She thanked the woman behind the counter and took the bag, then turned toward the door and nearly collided with the man standing too close behind her. She looked up to apologize and froze.
“Mu . . . Mulder.” She made herself step back. “How, how are you?”
She realized then that he was as stiff as she was. Rather than speak again, she nodded.
“Here to see your mother?”
“Yes.” Was that all she could say? Get a grip! “You picking up dinner?”
“Yeah. I’m not any better a cook than I used to be.”
She managed to smile. “Well, I should get this over to Mom’s before it gets cold.”
“Sure. Tell her hi for me.”
“I’ll . . . I’ll do that. It, it was good seeing you.” She moved around him then and toward the door. She didn’t look back.
“Dana? I thought I heard the door. Did you get dinner?” Maggie moved on into the kitchen when Dana didn’t answer. “Are you okay? Did something happen? Dana?”
“No, you’re not. Dana, did you have an accident? You look positively traumatized.”
Dana turned away and started to leave the kitchen, then stopped. “I . . . I ran into Mulder at the restaurant. He was picking up some food as well.”
“How . . . how was he?”
“We just spoke to each other, just hellos. He said to tell you hi.”
Maggie nodded. It was obvious Dana wanted to change the subject. “Do you want me to dish up dinner?”
“I, uh, I’m not hungry. You go ahead.”
“Dana - “ But she was already out of the kitchen. Maggie watched her sadly.
Dana wandered into the den, more unsettled than she wanted to admit. She should never have come to DC. She should have convinced her mother to come to Chicago. But it was such a large city; she really had thought there was little to no chance of running into him.
He had looked older. Well, he was, but it was more than the two years. He had lost weight and there had been gray at his temples. There were lines in his face that hadn’t been there the last time she had seen him. She shook her head, trying to dislodge the image. She didn’t dare think about how affected she had been by just a few moments with him.
When she’d made the decision to leave, leave the X-Files, the Bureau, leave . . . him, she’d made a vow not to look back. He’d once told her to go be a doctor before it was too late. She’d almost waited too long, but she had gotten out. Then two months ago she’s been named head of pathology at Memorial. She was the youngest person, the only woman, ever named to that position. She should be on top of the world. Instead she was shaken to the core by a chance encounter with an old co-worker.
Bullshit, Dana. Mulder was never some co-worker. What had happened? Looking back she couldn’t put her finger on just what had caused her to walk away. Was it the accumulation of too much horror, the continuous undermining of everything she had ever believed in?
He had not driven her away, but when she had told him of her plans, he hadn’t tried to stop her either. In fact, he had wished her well and acted happy that she would now have that ‘life’.
He hadn’t gotten in touch with her after she had moved to Chicago. Not once. She had picked up the phone so many times in the beginning. The need to hear his voice nearly overwhelming her. But she’d managed to stand fast, one day at a time, just like any other addiction. And she had thought - until today - that it was over. That she was cured.
She didn’t turn when she heard her mother come into the den. “Dana? Honey, I’m worried about you.”
“I’m fine, Mom.”
The older woman came around her then, to look into her eyes. Without a word, Maggie reached for a box on the table and held it out.
Dana looked at it for an instant before understanding. She hadn’t even realized she was crying. She snagged two tissues from the box and wiped her eyes, then blew her nose.
“Mom, I think I need to go back tomorrow.”
“Oh, Dana, no. You shouldn’t leave like this. And you just got here. I thought we’d have the whole week.”
“Mom, I’m sorry. I can’t . . . I can’t be here. I’ll get some time later, and you can come to Chicago. We can spend some time together then.”
“Dana - “
“Mom, please.” She turned then and hurried up the stairs to her room. Maggie sighed, shaking her head. So much pain, she’d had no idea her baby girl was in so much pain.
“Hey, Big Guy, thought you were going to meet us tonight.”
“Uh, sorry. I forgot.” He stepped aside to let the smaller man in.
“Forgot? Langly’s gonna love that. He was all set to wipe you out in the latest version of Megadeath.”
Mulder turned and made his way back to the couch with no comment. Frohike followed.
“Hey, Mulder, you okay?”
“You don’t look it. Maybe you’re coming down with something.”
“Yeah, maybe I am. I might be contagious, you should go on.”
“Can I get you anything?”
“No thanks, Frohike. I’ll just turn in.”
“Yeah, okay, Mulder. Listen, if you need anything . . . “
Mulder nodded, “Just let yourself out, okay?”
Frohike nodded and after a long last look, let himself out of the apartment.
Once the door was closed, Mulder resumed the position he had fallen into when he had let himself into the apartment following the ‘encounter’. He’d dropped his dinner on the table and blindly found his couch, where he’d sat and buried his face in his hands.
Two years, three months and two days. If he gave it any thought at all he’d know the hours too. How could it still be this painful after all that time? He’d gone cold turkey, never allowing himself to contact her once she left. Of course, she’d never called him either.
It was better that way. A clean break. So why did he feel like someone had ripped a partially healed scab from his heart and his life’s blood was gushing out of him?
He’d been stunned to see her here in DC. He would have known that red hair anywhere and did, long before she turned around. Had he had time to escape? He didn’t know, time had disappeared when he saw her. It didn’t matter; he couldn’t have left anyway.
It was just a fluke he had seen her at all. It was a big city. So why had it happened? He had been doing fine without her.
Bullshit. He hadn’t been fine for ten minutes since she’d told him she was leaving. His first reaction had been to stop her, beg her to stay if that’s what it took. Then he’d come to his senses. She wanted out and who could blame her. He didn’t have the guts to review what he had done to her life in the years he had been with her.
She was smart to get away from him. Moving to another city had spoken volumes to him. She didn’t just want to leave the job; she had wanted to get away from him. And she had. Look how quickly she had gotten away from him at the restaurant. She’d all but run from the place.
He pressed his face into his hands. She couldn’t bear to be around him now. That should tell him everything he needed to know. She was gone. Hell, she’d been gone for over two years. Face it, Mulder, that part of your life is over too.
He reclined on the couch and threw his arm over his eyes.
Maggie had not been able to change Dana’s mind. She wouldn’t even let Maggie take her to the airport. She obviously wanted to be alone, which Maggie knew was the worst thing for her.
Okay, Dana was a grown woman, but she would always be her daughter. This could not continue. She pulled her address book from the desk and found Fox’s phone number. She was very surprised to find the number had been disconnected. A quick call to directory assistance didn’t help. There was no number listed for a Fox Mulder.
Fine, she’d just go over there. She was on a mission now. She was stunned to find he no longer lived in the apartment he’d had when he and Dana were partners. It was beginning to look like he too had decided to make some major changes when Dana moved to Chicago.
With a little less assurance, she found herself in front of the FBI building. She took a deep breath and entered the building. The young woman at the information desk was more interested in placing her in a tour than answering her questions.
She came to attention when Maggie slammed her keys against the desk. “Please listen to me. I need to talk to Agent Mulder, Agent Fox Mulder. Would you please call him for me.”
The woman looked even younger now. She did turn to her computer finally and looked through the database for his name. “I’m . . . I’m sorry, Ma’am. There’s no Agent Mulder here.”
“I know he’s here. Please look again.”
A little frustrated, the woman did, the information came up the same. “There is no Agent Mulder, Fox or any other name.”
“Fine, how about Skinner? Walter Skinner?”
She turned back to her computer one more time. She looked completely relieved at the information that came up. “Yes, Assistant Director Skinner. He’s at extension 455. You can use that phone over there.” She pointed and turned immediately to the next person in line, as though released from a chokehold.
Maggie hurried over to the phone and pressed the extension.
“Assistant Director Skinner’s office.”
“This is Maggie Scully. I need to speak to the Mr. Skinner.”
“I’m sorry, he’s in a meeting. May I take a message.”
“Can he be interrupted?”
“I’m sorry, he’s not here. He’s upstairs. I’d be happy to take a message and have him return your call.”
“Fine. My home number is 555-2716. I’d appreciate it if he would call as soon as possible.”
“I’ll tell him Mrs . . . Scully? Are you Dana’s mother?”
“Yes. Maybe you can help me. I need to contact Fox Mulder.”
“Oh. I’m sorry, I’ll have to have the Assistant Director call you. I’ll give him your message as soon as he returns.” The woman broke the connection then and Maggie’s eyes narrowed. What the heck was going on here?
She finally let herself back into her home completely frustrated. Who could she contact? Who were those three strange men that worked with them occasionally? They published a newspaper, didn’t they? What was the name, it had something to do with the Kennedy assassination. Oh yes, The Lone Gunmen. She grabbed the phone book and dialed quickly.
“Hello, this is Margaret Scully, I - “
“Uh, yes. Who is this?”
“I’m Melvin Frohike. Is Dana okay?” The man was obviously startled to hear from her.
“I need to find Fox, I’ve tried his home and the office. Can you help me?”
“Uh, yeah. Listen, we’ll be right over.”
“This is an open line.”
“Do you . . . do you know where I live?”
“Yes ma’am. We’ll be right there.” He hung up quickly and she stood looking at the phone in her hand, bemused. Dana had said these men were certified paranoids when she first met them. Apparently nothing had changed.
When she answered the door about thirty minutes later, she was momentarily amused by their appearance, but she knew from Dana’s stories that they had been true friends to Fox and Dana for years.
“Mrs. Scully? I’m John Byers.” He held out his hand to her, she took it and drew him into the house.
“And you’re Langly and you’re Frohike.” She shook hands with each of them. “Dana has spoken of you often.”
They gave her tentative smiles then. “Mrs. Scully, is Dana okay?” It was the shortest one, Frohike.
Rather than answer, she shook her head, “I need to talk to Fox, but I can’t find him. I even went down to the FBI, but they said he wasn’t in the computer.” She moved them toward the living room now and had them take seats.
“Well, Mrs. Scully, he’s not with the FBI anymore.” Byers looked a little embarrassed.
“Since when? Why did he leave?”
“Well, it wasn’t exactly his idea,” Langly shrugged.
“What?” She turned toward Byers.
“He, uh,” Byers looked at the other two. “About six months after Dana left, Kersh saw his opportunity and fired him.”
“Fired him! Oh my god. Why didn’t I know this? He should have called Dana, or me.”
Again the three men exchanged glances. “He, uh, after she left, he . . . He couldn’t do it.”
“Where is he?”
“He had to move, things have been tight for him. We offered to have him stay with us, but . . . well, he felt the need to be alone.”
“What is he doing? I mean, for a job?”
“He’s doing some writing, some teaching,” Byers shrugged.
“I need his address. I have to see him.”
“Mrs. Scully, where he lives now, it’s not a place where a lady like you should go alone.”
“I appreciate that, but I must talk to Fox.” She squared her shoulders and the men were reminded of their Scully.
“Then may we take you?
She blinked at that. Dana had said that these men had become true friends, but this was unexpected, they didn’t know her. “I . . . I appreciate - ”
“It’s not a problem, Mrs. Scully. When would you like to go?”
Byers smiled slightly, it was the answer he had expected.
Seeing his apartment building, she felt a surge of gratitude again to these men. “I . . . I guess I thought you were exaggerating. He’s not doing well.”
“No ma’am, but he won’t take much help.”
“He’ll have to take mine.” Langly’s eyebrows went up, but he didn’t doubt it.
They entered the building, actually flanking her, but allowed her to knock on the door.
“Who is it?”
“Fox, it’s Maggie Scully. I need to talk to - “
“Mrs. Scully?” He yanked the door open, and saw all four of them at his door. “Is . . . is Scully . . . “
“May we come in?”
He moved out of the way mutely and the group entered his apartment. He made a vague motion with his hand toward his couch. They all stood until Mrs. Scully took her seat, she noted, then they found seats for themselves. She looked at this man she had known so long. He had aged, more than she would have thought and her heart went out to him.
“Fox, Dana told me she saw you last night.”
He nodded but didn’t speak.
“Did something happen?”
“What do you mean?”
“She . . . she was terribly upset when she got home. The two of you didn’t have words, did you?”
“No, Mrs. Scully. I could tell she was surprised to see me, but we just spoke. Then she said she had to hurry home to you and left.”
Mrs. Scully nodded and sighed. “Fox, I believe she’s dying.”
He reacted to those words as though an electric shock had run through him. “The . . . the cancer? Is it - “
“No, Fox. I’m not talking about her body, it’s her spirit. Fox, her spirit is dying and I believe you’re the only one that can help her.”
He stared at her then, unable to speak.
“She won’t admit it. She’s pretending to go on, but I know she’s not happy. And her reaction to seeing you . . . Fox, I think she realized it. She’s already left for Chicago. She was supposed to be here all week, but stayed only one night. Fox, could you, could you talk to her, go to her? I don’t know what she needs exactly, but I do know you are a part of it.”
“Mrs. Scully, she left me, she wanted to get away from me.”
“No! Not you, leaving you was the hardest thing she’s ever done. It was . . . it was everything, the work, the strangeness.”
“That pretty much sums me up, Mrs. Scully.”
She looked at him for a long moment. “Fox, my baby girl needs you. She loves you and I can see that you love her. Please don’t let past mistakes make you forget what the two of you give each other.”
He sat there, staring at her. Scully loved him? She’d left him. She moved half way across the country. The only time she had seen him in two years, she had all but run from his presence.
“Stop it, Fox.” Mrs. Scully recognized his hesitation. “Stop analyzing it; just go. Please, before it’s too late.” She had tears in her eyes now and took his hand.
The knock on the door surprised her; she certainly wasn’t expecting anyone. She approached the door, “Who is it?”
“It’s me, Scully.”
She froze. He heard the silence and could almost see her lean her head against the door as she tried to decide whether or not to open it.
He finally heard the lock turn and the door opened.
“What are you doing here?”
“May I come in?”
She looked at him for a long moment, then nodded and opened the door wider. He entered and looked around.
“Uh, thanks. How, how did you know where I live?”
“Your . . . your mother.”
She closed her eyes at that.
“Don’t be angry with her, Scully, she’s worried about you.”
“Why don’t you have a seat? Would you like some tea?” She knew she sounded formal, but she was reeling from having him so close to her.
“That’d be great.” He took a seat on the couch and watched her move into the kitchen. Had he made a mistake? She didn’t look well, not like he always saw her in his mind. The meeting at the restaurant had been so unexpected and short he hadn’t realized. Maybe she was just tired.
She returned to him then, with two glasses of tea. He took one and watched her sit on the far end of the couch.
She took a deep breath, “Mulder, why are you here? What did Mom say to you to make you drop work and jump on a plane to come out here?”
“I’m not missing much.”
“What,” she gave him a small smile, “no unexplainable X-File to investigate?”
He shrugged, “I wouldn’t know.”
Her smile slipped away, “What do you mean?”
Now he grinned, “Kersh barely let your chair get cold before he booted me out.”
“Booted you . . . Mulder, what are you talking about?” She was leaning slightly towards him now.
He shrugged, “I’m unemployed.”
“Mulder, that’s not funny.”
“No, I guess it’s not.” He took a sip from his glass. “Scully, Kersh wanted me gone for years. He finally saw his opportunity and took it.”
“When?” Her hand twitched to reach for him.
“About eighteen months ago.”
“Eighteen . . . Mulder, why didn’t you call me? Why didn’t you - “
“Scully. There was nothing you could do.”
She blinked back the moisture in her eyes. “What are you doing now?”
Again he shrugged, “I make an occasional speech, write an article, stuff like that.”
“You can’t make a living like that.”
“You’re telling me. I moved to a smaller apartment.” That wasn’t the whole of it but he didn’t offer his address. She knew the area too well.
Her mouth dropped open then. He’d been in that apartment since before she had met him.
“Hey, it’s okay, Scully, it was just an apartment.” He leaned forward then and brushed a tear from her cheek. That surprised her, but she didn’t pull back, merely wiping her face as well.
“But you came here. Why?”
“Your mother is very concerned.”
“Why, what did she say?”
“That . . . that you were dying.”
She jerked back then. “I’m . . . Mulder, I’m fine.”
“She didn’t mean your body, Scully. She said your spirit was dying.”
“It sounds like you were talking to Melissa.”
“That thought crossed my mind too.” He gave her a sad smile then.
“Mulder, why would she say that?”
“That’s my question Scully. Why don’t you tell me about you, what you’re doing now.”
“Well,” she hesitated, “I was going to order some dinner. I just wasn’t in the mood to cook tonight.”
“I was a bad influence for too long, huh?”
She didn’t smile at that, but instead rose and moved to her phone. “Hi Tony, yes. Could you send up my regular, a large this time? Thanks.” She hung up and returned to the couch. “There’s a deli downstairs. It won’t be long. Do you want to clean up a little?”
“Yeah, I probably should.” Both were avoiding the upcoming conversation, but neither tried to deny the need for it finally.
As he returned to her the doorbell rang. She opened it to a young man with a blond ponytail. “Here you go Dr. S. Company tonight?”
“Uh, yeah, thanks, Russ.” She exchanged the tip for the box and shut the door.
“I’ve never gotten service like that. You guys gotten real close?”
She was already blushing and his words brought even more color to her cheeks. “He’s just a nice kid.”
“With a crush on you?”
“Mulder.” She moved to the coffee table and placed the pizza box on it, then moved into the kitchen for plates and napkins.
“Scully, I do know how to sit at a table, if you want.”
She shook her head, “Wouldn’t feel right.”
He chuckled but didn’t dispute her words. His eyes widened when she opened the box. “This is your ‘regular’ Scully?” It was the pizza he always ordered, with all of the stuff she always claimed wasn’t good for you.
“Don’t push it.” But there was a twinkle in her eye that hadn’t been there earlier. He had to be imagining it, but her step seemed . . . lighter. She retreated to the kitchen and returned quickly with a couple of bottles of beer.
She held up a finger to forestall his comment, which he wisely heeded.
They ate in comfortable silence for a few minutes. When he snagged his third piece, he leaned back. “Okay, tell me all about this life you have now, Scully.”
She took her own second piece and sighed lightly. “I’m being a doctor, like you said. A couple of months ago, I was named Chief of Pathology. Dr. Bizner retired and he recommended me for the post. I’m the only woman and the youngest to hold the position.”
“Damn, Scully. What’s it like moving up the ladder instead of down? I held you back too long.”
She looked into his eyes then, “You never held me back. I wouldn’t deserve the post if not for you.”
He coughed and seemed to choke a little at that. She patted him on the back lightly. “Excuse me?” He finally got out.
“Come on, Mulder, nothing shocks me. I’ve already seen what there is to see.” She leaned back away from him, suddenly noticing how close they were now sitting without having realized it.
He was watching her, not commenting, just waiting, so she began talking about some of her more interesting cases. They continued to eat and were on their second beers when she finally ran down. She seemed a little embarrassed that she’d gone on so long.
“Sounds like you enjoy what you do.”
“Well, it’s not the X-Files, but it can be fascinating anyway. The police are beginning to call me on a regular basis. I know some of my ‘theories’ have caught them off guard.”
He nodded, “Maybe they’re not so stupid after all. But Scully, you haven’t mentioned anything personal. You worked when we were together. You haven’t mentioned a friend or . . . or who you’re seeing, or anything like that.”
She blinked, what he said was true, but she hadn’t even thought about it.
“Scully, you wanted a life. That’s . . . that’s why I didn’t fight you. Do you have it? Is there a . . . a man in your life?”
She saw the tension in his body at that question and avoided thinking too deeply about that.
“I . . . I have a life.”
“How is it different then when you were in DC?” He watched her mouth open, then closed immediately and she looked away. “Scully?”
It scared her how close she had come to answering him. The difference was she was lonelier now, because he wasn’t here. She hadn’t allowed herself to know that. There was no way she could say that. He had moved on without her, he hadn’t even called when he lost his job.
“Would you like another beer?”
“Scully, I . . . you know, I need to find a place to sleep tonight. Do you have a recommendation? Cheap?”
“Yes. Over there.” She pointed toward her west windows.
“I’m not that familiar with Chicago, Scully. Is it far?”
“No. I meant my guest room.”
“You have a guest room?” He glanced in that direction again.
She nodded. “No one’s ever used it, but I think you’ll be comfortable.”
He chuckled, “Yeah, I guess I could be.”
The thoughts of him staying lifted her spirits immediately. “Do you have luggage?”
“Just that bag.” He pointed to a gym bag he had dropped just inside her door. She looked at him then and after a moment, gathered up the empty bottles and pizza box and moved into the kitchen.
She obviously needed some space and wanted to change the subject. Okay, but she was willing for him to remain. That was worth more than he could express. While she was gone, he picked up his bag and took it into the room she had indicated. He had to smile; she had better furniture in her guest room than he had for himself.
He whirled at the sound of panic in her voice and hurried back to the living room. “Scully?”
She closed her eyes and sank onto the couch. He rescued the beer from her hands and placed them on the table. “Scully, are you okay?”
“Yes, yes I’m fine. I’m sorry.”
“What? What happened?”
“I . . . I thought you had left.” Then she clamped her lips shut, appalled that she had uttered those words.
He didn’t have a clue how to read her right now. Rather than screw up what had been a fairly comfortable evening so far, he decided not to pursue it for now. He resumed his seat, slightly closer to her.
“Did I tell you about seeing your mother yesterday?”
She looked up at him then and he felt her relax a little that he had given her this space. “No, where did you see her?”
He related how Mrs. Scully had shown up in the ‘custody’ of the Lone Gunmen and had her laughing shortly.
They talked of inconsequential things then, catching up on the Lone Gunmen, Skinner, her nephews and family.
He grinned when he saw her stifle a yawn. “Getting sleepy?”
“Maybe a little.”
He glanced at his watch. “Its no wonder, Scully it’s a little after 2 in the morning.”
“It can’t be!” She looked at her own watch. “It . . it doesn’t feel like you’ve been here any time. It feels like, like nine minutes.” She looked up at him and saw his eyes widen and the smile grow on his face.
“Yeah. Well, I need my beauty sleep, Scully. So, see you in the morning?”
She nodded and rose. “Goodnight Mulder.” She said it softly and he stood looking at her for a long moment. For a second she thought he was going to kiss her goodnight, and she wondered how she would react, but at the last minute he grinned and turned toward his room.
She was left with a feeling of loss that surprised her, but she made no comment, moving toward her own room.
She tapped lightly on the door. When there was no answer, she opened it quietly and stepped inside with his coffee. He was still sound asleep, sprawled in the middle of the bed. He looked younger than he had when he had arrived at her door last night, relaxed and content. The sheet had slipped down exposing his chest. She wondered if he had gone to sleep in his boxers for an instant and shoved the thought away as soon as it formed.
“Hey, Sleeping Beauty, you gonna sleep all day?” She placed the mug on the bedside table and sat on the edge of the bed.
He stretched then, smiling and she appreciated the view, not allowing that other thought to reform in her head. He blinked and looked up at her. “Is it morning already?”
”What?” He looked down at his wrist, but he had left his watch on the dresser.
“Yes, it’s 11:42, Mulder. Time to rise and shine.”
“Are you kidding? I haven’t slept that much at one time in . . . in over two years.” Their eyes locked for a moment. “Didn’t you call me Sleeping Beauty?”
“Well, you woke me up wrong. Surely you haven’t forgotten how that story ends, Scully.”
She smiled then and to his surprise leaned in, but placed a small kiss on the tip of his nose.
“It’s so big you can’t reach my lips?”
She swatted at him then. “Get up, Mulder. Go take your shower and I’ll have lunch ready.” She stood and moved toward the door. She stopped with her hand on the doorknob. “Well?”
“I, uh, I need to wait until you leave.”
Her eyes involuntarily tracked his body and he watched the pink steal across her cheeks, but she said nothing, just letting herself out.
When he joined her in the kitchen she had made them chef salads and was pouring the tea.
“Looks awfully healthy, Scully.” He glanced down at the ‘rabbit food’ she had prepared.
“Penance for last night’s pizza. Have a seat.”
He did as she bade and watched her move around the kitchen. She could feel his eyes on her and it was making her uncomfortable.
“Scully, do you mind me being here?” He spoke abruptly as though fearful of the answer.
She jumped at that. “No, no I don’t.” But it surprised even her to hear her say it.
“You never answered my question about who you were seeing. About if you were closer to that life with the picket fence and the dog.” He had to know, last night had been good; he’d almost forgotten what great company she was, her intelligence, not to mention how lovely, inside and out.
She sighed and joined him at the table. “I’m not seeing anyone, Mulder. I went out a couple of times when I first moved here, but not anymore.”
“Why not?” He couldn’t show his relief, his joy at that statement. He shouldn’t even feel joy at this; she had wanted more than she’d had in Washington.
She looked him straight in the eye then and he saw her steel her resolve. “Because of you.”
That sentence stunned him into silence. Because of him? Because of what a mess he had made of her life? The death of her sister, the destruction of her faith, her inability to have a child? He felt the bottom drop out.
She watched his reaction and immediately regretted her words. He didn’t understand; they had been apart for too long.
“I’m sorry, Scully.” He looked . . . defeated. He put the fork he had picked up back down. “Maybe I should leave.”
“Oh, that would be a big help!” She slammed her own fork down and stomped from the kitchen. What the hell?
He followed her into the living room. “Scully?”
She turned and saw his utter confusion. “You don’t get it, do you? You don’t know . . . I left home to come to some strange city, where I still feel like a stranger after two years, I compare every man I meet to you, and now my mother thinks my ‘spirit’ is dying. Shit.” She turned away from him again.
“You . . . why do you compare men to me? “ That phrase had struck him like a blow.
She turned on him, furious, then saw his total confusion. She wilted to see his defeat. “How could I have forgotten how naïve you are?”
“Naïve?” Not a word he had ever heard used describing him.
“Yes. Oh, you think you’re jaded and cynical and I guess you are about some things - global conspiracies maybe. But you, you’re clueless about real life.” He still looked blank. She sighed, “Maybe you never knew.”
“What you gave me.”
He shook his head.
“When . . . when I would come in the office and you were there, I’d feel . . . safe.”
“Safe? With me?” He was obviously shocked.
“Yes! Mulder, you always covered my back, you always heard me, even when you didn’t listen. I thought I’d forgotten that. At least I tried to.”
After a long moment, “If that’s how you felt, why did you leave?”
That wasn’t the question she had anticipated. She shook her head and started to turn away. He reached out then and grabbed her arm. “Talk to me, Scully, please.”
She closed her eyes to block out the sight of him. Big mistake, what she saw was him in the bed, his body exposed and vulnerable. “Mulder, do you have any idea how physically attractive you are?”
He drew back then, staring at her.
“That’s what I thought.” She took a deep breath. “When we were partners, we were close, Mulder. I mean in proximity. I stayed at your apartment, you stayed at mine. I held you in the woods in Florida; we shared a room in Kansas. We thought nothing of wandering in and out of each other’s rooms. We’ve dressed and undressed in front of each other.
He nodded; those memories had kept him going for over two years.
“But never more than that. We were always professional. I knew there couldn’t be more between us, so I looked to a fantasy of a . . . a life that included more. But you were always there. No man compared with you, no man knew me so well, or could so thoroughly engage my life. So I came here, to try to live that fantasy, find someone who could give me what you gave me, but more. But I brought you with me, you interfered with everything I did on a personal level, so I quit trying. I concentrated on work and I tried not to remember.”
“Scully, I . . . “ He was at a total loss. Maybe naïve had been the right word, but stupid or idiotic seemed to fit better.
She gave him a rueful smile. “I guess I also had this adolescent fantasy that if I left you’d, I don’t know, follow me and take me away on your white horse, or something.”
He looked at her for the longest moment. “Would you have come with me?”
She nodded, and he moved closer and folded her against his chest. She didn’t resist. After what felt like a very short time, he spoke, “I don’t really have the resources for a horse right now.”
She squeezed him, “How would you like to be a kept man?”
She pressed closer to feel the rumble of his chuckle in his chest. “Would I have to sleep in the guest room?”
Now she laughed as well, “I feel my spirit healing just standing here.”
Links to other sites on the Web
Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunmen and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter, 10-13 and Fox. No infringement in tended