Title - Jezebel's (1/1)
Author - Christine Chang
E-Mail address - phantom@canada.com
Rating - R
Category - VA
Spoilers - VERY minor up to Redux II
Keywords - Mulder/Scully, Alternate Universe, Character Deaths
Archive: Gossamer. Anywhere else, please e-mail me.

Summary - Life is different when Mulder and Scully meet again in a
much-changed world.

Author's notes - Warning: this piece suggests ideas which some
people might find disturbing.

The setting is borrowed from The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret
Atwood, although it is not necessary to have read this novel to
understand this piece.

Hmm... this is also my first post, in case you were wondering.

Disclaimer - Mulder and Scully are the property of Chris Carter and
Ten Thirteen Productions. The setting of "Jezebel's" is the creation
of Margaret Atwood. Both are borrowed without permission, as if that
wasn't obvious. No infringement intended.

Thank you Shell for all your encouragement and telling me what to
expect. :)


I hate my job.

I work as a bartender at Jezebel's, the only underground bar and
hotel in Gilead. We cater to men, and all of their needs.

It is a sordid place. Disgusting.

And yet I must be grateful for my job. Because I could be like the
rest of the women here in Jezebel's, forced to prostitute their
bodies and pander to the whims of the rich, powerful men who
frequent this place.

Forced because they are women. And because they publicly disagreed
with this system, this government, that decided that women were
nothing more than an extension of men.

We all should have done the same. But so few of us had the courage.

At the sound of a man pulling up a bar stool to the counter, I move,
automatically, to address him.

"What would you like to drink, sir?" I ask. My voice is toneless.
The formality I show to him is a necessity, or else I will be taken
away, tortured.

He pauses. "A Scotch," he says, finally.

I eye his uniform. It is expensive, naturally, a richly tailored
dark suit that hangs casually off his frame just right. His formal
dress signifies that he is a Commander. A powerful man. A terrible

And yet there is obviously something different about this particular
Commander. For one, he is not like the other Commanders who parade
into Jezebel's, older, flabbier, middle-aged men, gluttons who can
impose their will because of their power. He is quite young in

Intrigued, I sneak a look at his face as well. I do not normally
like to do this. It is hard enough to have to stand next to these
men, let alone mix drink after drink as they sink into their typical
euphoric drunkenness. And yet, for some reason I am impelled to look
at his.

He would have been considered handsome, before, when terms like that
still existed, when women still flirted with men, and sex also meant
love, not cheap gaudiness as it does now.

Handsome. Before.

But all this means nothing in Jezebel's.

He eyes the rich brown liquid in the tumbler, shifts the glass
slowly back and forth with his fingers. He takes a sip, his eyes
wandering disinterestedly over the figures of the masses of women
criss-crossing the floor. He has his pick of anyone he wants. He is,
after all, a Commander. The man.

"Are you looking for someone tonight?" I don't know why I ask this
question. There is no other reason why one would come to Jezebel's.
And yet it is evident that this man is not enjoying himself. Which
is different in itself.

Jezebel's is hell on earth if you are a woman. But it's where you go
for good times as a man.

His reply surprises me.

"It doesn't matter. It's all the same. Just fucking another
nameless, faceless body." He says this with a smile, a swagger, an
attitude befitting and expected of a Commander, but his eyes betray
him. They remain dark, indifferent, haunted, as if he is attempting
to suppress a terrible guilt and betrayal.

I am intrigued. Commanders do not suffer from guilt and betrayal.
But it is not in my business to delve any deeper. When you speak
with the powerful, one must be weary. It's the toughest part of my

Still, I keep an eye on him even as I serve others. His tumbler
slowly drains. When it is empty, I return.

"Would you like another?" I ask.

"Sure, fine, whatever," is his indifferent reply.

I set the refilled glass in front of him. My curiosity is rising. A
depressed Commander. I begin to formulate a story for him, a
hypothesis in my head. Perhaps he had to authorize the shipment of
thousands of women to the Colonies today, to years of slavery and
torture, and it is weighing on his mind.

A Commander with a conscience?

How interesting.

I move to return to my expected duties, but his eyes bore on me,
demanding I stay.

"If you could have a wish, what would it be?" he asks.

I glance him over, to see if he is drunk or not, but he appears
perfectly lucid. I know I must appear rude to him. It is ironic that
I cannot react to his vulnerability in a more sympathetic manner: I
have not been exposed to it in ages and cannot remember sympathy

"I have many wishes," I say, carefully. "And I don't expect any of
them to come true."

He laughs at this. "I have one wish. And it hasn't come true
either." His laughter morphs into a bitter chuckle. "See this
uniform? See this power?" He shrugs. "It hasn't done anything for me

If he were any other man, I would be fighting the tempting and
indescribable urge to throw whisky in their eyes. But I do not
experience this urge with him.

I pity him. And I have no clue why.

He drops his glass abruptly, the brown liquid seeping across the
surface as it steadily threatens to spill off the counter. I reach
for the towel slung over my shoulder, annoyed, but this expression
vanishes off my face when I look at the expression on his.

His eyes are transfixed on someone, wondrous awe coloring his
features. I cannot help but follow his gaze as well. Even though his
aim is directed at a small group of women, there is no doubt as to
the one that he is staring at.

His lips move, reverently, though no sound emerges.

"Do you know... do you know what she used to be?" he stammers at me.
The next thing I see is him standing up abruptly, like an errant
schoolboy who has just realized that he is a moment late in paying
his respects. The simple wooden stool tips over, clattering to the

"You mean the redhead over there?"

"Of course," is the impatient reply.

"A doctor," I say, then wished I hadn't. Commanders often ask me
this question. Some take a particular pleasure in "inviting" the
women who used to be professionals: the lawyers, the engineers, the
educated. It is a perverse kick that they get from fucking those
they know must hate it most of all.

I usually reply, "A slut -- aren't we all?" when I am sufficiently
convinced that the man is relaxed on alcohol.

I do not know why I do not say this to this man.

My reply makes no difference to him, however. He does not react to
my answer. It is as if he already knew my reply, as if he knew more
than I ever could in response to his question.

It is, in essence, a question he did not really need to ask.

And this is made all the more shocking as I realize that from his
angle he cannot even see this woman's face.

He quickly steps away from the counter, his eyes still following the
petite figure of the woman. "Sorry," he apologizes sheepishly for
the drink he has spilled, then hastily throws down a handful of
credits. It is three times more than the drinks could have possibly
been worth. He does not seem to care about this fact.

And then he has disappeared into the crowd, in search of this woman.

Dana froze, abruptly, at the sensation of a hand that had come to
rest on the small of her back.

What a jerk, was the first thought that flew into her mind. Not that
she had any choice in the matter, but she liked to at least look at
the assholes in the face before they started laying their hands on

Even after all this time, her first instinct was to whip around, her
eyes flashing anger and "Hands off," to whomever dared to be so
rude. How she so longed to do so. Instead, she could only turn
around meekly, her expression neutral.

She saw the last face she expected to see.

She froze.

He did too.

After several long seconds, she finally managed a "Hey." It was
almost reflex.

And then she couldn't remember who led who, or if they had both
walked together, but Dana found herself on the elevator, alone, with
Mulder, eleventh floor selected.

She found she had collected her wits more so by the time the
elevator doors opened and they had walked into the hotel bedroom.
Even then, her stomach did its customary twist as she entered the
room, as much at the smell of cigarette smoke and artificial floral
air freshener as well as at the inevitable thought of what the night
would entail.

He saw her looking at his uniform, his expression mirroring her
impassive expression as well. "I know," was all he said.

She saw it then, his hand signing away the lives of hundreds,
thousands of people, bags under his eyes as he buried himself in the
work that killed others just as much as he killed himself. Her heart
fluttered within her chest. Was she disappointed? Flattered? Or
just... indifferent?

"So what do you want?" she asked, her voice flat.

He was startled. "What do you mean?"

"I mean exactly what I asked. Is this going to be a little reunion?
You talk about your life, I talk about mine? Or are you here for the
only reason that men come to this goddamned place anyway? If you
want it, you can have it, that's what I'm here for anyway." Her
voice was clipped. It was betraying her already.

"That's what you think I'm here for?" he exploded. "For god's sake,
we never even..." He trailed off, unable to continue. Everything was
too painful. He remembered the last night he saw her. It had been
shrouded in both beauty and worry, a quiet desperation fueling their
actions. Over the past few years the worry of that night
disappeared, but not its beauty, in which all of it could be
encapsulated in the face of the person who was now before him. He
still saw it all: the tears that somehow managed not to fall, her
rich, full lips confessing her worry before they finally touched

Why on earth had he left that night? He had promised her that they
would escape from this all, when it had become evident that escape
was there best and only choice. She had agreed reluctantly, common
sense making it clear that the situation closing in on them meant
that she was utterly dependent on him. It was a twist that neither
of them would have dreamed of.

Perhaps it was the thought that they would escape, and incidentally
spend the rest of their lives together anyway. And so he had left.

The next day when he returned she was gone already, taken. And he
looked and he looked and he looked, joining the enemy and fulfilling
every duty that they had wanted him to do in the first place, in the
hope that he would find her.

What he would give for that night again! Now he knew what he should
have done differently.

She was turned away from him, her eyes conspicuously avoiding his.
He reached out to place his hand lightly on her arm. She didn't
acknowledge his touch, but at least she did not flinch from it
either. The horror of what the tacky room meant to her finally sunk
in. He knew what people did in such situations: they distanced
themselves from their bodies, imagining another time, another place,

"What I want," he replied, "is for you to stay here with me. Don't
pretend you're somewhere else." He paused. "Please."

She nodded, and placed her hand on his arm in a gesture that echoed
his own. He saw her fingers move across the material of his uniform.
And he saw those tears in her eyes again, the ones that almost, but
not quite, trickled down her cheeks.

"You shouldn't have," she said. "I'm not worth it. Nobody is."

He shifted his arms, taking her hands in his. "You knew that I would
do this."

She nodded again. "I know," she whispered.

Then he found himself being lead, her hands pulling on his and
urging him off the bed. He followed her into the adjoining bathroom.

Her expression an enigma, she began to undress him carefully. Her
fingers deftly yet meticulously unclasped each button on his
uniform, her hands carefully guided his arms out of the sleeves.
Ever the neat one, she even folded the uniform neatly before placing
it on the bed. He remembered how she cared for him after he had been
shot, after he had escaped from that corridor of fire, and her
movements now mirrored how he had always pictured her worry during
his times of need.

When he looked at her eyes, he found they were looking at his. She
motioned to him to do the same for her.

"I think we both need this," was all she said as he undressed her.

When her last vestige of clothing had fallen to the ground, she
grasped his now empty hand and led him into the shower stall of the
hotel room.

The spray of water that hit them was clear, cool, but it stained red
as it fell to their feet and swirled down the drain.

What was she seeing as her hands ran down his chest, the water
streaming down their bodies? Was she seeing blood and sweat, his and
thousands of others, and knowing that in some twisted way it was her
fault as well? She knew his conscience had fallen into horrible
disrepair, past salvation really.

But her hands -- oh, her hands! They swept up his arms and down his
back, they caressed his face and stroked his hair. He felt bathed in
a most tender forgiveness. And he knew that the water sprayed them
from the shower head was no longer draining with the horrible blood
that had soaked his hands for the last few years, but flowed away,
clean and unmarred.

Now it was his turn, and he took her body -- so slight and delicate
-- in his arms. His fingers traced her figure, her hips which curved
into her waist, and back out into her breasts. He cupped her face in
his hands, tilted her chin up so he could place a kiss very gently
on her forehead. It drifted down, past her eyelashes, the tip of her
nose, where it finally came to rest on her lips.

She stood there, her eyes closed, her expression relaxing at his
touch. He wanted to wash it away, all the slime and scum she was
surely forced to accumulate over the past few years, and reveal the
woman who had cried in his arms so long ago.

They dried themselves separately: her eyes never leaving him, and
his eyes never leaving her, in the silence that settled over the
bathroom. They had no more pretenses -- no protocol or rules with
which to delude themselves. Nothing. No dreams, no goals, no quests.
Just themselves, and whatever they could offer the other.

The darkness that covered the hotel room had a wonderful way of
stripping away all the base, animalistic aspects of their situation.
There were no feminine curves for him to drool over. The only thing
he could see were her eyes and that was only if he strained his own.
But he could feel her, the soft comforting warmth of her body, as
they settled into the bed together, and gave themselves up to
whatever the night would bring.

He awoke in the middle of the night, ecstatic at her presence yet
worried and anxious at the same time. He slipped quietly away from
her still, sleeping form, and entered the bathroom. Flipping the
light switch, the yellow light from the unsheltered bulb brought to
light the futility of their situation. His resolve which, so
hardened before, was crumbling bit by bit. The light was merciless
in its exposure of this fact. He was dismayed to discover just how
weak the vow he had clung on to for all these years had been.

You know what you have to do... you promised yourself...

How could he bring his trembling fingers to do anything? He was weak
after all, a human; his mind cried one thing but his ever-longing
hope for happiness in the here-and-now cried out another.

Maybe things haven't changed...

Could they escape? He knew he could come up with a plan, but he
already knew that he was too late. They had been subjected to so
much that even after their surprise at finding the other, the scars
were still there, omnipresent and permanent.

He shut off the light, spots swimming in front of his eyes until
they finally adjusted again to the darkness. The decision was no
easier; he would have to place his faith in others' hands.

He slowly twisted the knob, easing the door gently open back into
the bedroom. Light from the outdoor search lamps hovered in the
room, and in this light, he saw that Dana too had awoken and was out
of bed.

In her hands was his Ray-tech weapon, standard issue for his
position as a Commander. She must have retrieved it from the holster
that was hidden beneath the folds of his uniform. It was shaped much
like the guns of the old days -- "their" days, as he thought of it -
- except that it had different settings. It could kill with the
force of a bullet ripping through flesh, or with a much subtler
laser that left a barely noticeable dot of a scar. He knew that Dana
would never have held a Ray-Tech before, but she certainly knew
guns. It was eerie watching her hold this weapon, reverently, her
fingers dancing across the slim barrel. She held it to her cheek,
closing her eyes to better savor the cold metal on her skin.
Finally, she put it down. He noted that she did not bother to
replace it where she had found it, instead leaving it conspicuously
noticeable on top of his uniform. In the darkness, she slipped back
under the covers.

She knew he had to have seen her, Mulder thought to himself.

He settled in beside her but sleep did not consume him. Instead his
mind whirled through the collage of images that had sustained him
all this time: Scully, Scully, Scully. There was a new image added:
the one of her holding his phaser. What kind of world is it when one
worships a harbinger of death?

And an even scarier thought: I am a harbinger of death. That's my

She slipped into some sort of state of unconsciousness: he could
tell by the lengthened intervals her breaths settled into. Time

Was this the same Scully who had fallen asleep on his shoulder
during a stake-out? The same Scully whom he had watch rest as her
skin paled from cancer treatments? Or was she someone different, who
had her body, true, but was already telling him that his partner was
waiting for him in a different, better place?

How much can a person endure? Even the strongest person in the

The pink rays of the rising sun began to creep in through the window
blinds. He had never stayed the whole night before at Jezebel's --
it wasn't worth it, anyway -- and he was vaguely aware that time was
running out for the both of them.

He got up to retrieve the Ray-tech, lying naked, exposed on the bed.
It was just like Scully, he thought to himself. Always helping him
during his greatest times of need.

The silliest of questions faced him: where to aim?

He found he could not bring himself to destroy her beautiful face,
the mind that had been so in tune with his, and so he had destroyed
her lovely breast instead.

He looked at the bliss on her face as her eyelids closed and her
blood slowly seeped onto the blanket and bed sheets. The only thing
missing was his own to mingle with hers. But that would be
momentarily rectified.

Now he could see his blood creeping along, staining the bed sheet.
Hers too continued to seep, bridging that chasm of whiteness as
their blood sought that of the other's.

All his beliefs had suddenly become so insubstantial; whatever he
had clung to about reincarnation and past lives and speaking to his
dead father, in a hope to find a greater meaning to life. It had
simply come to this -- he was sleepy and happy.

He thought he could hear her wheeze something -- was that a thank
you? -- and he smiled.

And so they lay, for the unwitting person who would force open the

Christine Chang