18) things you said when you were scared & 99) tell me a secret
season 6; an easy, stupid case
He’s holding the gun wrong. Arms straight out like divining rods, elbows locked so the veins nurse’s love to poke at go an uncanny blue. Mulder wants to nudge Scully. Say: He’s going to break his arms firing the gun that way, you know. She’s a doctor. She would want to know things like this.
“I’ll kill you both,” he says. Scully is alter-idol still beside him, but he can feel the slight waver of her fear like a change in wind. Here’s another thing he wants to tell her: We believe the same thing this time.
He’s holding the gun wrong, gonna break his arms, but the muzzle is the right direction. Mulder can see it: the kid is maybe twenty-three, wild-eyed, and if (when) he fires, it’s going to kick back so hard he’s going to break his skull on his living room wall. Still. Mulder has never been so certain, so stupidly sure, that he is going to die. The kid is going to break his skull and the bullet that he’s going to fire from that held-wrong gun is going to blast through his stomach and catch Scully in the collar. They’re gonna bleed out slow and angry on this crappy farmhouse floor.
Just a routine background check, sir, he imagines telling Kersh. Did you know that sometimes people who buy mulch are making bombs and their own meth and don’t know how to hold guns? Did you know they’re too stupid not to fire them?
“Mulder,” Scully whispers next to him. The kid is blinking slowly, like trying to re-focus his eye like binoculars. His tent pole arms stay sharply out in front of him.
He wants to say: I know. I know you’re afraid. I wish I wasn’t just wearing the ankle holster so that you could reach my gun. You know how to hold a gun, Scully. You keep your arms bent like you’ve calculated the angle. You don’t miss and you don’t die.
“I swear to God,” the kid says.
Mulder wants to say: Amen.
Scully shifts, just about imperceptibly. She’d been yelling earlier, voice flat and unaffected. The threats they teach you in Quantico, but the kid’s face had remained blank. Now she just says his name.
When she’d been sick, she’d been sharpened down to a quick point. All eye games with death (blink, you motherfucker) and bared teeth. When she’d been dying, she had not been afraid. Now, with a scar under by the skin of her neck, she curls her fingers into the arm of his jacket and mutters his name.
The kid opens his eyes again, and they are wild, still, but clear. He rests his finger on the trigger and squints.
Scully tugs at his jacket again. She mutters something so fast and serious that he thinks is a Hail Mary, but no. “Mulder. Fuck. God, Mulder, I have to tell you something.”
He wants to say something gallant. Wants to say: I know and fashion himself swashbuckling in his last minutes. He’d always wanted to look like Harrison Ford. But her fingers are digging through his jacket into the skin at his wrist and he doesn’t. He doesn’t know. He wants to say: Tell me a secret, like summer camp, but then the kid takes a swaggering step forward and Scully says something that is most definitely a prayer and Jesus, he’s never heard her voice climb the scale like that before.
Then. The kid learns to bend his arms. His uncanny blue veins disappear as he jerks his arm to his head, holds the gun the right way for this, and god, he’s twenty-two, twenty-three, he is a kid. Mulder reaches for his gun but Scully is faster and she, she knows how to hold it correctly and her arms absorb the shock like she might stand in front of a wave, California baby, and the kid’s arm drops away from his head.
He feels the fear go out of her like smoke. Puff and you’d blow her out. She looks at him and says, “We’re gonna need paramedics. He should be fine, but.” She’s feeling around for her cell phone. He wonders if her hands remember how hard she’d been holding his coat.
And, when there is nothing to do but sit on the porch steps of the old farmhouse as sirens fade away, there is the knowledge that this is just one of many. Cut it, print it, that’s a wrap. The kid didn’t have a name and if they wake up shaking, well, at least this time everything happened fast. Neither of them bled. The certainty from before drops away like a curtain in the hazy evening light.
He nudges her with his shoulder. “Hey,” he says. The crickets hum. “What was your secret?”
She pauses for a second, squinting into the falling light and the reanimated corpse of a red truck in the unfamiliar yard. Someone will be coming to take their statements shortly. The town was short on local force. “I didn’t say it was a secret.”
“But you were whispering. That means it was a secret, Scully.”
If they lived out here, he thinks, and it surprises him that that is the whole thought. Before he cuts it off and the crickets hum, he realizes he was finished. If they lived out here. If they. If they lived.
She huffs something like a laugh, says, “Mulder.”
“Yes?” He looks at her for the first time since she’d dug her serious fingers into his arm. She is fading into the light out here, he thinks. Going gold with the sunset and pretending not to feel him look at her. Her mouth twitches. Yes, he thinks, there it is. I am sure, sure, he thinks, but he doesn’t think of what. I am sure. “I’m just waiting for my promised secret.”
She sighs, turns to look at him and squints at the scrape on his cheekbone from the slug the kid had greeted him with at the door. She bites her lip, brings her hand up to his face. Says, “Hold still.”
“I am holding still. I’ve got all the time in the world.”
She breathes in. The EMTs who came for the kid had checked his head already. She opens her mouth and then closes it again. The click of her teeth is sharp, like the snap of a mousetrap. Holding something down and in. Her hand goes still against his temple. He closes his eyes. The crickets hum. If they. If they lived. He thinks that maybe, if it is possible to feel someone smile, then he is feeling hers in her fingertips - warm and familiar with the power of a trigger, soft against his face. She’d had a secret to tell him. They’d been ready to die stupidly on the farmhouse floor. The light is gold out here.
He wants to say: Yeah, Scully. That was mine, too.