Title: Something Less
Author: Meredith

Date: February 2001

Spoilers: Post-episode for "This is Not Happening."

Summary: Not quite pity; not quite love; not quite life.

Feedback would be wonderful: meredith_elsewhere@yahoo.com.

Author's notes at the end.


Something Less


"No autopsy."

Her words are whisper-thin, but they still force the two men back
a step, unconsciously nodding in unison. They have been taking
turns leading her, but now it is time for them to follow.


Doggett wishes he still smoked. Reyes would have cigarettes, he
knows, but the collision of past and present might be just enough
to set the fuse on his frayed temper. He collapses in the hall,
watching Skinner head toward the parking lot.

Of course she shouldn't do an autopsy. She shouldn't be in there
at all. Their communication has never been smooth even on their
best days, so he didn't try to tell her why. He pulled her away
from Mulder's body instinctually, knowing the truth and futilely
trying to protect her from it.

She is ethereal to him, a strangely beautiful portrait of grief.
He has reached out to touch her time and again, but she is always
three gossamer steps ahead, out of reach. He can never quite
capture her full attention, and he doesn't know what he would do
if he ever did. When he caught her tonight for the first time, he
couldn't bear to hang on tightly enough to keep her, fearing the
damage his hands might do.

The last memory Scully will have is of her partner's tortured
body. That will be the image to haunt her dreams. Pictures and
memories of him smiling, looking perfect -- those will fade until
only the horrific images remained. Doggett knew, because that's
all he saw of his son.

He feels something less than pity for her. He feels a brutal
camaraderie, two lone survivors of battles in a war humanity
would never win. He knew the inevitability of this moment, but
being proven right gives him no comfort. He is never right about
anything less than what is terrible.

For a moment he is awash in rage, needing desperately to strike
out and destroy.

Then he feels nothing.


Skinner barrels down the hall, leaving the other man in his wake.
Of course there would be no autopsy. He wouldn't allow it, if
only for her sake. But he let her reassert her control. She had
always been the leader, but for the past few days he and Doggett
had ruthlessly stolen that role from her.

Doors to the night outside are his only escape, and he barely
controls himself in order not to make a run for them. When he
reaches the exit, the cold Montana air is a welcome chastisement.

He leans over, face toward concrete and palms on thighs, and
exhales deeply. When he straightens up, he unconsciously looks up
to the sky in counterbalance -- then looks sharply away. At
anything, anything other than the stars.

What he feels for her is something less than love, something more
one-sided and stunted. A warped devotion for which he is too old.
He is not the sort of man to have a crush, and that has been his
mistake from the beginning.

He should have known better than to try to protect her. He lost
Mulder in the first place, and as the guilty one had to buoy her
up and convince her to remain strong. Over the years he witnessed
both of them refusing to give in to evidence and reason, and
witnessed that brute stubbornness rewarded time after time. What
curse mocks his attempt at faith with Mulder's death?

His agent lies dead on a cold steel table. Mulder made daring
choices and wild leaps, but the Fates and Scully protected him
from harm until the wrong person was sent to watch his back.
Skinner calculates and weighs every decision, but each action
leads to further destruction. He is haunted by failure and cursed
to live, whether he wants to or not, with the consequences.

For a moment he is gripped by jealousy of a dead man.

Then he feels nothing.


The morgue doors swing shut behind Skinner and Doggett's exit
with a slow, rubbery rasp, and the partners are left alone.
Scully turns off the bright white lights; her eyes are burning
with fatigue and irritation, and she wants to see him without

He lies curled on his right side. She had carefully tucked his
outstretched arm back against his body before the rigor set in,
and now he is in the same position he often slept in. She thinks
she can tolerate the abuse to his body better in this pose than
if he were lying flat on his back, corpse-style. The sheet covers
him from neck to toes.

The tears begin once again, although she doesn't notice. There is
too much pain for her body to contain; its only option is to
overflow through her eyes, the silent stream that follows after
the uncontrollable, hitching, suffocating part of crying has
ceased. She runs her fingers gently through his hair, conscious
that it will be for the last time. The knowledge is only that --
a fact she absorbs but can't quite comprehend.

She has to examine him. She has to understand what he suffered.
But no one can convince her to have him autopsied, because she
will not tolerate any more physical desecration to this man.
Mulder's body is something less than the intangible *him,* but it
is still precious to her. She will allow herself to be attached
to this vessel, broken and battered but still hers, until she can
falsely convince herself she is ready to let it go.

To examine his torso, she pulls the sheet down to his waist. To
examine his lower extremities, she pushes the sheet upward over
his chest. She never exposes him fully to the disgrace of cold
air, and she never covers his face. She does not wear gloves, but
lets her warm, shaking hands glide over his skin one last time.

She wonders if Jeremiah Smith would have done the same thing --
touched him with reverence and a pure, intense desire for life to
reawaken. She wonders when she lost the ability to heal.

When she finishes, she tucks the sheet under his shoulder and
feet until he is safely cocooned. She will accompany the body to
Raleigh, not letting it out of her sight until the end.

The attendants will be here at 9 a.m., expecting the body to be
wrapped appropriately. She has hours before she has to complete
her task, so she pulls up a chair and sits, leaning forward to
place her damp cheek on the metal table next to his chest.

She feels a fluttering in her stomach, and remembers, suddenly,
that she is not alone. The thought is no comfort, since it is
immediately replaced by a dark, bitter realization that doesn't
surprise her.

If she had the power, she would sacrifice this tiny life for his.

For a moment she is afraid.

Then she feels nothing.



Enormous thanks to my friends haphazard method, MCA, and Revely,
who happen to also be excellent betas. Any feedback would be
happily received: meredith_elsewhere@yahoo.com.