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__________________
"In a Dark Time, the Eye begins to See"
    -Roethke
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Chapter 5


Scully leaned over the body bag and pulled it open just enough to get a look
at the thin face with the same fragmented innocence as the night before. Now the violet
eyes were pale and dull and splashed with cold sticky blood. She closed them gently, whispering
a delicate prayer, then sat back, her head reeling and threatening to collapse. Though
Agent Scully was blatantly ignoring her, Dana tried desperately to sort
between reality and illusion tinted nightmare. It had been a nightmare,
hadn't it? Perhaps the girl being murdered so near to where they were staying triggered
something. It hadn't been real. Hadn't it? She needed to know, and she wanted to know.
Dana Scully was a scientist, and although science had never been able to tell her the 'why',
she was always destined to figure out the 'how'.
She always hungered for it, craved it, that piece of evidence, that chromosome, that tiny
virus that always made the pieces fall into place for her. It was what made life and
insatiable human curiosity somewhat bearable in her existence, especially with this job.
It was cold, and although officials buzzed noiselessly around her, she felt very alone as
she looked up past the molten blood staining the bark of the trees, up higher, higher, to a
tiny bird that flew away soundlessly in the empty empty sky.
A hand touched her shoulder.
"Agent Scully? Are you alright?"
She turned around to see Medici, once again sensing the undercurrent of her voice,
something bordering between concern and contempt for seeing a high and mighty government
agent staring incoherently into the ruined face of a young murder victim. Medici probably
took it that she wasn't hardened to death, wasn't ready for the grisly details of life. She
thought briefly about telling her that she had seen much, much worse before, but then thought
the better of it. Let the woman inflate her own ego, she thought, standing up, pushing a
strand of ruddy red hair free from her eyes.
"I'm fine," she said, and the younger woman nodded shortly, then turned to another
group of policemen and investigators. The 2 words would have caused Mulder to jump and
force her into an unpleasant self examination. She was glad that he was on the other
side of the crime scene, examining the blood staining a particular tree. It smelled of
stale metallic copper and the dry dead crackling leaves that rustled and broke underneath
moving feet.
Nothing. There was nothing there. Nothing at all.
It felt like the world was collapsing in on itself, and maybe it was.


   

Medici stopped and turned again, looking at the FBI agent behind her, who stared blankly at
the sky. Something had cracked and broken- something that had already been cracked and broken
so many times that a difference could no longer be established between the fragments and the
whole.
She thought of going over and talking to her once more, but decided not to. It was plain
to see that something was wrong, and it bothered her.. she'd been trained to read people and
their reactions, and her overall first impression of the other woman had been that of a woman
trying too hard to be strong, and sometimes succeeding, if only for the veneer of frost that
coated that success. Surely in her line of work, especially as a forensic scientist,
she'd seen so much more gruesome and harrowingly sorrowful then the body that lay before them.
(Maybe sometimes she tries so hard,) the detective thought, (that she feels like there nowhere
left to fall from.)
The pity that came with that thought was swept away with the wave of
inexplicable envy when the agent's partner came up to her, his head ducked low into their
shared trust and confidence, his hand placed at the small of her back strong enough for her
to almost relax into. It was not an envy based on their individual persons or attributes, but
rather the bond that existed so easily between the two. She'd first thought them
lovers, but having seen them together more, seen the restrained way they touched each other,
the glances between them, she now suspected it was something that ran deeper and stronger
than that. It made her feel terribly alone.




"Hi," Mulder said.
"Hi," she replied, a little puzzled by the greeting. They didn't even say "hi" to
each other when they answered the phone.
"Find everything you'll need here?" he murmured, close enough to let her drown in
the intoxication of his warmth. She wanted him take her in his arms and
make her forget about anything and everything.
She wanted to believe that he could.
Then she shook the thought from her head.
Dependency was bad. Very bad. It was already enough that she was sleeping with him.
She put a distance between them. If she belonged completely and utterly to him through
the surrender of her body during the night, she could at least belong to herself
during the day.
Denial was everything. She convinced herself that she was a strong, whole woman.
She looked around, careful to avoid letting her eyes fall on the slashed body and
resilient strips of blood.
"Not anything that I can't take a look at later. What do you have in mind?"
"I want us to take a look at the bookstore where Ramsey was finally found."
"Why?" she asked.
"Call it a hunch."



   


She supposed there were worse things she could be subjected to. The never-ending
pledge drives between programs she would have otherwise enjoyed. The time she'd locked her
keys in the car on a particularly bad day and spent 3 hours banging on the windshield
against her better (and more sane) judgement, before breaking the glass, only to have her
meticulously installed security program go off and be arrested for trying to break into her
own car. Of course, there was also that horrid old man in the middle of Springfield, Illinois
chasing after a turtle who'd stolen his teeth, but that in and of itself was *another* story
that she didn't want to bring up. Instead, Scully listened dolefully to the teenagers
pervading a small, plush corner of the children's section of the over-airconditioned
Barnes and Nobles, who seemed to bring a new definition
to the word "giggle." There were 7 of them, though only 2 paid attention: the
black-haired girl with old eyes and her sunglasses poised tentatively over her head (despite
the fact that it was practically winter), and the large-eyed, cynical one. They were the
only ones who appeared not to be too heavily affected by the small collection of mocha
frappachinos, the cups of heavily caffeinated fluid sitting among the plethora of occult books,
dream interpretations, and one, very out of place looking book entitled "Tommy learns to potty".
"Yeah, we've seen 'im," sunglass girl said. She moved her hands a bit as she spoke.
She squinted at the picture of Clifford and let her painted lips settle into a sweet smile.
"Kinda cute, ain't he, Sanya?"
Sanya rolled her eyes. "Considering that you would call a lamp-post 'cute'
if popular culture deemed it to be so, I'm not going to justify that with an answer, Kristy."
Kristy adjusted her sunglasses and cocked an eyebrow.
"I happen to *like* lamp-posts. And I refuse to be catagorized under the term of
'popular culture junkie'. If there's anyone here that does fall under that catagory, it's Lula."
Whoever Lula was stuck her head up from the dream-interpretation session she and 2 red
haired twins were having.
"I resent that!"
"You would!"
Scully sighed a little too loudly, then broke into their conversation, asking,
"So you said you've seen him?"
"Yeah. He comes in here from time to time. Always reading one book, I think it's called
'Pest Control'- I read it before, a book about exterminators and assassins- very funny...
He'll stay for about half an hour and then leave. Sometimes he goes into
the cafe and buys a slice of carrot cake. I've watched him."
Sanya leaned a little closer to Scully, and whispered, "Kristy likes to stalk people."
"I do NOT!"
"Don't you remember a certain guy named.. BOBBY?"
"I did NOT stalk him!"
"No, you found out where all his classes were and planned your entire schedule around
seeing him. TELL me that's not stalking."
"That's not stalking."
"Shut up."
Scully pushed herself off her kneeling position, this time restraining the sigh with
something akin to a grunt.
"Thanks," she said, before walking away. No one noticed: Kristy and Sanya continued
to argue over the finer points of stalking, Lula continued her dream-seance session with the
2 twins, and the remaining two girls were making an attempt (a failing one at that) to read
each other the potty book without bursting into fits of very healthy laughter.
   
   

Mulder handed her the fragrant cup of Starbucks coffee that she accepted gratefully.
"So what'd they tell you?"
"Aside from the fact that America's youth is in even more trouble psychologically
than I *thought* it was, Ramsey's been here. He comes in and reads a *book* of all things."
"What else can he do? This *is* a bookstore, Scully."
"I'm just having trouble understanding the logic," she sighed, sitting down into the
seat across from him, "The man is a convicted serial killer escapee. Although three years
has probably blotted his face from the immediate minds of most citizens, he should still be
recognized. He's also a fairly intelligent individual.
Yet he sits in a well-frequented, very visible bookstore and *reads*?"
"Would you rather have him out killing more people?"
Whoops. He hit an invisible bullseye that he'd never known existed, and she'd never known
existed until he'd pierced it. She stood up with an unintentional shove.
"No," she said, slinging her purse over her shoulder.
He was confused.
"What should we do? You want me to call for backup?"
"No. You stay here and keep an eye out for Ramsey. Call for backup when you see him.
In the meantime, *I* have an autopsy to do."
Then she left, leaving him behind to try to figure out what was wrong. As always, he'd
never find out. At least, until it was too late.

"What do you mean it's already been done?"
Despite the fact that Scully was a terrible liar when it came to covering for her
less-than-by-the-book partner, she was an incredible actress when her pride was at stake.
She could put anger, astonishment, and no relief whatsoever
into her voice by sheer will power alone.
"I'm sorry, Agent Scully," the mousy young man in front of her pleaded, "But the
autopsy has already been done."
"By whom?" It was not a polite question accompanied by tea and crumpets, but an angry
demand hurled with the force of a custard pie. The custard dripped from his face, and the young
man still looked a bit winded from the force of the blow, as a new voice came from behind.
"By me."
She turned around, and wasn't surprised to see Medici, snapping off
the bloody latex gloves and untying her apron, smoothing over the wrinkles in her dark
blue pants.
"I'm authorized to do all and any autopsies, Agent Scully," a tight lipped smile,
"I'm sure you understand."
(Control-freak) Scully thought. She kept a more suitable descriptive phrase that started
with a "b" and rhymed with "witch" tucked carefully under her tongue. No, no, she was more
adult then to resort to namecalling, even if only in her mind. God, what was wrong with
her today? Scully shook her head to clear her thoughts. The window in her mind remained
muddy, sprinkled with sodden dirt that distorted the usual redeeming light of reason.
Then she returned the smile half-tauntingly. It was a game she'd learned with Mulder. Now
Medici would either say something flippant or else they'd stand there smiling at each
other for the next five minutes or so.
Apparantly, the good, intelligent detective thought the better of making any sort of
flippant comment.
So they smiled, waiting to see who would break the tense ribbon between them.
Scully did.
"What did you find?"
Medici hung the apron on a hook near the door and sat down in one of the room's
green plastic chairs, motioning for Scully to sit into the one opposite.
"You can rule out the idea of a copycat killer. The cuts follow the same pattern and
weight distribution as Ramsey's other murders. Aside from that, nothing else unusual, though
we are getting the blood tested- however, what I need to know is why the body happened to be
outside of your hotel. True, the sites of the other killings were random, but I find this
to be a little too coincidential. Do you think that Ramsey could have found out about you
and Agent Mulder being here to investigate his escape and put the body of his fiancee
near you to tease us?"
"Tease us? I don't think that's really the appropriate phrase to describe it."
"True, Agent Scully, but it's what he's doing. He's teasing us. He's done it before.
Two of the murders were placed near the homes of investigators on my team
investigating them. So there's no mystery as to motive. But that was when the case was
very highly publicized, and those investigators were public knowledge. I just need to know how
Ramsey would have known the FBI was in town."
"You said it was a small town, didn't you? News tends to travel quickly and to
various, if not all ears in small towns."
Medici moved her head a bit,
"Yes, but the thing is, this case is *really* under wraps. If the truth of what was
really happening here got out, it would incite something close to panic. That's another
thing that's worrying me. It's hard to get an investigation done while trying to
subdue the press and panicked public. It actually happened when we were looking for him the
first time, and in my opinion, it's a wonder that we ever caught him."
Scully nodded grimly. She'd been in too many cases tainted by public interference
and a basic human emotion that affected all and any members of society, known solely as fear.
"Now it's just a matter that we catch him again," Medici said, and Scully could
only nod again. She kept her unvoiced concern like hope at the bottom of Pandora's golden box.
Why did Medici sound like she wasn't so sure she'd attain that goal?




He was bored. Pushing away the temptation to reach out to the nearest book, ANY book,
hell, maybe even a magazine, like Entertainment Weekly (*gasp!*), he'd instead spent the
next 4 hours with his eyes glued to the Barnes and Nobles surveillence camera.
Join the FBI,(or was it the Army?), see the world, my ass. More like see the pervert
in aisle 17 gingerly weed through the sex instruction books and then hastily slap them closed
and shove them back on the shelf if it seemed as if anyone would come close enough to see
what he was reading. As if they'd care. Just another sex-obsessed idiot in the middle
of a bookstore.
Mulder turned to the young blonde woman working the cash register beside him who had
spent a majority of those 4 hours staring strangely at him. She'd even refused to go on her
break. Well, her loss, he supposed. After asking her to carefully watch the
store, placing a photo of Clifford beside her, he decided to go for a walk
around the building to clear his head of the now nauseating, thick smell of crisp paper pages
and coffee mingled so tightly together he was starting to have lurid fantasies about
literal coffee books.
So he walked, breathing in the crisp, delicious winter air tinged lightly with the
aroma of the pizzeria and Mexican restaurants next door, for a moment not an FBI agent
pursuing a dangerous serial killer, but just another regular ol' guy wandering around the
back of a large bookstore.
Something like that.
But then there came a soft scuffle behind him, and he paused, momentarily, just
momentarily- only to find himself doubled over, being
kicked brutally in the stomach as the world spun crazily. Pain, red, coarse, hot,
flooded in his middle and he gasped, inaudible screaming. When he reached for his gun,
rolling back up, he found that it was already gone, a thin ribbon of ice threading it's way
through the pain and the anguish and the sweat. His second pair was gone too.
He looked up to see a young man holding both of them, a predatory smile of his face,
and there was a knife under his throat, before he could rasp out,
"Who are you?"
The man's smile became wider.
His green eyes flickered in the darkness of the cool shade. He said,
"I'm you."

   


Not many people spent their Sunday evening tied up behind a bookstore with a serial
killer pointing their standard government issued firearms at them, while listening to that
same serial killer blather on about nothing. Fox Mulder, apparantly, was one of them.
"We're going to have a long talk, you and I. Or should I say, I and you. Either way,
it's the same. You see, once upon a time, our world was perfection. Dark. Cold. Perfection."
Clifford said. His voice was low, and surprisingly gentle.
"Who are you?" Mulder asked again, though he meant it differently this time.
"Hitler called me his god. Van Gogh called me his muse. You called me your demons."
What?
But then, a pause, something so ludicrously insane sliding softly into place.
Mulder was a believer. He didn't want to be.
"I want the world to be perfection. To be perpetual dark, aching sorrow,
frustrating tragedy. And I know that you do, too. Because I am a part of you, and
I'll always be a part of you. We both want that perfection, that cry, that humbled despair.
The problem is, Dana Scully doesn't."
Another lance of artic fear. Somewhere in the back of his mind, something snapped,
broken, broken, dry and aching, and there was fear, ice cold and brilliant.
"Why are you bringing Scully into this?"
Mulder had always known his demons were there, lurking behind the shadows. He'd
never expected them to turn up in the form of a crazed serial killer. Or maybe he had. It
was almost too ironically true. Only *his* life could be shattered behind a Barnes and Noble
with a mysteriously believed stranger. He wanted block out the words,
because he was afraid that he'd begin to become Clifford's unwitting apostle.
"She doesn't just not want the perfection, this Ariadne Thread. She's threatening
to take it from us."
Mulder swallowed dryly.
"Why do you call her an Ariadne Thread?"
"Didn't you see it yourself? Theseus used a ball of string bestowed to him in
love by the princess Ariadne to leave a trail behind him as he descended into the darkness
of the labyrinth, to follow again on his way out after defeating the minotaur. You dragged
Dana Scully into the darkness with you out of your own twisted obsession with her,
to fight your enemies- yourself, the thing you call the "Cancer Man", the lie behind your
sister, the government deceit- and when you've dragged her into your labyrinth,
you intend to let her lead you back into the light."
Oh, God. How could he know? Even when Mulder hadn't?
Mental pictures snapped into perfect clarity for Mulder. A bead of sweat, stickily
warm, dragged into his eye, stung. His hands began to tingle from lack of moving.
"Don't you see? When I kill her, don't think of it as malevolence. Think of
it as releasing her from your own twisted obsession, the destruction you've done her."
"I love her," he said defiantly through the icy splash of fear and cowardice.
"You aren't capable of love," Cliff spat out at him, whirling around angrily,
the words hitting him with the equivalent of a slap, "Why should SHE love YOU, this
Ariadne Thread? You've dragged her into the darkness with you. You've sapped her of her
life. You've killed her sister, you've given her cancer, and you took away her children.
You took her into your web of darkness and sucked her so dry there's nothing left of the
woman but an empty, dry husk for you follow into the light and leave behind!"
Cliff practically screamed the words, knowing he was killing himself as he
watched Mulder's face suddenly shatter and drop into leaden pieces on the floor for him to
ground into dust with his heel. His heart followed in sync.
"That's not true," Mulder whispered, something breaking that could never be fixed.
"You know it's true, Mulder." Clifford whispered back.
By the time Mulder could raise his eyes up again, Clifford was gone,
His eyes were wide, dead, and had flown too far away to notice.

   

   


In a dark time, the eye begins to see. She remembered Dana reading it somewhere.
The sensation of dying by the blade after living an all too short but not short enough
lifetime bled beyond painfully and screamed and shrieked with all the agony of a million wars.
Her name was Serena, and she had loved a something named Cliff.
She had loved him not only from their twisted connection through the one she protected
and the one he tormented, but from a sick attraction of the impossible.
She remembered dying.
She kept back a choked sob. Crying was a sign of weakness.
She was above crying, she told herself, and crammed the tears down inside.
She had loved him. That had been the apex of her capabilities.
He had hated her. That had been the apex of his capabilities.
And it was all over now.
It hurt.
It hurt so
    much.
In a Dark Time, the Eye begins to See.
Yet Serena had seen all along.
Did that mean it had all been dark?
No. Not all of it. A proud father who had been called Ahab. A laughing sister, beautiful
and whirling in her 'maturity' and makeup and gossip. A small child begging to watch 'Babe'
"just one more time!"
A tall lanky man, so haunted by his demons..
Cliff..
Which had hurt more? His embrace, or when he had carved her up with the knife, with the
desperate apology in his eyes and hollowed despair?
It hurt so much.
In a dark time, the eye begins to see. Her amethyst eyes opened to the light.
(Welcome back.)
(Thanks.)
(How was it?)
(Bad.)
(It usually is. Was it too late?)
Silence. A long, agonized pause.
(I don't know.)

   

Fox Mulder was by no means a *completely* obsessive person.
His office and apartment were a mess. His ill-fated fish died within a week.
And his hair was very rarely the intense, professional, slicked back style that looked
as if it couldn't be broken by a comb, (or a sledgehammer for that matter).
To make up for having no other true obsessions in his life, his sole obsession
became his work.
Conspiracies. The paranormal. Extraterrestrial life.
Samantha.
These had begun to fade, when he had realized that he was merely another pawn in the
ultimate game of deception. When he'd finally met his sister in the safe, warm confines of
a gentle neighborhood diner, a grown woman instead of the symbolic, idealistic pig-tailed
little girl who had been taken away from him so long ago, he'd realized that even though
he had found the sole object of his obsession, the holes hadn't closed, and instead grew
wider. The obsession faded too rapidly into hate, disappointment, and a hurt deep within
the pit of his stomach, a weariness that remained too intangible for him to touch and
strangle away.
And so the obsession became replaced with another. He had always loved Dana Scully,
but his real obsession didn't begin until he had watched her dying of cancer, and
in that moment realized she was everything that he had been missing.
Conspiracies, the paranormal, extraterrestrial life, and an archaic memory of a
small pig-tailed girl didn't fill the holes.
She did.
His Holy Grail had switched from a dusty chimerical memory to a tiny woman dying
on a hospital bed, the shadow of her former self, slipping through his fingers,
and the tighter he held, the faster she slipped.
Scully's cancer had gone into remission, yes, but his need did not. His love
for her had grown, strengthened. The need had twisted and squirmed unhealthily beneath that.
Had that need been so elusive to him? It had stared him in the face all those
long lonely nights, it had curled against him when she was gone. It hadn't been until
Clifford had force fed it to him that afternoon with a kick in the face that he fully
realized it.
For the first time in his life, he began to truly doubt his relationship with Scully.
(You took her into your web of darkness and sucked her so dry there's nothing
left of the woman but an empty, dry husk for you follow into the light and leave behind)
But I love her, he thought despairingly.
Something whispered back, Sometimes, love isn't enough.
It was no longer his choice to make, or hers.
He had to cut the Ariadne Thread free, and seal himself within the labyrinth
of his own darkness, before the madman who claimed to be his demon did it for him.




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