Title: Shading If
Author: Anonymous
Classification: V, A, MT
Rating: PG13
Disclaimer: All character found within are intellectual property of Chris Carter, 1013 Productions and Fox Studios.
Summary: A young FBI pathologist has a memorable meeting with the Bureau’s top profiler.

*****************

January 24, 1991
Quantico Academy

The room was three-quarters female.

Fox Mulder sighed in exasperation as he looked out upon his expectant audience. {I feel like God}, he thought, disgusted. His followers came to hear his teachings, and they were all waiting for the Ten Commandments. Well, thou shalt not kill, for one–but then I’d be out of a job, wouldn’t I?...

Pens poised at the ready, notebooks open on their laps.

{You think note taking at a Spooky lecture is going to help you all become the monsters you need to be?}

Okay. Enough. Calm down. Focus. Give the one damn lecture and you can....

What Mulder? What is it exactly that you do for a living? You sit around in a little room with your laptop and play make-believe? Today I’m a child molester, tomorrow I can be a mass murderer...

And to think that back in the sixties all I wanted to be was the walrus.

He hated these lectures. He’d been to enough of them to know that there was no use in going to any more. There *were* no ten commandments on profiling. Plenty in the Bureau’s rule book for SOP and playing by the book, but profiling was to each his own. And if you were right, someone got to live another day.

And if you were wrong...

Wasn’t that why he was here, though? Because Spooky Mulder was never wrong.

So he didn’t do the lecturing stint very often. His methods were too unorthodox, his leaps too hard to follow. And who gave as shit about replacing Bill as the head of the ISU anyway–so I can bully some other poor sap with a genius IQ into playing catatonic schizophrenic with a few profiled killers bouncing around in his head at any give moment?

His mind was too harsh. The sea of faces in front of him were younger, fresher. More open. Not {catch the bad guys whoopee!} open, but mercifully–he hoped– less jaded, less cynical.

More willing to believe,

The perpetration of the myth. The man behind the nervous Spooky jokes. The newest gossip in the hallways–Spooky’d finally cracked up, gone off the deep end.

But Spooky always came back.

The lights were dimming. He’d begin when he was ready.

*******************

The air in the room was electric. Whether it was from excitement at *seeing* Fox Mulder or *listening* to what he had to say, Dana couldn’t tell.

She glanced down at her lap. Notebook and capped pen. If Mulder–she couldn’t bring herself to refer to a grown man as ‘Spooky’– was as good as they said, she’d need something to take notes.

Or she could just doodle his face out, like some of the other women–none of whom she knew–looked like they were going to.

He really was handsome, she decided. Color-changing eyes, dark and enchanting, gazed out from beneath impossibly long eyelashes and boyish locks of hair, posing neither time nor interest in getting it regulation cut. The face was strong and sharply angled, teeth gleaming white and perfect in rare smiles. But his clothes–{must be expensive on a Bureau salary}, she mused–hung much too loosely on the lanky frame and he carried himself as if he fully expected his body to drop to the floor from exhaustion at any second. Overworked, anyone could see that.

Yet as a pathologist, she never had to worry about that. Never had to wonder if the human cost of the few profilers would become too high for the lives they saved. Sure, Fox Mulder would die young–it was an uneasy fact, and they all knew it. Why did anyone think the ADs and the SACs and AICs were such older men? Live to be that age as a federal agent, and you will be rewarded. Higher salary and desktop labor so you can work your staff to death to see how many made it to your age.

Scully took all the rumors–as she took everything–with a grain of salt. Sure, Mulder was probably good–but *that* good? As good as the rumors said? As good as they all wanted to believe? *This* man, this apparently gentle, patient men? *This* was the man who blew his mind out on cases with Bureau-wide infamous suspects like John Barnett and Luther Lee Boggs and Monty Props and John Lee Roche? *This* was the man who they claimed had been out of commission for weeks because he self-destructed during case? *This* man knew what it was like to be a killer, two killers, three all in one day? *This* was the Bureau’s figurative God?

Well, then, God help us all, Scully thought absently.

The light dimmed.

Let the games begin.

**************

They were impressed. Great. Ask a question and I will answer it and I can get *out* of here and–

Well, it’s not like I’ve got anywhere to go. Dates with serial killers. The next one Bill turns over to me. And the next. And the next after that, one after the other–insane, dysfunctional, teasing, lost, intelligent, sloppy, sneaky. Over and over and over, crime scene photos, blood, dark photos of the imagery of one man’s wild mind. Again and again and again. Catch the killer and you will be rewarded. A vacation as soon as you do this one case for us. Fox Mulder, killer-catching machine.

“Mulder.”

Mulder’s face snapped up to attention, lids half-alert. Patterson glared at him. “Answer the question,” he muttered sharply.

“What was the question?” Mulder muttered back. The audience murmured restlessly.

“You’ve got an eidetic memory, Mulder, figure it out.”

Mulder sighed and turned his attention back to the agents. Patterson flipped a switch on the large-screen slide and yet another body flashed up. Mulder winced barely and turned his face away from the screen. Joyce Muller, twenty-eight. *After* Spooky Mulder had done his creep-out-the-locals routine. After the profile and the investigation and the insights. How is it that it takes less than a minute to end a life and a lifetime to let the injustice lie?

****************

Dana Scully squinted down at her notebook through the murky light cast from the screen. This was insane. This man was insane. There was no way–no possible way–to wean all of that from one photograph. No way. It made sense. Perfect sense. Too-perfect sense. And yet there had been killing before Mulder, and killing after him, and killing that he couldn’t solve and agents who made a better living doing the same work with less fanfare. Fox Mulder, she mused, in all actuality, would make the perfect killer. Impossible for the FBI to catch one of their own without this one of their own.

She let here eyes flicker over to Bill Patterson, his face lined with a lifetime of learning to become one of the hunted. His eyes were cold and hardened, and she realized with a shock just how young Fox Mulder really was. A kid, a prodigy her age, on the fast track to becoming the next Bill Patterson.

And yet the eyes were the same. The innocence was lost and could never be regained. And they had all seen too much to lay their faith in fairy tales.

She blinked once and concentrated on the body of the moment at the front of the room, calculating an imperceptible wince and shudder on the part of Fox Mulder. The perpetration of the myth. God knows how many bodies a day and the man is disturbed by all of them. The myth was incorrect. This couldn’t be easy sailing. Dana Scully’s patients were dead, calculated. Fox Mulder’s were living and destructive, and the beautiful young woman had died at the hands of a sculptor and she his canvas. And I, a forensic pathologist, am the editor, the producer, the player who glosses over the finish and offers the final touches of death. And what possesses us, any of us, to become such artists? And what makes us think we can save it or stop it, and end up in this room learning how to become a monster from a man who falls deeper into the abyss every day, and watch him turn his face from a life?

Dana Scully had common sense, an eye for details, and a mind that calculated the depth of a crime scene in the critical moments it took to catch the killer. But watching this young man, whose eyes shone with a darkness she dearly hoped she would never have to take, she knew deep in that same calculating mind that anyone who could make such leaps had some power beyond her ability to understand, just as a doctor’s instant diagnosis in the seconds between life and death are lost on the mind of a psychologist. And so in the moment the lights flickered on one by one, she decided not to ask the eternal question, posing the impossible dilemma to this man so close to her own goals.

How do you do it?

***********************

“Is this seat taken?”

Mulder’s wary eyes trudged with effort from his admittedly unidentifiable lunch to the cool face of a red-haired diminutive woman balancing an equally unattractive tray by his side. He sat back and rubbed his temples, waving a dismissive hand toward the plastic chair across from him. When he looked up again, she was popping open a can of soda.

At the lecture, he decided, and wants to ask me a few questions. On the much-prayed-for fast track of whatever branch she happens to be in. He sharpened his caustic genes and took a sip of a diet Coke.

She smiled at him tentatively. “It’s nice to meet you. I was at your lecture–“

“An admiring fan?” he cut her off.

Her smile vanished. Scully felt her temper rise, anger immediately directed at this man who with such a cynical view of they world that he mistook a friendly gesture. “It’s good to know you hold yourself in such high regard,” she tossed back, and he laughed shortly despite himself.

“You *do* know how to smile,” she observed.

He raised an eyebrow. “That’s two points so far. And you haven’t even told me your name yet.”

“I was under the impression that you didn’t give a damn,” she replied honestly.

“Usually, I don’t.”

She hesitated. The perpetuation of the myth. Spooky Mulder was expected to be an arrogant bastard and so he was. The corners of his eyes were soft with gentleness but his gaze was challenging. Prove yourself to me. I have to deal with monsters every day and I expect no less. And Dana Scully, a forensic pathologist with no field experience except for the Quantico simulators, felt a rush of fear and the thrill of a challenge. The great Fox Mulder, who to her was no more than a man, had granted her two points and a reprieve and a chance. She was inconsequential to him, a nobody without a reputation, and she’d better earn one fast without taking up his precious time.

“Dana Scully,” she said finally. A pause. “You seemed pretty disturbed by some of those photos in there.”

He cast her a measuring glance before taking a tentative bite of a sandwich. “Let me guess. Forensic pathologist?”

There was a hint of unwilling gape in her returned look, but nothing like the wide-eyed wonder he’d expected.

“I’m impressed,” she said evenly, and took the bait. “How can you tell?”

“No one but a forensic pathologist would look at those pictures and feel anything less than pure horror.”

Fury rose within her and he could see it forming to the roots of her flaming hair and suddenly hard eyes. She jumped to her feet. “Agent Mulder–“

“You *do* have a temper,” he broke in calmly, and she froze suddenly and stared at him. He resisted the urge to shrug. “Payback,” he said simply, and she relaxed and sat down.

Silence. Silence and the uneasy musings of how such a young and handsome man could sit here isolated and ponder death.

Mulder sat back. “I assume, Dr. Scully, you’ve come to alert me to some of the more unscientific notions you so diligently took notes on back there?”

Her gaze didn’t waver. “I didn’t come here to talk business.”

“Why *did* you come here?”

“Why do you assume I have ulterior motives?”

“Don’t you?”

The verbal barrage ceased and she stared at him. “You really do think you’re God.”

He looked at her, hard. “What do you know about God?”

Dana Scully took a deep breath. Okay. One strike. So maybe she had misjudged the humanity in his eyes and he was nothing more than an arrogant bastard. Why else was he alone in a cafeteria full of agents. He carried himself like a deflector shield.

“I’ve always been fascinated,” she began slowly, “by the work of the ISU.”

He sighed. “Please, Agent Scully. Not while I’m eating.”

“What then?”

He glanced up at her in surprise. A questioning gleam in his eyes.

“What then?” she repeated, voice controlled. “Of not the work and the conceit and the solitude, what then?”

There was a beat of silence and in that moment she held her breath. And suddenly, as if a ray of sunshine, unexpected, his dark face broke into a wide smile.

“I’d tell you you have guts, but I’d expect nothing less with that hair.”

Her smile was immediate. “Well, maybe you should try the smiling thing more often.”

She looked down at her tray as he opened his mouth to reply, and though she heard nothing and felt nothing she knew that something was wrong.

His face had gone white and his body was half-doubled over, hands clutching at his temple. She jumped to her feet, horrified. “Agent Mulder!”

But he took a deep breath and another and closed his eyes in silence and held up a hand to stop her advance. “I’m okay,” and his voice was a whisper.

“Mulder–“

“I’m okay.”

She had forgotten to address him by his rank but he didn’t seem top mind. Abruptly he pushed his chair back and got to his feet.

“Excuse me.”

No one else had noticed. The perpetuation of the myth. She followed him out into the hallway, watched as he bent over a water fountain and splashed liquid on his face, swallowing a mouthful of the water and something else with it.

He gave her a weak grin. “You tracking me now?”

“What happened in there?”

He shook his head. “Nothing. I’m fine.” A pause. “Why do you care?”

The Hippocratic Oath. That would be the easy response. I am a doctor. This is my job. I would do this for anyone. And it would be true. The Bureau needs you. A flippant response.

She chose none of these.

“You had me worried.”

He pressed deeper. “Why?”

“Because I don’t understand,” she said slowly, separating the words, “why it’s so hard for *you* to understand why I give a damn. What happened in there?”

He sagged back against the wall and they stared at each other. “I–“

But there was the uneasiness, and the distrust, and the sudden chirping of a cellular phone. Scully startled.

“It’s me,” he told her, reaching into his suit pocket. Right. Of course. Mulder was a field agent who needed to be reached. Mulder was tethered to the ISU by a thin rope so he could be sent out on a case at any time. Overworked? Obviously; they all were. Stress? Stress and headaches. Migraines. Sudden, swift attacks... Scully’s mind calculated and conceived, and the realization came to her in horror. The headache and the shame and the pills. And the distrust. That and the unfriendliness...

What had he been like before it had been ripped away?

“Mulder,” she heard him answer, and it came again: the sudden, deadly silence, wide eyes, white face.

“What about her?” he asked tightly. A long break, deadlier this time, and a hesitation. The barest hint of a whisper.

“Where?”

“I’ll be right there.” Abruptly. She watched his hands shake as he jammed the phone back into his pocket and began to run, loping gait down the hall..

“Mulder!” she called after him. He did not meet her eyes.

“It’s my sister... I have to go”

**************
April 11, 1991
J. Edgar Hoover Building

He had gone.

“I want out.”

And he had returned.

Scully could hear his raised voice shouting from halfway across the hall. Words blurred together in a storm of fury. Slash of white bandage still marring his temple. She stopped in her tracks, startled.

“Agent Mulder, there are *fine* agents that are a product of this institution who do *quality* work. And when one of them comes to me with the trouble you carry around–“

“You’ll give them the same crap you’re giving me, Bill–about responsibility and the guilt and the justice. Will you care about that justice when we’re killed?”

“Mulder, you are way out of line.”

Patterson’s jaw was tight and his eyes flashed, a product of Fox Mulder’s insubordination. Scully considered backing around a corner but neither of the agents had noticed her and there was a crowd forming anyway.

“Agent Mulder, you were selected for your position because the FBI had faith in you to fulfill your duty. Take a vacation if you need one. Talk to someone.” His voice hardened. “But you chose the risks. And it’s damned cowardly of you to back out on the American justice system because you’re having trouble rationalizing your decision. *My* decision is final.”

And it was over as it had begun. The crowd dissipated as Patterson walked away, parting agents like the Red Sea. Mulder breathed hard and slumped against the wall.

This was not the best time to toss out a casual hi. Or an inquiry into just what the hell he had been talking about that day in the cafeteria when he ran off, or where that nasty-looking pure-white bandage had come from, or why he wanted to quit the coveted position with the ISU, or–

Damn it. No, Mulder, not again.

He sank to his knees and his teeth clenched, eyes squeezed shut. Her muscles reflexed and she ran to him.

“Mulder!”

Eyes opened hesitantly, he took a deep, gasping breath and she pushed him back to a sitting position.

“Dana Scully,” he said finally. “Forensic pathologist. Treats headaches and doesn’t talk business.”

“I’m impressed,” she said briefly, and handed him a cup of water. He drank it slowly and she noticed that his hands trembled.

Three months. Three months since she had met him and had not seen him once since, only heard that he was off covering a high-profile serial killing in Seattle. Three months and when they had met the same thing had happened. She was a curse, maybe, or else it was more than coincidence and was to be expected.

And had no one else noticed, or cared?

“What happened?” she said quietly.

“You mean the story of Fox Mulder, zoo animal of the ISU?”

“What?”

He shook his head and winced as it jarred the pain. Struggled to his feet. “It’s their loss if I get sloppy and get transferred.”

She raised her eyebrows. “What?”

He looked at her and hesitated. Spoke cautiously.

“Have you ever heard of anything called the X-Files?”

“I don’t think so, no.”

“You’re not alone. And I’d like to change that, but apparently the Bureau wants to keep the unit quiet.”

“What?”

He waved a hand dismissively and gingerly ran his fingers over the bandage at his temple. “It’s the head injury talking. Agent Scully–“

He stopped short and she took a single step toward him.

“Thank you.”

Now there was surprise. Gratitude. Acceptance. It was a cause to be thrilled. She took a deep breath and proceeded with caution.

“How is your sister?”

His gaze was hard and his voice sharp. “What?”

She opened her mouth and thought better of it, of the glint in his eyes. “You...”

“You should have just asked around.” His voice was bitter. “I’m sure–“

“I assumed,” she broke in, “that the matter was private. And that asking around wasn’t the appropriate thing to do.”

He closed his eyes briefly and relaxed considerably. “I... My sister is... She’s been missing since she was eight. They had thought... there was some evidence that suggested that... they had--” He gave a brief nod.

“Oh, God. Mulder, I’m sorry.”

He shook his head. “All that came out of it was hell from Patterson the next day about running out on my job.”

Unsure. That’s good? No, it wasn’t. And...

She shifted uncomfortably. “Agent Mulder... you should see a doctor.”

He smiled briefly. “Agent Scully, I’m Spooky Mulder, not Stupid Mulder.”

“And...?” she prompted.

“And he told me to get the hell out of the ISU, but you’ve noticed that’s not an option.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I don’t either, but that’s the way Bureau politics work.”

Right. What could she say to that? {the bureau wants to keep the unit quiet}

Another day. Another agent, another case. Another path.

{the best lack conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.}

His own path.

She nodded her head and moved on.

End