by inlaterdays

[Story Headers]

He'd tried to do it. He'd tried to live a life without thinking of the past; without thinking of the pain and all that had gone before. A clean slate, a fresh start; new. Blank. He tried to be free, but it was not in his nature.

He slid through his days like an automaton, trying to feel nothing. Sometimes he was happy. They'd be walking, and the wind would ruffle her hair; he'd feel a fleeting peace before the thump of recall.

They wandered aimlessly through the terrible beauty of the southwestern desert, moving from motel to motel, anonymous, dazed, purposeless.

"We'll recover," she said, trying to convince both of them.

It was hardest at night, like now, when the moon was full and the sky was full of stars; the desert cloaked in night and mystery: he'd lie in bed and think, //nothing bad happened today//, reminding himself: //it's okay now//, when suddenly memory would come in a painful rush, causing a physical ache.

//Go away,// he'd think. //Why can't I forget you? You never brought anything good. Only trouble.//

He rolled over, burying his face in Scully's hair (he loved her hair), embracing her; embracing the //now//, whatever it was, trying to forget another time, another world, another life, face, voice.

Not his, not any longer.

//But that was years ago, and on the moon//, he thought, a line from an old comic strip (a Buck Rogers reprint) he'd read as a child surfacing in the cluttered attic of his mind.

He held Scully closer, like a child with a plush toy, clinging for security. He felt her wake, though she stayed silent. She understood him sometimes; he understood himself rarely. Increasingly rarely, lately.

He woke from sleep some nights, feeling as if someone had brushed his face. The insomnia had returned with a vengeance. At other times he'd think for an instant that he saw a man's face in the mirror. But when he turned or when he woke, there was never anyone there.

//I'm going mad//, he thought. And then: //have I ever been sane?//

The world had seemed so brightly colored back then, in the world of his memory: real, alive, bustling, noisy, vital. Now everything was grey or sepia-toned, like an old photograph. Wasn't it supposed to be the other way around?

He'd been infused with purpose. Life had had meaning, and he was desperate to find out what it was. He hadn't been happy then; he wasn't //un//happy now - but wanted to go back, to rewind his life.

Always forward, never back.

When sharks stop swimming, they die, he'd been told long ago, back in the beginning. But what's the point? He'd wanted to ask. That person was gone too, like everything and everyone else. Everything dies.

He had more than he deserved, he reminded himself. He had his life, he had Scully. Still and always, he missed what was gone.

He tried, without success, not to think about it.

He missed his basement office, his eternal quest back when there had been something to quest for, the hope that the truth was real and knowable, that Samantha was alive and close. He missed his nave notion that there //was// a single truth and that finding it would fix what was wrong with the world.

He no longer believed in absolutes. At one time everything had been black and white, truth or lie - now it was shades of grey. And somewhere along that greyscale, deep in the shadow side, was someone whose presence he kept telling himself he didn't miss, someone he shouldn't have been thinking about at all. He had no reason to...except that that person had kept leaving //him//. He, himself, always had to be the one doing the leaving. He planned it that way. It was a test, a brutal one, and only one person had ever been loyal enough to pass it. He was grateful to her for that.

Scully stirred again beside him, freeing his arm. Mulder ran his newly-liberated hand over two days' stubble, got up quietly, and pulled on jeans, jacket, and unlaced boots.

He shut the door behind him.

His boots crunched on the parched earth; the air was crisp. The desert night was full of more stars than seemed possible. He remembered watching a meteor shower when he was a child, he and Samantha lying on their backs, staring up at the sky until his sense of up and down reversed. He'd grabbed handfuls of grass so he wouldn't fall out of the world and into the void, gravity forgotten. He'd been fearful. Samantha never was, but she'd been the one who had fallen - or risen - up/down, black/white, it was all one - to float among the starlight. Gone from him; he'd made his peace with that, such as it was. But never forgotten. He wasn't good at forgetting.


Mulder ran his hands through his hair, trying to clear his mind. He walked out into the scrub behind the motel where Scully lay waiting, away from the lights and the occasional sound of cars. Out into the brush. He saw a pair of animal eyes observe him, reflective, and then wink out as their owner moved on. A coyote, perhaps? A fox? That would be stupidly fitting...

It was cold out on the desert at night, even in summer. He crossed his arms to keep warm, staring upward. For so long he'd wanted to believe in something other, something greater, something he felt he didn't know anything. All the mysteries seemed to end in annihilation, meaninglessness, and despair.

He'd not only had things to fight for, he'd had things to fight against. People. Monsters. Organizations. The man who had turned out to be his father. The man who had once been his partner.

Mulder sank to his haunches, arms dangling uselessly across his knees. He hated unsolved mysteries; couldn't leave them alone. Alex Krycek personified everything he thought he loathed, yet he'd had the answers to many things Mulder sought. And had died with them. Krycek's truths had been harsh ones.

//The truth is never pure and rarely simple.// Why had he ever thought it might be otherwise?

And Krycek was important to him, had always been, but for the life of him, he couldn't figure out why.

Important like Kryponite. Muldersbane. Best forgotten. He reminded himself of that fact over and over.

And yet, and yet. He remained a mental sore spot; he couldn't leave it alone. At the very first, he'd thought, //this guy is like me//, and he'd never met anyone like that. Ever. Not even the Gunmen had the same level of mental synchrony. Krycek had had a brain stuffed as full of obscure facts (driving safety?) and strange theories as Mulder himself...except he'd been subsumed by the shadow world Mulder was always trying to prove existed.

Mulder been oddly jealous and resentful as well as angry. //Why you? Why not me? I tried so hard...but I wouldn't have made the choices you did. Would I? What made you do the things you did? Why can't I know?// Being on the inside of the secrets hadn't saved Krycek; instead it had destroyed him. He'd been swallowed by the shadow in the end.

After the vanishing, the betrayal, all the deaths, he'd hated him. But he still felt a connection, despite himself, along with the overwhelming rush of anger.

So much potential, such an eager brightness about him, all gone to the bad, gone to waste, or taken by something Mulder couldn't fathom...gone, with nothing to mark his passing. No family, no children, not even a grave marker. Nothing but the cold wind over the desert soil. A patch of disregarded darkness on the floor of a parking garage.

Krycek would never grow old now. He, Mulder, might sink into the indignity of old age and infirmity; become a blunted shadow of his former self, but Krycek would remain forever young, bright, wasted, and tragic. One step ahead of Mulder all of his brief, violent life, and now forever beyond his reach.

If Scully was the touchstone for his life, Krycek had been the whetstone: the thing that abraded away the unnecessary and kept him sharp, active, focused. Both were necessary to him, he was realizing that now: the support and the antagonist. The fact that they occasionally switched those roles in his life confused him further. Scully was someone he wanted to keep safe. Alex would dance into the fire without a second thought, ahead of him, pulling him along. But now there was no one.

//Haunt me, you bastard. Why did you stop? Where did you come from, where did you go? Are you really dead? What the hell were or are you, that you should do this to me?//

He hadn't seen him since the trial. Often he wondered if he'd ever seen him at all...but could an hallucination have slammed a metal door? Or told him things he didn't know?

"You can't do this alone," Krycek's ghost, if that was what it was, had said. But Mulder felt alone.

"You can't just show up and then vanish!" he yelled, not caring. "What do I need to do that I can't do alone? I don't know what I'm supposed to do. Where are you, you coward?"

He finished on a ragged shout, almost a sob. //Dammit.//


Something small and damp fell onto the back of his hand, and he started, surprised - was it raining after all? - before realizing he'd been crying.

No rain.

No clouds. No aliens, no job, no home, no hope, no purpose. Mulder smeared the teardrop into the dirt and blood on the back of his hand with a forefinger, idly. He heard a soft footfall behind him, then another. Scully must have heard him shouting and come out to stop him howling at the moon. Wouldn't be the first time.

A hand gripped his shoulder, briefly but firmly. "I'm fine," he said, and reached up to cover it with his own, but there was nothing there.

"Scully?" He stood up and turned, then turned again, but the only footprints marking the dust were his.

//What - //

Then he saw it.

A perfect line of seven small white stones starting from his feet and pointing east. They hadn't been there when he'd come out, he was sure of it. They almost glowed in the starlight.

The message was clear: //Follow//.

But what was the meaning?

//In Navajo mythology, each of the four cardinal directions is represented by a different color: white for the east, blue for the south, yellow for the west, and black for the north.//

Why and to where? Chaco Canyon, Sedona...? They were west of him.

//I mark this day with a white stone,// he thought. Lewis Carroll. A white stone for an important day. A memory to keep. Here we go through the looking glass again...

Suddenly, unreasonably, Mulder was filled with a tendril of that old, familiar dark joy: sense of danger, edge of the unknown, tangles within tangles to unravel...

"Krycek..?" he asked, low and unbelieving. There was no answer. He thought he felt a stirring in the darkness, but it was gone as soon as he was aware of it. He knew, but he didn't know how he knew. And he knew what he was going to do.

Mulder wiped his eyes with the back of a dusty hand, getting sand in them. Bad idea.

He didn't care if he was losing his mind at last or whether this was a trick of some kind. He'd follow, he'd find what there was to be found, or die trying.

Scully didn't stir as Mulder slipped back into the room, picked up his backpack, and quietly gathered his things. He placed his keycard on the table and stopped to kiss her hair, softly. He let his hand rest on the top of her head for an instant, then was gone.

A single tear slid quietly down Scully's cheek. She hated goodbyes, she hated that she was losing him again so soon. There was no happily ever after with Mulder, but she'd made her choice long ago and with her eyes open. He was like the Fool in the tarot arcana, stepping blithely off cliffs while his head was in the clouds - or the stars. Yet somehow pulling through, and being one of the key players in all that had happened though he remained unaware of how or why.

He'd come back.

He always did.

And outside, his heart lighter than it had been in years, Mulder shouldered his pack and followed the line of stones in the direction of the sunrise.

"First of all, love is a joint experience between two persons--but the fact that it is a joint experience does not mean it is a similar experience to the two people involved. There are the lover and the beloved, but these two come from different countries. Often the beloved is only a stimulus for all the stored-up love which has lain quiet in the lover for a long time hitherto. And somehow every lover knows this. He feels in his soul that his love is a solitary thing. He comes to know a new, strange loneliness and it is this knowledge which makes him suffer. So there is only one thing for the lover to do. He must house his love within himself as best he can; he must create for himself a whole new inward world--a world intense and strange, complete in himself. Let it be added here that this lover about whom we speak need not necessarily be be a young man saving for a wedding ring--this lover can be man, woman, child, or indeed any human creature on this earth.

"Now, the beloved can also be of any description. The most outlandish people can be the stimulus for love. A man may be a doddering great-grandfather and still love only a strange girl he saw in the streets of Cheehaw one afternoon two decades past. The preacher may love a fallen woman. The beloved may be treacherous, greasy-headed, and given to evil habits. Yes, and the lover may see this as clearly as anyone else--but that does not affect the evolution of his love one whit. A most mediocre person can be the subject of a love which is wild, extravagant, and beautiful as the poison lilies of the swamp. A good man may be the stimulus for a love both violent and debased, or a jabbering madman may bring about in the soul of someone a tender and simple idyll. Therefore, the value and quality of any love is determined solely by the lover himself.

"It is for this reason that most of us would rather love than be loved. Almost everyone wants to be the lover. And the curt truth is that, in a deep secret way, the state of being loved is intolerable to many. The beloved fears and hates the lover, and with the best of reasons. For the lover is ever trying to strip bare his beloved. The lover craves any possible relation with the beloved, even if this experience can cause him only pain."

A huge thank you to hellspoette on LJ for drawing my attention to the above quote. I have reprinted it in its entirety as a coda to my coda.


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Title:  Coda
Author:  inlaterdays   [email/website]
Details:  Standalone  |  PG-13  |  13k  |  01/09/09
Pairings:  Mulder (Pre/Non-slash)
Category:  Drama, UST, Pre-slash, Angst, Character Death
Summary:  Post-series; hints of unspecified M/K and M/S relationships. Originally posted to LiveJournal on 11/17/2007.
Notes:  I don't know what to say about this; it's not even properly a fic. Mulder is introspective. This is my attempt to show what, to me, would happen after the end of the series. Other people have said all of this before and have done a much better job, but I had to get it out. This is my attempt to write strictly within canon. I don't do that often. Not overt slash, but doesn't preclude the possibility.

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