FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT
By Tess, Donna, ML and Char Chaffin
Spoilers for: Fight the Future
Disclaimer: Clones on Loan
Thanks to Carol for speedy beta and FTF technical advice! Also thanks to Carol and the Haven gang for their input on a few typical FTF inconsistencies (the kind that only CC would give us!)
DEDICATION: To Nancy Bratt, who fights the good fight every single day of her life, and who is much loved in the XF fandom
Summary: "My place is with you now."
"Fight the Good Fight"
She awoke shivering. Squinting her eyes against the harsh light, Scully pushed herself up on one elbow. Lifting a hand to her brow, she shaded her eyes, blinking furiously to bring things into focus.
Her vision clearing, she was surprised and relieved to find herself no longer stranded on a snow field but rather lying on a cot in an infirmary of some sort. And as some of the grogginess cleared her brain, she remembered that she had not been lying on that snow field alone.
"Mulder!" Frantic, she struggled to sit up and there he lay, on a similar cot on the other side of the room. She looked around but no one else seemed to be about.
Kicking against the blankets covering her legs, Scully fought her way out of bed. She put her sock-covered feet on the tiled floor and struggled upright, swaying as the room tilted around her. Closing her eyes against the black spots dancing before her and clapping her hand to her mouth, Scully fought back a wave of nausea.
She pressed her other hand against her roiling stomach and took several deep breaths. Feeling marginally steadier, Scully straightened her shoulders and took a step towards her partner.
His cot was less than ten feet from hers but it might as well have been ten miles. She was exhausted by the time she reached his side. Collapsing onto the floor beside him, she called to him.
"Mulder. It's me."
Fear sent her heart bumping against her breastbone when he didn't stir.
She pressed her fingertips against the pulse in his throat and her ear against his chest, sagging in relief at the steady thumping of his heart beneath her hand.
"You should be in bed yourself."
Scully whipped her head up and found him watching her through barely open eyes.
Her lips moved, and though no sound escaped her, her own personal prayer and chant echoed over and over in her heart.
"Are you alright?" he whispered.
Her mouth curved into a small smile and she nodded. "I'm fine," she rasped. She laid her hand over his heart. "I'm fine," she repeated. "Now."
He returned her smile. "You sound awful."
He touched his fingers to the delicate hollow at the base of her neck and shuddered as an image flashed through his mind of pulling an umbilical-like cord from her throat. "Does it hurt?"
"Sore," she whispered hoarsely.
He rolled his head against the pillow and his hair fell away, revealing the jagged gash creasing his hairline.
"Oh, Mulder." She sighed and traced a careful finger alongside the angry-looking wound.
"We're quite a pair, huh?" He chuckled softly, then winced as a shooting pain lanced through his head.
"Quite." She sifted her fingers through his hair. "You should get some sleep." She shivered as the cold tile floor penetrated the warmth of the fleece pants covering her legs.
"So should you." He tugged on her arm and shifted to make room for her on the cot.
Hesitating, she eyed the space next to him.
"Come on, Scully. Get in bed."
She shot him a quelling look but obediently curled up next to him and buried her nose in the curve of his neck. And for the first time in what seemed like weeks, felt warm.
She wondered how many days had passed since their confrontation in his apartment.
She wondered what would have happened if that bee hadn't stung her at just that moment.
And as she tightened her arms around him and his body relaxed beside her, she wondered...
How could she have ever thought she could leave him?
<How could she have ever stayed with me?> Mulder may have wanted to sleep but couldn't seem to shut his brain off.
He lay with Scully snuggled by his side, holding her close. He'd thought it was a dream at first, waking to see and hear Scully so close to him, to feel her soft hand brushing the hair away from his brow.
He guessed he'd better enjoy it while it lasted. Once they returned to Washington, they'd be back to Square One.
Perhaps he shouldn't have tried to stop her going out that door. Would she have been safer if she'd quit?
Maybe Scully was right when she'd said, "Maybe you should ask yourself if your heart's still in it, too."
He wasn't sure if it still was.
Groggy and still suffering from the aftermath of the last several days, Mulder couldn't prevent his thoughts from wandering down the darker alleys of his imagination. If the gunshot had been a little more to the left; if he hadn't made the last flight from Australia...
His arms tightened around Scully.
"Mulder," Scully murmured sleepily. "It's okay. We're both safe. "You can relax now."
If only she knew. He would never be safe from his past. And maybe Scully would never be safe with him.
Mulder's apartment, several days prior
He stared at the photo in the album. Kurtzweil was at least partly truthful: he had known Mulder's family. But what did it mean?
How had he, Mulder, escaped the family taint?
Maybe he hadn't. Maybe it was finally coming home to roost. But that thought would have to wait for another time. Right now, he needed answers, a way to get at the truth before it all disappeared again.
He fingered the edge of the page. He was so tired of all the games, all the secrets. He would go to Kurtzweil, find a way to get the whole truth out of him, stop his little hints and smart-aleck remarks. Maybe he and Scully together could...
The knock on the door startled him, but before he could say anything, it opened to reveal his partner, looking determined.
It could have been for the best, Scully had told herself as she walked to the elevator. Reassignment. Not banishment, never that. Banishment brought to mind the kind of punishment someone like Benedict Arnold might have faced.
She was no Benedict Arnold.
Salt Lake City; how bad could it have been? She'd only lived out West a few times in her life. She'd never been to Utah but she'd probably have looked cute in a cowboy hat, if that was a popular style of headgear in Mormon territory.
Maybe it wouldn't have been difficult to find a nice Catholic church amongst all the Latter-Day-Saint temples...
She'd had a pounding headache at the thought of flipping through a twenty-pound Yellow Pages.
Well, she'd never know. Because she wasn't going there.
Stepping into the elevator, Scully had pushed the button for Mulder's floor. Hating to face him and tell him the news; tired to the bone of all the shit that had been tossed their way in the past few months... just tired, of everything. She had rubbed at her eyes and then her face. Had pulled impatient fingers through hair that badly needed brushing. She hadn't done anything with it in two days. Hadn't changed her clothes in two days, either.
Hell with it. She was leaving and she had a lot of tasks to complete. She'd have to pack all of her suits in tissue; box up shoes and plates, silverware and photo frames. Would have to cancel her utilities, give notice to her landlord, and clean out the fridge.
Would have to break Mulder's spirit as well as his goals and visions... and put a large hole in her own heart.
Son of a bitch.
What a fun time she could anticipate for herself! Starting with telling her partner, her friend, the man she loved, that she was leaving him because she hadn't the bravery to stand up and fight for what their partnership, friendship had become. Because she lacked the chops to tell him, face to face, that she loved him and would follow where he walked, regardless of what OPR or any other goddamn review board ordered her to do.
She'd stood at his door with slumped shoulders and a heart already aching from the blast of recrimination she knew he'd have every right to aim at her.
Her hand had reached out, closed into a fist, rapped on the door.
She was running away, pure and simple.
And she hated herself, right about then.
He'd been waiting for her, damn it. Jittery as a puppy and though he might not realize it, just as vulnerable. Somehow he knew what she'd say, although her words knocked him sideways. <No use waiting, get it over with.> He actually felt the need to brace himself.
"Salt Lake City, Utah. Transfer effective immediately."
<No.> The word was in his head but didn't make it to his lips before she spoke again, sighing, "I've already given Skinner my letter of resignation."
"You can't quit now, Scully."
"I can, Mulder. I debated whether or not even to tell you in person, but..." She hadn't realized those words were going to come from her mouth, but it was true. Without him, why remain? For the pension? What a joke.
She supposed she could go be a doctor, as he'd urged her before. What choice did she really have?
"We are close to something here! We're on the verge!"
Exhaustion and heartache edged her words. "You're on the verge, Mulder. Please don't do this to me."
"After what you saw last night, after all you've seen, you can just walk away?"
"I have, I did. It's done." <Damn you, Mulder. Don't make this so hard. Don't, just don't...>
"I need you on this, Scully."
She could barely handle looking at him. In another minute she'd be curled up in pain, right on the floor. Instead she pulled herself inward; kept her voice level. "You don't need me, Mulder. You never have. I've just held you back." <God, please let me make it to the hallway before I fall apart.> "I gotta go."
With nothing else to say, no 'I love you,' no 'Let's run away together...' things she could never say aloud to him, she turned and left the apartment.
Mulder dropped the album and surged to his feet. Did she believe that he didn't need her? Did she honestly think that she wasn't the reason they'd gotten this far? How could she even consider leaving, leaving the X-Files, leaving him? It had always been her. Never him.
It had always been Scully who'd mattered the most, who'd been the better half of what they'd forged together.
Following her into the hallway, pouring out his heart to her in whatever inept way he could, seemed to be the only chance he might have, of making her stay.
First he'd tried telling her everything that she had meant to him... to the work. "I don't know if I want to do this alone... I don't even know if I can. And if I quit now, they win."
If YOU quit I'm lost, was what he meant, but he'd never said things like that to Scully. She wouldn't have heard them.
Or would she? Mulder held her face in his hands, wondering.
She kept silent. Didn't he know they had already won? Didn't he understand that just the two of them, and now just he alone, couldn't hold back the tide? This was killing her, serving no purpose except to tear at them both. And yet she couldn't make herself move away, couldn't stop holding onto him, needing that one tangible connection.
They stared at one another, the electricity between them unmistakable, unavoidable. He seemed to be leaning toward her, leaning into her...
Her eyes widened.
Infirmary, Antarctica, days later
"Can't sleep," he muttered into her hair. When they got back to DC, he'd have to tell her. He'd have to let her go. In the meantime, he'd enjoy this closeness so rarely afforded them.
Scully made a sound that he might have called a grunt, if it hadn't been Scully making it. "Stop thinking so hard," she murmured against his chest. "You'll sleep better."
<Easier said than done, Scully.>
He'd never forget the sight of Scully lying in his hallway, struggling for breath, not if he lived forever. He'd never felt so helpless in his life.
He shuddered, and she felt it, and sighed. "Mulder," she chided. She got up and Mulder flopped back on his cot, dejected. She's leaving already, he thought.
But Scully was slowly pushing her own wheeled cot closer to his. She maneuvered it as close as she could, then lay down facing him, holding her hand out for him to grasp. "I'm not going anywhere," she promised. "Now... get some sleep. We have a long trip home to face."
She tossed him a haughty look but tempered it with a small smile. "Go to sleep. And don't call me 'ma'am.'"
"I'll close my eyes if you close yours, Scully." Mulder laced his fingers through hers, just in case she changed her mind about leaving.
"Do we have to do this on the 'count of three,' Mulder? Or can I trust you, that you'll put a halt on your brain, long enough to get some much-needed sleep? Are you going to behave yourself and do what your doctor tells you?" She shot the questions at him, little bullets that really didn't sting at all.
He smiled at her, the first full smile he'd produced in what seemed like months. "No, and yes. Yes, and yes. Mostly yes. I'll behave. And I may not do what my doctor tells me but I'll do what my lo-" He stopped, abruptly, aghast at what he'd almost said. Hastily Mulder amended, "I'll do what my partner tells me."
When he chanced a peek at her, Scully's eyes were closed and she appeared asleep. He let out a relieved breath, and settled in himself, eyes drooping, finally dozing off. His fingers relaxed a bit but remained twined through hers.
On the cot next to him, Scully lay with eyes wide open, staring at her partner, fighting the urge to shake him conscious and demand he finish the rest of what he'd stopped himself from saying.
Wondering what she'd have done if he'd really said it aloud.
Washington DC, days later
She walked toward him in the sunlight, her stride confident regardless of how she might quake inside. She'd done all she could; answered all of OPR's questions and had volunteered information that had sent the review board's collective eyebrows up into their hairlines.
Turning and walking out of that room had afforded her no small amount of satisfaction.
Scully resisted the urge to scratch at her cheeks. The frostbite she'd suffered had been very mild; she'd been lucky. Medicated cream helped keep the itching down but she still wanted to dig her nails into her cheeks. Added to that discomfort was residual nausea in her stomach and rawness in her throat, from whatever had been forced down her esophagus. She still couldn't quite remember all of it but knew it was horrific enough for her conscious mind to shy away from serious recollection.
The sinking feeling she was experiencing had nothing to do with probes and tubes, and everything to do with the way Mulder slumped on the bench, holding a newspaper in his hand, his face somber.
This was not good.
Scully squared her shoulders as she approached the bench. She was prepared to fight, if necessary. How she knew she'd have to fight at all, she didn't quite understand, unless she took into consideration just how well-acquainted she was with Mulder's overall body language.
He'd toss stumbling blocks in her way, she'd bet. He'd tell her it was hopeless, it was over, there was no point in going on. He'd call their assignments 'shit detail,' tell her he was fed up with it and that what they'd had to endure professionally was too far beneath her. He'd stand in front of her with that convincing look in his eyes, and tell her these things.
Scully just knew it.
She also knew there was no way in hell she'd allow herself to listen to it; no way in that same hell that she'd allow him to push her aside, away, in his misguided attempt to salvage her career, protect her, whatever his reasoning might be. She wouldn't.
They were partners. Friends. Definitely more, although she still wasn't quite sure what the 'more' would be, at this stage. She loved him - of that she was certain - in more than a friendly way. As she knew he loved her.
Scully wouldn't walk away from that. Wouldn't let Mulder walk away, either.
He looked up at her as she reached his side, and folding the paper to showcase what he'd been reading, handed it to her.
"There's an interesting work of fiction on page twenty-four..."
End Notes: Char sez: What's great about having friends who also write fic is the loveliness of knowing that when you need their help and storytelling skills, all you have to do is email them. In this case I wanted to do a little Round-Robin for Nancy, and Tess, ML and Donna were more than willing to jump in and create with me. Thank you, my dears!
Nancy, you have so many people pulling for you. I hope you can feel it, all that caring and love. It's there for you, whenever you need it.
We'd all love to hear from you; email us anytime! email@example.com,Tnv099@cavtel.net, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
Thanks from all of us, for reading!
Donna sez: thank you for letting me play along this time!!
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Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunman and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter, 10-13 and Fox. No infringement intended.