A Box of Bones

by Amanda Wilde
Rating: oh please, this is ME!
Spoilers: Umm .. season four, maybe. .
Category: Vignette sort of thingy.
Could be part of a series. Or not.
I'm just whimsical, I guess
Archive: Sure
Thanks to: Euphrosyne & My Walnut,
Full-Service Beta While-U-Wait
Disclaim in Vain: Chris Carter owns M&S;
Fox owns The XFiles; I own this story.
No infringement intended

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 those
cardboard flaps and the sooner they got out of here, the better.
Not John. After so long I was still surprised he treated the
material with such respect, given what it was and what we had to
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 wasn't
unusual. Morning wasn't my best time, maybe. Morning since
the end of coffee wasn't my best time, probably. I made an
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 I'd earned
-- and went over to have a look. "You haven't had courier duty
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 minute,
though, he shifted from one foot to the other, and scratched his
chin. "How are your supplies holding up?"

I tucked the book I'd been reading -- I don't even remember
which one it was but I'd probably read it four or five times by
then -- into the filing cabinet, the one place I could be almost
sure it would stay dry and relatively unscathed. I should
probably have made more of an effort to socialize, should have
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, solitude.
Books offered more comfort somehow, more diversion than
conversation or small talk, and I'd taken to holing up in my off-
hours with one of the few intact editions I could scavenge.

"Chemicals are okay, but I can always use more. I could use
paper, if you've got it. Ledgers or notebooks or something. And
gloves, of course." I -- we -- went through gloves the way one
used to be able, at 87 cents a hundred, to go through Kleenex. I
did my best to preserve them -- washed them in disinfectant and
distilled water, hung them to dry on a make-shift clothesline over
the make-shift desk, sprinkled them with talc or smuggled
cornstarch when they dried. Still, they could only be expected to
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 it.
Still snowy white. Standard stuff. I slipped on my ratty white lab
coat and reached for a glove. "Where did these come from?"

"Hanslet," he answered. "Three days ago."

"I could use gauze, cotton. Alcohol wipes. Swabs.
Consumables, mostly." I took a permanent black felt-tip from
the drawer and wrote '10/10' across the top and on each side.
"Why do you ask?"

He shifted again, rose up on his toes to peer over the edge of
the box. His lip curled. "What? Oh. It's not common
knowledge, and isn't going to be, but Langly's planning on hitting
Bayneburg tonight. Small excursion. Mostly reconnaissance.
More symbolic than anything. But there's always a chance... "

"Always," I agreed. Rarely, I thought, but some thoughts were
better left unspoken. Optimism was all we had. Optimism and
that bright, shiny hope you've got when the real odds are beyond

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 when
Xenobiology had been a nice, neat technical term for something
that didn't exist. Different world, then. Different rules. At least
four individuals, if you could call them that. I jotted it down.

"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. . . "Long
answer or short?" I didn't look up.

There was a pause. "W-w-whichever you'd rather give me."

I looked over at him then. There was a strange air of
expectancy about him, one that had probably been there from
the start of the conversation, but which I'd likely missed, or
overlooked. Never let it be said my people skills aren't at least
third-rate. What he was expecting, I couldn't imagine. "I'm
fine," I said falling safely back on a habit of my own.

"Good." He nodded and scratched at his beard again. "Good."

"John?" I asked after a few minutes of ignoring him watch me
lay out the rest of the bones. "Did you want something else?"

What? Oh. Yeah. I um. . . " He reached into his jacket pocket.
"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, real

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 fat, high
energy non-perishables and semi-non-perishables went into the

"We did." He looked a little sheepish. "They do. But I'm
quartermaster. This has been designated surplus. Here." He
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 the
days, much less the weeks and months. Before I'd shattered my
leg, before the last concussion and three day coma, before
they'd pulled me from the field. The Drayton raid, probably, my
own E-Pack. Night-vision goggles, cold suit, heavy artillery, and
me crouched behind a crumbling stone wall, shooting with one
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 since
nothing was ever designated surplus. . .

Family size.

I suddenly had a vision of John reaching back into that pocket
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 horrifying.
Sorry, Johnny, I heard myself thinking, sweet gesture, really,
and I must be the last immune female on earth to merit this. But
infertile, remember, so don't waste your 'A' material or mutated
DNA on me. "I can't. . ." I tried to hand it back.

"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, Pennsylvania,

America was gone. Pennsylvania had been hit first, fast, and
hard, for reasons no one could comprehend. I'd been to Hershey,
once with . . . I'd been to Hershey. Nice enough place in May,
and it smelled of chocolate. I wondered if any of Hershey was
still there. "My birthday is in February,

"I know." He looked sad, suddenly.

We'd been investigating some cattle mutilations that had been
nothing more than a desperate dairy farmer hoping to hit-up his
insurance company for some cash. Mulder'd bought me a five
pound Hershey's Kiss in some corner store and squirmed
uncomfortably when I'd tried to thank him. My throat had gone
dry then, and was doing so again. "John, I'm. . . it's . . ."

"If you can't handle that today…" he nodded toward the bones
on the table, ". . .it can wait. Everyone will. . everyone

I flipped the bar over again. Thirty-two squares of chocolate.
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 awkward
mood. "Frohike's been boiling potato peels again. We're going
to have a birthday toast tonight before Langly and Company go
out. He'd like. . .we'd like. . .if you want to come, please do."

*It's for your birthday,* Mulder had said with a dismissive wave,
back when every word between us was still subtext and every
gesture ambiguous. *For the ones I missed and the ones I will

*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 bite out
of a five pound chocolate chip.

*What do you mean?* He'd actually looked hurt. *I've never
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 . . .we'll see."

John turned to leave, then paused with his hand on the
doorknob. "I know it's been a while since. . . since we've had
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 way
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 world ended
and the new world began, I sat down and I had a good cry.

Let's see. . feedback rewarded with milk and gingerbread Kryceks.

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