“Wait a minute; you can’t just go in there. You don’t have an appointment.” The woman’s raised voice caught Scully’s attention and she looked up as the door opened. Her eyes widened and she seemed unable to rise from her seat.
“Dr. Scully, I’m sorry. He pushed past - “
all right Gloria.” She managed to stand and take the few steps to the door.
”Thank you.” She pushed the door shut and turned back to her visitor.
The little man looked up at her, scanning her face.
“Are . . . are Byers and Langly with you?”
“No. I’m alone.”
That caused her to hesitate. “What are you doing here, Melvin? Is he all right?”
Frohike visibly relaxed at her question. Practically the first words out of her mouth were asking about him. He took one of the chairs facing her desk. She sank into the other.
“Why did you leave?”
She blinked. “I . . . I didn’t leave. I was reassigned.”
“Reassigned. But you didn’t talk to him.”
“They were going to separate us. It was inevitable. Maybe I was tired of fighting.”
“No, he’s not all right.” Frohike finally answered her question.
Her indrawn breath was loud in the quiet office. “Was he hurt, shot?”
“A . . . a nervous breakdown?” Her hand was shaking as she reached out to him.
“Why didn’t he call me?”
“He knew how to reach you?” Frohike asked.
“Of course he did. I . . . I emailed him. When I first got here. I sent him my address and phone number and . . . “
“You emailed him?” Frohike seemed incredulous.
“I . . . I tried to call him, but . . . “
“But he wasn’t there, or he didn’t pick up, or - “
“I tried.” She said stung.
Frohike looked away, at a loss.
“Where is he?”
“He’s at home. He was released a couple of days ago.”
“Released?” She looked frightened. “He was hospitalized?”
She closed her eyes. “He’s profiling.”
Frohike nodded. “He wanted to keep his job and that’s the only one they would give him. The X-Files are over.”
“Skinner - “
“He doesn’t report to Skinner anymore.” Frohike broke in, forestalling that excuse.
“He, he knows what profiling does to him, why - “
“I don’t think he cares.”
Her mouth dropped open then. “Doesn’t care?”
Frohike shrugged. “What’s he got to live for?”
“What are you talking about? He’s in the prime of life, he’s brilliant, he - “
“He’s completely alone.”
Scully’s face flushed at that.
Frohike took her hand. “You aren’t married or engaged.”
She snatched her hand back. “I’m seeing someone.” Okay, she had turned Steve down the last two times he’d ask her out. It looked like he was finally getting the message.
“Someone important?” Frohike asked quietly.
“Are you blaming me for Mulder’s . . . situation?” She didn’t want to lie to the man, but her social life, or lack thereof, wasn’t up for discussion.
Frohike looked away for a moment, “You cared about him, didn’t you?”
“I still do! I tried to stay in touch. I - “
“Stay in touch? Scully, you were his whole life.”
“What are you talking about? We were partners, friends.”
“Just friends?” Frohike was watching her too closely.
“He, he never seemed to want more than that.”
Frohike closed his eyes. “I know you’re not stupid, Scully. Don’t pretend to be. You can’t think that was all he feels for you.”
“Frohike, this is not - “
“Yeah, yeah it is. Mulder’s my friend and he’s hurting.” He stopped at the tears he saw in her eyes.
She stood and walked away from him, gathering her composure. She touched her desk, a file, just moving around the office. Finally she took a seat behind the desk, forcing some space between them. “Why didn’t Byers and Langly come with you?”
“He had ordered them not to tell you.”
“Wha - “ She gaped at him.
“When they visited him in the hospital I didn’t go. I knew he’d force a promise from them again.”
“We wanted to let you know after the first breakdown. He made us swear not to tell you.”
“If you didn’t want to be with him on your own, he didn’t want us to guilt you into it.” Frohike said simply.
“That’s not . . . “ A tear did escape then. “They sent me away. He didn’t try to stay in touch with me.”
“What should make him think you wanted him to?”
“I tried to contact - “
He looked at her then until she turned away.
“Do you want to help him?”
“You know I do.”
“Then go to him.”
Silence reigned in the office. After a very long moment, Scully swallowed. “Do you think he’d want to see me?”
Frohike took a deep breath, “I think if you don’t go, he won’t come out next time.”
She sat in her rental car outside of his apartment. He still wasn’t back on active duty, so she’d decided to see if she could spot him here. Part of her wanted to just walk up to his apartment and knock on the door. Okay, she still had his key, but that was an oversight that she hadn’t bothered to correct. Hell, for all she knew he had changed the lock anyway.
She sat up when he exited the building. He was wearing a sweat suit instead of running shorts which surprised her a little. It was certainly warm enough for his regular attire.
He had lost weight and now that she was watching, there was no life in his steps. When she’d seen Mulder going for a run in the past, he was practically bouncing. Now he could be walking from a grave.
He wasn’t bothering to look around. Was his normal paranoia no longer in gear? Or, as Frohike has said, did he not care? Of course, he was off the X-Files and therefore of no interest to the people they used to fear. But he hadn’t spotted her.
What the hell. She opened her car door. “Mulder?”
His steps faltered at the sound of her voice. For just a second she had the impression he was going to break into a run to get away from her, but he stopped.
“Scully.” He asked no questions and didn’t approach her.
She closed the distance between them. “Hi. I wasn’t sure you’d be home.” This close she saw that she had underestimated the amount of weight he had lost. The lines in his face were pronounced and his complexion was sallow. He looked ill.
“I, uh, I was just on my way out.”
“Going for a run?”
“I just got into town. I thought maybe we could have dinner or something.”
“I, uh . . . I’m not really dressed for . . . “
“We could order a pizza, like old times.” She smiled, but he didn’t return it. She noted that his hands were shaking slightly. Was her presence that disturbing?
He’d never sounded less sure in his life, but he apparently didn’t see a good way out, so he followed her back toward his building. She pressed the button for the elevator and he stepped on after her. The ride up was uncomfortably silent.
He let her in the apartment and she looked around. The place was often messy, she’d teased him enough, but she’d never seen it dirty before. There were usually files and books lying around, now the dust was thick on his bookshelves and the top of his TV. There were no fish swimming in the tank.
She turned to hear him ordering the pizza. She made no comment when he ordered the half pepperoni, half veggie pizza that they had often shared.
When he joined her, she looked up and smiled. It was not returned. “You need to dock your maid, Mulder.”
He seemed not to understand, so she ran a finger along the top of his television.
“Yeah, well, I haven’t had a lot of company.” He went quiet again then.
“Could I use your bathroom?”
“Uh, sure.” He motioned in that direction.
She walked through his bedroom. The bed looked like it hadn’t been slept in for some time, but it wasn’t made. The bath wasn’t especially clean either, but she wasn’t going to mention it. She wasn’t in any hurry to rejoin Mulder though. She couldn’t remember being this uncomfortable in his place before.
She stalled until she was afraid it would look strange, then finally left the bathroom. She had barely gotten to the living room when they heard the knock on the door. “That didn’t take long.”
He merely nodded and opened it. He took the pizza box and beer that she hadn’t heard him order and closed the door. She cleaned off the coffee table and picked up the afghan. She folded it, lay it across the back of the couch and took a seat.
“This tastes good. I haven’t had a pizza in a long time.” She took a swig from her bottle of beer.
He hadn’t bothered with the pizza, just taking a long pull on his own beer. “What are you doing here, Scully?”
“I had a consult. I just thought I’d drop by and - “
“You didn’t have a consult.” He interrupted her. “Did the guys call you?”
“No one called me.” That was true, Frohike had felt it serious enough to actually fly out to her.
He stared into her eyes, and finally looked away. “Fine. But why are you here? Did you just want to see what Spooky looked like when he got out of the loony bin?”
“Loony . . . Mulder - “
“Come on, don’t pretend you don’t know. I was hospitalized. I just got out.” His voice sounded as flat as his steps had been.
“Why are you profiling?”
“It’s my job. Didn’t you hear, I’m the bright young man at the academy. Or I used to be.” He fell silent then.
“Mulder, you - “
“Listen, I don’t mean to be inhospitable, but maybe you should go. If you have a consult, you probably have an early autopsy.”
“You want me to leave?” She asked, caught off guard. She set the rest of her slice of pizza down.
“Yeah, I think it would be a good idea.” He rose, obviously waiting to walk her to the door.
At a loss, she rose as well. “I’d, I’d like to see you again before I leave.”
“We’ll see. If you get through with your business in time, give me a call.” He wouldn’t look at her. She knew he wouldn’t be answering his phone.
She moved toward the door, then stopped, “Mulder - “
“It was good seeing you, Scully. Take care of yourself.” He opened the door.
She had little choice but to step out into the hall. She’d been unprepared for this, for him to actually ask her to leave. Frohike hadn’t warned her of anything like this.
“I’ll call you.” She said.
He nodded, then closed the door without another word. She moved in the direction of the elevator, knowing he was listening. She pressed the button and when the elevator came, pressed the interior button to send it back to the ground floor, but she stepped off of it before the doors closed. She slipped off her shoes and took them in her hand, then returned to his door.
She wasn’t sure what she was doing, but it seemed wrong to leave. She put her ear to his door and heard it. He was sobbing, like she hadn’t heard since his mother had died. She pressed her hand to her lips to keep any sound from escaping. Her heart was breaking at the sound.
He wouldn’t want her to see him like this, but she would see him. She moved to the stairs, then put on her shoes and hurried to her car.
She got a room, and prepared for bed, but sleep wouldn’t come. The sound of his loneliness, his abandonment tore at her. She had tried to convince herself that she could stay in touch, but obviously she had failed. She had left. She had left him. He thought it was because she didn’t want to be with him.
He was killing himself.
The thought, fully formed in her mind, caused her to sit bolt upright in the bed. No!
She had let him down. She had spent the last two years pretending that he had only been her friend and partner. She had deluded herself into thinking that the reason she still had no personal life was that she was rebuilding her career. She hadn’t been out on a dozen dates since she moved.
She’d left herself here too. Why had it taken so long to see it?
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Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunman and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter, 10-13 and Fox. No infringement intended.