The clicks and hum of a VCR loading a tape drew him out of
sleep. He turned over, toward the sound. Scully sat on the edge
of the bed in a bathrobe, looking down at a remote control in her
hands. A 12-inch television sat on a small cart next to her.
Watching the video was surprisingly technical. The first tape would have been full video, except for the fact that through most of it the screen showed only a mass of greyish white. They fast-forwarded until the fog cleared into small droplets which distorted but did not obscure the fact that they'd taken too long to affix the latex patch.
"Funny how easy it is to get used to seeing you naked." His quip sounded harsh and out of place to him in the morning quiet.
"We're supposed to get used to it." Her response was a simple statement, no emotion attached.
He expected her to turn the tape off after it showed her hasty departure from the bathroom, but she left it running as it showed him turning to lean against the counter.
She flipped it off a few minutes later without comment, and swapped in another tape.
This time, there was sound, but the visual images were again fogged, this time the shower's steam created a swirling, shifting mass of colors on the screen. The words of their conversation were somewhat obscured by the sound of the shower, but not entirely.
The shower was strangely routine. The previous day's awkwardness had vanished, to be replaced only by a slightly wary silence that had nothing to do with the fact of nudity. She handed him soap, he handed her shampoo, as briskly professional as they might have handed one another a flashlight or cell phone.
Afterward, she leaned against the counter and he quickly cleaned and replaced the patch, not because it needed changing, but because they had decided, somewhere in the silence, to see if doing it right after the shower ended would obscure it sufficiently from the camera.
After they dressed, Scully opened the door to find Gwynne standing there, looking slightly rumpled in a bathrobe, holding a pair of videotapes in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other.
"Please tell me that the coffee is for me?" Scully smiled slightly as she took the videotapes.
Gwynne held the cup close to her chest, possesively. "You can have yours when you're done."
Scully left the door open as she walked toward the TV. "Come watch. It's our last chance for coaching."
Mulder finished putting on his shoes, and sat down next to them to watch.
Gwynne watched impassively for a few minutes, then asked, "Did you guys talk at all?"
"Nope." Mulder shrugged.
She fast forwarded until the steam cleared. Scully nodded approvingly as it became clear that they'd finished the patch well before the camera was clear.
Gwynne stopped the tape. "How did it feel?"
Mulder grinned wryly. "Businesslike. Strangely normal."
Scully nodded. "It didn't really feel all that much different."
"We need to get going. You have to catch the ferry at 10. I think you'll do fine. The girls are meeting us at the dock to see you off"
The car was completely silent as Scully and Mulder looked out the back
window, watching Gwynne, Jesse and Sarah shrinking into distance. They sat for a moment, quiet and still as the shoreline stretched out behind them, concrete docks disappearing gradually into a broader vista of misty green hills and blue sky framed darkly by the tunnel of the ferry vehicle hold [need tech. name for this.]
Scully turned, finally, and leaned her head back against the upright seat back, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath. She let it out with a sigh.
Mulder, too, turned, rested his hands on the steering wheel, shifting restlessly in the seat. He opened the door to the noisy echoing rush of the cargo hold, prompting Scully to open her eyes curiously.
"Mulder?" she asked, as he pushed himself up out of the Accord.
He spoke loudly, but was still muffled by the chill wind. "I'm going above deck."
She nodded, and closed her eyes again as the door closed and the noise abruptly disappeared.
When Mulder returned, he found her asleep in the driver's seat. Rather than open the car and wake her, he went back above deck for the rest of the trip.
When the ferry was almost in dock, he returned to find her awake, clear-eyed and looking quite relaxed.
"Where to, Partner?" he asked.
"I thought I'd just follow the signs south."
The highway spun out ahead of them, straight as far as the eye could see, framed by stands of tall pines off to each side, and by mountains in the distance. Scully'd been driving for about an hour when Mulder spoke quietly.
Her response was quick, but not sharp.
"You were asleep. We're 'married'. I shouldn't have jumped the way I did. Realistically, you were more 'in character.'"
He frowned. "But..."
"Martin, if I didn't want to be groped in the middle of the night, I never would have married you."
Mulder blinked. "You mean you just married me for my body?"
She looked over at him with a sly smile. "Well, I wasn't getting it any other way."
"You're a shallow woman, Sally Harrod."
She pulled over a few minutes later, got out of the car, stretched her legs, and tossed him the keys.
Another 30 minutes of road passed under them before he broke the silence again.
"In answer to your question, I have thought about death, dying."
Scully blinked. "What question?"
He continued, "For a long time I didn't care, almost hoped that death *would* find me. I was even suicidal some times. I think I hoped that death might bring a truth that would never come close to me in life. It was only my obsessions that kept me from it."
She listened quietly, remembering, finally, the question asked almost five months earlier, deep in a Florida forest.
"As you lay dying, I actually did put that gun to my head."
She looked at him, but said nothing. His eyes remained fixed on the road, hands on the steering wheel.
"When I saw the spyhole... that despair turned into rage... and when you were cured, that rage became joy. But somewhere in there we cut each other off, I think. You were well, but all we had were lies and the truth just seemed irrelevant."
"And I haven't really thought about dying since."
She took his hand. "Or living, either."
They drove that way until a cramp and the Colombia River mandated a change of position. Mulder pulled off in Vancouver for a few minutes to buy cokes and fill the tank. He tossed Scully the keys. "We're supposed to go to Portland and turn right."
The afternoon sun angled through the tall Doulas fir lining the Sunset Highway, slanting through clouds and painting everything with green- and gold-lined shadows. Even the rocks of the mountains the highway cut through were a vivid green, mosses and ferns thriving on the mist and rivulets. After about a half hour of trying to watch the road with one eye and the scenery with the other, Scully pulled over and gave the keys back to Mulder.
"Aw, ma, do I have to?" he whined.
She grinned. "Only if you don't want me accidentally driving us into some waterfall.
"You take all the fun out of it."
He switched places with her and resumed driving. Freed of the duty to watch the road, Scully glued her eyes to the scenery. "Why is it so incredibly green?"
"It's a rainforest." He sounded somewhat distracted.
"There are trees growing out of rocks. No soil."
"Must be an X-File."
She chuckled. "Can't say X-file. You'll blow our cover."
He glanced over at her with a pleased gladness playing at his mouth, but said nothing.
Something in the lush growth, the leaves and pine needles sparkling from a recent rain, a small waterfall cascading down rocks and then disappearing as they drove swiftly past, something seemed to reach out and fill her soul.
She leaned back and smiled.
He glanced at her again, curious. "Yes?"
"You asked me to marry you."
His mouth opened, then closed again. After a moment he found his response. "Uh, Sally? We're already married."
"I know. But you asked me to marry you, and I never answered, before."
The lodge Gwynne had recommended sat in the small town of Yachats, Oregon. On the north edge of town, it sat back from highway 101 just far enough to escape the occasional noise of trucks passing. They turned down the long driveway and a minute later found themselves in front of a new building which seemed built out of glass and shells, all clean lines and solid architecture, but perfectly at home on the bluff. The ocean behind it whipped in the chill March wind, making the lodge seem even more inviting.
At the front desk, the clerk smiled, said they had a suite reserved for the Harrods, and handed Mulder and Scully each a key-card.
"Let us know if you need anything. We do ask that guest not use the jets in the tubs after 10 or 10:30, but you're welcome to fill them after that."
"Tub?" Scully asked.
The clerk smiled. "All our suites have whirlpool tubs."
Mulder grinned. "Something else to thank Gwynne for?"
That was the first thing that struck Scully, looking out the window
of the hotel. Just crashing waves on rocks, a trick of the light
turning the spray into a waterfall from nowhere, sliding down into
Scrubby pines leaned back from the windy shore, and seagulls hung
in the wind, flying nowhere, held aloft by the stiff ocean breeze.
She looked back over her shoulder, to find Mulder investigating every
inch of the room, bouncing down onto the couch, opening drawers,
running his long fingers over the polished knotty wood sculpture that
decorated the wall. Scully shook her head slightly and smiled at his
activity, then turned her attention back to the grey sky, the solid
rocks, the determined breakers.
The urge to be out there in the whipping wind and spray was suddenly
overwhelming. She did not resist, and was peripherally aware of Mulder
trailing after her as she went back through the heavy locking doors,
down the stairs, to the path down to the shore.
"Where are you going?"
His voice seemed distant, blown away from them by the wind and muffled
by the roaring surf.
She looked back with a half-smile, to which he responded with an
She moved quickly down the smoothed-gravel path, stopping at a mossy
ledge just shy of the low rock cliff. She stood there, hands deep in
the pockets of her jacket, shoulders up against the wind.
He caught up with her, and stood next to her, looking out over the
"That," she said, taking a hand out of her pocket to gesture at the
shoreline, "is the perfect example of what happens when an irresistable
force meets an immovable object."
He looked down. "Surf?"
She smiled slightly. "The waves wear at the shore, shaping it,
smoothing it, sometimes breaking it."
Mulder bent down, finding sand among the succulent hens-and-chicks
plants at their feet. He picked up a small handful and let it run
through his fingers. He poured a small bit of sand into the palm of his
hand and then stood back up. "The rocks break the waves every time." He
took her hand, and let the sand trickle into her palm.
"This is what really happens when an irresistable force meets an
She smiled. "Sand?"
He grinned back. "Yep. Most useful stuff on the planet, too, except
maybe duct tape."
She arched an eyebrow at him.
"No, really. Couldn't have computers without sand. Or light bulbs. Or
"Uh huh. Sand." She let it pour back onto the rock, and brushed her
hand off on the leg of her pants.
"So if I'm the immovable object, and you're the irresistable force,
where's our sand?" She crossed her arms over her chest and waited for
He grinned. "You think I'm irrestistable?"
She rolled her eyes. "You're avoiding the question."
His smile turned thoughtful as he turned to look at the waves crashing
on the rocks. "There's no sand there. Just waves and rocks."
A sudden restlessness moved over her, and she tugged his sleeve. "Come
on. Run with me." Without waiting for an anwser, she took off down
Mulder loped after her, bemused.
Fifteen minutes later, she came to a stop and stood, catching her
breath, feet spaced wide and hands braced on her thighs. Mulder stopped
a few yards beyond her once he registered the fact that she was no
"There," she said, nodding at the view in front of them. "There it is."
He looked at her for a moment, breathless, flushed from running, long
curls pulled back in a ponytail with damp wisps stuck to her forehead
and drying quickly in the salt air. His gaze followed hers out to a
sandy length of beach. Enormous rocks the size of houses dotted the
beach, dark lumps each alone on the sand, tidepools collecting at their
Scully bent over and took off her sneakers and socks, tying the laces
together and hanging them over a shoulder, stuffing socks in the
pocket of her parka. Feet bare, she then rolled the legs of her jeans
up as far as they would go, till they formed thick pads above her
knees. She stepped gingerly down from the tarmack onto a sandy path.
Sharp, rugged grasses dotted the sand next to the path, holding tufts
of sand in small hills. Rivers of soft, dry sand ran between the grassy
bumps. Watching for the many small sticks and pebbles, Scully padded
her way down to the packed damp sand of the beach below.
Mulder stepped onto the sand, still wearing his shoes, walked two steps
and then took his shoes and socks off as well, following her lead and
dangling his sneakers front and back over one shoulder. By the time
he managed to pick his way down to the beach, she was jogging again on
the damp sand, leaving footprints small but widely spaced. He shook
his head with a smile and followed.
He was about to catch up to her when she veered right and headed straight across the wide wet bar of sand toward the water. She seemed completely un-fazed by the icy wet sand against bare feet. Finally she stopped, standing squarely, hands on hips and legs apart as a particularly strong wave brought a thin layer of water up around her ankles, the ebb running the sand from around her feet, sinking her slightly farther.
"Every seventh wave comes higher," she said as he braved the chill to stand next to her in the thin foamy current. "Every seventh seventh wave is stronger yet. Ahab always told me never to turn my back on the ocean, because the ocean can't count and likes to catch people off guard."
The wave finished moving out to sea, and the waterline seemed almost distant for a time.
She looked up at him.
"Can we go back now? I can't feel my toes." He looked almost apologetic.
She grinned. "Race you."
"Right. After you froze my toes?" he said in mock-protest,"How can I possibly--"
She didn't answer, but cut short his whine by poking him on the arm and running away.
"You're it!" she called back over her shoulder as she sprinted back toward the path.
He caught her as she stopped on the edge of the tarmack to put her shoes back on.
"Doesn't count. I made it." She sat on the pavement, dusting the sand off her feet.
It had started to sprinkle by the time they got back up to the hotel room. Pushing through the airlock style double-card locked steel doors into the warm quiet comfort of the suite seemed like coming in from another planet.
Mulder said, "Do you think Gwynne picked this for the doors or for the jacuzzi?"
Scully grinned at him. "I vote for the Jacuzzi."