The sense of well-being keeps me high straight through the whole weekend of the symposium.
And overwhelming nerves keep me from seeking Walter out. Straight through the whole weekend.
Knowing he’s in the same town, even somewhere in the same building, keeps me buzzing with the possibility. I could. I could find him, talk to him, see what he’s thinking. I lose count of how many times I actually get up and start walking, planning to track him down.
And end up wandering aimlessly, second-guessing myself and finding one reason or another to not pursue it. Right then, anyway. I will pursue it. Eventually. Just not at that particular moment.
At any of the particular moments throughout the entire fucking weekend, apparently. Because I’m a coward on top of everything else.
So the weekend ticks down in waffling indecision, and before I know it Sara and I are heading home. She’s had a fantastic weekend and bubbles the whole way. If she notices I’m as quiet as she is talkative, she doesn’t comment on it. Probably figures it’s just one of my moods, one of my silences. I haven’t figured out how to talk about Walter yet. Not sure I want to. Part of me wants to tell her all about it, just talk about it with someone. The rest of me wants to wrap it up and keep it close inside myself.
It’s such a strange new concept for me. I’m all over the map on it from minute to minute. If I did decide to talk to her about it, I’d probably have changed my mind between the time I start the conversation and when I end it.
Sara enjoyed getting an introduction to the Canadian leaders and meeting Mulder, but taking tea with the aliens was definitely the highlight for her. She and Jeremiah hit it off so well that he promised to come to Halifax. I told him I’d put him up at my place. I’m looking forward to it; it was great to see him. He’ll be here tomorrow.
Maybe I’ll talk to him about all this.
If I can keep my own head straight on it for more than 30 seconds at a time.
I take my beer from the bartender, and slide the second sideways to Jeremiah. “Canadian. Much better.”
He gives me a dubious look, having tried American beer many years ago and not finding it to his taste. Now he studies the glass, holding it up to the light and looking through it, sniffing at it. Finally he tries it, then nods. “You’re right, as usual.”
I nod. “You know it.” I push my arm against the bar and swivel my stool to face him. His placid face tilts toward me with a gentle smile. I clear my throat. “So, where are you at, lately? Still bouncing around, or have you settled somewhere? I know you never liked staying on the mother ship for extended periods of time.”
“No, no more than you. I still travel, but mostly I am now in Washington.”
I blink. That’s unexpected. And gives me such a perfect segue and excuse to- I cut off the thought and try for nonchalance. “State? Or DC?”
“DC.” His smile grows wider. “I’m working for the government again, Alex. Just in a different department.” He winks and I laugh. It’s such a human mannerism. But he always was excellent at adapting to humanity. Much better than any of the Rebels I ever hung out with. “And you?” he toasts me with the beer. “You enjoy Halifax?”
I continue to swivel my stool until my back is leaned against the bar and I can stare out over ‘my’ pub. “You know, odd as it sounds, I do. I like it here. When I’m in town. I haven’t spent the whole year here; I’ve traveled a fair amount.”
“I know,” he murmurs mildly.
I cut my eyes to him. “Who’s been talking?”
He gives me a look that says ‘don’t be stupid’. “I do spend some time on the mother ship, as you call it. You are often a topic of discussion there, Alex.”
“I have no idea why They find me so fascinating.”
“Ah, but you’ve always underestimated the interest you hold.” He hides behind his glass but I have the sneaking suspicion he’s laughing at me as I roll my eyes. “They like to keep an eye on where you’re going, where you’ve been. I think it makes them feel secure, somehow, as if you’re a... talisman of sorts. But you’re through with your travels for now?”
“Just about.” I swivel back to face him though I don’t meet his eyes, staring somewhere over his left shoulder. “I’m thinking of taking another trip. Down your way, maybe.”
“You’d like to come down to Washington? That’s wonderful. I would love to host you. We’ve never had the opportunity to spend time together in DC. I would have invited you long ago, but I didn’t know if it would hold too many bad associations for you. I’m delighted to hear you consider it.”
“Yeah, I’ve definitely been considering it. You were right, though. I doubt I would have come down earlier in the year. But it’s more appealing now. Ever since Montreal. You know. The symposium thing where you and Sara met.”
“Ah yes.” He lifts his beer to the light again and studies it, voice casual. “A well done event. I was pleased Mr. Skinner made an appearance.”
Good old Jeremiah. I should have known this would be easier than I expected. I clear my throat and look back out over the half-filled tables. “Me too. It’s... been awhile. Even going to as many of the talks as I did, I haven’t seen him in almost a year.”
“Yes, he’s been very resistant to attending the public events. Says something to the effect of ‘if I can’t tell the whole story, the real story, I don’t want to be telling any story.’ If I’m remembering correctly.”
My head swings around before I remember I’m shooting for ‘cool and unaffected.’ “He said that?”
“More than once,” Jeremiah nods. “I believe he’s referring to you, and your role in things.”
Ha! Score another one for my instincts. Still sharp, obviously. At least when it comes to him. I’m grinning like an idiot now and I don’t even care. The Cleary brothers come through the front door and I lift my hand in a wave. Finn does a double take as they wave back. No doubt he’s never seen me look so happy. He says something to Jack who takes a second look my way. “That’s... well, I appreciate it.”
“I thought you might. Mr. Skinner continues to inquire about you, you know. If you were to visit Washington DC, you might consider paying him a visit. If you feel ready to be in touch with others from the resistance. Other humans, I mean. It would be convenient, what with him being in DC.”
“I thought about that. I’d like to see him.” I try to match the casual tone, when all I really want to do is ask if I can just go back with him when he leaves here. And could we maybe leave earlier than planned.
“I see him frequently. I could certainly make sure the two of you crossed paths.”
“Yeah? That’d be great. You... think he’d be interested in seeing me, then? Happy to see me?”
At this Jeremiah turns to me and his silence finally brings me around to face him. He smiles. “I believe I can comfortably assure you he’ll be pleased.”
“Well then. It’s a definite.” I nod as if it was in question. “I’ll look him up when I come down.”
I don’t add ‘after all, why the hell else would I go to DC,’ but it’s a near thing.
Spending a week with Jeremiah is more fun than I would have expected and I’m sorry to see it coming to a close. I’ve shown him around Halifax and Sara has gotten together with us and we’ve been out and about, but mostly we’ve just hung around and talked. Or he’s been a calm, silent presence in the house when I don’t feel like interacting.
But mostly, we do talk. I spend so much time alone, it’s a novel concept to have someone underfoot, that hearkens back to those weird feelings of nostalgia for the resistance. And it’s nice to just talk openly about things and refer back to that time – and before – just everything really, without worrying what I’m saying and who might hear. If there’s anybody who knows all the dirt and still apparently likes me, it’s Jeremiah.
We continue to discuss my trip down to DC and make plans for my arrival. I’m traveling via standard transportation, not alien express, despite his suggestion to the contrary. I think I’ve almost got him convinced we should make a road trip out of it. He doesn’t push the conversation of what happens when I get there, and better yet doesn’t get irritated when I have to check in with him daily that ‘he’s sure Walter will be happy to see me?’
And it’s a kick to gossip with the old boy.
He keeps a hand in with almost everyone, it seems. If he hasn’t talked to them personally, he knows someone who has, or has heard this or that update, and can tell me any number of random bits of information about anyone I could name. To my own surprise, I haven’t asked anything about Mulder and don’t feel inclined to, though I do finally work around to inquiring about Sam.
He’s not one to pull punches. After letting me know she’s doing well in regards to her health and seems stable, he adds that she was no end of upset when I couldn’t be found after she sensed me in the audience that night. I try to change the subject but he shifts it right back.
“She got it into her mind that you knew she’d noticed you, and it was her fault you didn’t come back.”
“Oh, now, that’s just... why would she think that?”
He pauses, then finishes lowering himself onto the couch next to me, coffee in hand. “Maybe... because she noticed you in the audience and you didn’t come back?”
I smack his arm. “Cute. I mean why would she think that was her fault, or blame herself, when it’s just me being me.”
He shrugs. “She’s a Mulder?” Sipping at the coffee, he raises an eyebrow at me over the rim of the mug.
“Oh man, tell me she doesn’t have his guilt complex. That can’t be genetic, can it? Bill never seemed to be bothered much by guilt.”
A small smile tugs at Jeremiah’s mouth. “Actually, you might be surprised at Bill. But no, actually, Samantha doesn’t appear to have Mr. Mulder’s extreme reactions when it comes to personal guilt. She has a rather individual outlook on life in general.”
“Good.” I want to leave it at that, but I just can’t. Like poking a sore tooth. “But... she felt responsible for scaring me away?”
“Yes. It angered her because she wanted to see you. She was so distraught when you disappeared from the rebellion, without saying goodbye, and then to have you be so close, and yet unable to find you... she was upset.”
“If you’re trying to guilt me into going to see her, it’s not working. I know she comes as a package deal, and I’m not seeing him. IF he’d even let me get within two miles of her, which I seriously doubt.”
“It could be arranged,” Jeremiah’s voice is mild. “He wouldn’t even have to know.”
“Of course he would know,” I sigh, tilting my head back to rest against the couch, staring at the ceiling. “They talk mind to mind. She’s going to hide it that she’s seen me? I don’t think so.”
He smiles again. “You would also be surprised, I think, at Samantha’s ability to control her gifts. She’s much more advanced than he is, in a number of ways.”
Not surprising. But I shake my head, which in this position basically involves rolling it against the couch cushion. I remember the two of them bent over the table in the dining area, in perfect communion. I remember them attached at the hip, practically in lock step as they moved around the compound and I watched on the monitors. I remember her wrapped up in his clothes, the smiles they exchanged, the animation on both faces. “Sorry. Not buying it. She might seem like she could swing seeing me and not spilling to him, but I’m not convinced. I’ve seen them together, and I know how he thinks about me, and she does too. It’d be too weird, even if she did want to see me bad enough to risk it, which I also doubt. It’s not like she and I bonded or anything.”
He tilts his head in that odd bird-like fashion of his, and blinks slowly. “I wouldn’t be so sure, on that last, but on the former, you have a point. They are extremely close, and perhaps I underestimate the influence of Mr. Mulder.”
I laugh. “Most people underestimate him at one point or another. It’s apparently just how he affects the world.”
“Except for you. You never seemed to underestimate him.” Jeremiah stretches out his legs, leaning back into the couch. “Just the opposite, if anything.”
It takes me a minute to catch up to that, and when I do I choose not to take the bait. Too obvious. He’s giving me the opportunity to take it up or let it drop and I drop it like hot coals. Instead I lift my head and pin him with a suspicious gaze. “So we’re clear? No seeing Samantha.”
He looks momentarily surprised. “It’s nothing to me, Alex. I’m not here on a mission from her.”
“I’m just wanting to be clear,” I insist, staring him down. “No accidental meetings, got it? I don’t appreciate being set up. I swear, if I ‘run into her’ when I come down to DC...” I trail off. I’m not really sure what I could threaten him with, even if I wanted to.
Understanding dawns on his face. “Ah, I see. You needn’t worry. I not only wouldn’t ‘set you up,’ but even if I were so inclined, the opportunity would be sorely lacking. She and Mr. Mulder don’t stay in DC, or even visit it much. His schedule keeps them on the road far too often, and she had an interest in moving back to the area of their childhood. I’m given to understand that is where they stopover between travels.”
“Massachusetts? Or Rhode Island?”
“Oddly enough, Rhode Island. Apparently she doesn’t have lingering issues with the area, as one might assume.”
“Huh. Didn’t really expect that. Not sure what I did expect but... I guess I thought he’d gravitate back to the center of things.”
“Washington DC is no longer the center of things, in so many ways.” Jeremiah’s shoulders lift and drop. “It’s a different world.”
“That’s too much like the old one,” I mutter. My various musings about how quickly people fall back into the flock, just waiting for the border collie to come along and lead them around, have been borne out by the reestablishment of governmental order. But he’s heard all my bitching on the subject, three or four times already. He tends to agree.
He doesn’t comment on the state of the different world, just continues as if I hadn’t spoken. “Mr. Mulder doesn’t see a draw in Washington DC anymore. He is no longer employed by the FBI, and he no longer needs their resources to search for his sister, or to attempt to prove anything.” He waves a hand in midair. “As you may have noticed, he only needs to theorize these days, and people scramble to ascertain the proof needed to validate his statements.” He grins, and it’s got more of an edge than he usually displays. “Even if they have to invent it themselves.”
The laugh catches me by surprise, and when I catch my breath again I nod. “I have noticed.”
“I expected you might.” One eye closes in a wink. “Really though, I want to reassure you that I have no designs on delivering you to Samantha. Our relationship holds more sway with me than her wishes.”
That gives me pause. Relationship. So we do have a relationship. I think that means I was right – he is a friend. Something warm fires in the pit of my stomach, and given the way it makes me feel, I ignore it. Duly noted, and I’ll get it back out later and take a closer look at it. For now I’m satisfied with the reassurance that coming to visit him in DC won’t mean running into either Mulder. “I appreciate that.”
“And as I believe I’ve convinced you of the wisdom of looking up Mr. Skinner, you need have no concerns about me arranging for you to run into anyone.”
“Oh, if I hadn’t agreed you would have arranged for me to run into Walter?”
“Possibly. It would depend on how stubborn you were being. If you could provide me with a truly good reason why you weren’t going to see him, I might be convinced. Otherwise,” now he pins me with a hard stare, “I might be inclined to take things into my own hands. After all, you’re not the one who has to put up with the frequent questions about your well-being and location. It’s irritating to have someone assume you have information they want, when in fact you have nothing of the kind. It’s not as though you keep in touch with me.”
I roll my eyes. “Bitch bitch bitch...”
“And of course now I would have information he wants, and I would be in the difficult position of keeping it from him, were you not coming down yourself.” He carries on as if he can’t hear me. “And I wouldn’t enjoy lying to him. I like Mr. Skinner. He’s a good man.”
“No argument here. Stop looking at me like that. I’ve had my reasons for staying away.”
“I know, Alex. I just fear you give those reasons too much weight. It’s been almost a year.” The slight reproach in his tone is the closest he comes to criticism.
“And you’re sitting in my living room drinking my coffee. And I’m coming to DC. I’m getting there.” I’m surprised to realize I don’t feel any defensiveness rising up.
He nods. “Apologies. We’ve... missed you.”
I smile. “Thank you.” What else is there to say to that?
Nice to know my silver tongue hasn’t deserted me. With one day to spare I convinced Jeremiah to call off his alien taxi, hang out a few extra days, and drive down to DC with me. I think the sheer amusement factor of me saying “it’ll be like the good old days” got him.
For me, it’s a safety net. Traveling with him means I’ll actually get there. No sudden second thoughts in Delaware and turning around to come home, then changing my mind again in Maine and turning back around. I sure as hell won’t risk looking that stupid in front of someone else. Now that I’ve decided, I’m sick of these nerves. I want to prove to myself I can do this.
And Jeremiah keeps reassuring me I’ll be a welcome visitor. He’s taken to dropping it into casual conversation wherever it fits. He can’t promise anything more than ‘welcome visitor,’ of course. I wouldn’t expect him to be able to and wouldn’t ask him even if he could. As it is, I’ve had a couple of oblique conversations with him about what Walter is doing these days. We’ve also had lots of theoretical conversations on topics like what he thinks of human emotion, grand romantic loves versus real partnerships, and the concept of fairness as applied one human to another.
If he sees where all the weird meandering conversations are converging, he doesn’t say. Keeps up his end of the conversation with that wonderfully alien viewpoint of his. Which makes me feel so much less threatened in my own lack of human-ness.
All in all, the perfect traveling companion for me.
Sara has breakfast with us the day we leave out for DC, and by now she’s caught on that something more than just a desire to go driving around the countryside is taking me down south. I don’t know if she’s picking up something different from me this time, or what. Once she found out I was planning to travel again, she’s spent the rest of Jeremiah’s visit poking and prodding, fishing for details. She even hinted to me more than once that she thought Jeremiah might be something more than a friend, perhaps from back in the resistance days.
It’s an easy one to laugh off, at least partly because it’s so close and yet so far from the truth of the situation. Here I am hunting up my “more than a friend” from the resistance days, but most definitely not Jeremiah. I just keep smiling and remind her that he’s an alien, and that she’s far too romantic for her own good.
I think she’s given up on that idea. With a bit of disappointment, if I read her right. She really likes Jeremiah and I can see her neatly pairing me off in her head.
For his part, Jeremiah brushes off her hints and outright questions with unfailing politeness and good humor, but absolutely no information whatsoever. By this final morning, she’s given up getting anything out of him, and says as much.
“So are you going to tell me what’s up with this, or not? He’s worthless for information. Believe me, I’ve tried. You can’t even tell me when you’ll be home?”
I’m leaving my return open. I’m trying not to give myself a deadline, for my own peace of mind. “I’ll probably be back by Christmas. New Years. And I’ll keep you posted from down there. I’m not falling off the face of the earth. They have computers in DC. Or they did last time I checked?” I look at Jeremiah in mock curiosity.
“Oh definitely,” he puts in with a straight face. “Many computers.”
She rolls her eyes and ignores our cleverness as she trails us out to the packed car. “I still feel like the two of you are keeping something from me. This was such a sudden decision.”
“I’m just going down to look up some old acquaintances. Hell, if you could take the time off work, I’d ask you to come with us.” I realize as I say it that I mean it. It would be really nice to have her along. I’m just going to get more jumpy as the days pass, and she’s seen me jumpy, and worse. I can use all the distractions I can get. Tossing the keys to Jeremiah, I lean against the car.
“Wish I could, just to meet some of these old ‘acquaintances’ of yours. This one is completely hopeless for getting old stories about you.” She points at Jeremiah.
Just what I like to hear. “We’ll make sure you can come along next time.”
“Ah, so there’ll be a next time?” She gives me as sharp look.
One can only hope. “Sure.” Working for the Syndicate gives excellent training in projecting positivity in the face of a complete lack of knowledge.
Jeremiah smiles but doesn’t say anything.
“Well, hope you have a great trip. Stay in touch from the road, yeah?”
“Promise.” I lean in as she reaches to hug me. It’s still weird but she’s easy to hug. “Thanks for keeping an eye on the house.”
“You kidding? This place is a palace compared to my apartment.”
“Stay here as much as you like.”
She turns to hug Jeremiah and I grin at the surprise on his face. Circling the car, I get in while she says something to him about taking care of me. I wish people would stop acting like I need a keeper. I’m fine alone.
Which would be why I’m driving hundreds of miles to look up Walter.
My partner in crime gets in and starts the car, and we’re off. I wave as we pull away, suddenly realizing I’m going to miss her. Especially not knowing when I’m coming back. Jeremiah, whether through natural sensitivity or a little dose of telepathy, must realize I’m feeling a little wistful because he starts right in chatting. He runs over our loosely planned route and I half-listen. Shaking off my brief melancholy, I adjust my seat and lean back, digging out my sunglasses. Glancing over, I shoot him a smile.
Catching the shift just as swiftly, he nods to the glove compartment where the CD holder is stashed. “Traveling music?
“I think that could be arranged.” Flipping open the glove compartment, I dig out the CD book and walk my fingers through the selections.
“Got any Willie Nelson?”
“Way ahead of you.”
The drive took longer than expected. It honestly didn’t occur to me that we were traveling on the post-Thanksgiving weekend in the states. As far as I’m concerned, Thanksgiving is not only a non-event, it was back in October. Sitting in traffic started getting on both of our nerves, so we got off the main roads and killed some time in a few different towns on the way. We traveled along the coast as much as we could.
With the exception of Rhode Island. We actually skipped around Rhode Island completely, by unspoken agreement.
Now I’m the guest, hanging out at Jeremiah’s place. Another novel experience, and no less enjoyable. So far I’ve managed to kaibosh two separate attempts to get me together with Walter.
I mean, I just got here.
Sure, that’s the point of being here. At least, that’s my internal impetus, and I suppose I should stop kidding myself that it isn’t Jeremiah’s plan of action. We may not talk about it bluntly, but that’s just because he’s humoring me and my stupidity. He handed me Walter’s contact information the day we arrived, and has since suggested two visits – one, a dinner here at his place, the other a stop by at the FBI.
So not happening. While I can be in DC without too much difficulty, the FBI itself really is one area of bad memories I don’t feel like triggering. My nightmares have slowed down, a lot. I’d like to keep it that way. And I just don’t want to see him in that place. It would put him back in the ‘before’ time period, rather than the Walter I got to know underground. I’m weirded out enough about my potential welcome, without getting zapped back to the days of balconies, elevators and parking garages.
Of course just thinking about it brings on a doozy that night. I actually wake up screaming for the first time in over a month and a half. I think Jeremiah gets the hint because he doesn’t suggest that again.
Instead he starts taking me around DC in the same way I took him around Halifax. Ignoring the fact that I used to live and work here and spent more time popping into town even when I moved away, he treats me like a tourist, telling me I’m on vacation after all.
I remind him I don’t actually work.
He shrugs and brings me to the Franklin Roosevelt Memorial. Which is actually very cool, and not a monument I ever visited on either legit or shady business. All of which reminds me that despite having lived here, I really only worked here. Ever. So I give in and let him walk me all over the city and the surrounding area. We go so far as Colonial Williamsburg and I pick up a few new books. I’ve developed a real taste for this history stuff.
Rebels start dropping in to say hello. I gave up trying to distinguish individuals a long time ago, and They don’t seem to care. They never take offense. Whatever one knows, They all know. It’s part of that whole telepathic race thing, I guess. They come in twos and threes, and occasionally one says something that clues me to a particular experience I may have had with that individual. If They can really be seen as individuals, which is questionable, in my mind. Madame is an individual. The rest of the Rebels – the ones she allows humanity to interact with – are more of a collective, I think.
She doesn’t come herself, but our visitors make it clear she’s just waiting for an invitation. I tell Jeremiah if he wants to invite her over, I won’t object.
We can have a great big alien party. With pizza.
I do make a few forays on my own. I get in to see Lyman with one phone call. That impresses even me. I expected Josh to be harder to access these days. To my surprise, he gets me in for a few minutes with McGarry and from there it’s lunch with the president.
Of the United States.
Amazing the doors that get opened by saving the world. It’s almost enough to make me laugh, and I have to catch myself to not laugh in Bartlett’s face when he walks in the room. Wait until Sara hears this.
The food is good, and I get a first hand update on the state of the world from the human perspective. Well, the U.S. human perspective, at any rate. But they’ve got their fingers on the pulse and they’ve helped structure the New World Order. The information is solid and it’ll be fun to compare with Madame’s take on things.
Dodging their inquiries about my whereabouts and plans is even more fun. Josh is the only one who ‘knows’ me, personally. We met more than a few times ‘back when’ – twice before my break with the Syndicate, the rest after. The other two can only trust what he tells them, even McGarry, who has at least met me before. I can see the suspicion in Bartlett’s expression; he’s not a stupid man. Far from it. That’s why I picked him to back in my own personal little – rigged – political campaign. He’s fucking brilliant. Would give Mulder a run for his money.
And as a very intelligent man, he obviously knows... if I could do what I’ve done, what he has to be aware I’ve done, and then fall completely off the face of the earth for a year, he probably classifies me as dangerous.
Funny, I don’t feel dangerous anymore.
Used to be a title I lusted after. Being dangerous is a one-way first-class ticket to power. The more subtly dangerous the better. I got good at dangerous, and I got good at subtle. It’s tiring. Now I don’t feel good at much of anything.
Bartlett and company obviously want a line on me but I’m not the average citizen, eager and willing to trust the government again. Particularly with my history. No doubt they trust me about as much as I trust them. Likely a little less, and that’s saying something, given how little I trust anyone or anything.
I try to allay the couched concern by making it clear I’m in permanent retirement. To my surprise, apparently that’s not what they want to hear. We’re halfway through dessert before I realize that it’s not just Lyman’s vouchsafing that’s got me this impromptu lunch. The aliens have been poking Their little alien noses in everywhere.
They’ve told the president, and his team, that should I reappear, They’d like to see me back on the job. A very specific job involving exactly two duties – vetting government employees behind the scenes, and more importantly, helping Them search out colonist remnants. I finish my coffee and tell them I’ll think about it, and be in touch, probably through the aliens. Showing up at the White House just gives me hives, even with the absolute certainty that there are aliens among the secret service now.
Lyman walks me back to his office and I grill him about Walter’s new job. Jeremiah wouldn’t get anything but vague about it. I don’t know if that’s because he’s part of the whole ‘what Walter is doing is generally unspecified’ cadre, or because he’s trying to motivate me to go find out for myself. By seeing Walter, as opposed to cornering Josh Lyman at the White House.
Josh is high enough up to not particularly care about the ‘unspecified’ nature of Walter’s job, given who he’s talking to. Oddly, I think he actually does trust me, to a certain extent. Of course, he’s got reason to, given the results of his association with me. He tells me flat out that Walter’s sort of an unofficial internal affairs at the moment, reporting directly to the White House. Has been since he came back. Doing the type of stuff they want me to do, including advising on the issue of colonist remnants.
How about that. We’d practically be working together.
Now that would be a way to pop back into his life. Show up for work one day. ‘Hi Walt, I’m the new guy.’
No, I don’t think so. I think... I think I just want to run into him. Accidentally like. Well, not an actual accident. I want to engineer the accident. I want to see his honest reaction, not have it all prepared in advance, sitting down in some restaurant where one of us arrives first and then waits and the other shows up and... yeah. Awkward. If I could just bump into him somewhere…
When I leave the White House with a final request of Josh that he not mention I’m in town to anyone, I travel down to the Hoover building, just on a drive-by. It’s enough to make the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I drive a little faster.
Back home at Jeremiah’s I lie on the couch and stare at the ceiling until he gets home.
“Yeah. I’m fine. Just been thinking.”
“How best to do what I’m trying to do.”
“And what is it you’re trying to do?”
I roll my head sideways and look at him.
“No, seriously, Alex. I’m not certain. I was under the impression you were planning to look up Mr. Skinner when you traveled down here. But you seem resistant to the idea now that you’re here.”
Pushing up to a sitting position I swing my legs off the couch and stack my feet on his coffee table. “I’m indecisive.”
“That’s never been a quality I’ve seen in you.”
“That... yes. I would agree with you there.”
“I got offered a job today.”
“Really? Please share.”
“The government wants me to make sure they don’t get reinfested.”
“Ah! You must admit it is a specialty of yours. Destroying colonists. Now you’d just need to be more subtle about it.”
I blink. Funny that... he said subtle. “Yeah.”
“You’re not convinced.”
Well, no. Because it all depends on Walter. “Not exactly. We’ll see.”
“So instead you sit here and plan for what you are trying to do?”
“Yes. No. I don’t know.”
“I begin to see this indecisiveness of which you speak.”
I throw a couch pillow at him. “I don’t know what I’m doing, Jeremiah. This is... I’m not used to thinking this way.” My hand scrubs through my hair.
“What way?” He walks to a chair near the couch and sits, leaning forward with elbows on knees.
“About what’s... right. Or wrong. Or the lesser of the middle ground.”
“I’m not sure I understand.”
Rubbing my eyes, I sigh. “You can’t just pluck it out of my head?”
“I’m not a Rebel, Alex. My abilities in that area are extremely limited. I heal. And even if I were a practiced reader, I would be inclined to stay out of individual heads. Certainly out of your head.”
“Gee, thanks.” I lift my hand away from eyes and glare at him.
He laughs. “No, no. I didn’t mean it like that. Although I’m sure your head holds horrors enough that no mind reader would want to tangle with it.” He says it in that way he has. Caring. I know he doesn’t mean it as an insult, and in fact the way he says it brings that damn prickling sensation to the back of my eyes. “All I meant is that I would respect your boundaries, and I certainly know you well enough to know you would not take kindly to anyone rooting around in your thoughts. Humans overall don’t care for it, and you in particular hate the very idea. So, I can’t just pluck things out of your head, and when I say I don’t understand, I honestly don’t. What are you trying to decide is right or wrong? You want to see Mr. Skinner. He wants to see you. Is there a wrong to this?”
If only it were that easy. “I don’t... know. There might be. I don’t know if it’s fair to just pop back into his life, because I’d be happier with him around. What about his happiness?” Getting started is like pulling teeth out of my own mouth with a pair of pliers, but once talking, the words start to come easier. “I really am trying to change. Have changed. But it’s a weird way of thinking and my brain isn’t used to it. Trying to figure out if I’m being selfish by showing up, and if I am, if that’s reason to not go see him. And balancing that against the fact that he apparently wants to see me and I haven’t been in touch in almost a year and maybe that’s more selfish, to just stay away.”
Jeremiah nods slowly. “So, taking it as a given that he does want to see you, because he does, explain to me why it would be selfish of you to show up? I would see that as increasing his happiness rather than decreasing it. It seems straightforward.”
I swallow hard. “If I come back, show up at his door, tell him I want to be with him, a couple things could happen. He could be happily moved on in that department... the romantic department. Maybe he doesn’t want that with me anymore. That’s... cool. I’ll be okay with that-”
Before I can continue Jeremiah interrupts. “Alex, you needn’t feel the need to lie to me. I assure you I do not judge you, and I am entirely confidential.”
My eyes narrow. “And you can’t read minds.”
He has the grace to look sheepish, glancing away, smiling slightly. “Some things do not need telepathy to be read,” he finally says, then waves for me to continue.
“Option one. He’s moved on. I can deal with that. We can hang out and be friends. Probably means I’d visit with him a bit, then go back home to Halifax. And be kind of depressed and go back to the drawing board on figuring out what the hell the point of being alive is.” Did I say that last part out loud? I really am getting way too comfortable talking to him. I hurry on. “Option two, he’d like to pick up where we left off. Romantically speaking. Which... is great. Because I’d like to, as well.” My voice catches. “I’m here because I figured out I could really be happy just being with him. But is that fair to him, if I can’t give him what he really deserves?”
Jeremiah sits back in his chair, silent. I can practically see the alien gears whirring. Finally, he says, “Laying aside all details about what you and he want, and what you can and can’t give him, wouldn’t it be best to allow Mr. Skinner to determine what it is he ‘really deserves?’”
My mouth is already opening to give more detail on how I can’t love him the way he should be loved because I just don’t function that way and I’ve got this whole Mulder-thing... all the details I expect Jeremiah to be asking for clarification on, because it’s all the various details that clog my head. When his actual words sink in, my mouth just hangs open.
“He’s a fully-functional adult, Alex. A mature, intelligent, grounded adult who knows himself better than most humans do. I believe I would trust him to make his own decisions about what he does or doesn’t want, or deserve.” He shrugs. “I would recommend you pursue the course of action you most want, and leave it to him to decide for himself. Trust him to decide for himself. I believe it is all humans can really do.”
My mouth closes. Put that way, it sounds so easy. Maybe it is. Trust is a simple thing that has always been exceptionally complicated for me. I can, and did, trust him with my life. Can I trust him with his own?
Can I not?
“So.” I lean back into the couch. “Tell me what you know about his schedule and habits...”