December 5, 2004
Title: Lost in the Stars
Email: email@example.com (feedback always welcome!) Distribution: Yes to Ephemeral and Gossamer, or if you've archived me before. If you haven't, please drop me a line and let me know, and leave headers, etc. attached. Thank you!
Spoilers: Various S9 eps through The Truth Classification: Vignette
Keywords: Lone Gunmen
Summary: ...and we're lost out here in the stars...
Written for the E-Muse Secret Santa Swap. Thanks to Carol for Speed!Beta.
Note: This is a follow up story to "Where the Boys Are," so if you've read that one, you know that it dealt with the events in "Jump the Shark" and its aftermath. If you haven't read the first one, this one will still make sense. I'd prefer that JtS had never happened, but for the purposes of this story, it did.
Disclaimer: All the characters named in this story belong to Chris Carter, Ten Thirteen Productions, and FOX. I mean no infringement, and I'm not making any money.
Lost in the Stars
Byers, Langly and Frohike looked around them with bemusement. Their former home was changing before their eyes.
Walter Skinner stood in the door of the transformed kitchen in the former Magic Bullet headquarters. He surveyed the main floor of the warehouse, now cleaned and painted and re-equipped.
"Welcome to Skinner, Incorporated," Langly said. "Who's he gonna get to run all this stuff?"
"I miss our stuff," Frohike complained.
"You may recall that most of it was sold before we, um, left," Byers reminded them. He still had trouble reconciling himself to their fate, such as it was.
None of them had any idea as to the how and the why of their continued presence in their former haunts -- a word that Frohike often used deliberately.
"Probably another bureaucratic screw-up," Frohike had suggested. "Eventually someone'll figure it out, and poof! We'll be gone."
"Gone to where?" Byers asked.
"Dunno, man. But I'd think there'd be others like us. Do you suppose everyone exists on his or her own astral plane?"
"If I'd been given a choice, I don't think I would have chosen to spend eternity with you guys," Langly said.
"Love you too, man," said Frohike. "Anyway, who says it's for eternity?"
"Well, it feels that way," Langly muttered.
An alarm bell rang. The three ghosts jumped but Skinner didn't bat an eye. He moved to the door and peered through the peephole, unlocking the multiple locks to allow Jimmy Bond and Yves Harlow to enter.
Jimmy looked around and whistled. "Cool. I bet the guys would love this."
"Bet they wouldn't," Langly muttered. Byers didn't bother to shush im.
"Doggett and Reyes should be here soon," Skinner said. "I'll give you the tour then."
In due time the two agents arrived. Monica Reyes held up a six-pack of beer. "Maybe we should have brought more," she suggested.
Langly, Frohike, and Byers looked at each other. Could she see them? But it appeared Monica was talking about Jimmy and Yves.
Skinner gave them the tour and the Gunmen followed along, shaking their heads at the changes and additions.
"Where does he get the dough?" Langly whispered to Frohike and Byers.
"Good investments?" Frohike hazarded. "He's a single guy, a workaholic, he probably just socked his money away over the years."
"Instead of buying a cabin in the woods, he's doing this," Byers said.
"Glad to see he's taking care of security at least," Langly said. There were cameras inside and out, and thick doors with keyless locks. Even Frohike couldn't find fault with them.
"Not the same old homestead, that's for sure," Frohike commented.
"It certainly isn't," Byers agreed.
"Do you suppose he's going to live here?" Langly wondered.
"I have an idea about that," Byers said, but wouldn't elaborate.
The group moved into the kitchen and sat around a big table there. Every surface gleamed with a spit and polish shine.
"Boy, what a difference. You had to have gutted it and rebuilt from the ground up," John Doggett commented.
"Again with the insults," Frohike muttered.
Skinner cleared his throat and all idle conversation stopped. "I'm about ready to go on a fishing trip. Anyone have any ideas about location?"
"Well, I guess you could start in New Mexico," Doggett said. "That's pretty close to their last known location."
"It would be safer to find a way to get word to them through other channels," Monica said. "Where did Gibson go?"
"He's back at the reservation," Doggett answered.
"Then he'd know if Mulder and Scully were anywhere near," Monica answered.
"Can we get in touch with Gibson? Is it safe for him, and for them?" Skinner asked.
"Good question. Jimmy, do you have any idea?"
Jimmy thought for a moment. "I wish the guys were here. They had contacts in a lot of places, through their newsletter, through MUFON --"
"Nice to be missed, isn't it?" Frohike murmured to Byers.
"Can we get into their hard drives?" Skinner asked. "Yves?"
"It would be tricky, but possible. I don't know if any of their contacts will talk to us, though. They're a suspicious lot."
"With good reason," interjected Langly. "Look what happened to us."
Byers watched Monica Reyes. Every now and then she'd get a thoughtful look on her face, as if she could hear more than the conversation of her colleagues.
"We have to find a way to contact them outside of normal channels," she said. "But we have to be sure it's safe first. And it has to be someone that Mulder trusts. If a stranger tries to approach them, I don't think it'll work."
"I never thought I'd say this, but with Kersh's help, I think that Mulder's conviction will be overturned," Skinner said. "The tribunal is being investigated now, and since one of the judges has disappeared, everything is being called into question. Then at least officially there won't be any danger. There will still be danger from the unofficial channels -- which at least we're learning to deal with."
"What about Dana?" Monica asked.
"She was never implicated. She wasn't at the prison when we broke Mulder out. She was reported missing later -- there are no eyewitness accounts of seeing them together, after."
"Is Mulder being blamed for her disappearance, too?"
"Not `officially.' Kersh saw to that."
"So they could both come back openly?"
"Yes, pretty soon. And the more openly, the better," Skinner said. "Their -- our enemies would have a better chance at them where they are now, outside of any protection we can offer them. Wherever they are. In the meantime, we need to find a way to get word to them, a safe way. Any ideas?" he asked again.
Silence around the table.
Byers said to his friends, "Maybe this is where we come in. Gentlemen, we can sit idly by or we can do what we can."
"What the hell does that mean?" Langly asked.
"Let's go see Mulder," Frohike said.
"Beat hanging around here," Langly agreed. "But how can we let these guys know we've got it covered?"
"I think Agent Reyes can sense us," Byers said. "She seems aware somehow."
"Worth a shot, I suppose," Frohike said. He leaned into Monica's ear. "Hey chickie. We're gonna go talk to Mulder."
Monica Reyes started and knocked over her beer. The others looked at her as she quickly righted it. "Can you give me a couple of days?" she asked the group. "I have an idea."
Skinner nodded. "We need to proceed slowly. Let us know if you come up with anything. I'll be talking to Kersh again in a day or two."
"She better not try any of that seance crap," Langly said.
Wherever they were, it was very dark. Though they couldn't feel the cold, they could see the snow lying in drifts between patches of bare earth. The stars were high and distant in the black sky.
Not far away from where they stood, they could see a few buildings, light leaking around the edges of the curtained windows. Smoke curled out of chimneys and stovepipes, like wraiths against the night sky.
"So where's Mulder?" Langly asked.
"Give it a minute," Byers said.
A door slammed in the distance. A lone figure approached, shoulders hunched, hands jammed in pockets.
They stayed where they were. Mulder stopped and looked up at the sky, breath materializing in the air. He closed his eyes, face still turned skyward.
The three friends waited.
Eventually, Mulder moved. He walked along slowly, eyes now trained on the rocky ground, scuffling through the dirt and snow.
"If he's gonna take a piss again, I say we speak now," Langly said.
"Mulder," Frohike spoke.
Their friend started and peered into the darkness. "This is a habit I wish you guys would break," Mulder said.
"We could say the same to you," Langly said. "Got something against indoor plumbing?"
"That's not why I'm out here," Mulder said. "And not that I'm not glad to see you, but is there some reason you're here? I don't need another lecture."
"You wouldn't listen to us anyway," Frohike said. "So why are you out here?"
"Maybe I came out to wait for Santa Claus," Mulder said.
"Is it Christmas?" Byers asked curiously. "I hadn't noticed."
"Yeah, it's not exactly ho-ho-ho around here either," Mulder said. "If you're here to haunt me, let's get it over with. Which of you is which? I thought the ghosts were supposed to come on different nights."
"Huh?" said Langly.
"You're supposed to show me my past, present and future, right? And tell me to mend the error of my ways?"
"Shit, Mulder, I don't know what we're doing here. Near as I can tell, when there's something you're supposed to know, we tell you. Maybe that's how it works."
"Advice from the Great Beyond?" Mulder asked.
"What's so great about it?" Langly said. "All I can tell you about it is the whole thing sucks."
"Yeah, I've had some experience with that, as you may recall," Mulder said. "Without visiting privileges."
"Oh yeah," Frohike said with some embarrassment.
"What are you doing out here, Mulder?" Byers asked. "Where's Scully?"
"Back there," Mulder gestured with a shrug of his shoulder.
"Shouldn't you be inside with her instead of freezing your ass off out here?" Frohike asked.
"We had an argument," Mulder admitted sullenly.
"Why the hell are you picking fights with Scully?"
"I'm not," he said. "I made a suggestion. She didn't take it well."
"You tried to send her away, didn't you?"
"She could go back," Mulder said defensively. "She didn't do anything wrong."
"Yeah, but do you really think she'd go without you?"
"Maybe you guys could help convince her," Mulder said.
"I don't think we can talk to her the way we talk to you," Byers said. "We think you're the key to all this."
"So what's new?" Mulder muttered, kicking at rocks. I'm damned tired of being the key. I might open a door, but it leads nowhere. Every single damn time."
"At least you're not in jail, or dead," Frohike pointed out.
"Yeah. Guess I got my Christmas wish after all," Mulder replied, his tone laced with sarcasm.
"Are you better off than last year?" Byers asked.
"Let's see -- I was on the run, in fear for my life, and had no contact with family or friends. This year: more of the same."
"Yeah," said Frohike, "but this year Scully's with you."
"So: add to my tally of blessings that Scully is also on the run, in fear for her life, and has no contact with family and friends. I feel so much better now. Thanks, guys."
"Do you really think she'd be happier without you?"
"I don't know. Maybe if she'd never met me she'd be better off."
"No way to know that now. This isn't `It's a Wonderful Life,' and my name isn't Clarence. What does Scully say? Have you asked her lately?"
"It's Christmas. She's not with her family. She had to give up her child -- our child. I feel so fucking helpless." He turned away from them.
It hurt to see Mulder this way. There were so few times that they'd seen him truly at a loss. Hardly anything fazed him. Unless it affected Scully, too.
Langly poked Byers. "Weren't we going to tell him something?"
"Mulder," Byers said, "I think what I'm about to tell you might help."
Mulder turned to Byers. "Unless you can tell me how to get William back, or get Scully home, I don't see how."
"Well..." Byers said. "In a round-about way..." He began to lay out what Skinner had been working on, with interjections and asides from Frohike and Langly.
When they were finished, Mulder looked a little more like his old self. "You're sure about this?" he asked.
"Pretty damn sure," Frohike said. "We heard it with our own ears, in our own headquarters. Well, Skinner's now. Maybe yours, too."
"One thing at a time," said Mulder. "When can we leave?"
"We're not sure yet. They were more concerned with getting word to you -- they had no idea where to even start looking," Byers said. "Where are we, anyway?"
"Montana," Mulder said. "Not far from where I was, uh, found." He ran his hands through his hair. "Shit, how can I explain all this to Scully? Tell her I had a Christmas vision? After our last conversation, I don't think she'll buy it."
"Maybe you should just tell her the truth," Byers suggested.
"Who knows?" Frohike added. "She might even believe you."
"Stranger things have happened," Mulder agreed.
They stood around awkwardly for a few moments.
"You should go back inside," Byers said. "I'm sure you're cold."
Mulder made no move. "Will I see you guys again?"
"I'm pretty sure you're stuck with us a while," said Frohike. "We'll probably come back to tell you the coast is clear, if they can't do it another way. I'm sure they're being watched."
"Thanks, guys," Mulder said. "I wish there was something I could do for you."
"Talk to Scully," Byers said.
"Do you --" Frohike hesitated. "Do you think we could see her?"
"She might be asleep," cautioned Mulder. "At least, I hope she is."
"We won't wake her. Hell, we probably can't wake her."
"Yeah, and I probably couldn't stop you seeing her, either," said Mulder.
They walked toward the buildings. Mulder opened their door and peered inside, gesturing for the three to come forward. They stole quietly into the dark room.
They saw an impossibly small form huddled under the blankets. They moved a little closer. Scully's face was turned toward them. She wore a little frown, as if puzzling something out in her sleep.
"Sweet dreams, Agent Scully," Byers said softly.
"Yeah, don't dream about us," Langly chimed in.
Frohike said nothing. He reached out his hand, snatched it back, then reached once more, his hand hovering over her but not touching.
Scully sighed and turned slightly, breaking the spell that held them in thrall before her. Silently they turned and filed out.
Mulder stood outside the door, watching the stars. "Everything okay?" he asked.
"That depends on your definition," Langly said. "I don't think anything's been okay for a long time, but it hasn't gotten worse in the last five minutes."
"We'll be seeing you soon," Byers said.
"Yeah," Mulder replied, looking into the dark room.
Frohike finally spoke. "Get some sleep, Mulder. You've got some explaining to do in the morning."
"Yeah," Mulder said again. "Thanks, guys."
"We didn't do anything," Langly said.
"That depends on your definition," Mulder said with a half-smile. "See you later."
"Can't wait," said Frohike.
Above them all, the silent stars whirled their way through the night sky.
Acknowledgment: The title comes from the song of the same name, music by Kurt Weill, lyrics by Maxwell Anderson and Alan Paton.
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