TITLE: The Act of Observing
CATEGORY: post-"all things", V, MSR
SUMMARY: I had to ask myself what the girl with the hat really wanted.
DISCLAIMER: Consider it disclaimed. Please don't pay me.
ARCHIVE: Gossamer, Xemplary, Spookys okay. Anywhere else okay too.
Tell, don't ask.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: For the beloved Virginians, my virtual home. Thanks
specifically to Punk and Jodi for excellent drive-thru beta, and to
Kelly Keil for grammar!beta, insight, and the title. Doubleplus thanks
to wen for orchestral tweaks, and to Livia for dubbing me "The
Alternative Shipper." And, of course, as always, for the qowf, because
it's been so long.
"We are in a room without a door
and I am sure without a doubt
they're gonna want to know how we got in here
and they're gonna want to know how we plan to get out."
- Ani DiFranco, "Shameless"
The Act of Observing
I'm here, Mulder, because the girl with the hat told me to be.
Couched only in the click-click whitenoise of heels on hardwood and the
shuffff of breath through her nose she crept out and outside it was
Outside it was barely dawn, tempting warmth in-like-a-lion and out-
like-a-lamb and since they'd come in his car she walked.
I'm here, Mulder, she thought, because the girl with the hat told me to
Remember me. Remember me; access that human genetic memory of all
things and all things possible and find me there, and know what I've
been through that's brought me here. "A lot a lot a lot," you say,
cartoon-like, but I'm somewhere else. Find me.
She'd looked at Mulder, lying there splayed and exhaled, at peace where
they'd found each other in sleep. She looked at him, and the act of
observing changed him.
The girl with the hat knew what she wanted. The girl with the hat made
the right choices, or would have, had the world not stood in her way.
It was years ago, Mulder, when the girl with the hat met him. Him,
Daniel, and some bar on South Grand street -- Jack, make it a double,
soda back she never touched, and another one, and another one, and she
stared at her hands wrapped around her glass, wielding the weight of
its heavy bottom, wondering if it was hard enough to smash a human
"Dana," he said, daring to meet her eye. "We've got to talk about this.
What's going on, here?"
She laughed, release on release. "We do," she said.
"I've got a life, you know," he said. It wasn't a question.
"I know," she said. "I am fully aware."
"I like my life," he said, as if it was defense. "I don't want to wreck
it if I..."
"If you what?" she asked, bold now.
"I love you, Dana," he said, his eyes wide like a child and something
about his innocence, his vulnerability stilled her, made her skin
"Okay," she said, the stoic, the girl who knew everything, the girl
he'd fallen so hard for.
"I need to know what you want."
Here was the ride of melodrama, the ride of mystery, the test to take
for this man whose back she'd watched when he was turned away, her
hands fluttering up stretching of their own accord to touch untouchable
him. She slapped them down, every time, like they were criminals.
But here was the ride of melodrama, the chance to test her destructive
power, the chance to find out if what she wanted was what she wanted.
Later her friends would say it wasn't her fault. Later they'd say it
was his choice, his responsibility, that he'd wrecked his own life,
that he'd wanted to. That she was without blame.
But later her girlfriends were less willing to talk to her, less
willing to invite her out when they'd spend Saturdays with boyfriends
eating fried chicken.
Later they shielded themselves against her -- her, homewrecker and
siren and Helen of Troy.
Here she looked at him, as always, before leaping.
"I need to know what you want," he said.
"I want to spend the rest of my life with you," she said, not even
believing the words as they tumbled into tumblers of whiskey. It was
bait. It was what it would take to have this man; it was her chance at
But now he laughed.
"I have a life, Dana! Why would I want to spend the rest of my life
with a starry-eyed student who didn't have a clue about the way the
And there at the bar, that first night, through the tremolo in his
voice, she'd known he was lying.
Two more drinks and he reached across the table, warm, gentle hands on
either side of her face, and he kissed her.
He got another phone line, just for her. Told his wife it was for work.
She'd call, leave him a message and he'd call her back and they'd meet
somewhere, tear each other's clothes off in the car. She'd give him
presents he couldn't keep, write him letters he'd destroy.
He'd come over at night and they'd set the alarm, fall asleep in each
other's arms till 4:48 when the radio would come on and he'd kiss her
on the forehead and crawl out, and she'd feign sleep till he was gone
and then get up to lock the door behind him.
The girl with the hat dodged bullets, Mulder, in the name of
possibility. The girl with the hat loved the intrigue, loved the
mystery and boundary of this man who was so brilliant and untouchable
his touch burned her.
The girl with the hat took the globe of a man's life in her hands like
a bauble and juggled it, laughing.
"Hey," she said when the phone rang.
"I miss you," Daniel said.
"I miss you too," she said.
"I haven't seen you in days," he said.
She corrected him. "One day."
"It's a LOT," he laughed.
"You'll see me in class tomorrow," she said.
"I want to see you tonight. What are you...what are you up to?"
She leaned back on the couch, put her feet up on the armrest.
"Nothing," she said. "Work."
Voices in the background. "Maggie's home for the weekend," he said.
"Uh huh," she said. "I'm gonna hang up now. I'll talk to you later."
"No!" he said, playful baby-voice like he was trying to seduce her, but
it came out creepy. "Talk to me."
"Maggie's home," she said. "Go be with your family."
"It's okay," he said. "I...um...I told Barbara I loved you. I told
The girl with the hat scraped through the drawer of the end table to
find her roommate's cigarettes. She lit one, took a long drag and tried
to marry the combination of flattery and perversity.
"Oh," she said. "What did she say?"
"I want to see you," he said. "When can I see you?"
She exhaled, a ribbon of smoke sped through her lips. "You can come by
now," she said. "Come get me."
"I'm on my way," he said, smile breaking larger in his voice.
She's cruel, Mulder. Someone once told her what she was supposed to
want, and this was it and she didn't know what to do. This was it,
Mulder, the man and the life and the family all in one swing of the
battleaxe, severed heads clattering to bloodied earth.
In one breath she could sell her soul.
He picked her up in his Mercedes and took her to the docks. She was
wearing the sunglasses he'd helped her pick out, the ones he'd paid
for. Dusk approached but she didn't want to take them off, and instead
stared into the flame of sunset and let the dark take the reins.
"So, look," he said, pointing. Off the harbor a sailboat was moored and
he started toward it. "What do you think?"
"It's nice," she played light. "Is it yours?"
"It's mine for the week," he said.
He was carrying a suitcase and she refused to think about it.
Crosslegged on the deck she watched him untie sailor's knots in
"So Barbara kicked me out of the house," he said as if it were "there's
beer in the cooler."
"FUCK," she said, rising. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"I'm telling you now," he said. "So listen." He sat down beside her,
rested those familiar hands on her knees. "I got the boat so we could
go away somewhere together. You once asked me what I wanted. This is
what I want. I've already called in to work and told them I'm taking
the week off. I think we should do this. I think we have to."
She looked past him, through tinted lenses out at the sliver of sun
being eaten by the horizon.
She could have gone, then, Mulder. But the problem was the same, the
problem was what it always had been, and what it always would be.
She'd fallen in love with him for the battleaxe swoop of family.
Without family, he wasn't what she thought she wanted; he was broken,
tainted, stained, by her hands. All that was fragmented, cheap and
vicious about her, all that was unwhole and unmoored would transfer to
him/them; his power removed he would rest his head on her stronger
shoulder and beg to sleep, beg to be taken care of, and she would have
lost what she'd had.
He went home.
Quantum theory says the act of observing has the effect of changing the
When Scully awoke, Mulder was still sleeping. The clock read 4:48, and
she leaned over and kissed Mulder on the forehead before getting up to
She vaguely remembered falling asleep, vaguely remembered Mulder
leading her, half-awake and stumbling, to the bed. She barely
remembered wrestling out of her stockings, hardly recalled sliding out
of her skirt and climbing, bra and underwear on and face-first under
With everything like clarity she remembered Mulder next to her,
smelling like sweat and man, hot bare skin against her back and flesh
slackened with half-sleep, sticky like clay. His arm was heavy when it
slumped across her chest.
She had walked well beyond where she'd left her car, blocks and blocks
and miles. The sun was up, and pink it stained the sky a sickly grey-
She shivered, though the morning was warm, and briefly, clutching her
jacket around her and pulling herself up on tiptoes toward the sun she
wondered why she'd left.
The girl with the hat dodged bullets, took Scully where she needed to
go. Where Daniel had been life, family, domesticity, Mercedes and
family practice and six figure salary and a house with a yard Mulder
was half-asleep after thirty-nine waking hours, couch cushions
imprinting his cheek and a refrigerator empty of anything but pickles
She'd found Mulder because she was supposed to, fell asleep beside him
because it was home.
Quantum theory says the act of observing has the effect of changing the
And turning back to go get her car, the girl with the hat knew that
Mulder had not gotten up to lock the door behind her when she left.