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Chapter Six

 

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MARGARETA: What evil thing has risen from the ground?/ He, ah, not he!-Forbid him from
my sight!/ On holy ground he has no right,/ He wants my soul, to torture and confound,/
He waits my death.
    -Goethe, Faust:Part One, "Prison"
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He had tried it the cool, calm rational way. He had tried it the gentle,
unrequited way. Unfortunately, and predictably, she wasn't taking well to either of them,
and had now decided to take matters into her own hands, as she tended to do.
"Dammit Mulder, what the hell are you talking about?"
Dana Scully was angry, and when she was angry, she rightfully terrifed everyone
in sight. Everyone, that is, except for Mulder. Thankfully, they were alone in the hotel
room together. She stalked the room somewhat in front of him, pretending that she wasn't
hearing what she was hearing. If she'd been younger she would have curled herself into a
ball and covered her ears with her hands, her eyes squeezed shut. Luckily for himself and
for her, she wasn't.
"This isn't going to work out. You and me. Our relationship," he repeated,
though each word was a dagger twisting bitterly into his flesh, and he thought that maybe she
was making him repeat the words just to torment him further.
"What did he tell you, Mulder? Why can't you tell me? You trust me, don't you?"
She did put her hands up to her head, not to cover her ears, but maybe to shield
herself from him.
"You trust me, don't you?" the words went from an angry demand to a confused plea.
"That's why I can't tell you," he said, aching to reach out to her, take her
hands in his, but he knew that if he did, it would all be over.
Dammit, she thought, this was no time for him to be playing his fucking mind games.
"Why?" one word, shimmering and flying through the air, smacking
him with enough force to make him look into her eyes, seeing himself, and as always,
hating what he saw.
"Scully, listen to me. This relationship of ours isn't going to work out."
Why did she have to know him so well that she could see through him like a
puff of forgotten smoke?
He was a bad liar, and both of them knew it.
Then she broke the distance between them, pulling her arms around him, to keep him from
slipping through her fingers. He wanted to collapse into the sanctity of her embrace and feel
nothing but her warmth, her light, her scent. He pushed her away instead.
It was the last good thing he could do for her.
Breaking her heart would only make it stronger, right? Even though it'd never worked
for him. If he didn't look at her, didn't touch her, taste her, hear her....
"Mulder, stop lying to me. You could at least respect me enough to tell me
the truth. What is it? Is it me?"
Oh god. He couldn't do this, he couldn't-
(when I kill her...)
He had to. Resolve bit at him, gave him to courage to do what he had to.
"It's no longer your choice to make, Scully. I've already decided."
"What do you mean it's not my choice to make? We entered this relationship together because
we told each other that we loved each other, and we promised that we'd make it work out,
no matter what the cost."
He didn't answer. She tried one last time.
"Then again, you've never kept your promises to me, have you?"
"No," he whispered, a dry leaf crackling into dust, "I haven't."
"What makes you think I'll give up? You think I'm just going to give up, right here
and now, just because you say so?" she demanded.
"What the hell do you expect, Scully? I don't care if you think your place is
here with me. It's not. You should have a normal family, a normal life. You deserve that much."
She grabbed his arm, resentful and defiant.
"Don't feed me that bullshit, Mulder, because I've already heard it before, and
I *don't* want to hear it again."
He shook her arm off, the anger within him rising, swelling like a late autumn tide,
though it shouldn't have.
"Then what the hell do you want to hear? You want to hear me tell you how it feels
like to be medically raped again? How it feels to have terminal cancer? Do you want me to
give you that guilt that your sister died in your place? Do you want me to tell you about
your daughter, your children, the ones you can never have? Do you want me to tell you how
it feels to die?!"
}'crack'{
She slapped him then, a hard angry blistered blow, and he hadn't noticed the invisible
tears that had begun to stream down her face, leaving permanent marks. The slap stung afterwards,
but couldn't mask the fact that he was ripping the heart she had placed so trustingly in his
hands into a million pieces. She was tearing away rapidly, having lost what little control
she had wielded over the situation, and he didn't know if he had the courage to walk away.
They didn't know which one of them was dying quicker, but he left the room without a word,
leaving her behind to clean up the mess of two shattered hearts with nothing but a tattered
half-truth and the tortured sense that he'd just broken something irreversible.
   
   



"Mulder?"
It'd taken an hour, but she'd eventually stopped screaming at the door between their
rooms, knowing that he was listening on the other side, or maybe not, and her anger had given
way to fear and hollow imperfections.
She wanted to melt, melt away, so completely that nothing, not even pain filled shards,
could be resurrected.
Leaning against the door, she stroked it with her palm, feeling only the cheapened
glide of paint over wood.
She'd never truly given herself over to the ambivalence and paradox of what could
be heralded as love, before him. Too afraid
of the consequences, too afraid of being hurt and ripped and torn bloodier than any
physical injury could endure, too afraid of feeling what she was
feeling now, shattered and pale and hollow and empty and empty. It had taken her five years
to finally trust him enough to give him her entire heart, trusting that he would never
crush it in his grip, as he just had. She could be strong by day and face the evils of humankind
with deference and misplaced pride but by night she could choose let the walls down.
The temptation glittered sharply at her, but she refused to let the tears fall,
and bottled them up within her, as a maiden does for her knight, to show him the tears upon
his return as proof of her undying love...
How could a shining palace be in one instant impregnable strength and the next
a ruined, crumbled empire?
It made her think of that sandcastle they'd built together. It had been lapped away from being
meticulously constructed too close to the writhing surface of the sea. And with that tiny
sandcastle, so innocent at the time, and now terrifyingly destructive, she knew the answer.
One dissident tear fell slowly, drowning Camelot, followed by another, and another, and
another, marching solemnly but not in step.
She hated crying. It made her feel sloppy and unhinged, and it let people know
when something within her had been broken and could never be fixed, something that only
she should have known. Damn them for catching and stroking her sorrow.
Damn her for waving it gauzelike and tangible in front of them.
Seconds passed as seconds, not as hours, each trickling after the other in
synchronized heartbeats, biting like jagged teeth.
She thought that she could pretend everything was alright
and beautiful and normal as it'd never been.
She thought that maybe if she pretended hard enough she could hear the mumble of
a choked and broken voice say "I'm sorry."

   

"I'm sorry," he whispered against the jamb of the door, not certain if she could
ever hear or understand. He didn't expect her to understand, when he didn't understand
either. Tennessee Williams was right: love was something that could stand as strong as
glass but shatter just as quickly and easily. At least now, he hoped, she would be safe
from Clifford, as he slowly, hesitantly pulled the door to the labyrinth shut. No tiny
visage of light leaked through the cracks, which disappeared seamlessly under the lap
of her tongue.

   



A shadow moan stalked at the window, disappeared, diffused light flashing and falling and
crying out for help as it disappeared again. Maybe crossed stars saw, but they didn't,
as night had not yet fallen onto the plain of the Georgia mountains, falling steep along
the meadows of a heart he didn't have. Clifford sniffed the air, tasting anguish, hot and
bitter and enthralling on his tongue. It gave him strength, though Mulder didn't know it.
Mulder didn't know a lot of things. The man spent a goddamn fortune on an Oxford education and
was still too stupid to realize that he'd sealed himself and The Ariadne Thread into the
labyrinth with no route of escape. Not that he'd been surprised at what the man was capable
of doing subconsciously, nor that he was impressed. He had just hoped that the escape route could
have made the game, the hunt, the torturous ascent all the more interesting.
The dying sunlight caught a song of luminosity in his hair, but it didn't make
him steam and melt as Hollywood and literature had always sung of devils. Too
beautiful in the sunset hues, it didn't matter whether or not he was
a demon or the dust of angels.


She struggled desperately to keep her head above the water, trying to remember how
to move her feet and hands and body above the water, as she had done almost every other
day of her childhood life, and suddenly realized that she was sinking, and that it was
gone.. then the salty bitter lightness of the water coalesced, became murkier and murkier,
until she realized that it wasn't becoming murkier, but suffused with crimson, crimson
blood and the warm smell of metal, and she choked once or twice, only to have it go down
her mouth into her lungs, cold agony in her chest, and she began to scream, as she realized
that she was drowning in her own blood..
She awoke with a start. Breathing hard, she wiped the sweat from her forehead, and
barely choked down a terrified sob.
A day, a night, but the sun was gone, the room was cold, and her heart
was empty, as she could hear him breathing in the other room, every breath he took
a wrenching tear through her skin.
Something tickled just behind her ear, enough to wake her up. A light whispered to her
from the corner of the room, (danger), get up dana, (fear), it's too late for salvation
(diamond soul), the angels can't hear your cries anymore anyway (too late), and she
screamed for him when the door flew open and her mind flew shut. Then came the adagio crash
of green eyes swimming in malevolence. Something solid smote consciousness from her, something
exploding with an exodus and frenzied melee of pain, and
there was nothing, nothing left, when Mulder awoke in the next room, awoke from a dream
where she'd been taken from him, not by a madman or an alien force, but by an extension of
himself, realizing as the world crashed around him in shards of broken dreams and
broken glass, and a renegade car screeched in the driveway, that the dream was not a dream at
all, but a cruel shattered reality.


   

Where am I? was the first thought that raveled itself into Dana's mind
when she regained consciousness. It poked and jabbed at her sharply as she tried
foggily to discern where she was. She was in the backseat of a car that smelled
of leather and pain and cigarette ashes. Her hands were bound behind her back,
and her legs bound together tightly, so tightly so that the ropes cut into her when she tried
to move.
"So you're awake, I see."
The voice was phosphorecence itself, heavenly, like the angels she had read about
in Sunday school as a dutiful little Catholic girl. She just couldn't remember this particular
voice ringing in any of the adulterated sermons that had rang past her head and straight
into the wooden pew behind her. The driver of the car was speaking, though
she wasn't afraid and was terrified at the same time, because darkness kept her from
discerning him, and he had sad green eyes that looked like they could have either hated her
or loved her.
It made him beautiful.
She found her voice, soggy and drenched from the short lack of use, her head
still throbbing from the lamp he had swung at her.
"Who are you?" she asked, each word punctuating with the throb in her head,
"Where are we going?"
"You should know who I am by now, baby, but for now, you can just call me Cliff.
We're taking a ride, and I can't tell you where we're going because it's a surprise. "
"What do you want from me?"
"It's not what I want from you. It's what I'm going to take from you."
He waved his hand in her direction, long, white graceful fingers that flew like tapered
white doves, ghostlike yet serene, and she fell into a fitful, dreamless sleep again.


   
Medici tried as hard as she could to keep up with Mulder's car, and she could see
the portions of her team also trying to keep up with the man's breakneck speed. When
he'd awakened them with hell in his eyes and desperation in his voice, he'd told them that
Clifford had kidnapped his partner. He didn't bother to hear the information they had
found, and she cursed having forgotten to tell him before, or more specifically, before
she was trying to catch a rare hour or two of sleep. She decided instead to tell him after
they'd found his partner, or more likely, what remained of her.

   

There were few things Scully was truly afraid of, or would admit she was afraid of.
One hazy summer break time, she and Mulder had sat together on their bench beside the
Potomac, the minutes dripping lazily by, and she'd asked him, what scares you? I mean,
really, truly terrifies you. Seriously. And he'd replied in his usual deadpan sarcastic
voice; fire, women, and drawstring pants. She had let a whisper of a smile flicker on and
off her face before he turned the question to her, and she had said quietly; death,
love, and heights. The last of these should have been the least daunting, but it wasn't.
She'd had to go into therapy for 4 years to be able to get onto an airplane without
becoming dizzy and frozen so thick with fear that she'd almost literally run from it
before the plane took off.
And she certainly never, ever, ever would admit to the crazed man nudging her
ahead of him with her gun, that she was afraid of heights, as she looked up the tiny
4 inch dirt path that steeped up like a steel wall with nowhere to hold, that went up so
high that in the darkness she couldn't even see the peak, or where they were headed.
He probably knew anyway, because as the blood coalesced in her veins and turned to
ashen lead, as her heart thudded so wildly that she hoped it might burst from her chest,
and her breathes became stagnant, infrequent and pulsating with the trickles of fear
she couldn't hold back, she could feel his iniquitous stretching smile in the
cold, cold darkness.

   

Mulder pulled the car to a stop beside the one Clifford had abandoned;
he didn't know how he knew it was Cliff's but he *knew*, and it terrified him.
The others screeched up behind him, and he could see Medici and her team nearly
fly out of the cars, and run up to him, as he merely stared up the North Georgia
mountain, his chest freezing with the puffs of insolent, cloudy breath in the
pernicious winter air.
He felt Medici's hand touch his shoulder, though it was as if from far
away, and he heard her voice, quiet and crisp, calm among the crashing waves.
"Wherever she is now, she's probably... gone. I'm sorry."
He shook the hand off, looked back up the mountain.
"She's not dead," he said, more of a proclamation than a fragile hope.
"How do you know?" Medici demanded, pulling her trenchcoat closer around her
as protection from a cry of icy wind that still crawled in to rub against her spine.
Mulder closed his eyes, the gentle flutter of his eyelashes whispering against his skin.
Beneath that, the invisible blue veins within his eyelids pulsed softly.
"Because he wants me to watch him kill her."

   

Tiny steps, tiny steps, can't fall when you think there's nowhere to go..
Her foot slipped.
OHMYGODOHMYGODOHMYGOD!
A little prayer came half singsong in her memory,
(as I lay me down to sleep...)
It didn't matter how strong she was, because she couldn't think of anything
but how steep the tiny dirt path was, how it sloped up and up and the way the weeds
around cut through her pants, lashing with speckles of blood, and the wind that was icy
and hating and could have felled her if it wanted to, and how there was nothing around
her but the man at her back who wouldn't catch her if she fell.
(I pray the Lord my soul to keep...)
It was sublime, the night around, that she could see in snatches when she
looked up from the steps her feet tried to make through the path, pain slicing its way
up to her arms now. The moon shone as an opal in the sky, serenaded by the sparkling
little diamond called Venus. They were eyes watching her, half closed and mocking,
and she wanted to keep her arms from flailing wildly through the scorn of the winter's
air, that seemed even harsher than the death of Antarctica.
(if I should die before I wake...)
The path kept going, up and up and up and up, and steeper and steeper and steeper
and steeper, and she could only hear her own breathing, hear it become short and augmented,
and she could hear a ludicrous shadow of a memory, a high school drama teacher telling her,
(a key part of acting is your breathing, Dana. When you're trying to convey fear, or being
upset, make your breaths shallow, shorter)
(..I pray the Lord my soul to take)
Someone had once asked her, if you were burning to death, would you burn or
commit suicide first?, and she hadn't known how to answer, though she didn't know why.
She was burning, burning, burning through the night, and Clifford could see it,
he could see inside her and peel her apart layer by disgusting layer, she could
hear him laughing inside of her, pushing divine madness she didn't want into the cold
rivets of her self-conscious.
If she could fall, maybe she could get away from him, away from his laughter,
yes, yes, it wouldn't be too bad until the crack, it wouldn't be too bad until
the end, she'd always wanted to know what it was like to freefall, what
it was like to fly, far far away, and free as a lonely spinster.
But then she could see all around her, see how high they were, dizzy dizzy dizzy,
and her terrified breathing returned, because she couldn't do it, couldn't do anything but
try to cling to that 86 degree angle path and keep from falling into grace.
   

   
"What the hell aren't you telling me, Agent Mulder? You don't really expect
us to follow you up that mountain. What makes you think Ramsey went up there, anyway?!"
He turned on her, angry, ready to snap, though his anger wasn't for her, but for
himself. He wished he could vent it on her. He could also sense her anger, and he could tell
she was ready to vent it on him. If he didn't counter quickly, he'd lose both the detective
and her team.
He didn't want to confront himself alone.
"Look, Detective Medici, there's a serial killer up there with my partner,
and I'm determined to follow them. Your job is to catch this killer, isn't it? Then
this is your only way."
She looked at the mountain, at him, and then at the mountain again.
"You're insane, you know that?"
"So they tell me," he murmured, and began to climb up the torturous ascent after himself.


He shoved the gun into her back, just enough to make her stumble, make her cry out,
enjoying himself too immensely to stop. He said nothing, though the space between them said
more than words ever could. Fear blotted her hatred out more and more,
as it was only the path she could see, and she could only tear her eyes up from it to beg
to a god who had long forsaken her. Finally they came to a small leveling off, an alcove,
an oasis, leading into a cave. She fell to it, gasps and snatches of hatred, though if
he hadn't been there she would have wept and wept and wept. She said nothing, but rolled
over and vomited until there was nothing left, and when she turned back to him, the fear
had faded a little, replaced by hatred tenfold. Her sky-tinged eyes were dangerous in
the darkness, as she whispered, coarse, her voice ugly, "you bastard."
He only smiled at her, his eyes equally dangerous, finding a long cut the grass had
grazed on her cheek, and leaned over,
licked the blood from it, tasting her between his lips.
(it's what I'm going to take from you.)
"Is that what you want?" she said, "My life? My dignity, while you're
at it?"
"No, baby," he said, nonchalant, as if they had been sitting in a warmly lit coffee
house discussing fine literature instead of a crag of a traitorous mountain, talking of her
life that he held in his wanton hands, "At the risk of sounding cliché, I want your soul."

go to Chapter 7