I don't surprise easily. Ten-odd years spent in the service of the FBI, especially within the loving bosom of the VCS, will pretty much inure anybody to that. Shit, I'm not even one of those people who can brag about how well they handle crime scenes. They sicken me on a regular basis. That's different than surprise, though, isn't it? Being disgusted by someone's actions is not the same thing as being taken unaware by them. I'm a profiler, after all-the arsenal of choice when someone wants to know how an individual will behave. I anticipate what will happen and share my suppositions with others.
I'm surprised by what I witnessed tonight. Scratch that. I'm shocked. I had Pfaster dead to rights but, in the surreal context of what followed, I wonder if I had him at all. The D.C. cops are all over us in a flash, or so it seems. The acrid scent of burnt ignition powder mingles with that of patchouli, freesia and vanilla. Scully's face is blank and I'm frozen, speechless. I don't know what to say, or do. I turn from her, so she won't she the conflict she's raised in me. Astonishment? Oh yeah, but satisfaction, too.
I make my statement while part of me listens to the other officer questioning Scully. Her demeanor is composed; voice steady, resolute. That's my girl. She details events with scientific detachment and it's enough to satisfy the beat cops. The detectives will be a different story, but I find myself unable to predict what Scully will do or say. We've been together nearly seven years and I admit I've used my profiling skills to my advantage, at times. Yeah, I can be a manipulative son-of-a-bitch. You don't spend as much time as I have walking the paths of Hell without Satan rubbing off, a little. Maybe he's touched her, too.
I may be shocked, but I'm not surprised.
I should have seen this coming. I blame myself for not insisting she back-off this case from the beginning. I suggested it, since my fighting Irish partner would not take kindly to a direct order from me. I am her superior, after all; at least, technically, although I've never considered Scully my subordinate for a moment. It was a toss-up between keeping her clear of Pfaster or standing with her while she faced her demons. Considering all the times she's put up with me and mine, I owe her the same courtesy. I carry a king-sized guilt complex in my back pocket, anyway, so it's no great leap for me to hold myself responsible for what's happened. But (I can hear Scully say), this isn't about me, so I swallow blame and prepare to minister to my partner's bruises, especially the ones that don't show.
I spy Scully at the back of the apartment and excuse myself to join her in her bedroom, glistening glass shards from the smashed mirror crackling underfoot, remnants of the fierce struggle that has rendered her nearly as shattered. I keep everything low-key, despite the fact that I'm roiling, trying to set aside personal feelings to better help my partner. My voice is low and level as we discuss the shooting. I assure her of my support, but still she seeks explanations for her behavior. I have no easy answers for her very difficult questions. I'm the one who acts on impulse, hunches, on what may be instead of what is. Scully's considered approach to life is guided by moral principal, science and carefully adhered-to ethics.
Still, all that was before: before Modell taught us how easily the mind is misled; before the illusion of normalcy with Emily was given and taken away; before an icy tomb nearly claimed her and a soujourn to the Ivory coast challenged her most sacred beliefs. Maybe Dana Scully had simply had enough of disillusionment and darkness. Maybe. But this time, she travels the path of reincarnation alone. That's what we do, Scully and I. After each encounter with the dark side, we lose ourselves and must find a way to regenerate into functioning human beings again. Like a phoenix from the ashes of the conflagration that consumes it, we rise. It's the only way to stay sane. We don't talk about it.
Scully is alive. Pfaster is dead. There's no question as to the utter rightness of this scenario. He hadn't brutalized her-yet, but he would have and Scully knew exactly what was coming when he assaulted her. Puts a whole new spin on "ignorance is bliss," huh? Maybe that's what pushed her over the edge. I don't know. The first time around this dance floor, the Minneapolis PD had him under lock and key right quick. I remember Moe Bocks' personal promise that Donnie would never see the far side of a prison wall again. Scully was younger then, and more inclined to believe that the system still
worked for those who trusted in God and America and Mom's apple pie. She doesn't believe that any more, at least not to the same degree.
A tall, slim brunette woman enters the room. She identifies herself as Officer Tolson, a certified trauma counselor. Her uniform and her manner are official, but her voice is soft. Scully's eyes dart from me to the door. Signal enough.
Out in the living room, a chubby DC detective with a perpetual sneer wants my version of events. I can't tell if my credentials allay or rouse his suspicions, but his attitude sucks. I'm tempted to hit him, so I shove my hands in my pockets for safekeeping. Yes, Ms. Scully was the shooter. Yes, she was in imminent danger. Yes, warning was given. Semantics. We finish and I fish out my cell phone, waking a disgruntled Skinner to let him know what's happening.
"Is she all right?" he interjects almost immediately, concern cutting through his brusque manner.
"Time will tell," I reply with no intention of being vague.
"Was it a righteous shot?" My boss is a smart man, already anticipating the inquiry that will follow and the role he will play in the outcome.
I answer "absolutely," and wait. Eloquent silence crosses time and space.
Finally, he says in a softer tone of voice, "Stay with her, agent. Keep me updated."
"I will." I hit END and consider his words. A righteous shot? Whoever dares dispute it is going to have to answer to me. I just wish I'd been the one to fire. I was itching for Pfaster to misstep, so I could justify squeezing the trigger. Instead, he stood there, mute with cunning in his assessment of my rage, my fear, my training. I didn't know, at that moment, whether Scully was alive or bleeding to death somewhere beyond. Had it been the latter, it would have been my bullet through his heart, not hers. He's lucky Scully put him down with a clean shot. I might not have been so merciful. Difference is, I can live with that while Scully stands at the beginning of a long road to self-forgiveness.
The trauma cop emerges and I go back into the bedroom to find Scully standing, staring out the window with her back to the door. She is still, except for the minute tremor I spy along the back collar of her pajamas. I approach without a word and touch her shoulder. She starts and I stammer an instant apology, cursing myself for sheer stupidity. I make her sit down again, re-wrapping her in the blanket that's on the bed.
"Where's your suitcase?" I ask softly.
"Closet," she replies, just as quietly.
The door is still ajar. I imagine Scully bound and gagged there, literally in the dark. Invisible hands tighten around my heart as I stare at the methodic clusters of jackets and skirts and blouses hung on heavy, wooden hangars or pale pink, puffy ones and wonder if Scully's outward craving for order can help her now find it within. She's strong, but not invincible, much as she tries to portray that to me. I pull her suitcase from an upper shelf and lay it open beside her. I turn back to her dresser with no small amount of guilt. Scully's personal space has been violated more than enough for one day.
I open the top drawer, unfamiliar with her arrangement of things. It's no surprise that Scully's dresser contents are like Scully herself: well-ordered, practical, but with a softer side not always visible to the casual onlooker. I try not to notice the colors and textures of the items I'm deciding on, though my mind is involuntarily taking detailed notes of this soft scrap of blood-red satin or that edge of elegant lace. I feel like a voyeur and steal a look back at Scully to see if she's watching me touching the things that so intimately touch her. I find her eyes already on me, sad and trusting, tacit permission granted. A self-conscious flush washes over me and I turn so she doesn't notice.
In the end, I select simple cotton things, the ones that remind me of a night spent talking in a dingy motel room in Bellefleur, Oregon. Did I love her then? No, but I sure as hell was taken with her, especially after she revealed her fears and herself to me, turning to embrace me with genuine trust. That night, I knew I'd met someone unique in my life. Love followed quickly enough, only I never believed she felt the way I did. The way I do. Still, things of late have me thinking that maybe we're finally on the same page. Now this, and she turns to me again, her foundation shaken once more.
Ah, Scully. Have we traveled so far only to find ourselves at the beginning, again?
I rifle through the other drawers, adding trousers and a blue sweater to the case. "Not that one, Mulder," she murmurs at one point, pulling at her makeshift shawl. "The black one." I replace one sweater with the other, laying it next to the embroidered case where she keeps her toiletries.
"I'm cold," she murmurs.
"Can you dress?"
She nods and I cross the room, turning back at the door. "I will be right outside," I state with deliberate care. I close the door behind me, running a hand over my mouth, blinking back outraged tears. The trauma lady approaches and gestures with her head towards the door.
"Partner...and friend," I reply showing her my badge.
"She gave me her mother's telephone number. I suggest you call her and tell her to meet you at the hospital."
"I can stay with her."
"Agent Mulder, this attack was committed on private property, within the victim's home. The hospital is going to insist on a family member being present to sign paperwork and possibly, to answer questions."
In spite of her soothing tone, I don't like her terminology and a sudden cold swell of anger rises at her reference to Scully as a victim. "I can take her to the hospital and have her checked out discretely, if that's all right with you. I don't want to worry her family just yet."
"You don't have that right."
I glance at her nametag. "I have every right, Officer-Tolson, is it? You have no idea what you're talking about." I'm being a prick, of course, and she's right. I draw in a breath, looking upwards to hold my temper. I hate to have to be the one to call Margaret Scully with yet another piece of unwelcome news about her only surviving daughter. I close my eyes, then, releasing my breath and my shoulders. I bring my gaze back to hers. "I'll take care of it," I inform the woman, a thin edge of sarcasm in my voice.
Tolson calmly goes on. "Is she resilient?"
"Scully? Yeah, she's resilient. She's the most goddamned resilient person I know."
"There may be repercussions."
I realize she's trying to help, but I've abruptly had enough of the DCPD. "Repercussions?" I begin nonchalantly, in a well-worn power ploy.
"Yes. Ms. Scully may exhibit post-trauma stress tonight or over the next several weeks. She-"
"I'm well aware of the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome, Officer, especially as it relates to women," I interrupt, voice low, but assertive. Tolson's face drops as I step in, eyes glaring. "In men, PTSD is always associated with combat stress or death of a loved one. Women react more commonly to incidents of personal violation: physical attack, rape, close brushes with death. One incident can trigger long-term sleep disorders, nightmares and jumpy, even irrational behavior. Sometimes symptoms don't manifest for months, even years, triggered by a seemingly innocent event-or not so innocent." I tilt my head towards her, my brow arched with a look that asks "Any questions?"
I feel the eyes of the other cops on us and I have to give Tolson credit for remaining nonplused under my calculated tirade. She's obviously accustomed to on-scene emotions running high. She merely steps back from me and says nothing. That's when I realize that Scully's bedroom door is open and she is standing at the entrance. I have no way of knowing how long she's been there and I wonder how it is that this scenario, or one like it, hasn't happened until now.
Repercussions? It's almost comical. I feel like saying, "No shit, lady. Working with Fox Mulder virtually guarantees repercussions-by-association." Instead, I end the standoff for Scully's sake by saying, "She's a professional. She'll be okay."
Ms. Trauma Counselor looks at my partner, then me, her eyes narrowing as she sizes me up. I dare say she's imagining what kind of work we do and what kind of partner must I be if I can make that statement with aplomb. She's better off not knowing. Reaching into her pocket, she moves past me, pressing a business card into my hand.
"Dana already has one," she says.
"So, why are you giving this to me?" I ask, turning towards her.
"In case you need it." My eyes widen and she continues, "You look like hell." I open my mouth to speak, but no words come forth in response to her observation.
I look over at Scully, her eyes full of gentle chastisement. She's dressed in jeans, a loose shirt and white socks. The "don't-fuck-with-me" image she projects through her professional attire is replaced by a simpler, less formidable one. I can't help but notice her lack of shoes and I'm reminded of something Scully once told me about the Irish burying their dead barefoot. A chill runs down my arms. She catches me looking at her feet and tilts her head to the side. "I can't find my shoes," she says, almost apologetically. I sigh and move towards the door. "I'll find them," I tell her and she steps aside to let me by.
I remember seeing her black shoes on the tile floor alongside the tub. I invade the bathroom, fully realizing that I'm disturbing a crime scene. Frankly, I don't care. I take in the disquieting sight of dozens of snuffed-out candles set about the room, their cloying scent lingering while images of a bloody bath and a dead woman come to mind. The woman becomes Scully and the bile rises in my throat. I quell it, running cool water over my face before I pick up the shoes and go back outside.
I return to find Scully arguing sotto voce with Tolson and an ambulance attendant. She's shaking her head. The square line of her shoulders speaks volumes. The purse of her lips tells me even more. I come up beside her and placing my hand at her back, bend towards her ear, asking "Everything all right?"
She doesn't meet my eyes, but her tone is irritable. "Everything is-" She stops short of saying "fine," and continues "I don't need an ambulance, Mulder. I don't need a doctor. I just need some rest." She lifts her eyes to mine and her silent plea for intervention tugs at me.
"I'll see she's taken care of," I tell the paramedic. I feel a sigh under my hand. Some Bureau agents arrive, followed by Scully's landlady. While Scully pulls on her shoes, I ask Agent Borgia to have the maintenance team thoroughly clean the place after the investigative team is done. I give the landlady my phone number and tell her Scully will be staying with me a few days.
Tolson steps forward with the overnight case and Scully's coat. I read compassion in her eyes and I'm sorry for being abrupt with her.
"You know how to reach me," she says. I nod, grabbing the coat and helping Scully into the sleeves. She's moving with some lethargy, but her shivering has stopped and she's buttoning herself up. I turn her towards me, lifting her collar around her neck. "Cold out there," I comment, while one hand strays to lift her chin. Her expression is unreadable, distance in her eyes. I don't like it; not one bit. Picking up the suitcase, we head out the building to my car parked across the street.
The roads are empty in the cold, wee hours of the morning. We pull into the Emergency lot at the GW Medical Center and Scully turns to me, prepared to argue. I shake my head at her with a look that says, "don't even try." She audibly sighs and lets me take her inside.
Our credentials get us a quiet, back-door entry. While the doctor examines Scully, I call her mom, grateful when an answering machine picks up. "Dana's okay, just a little shaken," I lie, and leave my number. Scully will be plenty sore in a day or two, but she accepts her bruises as she always does, without complaint.
The hospital decides Scully is fit to travel. Another phone call to Skinner and we're given a few days off, with Scully entrusted to my care. Getting back into the car, we start towards Alexandria. I reach to turn on the radio. "Don't...please," Scully says so softly I almost don't hear her. We make the rest of the trip in silence. Maybe it's best. There will be plenty of talk, later. Of course, there will be a review board. We'll both be expected to make official statements. I wish I could predict that Scully will defend her actions, but nothing is a sure bet right now.
It's after 2 am when we finally enter my apartment. I flick on a dim light and Scully heads directly to my living room. "Hungry?" I call to her as I remove my jacket. There is no answer. I enter the room to find her standing in front of the fish tank, coat still on, fingers lightly tapping at the glass wall. Blue Acaras and Red Hooks chase one another in their endless loop around the tank. I come up beside her, the only sound in the room the bubbling of the filter and a distant siren that rises, then fades. The aquarium is the only light source here and it bathes her features in a soft, blue-white glow.
When we're working, I don't consider or treat her as anything less than the consummate professional she is. But Scully is beautiful and I'd be a liar if I didn't admit that I often situate myself just so I can observe her without her knowing. And here, now, in the darkened stillness of my apartment, I'm caught in the snare of her blue eyes made bluer by the diffuse light and the slow blink of her lashes as she watches the mesmerizing motion of the fish. It can't be right, my thinking of her like this after what's happened, but I can't help it.
Inhale. Exhale. I turn her towards me, then, and begin to unbutton her coat. Time slows as she stands looking up at me and I slip each button, one by one, from its steadfast place to reveal the more rapid than normal rise and fall of her breath. I concentrate on the smooth contour of her neck, on the gold cross that signifies her beliefs, on the soft line of her mouth as her tongue darts out to touch her upper lip. I ease the garment from her shoulders, her vulnerability a powerful incentive to not stop, but to continue this disrobing to its natural conclusion.
End - Chapter 1 - Restored to Grace