Title: Etiolate
Author: alanna
Disclaimer: The characters herein are the property of Fox Broadcasting and 1013 Productions. The situations into which I have placed them are of my own creation.
Category: S, A
Rating: PG for language
Spoilers: Season Eight, through "This Is Not Happening"

Summary: "Etiolate: To make weak by stunting the growth or development of."

Feedback would be wonderful – wisteria@smyrnacable.net


Three months after a snowy afternoon by a graveside, her life has boiled down to this.

She glanced down at the words scratched on a discarded paper bag and began to recite them into the phone.

"Call off the SWAT team. Remove all official vehicles from a hundred-yard radius, with the exception of an ambulance. Any snipers who attempt to advance on the building will be shot." She took a deep breath and clenched her teeth, then continued to read. "The only person allowed in the vicinity is Agent Doggett."

"Agent Scully," the negotiator said, her voice steely, "Your partner is right here. As you well know, we are prepared to listen to any offers. Are you sure we can't come up with a peace --"

"I'm sure," she growled, then stabbed the cell phone's disconnect button with her thumb, tossing it to the linoleum. The hostage stared across the counter at her, hands visibly trembling on the cheap pressboard. Scully met the young woman's gaze, then turned to peer through the blinds of the front window. She saw the SWAT gunmen moving back, but she knew they would merely take up new positions along the perimeter, their rifles concealed and crosshairs trained on the window where she stood.

The baby shifted and kicked, pressing down on her full bladder. She wanted to retreat to the bathroom, but needed to keep watch over Christel. As she turned her head, a flash of light seared her eyes; the sun must have emerged from the clouds and pierced a glare against the shiny glass of the refrigerated cases along the back wall of the gas station convenience store. Scully hoped that when the snipers did fire, they would avoid the rental propane tanks stacked in front of the building; while Skinner had recently said he thought she had a death wish, she did not want that death to come in a gaseous fireball.

Stress and the baby's continued jabs at her uterus brought on a wave of nausea, the likes of which she hadn't felt since her first trimester. She glanced over at the refrigerated cases again, then took a step toward them.

"Where the fuck do you think you're going?" a loud, harsh voice barked from across the store.

Taking a deep breath, she said, "I'm just going to get some water, to calm my stomach."

"Water only. Don't even think about trying anything else."

Although each step took her further away from it, she could still feel the chill of the muzzle of Aaron Foresman's gun on the back of her head.


"You're losing your edge," Doggett said to her two days ago as they drove toward Foresman's suspected hideout on the outskirts of Fort Worth. She stared out the window, ignoring the bland suburbia passing by. "You're not focusing on the cases anymore."

Her voice low, she replied, "It's not your place to psychoanalyze me, Agent."

In his brewing anger, he took a curve too fast, knocking her against the doorframe. She barely noticed. "It is when you risk putting your life in danger, and it sure as hell is when you risk mine."

"Nobody's life is in danger." Her voice rumbled in her hollow chest. "I'm perfectly fine."

"Like hell you are," Doggett retorted, showing more emotion than she'd seen from him in the nearly five months they'd been working together. "I may not be a psychologist, but I know depression when I see it. You haven't been the same since..." his voice softened. "Well, since Mulder's funeral."

She winced, as she always did in the few times someone dared to speak his name in her presence. "I'm fine," she parroted.

"Look, I don't want to argue with you," he said as he slowed for a stoplight. "But when we get back to D.C. you're going to have to make some decisions about your ability to perform your job right now. If you don't, then I'll go to A.D. Skinner and tell him how you've been acting in the past couple of months. Despite the fact that you'll be going on maternity leave soon, I'm surprised he hasn't already pulled you from field duty because of all this. You must be doing a damn good job of hiding it from him."

"Agent Doggett, that is enough," she warned. Scully had not hidden anything from Skinner, and had heard and ignored similar words from him last week. She continued to stare out the window. If she turned to face him, she might crumble.

The car began to move again. "All I'm saying is that you need to do something about this before you put me, you, or that child you're carrying in danger."

Tears burrowed their way through her throat, and she swallowed them. "I am now, and have always been, an effective field agent, and I will continue to be one until I begin my maternity leave in two months. Watch my back, and I'll watch yours. Being my friend is not in your job description."

It had been in Mulder's, and he had become more than a friend to her over the years. He had become her life.

But now his life was gone, six feet under the winter brown grass. Despite the second heartbeat in her abdomen, she felt her own life slipping away.


The icy mineral water seared the raw cells of her esophagus. Rather than quelling the nausea, it only made her feel more sick.

"You've got your water, now get back over here," Foresman yelled across the small room, and she heard the familiar tap of a gun barrel against metal. As she walked back over to the counter, her empty holster flapped against her hip. Foresman had grabbed her the second she'd entered the gas station. Before she could react, he'd disarmed her and pushed her against the front counter, his gun on the back of her head, as the clerk's screams vectored around the small building.

Doggett had been right: she had lost her edge. She had unknowingly slipped into depression, its hold dulling her senses and smudging the tactical defense skills she had learned at Quantico and honed to a sharp blade over the years. A year ago, she would never have trailed a suspect into a closed space such as this without properly securing backup.

Instead, she had followed Foresman into the Texaco, telling Doggett over her cell phone as she shifted into park and killed the engine that she was merely pursuing a lead. He'd told her that was fine, that he would meet up with her at the motel and tell her what he learned from the witness interrogation he was about to begin.

Twenty minutes later, he'd assembled the Tarrant County Sheriff's SWAT team and huddled with the hostage negotiator as she recited the list of demands Foresman had scribbled on a brown paper bag.

"Look, Aaron," she said, swallowing the taste of mineral water and bile.

He angrily cut her off. "It's 'Foresman'!"

"Mr. Foresman," she began again, "Unless you negotiate, you will not get out of here alive. The deputies outside will see to that. The victims from the incident last week are in stable condition at the hospital, and the doctors say they will not die." Scully fought to keep her voice steady. "If you let me and Christel go, you will face charges of arson and aggravated assault. If you kill us, you will be convicted of murder and almost certainly receive the death penalty. And if you refuse further negotiations, the SWAT team will kill you."

She met his glare and saw a touch of panic in his eyes, the assumption borne out by the slight tremble of his gun hand. Although her sketchy profile of him had been rudimentary at best, she'd sensed he was a mama's boy, easily swayed.

He glanced down at her stomach, rounded in its sixth month of pregnancy, and she remembered another thing from his profile. "Think of your little girl, Mr. Foresman. Don't you want to watch Amanda grow up?"

A long moment passed. She felt the baby squirm again, and closed her eyes. Finally, Foresman gestured toward the phone and said, "Pick it up." She awkwardly kneeled and grabbed the phone. Handing it to him, she calmly said, "If you press the send button, you'll reach my partner, Agent Doggett. He'll do his best to make sure you get what you want."

Her heartbeat reverberating through her body, she waited. Christel glanced at her, the clerk's eyes wide with precatory fear. Scully stared back, trying to make her face look reassuring.

The gun still in his right hand, Foresman pressed a button on the phone and lifted it to his ear.


"I'm fine," Scully tried to reassure the paramedic. "Exhausted and tense, but not in any physical harm."

"But the baby--"

"--is just fine," Scully insisted. As if trying to make its own statement, the baby moved, sending butterflies up her spine. "I'd like to go back to my motel, if you're finished."

He gave her a long look, then removed his hand from her wrist and said, "Your pulse rate and temperature are high, but you appear to be okay. Get some rest, don't take any pain medication, and come to the ER if the fever persists for more than two hours." She didn't feel like telling him that she was a doctor and knew quite well what to do.

The paramedic put his kit back in the ambulance and walked over to his colleague, who was examining Christel, an enervated look on the young woman's face.

Inside the convenience store, Scully saw assistants from the county morgue unroll a body bag as the forensics team took photos of Aaron Foresman's dead body, blood and brain matter plastered over the glass of the refrigerated cases. After asking Doggett to tell his daughter that he loved her, Foresman had shot himself.

Doggett briskly walked across the parking lot toward the ambulance, a phone in his outstretched hand. "A.D. Skinner wants to speak with you."

She held up a hand and Doggett stopped. "Please tell him that I am fine and that I will call him in an hour."

Her partner opened his mouth in protest, and she repeated, "I will call him later."

His brow furrowed, he said something into the phone then nodded at Scully. Turning back toward the store, he continued to talk to Skinner as he took a step toward the deputies clustered around a squad car.

"Agent Doggett?" she called.

He turned around. "I'm going to head back to the motel." "Are you okay to drive?" His low voice carried across the few yards separating them. She nodded, and he said, "Take care of yourself, okay?"

She gave him a lugubrious smile and said, "I will."

Negotiating her way back to the motel was difficult when her nerves still screamed. Although she felt crushing guilt from her carelessness in pursuing Foresman into that store without backup, she also felt truly alive for the first time since that afternoon by Mulder's grave.

When she arrived at the motel, she let herself into her room and collapsed on the bed, her body curling into fetal position on the springy mattress.

She wept.

She cried for herself, for Mulder, and for the unborn child she put in grave danger because she did not recognize what was happening to her. After she'd buried Mulder three months ago, the denial, anger, and bargaining had come quickly, but depression had taken up residence and refused to give way to acceptance.

Scully knew she was still not ready to accept Mulder's death, but she could not let this depression govern her life. She had a baby to nurture, and it deserved better than this. It also deserved a father, Scully thought painfully, but in his absence she would have to give it enough love for two people, to show it all the joy and love Mulder would have felt if he had known of his child's existence.

As the tears subsided, she began to plan.

Instead of flying directly back to D.C., she would visit Mulder's grave yet again. But unlike her earlier visits, she would not let the cold marble sink her into a morass of depression. Instead, she would smile at the man beneath the earth and talk to him, telling him of the child who would become his legacy.

When she returned to D.C., she would make an appointment with a psychiatrist so she could begin to heal. She would shop for baby clothes and a bassinet, making a home for her and this child, and fill the nursery with photos of Mulder and paint the walls with his love.

Once her tears dried and a hot shower washed away her headache, Scully picked up the phone and dialed Skinner's private office extension.

When he answered, she briefly told him what had happened that afternoon, then said, "I'd like to take a leave of absence, Sir."

"Are you okay, Agent Scully?" His concern echoed across fiber-optic lines.

Placing a hand on her belly, she massaged the taut skin and tried to feel her baby's heartbeat. "I need to take care of myself first. But someday I will be fine."

 

END

 


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