Best Friends 1 - Part 2

 

 

Heíd been afraid she wouldnít let him see her inside, but she made no comment, accepting his presence, just not his touch.

"Can I get you anything, Scully?"

"Iím not sick, Mulder. Why donít you go home and get cleaned up. Iíll be fine. I want to take a long hot bath. Go on."

"Can I bring dinner over tonight?"

"Sure, that would be fine. Thanks for . . . " She stopped, unsure what to say.

He nodded. "Youíll call me if you need anything? Iíve got my cell phone."

"I wonít need anything, Mulder. See you later."

His shower didnít help, nothing helped. He could only imagine how horrible Skinner must feel. Maybe some mundane chores would clear his mind. He gathered his laundry and while checking his pockets found the card the doctor had given him the night before. He dropped the clothes on the floor and headed for the phone.

"Crisis Hot-Line."

"I, uh, I need to talk to someone. My . . . my partner was raped and . . . "

"Is she physically okay?"

"I think so, but she wonít let me near her. I canít comfort her."

"Thatís very normal with rape victims. Any touch can be truly painful. Every part of their body is highly sensitized. When did this happen?"

"Last night." Was it only yesterday?

"Has she seen a doctor?"

"Yes, but she wouldnít let him do a full exam."

"I know. She should make an appointment to see her own doctor in a couple of days. Someone sheís comfortable with. Did she press charges?"

"No. She refuses to bring the police into this."

"That could be a mistake. The closure of knowing the rapist is punished can go a long way in her healing."

"This was a friend. Someone we know and . . . and trust."

"Oh?"

"He wasnít responsible. I doubt we ever find who was."

"I donít understand."

"Itís not important. Tell me how to help her."

"Did she call you when this happened?"

"No, no I walked in. I pulled him off . . . I . . ."

"So you rescued her."

"Not in time."

"Sounds like youíre going to need someone to talk to as well."

"Iím not important. Iím worried because sheís so calm, so detached, except for the fear of touch you'd think this
had happened to someone else."

"Denial. Thatís very common. At least sheís not blaming herself."

"No, not that. She knows what really happened."

"Can you get her to call in? We know what sheís going through. Weíve been thought it ourselves. Youíre not . . . sheís not suicidal is she?"

"What?" He hadnít been worried about that. Now he was. "I have to go."

"Wait! Listen, I want you to call me back. Patsy, ask for Patsy, okay?"

"Yeah, I gotta go." He hung up and headed for the door. Her gun, when had he last seen her gun? He tried to call her apartment, but got no answer, that only fueled his fear.

When he got there he knocked and again received no answer. He slipped his key into the lock and entered.

"Scully?"

"What are you doing here?" My god, she was armed. He raised his hands away from his side.

"I called and there was no answer."

"I was in the tub. Why did you let yourself in?"

"Iím sorry, Scully. I was concerned. I didnít think. Please put the gun down." She glanced down as though sheíd forgotten it. She lowered it and placed it on her coffee table.

"I didnít mean to sca - startle you, Scully."

"Are you going to try to smother me, Mulder?" She sighed.

She watched him deflate, "Yeah, I guess I am."

He was startled at her slight smile. "At least youíre honest about it."

The smile was gone as quickly as it appeared.

"What?"

"I have a headache."

"Why donít you lie down here on the couch and watch an old movie with me. Iíll massage your feet."

She drew back at that suggestion.

"Just your feet, Scully. I promise not to go above the ankles. Okay?"

"Iím not getting rid of you, am I?"

"Not in this lifetime." Whoops, too much. Her eyes moistened, then she took a deep breath.

"I guess we could try that. Let me get dressed." She returned back shortly in tights and an oversize sweatshirt. "Did you find a movie?"

"Planet of the Apes?"

"Why not."

She sat on the couch, forcing herself to lean back in some semblance of relaxation. He waited, he couldnít hurry this. If she couldnít let him touch her feet, heíd try something else tomorrow. Whatever worked for her.

He realized she had placed her feet so that her toes brushed against his jeans. He still made no move. She exhaled and slid her feet into his lap. He released the breath he was holding and lightly rubbed the top of her foot.

"Okay?"

She nodded, concentrating on the TV screen. He felt the tension leave her and realized shortly that she was asleep. Good, she needed the rest. At one point he stopped the massage, but she stirred uneasily so he resumed.

"Beneath the Planet of the Apes" had begun before she woke. She stretched, but didnít withdraw her feet.

"I probably wonít sleep at all tonight."

"You can keep me company then."

"Where do you think youíre going to be?" She knew, but she couldnít let him know how much she wanted him here.

"Right here, on my couch."

"Your couch?" He grinned and nodded. "Itís not necessary."

"You might have another nightmare. Iíve got lots of experience in that area."

"One condition."

"Name it." His relief was too great to refuse her anything.

"Go check on Skinner."

He couldnít help it, he was stunned. "You want me to . . . "

"Please. I . . . I have you, but he doesnít have anyone." She couldnít quite meet his eyes.

"Okay. What should I bring for dinner?"

"Whatever you want. Iím not really hungry."

"Can I ask a favor in return?" He ducked down to try to see her eyes.

"What?" She was wary, but Mulder wouldnít ask more than she could handle.

"Would you call this number, ask for Patsy."

"Whoís Patsy?"

"I think she could be a friend. I wonít be long." Tell her too much and sheíd refuse outright.

"Mulder?"

"I wonít be long." He let himself out; he was feeling better about her. But Skinner - damn.

He was beginning to think Skinner wasnít going to come to the door, when he finally heard him.

"What do you want Mulder?"

"Just to check on you."

"Iím not a child."

"No, but you could use a friend."

"That might be true, if I deserved one."

"Well, youíve got two, whether you want them or not." Mulder stood his ground, he wasnít leaving until heíd done what he promised Scully.

"Two?"

"Scully sent me to check on you."

"Oh god." He stepped back and allowed Mulder to enter the apartment.

"Have you had any problems from the drugs?"

"You mean any more problems?" Mulder shrugged. "Look, you donít want to be around me, and Iím not exactly comfortable with you. Iím fine, tell her not to worry about me."

"Is your nose going to be okay?"

"Yeah. He said Iíd be as handsome as ever." He said bitterly.

Mulder didnít have an answer to that, so he made none. They sat is silence for a few minutes.

"She is all right?" Skinner finally allowed himself to ask.

"I think she will be. She got some rest this afternoon."

"Good. Look, Iím checking on a transfer so that she wonít have to see me any more."

"I donít think thatís a decision you should make right now." Mulder cautioned him.

"She shouldnít have to contend with my presence."

"Even before she spoke with you, she told me something was wrong. Your actions were too out of character." So why did he still feel so stiff around the guy? At least Skinner couldnít remember what heíd done.

"Sheís more generous than I am. Whatever the catalyst, Iím responsible for what happened. I have to live with that the rest of my life."

"Sir . . . "

"Donít." Skinner barked at him.

"What?"

"Donít call me sir. I canít . . . itís not appropriate."

"Youíre my superior." Skinner snorted at that. "And youíve saved my ass countless times. Scullyís too."

"Oh Jesus, Mulder. Could you leave now?"

"Sorry. That came out badly."

"I know what youíre trying to do, Mulder. Part of me even appreciates it, but I want you to leave. I need to be alone."

"Have you eaten?"

"I donít need a mother, Mulder. Thanks for coming by." Skinner stood, leaving no doubt that the visit was finished.

"Iíll be staying at Scullyís tonight. Call me if you need anything."

"Sure, Mulder."

"When will you be back at work?" He hadnít done anything to help, and Scully needed information that only he could obtain from Skinner.

"Iíve got a couple of weeks due me. Iíll probably take them now."

"Iíll call you tomorrow."

"Fine. Look, you can do me more good looking after her. Okay? Oh, listen, just for your information, Tuckerís disappeared. His apartmentís empty as well."

Mulder nodded, heíd halfway expected that. He let Skinner see him out. He knew Skinner wasnít okay, but there wasnít a whole lot he could do. He didnít think there was a hot line to help him.

After picking up Thai food, he headed back to Scullyís. She opened the door for him and had obviously been crying.

"Scully? What?" He wanted to hold her, but he didnít want to scare her.

"How do you know Patsy?"

"Patsy? Oh, I called her. I thought she might be able to help." He had to fight to keep his arms down, not to embrace her.

"How would you even know about . . . "

"The doctor gave me the number last night, for you."

"But why did you call?" She was looking him in the eye finally, wanting to see more than the words.

"I . . . I just wanted to know what I could do. How I could help you."

Apparently she saw what she wanted. "Mulder, I . . . " she turned from him and snagged another tissue. "Howís Skinner?"

"Not too well. Heís talking about a transfer, so you wonít have to see him."

She made no comment. He followed her into the kitchen and began laying out the food.

"Thai? You donít like . . . "

"You do."

"I canít . . . Mulder, I canít have you treating me like this. Itís worse than the cancer."

"Let me do this, Scully. While you need it. Youíve always been there for me."

He actually got her to eat a few bites by teasing and cajoling. She was relaxing.

*****

He grabbed the phone before it could wake her the next morning. "Hello?"

"Hello. Is Dana there?"

"Patsy?" He caught the voice.

"Yes. Is that you, Fox?"

"Yeah."

"Sorry I woke you. What are you doing there?"

"I stayed over, in case she had nightmares." Funny, she didnít make him feel like he needed a reason.

"She was right, you are special."

"You talked about me?" Did he want to know what theyíd said?

"I asked about her support system. You seem to be it."

"Oh no, sheís got lots of friends and family." He relaxed a little.

"Whom sheís chosen not to confide in. Youíre the only one she trusts."

Mulder had to swallow around the lump in his throat. "Itís mutual."

They spoke for several minutes, then Patsy paused, "Fox, can I ask you a question?"

"Sure."

"I asked Dana this last night and her answer confuses me."

"What?"

"Were you lovers before this happened to you?"

"To her." Mulder corrected.

"What?"

"Before this happened to her."

"Donít kid yourself, Fox. This happened to both of you. Were you?"

"No, weíve never been lovers. Why?"

"Same answer she gave." It was almost a sigh.

"You donít believe us?"

"You donít talk like just friends. Is there any reason . . . " she wasnít sure how to ask this.

"Iím not gay, Patsy." Just terminally celibate apparently.

"Iím sorry. I didnít mean to imply . . . "

"I just have superhuman self control." Thatís when he heard her laugh. She came around the corner.

"Do I get to see your cape?"

"How long have you been standing there?" He sputtered, face flushing.

"Long enough. Is that Patsy?" He nodded and handed her the phone.

"Iíll go make coffee. You can gossip about me while Iím gone."

"I like purple."

"What?" He turned back, confused.

"For your cape."

He grabbed the remote and pretended to throw it at her, and she smiled. A real smile, the first heíd seen since . . . He quickly retreated to the kitchen, so his emotions wouldnít spill over.

He handed her the cup when she came in the kitchen to join him. "It was nice of her to call."

"Patsyís been very good for me. I think Iíll go to her group this week." She was studying the coffee, not looking at him.

"Yeah, thatís probably a good idea."

"Thereís a group for . . . for, uh, spouses and partners, if . . . "

"When does it meet?"

"Tuesdays at seven"

"Okay. What?" Was that relief that flickered across her face?

"Nothing. Uh, I think I embarrassed Patsy. She asked about your background. It unnerved her when she realized she was giving advice to a psychologist."

"Not in this instance."

"Listen, Iím throwing you out tonight. You canít stay here."

"Hey, my snoring is no louder than yours."

She tried to glare at him, but couldnít sustain it. "Really, Mulder. I need to see if I can be here alone. I canít let myself . . . "

"Lean on me?"

"Itís more than that. Donít be upset with me. I have to prove this to myself."

"Yeah, I know. But you will call me, anytime, Iím not going to be sleeping anyway."

"I promise."

"When does Patsyís group meet?"

"Tuesdayís, same time as yours."

"Good, we can go together."

*****

Not his idea of a good time, sitting around, sharing "feelings" with men he didnít know. Hell, if it would help Scully heíd dance with them. Heíd finally met Patsy, when he dropped Scully off at her room. She was younger than he had thought, but she seemed to know her stuff. He didnít want to think about where she might have had to learn it. But she seemed to have come through okay, thatís what was important.

He joined the men in the room they had sent him to. Their leader seemed nice enough. Ben was probably his age, shorter, slightly receding hairline, and seemed to have a good handle on the group. Everyone introduced himself or herself, first names only. Um, no other Foxís, when was the last time that had happened?

They had barely finished the introductions when Russ, another newcomer broke in, "Listen, how long she is going to be like this?"

"Like what, Russ?" Ben asked quietly.

"She wonít let me touch her. I mean itís been a couple of weeks already and she donít want sex or nothing. Her bruises are gone, but she wonít even let me . . . "

"Russ, only the bruises you can see are healed. Sheís got a lot of . . . "

"You mean sheís bruised down in there too?"

"Probably, but I meant emotionally. You need to understand how violated sheís feeling. Control was taken from her at the most basic level. Her own body was violated. Imagine how you would feel if someone broke into your car and stole something extremely valuable, irreplaceable, out of it. Now magnify that 1000%. Can you imagine something like that?"

From the look on this face, Mulder was pretty sure that he couldnít, but he kept quiet.

"Well, okay, but how long does that mean I have to go without? I mean, I didnít do her and sheís treating me like the plague."

Mulder stood from his chair. He wasnít going to walk out, but he couldnít sit there and listen quietly. He walked over to the coffeepot and poured himself a cup. He missed the answer, whatever it was, but Russ seemed suitably subdued when he returned to his seat.

"Fox, how are you doing?" Ben drew him into the group.

"Iím fine, concerned about her."

"Is she behaving differently?"

"Well, she startles easily. I try to make more noise so she always knows where I am. And if she takes a nap I try to sit where she can see me as soon as she opens her eyes."

"Thatís very good. Is she wary of touching also?"

"Yeah. I try to be very careful there because Iíve come to realize that I always touched her a lot. I make sure she initiates all touching now, or try to."

Ben was looking at him strangely. "You have experience with this?"

"No, itís what seems to make her comfortable."

"Well, itís a couple of the techniques we recommend around here. Iíd say youíre handling things well with her. How about you?"

"Me? Listen, everyone keeps talking about me, Iím fine. Sheís the important thing here." Mulder knew he sounded defensive, but everyone kept harping on him. Nothing had happened to him, except maybe his life being shattered.

"Why do you feel so guilty?" Ben spoke quietly.

"Iím not guilty." Well, not really.

"Could you have prevented what happened?"

Mulder was silent for a minute. "If Iíd gone with her . . . "

"Was it a place you should have been, somewhere you knew she was going that she wouldnít be safe?"

"No." He would never have foreseen that. If he hadnít actually walked in he still wouldnít be able to reconcile it.

"Then you couldnít have prevented it. Of course it would help if you believed that. Bill, why donít you tell him about your situation?"

It was a good two hours. Mulder did have a better understanding of his own guilt. These men had been through a lot too, a side of things he hadnít dwelled on. It seemed that some of the stories had even gotten through to Russ. He would be back next week, if they were in town. If she was able to work, that is.

He headed up the hall to meet Scully, and spotted her outside the room the women had used, talking with Patsy. When she turned to watch him come toward her, he could tell sheíd been crying. Damn. His hand automatically rose to touch her, but he remembered in time.

Scully reached out and took his hand, placing it firmly on the small of her back. He gave her a shy smile and after a quick goodbye to Patsy, they walked out together.

Patsy watched them leave. Youíd almost think she was marked there, the placement of his hand had been so precise. Sheíd watched so many couples be torn apart by this, it was nice to see a couple she felt confident would get through it because of each other rather than in spite of.

"You ready to go, Sweetheart?" She hadnít heard him approach.

"Yeah. I had a good group tonight. You?"

"Sure did." Ben put his arm around her and her arms went around his waist.

"Makes me remember how lucky I am."

They followed Mulder and Scully into the night.