TITLE: The Lightning Room
AUTHOR: winter baby
FANDOM: The X-Files
SUMMARY: Sometimes, the cruelest betrayals are the ones you never see coming.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: A more human Scully. After all, we can't all be heroes.
+  The Lightning Room  +
[ chapter one: black night ]
You hear a loud crash from behind the counter and Krycek quickly turns around out of reflex. It's only a clumsy busboy that's dropped his tray of dirty dishes.
What's in Moscow? you manage to choke out when he turns back to your conversation. Krycek hands you a cup of coffee with his one hand. You forgot this place was a self-serve diner and should have offered to get the coffee yourself, but Krycek was already up and getting things with amazing deftness for a one-armed man.
You stare at him across the table, at his dark intensity, which in ways reminds you of Mulder's but there is no innocence in Krycek. He lost his long ago, during a time you'd rather not know about.
What's in Moscow? you repeat. Krycek answers finally.
Safety, he replies, putting down his paper cup of coffee.
I'm supposed to be safe around you? you retort. And then he stares at you with his dark intensity, bores in to you with his silent gaze, and you know that he means what he says.
Fine, we go to Moscow. And then? you ask as you stir your coffee with a spoon, watching the milk and sugar swirl in the black liquid.
We live there, Scully. Hide out. It's not safe anywhere else.
For three weeks now you've been receiving cryptic messages from Krycek about the alien invasion. He painted a picture of mass destruction piece by piece through phone calls and encoded e-mails, but also promised survival if you'd just come with him. You didn't believe him at first, but what have you and Mulder been working towards for the past few years? Rat or not, Krycek was on the inside and he's the only one left alive who has any answers at all. So you agreed to meet him, only once. But then once became twice and now you're planning to run away with him. You never thought that you would be capable of abandoning Mulder. You thought that you would die for him, die for his quest, or at least die with him. But maybe you're not as noble as you'd like to think you are. Maybe you don't want to die.
Krycek takes a sip of his coffee, grimaces, and gets up to throw the whole cup out.
Why Moscow? you ask when he sits back down, and maybe this time you'll get a straight answer.
Cold temperature prohibits their gestation, keeps them dormant. They hate the cold and that's the coldest place I can think of to live, he answers simply. You stare at his one hand and wish that Mulder were here.
You're afraid to ask but you know you have to.
What about Mulder? you say quietly.
Krycek's voice is low. Do you want to live, Scully?
Then you'll leave Mulder behind and never look back. Wherever he goes, they'll follow him because of who – what – he is. The safest place to be is wherever Mulder's not.
He watches your silence, the tears that are beginning to come forth and he moves his hand towards yours. He suddenly changes his mind and draws it back without ever touching you.
I guess, he says quietly, when it comes down to it, we're all cowards.
No, you say as you shake your head. Not cowards, Krycek. Survivalists. Without life, does love even matter?
He gives you no answer and sharply looks away, avoiding your question. You wonder who he's thinking about. A sigh escapes your lips, knowing that this conversation is leading nowhere.
When do we leave? you ask, breaking away from the subject, and he turns back to you.
Tomorrow night. I'll pick you up.
He gets up to leave, dropping a few dollar bills on the table, but you grab his prosthetic arm before realizing what you've done. He stares down at your hand on his missing limb and then smiles a little. You just wanted to stop him from leaving.
Why me, Krycek? you finally say to him. You've wanted to ask him this question since the first time he sought you out, but you were too afraid of the answer.
You remind me of a girl I used to know, he replies quietly. You suspect he's talking about Marita, and you wonder how you could possibly remind him of that cold blond bitch. But then you think that you might not be blond, but you're still cold and maybe a little bit of a bitch. You let go of his arm almost reluctantly and he walks out of the diner, into the black night.
[ chapter two: moments ]
You know this road like it's an instinct, something innate. You could close your eyes and still your hands would steer you in the right direction – towards him. As if there was ever any doubt of where you were headed.
You open his apartment door slowly and quietly, afraid that he'll wake up even though you know that Mulder sleeps like the dead. He's lying on the couch, on his side because he fell asleep watching TV. It's still on, flickering blue light throughout the room, and shadows dance off his face like lightning. You sit on the floor next to the couch, your face close to his. His breathing is deep, and you can't help but touch him.
Without thinking, your hand is running through his soft hair, across his closed eyes. You gently trace the contours of his cheeks until finally your fingers rest on his lips. If you could just kiss those lips, but that would be asking too much of him. You're not sure if you could steal a kiss from the man you are about to betray. Tears fall freely, hot against your cheek, stinging and real.
And then your tears fade away from reality, along with his apartment and everything else tying you to this world, until all that's left, all you are certain of is this moment.
He is yours, young and beautiful, forever.
[ chapter three: betrayals ]
You wait patiently and silently as you listen to the monotone voice of the announcer. Your flight to Moscow has been delayed an hour due to the storm and the lightning that cracks the night sky. You sit in your cold plastic chair, your back becoming stiff and sore. Outside, the rain falls to a steady rhythm, and you watch the lights of the runway blur through the gate window.
You left him a note. You hate yourself for that, for not being able to tell him to his face, but you've never had any courage when it came to your feelings about Mulder.
He will find the note on his desk, a small piece of post-it paper you scribbled on. It will have a few brief sentences saying that you're gone but with no real explanation as to why.
Mulder, it will say. I'm sorry, but I have to leave. Don't try to find me. I'm safe and that's all you need to know.
It's signed Scully.
It is cold and harsh and blunt, but if you had spent any more time on the note, you would have broken down crying and wouldn't have been able to leave at all. The plan, you whispered to yourself as you signed your name, stick to the plan.
Mulder's overcoat will drip rain onto the office floor, and he'll stare at the note in disbelief. He won't believe it. He won't. So he'll run up to the lab and get the people there to check out the handwriting. They'll examine it and study it even at this hour of the night because Mulder's so frantic and they feel for him.
They'll sigh as they back away from their magnifying equipment and turn to him, holding the note carefully in one hand and in the other a comparison from months ago when you signed for a shipment of post-its. Nobody will dare comment on the irony.
It's hers, they'll say. She wrote it. I'm sorry, Agent Mulder.
They will have no idea what it's about, but from his pain they feel it appropriate to apologize for something that is beyond their control. They'll hand the note back to him and he'll storm out of their office, leaving a trail of rain behind him. He'll race down the hallway, hissing Bitch under his breath as he crumples the note and throws in into the nearest garbage can. People in the hallway will move out of the way because they will see the anger in his eyes, red with fury and hurt. Bitch, he can't stop saying and you're almost glad you're not there to see it.
He'll do something crazy, you know for certain, because when Mulder is angry he is not very rational. He'll break into your apartment because your landlord changed the locks now that you've moved away. Mulder will see the empty rooms, furniture gathered in stacks for the Salvation Army to come and pick up. He will see that all your clothes are gone, see that the pictures of your family and friends are missing from their cheap frames. Bitch, he will say once again, this time louder. The windowpanes will shake and almost shatter as he slams the front door.
The whole hour you've been sitting in the plastic chair, playing these scenes over and over again in your mind like a movie. The voice of the announcer comes from no real direction again, and she tells you that you're flight is here.
Krycek offers you his good hand and helps you up from the chair. He grabs your small carry-on bag, and you follow him through the gate.
You let Krycek have the window seat because you know he won't talk if he's distracted. You haven't even taken off yet and already he's looking out at the luggage carts on the runway. You want his silence, because when Krycek talks he scares you. From his mouth escapes truths you never asked for. If you had known then what you know now, you would have quit the X-Files years ago.
But regrets are pointless because now the truth is no longer a mystery thanks to Krycek, and you're both running from it together. Somehow, you had never imagined that you would be fleeing with this man. It had always been Mulder in your mind, when you allowed yourself to think about the time after. But this is survival and you have to admit that Alex Krycek is better suited.
After all, it was him who had sought you out and maybe that makes it less of a betrayal.
[ chapter four: until sleep ]
The snow flutters and drifts past your window. Your house is warm and soft, protecting you from the cold outside. The maid comes in, smiles at you, her American employer.
Clean now? she says, the only words she knows in English. You nod and she leaves your bedroom to dust the hallways.
You look out the window, past the snowflakes and the dying sunlight, down onto the Moscow streets. People walk by, some with purpose and some without aim, even in this snow because Russia knows no cold. The people here are born with winter in their veins.
You are tired again; you get tired easily now that you are older and the cold here doesn't help. You've lived in Moscow for ten years and still you can't get used to the weather.
Krycek comes down the hall. You hear his heavy footsteps and then listen to the shuffling of feet as the maid moves out of his way. She's afraid of him; everyone is. He enters your room and sits down next to you on the bed.
It's almost finished with, Scully. The rebels are winning, it seems, and I think there's little left to worry about. He smiles at you, hoping that you'd find some comfort in the good news. He's saved the world, secretly giving humankind a second chance and you couldn't care less. Your life ended the day you left, when you ran away and now he tells you that you could have stayed without being in any real danger. A life wasted. A love wasted. But you can't bring yourself to care anymore.
I'm going back to the States next week, to tie up some loose ends but it's most likely my last trip. Do you want to come with me? he asks carefully, knowing what the answer will be but he tries anyway. Ten years is a long time to live with a person, and over those years he's almost become your friend.
Almost. You can't forget that he's the one who brought you here.
You turn away without answering and he hesitates before leaving, knowing what you would have said anyway. You'll never go back, that much is a certainty. It's been so long that Mulder's either forgotten about you or his hate for you has grown even more intense.
You tried, a few years ago, to contact him. You called him and Krycek told him over the speakerphone that he had a message from Dana Scully.
Tell that bitch I have nothing to say to her.
His voice was cold, filling the room through the speaker, and you broke down crying on the living room floor, with the maid watching from the kitchen doorway. Krycek tried to comfort you by saying that he'll come around, call him again some other time. But Mulder hates you, and there's too little left of your heart to risk hearing that hatred in his voice again.
You'll stay in Russia, where it's safe and you never have to see him again. If you can't even talk to him on the phone, how would you ever be able to face him? You put an ocean's distance between yourself and him, to make sure that you won't go running back, because the hurt of his rejection will be even more painful than this longing ache you have for his touch. And you thought that wasn't possible.
You lie on your bed and listen through the walls as Krycek begins his packing, moving about his room and opening drawers. You close your eyes, drowning out the noises, and think back to a time when Mulder held you close and whispered lovely things into your ear.
I love you. I forgive you, he says in your dreams because you need him to.
But in your memories, he says different things, like Are you all right, Scully? and Stay here. Stupid things. FBI partner things. But sometimes your dreams bleed into your memories and he says I love you while on a stakeout or while buying you coffee. So what? So what if that didn't really happen but you've convinced yourself that it did anyway? Memories change. You think back and sometimes colors are different and shapes are wrong and events happen out of order but you're not aware of it so what does it even matter? It doesn't. It never did.
You'll cling to your memories of him for a while longer, until sleep comes.
[ chapter five: leaving you ]
The house is empty and you're alone. The maid comes once a week but she barely even looks at you anymore because money is hard to come by and you can't pay her as much as you used to. And she used to be so polite.
Russia is in depression, another one, and everyone is suffering. You can only afford a maid because Krycek left you some money in his will.
The night he died, you cried a little. Krycek had been good to you over these years, understood your pain and it hurt to let go of the only other person you ever talked to.
But what probably hurt the most was that you cried more for Krycek on the night of his death than you did for Mulder when you found out, a few years ago, that he had died.
Maybe it was because the aged Mulder who died back in the United States was not the Mulder in your memories.
The young Mulder who you remember vividly in your mind will always be with you, telling you stupid jokes and looking at you with those sideways glances.
The one you fell in love with. The one who would never leave you.
[ chapter six: nepenthe ]
You're old now. You would be a grandmother if you had any children. You stare at your wrinkled skin and your white thinning hair and you cry because you can't remember his face.
Your memories of him are as dim as a low burning candle, yellow with age and overuse. Each detail has faded away until all that's left of him are his features: his eyes, nose, mouth.
You have lost the feel of his skin, the curve of his cheek, the softness of his lips; only to have them replaced by the knowledge that those memories were once there. You used to know every line of his face by heart, could recall them like they were your own name, but the years are long and cruel, and you can't help but forget.
[ end ]
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