He came out of the menís room and headed back for the bar. The shade of red caught his eye Ė that particular shade always did. But this time it was her. Scully was smiling up at the blond man hovering over her. He had his arm around her and as Mulder watched, hugged her to him. Mulder felt his whole body stiffen at the sight. Who was this man hugging his Ė that drew him up short. His what? Partner? Not woman - Scully. His Scully.
He watched the man seat her in a booth at the far end of the bar, her back to him. Mulder resumed his seat at the bar, unable to look away. The man was delighted to be in her presence. Well, what man wouldnít be? She seemed just as happy though. Who was this man? He didnít remember her mentioning seeing anyone.
After a few moments the man rose, kissed her, and headed toward Mulder. He felt his hand twitch and his shoulder stiffen. Heíd kissed her. Just kissed her as though it were the most natural, normal thing in the world. Mulder managed to drop his eyes for a second as the man passed him, then looked up again to see her staring at him.
There was more color in her face than normal. Was she blushing? Turned on? Embarrassed at being caught? Caught? He couldnít move, his eyes locked on hers. She rose from the booth and came toward him. If heíd been able to move he would have. Heíd have bolted from the bar Ė did she think heíd followed her? Spied on her?
"Mulder? I didnít see you when we came in."
"Uh, yeah I was in . . . " He waved vaguely in the direction of the menís room. She nodded. "Didnít know you had a date tonight." It wasnít a question, it wasnít even an accusation but she stiffened nevertheless Ė something about his body language maybe.
"Yeah, Jessieís an old friend."
"Jessie?" He pursed his lips, waiting for her answer, just as though she owed him one.
"Jessie Clark. We knew each other in school."
He nodded, not sure what to say. "Well, uh, you better get back before he sees you talking to another man. He might be less comfortable kissing you." Why the hell had he said that?
She stiffened, what was wrong with him? Was he drunk? Her eyes asked the question but he looked away. "Well I, Iíll see you Monday Mulder."
"Yeah." He turned back to his drink and after a moment she turned as well and returned to the booth. When he finally looked in that direction again they were gone.
Well, heíd made an ass of himself. He paid his bar bill and rose from the stool.
She let herself into his apartment. Sheíd knocked twice and gotten no response. Heíd been acting so weird at the bar she needed to make sure he was okay.
She spotted him sitting on the couch, staring in the direction of the television, but it wasnít on. "Mulder?"
He jumped at the sound and started to rise from his seat. "I didnít mean to startle you." She glanced at the coffee table; there was a bottle on it and a glass. Heíd continued drinking here. That wasnít like him at all.
"What are you doing here?"
"I wanted to check on you. You didnít seem yourself earlier."
"Iím fine. Isnít Jessie upset that you ended your date so early?"
"What are you Ė "
"Who is this Jessie anyway? I donít remember you mentioning him."
She watched him approach her, her anger at his attitude growing. She shouldnít have come here. "Youíre not my father, Mulder."
"Would Ahab not approve?"
Something about his tone shot clear through her. Maybe it was his use of the word Ahab. Whatever, she couldnít stop herself. The palm of her hand connected sharply with his face. She was immediately appalled though she tried to hide it. What the hell was wrong with both of them tonight?
Mulder seemed to grow in front of her, looming over her suddenly, making her feel small, vulnerable. He took her shoulders in his hands and kissed her. It took a second for the action to register in her brain, then she was struggling against him, fighting to break free. "Mulder stop! This isnít funny. Stop it!"
It seemed to enflame him; he pulled her closer and his hand closed painfully around her breast. Sheíd come to him from some other manís bed Ė he could smell him on her. Heíd visualized it over and over as the level in the bottle got lower. Now between the liquor and the fury he was out of control.
There was blood in his mouth. He ran his tongue over his lip Ė it was cut and he was lying on the floor. He started to rise and stopped, he felt like heíd been hit in the head with a 2 X 4. He stifled a groan and made it to a seated position.
That was when he spotted her. Scully, huddled into a ball, hugging her knees to her chest on the far side of the room, her back against the bedroom wall. Her eyes were open but she was looking inward, not at anything in this room. "Scully?"
Memory hit him like a sledgehammer. Oh god! Oh god, no, it couldnít . . . he couldnít have . . . He managed to crawl to her, not trusting himself to walk. "Scully? Are you . . .? Let me take you to the hospital." He managed to rise to his feet. He desperately wanted to touch her but terror kept him from it.
Finally she looked up at him; "Iím not going to the hospital."
He absorbed that, no room for discussion. "Are the police on the way?" She shook her head and looked away again. "Why are you still here?" If she heard the fear in his voice she ignored it.
"I was afraid youíd choke on your own vomit." He blinked, trying to process the words. She had stayed here to make sure that he was okay? His knees gave way at that and he collapsed beside her.
"Scully, what can I . . . what can I do?" She rose to her feet then, moving away from him. "Scully?"
"Nothing. Thereís nothing you can do." Her shield was tight around her. She had to distance herself from this, she had to deny that it had happened or sheíd fall apart.
"Donít leave. Please." She stopped at the sound of his voice but didnít turn to him. "You shouldnít be driving, not now."
"Thereís no traffic now Mul . . . " She stopped, unable to say his name.
He glanced over at the clock. It was nearly 4:30 in the morning. How long had he been passed out on the floor with her watching over him? "Please donít go."
"I need a shower, some fresh clothes." Now he saw what he had done to the clothes she had been wearing. Ripped, torn, destroyed, by him. Just like their relationship.
He felt dead inside, empty. He should have choked. He would have preferred it to this living death he was facing. He finally forced words from his mouth, "We need to talk, please Scully."
"No. Thereís nothing to say Mu . . . I canít talk, not now." She continued on to the door, picking up her coat and exiting the apartment without looking back, leaving him on the floor uncertain if he would ever rise again.
The notice of transfer came as no surprise. She hadnít discussed it with him; she hadnít spoken to him or come by the office when he was there. He couldnít blame her. Hell, he should be in jail. He had no idea what she had said to Skinner.
When Skinner had called him in to advise him of her request he had obviously been curious. It was a tribute to his professionalism that he managed to ask no questions. He watched in silence as Mulder, as senior agent of the X-Files, signed her request with no comment. "Iíll start the paperwork to assign you a new partner right away."
"Fine." That surprised Skinner, heíd expected an argument. He watched Mulder rise and head toward the door.
"Mulder," the man stopped, his hand on the doorknob, but he didnít turn to face his supervisor. "If you need to talk . . . " Mulder nodded and left the room. Skinner couldnít remember ever seeing a man in more pain than this one was. He was actually concerned about the manís physical health because of it. It crossed his mind that suicide wasnít out of the question. Heíd have to keep a discreet eye on him.
He waited as long as he could to check on her, and then only by computer. Heíd hoped someone would say something, drop a hint as to where she had gone. No one did, everyone seemed to be avoiding him. It was just as well, this way he didnít have to pretend to be civil. It wasnít an act he felt he could pull off anyway.
He could probably have gotten all the information he wanted if heíd asked the guys, but he was avoiding them too and theyíd finally taken the hint.
Finding her in the computer had taken no time once he faltered in his resolution not to try. She was back at Quantico, teaching. He was a little surprised that sheíd taken such a mundane assignment. She was excellent in the field Ė the best heíd ever seen. Maybe she wasnít ready for that. Maybe she was traumatized . . . allowing that thought to form had shut him down for nearly two days.
Even when he felt functional again he didnít check on her. She didnít want contact, that much was obvious and more than understandable. He stumbled through each day half-alive, doing his work by rote with all passion gone, waiting for the pink slip he expected each morning.
Weeks turned into months. His new partner, Bob something, he couldnít even remember that, carried him. He didnít believe in psychic phenomena, aliens, anything that they had investigated together and Mulder felt no trust in either direction, but not caring made that bearable.
He slept when he could, ate when he remembered and basically stumbled through his days in a self-induced stupor. Liquor had not touched his lips and never would again. The alcohol wasnít to blame, heíd gotten past that, but it had contributed. His father had been a mean drunk. Mulder had never known that kind of evil was harbored in his body. That was what kept him alive, he had seriously considered suicide, but living was more punishment and thatís what he deserved.
He had fallen asleep yet again on his couch, changing and actually going to bed had become insurmountable chores, so he avoided them. He jerked awake, crying out her name, shaking like a leaf.
This was different, he didnít remember the dream but something was wrong. This wasnít his normal nightmare and he knew she needed help, maybe not his, but someoneís.
He grabbed the phone and dialed the switchboard at the Bureau. Sometimes it was good to work for a place that had to be functional 24-hours a day. "This is an emergency. My badge number is JTT047101111. I need the location of Special Agent Dana Scully." There was a brief pause, okay maybe the night shift wasnít everything the day shift was cracked up to be.
"Agent Mulder, we have her location as her home. Sheís taken medical leave. Iím sorry we donít have any more infor Ė"
He broke the connection. Medical leave? He had thought, when he woke, that she had gone out on an assignment, maybe been injured in the field. Medical leave Ė the cancer? No please, that was supposed to be gone. A breakdown? Because of what heíd done to her? Scully? Hell, it didnít matter, heíd been right she did need help.
Okay, he was going over there. He already knew he wouldnít be welcomed, but he had to know what was going on. It wasnít like he could call her mother and ask for an update. She no doubt had a poisoned glass of wine waiting for him.
It was morning anyway. By the time heíd showered, shaved and found the least dirty of his clothes it would be a decent hour to show up at her door.
He looked presentable when he knocked on her door. The best heíd bothered to look in ages. He looked older too, there was gray at his temples and throughout his hair now that he hadnít noticed until this morning. Well, prison did that to you, no matter who the warden was.
She took a long time coming to her door. He didnít dare try his key. He was confident that she had changed the locks, but testing the theory wasnít something he could take.
She was still in her robe and she obviously hadnít bothered to check the peephole. That wasnít like her. "Did you forget your key, Mom?" Then she got the door open and froze.
They both did, the sight of her stopping all senses but sight in order to more fully appreciate that one sense to the fullest. She looked tired, more than just waking her up would warrant. Was it the cancer? He felt his heart rate rise even more than the sight of her had caused.
"I . . . I know I shouldnít be here. I have no right, but I heard . . . may I come in?"
She stepped back then, allowing him entry. She still hadnít said a word and he couldnít read her expression. Had it been that long? Hell yes, it had been forever. He had to be misinterpreting what he was seeing, that couldnít be relief in her eyes or even a hint that she had missed him. Just wishful thinking on his part.
He pushed the door almost closed behind him, afraid to close it completely. He didnít want her to think . . . He didnít venture farther into the room. The awkward silence was growing.
"I . . . I heard you had taken a leave. I, uh, I . . . shit, Scully are you okay?" His eyes were pleading with her. She took in his appearance and was frightened at the change in him. Heíd aged terribly in the last few months. No one had told her, no one had spoken to her about him except her mother and Scully had finally put a stop to that too.
Now he stood before her and she realized she instinctively wanted his support, needed his support. No. She shouldnít feel this way, it was just history and . . . and -
"Dana! What are you doing up? The doctor was adamant about complete bed rest. He will put you in the hospital Ė " Scully hadnít seen her mother coming, concentrating on him as she was.
"Mom." She spoke quietly, resignedly and Maggie stopped, looking in the direction Scully was looking.
"Fox!" A look that Mulder interpreted as relief, even joy, which made no sense whatsoever, came over Maggieís face.
He turned to her; he was getting nowhere with Scully. "Is it the cancer? Why does her doctor want her in the hospital?"
Now bewilderment took over as the prominent expression. Maggie turned back to Scully. "He doesnít know? You said Ė "
"Mom, could you leave us alone for a few minutes." She sounded tired, centuries worth of tired.
"Dana, you donít need the stress right now. Let me talk to Fox and Ė "
"No! I have to handle this. Please."
Handle what? And was Rod Serling going to come through the door next? What the fuck was going on? She looked terrible now that he was really seeing her. If the cancer was back . . . icy claws tightened around his heart.
Scully took a step toward them and seemed to stumble; her hand came out to grab the back of the couch. "Dana!" But Mulder already had her in his arms.
"Iím . . . Iím okay."
"The hell you are." He didnít even bother with the couch, carrying her into her bedroom and laying her gently on the bed. Maggie followed them. Mulder was watching Scully, but he spoke to Maggie. "Will someone tell me what the hell is going on?"
Maggie lay her hand on his arm. "Not now." She tugged slightly on his arm. He managed to look away from Scully and Maggie saw the nearly frantic concern in his eyes. She felt herself melt, he did love her Ė beyond all reason. Surely they could work this out, Danaís explanation of their parting had never made sense anyway.
"Mom, please. Leave us alone for a few minutes."
"Dana, not now." Her motherís voice brooked no argument. Whatever was going on her first priority was her daughter. "Fox can wait, you need to calm down and rest. Or Iím calling your doctor."
It was obviously a threat and both Mulder and Scully responded to it. She sank back down onto the pillow and closed her eyes. Maggie motioned for Mulder to follow her out, which he did. Scully sighed as the she heard the door close behind them.
He followed Maggie into the kitchen where she started a pot of coffee. "Mrs. Scully, please. Is it the cancer? Is that why she took the leave?"
"Fox, I . . . I was led to believe . . . something that I realize now isnít true. Iím not sure why Dana chose to mislead me, but I canít question her about it now. The two of you need to talk, I know you can work this out between the two of you. I canít say more than that, except that it isnít the cancer. Donít worry about that."
She watched the relief flood his whole body and took his hand. "She needs you now Fox. Whatever your differences, you have to work them out Ė for everyoneís sake."
"Itís not as simple as that Mrs. Scully. I donít deserve her forgiveness, I Ė "
"Fox." She silenced him. "I donít know what happened but it doesnít matter now." Mulder shook his head, she really didnít understand. "You love her Fox, and she loves you. Now, especially now, you have to work things out."
Well she was half right, he loved Scully. But she could only hate him now. He buried his face in his hands. Maggie watched him; he was suffering terribly. She couldnít fail to notice the change in him Ė he had been suffering and it had aged him. The stress of their separation had been the cause of Danaís problem, she knew that, had known it all along.
Fox didnít know about the child. He didnít know what was wrong with her and yet he was here. He had known instinctively that she needed him.
She rose from the table and poured them both a cup of coffee. He sipped his gratefully. "Can I fix you some breakfast?"
"No, Iím fine."
"You look like you could use a meal."
He managed to smile at her. "Youíre probably right, but Iím not hungry. Mrs. Scully . . . "
She shook her head. "Listen, if youíre going to be here for a while thereís some errands I need to run. I didnít finish what I needed to get done, I didnít want to be gone too long."
"Youíre staying here with her?"
She nodded. "I could use the time to get some groceries and some other things. And the two of you could use the privacy Iím sure. Donít push her Fox."
He closed his eyes at that; she didnít have a clue what sheíd said to him. Push her? After what heíd done? Maggie placed her hand over his. "Youíll work this out. I know youíll take good care of my baby girl. Iíll be gone for a couple of hours at least. Donít let her get out of bed except to go to the bathroom."
He nodded and watched her gather her jacket and let herself out the door.
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