Fantastic Cross-Over Fanfic: The X-Files and The Handmaid’s Tale

Back in college, I remember one of my roommates showing me a fantastic fanfic that featured Mulder and Scully from The X-Files in the world of Margaret Atwood’s excellent dystopic novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. A woman going by the name lilprincess8584 on eBay pointed me in the right direction to find it again.

The author, Amy Vincent, gives permission to freely distribute the story in its original form, so long as she is credited. So here I am, crediting her. And here is the story! Note: This was originally posted in an old school newsgroup, so the formatting may be a little funky. Some of the punctuation used to designate italics ended up breaking my code, so I did have to “translate” it. Also, this story features adult themes and one f-bomb.

This story is a crossover between the X-Files and the world created by Margaret Atwood in her novel “The Handmaid’s Tale.” It takes place perhaps six years in the future. While it should be understandable to those who haven’t read the book, I recommend reading “The Handmaid’s Tale” on its own merits — it’s a convincing portrait of a nation more ruthless, more controlling, than Mulder’s worst nightmares. It’s also a highly political vision of the future — I hope I have stayed true to Ms. Atwood’s vision, particularly since I am using her world without her permission, just as I’m using Mulder, Scully and Skinner without the permission of Chris Carter or Ten-Thirteen Productions. I authorize full distribution of this story as long as it remains in its original form and I am credited as the author. Comments of any kind are very much appreciated; send praise or flames to XFScully@aol.com.

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GILEAD
by Amy Vincent
XFScully@aol.com
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PART ONE

The Wife put aside her AudioBible to smile up at the new arrival. Not too friendly a smile; besides being improper, it wouldn’t have reflected her true feelings at all. But this woman brought with her more than embarrassment and violation — she also brought hope.

“So you’ll be Ofkent,” the Wife said, a faint upward tilt to the voice as if it were a question.

“I am, ma’am,” Ofkent said, head carefully bowed in the Wife’s presence. Her voice was neutral, betraying nothing.

“Well, you’re not new to this, so I assume you know the rules.”

“Yes ma’am.”

“We count ourselves quite lucky to have you, Ofkent. My Husband and I already have a child — and they usually reserve Handmaids for those couples who aren’t as fortunate. But we’re still quite hopeful. You’ll do your best, won’t you?”

The Handmaid didn’t look up; sheathed as she was in the floor-length red robe and veil, it was impossible to tell how she felt. The Handmaid was grateful for that. Rage, a rage she worked so hard to control, was threatening to overwhelm her now. My best? What do you mean? I lie there and let your husband f*** me so YOU can have a child — do you think I’ll conceive if I lie a little more still? If I pray every night? If —

She stopped that line of thought right there, and replied meekly, “Yes, ma’am.”

The Wife smiled, pulling her powder blue shawl around her shoulders again. “Good. The Marthas will show you up to your room.”

The Marthas (domestic servants, clothed in hospital green) did so, without any words or signs of warmth. Ofkent didn’t expect any. The Marthas usually had little enough use for Handmaids until they managed to conceive. A pregnant Handmaid — THAT was another thing entirely. All the privileges and honors of the State of Gilead belonged to them. But that was something Ofkent hadn’t managed yet. And if she didn’t manage it soon —

Well, it wouldn’t help to worry about it.

Sitting alone in her room — a simple, relatively comfortable room from which all sharp edges had been removed — Ofkent allowed herself to ask one more time how it could have happened. She’d grown up a “modern woman.” In those days, women weren’t required to wear the long, shapeless robes — she thought longingly of blue jeans, sweatshirts, bathing suits. Even the silly things she’d worn on dates, satiny slipdresses and high heels. She had gotten her degrees, proved her intelligence and worth time and time again — when did the change come? It was easy, looking back, to see the first signs. Magazine articles urging a “return to the home.” Condemning day care. The fertility crisis growing worse. The women’s movement growing quieter and quieter. People who had been fanatics only a year or two before suddenly being taken seriously — becoming mainstream.

But how did it get so far? She remembered the day America had become Gilead. That day all her financial assets and property became those of her closest male relative. She lost her job. She lost her rights. She lost her *name* — Oh, God! That was the most horrifying of all. As long as she was a Handmaid — which, unless she gave birth, was as long as she lived — she would be named a belonging of the man who kept her in his house. Ofkent. Well, it was better than before– she’d spent the last six months as Ofhoward, which she couldn’t get used to at all.

I DO have a name, she reminded herself desperately. A name nobody would ever use again, a name she could be arrested for even speaking aloud, but it was HER, nonetheless — the unique, individual person she remained, even beneath these robes.

Defiantly, she whispered, “My name is Dana Scully.”

They sent her out shopping on the second day; it would be as easy to send a Martha, but Handmaids were often given this duty. It filled the time.

As always, she had a partner, a woman who introduced herself as Ofmark. Before she’d been processed as a Handmaid, Scully would have assumed that two women caught in this horrifying trap would confide in one another, console each other, if not plan escape. But in Gilead, where anyone might be a spy, such alliances arose rarely. Ofmark might have hated her role as much as Scully did. Or she might be a believer. And it wasn’t worth the risk.

“Blessed be the fruit,” Scully said. The traditional greeting.

“Praise be,” Ofmark agreed, and they walked in near silence into the town.

Of all the things she missed — and she missed so much — Scully most missed the WRITING. It was forbidden for women to read now; all signs were simple pictures, with no magazines or newspapers to be seen. Anything that let her exercise her bored mind, even to the most limited degree, would have been a blessing. But no, only this mindless chatter with Ofmark and the simple shopping.

Ofmark did add some variety to their day. But not what Scully would have wished.

“Let’s go to the Wall,” Ofmark suggested.

Too dangerous to refuse. Scully nodded, and swallowed hard as they approached it.

Today’s sinners — there were two — had been executed for Heresy. The yellow scarves tied to their ankles, as they hung from the hooks in the Wall, told that story. Ofmark’s head was bowed; praying, no doubt. Scully couldn’t help looking at them — their faces were, mercifully, covered by hoods, but she desperately tried to identify them, telling herself , That one is much too tall. And the other too heavy.

Neither of them could be Mulder.

And for the first time that day, she felt a moment of happiness. As long as she hadn’t seen him dead, Scully could tell herself he might, somehow, be all right.

The Guardians motioned them through the barrier, allowing them back into the residential area. She scarcely noticed, caught up as she was in memory. That last conversation —

“Scully, this is outrageous!”

“Don’t resign, Mulder. If — if things get any worse, I might need a friend with a few connections,” she’d said, choking back tears.

“Yeah, my influence within the Bureau is legendary. Especially now that Skinner’s gone.”

“What?”

“He resigned when the female agents were let go. At least, that’s what they’re saying, and I halfway believe them. He wouldn’t stand for it, and I can’t either, Scully.”

“I just don’t want you to be in danger, Mulder.”

She heard him laugh softly. “Something a wise man once told me comes to mind — every life, every day, is in danger. That’s just life. And these bastards wouldn’t have gotten where they are if more people had been brave enough to tell them we didn’t like what they were doing. And if we don’t speak up now, who knows how far they’ll go?”

“What will we do?”

“We’ll think of something. Just hang in there. I’ll come over tomorrow after I hand in the resignation.”

And she had never heard from Mulder again.

During that last week of freedom, Scully had gone to his apartment to check on him. It had taken all day on foot (vehicle privileges had gone with the rest), but she’d made it — found his house, not ransacked, but empty and still. The poor fish had died of starvation; Scully scooped them out of the tank, unable to simply ignore or flush them. She wrapped them in a washcloth and buried them outside as she wept. It was the last thing she’d ever do for Mulder, after all.

As she and Ofmark headed home, Scully tried to push away the memories. Here in Gilead, memories only served as fodder for longing and regret. No matter how many times she replayed the conversation in her mind, it would never be the same as actually talking to —

“Fox!”

She’d imagined it. Her Head of House’s Guardian had shouted something else, and her desperate, bored brain had invented the name she so wanted to hear. She and Ofmark were on their street again, almost home, and Jim, her household’s Guardian, was waving across the street at somebody who’s name must be Frank or —

“Yeah, hold on a second,” said a man, pushing himself out from under the car barely a few feet ahead of them. A tall, dark-haired man. Sleepy voice. Hazel eyes. Mulder, oh God, MULDER —

“What is it?” Mulder shouted back at Jim.

Jim launched into some lengthy request — borrowing something, anything, did it matter? It was Mulder, alive, standing right there only feet away — Look at me, Mulder, look at me look at me lookatme —

Their old connection apparently wasn’t dead after all. Even as Jim spoke, Fox glanced back at the Handmaids, women he was supposed to severely ignore. And there, sheathed in red from head to toe — could it be — ?

She saw his eyes spark with the sudden recognition, saw his head lift as he struggled to keep from shouting. (She was fighting it herself, the urge to shout his name, to shout for pure joy.) He managed to answer Jim somehow, and she kept walking, going into the house with the simple, proper nod to Ofmark.

But her heart was hammering stealthy and strong in her chest. Mulder was alive after all. He was close. And maybe, if they were both very careful and very lucky, she might actually be able to —

To what? she asked herself. To escape? He’ll take me away from all this? It was laughable. Once, not so long ago, Mulder had almost made her believe that anything was possible. The Republic of Gilead had taken away that belief. Well, almost — He’s alive. He’s alive and I actually got to see him. That’s more happiness than I ever thought I’d have again. Her pulse was deafening in her ears from the joy of it. And maybe we could at least speak again. For just a moment. Even if I could just hear him say my name —

***

The Marthas turned out the lights in Ofkent’s room early; however, across the street, Fox was able to keep his eyes trained on the window all night.

“She’s still alive,” he whispered to himself, smiling in wonder. He hadn’t thought she would take the option offered to all fertile single women upon the rise of Gilead. They could become Handmaids — bearers of children for the powerful elite of the republic. Supposedly, Handmaids were due the highest respect and honor the state had to offer. But they were slaves, like all women in Gilead, but with even less freedom than the poor Marthas.

The only alternative was incarceration in the Colonies. The news reports prettied up the Colonies — talked about work collectives, peaceful emigration. But Mulder knew that Gilead’s undesirables — gays, lesbians, nuns, monks, postmenopausal women, the handicapped — were being loaded away in boxcars and trucks and taken to camps that, most likely, bore a stronger resemblence to Dachau than the rosy pictures painted by Gilead’s propaganda..

Some few younger women chose that option. Mulder had always thought that Scully would be one of those — that her pride and stubbornness would stop her from accepting that red veil.

It’s not that surprising, really. Look at YOU. Did you expect to sign up for the Guardians?

If asked even a day earlier, Fox would have claimed he’d die before cooperating with the Republic of Gilead in any way. He still meant it after hours of their questioning —

But finally, after spending the night hanging from his arms, long after pain or any feeling at all had flowed from them, Mulder began remembering. Remembering Scully’s troubled face, her words to him that long-ago summer in New Mexico. “What good are the answers if we’re being hunted down like animals?” Sometimes, the important thing was to keep searching — you had to make the compromise, lose the battle to win the war.

Maybe he was just rationalizing. The will to live was a powerful thing, after all — yet he knew that if Gilead was going to fall, sabotage from those on the inside would be vital. And since then, he’d been biding his time.

Life was more than killing time, now. For the first time, Fox could actually be glad he had joined the Guardians. I’ve got to find a way to see her. Soon —

***

Three days later, Scully finally saw it. After breathless days of waiting for any sign, any word, even another glimpse of him, she caught sight of a small taped X in an upstairs window in Ofmark’s home. Scully had to use all her willpower to keep herself from skipping back into the house. Tonight! He must mean tonight. But what am I to do? Should I sneak out? Will he sneak in? Oh, God —

The monologue kept running in her head, like a needle caught in a groove on an old vinyl record, until late that night. She lay there, sleepless, for hours — waiting for some sign, signal, *anything.* Finally, when Scully had begun to fear they’d caught him, she heard shuffling downstairs.

Her heart skipped a beat. No. That was Jim, she recognized the sounds coming from his room. But what was he doing?

She could only hear it because she was straining so hard; very quietly, Jim stepped out the back door. As she glanced out the window, Scully saw him head down the back street. Such outings were forbidden, officially; however, she’d seen a few things in this house that looked like offerings of the black market. (The Head of House had more cigarettes than the ration coupons could possibly allow. There were better spices in the food.) So Jim ran these illegal errands —

And provided her with her chance.

Scully began to gather one of the blankets around her long, thin nightdress, then rejected the idea. One stray leaf or twig could betray her in the morning. Better to brave the chill. Holding her breath, she tiptoed down the stairs, through the back door herself.

Fear gripped her almost as completely as happiness had earlier that day. If she was caught outside, they could execute her. No trial, no warning — just a bullet in her head, right here on the lawn. Mulder, where ARE you?

As she glanced around desperately, Scully caught sight of the Wife’s garden. She’d always ignored it, before — just one more way that unhappy, superior woman spent her time — but now, she realized, it was ideal. The thick shrubs, the high plants — if Mulder was coming at all, he’d come there.

Quickly, she ran through the yard, praying not to be seen. As she dashed into the bushes, she suddenly felt hands clutch at her shoulders.

“Dana!”

Her name. His voice. Scully’s eyes filled with tears even as Mulder spun her into his arms. “Mulder. Oh, Mulder. It’s you — ”

Did he kneel on purpose or did he fall? Fox couldn’t have said. All he knew was that he was on his knees there in the tiny thicket, branches scraping his neck and shoulders, and Scully was THERE — in his embrace at last. His throat tightened, and for a long time he was unable to do more than rock her back and forth, holding her close, feeling her sobs against his chest. “I was so afraid you were dead,” he whispered at last.

“I was afraid you were,” she replied in the same hushed tone. “How did you become a Guardian?”

“They wanted FBI agents, if they could get them. People already trained to surveillance, used to following rules and codes of conduct.”

“I don’t guess they checked your service record too carefully,” she whispered. She was surprised to feel her face curve in a smile; it was the first joke she’d made in years. Mulder chuckled a little as he pulled her head against his chest.

“I guess not. At any rate, they gave me the choice. I’m not proud of taking it — but I thought maybe there would come a time when I could do some good. And God, I’m so glad I did.”

“Me too. Mulder, I’ve thought so often of ending all this — they remove everything you could hope to use from the room — ” Fox didn’t have to ask what she had wanted to end. “And this is the only thing that’s made these last years of my life worthwhile. This moment with you.”

She looked up at him, her eyes glistening dark in the dim moonlight, and Mulder felt his breath catch in his throat. She held his gaze for a long moment, then dipped her head, Handmaid-fashion, from embarrassment and force of habit. “I swear, Mulder, I never thought I’d be glad Melissa died so young. But I’m glad of it now. She never had to see this.”

“Scully — ”

“Oh, please, call me Dana. The things they’ve called me — ”

“I know, I know.” Fox felt a little queasy; he’d always despised the habit of giving Handmaids names as if they were owned, inanimate objects. But the thought of them doing that to his partner turned his stomach. “Dana. Oh, Dana. Are you all right? I know it can’t be easy for you — ”

“It’s not. I thought I would be able to bear it. That Gilead couldn’t last for very long. That President Buchanan would stand up to the militia groups once and for all. Wishful thinking, I know. Here it is. And it never gets any easier — it just gets harder and harder. I miss so much. My name — my job — books — oh, God, what I wouldn’t give for one of those terrible romance novels now.” She tried to manage a small smile for him; this, too, was a shared joke. Scully had occasionally bought them in airport bookstores, to pass the time on layovers. He’d always teased her about them —

He wasn’t smiling now, though. “Be strong. Gilead *can’t* last forever. They’re short on supplies as it is; you’ve noticed how few ration cards we get now. And I hear that the Baptist guerillas in the South are making more progress. They might reclaim Alabama in a month or two.” At her amazed expression he shrugged. “Guardians hear things, from time to time.”

Nearby, a twig snapped. They both started in fear — but it was only some small creature, darting in the grass. Still — “We can’t stay long tonight. Jim’s only making a quick trip,” Fox said.

“How did you know he’d be out tonight?”

“We used to make these runs together. But I convinced him it would be better if he made the trips for us both; that way, I can watch your house for him.” Mulder smiled roguishly. “He’ll tell me everything he got was more expensive than it was — but it’s well worth a few of my Head of House’s credits to have the chance to see you from time to time.”

“We can keep doing this?” Her voice was filled with wonder. This, truly, was more than she had dared to hope for.

“From time to time, if we’re careful. I can’t do the X every time — they’ll catch on — but there will be *something* out of the ordinary in the yard. Then listen for him to leave and come out here, ok?”

She nodded, and hugged him tightly. “I can bear anything if you’re near me.”

He laughed, a little sadly. “You’re the strong one, Dana.”

“Say it once more before I have to go — ”

“Dana — ”

***

They met more often than Scully would ever have dreamed possible. Every three or four nights, Jim would take off on some errand or another, and they would have a little time together. Sometimes, as on that first evening, they only had a few minutes; but every now and then they had an hour or more.

In the beginning she sometimes wondered what to say. Every day was like another, for her, so there were no novelties to discuss, or anecdotes to share. Reminiscing about the past was too painful — after the first night they could bear it no more. So many friends gone:

“They didn’t kill Skinner; he joined the Guardians, like me. I think he’s a little higher in the organization, though. He’s not serving as anyone’s personal bodyguard and spy, that’s for sure.”

“How do you know, Mulder? He was always very vocal about disliking the changes — they might have — ”

“I’ve seen him, Dana. We were being processed in the same Center. He didn’t look any happier about being there than I did. But — I guess we’ve all made some difficult choices.” A pause. “Did you speak to your Mom at all that week?”

Scully her eyes against the remembered anguish. “Only once — she was as panicked as I was. More, probably. You know how they treat older women.”

Fox nodded sadly; he’d loved Maggie Scully with all the warmth he’d been unable to give his real mother. Now both of them were probably — “They might be Marthas — ”

“Keep dreaming. They’re in the Colonies, if they’re still alive. And if that’s the case we should probably wish them dead.”

No, talking about lost friends and family served little purpose. The second night, Mulder wisely sidestepped the issue. When she appeared in the small glade, he smiled and beckoned to her. “I have a surprise,” he said, holding out something in his hand —

“A book,” she whispered, sinking down to the ground beside him. Her fingers trembled as she ran them across the foil cover — Bandit’s Embrace, it read, in loopy script. An unrealistically beautiful couple were intertwined on the cover.

“I know you’d probably prefer something else, but it’s not too easy to find literature in Gilead,” Fox apologized. “Contraband like this is easier to get than, say, a copy of Catcher In The Rye. But I’ll do better next time — ” His voice trailed off as he realized Scully was crying.

“It doesn’t matter,” she whispered, hugging him. “Anything helps — I can’t keep it in my room, they’ll find it, but if I could just look at it for a little bit — ”

Mulder nodded, prepared for this. He pulled out a small penlight, and let her read aloud to him about the adventures of Amethyst Durango for the rest of their visit.

After that, he always had something for her. He brought back Bandit’s Embrace nearly every time, but got other bits of reading material as well. They’d go through pages of the official newspaper, reading between the lines of the propaganda to look for the signs of Gilead’s decline. He managed to smuggle a few things out of his Head of House’s library — staid stuff, of course, all theologically correct, but they’d take turns mocking the stilted prose and trying hard to stifle giggles.

They were small pleasures. But against the bleakness of Gilead, their few nights seemed radiant and precious. Often, they would hold one another for a while at the beginning and end of the visits; Mulder found himself kissing her uncovered hair from time to time, and longed to do more. He’d always desired her, after all —

However, Fox always held back. She’s so vulnerable now, he reminded himself. It was true; the years as a Handmaid had scarred her deeply. The once even-tempered Scully now had moods of quicksilver; she was fast to anger, hilarity, or melancholy, and fast to throw them off again, replacing the eerie artificial mask they’d trained into her. I can’t take advantage of her. Not like this. He cursed what now seemed like the pointless overcaution of years past — why hadn’t he explored his feelings before, when they had the freedom to choose, to act? There had been reasons, but they seemed so insignificant now.

Mulder was chastising himself again when, one afternoon, he strolled over to Jim to set up another errand trip. But this time, Jim shook his head.

“Can’t do it tonight, pal. Gotta stay close to home.” He laughed at Mulder’s puzzled expression. “The Handmaid went to her monthly doctor’s visit today. Tonight’s the night. And on nights when they do the Ceremony, the Head of House likes to have the entire household together for prayer vigils before — and get this, *after.* He’s a holy man, indeed.”

Jim wasn’t being sarcastic; while he thought the occasional black market shopping was acceptable, he generally supported the new order. It didn’t occur to him that some men might not, and so he was totally deceived by the understanding smile Mulder managed to give him. He would never have guessed what Mulder was thinking as he walked away.

The Ceremony. Dana — oh, God, no. He knew what the Ceremony entailed, knew that Ofmark, in his own house, suffered it — however, his family was quieter about such matters. He’d never been forced to know the where and when. And now he had to think of it happening to Scully. To be aware of it the entire time.

Scully knelt on the floor, her mind growing frighteningly dim around the edges. She’d begun distancing herself from her body from the first — it made the Ceremonies so much easier to take. But now, after all this practice, she was getting too good at it. Some control was required, after all — she had to keep any of the emotions she felt from showing on her face. And blanking out entirely would indicate a lack of respect she couldn’t afford to reveal.

The Marthas and the Guardian stood on the other side of the room, repeating “Amen” at various intervals. The Wife sat in a chair just behind Scully, one hand on her shoulder.

The Head of House finished reading the story of Rachel and Leah, and snapped the Bible shut. “Blessed be the fruit,” they all repeated, as the Wife pulled Ofkent to her feet. The three of them turned and went upstairs, into the Wife’s room.

The Wife took her place first — she sat at the head of the bed, spreading her legs in a way that would have been indecent, had she not been fully clothed. “Come, Ofkent,” she beckoned.

Scully complied, lying on the bed and resting her head on the Wife’s stomach, feeling the hard curve of pelvic bone under her neck. She lifted her hands, putting them into those of the Wife, who then nodded to the Head of House.

He stepped to the foot of the bed, unzipping his trousers. Then he lifted her robe past her waist, revealing her nakedness, spread her legs, and entered her.

She stifled her cry of pain as he forced himself into her — she was utterly horrified, utterly dry, completely unready for the act of intercourse. (Intercourse — it sounded so clinical, but what else could you call it? It wasn’t making love, that was for sure. It wasn’t rape — no matter how poor her choices had been, she had made this choice.) The Wife gripped her hands a little tighter as he began to move over their Handmaid’s body, getting the act over with as quickly as possible.

During those few minutes, Scully fought off her despair. At least this Wife doesn’t try to take it out on me. Sometimes they clutched the Handmaid’s hands so hard they bruised or broke bones, or clawed at them with their fingernails. And he’s younger, so this shouldn’t take as long as it did with the last one. But none of these infinitesimally small blessings compensated for the fact that she was lying there, being violated and witnessed in her misery, in the hope that somehow she would conceive her violator’s child.

As she had before, Scully finally let her mind drift, turning all the forms in the room into mere shadows.

Across the street, Mulder choked back sobs as he looked at the light from the upstairs window. He couldn’t see what was happening, but he didn’t have to. His knowlege ripped at him, scarring his brain with images he couldn’t block. He’d thought, after the first few weeks of Gilead, that he’d suffered through the ultimate pain of his life. He hadn’t even been close.

Fox forced himself to turn away from that light, to lie back down on his bunk and cry quietly, so he could remain unheard. His outrage and helplessness threatened to overwhelm him.

What can we do? he asked himself, no longer rhetorically. Mulder had dismissed the idea of escape before — it was nearly impossible, given the security nets, and he would be risking not only his own life but Dana’s. But now he knew that, for him at least, this was unendurable. It would be worth the risk. Would she feel the same way?

In the Wife’s room, the Head of House smoothed his hair and brushed some imagined dust from his sleeves. He nodded at the women on the bed; during the ten minutes that his Handmaid would lie still, pelvis elevated, he would lead the rest of the house in prayer for conception. His Wife would remain with the Handmaid, for her time of contemplation.

Scully lay in absolute silence, but behind her she could hear the Wife begin to weep brokenly. She felt the smallest degree of pity. It’s not easy for them either, really.

***

END OF PART ONE

***

PART TWO

Mulder waited nervously in the garden; although they’d been completely successful in their deceptions for three months now, the fear of capture was always with them.

But here she was, same as always — soft footsteps on the lawn, a gentle smile on her face. Something was troubling her, he could tell that instantly — but she simply dropped to the ground beside him as usual, burying herself in his arms. “I’m so glad to see you,” she whispered.

“Same here. I don’t see how we made it a whole week.”

“What do you have for me this time?”

“A very special treat.” Fox was proud of this — he’d worked it out over the last two weeks, rather painstakingly, as a surprise for her. Her face lit up in delight as she realized what he was holding out to her.

“A crossword puzzle? Oh, this is wonderful!”

“You should be able to hide a single sheet of paper and a pencil for a day or so — think this will help pass the hours?”

“So much. Thank you — ” Scully pressed the paper to her chest as if it were a love letter. In some ways, it was. “Shall we continue with Bandit’s Embrace?”

“Sounds good to me. Amethyst was in quite a predicament, as I remember — ”

“Wait — no,” she said. “I have to face it. I have to ask you.”

“Ask me what?” Mulder was getting a little confused.

“Mulder, make love to me.”

“Oh — God, that’s sudden.” Fox sat back on the ground to look at her. Her eyes were nakedly pleading, though not in the way he’d always imagined they might be at such a moment. There was a hard, glittering light in them he’d never seen before.

“Don’t you want to? I always thought that, maybe, you did — especially before Gilead, in the old days. I know I wanted you — ”

Her words and uncertainty were cut short by his mouth on hers, kissing her very softly. But after only a moment, he leaned back from her.

“Dana, I always cared for you. Now — I think it’s more than that. But how can we be certain? The situation we’re in — it’s pretty intense. It plays with your mind. You consider things you might not otherwise. We might have a chance for something better before too long — ” Should he tell her of his escape plans? No, not yet — getting her hopes up before he could be sure of fulfilling them would be pure cruelty. “You’re vulnerable right now — you might not always feel this way — ”

“Dammit, Mulder,” Scully swore, pushing him violently from her. “Don’t you understand? This isn’t about romance.” Hot tears flooded her eyes as she hugged herself against the autumn chill. “Don’t misunderstand me — I do care for you, I always did — I wish it weren’t like this — ”

“It doesn’t have to be — ”

“Oh, shut UP, Mulder, and listen to me. This is my fifth Head of House. I haven’t conceived a child yet. You know the Republic of Gilead doesn’t recognize male sterility. If I don’t get pregnant within the next three months, they’ll declare me Unwoman and send me to the Colonies to die. To DIE, Mulder. I can’t care about candlelight and violins anymore. I’m glad you still have it in you to care about our dignity, but I don’t. I have to think about staying alive. That’s what I’m asking you for — ”

She broke down into sobs, and rested her head against his shoulder. “I’m sorry,” he murmured. “I should have thought about this myself.”

“Nobody thinks this way until they have to, Mulder. I wish I didn’t have to. But I do.”

He held her close. “I do love you, Dana.”

“That’s what makes all the difference.”

***

Although she should have rushed through the puzzle — one of the Marthas could come in with her lunch tray at any time — Scully’s attention kept wandering. Last night had, to her astonishment, been no less sweet for its necessity; she was surprised to realize that she could still lose herself in passion, still feel ecstasy. She’d wondered, from time to time over the last few years, if that part of her was destroyed forever.

She felt delicious shivers down her spine, and pushed the memories away for a moment. I can think about all this after I finish my puzzle. Fox had designed a fairly intricate one, with a few jokes to amuse her. 8 Down, with the clue “Tom Colton,” proved to be “swine.” 17 Across, “witch or hag,” turned out to be “Phoebe.” She giggled softly, penciling in the answers. 28 Across — “Foxy lady” — four letters — “Dana.”

Scully smiled, tracing her fingers across the page. But she knew it was more than her night with Mulder that had put her in this giddy mood. It was hope. She might be pregnant, right now. If she was, she was safe — could stay here, in this house, near Fox, for another nine months. And she would never be declared Unwoman. She could live to see —

See these two monsters raise our child as their own, she realized, her old sensibilities resurrecting suddenly. Could I bear that?

Sadly, it seemed to be her best option.

***

Mulder was similarly distracted as he walked through the Keep of the Law, to turn in this month’s report on his household. These reports were the ones that could lead to arrests in the dead of night; any seditious word, any silly joke, could lead to an interrogation at least. Mulder didn’t take too much care with his — one of the Marthas was perpetually griping about the regulations, but Fox wasn’t about to turn in an old lady who just wanted meat on the table a little more often. Had he been able to get the slightest evidence about his Head of House, he would have turned it in in a heartbeat — but the man was as pious and stern as Gilead could hope for. So, he always turned in a fairly innocuous list, with one or two items that looked realistic but unimportant, and went on his way.

It was a terrifying place, built to terrify — the 40-foot ceilings, the black marble, the banners showing the all-seeing Eye. Everyone within wore the grey-and-black uniforms of the Guardians. Our worst nightmare, he thought, stepping to the elevator. We’ve all been reduced to one of a few basic roles. There’s no identity, no *self* — we’re all just faceless drones in Gilead’s hive.

And yet — one face stood out from the crowd. Mulder struggled not to show surprise as Walter Skinner stepped apart from the grey-and-black masses to stand beside him. Although he said nothing, Skinner acknowledged Mulder with eye contact and a brief nod. He seemed less changed than so many of the others. And he did know so many of these others — so many FBI agents were in this room, cheerfully serving their new masters as mindlessly as they had the old. Skinner was still powerfully muscled, perhaps even more so. His authoritarian bearing still made those nearby stand a little straighter. Of course, that might have been respect for the Deacon’s band he wore on his arm.

They stepped into the elevator together, and after the doors shut, the two men stood for a moment in silence. Skinner spoke first: “Glad to see you, Mulder. I was worried about you, the last time I saw you.”

Fox shuddered slightly at the memory; their last meeting had been in the Guardians’ conscription room, both of them bloody and bruised from the effects of their recruitment. “You didn’t look so good yourself, as I remember.”

Skinner nodded, searching Mulder’s expression with his gaze. “Those things heal. Things change.” There was no mistaking the tone of voice now — Skinner was testing him. But for what? “Wouldn’t you agree, Mulder?”

Fox met his eyes evenly. “Sometimes I think they’ve changed less than we might think.” With that, the doors opened on his floor, and he walked away, not daring to look back.

***

“Ofkent, come in. I’d like to talk to you.”

Scully was startled; the Wife rarely spoke to her unless it was necessary. She handed the day’s marketing to one of the Marthas, and went into the parlor.

With her head bowed and the red veil falling over her face, it was hard for Scully to guess at the expression on the Wife’s face. No amount of guesswork would have prepared her for what was coming next.

“You’re sleeping with that Guardian. Not Jim, the one across the street.”

Scully shook her head violently. “No, no, ma’am — ” Oh, God, it doesn’t matter if they get me, but not Mulder! We’ve been so careful, especially for the last month —

“I approve.”

She sat quietly for a moment, then, in defiance of the Law, lifted her head to look at the Wife’s face. It was smiling, rather strangely, but in all honesty.

“We all want another child, Ofkent. It’s your job to produce one for me. And if you’re making — extra efforts — in that regard, then that shows your dedication to your task. And it was wise of you to use a Guardian, instead of one of the Doctors — oh, don’t look so surprised, I know all those tricks. How do you think we got little Daniel? A Guardian will naturally be more discreet. I’ll be certain to send Jim on trips a little more often.”

Scully was beyond shock, but she nodded and said, evenly, “Certainly, ma’am. Does — does anyone else know?”

“I hope not. My Husband — well, men don’t understand these things. You must be quieter on your way downstairs. If I could hear you, others could. And others in the household might not be more focused on the ends than the means. Unlike me.”

Dipping her head back into the ceremonial bow, Scully got up and headed back upstairs. She was lightheaded and trembling, still incredulous at the close call.

And, sadly, the woman’s words had rung true. Did I choose Mulder out of any higher, better purpose than she suggests? No! I love him, I know that — then why didn’t I know it before? How do I know that I’m not just fooling myself, to make this less desperate than it seems?

Two nights later, though, when she tiptoed out into the garden and saw him again, she knew it was more than imagination. His wry smile, his soft eyes, his hands beckoning her into his arms — they all intoxicated her the way a strong martini used to, in the old days. She felt both balanceless and blissful, and she accepted his touch eagerly.

Afterwards, his drowsy voice whispered, “Are you all right, Dana? You seem kind of shaky.”

“I let myself doubt some things I shouldn’t today. It was scary.”

Fox propped himself up on one elbow, raising an eyebrow at her cryptic statement. In the month they’d been lovers, she was often distant or distracted, but rarely cryptic. But she simply shrugged and pulled him close to her again. “Don’t worry about it. I’m all right.”

“You’re sure?”

“As long as I’m with you.”

***

“The resettlement of the Children of Ham continues on schedule; five thousand more have been removed to their new Homeland in the former Dakotas.”

Mulder couldn’t help but notice that there was no footage of this “removal” — he wondered if there were any surviving “Children of Ham” to take part in the cheery reenactments. “Racial purity” had been as much a priority for the founders of Gilead as the new gender roles.

As usual, he was watching the evening news with the Head of House and his Wife. (Wives could keep their names — hers was Doris — but it was terrifyingly easy to deny her that name, and think of her only as the role.) She was knitting quietly, occasionally stealing glances up at her husband.

The Head of House glowered at the screen. I wonder how much money the government’s spent on this Homeland. On that transportation. It’s a damn waste, if you ask me.”

Mulder knew that he wasn’t suggesting that black people simply be left alone. He bit his tongue, literally bit it, feeling sharp points grinding into his flesh. I’m sitting here calmly watching a news report about genocide, with a man who thinks the genocide is moving too slowly, and I don’t even say a word! It would be useless — worse than useless — but how can I do this?

Is silence the first step toward acceptance?

He tried to talk to Scully about it the next evening, and was surprised when she laughed at him, a hard, bitter laugh. “You’re only now noticing how easy it is to accept? But then, they haven’t asked you to accept as much as me.”

“Dana, what do you mean?”

“I mean, you at least get to dress more or less the same way you used to. I wear these robes all the time — Mulder, when we first started making love, I was bewildered by my own body. I didn’t remember what I looked like — they even supervise us in the bath, you see. Just a couple minutes a day to scrub, and you get it over with as quickly as possible. My body still seems strange to me. I try and think about the way I used to dress, to act, and it all seems strange. More and more alien to me. They even own my memories — ”

“The hell they do!” Fox understood what she was trying to tell him, but it was the tone of voice that upset him. Even when she’d first come to this house, there had been more fire, more fight in her than there was now. She’d become more distant, even from him.

Was she right? Did Gilead slowly draw its fist around them, making even their minds its own?

***

Ofmark’s doctor’s visit was scheduled for late in the afternoon; Mulder went ahead and took care of his household work (mechanical and physical labor, whatever was needed) in order to clear the rest of the day. Finally, he was ready to usher her out to the car — back seat, of course — and drive her there.

She seemed unusually nervous; generally, Ofmark was as still and silent as the grave. However, today she was clearly agitated. Well, it’s her fifth month. No doubt she’d nervous. God, it’s Dana’s fifth month too — is she pregnant? If she isn’t —

He forced himself to concentrate on driving. They continued on in absolute quiet until he reached the street of the doctor’s office. Then, Ofmark blurted out, “They suspect you.”

“Suspect me of what?”

“You and Ofkent. I don’t know if the Head of House is setting a trap — he hates the Guardians, you know that — but I heard him telling the Wife that he’s going to catch you at it. He wants to turn you in, get you out of the house.”

Mulder took a deep breath. Was this only part of the trap? No — Ofmark was pale and trembling. She’d risked much to tell him. “Thank you, Ofmark. I appreciate this.”

She nodded, putting her head in her hands for a moment as he braked the car. “Never tell.”

“Don’t worry.”

As Ofmark walked into the doctor’s office, Mulder leaned against the car. He’d known this day was near — if Scully didn’t register as pregnant on her upcoming doctor’s visit, he’d decided to go ahead and put his escape plan into action then. But he didn’t even have those few weeks, now. They’d have to move right away.

Fox sighed, biting back fear. He knew what rushing his plans meant. But he was willing to pay the price.

Hopefully, he could get Jim to leave tonight.

***

Scully sat in the tiny thicket, waiting for Mulder — rarely did she get to their rendezvous first. She was worried for a second — then heard his footsteps on the garden path.

“Dana, get up,” he whispered, holding out his hand to pull her back through the bushes. Confused, she grasped it — and gasped as he pulled her out. Ofmark was standing there, wearing a Wife’s blue cloak. Mulder had another in his hand. “Put this on.”

“What’s happening?”

“My Head of House suspects us — he’s out of the house tonight, so this might be our last chance. We’re getting out of here.”

“Are you crazy?” Scully hissed, pulling her hand away. “They’ll catch us, Mulder. We’ll be killed!”

“Dana, listen to me, I’ve — dammit, don’t turn away! I have been working on this for some time. I’ve located a safe house — people who are members of the Underground. They’ll help”

“How can you be so sure?” Scully demanded. “What if this is your Head of House’s trap for you?”

Fox felt himself beginning to get angry; why was she being so obstinate, so timid? But he knew the answer to that already — she’d been living in Gilead, a society designed to beat her down, for years. Underneath all of that was the same strong woman he’d always known — but it was sometimes difficult to see. He took a deep breath. “Just this once more, Dana — I need you to believe.”

She stood in silence for a moment. Then, even through the darkness, he saw some of the old challenge in her eyes as she took the cloak from him. “Then let’s hurry.”

He hurried them into the car, getting them to slump down so it looked as if he were alone. He sped through the night (although not at any speed that might cause him to be pulled over), not speaking, lest anyone driving nearby wonder who else might be in the vehicle.

In the back seat, the two women were under no such restrictions. “I can’t thank you enough, Ofmark — ”

“For God’s sake, call me Veronica.”

“Veronica — you risked a lot for us. And I always thought you were such a true believer.”

“I thought you were, Dana. That’s why I kept taking us to the Wall, I thought if I seemed pious enough you wouldn’t suspect — ”

“Well, I didn’t.”

Their conversation was cut short when Mulder pulled onto a small gravel path near a house on the outskirts of town. He could see the people inside look up in alarm. “Let’s get to the back door, quickly.”

Dana and Veronica hurried with him to the back. Glancing about quickly, hoping that no neighbors would pick this moment to step outside, Mulder banged on the door.

The door opened — a tall, grave-faced man stood there. The pallor of his skin decreased as understanding dawned. “Can you help us?” Fox asked.

Nodding, he pulled the three of them into his home. Behind him, his wife sighed in relief. “When we saw that Guardian’s cap, we were afraid.”

“I don’t blame you,” Mulder said. “Can you get these two ladies out of here? Out of Gilead?”

“We can’t,” the man said. “But we know some people, Quakers, who’ve managed a few trips. I’ll call them now — ”

“You’re taking such a risk for us,” Scully whispered. “I feel guilty asking you.”

The woman shook her head. “Don’t take this the wrong way — but we aren’t doing it for you. We’re doing this to bring about the fall of Gilead.”

“You’ve got my support,” Fox said, “in spirit, at least. But right now I have to go.”

“Go?” That took a moment to register. “But — you’re coming with us!”

“I had planned to. But things got a little rushed. I had to take my Head of House’s car. They’ll be able to track that — and I can’t let that trail lead to you, Dana. I’ve got to get it far away.”

Scully felt dizzy with horror. She clutched at his sleeve. “You’ll follow us?”

He wanted to invent some soothing lie, give her some comfort — but he wouldn’t patronize her, not even now. And wouldn’t it be crueler to taunt her with useless hope? “I would if I could — but I don’t think I’m going to get the chance. Dana, please don’t be sad. It’s enough for me to know that you’ll be all right.”

“How can I be all right if you’re dead, Mulder?’ she cried. “How can you even think I would want to escape without you? We’ll leave Veronica here, see if we can’t find another way!”

“No, Dana. Please — it’s already done. I’m already lost. You must take care of yourself, keep yourself safe — it’s the only thing left for you to do for me.”

A memory of the goldfish funeral flickered through her mind, crazily distracting. Scully bowed her head, feeling hot tears well up in her eyes. “I love you.”

Mulder longed to stay with her a little while at least, to tell her so much that was in his heart, but he knew that every second he remained put her in greater danger. And, in the end, there was really only one thing to say — “I love you, too,” Fox answered, his voice rough with emotion. “Remember that.” He drew her close for one brief, shaky kiss, felt her lips tremble beneath his own.

And then he disappeared into the night.

***

“Where is she?”

The words hit him with almost as much force as the leather strap that followed it. WHACK! Mulder slumped back as far as his restraints would allow.

The surrounding crowd took up the chant. “WHERE IS SHE? WHERE IS SHE?” Through his swollen eyelids, Fox could see the hundreds of other Guardians brought to the Salvaging room of the Keep, all the wildness denied them by Gilead’s strict order being channeled into hatred for him. Once again, he caught glimpses of familiar faces rendered almost unrecognizable by wrath.

WHACK! The strap caught him again, slicing across his jaw. Fox groaned, and the Confessor smiled in satisfaction. “Are you ready to tell us? Are you ready to share in the joy of redemption? Then tell us where she is!”

“Who?”

“The woman Ofkent!”

“I don’t know any Ofkent.”

The Confessor grimaced — was this man being obstinate, or had he become delirious and forgetful with the beating? The foggy, unfocused look in his eyes made him suspect the latter. Grudgingly, the Confessor said, “The woman once known as Dana Scully.”

Mulder’s eyes blazed in triumph. The Confessor saw he’d been tricked, and brought the strap down hard on the back of Mulder’s neck in fury. “Where is she?”

“Beyond your reach.” With that, Fox gave way to the shadows clutching at him, and slumped upon the floor, semiconscious.

The Confessor looked at the disappointed crowd. “This heretic refuses to be saved. He will pay the price of Heresy. There is a public execution tomorrow in Sector 12 — those of you who wish to witness may do so. Death to the sinner!”

Cheers echoed around Mulder’s head, blurring his thoughts even more. She’s safe. They wouldn’t ask me unless she were still missing.

It was worth it, after all.

His consciousness dimmed further, returning to him some inestimable time later. He was lying on the floor of one of the transport vans, his hands still manacled behind him. “This one’s coming to,” somebody whispered.

“If he makes trouble, drug him.”

“What kind of trouble can he make in this condition?” the first voice snickered, shoving at Mulder’s bruised ribs with his boot. Fox retched with the agony of it, and tried to double up protectively.

“Say, Hughes — ” said a third voice.

“What’s that — ”

Gunfire exploded within the van, echoing against the metal walls with deafening power. Fox heard a scream, the impact of one body and then another against the floor of the van, and the screeching of the van’s brakes. After a second, it slid to a halt.

Mulder tried to push himself up, but couldn’t. All he could see was one of the dead bodies now lying beside him. Then, a strong hand took him by the shoulder, supporting him.

“Quite a shiner you’ve got there,” said Walter Skinner.

***

“You’re not supposed to be seasick before we get on the boat,” Veronica chided, patting Dana on the shoulder.

Scully simply smiled; she wasn’t ready to share her suspicion that, in fact, her nausea sprang from a very different source. “How much longer?”

“Mr. Cromwell says that this man the Quakers put him in touch with should be here any second. Then just a quick drive up the coast to their dock, and we’re on our way to Prince Edward Island.” Veronica was clearly delighted — the past few days of freedom had done wonders for her. There was a spring in her step, happiness in her voice.

Even through her grief for Fox, Dana knew that she, too, was already beginning to recover. Only beginning — even if they did make it out, and she was never threatened by Gilead again, she knew it would take the rest of her life to heal the wounds inflicted in the last few years. If, in fact, they could ever heal. But freedom, once denied, was too sweet not to be enjoyed again.

Mulder gave his life so that I could have this, she reminded herself. I have to honor that sacrifice. I have to cherish the chance at life he’s given me.

But knowing him to be dead, beyond any doubt —

It wouldn’t help to think about it.

“Here comes the truck,” Mr. Cromwell called. Veronica and Dana stepped out of the barn they’d been staying in the last few days; as she did so, Scully felt her jaw drop. “Skinner!”

Walter Skinner grinned as he got out of the truck. “Good afternoon, Agent Scully. Nice day we’re having.”

Cromwell raised an eyebrow. “Now, why did you end up coming to me if you were already friends with one of the Underground’s leaders?”

“I should have guessed,” Dana said, hugging her former boss around the neck. He returned the embrace as she laughed, “Why am I even surprised?”

“I’m not done surprising you yet,” Skinner said, motioning towards the back of the truck. Curious, Dana stepped to back to peek her head inside.

“Oh, my God. Mulder — ”

He lay there, battered and bruised, but smiling despite the swelling in his jaw. “Dana. We’re going to make it — ”

With a strangled cry, Dana flung herself into the truck to gather him up in her arms. She let the tears flow freely down her cheeks as they embraced, rocking back and forth gently. “I keep giving up on you, Mulder. And you keep proving me wrong.”

“I’m going to keep right on doing it. Dana, I love you so.”

“I love you, too, Mulder.” She did. Absolutely. And she had never known it as powerfully as in this moment, when she was finally completely free to choose. Dana knew that she could never leave him again, and would never want to.

Dana kissed him gently, taking care of with his bruised, swollen jaw. He returned her kiss as passionately as he dared, and drew her closer — ignoring the pressure on his ribs. “It’s over at last, Dana. We’re finally free.”

After a tactful pause, Skinner stepped around to the back of the truck, smiling at them both. “Sorry I couldn’t bring him back in better shape — ”

“Don’t you dare apologize,” Scully said, holding out her hand to him. “How can I ever thank you?”

“Well, there is a way.” Skinner suddenly looked quite serious, and both Mulder and Scully straightened. “Don’t answer too quickly.”

“We won’t. What is it? Anything — ”

“*Don’t* say that until you’ve heard me out,” he cautioned, running one hand over his scalp. “This isn’t something you owe me. But it’s something I wish you’d consider.”

“Tell us,” Dana said.

“The Underground is a small group — getting larger by the day, but we don’t have nearly enough people to do the kind of damage it will take to bring down Gilead. I don’t regret sacrificing my position in the Guardians — they would have caught on soon, anyway, and I knew my time was limited. But I will need more people, better people, to keep our group effective. The two of you were damn fine FBI agents. I think you could be a lot of help to me here. But I know the risks. I’ll drive you to that boat and wave goodbye with a smile on my face, if you decide you want to leave. I wouldn’t blame you one bit.” Skinner studied their expressions for a moment, then stepped back. “Talk it over.”

They sat in silence for a few seconds. Mulder’s aching body seemed to throb all the more painfully, as if to remind him of the consequences. And yet — could he really walk away? I’d like to stay, he realized. I’ll never rest one minute in Canada or England or anywhere while I know that this is happening. After all, how do I know Samantha isn’t out there, in a red veil of her own? But — I can’t make that decision for Dana. Whatever she decides —

Next to him, Dana was holding one hand protectively over her stomach. If I am pregnant, I want my child to be safe. To be free. How can I endanger that? But even as she sat there, memories of Maggie filled her thoughts. Of the beautiful woman she remembered from youth, strong enough to hold her family together during her seafaring father’s long absences. Of the more mature, gentle woman of later years — still supporting her children through whatever tragedies life had in store for them. Maggie’s strength, intelligence, humor and faith had meant nothing to Gilead; they’d only seen the wrinkles on her face, known her days of childbearing to be over, and had tossed her away. Like so much trash. That’s why my child isn’t going to know her grandmother. And I can’t walk away without knowing I’ve done everything in my power to stop this madness.

Scully turned to Mulder, and he saw the resolve in her eyes. He squeezed her arm supportively. “You’re sure?”

“Absolutely. Remember what that wise man said to you? Every life, every day, is in danger.”

Fox laughed. “That was the same wise man who’s getting us into this now. How far in advance did this guy begin recruiting?”

“Seriously — I want to do this. I need to do it. Are you with me?”

Mulder took her in his arms once more. “Always.”

***

THE END

Christina Gleason (975 Posts)

That’s me: Christina Gleason. I’m a professional copywriter, editor, and blogger. My company is called Phenomenal Content. (Hire me!) I'm a multiply disabled autistic woman doing my best in this world built for abled people. I’m a geek for grammar, fantasy, and select types of gaming, including Twitch Sings and Plants vs Zombies 2. I hate vegetables. I have an intense phone phobia, so I’ll happily conduct business over email or IM instead.


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