Safe. A strange word, especially now, but it seemed to be the correct description for what she was feeling. She was watching his hands gripping the steering wheel - so strong, his fingers lean and tanned. He wasn't looking at her, concentrating instead on the road, but she knew he was totally aware of her. He was trying to give her the space he thought she wanted. For that she was grateful, much more solicitousness and she would explode.
That was why she has chosen
to ride with him. The family was trying too hard.
And they were so uncomfortable because of Matthew.
She had tried to explain that she was delighted with the birth of Bill and
Tara's son. They couldn't seem to hear her, so she was
especially grateful for the space right now.
Besides, this man made her feel safe. If she broke down and lost it, he would have his arms around her, supporting her instantly, as he had so many times in the past.
He had arrived just in time after Melissa's death. She had held it together for her mother, helping with the arrangements, keeping her mind on practicalities in order to appear strong and in control. But then the practicalities had gone away; Melissa's body removed, the papers signed, the funeral home and priest notified. He had found her sitting in the room, staring at the empty bed. She had given him the information in a matter of fact voice. Then he had pulled her into his arms and she had broken down in the safety he provided. Again that word - safe.
What was it about this man that made her feel so safe? There was probably no one else in the world that would wonder about that with Fox Mulder, but he had always made her feel safe somehow.
She had known she had cancer before making the appointment. Leonard Betts had told her - “You have something I need”. She shivered slightly at the memory and he glanced over, but still didn't speak.
However, she had not been prepared for the dire diagnosis that the doctor had given her. The pins had been knocked out from under her and her first, and only, call had been to this man. There wasn't a thing he could do, but his mere presence had made her feel safer, steadier.
Karen had asked why she was still working when she'd gone to see her during the Harold Spuller case. She had fumbled over her answer, realizing for the first time what she was receiving from Mulder. It had crossed her mind then that she might already be unable to work if she didn't have him.
If she were honest with herself she'd felt this way with him a lot longer than that. On their first case together, she had sought safety with him when she had felt the bumps on her back. She had run to him and he had made it better. She smiled slightly at the words she had thought and turned her face away from him so that he wouldn't see.
It seemed inappropriate to smile now. Her daughter was dead, her body missing. But Mulder had made even that seem somehow safer. "She's a miracle that was never meant to be." To hear Mulder talking about miracles was in itself astonishing. To hear him talk to her so tenderly about them was . . .
She glanced back at him; he was watching her now. His eyes were so concerned. She looked away again quickly. Not yet, she couldn't fall apart now. She heard the small sigh, but he held his silence, respecting hers. As she looked away she saw his hand twitch against the steering wheel, he wanted to touch her. She wanted that too, but later. When this last ordeal was over, she wanted to go somewhere alone, just with him and fall apart for a little while.
They were almost there, Bill's house. She watched it approach rather than feeling she was approaching it. Safer that way. Bill's car was already in the driveway, as well as a couple of others, friends of Bill and Tara's who felt obligated to drop by. Mulder pulled in front of the house and parked. She still didn't speak, so he let himself out and hurried around the car to help her.
He was a little surprised when she took the proffered hand and he couldn't stop himself from squeezing it slightly. She let go as soon as she was out of the car, glancing at the front of the house and smoothing her skirt.
“Scully, maybe it would be better if I didn't go in. You should be with family now.”
“Please don't leave -“ she managed to bite off the 'me' at the end of that sentence just in time. There was no way she could get through this without him.
His nod was almost imperceptible. He wouldn't leave her. He looked back toward the house, but she hadn't moved away from the car.
“Mulder.” He took a step closer to her then and leaned in.
There had been a time when his lack of respect for her space had bothered her. He always seemed to hover over her, not just his height, his proximity as well. Now she reveled in it.
"I'm packed. When you get the chance, would you bring my stuff out to the car?"
He was surprised by that. “Scully?”
"I need to get back to DC. I want to go home. Today."
"Okay." He said it carefully, not wanting to upset her. "Scully? What about your mother?"
"Tara needs her here for a little while."
"You need her too."
”I have you.”
He didn't know what to say to that, but she was right. He watched her take a deep breath and move toward the house. He was beside her and touched her back without thinking. When she leaned slightly into him, he moved to place his arm around her. He matched his stride to hers, being no more anxious to go in than she obviously was.
She knew she would break down again. But she also knew that she could hold it together longer if this man was within arm's length and that when she did lose it, he would make it safe.