Yellow line down the middle of the road like a fragmented ribbon, lengthening to the horizon with the illusion of wholeness, segmenting to pieces as the wheels of her car churned by. Sunshine yellow of a ribbon tied by a little girl's mother in freshly washed hair.
Red tail lights ahead of her and blur of neon in her peripheral vision against a background of midwinter black.
Visions fragmented like her thoughts.
This time of year color leeched away from the world long before she headed home from work; the days were so short. Time passed in Mulder's basement cave only compounded her body's disorientation. Maybe, she mused, untold weeks or years had passed since she'd last made this trip.
How long ago had this latest nightmarish adventure begun? When had she walked into the bank with Jack Willis and fired three shots into a masked robber?
Pain kept a slow, stately rhythm behind her eyes and she forced herself to focus. Yellow - yellow - yellow... The miles ground by.
Uncharacteristically, she kicked off her shoes and tumbled onto the sofa without even turning on the lights in her apartment or removing her coat. Green numerals on her VCR clock glowed a steady 6:47. She shivered and squeezed her eyes shut. When she looked again the numerals showed 6:48. She breathed a shaky sigh of relief and in the next breath chastised herself for superstition.
"Mulder's rubbing off on you," she whispered.
But was he? What the hell had happened to her in the last forty-eight hours?
Fact: Warren Dupree had shot Willis in the midst of a failed bank heist, and Scully had shot Dupree, mortally wounding him. Both Willis and Dupree had coded in the emergency room; Jack was legally dead for thirteen minutes before, under her direction, the doctors had succeeded in bringing him back.
That was where things began to blur around the edges. Had the Jack who had returned to work and subsequently held her hostage in a rundown suburban house really been Jack? She was loathe even to suspect otherwise, but in the end she had, in her way, admitted her doubts.
"What do I tell myself?"
For once Mulder had hesitated to give his interpretation, and she couldn't read his reticence. She knew what he thought, of course, so what had prompted him to remain silent - tact or disappointment in her, with her failure, yet again, to believe?
She had insisted that Jack was in the throes of psychosis - that Warren Dupree's consciousness could have been transferred into Jack's abandoned body was ludicrous... Wasn't it? She would have known. She'd spent over a year of her life with Jack Willis; she should have been the first to realize that her former lover was, for lack of a better term, possessed.
Okay, then. Following this logic, what had happened to her? She had been abducted by her delusional ex-boyfriend, who had held her at gunpoint, handcuffed to a steam radiator, for twenty-four hours. Traumatic, at the least.
Scully almost believed that Mulder had been right, but she had to question that desire to accept an admittedly fantastical explanation. No woman would choose to believe that a man with whom she'd shared a meaningful relationship had lost his mind and threatened her life. If she accepted the alternative, would it only be as a means to soothe her own psyche? She could remember the happy times with Jack, and compartmentalize this... aberration as something perpetrated by someone else entirely.
Dana stripped off her jacket on the way into her bedroom. A long, hot shower always made the world seem cleaner, easier to negotiate.
As the water sluiced down her back, Scully admitted that what disturbed her most was a question that had been lurking at the edge of her consciousness, gnawing at her: What if Mulder was right, and Dana just didn't know Jack well enough to realize that her coworker, subsequently her captor, wasn't the man she had known?
They'd broken up over two ears ago, and had scarcely seen each other since, and when they had, it was only in a professional setting. Of course they'd grown apart. But what if she had never known him well enough to know the difference?
Mulder had obviously been listening to Jack's case notes; she had found the cassettes on her partner's desk. Scully hadn't been able to resist following Mulder's example. As Jack's once-familiar voice had filled her ears - his style had always been more poetic soliloquy for the education of an unseen audience than straightforward case file - she had felt indescribably sad.
Despite their violence and madness, Jack had admitted his envy of Lula and Dupree's "operatic devotion" to one another. In the end their connection had been false, a onesided disconnect, but, my God, if Dana believed Mulder's theory and Warren's own explanation, that love had been powerful enough to bring Dupree back from the dead! Wouldn't anyone envy that?
Alternative: Jack's envy had caused him to internalize Warren Dupree's identity so that he, Jack, could feel that passion with Lula. Equally unsettling.
Scully's relationship with Willis had been far from those epic heights. At its strongest it had been steady, comfortable - totally uninspiring. She had blamed it on relentless ambition and drive, his and hers. The timing hadn't been right, and neither had the person.
As she pulled on soft, worn flannel pajamas, Scully admitted to herself that her real fear was that she would never find that person, never feel that perfect unity, simply because she was incapable of it.
She shook her head. This case had really gotten to her, had left her feeling cold and miserably alone, disconnected, out of sync with herself and with everyone around her. This was so unlike Dana Scully.
Utterly uninterested in food, Scully slid into bed and snapped off the bedside lamp. Tomorrow would be a long day - she hoped Mulder would have a new case for them, something to help her take her mind off this one, and she'd arranged to meet Jack's little brother from the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program in Park Lawn after work.
He came to her without speaking; his intense hazel eyes expressed his concern.
She had been drinking tea when he knocked; steam drifted up between them from the teacup as the liquid cooled and they simply watched one another. He reached across the distance separating them to cup her cheek, and she felt her lips curve into a gentle smile.
Kissing Mulder was as natural as breathing; it flowed up from the soles of her feet and tingled in her fingers as her breath puffed moistly against his chin and her lips grazed the corner of his generous mouth. He rubbed his nose against the wisps of hair above her ear, breathing her in, and she smiled again, feeling light, so light. Hands smoothed over her shoulder blades and pulled her against his chest and into his lap, two sets of denim-clad legs pressing together.
His lips soundlessly formed her name against her cheek - Scully, not Dana. She rested her hand on his chest; his heart leaped against her palm. His stubble abraded her lips and left them tingling.
Mulder, she thought happily. Mulder is with me; I'm not alone. Mulder understands me.
Hands slipping under her sweathirt, caressing her bare back. Mulder knows me.
Tugging his shirt over his head, open mouth pressed to his sharp collarbone - Mulder wants me.
Cool air on her breasts and Mulder looking like a little boy on Christmas morning; long, elegant fingers insinuating themselves inside her loose cotton pants to cup her gently through her underwear. I understand Mulder, even when I don't agree with him.
Both of them desperately eager to connect; clothing shoved aside and her bare back against the sofa cushions, his chest hovering above hers, tantalizing her, as their eyes met, solemn but content.
Individual sensations merged into a rushing, unstoppable flood of heat and pleasure as they surged together, her body clenching around him as he entered her. Still they were silent; words were superfluous.
Finally she let her eyes drift closed - she didn't need to see him to reaffirm his identity or to feel his passion and caring surround her - and concentrated on the sensations. Oh, there, yes -
Unearthly music filled her ears, and she didn't question its source - rising notes, the vibrato of a powerful voice producing the strains of an unnamable operatic aria, a crescendo of strings, sweet and urgent, demanding -
Her arms tightened convulsively around Mulder and she pulled him to her as her body, tight as a bow string, imploded.
A sound, repetitive, insistent. The opera score was replaced by a ringing telephone.
For an instant she was disoriented. Sweat cooled on her trembling, exhausted body, and she huffed out a small breath, almost laughing at herself. She was alone.
She reached for the phone by rote.
"Hey, Scully. Did I wake you?"
She closed her eyes and smiled slightly. "Yeah, I guess I drifted off. What is it?"
A pause; he was reluctant to speak. "I just... called to check on you, to see how you're feeling. I wanted to connect with you before you have to present your version of events tomorrow."
Her smile widened. She wasn't alone after all.
"I'm fine, Mulder," she replied softly, with conviction. "I feel just fine."
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