DISCLAIMER: The X-files belongs to Chris Carter, no infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: 1, I've never been to NM, so I just made a little bit up. 2, I couldn't remember The Little Boy's birthday, so I just made one up... (it's the airdate) Sorry, continuity gods. Feel free to correct me.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By snuff


At its edges the postcard was curled and worn, the once-thick paper now soft to the touch. On the front, a picturesque desert scene that Monica often wished she could just sink into purely by willful thought. On the flip side, the familiar sight of her own name and address, in an unmistakable doctor's script:

M. Reyes
1550 Harvard St. NW
Washington, DC 20009

Besides the address and the faded red postmark, there were no other marks on the card-- no well wishes or vacationers' tales, no "Wish You Were Here,' no matter how many times Monica tossed the card over and over in her hands.

The postmark had said Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the date was one year ago today: May 20, 2005.

Arms outstretched in front of her, Monica framed the postcard with her hands and squinted at the setting sun. It was getting late, and she'd been out here all day, sweating but not really sweating, as the desert heat dried each droplet off her forehead before she even knew it was there.

Scrutinizing the photo one more time, she tilted her head to the right just a bit, and reassured herself one more time that this had to be the spot. Beyond the dark-haired woman perched on a scenic lookout lay a scene so beautiful, it could only be straight out of a postcard.

The winds picked up just as the sun dropped below the craggy outcropping across the valley, and Monica had to cup her hands tightly around the tiny flame.

"Shit," she muttered, lips pressed to a cigarette. It was the first words she had uttered all day, content to make the drive from her hotel out to the lookout in silence. And the day had passed quickly, too quickly she thought, for a woman in the desert alone.

Finally, the cigarette caught flame, and her lips pursed around it, drawing from it a cathartic drag. Monica reflected on the years that had passed since she last saw her: she had bounced around at first, only to return to the Washington field office and the bullshit that surrounded it, and she'd tried her hand at a couple relationships, none significant enough to warrant mentioning to an old friend. She'd even bought a house, trying to settle into her adult life, but the plumbing and electric were shot and it sorely needed a new roof. She'd tried a lot of things to move on, but none of them seemed to do the trick.

Another long pull of the cigarette, and she let her eyes close for a few seconds. After a beat, she blew the smoke out hard, as if to expel her frustrations at both the immediate situation and things in DC.

As her eyes reopened, she swore the long day in the heat had begun to screw with her mind. Because just north of where she stood—a mile, maybe two-- she could almost make out the white hood of an SUV, and a woman standing near the edge of the road, knee-deep in the brush. Whoever it was had a bird's-eye view of the same landscape in front of Monica: a picture-perfect desert scene just after sunset on William Scully's birthday.

The gravel beneath her tires gave her away, rousing the woman at the edge of the valley just a bit. Monica put the car in park and swallowed a knot of nervousness in her throat. Even with her fiery hair lightened a few shades and grown a few inches, Monica knew she was staring at Dana Scully, four years removed from her life.

Climbing out of the car proved difficult, as suddenly Monica's legs felt the weight of her long day. Or so she told herself. Before she crossed the street, she thought about calling to the other woman—clearly she knew Monica had pulled over. But her voice wouldn't come, so surprising to Monica that she actually put her hand to her throat.

Her boots made a scuffling sound against the pavement, and then again on the gravel of the shoulder. Finally, the woman turned her head, the wind blowing streaks of nearly-blonde hair across her face, and she smiled.

"Dana," Monica managed, coming round the front of Scully's truck.

"Monica," Scully breathed, pleased but not nearly as surprised as Monica thought she would be.

They made an awkward embrace and Monica at last got to lay eyes on Dana Scully up close, and she couldn't suppress a beaming smile. Time and … everything had aged Dana more than she'd imagined, but she still had that radiant beauty Monica remembered.

For a moment they held each other at arms length, forearm-in-forearm, and Monica took in the tiny lines around Dana's eyes, the freckles on her cheeks that only came out with a little bit of sun, and the faint streaks of tears down her dusty face.

"I got your postcard… I took a chance," Reyes explained, just now feeling as though she'd invaded something intensely personal for Scully.

"You moved," Dana stated flatly. "My first one… two years ago… bounced back. I'd have thought you'd have your mail forwarded, Agent Reyes." Her chiding was lighthearted, but that did little to ease the rising agony in Monica's stomach. I'm sorry I'm so late, she thought.

"Yeah, I… bought a place," she offered instead. When Dana nodded and looked away, she added, almost in spite of herself, "It's a shithole."

That earned a broad smile from Scully, and the smaller woman put her hand on Reyes' back, turning them both to face the rocky expanse of the valley. "I'm sure it's lovely."

And then several minutes passed between the women in silence, the purple sky turning darker by the second. Every once in a while the wind whipped and Dana would shrug her shoulders against it, and inch ever so slightly into the body of the taller woman. Monica's heart beat like a snare, ready to come to a crescendo and crash at any moment.

"I miss him so much."

Monica eyed Dana's profile, and fought to hold back her own tears. "I know."

"Missing him… has crippled me," Dana squeaked out.

"I know," Monica replied, and more than just a dumb response, it was true. Monica knew what it meant to be paralyzed with a longing that never ceased.

"And missing you…" Dana squinted, squeezing tears down the side of her face instead of across her cheeks, "was something I didn't expect."

Monica's mind filled with a thousand questions—about Scully, about Mulder, about … well, mostly about Mulder. But she couldn't ask them now. No, right now she sensed Dana needed her to listen, and to not bend whenever the smaller woman leaned into her.

More time elapsed. It felt like hours but was probably more like minutes. The temperature grew surprisingly cool, and Scully must have noticed it too, because she motioned with her shoulder, arms wrapped around her own waist, to the truck behind them.

"We should go."

Monica didn't know quite what to make of the 'we.' Out here, on this expanse of barely-used highway, she felt safe with Scully, but she was cautious about being seen elsewhere with the woman. "Is that a good idea? I mean…"

Scully knew what she meant. "I've been here for almost three years now… no one will bother us." Climbing into the white SUV, Scully let Monica close the door behind her. They stared at each other for a second, the glass between them casting odd reflections. Starting the car, Scully rolled down the window as Monica turned to get into her own rental. "You may have to park that thing in town," she shouted.

Monica looked back at her, confused.

"Don't think it will make it up to my place."

The End

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