She entered the doctor's office looking composed, sure of herself. "I'm Dr. Dana Scully. I don't have an appointment, but I'd like to speak to Dr. Morrison regarding Agent Mulder."
The receptionist smiled. "I'll check with the doctor. Why don't you have a seat?"
Scully nodded and took a seat by the lamp. She didn't bother with the pretense of a magazine. What would she do if this brazen act failed?
Almost immediately the door opened and the doctor himself stepped into the waiting room. "Dr. Scully." He held out a hand to her as she rose. She shook it, unsure of her next sentence. "Please, let's go to my office. I'm so glad to finally meet you."
Finally meet her? Had Mulder mentioned her?
"Would you like some coffee?"
That brought her back to the present. "No, thank you. I appreciate you taking the time - "
I'm very glad you're here. I'd like to discuss Agent Mulder's case with you."
She managed to hide her surprise. "I wasn't sure - "
"You are aware that you are listed as Agent Mulder's next of kin?"
"I . . . no, I wasn't." It hadn't occurred to her, but who else . . .
"How did you find out about Agent Mulder's condition?"
"I . . . " Shit, she hadn't thought this through. She'd expected to have to fight to learn anything. To be welcomed like this had her completely off guard.
"It was the little one, wasn't it? Fro - something."
"Frohike." She automatically supplied.
"Yes of course. When I saw that he hadn't visited when the other two did, I suspected there was a reason."
"You mean, contacting me?"
Dr. Morrison nodded, "He wouldn't go back on his word. Those friends of his are extremely loyal, even as he's tried to push them away."
"Push them - "
"He's pushed everyone away, Dr. Scully. That's one of the reasons he isn't recovering as well as I'd like."
"I saw him last night. He didn't look well."
"You saw him?" He looked away, seeming to study the snowscape on his wall. "I wish you had talked to me first."
"Would you have advised me not to see him?"
"No, but I would have tried to prepare him."
"To see me?"
She sat back, anger vying with guilt now.
"I'm assuming you have not moved back to DC."
"So he has to watch you leave again. That's going to be very painful for him."
"Has . . . has he talked about me?" It was humiliating to ask, but she needed to know.
"Not much, at least not consciously."
"I don't understand."
Dr. Morrison sighed, "Both times he was hospitalized, he was been placed on suicide watch. He's closely monitored then, awake and asleep. He calls for you then, and . . . and he cries."
Scully's eyes filled at that.
"I'm not trying to make you feel guilty. You moved on with your life. You left an assignment. I understand that. But it was more to him."
"You think I just left an assignment? You think it didn't mean any more to me than that?" Her voice tightened.
"I didn't mean to offend you, Dr. Scully, but you obviously were able to leave the partnership, move on to a life that better fulfills you."
She stared down at her hands. "Does it look like that?"
"Are you saying it's not?" He countered.
She looked up then, facing him. "How do I help Mulder?"
"I don't know that you can. He doesn't trust anyone now."
"That's my fault too." Her shoulders dropped; the weight of this too much for her suddenly.
"May I say you are not what I expected." Dr. Morrison mused.
"Which version did you believe? Ice queen? Rigid scientist? Harpy - "
"None of the above. When Agent Mulder would speak of you it was with great respect and, and affection. He spoke of what he had done to you - "
"He didn't do anything to me."
"You don't blame him for your . . . for the things that happened to you and your family while you were together?"
"No! I never have. But my very presence seemed to cause guilt in him. I hoped he'd move on or . . . I don't know."
"Have you built that 'life' you wanted?"
She met his eyes for a moment, then looked away. "No."
"Do you know why that is?" He asked conversationally.
She mumbled something he couldn't hear.
"Dr. Scully?" He leaned closer.
"I don't know." She rose abruptly. "I need to go. Thank you for your time."
He watched her move toward the door. "Dr. Scully, just one more question." She stopped, her hand on the doorknob. "Who is your next of kin?"
Her blush betrayed her. "I just never - "
"Even moving to a new job, didn't you have to fill out new paperwork?"
She met his eyes for just an instant, then let herself out of his office.
When he let himself into his apartment, it only took a couple of seconds to realize she was there. Her scent, her essence, hell, her aura tipped him off. He stopped, the thoughts of racing from his own apartment looking pretty damn good.
"I didn't change the locks, did I?" He said quietly.
She shook her head. "Thank you."
He blinked, but stood there silent.
"We need to talk." She moved to the couch and sat, waiting.
"I . . . I can't." But he was moving toward her and took a seat on the far end of the couch.
"I need your help, Mulder."
He seemed to jerk slightly at those words. "I, uh, I wouldn't think I'd be your first choice."
"Well you'd be wrong, again." She responded immediately.
He gaped at her and made a sound that was very nearly a chuckle. They both fell silent then. He studied the coffee table. Last night's pizza still sat there along with the five empty bottles. Only her bottle still held beer. He'd fallen asleep finally and when he had risen from the couch this morning, it hadn't seemed important. Now, at least to his eyes, it merely looked pitiful.
"Will you come somewhere with me?"
"Another doctor?" He asked, ready to refuse.
"No, out of town, away from DC."
"I don't understand." He hesitated then. "If this is pity, Scully, I don't want any."
"Good, because you're not getting any. I haven't taken a vacation in eighteen months, you're on leave for another few weeks. Why don't we just go somewhere and relax."
He just stared at her, his mouth slightly open. She fought the urge to look away. No one could read her better than Mulder, but she was being forthright. She wanted some downtime. And she wanted to spend it with him. Too many people had pointed out their closeness; it was about damn time to find out what that was about, if it even still existed.
"I have a friend with a house at the beach in North Carolina. It's right on the water. This time of year it should be quiet. We could - "
"Scully, no. I . . . I don't think it's a good idea."
"You don't trust me." She said quietly.
"It, it's not that." But he wouldn't look at her. "I wouldn't be any better company than I used to be. Probably worse."
"Who said you weren't good company?"
He looked up and met her eyes for an instant. "I thought you did."
"When? Mulder, when did I - "
"When you left." He rose abruptly and moved to the far side of the room. "Look, I can't do this."
"Do what? Be with me?"
When he didn't respond she stood up and look at the door, then turned to see the expression on his face - fear, despair and . . . and a hopelessness that sliced her like a knife.
She moved toward him, invading his space as he'd always done with her. She didn't quite touch him. "Mulder, I messed up. I don't know if I can repair the damage I've done, but I have to try."
He shook his head, but she took hold of his hand. They both jerked as though an electric current had flashed through them.
He was the one that pulled away, his mouth falling open.
"Mulder - "
"I can't, Scully. I . . . I can't."
He looked positively scared to death.
"What I did to you." It was just a breath, but he heard it.
"I had it coming. It does't compare to what I did to - "
"No!" She nearly screamed it in his face. He started back, stunned. "Don't do that. You didn't do anything to me. Others did, but all you did was save me, over and over."
"I saved you so often that you took the first chance you got to leave town." He was staring at the ceiling now. When he looked down, he saw the single tear trail down her face.
The pull of her was strong, but he forced himself not to reach for her.
"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. You can't know . . . " She turned then and walked to the door.
She didn't turn, just stopped with her hand on the door.
"What are you sorry about?"
"That I hurt you, that I left you, that I didn't have the courage to . . . "
She jumped, not realizing he'd moved so close behind her. She just shook her head, and turned the knob. His hand shot out, stopping her.
"Are you, are you going back?"
"I don't know what I'm going to do."
She looked smaller to him somehow. She'd always been more important to him than he was and she was hurting now.
"Then you shouldn't leave. You shouldn't be driving."
She shook her head. He saw her eyes were closed and her hand was still on the knob.
"Come sit down."
She didn't resist, allowing him to lead her back to the couch. It was the first time he'd instituted touching her.
They sat, not speaking, not even looking at each other for what felt like a very long time. Finally, in a very soft voice, she asked, "Why didn't you stay in touch with me?"
He didn't look over, "I didn't think you'd want me to. You wanted that life . . . "
He saw her shake her head out of the corner of his eye. "Who are you seeing now?" He tried to sound casual, but knew he failed.
"I'm not seeing anyone."
His head turned involuntarily it seemed. "You're not."
She shook her head again, "No interest."
"You can't believe no one is interested in you."
"What? No, I . . . I wasn't interested in them."
"None of them? What was wrong with them?" He half demanded, forgetting for just a moment that he had no rights in this area.
She seemed to study her hands, picking at a hangnail. "They weren't you." The dead silence finally caused her to look up at him. It seemed he was even more pale now.
"Not me?" He sounded strangled.
She met his eyes then. Hers seemed infinitely sad. "You never understood. Hell, I can't blame you. I didn't either, until later."
"Where you fit in my life."
"I fit in your life?"
"You're the biggest missing piece."
His mouth worked then, but no sound emerged. She seemed to shrink into the couch.
"You . . . you wanted to go out of town with me?"
"I . . . maybe it is too late. I didn't understand the damage I'd - "
"But what if it's not too late?" He asked quickly.
She saw a shadow of hope beginning to show in his eyes. "Mulder, I can't promise you happily ever after."
"No, no I know that, Scully. But shouldn't it be something we explore? I mean, we didn't and apparently you're not as happy as I thought."
"Why would you think I was happy?" She watched his face; she needed more than words for this answer.
"Because you'd gotten away from the X-Files, from the garbage . . . from me.
She let her face drop into her hands and he instantly moved closer to her. "I never meant to hurt you. I didn't think my leaving was such a . . . "
"Such a what, Scully?"
"You should know that you're still listed as my next of kin." She was looking him in the eyes now. There was more color in his face.
"A house at the beach?" He finally spoke.
A startled chuckled escaped her. "Yes."
"At least a week, maybe two."
"That's what we need to decide. But we should decide it together this time."
After a long moment, he nodded.