A Spanish Romance
by Vanessa Nichols

Oh yeah, it's true, my life begins and ends with you
"Something Borrowed, Something Blue" (Ben Lee)

They drive all afternoon and for most of the night. In the hours before dawn they find a twenty-four hour diner and make plans over an endless stream of coffee.

(They will run for the weekend and call DC on Monday to request personal leave days. They will explain as little as possible as to the reasons for said leave, yet give firm reassurances of a swift return to work. They hope that this call will illuminate their situation and whether it is precarious or not. They hope that they will still have homes, jobs, lives to return to. They hope.)

After breakfast John leaves to trade Mulder and Scully's vehicle in for something less conspicuous while she wanders through a Walmart and buys clothes; goes grocery shopping. If not for everything, she could imagine this an impromptu vacation.

Before noon she heads to the park where they've agreed to meet and sits in an abandoned swing. Watches children play in a nearby sandpit, watches mothers gossip on park benches. Men walk their dogs; teenagers sneak cigarettes behind a toilet block. John is right on time.

"All set?" he asks, standing beside her, gaze panning the park.

She nods but says, "what if we're wrong? What if they're not really after us? What if running now is what makes them--"

"Monica..." Helped by fifteen-hundred miles and a conspiracy of untold depth, width and height, he hasn't called her 'Agent Reyes' once since they started on this journey. Truth be told, she can't even remember the last time she heard her surname pass his lips and she will never admit that she misses it. "We've talked about this."

Nine hours of talking, to be exact, but she still doesn't think that that's enough. This is career-ruining, home-wrecking, life-altering stuff. This is the first day of the rest of their lives. This is everything.

"I know," she sighs, and scuffs her feet in the dirt.

Proving once again that she really doesn't know him at all, he moves behind her and places his palms on her waist. Gives her a push. Surprised, she lifts her feet automatically and then she is swinging and he is pushing her and everything is just floating away.

Her mind drifts. Thoughts tumble. Flashes of what could be spin before her eyes and she closes them quickly; tilts her face into the sun. Kicks John away and makes the swing move herself. Pumping higher and higher until the swing-set creaks with her movements and threatens to collapse.

Then she stops moving and lets her momentum slow naturally. When she opens her eyes again he is beside her, watching her.

"We should go," he says.

She shakes her head. "I think that..."

He's getting impatient and trying not to show it. She can tell by the excessive calmness in his voice. "You think what?"

She looks away.

There's a convenience store across the park, across the road, and even though she can't see them, she knows her brand of cigarettes are sold there. And she wants one. She wants a whole pack. She wants to rip the plastic covering off the top and inhale that just-opened so-fresh smell of unsmoked tobacco. She wants fighting with a child-proof lighter to be the most complicated thing in her life right now.

She speaks.

"I think that we will be together from now until the end except that it will never really end and we should never really be together. Our friendship, our relationship, will evolve exponentially until one day it won't occur to us that we should be asking for separate rooms at a motel. It won't occur to us that we've forgotten to hold hands and are instead having slow, comfortable screws on the hoods of cars, my heels brushing the grills.

"We will run and we will fight. We will uncover truths and lies and watch a conspiracy unravel further and further until all that is left is the gossamer strands, feathered in every direction. You will tell me you love me and I will believe you. All this will be the beginning of the end.

"We'll conceive accidentally on a Tuesday and I'll give birth on a Friday. You'll deliver our child in the backseat of a stolen car because, by then, we'll both be so paranoid that the idea of going to an actual hospital will freak us more than the idea of bringing a new life into this world.

"Our child, our son, will look nothing like you, and nothing like me, and we'll make jokes about mailmen and storks to hide the fear that one of us, maybe both of us, has been... corrupted... somehow. Tainted by the very conspiracy we've chosen to fight; a second generation Mulder and Scully.

"He will be the perfect child, the light of our lives. He will never fuss or cry unnecessarily; will learn from birth that sometimes you can do neither, even when it is necessary, because someone might hear you. By age two he will know how to hide without our help. We will send him to a dozen schools, in a dozen states, and vaccinate him against diseases no-one knows about. He will get the measles when he's five, chicken pox at six, and mumps at seven.

"You will secretly buy a bicycle for his eighth Christmas and not tell me about it. I will find it hidden next to the spare in the station wagon we've claimed as ours. Constant years of paranoia will have made you believe in jinxes, curses and the powers of coincidence, and you will want to make sure our son is older than Luke was when he died before he receives it.

"He will never receive it.

"Mulder and Scully will reappear in our lives the week before Christmas in the year 2012. We will run and fight once more and it will not be enough. Those feathered, gossamer strands will have spread in a thousand different directions by then, unravelled by us all those years ago, and there will be no final battle just a million tiny conflicts, all futile. The sky will rain fire and snow ashes. We will be painted in grey; carbonised caricatures. In the ruins of humanity, you will kiss me and tell me I've never looked prettier.

"But our son will die in this first wave. He will die hiding, alone and afraid. We will not be the last thing he sees, our hands will not be the last thing to touch him. He will die hiding just like we taught him to do, all those years ago, when we were foolish enough to think that we could have a child and keep him safe. We should have known better. Eight year old's have never fared well under our care.

"We will bury him on Christmas day and wait until a layer of ash has covered the freshly turned dirt before walking away. That night we will lie together in some nameless, numberless, motel room and stare into each other's eyes. At dawn you will tell me you love me and it will be the first time that I don't believe you. Where all else has failed, this disbelief will be what finally breaks me. I will never recover."

She tells him this, all of this, but she tells him in Spanish because the truth always sounds better when there's no translation. Then she looks up to find him staring at her like he's seeing her, really seeing her, for the very first time. The combination of soft adoration, of gentle confusion, of quiet mesmerisation is disturbing. She looks away first.

"That was..."

If he says 'beautiful' or something similar she will stab him in the back of the neck and watch the resulting green acid dissolve this old swing-set.

Thankfully, he doesn't.

"Monica..." A hand has appeared in her line of sight, palm up; the gesture obvious. She looks up. "Let's go."

It's too easy to place her hand in his. Too easy to let him help her up, pull her closer. He kisses her then. Their first kiss. It's soft and sweet, hard and bitter; he tastes like the coffee they drank at breakfast, like the promise of things to come. This kiss will not be their last.

"Let's go," she repeats.

Hand in hand, they leave the park. Up close, the convenience store is closed; no cigarettes for her. She smiles sadly and laces her fingers with his.

She will look beautiful in grey.


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