"It’s quite an undertaking to start loving somebody. You have to have energy, generosity, blindness. There is even a moment right at the start where you have to jump across an abyss: if you think about it you don’t do it." --Jean-Paul Sartre
Dammit to Hell!” Scully said as the El Camino sped away. Her boots stamped the dirt. “Motherfuckers.” The tires she had failed to shoot out kicking grit and dirt in their faces in as the souped up car peeled out of the deserted campground lot.
Things in the field got heated, and Scully was as prone to frustration as most, but Mulder was surprised by her outburst. They had only been tagging along on the case, and even when she was royally pissed, she was more likely to effect a bedside manner of cool detachment.
As the Tampa field officers who hadn’t gunned their engines and taken off in pursuit cleared the area, Mulder ran over to check on her. She was staring at the ground muttering, her posture stiff, her service weapon tapping against her right thigh. She raised her gaze to glare at him, but didn’t holster her weapon.
Livid Scully, he knew, was a product of having been coaxed from her comfortable bed on a Sunday by her hare-brained partner for yet another lead in yet another tucked away hamlet. This time in Florida — into the whorling claws of a hurricane no less — on something only remotely FBI related: A sea monster as described by a liver-spotted drunk coot. The Monster Mash. She knew every step.
Except this time, before they’d been able to board a flight home, they were called in to work with a team of local agents on a case sixty some odd miles north and inland of Tampa. The middle of nowhere, Florida.
It seemed a couple of locals had attempted to take advantage of the fact that law enforcement resources were spread thin due to the aftermath of the hurricane by robbing their local branch of Wells Fargo.
Luckily, the two men proved to be unusually inept. Their faces and license plate number were a matter of record, their hands stained with ink from a dye pack. Before long they would bumble themselves into custody, no doubt.
“Mulder, how did we get here again?” Scully asked, blowing her hair out of her eyes. Her face was flushed in the muggy heat, her eyes bright with what he could only assume was anger. He exhaled fractionally in relief as she put away her gun, hoped she didn’t notice.
“Where would that be, Scully?” Mulder said politely.
“You tell me!” she yelled, stomping away toward the bath house.
Mulder’s mouth fell open and he stared gapingly behind her.
The three or four of the Tampa field agents Mulder hadn’t realized were huddled nearby tittered. One winced and shook his head at Mulder. Another whistled softly.
Scully, on the other hand, wheeled her oh-so-red head around and irradiated him with a look of fury that actually frightened him. Livid Scully had become apoplectic in no time flat. She kept walking away, quickly. Crap.
As he made their way to their rental car to await her pissed off return, he tried to figure out what had made her so very mad. I mean, she’d been grouchy as hell all day and the day before, irritable with his driving choices. And should he happen to attempt to lighten the mood by cracking a joke? Nope.
He was occasionally treated to this version of Scully for a few days at a time. After a few...cycles of this routine, he more or less figured out what was going on, though the exact provenance of the mood, on any given occasion, usually remained unconfirmed. While his sky high IQ most definitely did not provide any kind of measure of his social acumen, he wasn’t a total moron in the ways of women.
Even as the thought crossed his mind, he realized it was bullshit.
She slipped into the passenger seat briskly, buckled up, and they were headed to the motel to pack. Then to the Tampa-St.Pete airport, with any luck to catch the late flight home.
He was glad they were no longer needed on this idiotic case. Maybe he could arrange a seat far, far from Scully for his for the trip to DC.
He assumed she would rip into him as soon as they cleared earshot of the local field agents. But instead she tipped her seat back a few degrees and sat in silence as he drove. He could see that she’d regained her composure, splashed some water on her face and was braced in the bucket seat. Whatever had upset her so much, she didn’t want to discuss it.
Finally, as they pulled into the motel lot, he broke the silence.
“Scully,” he offered “I’m sorry to have offended you. I know you’re not thrilled that I dragged you out to some Godforsaken place yet again, this time in a hurricane no less. I understand that.”
She grunted a laugh and turned her head to look out the window. He was happy to be treated to a better view of the underside of her jaw and the strong cords of her neck. Her pulse ticked away, slow and steady, visible to his practiced eye beneath the soft skin at her sternal notch.
She stole his breath more and more these days.
He had to stay on task, though, if he hoped to emerge from this current scrape at least alive. To improve his general standing with her would be an optimal result.
“I’m trying to apologize here. What’s funny about that, Scully?” he asked with genuine curiosity.
“Mulder. You’re apologizing about the wrong thing. God, If I became irate every time you cajoled me into joining you on some…some...zany caper, I’d… Well, I don’t know what I’d do. I wouldn’t be a very happy person.”
Huh? “Scully. Please. Explain it to me like I’m a fifth grader. What did I do to make you mad?”
“Ok then,” she said, inhaling the still stifling evening air deeply through her nose and into her stomach, and closing her eyes for a fraction. It was technique he’d seen her employ in the past when gathering patience. He gave her many opportunities to practice.
Mulder, I’m going to explain it to you like you’re an eighth grader instead. An eighth grader leaning against his locker talking with his friends as a girl walks by on her way to the library.
“ did this girl have owlish glasses, curled bangs, freckles, and an armful of books?”
Scully sighed. “All right, I’ll play along. Are you thinking of me Mulder? How do you know what I looked like back then?”
“I saw pictures photo albums your mom brought to the hospital when you were sick.”
He looked down as he confessed. She might think he was respectfully remembering her cancer. The truth was, he couldn’t put his eyes on her, remembering how those waxy pages later, after she was well, provided fodder for his prurient imagination. Scully through the years. Gulp.
“No this middle schooler isn’t me,” she said. “It’s hypothetical.”
“OK,” he said, getting back with the program. “I’m listening, Captain.”
He had piloted the car into a parking space, and they remained sitting there talking for several minutes. He went to cut the engine, but realized how good the A/C felt. The sweat that had covered him all day was beginning to dry and flake.
“Mulder, I don’t think you’re taking this seriously. I’m really pissed.”
He felt pure of intention where Scully was concerned. “I know you are. I don’t mean to downplay it. But the thing is, Scully, I still don’t know why.”
“Right.” she said. She still hadn’t looked at him. “I’ll tell you what. Why don’t we just forget it and get on a plane?”
“Sounds good,” he said, smirking and cracking the seal of the door, exploding the mood quiet intimacy that had arisen between them. Now HE was pissed. He ripped the keys from the ignition and stalked off toward his room. He knew he should let it go if she wanted to, but damn he was tired of being put off by her.
Back in his room he closed the door and stopped, listed stiffly against the jamb, felled by her. He rested his hand over his heart and smiled. The pain was sweet.
A few minutes later after splashing water on his own face, He was genuinely shocked to realize he actually did want to know what he’d done to offend her. Maybe he wouldn’t change his seat after all.