Pairing/Character: Scully, Mulder/Scully UST
Word Count: 6100-ish
Summary: Experimental living.
Spoilers: Spoilers for S4 and S6.
Warnings: (skip) suicide; character death
Author's Notes: Title from the song of the same name by The Hold Steady.
Many, many thanks to amalnahurriyeh and memories_child for their helpful suggestions.
Happy New Year, alicamel! I hope you enjoy your gift.
Dana Scully sits on the lid of her toilet seat, turning her service weapon over in her hands. Her gun is a familiar weight, ice-cold at first but warming quickly as she handles it. Firearms have been her weapons of choice since she was a little girl, since before she became accustomed to using deadly force. A line from one of the poems Missy had been obsessed with as a teen flits through her head: Guns aren't lawful. A gun doesn't get much more lawful than one registered to an F.B.I. agent, she thinks.
She sets hers on the glass shelf above her bathtub and steps gingerly into the empty tub. Rivers are damp, that was part of it, too. Poisons cause cramp. She sits down, shifts until she doesn't feel uncomfortable, wipes her palms on her sweatpants and reaches for her weapon. Her Sig is shaking in her right hand and she steadies it with her left. Might as well live, she thinks, as she noses her weapon under her loose tank top—black, to hide the blood—and presses it against her chest, just below her heart. She aims upwards and fires a single shot.
Her last thought is of Mulder, blinking at her steadily, waiting to hear what she has to say next.
She first notices something is different shortly after they get the X-Files back, and then only in retrospect. Winter has been reluctant to release its grip on Washington this year; it's raining now more often than it snows, but it's usually a harsh, slashing rain that makes pedestrians pull their jackets tightly around their necks like they do their winter coats. Buds are starting to appear on trees, though: a sign that the city will soon be awash in green. And Dana Scully starts seeing gray people.
Her first one is a block and a half behind her when she and Mulder walk back from lunch one day in the early spring.
"It's spring, Scully," Mulder had said. "Aren't you afraid you're going to go a little crazy, cooped up in this office all day?"
"The basement is not what's going to drive me crazy," she'd replied, reaching for her coat.
On the way back to the office she's half-listening to Mulder ramble and half-wondering what the lab results are going to look like on the autopsy she did on Tuesday, when something makes her turn around. She doesn't even know what compels her—she doesn't remember hearing anything unusual, thinking back on it—but she turns, and out of all the people behind her, the one she focuses on is a washed-out looking man some distance back who's punching numbers into his cell phone. Maybe he catches her attention because he's standing still while everyone is scurrying back and forth around him. Maybe it's because, for a second, she feels the way he looks, like he's in a holding pattern while the rest of the world is flying on by. She chalks it up to everything seeming gray today—the city buildings, the pavement, the sky, even—and forgets about it.
The lab results from her autopsy come back, but they leave Scully unable to determine the victim's cause of death. She's writing up her final report when word comes down that three more people from the same small town have died under similar mysterious circumstances. By the end of the week, she and Mulder are back in Finch, Oklahoma, sparring with the same local authorities—"you ever wonder how many people live in one place their entire lives, Scully?" "I don't know, Mulder, some people probably find it very rewarding"—checking into the same motel, and eating the same breakfast every day at Flo's Hearty Home-style Heaven because Flo's short-order cook is still out-of-state—"a death in the family, you know"—and coffee, toast, poached eggs and bacon are the only things Flo can make.
"Shouldn't Flo's name be Hortense?" Mulder asks. "Heather? Heloise? Hermione?" he says, swooping down so his mouth is right next to her ear.
"She looks like a Hester to me," Scully says, playing along. "The wife of the Base Captain when we lived in San Diego was named Hester, and Flo looks exactly like her."
"Government clones. They're everywhere," Mulder says solemnly, and Scully turns her face so he won't see her smile.
They step carefully through the mud on their way back to the rental car. Scully briefly considers the complete impracticality of her habitual footwear in this climate before arriving at her usual conclusion of this being a slippery slope, the bottom of which is probably her showing up one day in the field wearing the paisley bed slippers her mother gave her last Christmas. She shudders. At least the slow progress she's making allows her to notice the ground outside the diner smells earthy and fresh, like spring.
Mulder's going to drop her off and head back to town for another round of state vs. federal obstinance. They argue amicably on the way to the funeral home that doubles as a morgue where latest bodies are waiting for Scully. She serves up a "why us?" that Mulder volleys back as "nepotism, has to be."
"Are you admitting this isn't even an X-File?"
"I never admit to anything, Scully. Surely you've sussed out my finely-honed investigative technique by now."
Scully does concede that the sudden unexplained deaths of the victims, none of whom had a history of heart problems, or were known epileptics, is "statistically improbable, but more likely attributable to environmental factors than to—to telekinesis, Mulder!"
"I hope it's not telekinesis, Scully; it's so hard to prove and besides, wouldn't that be pretty mundane for an X-File?"
"Purported X-File. And welcome back to our glamorous lifestyle."
Mulder shoots her a quick grin, and Scully notices again how animated he's been since they've been back on the X-Files. She'd missed this Mulder, the one who wants to be here, the one who's content to spend his time—well, the majority of his time—subverting her science instead of Kersh's agendas.
"I think there's a human force at work here," Mulder is saying. "Human, or not quite human; I'm not sure yet. I think if we can figure out why this guy's going after the people he's going after, we'll have him. The victims are the key, Scully," he says earnestly. He pulls into the driveway of the funeral home, sending gravel shooting onto the still-yellow lawn. "Hey, Scully, there's your Hester," he says.
Scully peers at the stately painted-brick house. "Johnston's Funeral Parlor", the sign above the porch reads, and in smaller letters underneath, "Hester Johnston, Prop." She sighs. "Right. How could I have forgotten?"
Most of the rural Midwestern motels they stay at are dismal affairs, built when the country's highway infrastructure was being developed, and renovated, at best, twenty years later, resulting in facilities that have been questionable for at least a decade before they show up, case files in hand.
Their current motel, just over the state line in Lucky, Kansas, is less than a year old and built on the site of the previous motel, which was destroyed by a tornado in 1994, Flo tells Mulder and Scully as she pours them coffee the next morning.
Scully agrees it's nice to have modern amenities, such as a shower stall that's more likely to leave her clean than dirty, but privately she thinks Flo's coffee should be next in line for improvement. Same with her eggs and toast, while she's on the subject. Scully really couldn't comment on the bacon, but since Mulder is at work right now on his share and her own, she supposes—
The diner's door chimes and Scully looks up, glad of the momentary distraction from the vile sludge her caffeine habit is insisting she drink. A man walks in, a man who looks like he's stepped out of a black-and-white photograph, and the bright lights of the diner and the morning sunshine convince Scully that no, she is not seeing things. "Mulder," she says, touching his sleeve, not taking her eyes off the man, who has paused just inside the doorway to wave to someone behind them, "Mulder, look at—"
Suddenly the man gasps and clutches his chest with both hands. He crumples to the ground before Scully can reach him, and when she does, she can't find a pulse. "He's dead," she announces to the room. "Dead," she repeats, and it hits her that something is very wrong, more wrong than a man dropping dead on the floor of a diner. The next thing she knows, she's outside, her esophagus burning. When she looks down, she sees her morning cup of coffee glistening obscenely in the grass at her feet.
"You okay, Scully?" Mulder is saying.
She doesn't blame him for being concerned; she knows as well as he does she's not displaying her usual unflappability in the face of death. This is not an ordinary death, Scully thinks. This is reminding her of her New Year's furlough to New York City and it's scaring the hell out of her. "I'm fine, Mulder," she says, wadding her damp tissue and putting it back in her pocket. "You think this could be the work of our guy?"
Mulder's shaking his head. "Flo says this man had his second heart attack three months ago, and four other patrons just confirmed it." He pauses to look at her, and Scully forces herself to look attentive. "Normally, this would get handed over to the local M.E., but it turns out this guy was it for the whole county. The Sheriff's Office is probably going to want to know if—"
"Fine. That's fine, Mulder," Scully says.
When she re-enters the diner, the man on the floor looks the same as everyone else, except that he's dead.
She gets consent from the family, so Scully decides to autopsy the M.E. just in case. He died in the same manner as the four victims—after a sudden collapse in a public place—but an examination of his body leads her to conclude that Dwight Jackson did indeed die from an acute myocardial infarction. The autopsy takes longer than it should because Scully throws up three more times, and she's further delayed when she runs out of scrubs and has to borrow off of Hester.
Even after her stomach has relived itself of its contents, she feels a twisting in her gut. She knows—Flo's cooking notwithstanding—that it's not something she ate, or something she's come down with. She is certain—as certain as Mulder is that it's some person behind this town's strange deaths rather than the more likely environmental factor—that what she experienced this morning in the diner is the same thing former New York photographer Alfred Fellig experienced, the same thing that led him to chase the image of death. The same thing that ensured he himself would never die.
When Mulder calls to say he's chasing a lead and he'll be late picking her up, she's relieved. She sits on the funeral home's porch swing, holding herself stiffly to prevent the seat from rocking. This is crazy, she thinks. Fellig is dead; that should be proof enough that no one lives forever. There is no possible way this should be happening. But she knows, with the sureness of faith, if not the comfort of science, that it's true, that Fellig's curse, what she would consider a blessing, has somehow transferred to her. She finds herself shaking her head in spite of her conviction. She doesn't do this—this far-fetched nonsense. Her stomach wound had healed quickly, but not that quickly. Mr. Pivens, a patient in the same New York hospital she'd been admitted to, had died right in front of her during her convalescence, and she hadn't noticed anything about him except that he'd been a nice old man who didn't deserve to die.
She tries to organize her thoughts. She'd been released from hospital months ago; she was often surrounded by death; she hadn't seen anything unusual until this case. Belatedly she remembers the man on the street back in Washington. Maybe she is crazy. She doesn't feel crazy; she feels certain. She imagines crazy people feel the same way, but for the sake of argument, she's going to operate on the assumption she's sane.
Something about this case. She tries to remember everything Fellig told her about his abilities. She doesn't have to dig very hard; she was fascinated by Fellig, and Fellig knew it. To live forever... She remembers demanding of him how it was he knew when people were about to die, and Fellig's offhand reply about how if you chase death long enough, you pick it up. "Pick it up", like it's a language or a sport. More like a madness, she thinks.
Mulder's obvious comment about the victims being the key, maybe. Her dreams last night had been full of this case, everyone she'd met here becoming a victim or a suspect. Chasing death. Maybe it's a coincidence. Maybe she should concentrate on the case and think about this later.
She starts up a steady, methodical rhythm with the porch swing, and she's still rocking back and forth when Mulder drives up and honks his horn.
It takes them two more days to find their guy; more precisely, to find Flo's short-order cook. It's not the bodies of his victims that alert Mulder and Scully to the killer, but his unwitting friends, who let drop that Frederick Joseph has been skulking around Finch the entire time he's supposedly been in Tulsa for his aunt's funeral. It turns out Joseph's aunt is alive and well and living in Boca Raton "which is something, at least," Flo says, and tries to press two pieces of apple pie on Mulder and Scully "on the house, you know, for all you've done". Scully has a couple of small bites to polite, but mostly she pushes her pie around on her plate and stares out Flo's plate-glass window at passers-by.
They never determine how he committed his crimes, but they find a roomful of miscellanea concerning his hatred of the victims at Joseph's home, and this, coupled with his unelaborate confession, is enough to arrest him on reasonable suspicion.
Mulder has theories, but Scully lets them wash over her like waves washing over a rocky beach. She's preoccupied with her own theory, albeit one that's only tangentially related to their case. They go back to Washington.
Going home is like going back in time. It's so cold when Scully gets off the plane she almost can't believe it will ever get warm here. She thinks about the warmth she's just left, and for some reason it makes shiver more than the temperature in Washington does.
She lets herself be distracted by the next case, and the one after that, and the one after that.
Her faith in what was revealed to her in Finch, Oklahoma wavers, much as her
faith in the church has wavered over the years.
She plans for the next day, week, month, and, when she has to, when financial or family issues arise, for the next year, next ten years, next twenty years. She does not plan for an infinity. That would be ridiculous.
She sees gray people, but she doesn't know what happens to them, because she doesn't pay attention.
One day when she's not paying attention, she slices into her finger, stopping only at the familiar sound of knife on bone. By the time the pain catches up with her, she's watched her veins and tissues knit themselves back together, leaving a long silvery scar at her knuckle.
One of her gray people gets shot and killed on a case in Missouri. One of them jumps off the Key Bridge into the river when Scully's driving home from Mulder's apartment. One day when she's stopped at a red light, a woman crosses in front of her with two young girls, and they look so much like black-and-white copies of Melissa and her at the same ages that she has to pull over and spend fifteen minutes composing herself before she can drive to work.
One day she believes in her version of little gray men and the next day she doesn't, and it goes back and forth like this until she's finally had enough.
Scully is rummaging through her kitchen drawers for the fifth or sixth time tonight, looking for her corkscrew: she can't find it anywhere, even though she knows she just saw it the other day. She finally gives up her search when she realizes she's so wound up she's banging drawers shut: she needs to be calm for tonight. She also needs to be drunk, so she gives the bottle of wine she'd picked up on the way home from her quasi-date with Mulder a last reluctant look before trading it for three-quarters of a bottle of coconut rum she's had since...since her last trip to the Caribbean. Eight years, then. She has to stand on a chair to reach her shot glasses, which are at the very back of her tallest kitchen cupboard.
She washes and dries one small glass, takes it and the bottle of rum and sits down at her dining room table. Her living room sofa would be more comfortable, but she is a scientist, conducting scientific research, and the table strikes her as more appropriate. She pours a shot of rum, tips her head back and sucks the liquor down her throat. The initial burning in her throat spreads and becomes a warm feeling in her chest.
This is actually her second shot of the evening. She'd taken Mulder to a downtown bar after work, where they'd talked, mostly about work, and consumed a beer and a shot of tequila each while they'd waited for their food to arrive. She'd planned the so-called date Monday but had waited, wanting her invitation to appear casual, until late this afternoon to ask Mulder, hoping he wouldn't be busy even though it was Friday night.
She'd considered letting Mulder in on her plans for the rest of the evening. He'd told her, after Kritschgau, back when she was dying, but of course that had been a hoax from the beginning. This would be different, and in the end she'd decided not enough would be gained by telling Mulder. She was absolutely determined, she didn't want to argue with him, and it would only lead to unpleasant questions—and very possibly accusations—about why he was only now hearing about this.
There will be plenty of time to tell him later—all the time in the world, if she is right, and she knows she is. Tonight is a ceremony, a stab at a kind of peace; also, a scientific hypothesis applied to something science can't explain, but nevertheless exists. She thinks.
Scully takes another shot, her fourth, or possibly her fifth; she's starting to feel a definite buzz from the alcohol and she's lost count. She should write a note just in case, she supposes, but it's hard to feel a sense of urgency or necessity about it. She finds a pen and a piece of paper anyway, but when she looks at what she's written—
I thought I was going to live forever. I was wrong.
—it seems inadequate, and even a little flippant, when she has so many things she could say. She winds up ripping her note into little pieces and flushing it down the toilet. She and Charlie used to do that with their secret notes to each other. They were playing at spies or something like that, and one time one of them had blocked the toilet and they'd both caught it good.
Dammit, she has to write something. She doesn't like the doubt this train of thought is creating. It's making this harder than it has to be, but she realizes that if anything goes wrong—it won't go wrong, she's been practicing on a smaller scale all week, and it's gone very smoothly—it will look very bad to the people she cares about. She takes a sheet of paper and writes another letter to Mulder, a longer one that explains about New York and Oklahoma, and apologizes, and asks him to pass on as much as he feels is appropriate to her mother and Charlie. And Bill, she adds. And Skinner. It's a terrible thing to ask of him, she knows, but she also knows he'll do it, for her. She thinks for a moment and adds a postscript, then seals her letter in an envelope and scrawls Mulder's name on the front.
She picks up her gun and walks, a bit unsteadily, to the bathroom.
Scully wakes up late the next afternoon in a pool of blood. Panicked gropes at her stomach and back satisfy her that she's stopped bleeding, and she sinks back in relief. She stays where she is for a few minutes, savoring being alive and assessing her situation. Except for a crick in her neck from spending the night in her bathtub and a headache that's probably heralding a full-blown hangover, she feels fine. She feels better than fine, actually, for the first time in months.
She uses her new-found energy and her Saturday evening to erase all traces of the previous night. She cleans her bathtub, showers, cleans her tub again. She's lost a lot of blood, but apart from feeling weak if she doesn't rest often enough, it's not affecting her like it should be. Slow down, she tells herself. You have time. She finds herself smiling and she doesn't try to stop herself. She pours the remainder of her bottle of rum down the kitchen sink and destroys the letter addressed to Mulder.
She finds herself walking aimlessly around her apartment, trailing her fingers over her bookcase, her tea kettle, her photos, as if she's reassuring herself they're still here. This reminds her of when she came home after being cured of cancer, so she makes herself stop.
She examines herself before she goes to bed, twisting in front of her mirror so she can see her back. The motion should be painful, but it's not. When she removes the bandages, it looks like a week has elapsed since she'd last looked at her wounds, not a few hours.
She collapses into her clean, soft bed at midnight, and sets her alarm so she can be up in time to go to church.
It makes her feel like she's floating on air at first, this surfeit of life. It's all the excitement of selecting college courses without the heartbreak of being able to choose only so many. She's going to be able to do everything she's ever wanted to do, know everything she's ever wanted to know. She's relieved, though, when her high-strung excitement tapers off after a week, leaving her with a more low-key feeling of satisfaction. She's uncomfortable with emotional extremes; she prefers to live life on a even keel.
And it turns out her day-to-day existence doesn't change very much. She still goes to work every day, still squeezes the rest of her life in around her job. She never quite finds the time to do all the things she feels she should have time for now, because this immortality thing is very poorly structured. If Scully were making the rules, it would operate like a Cash-for-Life lottery, but instead of getting a set sum of money every week for life, you'd get more hours in your day, every day, for eternity.
So her new life is practical only as a ribbon of happiness that she takes out and winds around herself when she needs to, during tedious budget meetings, long plane rides, interminable supermarket lines. Someday she will get all this wasted time back.
She doesn't tell Mulder. She thought she would tell him now that she has as much proof as she's likely to get, but she doesn't.
She's happy that first Monday she goes back to work, so happy she can't hide it, and she knows from the way Mulder cracks more jokes at her than usual that he notices. For some reason this annoys her so much she doesn't use his leading questions about her weekend to hit him with the truth. It would almost be worth it to see him speechless. But she can just see it, especially with the mood he's in today: every time she'll try to talk him down from a preposterous theory, he'll counter that she doesn't have a leg to stand on, because she's going to live forever, and c'mon Scully, how can you, of all people, argue against the existence of giant mutant insects from outer space? Or Jersey?
The longer she leaves it, the harder it gets. This is not something she knows the words for, she thinks. It's common courtesy to inform loved ones when you're dying, but there's no established etiquette for telling someone you're going to live forever.
She could just tell him anyway, she supposes, just string some words together and tell him. She could do that. She could deal with the aftermath, with Mulder's hurt feelings. She realizes she doesn't want to, that she resents the idea of it. Sometimes she thinks that instead of getting an ouroboros tattooed on her lower back, she should have gotten "This is my life" tattooed in tiny letters on her middle finger. That's not fair, she thinks, but she still doesn't tell him.
She's considering leaving the Bureau, anyway. She didn't realize how much she thrived on risk until risk was taken away from her: it's not very challenging, being invincible. There are other things she could do to make a difference. She could become a theoretical physicist; she's always liked chalkboards, and she could stand on a stool to reach the top. She could solve the mysteries of the universe, not the mysteries of Middle-of-Nowheresville, U.S.A. She'll tell him when she leaves, when it doesn't matter as much, she says to herself, but somehow she never gets around to leaving.
Scully looks around the church at the now-empty pews, at Kersh's daughter and son-in-law up at the front conferring with the minister. Skinner's up there too, waiting for a word with the family. She and Mulder have already filed by and paid their respects. Kersh's daughter can't stop worrying her purse strap, Scully sees. She'd broken down during her eulogy for her father, but she appears calm now except for her fingers, which won't stay still.
By unspoken agreement, she and Mulder are the among the last agents remaining at the funeral. Kersh's colleagues had been encouraged to take the afternoon off to attend the service, but everyone else has wandered off now that it's over, back to the Hoover Building or Quantico or their families or wherever else they need to be.
Mulder's sitting beside her near the back of the church. He's got his elbows on his knees and his hands steepled against his face. "You knew, didn't you," he says through his fingers. It's not a question.
Scully doesn't pretend she doesn't know what he means. "Yeah, Mulder, I knew."
"I was looking at you and you were looking at Kersh and I saw the look on your face, like—like you'd seen some unimaginable horror, and then..."
He trails off, but she doesn't need him to finish. She can't get the image of an ashen Kersh collapsing at last week's budget meeting out of her head. She'd already risen out to her seat to—to do what? She was too late. He'd died in hospital that evening.
"Something happened to me on that case Ritter and I took in New York. I can't explain it."
"No, I guess you can't, Scully," Mulder says. He stands up and edges past her out of the pew. "I'm going to catch a ride back with Skinner, okay?" he says, and she lets him go.
She's not all that surprised when two days later, in a rental car in Madison, Wisconsin, Mulder brings it up again. "Does this mean that you'll—"
He cuts himself off, but he can only mean one thing. That I'll live forever? Scully thinks. If there's ever been a case where only time will tell, this is it. "Yeah," she says out loud. "Yeah, Mulder."
"Oh," he says. He sounds wistful, like he did when she told him they were giving her a reprieve from scut work and sending her to New York on an X-File. Even if she wouldn't admit it was one at first. "How—"
"I don't know, Mulder," she says, and she doesn't.
"And you're okay with that, with not knowing?" he says. He sounds more concerned than argumentative.
"Actually, I am," she says firmly. End of conversation, Mulder.
But the world hasn't ended now that Mulder knows, and it's strangely comforting to be able to talk about it if she wants to, so Scully brings it up again on the plane back to D.C. "Finch, Oklahoma," she says to Mulder, who's been staring out the window even though their seats are right above the wing.
"Eerie, Pennsylvania," he says back. Scully nods. Three months ago. A run-of-the-mill X-File, except that Scully had wondered if Mulder was starting to suspect something.
"Do you want to get something to eat?" she asks as they're waiting to collect their luggage. "I don't have any food at home—I haven't had a chance to go grocery shopping in weeks."
They wind up at the same downtown bar she'd taken him to the night she'd shot herself. She'd been distracted that night, but now she concentrates all her attention on Mulder. He's sitting across from her eating chicken wings and drinking beer and making her inexplicably happy. He laughs with delight when she admits that immortality is pretty neat, and snorts, surprised, when she confesses that it reminds her of when she was dying of cancer.
"I know that sounds melodramatic," she says, blushing. It's probably from her first two glasses of wine, she tells herself. "I'm not trying to make light of the struggles of people who do have cancer," she says quickly. "I know how lucky I am. It's just...I feel preoccupied with death sometimes," she admits. She doesn't say that sometimes it feels more like an obsession than a preoccupation, and she glosses over the details. How can she tell Mulder that dying would have been so much easier without him? They'd rarely spoken of her cancer, but it had hung between them until she could barely stand it, until there were times she'd regretted ever telling him she was ill. She looks at Mulder now, wiping hot sauce from the corner of his mouth with the back of his hand, and thinks maybe it wasn't supposed to be easy.
She tells him about the gray people, sharing statistics instead of how it feels.
They all die, all the ones she stays with. A one hundred percent morbidity rate. It's only how they die that's a surprise, like Fellig had once said to her. She tracks cause of death, time elapsed before death, median time elapsed; other things. She has a spreadsheet on her computer at home.
It's only after she shoots herself and lives that she can bring herself to interfere in the deaths of her gray people, to play God. She's never forgotten the prostitute and the truck in New York, how she'd thought she'd doomed her by trying to save her. She knows better now, but it doesn't stop her from trying. It never, ever makes any difference, she tells Mulder, who reaches across the table and touches her arm. She surprises herself by grabbing his hand and holding on.
She doesn't tell him about time he was held hostage on that case in Georgia and she realized one of the reasons she was so concerned with collecting data was to try and forestall his death. What works, what doesn't. None of it will, she knows, but after Georgia she spends a lot of time thinking about what she'll do if she sees Mulder turn gray; more time than she probably should. Sometimes she reasons with herself that she may not even be with him when it happens, but she can't see this, can't imagine him not being in her life.
She doesn't tell him about this, and he doesn't ask her if she'll tell him when it happens to him, and when they pay their bill and step outside and Mulder gets shot at out of a passing car, she doesn't even see it coming.
There's blood everywhere, and it's all black. The color leeched out of Mulder sometime when she when wasn't paying attention: one minute he was bleeding brilliantly, jarringly red and the next he was all blacks and whites and grays. She's too busy desperately trying to keep him from bleeding out to panic when she notices, but she can feel her heart stop for a moment before it resumes its ominous pounding in her chest. No, she thinks, in tandem with her heartbeat. No no no nonononono. She screams at the gap-faced idiots standing around to hurry up with the ambulance and for someone to help her staunch some of these wounds before her partner bleeds to death. She threatens them with Mulder's mortality only spurn them to action. He is not going to die. She is not going to let him. "You hear that, Mulder?" she mutters, even though he'd lost consciousness almost immediately and can't possibly hear her. Three bullets. Someone was serious. Well, so is she. No one is more serious than Dana Scully, right now, as she fights to save the life of her partner.
He dies in her arms before the ambulance arrives.
To have as much life as she does has never felt as pointless as at his funeral. She grips the folder containing her notes and tries to drown out the minister with her own thoughts. She wonders how Fellig did it, how he traded his life for her own. If she'd concentrated on that, instead of being distracted by trying to stop the bleeding, by hope, by other things that turn out not to have mattered...
Mulder's mother is at the podium now. She's been gray all day but Scully can't bring herself to care. She didn't even start when she saw her, just looked at her dispassionately before embracing her stiffly. If I couldn't save him, I certainly can't save you, she'd thought. She'd bitten the inside of her cheeks to keep from saying it out loud only because he was her son. She's not as charitable with other people; she'd forgotten all the awful, outrageous things people say when they're trying to be comforting. Both Skinner and her mother had suggested Scully might not feel up to speaking today. Her relationship to Mulder had been inferred. Scully would like to take people's assumptions and cram them down their throats until they suffocate. She remembers Fellig shuffling around his cramped, smelly darkroom, telling her he can't remember his wife's name, and clutches her notes more tightly.
Mulder's mother sits down and it's Scully's turn now. She stands at the front of the church and looks out over the sober crowd. He wouldn't have wanted this, she thinks. He would have wanted something simpler and happier, something Frohike wouldn't have had to wear a suit to. She opens her folder and tries to smooth out her crumpled papers. Mulder's name swims up at her from her hand-written notes, but she's not going to need them, she realizes. She's not going to give these—these scavengers Mulder through her eyes. They don't deserve it, not the ones who didn't know him. All of the qualities she respected—loved, Dana—in him, his intelligence, his imagination, his compassion, were twisted by these people into an oddity, not a man. They can remember him for the wrong reasons if they want to; she doesn't care. She won't forget him. "I won't forget him," she tells the congregation. She won't.
She closes her folder carefully and leaves the stage. It's not until she walks by the empty space between Skinner and her mother that Scully realizes she's not staying for the rest of the funeral. She keeps walking, down the middle aisle, out the heavy church doors, into the mild air, where she feels like she can breathe again.