She knew something was bothering him but he didn’t want to talk about it. She couldn’t help it, she felt shut out. He had always discussed his work with her; it had seemed to help him in dealing with Patterson. Now she felt apart from him.
The problem was, she just didn’t have the energy to pursue it. Since the miscarriage she had held on, but barely. These days she was more likely to be asleep when he got home than he was. It had been months since she had beaten him home but in the last couple of weeks . . . She felt depression creep up on her again.
She wondered briefly if his arms around her would help, but she was too tired to care. She was always too tired now.
He was up and gone before she woke the next morning. It looked as though he had come home, but he may have slept on the couch. She couldn’t tell, but she didn’t remember feeling him in the night.
When she got home that night, he wasn’t there, but her mother was. “Mom? Did we . . . I’m sorry, did we have a date tonight?”
“No. Your father had a meeting and, when I called, Fox said he had to work late, so I thought we could have dinner.”
“Mulder’s working late?”
“That’s what he said. Didn’t you know?”
“I haven’t seen him lately.”
“Dana, are you . . . I was going to ask if you were okay, but I can see that you aren’t. Honey, I know this has been hard. Losing a - “
“Mom, please. I don’t want to talk about it.”
“But you should. Dana, you can’t hold something like this in. Have you and Fox - “
“Mulder hasn’t been home a lot.”
Maggie blinked at that. “The two of you need each other. Dana, you need to lean on him and . . . “ Dana turned away from her and Maggie’s fear rose.
“Dana, talk to me.”
When she turned back, her eyes glistened but no tears had fallen. “I don’t know what you want me to say. Mulder . . . I think he’s relieved that I lost the baby.”
“Dana! You don’t believe that.”
She nodded dismally, “He doesn’t talk about it. He . . . he never even cried.”
“Never even . . . oh Dana. That’s not true. I was with him when you were having the D&C. He was utterly destroyed. He fell apart. Your father doesn’t cry, I’ve gotten used to that and I worry about it, he holds too much in, but it’s what I’m used to. When Fox . . . I was actually frightened for him. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised he didn’t let you see him like that. He felt he needed to be strong for you, but Dana, don’t for an instant think that he wasn’t completely devastated by what happened.”
He headed downstairs, glad for the break. Besides, it would ruin his career to actually punch Patterson. He was surprised to find the door to his new ‘office’ unlocked. He opened it and found a woman standing at the files, looking through one of the drawers.
She turned then, “Oh, hello. Are you the one collecting these files?”
“Yes, is there a problem?”
“No, I’m grateful.”
Grateful? Who was she? As though she sensed the question, she dusted her hands off and extended her right to shake. “I’m Diana Fowley.”
He nodded, “Fox Mulder.”
She smiled, “Glad to meet you. How long have you been checking on this stuff?”
“The X-Files? A few weeks.”
“X-Files, I like it.”
“What did you call them?”
She chuckled, “Mostly the trash.”
He grinned then, “It fits.”
“You’ve got a better filing system.” She gestured at the drawer and he moved closer to see which file she was reading.
He remembered the case and they began talking.
”Dana?” He’d flipped on the light, not expecting to find her home. She was in her nightgown, but lying on top of the covers. She’d obviously fallen asleep waiting for him.
“What time is it?”
“Almost one. I didn’t think you were going to be here tonight.”
“I was going to surprise you.” After talking to Mom she’d felt a little calmer, and Mom had been right, they needed some time - together.
He looked stricken, “Dana, I’m sorry.”
“You didn’t know. You’re keeping some pretty late hours.”
“Yeah, well it does get kind of lonely here at night, so I’ve been reading those old files I mentioned. I’ve been refiling them, making some sense of the system.” His eyes were gleaming. She felt an instant of jealousy - he usually looked at her like that. “Anyway, today I met another agent who was familiar with the files and we got to talking over some of the cases. Time just got away from me. I’m really sorry.”
“Mulder, it’s okay. I got a nap. Who’s this agent that knows about these old cases?”
“Oh, Diana Fowley. She’s got some real off the wall ideas about some of the stuff we’ve read.”
“Yeah, she’s been with the Bureau a few years. I remember hearing her name. She works in domestic terrorism.”
She nodded, her throat constricted for some reason.
He sat beside her on the bed and gave her a kiss. “I’m sorry I wasn’t here.”
“It’s okay. You’re here now.” She let one of her fingers trace a button on his shirt. Her other hand moved father south.
He took that hand in his own. “Dana, what are you doing?”
“I miss you.”
“Sweetheart, I miss you too, but we can’t, not yet. Linda hasn’t given us the all clear.”
“Mulder, I’m a doctor too.”
“No, Dana. This is too important. I’m not willing to risk hurting you.”
“Mulder, you wouldn’t - “
He kissed her, thoroughly, then moved away from her in the bed. “I need a shower. I’ll be right back to hold you all night.”
She smiled sadly and even that slipped away when he left the room. He’d been that caught up in talking to this other woman? No, other agent, don’t get paranoid. But she realized, it didn’t go away completely.
She got home to find him already there. That surprised her, she’d hoped to freshen up a little, but she was more pleased that he was here. She headed into the bedroom and stopped, stunned, when she saw him packing.
“Dana, hi. I’m glad you got home before I had to leave.”
“Leave? I . . . I thought you’d caught the guy.”
“What? Oh, oh yeah we got him. This is a new case, kind of a reward. I got the go ahead to investigate one of those X-Files I was telling you about.” She didn’t speak; he hadn’t been talking to her about any ‘X-File’. He was facing the drawers and didn’t see her expression. “It might not come to anything, but Diana liked my theory, so we’re going to look over the scene.”
“Yeah, she’s between cases too and she’s really interested in the X-Files, so we thought why not.”
Dana swallowed hard, “How . . . how long to do you think you’ll be gone?”
“A couple of days, not more than three I’m sure.” At her silence he looked up, “You’ll be okay, won’t you?”
“Sure.” She sounded short, clipped even to herself, but he didn’t seem to notice.
He smiled at her. “I’ll leave a message on the machine when I get in. I’m sorry to rush, but we have to make the plane. I love you.” He kissed her and she followed him to the door.
“Yeah?” He looked down at his watch.
“Nothing. Be careful.”
“Always. I’ll call you.” He kissed her again and was gone.
He let himself into the apartment. He was tired but it was a good tired. He was even frustrated, but he and Diana had seen what they’d needed to for their first X-File investigation. The first of many, he hoped. He dropped his keys on the table and looked around. Dana wasn’t home but that didn’t surprise him.
He’d call over to the hospital and let her know he had gotten back earlier than he expected. Maybe he could head over there and have break with her. He had missed her and it felt like forever since they had spent any time together.
He punched in the number for the resident’s quarters. “Hello?”
“Hi, this is Fox Mulder, I’m looking for my wife.”
“Dana? She’s not here. Mulder? This is Cliff. Dana took off a couple of days. I thought she said the two of you were going out of town or something. I must have misunderstood.”
“Uh, yeah, I just got back in from a case. Well, thanks I’ll track her down.” He hung up, confused. Why had she told Cliff she was going out of town with him? He picked the receiver back up and dialed Mom’s. She’d know what was going on.
Mulder hesitated just an instant. It wasn’t a voice he had expected to hear. “Bill? Is that you?”
“Yes, who is this?”
“It’s Mulder, is - “
“Mulder, you SOB! What shitty kind of husband do you think you are anyway?”
Mulder froze, stunned at the attack. When he got his voice back, “Bill? What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about my sister and how you’re treating her. I ought to come over there right now and beat some sense into you.”
“What the hell are you - “
“She’s working like a dog, she’s depressed, she’s ill and you go out of town with another woman just when she’s finally gotten some time off to spend with you. You’re a real piece of work.”
“Ill?” He was still having trouble speaking and Bill had laid too many things on him at once.
“Hell yes! She hasn’t recovered from the miscarriage. Do you not even know that? No wonder she’s so depressed, with you as a husband.”
Mulder actually staggered at those words and then sank down onto the couch. “She, Dana said that to you?”
“Not directly. I heard her crying to Mom.”
“She was crying? Bill, where is she?”
“I don’t know that she wants to see you.”
“Damn it Bill, where is she! Where’s my wife!” He couldn’t shake the cold tendrils closing around his heart. Bill had hit him at his most vulnerable spot. He had forgotten how scared he could be, having guns pointed at him were nothing compared to this.
Maybe Bill heard that, anyway he relented slightly. “When you had to go out of town she came over here. She and Mom went to Connecticut to see some friends.”
“You said she was ill.” His voice shook on that last word.
“She’s not recovering. Mom thinks she’s working too hard. She needed you this weekend. Who the hell is this woman you went out of town with?”
“It wasn’t a woman, well yes, but she’s an agent. We were investigating a case, I wasn’t out of town with a woman!”
“Yeah, right, whatever. You weren’t with her after she went to the trouble to get the time off.”
“I didn’t know! I didn’t - hell why am I talking to you? How do I reach Dana?” His anger was surfacing finally, the fear slipping a little to the side.
“You can’t, they’re already on their way back. They should be here in a couple of hours. If she wants to see you, she’ll come home then.” And Bill hung up the phone.
Mulder sat there, unable to move. He couldn’t even hang up the phone. She was ill, she wasn’t recovering? This was what had happened when she’d lost the baby - he’d gone off on a case and . . . He was his father. He’d never felt so cold.
When she wasn’t home four hours later, he felt something break inside of him. In his pain, it never crossed his mind that Bill had been lying to him. She hadn’t wanted to see him, hadn’t wanted to come home.
He was sitting in the dark when she opened the door. She didn’t see him, setting her bag just inside the door, then turning to close it and flip on the light. When she turned back, she nearly gasped.
He didn’t even turn his head.
“Mulder? Are you okay? What are you doing here?” She came around the couch then and her hand came up to touch his forehead.
He pulled back slightly and she let her hand drop back to her side.
“What are you doing back so early? I thought - “
“I wasn’t sure you were coming home.”
“Not coming . . . Mulder, are you okay? Were you injured, what’s wrong?” Her voice was rising with fear at his continued silence and distance.
“Why didn’t you tell me you had time off?”
She blinked at that and sank down onto the couch beside him. “I . . . you were already packed and late for your plane.”
She seemed to get smaller, “I wasn’t sure you wanted to be with me. You were so excited about . . . “ She stopped when he closed his eyes.
“Mulder, I’m sorry.”
His eyes flew open instantly. “No. Don’t you apologize. You did nothing wrong, it was me. If I had known . . . “
“Mulder, if I had said something, would you have stayed?”
“Oh god. Don’t you know I . . . Dana.” The tears in her eyes frightened him more than he could say.
She moved even closer then and took him into her arms. “Mulder, I should have spoken up. This is not your fault, we just didn’t communicate.”
His face was buried in her hair, “Why now? Why did you take the time now?”
She burrowed into him, “Linda gave me the green light and I . . . “
He groaned then and his arms tightened around her.
“We still have tonight.”
“Do you still want me?”
She locked eyes with him then. “Yes.”
He nestled her against him. “Why?”
“Because you’re Fox Mulder and you’re my husband.”
“Dana - “
“Mulder, you’ll need to be gentle.”
Her new rotation began and with it, even longer hours. She had fallen slightly behind and worked hard to catch up. He understood and tried his best to be supportive. He tried to avoid the truly nasty cases, they kept him from her emotionally as well has physically and that wasn’t what he wanted.
He even avoided the old files in the basement for a long time, and he didn’t contact Diana. When Patterson assigned him to a serial killer, who enjoyed rape and mutilation, he wanted to refuse. This was just the kind of case that shut him down to polite society, but Patterson didn't care about that. The man had no family, no life outside of the Bureau and he didn’t expect the agents under him to have them either.
He rode Mulder especially hard. This was an important case and women were dying. The entire northwestern United States was in near panic and the FBI was under intense scrutiny.
When he was sent out of town, he went reluctantly. They hadn’t been separated since that horrible weekend. That wasn’t strictly true, she’d spent overnights at the hospital, but he had always remained where she could reach him and she had begun calling him on her break, just to say hi.
This trip, this case was tough. She understood, but he still fought it. He would do better staying where he could come home to her, touch her. Patterson didn’t understand that, wouldn’t even listen.
So he was on this plane to Washington State.
She was planning to stay at the hospital. Without him at the apartment, it really wasn’t worth the drive home if she would only have a few hours. She lived in scrubs now anyway and the showers at the hospital had more hot water than at home.
She was in the resident’s lounge, nursing a cup of coffee when the doctor heading her residency entered. “Dr. Scully?”
She started to rise, “Dr. Waterston?”
“Sit, sit. May I?” He pointed toward the coffeepot. She nodded and sat back in her chair. He poured himself a cup and took the seat beside her.
“Dr. Waterston, I got to observe the surgery you did this morning. I was very impressed.”
He smiled gently; “I could say the same about you Dr. Scully. I’ve been following your work and I’m very impressed. Have you decided on a specialty yet?”
“Uh, no sir. I’m only half way through my rotations. There are several areas that I’m interested in that I haven’t gotten a chance to explore in depth.”
“What areas would those be?” He leaned back, watching her closely.
“Neurology and pathology.”
He smiled slightly, “Not gynecology or pediatrics?”
“No sir. Are those the areas to which you normally steer the female students?”
He actually laughed then, “I’d heard you didn’t pull any punches Dr. Scully. No, I tend to steer students where their talents lie. I’d like to see you take an interest in cardiology. What I’ve seen so far has pleased me. I’d like to work with you. I know you have to continue your rotations, but I see that you stay here at the hospital most nights. If you’re not adverse to it, I could give you a little extra mentoring. I think you could eventually be quite an asset to the field.”
She blinked at him, her surprise holding her silent for an instant. “That, I’d been honored.”
He smiled again and rose from the table. “Fine. I’ll check your schedule and see when I can fit some time in.” He turned away from her then and let himself out of the lounge. She sank back into her chair. Wait until Mulder heard about this.
It was late when he called, but she had hung by the phone, too jazzed by her encounter with such a leader in the field to rest.
“Hi. Still at the hospital I see.”
“Yes, and Mulder, the most extraordinary thing happened today. The head of cardiology approached me and offered, offered, to mentor me. Can you believe it?”
“Without any problem. Scully, don’t you know how good you are?”
She laughed a little then. “I wish you were here, we could celebrate.”
“I wish I was there too.”
She finally heard his tone of voice. “How’s it going?”
She could hear his hesitation. “This is one very nasty dude.”
“Are you getting inside him?”
He laughed harshly, “Yeah. I hope you let me come home.”
“Always. I wish I could help.”
“Just hearing your voice helps. It’s the only good thing that’s happened to me all day. Listen, I need to get back. If Patterson finds out I’ve taken time out from the horror to try to get some perspective he’ll have me scrubbing toilets to get back in the mood.”
“Nearly. Go back to work Dana. I’ll call tomorrow.”
“I should be at the house. I’m supposed to have twenty-four hours off.”
“I promise I won’t enjoy it without you.”
He managed a laugh, though it sounded a little hollow to her. “I’ll call the apartment then. ‘Nite Dana, I love you.”
“I love you too Mulder. Keep remembering that.”
He broke the connection and she felt a loneliness encompass her. How much worse was it for him? She’d only met Patterson once, but she believed Mulder’s assessment of him. He reveled in all of the evil he delved into in other men’s minds. She didn’t know if he had ever been married, but she doubted it.
He stared at the receiver in his hand for a long moment before moving his finger from the button and placing it on the phone. He closed his eyes and then stood. If Patterson found him, he sighed . . .
He headed back down to the room they were using as headquarters. Patterson had been sleeping there as well. He just ate up this kind of filth.
“Mulder, about time. Get over here.”
Mulder sank back into the mindset that suited him best for this kind of work. He pushed Dana to the back of his mind. He didn’t want his thoughts of her to be contaminated by this pervert.
They found the man, but not until after one last victim. His guilt over that one vied with the euphoria of the other team members. It was as though the last victim was worth it as bait to catch the man. She’d been a redhead, taller than his redhead and not as attractive, but seeing her on that slab in the morgue had been devastating nevertheless.
He couldn’t quite shake his guilt by the time he got home. He tried to hide it; she was so excited about her work with Dr. Waterston that he got away with it.
Holding her in his arms that night helped, but when he woke up to find her gone, the gloom overwhelmed him again. He had the day off, but she was gone. He didn’t know if that was good or bad, but it was lonely. He needed to try to get his mind on something else.
He forced himself out of bed, took a shower, then headed for the office. He wasn’t going to let Patterson know he was even in the place.
He headed directly for his ‘office’ in the basement and spent the day there, behind closed doors. He even forgot to eat lunch. It was the only thing that kept his attention when he was like this.
The only file that he didn’t, that he wouldn’t, discuss with anyone, was Samantha’s. Even Diana didn’t know he’d found that one.
They fell back into the pattern again. Both working too many hours, allowing themselves to spend time with co-workers rather than each other.
Each time it was harder to find their way back to each other. But neither admitted that, even to themselves.
He was out of town, as usual now, when he got the call. She had been admitted to the hospital. That was all the information the Bureau had. He left Patterson a note and took off for the airport. He hadn’t been home in nearly a week, but she hadn’t been ill. At least not as far as he knew, he realized.
He’d done it again. He’d been away working on a case for the VCS. Okay that was his job, but his spare time had been taken up more and more with the X-Files. Diana spent as much time as she could with him, but she had a regular assignment as well.
Diana was the one who had brought up the idea of creating their own department, to work exclusively on the X-Files and the idea was damn intriguing. They’d spent many an hour discussing it in the little office that was still, for the most part, a secret from anyone that mattered at the Bureau, as far as he knew. Hours he could have spent with Dana, except she was spending her own time with ‘Daniel’.
That thought caused him to tense up a little. He knew he had no reason to be jealous. He did, but she was spending a lot of time with the man.
That wasn’t important now. His wife was in the hospital and he didn’t even know why. The flight was interminable. His thoughts kept returning to the words his father had said that night in the restaurant.
Dana, I’ll probably cause an explosion with this statement, but Fox is very like me. He becomes consumed with his work, single-minded in his pursuits. That’s how he’s been so successful at Oxford, completed his degree ahead of time and at the top of his class. But it’s not a good combination for a relationship.>>
You don’t want to hurt this woman the way I hurt your mother.
It was the first time, nearly the only time, his father had met Dana and he had felt it that important to warn her about his son.
His mother had said something as well. Dana didn’t know that he had heard anything and she hadn’t wanted to tell him. At the time he had thought it was just the way his mother felt about his father, but the words were there nonetheless.
This is a mistake. You should not plan to marry Fox. The Mulder men are . . . not marriage material. There is too much of his father in him.
He won’t make you happy.
Over and over he heard the words in his mind. He was deep in despair by the time he reached the hospital. He got her room number from the desk and hurried up the stairs.
He approached her room and saw that the door was partially open. He looked through the glass panel to make sure it was her, and stopped at the sight of the man beside her.
She had her eyes closed, but this man was holding her hand, caressing it. “Dana, come on, open your eyes.” He leaned down and kissed her forehead. Mulder felt like he’d been punched in the gut. Who was this man?
Dana opened her eyes, “Daniel? What are you doing here?”
Daniel? This was Dr. Waterston? What the hell kind of mentor was he?
“I just wanted to check on you.”
“I’m fine Daniel; I told you that.”
Mulder moved back from the door. He didn’t want to hear this. He slipped into an empty room across the hall and waited. In a few minutes Daniel left the room and still he waited. Well, he couldn’t stay here forever and he needed to know what was wrong with her. She was still his wife, for now.
He forced himself to cross the hall and tap on the door as he opened it. She turned and spotted him. To his surprise her whole face seemed to light up. “Mulder?”
She held out her hand to him. He made his feet carry him to the bed.
“What are you doing here? Oh please, tell me they didn’t call you in from the field!”
“I got a call that you were in the hospital.”
“What did Patterson say?”
“I didn’t talk to him, I just left a note.”
“Oh Mulder.” She pulled him closer and he allowed it, finally kissing her. “I’m fine. They should never have bothered you.”
“They don’t usually admit people who are fine into the hospital.”
She rolled her eyes. “They do when overly cautious doctors have too much clout.”
“What happened?” He sat stiffly beside her in the chair.
“Nothing really. I was in surgery with Dr. Waterston. It lasted over five hours and went very well. When it was over and we were washing up, I got a little dizzy and I may have blacked out.”
“Maybe for a second. I was just hungry. But Dr. Waterston went all overprotective and had me admitted. I’m really fine and I’m sorry they worried you. But it is good to see you.”
He managed a small smile at that.
“Mulder? Is it a bad case?”
“Aren’t they all Dana?”
She looked at him curiously, but decided to change subjects. “Well, since you’re here, I’m getting out. I shouldn’t have been here in the first place. Why don’t you take me home?”
“Are you sure?”
“Positive. Mulder, are you okay?” She reached for his hand again, but he withdrew it into his lap. It might have been an accident, a movement he started before she did. That must be the case.
She pulled the covers back and rose from the bed. His hand automatically came out to steady her. “Mulder, will you buzz the nurse while I get dressed? Thanks.”
She moved into the bathroom and he stood unmoving, his mind whirling. What should he believe? He can’t make you happy.
He returned to his team the next day and withstood Patterson’s diatribe on responsibility without a word. Everyone noticed his complete withdrawal into himself, but when he emerged with a profile and led them directly to the man’s business, they kept quiet. It was unusual that he made no sarcastic remarks regarding Patterson, especially after even Patterson had to admit that he had solved the case.
From the depths of his own despair he’d had no trouble getting into this tormented man’s mind. The problem was getting out of it.
Diane found him in ‘their’ office a couple of days later. He was holding a file, but didn’t appear to see it.
It took him a beat to realize anyone was there, then he looked up but didn’t speak.
“Are you okay?”
“Diana? Yeah, I’m fine.”
“Well you look like shit. Want to talk about it?”
He blinked at that and watched her sit.
“You’re Catholic Dana. I was thinking you’d want an annulment, since there’re no children.” He didn’t see her face at those words. He couldn’t look at her anyway. This had all made so much sense when he’d discussed it with Diana. He wasn’t husband material, anyone could see it.
“Annulment, in other words, no marriage ever existed.”
“If there’s no husband, how can there be a marriage? Dana, none of this is your fault. It’s me; I’m too damaged. I should have realized it.” He shrugged, “I should have stayed with women like Phoebe.”
“Or Diana?” That caused him to finally meet her eyes.
“Dana, I’m not having an affair with Diana Fowley.” Why had he said that? They were separating; maybe she needed an excuse.
“Not physically, maybe.”
He stared at her at those words, but didn’t dispute them. She turned away then in order to keep some composure.
“I’ll, uh, I’ll pack a bag for tonight and pick up the rest of my things this weekend.”
“That’s what you want?”
“It’s for the best.”
“Best for whom?” She came back at him.
He didn’t bother to answer; she couldn’t hear him now anyway. But it would be best for her. He didn’t know how to be the kind of husband she needed. He hadn’t even been with her when she started having problems with the pregnancy. He would never forgive himself for that, but if he gave her freedom, maybe she would find the kind of man she deserved. Someone a hell of a lot better than him.
“I promised never to leave him.” She was dry eyed again and sounded so remote.
“You didn’t leave him. Dana, Honey, give it a little time.”
“Why? He contacted Father McKuen. He wants out.”
“Dana, he doesn’t want out. He thinks you’d be better off without him. You knew that about him. You’ve known him since you two were children. Please, don’t write off this marriage; not so quickly.”
“I haven’t written off anything. He has.”
“Dana, let me talk to him.”
“No! Mom, don’t talk to him. I shouldn’t have come to you, but please don’t - “
“Of course you should come to me. Dana, you’re hurt and he’s scared. You need to talk to someone, if not me then Father McKuen or, or someone.”
Dana shook her head. “I’m tired. Do you mind if I sleep here tonight? It’s so . . . empty over there.”
“Of course you should stay here. Go on up and take a long bath. Try to relax.”
“Mom, swear to me you will not call him. Or Ahab either. If this is what he wants, then . . . Swear it Mom.”
Maggie sighed, Dana knew her too well. After a long moment she nodded, “I won’t call him Dana, but I think it’s a mistake.”
Dana nodded and moved toward the stairs. She felt very very old.