She wasn't at the office the next morning and she hadn't checked in. He shouldn’t have let her talk him out of making arrangements to pick her up. After a little while he decided to check on her. The machine picked up at her apartment. Okay, she should be on her way. He dialed her cell phone. After several rings she picked up. "Running late, Scully?"
"Sorry Mulder. I'm at the hospital."
"The hospital? Are you okay?"
"Yes. I'm fine. Skinner came to last night. He was asking for me."
"You went back last night? You didn't get any rest?"
"I got some." She sounded evasive to him.
"I'll be right there."
"Mulder, it's okay. I'm okay."
"I'll be right there." He repeated and broke the connection. She'd gone back to see Skinner. He'd called for her. What the hell was he doing calling for her? Stupid question, but the top most one in his mind.
He lost no time getting to the hospital, not bothering with such things as legal parking. He took no guff about entering ICU and on into Skinner's cubicle. He wasn't happy and she could see it instantly.
"Don't, Mulder. Just don't."
"You were supposed to be looking after yourself."
"He asked for me. I couldn't refuse to come." He looked over at the sleeping man. "He's a little better."
"Because you came."
"No Mulder, but he needed me. He doesn't have any family. He was alone."
So was I, but he didn't say that out loud. Besides, that made no sense. He wasn't injured and this man had nearly died saving her. He'd have gladly taken the bullet for her instead, but he'd been too far away.
"Dan . . . Dana?" They both looked over at the man in the bed and she moved to take his hand. Dana? When had he started calling her that?
"I'm right here Walter." He seemed to relax at the sound of her voice. Walter? What, had he fallen into the Twilight Zone? "Just relax."
"I guess you don't need me after all. I'll head back to the office." He sounded like a jealous teenager and he knew it, but what he was witnessing had him shaken.
"Mulder." She looked over at him, but didn't release Skinner's hand or move toward him.
"It's okay. I'll talk to you later." He turned then, not facing her. He had to get out of here, get these feelings under control. He was behaving like an idiot.
By the time he had gotten to the Lone Gunmen’s apartment his mood had descended well below ‘dark’. He stabbed the doorbell impatiently and repeatedly.
Frohike hurried with the locks when he saw who it was and jerked the door open. “What’s wrong? Is Scully - “
“Scully’s fine.” His answer was short and clipped.
Langly looked up, “Skinner?”
Mulder didn’t sound happy about that either and the three men exchanged glances. Byers shrugged and they waited for him to continue.
“Well? What have you found?” He couldn’t even perch on the desk, pacing instead.
After another quick glance around, Byers spoke, “He has no close family. We were able to locate a maiden aunt in North Dakota, she’s in her nineties and we can’t tell that he’d ever been in touch with her.”
“Yeah, and if he was getting paid, it’s to another name and probably out of the country.” Langly added.
“This guy seems to be a super patriot. He probably didn’t ask for any special pay.” Frohike threw over his shoulder as he headed for the printer.
“So we still don’t have a clue why he was aiming at Scully.” Now he did lean against one of the monitors. The guys looked at him with sympathy.
"We haven't given up, but we are kind of stymied."
"Yeah, I guess I'll head to the office. Stay in touch."
"We will. Mulder, if you need anything . . . “ Byers let it trail off.
Mulder nodded and headed toward the door.
He didn't bother to knock as he approached McLean's office.
"You know Spooky's not going to - “ The man went silent as they spotted Mulder at the door.
"Agents." He nodded at the men assembled in the office.
"You need to learn to knock Agent Mulder."
"But think of all the great things I'd miss Agent McLean. What am I not going to do? Let this go? Let you sweep it under the rug? Mark the case as solved and file it away? You're damn straight."
The men looked at each other. "That's not what - "
"The man has no family. If he was paid, it was to a false name and probably deposited outside of the country."
The team again exchanged glances.
"Anything you want to share with me? Have you interviewed Simmons' friends?" He paused, "Look, we can work together or we can work apart, but I will get answers - with or without you."
He turned then and moved toward the door. He stopped just before it. The ashtray catching his attention. He reached down and picked up the butt of a cigarette. Morley. He looked over at McLean who looked a little pasty suddenly.
"I never thought much of you McLean, and you just proved me right."
McLean wouldn't meet his eyes. He let himself out and turned toward the elevator. That probably wasn't the smartest move he could have made, but he wasn't feeling especially smart right now.
He hadn't seen Cancerman for months. Hell, he didn’t know if the man was still alive, but with what was going on right now . . . Would Cancerman have had Scully shot?
That didn't make a lot of sense, the man had taken her out of town, tried to win her trust. Surely he wouldn't turn on her after that. But he was involved; the hairs on the back of Mulder's neck had convinced him of that.
He'd never get a straight answer out of McLean. Could the guys find out anything about Cancerman?
He threw himself into the investigation. He needed to know, and there was no way he could dwell on what was going on at the hospital. He was painfully aware that she wasn't at the office, but he didn't call, getting his updates through official channels.
Skinner was improving. He'd been moved to a regular room and still she remained at his side. The doctors were crediting her with his recovery. People began avoiding Mulder like they had before she had joined him. He didn't really blame them; he didn't especially want to be around himself.
The call he got from Byers turned his world upside down. "Mulder, do you want us to set up surveillance at Skinner's place?"
"His place? Why?"
"Well, she took him home today and since she's staying there - "
"Scully's staying with Skinner?" He couldn't keep the shock from his voice. It had never occurred to him it would go this far.
"I thought . . . we thought you knew. We thought maybe you'd set it up to make it easier to keep an eye on both of them."
"No, I didn't know. Yeah, go ahead, set it up." He hung up then. There was nothing else to say.
He entered the office and the smell of the cigarette smoke assaulted his nose. He drew his gun instantly as he spotted Cancerman sitting in the chair Scully used. "What the hell are you doing here?"
"Paying a debt Agent Mulder."
Mulder's eyes narrowed but his gun didn't waver.
It didn't seem to bother the older man. "Have you seen today's paper?" He indicated the newspaper folded neatly on the desk.
Mulder reached for it and scanned the headline, Senator and Aide Dead in Fiery Crash. "I didn't vote for him."
"Neither did I."
"So what does this have to do with me?"
"The Senator, not much. He was a weak and stupid fool. But his aide might interest you. He was the nephew of an associate of mine."
"Long time associate, whose body was found, along with several others - "
"He was part of the conspiracy?" Now Mulder's gun was lowered.
CGB pulled out his pack of cigarettes and placed one in his mouth. After lighting it, "His nephew seemed to think he was owed a position. Against advise he decided to hire - "
"He hired Simmons?" Mulder's eyes were wide now and his gun at his side. "He tried to kill Scully."
"Against advise, yes."
"And he died in a 'car crash'?"
"Corpses are notoriously bad drivers."
"Agent Scully might enjoy this particular autopsy."
"What would she be looking for?"
"I wouldn't think our Scully would need to be led."
Mulder's gun came back up at the word 'our'. "Are you through?"
"Agent Scully is important to me, Agent Mulder. She's become as important as you. I owe her and I want her to know that the man who made that misguided attempt on her life is no longer a threat. I assume I can count on you to deliver that message." The older man rose then. "Give my regards to Mr. Skinner as well."
He turned and walked toward the door without bothering to look back. Mulder was staring down at his shoes.
He took a deep breath and knocked on the door. He heard movement almost immediately. It was too late to run. The door opened and there she stood. Her face lit up at the sight of him, but with no answering smile, quickly faded.
He stepped just inside and stopped, turning to watch her shut the door. She looked relaxed here, at home. She was wearing dark slacks and a sage green, short sleeve sweater. It clung in all the right places.
"It's good to - "
"I have information, about your case." He knew he had interrupted her, but he wanted to get this over with and out of here.
"Oh." She glanced over at Walter's bedroom door. "Why don't you talk to both of us? I'll get him."
"Yeah." He stood by the couch and watched her disappear into the other room.
She was gone quite a while in his opinion. Then he heard them returning. Walter was in his robe and using a cane. She was walking closely behind him, but not touching him.
Mulder stepped forward and held out a hand, more to help keep the man on his feet than to shake.
"Agent Mulder, it's good to see you."
"Thank you sir. You're looking a lot better than the last time I saw you."
Skinner smiled ruefully. "I suppose I am." He did accept Mulder's arm in getting down to the couch. Once there he sighed and closed his eyes for a moment. "Dana said you have information about our case."
"I, uh, I had a visitor." He pulled the newspaper article out of his pocket. "Cancerman."
Both Scully and Skinner looked up at him startled.
"Cancerman?" Scully spoke first.
"Yeah, he was at the office. He said that this man hired the assassin."
"The senator?" Skinner took the article from Mulder's hand.
"No. His aide. According to CGB the aide is the nephew of one of the men that died in that hanger along with the most of the consortium." Mulder studied his hands. "He was trying to take over leadership of the remaining members and decided that getting rid of you . . . "
"So I was the target." Scully was watching Mulder now.
"Yes. Cancerman said he owed you."
"Owed me?" Scully looked puzzled at that.
Mulder shrugged. "He said you had become important to him."
She looked over at Skinner then, to see if he had any comments. He looked back, but said nothing.
The exchanged glance was like a dagger in his heart. He had to get out of here. He was in the way.
Skinner sighed and closed his eyes. "She's safe then?"
That question caught Mulder off guard. "Uh, yeah. He said she was."
"Walter, you've been up long enough."
Skinner looked at her, then glanced over at Mulder. "Yeah, I think you're right."
Mulder was on his feet and took Skinner's elbow to help him rise. Once he was steady, he nodded at Mulder and turned toward his bedroom.
"I guess I better get out of here."
"Mulder, please wait. I'll be right back."
He wanted to refuse, but this was Scully. He nodded and resumed his seat, watching her follow Skinner into the bedroom.
Again she was gone longer than he thought necessary. He stood when he heard her coming. Before she could speak he took a step toward the door. "Do you need anything? I could pick up something or - "
"I need to know what's wrong."
"I should get out of here. You don't need me."
"Don't need . . . Damn it Mulder, why are you acting like this? Why are you avoiding me?" She was standing in front of him now, her hands on her hips. "Talk to me. You're not angry at me because Cancerman was behind -"
"That has nothing to do with . . .” He was trapped. "I promised the guys I'd meet with them tonight. I need to go."
"That's it? You just don't want to be around me? I've obviously angered you, but I have no idea what I've done." She waited for a moment but he still didn't speak. "Fine." She moved to the door and reached for the knob.
"Do you love him?"
"What?" That stopped her hand.
"Are you in love with him?"
"Who? Mulder, what are you talking about?"
"You haven't left his side, now you're living with him."
"Walter? I'm not living with him. I'm staying with him until he's back on his feet. I'm staying in that room." She pointed to a room on the opposite side of the living room from Skinner's bedroom. "Is that . . . He has no family and you saw him, he probably shouldn't be out of the hospital, he definitely can't stay alone."
"Mulder, he saved my life."
"It looks like more."
"How? How does it look like more? I've visited him in the hospital. It seemed to comfort him some. Mulder, he nearly died because of me. When they talked about a convalescent home, I thought I could try to repay a little of what I, what we owe him. How many times has he put himself of the line for us?"
"You were at the hospital night and day. You blew off work." But he was having a little trouble meeting her eyes.
"In the first place, I was not at the hospital night and day after a couple of days. You might not know that because you suddenly disappeared. I guess I wasn't surprised, you do that a lot. I assumed you were off tracking down the case. I didn't realize you were avoiding me."
"Scully - "
"And in the second place,” she continued as though he hadn't spoken, "I didn't ‘blow off’ work. I had been shot and my doctor refused to allow me to go back to work. The benefits department at the Bureau threatened to withhold my insurance if I didn't follow his orders."
He had flinched at the word 'shot'. He turned from her and returned to the chair he had vacated. He sank back into it and stared at his shoes.
"Mulder, I think you should leave."
"Scully, I -"
"Please. I'd like for you to go." She held up her hand as he started to speak again. "I wouldn't say anything else right now Mulder." She moved to the door and opened it, standing beside it, her eyes locked on him.
She wasn't going to back down; he'd never seen her look like that. He felt cold, icy and as alone as when he'd woken in the hospital after Samantha's disappearance. The thoughts of walking out that door terrified him.
If she saw it, it didn't sway her. He forced himself to his feet. Once at the door he stopped. "Scu - "
She began to shut the door and he had to take a step back. He watched the door close in his face. It nearly brought him to his knees. He caught hold of the door jam as he tried to draw a breath.
She had thrown him out. He couldn't seem to think beyond that one thought. She had thrown him out. There had been no emotion in her voice, just icy resolution.
He was sitting in his car and it was running. He looked around. Shit! He was home. When had he done that? It had been total autopilot. It took him a long time to make himself leave the car. She had never been like that with him - she'd been angry lots of times and he'd deserved it. But this . . .
"Mulder." He answered the phone without bothering to sit up. He was able to go through the motions at work. But here, alone at his own place, he didn't even try.
No one had approached him about a new partner yet. He assumed it had fallen through the cracks since Skinner was still out. No one knew when he'd be able to return to work and of course she was still with him, night and day.
"It's Skinner. There's a problem."
"Sir?" Now he did sit up.
"It's Scully. You need to get over here."
"Scully? Wha - “ But the connection had been broken. A problem? With Scully? He already had his shoes on. He grabbed his jacket on his way out the door.
Skinner jumped slightly at the pounding on the door. He hid his smile, quicker than he'd imagined. "It's open."
Mulder lost no time entering the apartment. "Scully, is she here? What's wrong?"
"She's . . . she's gotten involved in something stupid, dangerous."
"Scully? Where is she!"
For just an instant Skinner thought that Mulder was going to grab him and shake him. He tensed, anticipating the pain.
"Sit down Mulder."
"If she's in danger - "
"Sit down, she's gone to the store."
He sat, reluctantly, his eyes narrowed.
"Why did you come over here Mulder?"
"Why did I . . .? You called me. You said Scully, that there was a problem."
"And you dropped everything and obviously broke several traffic laws getting here."
Had the man lost his mind? "Of course I did!"
"Scully's gotten involved in something that . . . I don't know if it's good for her."
"What?" He was wary now, Skinner was acting strangely, almost . . . amused?
"She's fallen in love . . .” Mulder jerked as though he'd been shot, "with her partner." Now the younger man froze, blinking at him. "I'm not sure he's worthy of her and I know he's a jerk."
"What . . . what are you talking about?"
"Well, the SOB is incredibly insecure, especially where she's concerned. He's jealous of everyone in her life. Even, if you can believe it, me. It's flattering, God knows, but the problem is she's in love with him and can't see what's going on. It's hard to believe, but she's insecure too." Skinner shook his head. "I don't know what my advice to her should be."
"They obviously missed the bullet in your head." Mulder started to rise.
"Sit down, I'm not through."
He actually did resume his seat. "Is Scully in danger? You called me over here - "
"Not physically. But she's hurting, you hurt her."
"She threw me out."
"Because you were acting like a jerk. Listen, I think she could do better, but she's hopeless in this case. Now it seems to me, that you wouldn't be a jealous idiot if you didn't love her too. Am I right?"
Mulder glared at him for a long moment, then seemed to crumple, closing his eyes to escape Skinner. "Stay out of this."
"I'm stuck in the middle of this Mulder. She doesn't understand what she's done to upset you."
"She's talked to you about this?"
"No. I'm just the one that heard her crying after you left that night."
"She . . . Scully cried?"
Skinner nodded, "And she's going to kill me when she finds out I told you. But I care about Dana. I want her to be happy, and for some unfathomable reason, you seem to be the key to that. What good was saving her life if she's going to be miserable?"
Skinner shook her head, "How can a man who looks like you be such a dork with women."
Mulder bristled immediately, "Wait a minute."
Skinner ignored that, "Do you love her?"
"What are you, her father? I don't exactly see you having to wade though a bevy of women."
"If I had a woman like Dana Scully in love with me, I wouldn't want them."
"She's not in love with me. This whole conversation is insane. Is this why you dragged me over here?"
"You need to get your ass in gear Mulder, or you really will lose her."
Mulder rose then without another word and headed for the door. As his hand gripped the knob, Skinner spoke again, "I'm doing you a favor Agent Mulder. Think about what I've said."
Mulder seemed to nod his head, just once, then let himself out the door.
Skinner was still sitting on the couch when Scully let herself in about twenty minutes later. "Walter? You shouldn't be up, I thought you were going to rest."
"Dana, I can't thank you enough for all the help you've been to me - "
"What? What are you talking about?"
"I did something, something that's probably going to infuriate you and I might not see you again for a while."
She placed her purchases on the table beside the door and approached him. "What did you do?"
"I called Mulder over here." Her face went impassive.
Instead of answering, he handed her a videotape. "You might want to watch this."
"What is it?" She took the tape from him.
"Our conversation." He was quiet then, though he didn't look away from her.
She looked down at the tape, then back up at him. He saw the fear in her eyes then. He got to his feet, though she belatedly reached to help him. He turned toward his bedroom and left her alone with the tape and equipment.
After a long moment, she looked back down at the tape and tried to ignore the fact that her hands were shaking. What the hell had Walter done? What had they talked about? She glanced at his bedroom door, then carried the tape into her own bedroom for further privacy.
She didn't bother to knock when she burst into his room. "Dana." He watched her calmly, though she looked like she was going to attack him.
"How could you have had such a conversation!"
"Tell me one word I said that was a lie."
"That's not the point! He was right, this is none of your business, how dare you tell him that I'm in love with him!"
"Because you are."
She actually sputtered then and Skinner struggled not to smile. Then she turned on her heel and left his room. He heard her making tea or something like it in the kitchen. The way she was banging dishes in there he'd probably need a new set after she left. He did wonder if she'd be leaving him tonight. Damn, even her footsteps were angry. How did Mulder handle her when she was like this?
It was after one when she heard the knock on the door. What the hell? She tightened the sash of her robe. She wasn't asleep; she hadn't even been able to even lie down. She'd switched between staring at the phone and playing the video for hours. Mulder had participated in such a conversation with Skinner and then just walked out. How did she feel about that?
The knocking sounded again and she shook herself to approach the door. It was him. Now what should she do? "Scully, please open the door."
Hell, he'd seen her check. She took a deep breath and opened the door. "What do you want?"
"Could we talk?"
He sighed, "Could I at least come inside?"
She didn't say anything, just moving aside to allow him entry.
"I guess Skinner told you we talked."
"I got to hear it." She said dryly.
"You were here?" He froze.
"No, FBI Assistant Director Walter Skinner illegally taped the conversation." She watched him pale as he tried to recall every word.
"I guess I am a dork." She didn't smile and his fear increased again. "Could we, could we sit down?"
She moved over to the couch and sat in the corner. After a moment he joined her. "I'm sorry Scully. I should have been here. I should have known that you were just being a good friend to Skinner. I should have . . . "
"Why didn't you?"
He looked down at his hands, "Because Skinner was right. I am jealous of everyone else in your life."
She blinked at that. It was the last thing she had expected from this man.
"Can you forgive me?"
This man was full of surprises tonight.
"Skinner saved your life. I wasn't close enough to even help. I could have lost you. Then you were at his side, I couldn't even get you to go home and rest. You didn't seem to want me around."
"What did I do that made you think I didn't want you around?"
That gave him pause. "I don't . . . nothing. You were just paying attention to Skinner. I felt . . . left out."
"You weren't dying." She was cutting him no slack here.
"Not physically. I didn't say I was being rational, it's just how I felt."
"What did you mean, not physically?"
"For the past seven years, you've been . . . mine. I know, I know." He held up his hands to forestall her protest. "I know better, but that's how it's felt. Then suddenly all of your attention was on another man - and he deserved it. He'd saved you. That didn't help any. I mean, I was, he saved you. I owe him everything, but . . . Shit."
He started to rise, but she put her hand on his arm. "You really were jealous of Skinner?"
He nodded hopelessly. Talk about a dork. He closed his eyes to block out the sight of her.
He was stunned to feel her lips upon his. His eyes flew open to find her watching his reaction.
"Did you just do what I think you just did?"
"Boy, you are a dork." But she grinned as she said it.
"You two need to get a room."
They both jumped violently and sprang apart. "Jesus! What are you doing?" Mulder recovered his voice first as Scully rearranged her clothes.
"I live here." Skinner said dryly, pointing to his own room. "Why don't you move this to her apartment. It's closer. I'll be okay."
"Are, are you sure?" Scully asked.
"I've been okay to be on my own for days. I keep telling everyone that."
Mulder rose and helped Scully to her feet. "Go get dressed."
She looked over at Skinner and he nodded. She turned away and moved toward her room.
Mulder turned to Skinner. "I owe you."
"Damn straight you do. If the Bureau finds out I sanctioned this . . . "
Mulder nodded and turned as he heard Scully come back into the room.
"We'll talk later Dana." She nodded and let Mulder take her hand to lead her into the future.