Left Standing - Extended
TITLE: Left Standing (1/2)
ARCHIVE: List archives, otherwise please ask. KEYWORDS: Mulder/Reyes comfort, post-col, post-series, character death
SPOILERS: The Truth, all things, oblique references to Amor Fati, Existence, others DISCLAIMER: Not mine, thank you very much. SUMMARY: When the world ends, you have to find comfort in those left standing.
An exploration of the plot bunny exposed in the 155-word version, which is included here. Thanks to Kristen K2 and Sarah Segretti for the extremely insightful beta - this fic would never have gotten written without you both!
Author's Notes at the end.
She stood blinking at the glaring sunlight. When had everything gotten so bright, so sharp?
Why was everything so quiet?
Dark colors stood out against the bleached landscape. Dark colors, blue and black and red.
Red. Like blood.
A sour taste teased the back of her throat at the thought.
Blood. But whose blood?
She probably knew the answer. She was in shock, right, that's what this was, this in-between state, this blinking and staring and bile tasting. She wanted to pinch herself, but she couldn't seem to find her hands.
It was all desert and blue skies. Blue skies. In the skies, that was where it all began. One minute, she was standing and having a conversation, and then the skies opened up and unholy fire rained down. Hunted, located, they should have fucking known about it.
Blood boiling on a slab of sand. The smell was familiar, somehow.
Dark colors. Blue, black. Was that a man's shape on the ground before her?
The sound of her own voice startled her, kicked her in the metaphorical ass. She saw clearly, the bright midday sun still whitewashing everything, but she saw things.
Things like John Doggett's blue-jean clad legs tangled beneath his crumpled form.
Things like a young boy's black t-shirt, blood spilling from the collar and boiling on the packed desert floor.
Vomit in her throat, in her mouth. She lost it. And when she looked up, it hit her. John dead. William dead.
Monica Reyes fell to the ground, praying to a God that seemed to have left the world to burn.
Hundreds of miles away, Fox Mulder was saying goodbye.
How many times had they been here, he wondered? How many times, next to hospital beds and in hotel rooms, did we brace each other for the inevitable?
And after all that, the real end came by the side of the road in the wasteland of Nevada desert. A pile of sand and a makeshift cross to mark it. He clenched another, smaller cross in his sunburned hands.
Scully had taken ill somewhere east of Colorado, but it hadn't gotten critical until they hit Nevada. There were no doctors to be found in this part of the country, where settlements were few and far apart. Mulder thought it could have been anything, at any time, and it could have easily been him.
But it wasn't. It was her, all coughing and bleeding and delirium, and now she was buried in a shallow grave of sand, far from home.
Mulder was exhausted. He wondered if they were still tracking him. He wondered if it mattered. He wondered if "home" still existed, and decided it didn't, and that if it did, he wouldn't even head in that direction.
Scully was dead.
When it hit him, he was standing in an abandoned grocery store that reeked of rotten meat and spoiled milk. There
was still food on the shelves, cans of beans and bags of chips, bottled water and cans of soda. The thing about
the end of the world, he had mused, was that it was nothing like what everyone had expected. One day everyone was
alive and happy and there were going to be fireworks on the Fourth of July. The next, all pretense and conspiracy
had been thrown to the wind, and the aliens just unloaded
There was a rhythm to their madness, Mulder had been sure of it. Like the bees and the virus, random but foolproof, leaving survivors and taking victims. Some places were
hit worse than others. West of Colorado, the country had been deserted. The few survivors were concentrated and hoarded their supplies, but there were more supplies than survivors. Mulder and Scully chose west, always west, intrepid explorers without an Indian guide. To the east were ghosts.
Grim cultural mythos alone drove them west. Answers might be found in Nevada. Mulder counted on fewer survivors, meaning more food.
And in the end, Scully's grave.
Mulder spent the night in that grocery store, sobbing on the floor and waking up to the pitter-patter of wild creature feet.
He tried not to think of the pitter-patter of other feet, of Scully feet in his apartment one wild night, of baby feet that had haunted Scully's dreams.
He wondered where he should head now. He had the SUV Scully had procured from her brother Charlie's mountain retreat in Colorado. There was gasoline, if you knew where to look, and Mulder thought he did. The question, he supposed, was whether it mattered.
Lightning on the horizon. He didn't think it would rain. Besides, it might not have been lightning at all.
It might have been them.
Just thinking that made Scully swim before his tired eyes, made her break the silence hitting his ears in violent waves. Mulder, get some sleep, you're getting paranoid and I need you to think straight.
He came to a fork in the road, and a sleepy Scully echoed nearby. What if there was only one choice?
He turned right.
And all the other ones were wrong?
Right is south, he thought. Had they attacked in the south? Probably. Maybe less so. Maybe there were people to the south.
Arizona. What was in Arizona? Nothing much, he surmised, because there wasn't much anywhere. But he felt no foreboding, and he saw nothing suspicious. It was night and he was exhausted. What did Scully think?
Scully was dead.
Monica decided to keep heading west.
She and John had come to New Mexico on a tip. William Mulder was in hiding, possibly with Gibson Praise, but not likely. Roswell. They had laughed at the simple irony. It was so simple. They left D.C. as summer came, hot and humid. On a mission, John said.
A mission from God, Monica deadpanned.
They laughed long and loud over this otherworldly non-sequiter. Times past and times dead, echoing.
It seemed safe, too. Safe because the attacks had been largely to the north, places like New York, Chicago, Boston, Dallas, Cincinnati. Places no one thought of when they thought UFO or alien being, except D.C. It had been one of the first targets, and the population had been obliterated.
It wasn't supposed to come until December. Monica had spent hours trying to figure out why. Why July, why only some people, why not civilization itself. Their monuments were still standing, there was still food to be found with more than half the population gone. She and John had come up with nothing. Maybe Gibson would know, but Gibson was probably dead. When they reached New Mexico, they found William, and he knew less than they'd imagined and more than he should have.
He'd never heard of Gibson Praise, but he knew who Fox Mulder and Dana Scully were. His parents, right? He was scrawny and not unlike his father, determined and somewhat grim. The Fox Mulder that Monica Reyes had known, and that John Doggett had wanted to find. William explained that he was part alien, and he'd known they were coming. He explained like John and Monica wouldn't have known, like they were strangers. Monica wanted to laugh at him. Billy boy, I was there holding off the aliens when you were born.
John's face took on a confused expression. But, he was fixed, that Spender guy did something and William was made normal.
William had shaken his head. No, the injection just muted it for a while.
Can William read minds?
A nod. Sometimes.
See the future?
Another nod, sadder this time. All the fucking time.
Such language for such a young boy. Monica felt her lips curve into a smile.
So, the three of them put their collective knowledge together and chose to drive west. Arizona, said William. Why? Because. I don't know. There is something waiting for us.
Monica could have sworn she heard the Twilight Zone theme at that point.
The trio camped out that night, at an abandoned KOA just outside Roswell proper.
And the next morning....
Monica recalled the buzzing, the heat of the alien craft from that last terrible day in Washington. Individuals singled out by blasts from the sky. It was nothing like it was supposed to be. It was July, not December. No aliens came to replace the humans. Just death, death everywhere.
Death right there.
William went first. Had they known who he was, targeted him specifically? When John screamed and shot his ancient service pistol into the air, Monica was left wondering what might have happened had he not fired. Would he still be with her, alive instead of left rotting for the buzzards?
Monica was left standing.
She drove west. West, away, towards Arizona. William's voice in her head. There is something waiting for us.
Waiting for me, she thought. Had he known? Dead, blood, stinking rotting wasting....
Her mind turned to the past, to John in her apartment, John in the Hoover building basement, John in his apartment. John in their apartment, when he finally retired, sick of Bureau politics and burnt out with Skinner gone. John without his shirt, without his pants, naked and sweaty underneath her and on top of her. John whispering love you, John talking about getting married. Married to her.
She thought about William, how she almost owed all that to him. If not for him, John might have spent the last ten years pining for Scully, Mulder or no Mulder. He might not have come home with her after they lost contact with their friends in Arizona ten years ago. She had thanked baby William in his far away crib then, and she thanked him on his packed sand grave now.
Behind her. She tried to stop thinking altogether.
And it was John in her mind, John she saw on the side of the road. She stopped to sleep sitting up in the car, woke up to a quieter John and the road ahead of her.
She drove on.
Arizona. He could reach Flagstaff if he drove through the daylight.
But his eyes were finally giving in to fatigue. The road had taken on shapes as his mind fiddled with reality.
Was that Scully beside him, or that cigarette-smoking son-of-a-bitch?
He blinked. It was nobody.
A fitful rest on the roadside, windows rolled down so he wouldn't bake in the late summer heat. He had water, supplies. He would need gas soon. Soon.
Dreams, dry ones, about Scully. Wetter ones featuring Scully sans clothes in a long ago quarantine facility. Nightmares, the same old nightmares, Samantha was taken and, as she called his name, her voice becoming Scully's. Diana's death his fault, his mother's too. His father bleeding. Scully, always Scully, her tiny body under his, almost too small for him. Red hair.
Nobody down here but the F.B.I.'s most unwanted.
He woke with a start.
Nobody here at all. Just me.
Scully wasn't supposed to die.
The bee in the hallway.
Drive, Mulder. Just drive.
A gas station four or five miles up the road proved fruitful. Not only did it have plenty of fuel in the tanks, but it boasted sunflower seeds as well. He hadn't had a bag in ages (a month, okay, a month). Munching them took the sting off, grounded him, alerted him. He was dehydrated. Water in the SUV.
Instinct was directing him now. He couldn't have told someone how to drive to Flagstaff if his life depended on it. But Fox Mulder minus the trappings and decoration meant a Fox Mulder who just knew things. It was alien, maybe, but it had always been in him. Instinct.
Scully would've laughed.
He missed her laugh. The first time came to mind, in the rain in Bellefleur. Bellefleur the beginning, nearly the end. He was being morbid now.
Flagstaff was northwest of where she was. She stopped at a small settlement just inside the Arizona border. The people there were months dirty and ragged, but generous. A map, advice, food and water, finally a plea for news. Where had she come from?
Up north. Back east. D.C.
They stopped asking, and one or two cried.
Monica had grown up believing that the end of the world was a myth used to scare fundamentalists' kids at night. And now she was witnessing it. She had nothing to hold at night; these people had each other.
One couple consisted of a fifty-year-old man and a woman who wasn't quite a woman. All of nineteen if she was a day. Monica asked her, why?
She smiled and took her lover's hand. When the world ends, you have to take comfort in those left standing.
Monica recalled that statement as she headed out west again, alone as she had ever been. Those left standing. Was anyone left standing for her?
John, in the car. You're a dog person.
John, lying on Roswell sand. A dead person.
She closed her eyes and nearly drove off the road.
It was raining, patchy isolated storms that reminded Monica of a Texas summer. It didn't mean much, except that her dusty windows were now streaked.
No place to stop, they'd told her, not for quite some time.
She thanked whatever being was listening for the wiper fluid in the tank.
She saw shapes in the clouds. Old friends, dead lovers. Her parents, Brad, little Luke Doggett. Luke like his father, William like his. The next generation, dead before they came of age.
She sang whale songs and wished for a Morley. She wondered if those people might have had some.
Flagstaff. Who was waiting for her in Flagstaff?
In another world, the fluorescent light proclaiming "VACANCIES" at the Wyatt Earp Road Lodge would have glowed blue.
Mulder laughed at the sign. Heard Scully call it the Doc Holliday Motor Lodge. Humor gone.
No people since Colorado. It was eerie and silent in this vast West. Nowhere land, he thought, and I'm a nowhere man.
Beatles lyrics. The dead music of a dead world.
You don't know what you're missin'.
Red hair and icy blue eyes. Icy in the Arctic, in a closet, blue set off by checkered flannel. Warmer, though, in a hospital room, blinking at him as if he'd always been standing there.
The strength of your beliefs.
He laughed at the ghosts in his head. Beliefs. What beliefs were those? Where had they gotten him?
He was close to Flagstaff. That was somewhere. What was it about that place?
He was afraid to sleep. What might he dream? A killer's trail, pajama-cloth hearts and a grave? But sleep came anyway. Tomorrow, Flagstaff.
Pay dirt. Morleys, light, in a grocery store off the main drag in some pissant Western town. She lit one, savored the stale drag. It could be her last.
How fucking appropriate. Wild, wild west. The condemned woman gets a cigarette. What are her last words?
She just laughed.
A sign, history. "WYATT EARP STOPPED HERE".
Good enough for Wyatt Earp, good enough for Monica Reyes.
Good enough for you, John Doggett?
The ghost that never slept.
Night sky, millions of stars. She could point out Mars on clear nights back east. She wondered which star was home to the aliens.
Krypton maybe. She laughed again, giddy from the fresh air and her stale cigarette.
Damn things are bad for your health, Monica.
So's getting curly-fried by alien weapons, John.
She put out the cig and fell asleep.
The stars whispered at her. Flagstaff.
The McDonald's had burned to the ground. Mulder laughed. Someone's anti-establishment tirade? A tirade that no one was alive to witness. Smoke still curled from the ruins.
No other sign of life in Flagstaff. The McDonald's was death and destruction illustrated. If he stopped he would smell death, see it in the streets, trip on it in shallow graves.
He wondered where he should go. There were motels, hotels, abandoned houses, parks and all the amenities. Stopped by a camping supply store, old Army/Navy gear, a new sleeping bag and shells for the shotgun.
Ha ha. A shotgun. Aliens invade the planet, and he was going to wave a shotgun at them.
Walkie-talkies in fucking E.T. It was hysterical.
He fingered the fatigues and heard a Scully laugh. Rambo Mulder. Now there's a sight. He could feel her hands on his thighs, feel her breath on his cock. I could get used to this. Always had a thing for guys in uniform.
He turned. Get thee behind me.
Air pressure change. Someone in the store.
Huh. A McDonald's burned to the ground, still smoldering.
She stopped the car and got out. Anyone here, she wondered, her F.B.I. training kicking in.
Nobody here but us mice. Well, us rats. One ran over her foot and she bit back a scream.
John behind her, hands on her shoulders. Don't worry, it's more scared of you than you are of it.
Old Army/Navy store up the road. She looked in the car and realized she hadn't replaced the tent or the sleeping bag. The old ones were draped over bloody bodies lying on New Mexico sand.
A sob escaped her.
Shopping. Something to lose herself in. Lose John's ghost in.
He followed her, whispering in her ear. What about a daylight rendezvous? You, me, a parked car. She felt wet thinking about it, his mouth on her body.
The store. Ha ha, you can't follow me. No shirt no service.
She walked in.
Hair on the back of her neck standing at attention. Someone was in here.
She took a breath.
Heard a voice.
He ran to the front of the store. A voice. His name.
A voice. Not Scully but a voice.
"Holy shit. Monica?"
She stared at him. Girl seeing a ghost.
She was sunburned, worse than he was. Her face was a splotchy red, her shoulders peeling. Eyes wet, fists clenched. She didn't believe he was real.
He didn't believe she was real.
He walked up close, she took two steps back.
"You. He....something waiting...."
He was puzzled.
"He said something would be waiting here. I didn't think...how could it be? How are you here?"
"It's me. Is it you? Monica, tell me, are you real or is this just another fucking hallucination?"
She pinched herself. Real.
They regarded one another, the weight of their worries and the voices of ghosts evaporating for the moment.
Mulder had short hair that was growing out. Like he had gotten it cut a month or two ago. His face was all lines and squinting eyes, the familiar pouty lip a dead giveaway. Gray hair at the temples and just above. Still tall, still fit. Still Mulder.
Monica's hair was cut short, too. An ear-length bob. She touched it self-consciously as he looked her over.
"Too much trouble. Summer heat."
He ignored her and noticed her waif-like frame. Starved maybe. Fine crow's feet at the corners of her eyes. Laugh lines near her lips. But still Monica. Black pants and a white tank top, GI Jane with fashion sense.
He held out his hand. "Let's blow this joint."
She took it. And they walked out together, strangers in a strange land, a wasteland, their land.
continued in part 2
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