They settled into a routine, the therapist coming over every day while Scully was at work. She had gone to Quantico to teach so that she wouldnít have to go out of town. Mrs. Scully kept up her own schedule, Mulder insisted he would be okay alone. He made certain his first task was to learn to maneuver the wheelchair alone and Mrs. Scully made sure there was plenty of easy to reheat foods available where he could reach. The kitchen had been revamped to make things accessible to him.
Every evening Scully repeated the therapy and they exchanged reports on their days.
She was thrilled when she came home and found a walker. "Iím just glad you werenít here to see me use it. Or not use it actually. I did stand." He admitted ruefully.
"See? It wonít be long Mulder. You have to stretch yourself, but donít push too hard. Promise me."
He smiled and looked up as Mrs. Scully joined them. "Dana you have a call."
"Oh?" She caught her motherís look. "Iíll take it in the kitchen." She was up and out before he could speak.
He waited for Scully to leave the next morning before approaching Mrs. Scully. He wheeled in as she poured a glass of juice.
"Good morning Fox. Did you sleep well?"
"Mrs. Scully Ė "
"If I used a two by four could I get you to call me Maggie?"
He smiled. "It might help." He sobered immediately and looked away.
"Fox? Is something wrong?"
"Thatís what I need to know."
"I donít understand."
"Somethingís going on. Scullyís keeping something from me."
"Fox, I Ė "
"No, please. I know her well enough to know that. I got paranoid, yes, I know thatís not like me. . . " He tried to grin. "But I was beginning to think she was keeping something from me about my recovery. I called my doctor, thatís not it. But something is being kept from me. Maggie, you know how much I care for your daughter. I need her to be honest with me. If sheís protecting me from something, she doesnít have to. Yes, my legs are still weak, but my mindís clear. If sheís got a problem I want to help her. Do you know whatís going on? Please, I donít want or need to be treated like an invalid. Not anymore."
"Fox, Iím sure she doesnít mean to treat you like that. She knows what wonderful progress youíre making. Iím sure that your perceptions are correct. Let me talk to her, see if I can find out what youíre talking about."
He nodded, avoiding looking at her. She was in on it too. Without saying another word he rolled himself out of the room. Maggie closed her eyes. Why did anyone ever underestimate that man? How could they think they could keep something this important from him?
She was waiting at the back door for Scully when she arrived home that evening. "We need to talk, about Fox."
"Oh god, he didnít fall did he?"
"No. But thatís part of the problem. Youíre still treating him like heís ill Dana. Heís not and he knows somethingís being kept from him. You canít treat him like a child, Dana. Youíre not being fair to either man, and especially not to yourself."
"Mom, Iím not ready to deal with this. Not yet. Let me go check on him." She pushed open the door from the kitchen and found herself looking into the anxious eyes of Fox Mulder.
"I think," he swallowed, "I think we need to talk." He turned the wheelchair around and headed toward the living room. She looked back at her mother, shook her head and followed him. He had pulled his chair up next to the couch, waiting for her to join him.
She sank down on the couch, not quite meeting his eyes. "Scully? Please. Whatís going on. What did your mother mean, youíre not being fair to either man?" His voice shook on those last two words despite his best efforts. "What happened while I was gone?"
He had leaned in closer and closer to her as he spoke. She did her best not to retreat from him, but his power was overwhelming. "Scully, did you meet someone?"
She looked down at her hands, clasped in her lap and nodded. She took a breath and looked over at him, his knuckles were white against the arms of the wheelchair and he looked as though heíd been hit in the gut.
"Who Scully? Do I know him?" His voice was barely a whisper, as though he couldnít draw a breath.
Her eyes flickered up at his and away. "Walter."
"Walter? Walter Skinner! Oh god!" He leaned back away from her then, color suffusing his face. "Youíve got to be kidding!"
"Walter is very good to me, Mulder. I couldnít have gotten
through the last few months without him. He literally saved my life Mulder. I
thought you were dead, I couldnít. . . I didnít want to go on."
"Do you love him?" That dangerous quiet tone, heíd never used it on her though sheíd heard it before directed at others.
"Yes. I do, Mulder. The problem is I love you too. Thatís why- "
"Are you sleeping with him?" She flinched away and he drew closer, taking her arms in his hands. "How far has it gone, Scully? Are you sleeping with him?"
"Weíre. . . weíre married."
"Marri. . . " He couldnít get the word out. "No, you canít be. Not to Skinner. When? How long have you two been married?"
She looked up at him, unable to answer. Sheíd never seen Mulder like this. When heíd pointed the gun at Krychek after his fatherís killing he hadnít been this angry.
"Six months." They both jumped as Skinnerís voice came from behind him. Theyíd been talking in whispers; it sounded as though he had shouted in their ears.
"Six? Jesus Scully, couldnít you wait for my body to get cold?"
She tried to draw away from him. "Let her go Mulder. Let go of her, youíre hurting her."
He hadnít realized how strongly he was holding her. He managed to let go of her and saw the imprints his fingers had left in her flesh. She jumped from the couch when she was free and raced from the room. Mulder pulled his chair out as though to follow her.
"Let her go, Mulder. Give her some time."
"Like you gave me? You married her? You married Scully? How could you. . . ?"
"I know weíve hurt you, Mulder, but. . . "
"Hurt me? Hurt me! How could you do this? How could you pursue her like this? You had to know how vulnerable she was."
"You don't know how it was. Your strong independent Scully dissolved. She was barely able to function. I know of two nights she actually slept in the office because she didn't want to go home alone. I've never seen her like that. Yes I stepped in. She was comfortable with me. We already had a relationship."
"Which you exploited to your advantage." Mulder spat bitterly.
"I'm telling you it wasn't like that, she came to me."
"Do you love her?"
"Yes, I have for a long time. Mulder, but I'm not stupid or naÔve. I know I would never have a chance with Dana when you were alive."
"Well you sure as hell jumped on the chance with me out of the picture."
"No Mulder. Dana asked me to marry her. You want the truth? I wouldn't have the guts to ask Dana Scully to marry me. But I'm not idiot enough to say no."
"She asked. . . "
"Dana didn't want to be alone. I was there for her. We were good for each other, and then you turned up, alive."
"And screwed up your perfect little marriage."
"Probably. But I won't let you hurt her."
"I don't just mean physically - which by the way you did tonight without even realizing it." Mulder looked away, he had done that. He hadn't forgotten the marks his hands had made on her arms.
"I need to leave."
"You can't. You're not well enough and she wants you here. She's made it clear that she cares about both of us. We need to give her time."
Mulder slumped in his chair. Wait? For what? She'd given herself to Walter Skinner. Oh god.
"I'm going to check on her, then I'll be going home." Mulder didn't respond so Walter turned and left him to himself. He couldn't help him anyway.
"Dana? Are you okay?" She was sitting on her bed, staring into space. "Dana?" He sat on the bed beside, but not touching her. He sighed, nothing was going to make this better. "I've changed my mind about that conference in Toronto. I'll be leaving tomorrow. I'll be gone about a week."
"Why?" She finally turned to look at him.
"You two need a little time, now that he knows. A little time without me here."
"Walter. . . "
"It's okay, Dana. You need this." He gave a sad chuckle, "Maybe I should take him with me."
"Walter, I don't know what to do."
"You don't have to do anything right now. I'm not pushing you to decide anything. Give yourself a break Dana. None of this was your fault." He took a deep breath and stood. "I'll see you next week. Angie will be able to reach me if you need anything." She reached up to him and he squeezed her hand, then turned and left.
"Fox? May I come in?" Mrs. Scully tapped on his door.
"I'd rather you not."
She eased the door open. "I understand, but this time I need to disturb you."
"Mrs. Scully. . . "
"Fox, I can only imagine how you're feeling, but I know that Dana is being torn apart. Now that you know. . . regardless of how you're feeling she needs your support. I know how much you care for her, what she means to you. Fox, she needed someone after you. . . died. She was actually afraid to be alone. I've never seen her like that. He's been good to her Fox. Whatever you're thinking, feeling right now, she did what she had to do to take care of herself. That's all I have to say. I'll see you in the morning." She rose and went to the door. She turned back to look at him with her hand on the knob. He look as lost as Dana had. "Good night Fox."
"Scully? Let me in, please."
There was a long silence, then he saw the knob turning. So, she hadn't been able to sleep either. She opened the door and stepped aside to let him enter. He rolled the chair to beside her bed.
"Iím sorry I grabbed you like that. I had no business doing something stupid like that. I was upset."
"I know." She barely whispered.
"I'll find a place tomorrow."
"No. You're not well enough to leave."
"I'm sure Skinner's ready for you to come home."
"Walter's going out of town tomorrow."
"Why? Can't he postpone it?"
"To give us some time." He absorbed that in silence. He had absolutely no response to that statement. Finally, rather than blow it worse than he already had he rolled the chair back toward the door and let himself out.
Things were awkward between them for several days. He couldnít forget even for a second that she was married to another man. She was afraid to push. Their conversations were stilted and shallow for the first time since they had known each other.
She was still staying at her motherís house, near him and that finally penetrated through the painful haze that his days were now composed of. And Walter had given them this time together; he could ruin the rest of his life if he didnít at least try to communicate with her.
He knew Mrs. Scully was out for the evening and he could hear the TV in the living room. How much more could he lose than he already had? He rolled himself to the door and looked at her. She was facing the TV but he would tell she was unaware of it. She looked so miserable. Because of him? Or just the situation in general? What was the difference?
He pulled his chair up next to her. "Scully?"
Sheíd heard him approach and had steeled herself for another tirade like the night he had finally learned of she and Walter. They hadnít really had a conversation since then; he had even refused to let her work with him on his therapy.
"Yes Mulder." She didnít turn to him. If he was going to fight, heíd have to do it alone.
"Could I keep you company? Just for a little while."
"Iíd. . . Iíd like that." He let go of the breath he was holding. They sat in silence for a few minutes, both pretending to pay attention to the broadcast.
She finally turned to look at him. He didnít look as good has he had just a few days ago. Mom said his appetite was gone. He didnít need this, if only he hadnít overheard that conversation, gotten a little stronger first.
"Am I going to lose you?"
"No, not unless you want to."
"I donít! I donít know how to act around you Scully. We never. . . I mean, our relationship. . . Shit!" He started to roll the chair away, but she caught it.
"Donít walk away from me." They both realized what sheíd said at the same time and actually chuckled. He gave her a sad smile.
"Where do things stand with us?"
"The truth? I donít know. I love Walter, he kept me alive when I didnít know if I wanted to be." Mulder winced at that. "But I love you too. I know we never discussed it, but it was there, we both knew it. I havenít made any decisions about the future Mulder. I donít even know if Walter would want to stay married to me, knowing how I feel about you."
She looked down and then back at him. "Would you? Knowing youíd have to share me? Knowing I canít bring myself to commit to one and not the other of you?"
"Is that really the way you feel?"
"Yes, Mulder. I love both of you. I canít envision my life without both of you in it. I donít even want to."
"Well, I guess thatís a start. I wonít push you Scully. At least Iíll try not to. You have to know it kills me to think of you and Skinner together."
"I know." She reached out her hand and he took it. The art they had made of handholding had not diminished with their separation. They both seemed to relax a little and sat together, more comfortable than they had been for several days.
Mrs. Scully noted the difference immediately, the entire atmosphere of the house was lighter. She breathed a sigh of relief and vowed to find something to do out of the house each evening for the rest of the week. Walter had been at least partially right, they needed this time alone. But what did that mean for her marriage?
The last night before Walter was to return they were sitting together in the living room. He had managed to take the two steps necessary to walk from the wheelchair to the couch and could actually sit beside her. It gave him the courage to say what heíd wanted to say for a long time.
"Scully?" She smiled at him, she was so pleased with his progress. That setback had frightened her more than she had realized. "I want to make love with you." Her smile faltered and her gaze went deep inside. "Scully?" Shit, he should have kept his mouth shut. Things had been going so well.
"The night of the explosion. I made love to you. I know now that it wasnít your body, but itís you I see when I remember it. It was your name on my lips, the taste of you in my mouth." She dropped her eyes.
"Scully, how do you know how I taste?" She looked up at the low melting tone in his voice in time to see him descend toward her mouth and felt his lips on hers and his tongue begging admission. She responded with a fervor he had only dreamed. He pulled her closer to him, his hand finding itís way inside her blouse.
"Mulder, wait. We canít. Please." He released her reluctantly, but she was right. Even if she werenít Ďinvolvedí he didnít want to grope her on her motherís couch like some horny teenager. He wanted to take her into his bed and make love to her all night, every night.
"Should I feel a little cheated?"
"You said I came to you that night, you said the vision of me kept you alive."
"Why Scully. . ." He did smile then. "What an extreme possibility." She swatted at him, then leaned against him and let him hold her. "Skinner comes home tomorrow, doesnít he?"
"Yes." She offered nothing more; she was no closer to making a decision that she had been when sheíd found out he was alive. He sighed but requested nothing more. This wasnít a woman you could push like that.
He let himself into the apartment. It had been a long, fairly useless week. A waste of his time, if the truth were known. But he had needed to give Dana space. No one could dictate to a woman like that. He missed her so much he ached. Not just sexually, she had brought so much to his every day life, hell his entire existence.
"Iím glad youíre home." He whirled at the sound, Dana? Here? "Did I scare you? I didnít mean to."
"I didnít. . . I didnít expect you." And he didnít know whether to be pleased or frightened. Had she come to tell him she was leaving him for good?
She saw the uncertainty in his face and came to him. She put her arms around his waist and rested her head against his chest. "I thought we could have dinner, catch up. I havenít seen you in over a week. I did miss you Walter."
"I missed you too. Where would you like to eat?"
"Here. I brought supper. I just have to heat it up." She turned to go into the kitchen.
"Dana, letís get the bad news over with first. Please."
"I didnít come to give you bad news Walter. I came to see you, I canít stay the night, but I donít have to leave early either."
"Are you. . . " He shook his head, donít push you idiot. She was here, she wanted to spend time with him and she didnít have to leave early, whatever that meant. Go with the flow, Walter.
He changed into casual clothes while she fixed dinner, and brought her a glass of wine. She smiled and took it. "Thanks. Itís good to have you back."
"Now it feels good to be back. I wasnít sure it would."
"Iíve made no decisions, Walter. Mulder, well Mulder needs me and I know I need him. But I need you too. Thatís not right, itís not fair, itís not even sane. But it is the truth. Letís just enjoy each otherís company tonight and see what happens tomorrow. Okay?"
"With pleasure." That out of the way, they did enjoy the evening. Supper was delicious and they fell into the easy conversation style they had developed while living together. He told her stories about the people at the meeting and she brought him up to date on happenings at Quantico. They barely noticed when they moved to the living room and continued talking on the couch, finishing the bottle of wine and then brandy.
She wasnít even caught off guard when he leaned over the kissed her at the end of one of her stories. "Walter?"
"Do you mind?"
"No." So he did it again, and again. It seemed only natural when they found themselves in their bedroom. And even more natural nude in each otherís arms.
He held her close as she dozed in his arms. Better than he had remembered. Loving this woman was so easy. She was the most incredible woman he had ever known. She was here with him, completely with him. Why did he still not feel confident that he could keep her? Her bond with Mulder was so deep, so strong. Even with her lying here nude in his arms he knew he couldnít compete with that. They were part of each other in a way he and she could never be. She shared her body and her life with him, but she shared her soul with Mulder.
She stirred and opened her eyes. Her smile warmed him to the core. She rose and kissed him. "I need to be getting back to Momís."
He nodded, not letting go of her. "Already?"
"Walter." Her tone was warning. She kissed him again and left the bed. He lay there watching her dress, admiring her, wanting her again already. When she was dressed he rose and put on his robe.
"Are you okay to drive?"
"I am now. Iím glad youíre home Walter."
"Will you be at work tomorrow?"
"Yes. Iíll try and stop by. Good night." She kissed him again and let herself out of the apartment.
She entered the house quietly. Everyone should be asleep. She might have made a mistake tonight. She hadnít planned to sleep with Walter, just spend some time with him. Her body had taken over and she had to admit she hadnít been this relaxed in weeks.
She slipped on the light switch in her room and dropped her purse on the dresser.
"Kind of late arenít you?"
"Mulder!" She spun around. "I thought youíd be in bed."
"I couldnít sleep. I wanted to make sure you were in safe."
She hadnít expected this. Tomorrow would have been better. Sheíd have been more in control. "Thanks, but I havenít had anyone wait up for me in years. Go on to bed, Mulder." She reached down to remove her shoes, avoiding looking at him.
"Okay. Goodnight Scully." He started for the door and stopped. She looked up to see if he was snagged on something. His eyes were open wide in horror. "You slept Ė "
"Mulder, please." God, had he known just looking at her? Why did he have to know her that well?
"No!" It was a snarl. Sheíd never heard that kind of sound come from him. For the first time in her life she was afraid of him, not for him.
"Mulder!" He was past her now though she tried to stop him. "Donít do this Mulder! Mulder!" She heard his door slam and the lock catch. She sank to the floor crying. What had she done?
She slipped out of the house early, before her mother was up. She couldnít face them. Walter either. Sheíd betrayed both of them. How could she have thought she could have both of these men? After last night she didnít deserve either of them.
Her mother, unaware of the turmoil, left the house herself at her normal time. As soon as she was gone Mulder hauled his suitcase out to the front door. His cab should be here shortly. He had to get out of here. Heíd thought they were growing closer, but if she was sleeping with him, sleeping with her husband. . . his whole body ached at the thought.
He had the driver come in and get his things. Heíd find a place to stay until he could locate an apartment he could manage on his own. There were enough delivery services in the city to keep him fed. Heíd manage; heíd lived more years without her than with her. Sheíd made her choice and he needed to give her the space to enjoy it. He would survive.