Yeah. I can’t believe I found it, either. A couple of things before you read this. One, yes, there’s a prologue, although technically, it’s a cold open which is the style X-Files episodes had at the time, so for that, I give myself a pass.
Also, there is ONE headhop. There is no excuse for that nonsense. But I was young and unschooled, so… what are you gonna do?
AUTHOR: Lani D
CONTENT: MSR, UST, MOTW, general angst
DISCLAIMER: This is my first attempt at fan fiction. I hope someday to be able to write for characters of my own, but until then… 😉
LEGAL DISCLAIMER: Not mine. Never were. No profit. Etc…
ARCHIVE: Gossamer. Others, please ask
FEEDBACK: If you’d like, drop a line.
SUMMARY: Scully and Mulder investigate a neighborhood overtaken by a witch.
SPOILERS: Christmas Carol, Emily, Season 6
“The Wish List”
The front door was slightly ajar. A smell, not entirely unpleasant, but sweet and strange like incense, drifted out as Sharon Woolever gently knocked at the door, unwittingly nudging it further open.
“Mrs. Vangelis? I brought some iced tea for you…”
Sharon held one glass on either side of her protruding abdomen as she waddled further into the house, before suddenly stopping as she felt the familiar pain in her side
“Whoa.” She placed the glasses on the window sill and took in a deep breath, patting the side of her stomach. ”Okay, sweetheart, get your foot out of Mommy’s ribcage.”
Sharon began the soothing mantra she’d been taught by a Lamaze teacher. ”Six more weeks, six more weeks, six more weeks…”
Sharon started slightly and turned to find Irene Vangelis standing behind her. The old woman had gray hair that stuck out from her head in tufts, as though most of it was trying to escape the big purple hat that had become her trademark.
“Do you need to sit down?”
It was a tone that lacked concern, but Sharon smiled anyway and shook her head. The hairs on the back of her neck lifted, and she felt ashamed, for she was the only hold-out
in the entire neighborhood who hadn’t condemned this strange
old woman to the description of “creepy.”
“I’m fine. Really. It’s just the baby trying to get a closer look at my internal organs.” It was a weak joke, but Sharon felt that politeness, at least, should have tendered a smile. She got none, just a cold stare from the odd old woman in the purple hat.
Sharon grabbed a glass and offered it awkwardly to the old woman. ”I brought you a glass of iced tea, Mrs. Vangelis.”
The old woman glanced at the glass, then back at Sharon. “What is it you want, Ms. Woolever?”
Sharon smiled weakly. ”Just to welcome you to the neighborhood. I know you’ve already been here for a few weeks, but… well, it takes me a while to waddle anywhere at this stage.”
Sharon laughed nervously, hoping this joke would break the ice. The old woman didn’t crack a smile.
“What is it you really want, Sharon?”
The woman stared at her intently. Sharon stared back, just noticing now that the woman’s cold green eyes seemed almost to glow. A thought flashed through Sharon’s brain that had something to do with eating crow and confirming the neighborhood’s assessment of “creepy”, when suddenly she felt another pain in her side. She put her hand to her stomach and grimaced.
“I’d like this kid to be out, that’s for sure.”
For the first time, Irene Vangelis smiled.
Instantly, as though she’d been hit by a violent, unknown force, Sharon fell into blackness. She fought to open her eyes, to charge through the dark from sheer force of will,
but was unable. She heard voices, many voices, all of which were tinged with the pungent scent of emergency.
Sharon wanted to call out, wanted to scream, wanted someone to tell her what was happening, but she remained in darkness, paralyzed.
The voices faded into silence. Finally, the darkness was broken by one thing, one image, one sound.
It was the old lady. She smiled cruelly at Sharon, and whispered, “Be careful what you wish for.”
Then she disappeared.
Scully stood at the window of the new office, staring out at the brilliantly lit city below. She’d almost forgotten what it was like to have an office with a window. The absence of any natural light in her former office had been an ever-present source of agitation for her, and now that she had what she wanted, she missed what she’d once had. She let out a small, ironic laugh.
Careful what you wish for.
The door opened quickly behind her. She didn’t move. She knew who it was. She heard the filing cabinet open, and some shuffling. She made a mental bet with herself that she could count to twenty before he even noticed she was there.
“Scully. What are you still doing here?”
Nineteen. Ooh, so close.
She turned slowly. Mulder stood by the filing cabinet, like a deer caught in the headlights.
“What are you doing, all alone in the dark?”
“Enjoying the view.” She glanced purposely at the videotape in his hand. “And you?”
He quickly shut the filing cabinet. “Just getting the… it’s a… surveillance tape from that case… you know, the one from…”
He coughed uncomfortably.
“I’m going to review it at home. To see if I missed something the first time.”
He handed her a smile that was mixed charm and meekness. She nodded and turned back to the window.
As soon as she turned her back, he quickly stuffed the tape in his briefcase and watched her for a moment. He debated leaving her to her thoughts, but curiosity and concern soon coerced him to stand behind her, staring out over her shoulder at the view they finally shared.
As she answered, he said in unison with her, “I’m fine, Mulder.”
She turned towards him and smiled slightly. “I am.”
He sat on the corner of her desk. “You’re sure?”
“Yes. I just got a letter from… well, about an old friend from the academy. She, um, she just lost a baby.”
Mulder nodded sympathetically. In much the way he felt the sting of personal experience every time he heard about a missing little girl, he felt it for Scully whenever she faced the death of a child.
Scully saw the empathy in his face and turned away. Empathy from Mulder would disintegrate her strength in a heartbeat, and her strength was necessary to get her through this.
“She’s in Tucson. She’s been working in the field office there since we graduated. She left the bureau a few months ago, I guess because of the pregnancy. The baby was six weeks premature, still-born. It happened about two weeks ago, from what I gather.”
Scully picked up the letter.
“This is from her partner, an Agent-” She squinted in the low light to read the handwriting. “-Compton. Jack Compton. He’s requested that I come see her. She doesn’t seem to be doing very well.”
“I can understand that,” Mulder said softly. He smiled and put his hand gently on hers. “Maybe a visit from an old friend will help.”
Scully sighed. “Maybe.”
“When are you leaving?”
“Tomorrow morning. I cleared it with Kersh.” She looked at Mulder and smiled. “He said you’d be happy to take up the slack for a few days.”
“Oh, I will, will I?”
They looked at each other, smiling, lit only by what the window would allow from the city and the moon. Scully squeezed his hand, released it, and grabbed her coat.
“I have to get home and pack.”
Mulder watched as she walked out of the office, then turned and stared out the window.
“Agent Scully? I’m Agent Compton. Jack.”
She had barely had time to step out of her car before Agent Compton was at her side, holding out his hand.
“Thanks for coming, Agent Scully. It… it means a lot.”
“Please. Call me Dana.”
He smiled and gestured towards the front door, gently guiding her up the driveway to Sharon’s home.
“How is she?” Scully asked.
“She’s doing better. I think your being here will help a lot.”
“Thank you, but I’m still not sure exactly how my presence here will help her. It’s been six years since I’ve seen her…”
“It’s not just your presence that I’m asking for. It’s your expertise.”
“My expertise? I’m not sure I understand.”
Agent Compton stopped and turned to Scully, leaning in and speaking quietly.
“Sharon told me quite a bit about your work on the X-Files. She’s told me stories about the things you’ve done, the things you’ve seen.”
“I’m sorry, I still don’t…”
“Just talk to her. Please.”
Scully caught the desperation in his voice, and began to understand that there was much more involved here than the standard concern of a partner for a partner.
“Take me to her.”
He led her into the house, through the living room and down a hallway to a bedroom with an open door.
Sharon lay in bed, her upper body propped up by pillows, staring out the window, practically lifeless. Jack entered the room first, knocking lightly and then approaching her bedside.
Sharon turned her head. Scully tried not to react to the dark circles that reigned under Sharon’s eyes, contrasting so harshly with her pale skin. It looked as though it had been years since she’d seen the sun.
After a moment, Sharon’s hazy gaze focused on Scully. She smiled, and some life seemed to return to her.
Scully went to her bedside and grasped Sharon’s outstretched hands. Jack stepped back, watching the reunion awkwardly for a moment.
“I’ll let you two talk.” He looked at Sharon, touched Scully’s shoulder gently, and left.
The two friends looked at each other silently for a moment.
“Sharon.” Scully looked down at the pale, skinny fingers entwined with her own, and summoned the strength to look back into the eyes of her friend. “I’m so sorry…”
“I know.” Sharon sighed. “I suppose Jack found you for me, huh?”
“I think he thinks I’m crazy.” Sharon laughed weakly, a pathetic semblance of the hearty laugh Scully had known. “Between you and me, he’s probably right.”
“He doesn’t think you’re crazy. He’s concerned. Do you want to tell me what happened?”
Sharon’s face twitched as she tried to retain control, but the tears were forceful.
“It’s my fault.”
Scully walked out of the room, gently closing the door behind her. Jack sat in the living room, head down and hands clasped as though in prayer.
“Did she tell you?”
Scully sat down next to him. “Yes. She told me everything.”
He looked up at her. Scully put her hand on his. “I’m sorry.”
“One of us had to leave the bureau. I would’ve gone, but she wanted to raise the baby.”
His voice caught, but he choked it back. Something in his manner, his strength maybe, or his passion, or his relentless guilt, reminded her of Mulder.
“It’s not your fault, Jack.”
“At least if she had her job, she could throw herself into that, maybe work through it.”
Scully smiled, reminded now of herself. “Sometimes, that’s not the wisest choice.”
There was a moment of silence. Scully sighed and got down to business. If the roles were reversed, it’s what she would want Jack to do.
“This woman that Sharon mentioned. Have you talked to her?”
Jack straightened up and nodded. As with most agents, work was the only cure for an injured soul.
“Yes. I talked to her while Sharon was still in the hospital.”
“What did she say?”
“She’s a strange old lady. She didn’t say much of anything. She said that yes, Sharon had been there, and that she had brought over a glass of iced tea and went back home. She gave me back the glass, I left.”
Scully caught his hesitation. “Then what?”
“She told me to be careful what I wish for.”
“’Be careful what you wish for…’? Isn’t that…?”
Jack nodded. “What Sharon was mumbling while she was unconscious. Yes.”
Scully summoned up her courage and looked Jack in the eye. “Sharon seems convinced that this woman is connected to the loss of the baby.”
“Yes. She is.”
“What do you think?” Scully watched him for a reaction, but got none.
Scully sighed. “Jack, I’m still not sure why I’m here. The coincidence of Sharon and this woman using the same phrase doesn’t mean that she had any involvement. Sharon seems to have a guilt complex over the loss of the child-”
“Because she wished it to be out.”
Scully caught Jack’s eye. “You don’t believe it’s her fault. Do you?”
“God, no. Of course not. It’s just that…”
“What is it, Jack?”
He hesitated. “When the old woman said that, at that very moment, I’d been wishing that Sharon could just come home. It was creepy. Like she read my mind.”
Scully pursed her lips and said nothing. This man reminded her more of Mulder with every passing minute.
“That day, they released Sharon and she came home. But she hasn’t been able to get out of bed since. The doctors… they don’t have any explanation.”
“Jack, all of these things… they’re definitely odd, but they can all be explained by coincidence and post-traumatic stress syndrome.”
“Not all.” Jack stood up and grabbed a file from an open briefcase sitting on the coffee table. “I’d like you to review this.”
He handed her the file. She glanced at it, then back at him. “What is it?”
“The baby’s death certificate, an autopsy report-”
Scully looked at him, surprised. “Autopsy? Typically, they don’t do autopsies on stillborn children.”
“Typically, stillborn children don’t have fingerprints on their necks.”
Scully’s head snapped up. Jack continued.
“It was as though he’d been strangled. In utero.”
“Is it possible… that maybe during the C-section… a nurse or a doctor could have accidentally…?” Scully stumbled over her own logic, realizing as she said it that the theory was about as illogical as any of the fantastical explanations Mulder had ever presented to her. Medical professionals would be wearing gloves, and there would be more than one witness if a newborn was strangled to death in the operating room.
“That was my original thought. But then, on a hunch, I took the glass that Mrs. Vangelis gave me and had it dusted.”
Scully stared at him, not comprehending for a moment. She flipped through the file and found the fingerprint analysis. “Oh my god.”
The Irene Vangelis’ fingerprints matched the ones taken from the child’s neck.
Jack sat down again. “I can’t go to my superiors with this. Trust me, my boss is not the open-minded type. The whole situation is impossible. I don’t know where to go with this.” He looked over his shoulder, down the hallway to Sharon’s room. “I don’t know how to give her answers.”
His gaze returned to Scully, his eyes imploring. “Now do you see why I asked you out here?”
Scully settled into her hotel room, taking the time to carefully unpack her things, reveling in the normalcy of the act as she contemplated the outrageousness of the task before her. Although this was hardly the strangest thing she’d ever seen, something about it unsettled her, and she wished for not the first time that day that Mulder was there to temper her discomfort. She had considered calling him, and knew he would come if she did, but resisted the temptation. She knew that somewhere within her was the strength to handle this on her own, and she was certain she could find it without Mulder.
The unpacking done, she sat on the bed and breathed in deep, trying with each breath to convince herself that this case wasn’t too close to home. She tried to pin her discomfort on memories of Emily, but in truth, she knew it wasn’t just her own lost child that affected her so deeply. Remnants of her conversation with Jack floated in the back of her head, one line in particular repeating itself, though the whole of its significance was still lost on Scully.
“One of us had to leave the bureau…”
She felt for Sharon. After every personal trauma, Scully had thrown herself into the work, as though it were the only thing that could save her from the realities that weighed so heavily on her. It was the work that got her through, the work that gave her monastic life order and meaning. The work was everything. She honestly didn’t know what she’d do without it.
She rotated her head on her shoulders, loosening the taut muscles, and glanced at the clock. 5:17. Mulder would be home now. She stared at the phone, then got up and left the hotel room.
The beauty of the desert at night was not lost on Scully. As she drove down the palm tree-lined streets, she was mesmerized by the clarity of it all. The air was clear to the point where it had transcended invisibility and took on a quality of illumination to it. Through it, the stars seemed to be alive. For one brief moment she had a strong sense of life on worlds outside of this one, and in a rarely accessed corner of her mind, she believed it to be so.
If Mulder could read my mind right now, she thought with a smile, he would cry like a little girl.
She turned onto Sharon’s street, and stopped before the house that belonged to Irene Vangelis. Unlike most houses in Tucson, which were almost all one-story stuccos of a pale pink variety that seemed only to thrive in the desert, the house that belonged to the old woman was a two-story of what seemed to be Victorian design. This and the fact that hers was the only green lawn on a street lined with lawns of rock and sand gave the house a definite creepy feel. Another oddity; there was no walkway to the front door. Scully had seen few houses less inviting than this one, but she made her way to the house anyway.
She knocked on the door, waited a few minutes, and knocked again. After a quick glance through the living room window, she determined Mrs. Vangelis was not at home, and turned to leave.
She turned to walk away from the house, but stopped when she saw a blonde woman standing in the yard, watching.
“Can I help you?” Scully asked.
“Are you the FBI woman?” the woman asked in a harsh whisper.
“Who are you?”
The woman held her finger to her lips and shushed Scully, taking her elbow and leading her away from the house as though it were itself possessed of evil. Once they reached Scully’s car, the woman held out her hand.
“My name is Linda Granger. They said there was an FBI woman coming to check out what happened to Sharon.” She glanced at Scully’s impeccable suit. “I thought you fit the bill.”
“Who are ‘they’?” Scully asked.
“The neighbors. They pretty much know everything that goes on around here.”
“Okay,” Scully said slowly. “Yes, I’m with the FBI, but I’m here for personal reasons. Sharon is an old friend.”
“Then why were you peeking into Mrs. Vangelis’ window?”
“Why are you so interested in what I’m doing?” Scully retorted.
Linda Granger stared at Scully for a moment, and Scully couldn’t resist the feeling that she was being sized up. Finally, the woman spoke.
“Look. I’m only here because… I should have warned Sharon. But I thought it was my imagination, you know?”
It could have been the moonlight, but Scully thought she saw tears in the woman’s eyes.
“You thought what was your imagination?”
“Just… be careful when you talk to her. Be careful not to say… or think…”
“Say or think what?” Scully prompted. Silence. She continued, more forcefully, “Do you know something about what happened to Sharon’s baby?”
“No,” Linda said slowly. “But my husband might.”
“May I speak to your husband, then?”
“Sure.” Linda looked up at the house, then back at Scully. “If you can find him.”
From inside the darkened house, the old woman in the purple hat stared out at the two women at the edge of her lawn.
The blonde, Linda Granger, she had seen before. Indeed, it was Linda who had dropped by with the first of few good tidings from the neighborhood. It was Linda who was first to have her wish granted.
The old woman smiled mirthlessly.
The second woman, the red-head, was no one she recognized. Yet she’d seemed to have some interest in this house, or in the occupant. Either way, the old woman knew it wasn’t the last time she’d see this red-head.
I wonder what it is she really wants?
Scully wandered back into her hotel room to find the message light flashing on her telephone. She plopped down on the bed, kicked off her shoes, massaged her feet and wondered for the millionth time what misogynistic bastard invented high heels. She shoved the phone between her chin and her shoulder and retrieved the message.
“Scully. It’s me. Call me when you get in. Doesn’t matter how late.”
She hung up the phone and lay back on the bed. Her mind was in a whirl, and she debated whether to return Mulder’s call. No sooner had the internal debate begun than her cell phone rang.
“This is Scully.”
“What are you wearing?”
“Mulder, it’s- what? 2 a.m. your time? Don’t you ever sleep?”
“Not when I’ve got surveillance tapes to review.”
She laughed. “I’m fine, Mulder.”
“I didn’t say you weren’t, Scully.”
“Then why are you calling me?”
He was silent. Busted.
“I’m fine. Really. I might be here a little longer than expected, though. Think you can handle things at home for a while on your own?”
“I can handle this stuff in my sleep. Usually do. What’s going on out there?”
“Well, there’s some local suspicion that the baby’s death may be connected in some way to a missing person, so I thought I’d help the local guys figure out what’s going on.”
“Oh.” Mulder was silent. Jealous, Scully thought. After all, anything’s more exciting than working the terrorist beat. As Mulder had once said, there are only so many fertilizer vendors you can interview before sanity abandons you.
“Need any help?” he offered hopefully.
Scully smiled. “No. Good night, Mulder. Go review your surveillance tapes.”
She could hear his laugh through the phone. It was a comforting sound. “Good night.”
She hung up the phone, then quickly dialed Sharon’s number.
Jack answered. “Hello.”
“Jack. It’s Dana.”
“Look, I talked to a neighbor of yours – of Sharon’s – today. I don’t know what it means, but if we can meet in the morning, I’d like to run it by you.”
“Eight o’clock. I’ll pick you up.”
She paused for a moment. “How’s Sharon doing?”
Jack sighed. “She ate tonight. It’s a good sign.”
It was dark. There was some light offered by the street lamp, but not enough to entirely illuminate Linda Granger’s way to Irene Vangelis’ front door.
Linda approached anyway, slowly at first, then faster as she realized that there was no turning back. The game had already started. Whether she had the courage to see it through or not, she knew this thing would finish with or without her.
She decided it would finish with her.
It was after midnight, but she walked stealthily up to the door and banged on it. Hard.
“I know you’re in there,” Linda whispered harshly. “Come out and face me.”
Slowly, the door creaked open. The pungent smell of incense assaulted Linda as she pushed the door open and entered the house.
No one was in the living room.
“Mrs. Vangelis!” she screamed. “Come out and face me.”
“Be careful what you wish for, dear.”
Linda twisted around. Her eyes had adjusted fairly to the darkness outside, but even what little light there had been out there would not venture into the house. She could see nothing. No one.
“You know what I wish for.” Linda turned around and around, looking desperately for the woman she had grown to fear so much. “You know what I wish for.”
“Why don’t you tell me?” the voice purred. Linda turned again. Nothing. Her eyes filled with tears, her voice cracked.
“Bring him back.” she said faintly.
The bodiless voice was hollow. “What? I’m sorry. I didn’t hear you.”
Linda fell to her knees.
“Bring him back! Bring him back!” she screamed in various directions, trying to address an entity she couldn’t see.
An icy hand touched her shoulder. She flew away from it, looking up to see nothing but glowing green eyes. She froze.
“You really want your husband back?” the hollow voice asked.
Linda, shaking, stood up. She breathed deep, and looked into the eyes before her.
Although she could see nothing but the eyes, Linda sensed a smile.
“And what are you willing to give me?”
“Do you know anything about the disappearance of Michael Granger?” Scully asked as she stepped into Jack’s car. He had shown up early outside the hotel, but she had already been waiting for him.
“Yes,” he answered. “That was the case I was working on before Sharon… before it happened.”
“Did you ever speak to Mrs. Granger about it?”
“Linda? Yeah. Of course. Pretty standard stuff. Why? What did she tell you?”
“She told me that the day of the disappearance, she’d been over to see Irene Vangelis.”
“Irene Vangelis?” Jack’s expression became intrigued. “She didn’t mention that.”
“She told me that in their conversation she jokingly mentioned that her husband was driving her crazy and she wouldn’t mind if he disappeared for a little while.”
Jack stared at her. “So, what are you saying?”
“I’m saying I think we should pay Mrs. Vangelis a visit.”
The house was much like it had been the night before; dark and uninviting. Scully had urged Jack to go and check on Sharon; she doubted the strange old lady would be more than she could handle.
She made her way to the front door. It was slightly ajar, and the smell of incense wafted out. Scully knocked lightly.
She poked her head in the door. The living room was empty, and there didn’t seem to be anyone at home.
“May I help you?”
Scully jumped and turned around. Irene Vangelis was standing behind her. Scully wondered how long she had been there, watching her.
“Yes,” the old woman said. “That’s me.”
Scully pulled out her ID. “My name is Agent Scully. I’m with the-”
“FBI. I can read.”
Scully tucked the ID back in her pocket. “I have some questions for you concerning the disappearance of Michael Granger.”
Irene Vangelis smiled, a strange facial contortion that seemed to have little to do with any expression of pleasure or mirth. “And what are your questions?”
“I was wondering if you might know where he is.”
“And what makes you think I would know that?”
“Linda Granger told me that she visited with you on the morning of the disappearance.”
The old woman moved closer to Scully, staring up at her with intense green eyes. At five feet three inches tall, Scully wasn’t used to people staring up at her, but instinctively she knew it wasn’t that element of the new experience which was making her uneasy.
“And…?” Irene Vangelis asked, seeming to enjoy the process.
“And,” Scully began, for the first time not sure how to phrase a question. Briefly, she wished Mulder were there to jump in and handle things. He was much better at asking strange questions of strange people.
“And she mentioned that she told you she wanted her husband to disappear for a while.”
Mrs. Vangelis stepped back. “And you think I had something to do with this?”
“I just wanted to ask you the question, that’s all.”
“Why don’t you step inside?”
The old woman gestured towards the door. Scully hesitated, then followed Mrs. Vangelis inside.
The smell of the incense intensified, and for a moment Scully felt an overwhelming desire to get out of this house. She planted her feet firmly and looked at this strange old woman, who had in turn been studying her.
“You want to know if I know anything about Michael Granger, do you?”
“Yes,” Scully answered.
The old woman stared at Scully. “Yes. I know where Michael Granger is.”
Scully was surprised at the confession. In a profession where almost everything happened to her at least once, confessions were the rarest of all odd occurrences.
“Where is he, then?” Scully asked carefully, wondering both how this little old woman would accomplish the kidnapping of a 38-year-old man, and why she would be open about it if she did.
The woman was silent. Scully stepped forward.
“Mrs. Vangelis, we can do this here or we can do it at the local police station-”
“Oh, I’d much rather we do it here,” the old lady purred.
“Where is Michael Granger?” Scully asked, more forcefully this time.
The woman leaned in closer. Scully imagined a glow in her green eyes, but wrote it off to the smoky incense.
“Would you really like to know where I’ve been keeping him? Is that what you really want?”
“Yes,” Scully answered.
The old woman smiled.
“Mrs. Vangelis! Mrs. Vangelis!” Jack Compton pounded on the door. He’d been there for five minutes with no answer, but he wasn’t going to give up that easily.
The door creaked open. The old woman stood next to it, obviously irritated.
“I was napping, Mr. Compton. You have no business waking an old woman from her nap.”
“Mrs. Vangelis, I dropped an Agent Scully off here about three hours ago to ask you some questions. She’s about five-three, red hair. We haven’t heard from her since.”
He looked at the old woman, not sure of what exactly he could be accusing her. She was tiny, maybe four-foot-nine. Yet something inside him told him she wasn’t right.
“I haven’t seen her,” Mrs. Vangelis said defiantly.
“Can you explain to me how she could get lost between your driveway and your front door?” he asked.
The old woman glared. “No. I can’t. Good day, Mr. Compton.”
She shut the door forcefully. Jack stood outside the house for a moment, then looked over to Sharon’s place, where Sharon watched from the window.
Mulder sat, cramped in a window seat, staring through the clouds into a world he couldn’t imagine. Scully had been in danger before, serious danger, and had always come back to him. This time, however, something was different.
He checked his watch again. Five minutes since the last time he checked. It felt like hours, and it would be hours still before this plane landed in Tucson and he could question Jack Compton about what exactly had happened.
He should have gone with her. He should have come out last night. He’d wanted to, after hearing her voice on the phone and knowing she was into something interesting while he was transcribing phone taps. At first, he’d wanted to come just to do something challenging, to somehow delay the mind atrophy that had started when their team had been removed from the X-Files.
Now, he just wanted to see her. He wanted to see her happy and healthy and he didn’t know if he ever would.
He’d lost his faith that he could save her this time. Without that, everything seemed futile.
Mulder sat back on Sharon’s couch. He closed his eyes and digested everything that Jack had told him. His mind raced through caverns of possibility.
“It sounds like witchcraft,” he finally offered.
“Witchcraft,” Jack repeated. “Witchcraft.”
“Throughout the ages there have been stories of witches casting spells on whatever hapless victim crosses their path-”
“What are you telling me?” Jack stood up and began to pace. “You’re saying that what’s happened to Michael Granger, and Sharon, and Dana is the product of witchcraft?”
Mulder rubbed his eyes. “How else could you explain the disappearance of a grown man and a federal agent, and finger prints on an unborn baby’s neck-”
“I don’t know!” Jack spouted. “I don’t know how to explain it. But I’ll tell you something, when I find out who or what is responsible for the death of my son, you can be goddamn sure I’ll have something better than witchcraft to nail that bitch to the wall.”
Mulder caught his breath. Jack and Sharon… it had been Jack’s baby. He felt an overwhelming sadness, and a strange, intense empathy for this fellow agent-.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”
Jack didn’t meet his eye, he just nodded.
“He’s right, Jack.” Mulder looked to the source of the voice. The pale creature in the long flowing nightgown looked almost angelic.
“Sharon.” Jack went to her, putting his arms around her and guiding her, seating her gently on the couch like a much loved and priceless possession.
“He’s right, Jack. I don’t know how I know it, but… I just do.”
She looked at Mulder.
“How can you break a… what is it? A spell? Can I…” She looked at Jack and grabbed his hand as her eyes filled with tears. “Can I bring my baby back?”
Mulder shook his head. “I don’t know. Traditionally, witches cast spells to achieve a goal. Until we know what that goal is…” He trailed off. He had no idea.
The phone rang. Jack picked it up.
“Hello.” After listening for a few moments, he waved to Mulder and hung up the phone.
“Michael Granger has been found.”
Mulder stood up. “Where is he? Can we talk to him?”
“Not without a medium,” Jack answered. “He’s dead. Apparently has been for weeks. They found him this morning. He was lying in his driveway.”
Mulder bowed his head, gathering himself for the question he had to ask. “What was the cause of death?”
“They won’t know for sure until they do a formal autopsy, but it appears to be asphyxiation. It appears…”
Jack paused, breathed deep, and finished the sentence. “It appears he was buried alive.”
Scully awoke, crouched in the fetal position. She had no idea how long she’d been out, or what time it was. What day.
She could see nothing. She felt the ground underneath her. Dirt. She tried to stand, but couldn’t get straight up before her head hit the surface at the top and caused a small shower of dirt and sand to fall on her. She felt the ceiling.
Dirt. She had no idea what force kept it from collapsing in on her, but she doubted it would hold out forever.
She reached her arms out to her sides. She couldn’t stretch them the full length before touching the sides of her earthy prison.
She tried to remain calm as she realized that for all intents and purposes, she was buried alive. Her breathing became rapid and shallow, and she had to will herself to breathe slowly, treasuring every bit of oxygen that was available to her, because she had no idea how much she had left.
She sat down and felt along the floor and walls to see if there was some exit, some sort of tunnel system, some opening that might allow some precious air.
As she ran her hands desperately along the floor and walls, she felt something. An object. She picked it up, ran her fingers along it.
She couldn’t be sure, but it felt like a man’s shoe.
Linda Granger entered Mrs. Vangelis’ living room, for the first time without fear.
“Come out, you old hag!” she screamed. Tears streamed down her face. “Come out and face me!”
Irene Vangelis appeared before Linda Granger.
“Why are you so upset, dear? I gave you what you wanted. And I didn’t even get anything in return…”
Linda glared at the old woman. “What do you want from me? What could I possibly give you that you haven’t already taken?”
“Taken?” The old woman clicked her teeth disapprovingly. “My dear, all I’ve done is give to you. Everything you’ve asked for. Now I want only one thing, and I think you know what it is.”
Linda sighed. “If I give it to you, will you stop?”
The old woman smiled. “But of course.”
Scully was tired. She couldn’t remember ever being so tired in her life. Her hands were bleeding from what seemed like days of fruitlessly clawing at the earth. She had no idea how many feet of dirt were over her head, but she knew she’d die before too long if she didn’t at least try to find out.
She sat and rested, curling her arms around her knees as she did when she was a little girl. She felt her gun and holster dig into her ribs. She pulled it out and laid it at her side, resting her head on her knees for only a moment before she came up with the idea.
She held the gun in her hands and looked up at nothing she could see. If she was too deep, the force from the gun wouldn’t bore through to the surface. It was likely to cause the whole thing to cave in on her. However, at this point, the force of the gun was probably her only hope at reaching the surface, and while the risks were high, the consequences of doing nothing were equally dire.
She raised herself up on her knees and prayed silently as she released the safety.
She looked away to prevent the spark from blinding her. She pulled the trigger. There was a loud explosion, and her small world collapsed in on her.
The old woman’s attic was lined with shelves, filled with books and jars of things Linda could not identify. She sat quietly on the wooden floor, wrapped in a red, silky shroud, watching as the old woman gathered items from her shelves.
The old woman bowed in front of Linda, placing jars at each corner of the shroud. She lit a match, and touched it to the incense, letting it burn a bit before blowing it out and revealing the red-hot tip.
Mrs. Vangelis kneeled before Linda Granger. She held the incense in front of the younger woman, and slowly pressed it to the palm of Linda’s hand. Linda cringed slightly, but didn’t let out a sound. Smoke arose and Linda finally recognized the strange scent for what it was.
Linda looked up at Mrs. Vangelis. Slowly, she held out her other hand, palm up.
Mulder stood outside the old lady’s door. Jack was across the street questioning Linda Granger, close enough to call for backup, if he needed it.
He poised his gun and knocked on the door.
There was no air. Scully clawed at the dirt that engulfed her, but her energy was waning. The weight of the earth above her crushed her. She reached her hand upwards, but could push no further.
It was over.
Mulder pounded on the door.
Still nothing. He stood back to kick the door in when Jack showed up behind him.
“Linda’s not at her house.” He and Mulder exchanged looks. Jack pulled out his gun and nodded to Mulder to go ahead.
Linda looked up nervously at Irene Vangelis.
“Are we done?” Linda asked. Mrs. Vangelis nodded.
“When will it happen?”
“What if it doesn’t work?”
The old woman grinned. “It’s already working. Can’t you feel it?”
Linda grasped at her throat, gasping. The old woman held her arms out and in a flash of light fell to the floor.
Mulder kicked down the door. No one was in the living room. Jack followed him in.
“I’ll get the basement,” Mulder barked. “You check the rest of the house.”
Jack nodded and disappeared into a back room. Mulder pulled at a door under the staircase and ducked into the darkness.
The stairs creaked under his weight as he sped down them. He pulled out his flashlight and scanned the floor.
“Scully!” he yelled desperately. “Scully!”
Again, more slowly this time, he scanned his flashlight across the surface of the floor. Nothing.
He threw the flashlight down and dropped to his knees. She had to be here. He knew she was here. He clawed at the earth desperately, his eyes dry, his breathing fast and shallow.
She has to be here. She has to be here.
His fingers grazed something. He tapped the flashlight to illuminate what he had found.
Three delicate fingers protruding through the hole he’d just dug, the nails broken.
It was then that he started to cry.
Jack burst into the attic, having found nothing on the first two floors. The heat was oppressive at this height and the air was full of a sickeningly sweet smell. There was little light, but he had enough to see the body of Linda Granger, lying on the floor, covered in red silk.
Not far away was the body of Irene Vangelis, her purple hat strewn by her side. The old woman was dead.
Jack dropped to Linda’s side, turning her lifeless body over.
In seconds which felt like years, Mulder had unearthed most of Scully’s body. He pulled her up through the dirt and onto the floor.
He put his ear to her chest. Nothing. He listened at her face for breath. Nothing.
“No!” he cried breathlessly. Frantically, he cleared her mouth of dirt and put his lips to hers. He forced air into her, trying to get her life back. He had done it before, he could do it again.
“Come back to me. Come back to me,” he said rhythmically as he pumped his hands over her heart.
There was no response.
Jack blew air into the body of Linda Granger, one last time. One, two, three, four, five. He pumped at her chest.
He grabbed her hand. He was too close to lose her now. He hadn’t been able to save Sharon or their baby from this thing, and he was damned if anyone else was going to be lost to it.
“Linda. Breathe. Squeeze my hand. Do something. Live.”
He stared at her, about to give up hope, when he felt tension in her hand. He stared at her, not sure if he had imagined it, when her eyes opened. He smiled.
“You’re gonna be okay,” he said.
She looked at him with glowing green eyes and smiled. “I know.”
It had been some minutes, way too long to even hope, but Mulder had not given up. As though in a trance, on a psychic treadmill he could neither speed up nor stop, he kept up the resuscitation attempts.
“One, two, three, four, five.” He pounded on her chest, then grabbed her mouth and placed his to it, breathing for both of them, hoping for both of them.
He pulled back and instead of continuing, he stopped and looked at her. Frozen, he stared at the face he had known for years now, and truly recognized her beauty. His mind reeled as he hung on the what little hope he had left, for hope that she might live was the only thing keeping him from a waking death.
He took her limp body in his arms and let the tears flow over her, washing her in the only truth his soul had ever really known. He had been so stupid. She had been everything and he had never recognized it, had never told her because he never knew it himself. The only thing he could do was tell her now, and hope that somehow she would know.
“I love you,” he said quietly through the tears as he hugged her tightly to him. “Scully.”
She coughed. At first he thought the spasm was his own grief, but when she coughed a second time, he heard it and knew it for sure.
And he laughed.
Scully stood by the window in her hospital room and marveled at the view. She wanted to remember the palm trees and the cacti, the rocky mountains in the background and the blue, clear sky. Perhaps someday she’d come back, but she knew she probably wouldn’t. She looked back at her bag, packed on the pristine hospital bed, and waited for Mulder to come and retrieve her.
She turned and saw Sharon standing in the doorway. Her friend looked good, had gotten some of her color back, and seemed cheerful. It felt good to Scully to see Sharon smiling again, as she always had during their time together at the academy. A grin and a bad joke had always been Sharon’s trademark, and Scully was glad to see some of that joviality return to her friend. Scully took Sharon’s hand and squeezed it.
“How are you?”
“Me?” Sharon asked. “How the hell are you?”
Scully smiled as Mulder entered the room, answering the question for her. Sharon laughed and hugged Scully.
“Next time,” she said softly in Scully’s ear, “I’m gonna visit you.”
“I’m holding you to that.”
The friends released the hug. Sharon held her hand out to Mulder and, pulling him closer to them, kissed him on the cheek.
“You take care of her,” she commanded.
Mulder smiled. “I will.”
“I have to go. Jack’s waiting.”
Scully nodded. Sharon kissed them each again and headed out of the room.
Mulder looked at Scully. The sun danced on her red hair and he wanted to touch it, but held back. He wondered if she knew what he had realized while trying to bring her back. He wondered if it would matter if she did.
She looked up at him, meeting his stare. For the first time in a long time, he didn’t know what she was communicating in a gaze, and for the first time ever, he was afraid to know.
“Thank you,” she finally said, softly.
“For what?” Mulder asked, his gaze shifting to the view through the window.
She took his hand, and tilted her head to bring his eyes back to meet hers. She knew that something had changed between them, that somehow this time had been different, but she wasn’t sure which words would do her emotions justice. Her eyes started to tear up, and she could say nothing.
“Hey, hey, hey…” Mulder said softly, touching her face and leaning down towards her. “It’s okay. The hard part is over.”
“That’s just it,” she said, swiping at the tears on her face. “I don’t think it is.”
Mulder straightened, kissed her forehead, and put his arms around her. She held onto him, breathing him in deep through his shirt and jacket. If she didn’t have words, if she didn’t have anything concrete, at least she had this.
He released first. He put his hands on her face and kissed her forehead again, as he had many times before when kissing her lips had been too large a battle to wage. He stepped back, smiled and took her suitcase.
She smiled back, stepped in front of him and felt the light, familiar pressure of his hand at the small of her back, guiding her where ever it was she needed to go.