Eyes Open (R)

 

 

Scully flipped on the light and let herself in. Where was everyone? She reached for a pair of gloves and moved toward the table. She hated starting the day with an autopsy, but Skinnerís secretary had left a message on her machine that he needed this first thing.

She looked at the body bag and checked the paperwork lying on top. Yes, this was Ďherí corpse. She flipped on the overhead microphone.

"The victim is a John Doe, white male, late thirties." She reached for the zipper and lowered it, then pulled the bag open.

Her gasp echoed around the room. No! It just looked like . . . no! Her fingers trembled as she touched his face. It couldnít be. He was cold and . . . and rigor had set in. Her finger outlined his lower lip. It was . . . it was a mask or . . . she pulled the bag the rest of the way open and let her fingers explore his shoulder. There, the small scar, her scar. The scar from when she had shot him.

"No! God, no." She felt the world going black around her. She didnít feel the impact as she hit the floor.

******

"Scully? Scully, can you hear me? No, donít try to move. Iím going to call 911." Skinner kept his hand on her shoulder as he reached for his phone.

"Donít call." She wrenched herself out of his grip. "Why did you do this? Why did you send me here?"

He looked closely at her. She was obviously traumatized and confused. "What are you talking about Scully?"

"You knew it was him. You knew and you didnít - "

"Scully!" She had started to shake. "Talk to me. Whatís going on?"

She forced herself to look back at the table. It was empty. Now she pulled away from him and scrambled to her feet. "What did you do with him! Where is he!" She turned back to Skinner and was pounding on his chest.

"Scully!" He pulled her against him and wrapped his arms around her, to defend himself. "Scully, calm down. Tell me what youíre talking about. I need to get you to an emergency room."

"What did you do with him?" She collapsed against him, now sobbing.

What the hell was going on? "Iím taking you home."

She could barely walk, so he supported her to his car and seated her, buckling her in. She wasnít making any sense. He needed to get in touch with Mulder. He needed to know she was in this state, but right now Skinner needed to get her home.

When they arrived, she was obviously in shock. Skinner moved around to the passenger door and thought about carrying her. She didnít weigh anything, but he didnít want to draw that kind of attention.

He led her to the door and found her keys in her pocket. He opened the door while supporting her with his other arm. She seemed to recognize her surroundings, then suddenly broke from him and bolted to the bathroom. He took several steps after her, then heard her retch. He followed more slowly then. He wet a washcloth at her sink and handed it to her as he helped her to her feet. He glanced back at the couch, but dismissed it. She needed to lie down.

He sat her on the bed and removed her shoes, then lay her back and pulled the blanket from the foot of the bed up over her. He realized she was staring at him, so he sat on the edge of the bed.

"Scully, talk to me. What the hellís going on?"

"How did he die?"

"Who?"

"Mulder." She was beginning to hyperventilate again. "Why did you send me there like that?"

"Mulderís dead? What are you . . . I didnít send you anywhere, I donít know what youíre talking about."

"Angie. You had Angie leave me a voice mail that you . . . that you wanted me to do an autopsy first thing."

"Scully, I didnít have Angie call you."

"It was him, in the body bag." She shuddered violently, choking on her sobs.

"What body bag? Scully, I need to get you some help."

"You sent me to autopsy Mulderís body!"

Skinner drew back, either she had lost her mind, which he doubted, or he needed to get some help.

"Scully, Iím going to get to the bottom on this, but you have to calm down. Just stay right here. Iím going to make you some hot tea and - "

"I donít want hot tea! Tell me why you did this!"

"Scully, I didnít. Listen to me. Iíve got to get to the bottom of this. Give me a couple of minutes to make some phone calls."

She was not okay and he was beginning to feel like he was going into shock himself now. She was convinced that Mulder was dead, and that he had set her up.

He hurried to the kitchen, pulling out his cell phone. "Collins, I need you to get over to Mulderís apartment. See if heís there, but donít disturb anything."

"Yes sir. Uh, what am I looking for?"

"Just Mulder. Call me immediately." Skinner broke the connection. He opened a couple of cabinets until he found her mugs, then he filled one with water and stuck it in the microwave. The tea bags were in the canister. He reopened the cabinet where heíd spotted some prescription bottles and pulled some out. Seconal. He glanced toward the bedroom. She needed to relax. He broke open a capsule and dumped it into the hot water, then added the tea bag. She could yell at him later, right now this was for the best. While the tea steeped, he pulled out his phone again.

"Lone Gun - " Frohike started to answer.

"Itís Walter Skinner. When did you last see Mulder?"

"Mulder? Week, week and a half. Why?"

"When did you last talk to him?"

"Couple of days, whatís wrong Skinner?"

"How soon can you get to Scullyís?"

"Weíre on our way."

"Thanks." Skinner hung up and took the tea in to Scully.

She was staring at the ceiling, seemingly unaware of the tears running into her hair.

He placed the mug on the bedside table and helped her sit up. "Drink this." He placed the tea in her hands.

"I donít - "

"Drink it Scully. We need to talk and you have to be calm."

She stared at him for a long moment, then took a sip.

"Keep drinking and let me talk. Scully, I didnít call you. I didnít have Angie call you. I was over at Quantico to review new recruits. I saw your name on the schedule to do an autopsy, so I headed down to see what was going on. I didnít know what case you were working on. I found you on the floor of the morgue. There was no body in the room, just you."

Her eyes narrowed, but she didnít interrupt him.

"Iíve sent an agent over to Mulderís apartment - "

"No! I should be the one."

"Scully, he has instructions not to touch anything. But I couldnít let you go in first."

"It was him. I did the exam."

"There was no body, Scully." He tipped the cup toward her lips again.

"There was. In a body bag, marked as a John Doe."

"Did anyone else see it?"

She glared at him, but then closed her eyes to concentrate. "No. He was already there on the . . . on the table when I arrived. I didnít see a tech. There was no one there, but the message said it was urgent, so I got started. The body . . . Sir, where is his body?"

"Iím going to find out whatís going on."

"We need to go now!"

"No Scully. Youíre staying here."

"I have to - "

"No." He pushed her back down. "I need you to stay here. Somethingís going on, I need to know youíre here and safe."

"I need - " The doorbell interrupted her.

"Stay here." Skinner rose from the bed and drew his gun. He hurried to the living room and checked the peephole. Her three friends were in the hall.

Skinner opened the door, "Thank you for hurrying."

"Whatís going on?" Byers asked as they entered and Skinner shut the door behind them.

"You called the guys?" Scully spoke from the far side of the room, then gripped the doorframe to stay on her feet. Skinner moved first before she could collapse. The three men followed him into the bedroom as he carried Scully.

Frohike moved ahead and pulled the covers down. Skinner lay her gently down and she struggled to keep her eyes open.

"Scully, let me brief them. Finish your tea." He handed the cup back to her. She looked deep into her eyes and another tear slipped down her cheek. The three men exchanged looks, but kept quiet. Whatever it was, it was bad.

Skinner took the mug as it tilted. "Just relax. Weíll be in the next room."

She tried to protest, but she slipped under. Skinner motioned for them to leave and followed them out, pulling the door not quite closed.

"Whatís wrong with her?" Frohike was in his face now and getting angry.

"I slipped her something to make her sleep."

"You what?" Now Byers moved closer.

"Have a seat. Iíll bring you up to date."

Frohikeís eyes narrowed, but they all sat and Skinner began talking.

*****

"So you never saw this body?" Byers asked.

Skinner shook his head. "She was the only one there and she was unconscious on the floor. Iíve sent a man over to Mulderís apartment. I havenít heard from him yet. Think you could lift a message off of her machine? I checked, she erased it, but I didnít tell Angie to call her. I want to know whatís happening."

Frohike stood and picked up the answering machine. "I might be able to get something. Iíll need to take it back to the apartment."

Skinnerís cell phone rang then. He grabbed it from his pocket. "Skinner."

"Sir, itís Collins. Agent Mulder is not at his apartment."

"Does it look like there was a struggle?"

"No sir, unless they threw socks at each other."

Skinner managed a grim smile. "Donít touch anything. Iíll meet you there." He hung up and turned to Byers. "I need to get over there. Can one of you stay with her?"

"I need to work on this. Iíll need Byers. Langly, you stay."

"Me?" Langly looked up startled.

"Sheíll probably sleep until I can get back." Skinner reassured him. "Just be here." He turned toward the door. Frohike and Byers followed him.

"Uh, yeah okay. Listen, hurry." Langly stood looking uncomfortable. Once the door was closed, he glanced back at her room. He could do this, she was asleep anyway.

Langly glanced around her living room and then moved toward her computer. He could get on-line at least.

He was checking out a new game when he heard her stir in the other room. He hesitated, maybe she needed something. Langly moved to the door and stopped, then drew a deep breath. He pushed the door open and saw her, restless in the bed, and crying in her sleep. He glanced back at the front door as though begging for rescue, then moved closer to her bed.

Her eyes opened and she looked confused. "Langly?" She sat up.

"Uh, yeah. The others, theyíve gone to see about things."

Memory hit her then and she moaned, burying her face in her hands. Langly moved closer to the bed. What the hell should he do? He patted her on the shoulder and she turned to him, seeking human contact, comfort. He found himself sitting on the edge of the bed, his arms around her, holding her awkwardly. "Itís okay Scully. Weíll figure this out."

"Figure what out? And what the fuck are you doing in Scullyís bedroom?" The angry voice of Fox Mulder nearly made Langly cry out. Instead he jumped to his feet, putting distance between himself and Scully.

Scully was moving too. She launched herself into Mulderís arms causing him to take a step or two back, but holding her tightly. She was pulling his shirt from his belt and then unbuttoning it. "Hey, Scully. Not in front of company." She ignored his feeble attempt at humor, her fingers outlining the old bullet wound in his shoulder.

"Mulder?" Her voice trembled and he realized she was even more pale than Langly and he was supporting her as she slipped toward the floor. Without thought he lifted her into his arms and carried her back to the bed. He ended up sitting there with her against his chest as her color returned and her grip tightened.

His own hold of her tightened as well and he kissed her forehead, then looked up at Langly, who retreated another step.

"You want to explain to me why you were in bed with Scully." It wasnít a question and Langly wondered what it would feel like to be shot at this close range.

"Nothing, Mulder nothing happened. She was having a nightmare or something and I came in to check on her."

"Why are you here in Scullyís apartment in the first place?" He spoke quietly in deference to the woman in his arms, but the menace had not left his voice.

"Listen, uh, let me get the others back over here and - "

"Back?"

"Itís a complicated story. Mulder, you know Iíd never . . ."

Mulder looked down at the woman dozing now in his arms. "Get everyone here."

Langly nodded and lost no time getting away from the larger manís gaze. He grabbed up the phone and dialed home. Before Byers could speak, Langly was talking. "Get back over here."

"Whatís wrong?"

"Everyoneís here. Find Skinner and come join the party."

"On our way." Byers hung up and started dialing.

*****

Skinner beat the other two to the apartment by a couple of minutes. Langly let him in and motioned for him to look in the bedroom. Mulder glanced up when Skinner opened the door. He nodded to him and eased Scully down in the bed.

He pulled the door to and joined the other men, now joined by Byers and Frohike, in the living room. "What the hell is - "

"Mulder. Iíd like to see a little ID." Skinner had his hand on his gun.

"You what?" Mulder stared at him, eyes narrowed. When Skinner didnít back down, Mulder reached for his wallet. Skinner pulled his gun out of the holster.

"Not that. I want to see your blood."

"My blood?"

"Yeah, I want to make sure itís red."

Mulderís eyes widened, but then he nodded. He moved to the desk and picked up her scissors. He stabbed his thumb and squeezed until a drop of blood appeared. It was bright red.

Skinner looked him in the eye and nodded.

"Whatís wrong with Scully? Sheís acting as though she were drugged."

"She is." Skinner admitted.

"What?"

"She fell apart. I had to get her to calm down. I slipped something into her tea to knock her out."

After a moment Mulder nodded. "You want to tell me whatís going on?"

"I think Iíd better. Have a seat."

*****

Mulder closed his eyes and let his head fall back.

Frohike looked over at him. "It wasnít Angie on the recorder. It did sound like her to the naked ear, but it couldnít fool the machine. They wanted to get her out and early. Iím surprised no one contacted you."

Mulder turned to stare at him. "They did."

"What?"

"I got a phone call early this morning. I was supposed to interview someone first thing. Since I was up, I went in early, before the interview. It was a good thing, there was a huge wreck about the time I would have been there . . . "

His voice trailed off and he looked at Skinner.

Skinner met his eyes, "What kind of wreck?"

"Kind of strange according to the radio. A semi took out a car. Witnesses said it almost looked deliberate."

"Makes me wonder what the car looked like."

"Me too." Mulder agreed.

Skinner pulled out his cell phone and dialed, moving to the other side of the room.

"I guess youíre off the hook for being in Scullyís bed." Mulder looked over at Langly.

"Do what!" Frohikeís head shot up.

Mulder grinned; let Langly explain that one. He turned back to Skinner as the man slipped his phone back into his pocket.

"The car was a blue Taurus, just like yours. The driver got away, just leaving his truck behind. Of course the truck turned out to be stolen."

"Iíll bet no fingerprints are going to be found."

Skinner nodded. "We need to get the two of you out of sight for a little while. I can arrange a safe house."

"I donít want the Bureau involved."

Skinner nodded, "I can work it that way. I know a place."

After a moment Mulder nodded. "Iíll pack a few things for her. I donít want anyone to see us leaving here."

Skinner nodded. "Can one of you guys get his car out of sight?"

Byers nodded, "No problem."

"Okay. Iíll pull my car around back. Mulder, you bring her out."

"Weíll get out of here." Byers spoke again, "Let us know what you need. Whatever you need." He looked at Mulder, who nodded.

The three let themselves out and Skinner turned to Mulder. "Go get her things together. I need to make some calls."

Mulder nodded and returned to her room. He turned when Skinner tapped lightly on the door. "Iím going to move the car; things okay in here?"

"Sheís still out; how much did you give her?"

"One capsule, I think this is trauma."

Mulder nodded and looked back over at her. Skinner clapped his shoulder and headed for his car.

It was about ten minutes later that Mulder heard the knock at the back door. "I was beginning to think youíd forgotten us."

"I drove around a little; made sure I was alone."

Mulder nodded and handed him the suitcase. "Iíll get her." She was still asleep and barely stirred as he lifted her into his arms. He laid her carefully in the backseat of Skinnerís car. He let himself into the front.

"You might want to stay low."

Mulder glanced into the back seat and then scrunched down to stay out of sight. "You want to tell me where youíre taking us?"

"I own a condo in Virginia. Iím taking you there."

"Condo? You have a secret life?"

"Not exactly. It was Sharonís." He shrugged, "I just didnít want to sell it. I lease it to a professor from Italy, but heís on sabbatical for a couple of months, back in Italy. The place is empty, thereís probably no food, but I can take care of that."

"We, uh, we appreciate it."

"Not a problem. Oh, thereís only one bedroom, but the couch - "

"Thatís not a problem either."

Skinner looked over at him, something about his tone. So, that line had been crossed. He hadnít been aware of it, but he wasnít really surprised. If anything, he would have thought it had been crossed years ago. No wonder she had been so devastated.

They drove for a little over an hour, then he pulled into a nice looking development. He took the second street to the right, then the first left. He pulled up to a brick building and parked.

Mulder looked around, then let himself out and opened the back door. "Scully? Can you hear me?"

She murmured something, but seemed in no hurry to wake up. He looked up at Skinner and gave him a small smile. "Sheís just too lazy to walk."

Skinner chuckled. He took her suitcase out of the trunk and led them inside. If anyone was around, they were watching from the windows. The lack of cars at this time of day made that unlikely as well.

He opened the door and let Mulder carry Scully inside. He pointed to the bedroom and followed Mulder in. Skinner set the suitcase down, then headed for the kitchen.

In a few minutes Mulder joined him. "I was right, not much in the way of food. I can pretty much guess what you like to eat, what about her?"

"Rabbit food, yogurt, none of the good stuff."

"Right. Iíll be back in a little while. Donít use your cell phone. Youíre dead, remember?"

Mulder nodded. Skinner handed him the key off of his key ring, then let himself out.

Mulder returned to the bedroom. He toed off his shoes and stretched out beside her. "Scully? I need you to wake up."

She shook her head, murmuring in protest. "Come on, itís me."

At that her eyes flew open. "Mulder?"

"Yeah." He smiled down at her.

"I had the weirdest dream. You were . . . Oh my god. It wasnít . . . it wasnít a dream."

He shook his head. "It wasnít, but we donít know whatís going on yet."

She looked around the room then, "Where, where are we?"

"A safe house Skinner arranged."

"Safe house." She closed her eyes.

"Scully?"

She took a deep breath. "I . . . I canít do this anymore."

"What?"

"Did Skinner tell you what happened? Did he tell you what I saw?"

"He told me what he knew."

"It was you Mulder. I opened that body bag and it was you. Your scars, your wounds, your . . ." She swallowed, "your lips. I canít. I canít do this any more."

"Scully it wasnít me. I can show you my blood too."

"What?"

"I had to prove to Skinner that I was human. That man is finally catching on." He grinned at Scully.

She didnít smile back. Instead she rose from the bed. She staggered slightly and he moved to catch her but she evaded him and moved into the bathroom. His brow furrowed as he watched her disappear. She wasnít okay.

He heard the doorbell then and went to check. It was Skinner, with the groceries.

"Is she awake yet?"

"Yeah, sheís in the bathroom."

"Is she okay?"

"Iím not sure."

"I better get out of here. Sheíll be better with you. Call my cell if you need anything. Iím thinking a couple of days until your friends and I find out anything, maybe longer."

Mulder nodded. "Is there a computer here?"

"Uh, yeah I think so."

"Iíll set up an account and email you. We need to know what you know."

Skinner nodded. "This stuff should tide you over until I can get back down here."

"Listen, thanks."

"Yeah. Mulder, Iíve never seen her so freaked. She needs some time."

"Yeah, I know." He glanced back over at the bedroom.

Skinner watched him for a second, then turned toward the door. "Iíll call you tomorrow." He let himself out and Mulder moved to lock the door behind him. Then he turned toward the bedroom. He realized she had gotten in the shower, so he tapped on the door, let himself in and stripped so that he could join her.

She had her back to him and his hands automatically went to her shoulders to massage them. He couldnít remember them ever being tighter. "Scully, itíll be okay."

She didnít speak, just turned toward him and he pulled her against his chest. She settled in as though listening to his heartbeat. They held each other until the water cooled, then he dried them off and carried her back to the bed.

*****

She lay there feeling his weight partially atop her, listening to his breathing return toward normal. After a couple of minutes his eyes opened to look at her. He immediately started to rise from her body but she held him in place.

"Scully, did I hurt you?"

She shook her head.

"That would be easier to believe without the tears."

She brushed her hand across her face, faintly surprised to find it wet.

"Scully, it wasnít me."

"This time."

"Scully - "

"I canít do this anymore Mulder. Los Angeles called me again. I think Iíll take it."

"Again? Take what?"

"The coronerís office wants me to head their forensics unit."

"Theyíve called before?" She looked at him but didnít speak. "What, uh, what did you tell them before?"

"What I tell everyone who calls. That Iím not interested."

"But now?"

"Now I think I am. Los Angeles could be nice. I have family there."

"Family? You mean Bill?"

"He is my brother. Heíll be happy to - "

"Happy? Heíd be fucking delighted that youíd left me."

"Left you?"

"Yes me. Weíre together now, Scully. Closer than weíve ever been."

"Maybe that was a mistake." She looked away. His nude body was not where she could look right now.

"Mistake? The mistake was in waiting as long as we did."

"Mulder - "

"I love you."

"Mulder - "

"Wait. I love you, Scully, but Iím also in love with you."

"In . . . no. Youíre in love with the X-Files."

"Fuck the X-Files, Scully. Fuck the Bureau. Youíre the only thing that matters." He had hold of her shoulders now.

"You said that to me once about Samantha."

"And I meant it then. I didnít know you, I never . . . it never occurred to me that anyone could be what you are to me."

"Mulder, you donít have to say - "

"Do you remember that I was willing to sacrifice Samantha to get you back?"

She couldnít meet his eyes. She hadnít realized at the time who he had brought for the exchange.

"Listen, Scully. We have several days alone here with nothing to do. We have time to talk this out."

She moved away from him in the bed, but didnít respond.

"Scully, how many times have you gotten calls like this, to come work somewhere else?"

"I get them several times a year."

"Why did you never say anything?"

"Because I wasnít looking to leave the Bureau." She rose from the bed then and checked her suitcase to see what he had packed. She pulled her robe from the suitcase.

"Scully I know what you saw today upset you and - "

"Upset me? Upset? Is that what you want to call it? I touched your dead body. Hell, I examined your dead body. You think I can do that again? You think I can - "

"No. No, Scully, I donít want you to ever even see my dead body. Thatís not what I . . . Scully, donít just walk away from me, from us. We have some time, we have time to deal with this, to make some decisions, together."

She shook her head and left the bedroom. He followed her immediately.

"Mulder, put some clothes on."

He glanced down; he hadnít even realized. "Iíll, uh, Iíll be right back." He returned the bedroom and pulled back on his slacks, then hurried to the kitchen.

She was making herself a turkey sandwich from the food the Skinner had brought. "Would you like a sandwich?" She wouldnít look up at him.

"No, Iím not exactly hungry. Scully, Iím sorry this happened. If I could have prevented it . . . "

"I know that, Mulder. Iím not blaming you - "

"Youíre just punishing me."

Now she did look up at him, "Is that what you think? That wanting to leave is a punishment for you? You canít see it as freedom for me?"

"Freedom from me?"

She stared at him then. "Scully?"

She put the sandwich down. "I donít think Iím hungry after all. If you donít mind, I think Iíll go lie down again. I need some time alone."

"Scully, Iím sorry."

"Donít apologize. This isnít just about you. I need some time; I need to think."

He took hold of her hand, but she slipped out of his fingers. "Why donít you . . . I just need a little time alone. Please?"

"Uh, sure. Iíll be out here."

She nodded and he watched her leave the room, feeling as lost as when he was twelve years old and . . . and his life had been turned upside down the first time.

 

When she emerged about forty-five minutes later she spotted him sitting on the couch, staring at the blank TV screen. She sat at the far end of the couch herself. He didnít look over.

"Did Skinner drug me?"

He nodded.

"What was it?"

"Seconal."

She nodded then. "That explains some things." She sighed and looked over at him again. "Arenít you cold?" He was still in just his slacks.

He shrugged and she reached over to touch him. "Mulder, youíre freezing." She moved next to him and put her arms around him.

He reciprocated, pulling her close.

"Mulder, Iím sorry - "

"Donít apologize for telling the truth, Scully."

"The truth is, I donít want to leave you. I donít know what I want."

"Then maybe California would be a good idea. Fresh start, new surroundings."

"Would you come?"

"To live with Bill?" He managed a grin then and she smiled up at him.

"No, with me."

"I donít have a job offer waiting for me there. Youíll be making a lot of money; want to Ďkeepí me?"

"I knew if I hung around six or seven years youíd finally come up with a good idea." She grinned at him.

He chuckled at that and pulled her closer. "Yeah once every decade or so . . ." He sobered then, "You should go to California. See how you like it."

"Alone?"

"Well, at first anyway. I thought thatís what you wanted."

Instead of answering she rose from the couch. "Iím hungry. Did you eat my sandwich?"

"No, itís in the refrigerator." He looked up at her, "I wrapped it."

She managed a smile then, "Thatís not what I want anyway. What else did Skinner buy?"

"Lots of stuff." He followed her into the kitchen area.

"How about spaghetti?"

"Sounds good."

They fixed dinner together, in silence, but occasionally touching one another.

When they were finally seated, Mulder looked over at her, "How many of these job offers have you gotten?"

She hesitated, as though wondering if she should get into this, but sighed, "Six."

"Six?" His eyes widened. "Shit, Scully, I have been holding you back."

"Mulder, you have not held me back. If it werenít for you I wouldnít have received any calls."

"Excuse me?"

"Come on, Mulder, if Iíd stayed in medicine or even teaching at the academy, no one would ever have heard of me or wanted me. Youíre the reason Iím marketable. Youíve taught me and toughened me. Iím who I am because of you."

"Thatís a good thing?"

"Youíll have to ask yourself that, youíre the one sleeping with me."

He gave her a sad smile, "I love who you are, but youíve got the rest all backwards."


"How so?"

"Youíre the reason the X-Files are legit now, youíre the reason that I have a job, youíre . . . youíre the reason the sun comes up in the morning."

She touched his hand, lying on the table and swallowed.

He cleared his throat, "Tell me about these offers. Where are they?"

"All over. Atlanta, Walter Reed, Spokane, Chicago."

"Damn." He looked down at his meal, anywhere but at her for a moment. "You never said anything."

"There was nothing to say. I wasnít interested and thatís what I told them."

"Maybe you should have been."

"Youíre just trying to get rid of someone whoís always second guessing you." She gave him a small smile.

"Thatís it, youíve been a major pain for years."

"Iíve been a pain?"

"What would you call six years of blue balls?"

That startled a laugh from her. "Iíll only take blame for half of that, Mulder. You could have made the first move instead of sitting around watching videos and waiting for me to ask for a cup of sperm."

"What? And appear anxious?"

She shook her head as she rolled her eyes.

"Seriously, Scully, I think you should take the job."

"You really want me to move to California?" She was truly sorry she had ever opened her mouth about any offer.

He took a deep breath, "It would be the best move for you."

"Do . . . do we have to make this decision right now?"

"Uh, no. Looks like weíre gonna be here for a few days. We can, you know, think about it."

She nodded and returned to her meal. He rose and headed for the kitchen. She stiffened; did he not even want to be in the room with her? He returned quickly with a bottle of wine and two glasses. She closed her eyes in relief.

"I thought maybe . . ." He gestured to the bottle.

"Yes, thank you." She took the glass he offered. "Could we talk about something else?"

"Uh sure, you pick."

She tried to smile, then took a sip of wine. She looked down, "Have you ever thought about leaving?"

He sighed, they werenít going to get away from this. "Constantly."

"No, really, Mulder."

"Really. If they hadnít given you to me Iíd have been gone a long time ago."

"Given?" She looked up at him.

He smiled, "Given. It hasnít been that way for you, but having you at my side has been the best gift Iíve ever had. In answer to your question, yes. Sometimes I feel like I could do a lot more outside the Bureau. If I didnít have them fighting me at every step . . . "

"Could you make a living at it?"

"Not as well as I do now. Ghost busting isnít really lucrative."

"What about writing, lecturing?"

He shrugged. "Iím not sure who would pay me for anything like that."

"Come on, Mulder, youíre famous in the paranormal field. Didnít Max follow our cases through the freedom of information act?"

"Yeah, but if the people who know about me keep getting abducted, there wouldnít be enough to attend a lecture."

She chuckled at that. "Good point." Rather than pursue it, she finished her meal and took her plate into the kitchen. She began cleaning up. He came up behind her, "Why donít I finish up in here. Youíve had a pretty stressful day. You can pick the movie."

"Steel Magnolias?"

He grimaced, but didnít speak. She moved out of the way and let him fill the dishwasher. He was right about one thing, she was still shaky.

The sight of Mulderís body on that table was still with her. It wasnít true; Mulder was here and safe. She shuddered, unaware that he had come out of the kitchen and could see her. She wrapped her arms around herself; she wasnít cold physically, but . . .

He wanted to move to her side and hold her and make it better. The question was, would being close to her be a good thing? He should get her to leave him. That really would be better for her. He had no doubt about it.

It didnít have to be forever. She could go out to LA, see if she liked the job. If she did, and she still wanted him, then he could look for a job and . . . and live near Bill. Yippee.

She turned and saw him watching her. He managed to smile, "Find a movie?"

"I forgot."

"Youíre not really in the mood, are you?"

She shook her head. "Too much on my mind."

"Okay." He joined her on the couch. "Lay it all out, make a list."

"A list?"

"Yeah. What are the issues, letís just . . . You have this good opportunity for a fresh start in a new place where no oneís even heard of the X-Files. This could be a great opportunity, just what you need. It puts you back in medicine, but youíd still be in law enforcement part time, if youíre doing forensics."

"And leave you."

"A little while ago you said you couldnít do this anymore. You didnít want to have to live like this."

"I was upset, I didnít mean . . . "

"What did you mean, Scully?"

She sighed, "I donít know, but I donít want to be without you. Thatís what I thought I was facing this morning - the rest of my life without you. I was . . . Mulder, I couldnít."

"It wasnít me, Scully."

"But if you ask me to leave, to move across the country without you, whatís different? Iíd still be without you."

"But this wouldnít be forever."

"Youíd come? Youíd quit the Bureau and move to LA too?" She shook her head, "No, you wouldnít."

"Scully, I - "

"Youíd say youíd come. Youíd say that to get me to leave. But then youíd decide that I was better off without you. Hell, youíre already thinking it and youíre doing this now to . . . to protect me, to get me out of the way."

He gave her a little grin. "Who me?"

She shook her head and he lost his smile as a tear escaped her eye.

"Scully." He brushed the tear from her cheek. "Is it wrong for me to want to protect you? To keep you from things like this morning?"

"I donít want protection, Mulder, I want . . . "

"What?"

"I want you." She said it low, fearfully.

His eyes widened slightly and he pulled her against him.

"Donít you understand, Mulder? Donít you believe me?"

"Scully, itís hard for me. Youíre the only one who ever has and youíre in danger because of it. How do I reconcile that?"

"Do you want to be with me?"

He looked her straight in the eye. "More than anything. But Scully, if my being with you hurts you, I canít do it."

She closed her eyes and turned away. After a moment she rose.

"Scully, donít."

"Itís an impasse, Mulder. You donít want me to be with you and I donít want to be without you. Simple, isnít it?" She turned from him then and the movement panicked him.

"Scully!"

She looked back startled. He just stared at her and after a moment she continued on to the bedroom. He took a deep shuddering breath - everyone would have been better off if theyíd never met.

He sank down onto the couch and threw his arm over his eyes.

*****

He made his way wearily to Skinnerís office. What would his punishment be this time? Not that he really cared.

"Mulder, have a seat."

He did, without comment.

"You know this last Ďcaseí was a bigger fiasco than usual, Mulder. I canít protect you, I canít sanction you any more."

His thought was, Ďwhen have you ever?í, but he still retained enough self-preservation to stay silent.

"Mulder?"

"So what happens now?"

"You have a choice, you can return to the VCS or . . . or you can resign."

He wasnít even surprised, unless maybe that he had lasted this long.

"When do you need my decision?"

Skinner sighed, "Friday."

Mulder nodded and rose, not waiting for dismissal, and returned to the basement. He sank into his chair, not seeing the chaos around him. They thought theyíd indulged his childish fantasies long enough. He was never going to find Samantha; he was never going to know the truth. Theyíd given him two choices - resignation or return to the joy of crawling through the filthy sick minds of evil men. There was a third choice.

They would separate him from his access; they would probably destroy the little evidence he had accumulated. Heíd never gotten the scientific proof heíd needed; now he never would. There was no reason to try any more. Fortunately, there was no one to miss him either.

He pulled his gun from the holster and looked at it for a long moment, then he took a deep breath, placed the barrel against his temple and without hesitation, pulled the trigger.

*****

"Mulder. Mulder wake up. Wake up, Iím right here. Itís Scully. Mulder open your eyes."

He forced his eyes open to see her leaning over him, and he clasped her to him.

"Mulder, itís okay. It was just a dream."

He shook his head, not a dream, a vision - what would have happened. God, how bleak. There had been nothing, no reason whatsoever to live.

She held him, and when he began to calm down, brushed his hair back. "Mulder, was it the abduction dream?"

He shook his head, and held her tight. She stroked his shoulders, "Tell me what it was."

He shuddered, "Iíd never met you. You werenít in my life."

"Iím here, Mulder."

"But you werenít. They shut down the X-Files. Without you . . . without you they never became legitimate. So I . . . "

"Mulder?"

"I went down to the office and I put my service revolver to my head."

Her arms tightened convulsively. "No, Mulder."

He gave a harsh chuckle. "I think weíve both had our eyes opened today. You saw what your life would be without me and I saw what my life would be without you." He shuddered slightly. "It was so damn bleak." He took a deep breath. "I donít want you to go, or I want you to, but only if I come too. Just so weíre together."

The relief made her weak. After a moment she nodded, "Come to bed, Mulder. Weíre together. We can make plans in the morning."

He closed his eyes for an instant. They were together and they both understood what that meant now.