Pinax, Chapter 2/? by queequeg's ghost
by Barbara D.
Headers and Author's notes at the end
by queequeg's ghost
The Dew Drop Inn
565 Welcome Street
November 30, 2001
There was a presence in the room, watching, waiting. He felt its attention snap toward him as he closed the door and took a tentative step toward sanctuary.
"So you got here okay." He tapped at the switchpad on the wall. Despite its quaint name, the Dew Drop Inn had some interesting technology.
"Where else would I be?" She turned from the window. One hand went up, shielding her eyes from the harsh overhead light.
She'd kicked off her shoes, he noticed, but hadn't changed yet. He focused on the soft blue of the shirt under her suit jacket. Not the same color as her eyes, which he still couldn't see. But close enough.
"How did the autopsy go?" He dropped the rental car keys on the bed, the Chinese takeout on the bureau, and slid out of his jacket -- then almost pulled it back on. "Jesus, it's freezing in here."
"I just got in." She turned back to the window. "The temperature controls are over there."
He watched her for a brief moment, gauging their distance, not by the yard but by the ache.
The cold air creeping along the floor, cramping his toes, drew his focus back to the room's system panel. After puzzling over a set of switches complicated enough to launch the next moon shot, he settled on one, tapped it, and hoped for the best. Nothing happened. "Must have missed the briefing on the secret password," he muttered. A solid thump on his second choice brought forth no whirr, no buzz, no welcome gust of warmth from some hidden vent. He controlled the impulse to try a low-tech kick at the high-tech enemy. "Are you ready to be beamed up? Because I think this is actually the control panel for the transporter."
She padded over, leaned in front of him, peered at the controls. In the frigid air of the room her body was like a tiny generator, a warm, tightly wrapped coil of energy. He forced his hands into his pockets, thinking they'd thaw out faster and be a hell of a lot more useful if they were massaging the tension out of her neck and shoulders and... But he couldn't do that.
"I think it's these two together." She pointed to switches embedded on either side of the panel. Her right hand was too small to span them. His left hand brushed over hers as it reached toward the companion switch. He held on. For dear life. His mind supplied the automatic clich, considered it, accepted it. He felt her relax, one finger at a time. If there were cameras in the room, they wouldn't have access to this blind corner.
He considered the consequences of staying with her in the corner all night. Her hand was still nestled in his, leaving an imprint he knew he would feel even after he let go. "Are you okay?"
She glanced up at him, gaze warm and sharp, so vivid it washed out every other color in the room. He'd be dreaming about blue tonight. Among other things. "I'm fine," she said. "As long as you are."
"You know, fine has always been a relative term where I'm concerned. Not that you'd know anything about that."
There had been a time, years ago, when she would have looked away, dismissed the notion and the challenge. She never would have blinked slowly, or assessed his intentions with a small, superior smile and a glimmer in her eye. Her head was tilted up at an odd angle because of the way they were standing, because of the height she'd lost along with her shoes. It didn't matter, of course. He'd lost the ability to look down on her five minutes after they'd first met.
He rubbed his thumb across the back of her hand. Strong, delicate hand, capable of handling a weapon with ease, cupping a baby's cheek with tenderness. His throat tightened as she began pulling away, drawing her fingers across the hollow of his palm. Not yet, not yet. "Are you sure this is the only way to do it?" His voice was hoarse.
She turned to face the panel, her right hand hovering over it. Her left, the one that had lain so warm and soft in his for such a short time, drifted up to her face. "Of course I'm sure. You press over there, and I'll press the one here."
He caught his breath, moved in on her, made sure his shoulder blocked any watcher's view. Her fingers passed lightly over her upper lip, rubbed softly over the bottom. She closed them into a fist that came to rest on her chest, just over her heart. He wondered what traces of him she'd picked up from their momentary hand-to-hand contact. Kung pao chicken, possibly, and the acrid, coppery smell of the loose change he'd rattled through in his pocket. From the look on her face, the combination was potent. All these years he could have saved himself a fortune on cologne.
His reverie collapsed as she rocked into him, the movement subtle. Wicked. "Do you want to argue or freeze to death?"
"Neither," he muttered. He reached toward the switch, inclining his head for one last brush of her hair with his lips. They couldn't see that. Probably. Their motions combined to power up the heater, the hum disguising his last, whispered sentence describing exactly what he wanted, how he wanted it, and where. A paean, a plea. He caught the scent of her, wafted toward him on the warm air as she turned away. Dreft detergent, the menthol gel she used to cut the nasty side effect of her job, the perfume he'd given her at Christmas. The combination had its usual effect.
By the time he remembered how to put one foot in front of the other long enough to reach the bed, she was standing back by the window gazing at her own reflection or something just beyond it. The thick silence in the room eventually yielded to the rustling sound of him sliding off his tie and rolling up his sleeves, pulling the pillow out from under the covers and lounging back into it. She stood still through it all, still as stone. Or a pillar of salt.
"How did the autopsy go?" He glanced at his watch. Four minutes on the clock since the first time he'd asked the question and it felt like hours. Somewhere Einstein was laughing.
She turned toward the small table next to the window and pulled the red and white folder toward her. "Straightforward meningitis cluster. Four victims, all members of the same hospital board. This still seems like a CDC investigation, not something for us."
"Yeah, but all the victims were the board members who sided against Dr. Badger and got his license yanked."
"Victims? You still think the doctor infected them purposely?"
"I think he infected them consciously, yes."
"That still doesn't answer my question. Why us?"
He could feel the rush of annoyance that shot through her, but there was something else, something like anticipation. Her call naturally summoned his response. "One of the reasons he lost his license was for doing unsanctioned research on bacterial intelligence."
The reaction he was hoping for manifested itself in a sharp, incredulous laugh. "Bacterial intelligence? Bacteria aren't intelligent, they're-- they're bacteria!"
She had turned away from the window and was standing, arms crossed, ready for action. He leveraged himself into a sitting position, leaned toward her, reveling in the feeling of barely contained nervous energy that arced between them. Discourse as sublimation, outlet, metaphor. Whatever it was, it got the job done. "I think the good doctor has figured out how to direct the bacteria, to make them learn. That's how he can infect only the people he wants to kill."
"That's impossible. There's probably some underlying genetic susceptibility in each of the victims."
"Shared only amongst those who were the doctor's enemies, and none of his allies? He came in close contact with both. How do you explain that?"
"He spiked their food."
"He had no access to their food. These people all died within two days of a board meeting where he sat across the table from them. You told me yourself the incubation period indicates that they all contracted the infection on the day of the meeting."
She turned back to the window. He could see her face in the reflection, her expression one he knew by heart. She was searching for another angle to the problem, looking stubborn, determined, unyielding. Beautiful.
"Look, just re-read the file, will you please? Tell me what you think. Then tell me more, like what you think I don't want to hear, and maybe we can start to move forward on this case." He punctuated his challenge by leaning back on the pillow and folding his arms behind his head. "When I interviewed the guy this afternoon, I got a very clear picture. He's a control freak, driven by ego, and there's no doubt in my mind he's a killer. Trust me."
She walked to the bureau and picked up the takeout bag. It was possible, just possible, that as she began unloading the contents onto the table, over the creak of styrofoam and the crackle of brown paper, he could hear her say, "I do."
End Chapter 2
To be continued in Chapter 3
November 30, 2001
Scully hit the key for printing the post marked 'rec.fic.creative: "Pinax, Chapter 2/? by queequeg's ghost,"' then closed her eyes for the few brief seconds it took the computer to comply. The last words on the screen danced across her mind. "Yes," she whispered, looking into the basinet at the peaceful, sleeping miracle beside her. "I do trust you, Mulder. But that's not the only thing I can do."
She pulled the pages from the printer, along with a single blank sheet. The chapter would be read and re-read tonight, burned into her memory then burned to ash in the morning. The record would stand on the web, but it didn't matter -- one of thousands upon thousands of stories, hiding in plain sight.
She pulled the blank page toward her and began to scribble a note she'd pass along by hand tomorrow. It would meet a similar fate as the printed pages, once the information was absorbed.
He's still in New England. Coordinates the same as last week, still in the high tech area around Cambridge. He's having trouble getting into Daedalus Dynamics Inc. -- the password's not working. They've changed the configuration on security and it needs two keys now. He's got something on the artificial intelligence angle but not enough to spell it out. He's still convinced--'
She paused and glanced at the baby as he gurgled awake. As always, the fierce instinct to succor and protect startled her, made her heart pound. The feeling had always had a single focus until six months ago. Now that focus was divided by distance but joined by love. The enormity of what she had to lose threatened to overwhelm her at times. But not now. Now she had tangible proof that they were both safe. For this week, this chapter, at least. She ran a finger over the baby's soft cheek, then turned back to finish the message.
'-- that it's Badger who's pushing the super soldier A.I. component that DDI is working on, and that he's the one behind the deaths. Tell Byers and Langly we need more on him. I'll use the back channel to Skinner and see if we can get something official going. I want Badger out of the picture as soon as possible. We need clear access to the A.I. data, or Mulder is going to get frustrated and try to break in without our help. Get on it, guys. Please.'
"Please," she whispered. She turned to the baby. The solemn blue eyes regarded her with grave approval as she leaned down to deliver the rest of Mulder's message in the soft, sing-song of a mother soothing her child. If they were listening, they'd dismiss it as whispered nonsense.
"He's fine, baby." She huffed a mirthless laugh. "But he must be cold. I told him to bring the gray sweater but there was only so much I could convince him of that morning. He... I think he's having trouble concentrating on what he needs to do and that scares me more...." Familiar terror at the idea of Mulder loose in the world without back up, without her to back him up, crept up and grabbed at her throat. She swallowed hard and pressed her lips to the baby's forehead, drawing strength from obligation.
"He needs me to look at the data he'll be sending, and I need to analyze it, and he's still a little angry even though we agreed this was the best way, and he needs me too... He needs me...." Eyes shut tight, hearing the soft, snuffly sound of the baby's breathing, the tick of the clock on the mantel, the hum of the computer, her mind focused on what she couldn't hear. His voice, low and gruff. Saying the words that jumped out from between every line on the printed pages.
She opened her eyes and took one of the boy's hands as it waved toward her, kissed it and rubbed it against her cheek. "He needs us to know. He misses us."
Pinax: Wooden tablets covered with wax, the writing surface of the day in ancient Greece. Ongoing stories, such as those of Odysseus and Penelope, were probably recorded on these to be passed among communities who had no access to the original oral storyteller.
Title: Pinax, Chapter 2/? by queequeg's ghost Author: Barbara D. (firstname.lastname@example.org) Spoilers: Early Season 9, a few weeks after NIHT Rating: PG A, UST, MSR
Disclaimer: Not mine, fair use, & etc. Summary: In my megalomanialcal cosmology, M&S were in touch somehow up till "TrustNo1," and it wasn't just through obvious emails.
The first draft of this story was written specially for the Scullyfic Spring Training fic book. It is a standalone piece, meant to begin and end here -- in the middle of the story.
Grateful thanks to Lysandra for on-the-spot, in-flight beta, Anjou for confidence-building and techno-beta, Sarah Segretti for saving my ass beta, and haphazard method for knowing my little foibles so well, and catching them cheerfully.
If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Barbara D.
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