Near Death Experience
by Christina M. Simmons
Illustrated by Erin Livingstone
**Standard Disclaimer: All rights to characters and series owned by
Twentieth-Century Fox and 1013 Productions. No copyright infringement
intended. No profit turned by the writing or posting of this work. Please
don't sue me, yadda yadda...**
Author's Note: I was just so tickled by other fanfic in this category that I had to stick in a short vignette of my own. I've no idea what's going to happen... the teaser was a jumble to me, and I'm lost without my VCR. But, soulmates seeming to be the theme...
They stood in the field together, close to death. Mulder's death,
apparantly... some hundred years before, or so he'd said. Scully's
death, too... if things hadn't turned out differently. And now,
tangible death... the body of the young woman at their feet. Heavy
clouds, rain-laden, chilled the air, blocking the sunlight. The drab
navy uniforms of the local police seemed black against the seared
ocher of the undulating meadow hummocks.
Mulder was the first to turn away, silent.
Scully gazed at the young woman for a moment longer, the eyes still
wide in death, her blood a bright splash against the late autumn gold
of the grasses. Then she followed her partner, just as silently...
she'd learned to give Mulder his space in times like this. He'd speak
when he was ready.
At the edge of the field, he turned, crinkled eyes taking in the
expanse of it... almost searching, or imbedding it in his memory.
Scully looked at the ground at her feet, waiting.
"We'll be back here again." he said at last... though it was by no
means clear whether he was speaking to her, or to himself. Scully
turned her blue eyes on him, and found her gaze met by his steady
hazel regard. "It all comes around again, Scully... we'll be back."
Scully sighed, taking her turn to memorize the landscape. "I don't
think I want to, Mulder. Once around is enough for me." She didn't
need to tell him that she wasn't speaking of physical location...
Mulder was the master of subtext. He would understand.
He did, and suprised her by chuckling, as though her response had
cheered him out of his pondering. "I don't think you have much of a
choice." Then, once again, he lapsed back into silence... this time,
the silence of one carefully choosing his next words. "It's...
reassuring, in its own way, Scully. If you look at it that way. It's
not simply events which draw us back... it's people. Don't you prefer
to look at it that way... knowing that maybe, just maybe, death
doesn't mean 'goodbye forever'?"
"According to the way I was raised, it never did." She lowered her
voice, her eyes... her mind traveling with that statement back to
other experiences... other times. Sunday school... all she'd been
taught. Her sister Melissa's deviations from that teaching... Mulder
would have appreciated Missy's thoughts, at a time like this. A
condemned killer, staring up at her with the face of her partner...
speaking in a voice that was almost her own. Visions of a stout Naval
officer in dress whites, silhouetted against ebony velvet... whispers
of a beloved voice. "Death never has been the end of anything, Mulder,
except the physical form... but it's a moving on. A transmutation.
Not a recycling of energies."
Mulder interrupted her thoughts with a hand on her back, steering her
away from the field... and when she glanced up at him, he was smiling.
"I won't argue religious philosophy with you." he said, then, as a
parting shot, a grin. "After all... in either way of thinking...
we'll have all eternity to debate it, won't we? Here... or wherever."
"You're sure of this." She put all her skepticism into that, raising
one eyebrow, but could not hide the amusment she felt. Mulder just
seemed so... pleased... by that decision.
"Positive, Scully... I saw things, you know." He was referring to the
regressive hypnotism, his eyes going distant for that moment. "No...
no 'proof.' But it's enough for me. And you..." He was teasing her
mercilessly now. "You will just have to wait around and find out if
I'm right or not."
Scully stopped dead in her tracks, the sudden realization hitting her
that Mulder was not speaking in generalities... or about separate
experiences with the other side of death. Her partner stopped, too,
regarding her with unabashed amusement.
"Wait. So you're saying..." She spoke slowly, carefully, keeping her
face carefully neutral. "You're saying that you... saw ME... in...
whatever sort of life-thing it was that you thought you saw? That's
what you're talking about? That we'll be back here. You and me. In
some ... other life?"
Mulder nodded. "What can I say... though I'm tempted to ask if you've
been following me around..."
"Uh-huh." Scully said flatly, regarding her partner, both brows
raised now. "So you're telling me that not only am I stuck with you
in THIS life... but I've had to put up with you before... and will
have to do it again... most likely for all eternity?"
He grinned. Scully closed her eyes for the briefest of moments, and
started forward again, striding straight past her chuckling partner.
"You're buying me dinner." she told him, not turning around.
"Tonight. Somewhere nice. If I'm going to put up with this sort of
abuse for the next milennia... you owe me that much, Mulder."
Mulder, trotting to catch up with his partner, did not protest in the
Author's Note: There had to be more to the field... if Scully was really a part of it. If she had a place in Mulder's former life. Please excuse the dates, or lack thereof... I'm currently without VCR, so I can't get all the details. Comments welcome, of course. Hope you like it.
Compound Battlefield, 3:46 p.m.
He was in the field again.
She'd stood and looked on from the edge of the long grasses, yellowed with
autumn, and watched the solitary figure of her partner bow his head. He was
looking at the photographs... of the man he thought he'd been, of the woman he
thought he'd loved. She'd given them to him... a peace offering, of sorts. Maybe that had been a mistake.
Of course it was a mistake. You know Mulder.... how he gets... you know he's
been vulnerable. To her... to this. But you gave him those photographs anyway.
Dana Scully closed her eyes slowly, bowing her own head. She wanted to go to
him, to take him from this place. It was too close to death... too many deaths. Too many. She felt it, too, and ached for that loss of life... Mulder, however, was heart-deep in another time right now... a time that she had no place in.
Scully stood there for a moment longer before turning away.
Civil War Archives, 4:15 p.m.
I can't believe I'm back here again.
The dust of ages, the smell of old papers and photographs, could not be
eradicated from the archive room. It had bothered her allergies even in her
previous visit, however brief... but here she was. Again.
Mulder would love this. He'd say that we all come back again... or something
Memory of her partner's hypnosis session remained clear in her mind... Mulder,
face creased with effort and the pain of the memories he was supposedly
reliving... herself in the background, fearing for him.
Come off it, Dana... you came here for him. Why deny it?
It was true.
She'd felt so distant from Mulder, these past two days. Cut off... shut out. For almost four years now she'd settled into the unspoken bond they shared... the comfort of knowing him, of being part of the shadowy world he inhabited...
trusted, and trusting. She would rather walk in the light... where facts were
facts, and science held true... but if she had to probe the darkness, she was glad that Mulder was at her side. Always.
And that had been the greatest fear building in her as Mulder had, of late,
drifted further and further into the shadows... without her. He was straining at the bond that had been their strength... and each time he did, Scully felt herself break a bit under that effort.
Pull it together, Dana. You know why you're here.
Resistance was futile. If she did not want to lose her partner, her friend,
entirely... she had to follow him into the gray areas. And into the dark.
Even if it scares you... it always has, and it does even now... but you're looking into the dark now. Because you're more afraid of...
Of what? Of being alone?
Dana, you've been listening to Mulder too long.
But here she was. His eyes had gone distant under hypnosis... and he'd recited
places and names... connecting the past to the present. His father... his sister... Melissa... even the Cancer Man. All had a place in his past... or his delusion.
It was the field. That damnable field, again...
"...my sergeant is there. He is Scully." Dead. So she had died in that field, too... in Mulder's mind, at any rate. She'd come to the archives to search for the truth for him... and found the photographs of Sullivan Biddle, the man he'd claimed to be, and of Sarah Kavanaugh, the woman he'd loved... the woman Melissa's fragmented mind had latched onto.
She'd come for him, before. Now, she came for herself.
You're curious. Curious is good. Scientists are curious. At least look at this rationally...
She hadn't asked Mulder about the image of her former self. To do so would be
to admit belief... and she couldn't. Not now. Not yet. But still she stood before the registry of names, scanning over the unit that held the name of Sullivan Biddle.
A name. A name... and a location. Drawer 1026-A. There was a photograph,
then. Sgt. Gideon Scott.
But how many sergeants were there in that field? Dozens of men died that day...
But only one sergeant in Sullivan Biddle's unit.
Her hand trembled on the metal drawer's handle, and she hesitated. She was
glad that she'd left Mulder behind... she didn't want him to have to see this
struggle. This was the drawer. She was certain of that much... logic told her
that. One unit. One sergeant.
This is it.
What would she feel, opening that drawer? Would there be a revelation, of
sorts? A shock of recognition? Or... nothing? No hint as to whether Mulder
was right... or not.
Which would you rather, Dana?
She closed her eyes and opened the drawer.
Eyes stared up at her from the yellowed tint of an ancient photo. Eyes that could have been green, or grey, or blue. A young man in a Confederate uniform,
stern-faced... barely thirty, if that. It was the eyes that captured her, though. The expression in them.
As though he didn't quite believe the camera would work. As though he
wouldn't be satisfied until he saw the finished print. She reached for the picture, a curious numbness coming over her, stretching out to examine it closely... and found leather.
Cracked leather. The photo had been mounted on the cover of a book of some
sort. Scully lifted it, examining it. Brown faded to tan in water-strained
patches... leather binding cracked, weathered, the unevenly-cut pages yellowed,
She held it in her hands, gingerly tracing the edge of the photograph, the
etchings on the leatherwork. This... if this was what she believed it to be...
Mulder would want to see it. The journal of a man who had been his friend... a
comrade in arms.
A man he believed she had been.
Still staring at the photograph, Scully sank into a polished wooden chair, elbows resting on the table, and regarded the little book for a moment longer.
Do you want to do this? Do you know what it means, if you do? Leave the
book... leave it for Mulder, Dana. Even if he's right... this is the lifetime that matters. You don't know what you'll find in there...
She stared into the eyes of Gideon Scott.
Which is why I have to read it.
She opened the book, gently, with fingers that still trembled... and began to read.
I woke in a rude field hospital, unsure of the date or the day. Sullivan
was there. He sat by my bedside and grinned at me with that damned
smugness of his. "Gideon," he said to me. "Don't you go thinking that
you'll ease on out of our bet just yet. You've got the schooling, so you
may be my sergeant, but I've got claim on a nickel from you, sir, and I do
intend to collect!"
It hurt to laugh - my left arm was on fire. The hospital was low on
morphine. An orderly later told me that the doctors had wanted to take
my arm, but Sullivan had fought an orderly to get to my side, and had
put his musket to the back of the doctor to stop him. Examining the
wound myself, best as I could, I knew that there would be lingering pain
and some loss of movement... I would have a lame arm. But I would
have two arms, and it was thanks to Sullivan Biddle.
Sullivan has presented me with this journal, to keep up my spirits until I
may rejoin my unit in the field. This, then, is my first entry. My name is
The days pass slowly... too slowly. I am permitted to sit up for longer
and longer, and Sullivan tells me that the men are comfortably ensconced
close by a sprawling farm. He has met a young woman there he seems to
think much of, but her name escapes me. I had a letter from my Virginia
today, and it has cheered me considerably. Sullivan brought it to me
himself, two miles over fields in the rain.
I will take the time to write of Sullivan here he who gave me this
journal, and takes such pride in seeing me write in it. He sits by me for
hours on end, and waits for me to read to him from what I have written.
This will please him, then, and amuse the two of us both.
We were children together, growing up in the farm country not far from
the state capital of Nashville, and I have known his voice since I knew
words to speak with. Time was when I could find my way to his wide
window in the darkest of moonlit nights, and we would sit and gaze at
the stars together, or chase down the fireflies in the fields, or fish and
frog on the mud-banks and waterholes. He gave me his favorite pup
when I fell out of a tree. I gave him my father's skinning knife when he
took his first white-tailed buck. Boyhood is good when one has a friend
as dear as a brother.
I remember Sullivan always as a slightly older boy with a crooked smile
and the scar on his right temple that he got from teasing his father's fox
terrier. He fancied it made him look brave, though we both knew him to
be as mild as the well-kept fieldmen living out behind his home. But he
was quick with a joke and quicker up a tree or down to the river, and we
spent many happy days together, swearing to each other our everlasting
devotion like David and Jonathan in the Good Book.
I was ten and Sullivan eleven when the sickness came, taking both my
mother and my father, and my two sisters as well. I do not remember
their going. I do not remember being taken from there, nor of the
journey to Nashville, where I was taken in by a city-dwelling uncle.
When I woke from the fever-sleep, I was plunged into the cold ravine of
my own grief... and it was not until I had finally recovered my senses
that I could mourn not only the loss of my family but also my boyhood
friend. Miles away I had been taken, far from the farmlands, far from the
sickeness. It had been his father who had taken me to Uncle Eben, but I
had no news for weeks of my friend Sullivan only that the sickness had
spread to Edgecomb, his family home.
It was in that time that I decided to become a doctor. I would write
more, but my head and arm throb, and I feel I must now sleep. Sullivan,
keeping watch by my bedside, says that I may not have this journal back
until well into the morrow, and this time, I will allow him to prevail.
Sullivan has gone back to the men. I am left to the company of this
journal and my memories.
Sullivan and his family came through the epidemic that claimed my
family relatively unscathed, though his nurse's newborn daughter was
called home to the Lord and Sullivan's elder brother blinded. The
sickness swept the county, leaving the churchyards patchworked with
fresh earth and a shortness of field hands to bring in the harvest. We
never knew the name for the illness, for the doctors had never seen its
like. Farms were burned entire, with no stick left standing, no crops left
to grow... Yankee troops marching in, as they do today, burning all they
could find. No answers... only flames. It was then that I determined to
become a doctor, so that the evils of disease would not take future
generations all unawares.
My uncle Eben enthusiastically supported my goals, hiring for me the
best tutors his amble wallet could provide during my long recovery...
childless, widowed, he had no better use for his coppers, he said. On
weekends I was permitted to take the buggy into the countryside, where
Sullivan and I renewed our pact and hunted and fished until the summer
I was to go away to school that autumn, a private boarding school
appropriate, said Uncle Eben, for a young gentleman. I sorely wished
that Sullivan could accompany me - his family had money enough from
the plantation to educate him well - but Sullivan wanted nothing more
than the simple life of a country gentleman. And so it passed that I went
away to school, and from there to university, and the vows made by two
boys in an open field of cotton and tobacco went where old summers go.
Here I will skip the years of halcyon and academia... Uncle Eben's purse
was not so ample as we had hoped, and I was forced to leave the
university for the more sobering halls of West Point. My uncle knew that
I had not the heart of a shopkeeper, nor a schoolmaster so a soldier it
would be. I was not three months from graduation when war broke out
between the states and I was sent for... by my uncle and, in turn, by a
venerable colonel who was a personal friend of my father's. He offered
me a commission in Grant's army a right proper place for a lad of any
education and bearing and it was then that I became Captain Gideon
War moves at once too slowly and too swiftly. Deployed as far south as
Atlanta, I learned the ways of skirmishes, of the acrid scent of
gunpowder and the putrid fecor of infected flesh. There were wins and
losses, and our unit made headway against the Yankees one day only to
fall back the next. One day runs into another in the war... and you learn
not to try to count them.
It was when I was promoted to sergeant and placed with a unit out of
Jackson that I felt my proudest... and my most lonely and desolate. In
the thick of battle, one has no time to ponder one's mortal condition - and
little time to nurture one's soul, gulping Bible verse between dusk and
dawn. In this new post, however, I was aware of the absence of my
former comrades, and missed them acutely.
I had arrived early, before the coronet sounded the dawn, to inspect
condition of the troops that were to be mine... and as they fell in, one by
one, I recognized them each to each as good men and true. It was when
a latecomer straggled in, still straightening his uniform and adjusting his
musket, though, that I felt my heart leap within me. I am not a man to
believe in fate or in destiny, only the will of the Lord. And like the
Allmighty watched over his beloved David and the loyal Jonathan, I felt
certain in that moment that some force had indeed been watching over
me. The man was Sullivan Biddle.
Sunlight angled through high windows, a visual amber-hued clock, and Scully
paused, shaking her head. Truth is, of course, stranger than fiction... but the journal read more like the adventure novels that her brothers had once been so achingly fond of. She'd sneaked enough off their shelves to recognize the style.
Gideon Scott was a man fond of interminable detail, and the teller of a sound
story... but it was a story she did not have the time to read. Or... perhaps?
Turning the pages gingerly, however, she noted that the bulk of the journal was
battlefield scrawl... recordings of skirmishes and the numbers killed or wounded.
Once he had left the hospital, Scully presumed, time for writing had turned short, and entries were scrawled between sketches of battlefields and notations on supplies. Personal entries were few and far between.
No. Mulder would sit here, poring over the pages. She had sated her curiosity, though. she could leave now, if she wanted to. If she had to.
I don't have the time for this.... Scully thought. I have a report to file. A partner to collect. Interest in history is all well and good, of course, but it's not adding anything to this case. She closed the cover, careful of the cracked binding, and rose, gathering her handbag. The photograph of Gideon Scott stared up at her, golden-hued. Her mind wandering for a moment, she mentally blended the picture of Sullivan Biddle with the image before her. Scott would have been the taller of the two, though not by much... and they would have made a handsome pair, in pressed uniforms. A smile crept to her face, unbidden.
Would it change anything, Mulder's voice asked her, if she'd known that they
had been friends before? Or, more to the point, that we'll remain friends in the future? In many futures? Did he want that? Was that statement part of his way of apologizing for making a hard case that much harder? Of saying that our bond will hold through any words - any arguments - any wars that might come
She puffed upwards, blowing a stray lock of hair out of her face.
You're tired, Dana. You're tired, and you feel guilty over doing nothing wrong.
She heard her own voice answer Mulder in her mind. I wouldn't change a single
Setting her bag aside, she sat down once more, and reached for the journal.
We are based in Savannah. The men are glad for the shaves and hot
baths - and the women. Sullivan is the worst of the lot. He falls in and
out of love as easily as a moon-sheep, but the ladies gather around him
in tittering flocks. He says that when the right woman comes along, he
will give up his caddish ways and be the model of propriety, as I am.
Then he laughs.
As for myself, I thank the good Lord that I've a woman sweet, true, and
safe - awaiting my return. My Virginia - my Ginny. We had no time to
marry before I marched, but Sullivan will stand up for me when we
march into Nashville in two weeks. She will stay with her parents until I
am able to come home. I pray each day that the time will not pass
slowly. In my heart I am more scholar than soldier, but these Yankees
must learn that the South is not their plaything.
Tonight it is my turn to sit with the wounded. We were caught by
surprise at the delta crossway of two rivers, making for a supply barge
that had run aground on a sandbar. The Yankees were of the same
mind, and we met there. They had the high, firm ground. We held the
mud where rain has made the earth boggy.
I cut the unit and sent Sullivan to harry the flanks, much as we had once
set our dogs upon treed wildcats... only the wildcats never had guns to
fire back with. Darkness came, and the guns fell silent... but there is no
sign of Sullivan or the men who went with him.
The Yankees stay to the ridges. They cannot decend, but their
commander is stubborn... they are well supplied. Our runner has found
Sullivan and his company. They are drier than we, but we dare not give
ground to join them. In the nights when the guns are silent and the
mosquitos are thick, we can hear the Yankees on the ridgetops singing,
and see the light of their fires as we can see theirs. I remember campfires
of my youth. I wonder if Sullivan, camped where we cannot see, thinks
of them as well.
Reinforcements came from up the river, having taken the barge and its
supplies of arms and food. We have treed the Yankees, and taken them
from their perches like hens from a tall bush. Tonight, joined with
Chapman's 85th infantry, we roast meat that is almost fresh and laugh
and tell lies.
Sullivan came to the fires late, one hand over his jacket. Reaching inside,
he grinned at me... and produced a blue-eyed kitten. As he took the hill,
their drummer boy flung the little creature at the advancing troops,
perhaps hoping it would scratch out the eyes of the soldier pursuing
him. Sullivan caught up the little creature and took a shine to her. The
kitten will ride out with Chapman tomorrow... a spoil of war for his
daughter in Atlanta.
We came upon the burned-out remnants of a plantation today, its former
inhabitants weeping by wayside. The eyes of my men were on the road,
focused on the march, but I am certain that their hearts burned even as
my own at the sight. The eyes of the children were the worst of all.
Sullivan, bringing up the rear, paused by me.
"I watched the troops burn the plantation beside yours." he said quietly.
"All those years ago. I do not know why they spared your land... they've
no decency or logic, Yankees, but I was grateful to the, then. And I am
even now. I remember watching the fields burn, and remembering you,
and was glad you were far away."
Then he turned and walked away. Sullivan is a man of actions, rather
than words, and the confession strengthened me.
My negro message-boy fell sick two days ago, so tonight I let him sit by
the fire with our men. He is a clever little thing, and seemed heartened
by the kindness. At the onset, I had wanted to leave him home in Uncle
Eben's care, but he insisted that he could serve me better than any
ignorant white boy could as he can both read and write. My uncle
would frown at his cheek, but I have taught him myself out of my own
books, and he is right. He is thirteen.
He is most touchingly fond of Sullivan who, he says, spins yarns fit to
beat a preacher. Tonight we were regaled by a tale Sullivan swears is
true - but as he always does, and produces no proof, I am inclined to
believe the twinkle in his eye over the words on his lips. This being said,
Sullivan Biddle tells the most hair-raising tales that I have ever heard,
and the men call for his ghost stories time and again. It is a boost to
morale, replacing the horror of the daylight hours with the specters of
the mind, which can be banished far more easily.
Two days of hell, and mud, in another godforsaken field. We beat the
Yanks back, though, and can collect ourselves before the march at dawn.
Too many wounded, and even one is too many killed.
I found Sullivan where I had left him on the flank, leaning against a tree
and trembling worse than a chinaberry tree in the wind. He was deeply
grazed across the temple opposite his boyhood scar but otherwise
unhurt, and as I tended his wounds, he looked into my eye. He told me
that he was a coward because he had not shot at the retreating Yankees
as they had passed his quarter. He had looked at them, and they were
little more than boys.
He is a soldier under my command, but Sullivan Biddle is also my
friend. I did not tell him that he was not a coward, but neither did I
confirm it. Rain at dusk, and Tooley has the grippe. We march on the
We are on home ground now, dug in along Hawk's Ridge. The Yankees
outnumber us two men to one, but my men love this land and will fight
to the last. As we waited for the next volley of shot, I told Sullivan that
in the event of my death or capture, he was to take the men to safer
grounds... what was left of them, anyway. He would not promise,
swearing to stand by me until we both fell both, or nothing.
"I'll mourn your corpse, if it comes to that." he said. "But I will not tell
Ginny that you were taken while I had life in me." Nothing I could say
could sway him, for while Sullivan still professes his cowardice, his
friendship holds stronger. When I pressed him, he quoted the book of
John: "There is no greater love than this than for a man to lay down his life for his friends." It surprised me, for Sullivan is not a god-fearing
man. He grinned, and says that if we survive this skirmish, he will
debate religion with me as much as I like.
Two days ago a letter arrived which shattered my world about me. I had
found no time to read it until today, assuming that it contained the usual
news of crops and the land, written in my second cousin's halting hand.
It did not. My little wife Ginny has died and the child she carried, too...
gone within hours of each other in the trauma of childbirth. Ginny was
seventeen. The son I have never known was barely three hours old, but
baptized when it seemed he was failing. For that alone I am thankful, if I
can feel anything through the gray which surrounds me. I have no heart
for the fight coming in the morning in this godforsaken field. I have no
heart for this war. If death should come on the morrow, I should be glad
Sullivan grew fierce upon hearing me say that, and shook me. I'll not
leave him, says he, while there is life or hope. I told him that I care not
for the first and have none of the other. He looked wild enough to strike
me at that, but did not, and instead sat close by me through the night
and wee small hours, talking of his own home. Sullivan is the only able
son, and his parents are kind, and he plans to bring me to Edgecomb and
make me co-heir to the land with him and his blind elder brother, if I will
have his offer. Even if I have no family left when this damnable war
passes, his will be mine. It should have cheered me, but I cannot find
comfort in comaradarie when my Ginny lies in the cold earth.
The battle fares badly. Four more dead, and more wounded. The
Yankees have reinforcements on the way. They are set to arrive on the
morrow. It is as well. Our supplies have run short, though ammunition
we have in plenty, if we could but digest the bullets. The weapons are
well hidden, though... they will not gain that, even if they take this field.
The bunkers are cunningly hidden.
Sullivan will not move more than an arm's length from my side. For a
man who calls himself a coward, he fights as one possessed of a spirit.
My words of the past two days have settled into him, and he is
determined that if we are to die, we will die together. I do not desire
that. He said that it was beyond desire... that he would not leave one
who had been as a brother to him.
And so it stands. The field is quiet now as the light dies, and through the
copses we can see the flicker and flare of the enemy campfires. They
trust that we cannot attack in the night, weakened and outnumbered as
we are. Sullivan sits by my side, and reads over my shoulder as I write
in this journal he has given me. He is a friend to surpass all others, and I
would be glad if the Lord had granted us true brotherhood, rather than
this frail sworn oath. Sullivan laughs as I write this, and tells me that the
strongest bond of kinship is that which we choose for ourselves. Sullivan
Biddle is my brother.
The rest of the pages were blank. It must have been the field, Scully thought... that same field where Mulder had found the bunker, where Melissa had turned to him with her burning eyes, where the voice of Sullivan Biddle told her that she... that "his sergeant"... had died along with him.
A pang - disappointment? Lack of closure? There should be more... somehow.
She knew how it had ended... but there should be more.
She stared at the pages, flipping through them one by one, until finally she
stared at the rear cover. Like a child digging to the bottom of a Christmas
stocking, or an Easter basket... unwilling to accept the end. But...there was a scrawl on the inside rear cover... a shaky hand, and not Gideon Scott's:
I am Josiah. I fought with the sergeant and with Sullivan, both
my comrades, and both good men. They thought much of this
little book, so I take it with me... one of a unit, the only survivor.
Sergeant Gideon Scott fell to a Yankee bullet. Sullivan fell to the
next. They were ever the best of friends. This journal will remain
after they have been forgotten. I think they would want that
They would, too.
Scully closed the faded, water-stained leather now, staring at its bland cover, at the eyes of Gideon Scott. She felt light-headed...
It's all the dust in here.
She felt... odd.
You've been staring at barely legible script for too long.
She wasn't sure what bothered her more: that she felt nothing for this man her
partner would swear she had been, no hint of kinship, no trace of recognition... or that something inside her, deeper down than she cared to reach, had wanted her to.
She didn't need to look up to know that Mulder had been standing behind her for
some time now, watching her read. She set the journal aside and gathered her
belongings about her before raising her face to him. He had the most curious
expression on his own face... so soft, almost wondering, but the lines around his eyes had deepened, and she could tell he had been crying not long before.
"How long have you been here?" She didn't have to ask... but something was
needed to break the silence. Mulder moved around the table, hand brushing
briefly across her shoulders, sliding into the chair opposite her. He looked
weary... down to the core, and Scully ran her eyes over him sympathetically.
"Long enough. You seemed pretty engrossed. I didn't want to disturb you."
"I was waiting for you." She dropped her eyes to the journal again, then pushed it across to him. "You might like it."
Mulder didn't open the journal. Instead, he stared at the cover, as Scully had... and she dropped her eyes as the silence welled up again.
"Find what you were looking for?" he asked softly.
Hoping. He needs to know... needs to hear me say that I believe...
And I can't. Oh, Mulder... I can't.
But I can't tell him that I don't, either.
"Sated my curiosity, at least." There was no sense in denying it. No sense in
analyzing it, or speaking of it, either. Mulder had been through enough these
past few days to do without her honesty. Let him think what he would... and let him be happy with that.
"You don't have to believe me, you know, Scully." Mulder's voice was even
quieter now... sincere. "I just want you to know that."
"I know, Mulder." She scanned his face, eyes thanking him for that gift. She
couldn't give him a reply... but she knew, somehow, that he would understand.
Maybe when he'd managed to leave the field in the past... where it belonged,
after all. The smile that met her, though, was a flicker of the old Mulder... the partner she'd come to know.
"The way I see it, we'll have all eternity to debate philosophies, and to figure out who's right." And he grinned, teasing her, rising and walking around the table, pausing for her to catch up. "Come on I've had enough of this town for one lifetime."
Scully groaned...but something inside lightened at that double lure, and she
quirked an eyebrow at him, rising, but not moving forward.
"Let me get this straight. What you're saying...is that not only am I stuck with you in this lifetime, and have been before... but I have to put up with you for time immemorial?" She put all her skeptical flatness into that tone
intentionally... knowing that the glint in her eye would give her away. Mulder, facing her now, chuckled.
"Life ain't fair, is it?" And his eyes went dark again, growing serious for the briefest moment. "I'm not complaining, Scully." He extended a hand to her.
She did not take his hand. Instead, she looped her arm though his, pulling close to his side, angling her face up at him.
"Good." She stepped forward now, leading him out of the dust-scented room.
"Good... because tonight, you're buying me dinner. Someplace nice, for a
change. The way I see it, Mulder... if you're right... you owe me that much."
"The way I see it..." Mulder countered, his voice full of quiet humor. "You still owe me a nickel." He winked down at her, as astonished feet faltered. He didn't give her time to reply. "Come on, Scully. I won't let you off... but I'll buy. This