As Always

By joan the english chick

This is the sequel to As Usual, which you really should read first.

Disclaimer: Mulder, Scully, and any other characters you recognize are property of 10-13 Productions and 20th Century Fox, and are used without permission. No copyright infringement is intended. This story is property of the author, and may not be reproduced, retransmitted, or posted anywhere without my express permission.
Spoilers: It would really help you to have seen all the conspiracy episodes through the end of third season, especially "Talitha Cumi/Herrenvolk" and "Memento Mori", although there aren't any actual spoilers here. But you'll need to know who Jeremiah Smith is (are).

I sit by the window as usual, looking out like a forlorn sickly child at the beautiful spring day. The trees waving their branches seem to taunt me with "come out and play!" The gently rolling hills are covered with green and soothe my tired eyes. But after a moment I turn away, rolling my motorized wheelchair smoothly away from the window.

I pause at the desk, looking down at the photos that seem to speed time forward like flipping calendar pages in a cartoon. In the first one, Pete, our children and I are young, bright-eyed and cheerful. I remember when that photo was taken; I was already deeply mired in the Conspiracy, but I still believed I was doing the Right Thing. How naive we all were, from my Kenny showing his five-year-old tooth-gap to the camera, up the ranks through my budding adolescent Mollie with her carefully teased hair, and past her to me thinking I could keep work and family separate.

In the next photo we're older, smiling self-consciously for a group photo just before I entered the home. Pete is already gone; he went before me to prove that Only The Good Die Young. My kids surround me protectively, but their adult eyes know that they can't shield me from the damage I've suffered and caused. I glance past that photo quickly to the next few. There's Mollie with her husband, and Eric with his, Kenny in his dorm room at college, Katy with the man she inexplicably refuses to marry. There are my grandchildren, so far only precious one of each gender; Mollie's perfect little boy, like a tiny cherub grinning between his parents, and Katy's little girl in her jumpsuit and tiny baseball cap. I smile at them and turn away.

I pause then, thinking. I am isolated here in the home, but not too isolated. I know what's going on. I think as always of the Two, the way I first saw them, young, dedicated, intense. I look at the calendar, but I know already what it will tell: they have not been to see me in weeks. It was a month on Tuesday, and today is Friday. I think as always of the people I've known, of the smells and sounds and colors they bring to mind; grey, soft orange, stale cigarette smoke, sweat, burning, yelling, gunshots. Although my room is small, cozy and quiet, I feel myself momentarily awash in sensation. And emotions too, of which the leader as always is regret.

But the surge passes, and I become aware of footsteps tapping swiftly in the hall outside. A brief cheery knock at the door, then it swings open and she stands there: Samantha Mulder, smiling at me with genuine delight.

"Hi Aunt Kimmy!" she says in her bubbly way. As always, her smile infects me, turns up the corners of my mouth. She comes forward and leans over to hug me, gently, but with real feeling. Her mother's soft auburn hair brushes my cheek.

"How are you, dear?" I ask as she pulls back. She perches alertly on the edge of the chair.

"Pretty good," she responds. "We've been in Munich. Mom and Dad had to go for business and I got to go along. My first time off this continent. Munich! Can you imagine? Have you ever been there?"

"Once," I allow, but the dark city of my memory, brimming with cloudy intent, is clearly not the city she has visited.

"It's gorgeous," she avows passionately, and launches into a detailed description - mostly of the Munich men.

In the midst of the recitation the partly closed door slides open again and the mother looks in. She takes in the scene at a glance, and gives me that resigned apologetic smile that we mothers share. I return it, reaching a hand toward her.


"Kim," she greets warmly, coming to take my hand and squeeze it - gently, as always. "You look well."

"So do you." It is true. She has put on weight - we all do, after the babies - but not a lot, and she wears it well. The silver touching her lovely red hair makes her distinguished, but she needs nothing to look formidable. Her bearing, as always, is self-assured and definitive. Her face knows pain, but her body knows the refusal to give in to it.

"He's just arranging things with the front office," she says, somewhat cryptically, as she moves to sit on my other chair. The girl looks from her mother to me and back again with eyes bright like a squirrel's, fully engaged and eager to hear.

"How was Munich?" I ask. I smile at young Sami to say I know already what she thought of it. She grins back. Her mother looks slightly worried.

"It was all right. There's still so much to be done." Sami rolls her eyes.

"Mother. You're always saying that." We both laugh.

The door swings open a third time, somewhat violently, and in comes the missing member of the family: his step is jaunty and his face more open and hopeful than I can remember having seen it, ever. He smiles his slow, unintentionally seductive grin at me. "Hey, Kim."

"Hello, Fox." I taste the unfamiliar word in my mouth as it slides out unhesitatingly. He manages not to react. His gaze drops to his daughter, rests for a moment with fondness, then deepens and slides to his wife. As always, the meaning they speak to each other with their eyes is deeper than any concepts words can express, and inviolable by any other observer; but I see that she is reluctant to speak in front of the child.

"Sami," Mulder says, taking his eyes with difficulty from his wife, "your mom's a little chilly in here. Could you get her sweater from the car?" He fishes keys from his pocket and passes them over. She gets to her feet.

"Sure, Dad," she says, and we all see that she knows her mother is not cold. She gives me another quick smile and skips out of the room, carefully pulling the door shut behind her.

Mulder takes the seat vacated by his child, and I look from him to Scully and back again. They are flanking me, both leaning forward. I feel almost like the dividing barrier on a highway, surrounded on both sides by lethal chunks of steel flying past at inhuman speeds. With almost no communication, Mulder begins.

"Have you heard that He's dead?" he asks. I feel a jolt of shock and can almost smell the foul smoke, see His calm evil eyes.

"No," I say, feeling somewhat wobbly. Dana puts her hand over mine.

"The Jeremiahs killed him," Mulder says. His voice is low and intense, bursting with suppressed excitement. I stare at him for a moment, almost unable to comprehend. He continues. "It finally ended. The Jeremiahs pulled together a gathering of themselves, the Shadow Men, and the few remaining Neos. They forced Him and the other conspirators to admit that they'd been playing both sides against the middle. The Jeremiahs already knew they were being set up to take the fall, but the Neos hadn't really believed that the contract wouldn't be honored. They still thought they could take the Jeremiahs home as their bastard children and no one would try to stop them. They were furious when they realized the truth."

"The Jeremiahs had to hold them back," Dana chimes in. "It was touch-and-go for a while, Kim. I didn't think any of us would get out alive. It was like Ragnarok in there."

"And they killed all the Shadow Men?" I asked, hearing my voice tremble, feeling my throat tighten. "All of them? How?"

"They didn't actually kill them," Mulder says, grinning with admiration and - pride? "They just undid everything they've done. The Jeremiahs have expended who knows how much energy keeping those men healthy?"

"Some of those men have been with the Conspiracy since World War One," Dana points out. "The weight of all those years, crashing down on them all at once...." Her voice trails off. I feel a cold, horrible shiver make its slow way down my spine as I imagine what it must have been like for Him, in the bare moment of realization....

For a long minute there is silence in the room as the same thought grips us all. The three of us have had plenty of opportunity to contemplate our own mortality over the years, individually and collectively. I see that fact in their eyes as the Two look once again at each other.

"Skinner?" I ask finally, almost afraid to hear the answer. Mulder's lips tighten with frustration. Scully looks sad.

"Still missing," she tells me. "We've been....we're hoping he'll come out of hiding when he hears."

I look to Mulder. "Is it over?" I ask him, my plain honesty poking like a well-aimed ice pick at his carefully composed facade. He grimaces.

"Yes and no," he says, as always denying a simple answer. "That's sort of where you come in."

"Me?" I pull my hand nervously from under Dana's. She shifts in her chair, but says nothing.

"Kim," Mulder says, slipping into his most persuasive tone. "When the FBI was disbanded, we promised Congress we would have things under control and be ready to offer an explanation to the public in three years. It's been two and a half, and there's still so much work to be done. President Epstein has been patient, but she won't be patient forever. Now that the conspiracy has been exposed and the Shadow Men are gone, we have the cooperation of the Neos and the Jeremiahs - we've formed a new treaty with them, which they insisted that Scully and I personally sign. But we still have to pull it all together, tie up the loose ends, make sure we know exactly where we stand. And that's why we need you."

"I don't know...." I murmur. Mulder starts to speak again, more urgently, but Scully overrides him with her quieter tones.

"Kim, you're the only one who was in on everything from before we started the X-Files. You're the only one who knows what really went on, who can be trusted to tell us the truth, who can spot the inconsistencies and help to explain them. We need your knowledge." She shoots Mulder a quick look and he remains silent.

I sit back in my chair for a moment and look into the middle distance, watching them both in my peripheral vision. I see that, against all odds, they have not truly changed. He still believes there are more things in life than are dreamt of in your philosophy. She still believes there is nothing that science cannot explain. Yet he has managed to fit the scientific method into his modus operandi, and she has managed to accept the existence of extraterrestrial intelligences, and they have both managed to accept - no, more, to embrace - the unity of purpose and the wholeness of emotion that they can only find together. I open my eyes.

"I'm not old," I tell them, "but I'm certainly not young either. I'm younger than almost all the other residents here, but I'm here for a reason. You two know what it took from me. And not for nothing did I decide at the same time to remove myself from the Work, when I finally admitted I couldn't care for myself."

"But you can," Mulder says eagerly, leaning into my field of vision. "We - I mean they can make you whole again. That's why I was a little late, I was talking to the management here. They're prepared to release you any time. You can come live with us until you feel up to finding your own place."

"Mulder," I say sternly, and he stops, looking chastised like a little boy with an irate mother. "There's a reason I never accepted the Jeremiahs' treatment. You know that. I won't end up like all of them, having it all taken away in a single fatal heartbeat. And I don't think it's right."

"What's more wrong? Exploiting their talent, which they themselves consider a blessing and are more than willing to use - or leaving us vulnerable, leaving open the possibility of a resurgence?" he entreats. As always, Dana sits calmly, keeping a watchful eye on his exuberance, prepared to rein him in if necessary. I feel myself begin to weaken.

I think of all the days and nights I've spent, in this room and others, feeling guilty for what I did - or rather, for what I observed and didn't stop; for what I aided and abetted. I was never an initiator, but I also never said no to Him. I think of all the information I absorbed over the years. How many times did I tell myself that Knowledge is Power? And here are the Two offering me the chance to use that power for, finally, the Right Thing. I see now that I should never have allowed Him into my head; it was He who made me think the Conspiracy was the Right Thing. In my deepest heart I knew all along it was Mulder and Scully who had the right of it.

"When?" I ask. Scully exhales suddenly, loudly, with relief. Mulder grabs my hand.

"Right now," he says. "Sami can do it."

"Sami - " I look questioningly to Scully, who nods, and I see in her face the mixture of pride and bewilderment that we get when we realize our child can do something extraordinary.

"They won't tell us exactly how or why," she says, "but something - something happened when they undid what had been done to me." She will never, I know, say 'they cured me.' She needs to hold on to the belief that medical science would eventually have cured her; but unlike me she did not resist when the Jeremiahs offered their help. My resistance, perhaps, was the most unreasonable of everything I've done; but in the face of my overwhelming guilt it seemed right, then.

"Whatever it was, it got passed on to her," Dana continues. "They swear she is still fully human, but she has....the abilities."

"She has the powers," Mulder puts in. Dana winces slightly at the word, but remains silent.

I contemplate this for long minutes. It seems like justice - poetic, human, humane justice, brimming with terrifying beauty. It gives me hope.

At this fortuitous moment in time, the child in question returns, sweater in hand. Her cheer fills the room and makes us all smile, we three ancient souls, conspirators in a new regime. "I'm back," she says, stating the obvious with her father's twist of humor in her mouth. Her parents rise.

"Sami," Mulder says, as Dana takes the sweater, "aunt Kimmy needs your help." The girl looks alertly at me, and her face is older than her years, full of accepted responsibility and a maturity that somehow complements her native cheer.

"I know," she says, but makes no move.

"I want your help, Sami," I say, correcting her father. She doesn't smile, but she looks pleased.

"We'll wait in the car," Dana says. "I'll take these for you; we can get the rest of your things later." She carefully gathers up my photos and puts them in her purse. Then, quietly, she and Mulder are gone.

I look at young Sami and remember the day she was born. I feel as Joseph felt when he discovered the young Jesus preaching to the preachers for the first time. I think of Him and how hard both Skinner and I worked to keep His black hands from touching the pure pearly beauty of the baby. But now the baby is become a Jeremiah and it is her pearly hands which rest lightly on my knees, enlivening those brutish legs which for years now have been mere appendages, refusing to do my bidding. Even before she begins to smile I can feel the blackness seeping out and my heart lightens. I know the work ahead is hard, but it is the Good Work. I feel the excitement of the antebellum begin to bubble in me, and my legs tingle as Sami withdraws her hands and stands to look down at me.

"Talitha cumi," she says teasingly, and like a woman much older, I too stand up, rising to my feet unsteadily but with confidence. I take a shaky step forward and hug her, and she squeezes me tightly before, without a backward glance, we turn and walk out of the room.

The breeze caresses my hair as we leave the home behind for good, and I smile with joy. The sun shines down on us, as always.

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joan the english chick
Last updated 24 November 1997