Keywords: Mulder/Scully friendship
Rating: PG
Spoilers: Orison
Summary: A post-ep for "Orison"
Archive: Sure, just let me know
Disclaimer: None of the characters herein are my property. They are the property of Fox and 1013, and a technician very close to God.
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A Variance of Breath

(Set after "Orison")

"You can't imagine you're at fault," she heard him say. And in the space of one of the breaths that felt so shaky in her lungs, she was overwhelmed by him. She raised her eyes from her trembling hands, focused them on his unwavering gaze until she was assured that he would never look away.

"It was my hand that pulled the trigger, Mulder," she stated.

"I don't care." And she thought this might be his answer no matter what, no matter whether she had just admitted to murder in cold blood or anything else.

She had not murdered Donnie Pfaster in the clearest sense of the word. Her finger had been steady on the trigger, and she had been fully aware of Mulder's presence and her safety.

But she was aware, as well, that the blood in Pfaster's veins was the spit and venom of the Devil himself. And her own blood had been anything but cold.

"I was angry." She whispered, because the breath was having trouble now escaping from her lungs. She could keep breathing in and keep breathing in forever, and still she was angry. More than angry. Blood hot coursing through constricted veins. Mulder knew it and now she had told him, as well.

"You were angry," he repeated, not sure he wanted to hear the rest because he knew it would lead to her blaming herself.

"Mulder, of course I am at fault. It wasn't accidental and it wasn't self-defense. It was anger. That he was in my home, that he was in the world, that he was anywhere except in prison or in Hell. Just, anger." Her voice broke, and she scooted off the bed and started packing. Suddenly she wanted nothing more than to be asleep on Mulder's sofa.

"You had, you have -- Scully, you had every right to be angry."

"And to kill him?" She didn't turn around. Broke the zipper on her duffel bag and dropped a blue sock into the glass on the floor. There was glass beneath her feet. Beneath her skin. An overturned bookshelf lay against a bureau on which her worn Bible now rested as though she would never touch it again. She stuffed clothing furiously into the ripped duffel -- socks, sweatshirts, she didn't care what. "Every murder, every act of vengeance we investigate from now until the end of time, I'll know what happened. I'll have done it myself; on what grounds will I continue to condemn for it?"

"Scully," Mulder said, and she spun to face him. If the hot tears of anger on her face should have suddenly fallen, they would have melted the glass shards into the floor. They would have burned holes in things like her eyes were burning holes in him now. "Scully, my finger was on the trigger and I saw you and that man was going to die tonight. You, or me, or God himself, that man was going to die."

She could not take in this information, as she could not consider the rest of this any longer. No sleep; she had never been this tired. The tears on her cheeks cooled from anger to exhaustion. She dropped the duffel bag and sat down beside it, right there on the floorboards where the mirror glass lay tossed like tattered butterflies. It was Mulder's turn, now, to make the decisions.

Mulder understood. He took the duffel bag first, removed three sweatshirts and found pajamas, jeans and a sweater. Dropped the bag on the bed and lay her pillow beside it to bring, because no pillow of his could ever smell this way. All the while his senses were tuned to her, tracking every variance of breath as though in remembering the horror it might still draw to a sudden halt. Her bag was packed and he couldn't get her away from her home fast enough. His hands were gentle as he helped her stand, and her weight was on him as he led her from the room.

She closed her eyes to pass the cops in the living room and opened them again as they reached the door. Mulder swept down to pick up a pair of her shoes, and for some reason this made her smile. And then smiling made her cry harder, as though smiling when something so awful had happened was a sin.

They left the building, and she hesitated a beat when she saw his car, its door flung open and the engine running. It occurred to her at once how fast he must have driven and how completely he had known she'd needed him.

He opened her door, put her in the car and reached across her to buckle the seatbelt. By the time he reached the driver's side she was sobbing.

"Scully," he breathed, and the sobs subsided as she dropped her head on his shoulder and he drew an arm around her.

He drove the distance without letting go of her, and he drove it slowly, as though speed or sudden movement would frighten both of them again. He had never been so frightened as when he had reached the end of her hallway and heard the haunting tune of a familiar song. He was running then, so slow, did running always feel so slow? His heart was hammering and he couldn't breathe, and the music stopped, he was more terrified because the music stopped. On opening the door he saw Pfaster, saw Pfaster and not Scully and his heart stopped, too, just then.

But it was her face, not as she fired but the hollow instant after she did -- her face a question of what had happened, had she really pulled the trigger? -- that made him shiver even now, in a car that was suddenly too hot, too slow. He was panicking now, and thought the tears on his face might never dry.

But Scully was calm because she knew that he was not. Her ragged breath became even, and her tears, which she suspected might never stop, at least slowed a little.

Sleep overtook her suddenly, and they reached Mulder's apartment building. He shifted her off of his shoulder and woke her just enough for him to lead her inside. She curled up on the sofa, somehow taking up only half, and he sat on the other half and pulled a blanket down across her. She was instantly sleeping. He sat watching her and knowing it would be a very long time before he would sleep.

Her left hand found its way out from under the blanket, and curled around its edge. There was blood on it. Scratches from glass that were continuing to bleed. Her lip was bleeding, too. She was breathing deeply. She had put up a hell of a fight.

He was beginning to relax when she went stiff, emitting a gasp that was almost a sob. She twisted in her sleep; she sat up suddenly, her eyes shut tight, and reached out for him. Mulder met her arms with his, and she grasped him, clung to him, eyes still closed but most certainly awake.

"I'm sorry," he said, and neither of them knew quite what he meant, but it was all right, everything would be all right if she could just hold onto him forever. She had become pure energy in his arms, trembling as though to fly apart, breathing as though she could not.

"Thank you," she whispered, and neither knew what she meant by that, either, but she became solid again beneath his hands.

So much time passed that he might have thought she was asleep, but he could feel her thinking, sorting out the night. He wanted to help her, knew all he could do was be here when she at last reached her conclusion.

"I let go of Emily's hand," she said finally, "and I let her go on to Heaven. I let my own hand loose on Donnie Pfaster, and allowed him to go on to Hell." She paused, and then spoke in a voice as soft as drifting snow. "I'm not letting go of you, Mulder," she swore, and he countered, "I'm not going anywhere."

It was a measured conversation in hushed voices, but it spoke volumes into the darkness of the room. Mulder tightened his arms around her, kissed her hair, thought that if they were ever to let go he would no longer to be able to breathe on his own, so in synch were their breaths at this moment.

Morning was on the verge of coming when they fell asleep together, still holding on, still breathing together, but neither of them crying anymore.

7 August 2000

Story set after "Orison

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