“You need to get up, Mulder.”
He nodded, still too anxious to ask any questions.
“I’ll let Skinner know you’re back.”
“I’ll explain later. Go ahead and shower.”
He realized he was wearing only boxers. He had no memory since leaving her apartment. Was that yesterday? The fact that she was speaking to him was a plus. He had to believe that.
He’d emerged after his shower to find his clothes lying across the foot of the bed. After he’d dressed, he followed the smell of coffee to the kitchen. He’d been in the main room before on a couple of occasions but he’d never had ‘the tour’. He didn’t know whether they had heard him or were just being quiet, but nothing was being said when he entered.
Skinner handed him a coffee mug and pointed to the coffee maker. When he joined them at the table, Scully was studying her coffee.
“How are you feeling?” Skinner asked, watching him closely.
“Confused. I’m not sure what I’m doing here.”
Skinner nodded. “I think you and Agent Scully should discuss that.”
Mulder glanced at Scully, but she still wasn’t making any move to face him. His fear level grew again.
“I’m heading to work. I don’t want to see you at work until Monday.” He was looking at Mulder, then turned to Scully. Nothing was said but after a slight hesitation she nodded.
Mulder’s chest tightened again. When had these two exchanged that kind of communication? Skinner knew what he’d done.
“Call me if you need anything.” That was directed only at Scully.
Mulder just sat, waiting for the other shoe to drop. He watched Scully and Skinner rise and head for the living room. He couldn’t even finish his coffee, his stomach was roiling.
He didn’t hear what they were saying. He wasn’t sure he wanted to. He was still staring into the mug when Scully returned.
“Are you ready to go?”
“Sure. I don’t have anything here, do I?”
“No. But your car’s here. I drove it.”
“Thanks.” He rose, poured his coffee into the sink and followed her out of the apartment. He stood in silence as she locked up and he realized that Skinner had left her to handle this. Boy, they had gotten chummy; not that there was anything he could say about it.
He followed her into the elevator but remained silent.
Even though it was his car, he didn’t move to the driver’s side. She unlocked
the doors and he got in.
”Mulder, are you okay?”
He turned to look at her as he spoke, “I don’t know. Am I?”
“You . . . I don’t know.”
“Let’s wait until we get to your apartment.”
“Will you stay? Talk to me?”
He nodded slightly as he turned and looked back out the windshield. They made the rest of the trip in silence. Again he followed her into the building and up to his apartment. She waited as he unlocked the door, then preceded him inside. She dropped his keys on the table and turned to look at him.
He couldn’t help it, he shivered under her gaze. “You want to talk to me? Will you talk to me?”
“Why were we at Skinner’s apartment?”
“He thought it would be a safe place for you. You had a, a breakdown.”
“I don’t . . . “
“We had a fight.”
He nodded. “That I remember. I screwed up, literally.”
“And I overreacted. We’re not a couple, Mulder. I had no right - “
“Scully, I gave you that right a long time ago.”
She shook her head and moved away from him toward the couch. She took a seat and he followed, taking the opposite end.
“We’re both free agents, as it were,” she said quietly.
“But Diana sent you over the edge.”
“I thought you had better taste,” she shrugged.
“You’ve never trusted her.”
“I’m entitled to my opinion, Mulder. Obviously, I don’t know her as well as you do. We’ve not worked together and we have no history, but -”
“You just instinctively mistrust her.”
“Like I said, I’m entitled - “
“Yes, you are. Can you explain it to me?”
“You didn’t want to listen before.”
He nodded. “I apologize for that. I was wrong.”
“When did you decide that?”
She took a deep breath, but didn’t look away. “I told you. She spent her time in Europe working off the books. She was checking on abductees, cataloging them, monitoring them. She’s not on the X-Files, or she wasn’t. These people had nothing to do with her official assignment but she spent more time on them than her work. She comes back, with no warning or official paperwork, when Gibson Praise is attacked.”
“No official paperwork?”
“Her return was handled through unofficial channels, with no warning or hand-off of her ‘real’ assignment.”
“I didn’t know - “
“You didn’t let us tell you. You shut us down. If you don’t believe me, ask Byers.”
“I believe you.”
“Why?” Her eyes bored into his.
“I . . . I believe my, what happened between Diana and me was planned.”
He managed a sickly smile. “I don’t believe my ‘charm’ was what drew Diana to me.”
“Just a feeling.”
“You’re usually a perceptive man.”
“I wasn’t . . . I have no excuse.”
“And you don’t need one,” she said quickly.
“Yeah, I do.”
“Mulder, I was over the line. You can sleep with anyone - “
“Stop it. Scully, our relationship is . . . undefined.”
Her eyebrow rose to new heights.
“We’re more than partners. You know that. We’ve been more than partners for a long time.”
After a moment she nodded. “We’re friends.”
“Okay, we’re more than friends as well, but that doesn’t mean that I have the right to - “
“To behave like a betrayed wife?”
She blushed then and looked away.
“I give you that right, if you’ll let me. I don’t know if we can get past this. I don’t know if you want to. Can you tell me what happened last night?”
She blinked at the change in subject but after a moment nodded.
“Do you want anything? Some water, a beer?”
“For breakfast? I had a little more wine than I should have the other night.” Then she shrugged. “A beer, please.”
He rose and returned quickly with two beers. He opened them both and handed her one. She held it for a moment, then took a long draw. “What’s the last thing you remember?”
“Going to your apartment. You, you were angry with me.”
She cut her eyes toward him. “As always, a master of understatement, Mulder. You left my place and I called Skinner, demanding to be reassigned.”
He jerked forward.
“You didn’t know about it. Skinner apparently called you to his office first thing yesterday morning and informed you of my demand. Apparently you zoned out. You scared Skinner and he took your gun.”
He nodded slightly, but didn’t interrupt.
“He called me to his office and told me that you were, in his words, ‘not okay’. That too was an understatement.” She took another drink of her beer and he seemed to finally remember his. He swallowed about half the bottle, then focused on her again.
“When we entered the office, you were sitting on the floor beside his couch. When he spoke to you, you insisted that you had not hurt your sister and you didn’t know what had happened to her.”
Mulder gaped at her. She took the bottle of beer from his nerveless fingers and set it on the coffee table.
“I, I regressed?”
“You were twelve years old. You were upset and lost.”
“That fits,” he said quietly.
“When Skinner realized what had happened, he got you out of there so no one would see. He drove you and I followed in your car.”
“I’m surprised you agreed to help me.”
“Skinner persuaded me.”
“You and Skinner . . . “
“He talked to me.”
“Yes. I was surprised at his opinion of Agent Fowley.”
“Skinner has an opinion of Diana?”
“You can talk to him about that.”
Mulder nodded. “Why were we in bed together?”
He tilted his head, staring at her.
“Okay, we were in the same bed, but we were not sleeping together. You finally went on to bed - “
“In Skinner’s guest room.”
“Yes. You were twelve, you couldn’t drive,” she said dryly.
He wanted to smile but didn’t dare.
“I was getting ready to leave and you had a nightmare. You cried out for me. Skinner invited me to stay over as well.”
“I need to thank him,” Mulder said quietly.
“I didn’t mean to fall asleep, but I hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before.”
They sat silently then, both staring off into space.
“Where are we, Scully?” he asked finally.
“I don’t know.”
She noted his growing tension. “I want, I need us to be . . . “
“Be what, Mulder?”
“What does that mean?”
“It means what I meant before; when you were going to leave the Bureau, leave me. You’re more important to me than anyone else. Anyone. I don’t know if I can show you that. I don’t know what you’ll let me show you.”
He rose then to take the empty bottles to the kitchen. He paused, his back to her as he spoke again. “Just for the record, I didn’t ‘sleep’ with Diana. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. She was . . . greatly annoyed.” He continued on to the kitchen then as Scully just stared at his back. “Want another beer?”
“No. It’s not even time for lunch.”
“Yeah, I know. I’ve got some English muffins in the freezer.”
“No thanks. I should head home.”
“Please don’t, I mean, uh, I’m not holding you prisoner of anything, but we have the day off. We could - “
“Mulder - “
“I know, I’m pushing. I just don’t . . . “
“Good advice. Wish I could take it. I, I haven’t . . . gone away since, well never mind that.”
“Gone away? This has happened to you before?” Scully stood up and moved toward him. “When?”
“It was a long time ago.” She just stood there, waiting. “Shit,” he muttered as he moved around her back to the couch.
“You had a breakdown? I never knew - “
“Oh come on. After all this time, you thought I was completely sane? I believe in UFOs and ghosts and I’m stupid enough to believe someone like Diana Fowley.”
“Talk to me.”
“It wasn’t a breakdown. And put that eyebrow back down. I took a while to come back from one my serial cases when I was working for Patterson. That’s when I decided to distance myself. I went for something more stable, like the X-Files.” He grimaced as she huffed out a laugh.
“Maybe we’re both insane,” she offered.
“Not you. You’re the only stable thing in my life. You haven’t told me, are you still in my life?”
“Because Skinner forced you.”
“No, though he did say some things that . . . “
“What? What did Skinner say? Please.”
She sighed. Did he need to hear this?
“Skinner is no psychologist.”
“But he said something that made you think; that made you willing to give me a second chance.”
“He, he pointed out that, that you didn’t have a lot of stability in your life growing up; you didn’t have much of a home life.”
“This isn’t news to you.” He took a seat beside her again.
“He, he wondered if maybe you were, if . . . “
“You think I need protecting from what he said. Now that’s scary.” She looked away from him. “Scully, do you think I’ll zone out again?”
“No. That’s not . . . Skinner wondered if you had seen . . . mannerisms or, or attitudes that reminded you of your . . .
Mulder’s eyes widened and his mouth opened, then he closed it and rose abruptly from the couch. He began pacing. Twice he turned toward her and seemed about to speak, then shut up again.
Finally he exploded. “He thought, he thought - my mother?“
“He wondered if, possibly, you gave her the benefit of the doubt because she - “
“Do you think that? Do you think I - “he stopped abruptly when he realized what he was about to say.
“Mulder, you had a dysfunctional childhood. You haven’t given me a lot of specifics and I haven’t asked, but every child wants to be accepted and loved. You know how I was when Ahab died before we had the chance to understand each other over my job. I have to assume that you’re normal enough to want your mother - “
“Jesus, Mulder. Her approval, her support.”
“And I get that by boinking Diana?” He closed his eyes when she winced. “God, could you just shoot me, then I’ll shut up and quit making this worse. I’ll stand real still and you try to aim at a non-vital - “
She couldn’t help it if her eyes glanced down, then back up.
He’d followed the path of her eyes. “Yeah, I guess that is pretty non-vital. You’re right, you should head on home. I’m sorry, Scully.” He headed for the door and opened it, waiting for her. She didn’t move. After a long moment, he closed it again.
“I don’t think I’m ready to leave yet, Mulder. Come here, sit down.”
“I don’t want to discuss Oedipal complexes.”
“Don’t insult me, Mulder. I don’t believe you have any interest in your mother in that way. And for the record, Skinner doesn’t believe that, either. You’re the psychologist; you tell me why you succumbed to Diana’s charms. If you really don’t think it was your idea, what do you think happened?”
“I could have said no. God, I wish I’d said no. Yes, it was nice to have someone want me, come after me. Oh hell, I shouldn’t say that to you.”
“Of course you can say that to me. We’re - “
“God, don’t say friends.” He wiped his hand through his hair. “I don’t want to be just friends, or just partners, or just whatever we are. I came very close to kissing you in my hall just before everything exploded. We’ve never talked about that either, have we?”
“You, you were upset. I’d just said I was quitting and - “
“And this time you demanded a transfer. Forget Mom, I lose it when I lose you.”
She blinked at that.
“Scully, honesty here, in the hall before that damn bee, what did you want?”
She wanted to look away; that much was obvious, but she held her ground. “I wanted you to kiss me.”
His eyes widened in surprise, both that she’d said it and that that was what she’d wanted. He reached for her and caught himself just in time. Not quite touching her he asked. “Anything else?”
Her chin when up then and she drew herself up. “I wanted you to take me in your apartment and make love with me.”
The air whooshed out of him and this time he took her hand. She gently disengaged it but didn’t bolt. “Why? Why didn’t you say anything?”
“How did you put it? Everything exploded. When we returned . . . “ She shrugged delicately.
He looked down at the hand she’d removed from his grip. “And now I’ve destroyed - “
“No, Mulder, I . . . I don’t know exactly how I feel about . . . everything, but it, we are not destroyed.
“I’m not sure how to slip this into the conversation, but it was safe sex.”
She hesitated a moment. “Was that your idea?”
“I was told it was unnecessary. That I didn’t believe.”
She looked away then.
“This is not a conversation I ever thought to have with you.”
“I’ll talk about anything with you, Scully. Just talk to me.”
“Relax, Mulder. And pick another topic.”
“Okay.” He looked around the room and she rolled her eyes, actually more relaxed than she had been in days. “This . . . breakdown, did it scare you?”
“The truth, when I heard you, my first thought was that you were faking it.”
“Don’t get upset. I thought that for about 15 seconds. When I looked in your eyes, I knew you honestly thought you were in that office because of your sister.”
“Thanks, I think. Is it better to think I’m unstable?” Her lips twitched then and his eyes narrowed. “I walked into that, didn’t I?”
The phone ringing startled them both. She watched his face lose color as he glanced at the caller ID.
“You’re going to have to talk to her sometime, Mulder.”
“Mulder.” She started to rise to give him some privacy, but he grabbed her wrist. She sat back but looked at the phone. “Do you want me to get it?”
“Are you serious?”
“Mulder - “
“I’m a coward, okay?”
She sighed and picked up the receiver. “Hello?”
“Uh, Agent Scully?”
“Is Fox there?”
Scully could actually feel the woman roll her eyes. “May I speak with him?”
“Mulder, it’s for you.” It was obvious he was sitting right there.
He took the phone from her. “Diana?”
“I thought you were going to call me. I waited for you last night.”
“I was with Scully.” He was watching her now. She met his eyes and nodded slightly.
“Yeah, all night,” he said softly. “I need to go.” Before she could protest he broke the connection.
“Mulder - “
“I said everything to her I wanted to. Are we okay, Scully?”
“We’re headed that way.” She watched him take her hand and allowed it this time, with the hint of a smile on her face.
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Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunman and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter, 10-13 and Fox. No infringement intended.