Subject: NEW: Post Mortem (1/1)
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Spoilers: Gethsemane
Rating: PG - 13 for language and situations. Contains non-graphic autopsy


Post Mortem
by Anne Smith

Before any of the smug, sanctimonious vultures could buttonhole her, Scully left the conference room, and strode purposefully down the hall. Walking fast, her face impassive, the very image of the cool, self-contained FBI agent that she wasn't. Not right now.

People automatically gave her room, no doubt assuming that someone walking so fast and with such intent had to be going somewhere important.

The truth was: she wasn't going anywhere.

Couldn't go back to the office, not quite yet. The nameplate would still be on the door, the name plaque would still be on the desk. The stacks of paper would be the same; the posters; the stash of sunflower seeds in the bottom drawer on top of this month's issues of Playboy and Popular Science.

It would be almost like facing him.

After what she'd just done.

And that cigarette smoking bastard would know she'd have to go to Mulder's office eventually.

And right now, cure or no cure, she wasn't willing to bet she wouldn't kill the cancerous son of a bitch.

Cancerman. Cancer man. God, but Mulder had named him well.

Perhaps she'd go home. Go for a run.

But then what would she do? Sit at home, with time to think, with time to face what she'd done, what she'd sold to buy off Death.

Work. She needed work, more than ever.

But that meant the office.

And Mulder.

She was standing outside Skinner's office, Kimberly looking at her oddly.

"He's been expecting you."

Which was more than she'd been expecting.

He was seated behind his desk, the way he always was. White shirt with thin dark stripes, jacket over the back of his chair, but his desk uncluttered. No work in front of him today. No papers, no files.

Dazed by her own grief and her own guilt, she hadn't thought about how Skinner would take this. Skinner, asking after her health, taking her wrist after Pendrell's shooting, warning her about not putting herself or anyone else at risk, his gruffness doing nothing to mask his care-- his attitude to his agents was protective to an almost paternal degree.

And Mulder had been one of his most favored, and one of his most vulnerable, agents: Skinner, asking if she were worried about Mulder, confessing his own concern; Skinner coming out personally when Mulder went off with Roche; Skinner using 'unofficial channels' to find Mulder. Now, Skinner was probably blaming himself, holding himself responsible.

As if any of them had seen it coming. A handful of days ago, Mulder had been devastated by returning memories and by traumatic electrical stimulation of the brain tissue itself. He had been witness to a murder/suicide of people startlingly similar to his own parents and he himself had nearly succumbed to the influence of a powerful hallucinogen, one that had already driven two people to suicide. All of that, and yet Mulder still hadn't harmed himself.

But she'd seen him that night, with the gun digging in under his chin, the sounds he'd made, the struggle...

Had last night been like that?

Or had he been silent, calm, the decision made, relief in sight?

He'd survived last week.

She should never have assumed that meant he had wanted to live.

Skinner was urging her into a seat; she'd been standing there, brooding. Not that Skinner was his usual sharp self either.

Skinner, standing in front of his window, speaking to her without looking at her.

Unfortunately, he wasn't shunning her, though she wanted that. Wanted sackcloth and ashes, penance, crawling on her knees through glass--

And it didn't matter one ounce that Mulder had told her she should take the offered deal.

Mulder's eyes just yesterday evening, so sad, so understanding: so guilty, when she told him what the DoD agent had told her about her illness. Even amidst all of that, yesterday, he'd taken time, for her, his hand so large and warm as he'd squeezed her hand, and then he'd simply turned, and walked away.

She should have known. She should. But she hadn't. And now... Now Skinner was asking the impossible of her.

"I can't."

"Do you want a stranger doing that to him?"

Frankly, yes. Anyone but her. "Sir, I don't want anyone doing that to him. I don't want--" Shut her mouth hard, teeth clicking painfully. The tears were unexpected; she hadn't cried during that evil meeting downstairs, she shouldn't cry now, not in front of Skinner.

Skinner's voice raw, as if he'd been snacking on razor blades. "Neither of us want him to be dead. But he is, and we have to deal with that."

Do we? she wanted to ask. Can't we just pretend, for a day, for two days? Can't we believe that this is all a conspiracy, a fake, one of those strange clone things...

But there had been no green ooze, and the fingerprints had been conclusive. And she'd seen. She'd seen him. There could be no pretending.

Skinner was speaking in her general direction again. "An autopsy has already been scheduled to be performed. I think he deserves better than a callous stranger exposing him."

Naked on the gurney, and then peeled open, exposed and revealed as no human should be.

Mulder would hate someone doing that to him.

But for her... Sackcloth and ashes.

"Please," Skinner said.

Her gaze flew to him; his shoulders slumped, rounded, his hands in his pockets, and his voice...

"Okay," she heard herself saying. "But I can't... not on my own."

"I'll be there."

The two of them, for the second to last ritual in Mulder's existence. It was almost fitting.

"Then we'd better do it right now, sir," she told him, getting to her feet. "Because if I stop to think, I won't be able to do this."

The morgue was very quiet. This wasn't the city morgue, with its constant clatter and noise, the bodies stacked on shelves in the large refrigeration room. This was a small morgue, the same one she'd used before. The one the FBI and the military used for their own.

She turned on only those lights she needed; scrubbed up with excessive, delaying care.

Snapped on the latex, and fought back more of those damned tears.

Skinner, still in his overcoat, standing well away, as far away as he could get and still be here with her, and Mulder.

Mulder.

Now just a body on a stainless steel gurney, a number tagged and ready to go.

She took a deep, steadying breath. Felt not in the least steadied. Pulled the covering off the body anyway.

It was him.

It was still him, and it was only then she realised there had been a sliver of hope left in her.

But it was him. As she'd seen him this morning. Most of his face was gone, but beyond the gore, it was still his face. And his hair.

Her fingers shook, a little, as she touched him. Touched his hair. Her mouth trembled, and it was hard to get the words out. She whispered, "I'm sorry."

She straightened up, and tried to cram herself behind the protective barrier of professionalism. This was not Mulder. This was a suicide, a body brought in for examination. A body. That was all.

She reached up to switch on the recorder.

"Before you do that--"

She stopped, turned to look at Skinner.

Again, he wasn't looking at her, facing instead the blank neutrality of stainless steel doors.

"There's something I have to ask you to do."

Considering what he'd already asked of her, that was cruel.

"I have to ask you to suppress evidence."

She didn't bother to hide her shock: nor her contempt, nor her outraged disbelief. "Sir?"

"The evidence I want you to suppress doesn't affect anything. It has no bearing on what happened."

"If it's so harmless, then why should I suppress it?"

"I didn't say it was harmless. It will be used to further debunk his work, to make everything he did, everything about him, more suspect. Less valid." Skinner's voice dropping very low: "They'll use it to mock him."

She at least tried not to sound completely skeptical. "But it isn't significant?"

He turned to face her then. "It will destroy my career. And make everything he did tainted."

"Sir--"

But he was still talking; as if he didn't dare stop long enough to give himself time to think, either. "You already know from the police report that Mulder went back to his apartment about a quarter after one last night. His whereabouts between leaving his apartment earlier in the evening and being seen returning after one a.m. have yet to be established."

Skinner was wandering the morgue now, and Scully watched him, fascinated not only by what he was saying, but by the expression on his face.

"That has yet to be established, because I haven't been interviewed yet. Fox Mulder spent the earlier part of the night at my apartment. He came over, late. He was upset. Looked like he'd been crying." Skinner, having to take a moment, gathering himself. "By the time he left, he seemed--I thought he was fine. Told him I'd see him in my office, ten sharp." Skinner shook his head, and she knew exactly what he must be feeling: to have been the last one to see Mulder alive, to have been the one that knew Mulder had been crying--oh, dear God, he'd been upset enough to go to Skinner, what had she done to him?--and to dismiss him, see you at work tomorrow... A soft sound, as if Skinner was speaking to himself, not her. "I thought he was okay. I let him go."

There was a brief pause, Skinner looking at her quickly, just enough for her to wonder what the hell he was nerving himself to say when he continued.

"When you perform your examination," Skinner said, staring resolutely once more at the blank facade of a steel cabinet, "you will find evidence that Mulder had anal sex shortly before his... death."

She blinked. Opened her mouth. Closed it. Raised an eyebrow. Oh. "Was a condom used?"

"No."

She blinked. Twice. "Will there be ejaculate present?"

Even from here, she could hear him swallow. "Yes."

Well. There was a normal procedure, a standard routine that she had depended on slipping into. Something she wouldn't have to think about. But this was hardly normal, and this was hardly routine, and she could feel her professional facade begin to crumble. She was going to perform an autopsy on the one person closest to her in the world, and she was going to find proof that he hadn't, after all, trusted her.

Unless Skinner's strings were being pulled and he was lying to her. There was no reason she could imagine that anyone would want her to think Skinner had fucked Mulder, but... Mulder, and Skinner, having a relationship?

If it were true, then she hadn't known either of them.

And if it were a lie? Then Skinner was playing a very strange game.

She looked down at the body, and saw not a cadaver, but Mulder. Unmarked, flawless, a good body, attractive. Apart from the ruin of his face.

And Skinner had just told her that he, and Mulder had... that they were... And she hadn't known.

Carefully, she rolled Mulder's body onto his side, then onto his front. She performed a visual exam of Mulder's back, legs, and finally, buttocks. The two puncture wounds, less healed than she would have expected, and the position was interesting. She hesitated a moment, and then was gentle, almost apologetic, as she parted Mulder's cheeks and completed a visual exam of that now exposed area.

Blinked.

Used a long swab, then a speculum, added a high-powered medical flashlight: illuminating, in more ways than one.

Blinked again.

Took a sample; slid it under a microscope.

Rolled Mulder back onto his back, reached for a scalpel and did what was necessary.

"Was there sexual completion?" she asked.

"I already told you--"

She had expected his embarrassment, even his feeling humiliated, violated. She was very cool, very professional, less intimate than a waiter asking what kind of salad dressing sir would prefer. "The information indicated that there would be ejaculate present. Was ejaculate expelled by both participants?"

She hadn't expected his anger.

"Yes, he came too. What do you think it was--rape? Or just his boss making him bend over and touch his toes if he wanted his 302 signed?"

"Sorry--" Skinner added, and she was shocked to see him run a hand over his head, take his glasses off, wipe at his eyes. "I'm... I'm... I didn't expect--this. I had no idea, he just... It was no different and now..."

Bad as it had been for her, how much worse must it be for Skinner? "I'm sorry, too, sir. I had no idea."

Skinner, back under control, no matter how precariously. "He hadn't told you?"

The truth is out there. Mulder had never mentioned how sad that truth would make her feel. "No."

"I thought--I assumed he had. He told you everything else."

"He frequently talked about phoning you, he was in your office almost daily, and I guess... He did mention going to your apartment several times." Mulder talking to her, knowing things because Skinner had told him: knowing things early on a Sunday morning, because Skinner had just told him. Mulder, who had told her--how many times?--that he would talk to Skinner later, or see Skinner later... "I put it down to him badgering you for funding or approval, or you badgering him to at least look at the rule book once in a while. Maybe he just assumed I'd guessed."

"Or that you didn't want to know."

Sad, if that were true. Very sad, and... an indictment of her.

She went back to her work; no refuge there this time, though.

"Sir..."

"Yes?"

"I'm sorry to have to ask this, but you're sure he ejaculated?"

Hard to say which of them felt more awkward: her having to ask, or him having to tell.

"Yes, I'm sure. In fact--Scully, do you really need to know?"

"Sorry."

"Twice." Turning his back to her again. "Once right when I--once early in the evening, and then we... engaged in additional activities and he ejaculated a second time."

"Impressive," she murmured; wished she could take it back the second it had slipped from her mouth. "Especially since this body shows signs of not having ejaculated for several days at least before death."

"What? But he--"

"Twice," she said, drily. "But look," and she admired the man's courage, coming over and looking at what she'd done with her sharply honed scalpel, "here, and here, at the quantity of fluid still present. According to the neighbors, there was what sounded like a gunshot shortly before 2 a.m.," and what did it say about Mulder that his neighbors ignored gunshots from his apartment?, "but he didn't leave your apartment until--?"

"Nearly one."

"Uhm.. how long before he left your apartment did he--?"

"Only about twenty minutes. He said he was expecting a phone call, had to be home in time for that."

"So *Mulder* ejaculated not much more than an hour before the gunshot was heard in his apartment."

"But this body..."

"Shows no indications of semen depletion. There are no traces of semen in the rectum, no indication of ejaculation, nor are there any signs of intercourse."

Skinner frowned at her and perhaps she was just projecting, but she'd swear she could see him wanting to believe--and afraid of hoping.

"The bullet went in on the right, under his chin, but traversed at approximately a 30 degree angle, destroying any evidence of the head wounds Mulder suffered last week. But look at these injection sites on the hip," she said, rolling the body over just far enough to display the newish marks. "In my opinion, these should have healed more than this."

Looking up, meeting Skinner's eyes.

Her voice was very steady now. "I don't know who this is, but this isn't Mulder."

Watching, hope and relief flare--and watching, as those were replaced by other, darker emotions. "Which means he's alive. Somewhere."

"And that it's probable that whoever has him is the same person--or persons--responsible for this body."

Skinner said what she was thinking. "This... Mulder."

Fingerprint records could have been altered. Mulder's own prints could have been submitted as belonging to this corpse. There were Mulder's taller tales, of clones growing clones, of farms husbanded by dozens of identical children. And while she didn't yet have an explanation for it, she herself had already seen a fake Mulder. Twice.

"We don't know who--or what--this is. But it's not Mulder. Not the real Mulder."

She wondered if Skinner, too, was remembering one of Mulder's cases, identical doctors living scattered across the country. Not the real Mulder. But perhaps there were other people, elsewhere, wondering where their own Mulder had gone.

"He's alive," Skinner said, his voice a balance of hope and fear. "He might be alive. Scully--he's out there, somewhere."

"And we need to find him."

Over 'Mulder's' dead body, Skinner and Scully looked at each other.

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