Byers brought me a box of bones that morning.
"Do you mind?" he asked, setting it gently
on the corner of what
passed for my desk. The others - Tom or Stu or the one
Frohike nicknamed Badger - they dropped the boxes and
backed away quickly, like there might be ghosts under
cardboard flaps and the sooner they got out of here, the
Not John. After so long I was still surprised he treated
material with such respect, given what it was and what we
do to get it. Surprised and grateful.
"Of course not," I replied as lightly as I
could, wondering if I
looked like I'd mind. My nose was in a book, but that
unusual. Morning wasn't my best time, maybe. Morning
the end of coffee wasn't my best time, probably. I made
effort to smile. Grin. Well, not frown. "It's what I
do, John." I got
up from the cot I kept in the corner -- a luxury, but one
-- and went over to have a look. "You haven't had
for a while."
He nodded, and his eyes darted around the. . . lab,
for want of a
better word. Maybe he looked nervous, or actually WAS
nervous. Maybe he was just being John and I'd been too
wrapped up all this time to notice. After a long silent
though, he shifted from one foot to the other, and
chin. "How are your supplies holding up?"
I tucked the book I'd been reading -- I don't even
which one it was but I'd probably read it four or five
then -- into the filing cabinet, the one place I could be
sure it would stay dry and relatively unscathed. I should
probably have made more of an effort to socialize, should
gotten to know more of the people in *The Warren*, as we
called it. But when I wasn't assaying and analyzing bio-
materials or tending to wounds, I craved peace, quiet,
Books offered more comfort somehow, more diversion than
conversation or small talk, and I'd taken to holing up in
hours with one of the few intact editions I could
"Chemicals are okay, but I can always use more. I
paper, if you've got it. Ledgers or notebooks or
gloves, of course." I -- we -- went through gloves
the way one
used to be able, at 87 cents a hundred, to go through
did my best to preserve them -- washed them in
distilled water, hung them to dry on a make-shift
the make-shift desk, sprinkled them with talc or smuggled
cornstarch when they dried. Still, they could only be
last so long.
"Pens? Pencils? Anything like that?"
"Everything like that." I opened the box: an
a-radius, a couple
of a-feems, a chunk of a-crane, some smaller bones at the
bottom. Two, maybe three, and all evolved, by the look of
Still snowy white. Standard stuff. I slipped on my ratty
coat and reached for a glove. "Where did these come
"Hanslet," he answered. "Three days
"I could use gauze, cotton. Alcohol wipes. Swabs.
Consumables, mostly." I took a permanent black
the drawer and wrote '10/10' across the top and on each
"Why do you ask?"
He shifted again, rose up on his toes to peer over the
the box. His lip curled. "What? Oh. It's not common
knowledge, and isn't going to be, but Langly's planning
Bayneburg tonight. Small excursion. Mostly
More symbolic than anything. But there's always a
"Always," I agreed. Rarely, I thought, but
some thoughts were
better left unspoken. Optimism was all we had. Optimism
that bright, shiny hope you've got when the real odds are
I laid out the a-feems, six of them, two rows of
three, on a one-
time cafeteria tray. Four right, two left. I remembered
Xenobiology had been a nice, neat technical term for
that didn't exist. Different world, then. Different
rules. At least
four individuals, if you could call them that. I jotted
"Everything else okay?"
Well, there was a question. People asked it out of
habit, I knew,
like 'how are you feeling?' and 'what's new?' Still. . .
answer or short?" I didn't look up.
There was a pause. "W-w-whichever you'd rather
I looked over at him then. There was a strange air of
expectancy about him, one that had probably been there
the start of the conversation, but which I'd likely
overlooked. Never let it be said my people skills aren't
third-rate. What he was expecting, I couldn't imagine.
fine," I said falling safely back on a habit of my
"Good." He nodded and scratched at his beard
"John?" I asked after a few minutes of
ignoring him watch me
lay out the rest of the bones. "Did you want
What? Oh. Yeah. I um. . . " He reached into his
"I, um. . . brought you something." He held it
out flat in his
The aroma hit me first. "A Hershey bar?" I
put down the tiny
bones I'd be trying to identify; they'd wait. Chocolate,
My mouth watered and I felt like one of Pavlov's dogs.
"Ummm... " I buzzed and swallowed, trying to
remember how to
form words. "I thought we decided that all the high
energy non-perishables and semi-non-perishables went into
"We did." He looked a little sheepish.
"They do. But I'm
quartermaster. This has been designated surplus.
lifted his hand. "It won't bite."
It didn't, either. I took it, flipped it over. When
had I last had
chocolate? Six months? Nine? It was hard to keep track of
days, much less the weeks and months. Before I'd
leg, before the last concussion and three day coma,
they'd pulled me from the field. The Drayton raid,
own E-Pack. Night-vision goggles, cold suit, heavy
me crouched behind a crumbling stone wall, shooting with
hand, nibbling on an ancient, half-stale KitKat. But
this. . .
. . .this was a Hershey bar. Family size. Close to
fresh by the
look of its pristine wrapper and unblunted edges. And
nothing was ever designated surplus. . .
I suddenly had a vision of John reaching back into
and pulling out a pair of silk stockings, then imploring
me not to
sit under the apple tree with anyone else but him.
Oh God. It would have been funny if it hadn't been
Sorry, Johnny, I heard myself thinking, sweet gesture,
and I must be the last immune female on earth to merit
infertile, remember, so don't waste your 'A' material or
DNA on me. "I can't. . ." I tried to hand it
"You can," he dropped his hands to his
sides. "It's..." he half-
shrugged, "it's a birthday gift."
I turned it over again. Manufactured in Hershey,
America was gone. Pennsylvania had been hit first,
hard, for reasons no one could comprehend. I'd been to
once with . . . I'd been to Hershey. Nice enough place in
and it smelled of chocolate. I wondered if any of Hershey
still there. "My birthday is in February,
"I know." He looked sad, suddenly.
We'd been investigating some cattle mutilations that
nothing more than a desperate dairy farmer hoping to
insurance company for some cash. Mulder'd bought me a
pound Hershey's Kiss in some corner store and squirmed
uncomfortably when I'd tried to thank him. My throat had
dry then, and was doing so again. "John, I'm. . .
it's . . ."
"If you can't handle that today
nodded toward the bones
on the table, ". . .it can wait. Everyone will. .
I flipped the bar over again. Thirty-two squares of
All mine. Such bounty. "Do you want some. . .?"
"No," he shook his head. "It's for you,
Scully. And, oh," he
brightened suddenly. False cheer, but it broke the
mood. "Frohike's been boiling potato peels again.
to have a birthday toast tonight before Langly and
out. He'd like. . .we'd like. . .if you want to come,
*It's for your birthday,* Mulder had said with a
back when every word between us was still subtext and
gesture ambiguous. *For the ones I missed and the ones I
*The ones you'll forget, you mean?* I had teased,
tugging at the
foil and wondering if there was a graceful way to take a
of a five pound chocolate chip.
*What do you mean?* He'd actually looked hurt. *I've
forgotten your birthday, Scully. And I never will.*
I put the chocolate on top of the filing cabinet,
tugged off one
glove, then the other. "Thank you. Thanks. We'll . .
John turned to leave, then paused with his hand on the
doorknob. "I know it's been a while since. . . since
any word, but, there's still a chance. . ."
"There's always a chance," I nodded,
impressed by how good a
liar I was becoming. A chance, yes, but those odds were
out of my league. I sat on the stool. "Always."
Byers left, and for the first time since the invasion,
since I had
come underground, since I lost contact with my mother, my
brothers, with Mulder, for the first time since the old
and the new world began, I sat down and I had a good cry.