It was a much smaller airport but they both felt better here than flying into DC. They were a little surprised to find Skinner waiting instead of the other guys. They hurried to the car and once there Mulder had her take the back and stretch out. When he realized she was asleep, he turned to Skinner.
"I'm not complaining, it's good to see you, but we weren't expecting you."
"I know. They, uh, they're a little hesitant to see you."
"What?" He turned then to make sure he hadn’t disturbed her, and lowered his voice. "They're avoiding me, us?"
Skinner glanced in the mirror to make sure she wasn't stirring. "They didn't think either of you would want to see them."
"I told them I wasn't upset with them. I should have told her, I'm the reason she was blindsided. I thought I got through to them."
"Damn." Mulder sighed, "I'll . . . I'll talk to them, but I have to get her settled first."
Skinner nodded and he kept the rest of his questions to himself for now. She didn't rest long, despite her weariness.
When they arrived at her mother's house, rather than go to the front door, Skinner used the keypad, with her supplying the code, to let the car into the garage. Skinner entered the kitchen first and found Mrs. Scully hurrying into the room.
"Walter? What are you - "
"I'm sorry to startle you Maggie, but we need to keep a low profile." He moved over to her.
"We? Low profile?" She turned as she heard the door open again. Her breath caught in her throat. "Da . . . Dana? Oh my god! Dana!" She flew across the kitchen and threw her arms around her daughter. Mulder moved closer to make sure she wasn't bowled over by the enthusiasm. When she could release Dana, she turned to Fox and held him just as tightly.
When she finally stepped back, Walter took hold of Maggie's shoulders. "They're okay, Maggie. They're not going anywhere."
"But how? All those tests!"
Mulder looked over at Scully, who had closed her eyes and taken hold of the back of a kitchen chair. "You should be in bed. Come on."
"Mulder, no. I just need to sit down."
Mrs. Scully really looked at her daughter then. She turned and looked the question at Walter, who looked away. "Let's go to the living room." She watched Mulder seat her daughter on the couch and lift her legs to the coffee table. The look Dana gave him didn't even faze him. Mrs. Scully had several thousand questions but now obviously wasn't the time.
After a moment she rose again. "You should eat something, right Fox?"
He smiled up at her, "I could always eat from your kitchen."
"Can I help?" Skinner started to rise from his seat.
"No, Fox can help me." She moved toward the kitchen.
Mulder squeezed Scully's hand and rose. Skinner saw her eyes follow him out of the room. He wasn't sure what to say to her. He couldn't debrief her, not here. She turned to him. "I guess your life was a lot easier without us around."
Skinner grinned, "Yeah, dullness has its place. Of course, it can get old after a while."
Mrs. Scully knew she was babbling, but she couldn't stop. She had the refrigerator open and had the pickle jar in her hand when she realized how badly her hands were shaking. Mulder took the jar from her and seated her at the kitchen table. She dropped her face into her hands.
"Mrs. Scully?" He knelt beside her.
"I can't believe this. I thought she was dead, both of you were dead. I've mourned you for months."
"She's alive Mrs. Scully."
"She's been ill." He looked away then, "Okay. Not tonight, but I need to know, is it the cancer?"
"No, not the cancer." He stood. "Why don't you sit there and guide me though this food fixing process?"
"No. I need to do something." She stood as well and hugged Mulder again.
When he carried the tray of sandwiches into the living room, Scully was asleep on the couch, with Skinner watching over her.
"Should we wake her Fox?"
"She should eat, then I'll take her upstairs." He stood over her, watching her soft breathing.
"Fox, do you have a place to stay?" He looked up startled.
"I guess I don't have an apartment, do I?" He gave a half grin.
you're welcome to stay at my place until you get settled." Skinner spoke up immediately.
"No, Walter. He needs to be here."
Skinner and Mulder exchanged glances and Mulder nodded, then leaned down to wake her. He helped her sit up and fixed a plate for her.
"Dana, I've asked Fox to stay here until things are settled, I didn't think you'd mind."
Scully chuckled at that. "No, I don't mind."
"I've thought of you two together all along." Tears formed in Mrs. Scully's eyes, but she didn't let them fall.
"Mom . . . "
"Sorry, I . . . I thought about . . . “ She glanced over at Walter. "What do we do about the graves?"
"I'll take care of that Maggie. Don't worry about it for a minute."
Mulder glanced over a Skinner, "I guess I should get up to the Vineyard."
"Uh, well no -” Skinner started, but Maggie interrupted.
"Fox, you don't need to go up there. I . . . I couldn't separate the two of you. Fox, you're . . . “ She shrugged, "I had the body we thought was yours buried beside Dana, in our family . . . "
Mulder was stunned speechless. He felt Scully's hand on her arm and managed to close his mouth. "Th . . . thank you, Mrs. Scully."
"Maggie. It's way past time you called me Maggie." He nodded, his voice gone again. This was not the homecoming he had imagined. To be honest, he hadn't thought of his own homecoming at all. He'd just known how much Scully needed it. With his own family gone, he hadn't thought about it on a personal level.
Scully felt her own eyes fill as she watched his reaction to this information. She reached out and took hold of her mother's hand and squeezed it.
After a moment, Skinner cleared his throat and stood. "I need to get out of your way. You guys take a couple of days - no one knows that you're back and I'd like to keep it that way right now. Mulder, I'll talk to you tomorrow."
Maggie walked Skinner to the garage, leaving them alone for the first time in hours. "Mulder are you okay?"
"Isn't that my line?"
"Too often. But are you?" She moved closer to him on the couch.
"I'm a little overwhelmed, you know? Your mother . . . "
"She's pretty great, huh?" She smiled up at him and his heart clutched. It was the first real smile he'd seen on her in too long for him to remember.
When Maggie returned to the room, he stood again. "She needs to get some real rest."
When Scully didn't protest, Maggie realized how exhausted the young woman was and nodded. "The front bedroom is made up."
Mulder helped her to her feet, "Do you want me to carry you?"
"No Mulder, I can walk." But he held her tenderly as she climbed the stairs. Maggie watched them and said another prayer of thanksgiving.
He returned downstairs after getting her settled. "I made up the other room for you Fox, just across from her room. We'll be able to hear her if she needs us."
He glanced back up the stairs and nodded. "Fox, you don't have to stay up with me. You're probably exhausted yourself. I'll be heading up myself shortly."
"You don't mind?"
"No, not at all." She moved over to him then, and hugged him again. "I know I don't have the details, but you saved my daughter again. I can't thank you enough for that."
"I don't know about that, but she certainly saved me again. I appreciate you letting me stay - "
"Fox, you're always welcome here." He nodded, not knowing what else to say and returned upstairs. He hesitated just outside of her door, but this was her mother's house and she'd fixed him another room.
She woke frightened and disoriented. Her first realization was that he wasn't there beside her in the bed. Her fear escalated until she recognized the room as the guest room in her mother's house. It only helped a little bit; she had grown used to having his hard body pressed up against hers, for comfort and safety.
Humiliation accompanied her tears as she faced the extent of her dependence on another person. She'd always been the strong one, the one who didn't need anyone else. She'd allowed him to get so close, he’d been so supportive of her during the preg . . . during her situation. Supportive? Was that the only word she could come up with? He'd been . . . he'd been loving and . . . No! She couldn't allow it, not any more.
She needed to get back to work, she needed . . . she needed to put this whole thing behind her, move on. She desperately wanted to forget any of this had ever happened. Yes, that was the only way to keep going.
After a long time she dozed off again, but all night she continued to wake and reach for him, long for him.
When morning finally came and she knew once again he wasn't beside her, she rose from the bed and pulled her robe on. She headed downstairs, slowly but on her own.
He turned when he heard her come into the kitchen. "Scully? I was hoping you'd sleep for a while longer. How are you feeling?"
"I'm fine Mulder." She turned toward the refrigerator.
He stared at her for a minute, "Scully?" She hadn't used that tone with him since . . . since they'd found out about the preg . . . that she was ill.
She didn't respond, pouring herself a glass of juice.
"Scully, what's wrong?" He moved over closer and touched her arm. She stepped away and his eyes widened. "Scully?"
"Mulder, nothing's wrong. We're home now, my body has healed from the . . . the experiment. It's time we got back to work."
"Back to work? Scully, you are not healed, not physically, and -"
"I am Mulder. And I want to get back to work, now. I'm going to call Skinner and tell him I'm ready. As my partner you should be - "
"Partner? Is that what . . . partner?" His voice was rising and Maggie hurried into the kitchen to see that the outrage in his voice didn't come close to conveying the outrage he was suppressing.
"Fox, Dana, what's wrong?" Maggie looked anxiously from one to the other.
"Why don't you ask her? She's not making a whole lot of sense to me right now."
"Mulder, stop!" She called after him as he left the room.
"Dana, what is it?" Scully wouldn't face her, just shaking her head. She hadn't meant to hurt him, just make him see that things had to go back to the way they had been. She could probably have done it better. Maybe he was right that she wasn't completely herself.
She started for the door, but her mother stopped her. “Dana, please, what’s going on?”
“Mom, not right now.” They both looked up at the sound of the doorbell and Maggie let go of her arm.
Scully pushed open the door to the dining room and Maggie followed.
Mulder had been just at the door when the bell rung. He glanced back toward the kitchen, still so disturbed by Scully’s actions that his reactions were off. He shook his head and approached the door, pulling it open.
“You?” Mulder didn’t have time to react before the fist landed solidly on his jaw. He staggered back and caught his foot on the leg of the small table in the foyer. That took the rest of his balance and he crashed back onto the floor.
“Mulder!” Both women were racing toward him and it was Maggie who acknowledged the man at the door.
“What in the world do you think you’re doing, Bill? How could you?” She glanced down at Scully who was kneeling beside Mulder.
He was already sitting up, his hand on his jaw. “Mulder you’re bleeding.”
He tenderly wiped his lip and shying away from her help, got to his feet. “Well, I guess it’s unanimous.” He turned then and headed up the stairs without another word.
“Mulder!” Scully took a step toward the stairs, but Bill took her arm.
Mulder let himself into the room he had used the night before and pulled out his cell phone to call for a taxi. He threw his clothes into the bag, not bothering to fold anything. Then he grabbed his toiletries from the bath. He was ready to leave in less than ten minutes, then sat down on the bed to wait.
He purposely kept his mind blank. Thinking wouldn’t help right now. He tasted blood in his mouth again. It seemed appropriate somehow. He stared into nothingness until he heard the horn blow in the driveway. Then he roused himself and stood, taking hold of his suitcase.
Scully pulled away from Bill as she saw Mulder coming down the stairs. “Mulder, what are you doing?”
“It’s time, like you said, we’re home. We need to get back to our lives.”
“Mulder!” She stepped toward him, “You can’t just leave.”
“Let him go Dana, it’s the best thing that could happen to you.”
“Bill, stay out of this!”
“No, Scully. He’s right.”
She looked up at him stunned. “Where . . . where are you going?”
“I don’t really know, but hey, I’m a big boy. I’ll find some place.” He looked toward the door as the cab honked again. “I guess I’ll see you at work.”
Her mouth fell open at that, and she watched him move away from her. He missed the look of total panic as he actually opened the door. She lurched forward to stop him, but Bill put his arm around her and held her back. Maggie stood helpless, watching her daughter’s agony.
He picked up the private line, “Skinner.”
“Is that offer of a place to stay still open?”
“Uh, sure. Are you okay?” He didn’t have a clue what to say.
“Great. So, I can stay?”
“Oh, oh yeah. I’ll call the super to let you in.”
“I’m already in. Thanks.” Mulder broke the connection and Skinner sat looking at the receiver in his hand. When the dial tone returned he replaced it in the cradle, then immediately picked up again. He dialed quickly.
The male voice caught him off guard. “I . . is Maggie Scully there?”
“Yes, just a minute.”
Maggie was on almost immediately. “Hello?”
“Maggie, it’s Walter. Is everything okay?”
“Oh, Walter, thank God. No, nothing is okay. Fox and Dana had some sort of fight, then Bill showed up and assaulted Fox, so he left. Dana won’t speak. I don’t know what to do.”
“Calm down, Maggie. Mulder’s at my place, so don’t worry about him. He and Scully had a fight?” Skinner’s brow was furrowed; he wouldn’t fight with her, not with what she had been through. It didn’t make sense.
“Apparently. I walked in on the tail end of it.”
“Maggie, they argue all of the time, could it - “
“No Walter. This was a fight; this was personal. I had to put her to bed. Bill was no help whatsoever. I wish I could understand why he feels such a personal animosity toward Fox. Nothing that has happened has been his fault.”
Skinner sighed, he hadn’t really been aware of this complication in Mulder’s life; not that it was any of his business anyway. “Let me know what you need Maggie. I’ll keep an eye on Mulder.”
The man actually wasn’t a bad roommate Skinner realized. Not that he would want him around for the long term, but he was quiet, kept to himself. Part of that was depression, but he wasn’t ready to talk about it and even when he was, Skinner wasn’t at all sure he’d be the person Mulder would want to talk to.
As far as Skinner knew, he had not been in touch with Scully. Skinner himself was uncomfortable calling Maggie and acting as a go-between. These people were adults, sort of anyway, and this was personal, not business.
Skinner was moving toward the office he maintained at home when he heard the doorbell. Mulder looked up from the couch, but Skinner was already on his feet, so he headed in that direction.
“Maggie?” He opened the door wider and was aware that Mulder had come to his feet. “Come in.”
“I’m sorry to burst in like this, but I don’t have a lot of time. I don’t like leaving her alone.” Mulder’s eyes widened and he stepped closer. “I have to know what happened. She needs help and I can’t help her without knowing. She won’t talk about it, so I’ve come here. I’m not leaving until I have some answers.”
Skinner looked over at Mulder as he took the woman’s arm and led her to the couch. “Fox, please, you have to help me.”
“Do you know if she’s taking her medication?” He tried to sound calm, but Skinner could hear the tremor in his voice.
“I haven’t seen her take anything. What kind of medication Fox? Why does she need it?”
Mulder sent a helpless look over to Skinner. “She needs to know Mulder.”
Maggie watched Mulder’s shoulders slump and her fear for her daughter moved up a notch. “Fox, is it really that bad?”
Rather than answer he pulled a chair closer to the couch and sat facing her. Skinner sat beside her. Mulder took a deep breath and started talking.
Mulder leaned back as he watched Skinner place the brandy in Maggie’s hands. The furniture was littered with used tissues and her hands were shaking. Skinner helped her get the golden liquid to her lips.
After a couple of sips, Maggie took a deep breath. “What was the fight about that morning in my kitchen?”
More? She wanted more information? Mulder couldn’t face her on this one. “Scully wanted to go back to our previous relationship. She wanted to be my partner, nothing more. I . . . I took that badly.”
“You believed her?” That made him look up quickly. “Fox, after all these years and you don’t know her any better than that?”
“She - “
“Fox, look at her career choices - physician, FBI agent. Typically male professions. She’s had to prove herself over and over again in a man’s world. Needing someone would show weakness. She couldn’t allow that. She had to show she’s as strong as any man.”
“But I need her. Does she think that makes me weak?”
“Maybe she doesn’t know Fox. Maybe she won’t let herself believe that you can need her.”
He let himself into the house with Maggie’s key. He could hear someone in the kitchen and headed that way. “Mom? Is that you?”
He stepped into the room as she turned. She’d lost weight, she had to be down to the size she’d been when battling the cancer and her face was drawn. Was the pain physical or emotional? He couldn’t tell. She didn’t look like she’d been sleeping either; of course the same could probably be said of him. “Mulder.”
He stopped just inside the door, “Don’t talk for a minute, just listen.” He took a deep breath as she stared at him, “I know you don’t need me in your life. If you have any doubt of that, Bill can give you a thousand reasons why it’s true. You don’t. And you know I survived without you in my life for more years than I want to contemplate. So maybe, technically, I don’t need you in mine. But the reality is, I do need you. And if the only way I can have you in my life is as my partner, okay. I’ll take it. I just don’t want to be without you anymore.” He stopped talking then, just watching her. There was nothing else to say.
His heart sank as he saw the tears form in her eyes. He had to hold himself in place as one escaped and trailed down her cheek.
“It scares me how much I need you.” She said it quietly, but didn’t look away, held by his eyes.
“Do you think that’s something we could work on together? I could sure use a good night’s sleep.” He held out his hand, but didn’t move close enough to touch her.
That startled a laugh out of her and she moved toward him. “You need me?”
“You don’t listen very well. How many times do I have to tell you?”
“Okay.” He pulled her into his arms then and held her tightly to his chest. Her arms snaked around his waist and he felt her relax.
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Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunman and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter, 10-13 and Fox. No infringement intended.