Downtime (PG)


 

" . . . But she married him, Scully." He shot back.

"Well she should have known better. You shouldnít marry someone until youíre sure theyíre not some sort of monster." Maybe she was overreacting, but she was angry and at least she could feel that.

"How was she suppose to know?" He was honestly interested and at least she was talking instead of brooding about it.

"She could have waited until she knew him better. Shit, Mulder!" Scully threw the file on the desk; "She should have been able to tell. Thank goodness I never have to go through that."

"What?" The change in pronouns had his attention.

"Since Iím never getting married, I donít have to worry about it." Why had she said it out loud?

"Never?" He was surprised at that.

"Whatís the point? I canít have children. Thereís no reason." Shut up Dana, he doesnít care about this.

"People get married for other reasons than to have kids, Scully."

"Sure," she plopped down in her chair, "a long-term relationship, grow old together. Like your parents?"

Ouch, what had set her off? He knew he should back down, but this was a new area, he really wanted to explore it. Anything to lance all that pain she was keeping inside.

"What about your parents?"

"What about them? Momís alone; they didnít get to grow old together either. Maybe for different reasons, but the result is the same."

ĎSo youíve ruled it out completely."

"Yes. Its too much trouble." She began clearing off her desk; she wanted out of here before she said too much. This was hers, it was private.

"What if Emily had lived?" He asked softly. She jerked away from him; he wouldnít have gotten a stronger reaction if heíd hit her. Why couldnít he learn to keep his damn mouth shut? Hell of a psychologist, huh?

She grabbed her purse, unable or unwilling to meet his eyes. "Iíll see you Monday."

"ScullyÖ" she was out the door without another word. Damn, he should have known better. Was she going to go home and drink another bottle of scotch? This was the first time heíd actually gotten anything out of her since then and of course she didnít remember that.

It was strange, she couldnít remember it, but it was seared into his brain. Her words Ė "God I wish you were really here, that you could really love me." Heíd spent hours going over it in his mind. She honestly had no idea how he felt about her. And he still hadnít figured out a way to get past her defenses.

He cut off his own computer, maybe he should check on her. Sheíd been on edge ever since theyíd caught the guy. At least the "good family man" hadnít killed his own wife, just other menís wives he met out of town. The worse kind of scum, but apparently attractive, at least to women. Be honest, Mulder. Sheíd been on edge a lot longer than that, and he still hadnít been able to figure out a way to make her open up. That reaction to Emilyís name was the most heíd gotten lately. She wasnít through grieving, but she wouldnít give in to it.

He went home and changed, then before he could talk himself out of it, headed for her apartment.

She opened the door just as he was about to knock. Suitcase in hand, she was startled to see him, but quickly recovered.

"No, Mulder! Itís the weekend. No freaks, ghosts or aliens. Iím out of here."

"Where are you going?" He had gotten around her and was now in the apartment.

"I donít know, just away for a couple of days. I need to get out of town." And away from you, but she couldnít say that.

"Alone?"

"Yes." She was holding the door open, but he wasnít taking the hint.

"Would you like some company?" Whoa, Mulder, what do you think youíre doing? He pushed that voice away and waited for her to respond.

"What?" He couldnít have said that. She wasnít blind to the bitch sheíd been lately. Having him along would be like having an itch you couldnít scratch. No, no way was he going to horn in on her free time.

"You know, we could just hang out. No work, do Ďnormalí things."

"Donít you see enough of me during the week?" She had to come up with some excuse.

"Well actually, no."

That caught her attention. She finally closed the door. "Come on, Mulder. All we do is fight."

"We never fight." Her mouth opened, whether in incredulity or to respond he didnít know. "We argue. Thereís a difference. Arguing is intellectually stimulating, we learn from each other. I donít expect agreement from you, Scully, but you keep me on my toes. We both have strong opinions about everything and 97% of the time, theyíre opposite from each other. I donít get tired of that. Youíre the best company I know. Let me come with you."

She eyed him suspiciously. What did he really want? "You donít expect. . . ?" She was reluctant to be alone with him she realized. He could get to her in ways she couldnít handle. Especially since he wasnít even aware of what he did to her.

"Jesus, Scully! Forget it. I only thought the weekend would be more fun with you than without you." He headed for the door; no she wasnít ready. He shouldnít have tried. What had made her ask a question like that? Going with her would only make it worse

"Stop Mulder. Iím sorry. I just donít know where youíre coming from."

"I was thinking we could spend some downtime together. We donít do that enough." Okay we donít do that ever, and I want you to open up about whatís been eating at you for so long. He knew better than to add that.

She was just looking at him, her brow furrowed. Of course she could trust him, but did he know what downtime was?

"You donít have any clothes." His eyes brightened, knowing heíd won, just not certain what he had really let himself in for.

"Swing by my apartment. Give me five minutes, just tell me where weíre going and Iíll pack accordingly.

"I hadnít thought it out."

"Dana Scully, without a precise destination in mind? This could be an interesting weekend." He tried not to grin, but failed.

"New York City."

"Just like that?"

"Yes. You donít have to come." She stated defiantly.

"You couldnít keep me away now. Meet me at my apartment. I should be ready by the time you get there." She needed this, he could get her to relax. Maybe then sheíd talk to him about things.

"You know this is crazy."

"Youíve known that about me since we were assigned to each other. Can I take your bag?"

"I can handle it. Go on, Iíll pick you up in a few minutes." He headed out the door and heard her murmur, "This is nuts." He grinned again.

To her credit, she didnít ditch him. He had hurried, so her wait was short. He looked so pleased with himself, like a kid going away to camp. It knocked years off his age. Would she ever feel young again?

He dumped his stuff in the trunk and settled in the passengerís seat, content to leave her in charge.

"Where are we staying in New York?"

"Havenít made reservations, Mulder. Weíre just going."

"Okay, I know of a nice little place, itís not the Waldorf, but itís clean and safe. And itís near the theatre district."

"Theatre. I wonder if itís too late to get tickets to something? Wish Iíd thought of that."

"Well, we can check."

They had a stimulating drive, arguing over many topics and purposely avoiding work or related issues.

It was quite late when they arrived, and Scully was a little concerned about finding a room, but Mulder directed her to the hotel he had mentioned. When they approached the desk they were greeted with, "Ah, Mr. Mulder. So glad you could join us this evening. Your suite is ready and I have your tickets for tomorrow night."

Scully snapped her mouth shut, no need for everyone to know her astonishment.

Once in the elevator she spoke, "A suite?"

"Sure, a bed for you and a couch for me. What could be better?"

"Separate rooms?"

"Hey, we got that, even a lock on your door."

"Thanks." She said dryly as the elevator came to a halt.

It was a nice suite, and the couch looked comfortable. She just shook her head. He wasnít any weirder today than he had been yesterday. Possibly more endearing - tickets to Phantom. He hadnít had that much time before she picked him up. When she mentioned it he shrugged, "Thatís what cell phones are for. Get some sleep. We have a lot to do tomorrow."

She smiled her goodnight and headed into the bedroom. Who was this partner of hers? But his company was stimulating, and she was having the best Friday night sheíd had in ages. This was the most comfortable sheíd felt with him since sheíd woken with that horrible hang over to find him in her apartment making coffee. She still had no memory of him arriving at the apartment, much less when she'd changed clothes.

She supposed she could have forced more information out of him, but at the time she didnít have the energy and as time passed her lethargy returned and it just didnít seem as important. Donít mess with the status quo.

She slept peacefully through the night, which meant heíd had no nightmares, a good sign. They woke late and got ready to leave with a minimum of friendly bickering.

*****

He hadnít gone shopping with a woman in ages. Most men were supposed to hate it and it wasnít his thing, but he was curious, what kind of shopper was she?

He should have known, precise and controlled. He had to force her to try on a dress she spotted in a window. "Mulder, itís too expensive and impractical. I donít have anywhere to wear it."

"How about tonight, to the show? And itís not that expensive. Treat yourself for a change. You deserve it. At least let me see you in it."

Was he serious? No man she knew had ever wanted to take this kind of time for something like this. Mulder didnít usually treat her like this. What was going on? He wouldnít drop it, so she tried on the dress. It fit like a glove and felt so good. She found herself smiling at his regard. Whatever was going on, he was making her feel better than she had in weeks, oh be honest, Dana, in months. He really was a good friend, why didnít she let him in more often?

You know why, Dana. It means too much to you, more than it does to him. Itís just safer to keep him at armís length. No more, you donít need any more emotional upheaval in your life. Youíve had enough for several lifetimes already.

*****

They sprawled on her bed following the play and a late dinner. He had removed his coat and tie, and she had kicked off her shoes. This was a position they were comfortable with from countless trips out of town; the wine they had consumed at dinner didnít hurt.

"This was just what I needed, Mulder. Getting away from normal life, well "normal" for us. Iím having a great time. How did you know?"

"All old married couples need to get away, renew themselves occasionally."

"Except that weíre not married, Mulder." She pointed out dryly.

"A technicality, Scully." He was watching her now, gauging her reaction.

"Technicality?" Her eyebrow rose significantly.

"How many times have we been mistaken for a married couple, Scully? Including this weekend." He was slightly over the line, but she wasnít bristling.

"That doesnít count. People see a man and woman together and they just assume they're a couple."

"Okay, whatís your nickname at the Bureau?"

"You mean besides ĎThe Ice Queení?"

"Yeah," he grinned, "The one people who know you use."

"Okay." She conceded the point.

"Well?"

"Are you going to make me say it?"

"Yeah." He was lying on his side now, head propped on this hand, looking damn smug.

"Okay, Mrs. Spooky." She enunciated it carefully.

"I rest my case." He rolled back over and put his hands behind his head.

"Your case? Mulder, is this some kind of weird come-on?" Not that she was worried; she was actually teasing him a little.

"No, I think I have my hormones under semi-reasonable control. Thatís not to say I wouldnít make love to you in a second if I didnít think youíd shoot me again." Now he was watching her carefully, though he didnít dare move.

Her eyes widened and her breath became shallow.

"Why. . . why did you say that?" Her mind was numb, could she have heard him correctly?

"You know how I feel about the truth. Scully, were you serious when you were telling me how you felt about marriage?" Shut up, Mulder, damn it, shut up!

She nodded, unable to speak.

"I ask because, well, weíve never talked about it, but are you aware that I canít have children either?" He was getting into dangerous territory here. He shouldnít be doing this; he was pushing too fast.

Her face instantly clouded with concern. He was stunned at her reaction, everything she had gone through and she was worried about him instantly. "Mulder, are. . . are you sterile?"

"I donít know, Iíve never had it checked." Now she looked puzzled. "You see, the woman in my life canít have children. Therefore I wonít be having any."

"Mulder, donít. . . "

"The truth, Scully. And Iím reconciled to it." Now youíve done it, asshole. Youíve ruined everything.

She wasnít breathing at all now.

"I guess I need to let you get some sleep." He rose from the bed.

"Wait! Mulder, you canít leave after saying. . . "

"I have to, Scully. Iíve used every drop of courage I had to say that. Itís up to you now. Whatever you want, thatís what matters." He opened the door and as he shut it behind him, heard her breathe his name.

He blindly made his way to the couch. That wasnít what heíd planned, to reveal all that. He hadnít meant to push her that way. Or to open that particular can of worms. No wonder he didnít drink as a rule. She wasnít ready for this, he was a fool. She didnít remember telling him she loved him, god heíd blown it now. He collapsed on the couch, sinking down to a reclining position, throwing one arm over his eyes. Shit. He wasnít handling this any better than he had that other night when sheíd been so drunk. At least then she had thought he was a dream, now she could only see him as an additional nightmare pulling at her life.

She lay on the bed, unable to rise, unable to move. What was he doing? He wanted to make love to her? It wasnít possible. Besides he should have a whole woman, not. . . what was he thinking? What had he said? The woman in his life? No, no he couldnít mean that. Sheíd wanted that, god how she had wanted that before, not now. Now she only wanted. . . Mulder?

When she was able, she rose to her feet and walked hesitantly to the door. She watched his body tense when he heard the door open, but he didnít remove his arm. He didnít want to look at her now, could she blame him?

"Mulder."

He slowly rose to a sitting position, not saying a word. Waiting.

"Mulder, you canít. . . my life has been such a roller coaster. I canít handle this now." She took a deep breath; she owed him some sort of explanation. After saying what he had to her, she owed him a lot more than she had left to give. "You canít know how happy I was when I found out my cancer was gone and I could stay with you. I was going to live, I was going to be okay. And while I was still processing that, coming to terms with living instead of dying, I found Emily." She had to pause; saying her name still took so much out of her. "You couldnít save her like you did me."

"Me?" It was the first sound heíd uttered.

"Who else do you think saved me? But you couldnít save her. I donít blame you, no one could have. I just. . . I canít take anymore. I feel like an amputee, the ache is there and I canít even touch the pain. I know what a bitch Iíve been, I just canít. . . No, I donít want to feel anything anymore. I donít know why youíve even elected to still hang around."

"For better or worse, Scully. Itís just that youíve always gotten the worse."

She couldnít stop the tears from spilling down her face. Why was he doing this to her? He couldnít really love her, there wasnít enough left to love.

"I didnít mean to make you cry, Scully. I wanted to help, not make it worse." What could he do? Heíd brought this to a head, it was his fault.

She shook her head, unable to speak.

He rose from the couch and came to her. With one finger he lifted her chin and brushed the lightest of kisses on her lips.

Her arms went around his waist before she could control them. To be held by Mulder, she wanted that; she needed that so much. And he held her. "Take all the time you need, Scully. Iím not going anywhere."

"You mean, until death do us part, Mulder?"

"Longer than that, Scully. A lot longer."