Post-ep for "TrustNo1"
DISCLAIMER: Not mine; they belong to FOX, CC, etc.
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Dana Scully sat down at her computer and logged into her e-mail account as she had every day for the last month. She used to go down the street to an internet cafe, ignorantly thinking that she could find anonymity there, but now she knew better. She would be watched wherever she went, and her e-mail would be monitored wherever she opened it. She might as well sit here in the comfort of her own home. It was easier than getting William ready to put in the stroller and filling up the diaper bag.
There were three new messages. Scully sighed--inhaling hope and exhaling disappointment, wishing for the best but fearing for the worst, as she had every day for the past month--and clicked on the inbox. A message from her brother...junk mail from the website she had used to send flowers for her mother's birthday...and something from an "RPetry" with a blank message line. Scully frowned. Who was this? She knew that somewhere inside it struck a chord of recognition, but she couldn't quite place it. R. Petry. Suddenly a smile lit up her face as a picture of a suburban house in California flashed into her head. She unconsciously held her breath as she clicked on the message.
It was only one line: "You can't keep a good man down." But it was enough. Scully's eyes welled up with tears. She couldn't hold them back. She didn't want to. She looked down at William lying on the blanket on the floor next to her desk and whispered to him, "He's okay." A small wave of doubt began to creep into her mind. Could this really be him, or is it someone playing a trick on her or trying to smoke him out again? But she couldn't think such thoughts. This had to be him. It had to be Mulder. It just seemed too much like him to be anyone else. She had wished for so much more in his first attempt at contact, but she knew he was trying to be discreet. At least she knew he was still alive, somewhere, and that he would do his best to contact her again. Scully stared at the e-mail for a good five minutes, reading that one line over and over again, savoring every syllable, and hearing Mulder's voice read it to her every time it ran through her head. Then she closed her eyes, sighed deeply, and swept away the remaining tears from her face.
Feeling that she had regained her composure, Scully moved the mouse to poise the arrow over the "reply" button and paused. Should she write back to him? Would that be risking any more exposure than the e-mail he had sent? As long as she was equally discreet in responding, she didn't see that it would make any difference. She also remembered how the last time she had heard from him he had sounded as desperate to see her as she was to see him, and she knew how painful the ensuing silence had been for her after she sent her last message. She couldn't remain silent. She had to say something in reply in case he could get back to his e-mail. She let her finger fall and the reply screen opened, with the cursor flashing in the text box awaiting her message.
What should she write? In case anyone else was reading, she should only write some kind of logical response to his message. But how could she ever find a proper response to one of Mulder's quips? She smiled. Sometimes she had a quick comeback--sometimes she got in the last word. But usually it was his simple one-liner that managed to make light of a serious situation and leave her without a reply. In case anyone else was reading, she had to make sure that she said nothing to give him away. But there was so much she wanted to say. "I love you, Mulder. I miss you desperately. I can't do this alone. I need you." No, that would be too obvious. She would have to be more subtle. She needed to think about this for a while. After a moment of hesitation, Scully logged out of her account and shut down her computer. She would have to come back to this later, after she had properly thought it through.
Scully turned in her chair to face William and sat there, thinking. Her thoughts wandered beyond her immediate problem to daydreams about happier times. She unconsciously let her eyes scan the walls and the ceiling, something she had begun to do habitually over the past month.
So much had happened since that night at the quarry. There was so much that she had learned, but she didn't know what changes her new knowledge may have caused in the habits of those who were behind it all. Scully had learned that her apartment had been watched, and not just from the outside. That man had known things, things done in secret, done in the dark. He had known about that night when Scully came back from the doctor, heartbroken. When Mulder had volunteered to stay, as a friend, to comfort her. When she asked him to stay even longer and led him into her bedroom. Someone had watched from inside her apartment--they had violated her privacy as no one had the right to do, no matter what government agency they claimed to work for.
The morning after the incident at the quarry, Scully had called the Lone Gunmen and asked them to come over and debug her apartment. They found no fewer than ten listening devices and four cameras, all smaller than a thumbtack. She only hoped that the guys had found them all, and that the Watchers had not managed to install any more in the meantime. She had the Gunmen place a camera of their own in the hallway outside her door to see if any suspicious-looking "plumbers" or "Jehovah's Witnesses" decided to let themselves in while she was away. Despite these precautions, Scully never opened her blinds at night anymore, and she never quite felt safe. She especially never disrobed with the lights on. You never know who might be watching.
However, Scully had also learned other, more positive things through the encounter with Shadowman. Now she had DNA to work with. Now she knew that something about the iron compound at the quarry could apparently destroy these Super Soldiers. Now she could turn to science to find answers, and this was her sole source of comfort these days. During the day, Scully now spent as much time as she could spare, outside of the classroom, in the genetics lab at Quantico. But her evenings were always spent with William. NOTHING would make her compromise that. Yet her mind never stopped working on the problem, not while she was with William, not even while she slept. It was always there somewhere, at the forefront or shoved to the back. Maybe her science could provide the key to bringing Mulder home. And if she had the ability to find that key, she could never stop searching for it.
Scully emerged from her reverie and picked up William. He needed to be changed, fed, and put to bed. What a change of pace motherhood was from her life as an agent in the field. It was certainly no less busy, but she spent a lot less time in hotel rooms. All those nights on the road. All those times she had lain awake, staring at the ceiling, and wondering if her life would ever amount to more than that. She had longed for a normal life. A home and a family. Maybe a dog...or some fish. But what she ended up with was not what she had imagined. She had a man whom she loved and who loved her. Out of their love, they had created the miracle of life. But they had no home, and they were not a family. Well, at least she had the fish.
It was almost ten o'clock by the time Scully finally got William to go to sleep. He usually slept through the night now, so if she went to bed shortly after him, she could almost get eight hours of rest. The nights seemed so lonely now, but at least this one would be a bit happier than the last: she knew Mulder was alive. He couldn't be there with her, but she had good reason to hope that someday he might be.
Scully headed for the bathroom, washed her face, and brushed her teeth. She double-checked the front door to ensure it was locked and then looked in on William. He was sleeping peacefully. She brought the baby monitor into her room, turned off the lights, changed into her pajamas, and got into bed. If there was only one person sleeping in the bed that night, Scully didn't notice. When she closed her eyes, she could feel Mulder beside her, and in his arms she felt safe.
* * *
Across the street in an empty apartment, a man sat in the dark. He watched the last light go off in Dana Scully's apartment a little after 10:30, and only then did he turn his attention away from her building. His gaze had been fixed on those windows since she had returned home from work four hours earlier. Her blinds had been slightly open during the first hour of that time, and he only caught a glimpse of her once when she had walked over to close them, but that glimpse was enough to sustain him for the ensuing hours.
Now that his attention had been drawn away from the apartment, his eyes began to scan the street below. He watched the shadows, fixing his eyes now here, now there, to see if anything was moving that shouldn't be. He sat there in the dark, with one hand resting on the binoculars sitting next to him, and the other hand unconsciously poised close to the holster on his hip. He mentally prepared himself for another night's vigil, as he had done every night for the past two weeks.
The night passed uneventfully. At 2:00 am, he saw the light go on in the bedroom of Scully's apartment across from him. The sight of the sudden glow stirred him back to alertness, and only then did he realize that he had nearly dozed off in the warmth of his thoughts. He sat forward and watched the window intently, but he saw no motion. The baby must have been crying. After half an hour, the light went off again and stayed off through the rest of the night.
At 8:05, he watched Agent Scully emerge from the front door of her building, running five minutes behind her usual schedule. She had her arms loaded, carrying a child, a diaper bag, and a briefcase, but somehow she made it all look so easy. After she hurriedly placed all three burdens in the car, the man watched as her car pulled out and drove down the street. He closely observed the other cars on the block to see if any appeared to be following her, but none of them moved. After five minutes passed, his body relaxed, and he settled back into his chair to let the exhaustion carry him away into a restless sleep.
* * *
When Scully arrived at work that morning, she found a large white box sitting on her desk. If this had arrived on her doorstep, she would have been nervous about opening it, but at least here it had already passed through security. With a puzzled look on her face, she set down her briefcase on the chair and stepped forward to the box. The small gold label on the front read "Dora's Flowers." Inside, Scully found a dozen red roses and a small card. "Happy Valentine's Day. Love, R. Petry."
Until that moment, she had forgotten that today was February 14th. In fact, she had even forgotten that it was February, as every day seemed just like the last, just as wearying and as lonely.
R. Petry. Somehow he had managed to send her flowers. She knew that the warmth she felt in that moment would far outlast the flowers themselves. Scully closed her eyes, imagined him there in front of him, and mouthed the words, "Thank you, Mulder. I love you."
The sound of footsteps and voices down the hallway reminded Scully of where she was, and she opened her eyes and regained her composure. After some searching, she finally located a container large enough to hold the roses, which she filled with water, and then she placed the bouquet in the water and set it on her desk. She knew it would arouse some questions, but she wouldn't provide any answers. People could think what they wanted. She didn't care, because she knew the truth, and the truth was all that mattered.
* * *
Just after 6:00 pm, Scully came stumbling through the door of her apartment with the same three burdens in hand that she had hauled downstairs that morning, plus a white box that was tucked under her arm. She dropped the briefcase just inside the door to free one hand, then she shut the door. She set down the diaper bag, walked into the living room, and put William into his playpen. She knew he would need to be changed soon, but she needed a few minutes to herself first. Then she tended to the white box.
Scully pulled a chair over to the refrigerator and pulled a large crystal vase out of the cupboard above it. She dampened a dishcloth and gently wiped off the thin layer of dust that kept the vase from showing its full beauty. Then she filled it with water, set it in the center of the dining room table, and placed the roses inside. After a moment or two of arranging, and the trimming of a couple of stems, she stood back and took in the sight. They were beautiful. And even more important, they reminded her of *him*.
The sound of William shaking a rattle reminded Scully of the mundane tasks of the evening. She walked over to the playpen and instinctively did the "dirty diaper check" that all mothers routinely do. Before picking him up, she looked beyond him to the window. She had kept her blinds shut so much over the past month that the sunlight seldom shone in her apartment anymore. It had been a bright, sunny day, and for some reason she felt compelled to open the blinds to let in the last minutes of daylight that were left. She twisted open the blinds and paused at the window for a moment, then she returned to William. She would change him first, then change her own clothes, and finally get around to making dinner.
* * *
At 5:45, the man across the street had checked his watch and prepared to begin his evening vigil. At 5:55, he began to study the street below his window, waiting for the car to pull up. Ten minutes later, he saw it come down the street toward him, slow, and then parallel park just below. Dana Scully emerged from the driver's seat and began the regular ritual of extracting William from the car seat and loading up her arms. But tonight there was an extra bundle. It was a white box. The man in the darkened apartment smiled to himself as he recognized the parcel. He watched Scully walk awkwardly to the building and go inside.
His eyes moved to her living room window, although for now, there was nothing to see. Usually, all he did see was the glow of lights as dusk set in, with an occasional shadow passing by a window, but nothing more. However, tonight he was surprised when the blinds opened. The shapes and movements inside remained indistinct while daylight lingered, but the images became clearer as the night approached.
From his chair, he had a clear view of Scully sitting at her dining room table, just opposite him and directly through the window. William was sitting in a high chair to her left. The man reached for his binoculars to watch the domestic scene inside. He had never seen her feeding William before.
The scene inside was quite entertaining for the next 20 minutes as Scully attempted to spoon baby food into William's mouth, half of which ended up on his face or on the tray in front of him as he continuously wriggled around in his chair. It was almost surreal to watch as the man sat there in silence, but he could imagine the gurgling and cooing of the baby and the exasperated comments of the mother.
Finally, she decided he had had enough and turned to her own food, which by now must have been cold. The vase of roses sat on the table in front of her, toward her right, partially obscuring the man's view. He could see that her attention was not focused on her dinner or on the baby, but on the flowers. Every now and then she would turn back toward William, but her focus always returned to the flowers.
* * *
Around 7:30, Scully cleared her dishes from the table and set them in the sink. She walked over to William with a rag, wiped the food off of his hands, his face, and the tray to his high-chair. Then she took off his bib, picked him up, and took him back over to his playpen. It was only then that she realized the blinds were still open even though it was now dark outside. She immediately felt uncomfortable and hastily walked over to shut them.
But for some reason she paused when she reached the window. Outside, she could see nothing but the street lights and a car passing by, yet she had this feeling, a feeling that through the darkness she was looking at something familiar. It wasn't a specific object or person, just a feeling of something magnetic, like a force that drew her toward it. She didn't realize that in the midst of these thoughts, she had focused her gaze on the darkened windows of the apartment directly across the street.
The sound of a knock at the door startled Scully out of her thoughts. She quickly closed the blinds and walked to the door. She wasn't expecting anyone and had already chained the door for the night. She leaned forward on her toes to look through the peephole. Through the glass, she saw the distorted image of Byers' face and caught a glimpse of Langly's blond hair.
"It's Valentine's Day. Don't you guys have dates?" Scully cajoled them as she opened the door.
"Only with you, my lovely lady." Frohike held out a small bouquet of daisies as he entered. Then he saw the roses on the table. "I guess I've been outdone. Secret admirer?"
"Not so secret. Just a good friend who couldn't be here today." She knew they would understand.
"Well, we came to bring you flowers and a card." Frohike handed the daisies to Scully, then he held up the card in front of her so that she could see the writing on the envelope. It read, "Open away from prying eyes." Scully looked at Frohike inquisitively, who gazed back with a knowing look to make sure that she understood. Scully placed the envelope on the table next to the roses, face down.
"Let me put these in water."
Frohike looked at the roses and muttered under his breath, "Don't bother," but Scully didn't hear him. She pulled a tall, slender vase out of the cupboard for the daisies and then set them down on the table.
During this exchange, Langly had wandered over to the playpen and occupied himself with one of William's toys. Byers sat down at the table, and Frohike and Scully soon sat down with him.
"We just stopped by to see how you were doing," Byers explained.
"As well as can be expected, I suppose, although today was better than most." Scully glanced over at the roses as she said this.
"At least there haven't been any suspicious visitors on the camera," Byers said. "I know we can never be too cautious, but for now we don't have any evidence of additional surveillance being installed in your apartment."
"That's good to hear. Although I had the strangest feeling tonight, like someone was watching me, someone I knew." Scully was absently staring at the table as she said this, lost in thought; otherwise she would have seen the quick glance that passed between Frohike and Byers.
"Maybe Doggett placed surveillance on your apartment, for your protection," Frohike quickly offered.
"At any rate, the last few weeks have been uneventful. We think that the incident at the quarry may have delayed their plans. That may have been just as surprising to them as it was to us," Byers added.
Scully was still lost in thought. During this conversation, Langly had quietly moved from the playpen over to the window. He slowly twisted open the blinds, carefully positioning them at the appropriate angle, then he returned to the playpen. Scully had not noticed.
The Lone Gunmen stayed for another 15 minutes, Byers and Frohike making conversation with Scully about William, Langly remaining engrossed with William's toys. As the clock was approaching 8:00, Byers and Frohike rose to leave. Langly also stood and moved back over to the window to close the blinds. This time Scully saw him.
"Langly, what are you doing?"
"Uh, I was just checking the street before we left, to make sure it's all clear."
Scully could tell he was lying, but she wasn't sure why. She didn't press the issue. It was time to get William ready for bed, and she was eager to get to her e-mail.
The Gunmen moved to the door, said their good-byes, and Scully locked the door behind them. She looked at the window again, wondering, and then she picked William up and walked into his room.
Half an hour later, Scully was finally able to sit down at her computer. She logged into her e-mail account. There were two messages, both advertisements. The message from R. Petry that she had opened the night before was still sitting, unanswered, in her inbox. She clicked on it.
"You can't keep a good man down." Since she first read that e-mail, she had received the flowers, and now she had even more that she wanted to say to him. But she couldn't. She finally decided on what she thought would be the best reply.
"And a bad one is not invincible." It wasn't necessarily a clever reply, and certainly wasn't the heartfelt response that she wanted to send. But, it would communicate what was important if Mulder hadn't received her previous e-mails, and it contained a veiled threat to anyone else who might be reading. She just knew that she had to send something, and this is the best she could think of for now.
Scully had been so focused on wanting to get around to her e-mail that she had nearly forgotten about the mysterious card that Frohike had handed to her with the flowers. She checked on William and then walked to the dining room table where she had left the envelope. "Open away from prying eyes." As far as they knew, the apartment was no longer being watched from the inside, but they still took such precautions. Scully decided that the best way to read it would be with her flashlight, under the covers in her bed. She placed the envelope, face down, on her pillow to return to it later.
After William was finally asleep, Scully brought the baby monitor into her room and got ready for bed. As she had become accustomed to do, she turned off the lights before changing, and then she climbed into bed in the dark, but this time with her flashlight in hand. Huddling down under her comforter, she pulled it well over head. It made her feel like a child again, sneaking some late night reading long after her parents had tucked her into bed.
Scully turned on the flashlight and opened the envelope. There was a single sheet of paper folded up inside. The handwriting was small and neat--she recognized it as Frohike's. Her heart began to beat more swiftly as a familiar name jumped out at her from the page.
It read: "Mulder has been in contact with us. He wants to meet with you, but knows that your apartment is not a safe location. We've arranged a meeting place for the night of the 23rd. You need to make some excuse for going away that weekend and plan to leave William with your mother. As a precaution, we will not tell you ahead of time where you will be going, but we will contact you with instructions about where to go. Plan to leave around noon on that Saturday and return sometime Sunday afternoon. We will take all measures necessary to ensure that this will be a safe meeting. Please destroy this letter after you read it."
A wave of emotion came over Scully. The last 24 hours had changed her world. Not only had she heard from Mulder, for the first time in a month, to find out that he was alive, but she had also received the flowers, and now she was going to be able to see him again soon.
* * *
Scully could hardly await the arrival of the 23rd. The Gunmen had been in touch with her again to give some initial instructions so she could prepare to leave that day. In the morning, she went over to her mother's house to drop off William. She had made the excuse that Agent Doggett had asked her to fly down to Florida to do an autopsy on a case similar to one she had worked on before, which her mother wasn't happy about but also didn't question. Scully then returned to her apartment and finished packing for her trip.
Just before noon, Scully walked down the street to the bus stop and waited for Bus 14. She rode this to the transit station, changed buses, and then took that one to the Amtrak station. Once there, she checked the boards for the next departure and slowly wandered toward the platforms, keeping alert to anyone who had walked in shortly after she had. Only two other people had disembarked from the bus with her--an elderly woman and a teenage boy--and neither of them had paid attention to her or lingered in the waiting area. Scully waited for the next train to depart and saw that she was left standing alone on the platform. When the train left, she mingled with the arrival traffic from the adjoining platform and walked back into the station.
She then went over to the lockers and opened number 25 with the key that had been slipped under her door that morning. Inside was a map, directions, and keys for a rental car in the parking lot.
By now Scully felt more secure that no one had followed her, but she still wasn't sure how ubiquitous the spy technology might be that the Shadowman had gone to such lengths to circumvent that night that they met. But, he had also been using her to get to Mulder, so that elaborate ploy may have been nothing more than an attempt to keep Doggett or Reyes from following her. It was impossible to know quite who or what to believe anymore.
Scully followed the directions she had been given, which twisted and turned a number of times before finally leading her onto the interstate that would take her to her destination. After several quick exits and u-turns, Scully was convinced that she was unaccompanied on her journey. The directions eventually led her to a small town on the southern coast of Virginia. She pulled into the parking lot of the Seaside Inn just after 6 pm.
That's all she wrote!
Here are some recs for a more satisfying conclusion:
"Burning Both Ends of the Night" by Char Chaffin
ôLifelines in Plastic" by Eral C.
"Christmas in California" by Michelle Kiefer
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