Category: MSR, character rescue
Spoilers: Up to the beginning of Season 9
Date: December 2001
Synopsis: Why does Scully seem so odd in season 9? Here's one scenario.
Feedback: The good, the bad, the ugly. Bring it on.
Disclaimer: Mulder, Scully, and Doggett, are property of Chris Carter, 1013 and Fox, but it's the actors that I see in my mind.
Thanks to Littljoe for her typically great beta and help locating the right background music.
October 17, 11:45 am
His voice is soft but still startles her. She hastily shuts her book and turns over the pad on paper on which she'd been taking notes. "Agent Doggett, I'm sorry. I wasn't expecting you." Her apology makes him feel awkward, reminding him that she no longer takes his presence for granted. He hesitates in the doorway.
She takes off her glasses, folding them on the desk next to a half-full glass of water. Her hair is pulled back into a low pony tail making her face look thin and drawn as if she has lost all of her pregnancy weight in the few short weeks since Will's birth. She looks fragile, but then she always has.
"Nice digs," he says nodding and scanning the small room. The walls boast only a spotless blackboard and a worn, poster-sized chart of biological weapons. The polished wooden desk is empty except for the book, notepad, phone, and a nameplate. The visitors' chairs are blue molded plastic; one of them holds a model of the human head. The bookcase is lined with what he assumes to be medical texts, books he can't recall ever taking up space in the basement. There's a large window behind her, with blinds dropped halfway shut.
He bends over dramatically to peer past her at a small grove of trees outside. "Decent view, too. You get sun?"
"In the afternoon. When it's not raining, of course." She turns to gaze at the gray drizzle. "It's quite a change from headquarters."
"We had some humdinger view, all right." He straightens up and flashes her a lopsided grin expecting her to laugh or at least smile, but instead she looks down at her lap and brushes something away. Her voice has seemed higher pitched lately as though she's straining herself speaking in large lecture halls with bad acoustics. God, she must have them hanging on every word.
"Boning up on the old anatomy?" he asks, stepping up to the edge of her desk and reading the title upside down. "Always figured you had all that stuff down cold."
"Yeah, well, with students, you know, you want to be fresh."
"Tough crowd?" He lifts the top of the skull off the head and peers inside.
"They're all right. I'm not doing the labs, you know."
"I didn't know. So." He nods his head. Driving down to Quantico he'd imagined their conversation taking a friendly turn, an exchange of regrets about her leaving the X-Files. They'd laugh together at some shared memory, she'd point out the latest baby pictures lined up on the desk and he'd sit back and fill her in on the cases. He looks at the vacant chair now and doesn't quite feel the right to settle in.
"Is Agent Reyes with you?" she asks, looking up at him.
"Monica? No. She's doing some background checks for a case we're working on. Actually, that's why I'm here." He removes a glass vial from his jacket and holds it to the light. "I wonder if you can educate me about what this stuff is."
"The lab in Washington…" she starts to say.
"Sure. I know. I was just hoping that you might help me out here. I mean you might see something they would miss."
"Hardly likely," she says, but still she puts out her hand. "What is this supposed to be?"
"Well, there's some thought, I mean Monica thought it might be ectoplasm."
"Ectoplasm." She sighs at the word and turns the vial over in her hand. "It's been a while since anyone brought me ectoplasm."
"Yeah, I figured." Wisps of hair have worked free in back and trail against her neck. Her face is pale, and shadows are visible under her eyes. It could be the fluorescent lighting or maybe she no longer has time to put on makeup in the morning. And there used to be a fire in her that he can't find any more in her eyes or the set of her jaw.
"So. How are things at home?"
"Fine. Everything's fine."
"Will keepin' you on your toes?"
"William's great. The perfect baby, actually." Her voice contains no irony that he can detect.
"Why don't you bring him around the office sometime? I'm sure everyone'd like to see him."
"Yeah, um, I'm just a little cautious about his safety. Maybe I'm becoming paranoid."
"No, you're right. You're right. His safety comes first."
He decides her pallor can't just be an effect of the lights. No question that she's become more elusive since Mulder deserted her, if that's what happened. More damned secrets. "You look kind of tired. Are you getting enough sleep?"
She runs a finger along the edge of her book but doesn't speak.
"I mean I know how babies wake up just as you finally drift off yourself," he says.
"William's a good sleeper actually."
"That's good. Good. Hope he stays that way."
She nods. "So do I."
"You're bottle feeding him, right?"
"Yeah, I uh… It was too hard otherwise."
"Well, not to pry… I just meant, if you ever wanted someone to spell you some evening, I mean, I've had experience…" His conversational plan has veered disastrously off course, and he feels himself rushing hopelessly toward the edge of a cliff.
"Thanks for offering, but we're managing just fine, actually."
"Yeah, well, I still think it's a shame your having to do all this alone."
"Many women manage on their own."
"You just didn't deserve this, that's all. Everything you went through for him and he's out the door, faster than…" His hand has curled into a fist.
"This subject is off limits, Agent Doggett. I think I said that before." The fire that he'd been missing in her flares then disappears into whatever solitary place she hides herself.
"Sure, sure. I didn't mean…"
He breathes out heavily, just once, suddenly conscious of the tension in his neck and jaw, the price of butting against unmovable barriers.
"Well, look," she says, breaking the silence. "I'll call you if I find out anything about this stuff. Tomorrow. Maybe Friday."
"Thanks. Say, if you haven't had lunch…"
"I've got a class in ten minutes." She spreads her hand across the cover of the book and starts to open it.
"Of course. Well, knock 'em dead." He shoves his hands into his pockets and looks around the office again. "You want any of the old pictures, you know from when you and Mulder…"
"Thanks. But people already give me grief about the X-Files."
"Oh sure. I forgot about that." He nods. "So give me a call."
"I promise." Her mouth turns up in a reassuring smile, but when he looks back a second later, she's buried in her reading.
Also October 17, 5:45 pm
As she steps out onto the cool tiles of the terrace, she pulls the French doors half-closed. The panes reflect the rose of the cliffs across the bay and the light shimmers as the glass vibrates then stills. She's wearing loose silk trousers he bought for her at the street market and carried home wrapped in tissue. Her feet are bare. She sets a small gray baby monitor on the table and starts buttoning her blouse.
"Stop right there. I prefer the view just as it is," he says.
"Umm, I bet you do." She smiles across at him, but her fingers continue their task.
"Hey, give a guy a break." He lifts himself slightly from the chair and grabs her arm, pulling her closer. He slides his other hand inside her shirt, around to her back and underneath the band of her bra. He kisses the hollow of her throat, then releases her and sits back in his chair. "Did he leave anything for me?"
"Women have breasts for babies, Mulder, not for grown men." At the pout on his face, she adds, "You're just a perk."
She settles into the closest chair and now they are sitting side by side, staring at the deepening glow on the hills across the bay, lit by the sunset behind them. The terrace is small and ends in a hedge of lavender where the hill slopes steeply down. Behind them, the house is two stories, white stucco with blue shutters, a red tile roof, and window boxes full of geraniums. Overgrown bougainvillea bushes shelter them from the narrow road that runs a mile further along this stretch of the coast until it peters out at a dusty parking lot above the local nude beach. The call of swallows rises and falls as they circle before settling into the trees for the night.
"The stars will be out soon, Scully."
"It's magnificent here," she says, breathing in slowly. The fragrance of jasmine fills the evening. "But you've never quite explained how we ended up on the Riviera."
"Technically, it's not the Riviera. We're too far west." He reaches into a bucket and pulls out a bottle. "Beer?"
She hesitates and he knows how hard she's trying to be perfect. "It's good for you. Lots of healthy carbohydrates." She's still silent, but she watches him waggle the bottle. He lowers his voice. "Drink this and maybe he'll sleep through the night. You'd like that, wouldn't you?" His tone becomes husky, "You think about it all the time. Eight straight hours of sleep. Admit it, Scully. You want it. You want it more than anything."
"More than almost anything," she snorts softly which he counts as a laugh and a laugh ratchets him up the pole of contentment. She looks across the bay again and doesn't stop him as he pours the beer slowly down the side of the glass. There's a small puddle of water underneath his own half-full bottle.
She wraps her hands around her glass but does not lift it. In the distance, the sounds of people walking the promenade along the harbor rise up the hill to their terrace. A row of tall bushes cuts off the view of the neighboring houses, but straight ahead they can see the port over the roof of the house just below them.
"So, I never told you the story about this place?" he asks.
"No, you told me several times. Only each time it's a different story. I'm not sure I realized how much you make up."
"I'm not sure that's a fair assessment." He grins as he says it.
"The truth this time, okay?"
"The Truth. Magic word." He empties his drink and puts the bottle in the bucket. "Okay. So there's this new program, FBI and Interpol swapping people in their witness protection programs. Walter's got some old buddy on the French Surete Nationale, so he makes a couple of phone calls and presto, you and I end up here with a ringside on the Mediterranean and some turncoat from the Marseilles mob is making a new life in Grand Forks."
"This the truth?"
"Well, I've been in Grand Forks and…"
"We spent a year there one weekend."
"In winter, no less." She ventures a sip of beer and puts the glass back on the marble top table.
Now that the tourists have gone north for the season, traffic is intermittent, though each car still catches his ear and he wills the approaching driver to maintain speed, stay in gear and fade into silence. Just now a loud chugging rises up the hill, but he recognizes it as the motorcycle of the bronzed body builder up the road. He draws his finger through the pooled water then wipes his hand on his shorts.
"It just seems like we should be doing something," she says as the cycle revs one last time then stops.
"No, I mean more than drinking beer."
"We eat, we sleep, walk in the sun, take care of Will, make love. How would you improve on that?"
A single whimper sounds on the monitor, accompanied by a slight electronic crackling. They both hold their breaths but only quiet follows.
"He's dreaming about you."
"About part of me," and her hand goes to her breast, pressing it, testing it for fullness. He watches, fascinated at how she treats her new body and regrets once again that he was not there to feel the small daily changes as Will grew inside her.
"You don't regret coming here, do you, Scully?"
"No. No, I just worry that we should be doing something."
"Seven years we tried to do something. Maybe we got somewhere. Maybe we simply served someone else's agenda all along."
"Leaving it to others, though…"
"You were the one who convinced me that the death threat was real. How much did I accomplish when I was dead last time?"
"Okay, okay. It's just not clear who we're fighting now. What they're after. I think we stayed alive before because somebody thought we might be useful. Now?" he shrugs his shoulders.
"But all the more reason that *I* should be doing something…"
"Jesus, Scully. I don't know for sure that you're safe. Maybe they meant to…, I don't know, it could have been arranged to get me out of the way and catch you and Will. I couldn't have just disappeared, not knowing what was happening to you. I have a right to…" he stops and breathes out heavily, looking not at her but at the deep blue claiming the eastern horizon.
"A right to what?"
"A right to protect my family." He keeps his voice calm, fighting the anger he feels at those who menaced her at the birth, at himself for sending her to Asshole Flats, Georgia, and even at her for not automatically seeing his need to claim her.
She's silent so long he wonders if the conversation's over. Finally, she says, quietly, "We both want that right, Mulder. But we have our duty, too. I took an oath to that duty."
"You have other duties, too. And you have a life. *We* have a life. It deserves at least equal billing…"
"But I know so much more than those who are now going to be facing our danger… How do I justify walking out?"
"Agent Doggett can take care of himself, and he'd be damned pissed if he knew you thought otherwise."
The breeze from the port brings the sound of a lone saxophone, some street performer reluctant to give up the charms of the coast for the Metro tunnels of Paris. Mulder's pretty sure that the tune is "Stolen Moments," and the music pulls him far enough away that he misses Scully's response until he feels her hand on his wrist.
"Mulder. I said it's not Doggett I'm worried about. It's Angela masquerading as me. How long before someone sees through her?"
"Oh, is that it? Angela will be fine. She's a dead-ringer."
"How can you say that? Her hair is straighter and it's dyed. Her eyes are grayer, her face is longer, and she's skinnier than me."
"Scully, the FBI is a boys club, as you always point out. They see a short, hot redhead who kicks ass and is smarter than they are. End of story. Any differences, they'll chalk up to the way women get wiggy after having a baby."
"Women do not routinely get 'wiggy' after giving birth, Mulder."
"Just repeating what I heard in the john." His voice softens and he leans over to push a strand of hair behind her ear. "Look, she gets a promotion AND a transfer from Kansas City to D.C., a well-decorated *tidy* apartment, cool black clothes…"
"It's not funny…"
"And if you're worried about her safety, Agent Doggett will hover over her…"
"But he doesn't know about her."
"That's not what I meant."
"Doggett didn't hover over me, if that's what you're implying."
"Oh, yeah?" He picks up her glass and drinks slowly, watching how her eyes first challenge his and then slide away. "I know that look on his face. I pined away for seven years myself."
"You're not taking me seriously."
"Yes, I am. All that time, I never had a moment to think of anything else."
The song has ended on a long low note but still echoes in his head. The words are just out of reach - something he heard at a club once when he was in college or maybe at someone's apartment. He wants to ask Scully if she knows the lyrics, but he suspects the music swept by without leaving a print. And what will she say if she knows his mind was half carried away by an unseen sax? Sighing, he shifts his chair to face her and the metal leg makes a loud scraping sound. "Look, you trained her."
"I had time to show her one autopsy and I gave her some books." She shakes her head and pulls her blouse tighter against the rapidly cooling night air.
"She wants to do this, Scully. She volunteered. Walter's going to try to keep her in Quantico. People know your reputation, so she starts out with instant credibility. All she has to do is fake it at the margins."
"Even if she does pass for me, she can't really imagine the risks. I mean, what if those people show up at the apartment?"
"Then she only has to defend herself and ditch the windup baby. Unlike you. Are you forgetting Will? What if they took him? What's the margin of tolerable risk on that?"
On cue, there's another whimper on the intercom followed by a grunt and a small shout. She rises from the seat.
"What do you want, Scully? Do you want us to go back? All of us?"
She stands beside her chair and listens to the whimpers turn into a cough and then a short cry of distress. She balances one hand on the table. "When I pick him up, Mulder, I run my hand across his neck. I can't help myself. I can't bear to think about what I might find there someday. We have to stop it."
"Let me finish, Scully." His voice is almost a whisper. "We could be pulled back at any moment. Or they could find us here. Or the tides of the universe could shift again in some way we can't possibly predict. But right now, tonight, tomorrow, this week, we have a little peace, a chance to sit and watch the stars come out. Just that."
He leans forward and stretches to put his hand on hers, but she pulls it away, starting toward the house even though William's cry has died down. Mulder leans back in his chair and closes his eyes.
The door makes a soft creak and he imagines the sound of her feet hurrying across the smooth stone floor, up the stairway with its rope banister, and into the single large room. Will's grunt comes through the monitor and then Scully's voice cooing his name softly. In his mind he sees the way her hair swings across her face as she leans over the baby, the way she runs her fingers lightly along his body eliciting a giggle. She must be nuzzling his face as she carries him to the bed, he thinks, and then she'll sit back against the pillows and tug loose the flap of her bra, and he pictures how Will's eyes always widen in anticipation. She starts humming and after a few bars he's surprised to recognize the saxophone refrain, off-key, but still she skims across the notes and he finds himself humming in parallel. 'It feels like we're stopping time' he blurts out, the half-line resurfacing straight from the scrap heap of memory to his lips, but the words are so uncanny that he thinks he probably invented them. When he stops humming, though, the voices of his family are gone, replaced by a sudden, hollow silence, as if he's suspended once again outside time, outside life.
A soft gurgle and the click of her sandals register on his consciousness all at once as she steps out onto the terrace. She walks slowly toward him, her face inscrutable in the dusk, then leans down and sits Will on his lap, smoothing the blanket around him. She kisses the baby on his head then runs her hand through Mulder's hair, tailing her hand finally along his shoulder, and says, "I think it's time he learned the names of the stars."
He smiles at her then lifts his face to the night sky.
When Doggett's footsteps have faded into silence, Angela raises her eyes and smiles broadly. Ectoplasm. Looks like people weren't exaggerating the weirdness. She holds the vial up to the light, then puts it into the drawer and gathers up her notepad, on which she has carefully written out the pronunciation of the muscles of the torso, and rises from the desk. At the door she pauses. She smiles to herself again then takes five steps back, grabs the vial from the desk and drops it into her pocket for luck.
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