Summary: What happened during and after 'Zero Sum'?
Disclaimer: Don't own 'em, but I'm thinking of buying them. Consider this a test drive. : )
Author's Notes: For Tesa, who is such an enthusiastic M/Sk lover that I couldn't help being pulled into the dark side. ; )
Zero Sum: of, relating to, or being a situation (as a game or relationship) in which a gain for one side entails a corresponding loss for the other side. Bottom of Form
1 : the act or process of convicting of a crime especially in a court of law
2 a : the act of convincing a person of error or of compelling the admission of a truth b : the state of being convinced of error or compelled to admit the truth
3 a : a strong persuasion or belief b : the state of being convinced
He thinks I did it for Scully. Well, after all, that is what I told him, and I could see that he believed the lie easily since that is what he would have done - had I let him.
He has no idea that I really did it for him.
Who else could make me sell my soul to the devil?
My heart is still pounding from what I've done tonight. I strip my clothes off and shove them into a trash bag. All evidence of what I've done tonight is gone except for these clothes. I'd take a shower except that I want the last of the evidence out of my apartment as soon as possible and I still have to meet the Cigarette Smoking SOB down in the parking lot.
Dressed and ready to leave, I put my phone back and open the door.
"Oh, you 'are' home." Mulder says as he pokes his head in my doorway. I'm startled and try to hide the trash bag behind me nonchalantly.
"Yeah, what are you doing here?" If I thought my heart rate was up before, it's skipping beats now. He knows...
"I was trying to reach you. I think your phone's off the hook."
"Uh, I needed some sleep."
Mulder notices the trash bag. "Is that why you're taking the garbage out at 4 in the morning?"
Goddamnit. "What do you want, Agent Mulder?"
"I want some answers." He pushes his way into my apartment and I close the door behind him.
"The unexplained death of a postal worker that somebody is apparently going to great lengths to keep unexplained." He hands me some papers. "These photos were sent to me by a detective who thought I might have a fresh take on the case, but when I went to retrieve them from my e-mail, somebody had hollowed out the files."
"Then where'd you get them?" I stare at the same files I just deleted on his office computer hours ago.
"From his partner."
"After he finished questioning me about the detective's death."
I stare at him incredulously. "What, what are you talking about?"
"He was killed, shot in the head execution-style. His body was found near the precinct two hours ago ... possibly by the same person who forged my name to gain access to evidence from the forensics lab."
Oh my god...I flash on the man's face as he'd questioned me in the parking lot. He must have been killed within minutes of my leaving.
"What do you want from me?" Why is he telling me this now...in person? What does he know?
"Well, I'd like your help on this, sir." He looks almost hurt at my tone and I regret snapping, but I can't seem to help it. Why on earth is he asking 'my' help?
"What about Agent Scully?"
He looks pained as he reluctantly answers. "Agent Scully is in the hospital."
I'm panicked both at his expression and at the idea that everything I've done tonight is for naught. "Has something happened that I should know about?"
"She's undergoing some imaging tests. Her, uh, her oncologist was concerned about some microscopy results that, uh, her tumor may be metastasizing. Anyway, I, I'd like you to take a look at those photos, please."
Out of time, we're running out of time. This thought leads me to remember my need to get down to the parking lot. "Yeah, I will, first thing in the morning."
Mulder accepts this and looks down at the trash bag again. "Want me to, uh, dump this on my way out?"
"No, I got it."
"All right." He leaves, but I notice that he's looking a little put out at my curt responses. I grab the trash bag and wait by the door until I'm sure he's gone. I have to have a little chat with the Cancerman...
I'm dozing on the couch when the phone rings later that morning.
"Her body's gone, sir." Mulder's voice sounds harried and I can hear faint noises in the background; apparently he's calling from the morgue.
"What are you talking about?"
"The postal worker in the photos that I gave you. Her body was stolen from the morgue last night, along with any other evidence that might explain how or why she died," he says brusquely.
He's agitated and I feel my guilt grow at knowing I'm the cause of it. "Slow down, Agent Mulder."
"I'm sorry, but I can't. I'm playing catch-up here, and I'm already two steps behind. The man who impersonated me at the forensics lab last night, apparently he replaced a blood sample."
How does he know that? No one should have known... "How do you know?"
"I had them run a test. The blood sample in the police forensics lab is B-positive, as is the postal worker's, but she suffered from a mild form of anemia characterized by a folic acid deficiency. The blood sample at the police forensics lab has a normal folate serum level."
Shit. How much further can this get fucked up? "Are there any suspects?"
"No, but I do have a place to start. The gun that killed Detective Thomas - ballistics has identified it as a Sig-Sauer P228." I freeze as the words sink in...I stand up and walk over to my desk where I keep it. Mulder continues, "...I'm having ballistics run comps on all weapons registered to federal agents and, uh, local officers."
My desk drawer has been pried open and the holster is empty.
"Let me know what they find."
I hang up and throw the empty holster down in disgust. A trap - the whole thing was a trap... I call Cancerman and demand to know what it is I've covered up. He refuses to tell me and rebuffs my threats to turn state evidence. I no longer care what happens to me...but he dangles Scully's life in front of me like a damned carrot and I find myself twisting in the wind once more.
Mulder...what have I done?
Sick of being in the dark, I go to the post office once more and examine the sticky substance I found in the bathroom. A hammer to the wall reveals a large honeycomb. I take a sample to a private lab and discover a possible connection to one of Mulder's past X-Files.
I'm skulk around his office once more, desperate to get information on the damned bees without alerting Mulder. He surprises me at his desk and I find myself fumbling with an excuse.
He hands me a grainy photo and points out Detective Thomas and myself. The noose is tightening, Mulder is far too good of an investigator and I've made so many mistakes...I walk off knowing that he will soon learn my horrible role in this nightmare.
I spend the rest of the day piecing together the puzzle: the package at the post office, the theory that the bees are experimental carriers of small pox, and the terrible incident at the J.F.K Elementary school in South Carolina. The more I learn the sicker I feel...the bastards are killing innocent people in some sort of experiment in biological warfare.
Marita Covarrubias is right that I should tell Mulder what I've discovered, but I can't. I can't tell him what I've done. What I've become.
CRYSTAL CITY, VIRGINIA
I'm exhausted when I get home, but I pick up the phone to call Mulder. I have to tell him...no matter how difficult. I only pray he'll let me explain somehow...and find a way to atone for what I've done.
As I dial, I notice that my desk drawer is ajar and I hang up the phone. Opening the drawer, I pick up the holster - the gun has been returned. I begin to open the holster to examine it.
"Put the gun down and move away from the desk."
Mulder. "I was just calling..."
He doesn't let me finish. "I said put the gun down!" He cocks the hammer of his gun and I put down the holster.
I sigh wearily, "You don't understand." I watch him as he circles me, his gun never wavering.
"No. I do now." His voice is thick with betrayal.
"No you don't."
He glances at my weapon. "Is that the gun you used to shoot the detective?"
"How's it feel to shoot an innocent man in the head?" He looks sickened; I can't stand the look on his face. I can't stand that it's directed at me.
"I didn't kill that man!"
"You're a liar! You've been working with the Smoking Man all along. You knew when he had my father killed, and you knew when they took Scully."
God...he can't think that of me! He's hysterical. "Listen to me!"
"I've heard enough of you."
"He set me up! He stole my gun and then he put it back! Which means the police are probably on their way right now."
"I don't believe you."
"Look at my desk drawer, Agent Mulder." He continues to stare at me. "Look at it!" He looks down and sees the marks on the drawer where it was pried open. "Why would I force my own lock? If I lied to you..." He just stares at me and I shake my head at myself. I have to come clean - no more evading the truth. "I have lied to you, and I won't make excuses for those lies, but there's a reason that I did what I did - one that I think you're in a unique position to understand."
He's listening now; I begin to have a little hope. "I advised you against a certain course of action some time ago ... concerning Agent Scully. I didn't follow my own advice." I watch as this sinks in. I know he remembers that day...his desperation...my advice. Will he believe me now? Does he guess why I did this...why I would ignore my own advice? I didn't do it for Scully...
"Give me the gun."
I hand it to him and he keeps the gun trained on me for another long moment before clicking the safety back on and slips both guns away. I stare at him, waiting. Whatever he does now...I deserve it. I'll go willingly with him to turn myself in. Not that I won't defend myself...I'll bring them all down with me, but I won't fight him anymore.
He sighs and slumps a bit as if in defeat. I feel the familiar pang of guilt and pain at seeing him like this. He steps close to me and licks his lips. I stare at them and am startled when he suddenly pulls me into an embrace, kissing me deeply. I moan and slip my own arms around his back, holding him with desperate strength. The kiss goes on and on, our tongues battle for dominance and he finally pulls back, breaking the kiss. I stifle a protest and stare into his eyes as we gasp for breath.
"Wh- Why?" I ask, searching his eyes for some sign.
He shakes his head and turns away towards the door.
"Wait!" I grab his shoulder and he pulls back roughly from my touch.
"Don't. I'll take care of this...just meet me at ballistics in one hour." He leaves and I stare at the door, my mind whirling at the abrupt change in events.
Bang! Bang! Bang!
Mulder looks at me, but I continue to stare ahead, afraid of what I'll see in his eyes. He hasn't spoken to me once since he arrived.
Bang! Bang! Bang!
I continue watch as the FBI ballistics technician test fires my gun into the water tank. After he finishes we all pull off our hearing protection and he turns to face us.
"How soon will you be able to determine if that's the weapon that killed Detective Thomas?" Mulder asks.
"As long as it takes me to put one of these slugs under the scope and run a comp."
The technician shows us close-ups of the slugs on his computer monitor. "Now, this is the slug that we recovered from the detective's body. See this stria here and here?" he points to the markings on both slugs. They match. "They're rifling patterns imprinted from the barrel of the same gun."
"So this is definitely the murder weapon?" Mulder asks and I slowly look up..
"If I were called to testify I'd say without a doubt. So where'd you find it?" the tech asks.
I stare at the floor and wait for Mulder's answer. I feel his eyes on me once more, but I continue to stare down.
"In a sewer grate..." I look up quickly at Mulder and returns my gaze as he finishes, "... around the corner from the crime scene. Sometimes you get lucky."
"Sometimes you don't, right?"
Mulder finally pulls his gaze off of mine and we look at the tech once more. "What do you mean?"
"The serial number - it's been filed clean off. Well, unless forensics pulled a print, this gun is virtually untraceable."
I stare wildly up at Mulder once more, unable to hide my shock. Mulder slowly looks away from me, faking a disgusted look for the benefit of the ballistics tech. I glance at the gun and then Mulder one last time on the desk and slowly walk away, out of the lab. I feel his eyes on me as I leave.
I sit in the dark for a long time, waiting.
Mulder filed off the serial number and destroyed evidence - for me. He has every reason to suspect me and yet, amazingly, he believes me. He has endangered his own career and reputation in order to save my own. In all of the years that I have known him, I have taken his trust and belief in the impossible for granted.
I cannot understand how it is that he has decided I deserve this...a second chance. But I swear to myself I will not waste it.
The lock turns and the door opens to let in a brief flash of dim light from the hallway. I watch as a figure enters and fumbles at the light switch.
"Leave it off." I stand and point my gun at the Cigarette Smoking Man. "I'm starting to get used to the dark."
"Is this part of our deal?"
The rage I feel at his words makes me almost squeeze the trigger. "We never had a deal."
"Agent Scully is dying, and you haven't done a damn thing about it." He smirks at this and I desperately want to wipe it off of his mouth. "You think that's funny?"
"I'm just enjoying the irony, Mr. Skinner. Only yesterday, you said you wouldn't be a party to murder and now here you are. Yours isn't the first gun I've had pointed in my face, Mr. Skinner." I continue to stare at him. "I'm not afraid to die. But if you kill me now, you'll also kill Agent Scully."
"You have no intention of saving her. You never did."
"Are you certain? I saved her life once before, when I had her returned to Agent Mulder. I may save her life again. But you'll never know if you pull the trigger, will you?" The phone rings. "Now, unless you intend to kill me, I'd like to answer my phone."
The bastard is so smug...so certain I won't pull the trigger. I prove him wrong.
Bang! Bang! Bang!
I slowly lower the gun and walk to the door, glancing only briefly at the bullet holes in the wall before I leave, shutting the door behind me.
I couldn't kill him...not as long as he held the possibility of a cure for Scully. To do so would guarantee her death...and Mulder's destruction.
I've gained nothing in from my endeavors and barely avoided losing everything. I'm back where I started, caught in a zero-sum game.
As I lay in bed that night I dream of his lips on mine and the taste of him on my tongue. I reach out to touch him, to pull him closer...
But just as I finally touch him, he disappears and I wake to my own empty bed.
I sigh and turn over in my bed, staring into the dark. He thinks I did this for Scully...the thought keeps returning to my mind, haunting me. I remember my dream and think back to what inspired it...the moment after he lowered his gun...his lips on mine...the strength of his embrace... The look in his eyes before he left to destroy the evidence that would incriminate me.
And then I realize...he knows.
I fall asleep once more and reach out to touch - he stays in my arms and I hold him close...perhaps I gained something after all.
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