SUMMARY: Two hands and ten fingers.
DISCLAIMER: They belong to CC, but sometimes I get to play.
DATE POSTED: November 1998
WORD COUNT: 1,548
NOTE: This is a wee bit darker that my usual stuff. Warning for those who are triggered by extreme violence/torture. It's not graphic in this story, but it's there.
I can't start there.
Scully's hands, smooth and white, small and strong like the rest of her.
Scully's fingers, encased in latex and wielding a scalpel, making the Y incision with surety. Her lips turning down in a slight frown of concentration, she runs the blade down the stilled flesh of the body on the table. I turn my head away, envious of the bravery with which her fingers deftly touch the dead. With precision, with infinite respect.
She has very few vanities. Her hair hangs in a simple cap of auburn around her chin. Earrings are always tiny and understated and the only other jewelry she wears is the plain gold cross around her neck, resting in the hollow of her collarbone. Scully wears dark colors--grays, taupes, blacks, never wanting to stand out too much, simply desiring to meld into the crowd. But I know a few of my partner's secrets and one is that she's vain about her fingernails.
Her nails are a just a shade longer than doctor's protocol would advise, the perfectly filed half-moons coated in clear polish and buffed to a high shine.
A year or so ago, Scully and I were obliged to attend the retirement dinner for AD Barrett. At a round table in the ballroom of the Hilton I sat next to her, squirming in the confines of a rented tuxedo and bored at the endless testimonial speeches to a man I barely knew.
Clad in demure navy silk, Scully nudged me. "Can you pass the wine, Mulder?" she whispered in my ear over yet another droning speaker.
"That bad, huh?" I smirked.
When I handed her the bottle of Chardonnay, her slender fingers wrapped around the neck of the bottle and I noticed she had polished her fingernails in a brilliant burgundy hue. Electricity coursed up my spine as I realized I was seeing her hands in an entirely new context. Scully's hands, not competent or caring, but glamorous, dark. Sexual.
In the morning, I hear a loud thump against the wood of my front door, too heavy to be a knock. Loud like someone has thrown something at it. Sitting up, I break into a cold sweat across my chest.
The sun blinded my eyes and I stumbled, my legs past the point of exhaustion, lactic acid burning the muscles of my calves. The wind whipped against my bare head and I realized I could no longer feel my ears. One more step, I told myself, one more step, you can do it, it's just ahead. I can see it, it's no mirage.
My legs buckled under me and I collapsed to the snow underneath. So soft, like a featherbed, ready to pull me under into sleep. I shut my eyes.
"Mulder!" Her voice was hoarse but firm. "You have to get up."
She beseeched, "Please, Mulder, the sno-cat is just ahead. We can make it, we can...we can..."
Her hand reached out to me, her fingers frozen almost white, "Just take my hand."
My hand found the fierce grip of her fingers and somehow she pulled me to my feet. Hand in frigid hand, we stumbled ahead.
A few weeks later we stood in the muggy heat of a Washington summer and she again took my hand in hers, her fingers warm and soft, but still burned by the cold.
How many times, I wondered. How many times have I held this hand, felt these fingers wrapping around mine?
Her fingers are rarely idle. Scully doesn't fidget, but she's always doing something. On the road in yet another musty motel room, she sits at the splintering desk, her hands flying across the keyboard of her laptop. Hearing the connecting door squeak open, she turns around to smile at me, fingers still rapidly tapping away.
I jump off the couch and fly to the door. My hands fumble with the locks and the chain. I open the door to see a small bundle curled up on the floor. Tiny, so tiny, still in her white flannel pajamas. My mouth goes dry when I see the red.
The sound of the piano made me pause in the doorway. Scully and I were at the Hyatt in Detroit for a Bureau conference. After the closing banquet I ran into a few guys I had known at the Academy and went off to have a drink with them.
It was late and the hallway was deserted as I headed towards the elevator from the bar. I heard the sound of someone playing piano and poked my head into the Henry Ford Room. The room was dim, only lit by a few candles scattered around on the round tables, but I could see her. Scully, sitting at the piano.
I never knew she could play. Granted, she fumbled her way through the Moonlight Sonata, but she could play. Edging my way into the room, I stood in a shadowy corner, afraid to breathe, afraid I'd be discovered.
Scully stopped playing and I saw her frown in profile, as if trying to remember the music from a long-ago piano lesson. She sighed and rubbed her temples with white fingers and then her face bloomed into a slow smile. Bending her head towards the ivory keys, once again her fingers moved and shaped the strains of Beethoven. In my dark corner, I tried to control my ragged breathing, watching and listening.
Outside the autopsy bay she yawned and cracked her knuckles. Her eyes were heavily shadowed with the purple of fatigue. "How many more for today?" she asked.
Mutilated mobsters, twelve of them. Scully was performing the autopsies.
When it was all over, Scully's skilled fingers had found irrefutable proof that Sammy Barbarera had been the razor man in the gangland war. I took her out for 2-for-1 tacos at El Sombrero and toasted her with a bottle of Bohemian. "To the pathologist with the magic hands," I said and we clinked bottles.
Sometimes I awake from a dream in which those cool fingers of hers trail a lazy journey down my bare back.
I wonder, how many bedsides? How many times have I sat by her sleeping body in some hospital and held her limp hand? How many times has she done the same for me?
All I can see is the red blood running down her hands, past her wrists, staining the cuffs of her pajamas a deep maroon. I bend to her and lift one lifeless arm. Scully's eyes are clenched shut and the only sound she makes is a breathy keening through her nose.
I lift her arm and see it. God, what they did to her.
Her fingertips are gone. Gone, neatly severed below where the ovals of her fingernails once were.
In yet another hospital bed Scully is sleeping in a Demerol haze. Her hands are lying at her sides and I'm afraid to look, coward that I am.
What more can be taken from this woman? Our various and sundry enemies keep taking and taking and taking from her.
She'll never hold a scalpel like she once did.
She'll never play piano or wear burgundy polish on her fingernails.
She no longer has fingerprints.
Bowing my head into my hands, I allow the indulgence of guilt to wash over me.
A groan from the bed makes me lift my head. Scully moves her head against the pillow and opens her eyes.
"Hey there," I say.
Slowly, she lifts her gauze-swaddled hands to her face and blinks. I hold my breath.
"It's real," she whispers.
I nod my head. I want to ask her who did this to her, why was this done, but this isn't the time. Besides, I think I know. It may not be our usual brand of enemies, but somewhere they are drinking cognac and laughing, wondering why they didn't think of this particular brand of punishment themselves.
Her hands rest on the blanket and she shuts her eyes. "Okay," she breathes, as if trying to get used to the idea. "Okay."
Scully turns her head and looks at me, blue eyes boring right into mine. "It hurts, Mulder. I can feel them."
My mouth falls open. "Your fingertips?"
"Yes. It's the strangest feeling. They're there, but they're not at the same time."
I move the chair closer to the bed and carefully lift her left arm from the bed. Automatically, I lift her hand to my mouth and press my lips to her wrist, just below the bandages, smelling Betadine and the iron of blood.
"They're gone," she says in an unwavering voice.
I squeeze her wrist. "Your hands will still be beautiful to me, Scully."
Yes, I know that's cold comfort to her now.
But they will.
She shuts her eyes and drifts off again into a drugged doze. Just as I have done so many times in the past, I sit in the uncomfortable chair, my fingers wrapped around her wrist, my thumb touching the heel of her hand.
Her fingers may have been taken, but I will still hold her hand.
Note: As a fairly devout Scullyist, I hated to have my heroine victimized again in fiction. However, I'm not going to apologize for it. After watching "Drive" last week I couldn't get the image of Scully's hands and fingers out of my head.
All thanks and praise to my beta readers: Alanna, Gwen, Plausible Deniability and Sharon. You're like butter.