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Fractal Images by Diana Battis
Date: Tue, 2 May 2000 21:49:12 EDT
Subject: xfc: NEW: Fractal Images (1 of 1) by Diana Battis Source: xfc
TITLE: Fractal Images (1 of 1)
AUTHOR: Diana Battis
DISTRIBUTION: OK for Gossamer, Xemplary, Spookys. Anywhere else, ask. I usually say yes.
CLASSIFICATION: MSR, S, A
SPOILERS: Yes. This is a post-all things piece.
SUMMARY: Sometimes you can’t see the circles for the crops.
DISCLAIMER: Don’t own ’em. Never have, never will, damn it! Worse yet, I use dialogue from the episode in this story. Forgive me, Chris and Gillian. I swear no infringement is intended and no money is being made on my part.
AUTHOR’S COMMENTS: My heartfelt thanks to bugs for keeping me on track, and to Mish, Michelle, and Kristy for their suggestions and encouragement. The chocolate Mulders are in the mail.
My fanfiction can be found at: http://thebasementoffice.com/Musea/dbattis/
There was something dead in the closet.
The body was lying on the floor, still stiff from rigor. Eyes unblinking, staring into nothingness. No blood or other obvious signs of trauma to indicate the cause of death. Crouching down, Mulder examined it with a critical eye.
It was a sad sight.
A poor field mouse, looking for refuge from the still-cold English April, had found its destiny instead. Now the little body was stretched out in the corner, its tail curled like a question mark. Even dead rodents were skeptics.
Somehow, that didn’t surprise him.
Mulder smiled sardonically as he rid the room of its unwelcome intruder. He imagined Scully’s reaction to the incident. ‘And we had to come all the way to England for this?’ Like the hammer of a gun, she would cock a perfectly arched brow, saying more with that one, small maneuver than any words she could speak. ‘We could have found this at any one of a hundred motels at home.’
But he knew that already.
Sighing, he sat on the edge of the sagging bed, his spirits sinking like the ancient mattress. This was so far from what he’d planned. It was April, and there was nothing as lovely as an English spring. He’d reserved rooms at a highly recommended B&B. He had envisioned leisurely walks, showing Scully some of his old haunts. Reliving some of the good memories and hopefully, making some new ones.
Now all his carefully laid plans were dead, just like that pathetic mouse.
Oh, it was quick and bloodless, done in Scully’s inimitably straightforward style. And instead of spending time with her in a quaint bed-and-breakfast, he was here. Alone. In an inn no self-respecting flea would call home.
So much for his romantic weekend getaway.
Flopping back on the bed, he stared at the stained ceiling. In the corner, an ancient brown watermark captured his attention. His eyes traced the shape, following its dips and curves. It looked like two sepia-tinted balloons, or maybe noxious clouds, or perhaps a woman’s tanned breasts… He snorted. What was this, the poor man’s Rorschach test? Damn it, he was more tired than he’d realized.
Shifting around, he propped his head against the shabby bedstead. The wood was dark and unidentifiable, with deep scratches etched in its surface. He imagined someone marking the headboard, one stroke for every day confined in this dreary prison. For a second he entertained the idea of adding his own to the record, but with a roll of his shoulders shrugged off the childish impulse. It wouldn’t make him feel any better.
What did he really expect — a waterbed and working fireplace? The room was cheap, close to the expected sightings, and as different from his original choice as possible. It served his needs.
It also depressed the hell out of him.
Turning his head, he sighed and glanced at the phone, wondering what Scully was doing.
He checked his watch, squinting at the blurred numbers on its face. Fuck, still on DC time, and he couldn’t seem to remember how many hours ahead to reset it. His thoughts were fuzzy, muddled by disappointment and lack of sleep. Only one thing remained clear — he desperately wanted to call her again.
Not that his earlier calls had been satisfying…
“…they’ve got these sensitive photos and data and stuff that they won’t fax to me so I was just wondering if you would just, maybe go over there and, you know, and get it and put it in the bureau pouch for me…” His voice had faltered, and he’d thought for a second that they’d been disconnected until the slightly uneven sound of her breathing had filtered through.
“Speak to me, Scully.” He had barely kept the pleading note out of his delivery.
Scully’s retort had been crisp, concise, and to the point. “I’m out for the evening, Mulder.” Her voice was like a concealed shard of glass, carelessly cutting him with its unexpected sharpness.
Mulder had forced himself to ignore the sting. “Well, why didn’t you just say so in the first place?” Biting on his bottom lip until he tasted blood, he’d fought hard to control the anger rising in him.
Impatience had colored her tone. “Look, um… why don’t you leave that address on my answering machine and, uh, I’ll try for you.” A click and Scully was gone.
He hadn’t spoken to her since his arrival, though he’d left her a message to acknowledge receipt of the info. Maybe now she’d be more amenable? He started to reach for the receiver, stopping when his hand was mere inches from the black plastic. His fingers twitched reflexively, aching to dial the familiar number, but some part of him refused to cooperate. With a sigh, his arm dropped back on to the musty comforter. Maybe the time alone will do her some good.
Then again, maybe not. It sure as hell wasn’t helping him one bit. But then, this trip hadn’t been planned with the idea of being alone… Everything kept coming back to that. Curving around like those goddamned crop circles.
Rubbing at his temples, he tried to push back the headache that threatened. Crop circles? Fuck, she should have known him better than that by now! It had been nothing more than an elaborate ploy to spend some time with her, away from DC, from the bureau and outside distractions. He just hadn’t figured on her outright refusal.
Enough. He pushed himself upright, swinging his feet to the floor. There was a perfectly good pub downstairs and it had been years since he’d had a freshly pulled pint of Guinness. If luck hadn’t completely deserted him, he should still be able to grab a pint or two before closing…
It had been raining for hours.
Mulder was crouching in a wet field, his breath pluming in the chill air. A strong wind swept through the area, and stray drops found their way beneath the neck of his slicker, guided by its impetus. There was no shelter from its driving force, and the layers of clothing he wore were soaked, clinging damply to his already chilled skin.
Shivering, he scrubbed wearily at the day’s growth of beard covering his wet cheeks. He was so fucking tired. Tired of waiting, tired of the rain, tired of being alone.
Another raindrop slipped beneath his collar as though magnetically attracted by the fleece of his sweatshirt, but he barely noticed. If things had turned out differently, he’d be somewhere warm and dry. With Scully of course, instead of half a dozen strangers searching the sky for something to pin their hopes on. They’d be having a quiet dinner somewhere, talking to instead of at each other. It’s what he’d envisioned when the idea of the trip first occurred to him. But Scully had refused outright, preferring a bath and a book to time spent with him.
He wasn’t entirely surprised by her reaction.
Mulder had expected her to resist. His reasons for the trip weren’t exactly earth-shattering in their intensity. But he had also expected her to see right through the flimsy premise. It wasn’t as though he still put any credence in crop circles.
It was a big mistake to use those slides. She hated them; she always had.
He shifted to a kneeling position, his jeans sinking into the cold, muddy ground. Why the hell hadn’t he just been honest with her? Laid it on the line. ‘Scully, I want to spend some time with you.’ What the fuck was so hard about that? Maybe if he’d just talked to her about the trip instead of illustrating it…
“Crop circles, Mulder?” Said in that ‘he can’t be serious’ tone she’d perfected. Scully had handed him a sandwich and walked back to the table, impatience evident in her stiff posture. It hadn’t mattered to him — he’d been too busy watching the way her skirt clung to the curve of her ass.
“Computer-generated crop circles,” he’d corrected, his eyes playing tag between the screen and her body. “It’s a fractal image predicted by a computer program and using data of every known occurrence of the phenomena over the past 40 years…” Slide after slide had been displayed on the screen as he’d illustrated his points.
Apparently she’d been fascinated — but not by the images on the screen.
He watched her toy with her lunch. She’d been carefully sprinkling the greens with tiny drops of vinaigrette, almost as if she were baptizing her salad. Her face expressionless, she’d lifted a forkful to her mouth. Like everything she did, her movements had been precise, not an action wasted.
Spear. Bite. Chew. Crisp greens seemed to hold her attention more thoroughly than the slides. Or his voice. She’d never even noticed the pants remark…
No, she hadn’t been listening to him at all.
That had been happening a lot lately. He’d be talking to her, going over a case, only to see that far-away look in her eyes. It made him feel lost and not a little angry. And powerless to do anything about it.
“Mulder, I still have to go over to the hospital and-and-and finish the final paperwork on the autopsy you had me do. And, to be honest, it’s Saturday and I wouldn’t mind, I don’t know, taking a bath?” Her voice sent a chill through him, icier than the winds that were now driving the rain into his scalp. She’d pursed her lips as if the thought of time spent with him was as sour as the vinaigrette.
He’d been hurt and more than a little angry, though he had done his best to cover it. “Well, what the hell does that mean?”
Waving her fork like a baton, she’d elaborated. He’d felt his excitement diminish with every word she uttered. He understood what she was trying to say. Scully always asked questions, searching for something logical to put her faith in. But lately her queries had seemed to be more penetrating than before, as though her choice of words had been calculated to hurt him. If that were the case, she had a remarkably high success rate.
Mulder had struggled to keep his expression bland. “I’ll just cancel your ticket.” Taking another bite of the sandwich, he’d chewed quickly before dropping it next to the slide projector. “Thanks for lunch.” And for the ensuing indigestion, though he’d known better than to voice that remark.
He’d grabbed his coat and headed for the door.
The plaintive note in her voice had stopped him. For a split second he’d thought she was softening… He’d turned to look at her, carefully keeping his expression neutral.
Scully had still been waving the fork. His eyes had focused on the piece of green speared on the tines, watching it with almost hypnotic fascination as she’d used it to emphasized her point. “Look, we’re always running. We’re always chasing the next big thing. Why don’t you ever just stay still?”
She’d been serious, and it had bothered him more than he’d wanted to acknowledge. After all their time together, she still didn’t know him.
Struggling to keep his tone even, he’d given her the only answer possible.
“I wouldn’t know what I’d be missing.” And had walked out the door.
Not exactly true now, he realized with a sigh, brushing the rain out of his eyes. At this moment he knew exactly what he was missing — he was missing Scully.
He was exhausted.
Throwing himself across the bed, he groaned in unison with the ancient springs. His body ached in a hundred different places, and the less than lukewarm bath had done little to alleviate his discomfort. Oh for some magic fingers, he thought longingly, or some Scully fingers… He shifted until his head rested on the sad excuse for a pillow. It was still raining, and the drops drummed rhythmically against the lone window.
The water-stained ceiling had sprouted several new blots, and he studied them intently, trying to make sense of the random patches of wetness. But for once his imagination failed him, and he was unable to see anything but an ancient ceiling in a shabby room.
Adding a folded arm to the pillow, he closed his eyes and allowed his thoughts to wander.
What was Scully doing? He imagined her in the tub, surrounded by bubbles.
Maybe a glass of wine to assist the soothing process after a long day of… what?
He pursed his lips, biting at their soft, inner flesh. What the hell did she do when she was alone? Spend time with friends? And just who were her friends? It was sad to realize that he had no real sense of her in those circumstances. A bath and a book were as far as his knowledge could stretch.
Not that his life was an open book… but she did know quite a lot about him. He absently rubbed a palm over his head, the spiky strands prickling against his skin like dull needles. She’d met his friends, past and present.
Knew the gory details of his past relationships. Phoebe… Diana… well, most of it anyway.
Shifting to his side, his eyes sought the phone on the small bedside table.
To call or not to call, that was the question. And there was nothing noble about it. He missed her. He loved her, goddamn it, and wanted to hear her voice. But the memory of their last conversation kept him from touching the receiver…
“Scully.” She’d sounded rushed, out of breath. He’d wanted to think he was the cause of her breathlessness.
Mulder had forced himself to speak slowly, trying to keep the eagerness from his voice. “I was just about to leave you a message. Listen, I got that, uh, that address that I wanted you to go to for me. It’s a woman you’re going to be dealing with. She’s affiliated with The American Taoist Healing Center.” He had paused, waiting for the disapproval he’d learned to expect from Scully.
“She researches crop circles?” She’d managed to make it sound like Colleen Azar was a freak, instead of the highly educated scientist he knew her to be.
“Don’t roll your eyes, Scully.” He’d meant to tease her, but somehow the words came out as an accusation, and he’d winced with regret.
She’d been blunt to the point of rudeness, irritating him like the bed’s abrasive sheets as she made it apparent he was imposing on her time. “Mulder you want me to…?”
Her voice had faded, and he’d found himself calling out to her. “Scully?
Scully, you there?” A muffled series of sounds came across the line and then nothing. He’d ended up calling to leave the information on her answering machine…
“Shit,” he muttered, pushing himself upright. Lying around here wasn’t doing him any good. It was his last night here. Time to do something memorable; to wipe away the images of dead mice and muddy fields. He’d call one of his old classmates. Clive. Alan. Maybe Jon. He would meet them for drinks, or something. He reached for his wallet, intending to pull out the hastily scribbled list of phone numbers, but his eyes fell on the manila envelope beneath it.
He grabbed the envelope on the table and pulled out the fractal images. They had a certain beauty, he thought, studying their geometric precision.
Perfectly aligned shapes, turning round, no ending and no beginning.
Shuffling through them he thought again of her, and unconsciously crumpled the pages he was holding.
Christ, how he missed her!
He wanted to tell her that. He wanted to tell her everything. That the trip was wasted, that the crop circles were bullshit, that nothing seemed right without her.
That he loved her…
His jaw clenched as he deliberately dropped the images onto the floor. Why was it he could be a man of action when it came to the paranormal, yet something as simple as talking to the woman he loved scared the shit out of him?
He’d tried. Shared bits of himself, doling them out like pieces of candy.
Maybe that was the problem. Maybe what he’d dispensed has been too fragmentary — like a jigsaw puzzle with pieces missing. You couldn’t get a sense of the whole picture, just random images.
He snorted. That pretty well summed up their whole involvement. Moments in time that, in and of themselves, seemed remarkable, like stepping stones in the relationship. Yet they’d really meant very little. Half-finished conversations, like the take-out leftovers in his refrigerator, cluttered his mind. If left untouched in the dark recesses for a long period of time, they changed, became something different, something… unnatural.
He looked at the crushed pages littering the floor. Maybe it was time to do a little cleaning up.
In the end, it was Scully who made the first move.
It seemed almost strange to be with her like that. He couldn’t remember the last time they’d sat and just talked. Yet here they were, sitting shoulder to shoulder on his couch. Their feet were propped casually on the coffee table, almost touching as they bracketed half-empty mugs of tea. He’d never felt so relaxed.
“I’m sorry things didn’t work out for you, Mulder.” Her words were thick with weariness. “Maybe sometimes nothing happens for a reason.”
He frowned. “That’s the second time you said that. Is there something you want to tell me?” he asked.
“You know, I’ve always admired your ability to cut straight to the heart of a matter, Mulder,” she replied, her lips curving upward.
“I’m serious, Scully.”
Her smile faded. “So am I,” she answered softly.
Mulder watched the expressions flash across her face, like slides projected on a screen. Fear. Anger. Pity. As if aware of his silent regard, her head tilted forward until her face was hidden by a cascade of hair.
“I met someone this weekend,” she said abruptly. “Someone I’d known a long time ago.” Leaning forward, she grabbed her mug, sipping at the now-cold brew. “Someone who’d meant a lot to me, once upon a time.” She laughed, but there was little humor in the sound. “Switched reports, Mulder. The Szczesny post mortem envelope held the wrong information. Instead of tox screen and tissue sample results it contained the x-rays of a Dr. Daniel Waterston.”
The way she said his name startled Mulder. He felt the first stirrings of jealousy and turned to gaze at his hands, now clenched tightly together in his lap. “I take it Dr. Waterston is the ‘someone’ in question?” It took all his available energy to keep his tone even.
“He was one of my teachers in med school.” Her voice was steady, though she seemed to struggle for the right words. “I was different then; naive and uncertain. Daniel saw something in me and he nurtured it. He was older, wiser, and I… I fell in love.” She set the mug on the coffee table, glancing back at him as she straightened. “My friends didn’t understand.
They didn’t see the charming and dynamic man I did. To them, he was just old.”
He turned to look at her then, his eyes curious. “That must have been hard for you to understand.”
“It was incomprehensible. How could they fail to recognize his genius?” Her glance darted in his direction. “And he was a genius, Mulder. He’s still one of the best in his field. And he chose me,” she whispered, her face now in shadows. “I told myself that they were just jealous.”
Her friends weren’t the only ones. Hearing each word and seeing the hurt in her face was killing him. It was getting harder and harder not to touch her.
He wanted to hold her, to comfort her like you would a child. To tell her everything would be all right. He wanted everything to be that way. But he knew she needed to talk, to get it all off her chest. And he needed to hear it. “I’m sorry,” he said finally.
Shrugging, she raised her eyes to his. “He’d told me he was divorced.” She bit her lip, the teeth worrying the soft flesh. “The truth was, he lied to me. I trusted him and he lied. I should have suspected it. We never met on weekends, and when we did go out it was always to those little, out of the way places. I thought it was romantic,” she finished, irony coloring her voice.
He had to touch her then, he couldn’t help himself. Slowly, he reached out to her, stroking a finger across the back of her hand. She shivered, but didn’t pull away, and he was pleased by her reaction. “You were young, Scully. That’s not a crime.”
“One day, I received an anonymous phone call. A ‘friend’ wanted me to know that my lover was still married.” Her breath caught on the last word. “It hurt to discover my idol had feet of clay. But youth is nothing if not resilient. In a matter of days I’d convinced myself it was just a misunderstanding. He was only staying for the sake of his daughter. That worked for about two weeks, then reality set in. Needless to say, Daniel didn’t take it well. He acted as if he were the one betrayed. He still feels that way.”
Swallowing hard, he forced himself to ask, “And you — how did you feel, seeing him again?”
“Truthfully, Mulder, I felt sad.” She stared at her folded hands. “I’d managed to move on with my life, and he’s still living in the past.”
Reaching out, he covered her hands with his. “Any regrets?” He held his breath, waiting for her answer.
Her fingers twisted until they were entwined with his. She stared at him, her eyes huge in her pale face. “No regrets, Mulder. I’m right where I want to be.”
He exhaled heavily, releasing the weight that had been pressing on his heart with that simple expulsion of air. She’d answered so many questions, opened up to him in a way he’d never before imagined possible.
When she finally shared her experience in the Buddhist temple, his jaw nearly dropped. She was direct and matter-of-fact and he realized that, for the first time, she believed in something her science couldn’t explain.
This whole night was amazing, almost like a miracle, if he believed in them.
He couldn’t seem to control the shit-eating grin that plastered itself to his face. He found himself babbling, his words almost nonsensical. “…choices would then lead to this very moment. One wrong turn, and… we wouldn’t be sitting here together. Well, that says a lot. That says a lot, a lot, a lot. That’s probably more than we should be getting into at this late hour…”
The room was suddenly quiet. He looked over at her, surprised by the silence. Had he said something to upset her?
She was asleep.
Her face looked much younger in sleep. Lashes curled softly against her pale skin, and a lock of hair had fallen across her cheek. With an unsteady hand, he tucked it behind her ear, the strands like silk against his callused fingers. Reaching over, he grabbed the patterned blanket that was draped over the back of the couch. He wrapped it around her, careful not to disturb her, and crept off to bed.
There may be fifty ways to leave your lover, but there were only twenty-three positions for sleeping. Mulder knew that for a fact; he’d tried them all, counting each like sheep as he attempted to find the one that would finally do the trick. His current position was on his side, one leg uncovered position number seventeen. It wasn’t working.
Groaning, he rolled over on to his back. His jet lagged body yearned for sleep, but memories of Scully kept racing through his mind, faster than any sheep could jump a fence. Stretching his arms above his head, he closed his eyes defiantly. Position number eighteen and counting… He was floating, his body light as air. It must be the bed. His comfortable bed. His big, fluffy pillows. Not like those cheesy English ones, filled with something prickly like hair. Horse hair from the tails.
Horsetails, or maybe ponytails. Scully used to wear a ponytail. Long red hair. So pretty, like a silken waterfall, cascading down past her shoulders.
Little freckles dotting her nose. And her smile. Beautiful, those full lips enticing even when they were pouting. Like a little rosebud, soft and round.
Round and round… a serpent swallowing its own tail. Scullysnake, curving on her curves. Suddenly, she was there, tempting him. Sitting on the edge of his bed, pouting, fingers ruffling through his hair. “You left me on the couch,” she scolded, but he heard the teasing note in her voice and smiled. “I was cold. Make me warm, Mulder.” He pulled aside the covers in silent invitation.
“Umm, that’s nice,” she murmured, sliding beneath the comforter. Skin, so soft, so much of it. Pressing against him. Head to foot. Feet. Her feet, frozen, like ice, and she rubbed them against his legs in seemingly blissful abandon.
He shivered, but not from cold. “Careful, Scully,” he whispered, “you’re liable to start a fire that way.”
“I’ll try to remember that,” she said, laughing softly. Her voice, close to his ear, breath warm and sweet, fragrant like the mint tea. Seconds later, lips sliding against his. They lingered, lifted and pressed again. The kisses were gentle and sweet, more perfect than he’d ever before imagined.
He heard her whispering to him, “I love you, Mulder.” Her hands caressed his cheeks as she punctuated those words with another lengthy kiss.
She said the words, the ones he’d wanted to hear for so long. It was like a dream come true, he thought hazily. A dream…
He was dreaming. It wasn’t real. It couldn’t be. Scully hadn’t kissed him, hadn’t said she loved him. She wasn’t cuddled up next to him, wriggling until her body curved against his. It wasn’t her silk-covered breast he cupped, or her nipple pebbling against his palm. He smiled, his face nestled against the curve of her neck. “Love you, too,” he murmured, snaking an arm about her waist, “even if you aren’t real.”
“Sleep, Mulder. Just sleep,” she whispered soothingly.
It was so vivid, so real. He could smell her scent, feel her soft skin, hear the even tenor of her breathing. It was a wonderful dream… It was the cold that finally awakened him.
The wind had picked up, causing the trees to sway in its wake. Branches tapped wildly against the partially opened window as though seeking shelter from the early morning chill. Shivering, he reached down to pull the covers to his chin.
Snugly wrapped in the comforter, he found himself wondering if Scully were cold. He was suddenly worried that the blanket wasn’t warm enough for her. The urge to check was overwhelming. He quickly threw off the bedclothes and swung his feet to the floor.
The wood was cold, and his toes curled in protest as he stepped carefully to the door. Opening it slowly, he peered into the next room.
She was gone. The couch was empty, the blanket neatly refolded and deposited in its place over the back of the couch. Even the mugs were gone, probably sitting in the rack in his kitchen. There was nothing left to show that she’d been there; nothing to mark last night as a milestone in their relationship. With a sigh of disappointment, he closed the door and headed back to bed.
He lay there for a while, snuggling in its warmth. It was almost morning.
Turning his head, he could see the first hint of dawn, tinting the deep purple sky with traces of orange.
Squinting, he checked the digital clock. Five-fifty three. In less than an hour he’d be getting up for work. Swearing softly, he squeezed his eyes shut and hoped for the best…
The covers twisted with every shift of his body until they were wrapped about his legs like ropes. The once cold room suddenly seemed like a furnace.
Sweat slicked his bare chest and plastered the hair to his forehead. With a sigh, he gave up, propping his pillow against the headboard for support.
Truth was, he was too wired to sleep. Last night had been amazing.
Fantastic. Amazingly fantastic. And his dream…
He suddenly found himself grinning like the Cheshire Cat.
Funny, but he could almost smell her. Closing his eyes, he inhaled deeply. It seemed to him that his room, his bed, were suffused with scent. It was a blend of almond and citrus that was uniquely Scully. He turned to stare at the other pillow. The case seemed wrinkled, as though it had been used…
Memories of his dream, of how vivid it had seemed, washed over him. Was it possible? He bent over, sniffing at the cotton surface.
The pillow smelled like Scully.
Smiling, he rolled onto the other side of the bed and buried his head in its softness.
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