Left Standing
by Maidenjedi

She stood blinking at the glaring sunlight. When had everything gotten so bright, so sharp?

Why was everything so quiet?

Dark colors stood out against the bleached landscape. Dark colors, blue and black and red.

Red. Like blood.

A sour taste teased the back of her throat at the thought.

Blood. But whose blood?

She probably knew the answer. She was in shock, right, that's what this was, this in-between state, this blinking and staring and bile tasting. She wanted to pinch herself, but she couldn't seem to find her hands.

It was all desert and blue skies. Blue skies. In the skies, that was where it all began. One minute, she was standing and having a conversation, and then the skies opened up and unholy fire rained down. Hunted, located, they should have fucking known about it.

Blood boiling on a slab of sand. The smell was familiar, somehow.

Dark colors. Blue, black. Was that a man's shape on the ground before her?



The sound of her own voice startled her, kicked her in the metaphorical ass. She saw clearly, the bright midday sun still whitewashing everything, but she saw things.

Things like John Doggett's blue-jean clad legs tangled beneath his crumpled form.

Things like a young boy's black t-shirt, blood spilling from the collar and boiling on the packed desert floor.

Vomit in her throat, in her mouth. She lost it. And when she looked up, it hit her. John dead. William dead.

Mission failed.

Monica Reyes fell to the ground, praying to a God that seemed to have left the world to burn.


Hundreds of miles away, Fox Mulder was saying goodbye.

How many times had they been here, he wondered? How many times, next to hospital beds and in hotel rooms, did we brace each other for the inevitable?

And after all that, the real end came by the side of the road in the wasteland of Nevada desert. A pile of sand and a makeshift cross to mark it. He clenched another, smaller cross in his sunburned hands.

Scully had taken ill somewhere east of Colorado, but it hadn't gotten critical until they hit Nevada. There were no doctors to be found in this part of the country, where settlements were few and far apart. Mulder thought it could have been anything, at any time, and it could have easily been him.

But it wasn't. It was her, all coughing and bleeding and delirium, and now she was buried in a shallow grave of sand, far from home.

Mulder was exhausted. He wondered if they were still tracking him. He wondered if it mattered. He wondered if "home" still existed, and decided it didn't, and that if it did, he wouldn't even head in that direction.

Scully was dead.

When it hit him, he was standing in an abandoned grocery store that reeked of rotten meat and spoiled milk. There was still food on the shelves, cans of beans and bags of chips, bottled water and cans of soda. The thing about the end of the world, he had mused, was that it was nothing like what everyone had expected. One day everyone was alive and happy and there were going to be fireworks on the Fourth of July. The next, all pretense and conspiracy had been thrown to the wind, and the aliens just unloaded firepower.

There was a rhythm to their madness, Mulder had been sure of it. Like the bees and the virus, random but foolproof, leaving survivors and taking victims. Some places were hit worse than others. West of Colorado, the country had been deserted. The few survivors were concentrated and hoarded their supplies, but there were more supplies than survivors. Mulder and Scully chose west, always west, intrepid explorers without an Indian guide. To the east were ghosts.

Grim cultural mythos alone drove them west. Answers might be found in Nevada. Mulder counted on fewer survivors, meaning more food.

And in the end, Scully's grave.

Mulder spent the night in that grocery store, sobbing on the floor and waking up to the pitter-patter of wild creature feet.

He tried not to think of the pitter-patter of other feet, of Scully feet in his apartment one wild night, of baby feet that had haunted Scully's dreams.

He wondered where he should head now. He had the SUV Scully had procured from her brother Charlie's mountain retreat in Colorado. There was gasoline, if you knew where to look, and Mulder thought he did. The question, he supposed, was whether it mattered.

Lightning on the horizon. He didn't think it would rain. Besides, it might not have been lightning at all.

It might have been them.

Just thinking that made Scully swim before his tired eyes, made her break the silence hitting his ears in violent waves. Mulder, get some sleep, you're getting paranoid and I need you to think straight.

He came to a fork in the road, and a sleepy Scully echoed nearby. What if there was only one choice?

He turned right.

And all the other ones were wrong?

Right is south, he thought. Had they attacked in the south? Probably. Maybe less so. Maybe there were people to the south.

Arizona. What was in Arizona? Nothing much, he surmised, because there wasn't much anywhere. But he felt no foreboding, and he saw nothing suspicious. It was night and he was exhausted. What did Scully think?

Scully was dead.


Monica decided to keep heading west.

She and John had come to New Mexico on a tip. William Mulder was in hiding, possibly with Gibson Praise, but not likely. Roswell. They had laughed at the simple irony. It was so simple. They left D.C. as summer came, hot and humid. On a mission, John said.

A mission from God, Monica deadpanned.

They laughed long and loud over this otherworldly non-sequiter. Times past and times dead, echoing.

Roswell. Simple.

It seemed safe, too. Safe because the attacks had been largely to the north, places like New York, Chicago, Boston, Dallas, Cincinnati. Places no one thought of when they thought UFO or alien being, except D.C. It had been one of the first targets, and the population had been obliterated.

It wasn't supposed to come until December. Monica had spent hours trying to figure out why. Why July, why only some people, why not civilization itself. Their monuments were still standing, there was still food to be found with more than half the population gone. She and John had come up with nothing. Maybe Gibson would know, but Gibson was probably dead. When they reached New Mexico, they found William, and he knew less than they'd imagined and more than he should have.

He'd never heard of Gibson Praise, but he knew who Fox Mulder and Dana Scully were. His parents, right?

He was scrawny and not unlike his father, determined and somewhat grim. The Fox Mulder that Monica Reyes had known, and that John Doggett had wanted to find. William explained that he was part alien, and he'd known they were coming. He explained like John and Monica wouldn't have known, like they were strangers.

Monica wanted to laugh at him. Billy boy, I was there

holding off the aliens when you were born.

John's face took on a confused expression. But, he was fixed, that Spender guy did something and William was made normal.



William had shaken his head. No, the injection just muted it for a while.

Can William read minds?

A nod. Sometimes.

See the future?

Another nod, sadder this time. All the fucking time.

Such language for such a young boy. Monica felt her lips curve into a smile.

So, the three of them put their collective knowledge together and chose to drive west. Arizona, said William. Why? Because. I don't know. There is something waiting for us.

Monica could have sworn she heard the Twilight Zone theme at that point.

The trio camped out that night, at an abandoned KOA just outside Roswell proper.

And the next morning....

Monica recalled the buzzing, the heat of the alien craft from that last terrible day in Washington. Individuals singled out by blasts from the sky. It was nothing like it was supposed to be. It was July, not December. No aliens came to replace the humans. Just death, death everywhere.

Death right there.

William went first. Had they known who he was, targeted him specifically? When John screamed and shot his ancient service pistol into the air, Monica was left wondering what might have happened had he not fired. Would he still be with her, alive instead of left rotting for the buzzards?

Monica was left standing.

She drove west. West, away, towards Arizona. William's voice in her head. There is something waiting for us.

Waiting for me, she thought. Had he known? Dead, blood, stinking rotting wasting....

Her mind turned to the past, to John in her apartment, John in the Hoover building basement, John in his apartment. John in their apartment, when he finally retired, sick of Bureau politics and burnt out with Skinner gone. John without his shirt, without his pants, naked and sweaty underneath her and on top of her. John whispering love you, John talking about getting married. Married to her.

She thought about William, how she almost owed all that to him. If not for him, John might have spent the last ten years pining for Scully, Mulder or no Mulder. He might not have come home with her after they lost contact with their friends in Arizona ten years ago. She had thanked baby William in his far away crib then, and she thanked him on his packed sand grave now.

Behind her. She tried to stop thinking altogether.

And it was John in her mind, John she saw on the side of the road. She stopped to sleep sitting up in the car, woke up to a quieter John and the road ahead of her.

She drove on.


Arizona. He could reach Flagstaff if he drove through the daylight.

But his eyes were finally giving in to fatigue. The road had taken on shapes as his mind fiddled with reality.

Was that Scully beside him, or that cigarette-smoking son-of-a-bitch?

He blinked. It was nobody.

A fitful rest on the roadside, windows rolled down so he wouldn't bake in the late summer heat. He had water, supplies. He would need gas soon. Soon.

Sleep first.

Dreams, dry ones, about Scully. Wetter ones featuring Scully sans clothes in a long ago quarantine facility. Nightmares, the same old nightmares, Samantha was taken and, as she called his name, her voice becoming Scully's. Diana's death his fault, his mother's too. His father bleeding. Scully, always Scully, her tiny body under his, almost too small for him. Red hair.

Nobody down here but the F.B.I.'s most unwanted.

He woke with a start.

Nobody here at all. Just me.

Scully wasn't supposed to die.

Fucking colonization.

The bee in the hallway.

Drive, Mulder. Just drive.

A gas station four or five miles up the road proved fruitful. Not only did it have plenty of fuel in the tanks, but it boasted sunflower seeds as well. He hadn't had a bag in ages (a month, okay, a month). Munching them took the sting off, grounded him, alerted him. He was dehydrated. Water in the SUV.

Instinct was directing him now. He couldn't have told someone how to drive to Flagstaff if his life depended on it. But Fox Mulder minus the trappings and decoration meant a Fox Mulder who just knew things. It was alien, maybe, but it had always been in him. Instinct.

Scully would've laughed.

He missed her laugh. The first time came to mind, in the rain in Bellefleur. Bellefleur the beginning, nearly the end. He was being morbid now.


Flagstaff was northwest of where she was. She stopped at a small settlement just inside the Arizona border. The people there were months dirty and ragged, but generous. A map, advice, food and water, finally a plea for news. Where had she come from?

Up north. Back east. D.C.

They stopped asking, and one or two cried.

Monica had grown up believing that the end of the world was a myth used to scare fundamentalists' kids at night. And now she was witnessing it. She had nothing to hold at night; these people had each other.

One couple consisted of a fifty-year-old man and a woman who wasn't quite a woman. All of nineteen if she was a day. Monica asked her, why?

She smiled and took her lover's hand. When the world ends, you have to take comfort in those left standing.

Monica recalled that statement as she headed out west again, alone as she had ever been. Those left standing. Was anyone left standing for her?

John, in the car. You're a dog person.

John, lying on Roswell sand. A dead person.

She closed her eyes and nearly drove off the road.

It was raining, patchy isolated storms that reminded Monica of a Texas summer. It didn't mean much, except that her dusty windows were now streaked.

No place to stop, they'd told her, not for quite some time.

She thanked whatever being was listening for the wiper fluid in the tank.

She saw shapes in the clouds. Old friends, dead lovers. Her parents, Brad, little Luke Doggett. Luke like his father, William like his. The next generation, dead before they came of age.

She sang whale songs and wished for a Morley. She wondered if those people might have had some.

Flagstaff. Who was waiting for her in Flagstaff?

Maybe what.


In another world, the fluorescent light proclaiming "VACANCIES" at the Wyatt Earp Road Lodge would have glowed blue.

Mulder laughed at the sign. Heard Scully call it the Doc Holliday Motor Lodge. Humor gone.

No people since Colorado. It was eerie and silent in this vast West. Nowhere land, he thought, and I'm a nowhere man.

Please listen.

Beatles lyrics. The dead music of a dead world.

You don't know what you're missin'.

Red hair and icy blue eyes. Icy in the Arctic, in a closet, blue set off by checkered flannel. Warmer, though, in a hospital room, blinking at him as if he'd always been standing there.

The strength of your beliefs.

He laughed at the ghosts in his head. Beliefs. What beliefs were those? Where had they gotten him?


He was close to Flagstaff. That was somewhere. What was it about that place?

He was afraid to sleep. What might he dream? A killer's trail, pajama-cloth hearts and a grave? But sleep came anyway. Tomorrow, Flagstaff.



Pay dirt. Morleys, light, in a grocery store off the main drag in some pissant Western town. She lit one, savored the stale drag. It could be her last.

How fucking appropriate. Wild, wild west. The condemned woman gets a cigarette. What are her last words?

She just laughed.

A sign, history. "WYATT EARP STOPPED HERE".

Good enough for Wyatt Earp, good enough for Monica Reyes.

Good enough for you, John Doggett?

The ghost that never slept.

Night sky, millions of stars. She could point out Mars on clear nights back east. She wondered which star was home to the aliens.

Krypton maybe. She laughed again, giddy from the fresh air and her stale cigarette.

Damn things are bad for your health, Monica.

So's getting curly-fried by alien weapons, John.

She put out the cig and fell asleep.

The stars whispered at her. Flagstaff.



The McDonald's had burned to the ground. Mulder laughed. Someone's anti-establishment tirade? A tirade that no one was alive to witness. Smoke still curled from the ruins.

No other sign of life in Flagstaff. The McDonald's was death and destruction illustrated. If he stopped he would smell death, see it in the streets, trip on it in shallow graves.

He wondered where he should go. There were motels, hotels, abandoned houses, parks and all the amenities. Stopped by a camping supply store, old Army/Navy gear, a new sleeping bag and shells for the shotgun.

Ha ha. A shotgun. Aliens invade the planet, and he was going to wave a shotgun at them.

Walkie-talkies in fucking E.T. It was hysterical.

He fingered the fatigues and heard a Scully laugh. Rambo Mulder. Now there's a sight. He could feel her hands on his thighs, feel her breath on his cock.

I could get used to this. Always had a thing for guys in uniform.

He turned. Get thee behind me.

Air pressure change. Someone in the store.



Huh. A McDonald's burned to the ground, still smoldering.

She stopped the car and got out. Anyone here, she wondered, her F.B.I. training kicking in.

Nobody here but us mice. Well, us rats. One ran over her foot and she bit back a scream.

John behind her, hands on her shoulders. Don't worry, it's more scared of you than you are of it.

She nodded.

Old Army/Navy store up the road. She looked in the car and realized she hadn't replaced the tent or the sleeping bag. The old ones were draped over bloody bodies lying on New Mexico sand.

Bloody bodies.



A sob escaped her.

Shopping. Something to lose herself in. Lose John's ghost in.

He followed her, whispering in her ear. What about a daylight rendezvous? You, me, a parked car. She felt wet thinking about it, his mouth on her body.

The store. Ha ha, you can't follow me. No shirt no service.

She walked in.

Hair on the back of her neck standing at attention. Someone was in here.

She took a breath.

Heard a voice.


Oh God.



He ran to the front of the store. A voice. His name.

A voice. Not Scully but a voice.

"Holy shit. Monica?"

She stared at him. Girl seeing a ghost.

She was sunburned, worse than he was. Her face was a splotchy red, her shoulders peeling. Eyes wet, fists clenched. She didn't believe he was real.

He didn't believe she was real.

He walked up close, she took two steps back.

"You. He....something waiting...."

He was puzzled.

"He who?"

"He said something would be waiting here. I didn't think...how could it be? How are you here?"

"It's me. Is it you? Monica, tell me, are you real or is this just another fucking hallucination?"

She pinched herself. Real.



They regarded one another, the weight of their worries and the voices of ghosts evaporating for the moment.

Mulder had short hair that was growing out. Like he had gotten it cut a month or two ago. His face was all lines and squinting eyes, the familiar pouty lip a dead giveaway. Gray hair at the temples and just above. Still tall, still fit. Still Mulder.

Monica's hair was cut short, too. An ear-length bob. She touched it self-consciously as he looked her over.

"Too much trouble. Summer heat."

He ignored her and noticed her waif-like frame. Starved maybe. Fine crow's feet at the corners of her eyes. Laugh lines near her lips. But still Monica. Black pants and a white tank top, GI Jane with fashion sense.

He held out his hand. "Let's blow this joint."

She took it. And they walked out together, strangers in a strange land, a wasteland, their land.


They sat outside on a strip-mall bench. Mulder fetched food, water from the SUV. "Eat this."

An apple, leftover Spaghetti-Os in a Tupperware bowl, bottle of water.

Monica nodded, followed orders. She was starving anyway.


Monica narrowed her eyes, motioned for more.

"Sorry. How, um....how did you get here?"

She swallowed. "Car. John and I," she winced, started again. "We drove west, starting about a month and a half ago. We had a tip, so we went to New Mexico. We scavenged for fuel along the way."

"John? You mean Doggett?"

Tears sprang to her eyes and she nodded.

"Where is he?" Mulder didn't want to know.

She didn't want to tell him. "Dead."


Then, "How? Why did you go to New Mexico?"

She sighed. "You sure you want to know, Agent Mulder?"

He laughed. "Agent? I've been out of the Bureau for what, eleven years? Call me Mulder. Drop the 'agent'."

A smirk. "Oh yeah."

"Time does fly."

"When you're having fun, maybe. It hasn't been fun, Mulder." She thought of John in the shower, all soap and slippery limbs.

His turn to nod. "No, it hasn't." He thought of Scully, warm in the morning and so easy to turn on.


Mulder froze. Scully, pregnant, pizza boy at the door. An old doll of Sam's and wrapping paper on the couch. Scully, in the bedroom, blue robe. Infant in swaddling clothes. And he shall be called William.

"We had a tip, from an old college friend of John's who went CIA. Anyway, he'd been keeping an eye out, especially after John's retirement. He passed on information that William might have been with Gibson Praise in Roswell. This was, oh, two months after the attack. John sat on it, and as D.C. fell...."

"D.C. fell?" News.

"Uh-huh. Leaders dead, chaos everywhere. President couldn't keep it together. When that happened, John and I decided to find William. Find him, and try to find you if we could."

A heavy pause.


"And. We got there. Sure enough, we found William, and Mulder, he could read minds. He could see things. He'd never heard of Gibson Praise, but he knew you and Scully. He told us about Arizona, that something would be waiting for us here. And then...."


She shook her head. Voice breaking, she whispered, "And I can't. Not yet."

Mulder wondered who William had looked like. Did he have Scully's eyes, her lips, her stature? Or Mulder's nose, his hair, his big feet?

William. Dead. He blocked the thought.

He took the apple and bit off a huge chunk. He always

hated warm apples, too much like applesauce, Mulder-house-applesauce, as a kid Sam used to spit it on the floor.

Samantha. With her long dark hair twisted into braids, sticking her tongue out. Little Fox, Vulcan supreme, and his fairy princess sister.

Monica was talking.

"...so, I'm here. I didn't know where else to go. And lucky me -- " she smiled ruefully, "I found you."

She squinted, looking up at a sky quickly turning gray with late summer rain. The sun still shone brightly, and she looked into it. Don't look at the sun, Mon. You might go blind.

"We found each other." Mulder was making a face as he chewed another bite of apple. "There is a reason for everything, Monica."

She could still smell the blood. "There is."

"Scully...died." He was blunt and short and had to look away. He had to say it. Someone had to start the litany of pain and regret.

Monica felt the air in her lungs turn stale. She was holding her breath. Waiting for what? "How?"

"I'm not sure. She thought it was the flu, something she could shake. But she started coughing up blood before we hit Nevada, and she went so quickly after that." He had closed his eyes.

The air was thick with the impending storm, and thicker with Mulder's silent sobs. Monica took his hands in hers.

Coughing up blood. She thought of a Scully ten years before, sweating and screaming. William came out and screamed louder than them all.

Thunder broke the silence, and Mulder jerked upright, pulling his hands from Monica's as though she burned him.

Scully's voice in his ear, tinny on a cell phone. Mulder, it's me, and a silent accusation, how could you touch her in front of me?

"We should find some place to stay."

"For how long?"

A shrug. "For now, anyway."

Packing up supplies in the SUV, moving Monica's things

into whatever spare space they could find. She wanted to be rid of the car, and if they were going to be together, they should stick together.

Victims bearing scorch marks from alien weapons were scattered throughout the city. Monica's stricken face convinced Mulder to find a place to stay just outside city limits.

Another abandoned motel, this one a plain jane Best Western. On the marquee, another ironic twist.


Mulder's face contorted in something resembling a grin.

Monica's face stayed blank, a battle to not think of Roswell going on behind her eyes.

Bodies dotted the parking lot. The heat and intermittant summer rains made this a dangerous place to set up camp. Disease, death. It was a neverending cycle. But it would do for one night, and they could clean up in the morning.

They moved inside, just beating the rain as it came down in sheets after their third trip to empty the SUV. The place had been packed when the attack came; beds remained unmade, breakfast rotted on room service trays, a bucket of milk and orange juice cartons floating in water stood in the dining room. They'd been awakened by screams, maybe, and made a run for it. Maybe a person, likely rats had eaten the donuts and bagels set out for free continental breakfast.

Mulder scoured the guest registry. On paper, as luck would have it, because some industrious employee had printed out a copy.

"Only one empty room."

"Let me guess."


"A honeymoon suite?"

"No. A non-smoking room on the ground floor."


"Nope. A single."

No breaks. None whatsoever.

Monica asked for the key, and Mulder shook his head. "Key cards. We'll have to bust down the door."

"Okay then. Room number."


She slept on the bed that night, and called out John's name only once or twice. Mulder lay awake on the floor, listening to Monica and seeing Scully.

Red hair, pink lips, blue eyes. Color in the darkness, begging him to touch her in return. Her breath on his face, his neck, and another sleepless night for Mulder.


The rain had lasted most of the night, but the morning was cheerfully sunny and blue. Monica wished it had kept raining.

They split the chore of cleaning out the dining room and makeshift kitchen. Monica took it upon herself to clean another room, in addition to the one they had slept in. There were clean sheets and blankets in the supply closet.

She claimed seventeen for herself, and put Mulder's things in the adjoining room eighteen. She grabbed clean ashtrays from the supply closet and stashed them in her room. Mulder was eating lunch (cold beans and bread with the moldy parts ripped off), so she lit a cigarette and took a break.

This time yesterday she had been in the car, coasting into Flagstaff and still wondering what was waiting for her. This time a week ago, she and John had been tangled in the sheets of a similar motel bed.

This time four days ago....

Blood. And death. And she was tired of thinking about it.

She missed John. She ached for him. But this was the world they had been living in. They'd known this day would come, and that either or both of them could be six feet under.

Six feet under. He hadn't counted on sand and alien firepower.

She found things to do. She cleaned out Mulder's SUV,

went to a nearby grocery store. The glass doors had been shattered, and dried mud footprints traced a path inside. A piece of paper fluttered on a checkout

lane light.

"End of the world. I'm the only one left."

And a dead body slumped on the floor. Pistol in hand, dried blood and brains splattered.

Textbook suicide.

Monica couldn't deal. Call me chicken, she thought as she did a one-eighty. She ran out, back to the motel. Found Mulder.

"Monica, good. I forgot to tell you before you left, if you're hitting a store we really need batteries...."

"Dead." She was panting. It had been a full-out run.

"Dead?" Mulder squinted at her in the bright afternoon sun.

"At the store. A man, a suicide, dead on the floor." She shivered.

Mulder sighed, bowed his head. He knew why she was out of breath. "How?"

"Shot. In the head."

Blood everywhere.

"Do you want me to go?"

She nodded. "There isn't another one close. We don't want to waste gasoline."


Mulder started walking. Monica went inside to her room, smoked three cigarettes. Splurge to purge.

John's voice in her head. Ya gotta do better than this, Monica.

I know.


Mulder moved the very ripe and bloated body out of the store, taking his time in hiding it. Another day and it would be crawling with maggots. The thought made him shake.

Just like Scully.

He got supplies. More food (there was a wider selection, maybe the note had been accurate) and plenty of batteries, flashlights, first aid supplies.

He went down the last aisle, as far from the rotting produce as he could get, and found booze.

Why not?

Whiskey, vodka, and some cheap beer. Grocery cart full, he left the store.

Dusk was settling over the deserted town. The sun sat low in the western sky, surrounded by orange and pink streaks, red at the center.

Red sky at night, sailor's delight.

He almost wished it would rain again. Rain seemed to fit the world better. But the sun was appropriate, too. Surreal in a world that was nothing but.

Monica helped him pack everything away. It was a mutual and silent agreement to stay here. Indefinitely. Maybe for the winter.

It was mid-September. Mulder slept in one room, Monica in another. By the fifth or sixth night, Monica propped open the door between their adjoining rooms. She claimed to be having nightmares, she wanted to know someone was nearby.

They went back to the army/navy store for tarps and gloves, and buried the bodies left at their hotel. It was all they could do.

After a month, storms began to pound Flagstaff and surrounding areas. Mulder had rigged a small generator, and they were running lights off it. But tonight the lightning had made him nervous, and he was reading by candlelight.

Maybe he shouldn't have been reading "The Shining".

It was late, probably after two in the morning. Thunder crashed. Loud and unrealistic.

Maybe it was them.

Monica came running into the room, startling Mulder.

White camisole and flannel pants. The pants weren't hers, they had the requisite opening for males.


"Mulder." A note of panic.

"It's not them, Monica. Just lightning and thunder. A regular electrical storm."

She nodded.

"You picked up vodka, right?"

He smiled. "Yeah. Over there, in the closet."

She dug out the bottle. "Wanna get drunk with me?"

Her eyes were tinged red, voice was scratchy. It hit Mulder that she had been crying.

Vodka pouring into glass. Lightning outside, the silence punctuated by thunder. Angels bowling in the night sky.

Mulder took his glass without a word. Monica sat in an armchair. She sipped at her drink, Mulder didn't touch his.

"Why didn't they hit me, too?"

Monica sounded defeated.

Mulder ventured a question. "What do you mean?"

She told him. How John and William had been standing nearby yet far away, and how William had gone first. As if they'd known what he was and wanted to destroy him. How John had shot at them, and gone down for it.

How she'd been left standing.

"Why didn't they hit me?"

Mulder had heard the question often enough. After the initial strike, people had been left to bury their dead and beat themselves up for surviving.

But there was nothing to survive. You were either a target, or you weren't. He and Scully had never figured it out.

Those left standing ran, hid, and did what they could to feel safe again. Random hits weren't unheard of. All Mulder could figure was that this was the set-up. Those left standing were....

"Left for an unholy reason." She looked up at him and sighed.

"So we're sitting ducks?"

He nodded.

Ten years of searching for a way to fight back, and it failed.

Scully was crying.

Scully was dead.

Mulder downed his vodka and asked Monica for the bottle.

"What did you do with the bodies?"

She told him about the sand and the smell, leaving out

her delirium. She told him about draping her sleeping bag and the tent over them, and driving west as fast as she could.

Boiling blood on desert sand.

Heat and sweat and the sun, she was blind and dying and couldn't fight off anything.

She didn't tell him about John, following her and teasing her and trying to drive her mad.

He didn't tell her about Scully. He'd already shared the bare bones. He was tired, and Scully was whispering to him.

They didn't talk, but they drank. Monica found the empty bottle the next morning, head pounding and eyes swimming.


Two nights passed. Monica lived in her room. Mulder began cataloging their winter supplies. The cold would come. The end would come. It was only a question of time.

On the third night, he found Monica outside. Clutching herself and looking up at the night sky.

"Stars. Didn't you find your sister this way, in the starlight?"

"It wasn't real." Was it? He didn't know anymore.

"Maybe if I try..."

"No one's here, Monica. Come inside."

Hot cocoa spiked with vodka. Made for a nasty concoction, but she drank it anyway and slept like a baby.

At night, Scully came to him, young and brunette in a red robe. Do you see it?

Monica slept on his bed. He was the insomniac again.

He missed television.

His room smelled like Scully. He closed his eyes and pictured her. She smiled at him and sang to him, Three Dog Night in the Florida wilderness.

Maybe we could build that tower of furniture.

Monica came out of her stupor, stopped drinking vodka and took to getting up early. She went running, walking, anything to get back in shape and avoid her demons. John, her demon.

John, her dead lover.

The wind blew cold as late October came and went. Restless, Mulder stocked up on food, fuel, whatever he could find that was useful in a dead world.


Dark. It was so dark.

The candles had burnt themselves out. Monica was used to that, but she wasn't used to the silence as well. No wind outside, no wolves or coyotes or whatever the hell they were. She listened closely.

No John.

Are you sleeping, my darling, or dead?

It had to be past two in the morning. She found her robe, stood up and found her way to Mulder's room. The door had been opened the night after their lobby discussion, and while neither walked through it, it remained open.

He was awake. She didn't have to see to know.

She made her way to the bed and sat down.

"It's quiet."

He knew. It had shaken him awake like a persistent child. Silence. Scully's voice was stilled.


She laid down. Leaned against him. He didn't move.

Somewhere behind her lay a dead man and a dead boy.

Somewhere behind him lay a dead woman.

Ripped at the seams, the world in which they'd met had finally succumbed. And few were left standing.

Monica didn't mean to kiss him. She missed her dog person. Her mind screamed at her for kissing a dead woman's love. He the quest, he the Holy Grail. The child was dead but his father was very much alive. So said the press of his hips against hers.

Mulder didn't mean to kiss her.

He was taken back to a place he'd once dreamed of. In the traitor's stead, this late friend who tasted faintly of cigarette smoke and who (he'd been told) made whale sounds to calm down. Dark hair. He used to love dark hair.

Slow to heat. He pushed at her robe and her fingers got lost in his hair. Stubble scratched her face.

A long night. No sand, but cotton sheets. No blood.

Just grasping and proving they were alive.


It was too dark and too cold to run in the evenings. Monica was in her room, enjoying the last of her very stale Morley lights. Mulder was in his room, reading a tattered copy of "Moby Dick".

Cigarette gone, Monica wanted to talk. She wandered to Mulder's room.

"Do you think he'll slay the big white whale this time?" Her voice was tinged with sarcastic amusement.

Mulder jumped, as if goosed. Was it Monica's voice he heard, or Scully's?

He shrugged it off. "The ending is always the same. I keep reading it out of masochistic curiosity."

"Why Moby Dick? Why not," she motioned to his stack of novels, "something lighter?"

He looked away.

She remembered a story Scully had told her, after Monica had found the file on Big Blue. About a Pomeranian named Queequeg, and Mulder's hankering for a peg leg.

"You miss her."

Yeah, well. "You miss him."

"This isn't easy."

"Survivor's guilt?"

"Yeah. Well."

She sat down next to him on the bed, propped herself up against a couple of pillows. The book lay open and forgotten on his leg.

The wind howled outside.

He knew how it felt.

They fell asleep, and in the morning Monica woke up alone.


They avoided each other altogether. Left notes when needed. The door between their adjoining rooms remained closed, and Monica locked it on her side.

Out of water. Went to store.

Heard a wolf last night. Was it a wolf or coyote? I can't keep them straight.

I don't know either. Dead rabbits in the parking lot. Stay inside after dark.

Went to another store, found large quantity of canned vegetables. Going back tomorrow for more.

And so on, a conversation on Post-It notes.

Sooner or later, we're going to be in the same room at the same time.

And I'll just have to keep my distance. She's not Scully.



And so on.

In the lobby, one gray day. Monica coming in from a run, Mulder bringing in wood for the communal fireplace. He hoped it wasn't merely decorative.

Monica spoke first. Mulder blinked Scully out of his vision.

"We can't keep doing this."


"Do you think we should go our own ways?" She was serious.

He didn't want to be alone when the world ended for good.


She took off her coat. "I'm not Scully."

He nodded. "No."

"You're not John."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes." She sighed, sat down on the floor. "It's not easy, is it?"


"I keep thinking I'll wake up and he'll be here. Or I'll wake up in D.C. and none of this will have happened."

"I keep hearing her voice."

Monica was taken aback.

"She's everywhere. I feel her at night, I see her and hear her. I can't escape her and I don't know if I want to."


Monica stood up, walked over to him. He watched her.

"Want help with the wood?"

He wanted to brush her off wittily, but couldn't.


December rushed at them, and their ghosts lingered.


The winds from the night before had knocked over a tree across the street from the motel. Monica found her companion trying to clean it up on his own.

She put on gloves and a coat and went to help him.

It took most of the day, and they were starving when they finished. Mulder offered to make dinner while Monica cleaned up.

A bath of lukewarm water and the strongest soap she had been able to find. Every time she did this, it was like she was trying to scrub off her skin.

Skin that John had kissed, skin that didn't burn but that had prickled in fear.

She told Mulder she was too tired to eat and curled up under the sheets on her bed.

John, standing in the doorway. She'd been in a car accident, he hadn't known if she'd live.

"Brought you some dinner." Mulder's voice.

John's voice.

What was the difference?

One she heard, one she wanted to hear.

"Potatoes and fried Spam. Not a great meal, but you need to eat something."

She wanted vodka. There was none left.

Mulder left the plate on the nightstand and turned to leave.

She grabbed his arm. Mulder, John. What difference did it make?

He inhaled sharply. Monica, not Scully. It made one hell of a difference.

"Stay." She wasn't asking.

"I can't." He left the room.


John was gone. He had stopped following her around.

The only voice she heard was her own.

It hit her one morning when the sun was particularly bright. Whitewashed landscape, it reminded her of that settlement and the young woman who seemed so wise.

Take comfort in those left standing. John was buried in the sand at a KOA, and Monica was alive and well in Arizona. Mulder was in the next room.

She waited. She watched him. She stood in his doorway.

And when he came to her, she kissed him like it was the very first time.


She was in his head at night, asking questions and challenging him. He didn't listen, and sometimes she was silent.

Silent Scully. It scared him. He liked it better when he could hear her.

She wasn't real. Monica was real.

Mulder threw his pillow at the wall. He kicked off the sheets. He was restless.

Scully at the door. She was weak, dizzy. Pulled her into his arms. Maybe the cost is too high.

She kissed him. It wasn't the first time.

Dark hair. Not Scully, Monica.

One hell of a difference.

Voices echoed. Was she watching, maybe?

For the second time, Monica woke up alone, in Mulder's bed.

The last one left standing.


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