There are three stories, three fandoms here. "Buffy", "The X-Files" and "the West Wing" are represented.
Title: Good Things come in Threes: The Hard and Cold
Author: CGB (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Rating: PG - 13
Disclaimer: Aaron, 1013, Grr Arrgh - you know the drill.
Summary: Written in response to the "Good things come in 3s" challenge issued by the legendary Liz "M-for-Miss-Edith" Barr - three stories, three fandoms, one lyric. Here the Whitlams inspire "Buffy", "The West Wing" and "The X-Files".
My biggest thanks to Liz, as always, and Another Juxtaposition for the long slow and sexy beta.
"You make me hard, you make me cold" - The Whitlams
There isn't an institution in America that doesn't have an opinion on how crime could be prevented. But here's one he hasn't heard before - inadequate childcare for Working Mothers. The Criminology Institute has developed a decent rhetoric on the subject. He'd hand it on to CJ if he thought that anyone in the Press Corps would pick it up. Too involved. Too complex. Still, the accompanying argument that poverty is not a direct link to crime is perhaps of interest. He should tell her about that.
He really doesn't want to make her angry today.
Too late. She is slamming a door down the hallway and yelling "Joshua!" into the corridor and he's glad it's Josh and not him although he knows that they're all in a waiting room when it comes to CJ's wrath and he's just waiting for his name to be called. Five minutes later Bonnie comes into the room and says "CJ's in a mood," before dumping a pile of folders on his desk.
He knows. She woke up that way.
This morning has gone slowly. The time between her leaving his bed and her arrival at work dragged and he couldn't help wondering what she was doing while she delayed her arrival.
He thinks about being older and wiser and he knows he is because he speaks a lot slower than he did twenty years ago. An argument takes time to form and he doesn't make as many mistakes as he used to. And when Andi left he told himself it was fortunate because he really didn't have the head for relationships in the way he had a head for politics and the two had to be mutually exclusive or he had a lot to answer for. But then again, Andi did too.
And then last night he sunk that fifth shot of scotch (or was it sixth?) because he thought that if he was drunk enough he might actually kiss her while she was standing in his kitchen staring at her feet. He thought about it for a while but he was still surprised when he did.
And he was surprised at how quickly she responded, how she wrapped her arms around him and touched him with so much need. How she took handfuls of his clothing and gasped, her mouth into his.
When they finally stopped he realised he had her shirt unbuttoned to the waist so that sensible white underwear was plainly visible as were her small and erect nipples underneath. His belt was lying on the floor where it had fallen after she unfastened the clasp on his pants.
He was thinking that it had nearly gone too far. He asked if she was OK and she nodded.
And he was grateful because it had nearly gone too far but it hadn't and they stopped and he could at least think that he had some kind of control over this thing.
But he wants her and that's not something he has control over.
She leaned back against the counter in his kitchen.
"We could be very sensible here," she said and he agreed.
"I should probably leave," she added.
And then he surprised himself once more.
"Don't go," he pleaded quietly. She kissed him in response.
In the morning she fell over his shoes as she tried to creep out the door without waking him.
She appears at his door just before lunch. She is holding his notes.
"What is this?" Her voice could cut glass.
He pauses before answering.
"You got this yesterday?"
"I should probably read the whole thing."
"In the half hour or so I have before the briefing."
"You were late today."
He shouldn't make her angry and there was a point in the morning where he thought he wouldn't. He pictured this differently.
"I could have had it yesterday Toby! Carol could have had it this morning. I have an assistant whose job it is to tell me when I have something important to read but she needs to see it first. Are you trying to make me look like an idiot? "
"Carol's read it. She can bring you up to speed."
She glares at him.
She glares at him like she knows, he knows she hates him. And she knows she'll continue to hate him, and it's not because she doesn't love him or want him, and it's not because she regrets feeling him next to her in the night or breathing his name with every movement he makes inside her. She hates him because she is exposed and with that unveiling she has nowhere left to hide.
And he wonders whether he is ever going to love anyone without first taking them apart.
"Carol!" she yells as she storms from his office.
Sam appears in his door seconds after.
"What's up with her?" he asks.
"Am I supposed to know?" he shoots back and he watches Sam's face darken at the retort.
When Andi left she said he brought out the worst in her and it's true, he knows it's true, but he doesn't know how to stop.
The gift of prophesy, the visions, were something of a strange blessing for a slayer. Too sporadic to be really helpful and too obscure to be read without the expertise of a watcher, and they never told her anything really useful like whether her tartan mini-skirt was going to come back into fashion or how many jelly beans were in the jar in the basketball team's fund raising competition.
They didn't tell her where Angel was either and whilst not intending to downplay the importance of insight into the coming season's fashion, that was information she could really use.
Angelus. Giles encouraged her to refer to the demon that was once Angel as "Angelus" as if the distinction could lift some of the guilt she felt when she thought of the consequences of her last act of self-indulgence.
Giles was coming over all Sigmund Freud lately. He said Angel/ Angelus was the divided super ego and Id made manifest. She didn't know what to make of that. All she knew was that it looked like Angel, sounded like Angel and knew how to hurt her in ways only Angel could.
Xander seemed to have a more consistent angle on the situation. He'd always suspected Angel of some deeply embedded treachery. He doesn't say so often but he's said it enough for her to know where he stands.
Xander is walking her to the library. He makes small talk, asking if she's slept well, if the patrol went OK last night. She's giving him monosyllabic answers and he doesn't think to be surprised because she's like this now. She does a lot of thinking.
Her visions never told her about that either. As far as supernatural powers went, her foresight scored about a two on the really useful scale.
But she's had this dream. She figured it was something to do with the way Xander had spoken about Angel in the past. Something to do with the way he still thought he should rescue her when it was so obvious that in their relationship she would always be the one doing the rescuing.
He is waiting just inside the school gate. They walk together. The day is clear, warm sun making them feel safe.
"Your late" he says.
"Your hours late. Days, weeks."
"I don't understand."
And then the sun is gone and it's a cool night. She sees him. Angelus. He looks darker than usual. A subtle change in his demeanor perhaps, cruelty finally etching it's way across the finely sculpted features of a vampire with a face like an angel.
He's laughing at her. Laughing at them both.
"Wait," Xander says and he stops her.
Xander faces Angel. Angel scowls and she readies herself, letting her knees bend into a fighting stance.
Angel flies at them. He is a least four feet in the air, his long coat flapping behind him She goes to leap forward and finds her feet remain planted on the ground.
"Xander!" she screams and she tries to move. Throwing herself into the air without leaving the ground.
Xander has a stake raised and pointed at the flying Angel. Angel stretches his arms out wing like and laughs.
And just like that, Xander stakes him. A direct hit, straight through the heart. Angel's eyes go wide in surprise and his mouth hangs open, forever frozen in the midst of his laughter.
And then she can move again. She runs to the staked Angel who falls to the ground. He is lifeless but the body remains intact. She watches, waiting for the inevitable rendering of his body to dust but the anticipated metamorphosis never occurs.
"Strange," she says. Xander places a hand on her shoulder. The body of her one time love lies at her feet and yet it's this hand on her shoulder that draws her attention.
Xander pulls her into an embrace and they kiss.
The Sun streams through the night lighting up the school yard and illuminating people, students, milling around, talking, shouting, laughing. They walk hand in hand to the steps of the main entrance.
Then they see themselves. A blonde girl with a lollypop seated next to a bookish red head. There's Xander and there's Jesse and it's not far the past but it feels like another generation. They're sitting on the edge of the steps and Xander is making them laugh. She listens but she can't here what they're saying.
"You're late," Xander at her side says again.
"Yes," she says.
It's just after midnight when she bolts awake. If that's a vision she wonders how she'll explain it to Giles.
She wonders whether Xander is the issue or whether it's just his dependability that she's dreaming about. His normalcy. The way he talks to her when he knows she isn't listening. The way he is talking to her now.
In the library Willow is already on the Internet and debating the relative merits of information technology in relation to the mystical with Giles.
"Of course they're not all bona fide gypsy-type people," Willow ventures thoughtfully. "But who knows? Some of them might be real. You never know what you'll find on the World Wide Web".
"I don't imagine access to a computer is a priority of their lifestyle," Giles says dismissively. "And I suspect they don't 'surf' the 'world wide web' very often. Perhaps they have an understandable disdain for mixed metaphors"
"It doesn't hurt to try," Willow shrugs.
"What are we doing?" Xander says.
"I'm looking for a spell that will give Angel back his soul," Willow says.
Xander's eyebrows lift.
"You can do that?"
"What makes you think we can't?" Buffy snaps.
Her tone could cut glass. They're all looking at her now.
She is thinking about her dream. Xander killed Angel but he didn't turn to dust. And she hates him because she's always going to need someone like him who can't kill vampires but makes her feel like being in love with her is a privilege and not a curse. She needs it because she's sixteen and she's selfish at times and she's thinking it's her right to break hearts and spurn the advances of impressionable teenagers.
"I'm not saying we can't Buffy, I just didn't know it was an option."
"If it can be done it can be done again," Willow says.
"Well how many people do we let him kill while we figure that out?"
The dreams are always telling her something. And maybe Freud would have told her differently, but sometimes a stake is just something you kill vampires with and sometimes a kiss is a betrayal, a poisoned gift for someone who has the misfortune to be needed.
"We do what we have to," she says distantly and she slumps into a seat to wait for the day to start again.
3. The Impossible
She recalls that it was only thirty five years ago that scientists looked, disappointed, at pictures of the Mars surface taken by Mariner 4. What astronomers had guessed to be possible man-made canals were nothing more than the light and shadow of craters on a seemingly barren surface. And while it's ludicrous to think of Orson Welles' panic inducing broadcast of "War of the Worlds" in the scientific environment of the new millennium, it wasn't so long ago that it can be dismissed as antiquity.
What an age has bred her. Truth is stranger than fiction and everything that happens to them proves that the world is incredible enough to fuel the imaginings of the even the most wild fantasy writers. They are Bradbury's Mars colonists staring into a pool of water on the red planet and saying "there are the Martians". She had a teenage interest in science fiction and although it never progressed beyond Asimov and his ilk, it's not something she'd tell Mulder about. Who knows how many humiliating ways he might find to hold it against her.
Her and Mulder. Mulder claiming to have seen his sister in Starlight. She should be happy that he's resolved that part of himself but she's thinking instead there's something terribly wrong with his faith in the visions of strangers. She swears it will come back to hurt him and the thought is abhorrent.
She is thinking about science fiction as she stares across the empty desk in the basement. Mulder is late and he's eccentric and unpredictable but he's not usually late without a phone call.
She is thinking about Clark and the logistics of his tower to the moon. What factors would inhibit its construction? Air pressure, gravitational constraints, the millions and millions of dollars in materials for something that would no doubt be considered frivolous budget expenditure (she's thinking like a public servant now). It has to be impossible but she suspects Clarke knows better than she does being a scientist of some repute - a scientist waiting for the end of his days in Sri Lanka now and apparently enjoying the local custom. He thought he'd see aliens by the end of his days. How disappointed he must be.
It passes the time. And it stops her from thinking about the fact that the last time she saw Mulder he was fumbling around her bedroom in the dark looking for his pants and making up excuses to not wake up with her in the morning.
And then he is there, carrying two coffees and tossing a newspaper onto the desk in front of her.
"California here we come," he says.
The headline is a series of cult suicides in six different locations along the West Coast stretching from Portland to Santa Cruz, and on six consecutive days. She reads it quickly before looking up and saying, "You're late".
"Yeah," he says, "I wanted to talk to this guy before I came in. You know they're a little ahead of us over there."
She goes back to the newspaper. A specialist in cults and ritualistic practices from Berkeley calls the deaths "freakish" by his standards.
Mulder hovers just inside the doorway sipping his coffee and seeming too nervous to enter the office further. She finds a seed of irritability creeping into her already anxious manner. Six hours on a plane with Mulder could end in violence.
"I'm not going to California," she says.
"Ok," he shrugs, "I can go by myself, Scully. It's not like they need both of us."
His forced casualness causes her to press her fingernails press against the newspaper so hard she leaves indentations.
"They don't need either of us Mulder. This is not an X-File. It's a ritual cult suicide. It's a little macabre," she sneaks a quick glance at the front page. The newspaper has deemed the bodies too disturbing to display in pictures. "But it's not our area."
"I'm going," he says, tossing his paper coffee cup into the bin by the door as he walks out.
She's not used to seeing him so angry with her. He's not easily annoyed over personal matters.
Last night they were watching television on her couch. Her head was in his lap. She had given the memory of their New Year's kiss some thought and relegated it to the "too hard" pile. She'd have said he was teasing her if she hadn't noticed the tentativeness with which his lips touched hers. He was still unsure as to her reaction.
But he did it anyway. And of course they never spoke about it afterward. They spent some weeks avoiding each other's personal space, but it really wasn't long before they were back to comfortably resting hands on each other in absent moments.
He had his arm under hers across her chest. He shifted his position slightly and found himself brushing her breast. Her cheeks burned. When she checked his reaction he was looking straight at her.
She supposed it was inevitable. They were birds on Animal Kingdom instinctively moving their bodies to receive each other, only she'd been telling herself that intellect was the triumph over instinct and she really should be utilizing that evolutionary step to halt the inevitable.
There were no words as he cupped her breast, deliberately this time, and she sighed audibly and she found herself lifting her head slightly to meet him when he kissed her.
There were no words and she thought later that there should have been because there had to be words eventually. And late words never seem to countermand the damage.
He took her to bed like that. Wordlessly and inevitably. So inevitable even his naked body held no surprises. She knew the wounds and the scars and he knew hers. When he came he said her name only it wasn't her name, it was the name the FBI gave her. It couldn't help being absurd and she wondered if he'd noticed.
Later when he dozed in her arms she thought about telling him she loved him. She did, but she suspected he knew. Their relationship was this brevity of emotional expression. I'm fine, let's move on. Most words were superfluous.
He left while it was still dark outside, no doubt hoping for the cover of night to hide him from whatever monster it was that chased him out of her room.
And now she is following him out of the door of their office. She watches the hem of his long coat swishing against his calves, the belt dangling from mid back and causing him look more tall and imposing than he actually is.
He turns around. All six feet of him expecting her, waiting for her to come to him.
And she does.
"I'm coming with you," she says.
He drives them to the airport. She runs her hand through newly shampooed hair and frets about not having packed Aspirin or anti-nausea tablets. He drives too fast around corners and she remembers to scowl at him when he does so although his driving is the last thing she wants to think about.
Until she hears the tires squeal and feels the inertia pushing her hard against her door. They come to rest at right angles to the car in front, narrowly missing their bumper by less than an inch.
"Fuck! Fuck!" she screams. Mulder pushes back into his seat and lets out a breath.
"Close call," he says. His lack of reaction is instantly annoying.
"Fuck Mulder you drive like a maniac! You could've killed us!"
Mulder doesn't answer. Traffic veers around them and the driver in front moves on seeming to care little about the nearness of the accident.
"What are you trying to prove Mulder?"
Mulder slams a palm against the steering wheel.
"Jesus Scully, I missed the guy, all right? We're OK."
"I'm not OK!"
He looks at her with eyebrows arched slightly. He looks at her like that when she's telling him that there are scientific explanations for fish people and shape-shifters. He looks at her like that because he doesn't know what to say when she's speaking in ways he can't understand.
She watches a cyclist on the side of the road eyeing them curiously. A car slowly rolls by to inspect them. They are creating a spectacle.
Reality superceded science fiction, she remembers. In Kubrick's 2001 the astronauts wrote figures on pads of paper never foreseeing the advent of the impossibly small computer. Truth may be stranger than fiction but it's the mundane truth that is the real surprise. In the middle of War of the Worlds there's a love affair. As simple as it seems against the backdrop of the Martians landing it's the only element of the story that isn't likely to be resolved by a virus - or an antidote.
"I'm not OK."
"Took a drag from something that I don't even smoke and a line from something that some other guy wrote" - You Am I
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