Pushed Beyond the Limit

By Mary Kleinsmith (Buc252@aol.com)

Category: Missing Scene, UST, Scully POV

Rating: PG13

Spoilers: Pusher

Summary: Scully worries about Mulder after the shootout

Archive: Yes, just keep my name attached

Acknowledgments: Thanks to Brenda for the quick beta on this one. It's a long story, but I'm lucky to have finished it at all!

Author's Notes: Written for After_The_Fact's "Pusher" Challenge

Pushed Beyond the Limit

By Mary Kleinsmith

Mulder just sits there, his face buried in his hands. The doctors and orderlies come in to see to Modell, and still he sits. The SWAT team come in to clean up the mess after a multiple shooting, and still he sits.

I'm thankful when Brophy doesn't pursue it. He's got no way of knowing what Mulder has just been through - what Modell just PUT him through - but he senses that my partner can't stand a lot of questions at the moment. I was willing to let it go, too, at first. But as Mulder continues to sit there longer and longer, I become more and more concerned. Mulder isn't one to shut down, no matter what. But now, he has.

"Mulder . . ." I whisper, kneeling in front of him. Though it has been several minutes since he managed to shoot Modell, his face is still beaded in sweat. I find the handkerchief in his pocket and use it to mop his face, but as I touch him the first time, he flinches markedly. I need to get under the hands that cover his eyes in order to dry the part of his face that isn't showing.

"C'mon, Mulder. Let me take care of you," I beg him, but the hands don't lower. Gentle persuasion, that's what he needs.

I'm shocked by how cold his hands are when I touch them. Cold, clammy, and damp - this isn't the normal feel of Mulder's skin. He's shaking - and I realize he's in shock.

"Can somebody get me a blanket!" I call, not giving the unconscious occupant of the hospital room a second thought. I know that if I'm going to bring Mulder back to me, the first step has to be getting him warm. Shock is an odd thing. It can be caused by any of a myriad of physical causes, but the worst to me is when the cause is fully emotional.

I admit, I've never been good at handling emotions, my own as well as others. Mulder's always known this, and I thank God that he's had the strength to be the emotions in our partnership when I wasn't able to be. Now, Mulder's emotions are open, raw, and I'm not sure I'm equipped to deal with it.

Finally, an orderly wanders into the room with a fuzzy blanket. Wrapping it around Mulder, I rub his arms, but it elicits no response from him. I'm beginning to get scared. Peripheral vision tells me the orderly is still in the room.

"Help me get him out of here," I say, beginning to try lifting Mulder to his feet. I hope that, if I can get him out of the immediate area, he'll snap out of this lethargy. I laugh to myself bitterly. This isn't lethargy. It's practically catatonia.

A couch in the waiting area is the most home-like place we can find, and the orderly's muscles flex as he lowers Mulder to the cushiony surface. I stand beside him, unsure of how to approach. I realize that his hands have finally left his face, but the eyes there are still closed. I try to ignore the voice in my head telling me that he needs more help than I can give him at this point - I want to be the one to help him.

Fifteen minutes later, our positions haven't changed, and I'm beginning to doubt my ability to bring Mulder back into his own body. I'm tempted to ask for somebody from psychiatry, if only to stand here and make me feel better, but how can I explain what we've just been through? She'd never believe the truth. Hell, I'm not sure I believe it!

No, I'm going to have to try harder to do this on my own.

"Mulder?" He doesn't move. "Mulder, can you open your eyes? Just open them and look at me. I need to make sure you're not hurt," I lie, knowing that he'll forgive me for this little fib. When his eyes finally open, they're glazed and bloodshot. Finally, they seem to focus on me, for which I am eternally grateful.

"Mulder, it's over. Modell is dead," I add, not totally sure that that is the case, but willing to risk it for Mulder's sake. "He can't control anybody any more. You're safe. We're safe."

His eyes seem to clear gradually as I sit beside him. I feel like I want to stroke his hand, but, to be honest, I'm afraid to touch him too much at this point. My hand sits as close to his as it can without touching him, and Mulder watches it for a moment before his eyes move to scan the rest of the room. I get the distinct impression that he's doing better, but can't ignore the broken blood vessel in the corner of his right eye. I know, as a physician, that this isn't dangerous, and will heal quickly, but it disturbs me just the same.

I'm not fooling myself here. I saw Mulder in that room. Saw him as he put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger, then continued to watch as he turned the same weapon on me. It was at that point that he really began to resist, his entire body shaking with the attempt to disrupt Modell's hold on his mind, before he pulled the trigger on me. At least I could explain the broken blood vessel.

"Come on, Mulder. Let me take you home." It takes a moment before comprehension of my words seems to take hold in his brain, and another few seconds before he pushes himself unsteadily to his feet. At last, he finally speaks.

"Let's go home, Scully." It's tired and weak, but to me, it's heaven.

He doesn't resist when I lead him to my car, he simply climbs in the passenger seat as he's done on rare occasions before. He's quiet on the way to his apartment, responding to my simple questions or statements with one-word answers when absolutely necessary. The ride seems to take forever, but finally we arrive in front of his apartment building.

I invite myself up, sticking close to Mulder as he sleepwalks through the halls and opens his door. He doesn't invite me in, but he doesn't have to. We both know I'm coming in. I need him as much as he needs me right now.

"I'm going to change my clothes," Mulder says, dropping peripherals like his tie and his jacket on the floor on the way to his bedroom. The door shuts as I drop to the couch, reveling in its comfort. I hear the gentle sounds of water falling in his shower as I drift off to sleep. A nap would be helpful - I'm nearly as stressed as Mulder is.

When I awaken, it's been longer than I ever dreamed, and the darkness has overtaken the room. A glance at my watch tells me it's been 90 minutes since we arrived home, and I wonder where he's been all this time. Rising and straightening my pantsuit, I approach his bedroom, expecting to open the door to him asleep on his bed, much as I had been on his couch. Until I look at an empty bed, it doesn't register that I'm still hearing running water in the bathroom beyond.

Approaching it quietly, I'm almost afraid of what I'll find. Not that I worry Mulder's liable to hurt himself - or maybe already has - but when he's alone and down, he thinks too much. And when Mulder thinks, there's no telling where it could lead.

I'm beyond surprised when I see him through the shower curtain. Where shower steam should be billowing, I can feel the chill of a hot water tank long run out and not given the opportunity to catch up. But more disturbing are the movements from behind the curtain. Mulder's hands move briskly over his head and through his hair, and I stand dumbfounded as he develops a lather with the shampoo, scrubs until I wonder if he's taking off skin, and rinses it all off, only to begin again seconds later.

It suddenly hits me with all he subtlety of a right cross. I never expected to see it, especially here, but Mulder is experiencing post-rape-like trauma symptoms. I've heard a thousand times how a woman who's been raped feels dirty, resorting to scrubbing herself raw to try to reclaim the cleanliness she lost to her attacker. Mulder had been mind-raped - there was no other way to describe it. And now, he was trying as hard as humanly possible to scrub the last traces of Robert Patrick Modell from his mind.

I'm uncertain, and a little scared, but my concern for Mulder outweighs both those emotions. I grip his shower curtain firmly, saying a quiet prayer that I'm up to it before moving to push it open.

Mulder doesn't even seem to notice what I've done as he continues to scrub. I watch his expression as he rinses the shampoo for perhaps the hundredth time this evening, waiting until his hair rinses clear before quickly shutting off the water with my right hand while I grab the shampoo from his hand with my left - before he can put on another dose. I try not to shiver as my arms are sluiced with the freezing water.

For a moment, Mulder grabs for the faucet and the bottle I now hold, but I'm determined to keep him from hiding any longer. For a few seconds, we battle for the wanted items, until finally, I yell into his face.

"Mulder, stop this!" It brings him up short, looking at me in shock and fear. It's as if he's suddenly seeing me for the first time, and what he see frightens him - just as everything else frightens him now. "It's okay, Mulder," I soothe, reaching out for him. "You don't need this. You're clean. You always were."

"No, I'm not. I'm dirty. My mind . . ."

"Is perfectly fine. And you're not going to soil me by letting me get close. Just let it go, Mulder," I add, pulling his wet body into my arms. It's going to ruin my suit, but I don't care. He tries to pull away, but I hold him fast against me, and finally, he goes limp. He buries his face into my neck, wrapping his arms tightly around me. I back away, and he steps from the tub, his weight causing us to stumble until we're both sitting on the floor, wrapped in each other's embrace.

I feel a hitching, and try to comfort Mulder more completely. "Just let it go, Mulder. Let it out. You're not soiled or dirty, but you need to let it out. And I need you." It was what he needed to hear apparently, because he's suddenly sobbing into my shoulder. His body quakes in my arms as he gasps between silent sobs, trying to catch a breath. I rub his back and let him cry, repeating my mantra for him to let it go. When it lets up, we'll talk about getting him some help - maybe I can even encourage him to talk to a therapist. Mulder's a strong person. You don't get through what he has in life and not be, and he'll beat this.

Eventually, we move to his bedroom, and I put him to bed. He sleeps well that night, helped along as I stroke his head and lull him gently. By morning, while not having completely come to grips with what happened, he's at least learned to deal with it for the time being, adopting a face that, to the outside world at least, is no different than any other morning.

Have I mentioned lately how Mulder amazes me? And he just continues to do so.

The End