ch. 2 out of 10; pg-13 to R; MSR UST; angst/case-file; set immediately after Amor Fati; After years of being gaslit by the universe at large, Scully seeks to overcome an overwhelming despondency (and Mulder’s attempts to crawl into her brain) by solving the mystery of the Town That Didn’t Know Anything. Without Mulder.
Scully ate the Mug-O-Lunch without gagging and tried to get some information out from the waitress, who appeared increasingly annoyed with every word that came from her mouth.
“I have customers,” she finally hissed. Scully looked around, noting the diner had emptied out. They were alone. The sky had gone dark and everyone finished up their little mugs and went… somewhere, presumably home. She arched an eyebrow at the woman but understood the conversation to be over.
Dales had promised her an Inn, told her it was right by the water and that she’d never felt so completely unharassed. No kidding. The night manager, a pair of double-bridged glasses, handed her a key and told her to find a room.
“Which room?” she asked. He frowned at her and shook his head.
“How should I know?”
Unsettled, Scully slipped her key into each lock before it finally unlocked the one at the very end. The room itself was… normal. Relatively. The crocheted pillows and chair cover were normal by most standards but definitely not her own. She prodded them with distaste. The shag carpet put her off a little, too. But the room was clean, the faucets worked and yet there was the distinct impression no one had set foot there in years.
Some of her best investigative work came to her in the shower. Under the piddling spray she washed her hair and considered the three Islanders she’d briefly met; The Sulking Boy, The Tired Waitress, The Clueless Manager. Academy training taught that there was always a profile to follow, always some kind of pattern. Humanity could be solvable as a standard equation. However, these people fell so quickly and believably into their roles Scully could admit it rubbed her the wrong way.
But Arthur Dales had adamantly argued this island was a victim of military-imposed memory loss. Nothing Scully saw or encountered led her to that conclusion. Memory loss manifested itself in different ways in different people, but to experience it to the degree he claimed would axiomatically result in severe anxiety or at the very least a little disorientation. She saw none of that here. General cluelessness, unease at her presence. But not one person seemed out of their element. They had places to be, roles to play, and they followed the pattern accordingly. It was similar to the way she approached her life. Off-putting and pathetic, frankly, but not an X-File.
The diner was weird, but easily explained. What restaurant didn’t occasionally run out of supplies? They were probably waiting on a shipment for stock that just hadn’t come in yet. As for the manager of Day Tripper Inn he could barely get her the key without stumbling over the mass of wine bottles decorating the floor. Poor service – but again, not an X-File.
She’d meet the others in the morning. In her search for the motel she spotted people walking into their homes, huddling in doorways and talking with their neighbors. A town square came to life only a block away and from her room she could hear the steady pulse of a bass drum, a string of delighted laughter. Not the sounds of a terrible conspiracy, but of life being lived and not by her. Tomorrow she would remedy that, right after her inevitable argument with Arthur Dales. She could drown the memories of his patriarchal disappointment with hard liquor and book her plane the next day.
Tonight she figured she should probably get some transcribing done. Mulder’s tapes clacked around in the bottom of her carryon and alerted her to their presence all day – and, rather unfortunately, of the man himself – and the faster they dealt with this, with Africa and dream babies and forgoing thirty-five years of intense religious indoctrination, the faster they could get back to them, whoever they were, whatever places they had to be and roles they had to play for the remainder of eternity.
She had her laptop open and her headphones in when her cell rang. Damn it. Damn it damn it damn it. It took her so long to get herself ready to start writing. She plucked her earbuds out hastily and fumbled to answer the call with a rage-trembling finger. “Scully,” she barked.
“Why’d you take your cell phone?” Mulder asked pleasantly. Damn it. Damn it, I am going to kill him.
“For emergencies,” she said slowly. “Which I am assuming is not the case here.”
“You didn’t give me the number to your room.”
“I didn’t want you to have it,” she pointed out.
“Well that’s not nice.” He tinkered with something in the background and the bleed through was tinny and dramatic. “Shit!”
“What are you doing, Mulder?” she asked worriedly, in spite of herself. “You’re still recovering. No strenuous activity yet. Are you okay?”
“Dropped a fork into the garbage disposal,” he said, amusement decorating his tone. “I’ll tell my doctor all about it when she gets back, but I think I’m cleared for menial household labor.”
“I didn’t know you did chores,” she replied. Their banter was much easier to fall into when he wasn’t visibly salivating all over her limbic system.
“I thought I flicked on the light,” he admitted. “I’m trying to microwave some pizza rolls.”
The ensuing silence was uncomfortable but not tense. She wanted him to apologize and he didn’t. He wanted her to explain and she didn’t. Instead they listened to each other breathe and do the things they’d be doing if they were sitting side by side. He broke first, before either of them were really ready.
“Is not owed to you, Mulder, or to anyone,” she interrupted. Her voice was not unkind.
“I know that, Scully, I do. But I’m here Scully.” His voice was beseeching, a party invitation he might as well beat her over the head with. “I’m here the whole way.”
“This is unlike you, Mulder,” Scully realized. Her eyebrows furrowed as she thought it over, his behavior the past few weeks, the cuddling and the coddling and the staying in bed just because she told him to and not getting himself into any trouble thing. “Are you okay?” Shame trickled in like algae coating placid waters. He was sick. She’d left him and he was still sick. Of course he was acting weird. Of course he was. She left him.
“Scully, I am better than I’ve been my entire life,” he spoke vehemently, as if talking in capital letters and punctuation, signed and sealed and Certain. “Scully, I think I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. Give or take twelve years.”
So often they would get their wires crossed, only because one would refuse to ask the other to elaborate. This would be another one of those times. The call ended pleasantly, a white flag buried in the ground. Scully decided against transcribing. Her face hit the pillow with a little too much force.
She put on a suit the next morning during an argument with herself on whether this was actually a vacation or a case. Neither, it’s absolute lunacy. Why am I here. She stepped into her most sensible heels and was body-slammed with dictionary-thick humidity the moment she opened the door.
Her hair curled out of its spray, water gathered on her upper lip. It was the beginning of December and her stockings slid wetly in her shoes as she clicked down the street and into the square. She was going to kill Arthur Dales. He hadn’t warned her about this at all.
The square possessed a small-town vibe she’d only ever read about and never seen in spite of all her travels. The drugstore on the corner, a singular bar. Granted it was more The Simpsons than Little House on the Prairie, but it was small, and it was bustling. Machinelike and purposeful, it gave her the sense of starring in some German “before the war” film.
The tallest building called to her from the end of the road: her crack in the case. Her Dementia Town theory would be proven there. The sign in front of it boasted “Medical Center” in giant, painted letters and although Scully immediately doubted the scientific legitimacy of such a place, she walked inside.
A young woman sat in the reception area, doe-eyed with beautiful brown hair that curled down to the small of her back. She smiled at Scully patiently.
“Are you a doctor?”
Scully took pause at that, eyeing the woman oddly. It was so seldom she had been asked that (she normally provided the information without prompting) that the whole of it didn’t appear all that weird at first, just the fact that it was asked of her. But then she realized that it was pretty strange for the receptionist to not know what doctors were in that day.
“Yes,” she answered anyway. It was not a lie. The receptionist beamed at her.
“That’s great!” She searched her empty desk for a moment, then shrugged her shoulders. “I’m pretty sure I’m not.”
“What do you mean by that?” Scully frowned. You couldn’t not know. Not after med school. You wore med school for the rest of your life.
“Most of the doctors have tools,” she replied, as if it explained anything. “I didn’t have any when I checked this morning.”
“Did you think you were a doctor?” Scully cocked her head. “Before you realized you didn’t have any tools?”
“I didn’t think I was anything.” The sweetness of her face melted like sugar into caramel, and then it burned. Dark. But then she perked up again. “But I figured it out alright, it wasn’t that hard. How did you figure it out?”
Ignoring the question, Scully leaned over large desk separating them and searched for anything you might expect to find at a receptionist’s desk; folders, papers, business cards, staples… pens, post-it notes. But there was truly nothing there. Nothing anywhere in the room.
“What kind of Medical Center is this?” Scully asked warily. The paperwork was going to be exhausting. She was going to drown in it. If she reported this place it might include taking the stand, taking extra days off work. There’d be malpractice lawsuits. They’d have to find the patients… and if this was a clinic for the memory impaired that was going to be hard to do.
“You’re the doctor,” the receptionist replied, looking at her as if she were stupid. “Go ask the other doctors.”
“There are other doctors here?” The receptionist narrowed her eyes. “You’re right. I’ll go find them.”
Scully got the feeling she was being played, like if she were to look over her shoulder as she left the waiting room The Receptionist would be laughing at her, waving byebye with her fingers wiggling in the air. So she did look over her shoulder, only to find her staring blankly at the wall.
Beyond the waiting room there was a hallway filled with examining rooms, and Scully looked into open doors to find little cabinets with sinks, adjustable hospital beds. Hand sanitizer dispensers littered them all. There were no posters or models or anything else doctors use to make appointments easier on a patient, but that wasn’t damning in itself. Just cold.
Only two of the doors were closed, and she cautiously opened one of them and peered inside. A man wearing an oxygen mask and a white coat leaned over a coughing woman and prepared to administer some kind of I.V. medicine.
“FBI!” Scully shouted, thrusting her badge in the door before she entered. The woman jumped and the “doctor” dropped his line on the ground. “What is going on here?”
“I’m sick,” the old woman spat, before breaking up into hacking coughs. The doctor glared at Scully.
“She’s sick,” was all he said.
Scully marched over to the I.V. pad and looked closely at the fluid inside. It was clear and runny. “What’s in here?”
“Saline,” the doctor replied tightly. “She’s dehydrated.”
“And you’re a doctor?” Scully spun around to look him over. He still hadn’t taken off his oxygen mask and a stethoscope hung around his neck. “What’s your name? Where are her charts?”
“She’s sick,” he said again, and bent down to pick up the needle he dropped. He replaced it with a sterile one as Scully stood in frozen curiosity. He expertly found the vein he was looking for, and the woman tipped her head back and closed her eyes.
“I’m sick,” she rasped.
Scully slowly backed out of the room, clutching tightly onto her badge.
When something frightened her, her whole body would get hot. It always started with her face. The heat would sink in right under her ears and flow upwards to her forehead and bubble downward until she was sweating with it. And in the Florida heat it was almost unbearable.
Arthur Dales picked up immediately when she called him, and warned her not to tell anyone just yet. To not just call in the C.D.C. or the Florida Board of Medicine.
“If something’s really wrong,” he pleaded, “they’re all going to be in on it. They’re just going to sweep it under the rug.”
In a pattern she originally thought she had only reserved for Mulder, she argued the ethics of that suggestion quite valiantly. Then she gave up and went along with it. For now, she wouldn’t make any calls. But she was unnerved.
It was too hot. By the time she’d stumbled back into her room her cheeks were flushed with it and her clothes were sticking to her like it had just rained. She shucked them off and showered in the cool water for a good forty minutes until her bones began to ache and her bed called to her in manatee-siren song.
It was only around lunch time, but she didn’t want to take a nap anyway. With a fierceness a voice inside her head begged her to call Mulder. She hadn’t realized how good he had gotten at making her believe she was doing the right thing. She hadn’t realized how difficult it was now to convince herself of that. That’s probably not healthy, she thought sadly. But the best parts of them never really were.
It was that blurry line between vacation and case that made her pull on a UMD t-shirt and a modest pair of running shorts. She treaded that line in her beat up Nikes on a jog along the silent shore, kicking up dark sand and scaring white ibises into a screaming chorus. Was she really sweating that much or was the humidity clinging onto her?
She came to a panting stop in front of a decrepit pavilion. It overlooked the water in a hangdog way, reminding her of all those wooden playgrounds constructed in the thirties in an effort to create jobs and fleeting happiness.
A boy stood behind it, leaning up against a shelving unit for kayaks. He worried a lip piercing with his tongue and tried to flip the shock of blond hair out of his face without using his hands; it all looked quite silly, and Scully followed the urge to see him up close.
He was young, much younger than anyone she’d seen so far. In fact he might have been the only minor in town. He couldn’t have been a day over sixteen. He regarded her with pissy disdain.
“Boat?” He asked. He jerked his head at the kayaks. Scully rented a kayak.
“Do you rent these out every day?” she asked him as he helped her drag it into the water.
“Probably,” he answered casually, pressing down on her shoulders like it had any chance of making it a better fit. Not really. Her legs barely brushed the plastic on top of them and she could spread out wider than what was safe. “I don’t think I’m supposed to be here.”
“Oh?” she said, curious. But he was pushing her out in the water and the river was taking her away. “Why do you say that?”
“Come see my band,” he told her. But he didn’t look like he really cared if she did.
She paddled past tall, wispy palm trees and ugly, red-faced ducks. She paddled into the woods and watched the turtles lounge sleepily on exposed deadwood. The bugs were noisy and the air was thick and hot and wetter than the water, but Scully dreaded it less now.
Her arms and neck blushed with the warnings of a bad sunburn and she was reminded of standing on an African shoreline, ugly and red-faced. And screaming.
The boy she rented the kayak from didn’t know how much he was supposed to charge her. He told her to just give him some money.
“Where do you live?” she asked him, handing him a twenty. He shrugged.
“Come see my band.”
That night she ended her phone call with Mulder early to go figure out where this band was. Where are you Scully? he asked with fake nonchalance. I’m still your emergency contact, right? She didn’t tell him where she was, and he didn’t push it.
There was really only one place for a band hookup – the bar. Playerless instruments sat in the corner, looking listless and Ready To Go.
A woman, the only woman in the bar, introduced herself as the town alcoholic. She was surrounded by empty shot glasses all smeared with her nude pink lipstick. Scully eyed her cautiously and sat down three seats away from her.
“Old fashioned, please,” Scully asked the bartender, keeping her eyes on the woman. The town alcoholic licked her lips and took a sip of her drink. The keep, a tall Asian man, some thirty years or older, nodded his head even as he frowned.
“I don’t think I know how to make that. Care for a glass of wine?”
“Uh,” Scully squirmed in her seat. “Yes. That’d be great. Your best white, please.”
He turned away and she watched him as if he were a movie she’d already seen. He surveyed all the bottles behind him and stroked his beardless chin.
“They’re all the same.” He whirled around to face her. “Red.”
“That’ll work, then.” And he poured her a glass. “How long have you been working here?”
He paused in the middle of refilling the other woman’s assortment of shot glasses with more wine. “Um.” The vein pulsing in his forehead told her he was trying, trying hard to remember. “I guess forever?”
“Everything’s forever,” the drunk woman laughed. Waifish and brown-eyed with a voice like rustling leaves. It was the most personality Scully had been exposed to all day. Involuntarily, she was captivated, leaning into the smaller woman’s space without realizing it. Men always seemed to like how small Scully was and she could now see the appeal.; she felt delightedly masculine, eyeing all the places the woman’s bones popped out. Sturdy and grounded. Glad she’d worn pants.
She was going through some conversation starters in her head when the door opened and a small crowd of people flooded in. She saw the Doctor, the Old Woman, the Waitress. The Motel Manager had already been at the bar. The Receptionist hung off the shoulder of the boy she saw before, not the kayak boy, but the boy who sailed her to the island. He brushed her off to sit behind the trapset and she pouted at him prettily.
Another boy, no piercings but heavily tattooed, came up and grabbed the guitar. The crowd disbursed slightly, into booths and onto stools and against the wall. Everyone ordered wine. Scully waited for the kayak boy, the blond, but he never came. The microphone stand stood untouched. The boys began to play.
Garnet wasn’t exactly expecting that kind of response to her trying to help. She’d seen the ship fall from the sky, and had gone out to see the rubble. After pushing things aside, she’d found the pearl. Her first thought had been that Yellow Diamond’s ship had crashed, but the diamond was no where to be found. And, now, the pearl had just told her to leave. Not even a thanks. “Fine.”
Imagine being a Dragon skin-changer and at first refusing to help fight the orcs but end up saving the line of Durin in BOTFA
For @live-in-your-imgination-deactiv :)
Those Dwarves dare to come into your mountain and drive out your father, Smaug, only to watch him get shot down over Lake-Town?
You fumed with a rage that you had never felt the like of before. The sorrow and gut wrenching sadness you felt consumed your very being at the loss of your father, the only one who accepted you as you were, a dragon skin-changer. The only one who protected you was gone, shot down like a bird out of the sky and plunged into the depths of the icy lake.
But wait, it gets weirder: Have you ever gone out and stared up at a clear blue sky, only to see faint white dots dancing around the edge of your vision? Most people can see it if they really look, and it’s worth it because you are seeing the goddamned white blood cells shooting through the blood vessels in your fucking eyeball. The blue light causes the vessels and other cells to be invisible to your eye, so you wind up seeing the white blood cells zipping around like tiny ghosts, just chasing diseases and shit. Maybe there’s a tiny ship full of scientists in there.