He was settled on the plane, reading the file Skinner had given him. Thoughts of Diana kept intruding and he continually pushed them aside.
Mulder looked up at the sound of a woman’s voice. Scully, of course she’d be here. He stood in the aisle to let her pass. He didn’t want to deal with her right now. As soon as she was seated, he returned to the file. There was no need to try to charm her.
After takeoff, which he noticed was white knuckle for her, he tried to ignore her. The scent from the night before was pervasive however. He’d slept with that scent around him and for some reason it was irritating the hell out of him. He’d be damned if he’d mention it.
While he flirted with the stewardess, she remained quiet and tried to concentrate on her own information from the file, but his voice kept filtering in. What was going on? He had never treated her like this.
He took the keys to the rental car without even bothering to ask if she wanted to drive. He did drive, probably 75% of the time, but he always made some comment. This time there was nothing. She dreaded an hour and a half ride with him. If she only knew what was wrong, but it was as though he were a different man.
He obviously didn't want to have anything to do with her either, flipping on the radio and turning the music up to prevent conversation. She turned to look out the window, more sad than angry at this point. She didn't realize he would occasionally look over at her, now that she couldn't see. He was startled at what looked like a tear on the side of her face. Her hand brushed it away before he was sure.
The drive seemed to take forever and even then he didn't seem anxious to get started on the case, pulling into the twelve-unit motor court near the hospital.
After checking in and taking their bags inside, she returned immediately to his door, knocking sharply. "Can we get on with this?"
"Sure Agent Scully, let's knock ourselves out." Again he took the driver's side and they drove the short distance to the hospital.
The place obviously was doing a lot more business than it was used to and they were unable to get anyone to stop and answer their questions. She was ready to reach for her badge and demand attention when a familiar voice caught her ear.
She turned and saw him, Commander Henderson. She grabbed Mulder's arm and pulled him into an empty cubicle, pulling the curtain closed. She had caught him off guard and was quite forceful about getting out of sight. He straightened his suit coat and looked down at her. "You couldn't wait until we're back at the motel?"
She shot him a withering glare. "That's Commander Henderson out there and he'd like nothing better than to throw you behind bars again. Is that what you want?"
"Behind bars? What did I do to him?"
She was ignoring him now. "That means a retrieval team is here. We've got to get out before he sees either one of us."
"He wants you behind bars too?"
"He's not fond of me, but he despises you." She snatched the car keys from Mulder's hand.
"Shut up." She peeked through the curtains. "Come on. Hurry." She didn't check to see if he was following her, and after a short hesitation he was. She already had the engine going when he opened the passenger door.
When they got back to the motel, he was out of the car before she could take it out of gear. She jumped out and entered his room on his heels, before he could shut the door.
"What do you want?" He barked at her, resisting the urge to take a breath of her, now that her scent was in his room.
"That was Commander Henderson, are you - "
"You've told me his name several times now. Who is he? Why is he after me?"
"Mulder, don't you remember him? What about Max?"
Mulder shook his head, at a loss.
"Who the hell are you?" She backed away from him then, drawing her gun.
"What the - "
"I want to see your blood. Prick your finger, do something, I need to see the color of your blood."
"You're out of your friggin’ mind! You want me to bleed for you?"
She nodded, ratcheting a bullet into the chamber. His eyes widened; she'd do it. The paranoid bitch was going to shoot him.
"Fine, fine okay." He pulled a small knife from his pocket and pressed the tip of the blade to his ring finger. A drop of bright red blood appeared.
He could see Scully visibly relax at the sight and point the gun toward the ceiling.
"Thanks, I think. What the fuck is going on here?"
"You're not my partner. You're not Fox Mulder and I want to know what you've done with him."
"I haven't done anything with him. I am Fox Mulder, I always have been."
"I want your fingerprints and DNA."
"You can have all the DNA you want." He made a suggestive motion with his hips and saw her anger rise. What was wrong with him? He didn't treat women like this. "Dana . . . Dana, I'm sorry."
She gave him the smallest of nods. "We need to get back to DC. Finding out what's going on with you is more important than this case." She turned toward the door then.
"Scully, you said retrieval team. What are they retrieving?"
She looked him in the eye then, "UFOs." She let herself out the door, but not before she saw his eyes widen and his mouth fall slightly open.
He stood in shock for the longest time. UFOs? She hadn’t been pulling his leg, she wouldn’t do that, he knew that instinctively. A noise on the other side of the wall finally drew his attention.
She was crying. Shit! Why was she crying? He hated it when women cried, but he couldn’t ignore it. Not if it was her. He let himself out of his room and moved to her door. He started to knock, then stopped, trying the knob.
She hadn’t taken the time to turn the old-fashioned thumb switch and the door was unlocked. He carefully let himself into the room. She was seated on the bed, her back against the headboard, her knees up under her chin with her arms wrapped around them.
“Scully? You okay?”
She shook her head but didn’t speak.
“Scully, what is our relationship?”
“We’re partners.” She sniffed and reached for a tissue. He took another cautious step toward the bed and eased down on the corner opposite her.
“I think it’s more than that.”
She looked at him then. “Yes. We were friends, best friends. You were always there for me. I hope I was there for you.”
“I have no doubt you were. The woman that broke into my apartment the first evening would be there for anything.”
She looked away then and sighed.
“When was I there for you?”
She glanced back, startled. He was serious, he wanted to hear this. She took a deep breath, “When, when I was returned after my abduction I was in a coma, dying. They removed life support and were waiting for me to die. You came and sat with me, talked to me. And I decided to live.” His eyes were wide, but he didn’t interrupt.
“And when my cancer was . . . you found my cure and saved me again.”
“I found a cure for cancer?”
“You found a cure for mine. The implant.” She touched the back of her neck lightly. “I realize now I was hours from dying, and you . . . Why do I infuriate you so?”
He sat up straight at that question. “It . . . it’s not fury, I think it’s fear. I feel like I could care for you, do care for you, and that’s not my style, Agent Scully. I booze ‘em and bed ‘em.” He shrugged.
She blushed slightly but shook her head. “That’s not the man I know. When . . . when did you start drinking?” She chose the easier topic.
“Why didn’t you tell me Diana was dead?”
She blinked at the change in subject. “I did, once.”
"What happened between the two of you?" He asked her, puzzled.
"Diana and me? Nothing."
His expression showed he didn't believe her, but he dropped it, for now. "So what do we do?"
"Let the guys do some testing. We have to know what's going on."
When they landed, she drove directly to the Lone Gunmen's apartment. He followed in his own car.
"Guys, I need your help. This is not Mulder, not the Mulder I know."
"I am Mulder. I don't know what's going on, but I am Fox Mulder."
The three men stood there at a loss looking between the two agents.
"Take his finger prints, and his DNA." Scully turned to Byers.
They looked at Mulder then, who nodded. He sank into a chair and held out his hand. Frohike looked at Byers and shrugged, then stepped forward and got the print kit out of the desk.
He took the prints and headed for the scanner. "Scully,” Byers moved over toward her. "What happened?"
"He doesn't remember Max Fenig. He doesn't know who Commander Henderson is."
"He could still be Mulder; maybe someone tampered with his memory."
Mulder looked over at them. "How did Diana Fowley die?"
They all turned to look at him then. After a long moment, Scully moved over to him. She had known that conversation wasn't over, but she was grateful the others were here. "She was murdered." He flinched. "It was after I returned from Africa. I found you and got you away from them. About the time you were released from the hospital she was found in her apartment, shot twice through the heart."
"Hospital? Africa? You got me away from what?"
She looked at Byers then as though to see if he were hearing this. "Mulder, they took you, they performed surgery on you."
"What kind of surgery?"
"On your . . . on your brain, Mulder."
"You're kidding, right?"
"No Mulder. Right here." She moved closer and touched him lightly on his scalp. When she felt no scar, she moved her fingers slightly to the side. She glanced over at Byers and then brought her other hand up to his head, parting his hair.
"Ow!" He jerked away as she pulled his hair in her agitation.
"There's no scar. Byers, there's no scar." Her voice was shaking.
They all stepped back from the man then. Frohike looked up, "the fingerprints match."
"What?" Scully stared at Frohike then. "They can't! There's no scar!"
Byers put what he hoped was a calming hand on Scully's arm. "Let us check the DNA. Maybe there's an explanation, maybe the scar - "
"Vanished? Along with his memory of past cases? When have you ever known Mulder to forget anything?"
Byers looked away from her then. Langly and Frohike refused to meet her eyes as well.
"Scully, what's going on?" Mulder looked up at her then. "I am Mulder, I don't remember being your partner, I thought that was Diana. Since I'm apparently the only one that remembers things that way, I agree, something's wrong. But I don't know what."
"I don't either Mulder." She sank into the other chair and looked at him. "But you are not the Fox Mulder I have known for the past seven years. You need to tell me what you remember. We need to find out where your memories diverge from mine. Byers?"
"Anything you need Scully." Byers placed a calming hand on Scully’s shoulder and Mulder felt his blood pressure rise. He had to hold himself in place to keep from knocking the man’s hand away. What did he care if another man touched her? He never had with any other woman, and she wasn’t his type.
"You have no memory of ever being my partner?"
"None. I recognized you that morning when I walked in my office and you were there, but I'd never worked with you. Diana and I found the X-Files about ten years ago. We've worked on them together ever since, or she has and she takes me along, sorry, took me along."
"She was the lead agent?"
"Maybe not at first, but yeah."
"She didn't drink as much." He shrugged.
Scully closed her eyes at that. "Did she, did she chose your cases or were they assigned?"
"For the most part she chose them."
"You seemed surprised by the amount of detail in the files you were looking at. Did you not . . . "
Mulder actually laughed at that. "No, we didn't go into that kind of detail. We were a joke. You should have seen some of the cases she brought in. But hell, it kept me off the streets, during the day at least."
"Did you not care?"
"Hell yes I cared!" The question had obviously infuriated him. "But I was the only one that did. It became an exercise."
"Did Diana - "
"Diana didn't care either, not once we quit . . . “ He looked down at his shoes then, "Drinking became more attractive and women kept me busy."
"Oh Mulder." She turned away from him at those words and he felt a moment of panic.
"Mulder, we knew you before you worked with Diana." Byers spoke finally. "You were very excited when you found the X-Files. I know you always gave Diana some credit for finding them, but she wasn't there. In fact, she came to you after you found them because she'd heard about what you had found. Scully, do you think, do you think she could have been sent like you were, to debunk the work? Only, she actually did."
Scully looked at Byers for a long moment. "You think she worked with them? You think she deliberately worked against . . . "
"Yeah, I do." Byers nodded.
"It makes the most sense Scully." Langly faced her then, and Frohike nodded.
"That doesn't explain who this man is."
"I'm Fox Mulder."
"You're not my Mulder!" She stopped when she realized what she had said. "I . . . I mean . . . "
"It's okay Scully." Frohike placed a hand on her shoulder.
She shook her head. "I'm going home." She moved toward the door.
"Scully." Mulder rose, but she flinched from him and he stopped.
She left the apartment then without another word.
"Listen, Mulder, she'll be okay. Just give her some time. We'll get this thing figured out and - "
"Right. I need a drink."
"Have it here Mulder. Frohike's got what you want." Byers placed a hand on his shoulder. "You shouldn't - "
"I need to be alone."
"That's not a good idea Mulder."
"When's the last time I had a good idea?" He moved on to the door and didn't look back. The three men exchanged glances.
"Should we follow him?" Langly asked Byers.
"No. He doesn't know what's going on any more than we do. We need to give him some space." Byers looked over at Frohike, who reluctantly nodded.
The knock on her door finally roused her and she grabbed her robe. Was it Mulder? He was the only one who had ever just showed up at her door this late at night. If it was him, it was the first normal thing he had done in months. After the conversation at the guys’ apartment, he had refused further discussion. The DNA had matched, just like the prints. No chemicals of any kind had been found in his blood.
Many times she had turned to find him looking at her, watching her, but he never allowed a personal conversation.
His drinking continued, though he didn’t seem to be picking up women anymore. At least if he did, he hid it from her.
Her depression grew, but so did her workload. He automatically fell into a secondary role, often not even bothering with a theory.
At first she had tried to tease him into an outlandish theory, just to watch his mind click into gear. A couple of times it had worked, but not lately. She desperately missed his late night phone calls, the occasional pizza, even the damn innuendos.
She had picked up the slack, covering for his lackluster performance, hoping every day that he would snap out of it as quickly as it had taken him over. It didn’t seem to be happening, and he did not want her help. He’d made that painfully obvious.
She automatically checked the peephole. Skinner? She yanked the door open, "Sir? What's wrong?"
He moved into her apartment and shut the door.
"What is it?" Her voice shook, as he still didn't speak, merely leading her to her couch.
"Scully, Dana, there's been an accident."
"Accident?" She didn't realize she was now gripping his hand. "Mulder?"
Skinner nodded. Without warning she rose, "Where is he? Where have they taken him? I need to be with him."
"Dana, Dana . . . he, he didn't make it. He was apparently driving intoxicated. They've taken the . . . the body to - "
"No! No, he's not dead. He's not . . . “ Skinner had taken hold of her now and pulled her against him. This man wouldn't lie to her, but he couldn't be right, not about this. Her arms tightened painfully around him and he could feel her nails even through his suit coat. His own eyes were wet now and he felt the shudders pass through her body.
He agreed to take her, finally, and allowed her to get dressed while he waited. Skinner sat on the couch, numb with despair himself; he couldn't imagine what she was thinking. He'd never known the man to drink, not like this. How could he have . . . at least he hadn't taken anyone else with him when he drove into that bridge abutment.
Arrangements needed to be made. The man had no family, except Scully and she was in no shape . . . later, they could think about this later and he would be there for her.
He rose as he heard her approach. She was pale, but she was composed again. He'd make this as easy on her as he could.
She pushed the door to the morgue open. Skinner had wanted to come with her but she had to do this alone. His body had been brought out and his face wasn't covered. He wasn't marked; his face was unmarred by the accident. The airbag had . . . she took hold of the table to stay on her feet.
She stared down at him; ignoring all of the things they had discussed that day at the Gunmen's apartment. She wouldn't touch his scalp; she didn't want to believe that the scar wasn't there.
"What happened to you? Oh god Mulder, why did you change? The drinking, the women. Were you trying to get killed? Did you just give up? What am I supposed to do now? How do I live?"
It took a second to realize his eyes had opened. When she did she jerked back, her eyes impossibly wide. Her mouth moved but no sound emerged.
"Scully? You're alive?"
That forced air back into her lungs. "Me? Mulder what the hell is . . . you were . . . you were . . .” And she sank toward the floor.
"Scully!" He was off the table just beginning to realize his nudity. When he ensured himself that she had only fainted, he draped the sheet that had covered him around himself and thought to look around. A morgue? He was in a morgue and she had thought he was dead. Was he back? Was he back to where Scully was alive? They had a lot to talk about, he wondered if she would listen to him this time. And, he smiled, how long would it take to get her back into his bed, where she belonged.