Title - Soldiergirl
Summary - Bill Scully has an unusual Christmas gift for his sister.
Note: This story was written for the PURity Summer Season Challenge.
It started with the silver bullets.
Six boxes of them. High test, high grade, silver coated 9mm ammo guaranteed not to flake, rust, melt or otherwise do anything that would cause them to jam when fired.
Do you have any idea how difficult it is to get silver bullets custom designed and delivered? The gunsmith thought I was crazy. Hell I thought I was crazy. I still bought them.
Half a dozen boxes, one hundred bullets to the box.
Hell of a thing to buy your sister for Christmas.
All because I walked into the wrong damn shower.
I had every right to be there. The officer's insignia on my shoulders said so. But I would have made an exception if I'd given anyone a chance to explain why I should hotfoot it several doors down. Unfortunately, I was tired, pissed off and horny ...not necessarily all in that order.
And none of those conditions has ever had a positive effect on my temper.
My boat was early, Tara was still visiting her mother and the showers on the boat had stopped working over a week ago. Which was why we were early. So I not only had to deal with the fact that I had a mountain of paperwork on my desk relating to said plumbing problem, but my wife had not been there to meet me like we'd planned and I smelled. I mean really smelled.
Another side effect from investigating said earlier stated plumbing problems.
So my men were staying upwind and I was too intent on taking a three hour shower to stop and talk to anyone who might have clued me in to the unofficial change in territory that had occurred while I had been gone. Instead, I just starting stripping off clothes before I was all the way through the door and had my head under blessed hot water before the silence registered.
You have to understand...there's a big difference between the silence of an empty room and the silence of one where the other people just aren't talking. I don't know how to explain it...but it's there. And the one thing that sailors usually are not, is silent.
Since it was possible that the smell pouring off my skin with the impact of the hot water had stunned them all into unconsciousness, I cautiously cracked open one eye. The other flew open in shock when I found myself the target of five amused gazes.
Don't get me wrong. I don't have any problem with SEALs. Any one of them could break me like a pencil. I know it. They know I know it. So there is no reason for them to bust my face over it. But I'm also male...and my testosterone was telling me that I was surrounded by predators.
I'm a sailor...not a soldier. And every gibbering instinct in my body knew it.
These men were not the enemy. But I was naked and outnumbered.
Fear is not rational.
Still, from the looks on their faces they were getting a kick out my predicament. One of them was eyeing the trail of clothes I had left on the floor with the expression of someone contemplating a burial at sea. One of the others just shook his head in sympathy and tossed me a bar of soap.
Smiles all around and that would have been the end of it if I hadn't noticed the scars.
Sailors get pretty used to tight quarters and lack of privacy. But there's looking at another man's body simply to recognize that it is there and then there is staring. I had definitely crossed the line into staring. It was only later that I realized that they must have seen something else in my face, because every single one of them stood there quietly as my horrified eyes moved from one ragged edge tear to another.
That was a knife wound. And that one there was a bullet. Blade, bullet, teeth. One testament to injury after another. But it wasn't the history of blood and pain written across their skins that scared me. Rocked me to the foundations of my world and beyond.
It was the fact that I recognized them.
Had seen similar scars in similar forms on two other bodies. One of them a body I would kill to keep safe. The other a body I had seriously contemplated putting a bullet into.
"What did that?"
I was pointing and I could hear my mother's voice yelling at me to mind my manners, but I was too far gone to stop now. If I could have reached out and touched that scar I would have. If only to convince myself that it was real. the SEAL reached to trace the scar lightly and his eyes were suddenly flat with a darkness I realized that I recognized. A grim contemplation that I had seen in blue eyes and hazel.
A darkness that I had scorned, not respected.
The SEAL's voice was wry, half-joking as he twisted his lips and uttered one word I knew he did not think I would believe.
But oh God. Mother Mary and all the Saints preserve us.
In that moment of time, I did.
I must have started to shake, because the room was suddenly spinning and I heard muttered curses as two dark forms leapt to catch me as I fell. From a distance, I heard my own voice, high and plaintive. A child stating a fact that he desperately hopes the adults around him will dispute.
"Dana has one just like it."
When I came too, there were medics surrounding me and the SEALs were gone. But they left me a gift. Or a curse. It all depends on your point of view. One of the SBAs gave me an uncertain glance and handed me an object and a note. The note was short and to the point.
<For your sister>
I looked at the knife in my other hand and twisted it cautiously to free the blade from it's sheathe. The deadly edge cleared the leather smoothly and the purity of it's metal and the beauty of it's lines did nothing to detract from it's lethal function or purpose. The light gleamed off it's surface and the SBAs were suddenly giving me concerned glances as tears rolled down my cheeks while laughter bubbled hysterically from my lips.
I turned the blade once more to catch the light.
I started hearing stories in the silences of her conversation. Pauses, hesitations...secrets that I can only guess at humming down the wires of AT&T. But I did not know how to bring the subject up...and she did not volunteer.
So I bought silver bullets.
I had no clue how to tell Tara. How to explain that I was suddenly seeing shadows where none existed. Why I was suddenly keeping Matty closer to home and frantic when either of them were out of my sight. I don't know what I'm going to do when I'm assigned another tour on open water. I'm hoping I'll be sane by then.
But I meant to tell you about the bullets.
Did you know how cheap silver is? You can buy it easily by the ounce. I was walking down the street when I passed this jeweler's window that had several of the tiny squares resting on black velvet. Just part of the display, but before I could stop myself I was in the store and laying down my credit card.
I already explained that the gunsmith thought I was crazy.
It wasn't long before the quartermaster thought so too.
I started going through his shelves. Searching through his catalogues. I wasn't even sure what I was looking for. But all I could see was Dana facing things that scared full-grown SEALs and reaching for a weapon that wasn't there.
I thought the bullets would be enough. And the knife. But then I watched a Bela Lugosi movie and the next thing I knew I was siphoning holy water into a plastic bottle while the priest looked on baffled and alarmed. At least I had the presence of mind to use a church other than mine.
The fear never settled. It was this vast underswelling of panic that was taking over my life and threatening to drag me down. I kept thinking that I was going to be too late. There was nothing I could do to save my baby sister. I couldn't keep her safe. I couldn't keep Melissa safe.
How the hell was I going to keep Matty and Tara safe.
It was when I started guiltily praying that Dana and her partner could keep us safe that I knew my life had changed forever. That I had changed forever. And maybe these things were the closest I could come to an apology.
Because Dana wasn't talking to me anymore.
It was my own fault. I had made another sarcastic crack about Mulder. God knows why I did it. I knew better. But I won't lie and say I like him. I hate everything about the way I feel, about the fear that it taking over my life...and I lay it all at his feet. It's not fair. I know that.
I can shoot the messenger if I want to.
Only now I've lost my last chance to tell Dana that I think I understand.
That's when Tara found me. I was standing in the garage staring helplessly at the pile of things I had purchased and every single one of them needed to go to Mom's. But the box I had wasn't big enough. You would think that it would be easy enough to just go out and buy another box, but all I could see was that I had made another mistake.
Tara found me crying over a god damn cardboard box in the basement. I don't know what the hell was going through her head when all I would say was,
"There's something missing. I don't know what it is, but something's missing."
It was then that I got proof positive how much my wife loves me. All she did was study the pair of bullet proof vests in my hands-the ones I had made after seeing that goddamn COPS episode, vests with pockets for extra clips and extra guns and extra things like holy water. I even had one made for Mulder. Because Dana had made her choice very clear and because if he ever got shot, no one would be there to watch her back.
That was suddenly far more important than how he made me feel.
Tara listened to my broken explanations. To this day I'm not sure how much sense they made. Then, instead of trying to talk me out of it or telling that I was crazy , she looked seriously into my eyes and suggested that we add a handful of tank tops.
" She isn't going to want to wear silk under that vest and I know I'd get tired of stripping down to my bra in front of all those cops and TV cameras. And they are easier to wash and don't cost as much if they get damaged. Do you think she would like some blue ones?"
Tara didn't even squeak when I grabbed her and held on tight.
God I love my wife.
We all ended up at Mom's for Christmas. I think if Dana had known I was coming, she might have had something else to do that night. That hurt more than I will ever admit...more because I know it's my fault. But Tara must have said something to Mom and no one said anything to Dana.
I was more than willing to send my box and be done with it. Hide out in San Diego and wait to see if she understood what I couldn't tell her. But Tara had decided that I was going to do this in person and my mother agreed. I was outgunned and outmaneuvered so fast I'm thinking of recommending commissions for both of them.
Charlie and his family were there and suddenly I was seeing Dana's darkness in my own eyes. It stared out at me from the mirrors and reflected back at me from my mother's hesitant expressions and sober looks. I knew something they did not...and it pulled a wall around them I could not break.
Or perhaps the wall was around me.
I looked at the laughing faces of my brother and his wife and wanted to scream at them for the chances they did not even know they took. I looked at their children and saw vulnerabilities I could not begin to explain. Monsters under the bed that were real, deadly and just outside the doors.
It was at that moment I knew that if Dana told me to circle the wagons and put garlic above all the windows that I'd do it.
And I don't even believe in monsters.
But she does. He does. And the SEALs do. And I finally realized that the fear I've been fighting is not for what lives in the shadows, but for the peace of mind I'm going to be forced to leave behind. Because now that I've stopped closing my eyes, someday I'm going to find answers I'm not looking for.
Or perhaps, they will find me.
Then supper was over too soon and the doorbell was ringing. Mom ushered Dana into the hallway while Mulder trailed along behind, lugging bags of parcels. Instantly Mom invited him in for coffee and it was my bad luck that Dana caught sight of me at the same time Mulder started to protest that he was just there to help with the bags. It wasn't rational, but I suddenly knew, without a doubt, that if Mulder did not stay, that Dana would blame me forever.
And no amount of silver would ever make it better.
So I swallowed my pride and my instinctive anger and I added my own invitation. Well, it was more an order. Something about icy roads and waiting for the salt trucks. I may even have made some comment to the effect that only a moron would risk driving...
Okay, so it wasn't elegant. I was nervous. Tara groaned and both Mom and Dana glared but Mulder actually studied me curiously for a few minutes before toeing his boots off. He didn't even seem that insulted. Intrigued and wary, but not insulted.
Which was fine, because Dana was being insulted enough for the both of them.
I should tell you that when I'm scared I get obnoxious. I just can't help it. No matter what I mean to say, it comes out in this clipped sarcastic voice that seems especially designed to piss people off. Unfortunately, the alternative to speech is not talking at all. Which just makes me look sullen.
I figured sullen gave me the least number of chances to say something that would get me killed. So I pasted a polite smile on my face and tried not to glare at Mulder. I guess I wasn't being totally successful because Dana just got very quiet and very tense. Her knuckles on her coffee mug were so white I was worried she was about to fracture bone. Tara stared talking faster and faster, while Mom just kept looking up and asking faintly if anyone wanted more cookies.
Finally, in desperation, Charlie suggested that we open presents. The screams of the children covered several explosive sighs of adult relief and no one seemed inclined to mention that it was several hours too early. Tradition was scrapped in favor of detente.
The rule was, that everyone got to open one present. Unfortunately, I'd forgotten about the huge box wrapped in silver paper with Dana's name on it. The kids wanted to know what was inside even if it wasn't for them. Charlie had second thoughts as soon as he saw who it was from, but by then it was too late.
This wasn't how it was supposed to happen. Not like this. Not when she was already angry with me. I know she didn't understand about the tank tops because she hadn't seen the vests yet. Still, her smile was fairly solid until she reached the next item in the box. I just wanted to know that she understood the message behind the bullets.
It never occurred to me that everyone would think it was a joke.
I think it was the vials of holy water that did me in.
She's on her feet and standing with her arms braced against the window while all I can do is stare blankly at her back. Mom has an appalled look on her face and Charlie's face is almost as blank as mine. Thank God the children were oblivious. They just thought the bullets were cool.
That's when I saw Mulder reach into the box and move the tank tops to reach something beneath. The sudden shift of his expression caught me off guard and I tried to recall what was in that particular container. I think it was the antibiotics. They were the same sort of pills and tablets the special forces used and I had had a hell of a time finding tablets for Mulder. He was allergic to the ones that came standard with the kit.
Son of a bitch probably did it just to be a pain in the ass.
Dana could get all the meds she wanted...but these were military grade and designed for travel in combat situations. I figured, what the hell. Besides, they came with the med kit. Mulder started to open his mouth ...and Dana turned around.
That's the first time I knew what it felt like to have your heart break.
For once, the walls were gone. Stripped bare, I'll never forget the despair, then pain...and yes, the anger that etched years onto her face. No one spoke. She would not, the others did not, and I could not.
Then I heard a single voice.
Three of us turned instinctively. Two navy, one FBI. He never noticed. In his eyes, there was only one person who belonged to that name. She turned...and caught the vest he tossed her. Then he held her eyes, shook his head slightly and lifted out the second.
The one sized to fit him.
She didn't get it. But she stood waiting, searching...because he did. And that hurt. I had driven my sister so far away that she had to trust another to see what she could not.
But she did not leave.
Then Mulder's looking at me, and shit, I recognize that look. Mom and Charlie still are not moving and I think Tara's nails have begun to draw blood . And now she's getting pissed at Dana because Dana's pissed with me.
Way to go, Commander. Merry Fucking Christmas.
Mulder's still holding the vest so I start talking to him, hoping...I don't know. That I could make this better. Fix it.
"I had them embroider FBI on the back. I figured they wouldn't allow you to wear them without it. And there's some padding to keep the vials from breaking in case you get hit or fall. The bottles are tough though. Heavy duty plastic..."
I was babbling, but I couldn't stop. My voice just kept going on and on, getting higher and faster as I itemized all the standard and non- standard features. I was beginning to wish that one of them would pull their gun and just shoot me and shut me up.
Suddenly Dana was flying across the room and I swear for a moment I honestly thought she was going for my throat. Then her body hit me hard enough that she knocked us both back onto the sofa. I think Tara had started to get up when Dana moved...maybe to stop her...I don't know. Our momentum combined with my grasp on her hand pulled her down on top of us, but Dana didn't seem to notice or care.
She had her arms wrapped around my chest so tight I was having trouble breathing and I could feel her body shaking as she just kept saying "thank- you" over and over. Tara must have let go of my hand because I suddenly realized I had both arms wrapped around my sister's shoulders and all I could think was that she was safe, and that she forgave me, and maybe I'd survive after all.
When I finally looked up, Tara was standing with my mother and Charlie. She must have been explaining, because Mom was smiling proudly at me while Charlie was giving me a thoughtful look I wasn't totally sure how to interpret. It suddenly struck me that with his clearance level in Naval Intelligence that he probably had access to information I'd never be in a position to see.
Maybe he had known who our sister was all along.
Mulder was rooting around in the rest of Dana's present and for a split second I wasn't sure if I was annoyed or just...annoyed. But he turned his head towards us as soon as Dana twisted around enough to see him and I realized that maybe he had been giving us some privacy. Then he held up his hand and grinned as he tossed her his ...her...prize. I scowled.
Dana captured the kit which had seemed small enough when I held it, but seemed to dwarf her hands. I was still amazed at what they had managed to squeeze into that thing. Between the drugs and the equipment, she'd be able to handle just about anything that didn't require major surgery...and even then I wasn't sure where she'd draw the line. Dana is nothing if not creative.
"You planning on getting injured, Mulder?"
I swear to God the man actually pouted. " Scully, you know I don't plan these things."
Dana muttered something under her breath which her partner chose to ignore and then he grinned at her, waiting.
We had moved far enough apart that I could see her face as she narrowed her eyes at the lunatic across the room. Finally she cracked...or maybe that was just part of the game.
"What is it Mulder?"
He held up a box of silver bullets," There's a blue moon in another two months. Maybe we should check it out."
A blue moon? Two full moons in a month. Two chances to go chasing after fairy tales. Two chances to run around after phantoms in the dark?
"Two chances to get eaten?"
I didn't mean it to be funny. I thought about scowling and then decided I was ahead of the game. Mom was laughing with Charlie and Tara was smiling at me through the faintest hint of tears. So I clenched my teeth and settled for glaring at Mulder. The idiot just barked a short laugh, then smiled slyly.
My mouth dropped in shock. Was that an invitation? Surely he didn't think ..no, he really didn't. Dana and he would go hunting these things alone. He didn't expect or want my help. But it felt like an invitation. I groped around for an explanation for what I was seeing, what I was feeling. Suddenly I realized that I was being invited into the club. Not all the way , but far enough inside that I wasn't exiled to the outside of my sister's life, looking in. I took a tentative step.
"There's no such thing as werewolves."
And they laughed at me, but maybe they were really laughing at each other, and their laughter didn't exclude me. Dana turned her head toward me to smile and for the first time I saw the truth of what she had become twisting in the depths of her eyes. Saw hunger and cold judgement born of anger and outrage and a merciless line she had drawn in her own blood. I saw the darkness that I had always misread as pain. Or maybe I had just never looked far enough beyond the pain.
I don't think I know enough to understand it all. But she was showing me the truth of herself, confident for once that I wouldn't reject it. Wherever Mulder was going, she wasn't stumbling blindly along behind him. She would be right there beside him.
My sister hunts the things that hunt humans.
And she was looking forward to it.
I watched as she walked back to her partner and he helped her stuff her presents back into the box. Mom was dragging Tara into the kitchen saying something about cookies and eggnog while Charlie...Charlie smiled at me in a way that made me think that maybe we'd be having ourselves some hunting conversations of our own. It made me wonder just what my brother had been doing since Missy's death.
Still, that's for another day. For now, all that matters is that I've got my sister back. Not the one I thought I'd lost, but the one that had been standing there all along.
I do not believe is ghosts.
I do not believe in goblins.
I do not believe in monsters.
But the next time my sister has to take down a werewolf, that bastard is one dead puppy.