by Piper Sargasso
Rating: PG-13 (language)
Archive: Gossamer and Ephemeral – Yes. Anyone else would be great! Please just let me know where.
Spoilers: Bad Blood
Disclaimer: Characters within belong to Ten-Thirteen Productions. No infringement
Summary: After the events in Chaney, Mulder and Scully reevaluate their partnership.
The basement office seemed a little chillier than usual, even for an early February morning. Or, maybe it was just the Arctic waves rolling off of Scully. Mulder was sure it was the latter.
Just yesterday, the pair had returned from the quaint town of Chaney, given their report to a very amused AD Skinner and reached something of an agreement as to what happened. A happy medium.
But it nagged at Mulder all last night. Listening to the tape of both their versions of the events leading to Ronnie Strickland’s “death,” he came to several important realizations. Their partnership appeared to be chock-full of happy mediums – and he seemed to be the main one doing the compromising.
“I’m going to Starbuck’s,” Scully mumbled suddenly, breaking the silence. Mulder looked up just in time to see her grab her coat and head out of the office.
“Thanks for the offer,” he grumbled at the closed door.
Yeah, things weren’t as great between them as he’d thought. He’d spent his entire evening listening to the tape over and over again, until each word was engraved in his memory. The psychologist in him now analyzed every minute detail.
From what she’d said, it was clear that she found his so-called “exuberance” for their work to be an annoyance, if not an embarrassment. The realization didn’t sit well with him. Why the hell was she still there if it was so bad? She could’ve asked for a transfer at any time. He sure as hell wasn’t forcing her to stay.
Under the bleak light pouring down on him from the cold, February sky, Mulder sat and stewed.
Dana Scully indulged herself in a well-deserved Mocha Caramel Frappaccino and a sliver of cheesecake from the Starbuck’s around the corner. It was a little chilly for the cold beverage, but she hardly registered the iciness of it in the warm and cozy little cafi anyway. Around her, there was a small cluster of college students sipping their coffees and gossiping, a young man sitting with his latte, reading Poe and the requisite businessman poring over a pile of paperwork, nearly knocking over his Styrofoam cup in the shuffle.
She barely noticed any of this as her thoughts drifted to the conversation she and Mulder had before their second trip to Texas. She wondered – is that what he really thinks of me? That I’m that disinterested in the work we do? That I would stoop to ridicule and unfair criticism?
It was ridiculous. Mulder knew her better than that, didn’t he? Apparently not, she decided. If he did, his little narrative yesterday would never have revealed his need to walk on eggshells around her.
He’d painted a picture of her that she didn’t care for or agree with. His side of the story depicted her as a shrew, always ready to knock him down and make a mockery of his passion. That she was laughing at him.
She was outraged. How could he possibly think that of her? Nothing could be further from the truth. Well, one thing was certain. She couldn’t hide out in Starbuck’s all day, though she’d like to.
Sighing, she finished the last of her iced coffee and headed back to the office.
Scully slipped back into the office and took her seat with no acknowledgment from her partner. Fine, she thought. She busied herself with a dossier she’d agreed to look over for another agent as a favor, trying to block out the oppressive cloud that hung over them.
Three excruciatingly long hours passed that way. Neither of them spoke, neither of them looked up at the other. Scully found herself wondering what was on his mind, why he was behaving so strangely. Mulder found himself wondering how he could’ve been such a fool for all these years.
Finally, Mulder spoke up.
“I’m not sure this is going to work anymore, Scully.”
Her head snapped up in surprise. She frowned, “What do you mean?”
“I mean,” he leaned forward and rested his chin on clasped hands, “that if you feel like you’re being used here, we should get you a transfer.”
Her eyebrows furrowed and her mouth dropped open in indignant shock. “I’m not going anywhere, Mulder. What the hell is this all about?”
“I listened very carefully to the tape, Scully. You clearly feel like you’re being taken advantage of by me.”
She shook her head slightly, confused. “Make sense here, Mulder.”
“The tape,” he said a little too loudly. “If someone were to listen to your story, they’d think I was a selfish bastard. Look, I’m sorry you had to do another autopsy, but that’s your job. Were we supposed to put examination of the body on hold until your earliest convenience? Every time we go out into the field, our roles are clear. You examine the bodies and get what you can from them, I do all the legwork while you’re busy. What made this last case so different? We were racing against the clock, Scully. People were dying. I wasn’t aware that a slice of pizza and a hot shower takes precedence over the lives of innocent people.”
Scully’s jaw jutted forward in outrage. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
“All those lives that needed saving didn’t seem nearly as important to *you*, Mulder, when you were enjoying the benefits of the Magic Fingers *I’d* already paid for. I was tired and hungry. Unlike some people, I like to try and maintain some semblance of a regular schedule. I’m sorry if that bothers you.” It took all her self-control to keep her voice low and steady.
“You don’t think I was tired and hungry myself? I was exhausted! I needed sleep and a shower as much as you – if not more! You think after that little romp around the grounds of the RV park, I wasn’t ready for a little sleep? I was only going to freshen up, Scully. I had planned to wait up for your autopsy results when you got back. Why else do you think I was in your room? I wanted to make sure I caught you before you went to bed.”
She started to open her mouth and deliver a particularly scathing comment, but that stopped her short. She never thought about why he’d chosen to stay in her room that night and it now struck her as strange that she didn’t. It was very unusual – he’d never done it before.
“You made it seem like I don’t appreciate the work we do, Mulder. The way you said I reacted when you asked me to do the second autopsy. Is that how you really see me?”
He seemed to think about that for a moment. “I think we need to have a serious talk, Scully.”
She looked down at the file and shook her head. “Not here. It’s not the place.”
He rose from his chair and rounded the desk to perch on the edge of it. “Oh, I think this is just the place. This is about our partnership, after all.”
“Fine,” she sighed, “let’s talk about it.”
Mulder nodded. “Let’s. Shall we start with your obvious disdain for my theories?”
“I don’t appreciate feeling like I have to word myself delicately in order to obtain your interest in my ideas on a case.”
He raised his hand, “No, let me finish. It seems to me that the moment anything paranormal comes into the picture, you just shut down. The other morning was the perfect example of that.”
She couldn’t believe this. How dare he? Standing up, she crossed her arms defensively across her chest. “First of all, it wasn’t a lack of interest that kept me from bouncing off the walls with you, Mulder. You have such intensity when dealing with a case that, quite frankly, I find it hard to even keep up with you sometimes. Your mind is in a million places all at once and I just try to let you go. I think you’ll agree that this has been a method that works for us.” She paused and waited for his nod of agreement. “Secondly, you’re rarely interested in my opinions during these types of cases anyway.”
It was true. She felt he laughed at her scientific deductions rather than admit that they were usually the more plausible explanation.
“Furthermore,” she continued, “I don’t appreciate the way you behaved toward me in the funeral home.”
“What? How is the way I acted at the funeral home any different than the way I normally act?” he demanded.
She snorted, “Exactly.”
He thought back to the tape and tried to remember precisely what he could have said to offend her. She snorted again.
“Mulder, why is it that you’re the psychologist, yet I’m the one who has to help you along with these things? Let’s see, shall we? First of all, I tried to introduce myself and you cut me off, introducing yourself instead. Now, it seems to me that I’m the sidekick here and not worth your being bothered to remember my name! You left me standing there with my mouth hanging open, Mulder!”
“What are you trying to say, Scully? That I intentionally try to demean you? That’s complete bullshit and you know it!”
“Mulder, you make fun of my height in front of strangers and make a mockery of my scientific views. I don’t appreciate being belittled by you, and especially not in front of other law enforcement. I expect more professional behavior from you as an agent.”
Face flaming with rage, she walked across the room to retrieve her coat. With one hand on the doorknob, she turned to face him.
“And I expect a hell of a lot more from you as a friend.”
She jerked the door open and left.
Mulder sat in his darkened living room, a neglected beer sweating all over his coffee table. He had been trying to block the whole nasty incident with Scully, but to no avail. He could hear the door slamming over and over again in his head.
“Shit,” he said to his empty apartment. He leaned over from his sprawled position on the couch to retrieve his abandoned beer, but gave up halfway into the effort. He’d nursed it earlier, but now it just tasted like piss water to him. Sighing heavily, he plopped back against the couch with a thud. Where the hell did she get off being so indignant, anyway? Her lack of enthusiasm was not the issue here; her disinterest and sour attitude were. It seemed she had no problem expressing just what an idiot she thought he was during this last case.
His head flopped listlessly to the side and his gaze fell upon the tiny cassette recorder. Blowing out another breath through loose lips, Mulder reached across the couch to grab it. He pressed the play button and listened to Scully’s voice as she began her narrative, this time listening closely for anything he might have said that could have been interpreted as insulting by her.
“Characteristically exuberant,” he huffed. He got as far as her accolade of the fabulous Sheriff Hartwell before stabbing at the stop button. He’d listened to this tape at least a dozen times the night before. Maybe it was time Scully heard her own words come back to bite her on the ass.
Scooping up his keys, Mulder headed out the door for Scully’s apartment.
The more time Scully spent seething alone in her apartment, the more insight she got into her partnership with Fox Mulder. He was arrogant, self-serving, pig-headed and…
She stopped herself, knowing full well how completely unfair she was being. But still, it hurt to think that he considered her an endlessly exasperated entity in his life to be tiptoed around. Did he really think she was that insensitive – that she could be so callous as to laugh at him and his theories? And Dana Scully does not whine!
Since she’d been home, she’d done nothing but scowl at the TV. It wasn’t often that she felt the desire to veg out in front of the tube, but she couldn’t recall there being quite so many happy-together, all-our-problems-are-so-far-away programs on before. It did absolutely nothing to improve her sour mood.
It wasn’t as if they’d never argued before. You don’t spend five years with someone and exist in perfect harmony. That just isn’t realistic. However, this argument, coupled with her freshly realized revelations, was really getting to her. Every laugh from the sitcom audience grated on her nerves.
News. “…and here’s Chuck with the weather. Chuck?”
“Yes sir, tomorrow’s forecast calls for rain and temperatures in the low forties, so remember to pack that umbrella before heading off to work in the morning!”
She listened with a cocked eyebrow and pursed lips as Chuck and Bob bantered and laughed forcibly at each other’s jokes. It was worse than the cheesy sitcom. Rolling her eyes, she jabbed the power button on the remote and rose to start dinner.
She turned the radio on and went into the kitchen, where she began to cut some chicken breasts for some chicken alfredo. She wanted something quick and easy to make tonight, so she got the packets of noodles in dehydrated alfredo sauce rather than bothering with doing anything from scratch. Halfway through cutting the last piece and dropping it into the pot, she heard a loud knock at the door.
“Damnit, Mulder,” she hissed under her breath, knowing for a fact it was him. He just couldn’t let anything go.
She answered the door. “Mulder, I really don’t want to discuss this tonight. Go home.”
He looked at her blankly and pushed his way inside, holding his micro-cassette recorder up like he was showing her some sort of incriminating evidence. She closed the door and crossed her arms, waiting with an irritated glare for him to explain himself.
“Look, Scully. I think that maybe we shoulds it down and talk about this like two reasonable adults.” He gestured toward the dining room table. She nodded, grudgingly, and took a chair across from him.
He blew out a breath and began. “I think we both agree that there is something lacking here between us, am I correct in assuming so?”
“As I said in the office earlier, I’ve listened to the tape several times.” He was amazingly calm as he spoke. All of his anger had dissipated about midway to Scully’s apartment as he started to think about what was said and how the two versions differed so much. “I was on my way over here when I realized something and I think that it would be advantageous to our working relationship for us to discuss whatever issues we have with each other.”
She relaxed in her seat. “Can I get you a drink?” she offered. He nodded and she went into the kitchen to pour two glasses of juice for them. He was probably right. It looked like maybe everything was going to be okay with them. She only hoped that it would end that way once they both got what they needed to say off their chests.
She placed a glass in front of Mulder and took her seat. Dinner was just going to have to wait. He took a sip and sat the glass down while she patiently waited for him to continue.
He held up the cassette recorder again. “May I?” he asked.
“Be my guest,” she answered with a sigh. She couldn’t imagine what he hoped to prove by bringing that tape into the conversation, but gave him the benefit of the doubt, nonetheless.
Mulder pushed ‘play’ and sat the recorder on the table, between them. Scully’s voice came through the tiny speaker, giving her testimony, so to speak. She listened carefully, still not sure what she was supposed to be hearing. He stopped the tape right at the point where they were introducing themselves to Sheriff Hartwell.
“I’d like for us to listen to each other’s version of the case with an analytical mind, if that’s okay. I think that’ll help us to better understand where the other is coming from. Would you like to know what I got from this, Scully?”
It was an interesting idea, she thought. “Tell me,” she replied.
“Well, first of all, I find it alarming that you would think I would regard you as someone to be ignored.” His eyes bore into hers intensely. “I think you know me better than that.”
Suddenly, Scully felt a little sheepish. She did know him better than that. But sometimes, it was just too easy to get caught up in the whirlwind that is Fox Mulder and get lost in the shuffle. She thought about that. Was it possible that maybe it wasn’t her partner that made her feel that way, but rather the startling number of men that she’d worked with over the years who treated her in that manner? Was it possible that her years of fighting hard for equality in the eyes of the male population had put her on the defense when it came to Mulder?
Thinking back, there was never a time where he treated her as anything less than an equal. Even the times that he had withheld information or left her behind, she always knew that he would’ve done the same with any partner, regardless of gender. He just couldn’t place anyone else in jeopardy while taking his leaps toward the truth. She was never happy about it, but she understood the motivation and it had nothing to do with her being a woman.
She realized that she’d been unfair in her generalizations. Mulder most certainly didn’t belong in the same group of men that would so blatantly insult or humiliate her. “I feel I should apologize, Mulder,” she said in a lowered voice, toying with the corner of her placemat.
He stopped her. “I think you see things in me that I don’t, just as I see things in you that you don’t. And I have a feeling that we’ve both been pretty unjust in our assumptions of one another.” At this, he offered her an awkward smile and reached over to fast-forward the tape. He pressed ‘play’ and once again, her somewhat tinny voice piped up through the speaker. Recorded Scully was explaining to Sheriff Hartwell about the different psychological and medical dysfunctions that could be attributing factors to the killer’s motivation.
Mulder stopped the tape again. “‘Get those little legs movin’?”
She looked down, embarrassed that she would reveal so much of herself in such a small statement. She didn’t care to delve into that, but knew Mulder enough to know he wouldn’t let it slide. It said a little too much about her self-conscious awareness of her stature and, God help her, how much she cared what Mulder thought about it. There was absolutely no way she was about to expound on that.
Thankfully, she didn’t have to. Mulder flipped the tape over and rewound the other side to the beginning. As his recorded voice relayed his version of the events, Scully listened very carefully. This time, it was she who turned the tape off.
“Mulder,” she began quietly, “you have to know that there is nothing about you that I find embarrassing. Overwhelming, yes. But never embarrassing. And I have a great deal of admiration and respect both for you and our work. I never thought you saw it differently. We have our differences, but I always imagined that we had an understanding about that. I’m sorry if you’ve felt obligated to tread lightly around me. Quite frankly, I never dreamed you felt this way.” In all the years she’d known Mulder, she’d never once known him to be timid or apologetic about himself or his methods. It said a lot that he was self-aware when it came to her.
Likewise was his heartfelt, “But, as always, I’m very eager to hear your opinion.” Hearing it again, under these circumstances was like a punch in the gut. It spoke volumes about his respect and consideration for her and her opinions. Though she knew for a fact he never really said the words, he was thinking them and therefore made mention of them in his story.
She pinched the bridge of her nose between her thumb and forefinger. She had to put a stop to this. It was too much like reading someone’s diary, far too personal to see each other’s raw emotions lying just beneath the surface of their words. Listening to these things with an analytical mind was a bad idea. It skirted territory she was certain she wasn’t ready to wander.
“Mulder, I think this is a mistake. We both know we exaggerated facts here. I really don’t see the need to continue.” Please, Mulder, her eyes pleaded.
“Scully, I think I need to apologize to you, too. I don’t want you to ever think that I take you for granted, not even for a minute.” The fixed intensity of his gaze made her stomach quiver slightly, leaving her feeling a bit uneasy.
“Apology accepted, Mulder. Would you like to stay for dinner?”
He grinned broadly. “Depends on what we’re having, Mrs. Harker.”
Scully gave him a look of exasperation. “Very cute, Mulder. Unfortunately, there is no red meat on the menu tonight. Just good old-fashioned chicken alfredo. But if you’re staying, you have to prepare the salad for me.” She stood and turned toward the kitchen without waiting for an answer.
Mulder stood as well. “Scully? We’re okay, aren’t we?”
She offered him a beaming smile of her own. “Of course we are, Mulder. We’re just fine. Now, if you’re going to help me you’d better get those little legs a-movin’.” She turned away and walked into the kitchen, smiling softly at the sounds of chuckling behind her.
~ The End ~
Author’s Notes: First and foremost, thanks to Mimic for her beta-shredder treatment!
Mrs. Harker is a character from “Dracula” by Bram Stoker. Just in case some of you didn’t recognize the name.
Bad Blood is among my favorites. After watching it again, I started to realize that the whole episode had a much deeper meaning, lying underneath the funny circumstances and dialogue. I began to see that each version of the story revealed a personal peek inside Mulder and Scully’s heads. We really got to see what they thought of each other – some of it good, some of it negative. I feel I’ve only really scratched the surface here, so a sequel may be forthcoming. Hope you enjoyed it!