TITLE: Pushing Back (1/1)|
AUTHOR: Dawn Zemke
ARCHIVE: After the Fact
SPOILERS: Pusher, minor reference to Irresistable
KEYWORDS: Mulder/Scully UST, Scully POV
SUMMARY: Fill in the blank for Pusher. What was going through
Scully's mind when faced with irrefutable proof of "The Whammy?"
DISCLAIMER: Scully and Mulder belong to Chris Carter and
1013 Production. No copyright infringement is intended.
FEEDBACK: Yes, please.
Fairfax Mercy Hospital
Please explain to me the scientific nature of the whammy.
The words come back to mock me now, echoing in my head like the catcalls children use to ridicule an outcast classmate. How smug I felt when I uttered them, so sure of myself and my scientific method. Mulder had just dazzled me yet again with his "spooky" intuition, tossing information almost flippantly at me that perfectly matched data I'd just spent an hour collecting. I'd countered with logic, consumed by the need to somehow assert my value in this partnership. To contribute, even if it meant rolling my eyes at Mulder's theory. "The Whammy."
But now, as I pace slowly into the critical care room with my heart having taken up residence in my throat, I see concrete proof of "The Whammy" that my rational mind can't refute. Mulder and Modell, seated at a table in some sick parody of a chess match minus a board and pieces.
"Mulder." The word is wrenched from my lips, not a gasp or a question, but something in between.
Modell's eyes bore into Mulder's like twin lasers. His body is rigid and tense with strain, and a light sheen of perspiration covers the pale skin of his face. Mulder doesn't so much as twitch at the sound of his name, eyes riveted to Modell's face as if hypnotized.
"Thanks for joining us." Model doesn't bother to look at me as I cross cautiously to a third and vacant chair.
Perhaps the board and pieces are in place after all.
I tend to bluster when I'm afraid -- a technique I adopted to battle various torments inflicted on me by my brothers; perfected during the last six years with the FBI. It's a coping mechanism, a way to camouflage an emotion that might encourage others to perceive me as weak.
I focus my anger on Modell, attempting to ignore Mulder's odd inertia. "We've got a dozen law enforcement officers outside in the hall." I feel a flicker of pride when my voice remains steady. "Another thirty in the parking lot."
Modell swallows and sucks in a quick breath of air but his strange, heavy-lidded stare remains on Mulder. "Regular convention."
"So whatever you've got planned, it's not going to work out the way you want it to." His calm response infuriates me; I want a reaction.
His next words send a spike of ice down my spine. "You don't know what I got planned."
My eyes are drawn inexorably to the revolver, and my breathing quickens. There it lies, bracketed by Modell's arms but easily within Mulder's grasp. I sink slowly into the chair, trying to capture my partner's attention, but he appears oblivious to my presence, consumed by whatever lock Modell has on his mind. Drops of sweat run freely down the sides of his face and his hands rest palms down on the table, never attempting to take possession of the weapon. Occasionally, a minute jerk of his head, a twitch of his lip, or a reflexive swallow shows me the real Mulder trapped inside, striving to break out.
A distant corner of my mind registers Modell's speech regaling the merits of Japanese Budo and touting himself a warrior. I try to concentrate on what he's saying -- after all, I need to figure out where this little scenario is headed. But my eyes keep returning to Mulder like steel to a magnet, unable to resist the pull. Unbidden, Holly's tearful words invade my thoughts.
It was like he was with me inside my head.
Another drop of sweat rolls down Mulder's cheek and he swallows convulsively. My God, what is he feeling right now?
Then Modell cuts to the chase, his intent horribly clear. "I'm gonna give you one pull at the trigger against me." He slides the revolver slowly across the smooth surface of the table until it rests between Mulder's hands. "One in six chance."
Mulder's eyes remain fused with Modell's but his hand reaches slowly over to clasp the weapon. As his fingers curl around the grip, however, Modell hastily slaps his palm over them.
"One. One pull."
Mulder lifts the revolver and points it at Modell's head. His face is completely devoid of emotion, the motion stiff and mechanical.
For a moment I'm shocked speechless, but I shrug it off. "Wait! Mulder, look, there's pure oxygen in this room" Irrationally, I try to push my thoughts into his mind as the words tumble from my lips like an avalanche, gaining momentum and power. "There's no telling what could happen if you pull that trigger..."
Such a small sound, but it slams through my entire body like the concussion from a bomb blast. Relief follows quickly, leaving my legs weak and trembling.
"Piece of cake," Modell's rapid pants for air betray his bravado. "Your turn."
Raw panic sucks the air from my lungs and I'm certain my heart just stopped beating. I blink back the treacherous sheen of tears coating my eyes and search for a voice that tries to desert me.
"Mulder, yes. Go." There's a smirk in Modell's voice, an air of satisfaction that makes my hands curl into fists.
My partner's face reveals nothing, a mask with features I barely recognize. I love Mulder's face, one that by conventional standards should never be considered handsome. In fact, he'll be the first to tell you that his nose is too large, his chin weak. But his hair is dark silk, his eyes possess the amazing ability to match color to mood, and that mouth was made for kissing -- not that I've had the pleasure. Put that together with a razor sharp wit and an Armani suit, and you have the man who brings the secretarial pool to a screeching halt whenever he strolls by.
This man before me is a stranger, and I desperately want my Mulder back.
"Mulder, listen to me. Give me the gun." My voice rises in volume and pitch, trying to drown out Modell's silent commands. "We can stop this thing right now, you and I can just walk outside this room...NO!"
In one swift movement Mulder whips the gun up to his temple and pulls the trigger, his face contorted in a grimace that could be pain or apprehension -- it's impossible to tell.
OhGodohGodIcan'tbelievehediditheactuallydiditI'mgoingtokill that bastard...
My thoughts jumble and twist as I leap to my feet, and I barely hear myself cursing Modell and pleading with Mulder to hand me the gun over the roaring in my ears. Impulsively, I lunge for the revolver but Mulder's head snaps up and he throws off my hand, a hint of anger seeping into his clenched jaw as he trains the weapon back on Modell.
It's the first glimpse of emotion he's displayed, and hope flickers inside me like a tiny flame, struggling to warm the cold blackness that grips my heart. A flame that sputters and dies the next instant, when Mulder calmly turns the revolver toward my head.
"Your turn, Scully." Modell's voice is harsh, grating. The strain of holding my partner in check is taking its toll. "Gotta play by the rules. Pull the trigger, Mulder."
Mulder's deadpan expression is legendary. I've teased him about it, about his "panic face." This is completely different. His hazel eyes, usually warm and expressive, stare vacantly at me without betraying a hint of recognition. Grief and terror settle like a block of ice into my stomach, and it is only my desperation to stop him that keeps me from collapsing in tears as I frantically search for the right words to reach him.
I tell him he doesn't have to do it, that he's stronger than Modell. I plead with him to fight. I can see the conflict thrumming through his body like electricity--he's struggling to listen, to hear my words over the twisted commands of a killer. For the first time, Mulder actually speaks.
"I'm gonna kill you, Modell." He barely manages to choke out the words, undermining their threat.
"Yeah! Pull the trigger, you get another crack at me," Modell jeers.
Time slows to a snail's pace. With perfect clarity I comprehend the enormity of what Modell's clever little game of Russian Roulette means for Mulder. Shoot Modell, an unarmed suspect, and face losing his career. Shoot himself and face losing his life. Shoot me and...
My mother filled me in on Mulder's reckless, nearly self- destructive state of mind during my abduction. If that bullet takes my life, I have little doubt that Mulder will find another for himself. Somehow, that bastard Modell knows this.
My eyes abandon my partner's and skitter frantically around the room, passing briefly over a red lever mounted to the wall. Mulder's whole body vibrates from the strain of resisting Modell's siren song. His eyes are no longer blank, but those of a scared little boy.
"Scully, run!" The gun jitters in his hand as his finger tightens on the trigger. "Scully..." His teeth clamp down viciously on his lower lip, my name barely a whimper.
Possessed by both fear and desperation, I turn and fling myself at the wall, my fingers latching onto the handle and pulling down hard. The fire alarm engages shrilly and I turn back in time to see Modell flinch and Mulder spin to face him. The gun cracks, a sharp counterpoint to the clanging alarm. Mulder lurches to his feet and overturns the table, pulling the trigger again and again, oblivious to the impotent clicks and Modell's slumped form.
The SWAT team rushes the room. Mulder finally regains a measure of control and lowers the revolver, his expression stunned and shell-shocked. He folds into the chair as if his legs are no longer able to support him. Refusing to meet my gaze, he turns his body away from me and slowly holds out the gun. Once I've relieved him of his burden, he buries his face in his hands.
Five minutes later Modell and the still-oblivious inhabitant of the critical care room have been moved, Modell to surgery and the patient down the hall. Brophy, the SWAT team leader, takes me aside and gestures to Mulder with a tilt of his head.
"He okay? He's going to have to answer some questions, make a statement."
Mulder hasn't moved a muscle. I'm reassured by the compassion in Brophy's eyes, and I nod briskly. "Could you clear everyone out of here? I need a moment."
It's no sooner said than done. I close the heavy door and walk cautiously over to my partner, laying one hand on the back of his neck. The skin is cool and clammy, the muscles hard as stone. I pull a blanket from the bed and drape it around his bowed shoulders, then crouch down in front of him.
"Easy, Mulder. You're in shock." I curl my fingers around his left arm, wanting him to feel warmth and solidity.
His fingers slide down to cup the bridge of his nose, revealing haunted, shiny eyes. "You all right?"
In my mind, I curse Modell with the extensive vocabulary only a Navy brat could acquire. Guilt, the ever-present monkey on this man's back, just tightened its chokehold. I want to tell Mulder this wasn't his fault. I want him to believe that I trust, admire, and yes, love him. That nothing and no one will ever change that -- certainly not a twisted little man with delusions of grandeur. A vivid memory of Mulder pressing the gun to his own head dries up my mouth and the words.
"Thanks to you."
Mulder's reaction startles me with its violence and intensity. "DON'T, Scully!" He wrenches his arm from my grasp, but not before I feel the shudder run through him. "Just...just don't," he repeats, the words softer this time. Broken.
"Don't what, Mulder?" I rest the rejected hand on his knee. "Don't acknowledge the strength, the courage it took to resist Modell?"
His eyes are black, hopeless -- the eyes of a drowning man going down for the third time. "Don't try to sugar coat this. You and I both know what really happened here. This isn't the review board, you don't have to protect me."
"Mulder, what do you think happened here?" I prod gently.
I know my partner well, and I know what I have to do. The guilt, the shame, the anger -- unless I force Mulder to relinquish these feelings now, they will take root and fester. Nobody cared after Samantha's abduction, and twenty-six years later Mulder still wakes up screaming. I will *not* grant Modell that victory.
Mulder's face crumples and I realize he's fighting his own tears as desperately as he fought Modell. "I almost..." His voice, jagged and sharp like broken glass, catches in his throat and he presses both fists tightly against his lips, rocking a little in his chair.
"Say it, Mulder," I coax, sotto voce. "Don't let it hide in the dark. Bring it into the light where it can't hurt you anymore."
He's trembling in earnest now, the last vestiges of numbness melting away. Tears that were lurking spill freely down his pale cheeks. "I...I just...I almuh...most...almost sh...sh...shot you, Sc...Scully. I cou...couldn't..."
The stuttering undoes me. Hearing Mulder, the master of dry wit and glib remarks, reduced to this shatters my reserve. My hand snakes out with a will of its own, curving behind his neck and drawing his forehead down to my shoulder. As I hold him, I'm reminded how he held me in the aftermath of the Donnie Pfaster case. His warmth against my icy cheek. His arms anchoring me when I felt I'd fly to pieces. Mulder's hands clutch my shoulders with an intensity that I'm certain will leave bruises.
As if I care.
"That's it, let it out." I rub my thumb against the short hairs at the nape of his neck while he christens my kevlar vest with his tears. "Let it go, Mulder."
I don't know how long we remain like this. The door cracks open at some point and I reward the nosy party with what Mulder has dubbed the "Scully Death Stare" until he beats a hasty retreat. Eventually, I feel Mulder's chill flesh warm and his shivering cease as shock wears off. He pulls back from my embrace, looking slightly embarrassed, and scrubs at tear tracks and dried sweat with the back of one hand.
"Don't be." I'm a little surprised by the fierceness of my tone. "You have nothing to be ashamed of, Mulder. You held on. You resisted Modell until I could distract him. You did good."
Another flash of the revolver pressed to Mulder's temple belies the full truth of my words, but I shove those thoughts away for future consideration and stand, biting back a groan when my cramped legs protest. I rest my hand briefly atop Mulder's head, then move toward the door.
He utters my name softly, hesitantly, but when I turn I'm graced with a fledgling smile.
"You did good too."
As always with us, the words are innocuous. But I read the meaning loud and clear.