21 February 99

The following is an excerpt from Providence, an X-Files story, currently in development. No copyright infringement is intended.

Providence, Rhode Island

He continued to follow her, his jacket slung over his shoulder as he walked. She was heading for the rendezvous point now, walking slowly, the jacket slung over her shoulder not quite concealing the weapon holstered at the small of her back. He decided he liked watching her walk. No wasted motion there-- graceful in economy. Yes, very pleasant...

The air was still and the day's heat radiated from the pavement, and every brick and stone. She stopped on the bridge, in sight of the goal, and leaned on the railing. Quietly Mulder came up beside her. He draped his coat over the railing, and leaned there too, looking where his partner was looking, at the water. The sun was down now, and evening was settling over the city of Providence. The river was like dark glass. "Are you okay, Scully?"

"I'm fine, Mulder."

"Because I get the feeling you don't want to be here."

"I was supposed to go on retreat, Mulder. It was important to me--"

"This is important, too."

"I just wish I could have gone."

"You'll go another time."

"There's a man who was going to be there. He invited me--"

"What kind of retreat were you going on? I didn't know you could take a date."

God. Mulder could be aggravating. "The man is a priest. A Jesuit."

"Are they allowed to date?" Mulder regretted the words immediately. He knew he only did it to avoid serious conversation. And he knew why he did it, too--

"Shut up, Mulder." Scully turned away expecting Mulder to go on ahead and leave her to catch up. That's what he usually did. But after a long silence, when she glanced over, she was surprised to find he was watching her, frowning.

All the serious conversations Mulder'd ever had with his family and the people he cared about had ended badly, in silence and closed doors, and he wouldn't willingly-- but this was Scully, and she needed-- he needed to stop running, to stop keeping people at arm's length. He had to trust somebody, sometime, had to try to keep everything from ending in silence. "Why was it so important?"

"I just wanted the chance to talk with him. He seemed very intelligent, very learned, both in science and in religion, and... and I was looking forward to having some very stimulating conversation--" She stopped. Since when did she talk to Mulder? There was no talking about anything important with Mulder. He wouldn't understand, and everything was a joke to him-- but he had asked. Oh, what the hell? She had been hooked by an absurdity, why not admit it? "He said he could give me a proof that Hell is exothermic."

"Exo--!" Mulder grinned at her. "Sounds like a come on to me." And he kicked himself mentally.

"I know." She shouldn't have told him; his reaction had been exactly what she expected. Typical Mulder. She gazed out over the water again.

He was losing her. She was shutting him out. He could give up, or-- "Boyle's Law."

"Oh, for--" Comprehension dawned. "Yeah. Probably--"

"I bet he was going to tell you--"

"Mulder, go away."

"After this, we may both be going away." And dammit, he didn't want to lose Scully and her unsolvable conundrum--

The reminder only added to Scully's worries, and she didn't want to think about it. Not now. There were too many other, more important things. Why did Mulder always--

"Do you think he's got a proof that God exists?"

"Nobody's got that, Mulder." Why wouldn't he shut up?

"Are you sure?"

"I'm sure."

"But how? How can you be so sure?"

"Faith," she said dismissively. Now, she thought, leave me alone--

"You have faith that nobody can prove that God exists?"

What? Dammit, Mulder-- "No. It's a fact."

"It's a fact that--"

"Nobody can prove the existence of God."

"Have you tried?"

She was feeling flustered now. "Mulder--"

"Well, have you? Really tried to prove it, I mean?"

Mulder, Mulder, Mulder, let be--

"Because that's not like you, Scully."

"What's not like me?"

"Not demanding proof." He eyed her accusingly. "You never let me off the hook."

"That's diff--" She watched him, and he watched her, waiting.

It wasn't different. He was right. She never let him off the hook. Not ever. But she'd been letting herself off, and-- that was precisely what had been bothering her. She had been letting herself off, not facing up to the really tough questions, and it was eating her up. And she needed someone to talk to about it, someone who could understand, someone who could give some guidance, and that's why she had been looking forward to the retreat, to talking with Father Trevanian. But now the only person to talk to was Mulder-- and he didn't understand or give a damn about the terrible contradictions she faced, didn't have the faintest notion--

"You were afraid when they told you you had cancer, but you faced it."

What? What had Mulder said? The cancer? Ah, yes. "That was easy," she said, out of habit reciting the catechism she had taught herself over the past months. But she made the mistake of looking at Mulder. His expression held a page worth of comment, and he waited for her rebuttal. Again, she recited: "It's my faith. Because I have faith, the death of my body means nothing--" Mulder's expression challenged that. She held his gaze for a moment, and they were both answered when she looked away.

Busted. Mulder never let her get away with anything either. "Mulder, you're worse than a weekend with Jesuits." She heard him laugh softly, and looked over to see him grinning.

"Not better?" he asked.

Her comment to him had been an evasion. They both knew it. And Scully knew Mulder would drop it if she turned away. But she also knew she wanted to hear her own answer-- the real answer. And, for once, Mulder at least gave the appearance of listening. Taking a breath, she began, "Because… because… What was the question?"

"Why are you afraid of finding out the truth about God?"

"Was that the question?" Mulder nodded, but that hadn't-- that was the question. She hated to admit it, but that was the question. And she was afraid. Very afraid. Why? Because… because…

"The truth won't make all this go away, Scully. It won't all wink out of existence if you prove there's no God."

"And God won't wither away like Tinkerbelle because you don't believe in Him."

"Should I clap my hands?"

Frowning, Scully turned to look at him. "Okay, Mulder," she challenged, "what do you believe in?"

"Truth, justice, the American Way-- " Mulder stopped himself. "I don't know."

"You don't know what you believe in?"

"No," he said, drawing it out. And Scully was surprized to hear the sincere consideration in his voice. "No. There are lots of things I believe in-- but when it comes to the big stuff… He regarded Scully in silence, his mind a blank until the breeze ruffled his hair, and the forgotten truth of his beliefs came back to him. "When Samantaha disappeared, afterwards, I prayed to God to bring her back. And when she didn't come back, I thought that maybe God hadn't heard me, so I went looking for Him. I looked in every church and temple on the Vinyard-- I looked in every place of worship everywhere we went. And I prayed, please, God, bring Samantha back.

"I kept at it; I didn't give up. But, Samantha didn't come back, and, after a while, my prayer changed, and I asked God to help me find her, to lead me to her. And after that, it changed to, please, God, let me just find one clue. In the end, I stopped praying. I knew no one was listening. I knew I was alone, and the only thing I could believe in was my own perserverance.

"I guess that's what I really believe in."

Scully was beginning to feel the chill of evening. "Maybe that's what God really is, Mulder. Dogged, unswerving, perseverence."

"Maybe… I don't know."

"That's what scares the hell out of me. Not knowing." The breeze made her shiver.

"Then that's why you became a scientist. To find the answers."

"I guess I did."

Mulder watched Scully as she put her jacket on. She had withdrawn, and he didn't know how to get her back. The silence was winning. As he watched, he realized that keeping the silence at bay wasn't enough. Scully needed answers-- or, at the very least, some solid, irrefutable truth to deal with-- something to hang on to-- something.

Scully looked at the breeze-ruffled water, feeling alone, and very dissatisfied with the conversation, disappointed that it had all come back to this, to cold, hard science. Disappointed that there were no real answers, that Mulder didn't understand--

"Scully," Mulder began. She turned to look at him, but-- he felt lost. What could he say? Something true, but what? The breeze blew harder. Buying time, he put his own jacket on, and-- "You're very good at what you do, Scully. You're the best. You do the work and you get results. When there's a problem to be solved, you keep at it until you have the answers. I really admire that in you, Scully." There, that was true--

"Thanks." She sighed, and turned away again. Why did Mulder have to babble?--

"I really do." What else? He watched her intently and sought frantically--

Scully nodded absently. Somehow, Mulder's complement, however well-intentioned, was… depressing. And that was exactly Mulder's problem. He just didn't understand how people felt about the important things. You couldn't talk to him about anything. Either he'd go off on some flight of fancy, or he'd reduce everything to mundane commonplaces. The breeze blew her hair, and she turned her face into the wind, and checked her watch. "We'd better be going," she said. And she straightened her jacket, and smoothed her hair, putting her professionalism in place.

Whatelsewhatelsewhatelse--? Mulder thought, and the the breeze sent his tie whipping over his shoulder to whack him in the back of the head-- and inspiration struck!

"Scully?" he asked, casually, pulling his tie back into place.


"As good a scientist as you are, do you really think there's any danger of you proving God doesn't exist?"

It took a moment for the question to sink in. She stared at Mulder as he continued.

"Because good as you are-- and you are good, Scully, I admit that. Really good-- but I don't think you have anything to be afraid of. I mean, if anyone could do it, you could. I know that. But I just don't think anyone can prove--"

"Shut up, Mulder." It felt good to laugh.

Triumphant, Mulder shut up.

If there is sufficient interest, I'll post the rest of the story when it's done.


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