Forty-five minutes later Scully finds herself standing in a cold, dark room in just her underwear while two women in surgical masks — those aren’t going to help you, she wants to snap at them, but somehow it seems like that would hurt her cause — examine her for the sores and pustules that mark the beginnings of whatever plague has destroyed their entire world.
“I’m telling you, I’m not infected,” Scully says again.
“All the infected say that, too,” one woman mutters.
That’s probably true. Scully doesn’t ask what they do with the infected.
When they finally finish the examination, they watch her get dressed. She’s not usually self-conscious, but she hates the thought of strangers seeing her like this, all bone and sinew and stark-white skin. The women shove her out the door, back into the lobby of the village hall where she and Skinner had been frogmarched.
He’s sitting on a rusty folding chair and looks up when he hears her footsteps. Scully raises one eyebrow at him.
“They didn’t kill us,” Skinner says.
“There’s still time,” she retorts.
They head back out into the town, leaving the smell of bleach behind them. And their guns — the men at the barricade had insisted. “No weapons inside,” a silver-haired man told them gruffly. “You can get ‘em when you go.” His thin-lipped glare made it clear that their leaving couldn’t come soon enough.
“They knew what to look for,” Scully says. The women’s fingers prodding at the flesh beneath her ribcage, the lymph nodes under her arms. “I’ll give them that.”
“We’ve all seen a lot of death.”
As they walk, Skinner’s eyes take in everything. Sometimes it’s hard for her to believe he’s had a desk job for going on three decades.
There are a handful of people out on the street. Hell, they’ve shoveled the street so there’s one to stand on. It’s almost civilized — the extensive pat-down at the gate notwithstanding. Heads turn their way, looking them over — these new interlopers. Scully examines each face in the hope of recognition, but there’s no one she knows.
Scully almost misses it. She’s hardly heard her own name these past few months, why would she answer to it? But the woman says it again and Skinner nudges her and her eyes finally focus in on the source of that voice.
It’s Mindy Rogalski. Micah’s mom, a fourth-grade teacher at Will’s old school. She runs — ran, Scully reminds herself — one of those ladies’ book clubs where no one reads the books and everyone drinks the wine. Mulder had teased her mercilessly for it, but Scully went every month. All those years in the FBI, she’d forgotten what it was like to have female friends.
The woman jogs over, her grin impossibly wide. “Dana!” she calls again, and an instant later Scully finds herself bowled over in Mindy’s embrace. “I didn’t think you’d make it,” Mindy says, sniffling a little. “Out in the middle of nowhere. It’s been hard enough…”
Scully pulls back to look at her. “How are the boys?” she asks, before realizing a split-second later that the question might be painful.
Thankfully Mindy just smiles again. “They’re okay. Worried about their friends. Worried…” The smiles fades. “Worried about everything, I guess. And yours?”
“Fine,” Scully says. “At home. I just came to — it’s been almost a month since we’ve heard any news. I was hoping there might be a message here for me.”
From behind them, Skinner grunts, and Scully turns to him. “This is Mindy,” she tells him, and to her friend she adds, “This is Walter. He's…an old colleague of Fox’s and mine. He’s been staying with us for a while.”
Skinner and Mindy shake hands and it’s fucking surreal. Like she’s making introductions at the apocalypse dinner party. Mulder made a joke about that once, years ago — something about how the world would end before Scully voluntarily hosted a party. Turns out he wasn’t wrong.
“Micah’s gonna be so glad to hear that Will’s all right,” Mindy says, and links her arm through Scully’s. “If you’re looking for a message, I can hook you up. I know a gal.” Her voice is breezy, and she turns to look over her shoulder at Skinner. “Your friend can come too.”