TITLE: Things Outside
AUTHOR: Tabula Rasa
FEEDBACK: Enshrined at firstname.lastname@example.org DISTRIBUTION: Yes
CATEGORY: S, AU
SPOILERS: Up through Season 7, I suppose DISCLAIMER: In the event CC shouldn't want them anymore, I'd be happy to take them. But I don't think think Satan (Rupert) will let them go.
SUMMARY: Mulder and Scully and their house.
NOTES: AU high weirdness. Breaks off from canon in season 7 (before All Things, anyway). This mostly goes in order, the tense changes depending on what kind of scene it is. You'll see, insh'allah. .............
The first night in the new house, they laid side by side on the bed in the only furnished bedroom. After a few moments, Mulder turned on his side and laid his arm over her stomach. The second night, she crawled into bed and immediately laid her head on his shoulder. The third night, their legs merged. The fourth night, he held her tightly and pressed his face into her neck and hair. The fifth night, she kissed him goodnight. That was how they seduced each other.
Before moving into the house, in the First Place, they had lain in bed next to each other without touching.
Scully was reading The Divine Comedy; one of those things she'd always meant to get around to reading and could now that she had the time. She read Inferno quickly, but now she found herself stuck in Pergatorio. She lifted her head to negotiate a bite of ice cream and squinted out the large window. It must've been 90 degrees out.
She could hear Mulder moving around in the room behind her. She moved the carton of Ben and Jerry's directly in front of her. If he saw it, he'd come and steal half of it, and then tease her for eating it.
"O power of fantasy that steals our minds
from things outside, to leave us unaware, although a thousand trumpets may blow loud--"
Scully shivered from a combination of the A/C and the ice cream, and hoped Mulder came to steal some soon.
The house was two storeys but the upstairs was completely empty. Mulder went up there sometimes to look around. He peered out the large sloping windows in the strange long room but there was nothing in that direction but the grass and the sky, forever, merging eventually in a dark, flat line when his vision couldn't reach any further. He crossed to the other side. In this direction, from one of the empty bedrooms, he could see the dark blob that might be a third house. He could just see the dark shape of the second house from the other bathroom. The first could only be seen from outside, or the kitchen downstairs. It looked like their house but bigger, with a large glass front. They didn't know if anyone lived there.
They usually cooked dinner together, if they cooked. This had resulted in a few foodfights, but nothing serious. Tossed lettuce leaves, lemon rinds, and once a slice of bread. Hed paid for that one.
Keeping his wet hands well away from himself, Mulder snuck up behind Scully and wrapped his arms around her waist and squeezed. She gave a little huff. "Mulder!"
He nuzzled into her neck and snuck in a kiss. Scully struggled to get away, but not in a way that put any sort of distance between them. Mulder groaned and tried to pull her away from the counter. "We could just get delivery later" he mumbled. He nipped her neck and rubbed it better with his tongue.
"Mul-derrrrr" she groaned in a way that didn't discourage him at all. But then she bumped him back and pulled forward. "I've spent an hour on this already!"
Mulder grinned and delivered a final kiss to her neck before backing off. They were getting pretty good at this married stuff.
Scully was glowing in the candle light, and Mulder was sure he was glowing back at her across the table. He loved the way she looked in the flickering flames; the way the gold flickered on her alabaster skin, the hundred shades it brought out in her hair, the new shapes created on her face by the shadows.
He smiled at her and raised his wine glass. They toasted to nothing, the musical clink just the right sound in the quiet room.
Now that they devoted all their time to playing house, Mulder found that it was just as he had always suspected: if Scully was the only person he ever spoke to again, it would be fine. Better than fine. More than enough.
Sometimes, after the sky has changed from rose and red to indigo and then to black like an impressionist painting, they stand out in the yard and look at the stars. The sky above is heavy and the wind warm. They hardly notice the black sky because there are so many stars. Great swirls of them, dancing across the whole top half of their world in clockwork patterns. Familiar constellations are obscured by all the new points of light. Probably. Staring up so long makes them a little dizzy, as the sense of being firmly planted on the ground recedes, and all that's left is sky.
They don't do it often, or for long. The weight of all those stars gets too heavy after awhile, and even after they go inside they can feel the weight of the heavens pressing down on them.
There are no lights even from the other houses.
Tonight, Mulder and Scully curled up on the couch to watch a movie. 'The Quiet Man' was on, and Mulder teased Scully silently when a character made a joke about Maureen O'Hara's red hair and temper. Mulder tugged on Scully's hair. She proved him right with an elbow to the ribs.
Mulder objected and they started to wrestle. In a matter of minutes, someone put their hand just the right way in just the right place, and they gave up on the movie.
When it was dark in their bedroom, Scully felt like there was no world beyond the borders of the mattress. There was no outside world, nothing they needed, nothing of any concern out there. Scully felt this was the way it would have been anyway. So this was the best time, when they were happiest, in their bed in the dark.
In the First Place, the detention center, their room looked like a hotel room. But without windows. The room was small, mostly bed. The bathroom saw a lot of use, because it was the only door they had control over. They don't know how long they were there. They lost track of day and night.
The house is much better. They have tv, which isn't real tv but sort of like expanded Tivo, so that they can watch (almost) whatever they want whenever they want (no commercials ever). They have a computer. They don't have the internet but an intranet, they think. Some history sites, information pages, random things like that. No news sites, no blogs, not even The Onion. Nothing with a date. They have tried everything they can think of to independently verify the date. They have been unable to. The computer told them June 27, 2000 the day they arrived. It works as well as anything. 5 weeks in the detention center, then.
There is the Catalogue, which at first was fun. Anything they wanted, they ordered, and it would come. Within the hour, if it was food. Anything else also came quickly, more quickly than Amazon. They can order groceries or have hot pizza or even Chinese food delivered. Most of the house was unfurnished when they arrived. They were supposed to furnish it with things from the Catalogue, but they haven't ordered much yet. Mostly things for the kitchen. And the books, of course.
The delivery men never spoke. Often they left whatever they were delivering on the front step, knocked, and left. Mulder and Scully took to watching for them. The delivery men drove a jeep. They refused to interact. The issue wasn't forced--they looked very similar to the Alien Bounty Hunter. Mulder and Scully were unarmed, and weapons were not for sale on the Catalogue.
At first they just ordered new clothes, since they came to the house only with what they had on. But eventually Scully ordered a washer and dryer. Laundry gave them something to do.
Their house was very clean for the same reason.
Mulder was bored-- he would love to do work, any kind, even fertilizer investigations and background checks. He ordered a basketball, but there weren't any hoops for sale in the Catalogue. Scully, being sweet, tried to help him work on his passing game, but she never really played basketball for obvious reasons. There was no good place to play, either, because of the grass. He could get away with dribbling the ball on the floor upstairs for awhile, but Scully would eventually have to put a stop to it.
It's not that he minded reading; on the contrary, Mulder enjoyed the same catching-up that Scully was doing. But he had energy to burn, and needed to work out somehow. He kept hoping "Swimming Pool" would appear on the Catalogue. He's tried jogging around the house, but it had to be done in the early morning. Scully was not much of a morning person, and although she wouldn't say it, Mulder knew she didn't like it when he was out there alone. He understood-- he felt the same way. When it got cooler, they could go jogging together. For now, she let him run up and down the long room on the second floor. They did push-ups, sit-ups, and engaged in other aerobic activities.
"Are you sure?" Mulder asked. He was sitting on the edge of their bed and turned to look at Scully. She was laying on her side, her back to him. Scully wasn't feeling well.
"Yes, I'm sure, Mulder." She sounded annoyed.
He stretched out his arm, not hesitating, exactly, but close to it, and alighted his hand on her shoulder. Very lightly at first, then with increasing pressure when she didn't shrug it away. After a moment of resistance, she turned onto her back and let her head loll to face him.
"Is--is there a, a test you can order off the Catalogue?" He didn't know that she liked it that he stuttered when it was personal.
Scully rolled her head again, this time so she was looking at the ceiling. "I don't know" she said flatly. She closed her eyes and he watched her throat as she swallowed, her breasts as she took a deep breath. "I'm not going to check. They'll certainly suspect if I order one. I don't want them to know."
He could hear the fear in her voice and felt himself catch it. It was creeping cold through him, too, no doubt making his vocal cords tremble, his heart pound, his hands sweat.
"It'll be okay, Scully" he whispered. He touched her face. Mulder swung his legs back onto the bed and stretched out next to her. He wrapped his arms around her and squeezed tightly. She immediately shifted and wrapped her arms and legs around him. Mulder held her tightly for a moment, then began sliding his hand down her body, fitting it between them. He found her abdomen and cupped his hand around it. Just a small swell now, nothing that hadn't always been there. But not for long.
It had been bothering him, when he let it: how was he going to protect her here, like this? He would kill anyone who tried to hurt her, and now he would kill anyone who tried to hurt their child, but right now he didn't know how.
Sometimes, Mulder would go outside and look around. There was so much room, so much space. Just the ground with the grass and the sky, which was almost always empty. The four houses. Mulder could feel the land stretching away on either side of him, the space, the room, feel the air echoing across the vastness of the land. He stood very still and could feel the world turning beneath him. There was no question that they might be on an island-- Mulder could feel continent beneath him, feel it far-flung.
Then Mulder will think that this might be what hes going to see for the rest of his life. It becomes so claustrophobic he has difficulty breathing. He goes inside, looking for Scully.
"My soul," Scully read, "that could not see her perfectly,
still felt, succumbing to her mystery and power, the strength of its enduring love."
The sun was setting, and the sky was a wide swath of indigo out the kitchen window. Sometimes it was very beautiful here. Summer here was like springtime in DC, maybe. How you were always conscious of it, of the rightness of the season, the perfect fit of area and temperature and color and the smell of the air.
They couldn't find out about the baby.
She looked across the grass to the other house, the nearest one. She thought someone lived there, but she didn't know why she thought that. They never saw any lights.
She felt Mulder come in and stand behind her. "It's hard to tell how far away it is" he said, his voice low, not meant to carry. It didn't have to, of course, but there was something else. They were sharing secrets.
"Do you think someone lives there?" Scully asked.
"I don't know. If they do, they're purposely keeping us apart."
"Maybe it's dangerous."
Scully shivered, looking at the blank walls of windows on the other house. She couldn't really see them at this point, but she knew they were there, floating on the grass, staring blindly at them.
"Dangerous for Them" Mulder corrected. "Dangerous for us to meet and talk, maybe."
Just like that, Scully wanted to go for a walk. She scolded herself for being so easily swayed, even if it was by Mulder.
She closed her book and stood up. Dante had found his Beatrice, after all. "Do you want Chinese?" she asked.
They can go outside; at least, they know they can go in their yard. Except they aren't sure where their yard ends. There is no fence or line of any kind in the grass.
They call it grass but it isn't, really. It is wild and something like wheat. There are no insects in the grass that they have ever seen or heard. It comes up to Scully's knees, and it is brown. Possibly it will get green in the winter, but there is so much of it and it is all one color, so it doesn't seem like the grass can ever be anything but brown. The world outside their house is the brown grass until the blue sky. Then there are the two houses and the dark spot that might be the third house. The two houses are in the west, the dark spot in the south. In the North and the East, there is nothing at all.
They don't know where they are. Possibly the US, more likely Canada, but maybe Russia, maybe somewhere in Africa--Kenya, Tanzania. Maybe Argentina, and it's really February.
They figured they had a grace period of some months. Even if Scully started to show, they could keep her away from the delivery men, who preferred not to come in, anyway; it wouldn't be hard.
They had spent their first few days searching obsessively for bugs and other monitoring devices; they had found nothing. They continued to check often, but had never found anything.
Still, Mulder and Scully had difficulty letting go of the idea that they were under surveillance. They had had a long time to get used to the idea. And it was almost more alarming to contemplate why surveillance was no longer necessary.
They purposely started spending time outside. They ordered lawn chairs and did their reading in the sun. In the morning and evening only, of course. They would get heatstroke in midday. So they still had plenty of time to get used to being outside, in this outside, with just the grass and the sky and houses in the distance. They both recognized, privately, that they had developed a superstitious awe of the grass, and that was not like them. So they made sure to spend time with it, every day, to prove that it was just grass.
According to the computer clock they have been here three months. That meant it was late September, and still very hot. If they wanted to take a walk, an all day sort of walk, they would have to wait until it was cooler.
But Mulder decided a test run wouldn't be out of place. At eight am, they started off in the direction of the first house. The grass was not hard to walk in. At ten am, they stopped and looked around.
Scully looked at their house, the furthest she had ever been away from it. It was still much closer than the other house. Scully found that reassuring. Their house looked more friendly than the other. Their house was long and narrowish. She was struck again by the oddness of the second story, with the long room taking up half the floorspace and its huge sloping windows. She never cleaned those windows; she didn't go up there. But that was where the baby's room would be.
Scully looked at Mulder, who was squinting at the other house. "I'd say it's another four hours, at least, to that place" he frowned. "We better go back now."
They got back a little before noon--it was easier coming that way. They took showers and stayed inside the rest of the day. Nothing happened after all.
That night, Scully dreamed they were walking in the grass. The farther out they went, the higher the grass got. Mulder got ahead of her, and suddenly she couldn't see him anymore. She called for him, but the grass grew higher and higher around her. It was towering above her, blocking out the sun. She screamed for Mulder, but the grass was so thick he couldn't hear her.
When Mulder woke her up, she gasped and sat up, then clutched at him as he rocked her and told her it was okay. Over his shoulder she glimpsed the stars out the window. Scully squeezed her eyes shut and pressed her face into Mulder's neck. This place was not beautiful.
The next morning, Scully cleared her throat and asked "Mulder?"
"What if we're--what if we're not where we think we are?"
"Scully, we don't know--"
"I know but...I mean, what if, what if we're dead?" The last part was whispered, and Scully stared into her breakfast.
"Scully" Mulder waited until she looked up and flashed her a brief smile. "I think you've been reading too much Dante. Where do you think we are?"
Scully shrugged. "Hell? Purgatory?"
"See?" Mulder teased gently. "Now, we both know I wouldn't make it to Purgatory--" Scully opened her mouth to interrupt but Mulder held up his hand and continued talking. "And I don't think this is Hell. If the whole point of Hell is eternal suffering, why would we be together? And besides--Hell is other people, and we're alone." He shot her an old smartass grin.
She smiled back, feeling somewhat relieved. "Thank you, Jean-Paul. I guess you're right. I don't think either of us deserves to go to Hell."
"I'm glad to hear it. I don't think we're dead, Scully. I think your...condition... proves that."
"But this place--there's something wrong about it." Scully wasn't meeting his eye again.
He reached out and covered her hand with his. "We're in prison, Scully. We're in some sort of prison camp. It's pretty cushy, what with our own house and all this free crap, but it's still prison."
Scully nodded thoughtfully, and turned her hand over to return his squeeze.
Scully ordered a sewing machine off the Catalogue. She sewed two comforters together to make a sleeping bag they would fit both in. For hotter weather (they didn't know what to expect), they planned to just take a duvet instead of sewing sheets together.
The tent was harder to make, but they worked on it slowly. Tarp on the bottom. On one side of that they put a thin layer of stuffing and sewed a sheet on top. "Most comfortable tent ever" Mulder joked. "Even if there turn out not to be any rocks." They had tried a rug but decided it would be too heavy, so they cut up a couple of pillows. For the other sides they did the same thing, but without padding. All the tarps made them nervous, though. In order to have a good excuse for the tarps, they ordered a lot of paint and some brushes and rollers.
They couldn't order backpacks. Luggage was offered on the Catalogue, but Mulder and Scully couldn't figure out why when they weren't supposed to go anywhere. Scully was becoming quite proficient with the sewing machine (Mulder was forbidden to use it), and made backpacks out of blue jeans.
It was good to have something to do, something to plan for again.
They had brought nothing with them, so it wasn't hard to figure out what to take. They had been ordering bottled water but drinking tap, so all the water they could carry, they took. Food would be cans mostly, although they took a few days rations of fresher stuff. Mulder would carry the tent and the duvet; Scully would carry the comforters.
The morning before they left, Scully woke up at 4 am. She had a brief panic attack at the thought of leaving the house. Rather than waking Mulder, she got out of bed, put on a robe, and wandered around the house. She even went upstairs. She looked in the two empty rooms and the bare bathroom, then went to stand at the large sloping windows of the strange long room.
It was very dark out there. Down below, she could see the waving, seething mass of the grass, indistinct but lighter-than-black. Except for that, the only thing she could see were the stars. No moon, at least not on this side of the house. All those stars, the only light. One of them must be Polaris, but she couldn't find it.
This did not help the panic.
She went downstairs and sat in the kitchen, pulling the curtains and turning on the lights.
She tried to read: "From those holiest waters I returned
to her reborn, a tree renewed, in bloom with newborn foliage, immaculate...."
How could she go out there? How could they face Nothing for who-knows-how long? Maybe they'd reach the first house and find someone there. Maybe they'd decide to keep in touch, and then maybe they'd just come back to the house.
Not home, Scully noticed. The house. Never home. The baby was running out of time when it could be safe and hidden, and their poor impossible child deserved more than a house.
At 5 am, Scully went back to bed, eager to rise, and now ready.
7 am. Mulder made one last paranoid check throughout the house. Scully waited calmly on the couch. When he came back, they shouldered their packs. Mulder kissed her.
And they went out to face the empty blue sky, the endless brown grass, and the weight of the stars. .....
NOTES: All quotations from Purgatory are from Mark Musa's translation. This is a dream I had-- well, the setting is, anyway--which accounts for the weirdness. I wrote this in July, 2003.
If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Tabula Rasa
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