Just how long could he go without sleeping? He'd pushed the envelope more than once, but he'd never wanted to stay awake this much before. Maybe he could learn to sleep with his eyes open. Anything to keep that sight out of his head.
The gun to her head, his mad scramble to stop her, then her crumpling to the floor of that warehouse, blood pooling around her. He'd looked straight into hell then. And seen madness staring back at him.
He had always heard that when you were dying, your life flashed before you. Just the opposite had happened for him. Watching her death, his future had flashed before him and the bleakness of it without her made the flames of hell look inviting.
He knew what had happened now. He understood that Modell's sister had used him, had tried to get revenge for her brother. He knew that Modell was truly dead this time and the sister was in custody. The precautions around her incarceration were truly extraordinary. No one was taking any chances this time.
So why didn't it matter. The shock his system had taken just wouldn't go away. Of all the things he had seen, lived through, this one had shaken him the most. Hell, he didn't have to close his eyes. The sight of her dying in front of him, his helplessness and guilt - they were as fresh as at that moment.
She was deep inside of him, completely interwoven and the extraction of her would not leave him whole. He hadn't realized that until he had knelt by her body, not sure how to touch her, how to help her.
He shuddered then, his whole body shaking beyond his control. He could see her now, standing in front of him. At least she wasn't covered in blood this time. His shaking, however, did not abate.
He jerked back as though shot himself, and her hand came out touch him.
“Scully?” His eyes narrowed, trying to pierce the hallucination.
“You didn't answer the door, so I let myself in.”
“I didn't hear you knock.”
That was obvious, so she made no comment. The question she wanted to ask would have been inane seeing his condition, so she held her tongue, seating herself gently beside him.
“What . . . what are you doing here?”
“You didn't come back to the office after you left Skinner. I wondered what he'd said to you, where you were.”
He sat, not speaking, just looking at her as if she weren't quite real. “Mulder? Are you . . . “
“I'm fine.” He managed a wry grin at that, and she knew then he was trying, if he could joke about it.
“What did Skinner say to you?”
“He wanted to congratulate me on a job well done.” The irony in his voice was thick.
“And he should. Mulder, I still can't believe you had her figured out. I missed every clue.”
She took his hand then and felt the quiver go through him. “What is it Mulder? Why are you like this?”
He just looked at her, not responding. Her fear for him, for his sanity went up another notch and she moved closer to him, finally pulling his arm around her.
“Scully.” He whispered the word into her hair and her arms went around him.
“It's over Mulder. Modell is dead. Linda won't be getting out and she is dying from the same tumor that he had. It's over. Talk to me.”
“I almost killed you, again, because of him.”
“You didn't kill me, you listened to me. You could see the truth even through her mind games. No one else did, no one else could have.”
“I saw you dead, I saw you kill yourself right in front of me and I couldn't stop you.” He spoke softly, still almost whispering into her hair. “I know, part of me knows, that it was her illusion. But I saw it. It's there in my mind. I don't forget things Scully.”
She closed her eyes then and held him tighter. That was it. She hadn't been sure what he had seen, just that she had never witnessed such devastation in him. He had refused to be treated by the EMTs, insisting that he was unharmed. Maybe that was true physically, but he was harmed. He had been damaged by this. He had seen her die.
Scully was more than stunned herself. She really hadn't realized how something like this would affect him - but she should have. He relied on her and she had taken Skinner's side. Why did she do that? After all of these years, why didn't she realize that Mulder saw things more clearly than most people? He wasn't afraid to take that leap that others didn't even see coming at them.
“Mulder, I'm safe. I'm right here, in your arms.”
She felt his lips press against her brow then. It hit her like a bolt from the blue - he loved her. It wasn't a partner thing, not this reaction. He was in love with her. And he had seen her die.
Oh god, what should she do? It wouldn't work, they couldn't . . . okay, she had loved him for years, held him as her talisman, her strength, through all of the pits she had been thrown into. Why hadn't she realized that he had done the same?
Because Mulder didn't need people. He'd made that clear from the beginning. So she had always held herself apart. Well, she'd tried to. But she'd thrown herself into his arms on their very first case, and Pfaster, and the cancer, and . . . and Emily.
She didn't realize her arms had tightened around him, but he did and relished it. She was alive and here and holding him, letting him hold her. His lips were pressing against her scalp again and now moving down the side of her face, tasting her.
When had she reclined? When had she allowed his body to press hers into his couch? This was getting out of hand, but she felt no inclination to stop it. He needed her and she wanted him. His body atop hers was . . . was incredible.
“Scully? Are you really here? Are you really real? Could a woman like you truly be in my life?”
“Why do you doubt it, Mulder? I'm here and I want to be here.”
He couldn't help it, his grip tightened. “Are, are you going to leave me, like everyone else?”
“Mulder? I've never left you and no one's been able to keep us apart. You remember that, don't you?” She stroked his face.
But he shook his head, the image still too clear in his mind. “He came too close, they came too close. I keep - “
“Mulder, look at me. Look at where I am right now.”
That's when he realized he was on her. He immediately started to move away, but her arms went around him, holding him in place. “Don't leave me Mulder.”
He stopped, stunned at her words, his words. She wouldn't say that, not Scully. He had gone mad. Seeing her dead had pushed him over the edge. He'd been close for too long.
“Mulder, you love me.”
He shuddered again, “No, no I don't love anyone.”
“I don't believe you.” She tightened her hold of him. “That may have been true at one time, but not anymore. That's why this has you so . . . “
“No! Scully, get out of here. I don't love you. I can't.” He pulled himself free from her.
She didn't move and he could tell she wasn't buying it. “Why?”
“Why? Because if you allowed it . . . you'd be as mad as I am.”
“Then I guess I already am.”
He gaped at her.
He really was insane, it sounded . . . it sounded like she wouldn't mind if he .
. . but that was impossible.
”Mulder, I'm not going to leave you.”
“If you stay with me you'll die. I'll kill you, or someone else will because of me. Then the madness really will be there, all the time. If you go . . . if you go and I know you're alive, safe, maybe I can hold it off a little longer.”
“And then I'll go mad, because you won't be there. Mulder, we're trapped in this together. Accept it, give in to it.”
He closed his eyes and seemed to sway slightly. She was on her feet then, holding his arm. “Mulder, I want you to go take a shower, clean up. Then I'll get you something to eat.”
He swallowed convulsively and she changed her mind about the food. Maybe some tea. “Go on Mulder. It'll make you feel better.”
“I doubt it.”
“Just give it a try.” She caressed his cheek and he covered her hand with his own. After a long moment he turned away and moved toward his bathroom. She took in his posture and ached for him.
She heard the water come on and realized he had taken no clothes with him to change into. He really was out of it. She went into his bedroom and looked in his closet. She found a robe hanging there and took it to the bathroom. She knocked, but there was no answer. She opened the door and laid the robe across the toilet, gathering up the clothes he had dropped on the floor.
She could see his silhouette through the shower curtain and it took her a minute to force herself to move again.
Scully closed the door silently behind her and turned to the kitchen to make some tea.
She should never have left Mulder alone with Skinner. She should have waited for him in Skinner's outer office. But he'd been covering up, she hadn't seen. That was the part that frightened her the most. She had allowed him to hide this from her. Not again, she could never allow him to do that again. He was too important. His fear of madness didn't seem that far away.
She heard the water cut off and took a deep breath. In a few minutes she heard the door open and turned to watch him come toward her.
“Where did you find this?” He touched the lapel of the robe.
“The robe? In your closet.”
“I haven't used it in ages. I guess I thought I'd lost it. I have a tendency to that with things that I . . . you're still here.”
“I'm not going anywhere, I told you. Have a seat, I'll bring your tea.”
He just stood looking at her, as though trying to read her.
“You shouldn't be here.”
“I want to be here.”
He shook his head at that and turned away from her. He collapsed back onto the couch and pulled the robe up over his thighs.
She brought the tea in and resumed her seat beside him. He took the tea when she offered it, but didn't bring it to his lips. She saw a drop of water escape from his slicked back hair, and caught it with her fingers.
“You need to go on home, Scully.”
“I'm not leaving tonight. You can go on to bed anytime, I'll sleep on the couch.” She felt his shudder when she mentioned sleep, and lay her hand gently on his thigh. “We're safe here tonight Mulder.”
“You think you're safe? Staying here with a mad man?” He wouldn't look at her, staring instead at the tea, as though he could read his future there.
“Yes, Here with you. I'm safe.”
He looked at her for a long moment, then closed his eyes. Scully took the cup from his hand. “Mulder, you're exhausted. Go lie down.”
“I don't want to sleep.”
“Mulder, I'll be here if you need anything.”
He shook his head, but allowed her to tug him to his feet. She led him to the bedroom, “At least lie down.”
He sighed but didn't bother to argue.
“Get in bed, I'll be right back.”
After she left the room, he removed his robe and in deference to her, draped it across the foot of his bed, then slid under the covers. She tapped on the door and entered. “What can I get you?”
“A new life?”
“With or without me?” She smiled sadly at him.
He didn't smile. “I'm not sure.”
She brushed his drying hair back. “I'll be right out there if you need anything.”
He nodded and closed his eyes. She pressed a kiss to his brow, straightened the sheets and quietly left the room, leaving the door cracked.
She returned to the living room. There she picked up the mugs and took them into the kitchen. She dumped them and washed the cups, returning them to the cupboard.
She just stood there then, leaning against the counter. She reviewed the case and what she had seen as his continually increasing bizarre ideas. He'd been on the edge from the beginning - from when he'd first heard that Modell had escaped. They'd never talked about the first case. He had made it off limits from the beginning. She should have gotten him to talk about it. She had known he felt guilty about pointing a gun at her, but obviously he had let it grow.
She sighed and returned to the living room. She didn't want to turn on the TV and possibly disturb him. Besides, there was nothing on she thought would hold her attention. She decided to get comfortable, slipping off her shoes and then her hose. She was emotionally exhausted, but not sleepy . . . That's when she remembered his photo album.
She pulled it from the drawer and opened it as she sank onto the couch to study the pictures. He looked like a normal, happy kid and Samantha . . . he never talked about fighting with her as a child, though Scully was confident it had happened. The pictures didn't show it though. It looked like she had held her own in the games.
The moan from the bedroom startled her. She'd been in the past, watching the man-child in the next room grow up, before life had hurt him so. But she'd known this would happen. She dropped the album on the coffee table and hurried to the bedroom.
“No . . . no . . . Scully, don't! No!”
She was leaning over him now. “Mulder wake up. It's just a dream. I'm here. I'm okay.” She touched his shoulder and he jerked awake, then grabbed her.
“Mulder, I'm okay.” She brushed away a tear that escaped his eye.
He took hold of her then, and pulled her down on the bed beside him. His grip was nearly painful, but she didn't protest. He needed this; he needed the reassurance that she was here with him.
He didn't attempt to go any further, just holding her pressed against him. It was a long time before his grip began to relax. Even then he didn't release her entirely. He didn't speak, finally falling asleep. When she felt he was deep enough, she started to ease out of the bed. She'd been too quick; he stirred and reached for her.
"Shh, it's okay Mulder. Let me get comfortable." He made some noise and turned toward her, but didn't open his eyes.
She didn't want to leave him, his dreams were always devastating, and this new trauma would only lead to new ones. She slipped off her skirt and blouse, then pulled a t-shirt from his drawer and pulled it on.
He was still restless, so she hurried to join him, crawling under the covers. His hand found her and his body lost tension. He pulled her back against him, this time under the covers with him. That's when she realized that he'd gone to bed nude.
She should leave the bed. Staying would be madness. But he was asleep, and he was in no mood, or shape, to do anything. After a few minutes of internal debate, she pulled the t-shirt down as far as it would go and let herself relax against him.
When she woke the next morning, it was to find Mulder lying next to her, watching her sleep.
"Um, Mulder." She wiped a hand across her eyes, and stretched. The sheet had come down and she found herself staring at his chest. Not a good idea. She pulled the t-shirt down again and moved to rise. His hand shot out immediately.
"Why are you still here?"
"You seemed to need me last night. You had bad dreams, and . . . "
"Thanks. And don't do it again."
"I don't want you to stay here, be here."
"Mulder, we talked about this last night - "
"And you obviously didn't listen. I don't want you to worry about me."
"You expect me to just stop? I've worried about you for years. Mulder, I care about you and I know you care about me."
"You're wrong. You've decided I care, but it's not true. We're partners, that's all." He released her forearm then and rose from the bed. She couldn't keep her eyes from glancing down, but he was already shrugging on his robe.
He stood at the end of the bed then, "I'd like you to leave."
"Mulder, you need help. You need my help. You need to talk this out."
"Go on, Scully. We can talk at work. But now, I want you to go."
"Mul - "
"Get dressed and go home. Please."
He sounded so calm, so detached. It scared her to death.
"What are you going to do?'
"When you leave, I'm going to take a shower and get dressed. Then I'll take a couple of days like Skinner suggested."
"Why, uh, why don't we take them together? We could get away, unwind."
He shook his head. "That's not a good idea. It would look like fraternization."
"Since when do you care what things look like to others?"
"Please get dressed." He turned then and exited his bedroom.
She watched him with a sinking heart. He didn't want her help, but who else would he turn to?" She rose from the bed and gathered her clothes to take into the bathroom. She hurried to dress; she felt an urgency to get back to him.
When she did, nothing had changed. He was distant, cool to her, finally escorting her to the door and closing it behind her. She stood in his hall, staring at the door.
She'd never seen him this close to the edge. He shouldn't be alone. If she was the wrong person, then she had to find someone else. She hurried to her car, and once seated, pulled out her cell phone.
Byers answered on the first ring. “Lone - “
“Byers, it's Scully.”
“Uh, yeah. Is something wrong?”
“Yes. Mulder's . . . he's in a bad place. I don't think he should be alone.”
“He doesn't . . . he says he wants to be alone, but I . . . “
“We'll head over.”
“Thanks. Would you . . . would you call me, if he needs . . . “
“Scully, we're on our way. Try not to worry.”
“Thanks.” She broke the connection and looked at his building once more. He didn't want her here. He couldn't know the pain he was causing her, or the fear. She started the car, the guys weren't far away and if he were to look out, seeing her there might make things worse.
Once home, she undressed and got in the shower. It didn't help. She couldn't shake the image of his face, so detached, unfeeling. He'd never looked at her like that before. She hadn't realized it, but he never look at her without feeling. Even when he was upset with her, his eyes showed that he cared. The absence of emotion was making her blood run cold, even from the memory.
She heard her phone ring and grabbed a towel to wrap around her. “Scully.”
“Uh, Dana, it's John.”
Well that sounded bad. He never called her Dana, or referred to himself as John.
“What is it? What's wrong?”
“Dana, he's not here.”
“When we got here, his car was gone. We came up anyway and . . . and checked out the place.”
“We can't tell. The bedroom's a mess, like he packed in a hurry . . . or he didn't care what he took.”
“Can you stay? I'll be right there.”
“Sure. Scully, be careful. We'll wait.”
She hung up without another word. Her throat had closed up. She threw on jeans and a sweater, grabbing a jacket as she hurried back to her car. At the first stoplight she dialed Skinner's office.
“Angie, please, it's Dana Scully. May I speak to the Assistant Director?”
“I'll get him. Are you okay?”
“I don't know.”
Skinner was on the phone in seconds. “Scully?”
“Have you heard from Mulder?”
“No, I told him to take a couple of days. Have you tried his place?” He realized what a stupid question that was before the words made it to her ear. “Scully, maybe he just needs some time. This case was hard on him.”
She nodded, though he couldn't see. What an understatement.
“I'll be in touch.” She broke the connection and concentrated on driving. The door to his place was open when she arrived. She didn't bother to knock. Frohike came out of the kitchen when he heard her steps.
He shook his head, so she passed him and moved into the bedroom. “Anything?”
Langly looked up at her. “He left his badge here.”
“He what?” She moved to his side and took the ID he held out to her. “He would never . . . “ She reached for the bottom drawer of his bedside table, then looked up at Byers. “He took both of his guns.”
“Scully, you don't think - “
“I don't know what to think! I have to find him. Where the hell did he go?”
She sank down onto the bed then, the bed they had shared just a few hours ago, where she had tried to give him comfort.
The three men exchanged glances, some of her fear infecting them. “We could check around the city. He has some favorite haunts . . . Why don't you call his mother, maybe he called her.”
She looked at Byers, clearly not believing that would be Mulder's course of action. Then she shook her head. “I can't call. She'd know something was wrong.”
Frohike shrugged, “I'll call, an old friend trying to catch up.”
Scully nodded and looked back down at the badge in her hands.
When Frohike returned he shook his head. “She hasn't heard from him in weeks. But if she does, she'll give him the message I'm looking for him. What now?”
Scully brushed her hair back with a shaking hand. “I don't know.”
“If Mulder wanted to be alone . . . “ Langly started.
“Where we wouldn't find the body?” She looked up, fear plain in her eyes.
“Scully, no! Mulder's too smart for that. He would never . . . Mulder would never harm himself.”
“You didn't see him. It was like he had turned himself off. He didn't want to feel.”
The three men stood watching her, not wanting to interrupt her thoughts.
“The lake house. It's where he went . . . “ She looked up at Byers, “It's where he went after Dr. Goldstein treated him.”
“Didn't he take a
shot at you then?”
“It was . . . it was at my reflection. Not at me.”
She rose, “I don't know where else to look.” She turned toward the door.
“Dana, why don't you call the police there, have them keep an eye on the place and call you?” Byers put his hand on her arm to stop her.
“If he is there, that would tip him off. No, I'll head up there myself.”
“Dana, we could - “
“Please keep looking for him here, the reflecting pool, places closer in. And stay in touch.”
Byers nodded reluctantly. Frohike stepped in front on her. “You shouldn't go alone.”
“I have to, but thank you.”
She left the apartment without another word. After a long moment Byers cleared his throat. "Come on, we've got work to do.”
The closer she got to the place, the more sure she became. Like a wounded animal, he would seek a familiar place, a place he had known happiness - at least for a while. She didn't have a clue what she would say to him. If he still wanted to push her away, he was out of luck.
When she made the last turn and spotted his car, her hands tightened around the steering wheel. Was she in time? She shoved that though aside, she was, she had to be.
She parked next to his car and quietly approached the house. Byers had been right, he had shot at her the last time she'd been here, but he'd been under the influence of Dr. Goldstein's treatment, not responsible.
Scully opened the door quietly and let herself in. She didn't see him, but his car was here. Rather than call for him, she moved on into the room. The items on the coffee table caught her eye. He'd been cleaning his gun. She closed her eyes and swallowed hard. Where was he?
She quickly checked the rest of the house. He hadn't even bothered to remove the dust covers from the furniture, except for the couch and table. He had to be here somewhere!
She let herself out the back door and stood looking at the lake. He had a gun, he wouldn't drown himself. Still she found herself moving down the worn path parallel to the lake and into the trees. Part of her wanted to call for him, but fear kept her quiet.
A sound, some movement, made her look at a large tree just off the path. She moved closer and spotted Mulder sitting at the base, facing the lake, his fingers outlining and touching the 9-millimeter sig in his hands.
She stepped a little closer and held out her hand, “Mulder.”
He looked up startled. “What are you . . . “ Then he stopped and looked back at the water.
After a moment's hesitation she joined him at the base of the tree. “It's beautiful here.”
“You shouldn't be here. I asked you for - “
“You asked me to leave you, and to stop worrying about you. I can't do either.”
He held his body rigidly away from her and she saw his eyes dart toward her and away. Okay, he wasn't ready to talk yet, but she could wait, now that she knew he was alive. She made herself more comfortable and looked out at the lake.
She made no attempt to touch him, or engage in conversation. They just breathed together, both more than aware of the other.
"What are you doing here?"
She jumped slightly at the sound of his voice breaking the silence so suddenly. "Why did you bring the gun out here?"
He fell silent again, without having looked in her direction.
After another few moments, "I didn't use it."
"Thank God. Did you think about it?"
He didn't answer, but after a couple of beats, slipped the gun into his jacket pocket. She tried to hide her sigh of relief.
Abruptly he rose to his feet and started back toward the house. She scrambled to her own feet and followed him, hurrying to match his stride. "Mulder."
He stopped suddenly and she stumbled. His hands came out to steady her without thought. "I asked you to leave me alone. I was serious Scully. I don't - "
"No?" He didn't seem to understand the word.
"That's right. No. I will not leave you alone to brood, or feel guilty, or - "
"Guilty. You think that's it?"
"Isn't it?" She'd moved in front of him now, as though daring him to move past her.
"No. You're my partner. I watch your back and you watch mine. It was a bad situation, but we came out okay. The madness was making it personal. That's over. I'm fine. I'd just like some time."
"The personal is over? Just like that?"
"Just like that Agent Scully. I'm fine and I'd like you to leave."
She stared at him for a long moment. "I slept in your arms last night, after holding you through a nightmare."
He wouldn't meet her eyes, just moving around her toward the house. She grabbed his arm and turned him back toward her.
"No, Mulder. No. It's not over. We have a relationship, a friendship, that we've grown over the past five years."
He shook his head.
"Damn it, Mulder, do you not know a relationship when you see one?"
"Scully - "
"So when you tracked me down in the Antarctic to rescue me . . . "
"That was work. You're my partner."
"Work? That was work? Where was your backup?"
He didn't respond, not quite looking at her.
"And when you found the chip that cured my cancer? Was that work too?"
"Scully, I - "
"What about when I was in the coma and you came and sat beside me, and talked me into living?"
His eyes widened then and she watched them darken. His expressions truly were subtle, others would never see, but it was like a neon sign to her. His hand twitched to wipe the tears from her face, though he seemed unaware of his own.
"When Emily died!" Her voice broke and she turned, no longer able to watch him. His hand shot out and grabbed her then, pulling her back and folding her into his chest. He held her tightly and she heard him whisper, "Madness."
Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunmen and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter, 10-13 and Fox. No infringement in tended