Gin and Gothic

by philiater

Gin and Gothic
Author: Philiater
Category: Post Colonization, gothic elements, M/S. Timeline: This storyline splits off from canon during season 7, so there are no season 8 or 9 elements and no baby. I've coined my own phrase for this: post gothicazation.
Rating: R
Disclaimer: Not mine, never were.
Beta thanks: To Frohike 51 and to Tali for the much needed extra help.

Written for the BtS Reader's Day Challenge. Elements listed at the end
This is to thank all the readers who supply authors with wonderful feedback and encouragement.
Summary: A combination of post colonization, gothic elements and forbidden love.


Thump, thump, thump went her heartbeat as she ran through hazardous and murky streets. The steady pounding in her ears was a welcome diversion; it gave her something to concentrate on so she could ignore the burning pain in her lungs and feet. Dodging puddle after brackish puddle, she made her way across a dark, ugly city where the rain never seemed to stop falling.

She was late for work and Gabriel was going to have a shit fit. Well, not a fit per se. Gabriel never raised his voice much above a husky whisper. He'd use a tone that said he was angry and disappointed in her. It never failed to make her feel guilty, but the remorse didn't last for long.

He hated that she continued to leave the Club without telling him and they repeated the same tired argument almost everyday.

"It's too dangerous for you to go out alone," he'd said that evening. "I want you to take one of my bodyguards with you."

"I'm not a prisoner here am I, Gabriel?"

"You know you're not and that's not the point."

"Sending one of your thugs with me makes me feel like one."

"You could be recognized. You could be picked up and me along with you. Is that what you want?"

"No, but-"

Back and forth they went, solving nothing. He couldn't understand why she needed to go and she didn't understand his need for her to stay.

Working and living above the Club made her feel claustrophobic. Twenty four hours in the same place day after day made her feel like she was in a giant coffin and the desire to leave was an almost palpable thing. She thought she'd go mad if she didn't get out once in a while, get some fresh air.

Not that the city offered much in the way of clean air, but it was a vast improvement over the stale whisky and smoke laden atmosphere of the Club. At least she could breathe in her hiding place. There were other reasons of course, but they didn't seem as important now as freedom.

Sneaking out was becoming increasingly difficult, but tonight it had been marginally less arduous. Gabriel was distracted with preparations for the Club's big celebration called Armageddon; a strange combination of Mardi Gras and Halloween all wrapped together in one big blow out. Though the two holidays were months apart, somewhere along the way they were combined. It was a tradition that went back long before colonization and one that was guaranteed to bring in hundreds of people and lots of cash. All of the Club's giant warehouse space would be put to use tonight.

This event was also guaranteed to bring in drugs, hookers and an assortment of other highly illegal activities. A steady stream of nefarious looking characters would circulate among the Club's vast crowd. Rebels in particular came out of the woodwork to make deals, bargain for favors and to discuss a little treason. Added to all of this was liquor, music and good, rare food.

Gabriel was in charge of it all, a young, urban Godfather who wielded enormous power. It was said his contacts went all the way to the highest echelons of the military government, yet he openly tolerated known rebels. She'd always suspected he was far better connected than he ever let her know.

As she rounded the last corner to the Club, Raphael, Gabriel's right hand man, was waiting for her at the door. Tall, well muscled, with flawless black skin, he was one of the few people she truly feared. He was smarter by far than his boss and he knew that she knew it.

"You're late."

"I know," she said, trying to edge past him.

He moved to block the door and she ran headlong into his hard chest.

"Let me by."

"He wants to see you."

"He always wants to see me."

"Now."

She looked up into his dark brown eyes and saw determination. If she didn't agree, he'd pick her up and take her there himself. It had happened before.

"All right," she said in defeat.

He moved to let her pass and she felt him watch her enter and climb the stairs to Gabriel's office.

She was sweating and out of breath by the time she knocked on his door.

"Come."

She found him sitting at his massive mahogany desk surrounded by a sea of paper. A lone Tiffany lamp illuminated one corner and an ugly gargoyle statue she'd given him for Christmas sat at the other. Black hair, long and sleek, obscured the side of his face turned toward her and he was wearing a bright white shirt. She crossed to stand in front of his desk, her hard-soled boots echoing loudly on the bare wooden floor.

"You're late, Mary," he said without looking up.

Mary, not Scully. She still wasn't used to being called by that name, even a year later.

"I know. I'm sorry."

"You went out again."

"Yes."

Finally he looked up at her. A deep line ran down between his green eyes, marring his handsome face. Many women had succumbed to that face and deep voice. The latest was all of twenty and named Delilah.

"You know how important tonight is for me. I was worried about you."

"I came back. I always come back."

He was silent for a moment, making her squirm a little. Gabriel was the master of manipulation and she was not entirely immune to his influence.

"I want you with me tonight. Is that too much to ask of you? Do I ever ask too much of you?"

He sounded more hurt than angry and this surprised her. Gabriel was normally so controlled that he rarely showed emotion.

"No. I'm here now," she said quietly. "I have to get dressed."

"Then go get dressed," he said looking back down at the paperwork, effectively dismissing her.

With an inner sigh of relief, she exited the door and nearly ran down the hall to her room. She fished a skeleton key out of the pocket in her leather coat, inserted it into the ancient lock and walked in. She relocked it on the other side before she even turned a light on.

Her insistence on keeping the door to her room locked was a source of amusement to the Club's staff. No one would risk Gabriel's anger by taking anything belonging to her, but it was important that she have some a sense of privacy.

Most already thought she was sleeping with Gabriel and that keeping the door locked was thinly a disguised pretense. She knew she was viewed as something of a rebellious prude and that Gabriel was simply using her as a distraction. It didn't matter that she wasn't sleeping with him because he'd already made it clear that she belonged to him exclusively; sex or not.

Turning on a bedside lamp, she looked around the tiny space she called home. It had once been a dank storage closet/janitorial room and was converted into a spare room just for her. Gabriel had 'friends' scrub it down and paint the cinderblock walls a creamy beige. He also had the bare cement floor covered with the same wooden planks that lined his office floor. Eventually, a makeshift shower made its way into a corner where a large sink had been. Until then, she'd been forced to shower downstairs with the bands and assorted strippers that wandered through as temporary entertainment for the Club.

Even with the improvements, she'd had to put the old wrought iron bed he'd found for her up on risers and then put the risers on plates filled with kerosene. It was weeks before all the bugs were fumigated from the place. Still, it was infinitely better than the accommodations she'd had before.

Over the months more furniture found its way into the room. She'd flatly refused to let Gabriel pay for a brand new set. She'd wanted to pay for it herself out of her club earnings as hostess and wound up with mish mash of second hand and 'antiqued' items. They were shabby, but serviceable and she didn't care because they were hers alone.

With a sigh, she shed her clothes and stepped into the shower. Tired as she was, it was tempting to just stand under the hot spray and let her muscles loosen slowly, but she had little time to dawdle. She was late, after all, and no one kept Gabriel waiting for long.

She dressed quickly, donning a black dress and tights. The skirt was made of several layers of filmy material and the bodice was a form fitting leather bustier with more than twenty tiny silver buckles used to cinch her into the dress. It was new and guaranteed to please the Club's discerning owner.

Pausing before the oval mirror over her dresser, she contemplated how she was going to style her hair. It was half way down her back and dyed a dark chestnut to cover the red. Normally, she simply wore it pinned up or in a pony tail at the back. Tonight she decided to let it dry with its natural waves in place and then spray it until she looked a little like Morticia from the Addams family.

She also decided on black mascara and eyeliner, smoky eye shadow, and dark red lipstick for makeup. She'd had to borrow it from the strippers since she rarely wore much. Strappy high-heeled shoes completed the effect. When she was done, she looked a little like a gothic muse.

The idea, of course, was to wear a costume of sorts for the party, but she knew Gabriel wanted her to help greet some of the more important people he did business with. She should be sexy, but not slutty, and that was a hard line to tread when Gothic clothing was the only 'normal' clothes anyone wore for the party.

When she was satisfied that she would meet with his approval, she decided to make a general appearance. She left her room and descended the staircase to the Club's main room.

Even though the party wouldn't get really started for another hour or so, the Club was already filling up fast with revelers. Coming down the stairs, she scrutinized the expensive decorations Gabriel had paid for.

The Club was a techno-industrial establishment whose decorations were limited to the big and metallic. Cheap looking Formica tables and chairs littered the steel grillwork floor. Rusting pipes jutted out above the crowd and framed the cage-like performance stage. It was all designed to look like someone had merely wandered into the place to throw a party.

Tonight, however, silver, gold, and orange helium balloons were attached to every chair, table and spare place their strings could be tied to. Filmy cobwebs were strewn around corners, and fog machines were already emitting smoky vapors. Hundreds of cheap beaded necklaces were hung everywhere.

Up on stage, she spotted Paul making last minute preparations. His band, Apocalypse, was the closest thing to a house band the Club had. They, along with other underground bands, would play industrial grind music for those wishing to dance. Most rock music was now considered subversive, but for some odd reason, old metal songs from the 1980's and early 1990's were considered fine by the government.

She walked over to the stage which was about three feet above the main floor. "Hey."

"Hey, Mary. You look great," he said squatting down to talk with her.

"This old thing?" she asked in mock shyness.

"You ready for tonight?" he asked.

"Ready as I'll ever be. The question is, are you and everyone else ready for me?"

"More than ready. I keep telling you, we'll do it as the last set. They'll all be too stoned to even notice if you're off key."

Gabriel would, she thought.

"Let's hope that's true."

"It should be quite a surprise."

She glanced over to the large bar area. "What's Gideon doing?"

"Mixing up the house punch. It's a tradition."

"Well, maybe I should check out this tradition."

"Be careful," he called as she walked over to the brass and wooden bar.

The wizened bartender in question stood looking thoughtfully at a large galvanized tub full of a noxious smelling liquid. She watched him pour liquor from several bottles, stirring it slowly with a wooden spoon and tasting it. At last he seemed satisfied with the concoction, decanted some of the fluid into a glass and handed it to her.

"What's it called?" she asked, peering into the dark red liquid.

"Ecstasy in Motion."

She flashed him a dubious look. "Will I still be able to function tonight?"

"Like a champ."

Downing a mouthful, she barely tasted it before it burned a path down her throat. It was surprisingly fruity and the effects hit her almost immediately.

"Great stuff," she said with a gasp.

"Told you."

She drank the rest in one swallow, enjoying the way it made her feel: relaxed, bold, loose. She put her glass out for more.

"Hey, be careful with that. Gabriel will kill me if I let you get drunk."

"Gabriel won't care if I'm drunk."

He fixed her with a serious look. "Gabriel will care very much if you're drunk tonight."

"Okay, then I don't care."

She dodged past him and quickly dipped the glass back into the tub. Before he could protest, she left the bar area, drinking the spiked punch with relish. She'd had maybe three drinks all totaled in the year since she'd been at the Club. Tonight she decided to bring her self-imposed abstinence to an end and become one of the unruly crowd she normally shunned.

Looking up, she could see a bank of smoky two-way mirrors on the second floor. Gabriel's office overlooked most of the Club's large open space and the mirrors constituted one wall of the office. From this vantage point he could see the dance floor, bar, and stage, but no one could see him. She wondered if he was watching her now.

Two of Gabriel's thugs were in place at the bottom of his iron staircase to make sure no one wandered upstairs without permission. Raphael was nowhere in sight.

They let her pass without comment, one of the few courtesies she was granted. Bounding to the top of the stairs, she finished her drink and set the glass down outside Gabriel's door.

She leaned in close and heard deep voices engaged in a conversation. Normally she'd try to listen covertly, but tonight Gabriel had made it clear that her presence would be required.

When she knocked, the voices inside fell silent. Heavy footsteps came toward the door and then paused in front of it. Raphael's face appeared when the door opened.

He looked her up and down, but made no comment, and he didn't budge from the door.

"Who is it?" she heard Gabriel ask.

"Mary."

"Let her in."

"You sure?" he asked, never taking his eyes off of her.

"Yes."

She gave Raphael a sly smile before he turned his back on her. Trailing him into the office, she saw three men sitting in front of the desk. Gabriel automatically rose as he watched her walk toward him.

"Mary."

There was surprise in his voice but there was pleasure too. It looked as if she'd finally elicited an unguarded reaction from him.

"Gentlemen, this is Mary."

She walked around to sit in a chair that was behind him and to the right. From the shadows she regarded the men at the desk.

The first was small, in both height and weight. He was obviously nervous, rapidly glancing around the office with beady eyes.

The second was nearly as small, but wiry. He seemed to consist of nothing but sinewy muscle beneath loose clothing. He was slouched in his chair and never took his eyes off Gabriel.

The third was tall and appeared to be the leader. He sat in the middle and did all the talking.

"We can arrange a meeting with Q for tonight."

Gabriel paused, considering the proposition. "What will it cost me?"

"Nothing. He only wants to talk."

"Takes guts to come out of hiding and meet in a den of iniquity."

"He'll risk it."

"What do you get out of it?"

"His undying gratitude."

"Is that enough?"

"Yes."

"All right. Tell him I agree, but it has to be in the office. Too much chaos going on downstairs tonight."

"Agreed."

They rose and left, brushing by a glowering Raphael. Mary had heard of this mysterious Q before. He only went by an initial and was rumored to be an important rebel leader. Nothing was known about his life before invasion, who his friends were, or if he even had family. For weeks Gabriel had been trying to set up a meeting so they could do some negotiating.

"Leave us for a minute," he said to Raphael.

Raphael shot him a glance that said he didn't like it before walking out the door.

She watched the muscles in Gabriel's back work as he shuffled papers. Without turning around he asked, "Well, what did you think?"

Every so often Gabriel would have her meet people and then asked what her gut instincts said about them. He'd ask it without giving her any information to work with; only her first impression after brief observation. She must have been right most of the time or he wouldn't keep asking.

"They were rude. No one stood when I came in."

Soft snicker. "Beside rude, what did you think?"

"They're hiding something, especially the tall one."

He nodded. "Think they'll double cross me?" He said it with such a deep coldness, she almost shivered.

"I don't know. Maybe."

The tall man had been as cool as Gabriel ever was. If they did cross him, there would be no place they could hide.

Another nod. "That's what I thought."

A silence fell between them as she watched him finish working. Neither was much for small talk and he hadn't really dismissed her yet. Exerting control and power, even in the smallest of exchanges.

Standing up made her realize she was beginning to feel the full effects of Gideon's punch. She was definitely a little smashed, but instead of being sleepy, she was restless. Lured to the mirrors, she crossed the room to watch the festivities down below.

The first band of the night was playing and the crowd was dancing shoulder to shoulder. They looked as if they were having the time of their lives and didn't have a care in the world. A yearning let loose inside her and she suddenly wanted to be one of them; longed to disappear completely inside the throng.

"Do you want to go down?"

She was startled to find him standing next to her.

"Aren't there more people coming?"

"Yes, but no one you need to meet."

"When are you coming down yourself? Don't you know all work and no play makes Gabriel a dull boy?" she asked with a teasing note.

He smiled and she was relieved to see him relax a little. "Maybe later."

"Promise?"

"All right. Later."

She flashed him a small smile before going to the door.

"Mary."

She stopped and turned. He was silhouetted against the mirrors; strong, tall, but alone. "You look beautiful tonight."

A trace of sadness laced his compliment. She wanted to ask him what the problem was, but knew he wouldn't give her a straight answer. Gabriel was not one to express what he was feeling with her. Instead she said, "Thank you."

Once she was downstairs again, she danced and drank more punch, losing herself completely to the music. There had to be more than liquor in Gideon's punch for her to feel this uninhibited. It was glorious to let go so completely.

Of course, the last time she'd let go this much she wound up with a tattoo across her back and nearly incinerated.

She saw Delilah flounce in and try to go upstairs. The thugs rebuffed her every effort, even when she rubbed against them in blatant invitation. It made Mary smirk and when Delilah turned around, she caught the smile. She flipped Mary off and moved toward the bar.

Delilah made no bones about hating Mary. She wanted Gabriel for herself and was desperate to unseat her perceived rival. To her credit she'd lasted longer than the others and seemed determined to outlast Mary as well.

Gabriel's inability to see the foolishness of the situation kept Mary from getting any closer to him. There was a strong sexual attraction between them that he clearly wanted to explore, but she was not going to be just another notch on his belt. So far he hadn't pushed the matter, preferring to wait until she did the initiating. She assumed it was pride that made him wait. He would not be one to take rejection lightly.

She was pulled away from her contemplation by an odd sensation. Several times during the night she'd felt like she was being watched, but could never pinpoint the source. She would get the feeling, turn around, but not see anyone in particular. It was unnerving, but she finally decided to chalk it up to drug induced paranoia.

"Mary!"

Turning around she found Paul beckoning to her. She worked her way over to him, dodging drunk and costumed dancers along the way.

"It's time. Are you ready?" he shouted about the din.

Was she ready? She was drunk off her ass and feeling like she could conquer the world.

"Absolutely."

She followed Paul backstage and up on the platform. She was going to sing with the band tonight and could quite possibly make a public spectacle of herself. She had no business up on that stage. She couldn't sing, knew from past experience that she couldn't sing and yet here she was.

The idea originally sprang from Paul's fertile mind. He'd been after Mary to join them onstage for 'color'; in other words, as sexy back dressing for the guys. He thought they'd get a better mix of fans if a good looking woman could back them up.

She'd reminded him that there were plenty of very attractive girls who hung out at the club to choose from who were a little younger and could probably sing better. He'd told her that was true, but none he count on. Mary, it seemed, could be counted on.

She refused him for months until Armageddon loomed over the horizon. He'd used the same line then; saying she could do it as the last set. She thought his hope was that she'd learn to like it and continue. She hoped by agreeing, he'd finally see the light and lay off her.

They practiced an easy duet for weeks, tweaking the sound to use more echo when she sang. Though she had the song down cold, she still wasn't convinced. She finally asked Gideon who hated everything and would be the most likely candidate to tell her the truth.

"What do you think?" she asked. "I want you honest opinion."

At her remark, his face scrunched up even more, deepening the grooves in his face. He seemed to mull it over before answering with three words.

"Could be worse."

For Gideon this was almost a compliment and Mary made the decision to do it then.

Now she was too tanked up on booze to have second thoughts. As they took their places among the mic stands and equipment, Paul had to straighten her a little as she wobbled on high heels.

"You okay?"

"Never better."

Before he could say more, they were introduced. Bright stage lights came up and the crowd cheered as the house lights dimmed.

Gabriel had invested in expensive, computer-controlled spot lights and a variety of other special effects guaranteed to make any band look good. Paul had a program ready just for them and before Mary knew it, she was singing.

She closed her eyes to shut the audience out, tried to lose herself to the music. Paul had chosen a slower metal song with a sensual under beat. One of the guitars played a mournful kind of rhythm in the background.

Unconsciously she began to sway slowly in time with the music, using the fixed mic stand for balance. She never thought to do that before, but now it just seemed right for the music. When she opened her eyes, the audience was swaying too, their hands raised high above them.

It was strange to see how much influence she had over so many people. The sudden surge of power was indescribable and she knew then why fame could be so addicting.

When the song was over, the cheering was deafening. Paul had been right; they were too stoned to care. It made her laugh.

Just then she spied Gabriel watching from behind the bar. He was smiling, an amused expression plastered across his face. It was both flattering and irritating.

On impulse she jumped off the stage and pushed her way through the crowd. At the bar she leaned forward suggestively and asked, "Did you like it?"

"It was interesting."

"Interesting? Did you like me?"

His smile faded quickly, leaving a smoldering look behind. Lust, strong and immediate, was the answer in his eyes.

Partially climbing on top of the bar, she leaned over, grabbed a handful of white shirt and dragged him over to her. She planted an open mouthed kiss on his surprised lips. When he realized what she was doing, he returned it, weaving his fingers into her hair and taking control.

The kiss seemed to go on and on, until she felt like she was drowning. Only when he finally pulled away, did she realize they were the center of attention and the crowd was cheering them on.

Suddenly a little embarrassed, she hid her face in his neck. "Let's go upstairs."

He pulled back and gave her a hungry look before coming over the bar. Grabbing her hand, he pulled her forward, the crowd parting like a wave as they passed. They knew who he was and where they were going.

More cheers accompanied them up the stairs. When they got to her room, she pulled the key out of her bra and opened the door. Gabriel shut the door on the roaring crowd and deliberately turned the lock.

She backed into the room slowly while he followed. The way he moved was almost a crime, she thought. Using slow, sensuous movements like a big cat. She only stopped when the backs of her legs touched the bed.

He reached out and pulled her against him before her legs could give out. His body was lean and so hard against hers that she could think of nothing else as he began kissing her again.

Some how they ended up on the bed with him on top of her. He kissed her everywhere he could reach with his hot mouth. Big hands reached down to stroke her trembling legs.

He finally attacked the leather bodice of her dress, impatient to unfasten the silver buckles. With irritation, he dug at the metal clasps, undoing them with careless fingers.

"You'll tear it," she murmured.

"I'll buy you another."

He finally got them open, and began caressing her breasts. She tangled her hands in his hair to urge him on, gasping when he took a nipple between his teeth.

Taking complete charge, he pinned both wrists at her sides before returning to her breasts. All she could do was moan and writhe beneath him as he consumed her. Every nerve ending felt alive as powerful sensations coursed up and down her spine.

He pulled back for a moment, looking into her half lidded eyes. Something changed in his expression; transforming desire to a simple innocence. She'd never seen that expression on his face before. It was beautiful and unnerving.

"Mary, I-"

A loud pounding on the door interrupted his sentence.

"Gabriel, I know you're in there!" Delilah yelled through the door.

Neither of them moved or spoke, hoping she'd just go away. She didn't.

"GABRIEL!"

The door suddenly burst opened, admitting the shrieking hellion. The bitch had a key, Mary thought.

"What the fuck are you doing?" she screamed.

With infuriating calmness, Gabriel rolled off Mary and sat up. "What does it look like I'm doing?"

Delilah lunged at Gabriel like a cat, scratching and clawing at him with indignant fury. Mary managed to back away and had just enough time to pull the bustier together before Raphael and two thugs came in.

Through gritted teeth he yelled, "Get this bitch out of here."

Delilah was yanked off Gabriel and taken out of the room like the pesky child she was. She screeched obscenities all the way down the hall and could still be heard as they descended the stairs. Mary would normally have felt great satisfaction by the spectacle Delilah had made of herself, but Raphael was still in the room.

"You're needed," he said to Gabriel.

"Can't you see I'm busy?" Gabriel asked in a voice she'd never heard him use with Raphael before. It was almost condescending.

The big man's expression never wavered. "Your guest is here."

Gabriel sat up straight and cast a glance back at her. "I'm sorry. I have to see this man."

Even more embarrassed now, Mary turned away from him. She felt cold and degraded.

"Change and meet me in the office." He said it with his commanding voice, not allowing her to dwell on the situation. Her presence was required, period.

After they all left, she pulled the rest of her clothing off and threw it into a pile against the wall. The good buzz she'd had going was long gone, replaced with bitter sobriety. She put on the clothes she used when she disappeared: black leather pants, boots and coat with a black cotton t-shirt.

With vicious determination, she brushed out her hair before pulling it into a pony tail. She scrubbed her face clean as well. Though she'd acted like a painted whore tonight, she didn't have to look the part.

She paused at the door, breathing deeply to gain control of herself. Drawing on reserves she'd used long before invasion, she composed herself and walked out.

Not bothering to knock, she opened the door and strode into the room, her back ramrod straight. The mysterious caller was not yet in attendance. She refused to look at Gabriel or Raphael before going to her chair. Sitting in her customary spot, Mary was partially hidden in the shadows as they awaited this important visitor.

Across the room, the door opened and a tall figure cloaked in black emerged. A contingency of guards accompanied him through the door to surround him on three sides. The figure was masked in black as well with only his eyes showing and even those were recessed behind a stiff mask.

It was all very theatrical and, Scully thought, unnecessarily showy. Granted this man was an extremely important member of the resistance and Gabriel was important in his own right, but what could this show of force really prove?

They moved forward as a single unit until they stood in front of the desk.

"Please, sit," Gabriel said.

Only the cloaked figure sat and was again flanked by his sentries. Several seconds passed in silence as one man sized up the other. Only once, did she feel the other's eyes flicker over her direction before going back to Gabriel. Though brief, the contact was strangely intense and made her shiver.

"Welcome to my club."

"Thank you." Soft and deep.

"I am Gabriel, but I don't know your name. I've only known you as Q. Surely there's more than that."

"Call me Michael."

"All right, Michael. What's on your mind?"

They launched into a conversation about trading goods and struggles for power among the rebels and military. Negotiations for guns and food were also discussed. She knew it was an important, interesting conversation, but Mary barely heard a word.

She knew Michael's voice.

At first she thought it was a trick of her mind, that she was hallucinating familiar inflections in the stranger's voice, but as the conversation lengthened, she knew she was right.

The problem, however, was that she couldn't be right. This man was dead. She'd been shown pictures of his blackened corpse, given burned credentials as proof from trusted sources. It had been confirmed by someone she'd trusted with her life.

Yet, here he was, very much alive.

She tried not to show her surprise, or react to the realization as it hit her full force. Ensconced behind Gabriel, he couldn't see her begin to tremble, or shift restlessly in her chair. A feeling of claustrophobia began to crush her, making her breathe fast, her heart race, and her head ache like a giant fist was closing around it.

Without warning she stood and walked toward the door.

"Mary?"

She didn't stop, didn't wait to tell him she had to leave, she just kept going until she reached her room.

Once inside, she slammed and locked the door as tears began to fall. She ran across the room and tore open the single tiny window and took in great lungfuls of cold air in an effort to discharge some of the shock.

He was alive, her mind screamed, he was alive.

Mulder was alive.


End part 1.

Gin and Gothic part 2
Philiater
Descriptions, Disclaimers, and Ratings in part 1.

-Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, he walks into mine.


High above the gothic cathedral, black birds circled tall spires and fluttered by stained glass windows made grimy by pollution. Higher than that, gray clouds blanketed the sky as a fine drizzle fell onto the hapless population below. Mary noticed none of this as she opened the church's giant wooden doors.

Inside she walked past rows of pews whose polish had gone dull long ago. She chose a place near the back and sat down to contemplate her life. Hidden in the shadows, she hoped to blend into the background so she could be left alone to think.

She didn't have much to worry about; few darkened the doors of churches anymore. Faith was sorely lacking among the masses of large cities. Many decided God had deserted them during the invasion when loved ones were taken away inside the great ships.

Their shadows had loomed large over cities and rural areas. Mary herself had thought she'd be rounded up along with the others, but the call to a gathering place never came. One day the ships just disappeared, leaving a military government in place to rule what was left of the earth.

She'd been out of Washington at a farm in the countryside when invasion began. She and Bill were visiting old family friends when the first reports came through. Though Bill thought he'd be called back to duty, he wouldn't allow her to return with him, saying she was safer out of the city. He promised to find his family and their mother and get in touch with her as soon as he could.

The call never came.

On the second day all forms of communication had been severed; telephones, computers, and cell phones were rendered inoperable. She waited for days, worrying about Bill, her family, and hearing distress calls over a Ham radio their friends kept. Staticky voices spoke of death, round ups and chaos everywhere. One morning she woke up and the friends had disappeared too.

Every attempt she made to return to the city was thwarted. Roads were blocked and the military had started patrolling some of the towns. Eventually feeling defeated, she returned to the farm, not knowing what would become of her.

One night the farm was invaded by men in military uniforms who said they were rebels. The leader's name was Sam, "Like Uncle Sam," he'd said.

Somehow they'd found out she was a doctor and told her the only way she'd survive was to go with them. She only agreed after they promised to find her family and Mulder.

Mulder.

Her heart ached in memory. How could he be alive? Maybe the man who'd come to the Club was a clone, sent by the military to trap unsuspecting rebels in hiding. It had been long rumored that many military leaders were nothing more than clones. She hadn't seen his face, only heard his voice. But no one could clone a voice; duplicate the subtle inflections that made each person unique. It had to be him, and if that were true, her whole life since the invasion had been a lie.

To her left, a dark figure entered the pew behind her and sat down. Suddenly spooked, she was getting up to leave when the figure spoke in a harsh whisper.

"Stay, Mary. Don't turn around."

She sat again, her heart racing. "Who are you?"

"I've been sent by a mutual friend who wants to meet with you."

"Who's that?"

"I can't say his name, but he said you'd know when I mentioned bee pollen and yogurt."

She closed her eyes. He'd made fun of her once for stirring bee pollen into her yogurt, telling her she was a scientist and should know better. Only one person would know about that.

"How can we meet? I'm watched constantly."

"You're here now, aren't you?"

"Yes, but-"

"Meet him at your hiding place tonight, six p.m."

"How could he know about that?"

"Tonight, six p.m."

Mary was thrown. No one else knew about the solarium.

"How-"

When she turned around, the figure was gone.

More rain poured down as she hurried back to the Club. Gabriel would probably be looking for her already, wanting to check on her health.

Last night he'd come back to her room, long after the mysterious Michael had left. She'd showered and crawled into bed, still feeling too shocked to do much of anything except pull the covers over her shivering body.

A soft knock had startled her.

"Mary?" Gabriel's voice asked.

"It's open."

He found her in bed curled into a fetal position. A few moments went by before he sat on the end of the bed.

"I was worried about you. What made you leave so suddenly?"

She'd had a little time to come up with a good lie. "I got sick. Too much of Gideon's punch," she murmured miserably.

"How many glasses did you have?"

"I lost count at five."

A soft chuckle, "It's a wonder you're still alive."

"What's in that stuff?"

"You mean besides hundred proof liquor?"

"Yes."

"Nothing that I know of, but every year something like ecstasy gets tossed in too."

"Why didn't you warn me?"

"I didn't think I'd have to. You've never indulged much."

"Until tonight. Remind me to never do that again."

She hoped she sounded as miserable as she felt. Truthfully, she wasn't really acting. Her head, body and feet ached.

He got up from the bed. "Will you be all right?"

"Yes, just need some sleep."

He didn't leave immediately; instead, he stayed by the bed waiting. She prayed he wouldn't bring up their 'make-out ' session. That was something she desperately wished to forget.

"Good night then."

The door closed with a soft click and she distinctly heard the key turning in the lock. He must have gotten it back from Delilah.

She'd always assumed Gabriel had a duplicate of the key to her door. The question was, how had Delilah gotten hold of it?

It was possible that Raphael had given it to her. He may have wanted to interrupt them, but didn't want to incur the ire of his boss. If Delilah barged in, she would receive the brunt of Gabriel's anger and Raphael could come in, as he had, and diffuse the situation.

She wondered if Gabriel would suspect the same thing. Raphael could always say Delilah had just slipped by him, but she doubted it. Raphael was good at his job and had not lasted this long by being careless. The only reason she was able sneak out at all was that Gabriel unofficially allowed it. If he ever meant to stop her, he would.

It had been hours before she finally fell asleep.

This morning she'd woken early and left for the church. She'd hoped to find God, but she may have found Mulder instead.

When she got back, a clean up of the main room was underway. The Club would be closed tonight to give the staff a much needed break. Armageddon was once a year for a good reason.

"Where have you been?" Raphael asked.

Startled, she turned around. "Church."

He raised an eyebrow in surprise. "He's been looking for you."

"Tell him I'm down here helping out," she said, shedding her coat.

He lumbered off and she knew he was going straight to Gabriel. Let him, she thought. He didn't own her no matter what people thought.

Gabriel came down later and located her on the stage taking the decorations down.

"Raphael says you went to church."

She didn't stop her task, and answered him while putting beads into a cardboard box.

"Yes, I did."

"Going to confession?"

"I have nothing to confess."

"No?"

She looked up at the teasing note in his voice. Keeping her face blank she said, "No."

"Ah."

Was he disappointed? Had he hoped she thought more of last night than she did?

He turned around and left her for his office. She didn't dwell on it, she couldn't. One goal dominated her mind, and that was getting out tonight.


She was late. Gabriel had given her several things to do and it was nearly six by the time she'd been able to sneak out. Raphael seemed more vigilant as well, making her escape all the more difficult. With a pounding heart, she ran toward her hiding place.

She'd found it on one of her many early excursions into the city in an effort to locate a place to be alone. It sat on top of the eighth floor of an old hospital closed long before invasion.

Oddly, even the homeless wouldn't go near it because rumors that it was haunted permeated local legends. She hadn't heard any of the stories until later, and by then she'd begun to call it a second home.

Every outside entrance had been sealed up, but she found a loose board across a door in the alley. She hadn't located the Solarium until her third trip into the old red brick building. Every floor she'd found initially, was nearly identical: hospital rooms along three sides, a nurse's station in the middle, and what appeared to be an intensive care unit at the far end. Each floor was in a different color with a smattering of mosaic tiles decorating the walls. Dust and disrepair dominated rooms devoid of equipment or furniture.

During her wandering, she'd noticed that the main elevator had a button for the eighth floor. Most of stairwells went to the seventh floor, but she couldn't locate one that went to the eighth. Normally she wouldn't have bothered to go back to a place absent of anything resembling a home, but the mystery of an eighth floor was one she wanted to unravel.

The second trip proved fruitless as well, but it yielded a clue. At the top of a side staircase, around a corner and behind a steel door, was another staircase she'd spied through a small window. Naturally, this door was locked tight, and no amount of prying would jimmy it open. When she'd stepped back in frustration, she noticed an engraved sign, painted over to match the door. When she'd shined her flashlight obliquely over it, Solarium was spelled out in art deco lettering.

A curiosity to see what was at the top burned all through her. There might be nothing up there but more dust and cobwebs, or even bodies, but she suddenly had to know.

Back at the club, she networked among the patrons until she'd found someone willing to sell her a set of lock picks. She hadn't done much picking since the Academy, but wanted to try. At the next opportunity to sneak out, she took the picks with her.

She'd tried every trick to open that door, but nothing seemed to work. Finally, an hour later with sweat pouring down her face, the lock gave. Cautiously, she'd opened the door and stepped inside. To her surprise, light poured in from the top.

She climbed the narrow steps and found another locked door at the top. This one was made of aluminum and glass and was far easier to pick. When she stepped through, she found a tiny paradise. The room was made of small tiles arranged into mosaic patterns, imitating plants and animals frolicking in a ceramic paradise. The ceiling was made of a dozen skylights and one wall was nothing but large Plexiglas windows. A tarnished sign on the wall proclaimed this to be the Solarium, designed in 1939 by someone she assumed was a famous for the time.

Compared to the rest of the building, this space was relatively untouched. Old wooden deck chairs were scattered across the room, once used for patients with tuberculosis as part of 'light' therapy. Dead palm trees decorated the corners and an empty table was against one wall. The effect was one of tropical charm in a place where everything below it housed pain and illness.

Someone had probably loved this place too, and locked it up tight against vandalism. When a beam of sunshine escaped through a cloud to grace the room, she decided to call it home.

She'd returned to it often, bringing bedding and few personal items with her. She'd also started bringing a gun. The neighborhood was bad enough to warrant it and she'd had to bargain in secrecy for it. No one wanted to barter behind Gabriel's back and several of the slimy thieves that came into the Club refused her. She finally got one from a skinny, drug addicted guy named Mouse and it had taken most of her meager savings.

After squeezing through the boarded opening, she pulled the gun out in preparation. She heard no sounds, and met no one as she climbed up seven stories. Pausing at the first door to the Solarium, she found it locked and silent.

Stealthily she unlocked it, having become adept at picking the finicky deadbolt long ago. Climbing the short flight was accomplished without encountering anyone. She'd added a padlock to the second door long ago and she opened with ease before entering the room.

With the exception of the elevator shaft, this was the only entrance. She found the room as she always did; quiet, empty, and undisturbed.

Feeling disappointed, she walked over to the panel of windows. The view here at night was spectacular and one she rarely saw. Her work at the club took place well past sunset and took precedence over any 'free' time.

She paced restlessly back and forth across the Solarium's colorful flooring. A candle she'd lit cast her shadow against one wall. It danced in the wake of her pacing, making her shadow dance too.

The sound of a door opening froze her in her tracks. She heard footsteps slowly ascending the stairs until a figure in black stood on the other side of the glass door. That door was also opened, and the figure stepped in.

"Stop right there," she whispered, gun trained at the figure's chest.

Two gloved hands rose in the air. "Hey, don't shoot me, Scully. You've done that at least once already."

The joke fell flat. "Step into the light."

He moved forward to show a head topped by a black knit cap and face looking remarkably like Mulder's. He pulled the cap off, revealing a shaggy mop of brown hair.

"Scully, it's me."

"Prove it."

"How?"

With her free hand, she pulled a butcher knife from her waistband and threw it to his feet.

"Let's see if you can bleed like a human."

His face registered surprise. Obviously, he hadn't thought she'd believe him to be a clone. Stooping over, he picked it up and turned it over in his hands in consideration. After a moment, he held it out to her.

"You do it," he said, handing her the knife. He rolled his left sleeve up and held the arm out in sacrifice.

It was an act of pure trust and one she couldn't ignore. Picking a spot on the back of his forearm, she made an incision. Immediately blood began to ooze out of it and ran down the side of his arm to drip on the floor.

Even in candlelight, she could see it was bright red. She dropped the knife and gun with a small sob and wrapped her arms tightly around him.

"Mulder," she whispered over and over.

Against all odds, against any hope she'd ever had of seeing him alive again, he was there. In one moment all the months of fear and desperation fell away and it was just the two of them again.

They stood there for long moments just holding each other. The familiar press of his warm body against hers was an exquisite sensation. He kissed her forehead and bent down to press a stubbled cheek against hers. He smelled like Mulder.

"How? How is it you're alive?" she asked in bewilderment.

"Oh, Scully. I have so much to tell you. So much."

The use of her real name sent a shiver through her body. She sensed that what he'd come to tell her could be bad and wondered why he'd pick this point in time to do it.

When she pulled back to look in his eyes, he had the appearance of lost a little boy. She wanted him to be happy, to feel as much joy at their reunion as she did. On impulse she rose up and kissed his cheek. He turned his head and covered her mouth with his.

The kiss started out innocently enough. Mulder placed a series of soft, slow kisses on her mouth and then deepened it. Before she knew it, their mouths were open, tongues sweetly exploring the other's mouth.

Mulder finally pulled back, gasping for air. He was so hard against her belly that he gasped when she rubbed herself over it.

"Scully, we need to talk," he said with false reluctance.

"Later."

There was no Bureau now, no policies to keep them apart. Now that the dam had broken for her, there was no going back.

She led him over to the makeshift bed, used on rare occasion. This wasn't the Four Seasons and they didn't lie down on satin sheets for their first time, but it didn't matter.

She removed her leather coat, black sweater, and bra without guile while Mulder did the same with his clothes. He stared at her with haunted eyes.

"You've gotten so thin," he murmured.

You should have seen me when I was with Sam's group, she thought. They'd lived near starvation for months.

He ran his hands over her back, up her ribs before pausing on her breasts. Using just the roughened skin of his palms, he gently rubbed them back and forth against her hardened nipples.

All thought of rebels and invasion fled in the face of so pleasant an assault.

She returned the favor by roaming over his fine body with her fingertips. Mulder had gotten thinner too, but a layer of hard muscle lay just beneath his skin. They'd both gotten a little tougher, in more ways than one.

Eventually, he became impatient with mere touching and finished undressed them both. His next move fulfilled a long time wish; he lay down next to her without any clothing or uncertainty.

They kissed and explored each other thoroughly, memorizing every nuance, every anatomic detail. She was surprised to find freckles on the small of his back and it made her ridiculously happy.

Suddenly impatient herself, she lay back and drew him down with her. Holding her eyes with his, he entered her slowly almost making her come with that sensation alone. When he was fully inside, he paused to kiss her and she felt exquisitely complete.

This wasn't an act to demonstrate domination or power; this was about equality, respect and love.

He began to thrust slowly driving away her fear and the darkness of the world. Soon he was coming and the look of love on his face made her follow soon after.

"Scully," he repeated like a prayer, "Scully."


Afterwards, she bandaged his arm and they finally did what he'd wanted to do; talk. She listened as he spoke in a quiet monotone about the days after invasion. Washington DC had been raided first, almost before anyone knew what had happened. Several important government buildings, including the Hoover, had been destroyed outright.

Mulder had been out on an errand and was spared the fate that befell Skinner, Kersh, and most of their fellow agents. When he got back, nothing but a burned out building was left.

"What did you do?" she asked in a quiet voice.

"What could I do? I went home."

He said he'd tried to call her a 'hundred' times and couldn't get through to her. He was frantic, unable to raise even the Gunmen.

"I didn't know where you were. You only told me that you were going with your brother out in the country."

"Bill didn't want me to tell you. He said I could spend one weekend away from my partner, so I didn't tell you."

"Turned out to be a lot longer than a weekend."

"Yes. I know. I'm sorry."

"It's not your fault. No one knew. I'm actually grateful to Bill for taking you out of the city."

Silence fell between them and Mulder pulled her closer. They had so much time to make up.

"Whose burned body was in your apartment with your credentials in his pocket?" she asked after a moment's thought.

"One of my neighbors."

"Your neighbor?"

"He'd seen all my paranormal stuff just before the ships came and kept coming over to ask what I thought was going to happen to us."

"What did you tell him?"

"I told him I had no idea what was going to happen, but he didn't believe me. During that first week he got very paranoid, and was sure I had something to do with the invasion. One night he broke into the apartment and tried to kill me."

"Tell me about it," she urged quietly.

"I woke up when he broke the door down. I just had time to grab my gun and shoot him before he lunged at me with a knife. We struggled and I had to shoot him again. It was like he was possessed, Scully. I never saw it coming."

"How did he get burned?"

"You already know the electricity went out pretty early on and I was using candles. Two of them got knocked over in the fight and the apartment caught fire. By the time I got to a fire extinguisher, it was too late. I couldn't put it out."

He pulled back and looked at her face. "He was dead, Scully, and I saw my chance to leave. They were rounding people up and knew it was just a matter of time before they came for me."

"So you planted your ID on his body?"

He nodded. "And I left."

"Just like Scott Ostlehoff," she murmured.

"And just like Ostlehoff, it worked. I didn't think there would be the time or facilities to run DNA. How did you find out about it?"

"Uncle Sam."

"Uncle Sam?"

She told him about going with the partisans to become their physician. Sam would send runners into the city on errands and to gather information. Eventually one made it to Mulder's apartment and he brought back photos and the ID.

Once he was 'dead', Mulder told her he'd done the best he could to get out of the city. Patrols had made it next to impossible to move around, even at night. Eventually he found his way to the Gunmen's.

"The Gunmen are alive?"

"I found Frohike there, but he didn't know where Byers and Langly were. They'd gone out for a pizza and Frohike was buying another computer part from a friend. When he got back, their place had been raided and most of their equipment taken or destroyed. Langly and Byers never came back. Poor guy was beside himself."

"What did you do?"

He told her that Frohike was already connected to the underground so they packed up what they could and went into hiding. He met more people as some of the displaced populace became organized.

"Next thing I know, I was in charge of this big group."

"Why does that surprise you?"

"Because I was never a 'leader' type before, Scully. You know that."

"Well, you are now. How does it feel?"

"It feels...weird."

She smiled and gave him a kiss. "I like weird."

"I hope so."

She kissed him some more to show just how much she liked weird.

"Scully," he murmured as she nuzzled his neck, "How did you get from the farm to the city?"

The question stopped her cold. If he was as high in the rebel hierarchy as she thought, he was privy to a great deal of information.

"Don't you know?"

"I want to hear your side of it."

She told him about being on the run and how living in fear became a normal routine. Nothing she said was news; he'd been on the run long enough himself to know what it had been like.

"The first time I saw Gabriel, was at an old farmhouse we were using. Sam said he knew him from before the invasion, but he wouldn't elaborate on what that meant. Some of the others thought Sam had been a cop before and Gabriel had been a mobster, but all of it was just speculation. Sam was very secretive about his past."

"Did Gabriel see you too, that first time?"

"I met him briefly but we didn't speak."

"What did you think of him?"

"I don't know. He seemed...dangerous like one of our XFiles."

"And after that?"

"After that we were surprise by a raid, rounded up, and taken to a camp. I was separated from the others and questioned, but I never told them anything useful."

"Did you see Sam or anyone else again?"

"No. One day a guard came for me and said I was being taken to another camp. I was sure they were going to kill me or else I'd be taken with others in a ship, but the guard took me to Gabriel instead."

"Did he explain how you got there?"

"He said it was too late for the others, but he managed to find me. He bribed some official to get me."

"Is that all? Were you ever suspicious?"

"What do you mean?"

"Scully, how do you know Gabriel wasn't the one who had your group rounded up?"

"He wouldn't do that," she said. Agitated, she went to the windows and looked out at the city.

Mulder came up from behind and wrapped his arms around her. "I have sources that say the order came from him. He betrayed you, Scully."

"He was Sam's friend. Sam didn't trust that many people, Mulder. He wouldn't have let him come to the farm if he thought Gabriel was a risk."

"Maybe he wasn't a risk until he saw you."

She turned around and gave him an incredulous look. "What?"

"Maybe he saw you and decided he wanted you for himself. He could win some points with the military and have a beautiful woman all to himself."

"It wasn't for sexual reasons," she said, shrugging off his arms. "We haven't even slept together, and it's been a year."

"Haven't you?"

"No."

"Did you want to, Scully?"

"What is this, Mulder? I just slept with you."

"Because you need to see him for what he is, the enemy. I think you've been with him too long to see him clearly."

"He's been good to me, better than he could have been. I'm not a prisoner, Mulder."

She was defending Gabriel to Mulder, and shouldn't have been. It was wrong, but something about Gabriel didn't quite fit the picture Mulder drew of him.

He'd said he tried to find Sam and the others, and continued to try after she'd gone to the Club. She'd seen him hand an old picture of Sam to a few of the men that visited, but none had seen him. Had it all been a show for her benefit?

"Do you love him, Scully?"

"No." She couldn't explain what she felt for Gabriel. Fear? Respect? Yes. Love? No.

"Good. Come back to bed."

They were still nude and she suddenly felt chilled standing in the open air. Following him back to bed, she spied his big leather coat. When she retrieved it to use as an extra covering, a large manila envelope fell out of an inside pocket.

"What's this?"

"A present from Frohike. Open it."

With a frown she folded back the metal clasps holding the flap down. Inside she discovered a stack of photographs. Closer inspection revealed that every one was of her.

She leafed through them, each one taken at a different angle and with different dates stamped on the bottom. A high-powered lens had been used paparazzi style. The first was taken after she joined the resistance, and the last was dated only a week ago.

"Frohike took these?"

"No. We found the ones taken of you with the resistance in an old rebel hideout. No one seems to know who took those. Later, Frohike had other people do it for him. I think he wanted proof you were safe."

"How long have you been watching me?"

"I only found out about you six months ago and I couldn't contact you before this. I'm sorry."

She didn't know what to say. The idea of being under surveillance, even friendly surveillance was unnerving.

"He's got some 'splainin' to do when I see him."

"I'm sure he'd be happy to oblige if it meant he could see you. I don't think the early ones mean anything."

He was trying to reassure her, but all she could do was stare at the photos in her hand. Could Gabriel have had something to do with them?

"Hey, Scully," he said taking the photos out of her hand. "Come here."

Soon enough he made her forget all about them.


She dozed in his arms, feeling safe and content. They lost all track of time inside the small oasis. It was tempting to push all thoughts of Gabriel and the Club as far from her mind as possible, but she'd have to go back eventually.

"What time is it?" she asked, sitting up.

Mulder held his wrist up and squinted to read the dial. "After ten. Why?"

"Shit."

She was up and out of the bed before he could protest. Grabbing her clothes, she dressed as fast as she could, suddenly completely focused on leaving.

"Hey."

Mulder was beside her and he grabbed an arm to still her frantic movements.

"They lock the club up every night and set the alarm," she said in explanation.

"The club stays open until after midnight."

"It's closed tonight. Gabriel was planning on leaving early and they can't set the alarm unless I'm there."

"You can't disarm it?"

"No. I don't know the combination."

She could see by his expression that he was beginning to understand her situation. She'd said she wasn't a prisoner, but keeping her inside a locked building with an alarm in place belied that statement. The look on his face changed to anger.

"Scully-"

"He does it to keep the Club and me safe. I'm the only one there at night," she said, continuing to dress.

"That's not what it looks like."

"I know. I can't explain it, but I really think he believes not telling me will keep me safe."

"Does anyone else know the combination?"

"Raphael and Gideon."

"Gideon?"

"The bartender. He's usually the last out."

"Gabriel trusts him that much?"

She smiled. "Gideon doesn't trust anyone and apparently that's good enough."

Mulder pulled on his clothes and blew out the candles. When Scully was finished dressing, she started for the door.

"Scully," he said, stopping her, "I'm going to get you out of here; get you away from Gabriel."

"How? He owns everyone and everything in this city."

"I'm working on something, but it's going to take some time. There are some big things going on in the government and among the rebels right now. If one of us were to vanish suddenly, some friends of mine could be badly hurt, but I want to see you again."

"It's too dangerous for you here. We might get caught."

"We won't get caught." He said it with such confidence, she almost believed him.

"All right, then when will I see you?" she asked, touching his cheek.

"Can you sneak and out and go to the church again?"

"I think so."

"Go on Sundays and Wednesdays that way you can say it's for mass. I don't know when I'll be able to get away, but watch for your contact."

"How do I explain this sudden interest in God?"

"Just tell Gabriel you've finally seen the light."

She smiled and kissed him. Same old Mulder. "Okay."

As they left, she carefully locked each door behind them. The solarium was no longer just a place to be alone. Now it was a sanctuary to be shared.

At the bottom of the last set of stairs, Scully was startled to find two men standing there. She was pulling her gun out when Mulder stopped her.

"Wait. They're friends. Don't you recognize the skinny one?"

The man in question stepped forward and she shone the flashlight on him. His pale face and stringy brown hair were familiar.

"Mouse!"

He grinned. "Got any drugs?"

She gave Mulder an incredulous look.

"Hey, I had to be sure you got a gun that worked," he said.

"Pretty ironic if I'd used it on you upstairs."

"Yeah."

Turning back to Mouse she asked, "Are you the one I talked to in the church?"

"Yep. I was the only alter boy in group."

"Alter boy?"

"In case anyone asked questions," Mulder added.

"You cover all your bases, don't you?"

"Have to where you're concerned, Scully."

He reached out to gently caress the back of her neck. It was a sweet moment and the two men shifted uncomfortably.

"The big guy is Metro," he said, dropping his hand. "He's my 'muscle'."

"He looks a little like Skinner."

"Yep, but he's nicer."

The man in question continued to glower at her. He was bigger and balder than Skinner, but definitely not as kind.

"Right." She gave him the 'eyebrow' and that earned her a laugh.

"I've got to go," she said, enjoying the exchange but knowing she had to leave.

"I'll send Mouse with you."

"My guardian angel."

Mulder kissed her before she left, holding her so hard she thought she'd crack. If they had really wanted to be impulsive, she could have just left with him and damned the consequences, but they had to stay smart to stay alive.

That thought was sobering enough to make her pull away. She left without looking back.


The Club was dark when she got back, but the front door was unlocked. Mouse was reluctant to leave her without knowing that someone else was inside. He did so only after she reassured him and promised to look for him at the church.

When she stepped inside, the main room was nearly dark, lit by a few overhead spotlights deliberately left on after closing. Gideon's bar was also deserted; the 'good' liquor locked up tight inside a safe.

She half expected Raphael to be sitting in the dark waiting for her return. Since he was nowhere in sight, and the rest of the first floor was deserted, she knew who was.

Gabriel's office door was open; a weak light shining through the gap. She could probably sneak passed him, but that would only delay the inevitable. Taking a deep breath, she knocked on his door.

"Come in, Mary."

He wasn't sitting at his desk as she expected, but standing by the two way mirrors with his back to her. A glass of amber liquid was in his left hand, and he raised it to his lips. Gabriel rarely drank and never took drugs. She suspected he abstained from the liquor and drugs because he liked to be in charge of himself at all times.

"Good of you to come back."

"Did you think I wouldn't?"

"It crossed my mind."

"I told you. I always come back."

He turned around and looked at her. She couldn't read his face because he was half in shadows, half in light. Almost a metaphor for his personality, she thought.

"Yes, but for how long? Are you happy here, Mary?"

The question surprised her. She'd never thought about happiness in relation to her life at the Club. Now that she knew Mulder was alive, she wanted nothing except to be with him. Being without him was the definition of unhappiness.

"I'm content, Gabriel. Why do you ask?"

"Last night, I thought you seemed happy. You...acted happy with me, but today you've been distant."

"Yes, I know," she agreed. "By the way, how's Delilah?"

He was bringing the glass to his mouth again, but paused midway at her question. The hesitation only lasted a second before he finished the motion and took a drink.

"She's gone. For good."

"I'm sorry."

"Are you?"

He stepped closer, but she backed away. She'd just come from one man's bed and was not going into another's.

"I'm sorry for your sake."

"Oh. Then I take it last night was a solo performance." He sounded bitter.

"Yes."

"Why is that?"

She looked toward her feet and tried to think of the right thing to say. Any explanation was going to sound trite and Gabriel didn't tolerate triteness. She couldn't be totally honest either, for obvious reasons. Nothing good came to mind and she felt trapped.

"Never mind," he said at her hesitation. "Go to bed with your memories."

He turned his back on her and finished off what was left in the glass.

"I'm sorry." She was beginning to sound like a parrot.

"I don't need your pity."

She backed completely out of the room at the anger in his voice. This time she did run to her room and slammed the door against his rage. A fine tremor began in her legs and suddenly they wouldn't support her. She slid down the door until she was sitting against it.

Too much had happened in the last twenty four hours. Her mind was completely overloaded by sensory input, threatening to crack her into tiny pieces. Finally, her body allowed a release of tension in a river of silent tears. Laughing, she realized she hadn't cried since invasion.

It was so awful it felt good.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~* End Part 2

Gin and Gothic part3
Rating, descriptions, and disclaimer in part one.


Scully found the next few weeks harrowing. She didn't see Mouse at church for her first few visits and fear that he or Mulder could have been captured played in the back of her mind. Her skinny angel finally came on a Sunday morning and she was able to see her real angel that night.

Waiting for Mulder was a fear-tinged event. She paced the solarium like a caged animal anticipating a meal. When he finally arrived, he did indeed bring dinner and sweet relief.

They made love again, reaffirming their delicate emotional bond. She couldn't seem to get close enough to his body or touch him nearly enough. She felt like a neglected baby, learning how to love, hope, interact with another human being all over again. Areas of her heart that had been closed off were opened again, making her feel immensely vulnerable.

Technically they weren't having an affair. She'd never made Gabriel any promises, but she was sure he'd explode if he were ever to find out. Ostensibly, she could defend not telling him for security reasons; Gabriel didn't know Mulder's true identity because he was known to play both sides of the field. Information could be bought and sold easily and Gabriel was a master player.

Too soon, she had to leave him, and saying goodbye was too final a statement. Instead, she told him 'til next time' to assuage her conscious for her sudden lapse into superstition.

She was able to see Mulder again after that, but the meetings were always last minute and much too brief. Her love for him was growing, fitting itself into her emotional architecture like the mosaic tiles of the solarium's patterned floor. Part of the intensity was owed to their separation and the fear of being caught. Danger had a way of making their exchanges more powerful and immediate.

Mulder was miserable and it showed. More than once he suggested that they could just leave and he'd forget all about being a revolutionary; she was more important to him than waging a rebellion. Tempting as the suggestion was, she reminded him that they had to stay smart. She'd go with him when his plan was complete so none of his people would be hurt.

For his part, Gabriel stayed away from her. He no longer called her into his office to meet with 'clients' or to ask her opinion. She thought he was punishing her for being honest with him, the very thing he'd always said he admired about her.

During a particularly boring night, Paul approached her about singing again. She wanted to refuse him outright, but then realized it could play in her favor. If she were working on a project for the future, she wouldn't be suspected of wanting to flee. Gabriel might not look for her as quickly when she disappeared.

Raphael was another matter. He'd always hidden his true feelings for her when Gabriel was around, but now that she'd fallen from grace, he was openly contemptuous of her. Undoubtedly, he was working against her; filling Gabriel's mind with dark suspicions. She thought it might be just a matter of time before she was officially forbidden to leave the Club.

The whole situation was like a bomb, ticking away under her feet and she felt powerless to stop it.

The next time she met with Mulder, he was an hour late. Her pacing became so agitated; she had started to sing Paul's new song to take her mind off waiting. Without the added echo and other electronic improvements, it sounded abysmal.

She was so preoccupied, that she didn't hear Mulder come up the steps.

"Hey, Scully are you trying to make it rain sleeping bags?" he asked behind her.

Whirling on instinct, she nearly shot him in surprise.

"Mulder!"

"Sorry! I wasn't insulting your singing. Really. Put the gun away."

She shoved the ugly weapon into her coat with an irritated motion and put her arms around him. The soft cotton of his t-shirt was warm against her cheek and he stroked her hair in welcome. Meeting him like this was killling her.

"Where have you been?"

"I was unavoidably delayed," he said quietly.

"If it was another woman, I'm shooting the bitch."

His chest shook against her face as he laughed. "I don't doubt that at all." When she didn't respond, he became serious. "No chance of another woman, Scully. No one could ever replace you."

But I almost replaced you, she thought. It was something she'd have to live with for a long time.

"I don't know how much longer I can take this, Mulder."

He pulled back and kissed her. "That's what I came to tell you. I'm getting you out in the next couple of days."

"How?"

"It's better if I don't tell you, and," he added when she began to protest, "it was a condition one of the contacts requested for helping you escape."

"Why?"

"That'll be clear when it happens."

"So I'm just supposed to trust you?"

"Yep."

"Well, I think you'll have to convince me to trust you," she said, rubbing against him in a lascivious manner. His body responded almost immediately to the suggestion.

"More than happy to oblige."

Later, she was loathed to leave him, but she was already running late and didn't want to raise a hint of suspicion. They parted in the alley and she made the long trip back to the Club with a heavy heart.

"Soon," she murmured. "Please let it be soon."


Two days later she was back at church, praying with deep sincerity for deliverance. Her prayers seemed to be answered when Mouse appeared.

"It's me, Mary."

She started. Mary, a cover name given to her by a man she no longer trusted. Gabriel never told her why he'd chosen it, but she thought he might have done it as a joke. Was she Mother Mary or Mary Magdalene in his eyes?

It wouldn't matter soon anyway. 'Mary' was going to be destroyed and Scully was going to reemerge from the ashes of that dead life. Even if she perished in the attempt, it was still an escape.

"Is Mulder safe?" she asked.

"Yes. But I don't have much time. He said be ready to leave tonight."

"Tonight?" So much sooner than she expected.

"Yes. You'll be contacted by someone who's going to get you out past the alarm."

"I'm leaving after the Club closes?"

"Mulder thought it would give you more time to get away. You won't be missed until you're late for your next shift."

That was true enough. She rarely went downstairs before her shift and it wasn't unusual for her to sneak out during the day without being seen by anyone. If they could pull it off, she'd have almost twelve hours head start.

"I'll be ready."

"Be extra careful. I think someone may have followed me here."

She looked around, but didn't see anyone out of the ordinary. The pews were dotted with the same sad assortment of downtrodden she saw every week. One of them could be spying on her no matter how motley they appeared.

"I will and thank you for your help, Mouse. Mulder is lucky to have you."

"You have me too."

"Then I'm lucky as well."

"Goodbye. Good luck."

She waited a few minutes before following him out the door. Tonight, tonight, tonight, she silently chanted. Her heart was so light, the cold rain that fell on her bare head did little to dampen her mood.


Scully found it hard to behave in a normal manner after she got back to the Club. That night's crowd was thin and Paul's band didn't put much enthusiasm into playing. She roamed the big room without anyone to play hostess to. Time was literally crawling by.

She saw Gabriel only once. He emerged from his office with Raphael in tow and descended the stairs with his leather coat on; a sign that he was leaving for the night.

As he crossed the room, she watched his deliberate progress. Intent on the door, he barely cast a look in her direction before quickly exiting the Club. She felt a vague sense of disappointment to see him go, but she couldn't exactly say goodbye. In spite of herself, she thought she might miss him.

At two a.m. the last customer staggered out the door and that long night mercifully came to an end. She was keyed up and anxious to change out of her 'business' attire. The low cut bodice and tight skirt barely allowed her to breathe or move. As she was preparing to go upstairs, Paul approached her.

"Gideon wants to see you before he leaves."

"Gideon?"

"Yeah."

"Did he say why?" Gideon rarely spoke to her.

"Nope," he shrugged.

She watched Paul go back to the stage to finish packing up for the night. Whatever Gideon wanted to say, she hoped it wouldn't interfere with Mulder's plan. She found the wiry old man putting away glassware and liquor bottles.

"Paul said you wanted to see me."

He didn't turn around to look at her or give a sign that he'd heard her speak.

"I think maybe you want to go upstairs and put a coat on," he said.

"What?" she asked, feeling bewildered.

"I said, maybe you want to go upstairs and put a coat on."

It took her a moment to understand. Gideon was closing up for the night and there was only one reason he'd want her to wear a coat.

"All right."

With a pounding heart she climbed the stairs and put on her traveling clothes. Everything she wanted to take with her was stuffed into a small leather backpack. Worldly possessions didn't mean much in the face of possible freedom. She also couldn't take anything that might signal that she'd fled. When Gabriel searched her room the next day, he'd still find the gold bracelet he'd given her for Christmas and a framed picture of Melissa. It was a wallet photo she'd managed to hang onto all this time and it was the hardest thing to leave behind.

She waited until the rest of the Club's noisy crew went out the door. When all was silent downstairs, she joined Gideon at the bar.

Again, giving no indication that he'd seen her return, he walked towards the back door. She trailed behind, hoping that's what he wanted her to do.

The alarm box had its own key and she watched him open it up. Rows of lights dotted a gray metal plate and a standard keypad was situated in the center.

A separate side panel was labeled 'Security Cameras'. She watched as he reached in and took out the master tape. Scully knew each day's tapes were kept for twenty four hours before being reused, and effectively erased. Gideon was removing that day's tape along with any evidence of activity within the Club.

He put the tape in his coat, replaced it with another, and keyed in a long sequence of numbers on the pad. One by one, the green lights turned red and began to blink.

"You'll want to follow me."

They walked out the steel door and he locked it behind them. Without hesitation, he started down the alleyway. When she didn't immediately follow, he stopped.

"You'll want to follow me," he repeated with his back to her.

She was trotting up toward him when he took off again. He kept up a brisk pace and she found herself a little winded after several blocks. For an old man, he could certainly move.

Eventually they started traversing streets that looked familiar. When he stopped in front of the old hospital, she was out of breath and more than a little surprised. She turned to speak to him, but he was already walking away.

"You'll want to go inside," was all he said before disappearing into the dark.

Scully was still having a hard time believing it had happened. Was Gideon a secret rebel? Was he still on Gabriel's side, but had been bribed? Was Paul a deliberate part of this plan? How would Gideon explain the missing tape and her absence?

"Mulder will know," she murmured to herself.

Screwing her courage up, she climbed the long flights of steps to the solarium, knowing it would be the last time she'd be able to go there.

With methodical care, she opened the solarium's locks and listened for any sound within the small room. Hearing none, she walked through and settled in to wait.

This time she tried not to pace, but it was a fruitless venture. She started up within a few minutes and knew she'd continue until Mulder showed.

To her surprise, he arrived shortly after she did. She saw his familiar outline through the door and turned to greet him.

Except, it wasn't Mulder. It was Gabriel.

She reached for her gun, but he was faster; grabbing her arm and wresting it from her grasp. Another arm reached in and helped pin her arms behind her. Raphael's ugly scowl towered above her.

"Don't fight me Mary," Gabriel said between clenched teeth. "You're done."

"Let go of me you son of a bitch," she shouted.

"Yell all you want to, he's not coming."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Your lover, Mary. I'm not stupid."

By then Raphael had her arms behind her back. She stamped on his instep with a vicious force, but he never let go. Instead, he yanked her backwards and forcibly sat her in a chair. She felt metal slide across her wrists and heard handcuffs as they were snapped closed.

When she struggled further, he struck her brutally across the face. Dazed by the sheer power of the blow, the room spun crazily around her. Pain shot across the left side of her face and she felt warm blood trickle down from a split lip.

He grabbed her hair and probably would have hit her again, but Gabriel's voice interrupted. "Stop."

Raphael turned to look at him with angry eyes. Clearly, he wanted to continue the assault and was letting Gabriel know it with his body language.

Gabriel walked over to stand in front of her and confronted his right hand man. "I said stop."

Toe to toe now, she thought Raphael was challenging Gabriel's authority on the matter. A few moments passed in charged silence.

Raphael finally backed away, giving her look that said he wasn't finished with her yet. He stood behind her while Gabriel pulled another chair up to sit across from her. Was he going to play good cop/bad cop?

"Who is he, Mary?"

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"I think you do. I've had you followed, and you always go to the church or come here."

"I come here to be alone. I need to get out of the club from time to time."

Gabriel gave her a half smile. "That might have been true in the beginning, but circumstances have changed, haven't they?"

So far he hadn't mentioned any names. Maybe he really didn't know.

"What do you want from me?"

"I want the truth, Mary."

"The truth? What about telling me the truth? Did you have my resistance group rounded up and sent to a camp?"

He leaned back, clearly surprised by the question. "Who told you that?"

"It doesn't matter. Is it true?"

"No, I never betrayed you."

"I did," Raphael said from behind her.

She stiffened, ready to fight, but Raphael pinned her to the chair by placing his hands on her shoulders.

"Raphael thought he was doing me a favor by bringing you to me. It was done without my knowledge or approval. Raphael forgets his place sometimes."

They might have continued, but the faint sound of the solarium's lower door being opened halted them both.

"Scully?"

Before either man could move, she started screaming at the top of her lungs.

"Nooooo!"

The next few seconds became a blur as the glass door in front of them exploded. Raphael fell down sideways, bringing her and the chair with him. Gabriel moved off toward a corner, raising the gun he'd taken from her and shooting it.

More shots were fired, splintering tiles and raining shards and chalky dust over her. She struggled to move and realized the old wooden chair had broken beneath her. Half crawling, half rolling, she attempted to get out of the line of fire.

She wound up against the wall opposite Gabriel, lying on her right side. Panting from the effort, she noticed a trail of blood she'd made that led back to Raphael. More blood was pooled around him and leaked from a hole between his dead eyes.

Finally, the shooting stopped and she tried to sit up, finding it difficult with her hands still locked behind her. When she was finally upright, she could see Gabriel holding her gun, aimed at the open door. A sick feeling washed over her as she realized Mulder might get shot with that gun, after all.

"Scully? Are you all right?" he called.

"Don't come up. He has a gun."

"Michael," Gabriel shouted over her, "I suggest you come and see for yourself. I don't want to shoot her."

Silence hung in the air for a few agonizing moments. Scully thought her heart would beat out of her chest, and then it nearly stopped when she saw Mulder come in the room.

He edged around toward her, all the while keeping his gun trained on Gabriel and Gabriel had his aimed at Mulder's chest. It was a Mexican stand off.

"You okay, Scully?" His face grew hard at the site of her split lip and blood on her face.

"Yes."

She had a sudden flashback to their FBI days. How many times had he asked her that while they were under someone's gun? "The blood on the floor belongs to Raphael. Nice shot."

"How did you know?" Mulder asked Gabriel.

"I didn't until now. I thought Mary was sleeping with someone, but I didn't know who it was. You have a distinctive voice."

"Well, I guess I'll have to do something about that."

"You knew her from before?"

"Yes."

Gabriel nodded as if confirming something he'd guessed at.

"What about Gideon?" she asked.

"He was supposed to keep you at the Club until I got there at four, not bring you here. I suspect your boss had something to do with the change in plans."

Gabriel laughed. "Gideon can be bought, but he also knows which side of his bread is buttered. He told me he'd been paid by an anonymous source to let Mary out. It doesn't take much to realize it was her lover."

Scully closed her eyes against her own stupidity. She'd followed Gideon blindly, never questioning his sincerity.

"But you're early," he said to Mulder.

"We found Mouse's body outside the church and I had a bad feeling about tonight."

"You killed Mouse?" she asked Gabriel. Her heart sank further. Her sweet guardian angel was dead.

"Raphael did before I could stop him."

"Are you going to blame him for everything?" she asked with bitterness.

"Yes, for all the bad things that happened to you. I never wanted to hurt you, Mary."

"Too late."

"You can make it up to her by letting her go," Mulder interrupted.

"Now that would be a hard thing to do. Do you think you could walk away from her if I let you both live?"

"If you let us..?" Mulder asked with incredulity.

"The military is on its way here. You don't have much time to decide."

Sirens could be heard in the distance even as he spoke. Scully felt the cold tendrils of panic grip her heart.

"Why don't you let her go and you can turn me in instead? It would be quite a feather in your cap, Gabriel."

"No," Scully blurted out. "I'm not leaving without you."

"She means that much to you?" Gabriel asked quietly

Mulder lowered his gun and stooped down beside her. Tears were already running down her face when he leaned his forehead against hers.

"Yes, she means that much to me."

"Is that what you want, Mary?"

"Scully," she corrected him for the first time. "My name is Dana Scully."

"Is that what you want, Dana Scully?"

"No. If you let him go, I'll come with you willingly."

"Will you let me finish what we started the other night?"

She closed her eyes against the thought. "Yes, if you let him go we can finish what we started the other night."

"Scully," Mulder began.

"Get out," Gabriel interrupted, "and take her with you."

"What?" Mulder was suddenly on his feet.

"She'll never love me the way she loves you and I don't need a ghost in my bed. I won't tolerate that."

"What about the military? How are you going to explain Raphael?" Mulder asked.

"He's been trying to take over the Club and my territory for weeks, going behind my back to arrange deals. I think he was going to use M-Scully as leverage, but you saved me the trouble of dispensing with him. I'll tell them Raphael was really Michael the whole time and I finally caught him."

"Good plan if you can carry it off," Mulder said, sounding impressed.

Gabriel tossed the handcuff keys over to Mulder's feet. "Unlock the cuffs and get out of here before I change my mind."

Mulder stooped back down and released her from the cuffs. Scully rubbed her wrists, and he helped her to stand on quivering legs. Mulder took her hand, immediately starting for the door.

"Wait."

Before they left, she had to retrieve her backpack from where it had fallen near Raphael's body. Cautiously, she skirted the big puddle of blood and picked it up. As an after thought, she kicked Raphael's inert body. It did no good of course, but it made her feel marginally better.

"Come on, Scully," Mulder called from the door. The sirens were closer now and they'd have to hurry.

Before going out the door, she hesitated. "Thank you, Gabriel. I-I won't forget you."

Turning away from her, he walked to a window. "Goodbye, Mary."

He made a lonely, but regal portrait standing there with the city as a backdrop. That was how she knew she'd always remember him.

She and Mulder flew down the steep steps, rounding each corner at top speed. At the bottom, Mulder eased through the loose board and pulled her after him.

Once they were out in the open air, she paused a moment to catch her breath. Mulder was a few steps ahead and turned back.

"Come on, Scully. Run!" He held his hand out to her, beckoning her to follow.

She smiled and took off after him, running for all she was worth. She was finally with the man she loved and ran with him toward a strange and uncertain future.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~End Gin and Gothic

Author's notes:
This turned out to be much longer than I anticipated and I sincerely apologize for any confusion on the numbering of parts. This is the kind of story that happens when a challenge is issued and you accidentally come across the movie score for The Crow while unpacking some boxes.

Challenge elements: Bed risers, Mardi Gras, first time sex between M and S, a folder full of candid photos of Scully that Frohike has to explain, and helium balloons.

This story is based on a novel I wrote in my head during medical school and residency while trying to relax enough to sleep. Sometimes I drank so much caffeine, that it backfired and would lie in bed wide awake for hours.

I was greatly influenced by The Stand during that time and wanted to write a post apocalyptic story myself. This is the middle portion of that novel with XF characters in place.

The solarium is a real place that sits on top of a closed hospital in Chicago. Both Hillary Clinton and John Wayne Gacy were born there and it appeared as the hospital an injured fireman was taken to in the movie Backflash. I spent quite a number of long call nights at that hospital and would go up to the solarium in the middle of the night to look at the city and dream of escape. It was indeed beautiful and designed by a famous mosaic tile artist. I wish I had taken pictures before I left and the hospital was closed down.

Thanks to my betas and all the people who supported the story while I wrote it.


If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to philiater