He had made it back to his apartment. He wasn’t quite sure how he had gotten there, but it didn’t matter. Nothing did.
It had been three days since he had driven her away. He’d said unforgivable things and it had finally worked. She was out, safe now. Away from him. He had called her mother, when he was sure she wouldn’t be home, to apologize to her. He wanted Scully to hate him, but not Mrs. Scully. She was the only mother he really knew – he’d probably never seen her again, but he didn’t need her hatred as well.
Three days. He had thought he was doing really well. Then he’d walked into the office this morning and found all of her stuff gone. There wasn’t a trace of her left in the office. It was like she had never existed. She’d even wiped the surfaces down with some sort of cleanser obliterating her scent. He hadn’t been able to stay a full thirty minutes before he raced to the men’s room and lost what little he had eaten over the past two days.
He’d returned to the office to lock it, but hadn’t dared to go inside. Then he’d walked away. It wouldn’t matter; the X-Files probably wouldn’t exist much longer anyway. She was the legitimate member, he was tolerated – the idiot savant that might make an intelligent leap, but still no one that you would want to be around.
So he had walked. He found himself cynically amused at one point that the only reason he hadn’t been arrested for vagrancy was his suit. He’d found himself on "his" bench at the reflecting pool, but she’d ruined that for him. She had met him there when the Bureau had separated them. They had talked where they hoped they weren’t observed – fat chance. In any case she haunted the bench so he’d moved on to another location where she wasn’t hovering in memory. Not an easy thing to find.
Finally he’d given up and headed home. Well, to his apartment. He had no home, no anchor any more. If he did decide to kill himself, and he’d probably do a better job of it now than when he was twelve, they’d put something mundane under cause of death – cardiac arrest, foreign object in the brain, something like that. They’d be wrong whatever they said. The cause of death would be lack of Scully.
He really hadn’t known how deep inside of him she was. He honestly had not realized. Why was that? Had he avoided knowing? The clues had all been there. He was supposed to be a bright guy. He had to have forced himself not to know.
When they had been sitting on that bench in Home, Pennsylvania discussing his genetic makeup, why hadn’t he told her then he’d give her all of the children she wanted. Of course, they hadn’t known then that her relationship with him had already caused her to be sterile. He winced at that, it was a physical pain with him. She couldn’t have children, neither could he, because he only wanted them with her. This was helping a lot.
Maybe now she’d find a normal man, a sane one, to grow old with. That should make it worth it for him. If she got a life, that should make him happy. So why did it feel like a knife twisting in his gut?
Of course, she didn’t have the greatest taste in men. Jack Willis, he hadn’t been fit to breathe the same air. An instructor from the academy and he went after one of his students. Sleazy.
And Ed Jerse, well he had to take some credit there. He had practically thrown her into his arms. Not into his arms, he didn’t think anything had happened. She wasn’t the one-night stand type. Still she had spent the night in his apartment.
She’d been with Ed long enough for him to try and kill her. Jack had tried too. But neither came close to his record. How many times had he pointed a gun at her, four – five times? That didn’t count all the other ways he’d almost killed her.
He took a deep breath. Her scent had faded from the couch again. You know, it had almost been worth the crap that she gave him for ditching her all those times. Worth it to come home and find the aroma of Scully on his couch where she’d kept vigil. He’d had no right to it, but she’d kept vigil on so many occasions.
She’d kept him alive so long. Why? Why had she bothered? He’d done her so much damage, not just the cancer, the sterility, the loss of her sister; it was the damage to her faith, the horror of having children she would never hold, but always know were out there being used. It was everything he had put her through.
He didn’t realize he was crying until a tear splashed on his hand. Was he feeling sorry for himself or for what he’d done to her? Was there a difference?
He had let her down so many times. Just hadn’t been there for her. He could not remember a single instance when she hadn’t been there for him. Not one. Why? Why couldn’t he have been there for her? It wasn’t like there was anyone else in his life. Was he so self-centered he only cared about himself? It was too much trouble to love her? Love her – no it wasn’t that. Where had that thought come from?
Oh God, was he in love with her? Was that the problem? The reason he kept backing away? Yes, he loved her, but. . . He wasn’t fit to love anyone and he knew it. That alone should give him the strength to go on. And she didn’t love him, she put up with him, nurtured him, worried about his sanity. . . oh God.
He wasn’t even as good for her as Jack and Ed. Why had Pendrell died? At least he knew how to worship her and he’d died saving her life. How the hell was he going to go back into that office tomorrow, or whenever he could lift himself off of this couch, and work?
Was this why his father drank? Had it ever helped? Dad drank before he and Mom had divorced, so it wasn’t loss of her. Just loss of his soul. Well, Scully was his soul; did he have anything here to drink anyway? No, save that for tomorrow, he’d be worse by then. How long could he wallow in this self-pity?
Okay, he was in love with a woman that was too good for him. It happened to lots of men, they survived. He was supposed to be good at surviving, otherwise he wouldn’t be here now. Did lack of wanting to survive make a difference?
A sleeping pill, yeah. Just one this time. It would lead to nightmares, but they wouldn’t be any worse than reality right now.
She let herself into her mother’s house. Thank God Mom was out of town, there was no way she could have faced her right now. She’d promised to water the plants and she would. Then just get out. She was too angry to be anywhere.
Damn Fox Mulder anyway! How could he have said those things to her? Did he really believe them? She’d walked out without a word and she wouldn’t be back. He had no right to say those things. She was not responsible for everything that had gone wrong in his life except Samantha. She wasn’t trying to ruin him and she didn’t manipulate him and damn it, shut up. She’d been over it a thousand times in the last three days, nothing changed. Except maybe her blood pressure.
When she had walked out, she hadn’t really realized she wouldn’t be back. She was still in too much shock at his words. She hadn’t run out, she had maintained her dignity until she got to the car. Driving would have been suicidal at the time, so she had sat there and replayed the meeting. Over and over. At first she had cried, since she was alone and no one would see her weakness. However the longer she thought about it the angrier she had become and that had not dissipated.
Her apartment had never been so clean. She refused to touch her computer; she was not going to work on any case that involved him. If only she could sleep. How did he manage on so little sleep?
She had thought she was cried out before she got to her apartment that day, until she lay down to try to sleep. Those scalding tears soaking her pillow had embarrassed her as well as angered her. There was no one to talk to. Her work hadn’t cut her off totally from her friends, but she felt guilty going to people now that she hadn’t had time for when things were going well. Mom was out of town and she’d be damn before she told Bill what had happened. His ‘I told you so’ might get him shot.
She had slept late the second day, probably due to the sleeping pill she finally took, as well as the fact it had been after 3 a.m. when she took it. Had she been waiting for his late night call? The apology call that something in her had expected all day? Well it hadn’t come.
Somehow she had managed to get through the day and later after she was sure he had gone home – she’d checked the garage – the office had received the same treatment as her apartment. Her side of the office shone and to make sure she had everything, she had even gone through his desk. She had been shocked to find that stupid wilted rose petal. Hadn’t she thrown that away when she got back from the weekend from hell in Pennsylvania? She distinctly remembered tossing it in his trashcan. No way he would have gone through the garbage looking for it. Was there? And it was here, in the new office? He’d actually saved it from the fire and brought it here? And that photo of her when Schnauz abducted her, with what looked like demons around her, screaming Mulder’s name. Why hadn’t that been in the file, why his desk?
Other items had surprised her as well, but she refused to dwell on any of it, tossing everything in a box and sticking it in her trunk. Possibly to never see, or to burn when her rage overcame her again.
She had even disinfected the place just to rid him of any Scully cooties since he felt so strongly about her presence in his office and his life.
So now here she was at her mother’s house, needing something to do besides just water the stupid plants. The place was already clean and Mom wouldn’t be home until the weekend. That was probably a good thing. Mom would try to calm her down, make her see Mulder’s side. Like hell, he couldn’t talk to her like that.
Well, Mom did have a couple of messages on the machine; maybe she could handle that for her.
Mulder’s voice! Mulder calling here? What the hell for, this was her mother not his. She felt her blood pressure climb again. Okay his was useless, but. . . He was babbling. She ran the message back and listened to it again. Was he crying? Why was he apologizing to her mother and not her? She listened again; it made no sense. Why was the fist of anger in her chest loosening? He sounded so lost.
But he had done this. He was the one that wanted to break up the partnership. Why was he so upset? Why did he want her mother’s forgiveness and not hers?
This wasn’t another ploy to protect her was it? If he had wanted to drive her off, he couldn’t have done anything more powerful. That son of a bitch! Had he staged this? Her hand found the figurine on her mother’s table and threw it with full force across the room. Watching it shatter gave her a little satisfaction, then she felt herself wilt.
She sank onto the sofa. Why had she ever let herself fall in love with her partner? She had the absolutely worst taste in men. Look at her record, Alan in college, Jack after the academy, those stupid blind dates her well-meaning friends had set up. Even Ed. She should learn, she was supposed to be smart. If she was attracted to a man, then he was automatically bad news and she should run, not walk, away.
Hell, at least Ed and the others had at least been attracted to her as well. Not like Mulder, who probably didn’t even know she was female most of the time. If he had been trying to drive her away, he had worked it perfectly. Would he stoop that low to protect her? Why would he want to protect her if he didn’t care about her? God, she was going to lose her mind going over this.
She listened to the message one more time, now that she was calmer. He was obviously not okay, but he had never meant for her to hear this. He was a psychologist; he knew what buttons to push. And he knew her buttons better than anyone else on the planet. He knew her inside and out and. . . damn it he had done this on purpose! Why? What had happened that scared him so badly that he would work this hard to make her leave him?
Damn him! He wasn’t getting away with this. She grabbed the tape from the machine, not bothering to replace it and was out the door.
The pounding on the door finally got his attention. He hadn’t been asleep; just in a self-pity induced stupor. Damn, the neighbors would be calling if he didn’t get to the door.
He flung it open, ready to tear into whoever was making the incessant noise and froze when he saw her. He tried immediately to pull himself together, checking the hall for observers he pulled her into his apartment.
"What do you think you’re doing? Why did you come here? I thought I made it plain. . ."
"Oh, you made it plain enough. Now explain this!" She slammed the tiny tape onto his table.
He stared at it uncomprehendingly, what? What was it? Where had she gotten it?
She realized his confusion and took a deep breath. "This is my mother’s answering machine tape."
He looked at her, the light finally dawning. "Listen, I didn’t want. . . our problems shouldn’t affect her. I just didn’t want her to. . ." He was trying desperately to remember what he had said, he had been so upset when he called her. That had been a mistake, he should have waited until he calmed down.
"What do they have on you?"
"What?" How could she know, she had to be guessing. He had to get her out of here and away from him.
"They came to you and told you to get rid of me. Okay, they’ve tried that before. What do they have this time that scared you so?"
He sank down onto the couch, not only was she stronger than him, she was smarter too. And it would kill her, they would kill her.
"Talk to me Mulder. I’m not leaving here until I hear the truth. Remember the truth? It’s what we used to be looking for, together. Don’t think for an instant that I won’t recognize a lie coming from your mouth."
"Scully, don’t. Just go, please."
That look in his eyes; they had gotten to him. She was right and he was terrified. He was terrified for her. What had they threatened him with this time?
He watched her shoulders sag and then she drifted down onto the couch beside him. "Talk to me Mulder." She repeated, but softer this time, "I need to know."
He shook his head, so she rose again and walked to his stereo. She flipped it on and turned up the volume, not even caring what was playing. "They can’t hear you now, Mulder. What did they threaten you with?"
No one should know him so well. He didn’t want it, she shouldn’t be this close, and she shouldn’t be able to read his mind. She put her hand on his arm and he managed not to jerk away.
"You." He spoke harshly, "They’ll kill you. We saw too much, too many people know what we saw. And we ruined their plans, their base in the Antarctic. I pushed them too far and now it’s quit or lose you forever. So I quit. You have to walk away and not look back, it’s the only way to save yourself."
"Who’s going to save you?"
He looked up, startled. Save him? Why would anyone want to?
She read that in his eyes and leaned back, looking away, unable to face him for a moment. Part of her wanted to scream. All of these years together and he still didn’t have a clue.
"Okay, what did they say they would do?"
"Scully, they own you, with that chip. Remove it and your cancer returns, leave it and they have access to you. Who knows what they can do to you? But they’ll leave you alone if you. . . if I send you away and stop searching. It’s no contest, Scully. The X-Files aren’t worth it. They aren’t worth you. Could you go now?"
"Scully! It’s your life we’re talking about."
"What kind of life to do think it would be without you?" She said it quietly; he almost missed it with the music blaring. Even when his ears processed it his brain couldn’t. He sat staring at her. No she didn’t understand, he wasn’t getting through.
Her hand was back on his arm and damn it, her eyes were twinkling, she was smiling! "I love to watch you think."
"What?" He wanted to shake her. She wasn’t getting it.
"We need to make them think they won. We need the world to think we hate each other and can’t work together. Okay, I see that. What you don’t see is that we have to work together to do that, not apart. You can’t play these stupid mind games with me and drive me away. I figured it out, Mulder. My IQ is above 3. I’d have been here sooner if it hadn’t taken me so long to calm down. You did a good job of pissing me off."
"Scully, they’ll kill you! Because of me they’ll kill you. You expect me to live through that? It can’t be a game. We can’t fool them. You have to leave, here and the Bureau. You could be the world’s best forensic pathologist, hell you already are. Go do it somewhere else – Scotland Yard, Interpol, they’d be lucky to get you. Get away from me and these monsters."
"There’s nowhere I could go that they aren’t already. It’s a small planet, Mulder. You and I know exactly how small it is. So I stay, maybe not as your partner, in public, but I stay. Mulder, look at me. You can’t drive me away, I won’t go. That’s my final word on the subject."
"Scu. . . " She had her finger on his lips, shaking her head. She was stunned to see a tear escape his eye and travel down his cheek. He was convinced he would be the cause of her death. And he couldn’t stand it.
He’d seen the edge before, watching her die. He couldn’t do it again. If he left, would they forget about her then? He could write, or teach, or. . .
"Mulder, stop it. Together, that’s where our strength lies. Neither of us can do what we do apart. Stop doing their work for them. Don’t make it easy to separate us. You’ve got to trust me on this."
"I can’t protect you."
"I’m not asking you to. I’m only asking you to stay, to let me stay with you. I can’t do it alone."
"Live, without you."
His eyes closed. It was too late. Somehow she’d realized how he felt. Why had he thought he could hide something this big from her? Did he have the strength to be with her until they tore them apart? He knew now he didn’t have the strength not to be.
He felt her arms go around him. "Please, Mulder. Don’t leave me alone."
And then he had her against him, crushing her to him, trying to get her inside of him where he could protect her at least a little. "Scully?" She looked up at him, into his eyes. "What happens if they. . . "
"Hush, Mulder." She pressed her lips against his. The same passion that had caused her fury at him was in play now, overwhelming her with desire for him. Those people were going to have to learn, she and Mulder could not be separated, not by them, not by fate, not by death. No one could split their souls apart. She knew they would try, but she also knew something they didn’t. Her arms tightened around him, this was forever, wherever they were.