She was a little surprised that the door was locked when she arrived. He usually beat her here and had some comment about it. She let herself in and placed her briefcase on the desk. As she turned to start the coffee, she noticed the light blinking to show there was a message waiting.
Scully pressed play and Mulder's voice came from the machine. "Scully, I'm gonna take the day. I'll talk to you later."
She stared at the machine. He sounded awful. Was he sick? He'd seemed okay yesterday. She picked up the receiver and dialed his apartment. His machine picked up before the first ring - never a good sign. He was avoiding contact.
If he was really sick, he might need someone. He certainly sounded like he needed her. She glanced around the office; nothing life or death to handle, just the ever present paperwork. She could handle that later.
She slipped her briefcase under the desk and locked the office back up.
There was no answer when she tapped on the door. He might be asleep and she really didn't want to wake him if he was ill. After a second's hesitation, she slipped her key into the lock and opened the door.
She spotted him immediately, on his couch, his arm over his eyes. Was he asleep? She moved closer to him. "Mulder?" She spoke softly, so as not to wake him if he were asleep.
"What are you doing here?" He didn't remove his arm.
"You sounded . . . I was worried about you."
"Go on back to work, Scully. I'm fine."
"Fine like you always accuse me of being?"
He gave a little snort at that. "Go on, Scully. Maybe I just need to be alone today."
Today? What did that mean? "And maybe you don't."
He went silent then, but still wouldn't look at her. What was going on? She moved into the kitchen and put some water on for tea. It wasn't his favorite, but she could use some. It was cold in here. She checked the thermostat. Hell, he had it set on sixty. It was November, what was he thinking?
It was November? Oh god, it was . . . it was the anniversary of Samantha's disappearance. How could she have forgotten something like that? And it was the first one since Tina had died. He was truly alone now.
But he wasn't. Did he not understand that? Did he not know that she was here and always would be?
Tea wasn't important now. She turned off the burner and returned to the living room. She sat on the coffee table close to him. She reached for his hand and moved it from his face. He only resisted a little.
He made himself look at her. She could see that he had been crying; his eyes were sunken and had dark circles under them.
"Why didn't you call me?"
"What could you do?"
"I could be here. I want to be here. You shouldn't be alone."
"But I am alone, Scully. My whole family is gone."
"But for how long? How long before you leave me too?" He looked devoid of hope.
"Mulder, I'm not going anywhere. You can't even send me away and you know when others have tried, it hasn't worked. Scoot over."
She joined him on the couch and pulled him against her, resting him on her breast as she stroked his hair for a few minutes. After a little while he sat up reluctantly.
"I don't know why it got to me so badly this time."
"You said it yourself, Mulder. This is the first anniversary since your Mother died. It's a hard one."
He nodded, looking at the ceiling. "I have had the most screwed up life. I don't know why you put up with me."
"Me either." She grinned up at him, and her smile seemed to lighten his mood. "Your life isn't that screwed up, Mulder."
His eyebrow rose as he looked down at her.
"Okay, a little, but I've seen worse. Why don't you talk to me? What do you think your life would have looked like if Samantha hadn't been taken? What would you be like now?" She settled in against him where she couldn't see his face, to give him room to think about it, and pulled his arm around her.
"What would I be like? Geez Scully, ask me something difficult instead."
"Come on, what would have changed? How would Fox Mulder be different?"
He thought about it for a long moment. "I don't know, maybe, I would have been more social in high school, instead of the loner. It was hard having people think that I had killed her and hid the body. Maybe if I'd been arrested and cleared, but . . . it was always just a question. I wasn't exactly the kind of kid parents wanted coming over. With Samantha around I might have had friends, dated more, had a little fun."
Scully nodded; glad he couldn't see her face as well. No wonder he was more comfortable alone, he'd been alone for most of his life.
"I still would have wanted to go to England, but I'd have come home for the summer and holidays, stayed in better contact with my family. And I would never have taken up with someone like Phoebe. I wouldn't have been that vulnerable. And Samantha would have come over to see me and I'd have introduced her to my friends. I believe she would have been a beautiful woman, Scully. I'd probably have had to fight the guys off of her at Oxford." Scully nodded, she would have been attractive.
"When I graduated, I would have come home and set up a practice. No need to join the Bureau. And I would have met you while you were still in medical school. While you were still innocent and I wouldn't have corrupted you with my demons. When I introduced you to Samantha, I think you'd have become friends. You're close to the same age."
"I'm sure we would have been good friends." She was a little startled that she had joined this new life, but didn't push it.
"Yeah, I think you'd have been close. You'd have hung out together, done those woman things we guys don't know about. She'd have been one of your bridesmaids at our wedding and you - " He stopped suddenly, aware he was still speaking out loud and looked down to where she had turned to him. He couldn't miss the surprise on her face.
"Scully, I'm sorry. I was just free associating, I didn't - "
"You free associated that we got married?"
"It was just stream of consciousness." He wasn't sure where to look.
She was watching him, more stunned than anything else. She spotted the panic in his eyes before he got control. He managed to give her that dumb grin.
"Don't worry, Scully. I would never inflict myself on someone I care about as much as I do you. I know exactly how screwed up I am. None of the things I . . . I imagined ever happened, or ever could happen."
"But you thought about marrying me?"
"I don't . . . "
"Why me?" She couldn't believe she'd asked that, but the words were out.
"Come on, Scully. I've never met anyone else I would even consider spending my life with." He tried to make a joke of it, saying it lightly, but she heard the truth in his words.
"What? What did you say?" She was staring at him incredulously.
"I didn't mean . . . that came out . . . I mean, shit." He stood from the couch moving rapidly away from her.
"Boy, we, uh, we really got off track here. I came over to make sure you were okay, not . . . " She was as much at a loss now as he was.
"I'm okay, Scully. Maybe you better go."
She shook her head.
"Really, it's okay. I appreciate you checking on me, but - "
"I'm not leaving."
He drew back slightly then, surprised.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean . . . I don't think I should leave right now. We're both confused and . . . "
"Scully, maybe we could use the time, you know, alone."
"You just got through telling me that if things could have been different, you wouldn't have been alone so much."
He swallowed, yeah that was what he'd said.
"But things didn't work out like that and no matter how much we think about it, or . . . "
"Or wish it?" She asked softly.
"Sorry. I'm kind of at a loss here." She looked around, not wanting to meet his eyes. "Mulder?"
"Nothing. Why don't I fix us something to eat."
"I'm really not hungry."
She gave a slight nod. She couldn't remember ever being more uncomfortable in his presence, but she couldn't leave. He needed her. He'd already been alone too much in his life. And she wanted to be here.
"You, uh, you were here when . . . when Mom died too. And you attended my father's funeral when I couldn't."
She was quiet, where was he going with this?
"I . . . I'm really not alone when you're around. Do you feel . . . obligated, I mean because we're . . . we're partners?"
"Obligated? No, no Mulder. I want to be here. I don't . . . I forget sometimes you're my partner. I don't think of you that way anymore. You're my friend, my best friend."
"Seems kind of one sided, with me always taking and you always giving."
"Mulder, is that the way you see it? Really?"
He shrugged, "That's the way it is."
"For a guy with an eidetic memory, you don't seem to remember things very well."
He looked over at her questioningly and after a moment, resumed his seat on the couch, but not where he could touch her.
"I seem to remember a time or two when you were there for me, when I was in the coma, when I was going through the fight with cancer, when I found Emily . . . " her voice trailed off.
"That . . . that was different, of course I was there for you then."
"Well, you needed me then."
"Mulder, I need you now."
He blinked at that, his mouth dropping open slightly.
His look of total bafflement caused tears to form in her eyes, she looked down to try to hide that, but his finger brought her chin back up.
"You don't see it; you don't know where you fit in my life," she sighed.
"You know if you need me, I'm always gonna be here."
"Why don't you know that about me?"
"I . . . "
"Why are you surprised that I'm here, that I want to be with you?"
He looked away for a minute, then back, "Because you're a fantasy, Scully."
"I'm a what?"
"A fantasy. There can't be anyone like you, not for real, not in my life."
She hesitated for an instant, then brought his hand to her face and pressed her cheek into his palm. "I'm real, Mulder and I'm here. It's been seven years, when are you going to believe that?"
"I guess the first 30 years warped me."
"You think?" She managed to smile up at him.
He managed a crooked grin himself then. "You really do want to be with me, even though I'm lousy company and treat you like dirt and . . . and I'm Spooky?"
"Are you aware that part of your Spookiness is always knowing when I need you?"
"That's not true, Scully, I let you down all the time."
She shook her head as she watched him, then leaned forward and pulled his face down to her, placing a kiss on his forehead. He seemed to relax at that and after a moment's hesitation fitted her against him and sat holding her, staring toward the window.
"In this wedding we didn't have, what color was Samantha wearing?"
He chuckled and didn't bother to answer, just pulling her a little tighter in his arms. She relaxed into him and sighed. Today wasn't the day, but they'd have to explore this again, and soon.