Chapter 3: Dreams
Note: My co-authors didn’t get much of a chance to work with this one, I wrote it so fast, but they will be pitching in again on future chapters. Dawson and our EIB* both contributed mightily to the polishing and fine tuning. Viva Les Nitpickers! Jen
Disclaimed in Prelude. Gwynne is mine. Don’t use her without asking.
*note: EIB=Editor In Black. All right, it’s cheesy. But apt. Very apt. *Grin*
March 3, 1998
Evening, Victoria, BC, Canada
Gwynne Eglantine had been waiting for this plane for seven years.
She’d been waiting to meet Martin Harrod for six of those years.
She’d been waiting to meet Sally for four years.
For all that, she’d only been in the Victoria airport about 10 minutes before the arrival of CP 1269 was announced from Calgary, Alberta.
She leaned against one of many in a row of plastic chairs, watching out the window as the mobile stairway was pushed up against the side of the plane. She’d seen the itinerary they had followed, and wondered idly if they’d actually be capable, at this point, of walking down the stairway.
Her fingers rubbed the side of the ‘pack of gum’ in her hand. It actually did have a couple pieces of chewing gum in it, but that was not its primary purpose. A small sensor inside waited to meet a magnetic key.
A few business travelers walked briskly off the plane. She ignored them, watching the door of the plane carefully.
Then she saw them. He emerged first, a tall man with a weak beard, casually dressed in jeans and a new-looking t-shirt. He turned as he reached the top of the stairway, to allow his smaller companion to pass in front of him.
A most presidential gesture, Gwynne mused. The woman looked tired, but stood straight as she carefully made her way down the steep metal steps. Her long, red hair hung in weary ripples down her back as she turned to wait for her companion to descend the stairs.
Gwynne could not see his face, and was startled when he did indeed stumble on the steps. *Presidential indeed.*
From the reaction of Sally, for it must be Sally, his stumble was not accidental.
Gwynne smiled. It had been one thing to know who Martin Harrod was, one thing to wait for him all these years, but another thing entirely to realize he had a sense of humor. A tacky one, at that.
She popped a stick of gum out of the pack as the arrivals walked across the tarmac to the terminal.
She took a deep breath, and deliberately dropped herself into character. *I know them. I’ve known them for years. They are close friends.*
She walked over to the door, allowing a sense of eagerness and excitement to permeate her body language. As Martin opened the door for Sally, she grinned broadly and stepped toward them.
*Here we go.*
Scully shook her head as she walked with him towards the terminal. “Martin, you can’t channel Ford. He’s not dead.”
He tried to look insulted. “I slipped.”
“Uh huh. Sure.”
He took her hand, and leaned toward her. “Do you see anyone likely?” he whispered, nodding to the terminal they were fast approaching.
“Relax. Our friend will find us. You still have your ‘identification?’”
He ran his tongue over the small piece of metal encased in plastic that had made itself at home behind his lip.
He reached the door a step before her, and opened it with a small bow.
*Here we go.*
“MARTIN! SALLY! Welcome home!”
They were momentarily stunned by the hearty embrace the white haired woman caught them in.
She stepped back from them for a moment. “Let me look at you! It’s been so long!”
It was impossible, Mulder decided, to tell how old this woman was by looking at her. Her hair was completely white, but thick, and her face, while lined from years of expressing emotions, looked like it could have been an aged 40 or a youthful 70. Her stance was strong, square, from the bottoms of her Birkenstock clad feet, to the top of her short hair.
She was taller than average for a woman, four or five inches taller than Scully. Her eyes twinkled behind round glasses, and he thought he knew where she’d gotten the handle “White Owl.”
Scully was grinning and talking, he realized.
“So, friend, are you our ride?” “Sally” smiled broadly. Somehow the woman in front of her seemed not a total stranger, but an old friend they just hadn’t met before.
The woman looked at her, smiling back. She seemed to ignore the question, instead holding out a pack of gum. “Would you like a piece?”
Scully shook her head, but Mulder took one. He unwrapped it carefully and placed the piece in his mouth, palming his ‘identification’ then held out the wrapper.
“Hold this for me?” he asked.
Taking the wrapper in her hand, White Owl surreptitiously moved the contents next to the pack of gum. Her face revealed nothing unusual.
Smiling, she handed back the wrapper. Wrapping her arms around their waists and moving between them, White Owl urged them down the hall. “Do we need to pick up your luggage?” she asked as they walked.
Scully shook her head, still bemused. “It...it was...uh...stolen. We’ve just got our carry-ons.”
“Been roughing it, eh? Well, you’ll have everything you need at home.”
The airport was quite small, and the parking lot was close. When they cleared the terminal, their guide said softly. “My name is Gwynne Eglantine. Welcome.”
She led them to a well-loved Volvo station wagon. Its gray paint was in good condition, and the vinyl seats well maintained, though it was obvious the car had seen newer days.
She unlocked the doors, and motioned for them to put their bags in the back.
Scully climbed into the front seat, automatically reaching down to slide the seat forward. Mulder sat behind her, leaning forward between the seats as far as the seat belt would allow.
They remained silent, full of questions, as Gwynne looked over her shoulder and backed the car out of the space.
Scully’s gaze landed on the dashboard. It took her a moment to realize that the moss growing there was probably not part of the original specs of the car, it looked so at home covering the wide dash. Looking closer she realized that seashells, stones, and tiny carved figures also made their home on the dash.
She furrowed her brow, trying to figure out how to ask why the car had moss. She opened her mouth, then closed it again. Her natural response, to ask Mulder why there was moss growing on the car, was short circuited both by the fact that she didn’t know if it was safe to use his name, and the fact that she didn’t know if the question would offend their host.
Mulder noticed the moss, but ignored it, evidently more interested in the driver.
Gwynne glanced over at her passengers, and had to struggle to keep from laughing aloud at both Scully’s puzzlement and Mulder’s scrutiny.
She paid for the parking, then pulled out onto a dark road.
For the first time since the airport parking lot, she spoke.
“We have to drive about fifteen minutes to get to your house. Sally, the car isn’t growing moss, it’s just stuck on with a hot glue gun.... Because I like having moss on my car. It makes it feel more like a friend, and less like a servant. Martin, yes, I did say your house.”
They both looked at her, trying to formulate questions. All that came out were half syllables like “buh,” “wha,” and “how.”
At that, Gwynne did laugh. “You could say I’ve been expecting you. We’ve been preparing for this for years.”
That snapped Scully into attention. “We’ve only known we were going to do this for two days. You couldn’t...”
Gwynne smiled. “I’ve known Martin Harrod for six years. His lovely wife Sally, for about four years. They’ve had a palpable presence here on Vancouver Island for about three years. I work with Martin, and Sally is a close personal friend. For all that, they are two of the most private people on the island. People know of them, think they remember seeing them at functions, and there’s even gossip about them. But if you tried to get someone to tell you something concrete about them, they’d tell you gossip, but they honestly couldn’t remember what they look like.”
Scully’s jaw hung slightly ajar as she tried to grasp the implications.
Mulder suddenly made the connection. “Six years.... I had the X-Files opened, was starting to step on toes. Four years.... Scully. And three years ago... after she was returned.”
Scully looked at him. “But I started working with you five, almost six years ago.”
He smiled. “Yeah, but none of us trusted you at first. They wouldn’t have set up a cover for you until they were sure you weren’t a spy. I think it took them longer to be convinced than it did me.”
She laughed. “That fits.”
Gwynne smiled. “So you see, you are going to make just enough of your presence here known to solidify people’s sense that they’ve been acquainted with you for years. It was no accident that the boys sent you to Victoria. Three and a half years ago, when Agent Dana Scully was abducted, and we realized how high the stakes had gotten, The Gunmen started making arrangements for a...an “out.”
“I volunteered to take care of things on this end. I had the resources, and it was a challenge.” She smiled wryly, keeping her eyes on the dark road as she turned down a tree-lined driveway. Her next words were softly, but intently spoken. “It was a game I was willing to play, and a side I was willing to play on.”
The car pulled to a stop. In the headlights, they could see trees, but not much else.
Gwynne climbed out of the car, leaving her doors unlocked. Her visitors followed her example, but Scully couldn’t help but ask why they didn’t lock the car.
As she unlocked the hatch, Gwynne replied, “It would be weird around here to lock the doors to the car, and besides. The car knows when someone has been in it. More importantly, I know when someone’s been in it.”
Mulder regarded the car with new respect. It bore no outward signs of any security system or for that matter, of any electronic capabilities whatsoever.
They followed her into a modest house. The steps were worn and mossy, the wood siding of the house weathered over a footing made of decorative but plain rounded boulders. Looking at the house, it seemed exactly the kind of place that someone might go to hibernate in tranquil solitude for months or years on end. A wide patio with a wider roof sheltered a porch swing and large pieces of driftwood. A single, large, precisely tuned set of wind chimes stirred a delicate rippling chord into the wind.
The entry of the home echoed the feeling of the exterior, from the plants in every corner to the low ceiling and natural wood walls. It seemed a very small house indeed. A sitting room off the entry way sported a futon couch on a frame of rough pine logs, and a coffee table formed of a pane of thick glass set on a driftwood base.
Gwynne turned to them, and grinned. “Welcome to my apartment! Let’s go get you settled in your house.”
She led them around a corner, into a completely different world.
The narrow entryway opened into a huge kitchen. As they entered, lights sprang into being, track lighting and spot lighting. Gwynne walked to the sink and a light automatically flicked on over her head as she filled a tea kettle. The spot light flicked off as she moved toward the large gas range, where another light flicked on when she moved the tea kettle to a burner. She moved her fingers in a pattern over an unobtrusive black panel to the side of the burner. It beeped softly, but the burner did not immediately turn on.
“I’ve set it to start the water in about half an hour.” Gwynne’s voice startled them out of their shocked stupor.
Mulder whistled. “Cool.”
She chuckled. “It gets better. Don’t be too astonished yet.”
Gwynne ushered them past the kitchen and breakfast table, and through another door, where they found a large living area. A wood stove with glass doors sat in the middle of the room, a large, soft couch sat positioned perfectly to take advantage of the view of the fire. A large recliner sat off to one side, a rocking glider and ottoman next to it. Cabinets lined the walls. They could see the shadows of potted plants everywhere in the dim light.
They walked through the living room, and down a short hallway.
“Your bedroom. You can drop your bags here.”
Scully seemed to be drinking in every detail of the rooms as they passed through. She dropped her bag without speaking, and flopped on the king sized bed. Mulder set his bag down and started examining the room.
Gwynne laughed. “Not yet. You can map it later. We need to go talk in the study.”
Scully sighed from the bed. “Do I have to get up? This is too comfy.”
“‘Fraid so. I promise you can come back to bed in a few minutes. But you need to see a few things first.”
Across from the bedroom, a door opened onto a large study. Books lined the walls, a large desk with a computer dominated one corner, and two comfortable reading chairs sat in front of a single large window.
Unlike the rest of the house, which had hardwood flooring, this room had a strange pattern inlaid into tiling on the floor. Gwynne gestured for them to stand close to her. Mulder noticed that the tiling where they stood formed one of many starburst patterns on the floor, this one just a bit bigger, and a bit more deeply colored than the rest. Before he had a chance to notice anything else, Gwynne rested her hand on one of the bookshelves, and grinning like a kid showing off a crayon drawing, she pulled one of the books off the shelf.
Silently, seamlessly, and very quickly, the wall rotated and they were standing at the top of a long, dark, stone stairway, the room they’d been in having disappeared entirely.
Scully blinked. “Isn’t that a bit cliché?”
Gwynne chuckled. “Of course it is. But I couldn’t resist. Besides. It’s ever so much more dignified than if we had the door in the bathroom. It would be awkward if you inadvertently flushed with your hand in the wrong place and ended up with an audience.”
Scully tried to get her mind around that logic, but her travel-worn brain failed to come back with any reasonable response.
The walls of the stairway seemed to be formed of rough stone, but were surprisingly clean. The stairs themselves were stone as well, but precisely cut. The dim light was not enough to provide any sense of what lay at the bottom.
They descended the stairs, unconsciously counting as they went. By the time they reached the bottom, Scully had gotten up to forty-one steps.
*Must have missed one.* She frowned. *Wait a minute. Why would...*
Mulder’s voice in her ear startled her. “You forgot to count the first step.”
She looked at him. “Stop that.”
The stairway ended in—nothing?
Just a small little cubby made of rough stone. The two agents looked at Gwynne quizzically. Her lips twitched upward, and she suppressed a giddy feeling of merriment, as she took a seat on a protruding stone and motioned for them to do the same.
Mulder looked at the drab grey stone walls, and patted the hard ‘chair’ beneath him. “I was hoping for something a bit more luxurious.”
Gwynne’s guffaw of laughter surprised them both. Between laughs, she managed to say, “I’ll—try—to—keep—that—in—mind.”
Scully looked at her curiously, then exclaimed “Are we moving?”
Gwynne nodded, still laughing. The opening to the stairway had quite silently disappeared, and they seemed encased in a small stone room. It was not clear where the light was coming from, and the only sign they had that they were moving was a slight pull of acceleration pushing them against the wall of the tiny cave.
After a few moments there was a slight spinning sensation, which disappeared as fast as it had come, but left them feeling slightly lightheaded.
Shortly after that, the sense of acceleration stopped, and when they looked around, they realized that the wall that had previously been a stairway had now become a short hallway.
Dazed, the two agents followed Gwynne down the stone hallway, looking back to see their little room blending seamlessly into the rock.
Scully muttered, “I’d swear Langly must have had a hand in that.”
Gwynne chuckled. “Very perceptive, Sally.”
They had come to stop in front of a large metal door embedded in the rock. If doors can be said to have souls, this door shared a soul with Arnold Schwarzenegger. It looked like it could stare down anything that dared try to open it without proper authorization, up to and including lasers and small nuclear devices.
A panel folded down out of the rock, and Gwynne stood up to rest her chin on a plate as something took a retinal scan. Her right hand rested on a panel next to the chin plate, and she simultaneously spoke into a small microphone. Several lights flashed green, and she typed something on a small keyboard.
“Your turn now, Sally. Speak your name, Sally Harrod, and place your hand on Madame Zelma and your chin on the plate, like I did. It needs to make a primary identification of you, for future record.
Mulder did the same.
Scully murmured, as the door opened, “Further up, further in.”
Gwynne smiled. “It does look bigger on the inside, doesn’t it?”
The door opened, and their jaws dropped.
Behind the door was a very large open space. The corner to the left opposite the door was walled off with floor to ceiling glass, through which they could see what Scully recognized as very sophisticated lab equipment, mostly still in protective coverings and wrappings.
The other corner on that wall was open to the room, computer equipment lining the wall, and large worktables filled with pieces of disassembled electronics and tools occupied much of the central space of that part of the room.
The space to their left held a low circular table surrounded by comfortable couches and chairs. The wall flush with the door they’d entered held a sink, a counter, a refrigerator, a microwave. A large window behind the couches revealed a narrow rectangular pool and beyond that a small area dedicated to a few choice pieces of work-out equipment.
The corner to their right was lined with file cabinets, several desks spaced across the central space of the corner.
Scully shook her head, her weary brain trying to grasp what she saw. “This must have cost—”
Gwynne pursed her lips. “Well, let’s just say I had an inheritance. And help.”
Scully looked at her sharply. “That’s a lot of inheritance.”
Mulder added, “And a lot of help.”
Gwynne’s response was a dry laugh. “Well, let’s just say I had a good reason to want to spend it this way. Is this luxurious enough for you, Martin?”
Mulder was looking thoughtfully at the row of file cabinets, and didn’t seem to register the question.
Suddenly he walked over to a file drawer, and jerked it open. He pulled out a file folder, flipped through it, then began yanking open file drawer after file drawer. He sank into a chair behind one of the desks, with a file open in his hand, and then stared up at Gwynne with a stunned look on his face.
Scully looked at him inquisitively.
“It’s the X-Files. All of them.”
Scully looked more closely at the area around the file cabinets. In the large, brightly lit room, with its high stone ceiling and pale linoleum flooring, she hadn’t noticed some of the finer details. Like the bulletin board against the wall, covered with newspaper clippings and a very familiar poster. Or the small picture frames on several of the desks.
She started chuckling. She walked across the room, and sat down in front of one of the desks. On the spacious oak top were several pictures of her family, a new-looking computer, and a card. She picked up the card, and using...
Her letter opener? She looked at it for a moment, its familiar heft and shape fitting naturally into her hand, then gave up trying to figure out why it was here in this place, and used it to open the envelope. Inside was a belated birthday card, and a handwritten note.
—Dear Agent Scully, the note began.
—We figured that while we were having so much fun making your hideaway, we’d take the opportunity to rectify some oversights in your previous office’s design. Enjoy your desk. You’ve earned it.
Byers (in a neat script)
Langly (printed in hasty capitals)
Frohike (scrawled unevenly across the bottom of the card.)
She shook her head, and wiped a tear from her eye. Mulder walked over, concerned, and she handed him the note. He read it quickly, then started chuckling. “Of course.”
He handed the note back to Dana, and stared at Gwynne.
“Why? Why would you pour all this money, effort, time into creating a safe haven for two people you’d never met? I can almost understand how and why the boys would do this, but why you?”
Gwynne’s face looked suddenly much older.
She looked down, then spoke quietly.
“Let’s just say your sister was not the only child taken.”
Pushing away the questions in their eyes, she briskly took the file out of Mulder’s hands and put it back in the drawer.
“We need to go back. The water will be hot.” Her abrupt words silenced them as she ushered them out of the huge room, into the stone hallway.
As they sat back down in the strange stone room, the questions started to bubble to the surface.
“Who knows about this?” Scully’s voice was quiet and wary.
Gwynne nodded. “Good question. Actually, it was surprisingly easy to build. There was a mining operation here about 80 years back, which didn’t turn up much in the way of mineral wealth, but which left behind some perfectly useful tunnels and caverns. Since we didn’t have to do any blasting, the rest was a cinch. Kind of like finishing a basement.
Mulder snorted. “Somehow I don’t think that this is the kind of job that Norm and Steve would take on.”
Scully suddenly laughed. “Actually, Martha might.”
Gwynne laughed. “I think that’s the first time in my life that anyone has ever compared me to Martha Stewart.”
She continued. “We’ve been working on this place for the last three years. There are about a dozen people altogether who know it exists at all; half of them know nothing about why it is here.”
“And the other half?” Mulder prodded.
“Three of them you know well. Two of them are people you will meet tomorrow, people you can trust with your life. And the last is me.”
“As I’ve said. We’ve been planning this for a long time.”
The ‘car’ stopped, and they climbed up the stairs. As they were rotated into the study, Scully asked, “How secure is the rest of the house?”
“Totally secure until you get to San Diego. I expect that some time after that, they may attempt to monitor it, particularly if you are successful in finding the contacts you hope to find. The underground will remain secure, as the moment the house tells me that it’s been bugged, I will cease to access the ‘fort’ from here.”
“There are other entrances?” Mulder asked as they left the study.
“Of course. This is simply the place that we will use as your “home” for your cover.”
As they moved into the kitchen, Dana looked back into the living room with a strange expression on her face.
“So if we ever come back here, this house, up here, it won’t be secure anymore?” Her voice sounded almost sad at the thought.
Gwynne smiled understandingly. “It is nice—but this is not the only house I’ve built on the island. I think you’d find the others to be to your liking as well. They’re closer to the ‘fort,’ too.”
Back in the kitchen, the teakettle was whistling merrily.
“Tea?” Gwynne offered. “Just herbal, I don’t serve caffeine after eight unless there’s a crisis.”
The mundane offer seemed completely out of place after all they’d seen.
Scully sank wearily into one of the chairs in the breakfast nook.
“Ummm. I think that I have to sleep now. It’s been a long day.”
Mulder opened his mouth to ask something, then realized that there were so many questions that he didn’t know where to start. He glanced over at Scully, and smiled at the vacant expression on her face. It looked as if the toothpicks holding her eyelids open were about to snap.
Fighting the urge to ask questions until sunrise, he stood back up, “I think we should get some sleep. I assume that tomorrow will be as insanely busy as the,” he checked his watch, “Hour since we met you?”
Gwynne laughed. “Actually, while tomorrow is a very full day, I think you’ll enjoy yourselves.”
She poured herself a cup of tea. “I’ll be up for a while. Don’t hesitate to call if you need something.”
Mulder grinned. “I take it your glasses aren’t the only reason they call you owl?”
She nodded. “I do my best work at night.” She looked at ‘Sally,’ who had put her head down on the table.
“Why don’t you take her to bed. There are clothes in the drawers in the bedroom. Should fit, if Frohike got the information right.”
“Sally” opened her eyes enough to navigate sleepily to the bedroom, and sat on the edge of the bed. She didn’t move.
“You okay?” he asked. Looking at her, he realized she was actually asleep sitting up, her chin tucked down, her back slumped, only inertia preventing her from falling over.
He chuckled, and gently pulled her shoes and socks off. She mumbled something, then tipped over onto the comforter, sound asleep.
He regarded her for a long moment. Her long hair spread out in a halo around her head, and her legs were bent oddly in relation to her torso.
“C’mon doc—Gotta get your jammies on.” She didn’t move.
He took a deep breath, and unbuttoned her jeans. She rolled a little, and as she did, he slid them down under her hips.
*Deep breath. She’s out cold. This is not sexy. She can’t sleep in jeans. Just take them off, and get her pajamas on her.*
He pulled the jeans down, revealing slim white legs. *Deep breath.*
He slid first one foot, then the other out of the jeans, and dropped them on the floor next to the bed. Looking in a nearby dresser, he found a pair of sweats. He looked at them, at her, at the heavy comforter that covered the bed, and then left the sweats on top of the nightstand. She shifted her top half, furrowing her brow.
*She looks uncomfortable. What?*
The bra he’d purchased so many hours ago. *She’s gonna kill me.*
He reached a hand gingerly up under her shirt from the back, and found the small but complex clasp that held the contraption together. She stirred but did not waken. His fingers twisted and pulled gently, but the damn thing didn’t release.
*In for a penny.*
He slid his other hand lightly up the smooth skin of her back until it found the bra, and unhinged the clasp. He withdrew his hands.
He had seen women take bras off without removing their shirts before. He’d never really thought about how they managed to do it, since logically, it shouldn’t be possible. *One of those cases in which the laws of physics just don’t apply...* He considered. *Goddamned best profiler the VCS ever saw, and I can’t get a bra off my partner without waking her up.*
*In for a pound.*
He reached back under her shirt, amazed that she stayed asleep, this woman who had waken more than once at a slight noise, gun in hand, ready to blow his head off.
Reaching his other hand through the sleeve of her t-shirt, he used the hand behind her back to feed the back of the bra out her sleeve.
*Clever. Not sexy, but clever.*
There was just enough give in the fabric that he was able to work the strap over her elbow and over her hand.
Gently, he put his arms around her, and pulled her over on to her other side. She shifted, and snuggled into his chest. He froze.
After a long moment, he took a breath. Sliding a single finger down her sleeve, he hooked the remaining bra strap and pulled the whole device out through the sleeve. The moment it popped free, he realized what had been making her uncomfortable. The thing had metal hoops on it, half circles embedded in the soft fabric, giving a hard frame to the soft cups, so that the lone star and the yellow rose looked like they were being supported by arcs on a suspension bridge.
*One great leap for mankind.*
With a flourish, he pitched the bra over the side of the bed.
She turned from him, rolling back on her other side.
He pulled off everything but his boxers, and tried to work the covers from under her body. He ended up having to untuck the whole bottom end of the bed before he was able to slide the covers from under her.
He crawled in next to her, and pulled the covers over them both.
Her rhythmic breathing swirled around him like a vortex, pulling him down into a heavy sleep.
*Curling around a small child.*
*Looking down at the face beneath the silky hair.*
*Seeing her own face there, crumbling into dust and blowing away like sand in an icy wind.*
*So very cold.*
Dana Scully jerked awake, shaking with great gasping breaths, freezing cold. The shards of dream echoed through her head, burning into memory as she struggled to get her bearings.
She found herself lying on her back in a strange bed. That was not unusual. What was unusual was that she had no covers, and in only panties and a thin t-shirt, the chill March air had worked its way into her bones. The other unusual thing was sleeping soundly, curled up snuggly on the other side of the bed, wrapped tightly in several layers of comforter and quilt.
As her breathing calmed down, she sighed. The small clock next to the bed showed a time of 3:30. Her weary brain volunteered the thought that back in DC, it was 6:30, and she’d have gotten up already to get ready for work, normally.
The word “normal” chased the threads of dream around her head, and she realized that she should probably either retrieve the covers, or get some more clothes on, or both.
She started to reach over to pull the blankets back, but stopped when she realized that she was still shaking from the nightmare.
*Child with my face, dust blowing.*
She pushed the image away. Realizing she would not be able to get back to sleep easily, she pulled on a pair of sweats she found on the nightstand, and padded quietly out of the room in her bare feet.
In the living room, she found a fire burning low in the wood stove. She picked up a medium sized log, opened the thick windowed door of the stove, and put the log in. The rush of air from the room brightened the fire considerably. She squatted in front of the fire for a few minutes with the door open, warming her hands and trying to shake off the cold shreds of the dream.
“It will stay bright if you open the flue a little more.”
Dana jumped at the soft voice behind her. Gwynne Eglantine reached around her and moved a lever to the middle of its slot. Dana closed the doors of the fireplace and moved back from it.
Gwynne handed her a cup of cocoa, and looked at her for a long moment.
“You’re not Sally right now, are you.”
Dana shook her head, cast her eyes down, and bit her lip. She curled her hands around the mug, and sat down on the large, soft couch in front of the wood stove.
Gwynne sank into the other end of the couch, and pulled a large afghan off the back for their feet.
“Want to tell me about it?”
She started to shake her head, when Gwynne startled her with a laugh.
“I take that back. Talk to me.”
“I had a bad dream...” Dana looked at the fire. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“I know you don’t. But I think that if you don’t talk about what that dream was, what sent you out here at 3 am, when I know you’re exhausted, then you’re going to have a really hard time down the road when you can’t fall out of character.”
Dana stared at the fire for a moment, considering. “Have you ever felt like no matter what you did, no matter what obstacle you overcame, no matter how strong you were, things just keep getting harder and harder and worse?”
Gwynne inclined her head slightly, the glow of the firelight shimmering on her white hair and casting deep shadows across her face.
Dana looked at her. The older woman had taken her glasses off, revealing warm green eyes.
Dana looked down at her hands, then spoke. Her voice was quiet, controlled, almost clinical.
“I dreamed about my daughter. When she was dying. I looked down at her face, and it was my face, and it turned to dust and blew away.... I woke up cold, with no covers.”
“But the dream was colder than I was when I woke up. The wind that blew me away was like ice in the bones. And I just disintegrated.”
Gwynne looked at her for a long moment, taking it in. “Have you cried for the part of yourself you lost when you lost her?”
Dana closed her eyes for a moment. “I grieved. But I couldn’t cry. I felt like I didn’t have a right to cry for her—she was only mine for such a short time.” She took a long sip of cocoa, taking refuge behind the large mug.
Gwynne waited quietly for a moment. When Dana did not continue, the older woman began to speak.
“There are a couple of things you’re going to need to keep in mind.”
Dana looked up at her, curious.
“First of all, there is no shame in grieving for a lost child, even if it’s not yours. I grieve for your lost daughter, because it is so wrong for a mother to lose a child.”
Gwynne paused, and echoed her own words softly. “So wrong...”
She took a deep breath and continued. “No matter how long a baby is part of someone, they have a right to grieve its passing. In fact, infertility itself is a death to be grieved. And this child was yours, because you loved her, giving you every reason, every right, every need to grieve. In a way, though I grieve your daughter’s death, I grieve for you more. You never got to carry her in your womb, feed her at your breast.... And as a mother, I rage that you were denied that with your child.”
Dana closed her eyes, fighting to keep control.
Gwynne reached out and put a hand on Dana’s arm. “You’re fighting so hard to keep it all inside, controlled. But it’s eating at you. It steals your energy. You don’t let people see you cry. Heck. I bet you don’t even let yourself cry when you’re alone if you can possibly avoid it. You need to remember that you’re stepping into a different character now. You know that Sally Harrod is supposed to smile more, laugh more—It’s part of the attitude adjustment you’re supposed to be doing.”
Scully looked over at Gwynne, her eyes asking how Gwynne had known that detail of the conversation with Frohike’s mom.
Gwynne saw the question and laughed. “I talked to Dot while you guys were traveling today, or rather,” she said looking at her watch, “Yesterday. Don’t look so surprised. Few years back we both worked for a theater company. She designed costumes and did makeup; I directed and produced. But she was always right on the money about people, and there were many times when she would just look at me and tell me exactly how a character was going to be played. She taught me how to coax someone into becoming someone else. It usually involves getting them to tap into being themselves more honestly.”
Dana took a large sip of cocoa, brow furrowed, trying to see the connection.
“Anyway.... One of the things I’ve learned is that people who are able to laugh, not trying to escape something unpleasant by dropping into defensive humor, but people who laugh because they feel joy and humor in the world, are also usually able to cry appropriately. You can view this as a challenge, or you can view it as an opportunity to really cut loose—but it’s something you’re going to have to do. Part of becoming Sally Harrod is learning to feel your grief rather than running from it.”
*Feeling my grief. it would kill me.*
“It won’t kill you.” Gwynne responded to the thought as if it had been spoken out loud. “I’ve been there, and while it’s so hard to feel that grief, it’s easier than spending your life numb. If you stay numb, you’re dead anyway.”
Dana shifted into the couch, turning away from her. Gwynne’s tone softened as she continued.
“People are going to be asking you questions about your “infertility.” And some of the answers you’re going to give just won’t be believable if you can’t let yourself feel the emotion behind them. And while part of that emotion can be rage—much of the emotion in infertility is grief. Particularly for women who’ve miscarried, but really when you’re in the thick of things, every failed attempt to conceive is a small death. What was your little girl’s name?”
The word escaped Dana’s mouth before she realized the question had been asked. “Emily.” She took another drink of cocoa, caught off guard by the quick question.
“Tell me about her.”
Dana’s gaze drifted around the room as she considered where to start. It came to rest on a cobalt colored Japanese fishing float sitting on a shelf behind the wood stove, and stayed there. She shifted, part of her understanding the need to answer, but her instincts screaming for her to run.
Her eyes stayed fixed on the glass bauble as she forced herself to speak.
Dana said, “You know I was taken, right?” Gwynne nodded. “They stole my eggs from me, my fertility from me then. Of course, it took me a while to figure it out—I was never very regular, I was under so much stress, and then I got sick—I assumed that the cancer treatments would leave me sterile, but I didn’t think...I didn’t think I’d done enough of them to totally do the job.”
Gwynne smiled slightly to herself. She did indeed know Dana’s history, but also realized that it was necessary to let her tell the story without interruption.
“Then my periods just didn’t come back. I eventually talked to a specialist, and we decided my body had just been more sensitive than most. It wasn’t until Emily that I found out that my eggs had been taken from me long before the cancer was treated. Mulder had found out around the time we learned I was sick, but hadn’t had the heart to tell me then.”
Gwynne’s eyes echoed the resignation and aching loss Dana had felt when she realized that her body would never recover completely.
“Emily was a total shock. At first I thought she was my sister’s. They looked—” She took a deep breath. “They looked so much alike. And it was Missy who...who lead me to Emily.”
Gwynne tilted her head. “Missy is the sister who was killed?”
Scully bit her lip and nodded. “I never would have had reason to discover Emily if I hadn’t gotten a phone call from Emily’s house from a woman with my dead sister’s voice. The call came from a phone that had been off the hook for hours. Emily’s parents both died within days of each other, their deaths made to look like suicides. Emily was dying.”
She took a deep breath, and continued, using every bit of her willpower to maintain her control enough to tell the story. “They were experimenting, trying to make some sort of hybrid, we suspect they used one of my eggs and some unknown source, possibly not entirely human, for the other half of the chromosomes. Emily was the result.”
“All Emily wanted was for them to stop testing her. So I stopped it. She died in my arms. Her body—We don’t know exactly what happened to her body. I looked inside her coffin after the service, and it was gone. They’d weighted the coffin with sand.”
She stopped, and took a deep, shaking breath.
“Mulder suspects there may be more children like Emily. I have to know. If I don’t know, I’m going to have to wonder the rest of my life how many of my babies—”
She stopped. *Can’t breathe.*
Gwynne reached out a hand, and took the empty cocoa mug from Dana’s shaking hands.
Dana shook her head, opening her mouth, then shutting it again. “I can’t.” The words came out in a strained whisper.
“You can’t...” Gwynne moved closer, sitting close to Dana, picked up her hands, and looked into her eyes. Her voice was soft, “You can’t go through your whole life wondering if they’re torturing children you will never have the chance to love, to hold. You can’t go through life waiting for another child to walk into your life to die. You can’t go through life knowing they will always have this to hold over you. And you can’t kill yourself to escape it, because they’ll just be freer to destroy those children at their whim. I know you can’t.”
Silent tears flowed down Dana’s cheeks, and her shoulders shook. “If you could have seen her.... She was beautiful.”
Gwynne gathered Dana into her arms like a small child, rocking her back and forth.
The words began pouring out of her in great gasping sobs, “Oh God, she was so...so beautiful. She wasn’t just some clone, some hybrid, some alien. She wasn’t a mutant...and they were killing her, trying to make her into something inhuman. She, she just wanted them to stop hurting her. She was so brave...I wanted to hold...hold her forever and I had to let her go so those fucking bastards couldn’t torture her for their “little experiments”...and they took her body. I couldn’t even bury her.” Her voice rose, the words forced out in a wail.
“And we don’t know how many more...what kind of pain...what kind of obscene experiments...what kind of cruelty....”
“I don’t even know how many children I have, if they have parents who love...could love them the way I will never...have...the...chance.”
Gwynne looked up, to see Fox Mulder standing in the doorway, tears running down his cheeks. She beckoned to him, urging him to come close, as she rocked Dana’s shaking body.
He looked completely desolate as he regarded her. Gwynne used a hand to motion him down behind Dana. Without further prompting, he wrapped himself around her from the other side.
The sobs continued to roll out as they both rocked her. They did not try to shush her, or calm her. They simply rocked with her, crying with her as she keened her anger and sadness and frustration and loss into the fire—lit darkness that surrounded them. Words poured from her in unintelligible bursts, crashing waves, punctuated by sobs and gasping cries.
As the waves began to slow, Gwynne untangled herself, and Fox lifted Dana onto his lap, pressing her head against his shoulder and leaning back to cradle her completely. She quieted, finally, then, her breath still deep and shaking, tears still running down her face. Gwynne handed Fox a box of tissues, and he began drying Dana’s face with one hand, stroking her hair with the other. He realized he was crooning to her, then, soft nonsense in rhythm with her breathing, instinctively slowing and soothing her.
Gwynne returned from the kitchen with a glass of milk in her hand, bent down and placed a straw on Dana’s lips, holding the milk there while Dana sucked it down.
The glass set to one side, Gwynne began surrounding Fox with pillows. He looked at her curiously, and she nodded in the direction of his shoulder. Dana had fallen asleep there, her body occasionally shuddering with a residual sob, lashes pressed damply against her cheeks, tendrils of hair escaping her braid and curling around her face.
He rested his head on hers, as Gwynne covered them with a comforter and banked the fire down to a dim glow. As the golden red light faded down, he noticed that the room was not entirely dark, a quiet bluish grey had crept into the edges of the room, not quite dawn, yet, but considering it.
He let the quiet overtake him, and faded into sleep with the fire, breathing in deep unison with the woman curled on his lap.
Continue to Chapter 4