Framed pictures float before lidless eyes,
Lands across the stark star filled sky,
Forgotten is the past the moments that came
Resplendent song lost in a tincture of bliss,
She hit the ground with a bone-rattling thud as her body continued to fall down the rocky, wooded slope. The world spun and whirled, her eyes catching none of the scenery spinning past. Her shoulder ripped audibly from its socket, the arm hanging limply as she continued to tumble. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the stark, thick form of a tree trunk… her body bracing itself before she skidded into it. Numbly, barely aware, she felt the bark pressing roughly against her cheek… arms… looking up slowly, she saw it. Her vision blurred sickeningly as she looked up into its face…
FBI Headquarters, ADA Skinner's Office
Agent Doggett's face was slack and unintelligible as he stared quietly at Skinner, who continued to drone quietly. The sudden disappearance of a Senator's daughter, last seen hiking through the woods in Canada, had become a paramount case for the FBI in the last forty-eight hours.
More then two hours later, he and several other agents filed slowly out of the office, each with varying degrees of thought sitting upon their features. Doggett left the outer office quickly, heading purposely for the elevators.
Three Hours Later, Basement of the FBI Headquarters
"Lisa Gerard went camping with five other college students from the University of Pennsylvania… they were supposed to have returned about three days ago. When they didn't show up for classes the following Monday, friends started getting worried."
Dark eyebrows furrowed thoughtfully. Reyes' voice held a hint of disbelief.
"What makes people think they're not stumbling around the woods too drunk to get to home?"
"Well, they found one of the kid's body strewn over a two mile radius off one of the more popular hiking trails… even though that part of the woods hasn't been visited for more then five years."
"Why so long?"
Filling the projection, a dark haired woman clad in Air Force dress blues stood smiling proudly at the camera. Deep brown eyes contrasted starkly with her pale skin as her dark, auburn hair framed her face nicely.
"This is Christian Borechelt, former Air Force captain who served in Desert Storm. She was the only survivor of a research team made up of fifty-two ex military personnel sent out into the woods in northern Canada. They were part of an ecological study designed to review the affects of logging on the local environment."
Reyes eyed the projection critically, taking in every aspect of the woman's face.
"Why were all the members of the team military?"
Doggett's eyes never left the folder in his hands as he answered quietly.
"Its cheaper to hire people who already have wilderness training then to employ people who have to be certified for expeditions like these."
"Who hired them?"
"The group was hired by a local logging company that had cleared a portion of the forest a few months earlier."
"And she was some sort of technical advisor?"
"Not exactly. According to the company, she was the head computer specialist on board, and handled all of the 3-D mapping and the like that they were working on. Her… wife handled a lot of the surveying and digital stills that were required for the 3-D analysis."
Stealing a short glance at her partner, Reyes' tone became firmer.
"So, who gets to convince Scully that backpacking it around Canada is a great way to spend one's weekend?"
Quantico, FBI Academy
Pointing to the series of hanging photographs showing a multitude of cadavers, Scully's voice filled the lecture hall with authority.
"This is where most of your preliminary evidence will be coming from, the body of the victim. For those of you who will be performing the autopsy yourselves, you won't usually have to deal with local officials in this area. Keep in mind however, that you won't be using FBI facilities most of the time… you will have to cooperate and utilize the local law enforcement. So, try and be civil ladies and gentlemen."
Pausing, she gave several students pointed glances, emphasizing her points sharply.
"And for those of you who will not be doing the grunt work on your own, it's good practice to go over the medical reports yourself, which is why you are here."
Her small frame turned back towards the photos, small hands gestured towards various points circled in bright red. Continuing slowly, her voice rising and falling to emphasize different items, while her hands never stopped as she flipped through notes and referred to various stills.
Standing expectantly outside the main lecture room door, Doggett and Reyes huddled closely around the small window, faces pressed into the thick glass as they watched. A little less then an hour later, they practically pounced Scully as she exited the class. Scully mumbled darkly, they herded her off.
237 Lee Street, Kirkland, WA
Jumping, her body moving backwards for a sleek looking fad-away shot, the woman sunk the basketball cleanly through the net… her wind pants rippling as she hit the cement. Turning as she caught the faint sound of clicking heels, she propped her hands casually on her hips.
Reyes was suddenly aware of the slowing of time as the petite woman moved… she noticed the fine details of the woman's face… the woman's sunglasses stood our darkly against her pale skin… auburn-brown hair hung loosely, framing her face sharply. A single, stark streak of gray curled gently against the right side of her face, giving an almost surreal quality to the young looking face.
"What can I do for you wonderful government types?"
Doggett's eyebrows shot up at the comment, while Scully and Reyes seemed nonplussed at the observation. Scully was the first to speak, her hand immediately reaching for the inside of her jacket pocket, flipping open the ever-present badge she carried.
"My name is Dana Scully, I'm with the FBI… this is Special Agent Monica Reyes and Special Agent John Doggett. We're here to discuss a few things with you if we may."
Borechelt barely looked back as started strolling quickly towards her house. Her strong, low voice drifted back to them easily.
"The last time the FBI came to see me, I was almost carted off to the local mental hospital. As far as I'm concerned, I've told my story… had my say. If you have any questions, call my lawyer."
Taking the front porch stairs by twos, the small woman quickly entered her small ranch style house. Yanking open the door easily, she slid into the house's main hall. Chris' dark eyes immediately fell onto the small-framed photograph sitting on the low-lying table just inside the door. Running a shaky hand through her slowly graying hair, she picked it up and moved to sit it solemnly on her desk a few feet inside the living room. Brushing her fingers over the cool glass, her mind drifted easily to the past. Her voice a bare whisper…
"We were so happy then weren't we?"
Five Years Earlier
Humming quietly along with Garth Brooks singing softly from the portable stereo in the corner, Christian's head bowed low over the mutilated CD-Rom drive. Giving a low whistle, she marveled at the wondrous skill it took to completely destroy such a simple device.
"So… is it salvageable?"
Not needing to turn and see the tall blonde behind her, the smaller woman grunted slightly.
"Nope, its trash. I couldn't even get the thing to open until I took it apart."
Handing the part back to the standing woman, Chris turned to pull her laptop back onto the worktable. Coming around from behind the smaller, sitting woman, Sarah Brown sat down next to her wife of three years. Her soft, yet thickly accented voice filled the small cabin room as she spoke.
"How far have we gotten on mapping this week?"
Chris' faint southern twang contrasted sharply with the larger woman's hard Jersey accent.
"We've got another thirteen acres mapped and sectioned off for further ecological studies by Lawsen's team."
Stretching, she grabbed one of the printed maps off the drawing table standing nearby, and spread it out beside her laptop. The next few hours were spent double-checking team locations and schedules.
It would be days before they would start noticing the missing men.
Tapping her chin thoughtfully, the small brunette eyed the small schedule displayed blandly on the LCD screen inches from her hands. Turning, she finally faced the sturdy frame standing inches from her back.
"Wait… when were they due back?"
"About eight hours ago… we, well… we've been looking for them, but we've come up completely empty handed. There's absolutely no trace of them south of the containment lines."
Her chest tightened sharply with the overwhelming sickening sense of worry. Chris' head canted slightly to the side, her eyes never leaving the sturdy, hulking figure of Johnson. Recognizing the gesture for what it was, a hint of growing unease, Sarah bit her lip nervously. Her voice held the slightest twinge of fear as she spoke.
"We need to contact some of the locals… we need more eyes."
The ex-marine's eyes shown darkly as his face set with a determined grimace.
"We're not leaving them out there to wait."
Hours passed as the rest of the group waited quietly in their own cabins, each partnered with others as they took turns sleeping fitfully. It was this sickening air of fear and adrenaline that fed the group, making them more awake and aware then they had a right to be. Chris worried that one or two might snap, breaking the rest with them. The signs were shouting her name, warning her of the growing need for violence among the men.
Sitting quietly on the steps in front of her cabin, the short woman stared unseeingly at her hands. Her only thoughts were not with the men, as they ought to be, but with the woman who slept inside. Christian knew that protecting her came before all else, even if it meant forfeiting her own life, Sarah would make it out of here.
The distant shouts of a single, panicked voice took several seconds to register with the thoughtful figure. Gaze narrowed and focused suddenly, Chris bounded down the steps in two long strides.
Staggering out of the woods, dragging one of his fellow searchers, one of Johnson's men, Nate, limped towards the small group of cabins. Chris winced as she saw that the body with him was missing legs, and what looked like most of its shoulder.
Bloodied fingers shook as they slowly undid the backpack's various buckles. Nate didn't say a single word the entire time as he shed every ounce of bloodied canvas and denim. The weighted pack slipped unimpeded to the floor, followed shortly by his thick, blood smeared jacket. After several long moments, he stood in nothing but an undershirt and boxers, eyes vacant as he finally lifted them to look at those around him.
Limply he sat down, biting hard into his lip as he fought the urge to gag and sob at the same time. Chris squatted down in front of him, her eyes lowering to seek out his empty face. She didn't touch him; afraid he would suddenly lash out with fear or anger. He seemed no longer to see what was around him, only stepping soullessly through the motions. Eyebrows knitting slowly, Chris waved her hand slowly in front of the pale man's eyes. Nothing, not a twitch or whisper, nothing to show awareness or caring. Sighing, Chris stood. The night outside crept still closer, heralding another sleepless and terrifying night.
Her dark hair shimmered dully in the waning lantern light as she sharply tossed the radio speaker aside. Chris' voice was thick with frustrated disgust as she sat down heavily next to Sarah's reclining form.
"The storm's too much, nothing can come up this way until morning. All the paths and roads up here are almost completely flooded. Only way down or up is on foot."
"The Hondas won't make it? Chris… the Passports were made for this type of stuff…"
Chris shook her head slowly her eyes suddenly dim. She turned, her eyes glancing over Sarah quickly… assessing the other woman mostly out of habit.
"Sarah… we need to leave somehow. We've lost contact with three different teams now…. it… worries me… a lot…"
Sarah whispered softly as she moved to rest her chin gently against the shorter woman's shoulder.
"It can't be tonight… we'll never make it on foot. We're safer here with the others and each other."
Cool, gentle hands reached out to hold the nervously twitching fingers gripping the edge of the bed. Holding each other would have to be enough.
He stared mutely at his hand; a small part of his brain registered that there were two fingers instead of five. His gaze lifted slowly, staring blankly into the creature's contorted, hollow eyes. Johnson, a small part still conscious and focused, saw the thing's jaw unhinge… the skin around its mouth stretching hideously. It leaned forward slowly, allowing Johnson to see… feel its teeth close slowly around the top of his head. His muffled screams rang out sharply against the dimly lit trees surrounding them, echoing off into the approaching night.
The woods seem to stretch out endlessly, treetops blending into an ocean of greens. Chris' mind tried slowly to grasp the need to run from this place… put it far from her and Sarah. She had been practically drug out of her bed earlier that night shortly after snuggling in tightly with Sarah, to help the others look for the missing ex-marines. Sarah had slowly stumbled after her, groggy from only a few hours of sleep in the last two days. The camp had been tense and tired, everyone scared while eyeing the surrounding trees with distrust. And so, she stood there silently alongside the frightened men, her mind inadvertently bringing forth images of Arnold Schwarzenegger fighting off ten-foot aliens deep in the jungle. Chris suddenly wanted to giggle; to laugh hysterically at the thought of fighting off monsters in the middle of nowhere… it was like being caught up in the worst B movie ever. And to die in Canada of all places? Good god…
Her feverish, stifled chuckles were cut off suddenly, the air filling with a sound that made her skin crawl with what felt like demented ants. Hollowed out screams echoed off the surrounding timber, startling the assembled. Biting hard on the inside of her mouth, Chris' entire body tensed almost painfully… waiting. Moving slightly, she slid closer to Sarah, making sure Sarah's body was shielded from the thicker part of the forest.
They stood, listening… their ears straining to take in the silent woods. Above them, suddenly, a sharp cracking began in the treetops. Every eye shot upwards in time to see a dark form falling towards them. Johnson's body twisted sharply as it flew through the air, hitting the dirt heavily as it landed. The dark blonde head rolled partially away from the neck, the muscled throat torn open. The top of the man's head was gone… only small bits of hair clung to the side of the pale temples. Chris' eyes followed the short distance back up into the trees, squinting as she saw the faintly hunched figure slide back into the darkness. Turning, she grabbed Sarah firmly by the arm, pulling her towards the faintly seen trail.
"Chris… what are you doing?"
"We're getting the hell out of here. We head back to the cabin, take one of those damn wanna-be jeep things, and get as far away from here as we can."
Looking over into the smaller woman's face, for the first time in all their years together, Sarah saw genuine fear in her lover's face.
"What about the others? We have to stay and help them…"
"They're big boys. They want to stay out here and find whatever is doing this, and I don't."
Stopping, the darker woman lowered her voice.
"I don't want to hunt the damn thing, I want to stay alive. If those idiots want to play with something that can kill six armed ex-marines with its bare hands, then that's their problem. You've told them, I've told them, and Johnson tried to tell them that this is insane. Fuck 'em for being stupid."
Chris practically dragged them both towards the trail, their footsteps quick and light. Finally releasing Sarah, the smaller woman began shedding her pack and heavier clothing. It was a two-hour hike back to the camp, and the darkening skyline above the trees was quickly beating them to it.
Almost an hour later, the two women were sprinting down the trail, each eyeing the darkened trees with fear. The screams started out of nowhere, the shrieks making their teeth rattle in symphony. Chris skidded to a halt, spinning to put herself between the cries of pain and Sarah. The blonde's hand dug almost painfully into Chris's upper arm as her free hand slipped the small Glock she carried from its holster.
"Can you make it the rest of the way back?"
Sarah's head snapped to the side, staring at Chris, her eyes hooded with confusion.
"Yes… why?" She gripped the smaller woman's arm tighter. "No… Chris… we need to leave…"
Smiling gently, almost sadly, Chris covered the white knuckled hand with her own.
"I have to try and help, even if it's only to see what we're up against. You were right, you always are Love…we have to help them."
Sarah shook her head mutely, tears filling her beautifully pale eyes. Leaning in closer, Chris whispered softly into the other woman's golden hair.
"Go… I'll be right behind you…"
She could feel it behind her, the growing sense of fear and unease sending goose bumps down the length of her body. The second Chris had left her; Sarah had felt the prickling of awareness sprint down her spine. Sarah refused to see or hear the crackling of pine needles and branches above her, keeping perfect pace. Pushing harder, she sped up, needing to be farther down the trail and away from whatever it was that haunted them all.
Barely making out the faded lights of their camp, Sarah choked back sobs of relief. It wasn't until she saw the lifeless lumps scattering the ground that her heart sank painfully into her stomach. Barely making it into one of the nearest cabins, she felt more then saw something land easily behind her running feet.
She hadn't reached them in time, and a part of her had known she wouldn't. Her mind couldn't fathom the gore in front of her, or the impossibility of it. Chris had been gone an hour, running with Sarah, and in that hour they had all died as their screams of pain followed the two fleeing women. Now, sitting among the dead, the small woman fought the urge to rock herself to happier places. Chris could see suddenly what had taken Nate's sanity, leaving the shell of a man they had left wrapped in blankets.
Marveling at the sudden quiet of the night air, Chris bowed her head to rest it against the cool dirt in front of her. She let her mind drift and wander, forcing it to tune out the stench of blood and spent cartridge shells. Head lifting suddenly, a sharp, knife-like thought struck her. They had been herded away from the camp. It knew somehow that they would go looking for the lost men, and had left one or two alive to tell the others where it was… where it was seen.
Rising so fast that she tripped on her own booted feet, Chris scrambled to find one of the motorcycles they had used to cover the mossy ground only hours before. They had all met at this clearing, but only half of them had traveled on foot. Seeing the dim sparkle of metal, she tumbled over the old bike's owner, landing hard against the body of the cooling machine.
Sarah watched as the wood slowly began to buckle inward, the indent of the creature's fingers standing out perfectly. Sliding away from the door frantically, she reached behind her back, fingers feeling desperately for the lost Glock.
The door splintered away suddenly in long, cutting strips as something came barreling into the cramped room. As the startling figure filled the now empty doorway, Sarah's eyes bulged as she saw what it was.
Sweet Jesus… it's a MAN!
Sweat stung her eyes as she drove through endless forest, her skin tearing as she hit the trees. Fighting the hard vibrations rocking the dirt bike, she skimmed branches and stabbing needles roughly. This shit didn't seem so thick earlier…
Hearing a distinct grinding sound, Chris cursed darkly as the small motorcycle engine began to overheat. Ignoring the sound, she pushed the bike harder as dark, full drops of rain began hitting her.
Sarah shivered as the rivets of water falling from his hair and shoulders hit her naked arms and shoulders, chilling her skin. Shaking hard, her eyes lifted… just as his fist came down solidly into her head. Her head bounced limply against the floor, the resounding crack filling the small room.
Sliding aside her unconscious body, he turned. Huddling down closer to the floor, lifting his massive arms above his head, the cracked lips began to chant slowly. The darkness beaded against his skin, slipping out of his pores like dark welts. Suddenly, as if on its own accord, the dark rivets shot forward… latching onto the limp woman.
The bike slid hard against the wet gravel grinding Chris' leg painfully between the metal and the earth. Tripping over the fallen bike, the small woman lurched painfully across the small driveway towards the ruined cabin door. She fingered the safety of her nine-millimeter, raising it to eye level as she limped up the narrow cabin steps. What she saw punched her squarely in the stomach, bile rising in fear. Black strings of slime hung off a hunched man, reaching for and clinging to her wife in sticky desperation.
Raising the pistol quickly, giving a short scream in warning, Chris emptied the clip into the man's chest in rapid barks of sound. Stepping inside the room slowly she ejected the spent clip, the empty metal clattering to the floor. With a quick flick of her hand, the spare clip snapped into place with a loud click.
Stepping closer to the two slouched figures, Chris kept her gun trained tensely on the creature beside her wheezing wife. Kneeling, the smaller woman turned Sarah slowly onto her back, peering closely into her face. It was the last thing she saw before something hit her solidly in the back.
365 West 123rd
The three agents stood quietly looking at the elegant, yet not overly posh building that housed Borechelt's lawyer and associates. Sighing with the weight of this new frustration, Doggett led the two other darkly dressed agents up the smooth, cement steps, reaching for the tall glass doors nestled into the bulky building. One way or another, they were going to have Borechelt's help.
The petite lawyer had been difficult from the very beginning in what was turning into an hour-long conversation. Jean Taylor took pride in her tenacity; its what set her apart from others like her. Long, brown locks cascaded over stocky shoulders as the small woman bent over her desk, her hands laying flat against the cherry wood.
"My client has no comment, will give no comment, and wishes not to see you now or any time in the future. What is there to discuss?"
"Three college students, lost and probably dying while we sit here arguing."
Quirking a brow, Jean turned towards the tall, dark woman sitting quietly in the corner of her office. The woman hadn't uttered a word, simply letting the redheaded woman and the gruff man do all the talking. Mumbling softly to herself, Jean cursed herself for being one of the only lawyers in the world that gave a damn.
22 Hours Later, Undisclosed Air Force Base
"Right, like I'm going to be worried about my civil rights hiking around the hillside trying not to get eaten… good point… really it is."
Heaving a long sigh, Jean turned Chris' body to face the slowly retreating forms of Agent Scully and Reyes. Raising her eyebrow, the dark glasses turned slightly to give the curly-haired woman a confused look.
"Look farther down… lower… a little to the left… there ya go."
Chris' gaze was now set on two nicely shaped rears, swaying as the two women walked briskly towards the plane.
"I see, so I'm being used as a clever cover story so that a certain single lawyer can marvel at the eye candy."
"Don't forget the long lonely nights cramped in a cabin and the possibility of sharing a sleeping bag."
Her clear blue eyes glazed over slightly as visions of the two gorgeous agents cuddled comfortably around her small frame ran happily through her mind.
Rolling her eyes, Borechelt walked off shaking her head… chuckling low in her throat.
The plane trip seemed to be a series of long, drawn out memories strung together by tidbits of conversation mumbled by the others. Christian never really heard all that was said, that would mean she cared. Her thoughts would be interrupted by a burst of laughter from Jean, an inquisitive sidelong glance from the small redheaded agent, or a suspicious look from the roughened man with them. The dark haired agent rarely moved, much less spoke. She seemed to be preoccupied with something in the air, her back stiff and tightened as she sat with an air of watching. The landing was a teeth rattling jostle that forced everyone to grab blindly for their armrests… it was enough to finally bring Chris harshly into the present.
The car ride wasn't much better. Watching the once graveled dirt flash uninterrupted by the jeep's window, they all sat silently, tensely waiting for whatever was ahead. Chris could feel her back tighten, her shoulders hunching slightly as she sat snugly against the jeep door. It was if the past were trying to tell her something, something important she had missed all those years ago… she just had to look for it. Closing her eyes, the brunette gave herself over to her spinning memories once more.
Her chest had ached terribly as something scratched lightly against her ribcage… something alive and dark. Pressing shaking hands against her sternum, Chris looked around as her vision clouded over with pain. She could barely make out the cabin walls, the wood filling her nostrils with pine. Chris couldn't move, her chest hurt too much, her heart beating almost to the point of bursting. Sliding along the floor she looked for Sarah, wishing desperately for pale skin to appear among the wood. She saw nothing… both Sarah and her attacker were gone.
Turning her stiff head slowly, she winced as the new morning light streaked lazily past the dirt-covered windows. The darkness grew thicker and Chris reached blindly for Sarah, knowing she was nowhere within reach. About to give in to the encircling darkness, she heard the hushed footstep of bare feet. Freezing with fear, the small woman squinted against the dawn light as a tall figure filled the broken doorway. She could barely make out his bare chest… the bright tattoos that lay scattered against his dark skin, or the soft leather that covered his legs. He walked slowly towards her, kneeling as he gently rested his hand against her burning chest.
"It was not to be this way…"
"Chris? Wake up hon… we're here."
Head bobbing slowly as she awoke, Chris looked sleepily into Jean's soft, dimpled smile. Sliding from the back seat of the now muddy jeep, she was momentarily confused as to where she was… and when. The cooling night air rustled her graying hair as she turned to slowly take in the aging cabins… the forgotten look of it all. Closing her eyes, she let the echoing pain of Sarah's loss fill her. Touching her chest lightly, she remembered the scratching feel of the thing sleeping inside her. The second she had left the Canadian forests, the presence had slowed and finally slept. Forcing a new sliver of fear aside, she opened her eyes again to the ransacked buildings sitting quietly in front of them. She felt Jean step closer, felt the radiating warmth of the shorter woman… and felt the others standing farther back.
As if by request, something stirred against her ribs. Cringing slightly, she felt it slither closer to her heart, snuggling in against the beating muscle. Lifting her head slowly, breathing deeply to drive away the rising panic, Chris' eyes narrowed as she skimmed the late afternoon sky.
"We'll have to wait until dark. He doesn't come out till then… we won't be able to track him otherwise."
Doggett's gruff voice barely carried over the few feet between him and Chris.
"Fine. We get some rest until then."
Her heart pounded hard, brushing against the quivering life inside her chest. The sky had turned a deepening shade of purple as the night wore on, sending long shadows against the tree trunks around them. They had been out only two hours when it had found them, crashing down from high branches, sending debris fluttering to the ground. One of the larger branches fell hard into Chris' shoulders and back, sending her hard into the mossy ground.
Doggett's Glock shone dully in the midnight air catching thin strips of light from the flashlight Scully held tightly against her chest. Chris could see the bright flashes of the agents' muzzles as they fired almost aimlessly into the dark, the sudden light making her wince. The creature howled in pain, startling them all, making them all freeze in mid-motion. A slow, answering howl made Chris' hair stand on end… her whole body awash in sudden goose bumps.
Rolling over stiffly onto her back, the small woman glanced wearily into the trees. A flash of gold streaked by her vision. Sitting up, feeling her body creek in protest, Chris looked again. Her heart stopped… the darkness inside her chest pausing mid-scratch. Balancing on one of the lowest branches directly above the small group, Sarah peered unseeingly at the sitting woman.
Chris faintly heard shouts and rustling, the sounds of pursuit. She hardly noticed the others take off after the hunched man; random shots echoing back towards her. Standing slowly, her knees shaky and unstable, Chris continued to stare at the woman standing quietly in the trees. With another flash of her golden hair, Sarah disappeared into the foliage overhead. The small, ex-Air Force captain didn't even glance back and she went tearing through the Canadian forest.
Dirtied fingertips grazed over the tunnel drawings slowly, a part of her connecting with the primitive looking artwork. Chris had trailed Sarah slowly through the night, her bruised back and shoulders knotting up with strain. And she had finally ended up here, a small tunnel carved out of the earth… tucked away beyond the sight of men. She knew she was too late, that Sarah had come and gone while she had lagged almost a half-mile behind. But something had tugged at her, beckoning her to stay, to climb inside.
Chris could barely make out the sound of scurrying and muffled, muted voices coming from deep within the tunnel. Resting her cheek against the cool, compacted dirt that made up the tunnel walls, she fought with herself. Should she leave and continue following her wife, pushing her body farther past her breaking point… or stay and see if the missing 'children' were indeed deeper inside the tunnel.
Sighing softly, Chris waited for the slow paced agents to find her.
Three sets of bloodshot, frightened eyes stared wildly at them. Shooting forward into Scully's arms, the smallest of the three sobbed in relief against the redhead's Gore-Tex jacket.
"She saved us… she fought off that… thing… she saved us…"
Chris leaned close to grab the only boy by the front of his jacket, shaking him slightly to make him focus.
"Where? Where did the woman go?" Chris' voice rose in frustration and anger. "Tell me!"
Slipping against the suddenly slick hillside, her legs burned with the effort, her chest twisted painfully with each gasp for air. Feeling the small thing inside her chest stir, she winced. It could feel the rest of itself close… it could feel the familiar forest seeping in around it. Chris ignored it; she no longer cared about the always constant scratching of the blackness inside her. She was going to find her wife, and she was going to bring her back…
Glancing back she saw the two women gamely keeping up, one helping the other as they each struggled. Turning back towards the waning light, she pushed on, forcing her body past the burning fatigue. She didn't care what the agents thought of her; didn't care what Doggett's dark look had meant as he decided to stay behind with the cowering youths, or what the shared whispers between the two female agents could possibly be about.
All Chris could see was the fading trail the woman she had vowed to love and cherish had left… and the silent clock she was fighting with each breath. Pulling away from the two stumbling agents, the small brunette pushed herself still harder.
Chris felt the ebony cloud seep into her body, drenching her skin as it crawled inside her. Wincing at the invasion, she cradled Sarah closer, forcing the foul stink off Sarah and into herself. It took several minutes for the thing to settle itself inside Chris' chest, making her ribs tighten with pain. Chris softly brushed aside the clinging bits of dirt from her wife's face as she leaned forward to softly brush her lips over Sarah's. Gently lowering the still unconscious woman, the brunette slipped easily out of the shallow tunnel and into the darkening forest night.
It took several minutes for the two lagging female agents to reach the dimly lit clearing, wisps of breath following them. Scully reached the prone woman first, checking her pulse easily. Sighing softly in relief, she looked up at Reyes, eyes meeting. Whispering softly, the redhead brushed her hands over the cool, pale face. Kneeling stiffly beside Scully, Reyes shrugged easily out of her jacket. Draping it over Sarah's shivering body, the dark haired woman rested her hand reassuringly against the middle of the red headed woman's back. Whispering softly, the tall Mexican woman's face tightened with worry.
"No sign of Christian… why would she leave Sarah here alone?"
"I don't know, it doesn't make any sense. There has to be something Christian is keeping from us… some part of the puzzle we haven't seen."
Reyes' brows knitted slowly, her eyes growing distant as she sorted through it all.
"This is taking too long… we have to find Chris and get back to John."
Sudden, hoarse coughing startled the two women from their conversation. Clutching almost painfully at her chest, the blonde's voice came in ragged gasps.
"She… took it… from me…"
Scully's hands were gentle, brushing aside the long strands of gold off the trembling woman's forehead.
"Took what Sarah? What did Chris take?"
"What that… thing put inside me. Chris took it…"
Seeing the sharply outlined trees wiz past her face as she tore through the quiet night took her back almost five years ago… bringing forth the loss and rage she'd carried for so long. She didn't know where she was going, simply that a part of her was leading the rest deeper into the Canadian rain forest… chasing after what was left of its hunched twin.
She could feel him running from her, the sweet tangy taste of fear wafting off the creature she was tracking. Closing her eyes, Chris could almost see him sprinting along the muddy earth towards something dark… hollow. Opening her eyes once more, she smiled slowly as she saw the darkened cave up ahead.
Her dark, almost black, eyes shown feverishly; sweat beading against her forehead as she grunted with the strain. Twisting his throat with suddenly sharp fingers, Chris heard the dull pop of his larynx snapping. Whimpering, she closed her eyes, calling up the dark thing deep inside her. She let it free, let it seep from her onto the dying man convulsing in her hands.
One of his hands twitched hard, lashing out so that nails slashed deep along Chris' hip. Yelping in pain, she dropped to one knee, but her concentration remained with the dying man. Gargling whimpers echoed all around her as the creature's blood drooled lazily onto her hands.
Staring blankly at her bloodied hands, rage welled in the pit of her stomach, ballooning outward. Growling low in her throat, Chris' sudden rage sharpened her hatred for the man beneath her. She wanted to tear him apart, feel his body snap apart inside her palms. Screaming with rage… she did just that.
Dark eyes peeked through a thick sheen of red, wet tresses clumped to her face as she stood looking quietly about.
"So… ummm… how are ya'll doing?"
Standing slowly, Sarah took a tentative step towards the hunching figure. Moving to stop her, Jean grabbed her arm… her face confused and frightened. Turning, Sarah gently covered the smaller woman's hand with her own, the gesture stilling the trembling fingers. Pulling away, she moved still closer.
Crouching down in front of the figure, she reached out slowly… her fingers barely brushing aside the slick, sticking strands of hair. Cupping the bloodied chin, Sarah raised the dark eyes to meet her own.
The other woman smiled weakly, her body starting to come down off the long hours of adrenaline…
"Yeah baby… its me." A heartbeat passed between them. "Can I pass out now?"
Chris slumped heavily into the crouching woman, her world melting into a blanket of black.
12 Days Later
Chris awoke slowly, her whole body fighting to keep her still and asleep. The first thing that struck her was not the sharply lit hospital room, but the overwhelming smell of cleaners that accompanies every medical facility. Blinking rapidly, Chris thought for a split second that she was back in Iraq, wandering the halls looking for Sarah. But the shuffling of civilian doctors and nurses walking hurriedly past her room chased the thought away.
Shaking her head cautiously, her hands balled into fists… nails digging into her palms painfully. The sharp sting reassured her somewhat as she forced her mind clear. Chris swallowed slowly, her heart steadying; she took the time to look more closely at her surroundings. Quirking a brow, her eyes rested on a figure that lay curled up in one of the chairs sitting only feet from her bed. The off-blue blanket wrapped around the curled woman only allowed a small tuft of blonde hair to show peeking up from the material.
Grunting with the effort, Chris moved slowly, reaching out for the dozing woman. Wincing, she felt the sutures along her hip tighten and stretch. She stopped, panting with the effort and pain. The bundle of blue blanket stirred suddenly, roused by the heavy breathing.
"Christian? Honey… what are you doing?"
Weakly smiling, her hip aching fiercely, she whispered. "Trying to get a girl's attention. You know me, sucker for a pretty face."
Strong, agile fingers brushed slowly over sleeping features. Lush lips grazed over a slightly sweaty brow, comforting the nightmarish whimpers emanating from the sleeping woman. Kissing the nape of her neck, Chris willed the lean woman beside her to quiet and doze peacefully. Instead, Sarah stirred, easily coming to consciousness. The blonde turned slowly, her eyes hooded and alert all at once.
Chris' eyes welled with tears, five years of heartache bleeding away by Sarah's look. Soft lips caught each and every warm tear as they slid down the older woman's face. Sighing gently into Sarah's hair, Chris' hands slowly slipped under smooth cotton. Equally dark eyes locked and shone brightly against the darkened room. Long minutes passed, the two women simply watching each other as they shared gently exploring touches.
Almost without thought, clothes were shed and tossed aside. Soft, smooth skin shone dully in the barely lit room, casting elegant shadows against silken sheets. Desire, warm and sharp flared and brightened. Lips became more adamant while bodies warmed with motion and need. Sweat slicked bodies found an easy and primal rhythm, gasps and whimpers filling the night.
Panting softly with effort, strong fingers slipped easily between two lean bodies. Sliding along slick heat, the soft whimpers turned to low, echoing moans. In what seemed like a matter of seconds, two voices cried out in release, ragged breaths filtering through the drawn out vocals. Sagging against one another, both women fought to catch their breath.
Sarah's longer body curled instinctively around the smaller, softly yielding one tucking itself warmly into her. Her senses were raw and frayed… her mind still reeling from the last few days. Blinking away her tears of confusion, Sarah buried her face in the smooth, lean shoulder beside her. Chris cradled the taller woman close, tucking her head snugly under her wife's chin.
"So, what do you think?"
Chris peered up, into and through the wall… her eyes following the two female agents as they got into their rented navy blue Taurus.
"Yeah, I saw something there."
"Think it'll ever happen?"
A soft, pained sigh filled the darkening kitchen.
"Don't know… the smaller one aches for something else…"
Circling the table, Sarah slipped easily into Chris' lap, her strong arms circling her wife's shoulders.
"Promise me we have forever."
Rich brown eyes lit up gently, their owner's voice becoming soft.
"We have time, each other, and the world… I promise."
It had only taken a matter of moments for the thing that had hit her to crawl into her… to leech onto her skin and pull itself inside. She had interrupted its taking of her wife, but the darkness was not to be deterred… its host was dying and it needed another. If it could not have the one, it would settle for the other.
Groaning, Chris looked up slowly, her vision blurring the wooden plank walls in front of her. The rough, splintery floor chaffed her cheek, her cuts and bruises aching against the hard surface. Blinking rapidly, she tried hard to focus, to think clearly as to where she was. The cabin. The last five years had been a hallucination, one last-ditch effort to keep her mind above the pain and rage.
Next to her resting head, she saw Sarah… Chris' hands clenched tighter, pulling Sarah's body closer. She could feel the creature's lifeless form behind her, she could almost see his hollowed out eyes staring sightlessly at her back. Chris knew the darkness was seeping into her veins, her limbs, finding every crevice. She was slowly loosing her mind, her body unable to understand what it was fighting.
"I dreamt it… I dreamt us together and happy…"
Pillowing her head against her dead wife's stomach, Chris gave into the growing night.