Something Strange
by Maidenjedi

"All things must change to something new, to something strange."
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Her flight here had been quicker than the one she'd left town on. The airport was cleaner, and security was a little tighter. The economy was better and the news was more upbeat.

This was returning, she thought. Coming back to find things changed. Better, she thought in the cab that had new license plates and had been made in 1994. Worse, too, she thought when the driver turned on the radio and a song with cursing lyrics and too much bass filled the car.

She got out at the J. Edgar Hoover Building, paying the cabbie an ungodly amount and rethinking her decision not to rent a car. The building was the same as ever, imposing and masculine and hiding secrets. This was coming home.

She had to go through the metal detectors in the front entrance. There was a uniformed security guard, the generic kind seen in similar buildings in similar cities everywhere. He glanced at her badge and his smile was the perfunctory kind saved for the visiting backwater agents that came through daily.

Her footsteps were loud to her despite the small crowd that filled the foyer. She got to the elevator and pressed in to another crowd, busy men and women with places to go, people to see, and reports to file. She wondered where the fat man leering at her was going. Judging by his cheap suit and cheaper cologne, she guessed accounting.

He got off on the second floor. Accounting.

She got off on the fourth. On the wall opposite the elevator was the new president's picture, next to one of the new attorney general. Well, they weren't new, not really, having served half of a second term. But their faces didn't really belong to this building.

She found herself thankful for the same worn grey carpet in the conference room. Thankful for the ancient overhead projecter that had likely seen the days of Hoover himself. She was thankful for the men still in their black suits and white shirts, less so for the women in black slacks and black blazers instead of red skirts and shoulder-padded red blazers.

The room filled quickly, agents whispering rumors and their superiors holding their chins aloft with pretended importance. She sat in the back, in a corner. She wasn't sure why she had agreed to come. Someone else could've handled the dirty work. She thought longingly of Saudi heat and sand, of Arabic voices. She'd rather pretend there if she had to at all.

A man came into the room. His youth gave away the secrets that his scowl and expensive cologne were trying to hide. He introduced himself as Agent Spender, no first name because he wanted to remain impersonal, the boss and not a friend. He was still new at this, and this was his first big case.

And what a case. She recited the facts she knew he was going to dictate to the room. A terrorist had shot a Russian national. Scandal, upset, international incident. This was scripted rhetoric left over from the Cold War. In the old days she would have had to suppress a laugh. Now she was just impatient with it all. Tired of it. The ending was already planned.

She knew that now because she was there to make it happen.

Spender droned on, his patriotism on his sleeve. So eager to please, to climb the ladder. He'd probably been top of his class at the Academy.

Just like Fox had been.

She shifted uncomfortably in her seat. That was why she didn't want to be here, in this building, this city, this country. She was better off halfway around the world, where he wasn't. She wondered if he was working in the basement or was getting mud on his shoes, asking a farmer about crop circles.

It was a unbidden thought and she focused on the video of the assassination. She waited for someone to point out how the little boy had moved backwards to avoid being hit. She wondered how long it would be before she had to say something.

Not long.

The door opened and a familiar profile appeared. The same distinguished nose, the same pouting lips. She wasn't surprised to find she still thought of him like he was a character in a romance novel. His hair was shorter, more styled. His tie was new. When she knew him, his taste was more for paisleys and tacky broad stripes. She wondered who had picked this one for him.

He looked around the room quickly, searching for someone. Her heart skipped a beat. She wanted him to see her, she didn't want him to.

His gaze rested somewhere on the other side of the room. He hadn't recognized her, but he knew someone there. She wondered if that person had picked out his tie.

She watched him turn his attention to the video, to Agent Spender. Spender disliked him, she noticed it in the way his lip curled and his chest heaved with weary annoyance.

Fox Mulder pointed out the young chess player's premonition. Agent Spender was prepared to fight him. The room shifted in mixed agitation and fascination - apparently, Spooky Mulder's reputation hadn't dimmed with time. She let Spender finish his sigh, and then she spoke up.

"I think Agent Mulder's right."

Heads snapped in her direction, and Diana's skin tightened, the hair on the back of her neck standing up. This was it. Her big performance.

And the love of her life was staring at her with a hint of smile on his face.

She ignored him, ignored Spender's gaping, protesting mouth, ignored everything. She backed Fox up, a professional, respected opinion given to legitimize the rantings of a basement-banished kook. Just like the old days, she thought, finishing her speech and finally daring to meet his eyes.

Fox's eyes lingered on her face as they always had, thankful and a little awed. The meeting broke up around them, and still they watched each other. She felt excited and glad and nervous, so changed from

when she had walked in here. She made to move over to him through the small throng of gossiping, speculating agents in black.

She hesitated only once.

A small figure topped with red hair got up from the table and got to Fox first. He dropped his stare down to her as she placed her hand on his arm. She whispered to him, he answered her. All his attention was on her, and Diana felt the dread return.

Things had changed, after all.


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