He tried unsuccessfully to change Mrs. Scully’s mind the next morning, but finally conceded that she might be necessary here and he would be in DC to look after Scully.
He had left the apartment pretty much as Mrs. Scully had seen it. He’d had no idea that Scully would be returning with him - never in his wildest dreams…
“I’ll take care of it. Let me change the sheets, then you can rest a little while I straighten up.”
“I’ll help you.”
“No Scully. You’ve done enough today. Now in a couple of days, if you’re still willing, I can see you doing some dishes or something.”
“I’m not a invalid, Mulder.” Her eyebrow had started its upward trend.
“I know you’re not. But you are recovering.” He smiled, “recovering amazingly from what I saw two nights ago. Don’t push it Scully. I need you back at my side.”
She felt her eyes grow moist at that admission. Last night had been the best night's sleep she could remember. She needed him at her side as well. “Okay, but I can change the sheets. You work out here.”
He grinned, but he hadn’t missed the tears in her eyes. Having her in his arms last night had been amazing. He wondered if it was possible to ever tire of such a sensation. He had serious doubts.
She turned from him then and went into his bedroom. When she didn’t ask for instructions he realized she knew where his clean sheets were kept and wondered when that had become part of her knowledge of him, but decided not to pursue it.
The next morning he headed immediately for Skinner’s office, beating Angie to her desk. “Sir, do you have a minute?”
“Mulder?” It didn’t look like the same agent he had spotted late last week. His clothes were pressed and clean, his hair had been cut and was neatly combed, the gray that had grown there after Scully had resigned nearly hidden. He’d shaved. That, in itself, was pretty phenomenal. He was between partners again, maybe that was the reason he was cleaned up, to try and talk him out of assigning someone. “Yes, come on in.”
“Thanks. I, uh, I know you’re going to be looking for a new partner for me and I have a suggestion.”
That actually rendered Skinner speechless for a moment. “You have a suggestion?”
“Yes sir. Agent Scully has become available again and if you would reinstate her - “
“Agent Scully? I thought she had gone back into medicine.”
“No sir. She’s back in DC and is interested in rejoining the Bureau. We both know that the FBI has no agent better than Scully.”
“I know that Agent Scully was a fine agent, but her decision to leave the Bureau following the attack on her leads me to believe - “
“No sir. Agent Scully has recovered from her injuries and is ready and willing to take up her duties.”
Skinner hesitated before responding. “Has she had any therapy following her ordeal?”
“I, uh, I don’t know.”
“You say she’s back in DC? I would like to meet with her.”
“Yes sir. Would you like to come for dinner tonight?”
“Dinner?” Skinner was obviously startled by the suggestion. “Is she staying with her mother?”
“No. Her mother is in California. She’s,” he swallowed, “she’s staying with me.”
Skinner looked at him for a moment. This conversation had not gone in any direction he had anticipated. “That’s not exactly regulation.”
“We’re not officially partners at this time. If you do reinstate her, arrangements can be made.”
That sounded like the old Mulder and Skinner struggled not to smile. “Fine, what time is dinner?”
"Uh, seven." Skinner nodded, both in agreement and dismissal. Mulder turned back to the door. He'd better get in touch with Scully and let her know they were having company.
"Dinner? You invited Skinner over here to have dinner with us? He knows I'm staying here?"
"Calm down, Scully. He just wants to see how you're doing."
She growled but didn't hang up on him. "I don’t suppose you have the ingredients to fix anything?"
"I doubt it. Look, I can just pick something up and - "
"No. I'll make a list and call you back. You might have to leave work a little early."
"That's no problem, but I don't want you to have to - "
"Mulder, I can handle it. I'll give you a call in a little bit."
When he arrived home with the groceries she had requested he was stunned at the appearance of his apartment. "Scully, you didn't have to do this."
"Yes, I did. The place was a wreck. You need to set the table while I start dinner." She certainly sounded like her old self. He followed orders, setting the table and chopping vegetables for the salad. They both turned at the knock on the door and Scully wiped her hands on the towel. "Show time."
Mulder nodded and moved to let Skinner in. He had actually brought flowers for Scully, which she quickly arranged and put on the table. Skinner glanced around the apartment, but made no comment. It was obvious that Mulder hadn't done this.
Following dinner, which both men complimented lavishly, they moved to Mulder's living room and had a glass of wine.
"Scully, Mulder tells me that you're interested in returning to work. Is that true?"
"Yes sir. I believe it was a mistake to have left in the first place. My judgment was possibly impaired by the case."
Mulder sat silent, watching the two of them. "Are you sure that you're ready? I'm wondering if you've spoken to anyone about your ordeal."
"Yes. I'm aware that you spoke with Karen Kosseff in the past. I think, prior to a decision, you should spend a little time with her, or someone you feel comfortable with."
The information stunned Mulder. She'd seen a therapist? And what had he done to cause it? He felt cold. Why hadn't she told him? Scully had her eyes on Skinner and didn't see his reaction.
"I don't mind speaking with Karen again. Is . . . is that a condition of my employment?"
"Scully, Dana, I can't guarantee anything. I will tell you I'd like you back on my team. You're an excellent agent and God knows this one needs a keeper." He glanced at Mulder, and grinned. "You sure you want such a job back?"
She looked over at him and smiled herself, but he wouldn't meet her eyes. Her smile faded. Was he upset at Skinner's comment? "Mulder and I did good work. I think we can again. I . . . I'd like the chance."
"Like I said, I can't guarantee it, but you will have my full backing and support. Why don't you go ahead and meet with Karen. That will look good for you."
Skinner nodded. "It's getting late. Dinner was wonderful. Seeing you back here and looking so well was even better. I'll start checking into things tomorrow. Give me a call when you've made your appointment." Skinner stood and took her hand. When she stood Mulder roused himself and stood as well.
"He looked a lot better today, Scully. Keep an eye on him."
"Be happy to." But something was bothering Mulder. She wanted to be alone with him now to find out what. She walked Skinner to the door and let him out. When she turned Mulder had moved into the kitchen and pulled a bottle out of the cabinet.
"Hey, I've been sober for days. Don't I deserve a little reward?" He saw the hurt expression on her face. That wasn't what he wanted.
"What happened? Did I do something wrong?"
He shook his head. He'd let her down again. She'd seen a therapist and he hadn't even been aware. How could he be so damned self-absorbed? "Scully, you didn't do anything wrong. It's me."
"Do you . . . do you need the drink?"
"Why were you seeing a therapist?" She blinked at the abrupt change in subject.
"What?" He was turned from her now, but glanced over at her.
"This, this Karen Kosseff - did I drive you to see her?"
"Oh my god, Mulder, no! Is that . . . is that what upset you?" She wanted to move closer to him, touch him, but she was still not that secure.
He closed his eyes and tilted his head toward the ceiling. He rubbed the back of his neck and sighed. Then he opened his eyes and looked at her for a long moment. "What am I doing, bringing you back to this?" He watched a tear spill out of her eye. "Bill was right."
"What! Mulder - "
"Working with me got you abducted, gave you cancer, drove you to a therapist. And that's what I've brought you back to? I really didn't realize what a selfish son of a bitch I am. I put you through all of that, you escape it and I go and haul you back."
"You didn't haul me back. I wanted to come. I needed you, I need you. Mom recognized it immediately. Look at me Mulder. Do I look the same as when you first saw me a few days ago?"
"Scully - "
"Yes, I saw Karen, I was confused about some things. I didn't want to let you down."
"Let me - "
"The first time was when we were looking for Donnie Pfaster. I'm a forensic pathologist, but what he was doing - it affected me. I needed to talk to someone, someone impartial."
"He was able to take you, he tried - "
"But you saved me. You were able to figure out where he had taken me and to find me in time. And you held me when I lost it, you let me lean on you."
He was watching her now.
"The second time was . . . was while we were investigating Harold Spuller. I couldn't tell you what I'd seen. I couldn't say to you that I'd seen the dead girl. Then you told me your theory, that these girls came to the dying. I knew my cancer was growing . . . "
He winced then; the cancer had been an unbearable time for both of them.
"I knew I was going to die. I was avoiding it, but your theory - it hit me between the eyes. My death was a lot closer than I had realized."
"Scully - "
She held up her hand to silence him. "Neither of us knew you were going to find that chip, that you were going to save me. I needed someone to talk to. I couldn't talk to you. You were in as much pain as I was, I knew that. I wasn't going to force you to comfort me when you couldn't even comfort yourself."
He shuddered then. Comfort him? Had she really thought of wasting her energy during that horrible time on him?
"That doesn't, Scully, that doesn't change the fact that working with me put you in the position to be hurt over and over. And I've brought you back to do it all again. I don't want you back at the Bureau." He turned from her then and started back toward the kitchen.
He heard her collapse onto the couch and her muffled sobs. He let his head drop. What could he do? She had needed something, maybe it was him. The fact that he needed her more was what pulled at him. He turned back to the couch.
She wouldn't look at him. After a moment he sank down onto the seat beside her. She shied away but didn't attempt to rise.
"Damn it, Scully. You're too important to waste on the Bureau. You're too precious to put into that kind of danger. Don't you know that? Don't you understand that?"
She wouldn't look at him, she was crying and she seemed hopeless. He reached over and touched her arm. She tried to pull away and he refused to release her. "No, Scully. Sick as it is, we seem to need each other." He pulled her into his lap and only tightened his grip when she tried to escape. "No. Listen to me now. You were right to go see this therapist. I wasn’t . . . I wasn't there for you like I should have been." She didn't speak. He brushed the hair out of her face and gently angled her head up to look at him. She closed her eyes to block out the sight.
He just looked at her, drinking her in. Without conscious thought he brought his lips to hers. She stiffened slightly at first, but then relaxed into the kiss, allowing it, participating in it. When she felt his tongue begging admittance, she granted it without hesitation.
When he finally drew back from her she was breathing heavily, her eyes wide. "Oh my god." She rose from his lap then and moved away from him. He didn't dare hold her back. She backed into the desk, "Oh my god."
"Scully, I didn't mean to push you. I don't know what I was thinking. Are you - "
"I thought that . . . I thought that was over."
"Over?" He was confused
now, and more than a little frightened.
"I . . . I never expected to feel . . . to feel desire."
"Desire?" He took a breath, "Of course you're going to feel desire Scully. You're a beautiful woman at the peak of her sexuality."
"Do you . . . do you ever feel desire for me?" She looked at the floor, not able to face him with that question.
He blinked at her, caught completely off guard. "Yeah . . . yeah Scully I feel desire for you."
"When? Well the first time was when you came into my hotel room and dropped your robe about a thousand years ago."
"No, Mulder, if you felt anything then it was lust. I mean desire."
"Okay, you might be right. But it grew into desire."
"When?" She didn't know why she was pursuing this but it seemed important.
"I guess it took awhile. Maybe, uh, twenty minutes?"
That startled a laugh out of her. "Twenty minutes?"
"Yeah, I remember it exactly. You were lying on my bed, fully covered again and I was beside you on the floor. And you were listening to me. You listened to me talk about my sister. You didn't laugh, you didn't call me Spooky, you just let me talk. I think I fell in love with you right then."
"Fell . . . “ her voice dwindled off.
"Why don't you go on to bed Scully? I'll finish cleaning up. We can talk tomorrow, if you want." She nodded and turned toward the bedroom.
He took his time, the place looked wonderful with her here and he wanted that to continue. He washed and dried the dishes, even putting them away. After about an hour he heard the bedroom door open. "Mulder?"
"Yeah. What do you need?"
"Are you . . . are you coming to bed?"
"I thought, I thought I should sleep out here tonight."
"Oh." She turned away from him then and started back toward the bedroom.
"Isn't that what you want?"
"I don't think I've ever been more confused." She sounded tired. This was not what he'd planned to do when he brought her here. He hadn't wanted to make things worse.
After awhile he shed his clothes and stretched out on the couch. He tossed and turned for some time before finally sitting up in disgust. He'd certainly made a hell of a mess of everything tonight. He had wanted to help her, then he'd allowed himself to be hurt because she'd turned to someone better able to help her. He was such a shit.
He stood and moved reluctantly to the bedroom door. He needed to see her. He wouldn't wake her; he just needed to check on her. He knew he'd upset her.
He slipped the door open silently and was surprised to see the light from the bathroom was on and the door open. She was in the bed, drawn up into a ball and even as he stood there, jerking occasionally in her sleep.
God, what had he done?
She wasn't ready for the shit he had laid on her. What had he been thinking? She wasn't well; she had come here so that he could help her to recover.
He flipped off the bathroom light and slipped carefully into the bed with her. Even in her sleep she turned to him and sighed. He brought her comfort, peace. It made no sense - she should hate him.
He settled in to watch over her for the night.
She was starting to wake. He couldn't wait any longer anyway. "Scully, wake up! I have an idea."
"What? Is it morning?" She stirred, trying to focus on him. When had he come to bed? Hadn't he been upset with her last night? He was going to sleep on the couch.
"Yeah, Scully listen to me. I have an idea." She rubbed her eyes and looked over at him. Now this was pleasant, to find a smiling Mulder leaning over her when she woke.
"Okay, I'm awake."
"Bill was right."
"Mulder - “ Her tone was warning.
"Not about most things, but about one thing. Medicine was your first love. The Bureau recruited you for that knowledge. Well the knowledge is still there, and better than when they first wanted you. You could work as a consultant to the Bureau, work for a coroner's office, do crime scene investigation."
"We couldn't work together."
"When have they ever been able to keep us from working together?" Well, he had a point there. It had been tried time and again.
"But we couldn't be partners."
"Yes we could. Just a different kind of partner." She looked at him puzzled; maybe she wasn't awake after all. "We could get married."
She looked at him for a long moment. "What did you say?"
"I, uh, I asked, I meant to ask if you'd marry me."
"Ma . . . marry you?" He nodded, suddenly too afraid to say any more. It had made so much sense in the dark, watching over her. The silence lasted too long and his fear threatened to overwhelm him.
Finally she drew a deep breath, "Mulder, I don't know that I could be a wife to you. I don't know if I could . . . “ She swallowed, "And we both know I can't give you children. It wouldn't be fair to - "
"Scully. We can take it slow, maybe not as slowly as we have taken it,” he gave a shy grin, "and as for children, when we decide we're ready, we can adopt, we can use in vitro, whatever you want."
"Did you . . . did you think I would be anything else? Okay, maybe I'm not down on one knee, but if that's what you want - “ He started to rise from the bed.
"Wait, no! I . . . last night I thought you were trying to get rid of me, that you didn't want to work with me, to have to deal with me any more, and now . . . "
"Last night I was trying to . . . to give you an out. You didn't seem to want to take it. Was I wrong?"
She shook her head.
"Then will you think about it? At least give it a little thought Scully?"
"It's too crazy Mulder. Married? Neither of us would know how to handle that."
He smiled at that, "I wouldn't consider it with anyone else Scully. And part of me will worry about your sanity if you say yes, but . . . but we need each other. I'm not okay without you and now I know, you're not okay without me. You'll recover sooner than I will, you've only had a problem for a couple of months while I've been Spooky Mulder for decades - "
"Mulder - "
He grinned, "Just think about it, and . . . and stay here while you do. We could see how we handle living together, at least while your mother's still out of town."
"Mulder, I don't know if . . . I can't - "
"Scully,” the smile was gone from his face now, "I didn't mean to imply . . . I really was talking about just living together, sharing the apartment, not . . . not - "
"I get it."
"And Skinner's right, you should talk to this Karen person. I want you healthy; I want you to be 'Scully'. The Scully I've loved for a very long time."
"Mulder - "
"We'll work it out Scully. Because we're together, we'll work it out." He took in the slight smile that was growing on her face and matched it with one of his own. They would be together now and together they could both be healthy.