What a Difference a Year Makes (2/2) (R)

She was steadier now than at any time since he

She was steadier now than at any time since he’s found her on the ground last night, but she still didn’t want to talk about it.  She was quiet and he respected that, though he found himself glancing over at her often.

His attempts at conversation fell flat and he was beginning to feel uncomfortable when he felt her fingers pull his right hand from the wheel.  She entwined their grip and squeezed.  He returned the pressure, then settled her hand on his thigh, holding it with his own.

The quiet was comfortable after that.  She was with him and he felt . . . he felt whole.  Stupid word, but it fit.  This was the best he’d felt in a lot more than a year.

It was dark when they arrived.  They’d stopped once for dinner, but both were anxious to reach their location.  Mulder used his flashlight to get the power on, then gave Scully the short tour, removing the dustsheets as he went.

“Mulder, there’s only one bedroom?  Where did you sleep?”

“Samantha and I had the loft.”  He pointed to the open area above them.  It was empty now.

“I don’t think you’ll fit anymore.”

He grinned, “Wasn’t planning to.  I’ll sleep on the couch.”

“That couch?”  She turned toward it.  He shrugged.  She looked into the bedroom.  The bed was a lot smaller than the one from last night.  “You could sleep in here with me.”

“That’s - 

“It’s not an invitation to jump me, Mulder.”  A small smile played around her lips.

“Shucks, ma’am.  I know how to behave myself.”  But he leered at her. 

Scully rolled her eyes and moved into the bedroom.  “Now that felt familiar.”

“Scully, really, I can sleep out here.”

“There’s no need.  I trust you.  I am tired though, mind if I get ready for bed?”

“Go ahead.  There’s not a lot of wild night life around here.”

She nodded and closed the door.  He stepped toward it, touching the wood, and then leaned his head against it.  The same thought returned that had played in his mind since he’d found her - she was back, she was safe, she was with him.

He took the sheets outside and shook them.  The place needed a good airing out tomorrow.  He turned when he heard the door open.

“Mulder?”  She spotted him and seemed to relax a little. 

“Yeah, just getting a little of the dust outside.  You okay?”


But he heard the tremor in her voice.  He still had no idea what she’d been through, she hadn’t wanted to talk yet.  Rather than dwell on it, he decided to change the subject.

“You ready for bed?”

She nodded, thankful he’d moved on.  “It’s a, uh, it’s a nice nightgown.”  She looked down at the silky green gown.

“It was my third choice.”


“I know how to behave, but it’s not always my first inclination with a beautiful woman.”

She blushed, but smiled, “Beautiful?”

He nodded.  They looked at each other for a long moment.  “So, uh, you through in the bathroom?”

She nodded and moved out of his way.

While he was getting ready for bed, she looked around the place.  It wasn’t large.  The kitchen was compact and led into the main room.  There was a large stone fireplace with built-in bookcases on either side.  The books were dated, and some were obviously Samantha’s.  There was a sofa, much too small for him to stretch out, and a couple of chairs.  The bedroom was on the other side of the fireplace from the kitchen.  The loft was over the main room away from the kitchen. The small bathroom, with only a shower, was off the kitchen.  A screened in porch ran the length of the house.

She hadn’t heard him come up behind her, and jumped slightly when he touched her arm.  “Sorry.  Exploring the place?”

“Yeah.  How come you’ve never mentioned it?”

“I’ve only come up here once since I returned from England.  We probably only came two or three times since Samantha . . . “

She nodded and glanced at him.  He was wearing pajamas bottoms, yellow ones, but no shirt.  “I didn’t pack for a long trip.”

“It’s okay.”  She looked away.  “No TV?”

“No.”  He sounded miserable and she smiled.  “The reception sucks up here, and we never brought a VCR.”

“So we go on to bed?”

“Do you mind?”

“I said I didn’t.  Really, it’s okay.”

He followed her into the bedroom, allowing her to choose a side of the bed.  “Hope I don’t snore.”  He commented.

“You don’t.”  She blushed immediately, “I’ve . . . some of the places we’ve stayed had thin walls.”

He nodded.

It was a small bed, but they seemed to have plenty of room, finally falling asleep with their backs to each other.

They woke entwined in the middle of the bed.  He woke first to the feelings of her warm breath on his chest once again.  Without thought he pressed his lips to the top of her head.  The movement brought a sigh from her, and she cuddled in closer though she didn’t wake.

She seemed secure, comfortable in his arms, as though this was familiar to her.  His smile faded slightly - he wanted this woman.  No, no it was more than that.  He loved this woman.

He’d avoided that thought for over a year, but now it was there, unshakeable.  They’d learned each other in the time they had worked together, but it was when they had been separated by the powers that be that they had . . . had bonded.  At least it was true for him.  Watching her sleep peacefully in his arms gave him hope that she felt the same.

He had never loved a woman before, and it scared him, scared him on a deep abandonment issues level.  She was comfortable here beside him, but could she love him?  He was Spooky Mulder.

He felt his mood plummet.  She seemed to sense it, stirring in his arms.  “Mulder?”


“I’m sorry.”  She didn’t know what was wrong, but he seemed upset.  She moved to leave his arms, but they tightened around her for an instant.

“Mulder, is something wrong?”

“No.  I guess I was afraid you’d be upset, you know . . . “  He indicated their positions and she seemed to realize for the first time where they were.

He felt her sudden discomfort and allowed her to move away from him.

He took a breath and rose from the bed, keeping his back to her.  “I’ll, uh . . . “

“Sure.”  She watched him leave the room, confused and hurt.

He seemed more himself when he found her in the living room.  “We need some supplies if we’re going to stay here.  Why don’t I run get some breakfast and things while you shower?  Maybe there’ll be hot water when I get back.”

“Okay.  I’ll try to leave you some water.”  She smiled and watched him disappear into the bedroom.  The smile faded when he was out of sight.  What had happened?  Had she said something in her sleep?

He emerged quickly.  “I shouldn’t be long.”  He didn’t approach her, just letting himself out.  She stood undecided for a moment, then headed for the bathroom.


He had their breakfast in one hand and a grocery bag in the other when he let himself in.  He spotted her on the couch, curled in on herself, knees drawn up to her chin.  He slipped their breakfast on the table and let the supplies fall to the floor.

“Scully?  What?  Did something happen?”  He was beside her now on the couch and after a moment’s hesitation, pulled her against him.  “Scully?”

“I’m . . . I’m okay.”

“No, you’re not.  Talk to me.”

“It’s just,” she shrugged, “It’s better when you’re here.”

That statement caused his eyes to widen.  “Me?”

“I’m sorry.”  She pulled away from him and he wasn’t sure what he should do.

“I, uh, I brought you a sausage biscuit and coffee.”

“Thanks.”  She reached for her coffee and forced her hands to steady.  He watched her, not sure how to help her.

They ate their breakfast, then he rose.  “I guess the hot water’s back.  Mind if I take a quick shower?”

“Course not.  I’ll put away the groceries.”

He nodded and left her.  He knew he was handling this wrong.  How did he explain that everything had changed over a year.  She hadn’t even realized she’d been gone that long.  How could she understand he’d thought about her differently since she’d been gone?  No, he needed to put this aside.  She needed stability, security so that she could feel safe, so that she could come back completely.

He came out of the bathroom with a towel around his waist.  He hadn’t thought to take clothes with him.  She looked up to speak, but the sight of him stopped her.

“Uh, sorry.”

“It’s okay.  Go on.”  She watched him leave her.  She was still feeling her way.  A year, she believed him, she could see that he was older, sadder.  Had he missed her?  That was stupid, they’d become friends.  She relied on him - oh god, he wasn’t taking the blame for her disappearance, was he?  Scully hurried to the door and opened it without knocking.  He turned from her quickly and pulled up his zipper.


“I . . . I’m sorry.  I just . . . I’m sorry.”  She retreated from the room.

He threw on the cleaner of his t-shirts and hurried after her.  “Scully, its okay.”

She shook her head, “I don’t . . . “ She sank onto the couch.

“We need to talk, Scully.”

That brought a look of fright to her eyes.

“Look, I bought the ingredients to make chili; it’s kind of a tradition up here.  Want to help me get it started?  Maybe then we could go for a walk.”


She washed out the pot and the utensils while he got the ingredients together.  Once things were simmering, he washed his hands and turned to her.  “Go see the lake?”


He followed her outside, then led her to the lake.  Things had grown up since he had been here, but the path was still easy to follow.  He tested the dock, then let her join him and took a seat. 

She sat beside him.  “It’s beautiful here.” 

“Yeah.  I guess I’d forgotten.”  He looked over at her.  “Scully, we need to talk about this, about what happened to you.  We’ve put it off long enough.”

“I know.”

“You want to start?”

She shook her head, “Tell me what happened.  Tell me about Duane Barry.”

He watched her for a long moment, then nodded.  He talked for a long time.  He caressed the tears from her cheeks on a couple of occasions.  She asked no questions, letting him tell it his way.  That was different, but he didn’t comment on it.

When he finally ran down, she looked up at him.  “Mom must have been . . . “

“She was devastated, but strong.  She even tried to help me through it when I let her.”  She looked puzzled.  “I . . . I kinda kept to myself.  I wasn’t very good company.”

“That’s what families are for Mulder.”

“Maybe yours.  I didn’t want to intrude.”

Scully didn’t call him on it.  She knew he would have retreated into himself.  “You know none of this is your fault.”

He jerked back from her, but she put her hand out, laying it gently on his arm.  “It’s true Mulder.  Duane Barry took me, some . . . someone else took me from him.  You tried to find me.  Now I’m back, you did find me.”

“I - 

“Mulder, if you hadn’t come to the mountain that night, I probably would have died, of exposure.  I don’t know what brought you there, but you saved my life.” 

He opened his mouth to protest, but her fingers pressed against his lips.  “You saved my life.”

“You want to tell me what happened from your side?”

The shake of her head was almost imperceptible.


She rose to her feet and brushed off her bottom.  His eyes locked on her ass for a moment before he could stop himself.  Then he scrambled to his feet as she left the dock.  He caught up with her and let his hand brush hers.  She grasped his hand though she refused to look at him. 

What had happened to her?  What did she remember?  He let her into the house; they could smell the chili and once inside could hear it bubbling. 

“I better check on that.”  She nodded and moved past him into the bathroom.  He wanted to call her back and hold her, but he wasn’t good at that kind of thing.  Maybe this was a bad idea.  He should have taken her to her mother.

When she emerged she seemed more composed.  “The chili’s almost ready.”  She murmured something and moved past him into the living room.  He followed as she made her way to the couch.  He saw she was trembling slightly.  “Are you cold, Scully?”

She shrugged, watching her hands.

“How about a fire?”

“Do you mind?”

“Of course not.  Just relax.”  He laid the fire quickly and lit it, taking a seat at her feet.  “You should warm up now.  Do you want me to dish up the chili?”

“I should help.”

“Not this time.  I’m saving you for clean up.”  He smiled at her. 

She managed to return it, but it dropped away.  He rose and headed to the kitchen.

He was back quickly with her bowl of chili and a basket of crackers, then got his own bowl and two beers.  He wasn’t sure about the alcohol, but she needed to relax and the most available to her were three bottles.

After a few moments, she looked over at him.  “This is good.” 

“My one culinary achievement.” She managed to chuckle.  “What?  You don’t believe me?”

“I always thought the speed dial on your phone was your culinary achievement.”

“That’s cold Agent Scully.”

She actually laughed then, which brought a smile to his face.  He decided not to push things for now.

She didn’t want seconds, so he only got her another beer when he refilled his own bowl.

“Trying to get me drunk?” 

“Don’t need to, you’re already sleeping with me.”  He grinned at her.

“Yeah, right.”  She gazed into the fire.

“Scully, you know I was kidding.”

“What?  Oh, I didn’t . . . you want to know what happened.” 

“Do you remember anything?” 

Scully took a deep breath, “I remember everything.  That’s the problem.” 

“Maybe it’ll help to talk about it.” 

Instead of answering, she took a long drink from her beer bottle.  She didn’t take her eyes from the fire.  “Duane Barry was more frightened than he was evil.  He was scared to death.  He had me bound when we got to Skyland Mountain, and he didn’t untie me, just pulled me along.  It was like he had an appointment and he didn’t dare be late.  I couldn’t see anything different about where we were heading, but he shoved me down and ran away from me as fast as he could.  Before I could get to my feet, there was a light - the brightest light I’ve ever seen. 

“The next thing I knew I was on a . . . I guess you could call it a table, but it was more like an examining table in a doctor’s office.  It wasn’t padded, more molded to me.  All I could move was my head.  I couldn’t see any restraints, but I couldn’t move at all, as though I was paralyzed.  I was nude.” 

She felt Mulder’s look, but didn’t meet it.

“They ran tests on me, painful tests.  I remember them all.  Mulder, I never saw them, I don’t know who, or what, was doing it.

“Then Alan came.”


“He was the man I was seeing in undergraduate school.  That’s when the scenarios, the mind games started.  I didn’t realize it, I was probably drugged.  Alan only came the one time, I guess they didn’t like him either.  Then Daniel.” 

Mulder flinched, he’d never heard these names, but they obviously were men that had meant something to her.  They’d been inside of her mind, and these were the men that populated her thoughts.  He swallowed; he needed to hear this.  Anyway, this wasn’t about him. 

“I’m not sure how many times they used Daniel’s image.  I didn’t know they were images at the time.”

Mulder didn’t interrupt.

“After a while, Jack was there.”  Mulder winced, but she didn’t notice.  “There were a couple of scenes with him, then Daniel was back.” 

This Daniel must have been very important to her.  He opened his mouth, but she continued.  “Then Daniel was gone again and there were no scenes.”  She looked over at him, “You remember, I didn’t know they were games.  When these men were with me, I just thought they were with me.” 

He nodded, was she . . . apologizing? 

“There were more tests then.”  Her gaze went inward.  He wanted to touch her, comfort her, but wasn’t sure if that would make things better or worse. 

“Then . . . then you were there.” 

“Me?”  He couldn’t help blurting that out. 

She didn’t seem to hear him.  “After that all the scenarios, all the mind games were with you.”  She fell silent.  He waited for a few minutes, then moved closer to her on the couch, still not quite touching her. 

“Scully, those other men, they were your lovers?” 

She nodded. 

“But you and I . . . “ 

She shrugged, “The difference seemed to be that I loved you.” 

His mouth fell open at those words.  She loved him?  When had she decided that?  Of course, he hadn’t admitted to himself that he loved her until she was gone. 

“I’m sorry, I -  “ 

“No!  Don’t be sorry, please don’t be sorry.” 

“I didn’t understand what was going on.  I believed I was with you.  I thought we were, were growing closer.”

“Did we become lovers?” 

She nodded, looking down at her feet. 

“Scully, was that a bad thing?” 

She looked up startled, “I was using you.” 

“I’m not complaining Scully.” 

She gave him a weak smile. 

“What were the games?” 

“We were . . . together.  Sometimes we were at work, sometimes in one of our apartments, other places.”  She fell silent again. 

“How did you realize it wasn’t real?” 

“One of the games . . . it was too real.” 

“What happened?”  She hesitated still, and he took her hand. 

That brought a thoughtful look to her face.  “I was . . . I was in labor.  I was giving birth to our baby, and the, the pain was too . . . it threw me back to that table.  You weren’t there, I could only sense them.”  She fell silent again. 

“Did, did the pain go away?” 

She shook her head.  “They did something to send me back into the scenario.  You were back.” 

“You had the baby?”  She nodded.  “Did you see it?” 

She blinked  at that.  “Uh, no.  I felt the birth, but then the scenario changed.  The next game . . . there was no baby in any game after that.  Then I remembered it, and that I’d really been on that table, not with you.  Throughout the whole pregnancy when we . . . it wasn’t real.  I started testing it then, when I could remember.  I couldn’t touch you after that, unless I concentrated.  I realized I didn’t have to speak out loud and you’d still hear me.  I guess I . . . I quit participating.  The scenarios became less and less real.” 

“When you caught on, they couldn’t use you any more.  How long have you not been playing?” 

“I thought it was . . . Mulder, I can’t grasp that I’ve been gone a year.” 

“It was a year, Scully.  A long year.” 

She didn’t respond to that.  He tilted her face up to him.  “Scully?” 

“I didn’t know it was really you, in the car, in the hotel room.  That’s why I didn’t speak, didn’t try to walk.  But I felt your arms around me, I tasted the eggs you fed me.  I felt the water in the tub when you bathed me.  When you left, to get my clothes, it didn’t stop.  That’s . . . that’s when I realized it might be real.  But you were gone, and . . . and I panicked.  I didn’t know if -  “ 

“I’m right here Scully.  This is real and I’m not going anywhere.”  He caught the tear that escaped her eye.  “Scully, that’s enough for now.  You’ve been through . . . why don’t you lie down for a little while.” 

She looked deeply into his eyes and then rose.  He had his arm around her immediately and walked her to the bedroom.  He lay her on the bed and pulled up the afghan lying at the foot of the bed.  “I’m supposed to be on kitchen duty.” 

“I’ll let you off this once.  Scully, you’ve been through something, I want you to rest.” 

“Are you going anywhere?” 

‘No.  I’ll do your chores, then I might even come join you.” 

She gave him a quick smile, then rolled onto her side. He left the room, closing the door quietly behind him. 

He took the dishes into the kitchen and washed them, then straightened up the rest of the kitchen, but his mind was racing.  They had taken her, used her, bred her.  He fell back against the counter.  She had been pregnant, she had given birth -  and they had used him to keep her . . . what?  Complacent? 

Why?  Why had they done this to her?  He shook his head trying to clear it.  He realized he had moved back toward the bedroom.  He opened the door quietly.  She was asleep, but seemed to be dreaming.  The need to touch her overcame him. 

He slipped off his shoes and lay down beside her, spooning around her.  She seemed to sigh and relax back against him.  He let his hand rest against her abdomen. 

She woke a little later to the comfort of him around her.  “How do you feel?” 


“Good.”  He tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. 

“Mulder?  What?” 

“These other men, Alan, Daniel, they were your lovers.  Jack.”  She nodded.  “But it was me . . . “ 

She pulled his face down to her and kissed him.  She drew back quickly.  “I’m sorry.  My, my memories are mixed up with - “  His lips cut her off that time. 

“Mulder, you don’t - 

 “I think I started falling in love with you when you came to my room that night in Oregon.  You were scared, but not of me.  It was a new feeling.  I mean, I’d had partners before, but none that trusted me, none that would have sought me out.  I still remember the . . . the terror when I listened to Tom Colton tell you he would help you get away from me.” 

“I didn’t go.  I didn’t want to go.” 

Mulder managed to smile. “I’m still processing that.” 

Her hand came up to lightly touch his cheek, as though still making sure he was real, solid.  He brought his lips down to hers again and this kiss continued, both participating fully and enthusiastically.  Clothing was rearranged and discarded.   

It wasn’t until her hand began fumbling with his zipper that he pulled back.  “Scully, Scully wait.  I . . .” He had to clear his throat, “We can’t.  I don’t have any protection here.” 

“You don’t carry . . . “ 

“Scully, the women in the videos don’t usually need it.” 

She gave him a weak smile, “But Mulder . . . “ 

“I, uh . . . “ He moved away from her in the bed and tried to bring his breathing under control.  “Listen, we could use some more supplies.  I know you’d like some more clothes and we need to do laundry.  We could pick up some, some protection then.”  He tried to make it a question, could he just assume that this woman really wanted to make love with him?  Well, she was certainly acting like . . .  

“We could go now.”  She was already rising from the bed.  He looked at her startled.  “We could find a laundry and put the clothes on to wash, then get our supplies and come back here.” 

“Uh, yeah.”  She had taken charge and he had no grounds for complaint.  She tossed him his t-shirt.  “Come on.” 

He didn’t argue, slipping the shirt on, then helping her gather the laundry, more than a little bemused. 

He didn’t say much watching this activity on her part, his mind still reeling from the activity he’d had to stop. 


He’d never ‘shopped’ with Scully before.  She was as efficient there as with everything else she did, picking out a couple of shirts for him as well as her own clothing.  And they looked better than what he would have chosen. 

When they ended up in the pharmaceutical area, his lips twitched watching her study the display.  He didn’t care what she picked out - hell they could be glow-in-the-dark pink if that’s what she chose.  She had seemed to make her selection and leaned down to look. 

“Scully, are you getting a dozen?”  He was watching her, move boxes. 

“The box of thirty-six I think.” 

He gaped at her for a moment, then asked quietly.  “Scully, what if I’m not that good?” 

“Then I’ll have to train you.  We’ll need extras, you know, like additional ammo at the firing range.” 

His mind tilted at that analogy and she watched with a . . . a different kind of smile on her face.  “Mulder, I’m not worried.” 

Rather than wait on the clothes to dry, they took them back to the house to dry in front of the fire.  They made short work of the laundry and then she was tugging him toward the bedroom. 


He collapsed, pulling her on top of him, holding her close as she came back to him. 



“You okay?” 

She nodded against his chest.  “You don’t need any tutoring.” 

He let his finger trace her cheekbone.  “That’s good to hear.” 

She was limp against him, completely relaxed, sated.  He had satisfied Dana Scully.  He thought he’d loved her before, now . . . 

“You know, we could just stay here, forever.”  He murmured  into her  hair. 

“I could go for that right about now.”  He smiled broadly, then her eyes opened wide, remembering. 

“I don’t have an apartment.” 

“I do, but maybe we should get one.” 

She grinned, “You think we should live together?” 

“Well, we could try it out for a little while, see if you can put up with me.” 

“What’s a ‘little while’?” 

“I don’t know, 60-70 years. Just long enough for you to realize what a prize I am.” 

She laughed then, “and if I already  know?” 

“Even better.  We should get a two bedroom.” 


 “Yeah, my couch won’t go with your stuff, so we could stick it in an office.” 

“Along with your video collection?” 

Frohike’s video collections.” 

“Good answer Mulder.”  She brushed her fingers through his chest hair, outlining his nipples, wanting him again.  His hiss brought a smile to her face. 

But even now, with her here, safe in his arms, he knew she was going to need a lot more healing.  The ‘games’ weren’t gone from her mind, but she was denying the implications.  He needed to be there, when that no longer worked.


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