He's never heard her cry like this.
In six years, when he thinks of the few times she's allowed herself to be this vulnerable in front of him, he can't remember it ever sounding like this.
He thinks back to a house in Minnesota and a young, fresh faced Scully putting on a brave act. Her hair was a mess, she'd had cuts and scrapes on her forehead and chin and her eyes were wild, frantically watching as Donnie Pfaster was subdued a few feet away. When she finally cracked, her cries had been silent, muffled when she buried her face in his coat and clung to him. It's alright, Scully.
He thinks back to a cold and sterile hospital room, her sitting in front of a newly vacant bed. She stared blankly, spoke to him about the ever elusive truth and the desire to find the answers. He'd reached out to her then, stroked her hair as she rested her head on his shoulder and he felt guilty for being so thankful that the bullet that had been meant for her hadn't reached its intended target. But still, her cries for her dead sister were quiet. Welcome to the club, Scully.
He thinks back to another hospital, another time, another tragedy. He remembers how small she looked in a white robe that was too big for her and he remembers the pained look on her face when she confirmed that she'd lost Penny. That she was officially the only one left. He remembers taking her in his arms, his chin resting comfortably on her head before he pulled back to offer her forehead a kiss. He remembers allowing his lips to linger over that spot, as if he could cure the cancer that lurked beneath if he just stayed there long enough. He remembers the tears in her eyes when she spoke of a new determination, one she'd worried she'd lost. Please don't die, Scully.
He thinks back to his hallway, just a few feet away from where they were right now, and the tears in her eyes as he made a desperate plea. He remembers the words falling out of his mouth, words he'd only previously thought and never dared to think of uttering but they were all he could come up with when he watched her walk away. He remembers the look on her face, as if she was just then realizing how significant she was in his world. He remembers kicking himself for allowing her to believe that he wouldn't fight for her and he remembers the feeling of her few tears soaking through his t-shirt. You saved me, Scully.
He thinks back to a white coffin. A painfully small box that she believed her daughter - the only one she'd ever have - laid in. He remembers how intensely private her grieving process was, he remembers not being able to look when she opened that small white box, knowing what she'd find. Or wouldn't find. He remembers feeling like an intruder but not being able to leave and he remembers more silent tears. I'm sorry, Scully.
A handful of moments in a handful of years and none of them had been like this.
Dana Scully cried in the same way she did most things; with a dignity and grace that he always thought must be exhausting to maintain. For he was the emotionally demonstrative one, he was the one willing to fly off the handle or wear his heart on his sleeve. He'd never be able to operate the way she did. She was just as fiercely passionate as he was, she simply carried herself in a way he could never manage.
But right now, she's on his floor in his living room and there's blood. There's so much blood. So much so that when he burst into this room a few mere moments ago, he'd had no doubt that he'd lost her. No doubt that this was how it ended for them and oh, this was the stuff of nightmares. Him showing up just a few seconds too late and her dying alone, her last thoughts consumed by wondering where he was and why he wasn't coming to help her. He'd be seeing this moment for the rest of his life. Forgive me, Scully.
He went to her anyway, but his brain hadn't allowed him to do anything but look at her, hover over her, afraid to touch her. He didn't want to know what she felt like dead.
And then she woke up.
He watched the emotion play out on her face, from fear to confusion to relief. Fear that she was still under attack, confusion as to who was there with her, relief when she realized that it was him. It's always him.
But then she broke. Shattered into a million pieces in front of his eyes and he'd never seen anything like it.
This is where he finds himself now, lifting her up out of the pool of her own blood, feeling it seeping through her clothes and covering his hands where they rested on her back. He can't think of it now, can't think of how much blood she's probably lost or how much pain she must be in because she's crying. And these aren't the silent tears he's grown accustomed to, this isn't the style of crying Scully usually takes part in.
She is clinging to him harder than he's ever felt her do and in his ear, she is making this horrible, wretched, desperate sound. Her sobs are powerful, shaking her and in return, shaking him and he furrows his brow as he holds her closer. He can feel her fingers dig into his shoulder blades, scraping roughly, desperately trying to get closer to him and he doesn't know what to do but hold her because they've never done it quite like this before. It stings where her fingernails are digging into the flesh beneath his shirt but he takes an odd comfort in being able to bleed for her.
He isn't sure how long they stay in their awkward position on the floor, he simply waits for the terrible noises to stop. They eventually die down when her voice gets hoarse. He dares to pull away from her, his hand going to her hair, smoothing it down in a way that generally seems to comfort her in times of distress. He searches her face and her eyes are wide and swollen and she looks like a frightened child.
"Scully," he exhales. Just a single word, her precious name, a plea for her to come back to him but she's lost. Lost in whatever she's just experienced, lost to him, lost to the moment.
He needs to get her off this floor, get her out of all this blood, and he gently pulls her to her feet. She's wobbly, unstable, and unsure of herself. Her hands are on his arms, her fingernails digging into new flesh and she's watching him, waiting for him to do something for her. Anything.
Her eyes leave his, they leave his face entirely and they're focused on something above him. Behind him. He follows her gaze, sees the bullet holes in the wall and knows he has to get her out of here. But there's blood. So much blood. It's all over her neck and chest and her previously white blouse is drenched with it. It's practically dripping off of her and he can't stand to watch.
He's gentle in the way he guides her into the bedroom, past the bed, back into the bathroom.
"Scully, we need to make sure you're okay," he tells her. He has that desperate tone in his voice, the one that always gets a reaction out of her. Nothing.
She focuses on his hands when they move to the bottom of her blouse, his shaking fingers beginning to undo the buttons. They're slippery and his hands are covered in blood and it takes him far too long to open her shirt enough to survey what damage had been done. He sees nothing, no wound, no proof that someone had tried to steal her heart.
Her heart. Her good, loyal heart.
He feels it. His fingers move over her skin, trying to convince himself that she's really okay and her eyes flutter shut. She allows him this, allows him to touch her, knows he needs the reassurance. Even in this state, where she feels like she's falling apart, she gives him what he needs. He feels the strong beating of her heart under his hand and he sighs in relief.
"I'm okay, Mulder," she murmurs. Her words are quiet but they startle him. It's the first sound she's made since the sobbing stopped.
Her body is tense and she is clearly sore, he can tell by the way she winces when she removes her jacket. It slides down her arms, landing in a sickeningly damp heap on the floor and she cringes at the sound.
He does little things like pull back the shower curtain and turn the shower on for her, picks her blood soaked jacket up off the floor and allows her to hand him the ruined blouse that follows. She can't reach back to unhook her bra and she sighs in defeat, shoulders slumping. If there's one thing Scully hates, it's not being able to be self sufficient.
"Mulder," she says, and he knows she's hoping he won't make her ask. He won't.
He reaches over to her and unhooks it, watches as she slides it down her arms and she hands that to him as well without looking at him.
"Are you okay to shower?" he asks. "I can go get you some clothes."
"I'm fine, Mulder," she tells him and he smiles. It's not true, it rarely is when she says it, but the fact that she's saying anything is enough for him right now and he'll worry about the lie later.
He leaves her to finish undressing, leaving the bathroom door open a crack so that he can hear if she needs help.
He slumps down at the edge of his bed, still clutching a handful of clothes that smell like blood.
Another close call, another near goodbye. He hears her moving around in the bathroom and can't bring himself to think of a time when that wouldn't be the case, when he couldn't just listen for her in the next room or call her at 2am because he has a theory he can't wait to share with her.
He can't focus on that now and can't focus on the words Padgett so confidently spoke outside of his cell. Agent Scully is already in love. There will be time to discuss that later, some unknown date in the future, because her heart still beats.
Instead he focuses on throwing away her ruined clothing, grabbing a t-shirt from his drawer and bringing it into the bathroom for her. He sets it on the toilet seat and he goes to leave but he can hear her crying. He can hear the hitching of her breath and the soft sniffles, barely audible over the sound of the water, but there nonetheless. She's retreated back into herself, crying in the way she's so good at. Quietly, privately.
Welcome back, Scully.