Capacity is both how
much a thing holds and how
much it can do.
James McMichael, Above the Red Deep-Water Clays
Scully spends her father's birthday in the warm, close confines of her mother's basement. He would've been fifty-four that year.
They sort through dusty boxes, the rustle of paper punctuated by an occasional sneeze. Mrs Scully uncovers a small leather-bound book with a short sound of pleased surprise. She holds it out. "Do you remember this, Dana?"
Scully leans over to see the spine. "Speeches and Letters of Abraham Lincoln 1832 - 1865," she reads. "I gave this to Dad for his fortieth birthday." She smooths the dust from the cover and turns to the inscription on the title page. To Ahab, Happy Birthday, Love, Starbuck.
"You saved for such a long time," Mrs Scully says, tracing the ornamental border with one finger. "You were determined to get him a first edition."
"He always said that old books had more character."
"Your father was a great believer in character."
"Character is what you are in the dark," Scully says, remembering. As a child she'd thought he meant the literal dark.
A fond smile spreads across her mother's face and Scully feels the old, familiar sorrow.
Later, she slips Lincoln's speeches into her coat pocket before kissing her mother's cheek in goodbye. On the short walk to her car, the soft leather of the book brushes gently against her palm.
In bed that evening, Scully leafs through the gilt-edged pages, the lamp on her bedside table lending them a soft glow. They whisper as they part and come together, soothing her into sleep.
The air of the Ft Evanston morgue is cold and dull. It does nothing to soothe the nagging ache that lingers behind her eyes. The rhythm of autopsy sustains her as she discovers the truth of Captain Draper's corpse. In the peculiar non-echo of the room, she traces the linear path of the drowning body: from oxygen deprivation through laryngospasm, hypoxia, cardiac arrest and, finally, brain death.
Once, as an undergraduate, she'd seen a glass sculpture of the lungs -- not the sacks of tissue, but the internal structure: the cartilaginous passageways of the trachea, bronchi and bronchioles. The fine, fragile points had reminded her of those rare winter mornings when ice sheathed every leaf and branch, every blade of grass. The work was lit so that its shadow against the white wall etched every slender vessel like a dark finger; black lungs of a giant.
She'd gone home to dig through her old biology textbooks, spent hours in the campus library, looking at diagrams and cross sections. Never before had she considered the beauty inherent in the meat of the body, the vastness of what it contains.
Unravelled, the lungs go on for acres.
Trevor Callaghan, Quentin Freely and Leonard Trimble all die of asphyxiation on the same day.
When she was no more than seven, Scully was tumbled by a strong wave close to shore. Pulled in by its gathering motion, then churned in its break, she lost all bearing. For those few moments, she was gripped by the terror of helplessness and a starved burning all through her chest. Then a strong pair of hands plucked her from the water and she lay panting in her father's arms.
Something like that directionless panic grips her in the hallway outside Trimble's room, as though she's the one being smothered. The roar in her ears drowns out the sound of her own voice calling, her own hands beating at the door. By the time the nurse unlocks it, Scully knows they're already too late.
After giving their statements, Mulder drives them back to D.C. Scully is subdued and shaken; her cut and bruised hands are bandaged in her lap.
"Even if we had been able to resuscitate him, the combination of arrest and hypoxia would most likely have resulted in brain death," she says dully, staring out the window.
"You couldn't have prevented what Stans did, Scully."
She thinks of the bleak determination on his face. "I've never witnessed anything so deliberate, Mulder. I thought I'd seen every kind of death there is, but I was wrong."
Mulder reaches over and rubs his hand against her thigh, but says nothing. They spend the rest of the drive in silence.
He stops next to her car in the Hoover garage and gets out to open her door. "Are you sure you're okay to drive home?"
Scully nods and tries to smile at him as she manoeuvres herself out of the seat. The book of Lincoln's speeches falls from her pocket and Mulder scoops it up.
"A little light reading, Scully?"
She leans into the space of the open door, one arm braced. "It was my father's. Mom and I found it last weekend when we were cleaning out the basement."
He opens it to the inscription. "Is this the first time you've gone through his things?"
"Mom went through his clothes and personal things, but not the rest."
Mulder nods, his expression gentle, kind.
"I'm sorry I've been--" she pauses, searching for the right word "--unsettled on this case. Sunday was his birthday and I didn't think it would affect me so strongly."
He reaches over and touches her hand. "Scully, why didn't you say anything? You should've taken some time."
She shakes her head. "No, I told you: I need something to put my back against."
"Nothing like multiple unexplained homicides then."
She smiles tiredly but with genuine humor and feels a sudden rush of affection for him. "You can read it, if you like," she offers, without any idea why. Mulder looks as surprised as she feels.
"I'd like that."
Sitting in her own car after Mulder has driven away, she thinks about what she's revealed and whether he will understand it. When he comes to the final page of Lincoln's inaugural speech, he'll find one of his x-ray dental plates pressed there as a marker. It's an odd juxtaposition of men who seem to share nothing in common. She wonders if she understands, herself.