Chapter 2: Airplane
Nearer my god to thee...
March 2, 1998
They climbed out of Skinner’s car near the bus stop, each holding a black nylon carry-on bag, wearing large shapeless raincoats with the hoods pulled up. The rain came drizzling down over them, dampening their sneakers and coloring the white of Skinner’s shirt sleeve a translucent shade of gray where the droplets penetrated the fabric.
Dana Scully paused next to Skinner’s window, looking off into the middle distance, a pensive expression on her face.
“Scully?” Skinner asked.
She turned to him, and without a word reached behind her neck and unclasped the chain holding her simple gold cross. Letting it pool in her palm, she handed it to him through the window. “If-” She stopped, took a breath and started again. “If anything happens to us...give this to my mother. Tell her, tell her I love her.”
“I’ll put it in my office safe,” Skinner promised gruffly. He looked at his palm for a moment, the rain misting droplets through the open window onto the tiny pool of gold chain. Then he closed his hand over it and dropped it into his shirt pocket.
Mulder looked away, eyes burning. Watching her remove the cross was a reminder of too many painful moments.
*Small trace of gold lying in the trunk of a car.*
*Half hidden by sand in a coffin.*
Watching her take off the cross was like watching her remove a part of her soul. Given the situation, it would be vital to their success.
But he didn’t have to like it. He just had to let her do it.
Skinner’s voice brought him out of his musings.
“You two...Be careful...” The concern in Skinner’s voice was palpable.
Mulder looked at him, surprised at the intensity in the man’s voice.
Scully laughed, a short, sharp, humorless laugh. “Sir, the strange thing is that we’ll probably be in less danger now than we seem to be in normally.” The look on her face as she spat out the word “normal” spoke volumes.
Mulder cringed inwardly. *Normal. Lately, for her, normal includes something akin to slow psychic death.*
Pushing the stinging out of his eyes, forcing bright words around the lump in his throat, he smiled at her as Skinner rolled up his window and drove away.
“Guess you’re officially Sally now.”
She nodded, looking away, unable to meet his eyes, hand resting over the spot her cross had hung for so many years.
“I suppose so,” she said softly.
They stood silently in the rain for a moment, watching their last connection with “normal” turn a corner and disappear.
As the crowded bus rolled closer to the airport, she looked over the itinerary Frohike had loaded into her MessagePad and sighed.
“Last time I ever let the guys play travel agent...” she muttered.
Thirty hours in a train would be fine. Thirty hours in a car, not fun, but doable. But thirty hours on eight different aircraft, seven different airlines even, combined with having to deal with nine different airports and thirty hours of travel time would have her crawling out of her skin.
“What were they thinking?”
Mulder answered automatically, his voice pitched low and quiet. “The more plane changes we make, the harder it is for us to be tracked. Also, this will give us a chance to accumulate some souvenirs and clothes from a variety of places.” He grinned at her. “Just think of this as a glorified shopping trip.”
“I hate shopping. And this isn’t a glorified shopping trip, it’s a glorified version of purgatory.” She was almost hissing, trying to keep her voice low while communicating her ire.
“Aww, Sc—Sally, it’ll be fun!”
“I do not count seven plane changes and thirteen plus hours worth of layover time as ‘fun.’ Besides, your idea of fun is shopping for small glow in the dark pencil toppers shaped like aliens and snow globes with the mountain from Close Encounters. Or worse yet, Velvet Elvises.”
He tried to look deeply wounded, but failed, his eyes twinkling.
“Um...I think the term d’art is “Velvet Elvi.”
She glared at him for a moment, then a slow grin crept up the sides of her mouth like a stranger trying to enter a crowded party without crashing it.
His mouth twitched at the not-quite-comfortable way she spoke the name. “Yes, Sally, darling?”
“You know, don’t you, that you won’t be able to buy any souvenirs of...Extraterrestrial origin...for the next couple months.”
He smiled sweetly at her. “Of course not. Martin Harrod doesn’t care a bit about alien paraphernalia.”
Scully cringed inwardly, somehow knowing that Mulder had already figured this out, and having figured it out had set his mind searching for something to “collect,” something in character for Martin, something that he knew or suspected would make her want to pretend she didn’t know him.
She wasn’t disappointed.
“He collects golf tees.”
She shuddered. *At least it’s not bad ties.*
“Oh, Marty?” she said sweetly.
“Yes, Sal?” he answered, cautiously, but enjoying the rare banter.
“I get to pick out all your ties. Nothing would blow our cover faster than you picking out your neckwear.”
“Anything, Sally my sweet, as long as it makes you happy.”
It was 11 p.m. And two flights before they finally landed at Houston. The first flight, true to Frohike’s itinerary, was on time. The second...Well, sixty percent on time seemed to mean twenty-five minutes late. Not horrible, but to two weary travelers, it was too late for politeness or patience.
The trip from Washington to Atlanta had been spent reading and rereading the files they’d been given. Or at least, she’d re-read them. Mulder had given them the once-over and stuck a set of headphones in his ears. Damned eidetic memory. The rat.
The Dulles-Hartsfield leg had lasted just long enough for her head to start spinning as she tried to focus on the text. The landing was over mercifully quickly, their lack of luggage a blessing in the vast, warm labyrinth of the Atlanta airport. A door with a digital southern drawl warned them to step back from the closing doors of an underground rail shuttle. The next train came quickly. Inside, a different voice, this one reminiscent of a 1970’s b-movie robot, announced the terminals as the train sped through the dark tunnels.
In silence they found their next gate, to discover the flight was delayed twenty-five minutes.
“Hey! Perfect!” Mulder exclaimed too brightly, his voice cracking the weary silence that hung between them.
Scully shot him a look that could have withered a cactus.
He ignored it and continued, “That gives us just enough time to stop at a gift shop and get some Olympic golf tees!”
A dry cough of an attempt at a laugh answered him. “Do you really think they still have Olympic paraphernalia? It’s been a year and a half.”
“Can’t hurt to check, can it?” He grinned at her.
She muttered something under her breath.
He leaned forward and caught the tail end of something that sounded like “hurt...beast woman.”
He whispered in her ear, “I know you’re tired, but play with me for now. Be Sally...”
Her body shifted as she mentally shoved aside the weariness which had dropped her back into herself. “What if I don’t want to buy outdated souvenirs?” She flashed him a crooked smile that didn’t quite make it to her eyes. *I’m trying.*
He straightened, and shot her his most pathetic puppy look. “Come on, S-Sally, I’ll buy you some coffee if you’ll come gift shopping with me.” *I know you are.*
She suppressed a snicker as she took his proffered arm. “Y’know, that look is nowhere near as effective with that beard...”
“You’re coming with me, aren’t you?”
She rolled her eyes. “I just don’t want you ditching me so you can search every damn gift shop in the airport for some elusive golf tee.”
He tried to look wounded. “I wouldn’t do that.”
She snorted as he continued. “Besides. I think there are thousands of gift shops here. We’d miss our flight.”
Sure enough, there were Olympic golf tees. And spoons with torches in the handles. They looked kind of dusty, and were half hidden by a display of thirteen kinds of breath spray.
Mulder held up a pair of black speedos with the Olympic logo silkscreened on the right side. He danced them between his hands, waggling his eyebrows at her.
She shook her head, muttering, as he crowed with delight over the finds. Then noticed something more fundamental. “Hey M...Martin.” He didn’t look up. She elbowed him. “Martin!”
She suppressed a shudder, and gestured to a rack of T-shirts and sweatshirts near the front of the store.
“Good idea, Snookie-toots.”
She hissed at him. “Knock it off or I’ll strangle you myself. Playing is one thing, but that is nauseating.”
“Too much?” He tried to look penitent, but failed.
“Way too much.” She lifted up a t-shirt with a picture of a gracious southern mansion on it.
He took it out of her hand.
“Hey!” she exclaimed.
“This one,” he said, displaying a heathery blue t-shirt with peaches on it.
“But it’s obscene! I can’t wear that.” She tried to put the shirt back.
“Sally can,” he grinned at her. “Besides, it’s just peaches.”
“But they’re-” She gestured at the two fruits strategically placed on the chest of the shirt.
“Just the right size,” he finished, ducking out of her reach with a delighted grin and holding the shirt up over his head.
She glared at him. *I’m definitely going to kill him. Bare hands. Justifiable homicide.* Then looked at the rack of shirts. *The problem is,* she thought ruefully, *That anything tacky I could get him he’d probably adore.* Then she spotted a large t-shirt, in a similar muted blue. Evidently a matched set. She turned it around.
And began to sputter trying to suppress the giggles that were threatening to turn into hysterics. She quickly folded the shirt, and took it to the cash register. She smiled at Mulder sweetly.
“Found one for you, dear...”
He looked—yes, he looked almost frightened.
She grinned like a shark and held up her “find.”
He coughed and turned bright red behind the thin beard.
“I thought it would be cute if we matched.”
“Cute...doesn’t begin to-” he shook his head.
Scully smiled serenely and paid for the shirt inscribed, “I Love Peaches.”
They stopped at the restrooms to change into the shirts.
It took an act of will on Scully’s part to maintain her sense of dignity while walking next to him back to the gate. He had an odd mixture of glee and embarrassment on his face, as if he could not decide whether to be pleased, embarrassed, or completely devilish about their matched shirts. She pulled the brown flannel shirt Frohike had loaned her a little more tightly around her shoulders. And then she thought, *Screw it, I’m Sally now, not Dana Scully, FBI, MD, FAFP.* She let the shirt widen just a little, revealing the edge of one “peach.”
Finally, as he paid for some coffee and biscotti off a cart in the wide space between gates, he whispered to her, “Frohike would pay money to see you in a shirt like that, particularly with his shirt over it...”
She grinned, all the way up to her eyes. “But he’s never going to see it, is he?”
Mulder checked the large scrolling clock above the ticket counter.
“Maybe he will.... We need photos for that web site, right?”
She looked at him with dread. “How-”
He scanned the area quickly. Yes! “Come on.”
She saw where his gaze had landed, and shook her head as she reluctantly followed him to the “Instant Foto” booth.
They made it back to the plane with about 10 minutes to spare, laughing as they presented IDs proclaiming them to be “Martel and Sandra” to the ticket agent at the desk by the gate.
“He’s never going to believe this, Sal...”
She chuckled. “Well, Marty, maybe he’ll stop sending me those raunchy e-mails.”
They boarded the plane, still laughing.
She tried to read more of the file on the plane from Atlanta, but the words all seemed to run together. She closed her eyes.
She tried to sleep, sitting there in the seat, hard angles every place she tried to lean to get comfortable. She tried hard. But neither sleep nor comfort happened.
How long had it been since she’d slept? The night before—three, maybe four hours before Mulder had been there, banging on her door, haggard and looking like he hadn’t shaved all weekend. She sighed. He probably hadn’t slept all weekend either.
“I have to tell you, Scully. You have to know...” He’d poured the story out, putting together all the cutting pieces of her shattered fertility, her children who were not hers.
She’d almost started to get angry at him, when the look in his eyes and grief in his voice stopped her in her tracks. Like he was grieving for her loss as his own.
“I tried to tell you. I wanted to tell you. But how could I take away your hope that way? How could I tell you that those bastards were even now creating more of your babies to torture? How could I?”
She’d asked him softly then, “What changed your mind?”
He’d looked at her, and shaken his head. “The longer I tried to hide it from you, the more I felt like I was letting them turn me into one of them. I don’t want to hide from you anymore. I won’t play their game of half truths and plausible denial.”
The impact of what he’d been telling her had taken all the strength out of her knees and knocked the wind from her chest. He’d caught her, letting her sink to the bed rather than the floor. Her next words had started the path they were on now.
“How many babies do I have to lose?”
She tried to push the echoing words out of her mind and shifted again, turning in the seat, trying to sleep, trying to escape...
A hand brushed over her forehead, smoothing out the little pucker between her eyebrows.
She opened her eyes to see the familiar/unfamiliar face of Mulder/Martin looking at her with concern.
She gave him a half smile, and squeezed his hand with hers. The hand felt familiar and warm, but the smooth, hard band of metal around the ring finger did not. She left her hand in his, idly turning the ring on his finger, and leaned back again with her eyes barely open, unfocused.
Sleep did not come in the tiny seats of the sardine section, but the frown line was gone from her brow. Her mind stopped circling in that painful place as she dropped into the quiet, familiar numbness that had become her refuge.
He felt her hand lighten, like it was drifting away from him, taking her soul with it.
Before it could slide off into her lap, he turned his hand over and caught her fingers more tightly in his.
“No.” His voice was soft, but it startled her. Her eyes flew open, and she looked at him. “This time,” he whispered, “this time you are not going to be alone.”
His voice penetrated the numbness. “We’re in this one together. Sally shouldn’t shut Martin out.”
Her gaze rested easily on him for a long moment, leaving her hand in his. She sat there, biting her lips, silent as he spoke.
“You have to step into this. I can’t carry this if you’re not with me. It won’t work if you aren’t here. We have to make this journey together.”
*This time, I am not alone.*
She closed her eyes, and took a deep breath. *Step into it.*
The warmth of his hand in hers penetrated the numbing shield, not erasing it, but allowing her to breath a little easier.
She took another deep breath, felt a wisp of a memory jab at her, and focused on a part of herself that had retreated, letting that part, rather than the numbness, shield her from the threatened stabbing pain she knew would come creeping in when she let down her guard.
The parts she tapped into were not as safe as the numbness, but would have to suffice.
Dangerous, because they could lead to-
She opened her eyes, smiled at him, and said, “I’m with you, Martin.”
Her hand rested firmly in his for the remainder of the flight.
Stepping off the plane into the terminal, they entered a building the size of a small city.
“Welcome to George Bush International Airport,” Mulder intoned. “An airport with more parking spaces than many towns have people.”
She sighed wearily. “We’re here for the night, right?”
He nodded. “Wanna share a bench?”
She shuddered. “No way. There’s a Marriott right here inside the airport. I fully intend to spend tonight in a comfortable bed.”
He grinned at her. “Can I come?”
She shot him a look, then shocked him by saying, “No, but you can share the bed with me.”
“Why Scu...Sally! Are you coming on to me?”
She laughed. “Martin, I’m too damn tired to come onto you, and if I’d wanted to, I would have just said yes.”
The bored hotel clerk checked them in under the names of Charles and Marcia Jones, as Martel and Sandra Cannon were “home” and wouldn’t need a hotel. A wakeup call was requested for four-thirty a.m. They paid in cash, explaining to the clerk that their credit cards had been stolen.
“Charles” muttered to “Marcia” as they went up the elevator, “I think I feel an identity crisis coming on.”
She unlocked the door, dropped her bag unceremoniously on the floor, kicked off her shoes and pants, and crawled under the covers in her peaches t-shirt.
Mulder stared at the completely uncharacteristic pile of clothes on the floor, and then ducked as a bra came flying out from under the covers. “Hey!” he yelped.
The covers stopped moving, and she curled up around a pillow, lying on her side.
He cautiously picked his way around her discarded clothing to the other side of the king-sized bed. “Don’t I get a pillow?” he asked rather plaintively.
“Get yer own. Closet,” she mumbled through the covers.
“Now I know the honeymoon is over.”
He went to the large closet in the front hall and discovered an extra pillow and blanket. He looked around the room. No couch.
He toed off his shoes and shed the jeans he’d been wearing. He gingerly picked up the covers, put his pillow at the head of the bed, and flopped on his stomach, noting there were acres of bed between them.
“Goodnight, G-woman,” he said softly. Her only response was deep, regular breathing. He smiled, and listening to her breathe, drifted off.
March 3, 1998
The ringing phone worked its way into his consciousness like a dull needle through leather. He rolled over to answer it, and discovered his progress impeded by a small warm body curled up against his back.
“Hey...” He nudged her, gently. Her only response was to roll over, shoot out a hand, and hit the phone.
It kept ringing.
He smiled. *Someone should invent a snooze button for the telephone,* he thought as he reached around her and picked it up.
The voice on the other end was polite, and asked if room service could bring anything up. *Gotta love airport hotels...and 24 hour room service.* “Thanks. How long would it take to send up some coffee and some sweet rolls? Great! Please do.”
He set it back down and looked down at his sleeping bedmate. Her hair had worked its way loose from its braid during the night and spread in great masses across the pillow. He lifted the tangle that covered her face, to find her slack mouthed and sound asleep, face mashed unceremoniously into the pillow. He chuckled, then bowed to the inevitable, and whispered close to her ear.
“Up and at ‘em.”
She sat bolt upright, and then flew out from under the covers when she saw him. “Wha...? Mulder, what are you doing in my bed!” She looked down, realized she was only wearing panties and a t-shirt, and grabbed the bedspread to cover herself.
He smiled at her. “We’re hitched, Sally.”
He held up his left hand and fingered the ring with his thumb.
“Oh yeah,” she said rather sheepishly, as the previous day’s events returned to her conscious mind.
She put a hand to her head and rubbed her scalp. “My head aches.”
“It’s the extra hair. You should probably braid your hair again today. You won’t have time to wash it.”
She made a sleepy face at him at the idea of not washing her hair. “I can’t braid my own hair. My hands always get confused.”
“’S okay,” he said. “I can help. But I get the shower first.”
She rolled her eyes. “Make it quick. I want to get some coffee before we get on the plane. I can’t face boarding with no caffeine.”
He grinned. “Not to worry.”
Five minutes in the shower left him feeling much more willing to accept the early morning wake-up. He carefully shaved his cheeks, leaving the jawline, chin and upper lip alone. They were a bit thicker, but not quite up to the status of beard. He called out, “Oh, honey, could you come help me with my makeup?”
She came into the bathroom, and scooted up onto the counter. She’d changed into one of the guest bathrobes, which looked like it could have wrapped around her twice. She quickly applied the mascara to his beard, then handed him a brush.
“I tried to brush it,” she said apologetically, “But I’ve never had hair this long, and I can’t reach. I tried...”
He laughed and put the lid down on toilet. “Sit down. I’m good at this.”
She looked at him strangely as she complied. “Why are you good at this?”
His face softened, saddened. “Samantha. She didn’t like Mom brushing her hair; said Mom pulled too hard. So I’d do it for her.”
He picked up her hair, and started from the bottom, brushing it out in short gentle strokes, working from the bottom to the top. Scully had tried to brush from the top to the bottom, which had only resulted in worsening the tangles. His short strokes with the brush quickly unraveled the unruly cascade of hair. She closed her eyes, enjoying the feel of having her hair brushed.
“Don’t fall asleep on me,” he said with a wink. When he was done getting the tangles out, he separated the mass of silky hair into three sections, and his fingers twisted and wove the hair deftly into a snug but pretty braid. He wrapped the braid on itself, and secured it by tucking the end underneath into a bun. He pulled a shower cap out of the basket of toiletries on the counter, and put it on her.
“All yours!” He patted her plastic-covered head and turned to leave the bathroom. She grinned.
“I’m impressed, Mu...Who are you this morning?”
He laughed at the question. “Charles Jones. You’re Marcia.”
“I thought you were Marcel...” She turned the water on.
As he closed the door, he responded, “No, that was yesterday. Marcel and Sandra are supposed to live in Texas; they wouldn’t have spent the night at the airport waiting for a flight.”
“Oh yeah,” she said to the closed door as she dropped her robe and stepped into the shower.
When she’d finished in the bathroom, the coffee and breakfast had arrived. Mulder had already prepared her coffee for her, but was nowhere to be seen. A note on the tray said, “Went to get fresh clothes—back in a few.”
She sat on the bed in her robe and ate while she waited for him to return.
About 10 minutes later she’d finished her breakfast and was smoothing her braid with her fingers when he came back in with a small pile of clothes in a shopping bag.
“Gotta love airports...I could live here indefinitely.”
She took the pile from him and sorted through it as he wrapped a scrunchy around the end of her braid.
“Gawd. ‘I went to Texas and all I bought was this lousy T-shirt’? I think I like the peaches shirt better.”
She looked at the jeans. They looked surprisingly well worn. “Did you buy these?”
He nodded. “But not at the gift store. The concierge is just your size. I told her that our luggage had been stolen, and asked her if I could buy her “go-home-from-work” clothes off her.”
“You didn’t.” She shook her head. At least they seemed clean....
She looked under the jeans. “I hope to God you didn’t buy her underwear too....”
He looked indignant. “Of course not. That was a ‘gift set.’”
Sure enough. She unfolded the panties, soft cotton, white bikini panties...but they had a map of Texas strategically placed......
“Oh. My. God.”
She unfolded the soft cotton bra. “You’re kidding me.”
On one side of the bra was a large star; on the other, a yellow rose.
“You can’t expect me to wear this!”
“I don’t. Marcia Jones is going to wear this. Besides, they were the only ones the gift store had.”
He grinned at her, and she shook her head. At least they were cotton. At least it wasn’t one of those Frederick’s of Hollywood monstrosities she’d seen in a catalog that had been sent to her mom’s house once by mistake....
“Next time.... I get to go shopping.”
The flight out of Houston was filled with coffee-bearing business travelers. Mostly filled, that is. They had managed to escape having a third person in their row, which gave them a little more elbow room than “economy” class usually provides. The moment the flight hit cruising altitude, a chorus of soft beeps filled the cabin as laptops and personal digital assistants came to life.
By her third cup of coffee, Scully felt almost functional. She read through some of the documentation for her MessagePad and realized that the small rectangular black pieces of plastic lined neatly in the case were actually memory cards. She spent a while playing with the small electronic marvel, and discovered that several of the cards contained text files with all of the data on the various documents identifying Sally and Martin Harrod. It did not take her long to discover that she could make handwritten notes on the files and have them appear as text. She grinned. This was a useful toy.
Mulder skimmed the PalmPilot information once, but didn’t fuss with it. It just didn’t have the same appeal as a nice yellow legal pad and mechanical pencil. If it could get help in a pinch, fine. Cool. But with a photographic memory, the idea of a “personal digital assistant” seemed kind of redundant. He looked over at Scully to see her scribbling away on the greenish screen of the MP21K, and shook his head.
“You know, that thing would be pretty useless if there were a nuclear blast,” he whispered in her ear. “EMP would just wipe the whole thing.”
She looked at him strangely. “You’d be pretty useless in a nuclear blast yourself. Besides, it’s actually relatively well shielded. It wasn’t at all affected by going through security.”
He shrugged. Then he pulled a small Walkman out of his bag and lifted the headphones to his ears.
She was mildly surprised. “When did you get that?” The previous day he’d paid an exorbitant fee to rent a pair of air tubes to listen to the in-flight music.
He grinned. “Told you I could live in that airport. Gotta love gift shops. They have everything.”
He was much more interested when she discovered that one of the cards was filled with ancient computer games.
“Moria? I haven’t seen Moria in years! How do you do that without a keyboard?”
Reluctantly, she showed him the on-screen keyboard.
He took it from her, and began tapping away merrily. She looked at him, slouched down, knees up on the seat in front of him, headphones on, gleefully moving an @ sign around the small screen. She shook her head. Just like a teenager.
She nudged him until he let her pass him to get to the aisle.
As she squeezed past him, she leaned down. “Just remember that the toy is mine.”
She ignored his look of pure devilment as she worked her way down the path to the lavatory.
She looked at herself in the bathroom mirror for a long time, studying the changes. She had gotten out of the habit of mirrors during her cancer, using them primarily to ensure that all the blood was gone from her lip, her shirt, or to apply makeup, but never to really look at the person she saw there. Mirrors for months had been generally unpleasant reminders of her fading health, not only from the blood and the dark circles, but also triggering a memory of a dead girl and the message “She is me.”
*She isn’t me this time,* Dana thought, scrutinizing the not-quite familiar face in the glass. The circles which she’d avoided and covered and hidden were gone, even with the minimal makeup she’d applied at the hotel, even with the shortage of sleep the previous nights had brought. *I got more sound sleep last night in five hours than I’ve gotten in the previous five weeks.*
The eyes would take some getting used to. Brown. Like looking into a stranger’s eyes. The hair-It had been years since she’d had enough hair to wear in anything but a very short ponytail, and she’d never had the patience to grow it as long as the braid hanging down over her shoulder, almost to her waist.
It was hair Dana Scully never would have chosen to grow, simply because it was impractical. Scully needed hair that could be groomed quickly into a professional coif, minimal fuss. But this indulgent mass was in no way simple. Even now short strands escaped in a halo, wisps arching down from the braid. If it had been her own hair, it would have indicated a slow growth of many years, constant nurturing and grooming. As it was, the length of it daunted her, the curling masses intimidating. Even when she’d had curls, it had never been this long.
At least Mulder could handle it.
The face was still hers, but not hers. She smiled at herself in the mirror, watching how the simple muscle movements dramatically altered her face. She deliberately let the smile move up to her eyes. *I don’t recognize her at all.*
The thought sobered her, and she watched the face in the mirror drop abruptly into a familiar sadness.
She straightened, and brought the smile back to the surface. *Sally.*
A knock on the door reminded her that she’d been standing in the cramped bathroom for a long time. She washed her hands, and then slid the little knob that unlocked the door.
A tall, bearded man was on the other side. “You okay?”
She blinked. *Martin.* “Yeah. Just getting used to the new me. Your turn now.”
She walked back to the seats, and he followed. Halfway down the aisle the plane bounced, throwing her to one side. He reached for her, but she managed to right herself quickly. Gripping the backs of the seats like iron, she moved to her seat and buckled herself in, all pretense of a smile gone.
“Hey,” he said as he sat down next to her. “You okay?”
“We’re hitting turbulence from the edge of that storm over there. But we won’t have to go through it landing. Denver’s easy. Your ears won’t even pop.”
She simply gripped the armrests a bit harder as the plane rocked.
Looking out the window, she could see the edges of the city and a wall of storm clouds boiling down the mountains in the bright sunlight. The fasten seat belt light flickered on, but she ignored it.
She studied the clouds with a morbid fascination and a dull apprehension.
Mulder’s hand on her shoulder called her attention back into the plane. He gestured up at the screen mid aisle, which showed a comforting map of their flight route and the storm clouds. They did not intersect.
He leaned over to her ear and said quietly, “Remember, we’re flying east later, away from those clouds. If I read that right, we’ll probably manage to loop around the storm altogether.”
His hand comforted hers, and she gave him a grateful smile.
“Thanks. I really hate this...”
The plane tilted at a crazy angle, banking to prepare for descent, and she closed her eyes.
She opened them again a few minutes later.
As it straightened out and began to lose altitude, the cabin seemed to slope downhill, and she gritted her teeth. *Really hate this.*
She closed her eyes again, and didn’t open them until she felt the bump and screech of the wheels touching down.
The gift shops were beginning to run together by the time they braved the Denver gift shop nearest their departing gate. The first store they’d stopped in had only had books and magazines, useless to two travelers too tired to read and too worn to concentrate. They wore their alter egos like Halloween costumes, overplaying the parts simply because it was easier than admitting how tired they really were of the constant travel.
“Hey, Sally, look!” Mulder waved a plastic box in the air. “A collector’s set!” Inside the box, an “autographed” ball and three wooden golf tees commemorating John Denver rattled. *Did John Denver even play golf,* he mused. *Does it matter?*
Scully came up to him. “Shhh, dear, you’re making a scene!” She caught his arm and pulled it down, taking the box he gripped. She examined them with a critical eye. “But Honey, this one has a crack down the middle of it.” She pointed a delicately manicured fingernail at the hairline fracture.
“Oh, I didn’t see it. Here, here’s a better one.” He took the box out of her hands and replaced it with an identical plastic container.
“That’s much better,” she said as she patted his arm reassuringly. She had become adept at distinguishing between “good” golf tees and “bad” golf tees. By the third gift shop, she had learned more than she’d ever wanted to know about golf tees, from the very first to the most common today, from Mulder, who had started his education at some particularly useful web sites while Scully’s short hair became Sally’s long curls.
As soon as she was able to relax after the plane hit cruising altitude, she took out the MessagePad, and began to write. He watched her. She would often stop, regard what she’d written, then scratch it out and tap the screen.
He leaned over her shoulder to look. She was switching between text files, one filled with technical information about Martin and Sally, the other...journal entries?
They were journal entries she was writing, chatty diary notes about significant events. He noted that she was not trying to generate a “daily journal,” but more a periodic “check in” about Sally Harrod’s life at any given time.
“That one’s not in the file,” he whispered to her, as she wrote a note about a lunch that had never happened.
“I know...just filling in so it looks good. I’ll let you read it when I’ve gotten us up to the present.”
He nodded, and continued reading over her shoulder.
After about an hour of writing, she straightened, stretched her back, and shook out her hands.
Without saying anything, he reached behind her and worked her shoulders for a moment, feeling the knotted muscles twitch and then disappear rapidly under the gentle but persistent pressure of his fingertips.
She smiled, closing her eyes and letting him untie the knots in her neck muscles.
They faded quickly, and he took his hands off her shoulders.
“Thanks, sweetie,” she said, with a relaxed smile.
She smiled a bit wider when she saw the warm blush creeping up Mulder’s face.
He noticed she was still flexing her right hand, spreading the fingers wide and wiggling them, so he picked up her hand and with the same firm pressure from his thumbs, worked the muscles in the base of her thumb and the palm of her hand.
“Where did you learn that?” she asked.
“Dunno,” he said, still working her hand. “I just picked it up somewhere.”
*Yeah,* she thought. *You could do a lot of picking up with those hands.*
She took her hand out of his, and put her computer away.
Looking out the window, she saw a splotchy carpet of snow over hills and prairie, mixed with a few patches of gray, brown, green. In the distance, the earth shone with what looked like small puddles of sky. He looked over her shoulder out the window and commented, “We must be getting close. This is the land of ten thousand lakes.”
“They look like puddles from up here,” she mused.
From the seat behind them, he heard an older woman speak. “You are lucky to be visiting in March, and not July or January.”
They looked over the seat, to discover a small old woman with white hair piled high in a thin bun on the top of her head. She winked at him.
He smiled back instinctively. “And why would that be, Miss?”
She grinned. “Don’t flirt with me, rascal. Save that for your wife there.”
Said wife blushed as the old woman continued. “In January, it’s colder than a penguin’s arse, and in July, it’s just plain muggy. Those lovely lakes are nothing but a mosquito bordello. The bastards will eat you alive. Now, you really should have come in May. Minnesota is lovely in May. Or September.”
He smiled. They turned back in their seats as the “fasten seat belt” light came on, and the loudspeaker informed them that it was time to prepare for descent.
This was what, airport number four? Or maybe five. She’d lost count.
Bernoulli, she reminded herself. Thrust, lift, drag, gravity. Four basic, elemental physics principles. Thrust pushes the plane forward, which causes air to flow with high pressure under the wings, the tilt of the wings creates a lower pressure above the wings, which causes lift. Plane flies, but doesn’t launch into outer space because of drag and gravity. Air travel is the safest form of travel in the world...statistically speaking.
*It’s not the flying,* Scully thought. *It’s the landing.* She could hear the diesel-engine rumble of the flap motors as the pilot prepared to land. Reducing air pressure under the wings, which reduces lift, and allows gravity to do its work.
*Remember, safest form of travel-
*Screw it.* Scully gripped the armrests tightly, waiting for the telltale bump and screech of rubber against tarmac as the pilot cheated death once again and set the plane down.
Mulder suppressed a smile when he saw her knuckles whiten on the armrest, and placed his hand over hers as he had done on each of the previous landings.
Ker-thud. The incredibly loud whine of the three jet engines reversing thrust was perhaps the most welcome sound Scully could think of.
Well, maybe not the most welcome. But it was up there.
After the plane pulled to a stop, they stood, stretched, and eased their way through the tight aisle, working their way past other travelers less lucky who had to stop to pull luggage out of overhead bins.
“Welcome to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport,” the voice of the captain sounded tinnily through the bustle. “Enjoy your stay in the Twin Cities. Please check with the gate agents for connecting flight information.”
*Five,* Scully thought. *That makes this airport number five. Four more to go.*
Mulder looked behind him at his partner. *Wife, Mulder. No, MARTIN, damnit...* She looked tired, but surprisingly relaxed. Her waist-length hair hung in a braid over one shoulder. Her t-shirt hung loosely from her shoulders and tucked neatly into the faded jeans. Her eyes—he couldn’t get used to it. How many times had he met those eyes, pools of blue-green? Now, they shone a warm brown. It changed her whole face. Almost. Nothing could change the shape of those lips, but the color on them seemed to be trying to shrink them by fading them into the background. A shimmery, almost invisibly grayish plum. So long he’d seen those lips with her preferred lip color (his brain pulled up an image of the bottom of a tube of lipstick—Teak Rose) that emphasized their natural deep color, the color that glowed through when she’d chewed off her lipstick concentrating on something-
But now her face looked different. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t Scully. *No. It’s Sally.*
She met his eyes briefly and smiled strangely.
*Bet I look as weird to her as she does to me.*
*It’s the eyes, Dana, no, Sally, dammit!* She looked up at the dark shock of hair in front of her as her partner *Husband* moved a few steps closer to the front of the plane before coming to a halt behind someone pulling an impossibly large suitcase out of the overhead bin. He looked back at her, with a strange expression playing across his-
*It’s definitely the eyes.*
So long his eyes had been a storm at sea, greens and blues and browns battling for dominance, shifting with the light, changing with his moods. But the storm had cleared, and his eyes were now a clear, bright blue.
*He looks Irish with those blue eyes and that dark hair. Mom would be proud.*
She shook that thought from her head and nudged Mulder to move forward.
She glanced back see the elderly woman behind her smiling beatifically at her.
“Have you been married long, my dear?”
She smiled. “No...not long. Is it obvious?”
The old woman winked at her. “That new husband of yours is cheap to take you honeymooning in Minnesota in March. You must have been married this morning then...you don’t look like walking is all that uncomfortable yet.”
Scully coughed and turned back toward the front of the plane, blushing furiously. Mulder looked at her as she struggled for air, wondering at the sudden glow she’d acquired.
“What’s wrong, dear?” he asked solicitously.
She couldn’t speak, so she just nodded toward the clear aisle ahead of him. He looked at her curiously, then shrugged and strode off the plane ahead of her.
She felt a tug at her sleeve as she moved.
“Have fun tonight, dear!”
Once in the terminal, she ducked into the first women’s restroom they came to.
Splashing cold water on her face seemed to help her regain the ability to coordinate her breathing. Unfortunately, as soon as she did so, she began to laugh in great spasms.
*Oh Lord, I’m never going to be able to pull this off.*
Her right hand went up to her throat, expecting to find her cross there, but found nothing. She twisted the unfamiliar band on her finger, running her thumb across the small diamond chips. It was an oddly soothing gesture, and her composure returned.
Taking a deep breath, she exited the restroom.
Mulder was not there. She frowned and looked around. She didn’t see him, and as the seconds ticked by without her spotting him, her tension grew. *Oh god—where—*
It took her a moment to register that the dark-haired man approaching her was the person she’d been looking for.
“Where’d you go?” The tension in her voice sent up a warning flag for him.
“Uh...just saw a little shop and wanted to check it out while you were freshening up.”
“Mu-Martin...now, more than ever, I can’t have you ditching me.”
He looked at her quizzically, “But you were in the bathroom. I was only gone a minute-”
She glared at him. “We have to catch our connecting flight in half an hour. I can’t lose you!”
He looked down at her, lip pouting and blue eyes twinkling from his hang-dog puppy face. “I’m sorry, honey. It won’t happen again.” He resisted correcting her. The next flight was actually in forty-five minutes.
She opened her mouth to chew him out further, then clamped it shut as she realized he’d just apologized contritely. *That was too easy.*
“Did you find what you were looking for?”
He smiled. “You could say that.”
“Another golf tee?” she said with a quirk of her eyebrow.
“Nope. Let’s go get some lunch.”
“C’mon, Sal, stop trying to window shop!” complained Mulder as he dragged her through the terminal toward the nearest food stand, which still seemed to be on the other end of the airport.
“I’m not window shopping, Marty. There aren’t any windows.” She gave him a slightly aggrieved look.
“You know what I mean...You’re rubbernecking every store we pass.”
“I’m rubbernecking? Me? You’re projecting, Mr. ‘We have to visit every gift shop we see.’”
Just as she said that a gleam caught her eye, and she pulled toward a small clothing boutique, trying to see inside. He shook his head and dragged her past.
“So you’re not rubbernecking?” he said, slightly annoyed, as he felt her pull against his hand.
“All right, I’m following you already. Can you let go of my arm?” She had a point. Mulder had a death grip on her right wrist, and it was beginning to cut off the circulation.
“No. You’ll want to run off and look in all those little gift shops we just passed. There’s a reason I won’t let go of your wrist.”
“And that would be?”
“We need to get our food, eat, and be on the plane in fifteen minutes.”
She looked at her watch. “Damn. You’re right. I don’t know why you have to stop at every single gift store,” she muttered. “We don’t have time for this.”
She strode toward the food pavilion with strides impossibly long for someone with legs that short, and he followed, shaking his head, trying to figure out what had just happened.
The lines at the concession stand were blessedly short; they had their “on-the-run” tacos in under five minutes. *On-the-run Tacos?* Scully thought. *Or do they mean “with-the-runs” tacos?* She sighed. The short flights seemed to be scheduled to avoid mealtimes. *What ever happened to airline food?* She considered that. *On the other hand, I don’t want to know.* She regarded the taco with a little more respect.
Five minutes after that, they were at the gate, where their flight had just been called.
“Perfect timing!” said Mulder, as they presented their Illinois drivers’ licenses proclaiming them to be “Melvin and Dorothy Richardson” to the gate agent.
The neatly dressed young woman handed them boarding passes with a fixed smile and said, “Enjoy your flight! Thank you for flying American!”
As they walked away from the counter, they heard her say the same thing to the next person in line. With the same intonation and pitch.
Mulder leaned over and whispered to Scully, “Do you think she’s real?” as he gestured to the perky gate agent. They looked back. She had the same smile on her face, and they could hear her say once more, “Enjoy your flight! Thank you...”
The voice faded as they strode down the jetway.
He looked at her and mouthed, “She could be an X-File.” Scully suppressed a snicker as they handed their boarding passes to yet another stewardess. Fortunately, this one just smiled. They moved through business class and back to the 19th row. She slid into the F seat, by the window, tucking her bag under the seat, and he slid in next to her, into the E seat.
“Actually,” Mulder said, “I heard once that gate agents are all specially bred from an original breeding pair captured to populate Disney theme parks.”
She ignored that as he looked around.
“Uh, Dorothy—There are only five seats across—But you’re sitting in the F seat.”
She blinked at him. She looked across the row at the A seat and the—C seat?
Suddenly she smiled. “It’s okay, Melvin...This is actually the perfect plane for us...No B’s.’”
He gave her a long, considering look.
“That was supposed to be funny,” she snapped.
He grinned. “It was...I was just thinking that it’s been a long time since I’ve seen you like this.”
“Like what? Tired? Sore feet? Frazzled from too many airports and bloated from too much junk food? How many bags of peanuts have we collected so far?” Her words were sharp, but there was an unmistakable gleam in her eyes.
His grin widened. “No, like this. Playful. You haven’t played with me in months. I missed it.”
Her face softened and her mouth pushed into a close-lipped wry smile.
“Me too.” She looked down at her hands, at the unfamiliar ring sparkling on her finger. “I guess I finally feel like we’re heading in the right direction. It’s nice to be doing something rather than waiting-”
“For another loss?” he supplied.
She met his eyes, “It’s nice to be taking the initiative for once.”
A disembodied voice announced that the flight would be preparing for takeoff.
The plane was small enough that even in row 19, they were within two rows of the back. The flight was only lightly booked, and for the zillionth time that day she gave thanks to the travel gods that they were flying on a Tuesday in the afternoon and not a Friday evening. There were empty seats all around them, passengers scattered randomly through the plane. The seats were quite narrow, but as soon as they realized that there was not going to be a passenger in the “D” seat, they folded up the armrests in the middle and spread out enough that they each had elbow room.
As the plane taxied, she realized that this was not necessarily a good thing, and began to fold the arm back down, so she could hang onto it.
Mulder saw this, and stopped her. “Here,” he said, scooting back into the middle seat and buckling himself in. “Hold onto me.” He placed his right arm over her shoulder, and his left hand in hers.
She seemed to resist for a moment when he leaned down and whispered in her ear, “Sally doesn’t have to maintain the cop image. I know you hate takeoffs. Let me do this. How many times have you been strong for me?”
She looked at him, not speaking, then gripped his left hand fiercely as the engines roared just under their window. She put her right hand up and gripped the hand that dangled over her shoulder.
He almost missed her whispered, “Thanks.”
When the plane hit cruising altitude, she relaxed her grip. He didn’t let go of her, but asked, “What is it that bothers you about this?”
She sighed. “You know, I’m not sure. When I was a kid, I loved to fly. Absolutely loved it. Loved the roar when the jets started, loved the squeak of the wheels as they touched down, loved looking out the window down at the quilt of farms and cities. I’d spend whole 5 hour cross country flights glued to the window, and I loved the ascent and descent as we went through the cloud layers. And really, I don’t know what changed that.”
His eyes told her that he suspected otherwise. She gave a half smile and continued.
“You’re right. I think I do. Strangely enough, the more I learned about the physics of the whole thing, the less magical it seemed, and the less faith I had that it would always work. Hearing about various plane crashes, knowing the statistics.... It didn’t help. I know that the takeoff and landing are the most risky and difficult parts of the flight. I know that if something is going to go wrong, it will probably be then. And I guess the older I get, the more aware I am of my mortality.”
The look on his face told her that he’d had far too many reminders of her mortality himself. She continued.
“Feeling the vibrations during takeoff and landing reminds me that we’re hurtling through the air in a metal tube which had made god knows how many flights through god knows what conditions, propelled by a controlled explosion. When we’re cruising, it doesn’t bother me nearly as much, because I can’t feel it. But when we hit turbulence, or take off, or land, I know exactly what makes it fly. And it’s not comforting. When I was a kid, I thought it was magic, and it was much easier to feel safe.”
He looked at her. “You know, don’t you, that you’ve just completely freaked me out about flying.”
She laughed at him. “No, Mul—Melvin. You’ll always believe.”
He winked. “Maybe your skepticism just rubbed off a little.”
She smiled, and then yawned. “Move over, please.”
He did as she asked, and she stood up for a moment. She stood up on the seat next to him, unconsciously leaning a bit against his torso with her legs as she reached deep into the overhead bin. “Aha!”
She pulled down two pillows and blanket, put one pillow on his lap, and without so much as a by-your-leave, curled up across the seats with her head on the pillow. She waved the other pillow, not watching what she was doing, and managed to accidentally thwap him in the face with it before he caught it and put it behind his head, chuckling.
He looked down at her and smiled as he shook his head. *If I tried that, my feet would be resting on the engines.* “Must be nice to be that short,” he muttered.
She said, “I heard that,” as she took the pillow out from under her head and hit him with it quite deliberately, then put it back under her head and closed her eyes.
He took the blanket from her hands and spread it over her, then reclined his seat and the seat next to him back as far as they would go. He popped the earphones of his Walkman into his ears, and closed his eyes.
As he brought his arms back down, he realized that there was only one place for his right hand to rest.
So as he drifted off to sleep, his fingers played with the stray fringes that escaped the braid draped across Dana Scully’s shoulder.
He woke about forty five minutes later to a plastic voice saying “Sir? Sir? It’s time to prepare for landing.” He realized that the shaking he’d been feeling in his dream was not from vibrations of the plane, but from the stewardess shaking his arm.
Stretching, he looked down at his lap. Popping his seat into the upright position, he bent over and gently stroked Scully’s cheek with his hand, whispering, “Up and at ‘em, kiddo.”
The pillow had slid from underneath her head while she slept, and was nowhere to be found. It hadn’t woken her, she’d simply continued sleeping, directly on his leg. As he levered her up to a sitting position, she woke, blinking sleepily.
He noted that she had a funny texture on her cheek from sleeping on denim. Then he looked down at his lap, and grinned.
“Hey Dorothy. You drooled on my leg.”
She frowned. “Oh.”
Then she looked around. “Are we there?”
He checked his watch. “About 10 minutes. Gotta put everything in the upright and locked position.” He winked at her.
She scooted back over to the window seat and buckled her belt. He popped the middle seat upright and buckled himself into it. She leaned forward automatically as he put his arm over her shoulder for the landing.
“Welcome to O’Hare International Airport...” The voice on the speaker rattled on.
She looked up at him. “I hate O’Hare. It’s huge. How many miles do we have to walk to get to the next flight?”
He looked at the boarding pass. “We’re coming in to gate H1, which should be close to the hub. It will shorten our walk-time significantly. I’m not sure what our gate is for the next flight, but I think they come in terminal 2, which is right next to our arriving terminal.”
She sighed. “Okay. But I need coffee. I feel really muzzy.”
H1 turned out to be at the very entrance of the concourse, and as they entered the concourse, they found quickly a bank of monitors showing the various arriving and departing flights.
He looked at the itinerary, and then at the monitor. “YES!”
She looked at him, “What?”
He smiled at her. “Our next flight leaves from E1, which is on the hub too. So we not only have time to get coffee, but we have time to shop.”
She smiled half-heartedly. “You said coffee. Let’s go find it.”
The next gate was astonishingly close, given the enormity of the O’Hare airport. They got their boarding passes for the next flight, then looked around for coffee.
He spotted it first. “It’s a sign, uh...Sarah...It’s meant to be.”
She followed his gaze, and then shook her head. “Of course.”
Within twenty paces of the gate they were to leave from, a large green sign glowed with the name “Starbucks.”
They sat at the counter, eating almond croissants and sipping lattes. She’d ordered hers with extra foam, and a bit of it strayed to her nose as she sipped the hot liquid. He smiled, reached out a finger, and wiped the steamed milk off her nose.
She caught his hand before he could lower it to wipe it on a napkin, and deftly flicked the foamy milk off with her tongue.
She grinned at his sudden flush, and asked, “So what did you buy back in Minneapolis while I was in the rest room?”
His blush deepened.
She raised an eyebrow. “Not Hustler, I hope....”
He made a face and recovered slightly. “Of course not. Martin has no need of that crap. Martin has Sally.”
It was her turn to blush.
“Uh...So what did you get?”
He reached down and unzipped a small pocket on his carry on bag. Reaching inside, he pulled out a small white cardboard box, and handed it to her.
She looked at him curiously, and then looked down at the box.
“Open it,” he said softly, gesturing to the box. “I saw that and thought it might help you—” He paused, and she used her fingernail to pop the tape.
She lifted the box open, to find a large quantity of cotton. Underneath the cotton, she found a small pile of silver-colored chain.
She lifted it out, and discovered that there was a tiny heart-shaped pendant attached to the chain. She laid it on the black counter, and looked at it closely.
“Oh.” Suddenly she realized that what she’d initially seen as a heart was actually the silhouette of a mother and child. Nestled in between them was a tiny diamond, set flush with the metal. Then she realized that the metal was not silver as she initially thought, but platinum. “It’s beautiful. But why-”
He picked it up and reached around to clasp it behind her neck. “You’ve been reaching for your cross since we got on the plane in DC. I thought you needed something to fill that place until we can put the cross on your neck again. I was going to get you something cheesy, but I saw that, and...it fit what we’re doing, the quest we’re on, and it fit Sally. When they told me it was platinum, like the rings, I knew I had to get it. I wanted to get it for you.”
Then he leaned closer and whispered, “It also reminded me of you and Emily.”
She bit her lip, fighting back a sudden tear that welled up, and turned her head, touched.
“Hey.” He brought his hand under her chin and lifted her to face him. “You’re going to get tears in your coffee, and it’ll taste funky.”
She smiled a little. “Thanks. It’s perfect.”
He kissed her on the forehead. “No problem. Now let’s go find some tees.”
They found the gift store around the corner from their gate, and she picked up a book with blank, lined pages. He looked at her strangely, and she whispered to him “Sally’s journal. I figure it’s a good way to work out some of the finer details.”
He whispered back, “Isn’t that what your toy is for?”
She answered, “It’s not the same as a good pen and nice paper.”
He smiled. “I know.”
While she tested pens, he found the tees, and without really looking at what he was buying, picked up two boxes. She was still trying pens. He looked around a bit more, found the souvenir spoons, picked a couple up and brought them over.
She looked up, saw what he had in her hand and smiled. “Next thing you know, you’ll be picking up feminine hygiene products for me.”
He blanched. She picked out two slim pens with no-slip barrels and a good weight to them, then picked two of the spoons out of his hand.
She looked at them thoughtfully. “You know, if I never see another gift store as long as I live, I’ll be perfectly content.”
His mouth twisted up into a sly grin. “That can be arranged.”
“Wha...?” She started to ask when his large hand wrapped across her eyes. “HEY!”
He kept his hand over her eyes as he led her over to pay for their selections. “Your wish is my command, m’lady.”
She giggled, but didn’t struggle in his arms. He finally released his hand from her eyes when they were out of sight of the gift store.
She grinned. “Maybe I should tell you I never want to step foot in an airport again, either.”
He took the bait. “As you wish.” He scooped her up into his arms and carried her, bags and all, across the concourse to the gate. She laughed, and wiggled, but he maintained his grip on her.
Finally she said “I take it back. I have to use the facilities, and you can’t carry me in there. So I’ll use my feet, if you’ll set me down.”
He deposited her onto her feet with a flourish. “As you wish.”
When she returned, the first boarding call had been sounded, and Mulder was looking decidedly antsy. She couldn’t tell if it was too much caffeine or impatience, or both.
Neither, she discovered. He was excited about something. She followed his gaze.
*Oh. My. God.* She stared out the window at the terminal, gazing at the plane they were going to be boarding in about thirty seconds. It could be called an antique. At best. Suddenly, she wished she hadn’t watched all those “Why Planes Crash” shows.
Mulder leaned past her. “Oh, cool, a DC-9!” He just barely registered a frosty version of “the look.” “What’s wrong?”
“Look at that thing!” She couldn’t pull her eyes away from it. “It looks ancient.”
“It’s just a plane. NASA uses those things.”
“Yeah, and when was the last time you trusted NASA?” She regretted that one as soon as it left her mouth. *Cheap shot.*
“What’s wrong with NASA?” Mulder asked innocently. “Just they ask the best of the best, those with the ‘Right Stuff’ to sit on top of a rocket with enough explosive power to blow them into little bits, a rocket that was built by the lowest bidder-What’s not to trust?”
“You’re not helping things,” Scully said, glaring at him.
He ignored that and kept talking. “It’s just another plane.”
“If it’s just another plane, why are you so jazzed?”
He looked reluctant to tell her. “Uh...NASA uses one of those for microgravity experimentation. It’s one of the Vomit Comets. These planes are classics, circa 1967.”
Her eyes were squinched shut, and he had to lean down to hear what she whispered.
“Please explain to me the scientific nature of a ‘vomit comet.’”
“Its like...a roller coaster, sort of. It flies a series of parabolic vertical curves. It can make up to forty falls; when it goes up, passengers get hit with two gees, and on the down, it goes zero gee for 22 seconds.” Something in the way she was biting her lip told him that she understood perfectly, but really didn’t want to think about it. “Of course, they don’t do that on commuter flights.”
“Nothing.” She let out the breath she’d been holding. “I just wish, yet again, that I hadn’t majored in physics. And that I didn’t know about metal fatigue.”
“Come on, do you really think that if it were that bad, they’d let this plane fly?”
“The Valujet plane was a DC-9.”
This plane made their previous flights seem like luxury liners with wings. Even in first class, the seats were tiny and a chiropractor’s worst nightmare. And they weren’t in first class. Mulder buckled himself in next to Scully, not able to do much more than put his arm around her shoulders again.
The thing she hated more than anything in the world was losing control. But she felt dangerously close to that line at this point. She was practically forcing herself to breathe. *All right, enough of this. You learned about panic attacks and all those good things in med school. Just relax!*
Easier said than done.
Automatically, she shifted as much as she could between the seat belt and tiny seat to rest her head on Mulder’s shoulder. That was a little bit better.
The plane shuddered, pitching forward slightly as it coasted down the runway. The engines fired up, throwing the passengers back against their seats. *Just don’t think about it. Don’t think about anything.*
And Mulder was twisting around her, reaching over to unbuckle the seat belt. She sat up. “Is it...over?”
“Houston, we have liftoff,” he said, grinning. “It wasn’t that bad, was it?”
“I never wanted to be an astronaut,” she muttered.
She looked out the window. Lake Michigan gleamed in sunny ripples beneath them, bigger than any body of water in the middle of a continent had any right to be. Far to the north, she could see a line of clouds.
“Do you think we’ll be flying through that tonight?” she asked warily.
He looked. *Better lie-* “Probably not.” *Only a half-lie. We’ll be flying over it.*
She grinned. “Liar.”
He shrugged. “Don’t you trust me, Sc—Sarah?” *I’m never going to get used to calling her anything but Scully. I can’t even manage ‘Dana’ without her looking at me strangely,* he thought ruefully.
She chuckled. “Since I can’t even remember your name at this point, why should I trust you, mister?”
He grinned. “Just don’t look at the clouds. It could be smooth flying.”
Michigan passed beneath them quickly in a crazy quilt of gray and brown and slushy white. Thin black lines of roads defined and crossed the uneven blocks of drab.
She returned to her notes as they passed over Detroit, grayer and drabber and overwhelming the dull countryside. *Mental note. Flying in March is not the prettiest time of year. In the future, plan undercover assignments for September or June.*
She chuckled at the thought, trying to imagine how they could possibly have planned the journey they were on to coincide with pretty scenery.
Mulder leaned back, eyes closed, tapping his knee and nodding his head slightly in time to music only he could hear.
The flight to Toronto was short, like most of the flights, and it was not long before the fasten seat belt light flickered on.
Dana realized as the plane touched down that the landing really wasn’t as bad when he had his arm around her shoulder. She squeezed his hand gratefully as the plane began a long taxi to the terminal.
The heat of his skin had warmed the wedding band; no longer cold and foreign, the ring caused her thoughts to drift. She remembered the weddings of friends that she’d attended, the words spoken by the couple or the clergy about how a ring was the perfect symbol of love; no beginning, no ending, just a perfect, unbroken circle.
There were times it seemed they were going around in circles, searching, seeking, only to arrive back where they started again and again.
There was also the disconcerting fact that she sometimes had trouble remembering what her life was like before she’d met him, like he’d been there always. No beginning and no ending.
The circle just was. An infinite number of points on a circle. An infinite number of starting points, she thought. And an infinite number of ending points.
The airplane slowed and stopped. The seat belt light flicked off, and they prepared to be Canadian citizens.
Going through customs was actually surprisingly simple. Their “birth certificates” were accepted instantly. It probably helped that they’d been “well worn,” folded and refolded and slightly yellowed in small but ineffective plastic “protective” pouches. Their bags were of little interest to the customs official, who was more interested in hassling a teenager behind them who had actually dared to bring some fruit across the border.
Once they passed customs, they stopped in a secluded corner to regroup. Now, for the first time, they actually would be using their identities as Martin and Sally Harrod. The other ID’s were stashed hidden pockets deep in their bags.
He put the unfamiliar glasses on, their black frames placing an odd rim around his visual field. He was used to reading glasses, but only for close work. It was strange to have this clear view of the world marked by the hazy rim of the frames. *It’s like watching a movie of someone else’s life sitting way too close to the front of the theater.*
She slid the small scrunchy off the end of her braid, and attempted to unplait it. He chuckled at her, took it from her hand, and untwisted it as deftly as he’d braided it that morning. The hair hung in three thick chunks down her back until he ran his fingers through it, spreading it into a fan down her back. The riotous curls had been tamed by the braid into a bumpy rippling wave that spread from her shoulders to her waist.
She reached back and lifted it up, running her fingers through the length of it. “I’ll never get used to this.”
He smiled. “Even if I brush it for you?”
She grinned. “That, I could get used to.”
She put on her own glasses, thin wire frames which did nothing to interfere with her visual field, but which tickled the bridge of her nose annoyingly. *Better get used to it, Sally.*
She checked her watch. Only thirty minutes left to get dinner before boarding their flight to Calgary. She groaned at the thought of another fast food meal.
They picked up their bags and looked for a directory. Their next flight was on time, which was good, because otherwise they would not make it to Victoria that night. They headed for the gate, keeping an eye out for a food vendor as they walked.
“I think that coffee is wearing off, Martin.” She yawned a little.
“Do you want more, or do you want to drool on my leg again?”
She looked at him for a long moment, considering. “How long is the next flight?” she asked.
He gestured at the small computer in her hand. She looked a little sheepish. “Oh yeah.” They paused for a moment.
Two clicks later she said, “I think I’ll take the drool. We’ll have 2 hours and...wait...time zones...sorry...four hours and fifteen minutes. I do NOT want to be wired. We can get coffee in Calgary.”
“Hey, I just had an idea--Maybe I can drool on your leg this time.” He wagged his eyebrows at her.
She laughed. “Not on your life, mister. You’d either trip the stewardesses or have to rest your feet on the wing.”
He feigned an injured look, which disappeared when he spotted a food vendor. “Hey, I think I found dinner!”
“Not another taco...”
He looked at the menu. “Nope. In fact, you can even get something healthy.”
Healthy in his mind apparently meant iceberg lettuce and fresh tomatoes. It was better than the stuff they’d had for lunch, and she was able to order some tabouleh to go along with the gyro sandwiches and baklava he ordered for them.
“I can’t eat that stuff,” she mumbled through a bite of the gooey pita sandwich, tilting her head at the sticky sweets in the bag as they walked towards their gate.
“You don’t have to. They’re for me.” Suddenly he took a few long strides ahead and stopped at another counter. He whispered something to the cashier behind the counter. She chuckled, and gently dropped something from behind the counter into a small box. He paid for it, and handed it to Sally as she caught up. “This is for you.”
She looked somewhat at a loss as to how to deal with the sandwich in one hand and the small box in the other. Then she noticed what kind of shop he’d stopped at. “Why Martin, did you just buy me chocolates?”
He laughed. “Nope. Chocolate. One.”
She raised an eyebrow at him and handed the box to him to put in the bag with their other food. “Trying to fatten me up, huh?”
He grinned. “Yep.”
They finished their sandwiches while waiting for their boarding call.
She looked at their boarding passes. Then looked again. She smiled broadly as she pointed out their seat assignments. “Bless his heart! He got us business class seats. And an exit row. You’ll have plenty of leg room.”
They settled into the seats, pleased to note that once again, there was no third occupant to their row. Suddenly she wondered if that was a coincidence. Frohike couldn’t have-Could he? *He did get us business class for the longest leg of the trip...*
Abruptly she realized that every flight they’d been on so far had been both lightly booked, and booked in such a way that they had no one sitting near them. *Why did it take me six flights to figure that out?*
Even the morning flights, which she normally would have expected to be completely full, had allowed them both privacy and space.
*Definitely have to do something nice for them when we get back. I owe them for this one.* Her breath caught in her throat when she realized just how much she owed the scruffy trio.
As the jets roared, she leaned over to Mulder and whispered, “Did they re-arrange the seating for us?”
He shot her a glance, impressed, and nodded.
She whispered, “Who’s idea?”
He grinned. “Byers. But Frohike was the one who worked the magic with the airlines’ computers.”
She shook her head. “How are we ever going to repay them for all this?”
He leaned closer, his breath warm on her ear. “I’d say answers is all the payment they want, but it’s actually just all the payment they require. Frohike would have flown us there by flapping his arms hard if he thought it would cheer you up. I’m not going to tell you what he’d want as payment, but for purely selfish reasons. Besides, I think you know. You’ve been turning him down on that one for as long as you’ve known him. Much to my relief.”
“Relief, eh?” She grinned at him.
He grinned back, then put his left arm around her. She started to put her right hand in his, but he moved his hand behind her elbow instead.
At the first touch of his fingers to her ribs, she shrieked in surprise and tried to pull away, laughing in spite of herself. His arm around her shoulder tightened, and he laughed as he continued to tickle her until she managed to gasp out,
He quit tickling her, and she settled in warily under his arm.
As the plane taxied for takeoff, his hand trailing down her arm brushed lightly against the hairs on her arm, a maddeningly light touch which wasn’t quite a tickle, but which definitely stood all her fine hairs on end until she put a hand up, pressing his hand against her arm to stop the prickling tingling sensation.
She shot him a look, and realized that it had not been accidental.
*Uh huh,* she thought. *Two can play this game.*
The flight chased the setting sun, their height giving them a spectacular view of a sky divided into zones of sunset, blue twilight and night. The sunset lasted much longer than it had any right to, due to their speed, height, and direction of travel.
Mulder opened the bag of food and handed her the box he’d bought, and pulled out a sticky piece of baklava for himself. Flakes from the top layer of pastry stuck with honey to the bag, which he tucked under the seat. He took a small bite of the nutty sweet and felt the intensity of the puckeringly sweet honey send a shiver down his spine.
She opened the box to find a dark chocolate truffle nestled in tissue paper. She grinned. “You know what I like...”
He watched as she brought the chocolate to her lips. She took a small, precise bite, her teeth leaving ridges in the rich interior.
His mouth went dry, baklava forgotten, as he watched her eyes close with pleasure as she allowed the morsel of chocolate to dissolve in her mouth. She sighed contentedly, eyes closed, and her tongue stole out to find a crumb of chocolate on her lip. “Mmmm.”
*Oh my god, she’s actually purring.* He forced himself to swallow the baklava, and said too brightly, “Taste good? I asked her to pick out the most intensely chocolate thing they had.” *No, Mulder, what you asked her was to pick out the chocolate voted most likely to replace sex. You should have known better.*
Her eyes opened slowly, and she smiled. “Better than sex...”
He raised an eyebrow, trying to look skeptical. “I find that hard to believe.”
She chuckled, soft and low. “Why, Mu-my dear...Do I detect a hint of skepticism? You cannot expect mere hormones to compete with a double chocolate amaretto truffle.” She took another slow, sensuous bite.
His response tingled more than the chocolate dissolving on her tongue. “Would you like to conduct a scientific investigation, Dr. Sally?”
She choked mid-swallow. She put the truffle back in the box, and tucked it in the bag under her seat, to hide the blush that had suddenly turned her cheeks fiery hot.
She stayed bent over a moment longer than she needed to put the chocolate away, and a few moments less than she needed to regain her composure completely. *Breathe, Dana...*
She leaned close to him, still flushed, and whispered, barely audible, in his ear, “Are you proposing that Martin and Sally join the mile high club?”
She chuckled. “I think I’ll take a rain-check.”
The fasten seat belts light flicked off with a small sound that was not a beep and not quite a ding. He focused on trying to figure out what to call the sound to avoid having to think of a response. *Bing? deep?...You’re going in deep, Mulder. Martin. Damn...Didn’t work.*
His attempt at distracting himself was cut short by the presence of a significant part of a certain person’s anatomy within inches of his face. His eyes were riveted to her jeans as she hunted around in the bin over their heads for a pillow. She stayed up there long enough that by the time she came back down, his eyes were slightly glazed and he was taking deep, measured breaths, gripping the arm rest tightly.
She handed him two pillows and two blankets. *Like I’m going to be able to sleep now, with her head in my lap, and the image of her and the truffle...*
But he smiled weakly and thanked her, reclining his seat back and raising the armrest up out of the way. He put one pillow between his head and the window, and the other on his lap. “You sure you want the pillow? Last time it bit the dust...You could go straight for my leg.”
She gave him a long look. “I’m tired. I’ll go for your leg some other time.” She stretched out across the two wide, soft seats, thanking God and Frohike that they were in business class.
Mulder was not quite so relaxed. *Sleep. Yeah. Right. What has gotten into her? Besides that choco...oh yeah. Mental note. Chocolate makes Dana frisky.*
The words Dana and frisky echoed around in his head for a while, eventually lulling him into sleep in spite of the pressure of the her head on his lap.
She lay there, feeling his initial tension fading, and smiled to herself. *Yep. Two can definitely play this game.* Her smile lingered on her face long after she fell asleep.
It was dark when he woke. The only illumination came from the few reading lights scattered through the cabin, and the lights from the wings. This time she’d let him have the window seat, and looking out through the scratched plastic of the window, he could see almost nothing besides the wing lights. There was too much reflection from the cabin for him to see stars, and the moon had not yet risen.
The plane seemed like a bubble of reality in dark space, nothing above, nothing below, a small universe defined by the constant hum of the engines and the dimly lit cabin.
The reading lights gave a soft golden glow, like stable firelight, casting deep shadows.
She still slept, her cheek again pressed firmly against his leg. She had turned over in her sleep, and was facing him, feet flat against the aisle seat’s armrest and knees touching the back of the seat. The pillow had worked its way from under her head, and had wedged itself between his legs.
He carefully reached over and turned on the far reading light, just enough indirect light that he could see her, but not enough to wake her.
He looked down at her relaxed face, enjoying the rare opportunity to simply watch her sleep.
Asleep, with her hair tumbled down out of sight, she looked more familiar, more the Scully he knew.
Not the Scully of recent months, crushed, closed, withdrawn. Something had shifted in the hours since he had confronted her with all he knew.
It had been so difficult, he reflected, facing her depression, wanting desperately to reach inside and help draw her up out of the pit, but finding that there was nothing he could do to make her grab the ropes he continually cast down. For months now she had continually turned away, interacting at a professional level, but keeping herself closed tightly from anything more. She could not, would not accept his comfort this time.
Her mother had been worried as well, he knew. He had not been the only one shut out.
His professional judgment had told him that she was suffering an acute situational depression. While he knew medications might help her “cope,” “coping” did not seem to be her problem. She had been functioning, living her life, but had deliberately shut down the part of her that grieved. If anything, she was “coping” too well. He would have been less worried had he seen rage, had seen her pour grief into tears and let it flow.
For she had not only not cried, she had not laughed, either. Until the past two days, he had not even seen her smile since before...
Somehow this journey was a rope she could grab. When he’d flashed on the seeds of the idea, communicated it to her in a few scrawled words and a meaning-filled look, she’d grabbed it and hauled herself up out of her refuge of numbness and into action.
The spark in her eyes the previous morning as this mission sprung into being had been more of a relief to him than anything he’d felt since she’d been cured. He knew that it was that spark in her eyes that had made Skinner help them without question, or rather, with as little question as Skinner could manage and still be Skinner. For all his bluster, there had not been a single moment that Skinner’s complete support had been in question.
The Lone Gunmen had responded to it as well. While they were very willing to help Mulder, the energy in her step as she’d entered the Gunmen’s office that morning had caused more than one round of amazed looks at her transformation. Their help had been wholehearted, as if they’d do anything to keep that spark in her eyes.
He’d seen her start to retreat back into the numbness out of exhaustion that night, and been delighted when she willingly took the hand he offered to pull herself out of it.
His only concern now was that while he’d seen her laugh, he had not seen her cry. And given how close this journey was to her pain, he wondered how long they would go before she’d have to confront it.
The plane rocked slightly with mild turbulence, and she stirred in his lap. The screen above the aisle flickered from an in-flight movie to a map of their travel, showing about an hour more before they reached Calgary.
“This could get rough,” he whispered, not sure if he was talking about the turbulence or about the emotional journey they would have to make.
The fasten seat belt light flickered on. He reached around her to see if he could anchor her in without having her sit up, but his movement woke her.
Her pillow was moving.
No, not her pillow, she realized, Mulder’s leg.
She opened her eyes, and blinked them clear. All she could see were belt loops, a belt, inches from her nose.
Something obscured the dim light, and she tried to sit up.
At that point, the plane tossed and his elbow collided with her ear.
She quit trying to get up, and put a hand to her head. “Ow.”
“Sorry.” He leaned back a bit so he could see her face. “What was that?” she asked, trying to re-orient herself.
“My elbow? Or the plane?” he asked. “We’re over a storm system; it’s causing some turbulence. I was trying to buckle you in.”
She pushed herself up, still facing the back of the seat, blinking as a row of overhead lights came on. “Mhhh.” She squinted, bracing herself on one arm as she tried to get her bearings.
“You’re cute when you’re sleepy,” he commented.
She scowled at him, and started to turn around to buckle herself in, as the plane bucked. It caught her in an awkward position, and she lost her balance.
He caught her, and held her until the plane stabilized. Her legs were stretched out along the two seats next to him, and he pulled her up closer to him so that her head rested high on his chest, her body leaning firmly against him. Her left arm was folded between their bodies, her right hand grasped his shirt for stability. He expected her to sit up as soon as the plane stopped rocking, but she didn’t let go.
“How long until we get to Calgary?” she mumbled into his shirt.
Her grip tightened on him as the plane shook. He looked back up at the screen. “About 50 minutes.”
“Um...” She spoke, but whatever she said was too quiet and too muffled by his shirt for him to make out.
He looked down at her. “You can stay there if you like, but let me buckle you.”
With that, some of the tension went out of her body, and she snaked her left arm around under his arm, settling in. With her more upright, it was simple for him to get the buckle around her hips, buckling it behind her.
This time he heard her clearly. “Thanks.”
She leaned against him, listening to his heart beating. The plane rocked, vibrated. Somehow it didn’t seem to matter as much from this perspective. Her scientific mind understood the turbulence, variations in air pressure caused by the roiling storm clouds beneath them. She felt the plane climb, pressing her more firmly into Mulder’s chest, and smiled as the rocking stopped. The voice of the captain informed them that they’d climbed a few thousand feet to avoid the turbulence.
“Do you want me to unbuckle you so you can turn around?” he asked.
She considered for a long moment. “Do I have to?” she asked softly.
“Do you want to?” he responded.
“I think I like where I am.”
He chuckled, pleased, and shifted backward with her in his arms.
“Y’know, Sally,” he said conversationally, “I could get used to this.”
The steward was apologetic when he explained that she’d have to turn around for the landing. Scully pretended to pout about it, but complied quickly.
As she refastened her belt, he leaned close and whispered, “You know, I’d be happy to hold you even when you’re not scared. In fact, I’d hate to think I have to get you up on an airplane in order to get a hug. Seems a bit too much like taking a girl to a scary movie in order to hold hands.”
She froze for a moment, then turned slowly to him. *Uh oh.*
She fixed him with a long look. “So whose idea was it that we have a total of 16 takeoffs and landings?”
He straightened. “Langly insisted. I tried to get him to do it in longer legs, fewer hops...but he said it was too risky.” She could hear the clear message under the words. *I tried...*
She smiled at his tone. “I know. I’m teasing.”
He looked at her through squinted eyes. “You sure you’re afraid of turbulence?” He tried to look severe.
She grimaced. “Unfortunately, I’m afraid it isn’t just a girlish ploy to get you to shower me with solicitous attention.”
He raised an eyebrow at her. “No?”
She winked at him. “Worked pretty well anyway, didn’t it?”
He smiled. “I’m just surprised you let me.” *And glad.*
“Sally let you. Why shouldn’t I let my husband hold my hand to calm my nerves?”
Hearing the words ‘my husband’ exiting her mouth caused a tremor in “Martin” that wasn’t exactly unwelcome.
He pulled his glasses down from the top of his head, where they’d rested while he slept, and put them on.
He placed his hand in hers, and squeezed. “Any time.”
Just then a faint “bump” told them the plane had managed to make its entire descent while they weren’t paying attention.
The ubiquitous voice over the loudspeaker informed them they were taxiing to the terminal of the Calgary Airport. It went on to inform them that Calgary boasted the third busiest airport in Canada.
They looked at each other with quizzical expressions at that odd bit of trivia, and burst out laughing at the realization that they’d had the exact same reaction to the announcement.
As the plane slowed to a stop, she checked the itinerary. “Martin,” she asked sharply, “How big is the third biggest airport in Canada?”
He shrugged. “I dunno...why?”
She showed him the itinerary. “We have exactly half an hour to make our next flight.” She looked at the system clock on the MP21K. “Make that 25 minutes.”
“No gift shopping? I was counting on adding to my Olympic collection.”
She rolled her eyes. “The Calgary Olympics were ten years ago. I sincerely doubt you would be able to find golf tees commemorating the 1988 Winter Olympics.”
“You always were the skeptic.”
She pulled him to his feet as the seat belt light went “bing” and turned off.
“Martin, if we don’t make that plane, we’ll have to walk to Victoria.”
They ended up running for the next flight. It was not so much that the airport was big, but that they had to go from the end of one concourse to the end of another. The gate agents were very friendly and helpful, but still, after six previous plane changes, it was all beginning to smear together like a bad dream.
They arrived at the gate breathless, just as the first boarding call was sounded. They waited in line behind a couple of other latecomers, then presented their ID’s to the gate agent. She smiled, and informed them their previous ticket stubs were adequate, since they were only changing planes. They dug through their bags, finally finding the stubs as the final boarding call was sounded.
They collapsed into the small seats. The buckles were habit, and they completely ignored their eighth safety lecture in two days.
As the engines roared, he whispered to her, “You know there may be people on this flight who may recognize us later...we have to be real now.”
She nodded. Her nerves felt raw, taut. She gripped his hand fiercely, not so much because of the takeoff, but because the tension in her body had to go somewhere.
He squeezed her hand back. “Me too.”
They did not speak much. The plane was small, the flight short, all familiar. What was less familiar was the fact that they were flying over a significant mountain range, over a storm, and the pilot didn’t even try to take them above the turbulence. The plane rocked and pitched until she felt like screaming. But she just held his hand tightly, staring out the window at the darkness, waiting for the long journey to finish.
Finish. The end of this particular trek would be only the beginning of a much longer journey. And while this part of the journey had been thoroughly scripted, their steps completely planned, the next part was much more amorphous. Their only clue about the next part was that they were being met by someone who would know them, someone called White Owl.
Eventually the rocking subsided, the clouds beneath them clearing to reveal scattered lights along the ground, sprinkled stars of isolated houses and clustered nebulae of small towns.
The sheer beauty of it caught her completely off guard, and she found herself shielding the window with her hands for a better look.
Ahead of the plane, she could see the deep blackness, a cosmic dust cloud formed by Puget Sound, bordered by the galaxies of harbor towns and the distant glow of larger cities.
It seemed like forever, yet only a moment before the plane tilted and began the final descent. For once, she was only relieved to hear the wing flaps move and hear the rush of wind as the airplane lost altitude. The lights of the city below them spread like a twinkling carpet of gold and shining blue sequins on a black velvet cloth. As they moved lower to the ground, small red pinpoints became identifiable first as moving objects, then as tiny cars, slowly growing as the plane moved closer.
Finally she saw the row of blue landing lights below them, rotating with the ground until they stretched out in front of the plane like a welcome mat. She realized, to her surprise, that this felt familiar.
felt like she was coming home.
Continue to Chapter 3