Summary: Post-ep for "Pusher." Alone in her apartment, Scully deals with the trauma of having nearly lost Mulder. MSR.

A/N: This episode burrowed into my brain like an emotional botfly. It had to be removed, and so this happened.

I unlock the front door of my apartment with the usual calculating efficiency, sliding the key in and out as if it were greased. I push the door open, step inside, shut the door behind me, and flick the light on, also with the usual calculating efficiency. Queequeg rushes up to greet me, bushy tail wagging, and I kneel to ruffle the fur behind his ears with the usual affection. The first sign that it's an act is when I feel compelled to stop, look up at the ceiling, and simply breathe. A minute later I'm in control again. Picturing a hot bath and a glass of wine, I stand and head for the bedroom.

Keys, here. Gun, there. Coat and shoes, closet. Clothes, on the bed. They'll have to be either washed or dry-cleaned, but I'm not going to think about that now. And I'm certainly not going to think about the case report I have to write. I'm going to take care of Queequeg, and then I'm going to think about my favorite robe, fuzzy slippers, red wine, and hot water, in that order.

"I don't fear my death. So I"—the man on the left pushed his gun across the table—"I'm going to give you . . . one pull of the trigger against me.

"One pull. . . . One-in-six chance."

Water pours out of the bathtub faucet, quietly at first, then building in volume as the tub fills. As I watch the water and sip my wine, I find myself remembering the time in Pennsylvania when Mulder and I took Kevin, the boy with stigmata-like wounds, to stay in a hotel for the night. When I drew a bath for Kevin, Mulder complained about never getting the same treatment. At the time I was too worried about Kevin to appreciate the humor. Now my lips curl, and I chuckle. Mulder knows how to inject levity into any situation.

And I almost lost him today.

The thought drips like melting ice down the back of my neck. I try to ignore it, try to push it away. But it's been pushed away all day, and this time it won't be denied.

"Piece of cake. Your turn." Modell's voice seemed unremarkable. He seemed unremarkable, which made it even more frightening to see Mulder so completely subsumed by his power. Mulder was fighting it; the sweat beading on his skin was evidence of that. Still, his eyes were flatter and emptier than I had ever seen them, and despite my attempts to stop him, he clearly had no choice but to obey.

"Mulder, no."

"Mulder, yes. Go."

"Mulder, listen to me. Give me the gun. We can stop this thing right now. You and I can walk outside of this room—"

He jerked the barrel to his head and pulled the trigger. Though it was a dry-click, what little composure I had shattered. Had I had my gun I would've pumped Modell full of lead. Sick bastard deserved to die a million deaths for what he was doing to us.

Then Mulder turned the gun on me. I stared at him, disbelieving. He stared back, though he had little choice on that point, and I thought I saw a flicker of desperation in his eyes. At that moment I felt the full force of everything I wanted to say to him, everything I could never say, and with that . . . I knew.

The tub is almost full. Mechanically, I turn off the faucet, then disrobe and sink into the water. I stare at the ceiling, trying not to feel.

"Mulder, you don't have to do this. You're stronger than this." That was all I said to him. Yet, beneath the words, I was appealing to something more than his strength, and I knew it. I could feel it in the tears filling my eyes. There was no word for it then. Perhaps there never would be. But it was there. Is there.

It's behind bars now. I put it there as soon as Modell's sick game was over and Mulder handed me the gun without looking at me. It escaped only once after that, when Mulder and I were standing over Modell's bandaged body in the hospital room. "I think it was like you said," Mulder explained, looking at me in his gentle way. "He was always such a . . . little man. This was finally something that made him feel big."

My eyes softened to match Mulder's, and I took his hand. He tried to make himself feel big by tearing us apart, but he failed. "I say we don't let him take up another minute of our time," I responded. Then I turned and walked out, and the iron bars shut for good.

My feet will get pruny soon if I stay in here. Sitting up, I grab a bath sponge, baptize it with body wash, and start washing my arms. Sweat secretion was higher than usual today, which is hardly surprising.

Dana, why are you putting it in a cage? I can almost hear my sister chide me. Living things deserve to be free.

"Not everything," I answer audibly.

Well, what makes this different? Why are you so afraid?

"I'm not afraid."

Yes you are. Don't bother trying to hide it from me. I can feel it.

I pause, challenged by Melissa's insight, but only for a moment. I resume washing myself in a calm, cool manner that belies my frustration. "Okay. Maybe I am afraid. Maybe I'm afraid that if I let it go free, it'll grow into something I can't control. That it'll pull me completely into his world. And that, once that happens, nothing will make sense anymore."

Does anything make sense in your world?

I shut my eyes with a frown. Why am I talking to you? You're dead.

Death is just another part of life, Dana.

Her voice fades away. Her questions—and my answers—do not, and it's like the sound of a rattling cage in my mind. I finish my bath, get out, and towel off more briskly than necessary, trying hard to ignore the rattling. When I move to the mirror over the sink, I remember the mirror that saved my and Mulder's lives. Suddenly the rattling becomes an intolerable racket in my ears, and I spin away and strike the wall, shouting, "Dammit!"

The racket stops. My breath sounds thin and ragged in the silence. Screwing my eyes shut, I rest my forehead against the wall and let the emotions of the day wash over me. My face crumples in on itself, and I weep.

Mulder is my partner. That is all I've ever acknowledged to him, to others, and to myself. But he is far more than that to me. I felt as much today, first when he nearly killed himself, and again when he nearly killed me. Losing him so soon after losing Melissa would've sent me into a death spiral. Seeing him point a gun at me was like something out of a worst nightmare I didn't know I had.

Mulder is my best friend. And beneath that lurks a thousand possibilities, unspoken longings that must remain unspoken. I can't be drawn into his world, not in that way. It would compromise my objectivity, my job, perhaps my very sanity.

So this has to stay in a cage. And it will. That's how life is.

Not everything deserves to be free.