Title: Crickets Are For Luck
Author: Shelba (Tshelvulcn@aol.com)
Archive : Ephemeral, Gossamer, COX, OK Others, please let me know where it goes, and keep all headers and my name and address with it.
Category: Heavy Angst — Implied MSR
Spoilers: Season 8 — Based on previews for “This is Not Happening”
Disclaimer: They SHOULD belong to us, because we love them. Oh well.
Thanks to Cyndi and Patty for capable, kind Beta. 🙂
Author’s notes at the end.
The crickets were quiet, their song had ceased hours ago. The sleepy chittering of birds had stopped. The soft misty rain had finally ended and moisture dripped from bent branches. The dark drops could have been tears. They could have been blood.
For some in the shrouded night, they were both.
“Where is he?” A plaint. A prayer. A plea.
Reluctantly, a reply came. “Over there.”
Two words. Two words to answer a prayer. At last, Scully’s prayer for Mulder’s safe return had been answered — at long last, only to bring another plea; a plea that this was not happening.
Her knees hit the cold ground. Part of her prayer had been answered, “…yes.” Part had been answered …”no.”
Bloody wrists. Pierced legs. A travesty of a surgical cut along a still chest. The pale skin, still warm. Her breath caught. *Oh God, still warm.* His breath had been stolen; his heart had stilled, even as salvation had raced toward him.
The rescue team members were silent except for a choked sob, and back in the woods, the muffled sound of someone retching. Only a few of the Agents had known Mulder, but he had been one of theirs and he had fallen. The weight of failure pulled them down, and their guns hung forgotten at their sides. The agents stood, an honor guard in wait, as Mulder’s partner knelt at his side. John Doggett and Walter Skinner stood at Mulder’s head, sentinels guarding Scully’s privacy.
“Mulder, I’m here,” Scully crooned. “Its going to be OK, you’ll see.”
Shaking hands stroked his brow; fingertip kisses were placed on the c-shaped wounds that had violated his tear-streaked face. “Oh, Mulder. You are so cold. We have to get you warm.” Her long coat was placed lovingly around his bare body; her jacket, a pillow for his heavy head. “I’ll get you patched up, partner, but first we have to get you warm.” She rubbed the skin of his hands, her tears mingling with the blood from his wrist wounds and painting them red.
Finally, the ragged breathing of the men around her reminded Scully that she was not alone. She smiled up at Skinner and Doggett, her eyes bright in the glow from the flashlights.
“Sir. Agent Doggett, look…” she whispered, “He’s back.” She lifted a limp heavy hand to her face and kissed Mulder’s red-tipped fingers. “He’s home.”
Skinner wiped tears from his face and knelt beside her in the dank clay. “Scully, come. You have to get off the ground.”
“NO! I am not leaving him.” She fingered the cold metal of her gun — the shield she had borne while searching for Mulder in the cruel dark.
Skinner took a deep, slow breath. Cold sweat ran down his neck, fear clenching and twisting his gut. Over the years, Walter Skinner had watched Dana Scully protect Mulder in meeting rooms and in firefights. He did not want her to think she had to protect him now. He knew that Scully was in shock — in denial. What if Scully acknowledged that her partner was gone? If she decided to follow Mulder, could he stop her? He shuddered. He had to get that gun and it’s ugly choices away from her. He looked at Doggett, and then, with a hard look, directed the other agent’s attention to the gun Scully clenched in Scully’s trembling hand. His soul sagged with relief when Doggett nodded in understanding. Together, maybe they would get her through this.
Doggett slowly moved to the other side, and knelt near Mulder’s feet. He reached out and tucked the edge of Scully’s coat under Mulder’s side. “Agent, he’s…” Scully’s eyes were dark pools; her face so pale it gleamed in the dark. His voice cracked. He wouldn’t — couldn’t — say the words. It was not his place to tell her that Mulder was gone. Doggett cleared his throat. His voice was a ragged whisper, the words thready. “Agent Scully, don’t you think that we need to move him?” He was rewarded with Scully’s glare, but nothing else indicated that she had understood him.
Skinner cleared his clogged throat and tried another tack. Years of wielding authority paid off. His command voice had not left him completely. “Doctor Scully, its cold, let the men take him someplace warm.”
Scully looked at the little white puffs of air from their breath. “You’re right.” As suddenly as she had dropped to the ground, she sprang up. “It is
cold. Come on, lets get Agent Mulder out of here.”
Skinner’s shaking hands beckoned to the silent agents who had been standing in numb horror around the clearing. He stripped off his overcoat, extending the thick wool garment — a futile offering of warmth — to cradle his friend. “Here. Use this to carry him.”
The shadows in the dark resolved into men. Heads bowed, eight silent men took up their burden and followed the sound of Skinner’s heavy, wet breaths.
Mulder’s hazel eyes danced in the dark before the AD’s face, and the slain man’s smoky voice whispered, *Cowboy up, Skinner. You’ve got to take care of
Scully.* Tears of grief and fear dimmed his vision. Grief for the loss of one friend. Fear that he might lose another. Skinner glanced over his shoulder. Scully’s small form looked lost next to Doggett, as they followed Mulder’s stretcher.
Doggett looked down at Scully’s face. She never took her eyes off of the still form as it was borne through the night. She barely noticed when a tree
root reached for her ankle and nearly tossed her to the wet ground. Scully didn’t protest when Doggett caught her, nor when he took her arm. She did not notice him easing the gun from her nerveless fingers. Doggett slipped the gun into a pocket and sighed with relief.
As they trudged through the trees, her whisper brushed past his ears. Little tremors shook the arm under his hand. The tiny gold cross Dana wore glinted softly in the light from his flashlight, and he Doggett wondered if she was reciting a prayer. He hoped so, although, after the way her other
prayers had been answered, he wondered why she would.
For the first time in years, John Doggett prayed. He prayed that Mulder’s soul would have the peace that his tortured body had been denied. He prayed for Scully; that seeing Mulder’s violated body had not snapped her mind. For himself and for Skinner, he prayed that they would have the strength to get Mulder’s partner — no, he thought, *my* partner — through this.
Gradually, the forest thinned. The rough track out of the woods could be seen just ahead of them. Moonlight gleamed off the cold metal of the waiting vehicles, and Doggett shuddered. What would happen, he wondered, when Scully realized that no ambulance awaited her partner? The team had come into
the woods in Jeeps and one battered pickup. How would she react to seeing her partner stowed in the back like a load of firewood?
But Scully said nothing about the transport. Still in shock, Doggett hoped. Scully presided watchfully over the men as they eased her partner into the back of the truck. Doggett could hear her murmuring reassurances to Mulder, and thank yous to the men. His throat tightened with sympathy as tear-filled male voices answered her, assuring her that “It was no trouble, ma’am.”
Doggett closed his eyes as he heard her soft voice thanking Skinner for his coat and telling him that she would clean it before it was returned. The AD’s rough voice broke on his reply, and she patted the big man’s arm absently. Brushing off Skinner’s offer to help her, she climbed in the back of the truck. She cradled Mulder’s head in her lap, and then motioned for the driver to go.
As the truck moved forward, Doggett leapt forward and clambered up onto the tailgate. Scully looked up from her charge, her eyes bright in the dim light. She lifted her chin and squared her shoulders. “Agent Doggett, why are you here?”
Scully was the most intensely private person John Doggett had ever met. He had, in that second as the truck moved out, made a decision. She had borne her fears alone during the long weeks of Mulder’s absence. Doggett was not going to let her make this last journey, alone on a cold metal slab with her partner’s body. She would have to toss him out of the truck first. “Just in case you need some help, Agent Scully.” He gestured at Mulder’s still form.
She nodded at him. “Thanks.” Then, softly, so softly that he had to strain to hear her, “I don’t think well need it.” She turned back to her fallen
friend and bent back to stroking Mulder’s hair.
Doggett didn’t know what to say to his grieving partner. John could not see her face to pick up even a hint as to what she was thinking. Scully was still petting Mulder’s hair, but had stopped speaking. He did not know whether to be thankful or afraid. They rode the rest of the way in an unbroken silence.
The rain had resumed a soft misty drizzle that wet the skin and chilled the soul. The grim caravan crawled through the crying night to the hospital
and the cold morgue that awaited them.
Silent and pale, Scully watched as Mulder was transferred to a gurney. She leaned down and pressed a kiss to his forehead. Then, she nodded to the
medics and rested her hand on Mulder’s chest, oblivious to the blood that seeped from the wound. Her head bowed, Scully disappeared through the doors of
the ER with the gurney and its still burden.
Two weeks later.
Sunlight dappled on the still water of the Reflecting Pool. Scully rested her hand protectively on the gentle swell of her abdomen, and watched the shimmering water. A soft breeze played with the branches above her head and caressed her cheek.
Walter Skinner stood in the shade of a tree, reluctant to interrupt her reverie, he watched her for a little while before approaching slowly. He spoke
softly, hoping that he would not startle her. “Good morning, Scully. Is this seat taken?”
She smiled up at him, and shook her head. “No, sir, and I am not experiencing any destructive impulses.”
“What?” His brow creased in worry.
“Never mind.” She smiled up at him, and beckoned to him to sit. “Nothing, really. Just something Mulder said once. Take a seat.” She eyed him carefully. “What can I do for you, Sir?”
“Nothing, really.” He brushed an imaginary leaf off of the bench and eased himself down next to her. “I just wanted to see how you are doing.” He searched her face, but found only a sad peacefulness.
She nodded, but said nothing. Well, he thought, at least she did not say that she was fine. He was thankful that she had not lied to him. They both
knew that it would be a very long time before Scully would be fine.
They sat for a while, just enjoying the sunshine and the soft breeze. Then, her voice tentative, Scully broke the companionable silence. “Sir, what do you think was the last thing he heard?”
Skinner was a bit taken aback by the question. “I… I don’t know, Scully.” He shifted on the hard bench. “Why do you ask?”
“I was just thinking. I remember a stakeout a long time ago, when Mulder old me that in some cultures, crickets are considered lucky. I was thinking
about how he sounded and how his eyebrows always waggled when he teased me.”
She smiled, and shook her head. “He was always trying to get reactions from me.”
Skinner nodded, and smiled as he remembered the quirky humor Fox Mulder had owned. He was glad that Scully was finally able to talk about Mulder. She needed to share happy memories of him. “So, what did he say, Scully?”
Her laughter was soft. “He was so silly. He told me, Its because they talk by rubbing their legs together. How lucky is that?”
Skinner shook his head, surprised that his eyes were stinging. Must be the breeze, he thought. He cleared his throat and then spoke, his voice carefully neutral. “Can I ask you, Scully, what made you think of that?”
Her eyes shone dark and bright, belying the smile she showed him. “The woods were so silent ” except for the wind, they sounded so dead when we got to him. I hope that the last thing he heard was the sound of a living thing.”
He had to lean forward to hear her whisper.
“I hope he could hear the crickets.”
Thank you to Patty and to Cyndi-Pooh for support and Beta. Both of you ladies had great suggestions and helped me slay some Pronoun and Punctuation Dragons, and helped me make the story better. And, yes, I am sorry, Cyndi, he is still dead. All errors are my own. Thank you to CyndiArica for her read through, and the Level 10 designation.
When I saw the previews for the episode, “This is not happening,” my initial impression was that this took place at night, in a wooded area. I do not know how much of this is accurate. Nor do I really care. Mulder’s beautiful hand streaked with blood and his body tossed in the back of pickup truck were heartbreaking images. I wanted to convey how alone that I think Mulder must have felt, and how devastated Scully would be at seeing him this way. That she did not check him for vital signs or initiate CPR in my story, indicated the depth of her denial and fear.