Without Comfort (R) 

He heard her in the bushes

Part 1

He heard her in the bushes. The sound was small, but every sense in his body was focused on finding her. He could almost smell her - that Scully scent. It was nearly hidden by the smell of fear. Scully was afraid; but even afraid, she'd been able to take care of that animal. If he wasn't dead already he would be soon. Now he had to get to her, get her help.

There! "Scully! Scully it's me. It's Mulder." She didn't acknowledge him. Had she heard? He moved quickly toward her and she crouched, trying to hide from him. Did she not realize it was him? "Scully." He was close enough now to reach out to her. His heart broke as she cringed from him. "Scully let me help you."

He reached out to help her to her feet, but stopped as she screamed. "No! Don't touch me! I'll kill you again!"

His eyes widened, she didn't know him. She was trapped in the nightmare. What was she seeing when she looked at him? "I'm going to get you help Scully. Please, let me help you." He slowly and carefully took her upper arms in his hands. She screamed again and arched, as though in agony, then collapsed completely limp to the ground. "Get me an ambulance!"

What had that SOB done to her? He gathered her into his arms and turned back toward the others.

"Mulder!" Skinner raced to his side as the EMTs took her from him.

"He hurt her." Mulder's voice was tight and Skinner had to pull him out of the way so that they could work on her.

"He's dead Mulder. He bled to death before they could help him. She got him, Mulder, and you found her."

"Not in time. He should never have gotten his hands on her in the first place. I was too late. I didn't see - "

"Mulder, stop it! You solved this case; we have Scully. Give yourself some credit. Come on, let's get her out of here." The gurney couldn't roll over this ground; so all four of them took hold of the stretcher and raced back to the ambulance.

They barred him from the ambulance, but Skinner convinced him to follow, Skinner himself driving.

*****

"Excuse me sir, you can't go in there." A nurse stopped him as he tried to enter her hospital room.

"I'm her partner, Agent Mulder." He pulled his ID from his pocket.

"Yes sir, but you can't go in. The patient has requested no visitors."

Mulder just looked at her for a moment. "I'm sure she didn't mean me. I need to see her; see how she's doing."

"Fox Mulder, right? I'm sorry, you can't go in. I can page her doctor for you, if you'd like."

He hesitated for a moment; she'd barred him from her room? "Please, I need to talk to her doctor then." The nurse nodded and moved back behind the desk.

The doctor arrived shortly and the nurse pointed out Mulder who was now pacing outside of her room. "Agent Mulder?"

"Yes. What's going on? Why am I not allowed in to see Agent Scully?"

"That's my patient's decision."

"How is she? What are her injuries, her prognosis?"

"I can't discuss my patient with you."

"She's my partner; I'm listed as her next of kin. Is she going to be okay?"

The doctor glanced over the chart the nurse passed to him. After a moment he looked up. "Her injuries are not life threatening; however, her attacker brutalized her. Her physical trauma should heal normally."

"What about...”

"She's not able to talk about her ordeal yet. The fact that she has demanded no visitors . . . I'm concerned about the psychological damage." He saw the fear in the younger man in front of him. "Give her a little time Agent."

"What, what are her injuries?"

"I can't go into detail but . . . she was tortured. Agent Mulder?" He reached out to the man as he swayed and reached for the wall. "Would you like to sit down?"

Mulder shook his head. He could see . . . Scully had autopsied some of his previous victims. What was this going to do to her? He needed to see her, see that she was healing, let her see him and know he was here for her. And how sorry he was that he had gotten her involved; allowed her to be taken.

"Why don't you go back to your room Agent Mulder? Take a shower; try to get some sleep. You look like you could use some. Maybe she'll be more herself tomorrow."

Mulder glanced over at the closed door once more. Finally he nodded. "This is my cell phone number. Call me if there's any change."

"We'll take care of her Agent Mulder."

He nodded and after a moment headed for the elevator. He looked back once as the doors opened, then left the floor.

He called the hospital again when he reached the hotel. No change. The shower didn't make him feel clean but he wasn't sure anything would. He sprawled on the bed, surfing through the channels. He kept glancing at the phone. Why wouldn't she see him? Did she blame him for everything? She had every right to, but he needed to talk to her. He finally drifted off with the TV on.

Mulder woke gasping a couple of hours later, her name on his lips. He lay there, getting his breath back, letting the sweat dry on his chest. He could remember the dream in vivid detail. She'd lived though; she'd survived - now he had to be with her. This was ridiculous. She needed support and no one wanted to give her support more than he did.

The next day was the same. She absolutely refused all visitors and he was ready to pull a gun on the entire medical staff. "Agent Mulder, believe me, she knows you're here. Everyone on the floor knows you're here. Now I'm sorry, truly I am, but Miss Scully has asked that no one be allowed in. That's the end of it."

"She needs me."

"To be honest sir, it looks more like you need her. Now I'm sorry, but you have to leave. If you like, I can have Dr. Straughn call you after he sees her today." She actually took a step back from the look he shot her. He didn't speak, just returned to the elevator.

Skinner had returned to DC. He was alone in the city and she wouldn't let him help her. Hell, she wouldn't let him near her. He felt as lost and alone as . . . Damn it! Damn it all!

*****

When the elevator opened, he headed once again for the nurses' desk. He didn't have a whole lot of hope; they hadn't let him in any other day, but he couldn't stay away. Even if she couldn't admit it, she needed him and the woman had been right, he sure as hell needed her. He stopped in his tracks when he saw that her door was open. He didn't hesitate, moving immediately toward the room.

It was empty, the bed stripped. He nearly collided with the nurse on his way out. "Where is she? Where's Agent Scully?"

"You need to lower your voice Agent Mulder. We have sick people on this floor."

"Fine! You want me to be quiet, tell me what I need to know." He took hold of her arm.

"I've already paged Dr. Straughn. Let go of me or I'll call Security."

"Just tell me what I - "

"Agent Mulder, release Nurse Adams." Dr. Straughn barked at him, "I'm here; if you have questions, talk to me."

"Where's Scully!"

"She left."

"Left? She was well enough to leave the hospital?"

"No. She signed herself out against medical advice."

"Against . . . where did she go? She couldn't have gotten far alone."

"She wasn't alone."

"Wasn't . . . who was with her?"

"I'm afraid I don't know him. We were never introduced."

"Him?" The hairs on the back of his neck were on end. She'd left with a man? What man? She refused to speak, to even see him, yet she leaves with . . . "Can you describe him?"

"Big man, taller than you, short hair. I really didn't see him that well, just from behind helping her to the elevator."

"How long ago did they leave?"

The doctor glanced down at his watch, "Hour-and-a-half, maybe two hours."

Mulder turned without a word and headed for the stairs, not bothering to wait for the elevator. He stopped at the hotel long enough to throw his clothes in his suitcase and raced to the airport.

He caught the first plane to DC and lost no time getting to her apartment. There was no sign of her, but he let himself into her place anyway. She hadn't been here. The place had a closed-in smell and there was a fine layer of dust over everything.

Where the hell was she and who did she leave with? Had it been on her own? Had some man forced her to sign herself out? Damn it! Where was she! He slammed his hand into the door and was startled back as it opened suddenly. He reached for his gun.

"Fox? What are you - "

"Mrs. Scully. I . . . I was looking for Scully."

"She's not here."

"Do you know where she is? The hospital said she signed herself out against orders. And that she wasn't alone. I don't know if she was taken, but I've got to find her. If you know anything . . . ”

Maggie shook her head, not speaking.

"Have you talked to her since . . . ”

"Fox, I -"

"You have. You know where she is."

"No. Not exactly. Fox, she's not ready . . . she can't talk to you yet." She wanted to reach out to him but he stepped back away from her, pulling his emotions in and clamping them down tight.

"She blames me. Mrs. Scully, I . . . Is she going to be okay?"

"I don't know Fox. She won't see me either."

He gave her a brief nod. "I don't want to push her. If you, if you talk to her, will you tell her . . . never mind." He turned away and let himself out of her apartment without another word.

Maggie sank down onto the couch. Bad decisions were being made. These two needed each other for both to heal. She shouldn’t have allowed anyone to talk her into this arrangement. Well, maybe it wasn't too late to change that.

She quickly packed the supplies Dana had requested and headed home.

*****

He had returned to his apartment as well. He dropped his suitcase at the door and stood undecided as to which way to move. He wasn't hungry. He couldn't imagine ever being hungry again. He was tired; he was so tired, he envisioned sinking onto his couch and never rising again. But he didn't want to sleep - no the nightmares he'd been experiencing had convinced him of that. Now that she was 'away' with some man . . . Mrs. Scully wasn't worried.

Was this some man who had been in the picture for some time? Someone she approved of? At least someone better for Scully than him.

He realized he was still standing by the door and forced himself into the bathroom to splash some water on his face. He stripped down in there and pulled on his robe. He had no desire to go to the office.

He sank onto the couch and found the remote in his hand. He turned the TV on, but didn't even bother to surf, coming in on some movie that didn't matter.

He woke with a start; once again calling for her, sweat dripping into his eyes. That last autopsy, the one he'd rushed her through - he'd seen what this man did to his victims. He kept seeing the body on that table, but the face was hers.

She wasn't dead. She'd managed to escape and she'd killed the man - before he could rescue her.

*****

She was glad she wasn't driving when she spotted the man leaving the bar. Her head turned automatically, tracking the man. It was him. He didn't look good. She should have checked on him earlier. "Maggie, are you okay?"

"What? Oh yes. I just saw someone I know."

Gladys raised her eyebrow. "Around here?"

Maggie gave a sad chuckle. "That's what's worrying me."

*****

She was at his door first thing the next morning. She knocked for nearly five minutes before she heard movement. "I don't want any!"

"Fox, it's Maggie Scully. Please let me in."

The door flew open. "Mrs. Scully? Is everything okay? Is she . . . ”

"May I come in?"

"Of course." He led her into his living room and quickly emptied a chair for her to sit. He wanted to know what had brought her here, but didn't know how to ask.

She was observing him and not happy about what she was seeing. The man just didn't look well. In the months Dana had been gone he had lost weight and there were lines around his eyes, but it was the air of resignation that seemed to emanate from him that bothered her most. "I saw you last night. You were leaving a bar."

"Which one?"

"Fox, don't. Are you drinking?"

He gave her a lopsided grin. "Well, my tolerance has gone up."

"Fox." She shook her head. No, he didn't look well at all, maybe he was hung over now, but it looked like a natural state. She had never been to his apartment before, but surely it didn’t always look like this.

He decided to take the plunge, and throw his pride to the wind. "How is she doing Mrs. Scully? Is she working?"

"I haven't seen her; but I've heard she's doing very well."

"Good, that's good. I was hoping . . . ”

"How are you doing, Fox?"

He shrugged, not willing to comment and unable to lie, not to this woman. She looked away for a moment. "I shouldn’t have bothered you. I just . . . when I saw you last night I was, I got concerned. It's none of my business, you're a grown man - "

"Mrs. Scully, I'm flattered that you cared enough to check on me."

"Oh Fox, I do care."

"If you talk to her, could you tell her . . . No, I'm sorry. Look, there's some place I need to be. I need to shower and . . . ”

It was a lie and she knew it, but it was too painful having her here. She nodded and rose. "Fox, call me sometime."

He tried to smile but made no promise. She squeezed his hand and left the apartment without another word. She got in her car and sat deep in thought. Her decision made, she started the engine and hurried to her home. She threw some clothes in a suitcase and returned to the car.

*****

She knocked on the door impatiently.

"Coming! Just a minute. What . . . I didn't know you were coming out here." He looked damned uncomfortable that she had.

"I have to see Dana." She moved into the house.

"She's sleeping."

"I won't wake her, but I need to see her." She moved toward the stairs.

"No, down here. We turned the den into a bedroom." That caused her to pause, but she turned to follow him. He opened the door and allowed her past him. Her hand flew to her mouth as she took in her daughter's appearance. She was drawn into a tight ball, tense even in sleep. She had obviously lost weight and her hair was longer and lank, lifeless. Her hands were fisted at her side and dark circles under her eyes were the most predominate feature of her face.

She turned and left the room, waiting for him to join her. "Why didn't you tell me? Bill, why didn't you call me! She's down here because she can’t climb the stairs, isn't she. I should have been here!"

"Mom, she is doing better. She's back with her first love, medicine. She's away from the FBI, she's away from him."

"And she's dying from it! Bill can you not see? There's a walker in her room. How is she practicing medicine if she can't walk?"

"She can walk, she just feels a little steadier with the walker sometimes. She's doing more teaching right now, but she's - "

"Bill, I don't know if you're lying to yourself or to me. I don't care right now. Dana needs help." She turned to the phone.

"Mom, talk to her. She'll tell you - "

"Bill, would you please get my suitcase out of the car?"

He commanded men, but this woman didn't care. She was his mother and had been trained well in command herself by his father. He turned toward the door.

As soon as he stepped outside she picked up the phone and dialed. "This is Fox Mulder. Leave a message after the beep."

"Fox, this is Maggie Scully. I need you to call me as soon as you get this - “ She heard the receiver being picked up.

"Mrs. Scully? What's wrong?"

"Oh Fox, I've made a terrible mistake. Dana needs you. She's not doing well at all."

"Where are you?"

"San Diego. Dana's been staying with Bill and Tara."

That caused a chill up Mulder's spine. Bill? "I'll be there as soon as I can. Mrs. Scully, thank you." He hung up before she could speak, the thoughts of being AWOL not giving him a moment's pause. Maggie could feel herself relaxing for the first time since she'd seen Dana. Trite as it sounded, it felt like help was on the way.

Dana was able to join the family for dinner and didn't use the walker, though she took it slow. Maggie refrained from telling anyone about her phone call. No reason to give anyone time to create excuses. Following dinner, everyone sat in the living room, watching Matthew play and talking. The subject of Dana's health was avoided, though she did say that the teaching was going well and her new colleagues had been very supportive.

By 8:30, it was obvious to Maggie that Dana was exhausted. She took her daughter's hand. "Dana, jet lag is beginning to get to me. Would you mind terribly if I went on up to bed?"

Scully tried to hide her relief. "I think that would be a good idea Mom. I might go ahead and turn in myself."

"Probably a good idea as well. Bill, Tara, dinner was excellent. I'll see you all in the morning." She rose and went upstairs. Her hands twitched to help Dana get ready for bed, but knew that she would be rebuffed. She listened to the sounds of the house as everyone went off to bed. Matthew was put down; the TV in the master bedroom came on for a short while, then was turned off.

She couldn’t sleep. After tossing and turning for another half hour, she finally rose. Maybe a cup of herbal tea would help. And she knew she really wanted to look in on Dana again. She was so far away from everyone else, who would hear if she needed something during the night. Bill had meant well, Maggie was sure of that but . . . but his own interests had clouded his judgment.

She made her way quietly downstairs and had turned toward the kitchen when she heard the knock on the door. She glanced at her watch, nearly midnight. Who would . . . but as a military wife she was used to middle of the night wake ups.

Maggie glanced through the sidelight of the door and gasped, pulling the door open. "Fox? How did you get here so quickly?"

"I pulled in a few favors. How is she?"

She took his hand and pulled him into the living room, shutting the door silently behind them. "Fox, I must apologize to you. Things would not have gotten to this point if I had . . . if I had not listened to the wrong people. Everyone had Dana's best interests at heart; you need to believe that."

"Where is she? Why are we - "

"I need to prepare you, Fox. She . . . her physical appearance - "

"Please Mrs. Scully." She nodded and rose. He followed closely and was surprised to find them heading toward the back of the house, though he kept quiet. She opened the door to Scully's room and stepped aside. A nightlight burned on the dresser - Scully had never used one before - but it enabled him to see her clearly and to fully understand what Mrs. Scully had been trying to warn him about.

He started for the bed and Mrs. Scully put her hand on his arm and whispered. "Don't wake her Fox."

"I won't. Why don't you go on to bed Mrs. Scully? I'll be here."

"Fox, you can't sleep in that chair."

"I don't plan to sleep." She nodded at that and watched as he took Dana's hand into his own. It had to be her imagination, but it seemed that the woman on the bed relaxed slightly at the touch. No, that wasn't possible, but the frown was gone from her face; that was no illusion. Maggie turned back to the door, she wasn't needed in here.

"Mrs. Scully? Thanks." She nodded but didn't turn back; there was no reason for him to see her tears. She closed the door behind her and went back upstairs. She'd be able to sleep now.

*****

Part 2

Donna's Stories

She woke slowly; she didn't remember the alarm going off. Had she forgotten to set it? She felt more rested and she wasn’t stiff. What . . . oh yes, Mom was here. That must have been - then she realized that a familiar force was gently kneading her hand. She turned to look up into the very concerned face of her former partner.

"Mulder?"

He nodded, his throat too constricted to speak. Was she going to order him out? Jerk her hand away? Spit in his face?

She did none of those things, stretching out a little more in the bed. He'd seen her uncoil as the night passed, her hand lightly gripping his in return.

"What are you doing here?"

"I needed, “ he cleared his throat. "I needed to see you. See how you were doing."

"I'm doing fine." He glanced over at the walker and saw the color rise in her face, but she still didn't pull away from him.

"Your letter to Skinner said you were going back into medicine. Did you? Are you being a doctor somewhere?"

"I'm teaching right now. Pathology, forensic medicine."

He nodded, "You'd be excellent at that." Neither noticed that their hands remained clasped, drawing strength just from the touch.

"What about you? How are the X-Files going?" Anything to keep him talking. The sound of his voice was washing over her; washing away some of the toxins she hadn't realized were still in her psyche.

"They're going."

"Do you have a new partner?" Her voice shook slightly on the last word.

"I've had a couple. They haven't been able to find anyone with your masochistic tendencies I guess."

"Why did you run them off?" The answer didn't matter; he was here.

He shrugged. He couldn’t answer the truth - that they weren't her, so why bother. "Oh, there's a guy living in your apartment now."

"You were over there?"

"Yeah, I dropped by last week. I didn't realize you'd let it go." No need to tell her what a bender that had sent him on. "I think he's gay."

She chuckled at that, enjoying herself more than at any time since . . . "Why do you think that?"

"The way he was holding the man he brought home with him." She laughed then and he relaxed a notch.

"I'm surprised Bill let you in." Her hold on his hand tightened slightly.

"Uh, he doesn't know I'm here. It was around midnight when I . . . everyone was asleep but your mother."

"Midnight? How did you . . .?"

"Your mother called me when she got here."

"But that was . . . how did you get here by midnight?"

"Military jet. The ID is still good for some things. She said . . . ”

"What? What did she tell you to make you race out here like this?"

"That you needed me."

She wanted to hide the tears that immediately formed in her eyes, but she couldn't look away from him. "She was right." She spoke so low that he had to move in, leaning over her to hear. She brushed a tear from her face as the door burst open.

"I didn't believe it! I didn't believe Mom was so gullible. You're not welcome here. Look at her, you've been here no time and you have her in tears."

"Bill!" Scully struggled to sit up and Mulder's arms were automatically there to help her.

""Bill,” he turned toward her brother, "let's take this outside."

"I'd love to."

"Mulder, no." She sat forward then, her arm stretched out not willing to let go of his hand. He stepped back and put her hand in her lap, patted it and leaned down to kiss her forehead. Bill sounded as though he'd been punched in the gut.

"I'm not going to fight him, Scully. I just want to talk to him." His hand touched her cheek and he winked at her. "I'll be right back."

He left the room with Bill right behind him. Mrs. Scully was hurrying down the stairs. "Bill, Fox, please don't do this. We all want what's best for Dana."

"She had what was best for her; then you called him. Mom, you know what he's done to her over the years. Why do you persist in this fantasy that - "

"I saw what he did for her last night. He dropped everything and got to California in record time. He came to her and even asleep she relaxed. I saw it Bill, somehow she knew it was him, even when she wasn't awake. She came out of that fetal position; her hands weren't in fists. Did you look at her when you burst in there?"

She glanced over at Mulder, who was staring at her, mouth open. Was she serious? "Bill, please, you need to admit that she isn't getting better. I think she's worse than when you brought her here. I know you did this because you love her, you want to protect her, but Bill, you're protecting her from the wrong thing! I think she needs Fox. I know you don't want to hear - “ but Bill had slammed out of the room, a small picture on the wall near the kitchen fell and they heard the glass break.

Something made Mulder turn and he saw Scully standing in the doorway, watching him. He moved immediately to her side, unsure if she was able to walk. He’d spent a lot of time staring at that walker last night.

“Dana, Fox, I’m sorry. I didn’t want to cause this, this conflict. I had no choice. I couldn’t let this go on.”

“Mom, it’s okay. I think, I think Mulder and I need to talk.” Maggie nodded and turned to leave the room.

“Mrs. Scully, whatever…whatever happens, I can’t - “

“Later Fox. You and I can talk later. Dana, you should put on a robe before you get chilled.”

Mulder and Scully both looked down at her apparel then and Scully shook her head smiling. That woman would always be her mother first. “Why don’t I get dressed? Maybe we could go get some breakfast or something.”

“Yeah, I think that would be a good idea.” He didn’t release her until she was back inside of her room, and then only reluctantly.

*****

Scully looked on fascinated at the stack of pancakes placed in front of him. “Mulder, you cannot possibly eat all of that.”

“Scully, I could eat this and another one just like it. I haven’t eaten anything, well, tasted anything in a long time.” She nodded and took another sip of her juice.

After a few minutes he decided to take the plunge. “Scully, how are you, really? Please don’t say fine or okay. I need to know.”

There was a long hesitation. “Weak. I don’t seem to have any energy. I sleep, but I’m never rested when I wake up - until this morning. I dream a lot.”

He nodded, “And the walker.”

“I don’t use it that much Mulder. Just first thing in the morning, when I’m not very steady and sometimes in the evenings when I’m tired. I haven’t taken it to the hospital when I was working or anything like that.”

“Scully.” He reached out to take her hand and she met him halfway. “That’s not good enough for Dana Scully. She could always kick my ass across the room and back."

She smiled at that, “Maybe not back.”

“Are you,” he looked away and she squeezed his hand, “are you recovering okay?”

Her smile dropped away at that. “Yes and no. The cuts and bruises have healed.”

“But?”

“Well, you said you saw the nightlight.” He closed his eyes for a moment. Well, at least she was able to talk to him. He might as well go for broke.

“Why wouldn’t you see me?”

She stiffened at that and he immediately regretted his words. “I…I couldn’t. I couldn’t see anyone. Mulder,” She looked him straight in the eye and he leaned forward to listen intently. Whatever she was going to say, it was damn important to her. “I didn’t just kill that man in self-defense. I murdered him and…and I enjoyed it.” She was looking at their hands now, her grip slackened but she didn’t pull away. “I could have disabled him, when I had the opportunity, I could have gotten away without…I made him bleed to death. He was conscious; he knew what was happening to him. And I didn’t leave him, I didn’t run until I knew it was too late to save him.”

She did start to remove her hand from his then, but he refused to allow it. “I lost it then. I didn’t…I was insane, at least for a little while I think. I don’t remember how I got to the hospital. The doctor told me you found me, rescued me, but I…I didn’t deserve to be rescued.”

“Scully - “

“No, it’s okay. I don’t feel quite that way now. I mean, I feel some guilt over the way he died, not that he died. I know what he was, what he did to those women, to me. But I couldn’t face you.”

“You could face Bill?”

“No, I didn’t ask for Bill. I didn’t know he was coming. He just walked into the room. The nurses didn’t see him or they would have stopped him too. My orders were specific. He caught me at my lowest. He was angry about what had happened, furious at the Bureau, my job, you. I told you I was insane, I let him talk me into coming here. It sounded like a good idea, a fresh start, and medicine. It just hasn’t turned out to be exactly like he described it.” She fell silent, or maybe she just ran down. He sat there, not pushing, just being there.

She had opened up to him. Guilt on her part had never entered his mind. She had nothing to feel guilty about and maybe she was beginning to see that a little. He would have gladly drawn and quartered the bastard if he’d been given the chance and never given it a second thought. That animal had hurt this woman. And others, but this one, this one was his.

“Scully, I want you to come back to DC.”

“Mulder, I can’t. I don’t have a job, an apartment.”

“I know a place that’s hiring and you can stay with me until you find a place.”

“Mulder, I cracked up. The Bureau isn’t going to want me back.”

“It’s never stopped them from taking me.” She wanted to laugh at the expression on his face. He did have a point, but it was different with her. She just couldn’t put her finger on why right now.

“Finish your pancakes Mulder. Mom will be worried if we’re gone too long.”

He nodded and returned to his food. That was when she realized he was holding her hand with his left. He didn’t have to let go to eat. She looked away, a little afraid she’d cry again and there would be no way to explain it.

*****

“I think Fox has a point, Dana. Coming back to DC could be the best thing for you. You’d be among friends and family. I know Bill and Tara have been wonderful to you, but this isn’t your home. Your things are in storage, but you could have your old room until you’re able to find a place of your own.”

Scully’s lips twitched, “Mulder said I could stay with him too.” He looked down at her aghast. She’d said that to her mother?

“Dana, I’ve seen his place. There’s not room for you under all of the garbage.” She cast a look at Mulder, her eyebrow high.

He practically sputtered, that was her problem with his place. Not the fact that it was his place?

“Well, I could probably help him with that. You know, a woman’s touch, lace curtains, that kind of thing.”

Now his head swiveled toward Scully. They were teasing him! This pair of women was actually poking fun at her living with him rather than with her mother.

“Now wait a minute. In defense of the male housekeeper, my place usually looks much better than it did yesterday. I…I had been out late and - “

“Yes, and I know just what you were doing out late.” Maggie frowned at him.

Scully looked from one to the other. “What? What was he doing?”

“He better tell you that himself.” She rose from the couch. “Dana, whatever arrangements you make, I’ll go along with, to a point. You know you’re always welcome at home. If you want a place of your own, I understand. Staying elsewhere for an extended period…I’d rather not dwell on that personally.” She turned toward the kitchen but he saw that her eyes were twinkling. Damn, why hadn’t his mother been like this, at least a little? “I want some tea; anyone else want anything?”

He was too dumbfounded to respond. “No thanks, Mom.” Scully smiled as Maggie left the room, then she turned to him. “What were you doing?”

“What?” He blinked back to the present.

“What were you doing out so late when my mother saw you?”

“Oh, that.”

“Yes, that.” He wouldn’t meet her eyes. “What’s her name?”

“What? No, no Scully. Nothing like that. I was…since you’ve been gone I’ve done…” He glanced around the room, looking for escape.

“Mulder?”

“I’ve, hell, I’ve spent most nights getting drunk.”

Her eyes widened and her hand gripped his thigh. “Mulder, no. Your father.”

“I know. There just…I didn’t…Scully, you think you felt guilty about the case. Damn.”

The light went on for her then and she stared at him in shock. “You blamed yourself? Oh Mulder, none of this was your fault. He was good at what he did, but you were better. You found him and you found me. No one else had figured him out; no one else on the case had a clue. Even me. If I’d listened to you, believed you like I should have, I wouldn’t have been taken. It was my fault, but you came after me anyway. You rescued me, even the doctor - who didn’t much like you by the way - admitted that when he heard the story from Skinner.”

He decided to take the path of least resistance. “Why didn’t the doctor like me?”

She chuckled at that. “Because you were a major pain in the ass at the hospital. And you know it.”

“They were keeping me from you.”

“At my orders. Not theirs”

“I couldn’t take it out on you.”

“I know.” She said this softly.

She started to rise and he stopped her. “Where you going?”

“To start packing. If you were serious about wanting me back, I think I want to go.” She was looking down at him, sitting on the couch and he had her hand again. Neither seemed to be able to get enough tactile contact.

“I was serious. What are you going to say to Bill?” He saw some of the strain return to her face and regretted the question, no, he regretted the need for the question, but he had to have her back.

*****

Bill had been conspicuously absent the rest of the day and was late arriving for dinner. They were all seated when he finally showed up. Even Matthew picked up on the vibrations around the table and seemed subdued.

Bill filled his plate without a word, but then put his fork down. “What’s going on? Why is he still here?”

“Bill, not now.” His mother glanced over at Matthew and back to her own son.

“I plan to stay calm, but I want to know.”

“Don’t worry, Bill, he’s leaving in the morning. And so am I. I’m returning to Washington. Bill, Tara, I can’t thank you enough for all of the support and care you’ve given me, but it’s time to go home.”

“What about your job?” Tara asked this, as Bill seemed too stunned to speak.

“I spoke with Dr. Kingston this afternoon. He understands, in fact he was surprised that I hadn’t looked at this option earlier. He was very nice about everything.”

Bill shot a glare at Mulder that caused everyone else at the table to flinch, then rose without a word and left the table. They heard the front door slam. Mulder and Scully exchanged glances, Tara avoided looking at anyone. It was Matthew who broke the silence. “Daddy mad.”

“Yes, Matty, Daddy’s mad right now. Go ahead and finish your vegetables and I think I can find some ice cream for dessert.”

The rest of the meal was made with light conversation, mostly regarding the weather. Tara took Matthew out to the backyard for his ice cream while Maggie, Mulder and Scully cleared the table.

“I can finish this up, why don’t you two go somewhere, relax. There’s a movie theatre just off base.”

“Thanks Mom, that might be a good idea.” Mulder put his arm around her and moved her toward the door. She grabbed her purse on the way out.

He didn’t speak until they were in the car. “I need to find a place to stay tonight.”

“You can stay here.“

“No Scully. I can’t stay under Bill’s roof tonight.” She reluctantly nodded.

“So, where are we going to stay?”

He blinked at that and she almost had to grab the wheel of the car. “We?”

“I enjoyed waking up without being tied in knots, I was able to walk without help, and I was rested. You’re responsible for that, we both know it.”

“No, I don’t know it. I didn’t do anything - “

“Yes, you did. You came to me after I’d pushed you away. I was horrible to you when all you wanted to do was help me.”

“Scully, you did what you had to in order to look after yourself.”

“Mulder, you’re changing the subject. Where are we staying tonight?” She was serious. He didn’t know how to respond, so he concentrated on driving. “Mulder, turn in here.”

He did as he was told, a chain motel that they were both more than familiar with. “If you stay here with me, Bill may never forgive either one of us.”

“That will be his loss.” He nodded then and opened his door, then moved to her side to assist her to her feet. She smiled and allowed it to his relief.

Once settled in their room, he turned to Scully. “You need to call your mother. She’ll be worried.” Scully nodded. “I’ll go get us some ice.” He let himself out and she was hanging up when he returned. “Everything okay?”

“Yes. She’s going to finish my packing for me. We can drop by and pick everything up on the way to the airport.”

He agreed, “We need to pick up your mother too.”

“Uh, no, she’s planning to stay here for a while.”

“Scully, I don’t think that’s a good idea. She shouldn’t have to face Bill’s…I really don’t like it.”

“Neither do I, but she’s adamant. She thinks Tara is going to need her, and she’s right.”

Mulder started to speak again, but he looked at her closely. She was exhausted; it had been a long day, full of too much emotion. “Why don’t you get comfortable Scully? I can run out and get anything you need.”

She shook her head, “I don’t need anything, but I would like to lie down.”

He was on his feet immediately; she couldn’t keep the smile from her face. He looked around the room, and then removed his t-shirt. “Here, this should cover you and be more comfortable than…”

“Thanks.” She took the shirt from his hand and retreated to the bathroom. He didn’t realize he’d been holding his breath until she returned. She was completely covered, his shirt was longer on her than some of the skirts she occasionally wore, but it was his shirt.

She took in his expression and attempted to fix a serious expression on her face. “Mulder, this is not an open invitation to jump me.”

“I know that. I do.”

“Well good. Why don’t you go on and get ready for bed yourself. Then you can watch TV or whatever, it won’t bother me.”

“Yeah, okay.” He slipped into the bathroom and she got into bed, relaxing under the sheet.

He returned shortly, still wearing his jeans. “Don’t you have a bag?”

”It’s at Bill’s.”

“Well you’re not going to be comfortable in those. It’s okay Mulder. It’s okay.” She turned her back to him then and closed her eyes. She heard him lower his zipper and the sound of the denim sliding down his legs. She held her body still, but her mind was racing. She felt the bed sag as his weight was added.

He kept his distance from her, lying stiffly on the far side of the bed. The silence was becoming heavy, oh hell. She turned to him and he nearly jumped.

“I won’t hurt you.”

“Funny, Scully.”

“I’m serious. If this is really a problem for you…”

“No. I want you to be comfortable.” He sounded about as uncomfortable as she’d ever heard him.

“Then you need to relax yourself. You weren’t like this when we slept together in the woods in Florida, or had to share that room in Kansas.” He didn’t respond, “What’s changed Mulder? Is it the fact that we aren’t partners anymore?”

He blinked at that. “You’re the only partner I’ve ever had.” For some reason that caused a blush to grow on her cheeks.

“Mulder, could you…could you hold me?” He nodded slowly and awkwardly placed his arms around her. She cuddled in and made herself comfortable against him. It took a few minutes, but he did slowly relax himself. He tucked her in under his chin and they both drifted off to sleep.

*****

Part 3

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…

“Mulder…”

“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."

"A therapist?"

"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."

"Thank 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.

"Mulder?"

"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?"

"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."

"You're serious."

"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.

~~~

 

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Mulder, Scully, the Lone Gunman and Skinner all belong to Chris Carter, 10-13 and Fox. No infringement intended.