Part I: Remember the Rain
Rain. It came down in torrents, pelting the windows harder and harder until she thought the window would break under its pressure. She thought her soul was going to break under the rain.
The rain in this case wasn't the rain that was falling outside but a kind of rain that only fell on the inside once your life had changed so dramatically that you no longer wanted to live it. And she did not want to live hers any longer. Why should she? There was nothing for her anymore, and though she could create something new, something else, she didn't feel like trying. Her heart was too soggy with the inner rain to make her soul want to try.
A solitary tear, unlike the downpour outside, stretched down her face from the corner of her eye and into her mouth. As a child, she had always been comforted by the saltiness of her own tears, but on this rainy night, it just tasted bitter. As bitter as a veggiemite sandwich.
Unbeknownst to her, a shadow lurked in the surrounding darkness, watching. He shifted nervously on his foot, not liking the scene he saw before him. "Scully," he sighed.
She seemed not to hear. Instead, she moved from the window to the coffee table next to the couch and picked something silver up. She stroked it for a moment, almost wistfully, then shook her head and smiled sadly. "God, Mulder, why?"
The shadow began to move to her, then remembered. "I don't know," he replied. "Thinking back on it now, it was stupid. I shouldn't have been so reckless- especially on a night like this." He dragged his attention momentarily from the woman in front of him to glance outside at the stormy night. "I just don't know."
Still, she didn't hear him. She moved back to the window and peered out. Past the lightning filled sky, he knew she was seeing twisted wrecks of metal, and a formerly silver pavement glistening crimson with blood. There had been so much blood...
He could remember opening his eyes only to see the bright red river running past, mixing with the swirling eddies of mud and rainwater. He had groaned, then pushed himself off the ground, only to find himself floating a few feet above it. Startled, he glanced down and saw an inanimate carcass, its skin broken many times by flying shards of glass and the blood coming from the many lacerations, adding to the pools that were forming in the puddles. He could also remember when the scene burst into action.
Police had come, roping off the area almost as soon as they arrived. An ambulance arrived, but when it was apparent that the occupant of the car (the shadow couldn't yet stand to think of himself as being that inanimate carcass) was dead, the paramedics hung out by the wayside, content to let the police do their thing. And then the phone calls were made.
He shook his head, not wanting to remember the look upon her face, such a beautiful face, when she identified the body. His body. But he remembered anyway. She had nodded, swallowing hard. Then she turned away, apparently hoping that no one would be able to see her expression.
He saw it anyway. It was one of deep loss, grief, sorrow; it was one of horrible consequences; the kind of look that one gets on her face when she knows her world is about to come crashing down and there's nothing one can do. It was the kind of look that always makes the toughest made choices instantly regrettable.
And now, in this time of personal remembrance, he regretted his easiest made one as well. She was sobbing openly, now that there were no policemen or paramedics to take notice. Just him, the shadow that she could no longer see. It was a quiet sob.
Soundlessly, she pulled something dark and sleek from the shadows that the two tea candles in the corner created. In that dim light, he could see that it was her gun, the standard FBI issue Smith & Wesson.
She put it to her head, and seemed to ask the rain what to do.
Part II: As It Stops & Dies
If the rain answered her, she didn't show it. She didn't blink for a full five minutes, and she certainly didn't move in that time. She just stood there, the gun to her head.
The shadow stood, waiting, wondering what to do. And wondering what she would do. He couldn't just walk over to her and yank the gun out of her hands; he had lost that privilege with his death.
"Scully," he said, bidding for just one last desperate plea. "Please, don't do this to yourself. Not for me."
She nearly dropped the gun. "Mulder?" she asked hesitantly.
The shadow stepped out of the dark and took on a shape which resembled the form she asked about. "You can hear me?"
She nodded. "I can see you, too, Mulder. God, you aren't dead. Where have you been?"
"I am dead, Scully." He stepped closer.
"No you're not. I can see you," she said, shaking her head. She always did refuse to believe what was right in front of her. "You're in some serious trouble, making me think you were dead. What's this about?"
She stepped forward toward him, reaching out to hit him playfully. Instead, her hand slipped right through him. Her mouth opened slightly in surprise. "You really are dead."
He nodded. "I'm sorry."
She shook her head and turned to the window, where the rain had nearly stopped its downpour. "Don't be. It's not your fault."
"But it is. You were going to kill yourself, Scully, and all because I was dead. Why? I ruined your life for the past seven years. You might have been able to salvage it, free from me and the X-Files."
"Free from you? I could never be free from you, Mulder, even if I wanted to be. And the X-Files... I'm not going to give up on them. What made you think that?"
He was speechless for a minute. "I thought that the only reason you stayed was because you felt obligated to. Because you couldn't quit halfway in the middle and leave me alone to fight Them."
"No," she said, turning back to him. "Maybe it was that way in the beginning, but it hasn't been in a while. It certainly isn't now."
"Does that mean you're going to continue with the X-Files?" His soul wanted to soar, yet it had a certain dread weighing it down. He didn't want to see Scully die because of his death.
She nodded. "I have to. It's not just your quest anymore- it's mine too. And if I quit now, they win."
The faintest hint of a smile touched his ghostly lips as he remembered the first time he had uttered those words. It was in his hallway, just before they had almost kissed... "Just promise me you'll be careful. I don't want to see you wind up like me."
She shook her head. "I promise, Mulder, but only if you promise me something."
"Don't wait until I die to come and see me. Return like this. Please. I can't live without you." Her eyes, so soulful, begged him to promise her this one thing.
"I promise. When you need me the most, I'll come. Until then..." He drifted off, crossing the few feet that stood between them and hovering over her very close. His lips wafted closer and closer to hers, and she closed her eyes in anticipation of a kiss, albeit a non-corpreal one. He did the same, and when their lips were about to touch, he vanished.
Her eyes snapped open, her soul knowing the exact moment when his had fled. "Mulder..." she bemoaned, her grief rushing towards her like a river that had been held back by a dam for so many years and then released upon an unsuspecting area.
"Remember I love you," a voice drifted to her from the outside. She glanced out the window and saw that the rain had stopped. But that was all she saw. No parting young lovers stood outside, kissing gently and wishing the night would never end.
Maybe it was her imagination, but the voice had sounded a lot like Mulder's.
Part III: Always Remember Times of Darkness
Somehow, she had managed to get to sleep. And somehow, she managed to wake up the next morning to her alarm clock. Funny, but she didn't remember setting the clock. Neither did she remember going to bed.
Bright sunlight filtered in from the open window, and the sound of birds chittering outside added to the image of the perfect morning. But it wasn't the perfect morning. If it had been, she would have been waking up safe in Mulder's arms, content and satisfied. Or she wouldn't have woken up at all. Depending on how real last night was.
Last night. Part of her hoped that it had been all a dream- the police calling her to identify the body, the grief afterwards that had led her to place the gun to her head, Mulder reappearing from the dead to tell her he loved her.
The other part, the more rational one, told her that she had to get up and go to his funeral. That last night's events were real (well, perhaps not Mulder's ghostly visit; that might just have been the stress). This was the part of her that had told her not to kill herself over a man. Mulder was just a man, and one could find a man anywhere. It would be silly to kill herself over him.
But Mulder wasn't just a man. He was hers, forever and eternally, and he was unique. His offbeat sense of humour and his crazy, nutbrain theories were what kept her intrigued and interested in the X-Files. Now that he was gone, her interest would surely decline. No matter what, though, she wouldn't give them up. They had been his life, and, now that he was dead, they had become hers as well.
Shaking herself out of her thoughts, she dressed herself and headed out the door. The funeral home was only a ten minute drive.
Once there, she searched for his name on the little plaque outside the rooms. His name was the last one, hastily scribbled on a piece of paper taped to the heavy oak door. She sighed, then pushed it open.
Nobody was there yet. She probably had a few minutes before mourners started arriving. Glancing around, she saw that there were only a few scattered floral arrangements. They were sad flowers, drooping and out of season.
Sighing once again, Scully headed for the small pine box in the front and center of the room. It looked too small for a tall man like Mulder, and she was sure he'd be squished in. Sure enough, when she finally gathered enough bravery to open the closed lid, he was squished in.
It wasn't a pleasant sight. Cuts and gashes ran rampant on his lifeless corpse and a little trickle of blood welled up from out of his mouth. The makeup artist hadn't done much to cover up the bruises; there wasn't much he or she could have done to cover them up. After all, that's why this was a closed coffin service. But Scully needed that finality of viewing the body.
She had seen the body when she had identified it the prior night, but she had been so shocked she didn't really, in all honesty, remember much about it other than Mulder had appeared to her from the dead. Even that could have been a dream or a hallucination, but she was even doubting her skepticism. With Mulder dead, who else would doubt it for her?
"Agent Scully," a male voice greeted her. She closed the coffin quickly and turned.
"Assistant Director Skinner," she greeted back.
He came up to the coffin and looked down at the closed coffin. "I'm so sorry. Mulder was a damned fine agent." He made no mention of his knowing that she had opened the coffin.
"I know," Scully replied softly. She moved to sit down. He did the same.
They sat in an uncomfortable silence for a few minutes, then Skinner shifted uneasily. "I know how hard it must be for you," he said. "But we do have to talk about our next-"
"Please," she broke in, getting the feeling that she knew what was coming next. "Don't talk about work here. Not now."
He nodded, understanding. "I have to get to work now. I just stopped by to see how you were doing."
"Thank you, sir," she replied, not knowing what else to say. He stood and left.
An hour saw a few more people trickle in. Not many, but more than Scully would have thought would appear. Mulder's mother, looking frail and feeble, had hobbled in without a word to her son's partner of seven years. The Lone Gunmen put in an appearance, but in ridiculous disguises composed of trenchcoats, fedoras, and sunglasses. They spoke to her for but a minute, partly because they didn't know what to say, partly because they were dealing with grief in their own way, and partly because the room was filled with various government agents and they didn't want to be recognized.
The service in the funeral home was quick- it had seemed no one had wanted to stand up and give a eulogy. Scully had given a quick one; it hadn't been very heartfelt, because she had felt that since she had not let Mulder into her heart until it was too late, she should not let all these people, mostly strangers, in.
Soon the dark sea of mourners had moved into the cemetery. It was some dark, dank, foggy cemetery that had obviously been neglected by the caretaker, if there even was one. She shuddered to think that Mulder would be resting here, but it was the place he had wanted to remain for the rest of eternity.
The reverend said a few words over the coffin, and the crowd began to disperse. Before they did, they threw roses and flowers atop the plain pine box. Scully waited until they had all left, then threw her single flower atop it. She gave it a caress with her hand and sighed. "God, Mulder."
"Agent Scully?" Teena Mulder's voice was small, broken.
She turned. "Yes?"
The older woman hesitated, as if choosing her words carefully. "I know how close you and Fox are- were. I'd just like to let you know, I'm sorry."
What was this? The mother of the deceased stating her sorrows to the deceased's partner of seven years? What was wrong with this picture? Scully studied the woman's face to determine her sincerity. The older woman's face was haggard, but something in her eyes told the agent that this was a sorrow coming from a woman who knew what it was like to lose a love. From what Mulder had told her, she didn't doubt it.
"Me too," Scully replied hesitantly. She didn't know what else to say.
"I figured you'd want to help clean out Fox's things from his apartment. These things need to be taken care of very quickly, you understand."
"I understand. And I'd sort of figured I'd be doing it by myself. But I'd like the help." Suddenly she felt the headache that had begun building in the past few hours release itself.
Teena Mulder gasped. "Agent Scully!"
Scully brought her hand up to her nose and felt the warm liquid flowing out of it. She hoped it was just mucus, but from Mulder's mother's reaction, this was not so. Bringing her hand into view, she saw it coated with a liquid crimson substance- blood. "Damn," she muttered, scrambling for a handkerchief.
Sensing that this was the time for her to make her exit, Mrs. Mulder said, "I'll call you later. What's your phone number?"
Scully told her, and the other woman wrote it down. Then she left, leaving her alone. Scully pulled the tissue from her nose and saw that the nosebleed was stopping. It hadn't been too bad. Probably just from the stress.
Soon the men came with shovels, preparing to lower the coffin down in the ground and bury it. They asked her politely to leave, but she refused, knowing she needed to see that everything was done to satisfaction.
With every shovelful of dirt, she felt another piece of her soul get heavier and heavier. At the last shovelful, the men patted down the soil and left. Scully felt as if they had just buried her soul, her heart, and now she had nothing left. She stared at the little plastic marker that would have to do until the tombstone could be completed, then she turned and left with feet that felt as if they were made of lead.
Part IV: But Keep in Mind the Moon
The next morning, Scully went to work. It didn't have the same atmosphere without Spooky Mulder down in the basement; it never would have the same mood now. Even the 'I Want to Believe' poster seemed faded.
She was called to Assistant Director Skinner's office that morning. Kimberly waved her right in.
"Agent Scully," Skinner said, standing. "Please sit down."
"Sir," she replied, nodding in acknowledgement and sitting down.
"Let me begin by giving you my deepest condolences. I know how it is to lose a partner as well, and-"
"Sir, please don't." It was a simple request.
He nodded, understanding. "I've called you here to discuss what happens now."
Scully's forehead wrinkled. "What does happen now, sir?"
Skinner paused. "I want you to take two weeks off, maybe take a vacation. I also want you to talk to the FBI psychiatrist."
"No, I need to work-"
"Scully, I know how you feel. But this is for your own good. Please."
She looked into his eyes and saw true concern then. "Fine," she muttered. Maybe she could sneak through the basement window when he didn't expect her.
"And I don't want you sneaking in through any side doors when you don't think I'm watching. I have eyes and ears everywhere."
Scully stared at him. Normally she didn't believe in telepathy, but he had just read her mind. "Very well."
"When you get back, you'll meet your new partner."
It took a few minutes for this news to sink in. "New partner?"
"A woman just out of Quantico, by the name of Julia NiFailly. I was thinking you could show her the ropes."
Scully blinked. "But what about the X-Files? I was hoping I could continue them."
"Who said you weren't?"
"You want me to break in a new field agent with the X-Files?" The idea was ludicrous. "Mulder did it with you," Skinner replied. He leaned closer to her. "Scully, I think you can do it. But take some time off. Promise me." She sighed. "I promise." "Good," he said. His tone was odd, as if he didn't believe her, but he didn't say anymore of it. "Go home and get some rest, Scully." "Yes sir." She stood to get up. "Agent Scully?" She stopped, turned. "If you need anything, don't hesitate to ask." She smiled sadly, then turned and left. Skinner sighed, then shifted some of the paperwork on his desk around. Scully did decide to follow his advice. At least, the part of it about going home. She couldn't rest. Especially not after listening to her messages. "Agent Scully? This is Teena Mulder, Fox's mother. I was going over to Fox's apartment today at around noon and thought you might like to help me clean it out. Just drop by if you can help." Beep. It was too soon. Mulder had just died the other night, for God's sake. His funeral had been yesterday. And his mother was already cleaning out his apartment? She decided to go and help anyway. It was the least she could do; besides, she'd feel awful if Mrs. Mulder cleaned everything out by herself. When she arrived, Mulder's mother was already there, sifting through all of Mulder's junk. Scully went wide eyed when she saw the aging woman nearing the place where she knew Mulder kept his video collection. "Mrs. Mulder? How long have you been at this? You should rest. Here, how about in the bedroom?" she asked, trying to stop her from seeing Mulder's porn obsession. "Oh, no, dear, I haven't been doing this very long. I'm not so tired. But the bedroom's probably very messy. I'll go clean that out. And please, call me Teena." "All right, Mrs- Teena. But call me Dana." "Dana," Teena replied, nodding. She stood and headed for the bedroom. Scully breathed a sigh of relief when the older woman left, then began sifting through Mulder's videos so she could get rid of them before she came back. Surprisingly, they weren't there. Instead, she found a picture of herself and Mulder, one she didn't know Mulder even had a copy of. In it, they were looking into the camera, smiling happily, hands clasped and up in a victory V. She recognized it as a warm spring day when the Lone Gunmen had insisted on taking them on a picnic to spin their lastest theories on the government. They had wound up picking a park where some sort of festivities were taking place. Langly and Byers had come in second place in an egg-in-the-spoon relay race, Frohicke had lost a potato sac race, and Mulder and Scully had won first prize in a three leg race. She felt the tears threaten to spill over her eyelids. Shaking, she tried to stop them, but they flooded her walls, breaking them down. Sobs wracked her small frame. Teena came out of the bedroom at the sounds. "Oh, Dana," she said softly, realizing what had happened when she saw the photograph in the agent's hands. She bent and took the other woman in her arms, and together they sobbed away their sorrows until nothing was left. Part V: Behind the Clouds Two weeks of resting drove Scully crazy. She didn't eat, didn't sleep. Most of the night, she found herself sitting on her couch, watching infomercials or really horrible B movies or old reruns of Star Trek. The days saw her cleaning out Mulder's apartment with his mother, or rearranging the furniture in her house alone. So when the Monday that she would go back to work rolled around, she was very grateful. She even managed to fall asleep the night before. Scully arrived at the office early. Surprisingly, there was a case file sitting on her desk. Glancing it over, she familiarized herself with it and prepared herself for the approaching time when she would meet her new partner. A knock on the door came. Millions of possible responses ran through her head, but she shouted, "Nobody down here but the FBI's most unwanted!" She smiled sadly, thinking of Mulder. A young woman entered the basement office and looked around. Scully hadn't the heart to clean out the office, and so she had left it just the way Mulder had left it. Messy. "Agent Scully, I'm Agent Julia NiFailly. I've been assigned to work with you." The woman- girl, really- put out her right hand, obviously wanting to shake on their greeting. Scully looked over the woman in front of her. She was tall, maybe five inches taller than Scully, without the two inch heels she wore. NiFailly was also blonde and blue-eyed. Her ruby lips puckered into an unconsciuos pout, and her nose was perfect, a little too perfect. Even her bust was better than Scully's. But she extended her own hand anyway. "Well, I'm sure you've been warned about the X-Files. Now, we've got a new case, if you're ready to work." NiFailly nodded. "Of course." Even her voice was low and throaty. "Good." Scully moved to the slide projector and turned it on, flipping through some of the old slides to get to the new ones. "This picture was taken at a crime scene in Freedom, Texas. The victim, a twenty-nine year old woman by the name of Elizabeth Mionin, was strangled, then her limbs were sawed off with a sharp object, most likely with a large butcher knife. Only her torso and head were found. In the middle of her forehead was carved the letter T. Above her belly button was the letter B, and below it was an upside down pentacle." Scully watched NiFailly carefully. The younger woman was flinching, and with good reason. Elizabeth Mionin was blonde as well, and NiFailly couldn't be older than 28. "The next victim," Scully continued, flipping to the next slide, "was a thirty year old woman by the name of Jacquie Rue. She was killed in the same manner, except on her forehead the letter carved was H. Again, the B and upside down pentacle was found." "An MO?" "The local PD seems to think so; it's why they've called us. They've got five victims so far, all young, blonde women carved with more letters. The other letters are E,Y,and R." NiFailly swallowed. "Any suspects?" Scully shook her head. "They think it's the work of a cult, but they've got no proof, nor anybody to call in." "A cult? Doesn't that seem a little hysterical?" Scully shrugged. "They've got good reason to be. Five women dead and no suspects would make anyone hysterical. We leave for Freedom tomorrow morning, seven am flight. Be at the airport at six. I suggest you pack now." "Now?" NiFailly asked, glancing around. "Now," Scully ordered. The younger woman stared at her for a couple of minutes, then left. Scully shook her head, then went back to Mulder's- no, her- desk. Had she been that green when she had first met Mulder? If so, how had he put up with her? She was working on some paperwork when it happened again. She had a headache, but she assumed it was from reading such tiny fonts on the paperwork. Then a single drop of blood fell to marr the pure white papers. "Damn," she mumbled, standing and heading for the bathroom. Once there, she ran the water and began to clean herself off. Only to discover that there were no paper towels; instead they had been replaced by the very inconvienent hand dryers. Muttering "Damn" once more, she went into the nearest stall for some toilet paper. Only to find that there was no toilet paper in that stall. Or the next one. Or the next one. Coming to the fourth stall, she gave up a shriek. Finally, there was toilet paper! And found just when she was beginning to think that all of the J.Edgar Hoover Building's toilet paper had been stolen by aliens. While she was giving her shout of joy, the heavy stall door closed behind her, unbeknownst to her. When she turned around, she discovered that it was stuck. Scully sighed. Just great. Before she could attempt to crawl out from the bottom of the stall, she heard the doors to the hallway swing open. Well, now she wasn't going to attempt to crawl out of the stall if someone was there to see. She must look a wreck anyway, what with the blood that was still gushing out of her nose. Remembering that her nosebleed hadn't stopped yet, she held the tissue to her nose and sat on the toilet, putting her feet up on the stall door. It was a very comfortable position. "So, how was your first day working with the widow?" a female voice asked. "She's already ordering me around! I don't mind taking orders, but on the first day?" Scully recognized this voice. It belonged to her new partner, NiFailly. And then she realized they were talking about her. She put her eye to the slight crack in the door and saw three woman; one her partner and two others she only recognized from the hallways. "Tough breaks," said the first woman, taking out a makeup case. "Hey, is it true that there's really this closet down there and in it there are lots of skeletons?" the second woman asked. The first woman gave her a withering look. "No, dumbass, that's just an expression." "Hey, I do have a name! You know it too, Jennifer!" Jennifer shrugged. "Whatever." "No, that's not it," the second woman complained. "Angie, stop whining. She knows your name, she's just trying to get you mad," NiFailly put a stop to the bickering. "So tell us," Jennifer continued. "What's Mrs. Spooky like?" "Without the late Spooky," Angie supplied. "I don't know. I had a five minute conversation with her before she ordered me to go home and pack, and even that was centered on this new case." "Ooh, you have a new case? Please, tell us everything! Where is it?" "Freedom, Texas. But that's all I can tell you, Angie. Everything else is confidential." "Where?" asked a confused Angie. "She sounds like a control freak, ordering you around already," Jennifer said, puckering her lips and reapplying her makeup. "Yeah, well, I don't want to make any judgements about her yet, especially after three minutes of talking to her. But right now, I tend to agree with you." The three women chatted on for a few more minutes. Scully, after hearing that the topic of conversation had moved on from her, rested her head on the flimsy wall that the bathroom stall provided, dabbing unconsciously at her nose, which had stopped bleeding a long while ago. When she was sure that the women had left and she was alone in the bathroom, she stepped out of her stall, still dabbing at her nose. Then she faced the mirror. What Scully saw astonished her. For the first time since Mulder died, she looked, really looked, at herself. There were dark circles under her eyes, eys that used to be bright and blue but now were dim and dull. Her nose still held the faint trickle of blood that she had not swabbed away. Only then was it that she realized that she had also lost a drastic amount of weight, pounds that she couldn't afford to lose. And it was then that she wondered how she had become this way. Stress, she decided, and tried to put it out of her mind for the rest of the day. Tried, but did not succeed.