Disclaimer: The Three Stooges (aka the Lone Gunmen), Maggie Scully, Skinner, Mulder, and Scully all belong to his highness Chris Carter and the Lordly houses of 10-13 and Fox Productions. I humble before them and beg their forgiveness for using their characters without their permission. I gain nothing but pleasure and lose nothing but time.
Author's Notes: Patience is not one of my strong points. That's why I can't seem to write much more than vignettes. Another small break from 2 rather long stories and a stress reliever from midterms. Please let me know if you felt it was worth reading. firstname.lastname@example.org
A knock resounded on the front door, echoing down the hallway to reach the kitchen. Setting down the knife next to the tomatoes, she headed towards the entrance, pushing auburn tresses behind her ear, a few strands sticking to her damp fingers. She stood on tiptoe to look through the peephole and saw a lanky form warped by the round glass. Hastily wiping her hands on her jeans, she opened the door.
The tall man on her porch turned around and gave a grim smile, shuffling his feet hesitantly. "Hi Mrs. Scully, I hope I'm not interrupting anything."
When her daughter's partner faced her, she had to suppress the urge to gasp. He looked like he had come from the seventh level of hell. His clothes hung loose on his thin frame, wrinkled from long use, his hair dangling across his forehead. His complexion was pale, accented by deep shadows under red-rimmed eyes that were dark and glazed. She collected herself after a brief pause. "Not at all, it's good to see you. Please, come in." She held the door open as he passed through. "How have you been?"
He made a small sound in the back of his throat that could have passed for a chuckle but might have been more of a groan. "I'm fine."
She turned and motioned for him to follow. "I was just making dinner, would you like to join me?" It was an innocuous enough offer, but they both knew she had an ulterior motive. She wanted to make sure that he ate at least one wholesome meal in a week.
Gratitude flashed in his eyes, only to be replaced by sorrow. "No, thank you though. I can only stay for a few minutes."
"That's too bad, it isn't often that I enjoy a bit of company for dinner. Please, sit down," she waved to a chair beside the counter. He nodded and took off his coat, folding it neatly over the back of the chair. Margaret didn't fail to notice the trembling hands that performed the simple action. It was almost enough to make her want to force the man into the guest room and lock him in there until he got a few decent hours of sleep. Almost. She had tried several times to get him to rest, or eat, or do anything besides work, but all for naught. He was stubborn, just like the Captain, and after years of dealing with her husband, she had learned to ride it out.
She went back to slicing tomatoes into tiny squares. "So, to what do I owe this pleasure?" It was a formality to ask, she knew why he came, it was the same reason every time. But she always tried to put it off as long as possible, because it was never good news.
"It's about Dana," his voice cracked slightly on the last word and Margaret almost dropped the knife at the pain she heard.
Swallowing thickly, she continued to chop vegetables. "Yes?"
"Skinner pulled me off her case, said it was no longer a priority." His tone was flat and emotionless.
She squeezed the handle tightly, her knuckles paling. "Why?"
"There has been no new evidence and the Bureau feels that it is a waste of manpower to keep looking for someone who is probably..." he trailed off, unwilling to finish the sentence.
There was only a moment's pause between the scrape of the knife as it hit the cutting board. "I see." Margaret had been waiting for this and had been preparing herself for the worst. She had accepted the fact that her daughter wasn't coming back. "Fox, I have a favor to ask you."
His hazel eyes peered out from under unruly bangs, confusion evident in them. Obviously he was expecting a different reaction. "Anything."
"I want you to come with me when I pick out a headstone for Dana." She had been planning on this, hoping that it would give the poor man in front of her some sort of closure.
He opened his mouth and shut it again, his head shaking back and forth. "I... I can't." Suddenly he was out of his chair and next to her, his hands gripping her shoulders. "Please don't give up on her, Mrs. Scully. I'll find her, I have to find her, just give me a little more time. I can still try a few contacts, I can look harder, go back over everything I've done so far, maybe-"
"Maybe what, Fox? Maybe if you worked harder you could find something? You are working so hard that you're killing yourself, can't you see that? You don't sleep, don't eat, don't do anything except look for Dana. I understand how you feel, I love my daughter very much and I want to find her more than anything in the world, but I don't want you sacrificing yourself for a `maybe'." She disentangled herself from his hold and brought a hand up to his cheek. "It's over."
Tears had come to his eyes but refused to run their course down his face. His breath was coming in short gulps, panic staining his gaze. For a moment she thought he would break down right in front of her and her heart constricted at the thought. But then something seemed to snap inside him and his eyes hardened, his body tensed. He stepped back and gave a slight shake of his head. "It's not over yet."
She opened her mouth to speak but he was already heading to the front door, his jacket in hand. Jogging a few paces to join him, she laid a hand on his elbow. "Fox, wait."
He paused and covered her hand with his own. "Thank you, Mrs. Scully, you've been so good to me through this. In a time when you shouldn't have to worry about anyone else, you always found time to care for me. It means a lot."
Fear settled in the pit of her stomach. That sounded ominously like a goodbye. "What are you going to do?"
"I'm going to finish this, once and for all." With that, he strode purposefully out of the house, pulling is jacket on as he made his way to the car.
Maraget watched him go, her heart pounding in her chest. "Please Lord," she whispered, "watch over him."
Whether or not God listened, at least someone was watching.
Frohike glanced over at the bank of monitors sitting in a row on an out of the way table. "Langly, he's home, flip on the sound."
"Just a minute, I almost got this sonofab- Damn it!" The blond stared at the computer screen in frustration. "I hate this game."
"I thought you were the Doom Master," Frohike snorted sarcastically.
Langly lifted his lip and sneered at the other Lone Gunman. "I can still whoop your fat ass any day, Melvin."
Byers ignored the argument and moved to turn on the microphone hidden in their friend's apartment. "Are you sure we should be doing this? He hasn't done anything since we installed this equipment, I don't think he needs this invasion of privacy."
Pushing his glasses up on his bare forehead, Frohike scrubbed his eyes. "Just because he hasn't done anything yet doesn't mean that he won't. We're only doing this because we're worried about him."
A deep sigh punctuated his movements as Byers sank into a chair next to his companion. "Someone has to watch out for him, yes, but by hidden surveillance? Is that ethical?"
"And if we stand by and let him self-destruct, would you call that ethical? He hasn't eaten or slept for days, all he does is look for Scully." Frohike motioned towards the monitors. "Look at him, he looks like a ghost."
Langly moved to stand behind the other two. "Yeah, the man's lookin' pretty messed up. I doubt he can take much more of this."
"I wish we could help, but we've done everything we can. The searches have all come up with noth-"
"Wait a sec, what's he doin?" Langly shoved between the chairs and turned up the speakers.
"He's checking his gun, so what? He's an FBI agent, they do that." Frohike tapped his thick fingers on the keyboard, zooming in on Mulder.
"Yes, but not when they aren't going to use it." Byers sat up straighter and peered at the screen. Something was wrong. "Is he crying?"
"Shhh!" Langly hissed. "He's sayin' something."
They all strained their ears to make out the quiet murmuring. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, Scully, forgive me."
The three men watched in horror as Mulder pulled back the hammer on his gun. "Shit! He's gonna kill himself! What are we gonna do?? We've got to stop him!" Langly shouted, terror overwhelming him.
Frohike glanced frantically around the room. "We've got to distract him somehow!"
"Call him!" Byers yelped, searching for the closest phone.
"Shit, shit, shit," Frohike muttered, grabbing a portable phone and punching the numbers as fast as he could. "Don't do this to us, Mulder."
Things seemed to move in slow motion as they watched their friend raise his weapon to his temple. The phone ringing in the background startled them, even though they were expecting it. "Pick up, pick up," they chanted.
Mulder's eyes flicked over to the phone but then appeared to dismiss it. Another ring and he turned his head. One more ring and it was as if a dam had burst. He dropped the gun and snatched the phone, throwing it against the wall with a hoarse yell, "NO!" The plastic shattered and was strewn across the floor, the main piece emitting a dull ring upon impact. The next sound was the front door slamming as Mulder ran from his apartment.
Miles away, three men sighed in relief. They had managed to avert disaster - for the time being. Frohike licked his lips and swiped at the tears on his coarse cheeks. "I hope he finds her soon."
Byers nodded, swallowing the lump in his throat. "He has to, he's not alive without her."
Mulder's feet hammered against the pavement, his dress shoes slapping the concrete loudly. He ran and ran, his lungs bursting, his heart pounding, his thoughts focused on nothing but getting away from the pain. He ran until his socks were wet with blood where his shoes had rubbed his feet raw and his chest burned from hyperventilation. Finally he was overwhelmed by a vicious bought of nausea and he stumbled, falling to his knees, bruising the tender flesh on the hard ground.
He remained there, kneeling in the middle of a deserted park, and let the wracking sobs come. His hands lay in his lap, palms up in supplication, his body shuddering with each gasping sob. He turned his tear-stained face to the darkening sky and cried aloud, "Why?? Why did you take her from me?"
He began to rock back and forth, a small comfort against the waves of anguish crashing down upon him. "Don't you understand? She was everything to me, I am nothing without her."
His words were soft and ragged, disappearing into the night. It was so hard being the one left behind, alone. It hurt, God how it hurt. He had nothing left but his life, and that wasn't worth anything to him as it was. Half of his soul was gone and all that remained was a hollow shell filled with sorrow and pain. Who wanted to live like that?
"Please," he sobbed, "please bring her back to me."
Somewhere someone listened to his heart-rending plea. And they answered.