Rated: PG13 - M/S angst, UST, language
Archive: Just ask!
Summary: Pentimento is an art term meaning to obscure what was
once there, such as painting a new picture over an older one
on a canvas. But as it ages, oil paint on canvas can become
transparent and slowly, what was there before can be seen
again and the whole truth of the picture, once lost and
obscured, can be rediscovered. This story of the
reunion of Mulder and Scully is much the same.
The cruelest thing that The Grays do is let me watch.
The huge screen is always there on the back wall of my
windowless room. It looks like one of those flat-screen TVs that
manufacturers keep telling people they'll all have in their homes
Well, I have one. And I hate it.
Granted, they don't MAKE me watch. It's not like they put my
head in a vice, tie me down, force my eyes open, and make me watch
the screen. No, it's even more insidious than that. They merely
hung that thing on my wall so that I could see what I was missing,
so that I could watch every single facet of my life going on
without me. And although I can turn the sound down, I can't turn
it off; only The Grays can do that.
They knew ahead of time that I would be unable to stop watching
my world and the people in it. The ones I left behind. I can see
their faces; I can hear their voices. In the beginning, foolishly,
I would walk up to the glass and try to touch them, passing my
hand over the ice-cold screen. The people left behind don't have a
clue that in a very real sense, I'm near them everyday.
But the experience of them has become a memory for me now. I'm
always with them, but I'm never WITH them--I can never interact.
I've watched my work go on, taken over by someone else. I've
watched my friends go about their business. I've watched my
partner slowly fall in love.
I've even watched sunsets, but I can't feel them. I can't feel
anything but cold and dark.
Oh God, I miss the sun. I miss what the warmth of it felt like
upon my skin. There are times when I can close my eyes and almost
conjure that feeling. Almost. But in truth, the visceral
experience of the beauty of sunlight is gone for me. Like so much
else, it's just a memory now.
And that is the cruelest thing that these Gray bastards do.
They let me see what I am missing and what may never be mine
again. I'm let close, but I'm always separate, always
disconnected. I wonder if all the others that are imprisoned here
too are also allowed to watch their life go on or if I'm just
somehow special. This is something I've not been able to discover.
The Grays will be coming to my room very soon. Time is not
something I try to keep track of anymore, although I did at first.
But even so, I have that internal clock that allows me to measure
small chucks of time precisely. I've always had it, but the
ability is mostly useless now as there doesn't seem much point in
marking time. In fact, it only hurts to do so. I mean, it's not as
if I'm counting down towards a release date.
But even though I know they're coming, I don't turn towards the
door because I can't take my eyes off the screen. It's showing a
different scene now, but the memory of what I witnessed a few
hours ago is still burned into my eyes, like staring at the sun.
The recollection of it will be there forever and the grief of it
is crushing. I've wished for many things in my time here, but not
for this. Never for this.
I'm sorry. Dear God, I'm so sorry. Pathetic words. Perhaps the
most inadequate in the human language for the expression of regret
And there's been a lot of pain. At first, I thought the worst
was the excruciating tests that brought tears to my eyes and
ignored pleas to end the agony. But then there are the mind probes
where they dig into every dark secret of my being and examine it
for exploitation. My essence, all that I am, is stolen from me and
given away to others. This doesn't erase the memory from my mind,
although it does make it hazy, a little harder for me to conjure
But as time progressed and I lost track of it, the real pain,
the real torture, was the despairing isolation of my cell. It's
always ice cold. Always dimly lit, save the glow of screen when
they've turned it on. It's my personal hell and I am all alone in
The Grays don't seem to understand the human concept of
loneliness. They know of my increasing distress for the changes in
both my physical and mental state are closely monitored. With the
screen, I wonder if they were actually trying to be kind to their
captive, much the way a zookeeper would build a better cage. But
they don't understand that watching only makes it worse. And in
the end, it's cruel that I'm allowed to see.
At first, I wondered at their ability to see everything. Of
course, it makes sense that with their advanced technology, these
little Gray geeks have would have no problem surveilling the
people they planned to conquer. To think I wasted all that time in
my apartment and office tracking down bugs and video spy cameras
planted by the consortium. Foolishly, I wasn't thinking big
The Grays have been spying on the spies since the beginning,
and with technology that makes Krycek's little nanotechnology
palmtop look like something built with Leggos. They are in
everywhere that they can get their clones in to plant the
equipment; almost no building or place is beyond their
penetration. They can look at and hear anything they want,
whenever they want for as long as they want. And from the sky,
their ships can see nose hair on a rat in an open field; they can
hear its breath.
The human race doesn't have a chance. The only thing that has
kept the outright invasion at bay is the fact that we outnumber
them, literally by billions. Apparently, the Grays feel that even
cream puffs can win a war if there are enough of them. They can
wait us out as they populate with clones. During my testing phase
here, I've learned more about clones than I ever thought possible.
The Grays seem to have no problem with letting me understand what
they're doing. I suppose that's because they know I'm not going
And the clones are everywhere. It's far, far more pervasive
than we thought. It's not just Samantha or a scientist here and
there. There are thousands upon thousands who have been taken and
replaced with beings who are controlled from above. Beings who
don't even actually know that they ARE clones because they've been
implanted with the memories of the original beings. It's straight
out of Blade Runner. Perhaps Ridley Scott is a clone too.
It's almost amusing that like all artificial, manufactured
items, sometimes the clones get quirky, out of line or malfunction
entirely. The friends, family, and co-workers all just think the
clone is having a bad day or is going through a phase. Well, I got
news for you guys, it's not PMS, it's a clone.
Of course, another problem with clones is that they aren't
terribly good at reproducing on their own. It's something that the
Grays haven't quite got worked out. Sometimes it works, but most
times, it doesn't. For all their advanced technology, getting
artificial life to create life, even with help from humans, just
doesn't work as well as they'd hoped. So, they just keep taking
people and manufacturing the clones up here in a more controlled
environment. Where they have people like me to extract from and
experiment upon until they get it right.
But there are others who are taken who are not replaced with a
clone. These poor souls are the lab rats of The Grays. During what
can only be described as reverse engineering their DNA is so
totally fucked up that by the time The Grays are done, they don't
want to reproduce them. They are merely experimented upon and
discarded. There are times when I wish I were one of them. Their
misery is over.
But I guess I fulfill a useful need for them. Just my luck.
But lately The Grays have been concerned about me; I can hear
it in my mind. I'm not doing well and they know it. I think it has
finally, finally dawned on them that I've given up on the hope
that I held onto for so long. And they've realized that I am,
quite literally, dying of the loneliness and despair. And they've
realized that no matter how many nutrients they pump into me or
how much they stimulate my muscles, if I will myself to give up, I
will die and they can't stop it. And as easily as they discard
human life, they don't want me to die. They need me, I'm one of
their best apparently and I'm no use to them dead.
But just hours ago, I witnessed just how they plan to solve
their problem. And it's broken my heart. And for all that I've
wished for in my time here, I never wished for this. Not once. I
I hear the mechanical snicking sound that the door makes just
before it opens, when the lock disengages. In fact, during my
imprisonment, I've become so inured to the sound that I rarely
even bother to turn around any more. It's not as if the little
Gray bastards were ever coming to let me go home. Usually when the
door opens, it just means I'm being offered food or that my ass
will be drug away for more procedures and I have no interest in
facilitating either. And I haven't even bothered to rush the door
in a very, very long time. I used to and several times, through
trickery or happenstance, I got out. But each time I found that
there is nowhere to go, nowhere to hide, no way to escape. I never
even made it far enough to reach the other humans that I know are
here. And I paid dearly for each of those attempts.
So I remain in the soft shadows of the darkened room, watching
the two people on the screen talking, the sound very low. Behind
me, the door swooshes open, sounding amazingly like the ones on
Star Trek. As it slides open, I hear someone pushed inside,
stumble, and then regain balance. The door slams shut immediately
and the lock engages again. I hear the sound of soft cursing and
then a hand slam against the door in anger. At the sudden, violent
noise, I take a deep breath and close my eyes. I know that feeling
of frustration all too well.
The room falls quiet, save for the soft breath I can hear. And
for a crazy second, I wonder how long I can obscure my presence
before I'm noticed. But I know it's not possible and slowly, I
turn away from the screen. As I look towards the door and step
forward into the light, my heart is aching because I know that in
order to keep me alive my partner has been sentenced to share my
But I never wished for this. I swear. Not once.
Sensing now that he's not alone, Mulder turns away slowly from
the door and I see his beautiful hazel eyes in person for the
first time in almost five years as his gaze meets mine. The deep,
bewildered confusion is instant in his expression. His lips part
to say something, but then he loses the words when his attention
is momentarily drawn up to the screen behind me.
To her--to that thing that took over my life. Over the years, I
have grown to both hate her and feel sorry for her. In its own
way, it is also a victim--the poor silly thing thinks that she's
real, believes that she's human. She thinks those memories are
But they are not; they are mine.
And at this moment, she is telling Skinner her good news. It
seems that she's become one of the clones who's been able to
successfully breed on its own. The Grays will be pleased. I reach
over and shut off the sound and turn my eyes back to my partner.
Mulder moves his gaze from the screen and focuses back on me.
His eyes narrow in concentration as he takes in my waist-length
hair, my thin face with the dark circles under my eyes, and my
pale skin that hasn't seen sunlight in years. His eyes sweep down
my body and he now sees the gentle swell of yet another implanted
child growing within. Yet, another clone to be taken from my body
during the second trimester and placed in a tank of green goo that
will hyper-accelerate its growth. After that, some memories will
be implanted and it will be sent back to my world. This is my
seventh time since Duane Barry abducted me.
Mulder looks back up at my eyes. And as I stare back at him,
because Mulder is the most intuitive person I've ever known, I see
the understanding come into his expression as it all clicks into
place. He takes in a pained, sharp breath and his hand comes up to
cover his mouth as the terrible knowledge settles heavy down upon
"Oh my God...Scully--" It's not a question and it's
all he can get out before his voice breaks roughly and he slumps
back against the door, a mixture of horror and sadness radiating
from his eyes as he stares at me.
I nod, confirming his statement and with another glance at the
screen behind me, Mulder slides slowly down to the floor as the
full weight of realization becomes too heavy to bear. Overwhelmed,
he lowers his head in his hands, hiding from the truth he sees,
both on the screen and standing before him. An ungodly howl that
is remorse, fear, and pain all mixed together emanates from him
and it freezes me into place. A few moments later, I hear his
anguished voice from behind his hands. "Oh God, I'm so
For a moment, I'm confused and then I suddenly realize that
he's apologizing for not knowing the truth during all those years,
for not figuring it out. How like him, I think. I've brought him
into this nightmare and yet he's the one taking on the
responsibility. But how could you have known, Mulder? No one
knows. No one. Jesus, not even the consortium knew how they'd been
so thoroughly infiltrated. Only the Grays knew.
Just as they knew that I would never leave Mulder alone to
suffer the terrible pain of cold isolation or make him endure in
this hell by himself. The Gray bastards have crushed my last act
of defiance in the cruelest way possible. I hate them with all my
heart for what they have done to me. And to him.
Mulder finally looks back up at me and I see that his eyes are
bright with pain, though he does not cry for it still seems too
unreal, too stunning. But he will though. And I know he has
questions, and I know Mulder; he will ask all of them. He will
want his answers. But for right now he knows, he understands. He
His eyes search my face for a long time and I can't help but
wonder what he sees. Although I've only rarely seen glimpses of
myself on a shiny surface, I know that I must look very different
from the other woman he's spent the last five years with. That
other is the one who's gotten to eat real food, enjoy real
exercise, use her intellect, read books, see movies, hear music,
love him, have his child, and bask in the warm sun. She's the one
who has had all the problems and joys of that a human life can
offer. A life that I took for granted--even bitched and complained
about. A life I would give anything to have back.
But what does Mulder see when he looks at me now? It has been
almost five years since he has actually seen the real me. I've
been covered up, obliterated.
The screen behind me has gone dark now, leaving only the soft
glow of the single overhead light in the cold room. But even so,
his gaze never leaves mine. As he looks at me, an expression I
can't read crosses his face and he reaches inside the collar of
his sweater, to the back of his neck. He is feeling for an
implant, I think, and I shake my head gently to reassure him. The
clones have the implants, Mulder, not us. There is no need; they
already have us completely under control.
But he slowly removes his hand, looking down at his palm a
moment before raising his eyes to meet mine again. As he looks at
me, I see his gentle compassion in his handsome face, that sure
and kind empathy. I've missed that look in his eyes so that it
almost hurts to see it now. He then slowly reaches his hand out
towards me, offering me something.
Over the last five years all physical contact with the Grays
has resulted in either icy cold touch that makes my skin crawl or
excruciating pain and I hesitate to come near a human again,
afraid of what it will make me feel. Mulder sees my hesitation and
nods to me as he waits patiently. He knows that I am not afraid of
him, but rather, that I am unsure of my own emotions. He knows
that I am holding on to them by a thin frayed thread that is close
"This is yours," he says, that low voice that I've
listened to for years is soothing and his eyes beckon me to come
to him. I take the few steps forward to stand between his large
feet where he sits on the floor, and slowly I reach my hand out to
him. Our fingers brush together and linger. He's warm, oh God,
he's so warm. After feeling only cold for so long his gentle touch
is like a gift. I lift the tiny cross and chain from his palm.
"Do you remember, Scully?" he asks softly.
I stare at the tiny symbol of my once strong faith, at the
small promise that there is more to this life than we can
And then I look back at him; at the man who has always known
this even without the trappings of an organized faith and I feel
myself smile for the first time in five years. I grasp his
offering tightly in my fist and, slowly, I find myself sitting
down on the floor next to his warm body. As I do so, I breathe
deep, taking in his male human scent as I look at over at his
"Yes, Mulder, I remember."
Author's notes: Thanks for taking the time to read my story! This was
originally written back in October, 2000 before we found out the
answer to the "Did she give him her cross?" question
The feedback beast loves to be fed comments, questions, or
criticisms at firstname.lastname@example.org
My other XF fanfic can be found at http://chimericalpublications.com/chimerical/fanfic/fanfic.htm
Originally published. October 2000
Revised, November 2001