I Want To Believe


everleigh_icon.gif shane_icon.gif

Scene Title I Want To Believe
Synopsis Two high school nerds meet up for lunch 25 years later.
Date January 6, 2020

Washington High School, New York City

Thursday, January 5th, 1995

“Hey Scully,” Shane’s voice comes floating down to Everleigh, from the upper bleachers. He’d been crossing along the upper tier, laterally moving along, and begins to climb down towards where his friend is seated.

Shane is a lean boy, shorter than Everleigh. Reedy, with short dark brown hair, he’d be average if not for the height. He’s a nerd, even if he lacks glasses. Most of the bullying he’s hit with comes from being a short smart kid. His sassy mouth doesn’t help with diplomacy in bullying situations, either. So the other half of the bullying? That’s for being a smartass.

“You’re a girl,” Shane determines, as if remarking that it were, in fact, a Thursday, but he hadn’t realized until now. He climbs down fully, to sit next to her on the same bleacher she’s seated on, and rests his feet forward on the bleachers in front of them instead of on the footboard. He also shrugs out of his backpack, putting the weight of it next to him. It’s heavy.

“Why the hell are all girls in love with John Collins? I mean, he’s seriously a walking jock-strap,” Shane remarks, frustrated. The field out in front of them does include one Mr. John Collins, as well as other sportsball folks. Shane participates in track, he’s very quick, but that does not count by any means as a Proper Sport at this school.

Shane’s sporting an ugly bruise on his left cheekbone. Generally his (toweringly tall) older brother Hank is around to protect Shane from too much physical bullying, but he’s not always there, and while Shane is quick, his mouth is often too quick. Sometimes he accidentally escalates.

“Mulder,” comes the greeting from Everleigh.

Instead of bothering to sit up straight, the girl has chosen to recline, leaning back against the bleachers with one hand held up to shield her eyes from the sun, which is a necessary thing from the position she’s in. It doesn’t look very comfortable, but that doesn’t seem to bother her. She probably think it looks cool.

“It’s hormones. It’s a natural process, we’re all supposed to fall in love with John Collins and then realize he’s a jerk and go cry on prom night.” She shrugs, helplessly. She didn’t write the law of high school. “I guess some people like muscles. Those are things that people like, I guess. He’s got those under all that football gear, right?”

She sits up a bit, but it’s not to get a better view of the field. She’s noticed the bruise. “… who the fuck did that.”
“It’s like a movie trope of the 80’s. Come on, it’s 1995. Get over your sweet Sixteen birthday candle movies already,” Shane vents at the field, propping his elbows onto his raised knees and looking murderous, but only in a sulking way.

The question about if the guy has muscles under that gear? “Yeah, he’s got muscles on his muscles, big woop. He’s a future gas-station attendant.”

Comments like that, said to those muscular guys, are how Shane earns bruises.

Shane glances to Everleigh and flushes, but he shrugs. “Not John. Doesn’t matter, doesn’t hurt or anything,” Shane says. Some of that was a lie. It does matter, but his pride is hurt worse. He dips one shoulder, “Frank J.” Shane pauses. “I didn’t see much in the mirror, is it getting bad looking?”

“Eh, he’ll find some cougar if he wears a tight enough shirt over his muscles at the gas station. I hear that’s where cougars prowl,” Everleigh briefly glances down at the field. “But don’t worry, he still won’t amount to anything in life. Unless he goes to the whatever the big leagues are called for football, then he’s just muscley and rich.”

Pushing herself up into a fully seated position, she spins to face him, leaning in and squinting to determine the severity of his injury. She holds a finger out as if to poke it, but never does. “In my expert medical opinion, I think it looks worse than it is but it’s gonna look pretty bad to anyone that sees it.” She pauses.

“I’ve got some makeup, if you need it.”

“He doesn't need cougars, he can have anyone, like Jessica or… Becky.” Shane has a crush on Becky. That is not a secret, though he may fancy it is. He’s not alone, Becky is popular and sweet, nice to everybody (at least, in Shane’s view). Shane’s tone always goes a little fawning when he ‘casually’ tacks her name onto a comment like that. Becky probably has no idea he’s alive, not really.

“Thanks for the expert opinion, Scully,” Shane sighs. He didn’t flinch, but he did watch her finger get closer to his face. “It was glancing, I ducked.” He’s proud of his speedy duck. Not that it entirely saved him, as evidenced by the hit.

“Makeup?” Shane looks at her as if she entirely lost her mind. “Noooooo waaaaay. I’ll just earn a second one to go with it, and more title of ‘faggot’, so, pass. Big pass,” Shane says with a quick grin. He’s not insulted, but there’s no way he can do that.

“Just not gonna be a whole hell of a lot of fun at home tonight. My dad gets really weird about it,” Shane says heavily. Shane’s father is in the NYPD. It can get a little harsh around some things related to protecting his youngest son.

There’s a noise over on the field that draws Shane’s attention. John got tackled. “Yeeeeeaaaaah,” Shane cheers for the team.

“He can’t have me,” Everleigh says proudly. “No one can have me.” She’s not entirely sure anyone wants her for that matter, but that’s beside the point. Her gaze goes to the field and she rolls her eyes a bit before she looks back to Shane. “Look, you won’t be able to notice it’s there. Your dad won’t see it unless he looks close. I’ve watched Blair cover up hickeys before she goes home so her parents don’t find out and I swear you don’t even notice it.”

She looks around. “We can hide somewhere if you’re afraid those jocks are gonna see you while I do it. I’ll be secret about it. Plus it would be kind of fun to practice on someone that’s not me.”

“‘No one’?” Shane asks. “No way, I know the keys to that lock. If David Boreanaz showed up, you would be saying something entirely different. Or maybe not. I bet you’d be blushing and speechless,” Shane says, with a wrinkle of nose and narrowing of eyes. Shane can sometimes be obnoxiously perceptive, and not quiet about it.

“OOooooooo Everleigh, I am so broody and mysterious and have muscles on my muscles,” Shane croons, elbowing her briefly.

“You’re saying we should try to fool a detective with some hickey cover-up-stuff?” Shane asks incredulously, but his smirk remains. Could it work? What would the fallout of being discovered be? Shane isn’t even sure.

“Hide? Like where? Under the bleachers?” That amuses Shane. “I don’t think you’d want to suffer the social hit of being seen going under bleachers with me.” He’s smiling, but there’s a self pity in it.

“Come on, celebrities don’t count. No one stands a chance with them anyway,” Everleigh blows a lock of hair out of her eyes. “Besides, nothing wrong with broody and mysterious. More to think about when they walk away.” She puts her hands on her hips. “If it’s not obvious, he probably won’t notice unless he’s looking for it. But you have to act casual about it.” She’s definitely snuck stuff past her parents before, she’s way too confident about it.

“Pfft, no one’s gonna mess with me, my parents donate way too much to this school. And I don’t really have any social standing to speak of so…” She shrugs. “I don’t have anything to lose. Unless you’re afraid of Becky noticing.”

Shane caught the detail. “What have you got past your parents by being so casual?” He asks, curiously, and leaning in for conspiracy-sharing time. He turns on the metal bleacher, wrapping one arm around the raised knee, and gives her his most penetrating ‘tell meeeee’ look. It ends up just being kind of squinty, like a puppy trying to intimidate.

Until Everleigh mentions Becky. “Becky’s not out here,”Shane answers. And then can’t help it, he turns and has to look around. Did she arrive? Did he miss it? He’s usually pretty aware of where most people are, but particularly People Of Interest. Pretty girls that are out of his league being one of those.

“I guess, but if it’s noticeable it’s coming right off,” Shane declares. He’s not risking his other eye.

“Ha! See, I knew you’d give in.”

Whatever it was that she’s gotten past her parents, that line of questioning has been utterly lost as Everleigh bounces to her feet and scoops up her backpack in one smooth motion. She doesn’t stop to wait for him, she just treks on past, headed down in a beeline towards the backside of the bleachers.


Monday, January 6, 2020

“Hey Scully,” Shane greets the back of Everleigh’s head, before sliding into the booth across from her. His smile is bright, he’s always had a great smile of straight white teeth — at least, after the braces came off when he was thirteen.

“You’re sure a sight for sore eyes; you look great,” Shane says, with a deep breath, setting both of his forearms on the table between them with a rotation of shoulders. The 1950’s style diner is warm and comfortable on this Monday evening in January, and the booth Everleigh found is far from the door. No errant breezes will make their way in. And Shane can happily position to keep eyes on the whole room without being obvious about it.

It’s been years, a lot of years. Shane is the same in many ways physically: still short and lean, though he’s buzzed his hair down. Age sits well on him, it tempered him well, as did getting the hell out of high school. He has a vibe of authority: he reeks of being some type of law enforcement or military, if studied. However, he isn’t often studied: real agents go under the radar, as uninteresting, often slim guys: they aren’t dapper, obvious 007s, not in reality.

“How’s business? Lots of shrunken heads?” Shane asks, plucking a menu up, and surveying her in his highly scrutinizing way. It isn’t generally one people notice him doing, since he does it very quickly.

“Mulder,” Everleigh says, barely looking up from her menu. She waits until he’s seated before she peeks over the top of her menu to get a good look at him. She sets the menu down entirely before offering a genuine smile. “You look good too. Been a while, huh?” She takes another appraising look at him before she picks up her menu again. “You make it sound like I’m Scrooge McDuck, raking in some pile of coins and throwing it into my endless vault. ‘Business’, he says.”

She peers back over the top of the menu at him. “You shooting lots of bad guys?”

The return of their old nicknames gets a nostalgic little smile out of Shane’s mouth. He thought she’d remember, and she didn’t let him down about it.

“If you’re not swimming in your money, don’t tell me otherwise,” Shane warns her, with a flex of the menu, as if he were opening it grandly to get a look-see. His attention is probably more on her than the menu, though.

“Shooting lots of bad guys? Not lately, and not enough to swim in, I assure you,” Shane answers. “Evaluating cases. Some rookie training. I just got in, but they’re being soft about the ramp-up. I’m used to being in the deep end; feels like vacation. .. A good thing, I know. That wasn’t me complaining.”

“I’m swimming in enough money to buy you lunch,” Everleigh says, dropping the menu back to the table. It’s mostly a prop for her at this point—she came in knowing what she wanted. “I call dibs on the bill before you say another word.” She gives him a stern look, one she honestly doesn’t look like she has very much practice doing.

“It’s a good fit for you, though, I’m sure. People will be glad to have you as an asset to their team. Take advantage of the slow ramp up though, take some time before you drown in work like the rest of us.”

Shane aloofly raises one eyebrow - one of his favored expressions even when younger - and chuckles. “All right, all right. You seem determined. This time,” Shane says, with a far more stern look in response that he’s had too much practice doing. It’s tempered with the chuckle that follows, though, and he sets his menu down. He’s picked what he wants decisively.

“Well, originally when I arrived it was just a standard caseload — picking up where the other guy left off. The first thing I did, of course, was to volunteer to do more. I like being busy,” Shane says with a lift of both hands, slim fingers spread open to accentuate the motion.

Shane has taken in a number of cues, such as her speedy decision, her apparent comfort in the place. “Before I make a mistake with ordering, what’s the best thing to get here?” Shane asks, with a knowing little spark to his dark eyes.

Everleigh nods a little, her lips curving into a grin. “You like being busy because you don’t know what to do with yourself otherwise. I know this because that’s why I do it.” She places her hands on the table, palms down on top of the menu and leans forward.

“French onion soup is the best soup they have, if you want something cold they’ve got a nice pastrami sandwich that they get the meat from just down the street, but my personal favorite and what I plan on getting is the meatball sub. The owner comes from an italian family so anything remotely italian on the menu is perfection.”

She slides the menu to the middle of the table as she clearly doesn’t need it. “But you pick. I’ll tell you if you’re going in the wrong direction.”

“Oh, is that why?” Shane laughs. “Careful with the head-shrinkage on me, doctor, I’ll not be able to reach the table if I get much shorter,” Shane teases her. It’s slightly forced, but not out of character, the humor. More that he might be trying to be more comfortable than he actually is.

A joke about his height would have been unheard of, years before; it is lightly self-deprecating, but not in a dark way. A psychologist would probably make decent sense of it, though: he’s more relaxed about it, but it still isn’t a joke someone else would get to make at his expense.

“Good thing you’re here to save me from wandering into the woods with my BLT selection unawares,” Shane says ruefully, and looks at her prompting, to get her take on said BLT.

There is a slight ‘off’ quality to Shane’s behavior, but it isn’t inconsistent at all with what someone would expect after so many years apart. There’s a sort of quiet tension of being unsure if old habits will be fallen into, or if terms of their friendship have changed over time. It’s feeling out where the lines may now have been drawn or ended up.

Shane is astutely watching her for clues, too: this is a two way street, with the pair of them not only professionally sharp about human signals, body language and behaviors, but some history: they know each other, from a time when neither was good at faking how they really felt.

“The BLT’s nice, but I can make a better one at home. Ask them to make sure your bread is toasted.”

Everleigh has been in this diner enough times for it to have become familiar hunting grounds, so she knows the menu and she knows the feel of the booths and even the general clientele. She’s also been doing her job long enough to know when someone seems out of sorts. She leans against the table a bit. “Relax, I’m not gonna bite. We’re cool.”

She’s not beating around the bush with that one. “You look a lot tougher now, you know. I think people would think twice now about giving you a shiner.”

Shane has learned more tact, and more diplomacy. Still, his default instinct has always cut to the chase. Her doing it now brings that fresh air in, and he dips his head to her in appreciation. He senses she’s doing it quite intentionally. “All right.” She’s said they’re cool, and he goes with it. He does, in fact, seem to relax more.

“I’d say that’s true about the shiner. They still try it. Sometimes they’re able to. Usually not,” Shane answers. “And if they do, I’ve a long history of covering that up, though I doubt I’m as skilled as you were,” Shane comments. “Do you remember that? Under the bleachers at Washington High?”

Shane sits back, looking up at the ceiling, into the memory. “Those guys really had it in for me,” Shane reflects with a close-lipped smile, a few emotions passing through across his eyebrows.

With posturing aside, Everleigh settles back into the comfort of her home turf. “It’s easier to cover up something on someone else. You were good practice for that.” She looks over at his face, as if trying to remember the size and the shape of the bruise. “I did a damn fine job of that, I think. Can’t say that’s a skill I’ve used much of later on in life, but perhaps that’s a good thing.”

“Those guys were just looking for someone smaller than them to pick on because they didn’t know how to deal with their adolescent urges. Projection is definitely a problem for kids like that. But you were resilient. Probably the most resilient person I’ve ever met, then and now. And I’ve met a lot of people.”

Shane turns a little bit, looking towards the waitress, and signals her immediately with his eyes and body language only. He’s not a big man, but can stretch his presence out to where he can put off quite a bit of influence, draw attention and respect. It’s a talent he’s developed steadily over the years. The respect he struggled with as a youngster. It fits with his physique, though: he isn’t intimidating, necessarily, it doesn’t have that quality. The waitress nods, with a clear indication that she’ll be over soon.

“I can’t remember if I ever told you, but my father wasn’t even home that night when I came back. Fooled my mother, though, for what that was worth: which may have been ‘worth’ quite a bit, she’d probably have told him. Hindsight, though? I should have confided in her. Teenage foolishness, though,” Shane shrugs. “At least I had you to talk to.” His smile is friendly, and without falsehood to it.

Shane puts his full attention back on Everleigh at her statement about him. “Resilient,” Shane says, tasting the word. “Thank you, Scully. Hmm. I like to think it’s more important, more telling, what you do after a hit, more than whether you dodge it,” he says, entirely honestly, with an edge of surprise to his tone that she’s weilding a compliment at him.

Shane slyly looks at her. “But I took a lot of hits, so I got to think about that,” he adds. He’s cut off as the waitress returns for the order. “Meatball sub, side salad - thousand island, water,” Shane requests, setting his menu down on top of where Everleigh put hers.

“Meatball sub, fries, regular Coke.”

Everleigh rattles off her order, giving the waitress a smile before she looks back to Shane. “Well, at least you had me to talk to,” she agrees. “Hard to talk to our parents about hard things. I wish I had opened up to them more when I was younger, but well, bit late now.” She smiles again. “You ever think about what our younger selves would think of us now?”

She laughs. “I’ve thought about it a few times. I decided she’d be a little disappointed that I don’t go out and party more.” She says ‘more’ like it means ‘ever’.

“Nah, if her older self was partying, she’d think she’d been replaced by a pod person,” Shane says with a shake of his head in negation. “I’d have thought so too. Don’t make me taze you, pod-Scully. I have the ability.” It’s not even remotely a threat.

“For me, my young self’s opinion?” Shane accepts the water that the waitress immediately brings over. “Thank you,” he tells her smoothly with a real smile. Then he answers Everleigh. “Honestly I think I’d have been really happy to know I’d made it. The FBI, at least. Now, well. I’m as close to that as it really gets. Back then, you know, we thought the X-Files and everything else was all make believe. Now… I mean, last week I was talking to an invisible person. How do you think our teen selves would have reacted to that?” Shane chuckles.

“Yeah, how do you think our teen selves would have reacted to that?”

The echo of the words comes a little flat and Everleigh looks for something on the table to fiddle with as a distraction. “Did you know I specialize in war trauma and Evolved issues? I work with all kinds of patients, but I get a lot of tough cases. SLC-Expressive issues are certainly ones that require a special hand.”

She folds her hands neatly on the table’s edge. It’s something she’s fallen back to doing in therapy. A subtle movement intended to put her at ease when she’s listening to another person. She does it subconsciously. Probably. “It keeps me busy.”

“Hm, no, I didn’t know that. Obviously with SESA I’m exclusively on Evolved items now again. I… had something of a break… it’s a long story,” Shane says, moving a hand dismissively. Of course he noticed the flat wording, and her messing with the edge of napkin, but he doesn’t do anything other than note her unease, at least for now.

“Something my teen self would have lost his mind about, for certain, is that I’m SLC-Expressive,” Shane tells her, with an even, open manner. He lifts a hand, palm up, to indicate a ‘hold on’: “And then he would have been entirely disappointed that there’s never been a shred of any super-power ability of any kind. I may just be a carrier.” Shane gives a brief smile: accidentally showcasing his resilience, maybe. “Or one day I may explode. Who knows.” He’s not worried, his smile shows as confident: he seems at peace with it, and it isn’t fake.

“Well, maybe you’ll end up referring some cases to me. There are a lot of confusing feelings mixed up for people when they manifest or even related to their ability usage. They can often feel lost or alone. People misjudge them, berate them, and there are all kinds of people who have been affected by the ability of another that is traumatic. Really, it’s a lot of damage that I try to help control.”

“Yes, I may have referrals, I’ll keep your specialty in mind,” Shane agrees at first, nodding to her commentary about the feelings related to manifest or ability use. “Even an unmanifested ability can entirely change a life - living proof,” Shane shakes his head. “I have a criminal case focus, but the victims are often SLC-Expressive, or have family members who are…” Shane trails off, sensing he interrupted.

Everleigh leans forward onto the table slightly, just enough to put some weight on it. “I manifested when I was fifteen.”

“Fifteen?” Blink. Shane watches her, now. His sharp gaze can sometimes feel like high-beams, with the intensity of his focus. “…What?”


Everleigh can sense the weight of the age becoming clearer. That was high school. They saw each other nearly every day. She times when she speaks again very carefully. Enough time for him to understand the significance of what she said but not so long as to leave him at a loss for words.

“Didn’t tell anyone. My parents figured it out but they didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t tell anyone. It was easier that way. I only really publicly outed myself when I registered, when I needed official documentation for school, for my residency. I don’t even use it, not really. I can, I just don’t.”

Shane’s quick, he collects the data of what she’s said into a neat little mental bundle. His empathy flares, though, while he’s doing that: there’s a clouded, concerned quality that enters the lowering of his eyebrows.

Shane doesn't disengage; he sits forward, resting his elbows on the table, and cups his hands together under his chin, his thumbs hooked towards him and slowly moving against his jaw. It’s an intent posture.

“Fuck,” Shane says. He doesn’t generally swear, but that was his PG-13, right there.

“Easier?” Shane doesn’t buy that, he watches her with an empathetic curiosity. “I can’t imagine that was easy.”

Everleigh’s posture is a little more slumped than it was before, it’s a little less confident, a little more… well, vulnerable. And then the waitress swings by with her Coke and she’s suddenly upright and just fine. She accepts the beverage, offering a polite smile and nod, then proceeds to take her time removing the sleeve from her straw before inserting it into the glass. She sips, then speaks again.

“It wasn’t going to be easy either way. Staying quiet meant staying normal, not looking different. And when you’re a kid you don’t know how to sort through that kind of stuff, not really. You already feel different. You don’t need some ability making you feel like some sort of monster behind closed doors. So you just shut up and no one knows. And you keep shutting your mouth until you learn not to open it.”

Her posture doesn’t slip again. She stays upright, as if she had never let that moment happen. She doesn’t speak of it.

Shane observes her, and hasn’t really moved. He hasn’t done any suggestion of disengage from the conversation, there’s been no cues from him in particular at all. But then, he’s as aware as she is, though with different styles of training. But both of them are used to watching signals.

“It’s important to you to help others open their mouths, then,” Shane says, with a motion of one hand towards her, after extracting it from under his chin. He’s being a reflection for her: a tool she probably does for others quite often. But who helps the doctor?

“I can’t say I agree that you couldn’t have talked to me… but I understand why you felt like you couldn’t,” Shane says, finally. “Particularly if it would have put you or others in some kind of danger.” He’s subtle, but there’s a question of if her ability is dangerous hanging there.

“Do you suck life out of babies to create pod people?”

“I tried to tell you, once, but I realized very quickly it wasn’t going to work so I just didn’t. I just stopped. I kind of thought of all people Mulder would get it.” Everleigh doesn’t like saying the words, but they’re honest. She grimaces slightly for having said them, though, and she looks into her drink. “Anyway, I try to help people who might have problems like that and far worse.”

There’s the tiniest of smiles that appears at his question about pod people, but it’s gone in half-a-second. She knows what he’s asking. “It doesn’t harm anyone and I don’t use it anyway. It’s subtle. Would have been hard to show you back then anyways, and embarrassing. Still kind of feel that way.”

The statement that she thought Mulder would get it stabs him pretty deeply. Shane takes the wound without a lot of complaint, though there’s a heavy blink, and he lowers his hands to cup his water instead. He hasn’t sat backwards, but she’ll perceive that she got a strong sucker punch in there, from his perspective.

Still, that resilience. He doesn’t cast blame or defend it: she felt how she felt; she was a kid. “I don’t know how I would have reacted, to be honest. We’ll never know, I think,” Shane says. It isn’t pointed, it’s just as factual as she chose to be. She decided that they would not know that answer.

“So long as you’re not dangerous to others, I won’t ask more about it, I can tell it’s private. But I do think if anybody can understand, it would be Mulder.” Shane finally looks into his water and has some. He hasn’t looked away from her, but he’s not in analysis mode, to all appearances.

“I apologize, I hadn’t meant to make this awkward. This isn’t something I talk about to anyone, there was just something about the way you talked about being SLC-Expressive and I just… I couldn’t. I couldn’t not explain it. And I don’t lie to people. So I apologize if any of this was hurtful.”

Everleigh definitely noted the punch there. “It was not intentional.” She winces. “And I really hope I haven’t stepped on your toes too much.” It’s an apology but not exactly the kind she’s used to giving.

But he’s still looking at her. Everleigh is well aware of that and she’s not sure if he’s just looking or if he’s purposefully trying to make sure she knows he’s looking. There’s a level of awareness about both of them that she’s starting to find a bit hard to avoid. “No,” she reiterates. “It’s not dangerous. It’s the opposite.”

There’s an odd pause. “Did you want to see it?”

“Apology accepted. Honestly, I know I was often a little shit when I was a teenager. I had a lot of things to prove, I had my brother’s shadow to drown in, I had the bullying… I’m not even sure I would have been outside of my own head enough to have helped you with this,” Shane says, coolly, with a deeply released breath. “We were kids.”

“But if it had happened to me, I think I would have told you. So that…” Shane lifts and rolls his hand. “Just makes me a little self involved kid, maybe,” he says, with a truncated laugh.

“I’d like to see it, but this is not ‘make Everleigh uncomfortable’ hour. I have nothing to show you of mine.” He can’t, since he’s unmanifested. Still, he’s smiling. He’s empathetic, he can sense her struggle, see it in her avoidance, and the way she’s studying how he’s watching her.

Shane opens his hands, palms up, on the table, as if giving her the floor: to show it, or not. “I’ve seen a lot of abilities, Scully. If you want to show me, it’s fine.”

“You didn’t have to help me with it,” Everleigh says with the tiniest of sighs. “I would have been fine with just someone to listen and believe me. I spent a long time with all this to myself.” She takes in a deep breath. “I’m not sure you’re fully aware of the gravity of this conversation right now. I don’t talk about my ability to anyone, I don’t show my ability to anyone. This is the stuff I would talk about in therapy if I had a therapist. But I’m talking to you because you’re my friend. I should have talked about it back then, but we were kids. I was scared. I am scared.”

She stirs the ice in her Coke with her straw. It’s a lot right now and this situation is exactly the sort of one she avoids. For a moment she looks like she’s ready to bolt for the door. But she doesn’t. Instead she remains where she is, stirring her soda and looking a bit awkward.

It’s subtle, but there’s something in the air. Slowly, over time the scent of lavender becomes noticeable. It’s not overly strong, but it’s strong enough to notice that something smells like lavender. What’s also subtle is the effect that seems to come with it. It’s soothing, calming, slowly tugging away anxiety and lowered moods and restoring a sense of balance. It’s the kind of effect someone might get from meditating. It’s hard to detect as it comes in slowly, but it’s there.

Shane may be versed in behavior, but his own emotions are not something he has the best control over: so reacting correctly in the moment, when he’s feeling guilty about not knowing his friend needed an ear over twenty years ago —- it’s made a bit of a mess as he tries to keep things light or casual.

Perhaps that’s what he wanted though, not what she wanted. He closes his mouth when she explains the gravity of the situation. He’d noticed it was important, but had steered away from a confrontation. Or tried to. He remembers her being skittish with serious things, and he wasn’t comfortable either, with these guilts of the past. Things he wasn’t aware of.

“No, I … didn’t realize it was still very private,” Shane says, finally. It’s heartfelt: he didn’t mean to be cavalier about the important topic. “I want to know. Okay?” He gives her his attention, but doesn’t try to pin her to the booth with it either.

Shane notices the scent but doesn’t react to it at first: since, really, it could have been just one of the patrons walking by and he caught a wiff of it. He’s inwardly a little frustrated with himself and the situation, dismayed that he suspected she might rather leave than talk to him. And that he should have responded to her anxiety more properly, instead of ruling with his own emotions of feeling blindsided. Or like he should have known, but didn’t.

While Shane is perceptive about lots of things, realizing that his own emotions are being calmed slowly by an exterior influence is not one of those things that’s easy to spot. Then he keys on the scent, and tilts his head at her a little questioningly, and touches his nose with a finger. The scent?

Everleigh’s a bit annoyed at the mess. Unfortunately for her, her ability doesn’t work on herself and so she’s spared from the soothing and calming effects that Shane should be experiencing. She opens her mouth to apologize again, but instead she speaks about something entirely different. “Very private. Especially this part.” She inclines her head in a bit of a nod in response to his unspoken question. She stalls, mostly so she can be sure it’s all settling in properly.

“How do you feel?”

She knows it might be tricky. He seemed to have been in a bit of a state before, it wasn’t hard to get a read on that. So it might be hard for the effects to get through effectively, but she’s hoping it’s enough that at least he can recognize that it’s not really the scent that’s the important part. “Like I said, opposite of harmful.” Maybe he’ll get the picture, even if he doesn’t catch on what it fully is.

Shane loves a puzzle. Absolutely loves a puzzle, and she is putting a puzzle right in front of him to figure out. That alone pulls all of his attention, all of that alert analytic brainpower comes to this question. What is it she is doing?

Shane wasn’t lying when he’d mentioned he’d worked with other abilities before. He’s met a few with mental style impacts, one of which was not pleasant by any stretch of any imagination. So at first, Shane focused on the scent in the air, until she asked that question. Now he’s casting through what he feels, and what she’s said.

Then he’s supposed to feel something, probably from breathing in the scent. That makes the jump quick, and the detective comes up with what it may be. Some type of pheromone would be very embarrassing to have. Particularly for a teenage girl.

How does he feel? “…Relieved,” Shane says. He doesn’t mince words usually, that’s what he felt. “Relaxed.” He looks at her carefully, to see if he’s on the right track.

“Good, you should be.”

Everleigh places her hands around her soda glass. “Well, Mulder, is my superpower everything you hoped? It’s not particularly big or impressive and I’m certainly not blowing anyone up. At the strongest you might feel like taking a nap or way less likely to bash my skull in with something, so that’s great.”

She’s never had to worry too much about anyone doing that, though. She’s got satisfied patients, mostly, not disgruntled ones. “Sorry.” She doesn’t explain why she says it, she just does. Maybe she doesn’t know why.

On the upside, she can trust Shane to not try to sneak around telling her the answer. He’s a band-aid ripper if ever there was one. Which could have played a part in avoiding the confrontation with him when they were teens.

“So, this probably too little too late, but… I’m glad you showed me. I still want to be friends, okay?” In case any of that was being questioned. Shane’s feeling good: he’s relaxed, balanced, comfortable, so the words just roll off. That’s her ability at work, there.

“I think you have a highly valuable and positive ability, Scully,” Shane says, straight arrow, as she most likely predicted. “I know you said you were scared,” he adds, his tone dropping, quiet. He puts his hand out on the table but doesn’t grab for her. It was more a physical indication that he’s not freaked out. “But I’m still glad you talked to me and stuck around.” It was brave of her, and he’s proud of her.

Everleigh wasn’t entirely worried about him entirely rejecting her for her ability, but she nods her head in response. His concern for her well-being is appreciated at the very least. She listens intently, like she does when she’s talking to a patient, but when his hand rests on the table she blinks at it. She looks between him and his arm and then back again without moving her head. There’s confusion there. She’s leaning towards thinking that his intention was just a kind gesture, but on the other hand she’s not entirely sure. So she just leaves it there and pretends the whole thing never happened.

“I… I figure I owed it to you. Maybe to myself, too. People shouldn’t have to keep secrets alone. But you definitely owe me a demonstration when you manifest. Unless you’re a bomb. No blowing me up, my patients need me.”

Shane didn’t expect her to do anything with his hand, so nothing happens with it really. It’s just there, palm down, extended partially across the table. Similar to how someone might reach out if they were trying to attract attention to get someone to meet their gaze. Shane does a lot of little moves and signals like that. It really was just a way to cement his words.

“No, they shouldn’t. Everybody should have at least somebody they can talk to; I know you know that, but I know sometimes doctors are the worst of patients,” Shane agrees easily with a brief smile.

“If I am a bomb, I will demonstrate it from a safe distance, not across the table from you.” Their food has arrived, and Shane sits back with a curt nod of appreciation to the server that brought the food out to them.

“Oh, I know I’m the worst of patients. I’m emotionally distant, I repress any uncontrolled emotions to a dangerous level, I work too hard, care too much but repress that too… I could go on for hours about that but I won’t. If I’m still functioning for other people, I’m still functioning. That’s just how I do it.”

Everleigh gives a polite nod to the server, picking up a fry between thumb and index finger as she looks back to Shane. “And please do not be a bomb, there are so few tolerable people in the world I can hold a conversation with and not constantly be analyzing and it’d be a shame if one of them blew up.”

“You also know better than to self-diagnose,” Shane adds, while digging into his salad, but doesn’t disagree or fight with any of what she said. “I’m not sitting here to analyze you, either, though if I did think you were entering the realm of the type of criminal I usually investigate, we’d have another issue entirely anyway.” He chews his salad; dressing was on the side so he’d added that fairly liberally.

“Yes, best to stay off of analyzing me. I’ll notice, and have to mess with you,” Shane ‘threatens’ blithely.

“I never diagnose myself, I am just very self-aware of my own shortcomings. Unless you’re aware of any more faults I have that I haven’t covered.” Everleigh says it not in a way that sounds like she’d be insulted by a reply, but one genuinely interested. She knows that, if anyone, he’d be brutally honest and that was exactly why she bothered asking in the first place. “Analyzing and politely directing a friend in the direction of their faults are two entirely different things. I don’t want you to call me a sociopath, I want you to tell me I’m shit at making friends.”

She’s never been good at that, not even in high school. It certainly didn’t change since then either. “I like you, Mulder, I would never be so rude as to try and help you with your problems.” She pauses. “Besides, I talk to you as an equal. You and I have equal footing in the conversation. You share your experiences, I share mine. That’s not how it works for everyone else. I can’t psychoanalyze you because I already have opinions of you as a person. Too hard to separate that.”

She shrugs. “Guess you’ll have to find a different therapist to help you with your eventual SLC-Expressive trauma. They won’t be the best, though. I’m the best.”

“I feel a little bit like….” Shane observes her, finally sitting back, his eyes partially narrowed, though his smile isn’t entirely gone. Then after a beat, the smile goes. There may be something coming that she may not like very much. But there’s maybe too much pause here, too: Shane may be more capable of being diplomatic than he used to be.

“I’m having a hostage situation with someone intent on beating up my high school friend,” Shane says, giving her a more thoughtful look, a hook of smile showing. He’s still highly under the influence of her ability, and it’s paved the way for him being .. kinder. She, of course, is both the hostage and the kidnapper.

“I need you to be nicer to my friend; she doesn’t deserve this,” Shane says. “I’m not going to tell you that you’re shit at making friends; you already know, but all of this is making distance right now, like you want to push me away, or get professional. Which I’m going to suspect you do a lot of.”

Shane narrows his eyes at her once more, and out comes the clarity: “Don’t do that. I know you’re uncomfortable. I probably would be, but I feel pretty good.” That would be because of her power. He continues to eat his salad. “I know it’s been years. You earlier said we’re cool — Let’s keep it that way.”

It’s yet again unfortunate that Everleigh’s ability doesn’t work on her. Right now she could use the calm collectiveness that it brings to others. Instead, she crosses her arms over her chest and gives him a look. It’s not a glare, but it certainly doesn’t look the most friendly. “You’re infuriating,” she says, though it doesn’t sound angry. Annoyed, at best, a statement of fact.

“We’re cool, yeah. I don’t have any ill will or anything about high school. Regrets, sure. But we’re cool.” There’s a but in there somewhere. “I don’t exactly know where life took you after, though. I don’t know what else you experienced, what it shaped you into. I know how to dig into that as a therapist, but not as a person. You know what they say about people who can give advice but can’t take it. So I’ll try not to just shove you off into the corner, okay?”

A bright smile shows up as she calls him infuriating. A grin follows. He isn’t remotely insulted. “Thank you,” he says, charmingly, with a slight obnoxiousness that echoes out of a place of teenagers from that long time past. He subdues that, though, and it draws back under the adult he’s become. It’s easy to fall into those old, old habits when it feels like they entered a time capsule briefly.

“Nobody puts Mulder in the corner,” Shane says, sourcing Dirty Dancing quotation. Nerds, they are. It’s a quick quip, but non-aggressive. “Let’s catch up, then,” invites Shane, slipping easily through the conversation. “I’ll give you the overview, but how it shaped me may need to be another lunch.” He picks through his salad, eating the best parts first.

“After high school I went pretty immediately to Quantico; I had those high test scores. FBI all the way. Living the dream. Special Agent Bishop, FBI,” Shane smiles, and it’s a more measured one. “That was a handful of years that I tend to keep in a box. A lot of dark stuff; hunting some nasty people. Anticipating their moves.” He looks at her food. “Mind if I try a fry?”

“So you really became Mulder,” Everleigh chuckles. “But I’m less Scully. More brains, less forensics. I think I became the wrong kind of doctor for my parents’ liking. Decided that pretty much right out of high school. Rebellion.” She pushes the plate of fries towards him, leaving it in the center of the table where they can both reach. It’s an open invitation.

“I think we’ve got all kinds of dark times. I got to see a lot of trauma during the war, both physical and mental, and they’re things I don’t particularly like to think about. But I helped, so I consider that a win. More wins than losses so far, I’d say.”

“I didn’t rebel. My dad was thrilled. Hank went to the NYPD, and I went FBI? He couldn’t have been prouder.” Shane smiles. “He still is, he’s still around, though they moved to the midwest to retire,” Shane explains.

“Anyway, when that registration law came out, we all got tested. I got flagged as Expressive, and that was where the FBI showed me the door. No proof, other than that blood test.” Shane’s got some deep roots of anger there but he isn’t showing much of it. In the past as a kid, he would have exploded. He’s grown.

“I did odd security and similar things, bodyguarding a bit, until the war. I joined the Ferrymen, down in the Florida leg of that, for the war. Were you still stuck here for the war?”

“It’s good your dad was proud. He always seemed really hard on you, though parents are kind of like that, huh?” Everleigh chuckles lightly before sobering a bit. “Lost my mom in the first bomb. Took out the office building she worked at. My dad would’ve been in there too if he wasn’t out of town on business. That was… pretty scary. I came back to New York after that and stuck around as much as I could. My dad got me safely out of the city when things were the most chaotic, but I couldn’t keep well enough alone.”

She shrugs. “Kind of went up and down the coast. Didn’t really care where, just wherever seemed like they needed me. Always came back here, though. Came back for good after the war. Kind of grinds my gears hearing what they did to you, though.”

“Really sorry to hear about your mom. She was a great lady. I still remember those pizza things she made,” Shane says, fondly. He diverts, to not make her sad, though.

“So I had a big hate thing for the government for a decade,” Shane admits, though he seems to be calm about speaking about it. “And I needed a break, after the war. Lots of us did. Working through the issues from that, I took the time to do it.” Shane respects mental health in a way that is often surprising or unusual from a cop.

The subtext is that he may have had some breakdown, though. Or something else went on, and he’s recovered. Resilient.

“Next… Civilian in Florida, until I got the itch again to help out. Florida PD, homicides. I really didn’t ever think I’d come back here. But I got the recruit from SESA, and here I am,” Shane says, looking around the room. And then at her. “Walking memory lane. Glad to have found you’re still here, though. Something that didn’t entirely get blown apart.” His smile softens, there’s a companionable quality there.

Everleigh is still confident in her assessment of his resilience. “It’s good you took some time for yourself. That’s a flaw I’m still holding myself hostage over. But that’s at least a healthy thing, both from a therapist standpoint and as a friend. It’s good you didn’t work yourself to death.”

That’s yet another thing she’s holding herself hostage over. “You’re a good fit for SESA, I think. You’re tough, tougher than most people I know and you’re genuinely a good person, always have been. Don’t prove me wrong now, alright?” She grabs one of her fries. “It’s good to have a friendly face in New York that’s not paying to be around me.”

“Frankly I don’t want to analyze you,” Shane reports to her with his usual directness. “I’d much rather stay inside my own head for once. So I get you.” He reaches over, having more of the fries. He is relaxed, by all accounts, though he’s never stopped keeping a general awareness of not just her, but the room. That’s the agent training, that’s the Ferryman paranoia: he can’t turn that off, not anymore.

“I think SESA’s going to be good all around, I’m optimistic. Lots of the cases aren’t criminal focused, which is a bit new for me, but it’ll be better to branch out, and not just live in serial murder land. Balance, right?” Shane lifts his brows at her. “So you’re not doing time for yourself? I’m not surprised. We’ll both have to force ourselves to do this, you know.”

Everleigh takes a few more fries and chews on them while watching him, listening to what he’s saying. “SESA’s pretty good, from my personal experience. I’ve worked with them before. You get to be the hero, some days. A lot of helping people. It’ll make you feel good, I’m sure, and that’s the kind of job everyone should have. Gotta get something out of your job, right?”

She knows not everyone can live like her, but if people are stuck working, they shouldn’t be miserable. “So far I’ve survived with few friends and few things pressing on my time that aren’t work. Did you know the longer you go without something the easier it is not to miss it? I’ve been testing that.”

“Surviving versus Living is going to be what I’d bring up next, except that I’m going to eat this sub before I get into it,” Shane warns her. It’s teasing in a way that isn’t too invasive: he’s giving her the floor to defend against the argument he’s about to present before her. They’re both smart, and just saying the point he’s about to make is just as effective, likely, as actually saying it.

“All of my jobs have been worth doing. I know that’s why you do yours, here. Something held you here.” Shane is digging into his sandwich now, though.

“Oh, am I going to get lectured now?” Everleigh smirks at that, eating another fry. “You can live for an occupation, a profession. Nothing wrong with that.” She’s not making a very compelling argument, but she’s not trying. She already thinks there’s no talking points he could make that would particularly interest her.

“You’re right, though. Doing something meaningful… it’s a nice feeling, one I enjoy.”

Shane finishes chewing before he answers. “You said ‘the longer you go without something the easier it is to not miss it’. That says to me, pretty loudly, that you are surviving, but miss things, want more.”

Shane shrugs, “But this is one workaholic to another. I’ll be buried in things and be busy as hell, I know myself. Doesn’t mean we can’t both try. If both of us were alcoholics, we can still give each other a hand to not entirely fall into that and burn out. It’s the burning I don’t want. That’s not a good place to end up in.”

“I’ve never been much for just surviving, anyway. That’s the ambition thing,” Shane laughs. “Anyway, if you said how happy you were and didn’t have anything to miss, I wouldn’t lecture you, Scully.”

“Not enough for it to be a problem.” Everleigh insists, going for her sub for a moment. After a few bites, she continues. “Anyway, if you’re suggesting we hang out in the future, I can probably actually take a few lunch breaks. I’m not opposed to it.” She gazes back over at him, then she shrugs.

“You’re way more fun than a therapist. It’s a nice feeling to at least attempt to stop making a big deal of things.”

“I don’t make money off of you taking your time to slowly work on issues,” Shane teases her in answer. “Therapy was never my bag. I’m too willing to say what’s what. Also, yes, I am entirely more fun, and there will be exactly zero ass-kissing or telling you what you want to hear. Unless you specifically ask. And even then, it’s a maybe.”

Shane eats her fries, and continues on his sub. “Okay, you planned this one, so the next one is on me to find something. Maybe visiting one of the other old haunts. Might be able to include one of the old gang, but most are flung to the wind now. Do you remember, ummm, Kathy Henderson, from club? I ran into her for a drink last year. Nothing to talk about except the war. Really, really depressing.”

Everleigh chuckles. “The reason you wouldn’t make a good therapist is that you want to tell them things. The point is that you don’t tell people things unless you need to help remind them of a direction they should be going in. You make them talk, you get them to understand themselves, and you watch. It’s a fire, you’ve got to gently poke it to keep it going. You get to learn a lot about people. Some good, some bad. And you watch them get better. Mostly.”

She shakes her head. “I don’t want anyone to kiss my ass, ever. I don’t want compliments, I don’t want any of that.” She shakes her head again as if it would get rid of it. “You think any of the old haunts are still around?” The mention of a classmate perks her attention. “Yeah, I remember Kathy. Was it a drink or a drink?”

“Maybe they need to be told things,” Shane points out with a fry. “Honestly, I think I’d just get impatient with them. It isn’t that I can’t coach someone, I do it with my recruits all the time. But I have a really high bar of excellence that I expect people to rise to. That’s not so much a good tone for therapy. More for boot camp.”

“Let’s just say I told you what I remember of that evening,” Shane answers with a lift of his water in a quiet salute to Kathy’s apparent interest in blackouts. Shane waggles his eyebrow and laughs a little, setting it down on the table again.

“Don’t ask me questions like that, I’ll have to find out; not knowing with bother me,” Shane then sighs as she asks about the haunts. The investigator isn’t good with threads that need following.

Sometimes they need told things. You mostly just ask questions. Not just ‘how do you feel about this’ but more prying questions. Specific ones. Like you’re coaxing them to tell you their story, but they have to remember the story first. Jog their memory.” Everleigh’s smiling, just like a parent might when talking about their kid. That’s her baby.

She smirks. “Well, I hope she was more interesting than war stories then.” She lifts her glass in response before taking another sip. “I’ll be sure to make sure I don’t leave open ended questions for you or you’ll come running like a dog looking for a bone.”

“A dog? Hungry as ever,” Shane chuckles. “The more things change,” he says, implying the rest with only a quiet pause, looking her over, though he’s backed off on the high scrutiny. He’s being methodical about his sandwich, he’s not in a big hurry, and to some degree the sandwich is a meter of how long the meal should logically last, how long before they’ll resume their normal workaholic ways.

“Speaking of work,” uh oh. “Do you take on just adults, or also teens?”

If she’s noticed the slow eating, she doesn’t remark on it. Instead, Everleigh digs into her food with a strange sort of delicate speed. Small bites, but quick—efficiency wrapped in a polite exterior. She only really stops, however when she speaks… which is more often than she’s used to. “I take on pretty much any case. I just usually get referred the people who are struggling with war trauma or cases where an Evolved issue is involved. But I take on all sorts of patients of different ages. Children, too.”

She pauses. “Why, do you have someone in mind?”

“Yes, but I’ll need to do more on my end first, due to the underage part of it, before I can say anything other than that most vaguest of terms,” Shane explains, with a quick smile. He’ll say exactly what he can and no more. There’s his professionalism appearing, the competency as an agent that got him where he is. The fun-time and quips takes a back seat, into this more responsible side to Shane.

“Generally my understanding is that treatment of children was a different specialty,” Shane says, which is where his question came from. “Once I find out more I can see if it’s a tentative fit, if you’re looking for additional clients, anyway. They have to be comfortable with you too, but if I have a few options, that’d be better for the situation.” Shane is professional, but not a different person: he just eased out of the past, to come into the present day.

“Well, usually there are ones whose specialty is children. While mine isn’t children, there are times when Evolved issues overlap with children and my method might be a little easier to get results with. And I’ve seen some traumatized kids before, certainly.”

Everleigh can remember a few times during the war she did just that. “I bet if I stop sleeping I can treat more patients, too.” She grins. It’s a joke, mostly. A joke.

“Yes, treat them from inside the padded room that could cause,” Shane says in amusement, but nodding all the same.

“I’ll find out, and then we can talk about if you have bandwidth. I like to have options, if someone isn’t responding to what I see going on currently.”

Shane clears his throat, because the waitress came by. “I’d like the second half to go, please.” With a nod, she takes his plate to pack up the other half of the sub. He wasn’t so slow after all: there was a plan.

He then looks across at her. “Nearly time to get back to it, isn’t it, Scully?” To work.

“They’re a little less crazy with the padded rooms these days.” Everleigh finishes off her sub, then the soda in front of her in short order. There’s little to keep her in the room save for him and he’s already preparing to leave. She brushes off her blouse neatly, glancing back over to him.

“You’re right, got work and stuff to do. Thanks for meeting up with me, though. It was, legitimately, very nice.”

“I aim to be consistently legitimate,” Shane winks, accepting his parcel as the waitress returns with the check.

As promised he doesn’t seize it, but leaves it to Everleigh. “Of course. I’m glad you’re doing well. Good to be back. At least, so far.”

The check is snatched up and promptly paid for, in cash, with a tip deposited on the table for the waitress before Everleigh gets up to her feet out of the booth. She gestures towards the exit for him to lead the way. He came in last and he’ll leave first.

“Good to hear you haven’t gotten yourself killed yet, Mulder. Keep it that way.”

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