and easy to shut off. She didn't want this power. She wanted Scully here and well; she needed her. The intensity of her feelings overwhelmed her. "God, help me," she prayed. "Help me. I can't. I won't."
She would. It was horrific that she would be honoring Scully by killing her. But she mustn't think of it like that. She wasn't killing her; she was helping her return to home.
She kissed Scully's cheek. "Please promise you'll come back to me."
And, with that, she stood straight, squaring her shoulders and lifting her chin. Tears continued to streak down her face, but she took deep, calming breaths. 'Do it for William,' she heard Scully's voice say.
She rubbed her hands together, trying to warm them, and forced herself to look at each bag, tube and machine. The communication monitor was still on. She touched the joystick and the screen faded in.
Scully had left her a message.
'What I've learned in this world.
1. You will always have a leather fetish.
2. Everywhere I go, I love you.'
Monica looked at the respirator one last time. Just a machine. Just a simple machine.
She turned it off.
Scully dreamt she was a dolphin. The water held her, buoyed her up to the sunlit surface, and warmed her as she dove down. She sliced through it with her nose, so streamlined that she sped like a bullet. She smiled happily and turned to look at her mate, who was close behind. Her girlfriend was graceful and quick, even though she was pregnant with their first baby. They were on a journey to spread the good news to the many relatives and friends that lived nearby. Their joy couldn't be contained.
They turned, circling each other in perfect arcs, and the water enveloped them like love. Her heart was full; she didn't remember ever feeling so peaceful. The pockets of water that were warm at first became colder as they descended; and the further they went, the darker it became. But darkness was nothing to fear.
They swam on, happily humming.
"Monica!" The voice was sharp and loud, and pulled her from the dizzying world of sickness and death. She leaned against the counter for support, dropping the phone. The counter - her kitchen -
"Hey!" Scully's voice. Her footsteps, loud and quick, resounded on the hardwood floor. Her palm rested on Monica's back. "Are you okay?"
She breathed hard, her ears buzzing; she couldn't get enough air. Her legs were weak.
"Monica?" Her voice was tentative and soft now. Her hand ran up her back, rested on her shoulder blade. "Talk to me," Scully gently commanded. "Hey. Look at me. Slow down. You're hyperventilating. Look at me."
Hyperventilating. They hyperventilated Scully because she was in a coma. Monica breathed great, deep breaths. She gulped air, sweating and shaking.
"What's happening here?" Scully's left hand was grasping her wrist, checking her pulse. Her right hand was touching her cheek, brushing her hair back.
"You came back," she whispered, closing her eyes to the dizziness that was making her nauseous. The sensation became worse, and she opened them again.
"What's going on, Monica?"
She shook her head, became woozy and swayed a little. "You won't believe me."
Scully held her firmly. "Try me." Her hands were cold against Monica's ribs.
"I lost you. You were shot. You were paralyzed."
Scully raised her eyebrows. "A vision? Just now?"
She shook her head. "I've never had a vision like that."
"It was real," she said lowly. "You died." She swallowed. "I killed you."
"I'm here. I wasn't shot, I'm not paralyzed and you didn't kill me." Scully smiled gently.
"It was real," she repeated. There was no use explaining - Scully would never understand, and she was too tired to clarify, anyway. "I can't bear for you to leave," she said. She was lightheaded again, and put her hands on Scully's shoulders for support. She wanted to fall on her, to pin her to the floor. She wanted to sleep with her head on Scully's chest, listening to her heartbeat.
"I'm not going anywhere."
"Yes you are," she said languidly. "You'll join Mulder in exile." Her gaze drifted. Maybe she'd lost time. She'd read Mulder's take on the phenomena, and she wondered if she'd experienced it.
She remembered this morning. A few minutes ago, Scully had come here, to her loft, but it seemed long ago. She was taking her on a tour of the place, was showing her Stephanie's painting, and then... then the phone rang. Maybe she was dreaming.
"Hey." Scully snapped her fingers once and drew her forefinger in the air. "Look at me. That's it." She held her eyes.
Scully was gazing at her with such intensity that Monica felt scorched, and it was comforting against the cold, jagged fear.
"Talk to me." Scully held her firmly. "Do you have a history of seizures?"
"No," she said, but she'd begun trembling and she was incredibly tired. "Lost time."
Scully checked her watch. "No. We didn't lose time." She looked up at her, studying her face. "You need to sit down."
"I don't want you to leave."
"Why are you so certain that I'm going somewhere?" Scully looked at her tenderly. "Why are you so worried by that?"
"You're supposed to be in my life."
"I'm in your life."
"You're supposed to stay in it."
"Yes. It's how it's meant to be."
Scully touched Monica's cheek with the back of her hand. "I have to do what's best for my son. If that means staying in D.C. I will, but if it means leaving..." She trailed off. "I have to do what's best for William."
All of her senses were alert to Scully's hand on her cheek. Her concentration was so great that she stopped trembling. "What about what's best for Dana?"
Scully shook her head and smiled ruefully. "I've been through so much, Monica. I've seen so many things." She took her hand away, but Monica caught it and held it between them. Scully looked down at their intertwined fingers. "I can assure you that what I want isn't important."
"You're wrong. It's the most important thing of all."
Scully stared at her for a long, silent moment. "You feel things so deeply," she finally said. "No one else would care if I left."
She frowned. "Yes, they would."
Her expression softened with emotion. "Not like you." She looked down again and rubbed her thumb over Monica's ring. "I don't know that I've ever held the hand of someone so kind."
She blushed and couldn't think of anything to say. She was so glad Scully was here with her, she was so relieved to see her, that most of her thoughts weren't thoughts at all, just emotions.
"Are you feeling better?" Scully asked.
Monica nodded. "Just tired." She wanted to tell her that she'd lived three days in thirty seconds and that she needed to rest, but she didn't. Scully was the one who should be tired. She'd traveled worlds.
"So tell me what happened when the phone rang." Scully's eyes burned her.
She shook her head slowly. "It wasn't a vision."
"Don't tell me what it wasn't. Tell me what it was."
"It's a long story."
Scully squeezed her hand. "You seem to be good at telling stories."
It was the only invitation Monica needed. She smiled softly and began weaving a tale so enchanting that it cast a spell on the room. "This is the story of a woman who traveled across worlds," she said, lifting a finger from their intertwined hands and pointing at Scully. "She was the most brilliant woman in her village and the most respected. She was beautiful and fierce, brave and strong; but what made her so special was her heart. Wherever she went, love traveled with her."
Monica closed her eyes to the fire that smoldered in Scully's. Words fell from her lips like sorcery. "And this is the story of the woman that she saved."
'Night Ride Across the Caucasus' by Politic X
There are several truths within this story:
:Bass Lofts do exist - in Atlanta. I know the writers moved Monica into an apartment, but I felt that was wrong.
:In this story, Monica flashes back to putting her cat, Calisto, to sleep. That's my memory. My Cal died on May 10, 2001. I'll miss him until the day I die; he was the best friend I ever had.
:One night last year, I dreamt I was a dolphin. I swam in blue water with my girlfriend, who was pregnant with our child. I'd never before dreamt I was anything other than human. It was the most wonderful, peaceful dream I've ever had.
But if the dolphin dream sounds more like Monica than Scully, that's because she's the one I recreated it for. I have half of another 'Night Ride Across the Caucasus' on my hard drive. It's the one I wanted to write - Doggett's shot, but it's Monica who travels across worlds. It begins as Monica wakes up to discover Scully in her bed. It had a lot of flaws and the worlds were confusing me, so I set it aside. I may pick it up again just because there are a couple of scenes I'd like to tamper with.
:Stephanie Laos is not me. She's a figment of my imagination and the woman of my dreams. (Although I'd settle for Reyes or Scully. ;))
:When I first began writing this - the week that '4D' aired - Scully's communicator was a problem. I wrote the words as I felt she'd spell them out (i.e., "u" for "you," "dont" for "don't"), but it made for very choppy reading. So, I took liberties.
*** It's been two years since I've posted (or written anything), and this is my first slash piece ever. I guess I can thank Monica for the inspiration. ;)
Thanks for reading.