“You need any help, Mister?”
God, he must really look bad if the cab driver was worried about him. “I’m okay, thanks.” He managed to manipulate himself out of the cab and leaned heavily on the cane to make his way to the building. He pulled his jacket closer. Most people would probably think it was brisk, with a promise of fall in the air, but he just felt cold. It wasn’t only the temperature; he was well aware of that.
It was Samantha all over again, and he was too old now to come back from it. His son, Scully’s son, was gone. He’d promised Scully he wouldn’t go after them, but he had to look. He couldn’t survive without trying.
No keys, so he tapped on the manager’s door. “Yeah, what’s - Mr. Mulder. How, uh, how you doing?” The overweight man’s assessment after a quick scan showed his opinion.
“Healing." Mulder replied. “I wondered if you could let me in. No key.”
“Oh sure. Just let me grab my master. You wanna sit down?”
“No, I’m okay.” He did ease himself against the door frame when the man turned away.
They made their slow way to the elevator and rode up in silence. The super unlocked the door. “It, it hasn’t been cleaned, Mr. Mulder. The police had it sealed off and then you were so . . . “
“I understand. I’ll have to decide what to do.”
The older man nodded and opened the door, letting Mulder in. “Listen, if you need anything . . . “
Mulder nodded, though he didn’t look at him. “I’ll need to call a cab in a little while.”
“That’s fine. You just come down and use my phone.” He still hesitated.
“Thanks.” Mulder nodded as he held the door. The man turned and left him alone.
Mulder looked around the room. He swallowed, Scully hadn’t exaggerated. The place was totally destroyed. He glanced over at his couch, it was flipped over, but he couldn’t tell if it had been slashed. There was no way he could turn it back over himself. His computer was gone and his TV had been smashed. He picked his way carefully around the debris and moved toward the bedroom. Every drawer had been pulled from the dresser and his clothes tossed around. The mattress was half on, half off the springs. They’d been thorough in their search to make sure every trace of the child, their child, had been erased.
He opened the closet. His suits were on the floor, but he couldn’t tell if they had been destroyed or just tossed.
He shouldn’t have come here. There was no evidence. If Scully and the guys couldn’t find anything . . . but he’d needed to see it. He eased himself down on the mattress. The feeling of hopelessness sapping his remaining strength.
He didn’t know how long he sat there, but he was stiff when he finally decided to move. He should take some clothes, underwear, then he’d have an excuse to have come here.
He made it to his feet and gathered the things he could into a small bag. The super came to the door quickly this time and invited him in. He did take the seat to wait for the cab. He’d come to very near the end of his stamina.
He forced himself back into her building, willing himself not to collapse on the way. He had his new key to her place in his hand when the door flew open.
Her face was stricken, “Damn it, Mulder, where have you been?”
He let her take the bag and help him to the couch. He had used the last of his strength.
“What the hell did you think you were doing? Where have you been?”
“Scully - “
To his shock, she burst into tears.
“Scully, I, I’m sorry. I thought I’d be back before you . . . “
“Before I got home? Is that what you were going to say? Just sneak out and - “
“Scully, I wasn’t sneaking - “ her look stopped him. “I had to see the place. It is my apartment. It’s where we lived with . . . “
She looked away then, and after a moment, rose from the couch.
“Scully.” He reached out and caught her hand. “I didn’t mean to scare you, or hurt you. I just . . . “ he shrugged.
“You need to lie down.” Her voice was shaky, but she was turning to her doctor act.
“I’m not sure I can move that far.” He tried to smile at her, but she didn’t return it.
Shit, he’d hurt her. That hadn’t been his plan. He really had thought he could get over there and back before she knew he was gone. She should be at work.
He hated it, but needed her assistance rising from the couch. He wasn’t improving like he wanted. His mental state had a lot to do with it, though that hadn’t been said aloud. His depression was a major factor now.
He made a stop in the bathroom, then sank gratefully onto her bed. He removed his t-shirt. She removed his shoes and he lay back, closing his eyes.
“I didn’t mean to scare you, Scully.” He spoke from behind his closed lids.
“Is that why you slipped out while I was a work? I called and you didn’t answer. You don’t have a cell phone, I didn’t know if you’d - “
When she fell silent he opened his eyes.
After a moment she looked away. “Did you find anything?”
“Other than destruction? No. I couldn’t do a lot of cleaning.”
“I’ll take care of that.”
He shrugged, “I can hire someone. It needs to be ready so you can throw me out.”
“I’m not . . . there’s no hurry.”
“Thanks, but I’m in the way here. That couch can’t be all that comfortable.” He fell silent then.
“Did you eat lunch?”
He shook his head.
“It’s a little early, but I’ll fix us some dinner - “
“Scully, I’m not hungry.”
“Maybe not, but you need to eat. Rest now. I’ll wake you when it’s ready.”
“Scully - “
But she was already moving away from him. They weren’t communicating and it was making things worse. Her guilt over not looking for their son was destroying her and he wasn’t helping. He didn’t blame her, truly he didn’t, but he couldn’t seem to get her to see that. They were dancing around each other, neither able to break away, but not able to connect either.
He felt damaged, unworthy of her. He hadn’t been able to keep their son safe. Just like he hadn’t been able to keep Samantha safe. Yes, on some level he knew that he couldn’t have defeated them. He’d been outnumbered and they were professionals. It didn’t help.
He couldn’t stay awake any longer, letting his weakness pull him under.
She let him sleep for over an hour, but he didn’t feel rested when she tapped on the door. “Scully? You don’t have to knock on your own door.”
“I know, I just . . . dinner’s ready.”
“Okay, thanks.” He started to rise, but she moved to the bed.
“Just stay there. I’m going to bring you a tray. I just wanted to make sure you were awake.”
“You don’t have to - “ She had already left the room. He closed his eyes. This couldn’t go on.
When she returned with the tray, he was sitting up. “Where’s yours?”
“You don’t mind if I join you?”
“Scully, stop it. I’m in your apartment, your bed, eating your food. Don’t do this. It’s like you think you owe me - “
“I do.” She said simply.
“Please go get your dinner and join me.” He said quietly, not wanting to argue now.
They ate their dinner in silence, though she did sit beside him on the bed. “That was good, Scully.”
She took the tray and started toward the door. “Scully, please.”
She didn’t turn, but put the tray down on the dresser.
“Scully, come here. Please.”
“Mulder - “
She looked at her feet, but returned to the bed. He patted the place she’d occupied before and she sat beside him.
“I don’t blame you. You’ve got to stop this.”
“Like you have?”
“Okay, we’ve got to stop this. I don’t blame you. Can you hear that?”
“I didn’t look for him.”
“And I’m glad you didn’t, not alone. They would have killed you and that would have been . . .” He stopped, “I don’t know if we’ll find him. I want to believe we will, but I said this when I found him that morning, I need you. Without you . . .” He pulled her against him and after a moment she relaxed slightly.
“I think having me here is making it worse.” He said softly.
“No.” She looked up at him startled. “It’s not. I . . . “
“I don’t want to be alone.”
“Having me here is better than being alone?’ His lips quirked slightly, until he saw the tears form in her eyes. “Scully.”
“I miss him. I should have - “
“I miss him too, Scully. I want him back. He’s ours. But in the meantime, just like with Samantha, I need you with me. What good would it do for me to find him and not have his mother - “
The sound was half gasp, half sob. “Scully?”
“Was I his mother?”
“Yes. And I was his father. The only way we’ll ever find him, get him back, is together. I have to have you. If you believe nothing else, believe that I have to have you.”
She was crying quietly in his arms now. He pulled her down bedside him, wrapping himself around her, holding her until they both fell asleep.
He woke the most refreshed he’d been in a long time the next morning. He remembered no nightmares, and she was still beside him, asleep.
His body wasn’t stiff or in pain. That in itself was almost unremembered. The feel of her body against his, even fully clothed gave him peace. As he watched, she stirred and her eyes opened.
She realized immediately what had happened, but he didn’t seem upset. “Mulder?”
“We, we slept through the night?”
He nodded, “Thank you for keeping away the nightmares.”
“I should be thanking you.”
“I wouldn’t mind.” He leaned down and lightly brushed her lips with his own. Her eyes widened, but she didn’t pull away. “Don’t suppose I could convince you to sleep in here again tonight?”
Her blush brought the first smile to his face in a long time.
“I, uh, I need to get ready for work.”
He nodded. “I’ll stay put today. I don’t think I have another excursion in me yet.”
“Good.” She moved away then and rose from the bed. His eyes followed her out of the room.
She did look better this morning. He hadn’t registered that she wasn’t sleeping either.
Once she had left, he picked up the phone and dialed. “Lone Gunmen.”
“Mulder, are you okay?” Byers asked immediately, his concern evident in his voice.
“Yeah. Think you guys could come by sometime?”
“We can be there in an hour.”
“That’d be good. I’m gonna take a shower, but I’ll be here if I take a while to get to the door.”
“Don’t worry about it. See you in a few.” Byers broke the connection.
He’d finished his shower and opted for the couch rather than the bed, since he knew the guys were on their way.
He was startled to hear a key in the lock and the door open. “Scu - Byers?” He looked at his three friends.
“Uh, yeah. Scully gave us a key so we could check on you when you were . . . “
Mulder stared at them for a minute. “She had me on suicide watch.” It wasn’t a question.
“She’s been very concerned. You . . . you scared her yesterday.”
“She called you?”
“Yeah,” Byers nodded, “then another short call when you got back, but no details.”
Mulder studied his hands as the others took seats around him. “I didn’t realize. It must have been bad if she gave Frohike a key.” He tried to smile at the feeble humor.
“She gave the key to Byers,” Frohike spoke up, “We’re trying to keep our relationship quiet.” He winked at Mulder.
The smile came a little easier then. “I didn’t mean to scare her. I went over to my place. I just had to see it.”
“You should have called us, Mulder.” Byers said as Langly nodded.
“Yeah, I should have. I guess I hoped it was an exaggeration.”
“It wasn’t.” Langly watched his friend. He pointed to the cane, “I’m surprised you could get around.”
Mulder shrugged. “Talk to me. Tell me what you did find.”
The trio exchanged glances. Byers spoke for them, “Nothing, Mulder. We’re not holding back, there was nothing there.”
“Then we need to look elsewhere, birth records, births that didn’t take place in a hospital, abandoned infants - “
“Mulder - “
“Please, I know . . . I know it’s one chance in a billion, but I have to - “
“Yeah,” Byers said finally. “We can go through the file. How, uh, how about Scully? Do you want her to know?”
“No. There’s no reason to get her hopes up. I’ve already put her through enough.”
“Uh, she,” Byers glanced at the other two, “she feels the same way. We think she did the right thing when . . . there was no way she could go off on her own and, and frankly they didn’t expect you to live. But she thinks the time she let go by was the final straw.”
“It wasn’t.” Mulder said harshly. “I’ve got to convince her of that. They would have killed her.” The shudder that ran through his body was deep.
The three men nodded in unison. “I’ll look after Scully. I didn’t realize I’d been neglecting her, but I won’t now. If you can get whatever information there is . . .”
“We’re on it. Just, just don’t you get your hopes too high either.” Mulder nodded as they rose. “You need anything before we go?”
Mulder smiled at Frohike, “No. I’m going to get better now. I’ve got a lot to do.”
The relief on the little man’s face stunned Mulder. He did have people in his life who cared about him. He needed to remember that.
He called her late in the afternoon, when she hadn’t called him. “Agent Scully,” she answered briskly, only he could hear the undertone of fatigue in her voice. He knew her that well now.
“What are you wearing?”
She snorted before she could control it, “You know exactly what I’m wearing. You saw me leave.” She retorted, but in a whisper.
“So, can you sneak out early?”
“Mulder, have you been drinking? You can’t mix alcohol with - “
“I’m sober as a judge, not the one that was arrested for DUI last week.” He smiled.
“You sound like you’re feeling better.”
“Just trying to get my stamina back. I think I will start back on the physical therapy.” He waited for her reaction.
There was only a tiny hesitation, but he caught it. “I think that would be wonderful, Mulder.” Her voice was husky, like she was tamping her emption down, but she sounded pleased.
“Well, just wanted to check in. Hurry home, okay?”
“I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
He held the phone until he heard her hang up. She had played, but she was hanging by a thread. He had to make things better for her, for selfish reasons as well as for her. Last night, holding her had put things in perspective. He needed her.
She had her key in her hand when the door opened. “Hi Honey, you’re home.” Mulder watched her reaction. The eyebrow, he knew he could count on the eyebrow. “Sorry, Scully, I couldn’t find your pearls.”
“Thank god. If the Bureau finds out you cross dress too . . . “ But she had a curve to her lips.
She put her briefcase next to the couch and looked around, taking a sniff of the aroma coming from the kitchen. “Mulder, you didn’t cook?”
“No, I wasn’t sure I could stay on my feet that long, but I can still dial. Dinner is served.”
“Mulder, you didn’t have to - “
“Yeah, I did. You’ve worked, kept the office going alone, come home and waited on me hand and foot, literally. I did have to and I should have sooner.” His smile slipped away, “I wouldn’t have survived without you.”
They just looked at each other for a long time; she was the one to drop her eyes. “Smells good, Mulder.”
“Hey, I can dial with the best of them.” He followed her into the kitchen and actually held her chair before easing himself into his own.
She noted the glass of wine at her seat, and glanced over. “Tea, Scully. My personal physician says I can’t drink . . . yet.” He asked about her day, mentioned that the guys had dropped by to see him. They just visited, giving her a chance to relax.
When the meal was finished, she rose from the table. “I’ll take clean up, since you dialed this delicious meal.”
“I’ll take you up on that this time, Scully. But if I’m going to hang around, I need to start doing my share.”
She looked down again, which puzzled him slightly, then she met his eyes. “Deal. Now go stretch out on the couch, or go back to bed. I won’t be long.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right.” He got painfully to his feet. Her hands twitched to help him, but he shook his head. He took the cane from where it rested against the table and moved slowly into the living room.
He had drifted off by the time she joined him. She thought about waking him and sending him on to bed, but he looked comfortable enough and it wasn’t as lonely with him in the room, even asleep.
She powered up the laptop and pulled up the file she had brought home to study. When he stirred, she hit save and closed the computer.
“Mulder?” She moved over and touched his shoulder.
“Umm, sorry. Didn’t mean to fall asleep.”
She smiled softly, “It’s okay.”
He was watching her now, his eyes seeing too much. She looked away and he sat up a little straighter. “Were you working?”
“Uh, yeah. A report I wanted to finish before I went in tomorrow.”
“How much longer before you’re finished?”
“I’m finished now. Without you arguing with my science, it doesn’t take so long.”
He narrowed his eyes at her, but couldn’t sustain it.
She stood over him, “Haven’t you been up long enough?”
“I’ll turn in soon.” He patted the seat beside him. She sat, but she looked wary. “I only bite when asked, Scully.” He wisely made no comment about the color that stained her cheeks. “I need to ask you something.”
She hesitated, then nodded.
“You said you weren’t going to kick me out. I’m glad, because I don’t want to go.” He watched her shoulders relax slightly. “But I wasn’t kidding about the couch. What would you think, I mean . . . Scully, will you sleep in the bed with me?”
Her eyes widened and her lips parted, but he plowed on.
“I’m not propositioning you, Scully, at least not yet. After a few weeks of physical therapy . . . “ She still didn’t speak. “We both slept better last night. I felt safe and I think you did too.”
After an instant she nodded. He exhaled a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding. “Good.”
They sat there for a moment, neither knowing what to say.
“Well,” he started to rise from the couch; she took his arm. “I hope soon you’ll do that because you want to touch me, rather than needing to help me.”
“I already do.”
He froze, looking at her, his eyes searching her face. He leaned in slowly and, when she didn’t back away, let his lips brush hers. He didn’t push it, leaning back.
“I’m going to take a shower.” He finally did rise. She nodded and watched him leave.
For something to do, she set up the coffee maker for the morning. Twice she looked at her briefcase, but decided she couldn’t work on the report any more this evening. While he was still in the bath, she slipped into the bedroom and retrieved a special pair of pajamas and a robe. She didn’t know what to think of the fact that her hands were shaking slightly.
Mulder, using the cane, moved into the bedroom. She wasn’t there, but he didn’t go in search of her. He’d already put enough pressure on her.
He eased himself into the bed, and pulled the sheet up to his chest. Maybe he should have put on a t-shirt, but getting back up would be more than he could handle right now. He was watching the door when she entered. She was wearing aqua pajamas and a matching robe. He’d never seen that on any trip they’d taken.
She handed him his medication and he swallowed it with no argument. She rounded the bed and stood at the side hesitating.
“Are you coming to bed now?” He asked.
“I thought I would.”
“Good.” He said softly.
She slipped off her robe and pulled back the covers. She lay down on her side of the bed, stiffly. “Scully, if this is making you uncomfortable - “
“No, I . . . “
“You’ve slept on my shoulder on airplanes, in cars - “
“This is different.”
“Yes, but I’m not going to jump you. I wouldn’t even if I could. If memory serves, that’s not my style.” She managed a small smile then. “Last night we gave each other support, comfort. I can’t do a lot around here, yet, but I want to give you this. And I want to wake up rested and relaxed. Come on, turn over.” He rolled her to her side and spooned his body around her. His arm rested below her breasts. It didn’t feel intimidating.
They lay that way for a couple of minutes, “Scully, what’ja thinking?”
She hesitated, “That we have a son, but this is the first time we’ve been in bed together.”
“Sounds normal for us, doesn’t it?” His voice was husky, but he could feel her smile and relax further. “Scully, this is gonna sound egotistical, but there’s not some other man out there, is there?”
She turned in his arms, facing him. “You know there’s not. Is, is there a woman in your life?”
“Yes, the same one for the past seven years. I call her Scully.” As she met his eyes, he let his lips press against her forehead. “Go to sleep, Scully. I’m right here.” Her breasts were against his chest and despite his weakness, he felt a stirring in his groin.
“Roll over, Scully. I need to be able to sleep too.”
Her blush was adorable, and she did as he bade. She made herself comfortable and let her eyes drift close. It felt good, having this man curled around her. She did feel safe.
“Mulder, I did find out something today.” She felt his arm tighten around her. “You know that the guys still have the DNA information.”
“It’s supposed to be locked down.”
“I was careful. I just wanted to compare it to Emily’s DNA.”
He waited, he couldn’t fault her for that, but it didn’t keep him from worrying. “And?”
“He didn’t have the abnormalities she did. He was healthy.”
His throat tightened. Their son was healthy, what did that mean? That they wouldn’t have to treat him, or that they’d use him to experiment on continually? No, he couldn’t go there now. She’d feel his tension. He wanted her to feel safe tonight, he wanted to give her that at least.
She’d been gone about an hour when he heard the knock at the door. With no key, it wasn’t the guys. He made his painful way to the door, reaffirming his decision to return to physical therapy that evening.
He looked through the peephole and answered the door as quickly as possible. “A.D. Skinner.” Mulder welcomed him in.
The older man stopped just inside and looked Mulder over thoroughly as Mulder pushed the door closed.
“You can say it.” Mulder remarked dryly.
“Okay, you look like shit.”
“Thanks.” Mulder motioned to the couch and eased himself down onto the cushions. “Scully’s not here.”
“I know. That’s why I came now. I wanted to check on her, but I think I understand now.” Skinner took the chair adjacent to the couch.
“Check on her? Is she - “
“A couple of days ago she left work. I didn’t see her, but reports were that she was panicked and ran out. She was back the next day, but I’ve known Scully a long time. That’s not like her.”
“No, it’s not. She called and couldn’t find me.”
Skinner’s eyes narrowed. “Couldn’t find you? You don’t look like you’d be out jogging.”
“I went over to my apartment. I didn’t tell her I was going out and she called.”
Skinner sat silent for a moment, then leaned back and looked at him. “She thought you’d killed yourself.”
Mulder looked down at his feet, then finally met Skinner’s eyes. “Yeah. I didn’t realize what I was doing to her. It won’t happen again.”
Skinner shook his head, “This was no home invasion. What really happened?”
Mulder looked at him for a long moment. “You want some coffee? There’s no alcohol here, I’m on medication.”
“I don’t drink that heavily at lunch. Or do you think I’ll need the drink?”
Mulder shrugged and started to rise. Skinner’s hand under his arm helped. Skinner assessed his movements and stayed close in case he went down.
“I’ll get the coffee, you sit.” Skinner held the chair for him and after a moment, Mulder nodded and took the seat. When he joined him, Skinner took a sip. “You want to tell me what happened?” When he still hesitated, “I might be able to help.”
“Yeah, you might.”
“But you don’t know if you can trust me.” Skinner volunteered.
After a moment, Mulder nodded.
“I want to help. That’s why I didn’t call Scully into my office. I knew she needed help. I should’ve realized you were behind it.”
“Yep, that would be me.”
“I knew this couldn’t have been a simple robbery.” Skinner sighed.
“No, it wasn’t. You in a hurry to get back to work?”
Skinner leaned back.
“Jesus, Mulder. Your son?” Skinner looked devastated.
“And Scully’s. The DNA proved it.”
Skinner shook his head. “You know the odds . . . “
“Yeah. Even worse than with Samantha, and we all know how well I did at finding her.” Mulder glanced down at his hands, tapping a staccato beat on the table, unable to be still even though he couldn't pace.
“Mulder, what more could you have done? The next step for you would have been to die at their hands. You almost did anyway.”
Mulder nodded, “Thank goodness Scully had left. They would have killed her.”
Skinner’s face paled slightly. “Yeah. So, what do you need from me?”
“The guys are working on it; they might need access.”
“You mean there are some things that I know those geeks don’t?”
Mulder actually grinned then, “Your access might be faster.”
Skinner nodded, “That’s what I thought. What about you? Physically, I mean.”
Mulder looked down at his body. “I’m starting back on physical therapy this evening. They gave me a late appointment so Scully could go with me.”
“Does she need to be there?”
“Yeah,” he took a sip of coffee and grimaced at the coolness. “She’s supposed to learn the routine to help me here. After a couple of sessions I’ll go alone. Probably take a cab, if she’ll let me.”
“Listen, I can drive you, give Scully a break.”
Mulder blinked, “Uh, yeah. That’d be good.”
Skinner rose from the table. “Have Byers contact me. You should get some rest.”
Mulder huffed, “Like I can do anything else.”
“Then work on it.”
“Yeah, I will. Skinner, do you think . . . “
“No, Mulder, I don’t. I’m sorry.” The look of anger on Mulder’s face gave him pause. If this man had been in better shape, Skinner had no doubt he’d be bleeding now.
Mulder shook it off. “I know. But I have to try.”
“I want to keep her as far away as possible.”
Skinner looked at him, eyebrow raised.
“Yeah, I know.”
Continued in part 2
Author’s note - As always my deepest gratitude to Marianne for the beta, and for this one many thanks go out to Tali for poking me for so long to get this one finished.
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Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunman and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter, 10-13 and Fox. No infringement intended.